Life and Health

It’s All About The Screen

“I’m bored” is the new code phrase for “I’d like an electronic device” it seems from my 5-year-old. Even the short car ride home from school seems to elicit the “I’m bored” whine. Like my mother before me, I offer a list of suggestions depending on the circumstances (read a book, look out the window, clear your room, play with your toys, etc…) but none of those things are a good enough replacement for the stimulation provided by a screen. Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t like any of the options my mother presented me with when I was my daughter’s age either, but my mother didn’t have a cell phone or tablet to offer.

Photo by Fausto Sandoval on Unsplash

I look around in public spaces and suddenly I can’t blame her. Instead of drifting into imaginations, reading books, or even people watching (a personal favorite of this former mallrat) I see everyone staring at a device. I see the metaverse already taking hold and no one really understands how to act without it. My husband and myself are not innocent in this either but can we stop the metaverse from consuming our lives?

And can we take the time to thoughtfully craft what the world can and should look like when we have become the commodity to be bought and sold? When the mining of our data has become just as valuable as our hard earned cash? When we can, and do, spend real money on virtual goods?

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate technology and the things it’s been capable of doing. Things that we didn’t think were possible, especially during this pandemic. There is a global connection that generations before have never been able to experience. These kids can, and do, listen to music from across the globe and history. They have friends in different countries that they’ve connected and communicate with using social media or video games that those of us before never would have thought possible. Their worlds are incredibly expansive but also sometimes incredibly small being confined to a screen.

In the words of Dr. Ian Malcom “Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.” (Jurassic Park, 1993).

All around I see humans, old and young, thirsting for connection to themselves and each other but only some of that connection can be fulfilled in the digital realm. We have seen and learned through this pandemic that virtual can only do so much especially when that virtual comes in the form of doom scrolling through social media or being sucked into the comparison trap.

Photo by Shane Rounce on Unsplash

Some of our connection must come from in person, real-time experiences where we can hear each other’s tone of voice and read the body language. Some of our connections need to be with nature where we can hear the wind rustle through the trees, we can hear the birds or insects, breathe deeply of the fresh air not the recycled and sanitized heat or AC that maintains a balmy 72 degrees year-round regardless of the outside conditions.

Technology has granted us a lot of awesome capabilities, but we stand here with a choice. We can move ahead blindly following the path that’s being laid out for us by tech companies or we can take a breath a forge a new future where the glory of technology works in tandem with the “good old days”. Where we can effectively divide our time between the 2D screen and the 3D real world.

I am revaluating the limits I set on my phone usage (for me personally that’s the main culprit of my disassociation with the real world) and making sure that the technological devices in my life maintain themselves as positive tools without sliding into the destructive. I have started to recognize when my screen time no longer becomes the escape it needed to be but turns into the numbing it shouldn’t be. Once I reach the numbing phase of consumption it’s no longer the pleasant respite but the mechanism that makes me feel worse than when I started.

Make no mistake, the metaverse is most likely coming. To a certain extent it’s already here but we have a say in how we interact with it. We can have the power to craft it for good and not just for the profit of the tech giants.

This is the time to take a stand against the robber barons of the 21st century. Take the time to decide how you are going to thoughtfully engage with technology while also not checking out from the real world. Integrating both of them as we move forward into the ”new normal” is paramount to building the society we need.

Poetry, STEM Mom

Exploring Rocks – A Creative Interpretation

Photo by Deniz Altindas on Unsplash

Abigail got ready

It was a new day

Time for adventure

To get on their way

She packed her notebook

And magnifying glass

Off to explore

Maybe look at the grass

Her mom packed some lunch

A change of clothes too

Never too prepared

When you don’t know what you’ll do

Off they went

To a field by their house

Out in the grass

Quiet as a mouse

Abigail bent down

And picked up a rock

She looked at it carefully

It reminded her of chalk

“Ahh” Mom said

“Good observation my dear

That is limestone

You can write but it might smear”

“Limestone is shells

From creatures long ago

They used to swim here

Going to and fro”

Mom and Abigail

Kept walking on

Kicking up rocks

The color of dawn

“Why is it red?”

Abigail curiously asked

“That’s iron oxide

In there that’s amassed”

“It’s the same as our blood”

Mom smiled down

“It’s amazing the same

In nature all around”

Thin slabs under foot

“Now this is called shale

Thin and flaky in layers”

Mom put some in the pail.

“Shale is layered

In strips so fine

If you look carefully

There is many a line”

They unpacked their blanket

And sat on the ground

Looking at all

The rocks that they found

“Rocks are cool!”

Abigail said

“They come in grey,

Brown, yellow, and red!”

“Nature is cool

And it’s abundantly clear

We need more adventures

Both far and near!”

Life and Health

Can We Be Different in 2022?

Photo by Debby Hudson on Unsplash

It is only a few days into 2022 and it’s going to be a bumpy ride. Hopefully omicron is the light at the end of this very long and very dark tunnel. It’s not over yet but a hugely transmissible and relatively less severe variant usually signals that the end is coming to a pandemic, but it seems that omicron is going to go down swinging and try to take as many with it is possible.

Viruses are like parasites; they need to balance being transmissible with being dangerous. If they’re too dangerous and kill their hosts too quickly they don’t have enough time to find a new host and they just die out. Omicron is shaping up to be the more transmissible less dangerous variant that we want. Think of the cold virus or even the flu, hugely transmissible but for the most part relatively innocuous. And with a novel virus you’re going to get it at some point; it’s like all the colds kids pick up their first time in daycare or school. Your immune system has never seen it before, so it’s not prepared. If you got the vaccine, you’re somewhat prepared but vaccines generally cannot be 100% foolproof because all our immune systems behave slightly differently. But the vaccine is like having a trained sniper in your platoon at your disposal instead of just tanks. Therefore, the symptoms are less severe and generally less of an annoyance than if you only have the tanks.

Your immune system is basically broken down into two big parts: innate and specific immunity. Part of innate immunity is all the symptoms you feel like coughing, sneezing, throwing up, diarrhea, etc. These are BIG physical responses to try and rid your body of whatever is invading it. These are the tanks — they just throw everything they have at it and hope something works. Therefore, the symptoms of the cold, flu, COVID, allergies, etc.… are all very similar. It’s your innate immune system trying to rid the body of the offenders without really knowing how to combat it. It’s the tank leveling a house because one bad guy might be in there.

Your specific immunity is the ability for your body to magically (it feels kinda like magic but what is science other than magic that’s real?) remember and direct it’s efforts in a way that acts like a sniper that can shoot through the windows of the house to just get the guy you want without any extra casualties. The vaccines (and previous infections) are training for the snipers. And the more and better snipers you have the less your body needs to use the tanks hence the reason we can have asymptomatic carriers of the virus.

All the things we’ve done in the past two years have been an effort to slow the roll of the virus to preserve the medical systems NOT to stop the virus from making you sick forever. Again, with a novel virus you’re going to get it at some point, it is not a moral failing or reason to feel ashamed. Especially if you’ve been vaccinated (and boosted if appropriate) now that they are widely available in accordance with medical professionals’ advice and recommendations. The vaccines will make you less sick or be asymptomatic, but the reality is you will probably have at least one rumble with COVID over the course of your lifetime. The mask mandates, vaccine recommendations, quarantine rules, etc. have been a way to help ensure that the medical community is able to handle severe COVID infections AS WELL AS ALL the other medical issues that crop up daily. These rules were in place to make sure the hospital, urgent care, primary care physicians, etc… can all be available for you when you need it most. Unfortunately, in many ways we have consistently let them down because people have been too worried about what these steps do to them personally and not the whole and we can talk about the other failings of our “healthcare” system as well but that’s a different topic for a different day.

This (hopefully) last wave may finally be the beginning of the end but the actions we’ve taken up to this point as a society are determining how destructive this wave is going to be and so far, it’s not looking good for our collective soul. A system beaten and aching by almost 2 years is barely hanging on by a thread. People you know and love are going to jobs every day trying to prop up this failing system. We’ve all made choices in the past two years; we’ve all balanced the risk and reward scales to do things and we’re all tired of the balancing act. Pandemic fatigue is a real thing and it started way back in 2020 but here we are in 2022 and I’m not sure what the decisions we make in the next few weeks are going to do to the already battered and bruised system.

And all these injuries to the system have exposed many of the flaws in our society; we can choose to rebuild a better, more sustainable world but when we’re still in the thick of survival mode it can be hard to look even a week into the future and decide how to do things differently. What if we all just took a shared vacation after this? Would a few weeks of rest be such a terrible thing after all we’ve lived through since 2020? Much like some European countries do in July or August for summer holidays but unfortunately our capitalist on steroids society of producing bigger, faster, better, MORE is the complete antithesis to that idea. Here in the US, we barely take the time off our employers give us (if they give us any at all).

Photo by Mariah Krafft on Unsplash

If you can, and you haven’t been forced to use up your time off propping up the failing systems, take time from work and school in 2022. Stay home, sleep in, read books, watch TV, whatever you do that will let the cortisol (stress) hormones that have built up in your system since 2020 start to dissipate. And if you have the ability or power, advocate for others to do the same.

There will still be a lot of cleanup as we make our way through 2022 and beyond but maybe, just maybe, if we can rest a little bit before we remake the system that failed, we can do it with a clear head of what we really need going forward instead of just trying to rebuild the same old $hit we watched crumble right before our very eyes.

Life and Health

Winter Break Looked Different This Year

Photo by Arūnas Naujokas on Unsplash

This was the winter break that was and wasn’t. The past couple weeks have been tumultuous for our house, as it has most of the world since Omicron has taken hold and seemingly everyone is sick. This household was no different. My husband brought something home the weekend before Christmas and we’ve been in various stages of illness (finally wrapping up). My husband and I both had 2 rapid tests, 1 PCR test and a trip to urgent care that all pointed to “unspecified viral infection”, but we still played things safe and tried not to spread our germs as much as possible this winter break. I ended up going back to urgent care since 10 days of rest and general idleness didn’t result in me feeling 100% (yay 10 hour wait!) to find out that perhaps what was an “unspecified viral infection” was probably a sinus infection in disguise (identified due to the onset of a massive headache).

All three of us were home for the majority of winter break and rarely left the house both out of an “abundance of caution” (another phrase I’m beginning to hate) and a chance to just rest and relax our minds and bodies after a tumultuous, stressful, challenging 2021.

Usually during this week, we do at least something fun and interesting but between the crazy weeklong misting rain and our general malaise the most interesting thing we’ve done is some clay art with Crayola air dry clay and not left the couch for hours at a time.

It hasn’t been the most productive week, I usually try and complete some minor cleaning and organizing projects that never seem to be important enough (like the hallway closet) to warrant using precious time during the work week to finish but this year, we coasted into 2022 in pajamas that we’ve worn for longer than I should probably admit to.

It’s been a liminal week of rest, relaxation, and zero expectations.

On one hand I feel like this was the winter break we all needed and on the other hand I feel completely disappointed. It’s a strange space of wanting rest and wanting activity.

As someone who considers herself a “doer” it felt very weird to spend 7 hours playing a video game with the Mr. one day (perhaps a new record for me?). I’ve introduced the munchkin to “Dr. Oakley, Yukon Vet” on Disney+ and we’ve had more screen time than I prefer but it was all in the name of intentional rest during this in-between week where the world feels paused between the old and the new.

For the most part, unless you’re someone who might work in sales/financials, by the time Christmas rolls around the old year feels wrapped up. Nothing I do or say is really going to change the outcome for the year; whatever goals I’ve set for myself I’ve either completed long ago or at this point they aren’t going to be finished in a week (and that’s ok…). Generally, I’ve already come up with my goals for 2022 so I don’t really use this week for any goal setting or planning.

The new year hasn’t quite officially started yet so it’s not REALLY time to start working on “crushing” goals (or gently eroding them) for 2022. It’s just a week that EXISTS in the calendar for me from the standpoint of accomplishing anything.

This year it existed to be a week of familial solitude and I’m not angry about it.

Usually when I am stuck in the house too long I get really antsy and feel the need to get out but this time around I enjoyed 10 days where I maybe left the house for 3–5 hours total (besides waiting at urgent care). I guess the past 22 months has finally gotten me comfortable with my buried homebody, introvert (now if we can just get the munchkin there without technology, that would be super helpful).

I honestly didn’t know that was possible but over the course of 2021 I worked to craft a physical space that I was happy with and that allowed me to do the things that I wanted to and needed to do.

Photo by Moritz Knöringer on Unsplash

2022 is already starting off with a bang so it’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here (it can only go up…right?) but I’ve learned quite a few lessons in 2021 that I think will really help me weather whatever storm we’re still sailing through in 2022.