A couple of months ago, E. broke a glass while emptying the dishwasher. He didn’t drop it – he was putting it into the cupboard and he went to stack it with another glass (like we always do) and it…just broke.
For months now, I have felt like that glass. Outwardly whole, but inwardly one wrong knock away from breaking into little pieces.
I had started to seriously consider whether my languishing had tipped over into becoming a true depression.
I was tired all the time.
I couldn’t concentrate when I needed to read challenging texts or do precise work.
The things I enjoyed in the early pandemic – taking photographs, tending my garden, raising butterflies – all now seemed like too much work.
Then Andrew Morris posted about burnout in one of his biweekly emails (he’s great, highly recommend), and a light bulb went off in my brain. And then the Atlantic produced an article on why the pandemic is still making us feel terrible and another light bulb went off. And then there was this article in Macleans, where someone put into words exactly how I was feeling and why I was struggling. It made me ugly cry, especially the line (emphasis mine):
Children have sacrificed so much with no say in how all of this would go down: two entire school years, a sense of careless normalcy, any semblance of routine or stability, countless birthday parties, hockey games, recitals and playdates, even the version of their parents that they would have gotten if all of this were not hanging over our heads, still.
I am burned out.
More burned out than I have ever been in my life before.
Despite all the privilege that Q. and I enjoy (and we enjoy a great deal), I am hanging on by a thread.
My burnout cannot be fixed with cheery exhortations from my institution on Wellness Wednesday to “go for a walk!” or “make time for self care!”.
How I feel cannot be fixed with a massage or a cup of tea.
I have taught for ten semesters in a row, every semester since Fall 2018, including every semester of the pandemic thus far. I have a four-course load this year, two of which are brand new preps outside my field of expertise.
The only reason I am keeping afloat is that the kids have had a blessedly disruption-free fall (although E. is currently in our basement, in the final days of a two-week self-isolation period caused by a positive case in his class). And there is finally, finally some light at the end of the tunnel for my household, as both of my kids have vaccine appointments this weekend. Our provincial vaccine portal was supposed to open yesterday at 8 am, but experience had taught me it’s always available earlier, so I logged in and booked both kids at 6.30 am, before anyone else in my house was awake. And then I put my head down on my kitchen table and cried. I cried because at some point in early February (assuming an eight-week spacing between shots like the NACI is recommending) my kids will be as safe as I can make them, and I can stop carrying the continuous weight of what-if worry that has been my constant companion since the pandemic started.
In early October, I asked my Chair not to run the course in SU2022 that I usually teach for them every summer. It’s an entirely online course that I’ve taught several times before. Under normal circumstances, I quite like teaching it. Under normal circumstances, it’s not that much extra work (other than the marking).
But I need the rest so much more than we need the income.
My Chair has school-age children who, like mine, have spent the majority of their past two academic years at home (from mid-March 2020, when the schools shut for the first time, my kids were in school from mid-September to the first week of December 2020, and then again from mid-February until the first week of April. Until September 2021, that was it. Five months out of eighteen.). “T.,” he said, “I’ve never been so tired in my entire life. I get it.”
He approved my scheduling request.
I’ve read so many stories of women leaving the work force because of the pandemic, unable to balance their job and their caregiving responsibilities.
When I posted it on my FB feed, saying that I was definitely languishing and asking who was right there with me, a friend commented that she had for sure been languishing but that getting vaccinated produced a huge rush of endorphins.
At the time, I thought that was a really interesting reaction, but didn’t think I would feel the same way. I wanted to get vaccinated, but I doubted it could have that big an impact on my mood.
Call me corrected.
Q. and I got the AstraZeneca vaccine the very next day, the day after my province opened it up to the 40-55 age group.* I had tears in my eyes as I drove to the pharmacy. I wanted to cheer when the pharmacist jabbed me. When my waiting period was up and I was allowed to leave, I bought a big bag of chips and drove home and then Q. and I drank cider and ate chips with the kids and we picked up takeaway for dinner and we turned it into a big celebration. We took a vaccine selfie and posted it on social media (they really do help counteract vaccine hesitancy) and it turned out that some of my best friends (some in other provinces) all got vaccinated that day too.
It finally, FINALLY felt like we were getting somewhere.
I felt AMAZING.
And I completely understood how my friend had felt.
The vaccine high lasted until about 9 p.m., when the vaccine side effects kicked in. I spent the night shaking and running a fever and hallucinating about rescuing people from Nazi prison camps and getting the shield back to Sam Wilson (I think they were related). I barely slept. Q. barely slept either, although he felt fine – it was just my tossing and turning.
The next day I still had a fever and shakes and just generally felt like I’d been hit by a truck (Q. had a sore arm). By the afternoon I could just about manage lying on the couch ‘supervising’ the kids. I slept fine that night though and by the following day I was mostly back to normal, both physically and mentally.
It made me realize how rarely in the past year I’ve felt that excited about something, how rare it’s been to have that flood of endorphins.
We’re in a holding pattern.
I was emailing with an academic out in Atlantic Canada about a book review and when she asked how things were going I told her it was like Groundhog Day, as we started corresponding about said review back in March/April 2020.
Really, though, that’s not correct. The situation’s much worse.
Our kids are back online (as predicted) and are likely to stay that way until September. Q. and I have finished the winter semester and are about to start the summer term, still teaching from our basement. We’re still staying at home, as much as we can, while the entire province implodes and the ‘government’ blames individuals while refusing to take responsibility for the situation they’ve created where the health care system is on the brink of collapse and they’re building field hospitals and training doctors how to tell families that their loved ones don’t qualify for life-saving care.
I was hesitant to get the AZ vaccine because in the (extremely unlikely) possibility I developed the blood clotting issue, I didn’t want to be going into the hospital system when it was so overloaded.**
So the endorphins have been few and far between.
And then last Sunday, my family did a virtual escape room to celebrate my Mum’s birthday and THAT WAS THE MOST FUN any of us had had in MONTHS. It was so much fun several of us had trouble getting to sleep afterwards! As a team we absolutely killed it. We got through the main storyline so quickly we got to do a bonus puzzle and then we blasted through the bonus puzzle in under ten minutes. It was so deeply satisfying (and labmonkey was for sure our MVP). We used Looking Glass Adventures which I am linking to here because it was so so so good and you can do a virtual escape room no matter where you are in the world and I am serious – get some friends or family together and chase the endorphins!
So that’s where my endorphins have come from recently: getting vaccinated, beating the escape room, and chasing fan theories about Disney+ Marvel shows down rabbit holes.
Where are your endorphins coming from these days? Have you been able to break out of the holding pattern, or are you still mostly languishing?
*Our story, like that of so many other people in this ridiculous Hunger-Games-inspired vaccine rollout, was about how privilege gives you all of the advantages. We got vaccinated because:
Q. and I had used our stable internet connection and web literacy to register online with one of the major pharmacy chains and had received confirmation codes via our mobile phones
I had read online that some locations of that same chain had been given permission to vaccinate 24/7.
I had the time to call one of those pharmacies to ask how the appointments would work (because we thought maybe we could go at 5 a.m.)
When the pharmacist said, “If you want a vaccine today, you should come right now because right now we have doses and no line ups but I think we’ll have run out by tomorrow”, Q. was able to drop everything and walk out the door, get into the car, and drive to the pharmacy.
When he got back home again, two hours later, I could drop everything and go up myself.
We had the time and flexibility to chase the vaccine, a co-parent to look after the kids, and jobs where no one would notice (or care) if we didn’t work at full capacity (or at all) the next day.
While Q. was waiting in line, a guy turned up who was obviously working on a construction site and had come over on his break. Even though there was almost no line, he had to leave to go back to work before he could get vaccinated. An elderly man with little English turned up too but was turned away because he hadn’t registered online to get a confirmation code (even though he said repeatedly he didn’t know how to do that). Q. was so mad – if he had had a smartphone he would have registered the man himself. The people who most need the vaccines have the most trouble getting them. It’s infuriating. It’s discriminatory. And it’s going to kill people.
**I underestimated how much my anxiety would affect how I felt about the AZ vaccine. I knew (and believed wholeheartedly) it made sense to get it, but I’ve been struggling a lot with irrational thoughts over the past two weeks. Now that I’ve made it to day 14, I feel a lot better, but I won’t be completely free from anxiety until it’s been four weeks, and I’m not going to complain if they start recommending mixing vaccines and I can get one of the mRNA ones for my second dose.
There’s probably a lot of things I should write about it on here – it’s been six weeks since I last posted. But since my brain has been nothing but a Sam Wilson & Bucky Barnes stan account ever since the finale of The Falcon and the Winter Soldier dropped on Friday, I thought I’d put up a post with my thoughts in the hope that I then might be able to think about something else.
Lots of spoilers, don’t read if you haven’t finished watching TFATWS(or if you don’t want to go down this rabbit hole with me)
I have never cared about Bucky Barnes. Pre-2021 me was bored senseless by pretty much every scene he was in. Why did Steve Rogers (my least favourite Avenger) care so much? Blah blah, end of the line, blah blah, Hydra, blah.
Sam Wilson, I liked a lot. And the only times I found Bucky even moderately amusing were in his scenes with Sam (e.g., the car scene in TWS and the banter with Spiderman in Civil War).
So I wouldn’t have described myself as excited about TFATWS, in the same way I was excited about WandaVision, but I’d always been planning to watch it because, duh, new Marvel content.
Six weeks later, I’m a ride-or-die Bucky fan, so well played, Marvel and Disney+. Well played.
It didn’t hurt, at all, that Sebastian Stan looked really really good in this series, with the short hair, and the stubble, and the eyes, and the ‘Bucky goes to war’ outfit.
But really, what happened, was that, just like WandaVision, there was finally time for these secondary characters to shine.
And Bucky just lit up the world.
I think WandaVision was a braver show, a more interesting show. Possibly a better show, although they’re so different and it’s tiresome reading social media posts comparing the two and criticizing one because of the other.
TFATWS needed eight episodes (at least). At times it felt way rushed. The Flag Smashers storyline was a mess (almost certainly because of the pandemic arc that they had to cut and reshoot because, COVID). There were too many villains who weren’t villains. Too many shades of grey. Walker gets rehabilitated in the final episode but Karli becomes irredeemable? I’m not opposed to Sharon Carter, Power Broker, but I feel like her history in the MCU meant we needed more backstory to believe her 180 degree turn. Zemo, I will broke no criticism of (except maybe having his guy blow up the Flag Smashers in that frantic rush to the finish). He was a (Turkish) delight.
The heart of the show, of course, was Sam and Bucky, and the writers rarely set a foot wrong with them. It’s so obvious from press tours in the before times (and virtual ones for this show) how much Sebastian Stan and Anthony Mackie like each other, and that came through in spades (please, please, release the thirty-minute therapy scene that Mackie has said is out there. If you can give us the #Zemocut, you can do this). Watching the growth, as Sam wrestled with and ultimately chose to embrace the complicated legacy that Steve had just foisted upon him in Endgame, as Bucky shed the Winter Soldier like an old skin, as their relationship shifted and deepened and shifted again, was marvellous. I think episode five is the best in the series (I would watch an entire show of Sam and Bucky fixing the boat and training with the shield and staring at each other and making smart ass remarks), and I am beyond excited that its writer (along with the show’s main writer) is tapped to pen the just-announced Captain America 4.
Some random thoughts (mostly about the finale) to try to get them out of my head:
When Bucky gets knocked over the edge in the battle with the Flag Smashers – he lands in the stereotypical ‘hero’ pose (one knee, one fist to the ground). Pair that with Karli’s “give him someone to rescue” and the stunned look on his face when he does do the rescuing and people thank him for saving their lives, and we see what the MCU might hold for him. There was a lot of nervous chatter on social media during the show about the possibility that Bucky might be killed off – that the character development was being shown because his arc was ending. I’m so glad it didn’t – I think it’s so much more interesting to show Bucky determined to find a way in this new world than to give up and suggest that he’s an empty shell with no meaning once he’s been deprogrammed. (On that note, one of my few complaints about Bucky was handled was how short his final scene with Yori was – we should have been allowed to see more of what Bucky said.)
I kinda wish Sam and Bucky had been allowed to be mad at Steve. I’m not a “I’ll hate Marvel forever because Endgame ruined Steve’s arc” fan, but even I (with my limited interest in Steve and Bucky) recognized that Steve’s decision in Endgame was really weird [don’t get me started on the time travel/ alternate timeline issues]. And I get that Steve had five years of dealing with shit that Sam and Bucky missed because they were both blipped and maybe he was tired of all of it, but it never sat right with me that he finally got his friends back and then he just handed the shield to Sam and left. (I did feel very smug when Bucky confirmed in episode five that Steve told him in advance what he was going to do, because I’d always believed that had happened after Bucky said “I’m going to miss you” in Endgame.) The bit in the therapy session when Bucky says “and if he was wrong about you, then maybe he was wrong about me” and his voice breaks, was fabulous, and I wish there had been more of that. At the same time, I’m really glad we didn’t see old man Steve (or young flashback Steve) in the show. He was an imposing presence and both characters needed room to discover who they were without him. I loved that Bucky left the book with his (terrible, let’s face it) therapist – showed he truly was letting go of the past.
What do we all think Bucky said when he looked up at Sam and saw him in the Captain America suit (that, let’s all remember, Bucky ASKED the Wakandans to make)? My best guess (after much time spent studying the many, many GIFs of that moment) is “Oh, man!” (like whistling through teeth admiration). Many people want him to be saying “Sam” but I think the lip movement is wrong.
Did anyone else have a literal “Awwwwww” moment when you realized that Bucky asked the Wakandans to make another Redwing with Sam’s new suit? Even though he always complained about Redwing?
I love that the composer for TWS and Civil War (Henry Jackman) scored TFATWS. I loved hearing the echoes of the previously established themes. I love that Zemo’s theme came back, and the Winter Soldier’s, and the Falcon’s (which, as Jackman himself has said, was able to be expanded out to a full theme). But I think my absolute favourite musical moment was when Sam first came through the window as Captain America and the music did the two big beats that normally lead into the Captain America theme, and then the Falcon (extended) theme played instead. I thought it was so clever. I’d been waiting to see if Jackman was going to pull out the Cap theme, and then he teased it, and then he didn’t use music that would have made Sam into Steve Rogers’ shadow, but reminded us all that he is his own person. So I guess mentally I need to start thinking about the original theme as the Steve Rogers (Captain America) theme and the new one as the Sam Wilson (Captain America).
The ‘not my Cap’ brigade (aka the ‘shoulda been Bucky’) on social media are just gross. So gross. The Captain America twitter account changed its image on Monday to be the new poster just released by Disney+ and I can only assume this has provoked howls of outrage. But I LOVE IT. I love Anthony Mackie and I am so excited for him. And Sam Wilson proved over and over again in this series why he should be Cap.
I will admit I thought Sam’s speech was a bit much, and it was pushing the willing suspension of disbelief to accept that the US, after covering up what they did to Isaiah Bradley, would just turn around and make a museum exhibit telling his story for all to see, but I also want to recognize that I have NEVER seen a Marvel movie even try to engage with the issues that TFATWS repeatedly raised (the profiling scene with the cops in episode two where the cops ask Bucky if Sam’s bothering him was so important). So yes, the work isn’t done and it could have been done better, but there was (I think) a sincere effort here, and Carl Lumbly was spectacular.
We have to talk about the ending (or, as I like to call it, the scene that launched a thousand fanfics). I don’t care WHAT Marvel and Disney thought they were filming, the sight of #sambucky walking off into an ACTUAL SUNSET with Sam’s thumb brushing against Bucky’s neck as he pulls him in closer will live rent-free in my mind until the end of time.
Not gonna lie, all I want now is for Captain America 4 to have a very early scene where Sam’s at home, on the phone to someone, lots of ‘yep’ and ‘uh-huh’, ending with ‘right, we’ll be there soon as we can’ and then Sam hangs up and yells ‘Buck? We gotta go!’ and Bucky comes in with his shirt off or toweling his hair. Like they don’t need to make it a THING. They laid all the groundwork they needed to. Just move forward.
I know, I know, they’re not going to do this. This is Disney and Marvel, after all. This is “we’ve made 23 movies so far but the only LGBTQ+ representation you get is Joe Russo’s nameless cameo”. This is promising representation, hinting at representation, but chickening out at the last minute, again and again and again. So I shouldn’t expect anything but disappointment.
I recognize that even if my interpretation is completely off, it’s still a good result to have two men onscreen as friends who are that comfortable with each other. We need more of this.
But we need LGBTQ+ representation more.
And I just love the idea of them SO MUCH.
Did you SEE how Bucky looked at Sam in that final scene? And when Sam was giving his big speech? And when Bucky saw Sam in the Captain America suit for the first time? And even back in episode 5, when they said goodbye after training with the shield and Bucky was BITING HIS LIP while giving Sam heart eyes?
Ok, maybe this is just how Sebastian Stan looks at everyone?
But let me tell you, if Bucky looked at me like that??!!
You could do worse than finding somebody who looks at you like Bucky looks at Sam, is all I’m saying.
The New York Times published an article last week that really spoke to me (and to many of my friends when I posted it). We’re all languishing.
These Disney+ shows have been one of the brightest spots in my week. They’ve been one of the few things I’ve been genuinely excited about. I haven’t had as much fun as I did going down the #sambucky rabbit hole this past weekend (because let me tell you A LOT of people read that last scene the same way I did) in months.
So yes, they’re silly shows about superheroes, but in a very real sense they’re saving me.
Thursday 12 March 2020 is what I think of as my last ‘normal’ day.
It was the last day I taught in person.
The last day I took transit.
On the way home from (what would turn out to be) my last in-person class, I got a text from my sister with the news that the premier was shutting the schools after March Break ‘for two weeks’ (hahaha, sigh).
By noon on Friday my university had announced it was pivoting to online instruction, effective Monday. When P. and I went to go do the groceries that afternoon (as we usually did on Fridays), we couldn’t get into our usual grocery store because the panic buying was in full swing.
We knew it was coming, and yet, when it did, it seemed to happen all of a sudden.
On the 1st of March, Q. and I ran a big public forum connected to our research, with hundreds of people in attendance (in retrospect, we only JUST snuck that in). I remember chatting with other faculty members who were supposed to go to Italy in April for a lecture and research tour. At that point, they still thought they’d be able to go, although they were concerned that the libraries might be shut. No one at that point seemed concerned about Canada at all.
By the 6th of March, Q. went out to do our “what if we have to quarantine for two weeks” shop.
The WHO declared it officially a pandemic on the 11th.
And the 12th was the end.
It’s been a weird year.
A year without restaurants, without movie theatres or plays or musicals, without museums and zoos, without playdates (except virtual ones). A year without setting foot in someone else’s house (except for the brief point in the summer when we could bubble with my mum). A year without swimming lessons, without trips to the bakery for treats after school, without adventures on transit, without all the little things that add up to the rhythm of our days.
A year without friends.
A year of mask-wearing, of online grocery orders, of extreme hand washing, of waving hello at a neighbour and then taking a nervous step backwards when they approach.
A year of crossing the street when you see someone else coming.
A year of both too much family togetherness and too little.
It’s been a hard year.
The most difficult part was mid-March to early August, when the kids were at home with us 24/7 and we were trying to keep all the balls in the air (work! school! food! book project! mental health! more food! exercise! house! still more food!) without any room to breathe. My mum was able to take the kids for a few days in August, and again in early September, and that helped so so so much. Then the kids had two and a half months back in school, which was amazing (but then two more months at home). Currently we’re at almost a month back in school, long may it continue (probably not past mid-April).
I’ve been so focused on the kids and on how much of the past year has been spent with them at home with us that I only just realized the other day that it’s also been a year since Q. and I spent any significant time apart. We’ve had months of trading off responsibility for the kids while one of us hides works in the basement, and sometimes one of us goes out for a walk without the other, and there’s been the occasional medical appointment, but we haven’t had a single day that resembles what (in the before times) was our normal: only one of us at a time in the house between 8 a.m. and 6 p.m. There’s probably only a handful of meals we’ve eaten over the past year that we haven’t eaten together.
I guess it’s a sign of the strength of our marriage that it took me that long to realize how little space from each other we’ve had over the past year (and how little it’s bothered me).
Throughout the pandemic, my little family has been fine. We’ve been safe. No one we know well has died from (or even contracted) COVID (and please may it stay that way).
But fine doesn’t mean it’s been easy.
I don’t think I’ve ever been this tired. Trying to use my brain is like swimming through treacle. It feels like when E. and P. were tiny and I was up multiple times per night, every night, for months…but I am sleeping fine. It feels like when I was depressed during graduate school…but I am not depressed.
I am functioning, but only just.
I am so burnt out.
I stare at a screen all day long for work and then at night I stare at a screen some more because the thought of reading makes my brain physically ache.
I don’t know where I would start the process of recovering.
I don’t know what I would need to feel like I can start the process of recovering.
Teaching online is like playing whack-a-mole: I get one thing organized, one module finished, and something else pops up. On my non-teaching days, there’s always marking to finish, or quiz questions to prep, or translations to post. I am counting the weeks until the end of the semester, hoping that in the summer, when I am teaching only one course, a course that I always teach online, a course that is fully prepped (because I need would like to revamp it but nope, not this year), things will get easier.
But I suspect I won’t feel like things are truly getting easier until we can say that it’s over. Because, the truth is, it’s not the teaching that’s taking up such an enormous cognitive load that my brain feels like an old computer being asked to run a program for which it doesn’t have enough RAM.
E. has been saving his money to buy a Nintendo Switch. He only decided a couple of months ago that this was his savings goal, but lack of spending opportunities over the past year (because, pandemic) meant that he once he made this decision, he already had a good chunk of the money he needed. He gets a weekly allowance ($4 = $2 in his ‘spend’ jar, $1 in ‘invest’, and $1 in ‘donate’) and some birthday/Christmas money from relatives. He also earned royalties from the novel he wrote in the spring lockdown, self-published, and sold to his relatives. I’ve told him that I won’t pay him for doing most chores around the house (I don’t want to establish a precedent of paying him now to do something that when he’s older I’ll be expecting him to do as part of his contributions to the household). But I did pay him when he made a spreadsheet for me cataloguing all the styles and sizes of hand-me-down footwear in our basement waiting for P., and he also earned some money helping me sort and record all the canned goods in the basement (left over from last spring’s ‘what if there are food shortages’ worries) and the contents of our big freezer. He’s saved me a lot of time, and these are both very much one-off tasks, so I feel paying him is the right thing to do.
Last night he determined that he now has enough money to buy the Switch (with a whole 70 cents left over!). He’s already decided not to buy the Switch until closer to his birthday, because he thinks it will be too hard to have it without any games. He’s going to write a letter to his relatives asking for money to buy games and explaining why that’s what he most wants for his birthday, and I’ll scan it and send it via email.
Last night he also had a phone conversation with his Grannie – he called to thank her for the book she’d sent him (#18 of the Dragon Masters series- they’re much too easy for him now, but he still enjoys them and it’s become a tradition that Mum sends him the newest one as soon as it’s released. This means that P. will have access to the whole set in a couple of years!). During the conversation he happened to tell her about all the holds on that particular book at the library, and how glad he was he didn’t have to wait. He also commented that there are currently over 200 holds on the latest Wings of Fire (which also came out this week). E’s had a hold placed for six months, but he doesn’t know where he is on the list yet because the library doesn’t have its copies entered into the system. He’s predicting he’s #152, I’ve guessed #56, and P., wildly optimistic, has chosen #2.
Because I know my mother very well, I was not at all surprised to find a message from her on my phone after they’d hung up and E. had gone off to bed. She had the latest Wings of Fire book in her online cart, but it was only available in hardcover. Should she still buy it?
I said no.
Partly it was because I think if you’re going to collect the whole series, you should try to get them all to match.
But mostly it was because I’d already asked E. a couple of times whether he wanted me to order that book and he could pay me back out of his ‘spend’ jar. He always thought about the question carefully, but every time his answer was the same: he wanted to save the money for the Switch.
My mum can afford to surprise him with books, and I know that gift giving is one of her love languages (even though it is most decidedly NOT one of mine). I respect and appreciate that she checks with me beforehand, that she’s always willing to take suggestions, and that she never buys my kids crap that I’ll hate (example: she only buys clothing from stores that we know fit my kids well, she always pays attention to what I say they need, and she never buys stuff with problematic messaging [‘I’m a princess’ or the like]). I also know that she adores my kids and the separation from them during the pandemic is breaking her heart (our separation from my mum has now been longer than in the first lockdown, since we were at least able to bubble with her for part of the summer). So I felt like an asshole for putting my foot down and not letting Grannie come to the rescue, but I also felt that this was a really important lesson E. was learning. You have to make choices in life. You can’t get everything you want, all at the same time. When he finally gets the Switch, when his library hold finally comes in, he’ll appreciate how hard he’s worked, and how long he’s waited for both.
E. said last night, once we’d tallied all his money and determined that he had, indeed, reached his goal, that once he had his March allowance, he was planning on using some of his ‘spend’ money to buy Robux (the currency in Roblox that lets players buy game passes and new skins and cooler pets (?) and to be honest, I don’t really know what else or how it works, but he’s excited about the possibilities). He’s known for ages that he would have to use his own money to buy Robux, and he’s also known that he had lots of money in his ‘spend’ jar, but he wasn’t willing to use it on Robux if he was still short of what he needed to get the Switch. Now that he’s reached his goal, he’s happy to blow some of his money on something that he clearly sees as both frivolous but fun.
I’m thinking he’s probably worked out this delayed gratification thing already.
It felt like a survival tactic for years: know what was going on south of the border so that if the orange fascist-in-chief started a war, you’d at least be aware it was happening.
It was an anxiety control mechanism: if I understood everything that was happening, everything that mattered, I could feel better about my total inability to change what was happening.
Gradually, over the past couple of months, I have begun to realize how these patterns of anxiety played out. I have begun to recognize (again) that the US is a separate country, and I do not need to know how the Senate confirmation hearings for President Biden’s cabinet picks are going. I feel like I need to know, in the same way that I once needed to know the names of (far too many) counties in Arizona or Georgia, but the truth is, I don’t.
Nor do I need to obsessively follow the people on Twitter who used to tell me how terrible everything was. They’re still there. They’re still tweeting. But the adults are back in charge, and things are finally, blessedly calm.
You can log on to Twitter at any given point in the day and the hashtags are just normal, boring hashtags.
You can no longer immediately tell what the president has recently said or done from what’s trending.
I don’t know what to do with myself.
I’m realizing how often I was in the habit of checking particular websites to see what was being said or done, how often my go-to ‘break’ was a quick troll through the international news, how much of my time and mental energy was sucked up every day by these habits, this need to know.
I am not for a minute suggesting that all the problems in the US have been magically solved with the arrival of the new administration, just that it is time I stopped paying as much attention to them.
I should know more about what is going on in my own country than I do about the state of the US.
That hasn’t been true for years.
I can easily name more governors than premiers. I can’t name a single Canadian supreme court justice, but I can rattle off the names of those who sit on SCOTUS.
I was a late-arriving fan for the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). The history of my chat thread with my sisters tells me that it was in November of 2018 when I pinged them looking for a fun movie on Netflix to watch on a rare day off. One recommended Black Panther, if I liked Marvel movies, and the second chimed in with Thor: Ragnarok, at which point the first changed her recommendation to Ragnarok as well.
I watched Ragnarok.
I liked it so much that by the time Endgame was released the following April I’d worked my through all twenty-one previous movies, including heading to the theatre (by myself) to watch Captain Marvel. And then I watched Endgame in the theatre four times, which at the time seemed both ridiculously frivolous and utterly necessary (I was in a bad space with work and needed the outlet for crying), but now seems more like a dream (an enclosed space with lots of other people – what was I thinking?!).
I recognize that Ragnarok as the gateway drug for the MCU is a cliché, but I think it came at just the right time in my life when I was a) ready to embrace a big new universe and b) old enough to no longer care about going to the movies by myself. Having easy access to most of the films via Netflix and/or the public library also helped.
I realized as I worked my way through all the movies that I had seen a couple of them before. I think Q. and I saw the first Iron Man in theatres in 2008, but Q. is not into superhero movies, which possibly was only made clear on that occasion, so we didn’t make the effort to see more (especially after E. came along). I maybe have memories of watching the first Avengers film on a plane (or possibly it was Age of Ultron). I hadn’t quite realized just how many Marvel movies had been made, until I devoured Ragnarok and turned my attention to the backlist.
And it was GLORIOUS.
So many films to track down and watch, in order, with a recurring (ever-expanding) cast of characters. So many great moments. I devoted myself to the MCU with the same fervor that resulted in me being able to identify every ST:TNG episode within the first forty-five seconds as a teenager. When I decide to love something, I am ALL IN.
I get that some people don’t believe that you can be a ‘real’ fan if you discover something late, and want to make it a thing about how superior their perspective is because they loved it earlier. I recognize that there is a difference between discovering something right at the outset and coming to it later, when it’s already complete (or nearly so). But both are equally valid, fabulous ways to love something. The people who watched Endgame who had been travelling with those characters since 2008 would have had a different experience than I did, the newly-minted fan. But their experience would have been different again from those people who had read the comics. Not better, not worse. Different.
It didn’t matter how we got to that theatre, just that we were there. And I, the newbie, cried just as shockingly hard as a seasoned fan might have (or perhaps harder, let’s face it – I’m a weeper). My opinions (*cough* should have been Hawkeye *cough*) might not have been grounded in years of speculation or decades of comic book narratives, but they were still valid.
I think we don’t celebrate this enough – how glorious it is to find something you love only after it’s been around for a while and there’s heaps of it to discover. I see the difference in E’s experience of the How to Train Your Dragon series (the books), which had all been published by the time he was old enough to read them and his experience waiting (and waiting) for the fourteenth book of the Wings of Fire series to appear. Burning through a dozen novels in the space of a few weeks (and then reading and rereading them, often out of order, for months to follow)? Fabulous. Awaiting that magical moment when the library shows how many copies of the book they have (and your position in the holds queue) rather than just “copies on order”? Also fabulous.
I’m now entirely caught up on the MCU content. I am a WandaVision super fan. I watch the new episode every Friday and then I go on Twitter to see what everyone else thought. I am thoroughly unaccustomed to having to wait for a new episode. On Netflix, I binge my way through anything good (unless I’m watching with Q. who has more restraint). Every week it feels weird (and somewhat uncomfortable) to reach an endpoint without actually reaching an end.
I don’t know how the MCU and I will get along in the future. Their universe is getting bigger and more complicated in Phase Four. Will I care about these new characters? Will it all get to be too much for someone like me, with minimal comic book knowledge and limited time? When will I feel safe in a theatre again?
Whatever the future holds, it’s been a glorious romp over the past couple of years, and I’m positive I’ve enjoyed the movies more than I would have if I had been watching them as they were released. They really reward a binge. And yet, I also think WandaVision works better on a drip feed, as if I had been able to binge the entire season, I know I wouldn’t have appreciated some of the moments which have stuck with me over the past few weeks.
Do you like to get in at the ground floor with new things or discover them once they’re already completed, so you don’t have to wait for the end?Are you also watching WandaVision?
When the pandemic started, there was a brief point when it felt like we were all in it together. We weren’t, of course – even from the beginning privilege (or lack thereof) was shaping our experiences. But all those shots of empty city streets made it feel like we were presenting a unified front against the virus.
Very quickly it became obvious that we were living through different pandemics, our experiences shaped by our geographical location, employment responsibilities, and, perhaps most of all, the composition of our households and the stage of life in which we found ourselves. I was reminded of that this week when I briefly popped into a virtual research seminar for my department (while also cleaning up after lunch and supervising P’s online school – camera off and bluetooth headphones ftw!). One of the more senior professors was presenting and it was clear that they’d spent much of the pandemic sitting and thinking and reading and writing – all the things that academics are meant to be doing when we’re not teaching. They’d had all the time in the world to do this, while most days I barely feel like I have time to string two thoughts together. It was hard to sit there and listen to them debate the finer points of one of their ideas (and then I couldn’t even listen any longer as P’s class ended and she needed me).
I know everyone’s pandemic is different, and that all the things I most long for – empty space, hours of quiet, no one who needs me – are exactly the things that other people have far too much of. In the fall, back when such things were allowed, we had my mum over to visit in our yard. She was struggling with the monotony of her days, their emptiness, their lack of purpose. We both keep the same five-year journal and she said that often she didn’t even bother to fill it in because every day was the same and nothing happened. “I’ll write in it today!” she said. “You’ll make the journal!” She looked like she might cry, and I couldn’t hug her.
I am SO VERY TIRED of people who don’t seem to be having a pandemic at all, or, at least, not one that requires any changes to their behaviour. loribeth* had a great post about this recently, about what we’re willing to do (or not) and how that compares with the actions of others. There is so little my family does. We go for walks. We pick up groceries that we’ve ordered online, so we don’t have to go into the grocery store. We go skating (reserving a time slot on a rink with restricted capacity, wearing masks). We pick up takeaway maybe once every two months. We go to our butcher’s to pick up the order we placed online once a month. We pick up holds from the library occasionally. Anything we do which requires us to step inside a building we organize online beforehand so that we only have to step inside for a minute or two each month.
We don’t go shopping in person.
We don’t go to coffee shops. When they were open, we didn’t go to restaurants.
We don’t go to playgrounds.
We don’t see friends.
We don’t see family.
We are doing everything we possibly can to stop the spread and we are following all the rules, as much as it hurts (since right now it probably would be safe to see my Mum and as soon as the kids are allowed back into school it won’t be).
And then, on our walks around the neighbourhood, we see the rink that isn’t controlled by the city, the one that community-minded neighbours worked together to build, overcrowded with games of shinny where no one’s wearing a mask.
Or we see kids we recognize from school playing touch football together in the park, wearing masks at least, but very much not in compliance with the rules of this lockdown because there’s far more than 10 of them.
Or we go skating and the kids on the rink are all wearing masks but their parents are having what looks to be a tailgate party in the parking lot, complete with shared snacks and hot chocolate and lots of laughing and not enough social distancing.
And it becomes SO HARD to remind myself that I don’t know what pandemic anyone else is having, that I don’t know their circumstances or their struggles, because all I see is selfish behaviour that means we’re further away from bringing our numbers down.
The Guardian had an article with the headline “Everyday Covid mistakes we are all still making” and I raced to read it, because I wanted to know what we could do better.
There was nothing.
Their examples were people who let their kids play with friends and then keep the kids away from the grandparents, but the parents go see the grandparents, or standing around chatting with someone outside, because you assume outside = safe.
It was an important article and I’m sure many people would have read it and made some changes, but all it showed me was that there’s nothing else my family can do.
We can’t beat Covid on our own.
We’re dependent on everyone else doing the right thing.
But too many of them aren’t.
*loribeth – if you read this, I have tried to comment on at least four of your posts in the last couple of weeks, but they never go through, and I’m at a loss to explain why.
Every year, on the 1st of February (midway through winter), Modern Mrs Darcy posts about what is saving her life right now. Big, small, doesn’t matter. It’s an opportunity in a difficult season to take a moment to recognize the good things in your life, the things that make getting through each day easier. In a year like this one, these positive things (big or little) are more important than ever.
My list follows (posted, of course, on the 2nd because that’s how I roll right now), but I wouldn’t want to publish it without first acknowledging that what is REALLY saving my life right now is my privilege – my two-income household; my job that I can do entirely from home; my stable, high-speed internet and multiple devices that allow Q. and I to both teach over Zoom while the children are building with LEGO and playing video games whenever they think we’re not looking learning in online school; my car that lets us pick up the groceries we ordered online so we can avoid the stores; and, of course, my husband who divides up each and every work day evenly with me so that we both get a concentrated block of uninterrupted time in the study without kids (ok, for me it’s mostly uninterrupted time since both kids burst in at least once per session, but it’s a far cry from trying to work at the kitchen table while supervising the four year old’s school day). In this day and age I feel like that last one should be a given, and not a rare feat, but I’ve lost count of how many of my female friends are married to enlightened, modern men, who are wonderful, involved fathers, and more than capable of completing any household task, but who, ever since they started working from home, have disappeared into a room at the start of every work day, shutting the door behind them, and reappearing only for meals, leaving my friends to juggle the school needs of multiple kids, the household chores, and their own jobs, because those jobs are “less important” or “more flexible” or “part-time” or “less financially lucrative” or whatever other bullshit society has offered up to let these men think they get a pass. It’s infuriating.
Anyway, on to the good! In no particular order, here are five, six, seven things that are truly saving my life right now:
There’s so much screen time in our house these days. SO.MUCH.SCREEN TIME. We get the kids out of the house at least twice a day (usually once to play in the yard and once for a walk), but their lives (and their parents’, let’s be honest) revolve around screens. Skating on the weekends has become a much needed break – a chance to get some fresh air and exercise that isn’t just walking, a chance to do something that feels like “winter” (since we’ve had very little snow and we’ve twice now had to abandon plans to go sliding because the hill felt too crowded), and a rare opportunity to do something all together.
Skating feels safe – masks are mandatory on and off the ice (even when they were just mandatory off the ice earlier in the winter we wore them on the ice too) and the capacity on the rink is capped. You have to book online for a specific 45 minute time slot at a specific location. The system is a bit crazy and reminds me of trying to register the kids for swimming lessons in the before times, since the daily time slots open at 8 a.m. a week before. I’ve now set alarms on my phone for 7:45 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday to make sure I’m logged in and ready to book for the following weekend, since our preferred rink fills almost instantly (and I’ve yet to succeed at booking the skating trails, despite my best efforts).
But once we’re there, the hassle of booking and the chaos of trying to get everyone out the door at precisely the time I think we need to leave to eliminate any possibility that we might be late and lose our spots all melts away, replaced with blue skies, crisp air, and the comforting rhythmic scrape of blades on ice. I think a lot about my Dad when I skate, as he loved to skate and never will again. I try to pay attention to the small miracles of my body as I move and turn and breathe under the sun. I try for those minutes not to take it all for granted, as I usually do.
E. does endless laps of the rink, lost in his own imagination. Q. doggedly works on improving (having learned to skate only after the mad Canadian he married brought him to the frozen north). And I skate with P., who really “got it” this year. She visibly improves week after week and now skates so quickly and with so much confidence that when Q. circles round to trade off, I no longer feel like I need the break to actually get in some skating of my own.
RICK RIORDAN’S The Trials of Apollo
At the end of last year, I was in a reading slump and was struggling to a) finish books and b) enjoy them. I was overwhelmed with work, the aftermath of the US election, the decision to pull the kids from school, and the terrible pandemic numbers in our province. I had this giant pile of library books next to my bed (the quarantine procedures mean my library isn’t charging late fines at the moment, so I can horde them without penalty), but I didn’t want to read any of them. Reading is one of the most important ways that I manage my anxiety, so I knew I couldn’t stay in this funk for long without repercussions echoing through the rest of my life.
At some point I discovered that Rick Riordan had published a third series set in the world of Percy Jackson. I’d read his first two series and enjoyed them both; I’d particularly liked how receptive he’d been to criticism about the lack of diversity in the first series and about the (likely unintentional) connections he’d made between classical mythology and white supremacy (certainly not the first to do so). I put The Trials of Apollo on hold and absolutely devoured the books when they became available.
They are a HOOT. I know a lot about classical mythology but (no spoilers) the context for this series is even more in my field of expertise. I’m sure these are great books without a background in the field but when you can pick up on and appreciate every single nuance, they’re truly fabulous. Q. would regularly find me snickering away on the couch or shrieking with outright glee as something I’d predicted many chapters before finally came to fruition.
They were a fantastic romp and once I’d burned through all five books I found myself eagerly reaching for books that had been languishing in my bedside pile for months. Reading mojo restored, I read ten books in January, still below what I would consider to be my “normal” reading rate in the before times, but more than I’d managed in any month since July 2020. The number of books I’ve had out from the library for an embarrassingly long time is dwindling (labmonkey’s story about having to pay for a library book that was three months overdue because the library had assumed it was lost might have also helped in this regard).
SOMERSBY’S BLACKBERRY CIDER
Not gonna lie, Q.’s and my alcohol consumption has skyrocketed this past year. Had I put together the equivalent post for this past spring/summer, alcohol would have featured heavily on that list as well (especially fancy drinks made by Q. with herbs from our garden that we then sipped while sitting on our patio). We’re not drinking as much as we were during that first lockdown since the kids are more pacified occupied with online school and we feel not quite as strung out (although I suppose we’re only at the equivalent of May, so there’s still time). But we’re certainly drinking more than we usually would in the before times.
While in the grand scheme of things, we are totally fine, as we have been this entire pandemic (there’s that privilege again), Q. and I are SO VERY TIRED. The kids were back in school for long enough for us to get our massive two-book project off to the press, which is wonderful, obviously, but we’d just started to talk about taking a couple of days off to decompress and spend some time together when the in-person learning came to an abrupt end and we were thrown back into the chaos and juggling act of lockdown, only this time with exponentially more synchronous meetings for the kids and a much heavier teaching load for Q. and I.
This semester, this winter, is a grind. So a drink on a Friday night, while the kids are eating dinner and Q. is squeezing in a bit more work time before he cooks our traditional ‘date night dinner’, is always appreciated. I like many ciders, but Somersby’s Blackberry Cider just makes me happy every time I drink it. At one point in the spring it wasn’t in stock anywhere when we did an alcohol order, and I started drinking other flavoured ciders to see if I could find an acceptable substitute because I felt guilty about its massive carbon footprint (drinking cider imported from Denmark when my province has dozens of small-batch options was hard to rationalize). I found a decent peach one, but nothing was quite as good. And then, this fall, when we were making another online order, I discovered that a) it was back in stock and b) now IT WAS MADE IN CANADA.
I ordered every can the store had.
I’ve been savoring one (or two) every week. Q. and I always share a bottle of wine over the weekend, but I don’t share blackberry cider with anyone.
MY BOSE 700 NOISE-CANCELLING HEADPHONES
Let me say from the outset that this is another example of my privilege speaking, because I was able to use my professional expenses fund to get my employer to pay for these ludicrously expensive headphones. Would I have bought them myself if I had to spend my own money? Probably not. Am I unbelievably happy that these were considered eligible expenses in these unprecedented times? YOU HAVE NO IDEA.
They’re not perfect – the app that you’re meant to use to control them is incompatible with my computer; they’re a bit fussy to charge using the laptop’s usb port; they’re heavier than I was expecting – but when I have them on, with the noise cancelling cranked up, I don’t hear ANYTHING, even if E. is shouting with enthusiasm at his class on the other side of the wall. They’ve got great sound quality, my students say I come through clearly on their end, they’ve got a solid battery life, and they look good (I went for the triple midnight).
The ability to work without hearing P. having a meltdown when I’m not the one on with the kids?
We have an elderly and much beloved cat, who, as she has aged, has developed a habit of roaming around the house in the wee hours of the morning, yowling at the top of her lungs. Is she lost? Is she lonely? Is she bored? Is she deaf? We have no idea, but when she’s asleep on the bed, gets up, wanders down the hall and then starts yowling, only to sound SURPRISED when she finally comes back to the bedroom and discovers that WE’RE STILL IN THE BED WHERE SHE LEFT US, we feel like we’re losing our minds.
It was getting really bad. We’d have nights where she wandered in and out repeatedly, yowling, jumping on and off the bed, climbing on and off of us until Q. and I both felt like we’d barely slept. When she started waking up one or both kids most nights, we knew we’d hit our breaking point.
We felt awful, but we banished her to the basement. She has everything she needs down there – food, water, litter box, cozy blanket – but it didn’t assuage our guilt.
But – she doesn’t seem to have noticed the change. She’s happy to see us in the mornings and doesn’t appear to be stressed. She sleeps in all her usual places during the day (she’s on my lap as I type this). We’re worried that she’ll get cold and drop weight (she’s a slim cat who’s never put weight on easily), so we’ve ordered her a heated bed, which seems only fair, since the difference her banishment has made to our quality of life has been nothing short of astounding. The kids are both sleeping in until 8 or later, and Q. and I are so much more rested. Q., who has for years joked that the next cat will be called “Sleeps In The Basement” and who has been advocating for this move for a long time, has resisted looking smug.
THE PELOTON APP
I know this is a pandemic cliché, but it’s so worth it. In November Q. and I signed up for the one month free trial of the Peloton app. We already had an exercise bike sitting unloved in the basement (Q. occasionally used it, I hadn’t ridden it in years) and we were trying to find ways around our new sedentary lifestyles. In the before times I’d regularly walk 4-7 km in a day without even trying – all the school runs, walking to transit to go to work, errands in the neighbourhood, etc., really added up. When the first lockdown happened, that all abruptly ceased. I’d go for a walk with the kids every day, but that was it. I tried to start a C25K program partway through the spring but my weak ankle gave out after three weeks. I need physio if I’m ever going to run again, but I wasn’t willing to see a physio in the pandemic for something that didn’t feel like an emergency.
When the kids went back to school in September, Q. and I tried to restore some of what we’d lost. We went for walks after lunch a couple of days a week, but we knew it wasn’t enough. We also knew that it would be months, probably closer to a year, before we could return to ‘normal’. This lifestyle couldn’t be brushed off as a holding pattern. We had to figure something out.
For the month the kids were in school and we had the app, it was brilliant. We both had enough time and space to work that we didn’t feel guilty or stressed about setting aside time for the bike. I really dislike exercise bikes, but I’ve found a style of class (80s music all the way) and a few instructors who work for me, and I can see the improvements in my stamina and strength.
January was hard. Q. used the bike a handful of times at most. I got on three times each week, but every time I chose to ride I knew I was leaving work unfinished. I feel like I have to prioritize it, even though I’m overwhelmed trying to squeeze all of my work this semester into the kid-free hours I have each day – most of my time with the kids is in the morning, which is when their schedules don’t align to allow them to go outside at the same time. That means Q. is usually the one who takes them for a walk, and I often go days without leaving the yard. I went for a walk by myself a couple of weeks ago (which was glorious), but I could only rationalize it because I needed to get bloodwork done, so I walked to the lab. I spend most of every day sitting, staring at a screen. The Peloton classes help to counteract this. They’re not enough, not on their own, not for how often I log in, but they’re much better than nothing. I might even keep riding a few times per week when the pandemic is over and my regular walking patterns have been restored (which is high praise indeed!).
This one was so simple and has provided so much joy I wish I’d done it much sooner. Q. and I had been saying for months that we needed to get a proper stash of cloth napkins since our kids are past the “need a wet cloth near them at all times” phase but not yet out of the “will wipe dirty hands on chair if necessary” phase. What kept us from making a decision? Inertia? Mental overwhelm at the thought of yet another decision? Fretting over what felt like an unnecessary expenditure? Probably all of the above. One night in January I sat down, did some googling, ended up on Amazon (I know, I know – we are trying really hard to stop buying from there) and bought these and these (not affiliate links). They came, I washed them, and we’ve been using them ever since.
As I have precisely zero interest in ironing them, they wrinkle and crease at the edges and don’t lie perfectly flat when I fold them. But who cares! They are a lovely generous size, they feel nice, they have a great weight when you open them up, and they make me smile every time I put one on my lap.
If you have made it all the way to the end, please tell me, dear readers, what’s saving your life right now?
Inauguration Day seems like an appropriate day to brush off the dust here and provide an update. I don’t usually pay much attention to such days, but this one felt different. One of my children watched the inauguration shirtless, wearing a light-up necklace of Christmas lights, and the other one sat next to me and asked every ten minutes or so whether they had checked everyone present to make sure no one had any guns, which both sums up my children in a nutshell and catches the mood in the house – joyous celebration, tempered with anxiety and unease.
I’m so glad Biden is president. I’m looking forward to no longer knowing more names of American elected officials (or counties) than Canadian ones. I’m excited for Twitter to continue to be as blessedly boring as it has been the last week or so. I’m hopeful that we can all sleep better at night knowing the adults are back in charge.
But man is there a lot of work to be done.
In our news, COVID in our province is completely out of control and our premier has continued to be astounded and horrified at the case numbers and the projections (which were NOT A SURPRISE for anyone who understands exponential growth). We’ve been in some sort of “lockdown” (or “mockdown”) for exactly two months now and the daily case numbers in my public health unit still clock in at close to 1,000 per day, so it’s been months of ineffectual action and dithering, rather than any coordinated proactive approach that might have achieved something. My Australian husband is beyond disgusted and regrets not fleeing down under back in the spring when it was still possible to get back into the country.
The kids have been home since early December and will not be returning to in-person school before mid-February at the earliest. There are many, many reasons why we didn’t choose virtual learning for our kids, and this enforced period of virtual learning at home has repeatedly confirmed that sending them to school was the right decision for them, for us, and for our family.
Managing their virtual schedules feels like a full-time job and includes:
Checking their schedules (which change daily since their school is required to maintain the same rotary schedule they would follow in person)
Making sure they get online when they’re supposed to (E. is quite independent with this)
Coordinating when we can get them outside (which requires P. to miss the final meeting of the morning every single day)
Finding devices (iPads and Bluetooth headphones)
Checking what’s been posted before breakfast every morning so I can print out worksheets (since the printer is in the study). Everything can be completed online but we try to get them offline and using pencil/paper as much as possible.
Keeping track of what they’re supposed to be completing and submitting (as far as I can tell, E. is spending his days playing video games or looking up video game facts on Google while “listening” since the only work he seems to get done during the day is the math, so the school day drags into the evenings and weekends as he catches up)
Managing the meltdowns when they stagger off the screens at the end of every day, completely burnt out. E.’s grade is required to have 225 minutes of synchronous instruction every day; P’s meant to be getting 180. I don’t run a Zoom meeting for my courses longer than 60 minutes, and I’ve had so much appreciative feedback from my students (and they are adults!). This entire plan was designed by people who are not educators and who did not consult with educators, and its sole purpose (as far as I can tell) is to keep the parents happy and complacent because their children are occupied.
The whole thing is completely ludicrous, and now that Q. and I have started our semester, we’re engaged in this elaborate dance where who’s in charge of the kids is largely determined by our own synchronous teaching commitments. It’s so complicated we had to make a spreadsheet and load everything into our calendars.
In some ways it’s better (and by better, I mean better for the adults’ ability to get work done rather than any educational, emotional, etc. benefits for the kids) than the spring since the kids are pacified more occupied with school. E., in particular, is largely self-sufficient and gets himself online when needed. He plays Among Us with the other kids in the class during the breaks (more screen time – augh!). I don’t know if he’s learning anything, but he’s getting a lot of French language exposure, which was the weak point in the spring since there was so little synchronous work, so he’s not going to fall behind in that regard, and he’s ahead of grade level in pretty much everything else that I think is important.
P. is happy enough to sit up for most of her meetings, although her interest in doing any of the work has waned significantly since she started online in early December. This week she flat out refused to do the work, wailing at me, “I DON’T WANT TO CUT OUT THE PLANETS!! I KNOW HOW TO COUNT BACKWARDS FROM TEN!!” She’s right – she does already know pretty much everything she’s meant to be “learning”. We’re concentrating on reading (she’s very highly motivated). She finds it hard to sit through a forty-five minute meeting with only one chance to share. She misses her friends and often pins them (rather than the teacher) so that they’re always visible in the meetings.
Both kids are sleeping better without the rush in the morning, but the pandemic is weighing on them. A week or so ago they were ranting about COVID and what they missed. E. said he couldn’t wait to be able to walk around without wearing masks. P. said she wanted to hug people, starting with her friends at school. Some of her friends are meeting up at playgrounds, but that’s not something we feel comfortable doing.
The winter has been a bit of a bust so far in terms of snow (other than right at Christmas), so keeping them happy and busy has been a challenge. We have been skating almost every weekend – you have to register in advance for a specific session (it’s like trying to book swimming lessons) and the numbers on the ice are capped at 25. We always wear masks on the ice (which is now mandatory but wasn’t earlier in the season). It’s nice to be able to do something “normal”. E. is a great skater despite only first getting on skate two years ago, and P. is making noticeable progress every time we go.
We knew the kids would end up back at home eventually, and, if I’m being honest, we’d expected it to happen much earlier. Every day between Thanksgiving and early December felt like a gift. But at the same time, everything was working in the fall. The kids were happy at school. Q. and I had the time and space we needed to work again. We got our book project off to the press (and thank all the gods the kids stayed in school long enough for that to happen). We were literally just at the point where we were talking about taking a couple of days off, and then the kids had to be pulled out of school. Realizing how well everything was working made it harder when it all fell apart again.
Now, Q. and I are so tired. Between us, we are teaching seven courses this semester (long story, combination of factors determined long before COVID), and keeping our heads above water is taking all the time we have. What I’ve lost ever since the kids came back home is the snatches of “free” time that I was starting to be able to carve out for myself in the fall after we got our book project off to the press. I watched the new season of The Crown. I started to build up some momentum with my reading again. I used our exercise bike consistently (we have subscribed to the Peloton app and use it with our old and outdated bike, which is great). With the kids at home, we’ve both lost three or four hours of work time a day. If we have to make it up, we have to work in the evenings or at the weekend. If we can keep our heads above water with the time that we still have (which I have mostly managed to do this week), then there isn’t any extra time left over to do something for us. Writing this blog post now means I’ll be working this evening.
So, in the grand scheme of things, we are still totally fine. We’re safe, we’re healthy, we have food on the table and a roof over our heads and exceptionally good wifi that has only once flaked out when I was teaching.
Just your average married, infertile, Canadian woman. I spent the first half of my thirties focused on two goals: motherhood and a PhD. IVF/ICSI brought us our son (E.) in 2011, but a sibling eluded us, despite our best efforts. In between pregnancy, parenting, and trying again, I wrestled the PhD into submission and defended in 2014. In the summer of 2015 I made a number of diet changes that led to the ultimate triumph over PCOS: a completely unexpected natural pregnancy. Our daughter (P.) arrived in June of 2016. A perpetual student, I still don't know what I want to do when I grow up, except write and run.