Wednesday, July 29, 2020

It's Just Life.

It's not a Quarantine Diary anymore because it's not Quarantine anymore.  It's just life.  It's the new normal.  In March, I figured there would be a definite end.  Now, it's looking like the only end was life as we previously knew it.  School is still forming a play, but truthfully, it's impossible to plan for the unknown.  We're all just doing the best we can.

I escaped to Tracy's for a few days.  It was bizarre.  The girls and I wore masks to snuggle, I went back to fastidious hand washing and sanitizing, we swam in their pool, we ate a lot of takeout, and we were just together.  It was lovely.  I hadn't hugged anyone other than Andrew in months, and it made me tear up.  My love language is touch, and I've been suffering.  I'm just so glad I'm not still single.  I would be in a very bad place if I were.


Some normal things happened.  Holly came down for a two-week visit.  I baked some pies.  I baked my dad his favorite blueberry cake for his birthday.  I slept late a lot.  I read books.  I caught up on good TV.  These are all regular lovely summer things for me.  Normal things in an abnormal time.

We did a crazy, exciting thing and bought an RV.  We pick it up Friday.  More of that to come later.

My Anti-Racist Journey continues:

Money: I donated $20 to the Des Moines Black Lives Matter movement for bail money for arrested protesters.

Movies/Shows:  We watched 13th on Netflix.  Whoa.  Again, I say WHOA.  On this journey, I feel like I don't recognize my home.  It shows me how clueless I was about the true state of my home.  I'm embarrassed and again (as is my new normal, I'm sitting in my own discomfort.  We also started watching, based on Tracy's recommendation, United Shades of America on CNN with W. Kamau Bell.  The episode we watched had a lot to do with agriculture and how hard it is for Black family farmers in the U.S., compared to white family farmers.  I had no idea.  Literally no idea.

Books:  Since I last wrote, I finished Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby, Genesis Begins Again by Alicia D. Williams (which I bought based on the research in my class earlier this summer... I'll take it to school for my classroom library),  The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, and The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon.  Right now, I'm reading Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor, and Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad.

Purchases:  I preordered Class Act by Jerry Craft, the follow-up to the graphic novel, New Kid.  For my granddaughters, I bought Grandma's Purse by Vanessa Brantley-Newton, and Whose Toes Are Those? by Jabari Asim.  For my classroom, I also bought Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson, A Good Kind of Trouble by Lisa Moore Ramee, All American Boys by Jason Reynolds, and  Some Places More Than Others by Renee Watson.  For myself, I bought the audio book of Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson, because I want to preview it for possible use in my classroom.  I was really impacted by the movie, and its story could balance my use of To Kill a Mockingbird in class.  For reading on my Kindle, I also bought Monday's Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson, Me and White Supremacy by Layla F. Saad, and Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds.  The last one was one I'd see on a lot of social media posts, but a student recommended it to me (I love when they do that), so I wanted to be sure to read it myself.

One of my proudest and reaffirming moments was during my granddaughter Alice's 3rd birthday party.  We zoomed with her, her parents, and all the other grandparents.  I held my breath as she opened her Black babydoll, wondering how she'd react, what would be said, etc.  She squealed with delight and picked her right up into a tight hug.  She immediately wanted to feed her with the little spoon and to change her diaper.  It was just another one of her babies.  No one said a word except to "Aww" at how cute she was with her new baby.  It was the best possible outcome.  It reaffirmed for me that racism IS taught.  It reaffirmed to me that even though Alice is going to grow up in a white household with all white family members, if she sees People of Color of all kinds in her books, in her shows and movies, and in her toys, they will become part of how she sees her world.  It's a step.

And, John Lewis died.  I'm embarrassed that I didn't really know who John Lewis was before I read the March books a couple of years ago.  He was a true hero.  He inspires me to get into Good Trouble.  RIP, Sir, and thank you.



Saturday, June 13, 2020

Quarantine Diary, Entry #9

I hesitate even calling this a quarantine diary anymore.  Quarantine has morphed into something different and bigger and deeper and harder.  I'll keep calling it that for now, but it definitely feels different in my heart than it did in March.

My Anti-Racist Journey continues.

Reading:  I finished Between You and Me that I mentioned in the last post.  It was life-changing.  I'm having realizations all the time, and they're not pleasant.  I picked up a phrase from my research: "sitting in discomfort."  I've been doing a lot of sitting in my own discomfort this week.  I guess my biggest discomfort is that I never thought of racism as happening all the time, a constant.  I thought of it as events or acts or words.  I didn't understand how it doesn't end.  It's not sporadic.  It's pervasive and universal for Black people in America.  I'm ashamed I didn't get that before.  The next book I'll be reading is Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby.  I already bought it, and it's on my Kindle.

Movies:  Andrew and I watched Harriet and Just Mercy.  We really loved them both.  I only knew the very basics about Harriet Tubman, and all I can say after watching that movie is WHAT A BADASS!!!  I want to know more and more and more.  The movie (and the book) Just Mercy had been recommended to me for possible use in the classroom.  Wow, wow, wow.  So powerful.  Again, it was inspiring, and it made me want to know so much more.  I highly recommend both of these movies. 

Teaching:  This is a big one.  I've decided to scrap my Mark Twain unit.  I inherited the Mark Twain unit because the 7th grade GOAL field trip had always been to Hannibal, MO.  It is a great field trip... so fun, educational, only a 2-hour drive away.  Huckleberry Finn had been taught in it until the high school English department wanted to use the book in their curriculum.  I decided to use parts of Tom Sawyer for my part.  The more I've been thinking about it, the more I know it has to go.  What the kids get out of it is not much, and I haven't been spending enough time (because I really don't have it) to go into depth about the history and the setting of the book.  It's not worth keeping it to justify the trip.  I don't know what I'm going to put in its place, and I don't know how I can find an equally fun trip for the price and distance, but I'm going to do it.  It's the right thing to do.

Purchases:  More books.  Lots more books.  Per the final project of the class I just took, I'm going to modify my Culture Clash unit to be more timely and focus on the topic of Black Lives Matter.  I'm going to be reading a lot of books this summer in preparation for this change.  I guess this "Purchases" topic is also about "Teaching," but oh well.  Titles that have arrived so far include: How High the Moon by Karyn Parsons, The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, The Season of Styx Malone by Kekla Magoon, Watch Us Rise by Renee Watson, The Rock and the River by Kekla Magoon, Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky by Kwame Mbalia, and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi.  Even if these books don't make the cut for the unit, they'll be important additions to my classroom library.

In other news, I baked and shared a peach pie, I got together and chatted socially distanced with my friends Cathy and Dee Ann, I caught up on laundry, and Andrew started rereading me Winter Holiday by Arthur Ransome.  It's just a happy book for me, and we haven't read out loud to each other in awhile.  When we first started dating, we read out loud a lot, and we're just out of the habit.  It's nice to get back into it.  If you've never tried this with your significant other, quarantine might be a great time to give it a try.

Monday, June 8, 2020

Quarantine Diary, Entry #8

Well, the whole world blew up.  I didn't think this spring could get any crazier.  How naive I was.  The truth is that the world NEEDED to blow up.  But I was still taken by surprise.  I realize that I have a lot of learning to do.  A lot.  I don't want to be a person who just reposts some memes and leaves it at that.  I want to take an active part in becoming an anti-racist.  Saying I'm not a racist is not enough.  I talk to my kids about being students vs. being scholars.  Students just sit in their desks and let the days wash over them.  They're there because they have to be.  Scholars take an active part in their education.  I'm not going to let this wash over me.  To hold myself accountable, I am going to post here what I'm DOING about it.  I'm not going to put this on Instagram or Facebook.  I have a lot of people that are connected to me there who would see this as bragging, and that's not why I'm doing it.  My posting this here is to hold myself accountable for being more than just words.  For the 3 people on earth who read this blog, you can tag along for the ride.  😉

Money
$50 to Minnesota Freedom Fund (I did this earlier... they've been kind to ask to spread the love, so my next donation will be to another organization).
$150 to a Minneapolis food/diaper/supply drive to feed families cut off from stores during riots
$10 to Arrowhead Tattoo for a Black Lives Matter raffle

Protests
Andrew and I attended the Black Lives Matter march in Fairfield.  Even our little town of 10,000 in rural Iowa, we had 350+ people show up and many more honking and shouting support as they drove by.

Reading
I finished Citizen: An American Lyric by Claudia Rankine, Sit-In: How Four Friends Stood Up By Sitting Down by Andrea Davis Pinkney, and The Other Side by Jacqueline Woodson.  I am in the middle of reading Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates.  I bought all of these books... the picture books in hard copy (though they haven't arrived yet) and the other two in Kindle format.

Purchases
For my granddaughter's 3rd birthday, I have bought an American Girl Bitty Baby #1 with brown skin and textured black hair.  I have also bought the books How Do You Dance? by Thyra Heder and Most People by Michael Leannah to send her.  These were both recommended as picture books prominently featuring characters of color.
For my own reading and for my classroom, I bought Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (I can't believe I've never read it.  Shame on me.) and Kindred: A Graphic Novel Adaptation by Damian Duffy and John Jennings of Octavia E. Butler's book of the same name.  Both of these are hard copies.  I know that the first book is appropriate for my classroom library.  I'll judge the second after I read it. 

I hope we all can hold ourselves accountable for our actions.  I hope we're all more than just words.  We can do better.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Quarantine Diary, Entry #7

It's the last week of school.  How can that be?  It doesn't feel like the last week of school, with the electric energy pulsing through the hallways.  My Zoom class attendance has plummeted, even on the last meetings of the class.  Tomorrow I say goodbye to my 8th graders on Zoom.  It feels so impersonal.  I'm working on their "words," and I just can't even imagine how it will feel.  I always give them their word with a hug.  Now, even if we were together, I couldn't get close enough to touch them.  My love language is touch... both giving and receiving.  Quarantine is rough on those of us with the love language of touch.  Yikes.  I'm so glad I have Andrew, or I'd really be in a bad place.

Speaking of being in a bad place, does anyone see a problem with tear gas to break up a protest over racial inequity and police brutality, but no interference in armed protests on government buildings?  I don't get it.  If you think you do, please enlighten me.  I want to be proud to be an American... not embarrassed.

Things are starting to open back up.  There were pictures of beaches on Memorial Day absolutely crammed full of people.  I don't get that either.  To paraphrase my husband: If people have a toothache, they go to the dentist.  If they have a leaky pipe, they call a plumber.  If they have termites, they call an exterminator.  But God forbid that in a pandemic, we would listen to scientists?!?!?!?!  When did science become political?  I'm more than a little perplexed by it.

OK.  Enough negative.  How about some good news?  We realized this week that our air-conditioner is on the outs (trust me, the good news is coming).  Luckily, we noticed this before it got too hot and when we had stimulus money to help pay for it.  Not how we were hoping to spend that $2400, but I'm sure glad it's there.  Overall, we're feeling pretty blessed during this pandemic compared to a lot of people.  I'm trying to pay it forward by being patient, following the rules, and not being too sad about summer plans falling through.  I was supposed to have two more chances to play Rosie in Mamma Mia this summer, and neither one of those are going to happen.  Sigh.  Hopefully next year.

Hope everyone out there in cyber land is hanging in there.  💚


Monday, May 11, 2020

Quarantine Diary, Entry #6

A quarantine birthday has come and gone.  I'm 48 years old, and who knew it would happen in chaos like this??!?!  Andrew made sure I had a lovely day.  I got 2 dozen roses, and he baked me a cake.  My big present will be here this week sometime... I'm getting a birdbath!  We have the perfect place for one in our yard, and that's what I wanted.  Our yard is looking really beautiful.  We got our annuals in, and everything is so green.  The lilacs are fully out, and even though it's been chilly, spring is definitely here.



I've still been transferring VHS tapes to digital, and it gave me a bit of an epiphany.  My mom remarried, after being single for 15 years, in 1995.  She got married on May 27th of that year, and none of us knew that she'd be dead by August 18th of that same year.  I transferred the VHS of her wedding and reception this week.  It's a tape that I honestly avoid watching because it makes me so sad.  But, this time, I watched a lot of it without getting upset at all.  First time.  During the reception, my mom and Mike went around to everyone in attendance and introduced them to the group.  This was a lot of people!  But, it was so cool to hear how that person knew my mom or Mike or both.  Here's where the epiphany happens... In that room on May 27th, every person in attendance got to hear exactly how they were special to my mom.  How many of us will be able to say that in the final months of our lives, we have told the people dear to us just what they meant to us and why they were important to us?  What a blessing that day was for everyone in the room, and for my mom too.  I guess the lesson is that we don't know when our last days will be, but maybe it's good to let those around us know that we love them and that they've influenced our lives in unique, meaningful ways.

Hang in there, everyone. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Quarantine Diary, Entry #5

It's weird to think that I've been busy, but I have felt busy during this time.  Busy but rested.  I've been doing things that I normally don't have time to think about doing.  Yesterday, I spent all day organizing the craft room/office and unpacking boxes that hadn't been touched since I moved here in 2014 after Andrew's and my wedding! 

Andrew taught me how to play chess earlier this week.  I SUCK.  I need way more practice.  It's frustrating, but in time, I think it will be something fun and he and I can do together.  Right now, I'm thinking way too much and not really enjoying it that much.  But it will come.  I have also wanted to play chess with the kids at school.  Before I was the teacher, GOAL classes always had a chess unit, but I scrapped it because I didn't know how to play.  Now, I don't have an excuse! 



Today, I started transferring old VHS tapes to digital format.  I found some cords that Andrew and I bought YEARS ago for this process.  I wasn't sure they'd even work anymore, but they do.  It's a time-consuming process, but I know it will be worth it.  Today, I transferred a production of Evita and musical theatre troupe from college as well as Matt's junior high swing choir, my high school concert choir, my 16th birthday party, and my stint as mayor in a mock city council meeting for Student Government Day my junior year.  Nice trips down memory lane.  More movies to transfer tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

Quarantine Diary, Entry #4

Today I had my first online class with students.  I didn't really have a plan because I wasn't sure the technology was even going to work.  I had blocked out 45 minutes, and we really only needed 30 for this first session.  I had 14 of 18 kids show up to the class.  6 had video and audio, 7 had just audio, and 1 only had chat access, but he was able to communicate with us.  It was just great to see their faces and hear their voices.

I'm starting with 45 minutes of "office hours" where kids can get immediate feedback from me if they e-mail or use Google Hangouts.  Then I'm going into 45 minutes of a Zoom-like program within Canvas, our district's online learning system.  Dee Ann and I tested it out last night before I went to bed, so I knew it had potential.  It was really slick today.  I did have two kids who couldn't get in for some reason, but I'll try to get that figured out for next time.  I'm meeting with a different group every day.

The kids looked good.  I think a lot of them are bored and are probably playing too many video games, but if I were that age, I'd probably be doing the same.  I did have some say they'd been cooking and helping their folks on the farm getting the equipment ready for planting.  Those are things that they would never have time to do during a regular school year.  I hope all the kids can find activities like that during this time away from school.

Yesterday afternoon, I had a Zoom happy hour with Tracy, Suzanne, and Jeff... all my bridesmaids/men!  We had a great time and laughed a lot.  It was just what the doctor ordered.  I stole this picture from Jeff to remember the occasion.  :)


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