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Life and Health

A Burden Shared – Part 2

TW: pregnancy, loss, and Roe v. Wade

Photo by Stormseeker on Unsplash

Back in October 2021, I shared the gut-wrenching loss of miscarriage after an unexpected pregnancy. It’s been a few months and while I thought I was “over it” that doesn’t seem to be the case. In January my partner had a vasectomy because while the unexpected pregnancy excited me, it scared him. He has a genetic condition called epidermolysis bullosa where his skin layers aren’t fused together properly so he gets blisters just by catching his elbow on the door frame or scuffing his heels on the stairs. While normal people experience blisters on occasion, his condition results in them happening constantly and very visibly. I’ve lost count how many times we’re out and people ask him “what happened?” and he sometimes answers with the truth (usually when I’m there to call him out when he lies) or he’ll offhandedly reply “chemical burns” or “motorcycle accident” when he doesn’t want to deal with the further explanations. I am the one more often to explain the truth; I imagine this is because I don’t give a $h!t but also because I’ve only been dealing with it for the length of our relationship whereas he has been dealing with the stares and comments his whole life. And while most people are just genuinely curious and trying to be sympathetic; some have been downright rude about it. Magnified over his lifetime and coupled with the fact that his father had the same condition, he has grown tired of it.

I don’t relay the small snapshot of what he’s dealt with for any reason other than to try and explain that we discussed and agreed upon the vasectomy; it was not a decision he made on his own despite my attempts to sway his opinion. Through our discussions I realized the pain he would feel passing on the condition (there was a 50–50 chance) and potentially laying that burden on a child would be way more than my pain at not having a second child. However, as with anything, while I agreed and was part of the decision I still have to wrestle with my own feelings and regrets at realizing that our family is purposefully going to remain capped at three members.

And I was doing fine with it until April hit. April was Blueberry’s due month and leading up to my period I had some symptoms that I warped into some false hope that meant maybe his was the vasectomy that didn’t work. I built up in my mind that these symptoms MEANT something and when my period started, I was absolutely devastated. I woke up in the middle of the night, started ugly crying like it was September 2021 all over again. I woke him up to comfort me and desperately tried not to wake up my daughter at the same time because the sobs just wracked my body unexpectedly.

It was 2:00am and I couldn’t remember how to call out of work because they just changed the system over and I completely forgot my log in information, so I ended up going to work. Fortunately, I was showing a movie about The Human Genome Project so in the darkness while the movie played, I tried to keep the tears to a minimum but sometimes they would slip down my face and I’d brush them away. I made sure to get my log in information so I could take the next day off so I wouldn’t have to sit through another day of class trying to hide my crying.

I talked with some friends about it, the period (and the PMS symptoms) passed, and I was able to move on until the draft supreme court opinion dropped in May which brought an onslaught of discussions about pregnancy, abortion, and miscarriages to the national stage. The captured news cycle discussed almost nothing but pregnancy and it forced me to relive the emotional roller coaster of August and September 2021.

After the radiologist told me that the zygote was no longer viable, I had to be checked over by my doctor to see if the miscarriage had completed otherwise, I would need assistance. I remember sitting in the waiting room of my Ob/Gyn’s office, watching pregnant women come and go; trying not to turn into a wailing, rocking, shaking mess. It was insanely hard watching all these women walk past me and sit down next to me while they waited for their own appointment but in May 2022, I imagined what would have happened if I went into that doctor’s office and was treated like a suspect instead of the immeasurably sad and sometimes inconsolable woman that I was. What would have happened if the doctor started interrogating me about whether I may have done anything or somehow caused this miscarriage either by accident or on purpose? What would have happened if the doctor didn’t (or couldn’t) prescribe the medication I needed to make sure my uterus expelled all the dying tissue and my body went septic leading to hospitalization and potentially death? Where would my partner and daughter be then?

I was over 8 weeks pregnant, in some states and at a different time the horror of being treated like a suspect and not a woman who needed medical (and emotional) care could have been a very real possibility. Of course, some of you will say, “you were clearly distraught” or “it was evidenced that you wanted your baby” but that’s not the point. With the rotation of medical care, the doctor I saw for my miscarriage had never treated me before and depending on what notes the midwife put in my file at my previous appointment, or if he even had time to read them, he may have his own opinion about the situation. He asked me if the pregnancy was planned and I answered honestly that it wasn’t — in a different state that could have led to a whole new line of questioning and/or treatment from the doctor or staff. And what would have happened to me while they were trying to decide if I did something wrong or not?

None of the medical staff questioned or tried to sway my husband from getting a vasectomy. No one has called out his choice for how he’s treated his body and prevented us from having more children (except when they didn’t realize I was in fact part of the decision-making process). They did not require me to attend the appointment to make sure it’s what I wanted as well. However, my situation could have led to me being treated like a potential criminal and scrutinized for everything I did leading up to the miscarriage to determine whether it was truly “natural” or if I somehow made it happen, because even unknowingly causing a miscarriage could be considered a crime in some parts of the United States.

Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

It has been 10 months and I’m still not “over it”. There are still pangs of guilt and “what ifs”. There are still moments of sadness and regret, but I am lucky enough to be surrounded by family and friends who support me, and not experiencing these emotions while at the mercy of the legal system. We all have our burdens to carry but when we get to share them with others it lightens the load.

DIY and Organization, Life and Health

To Clean Or Not To Clean?

We have had a whirlwind of birthday parties these past four weeks. As of writing this we’ve had a birthday party every weekend for a month, and it’s been succor to this extrovert’s heart but after two years of the pandemic it seems like my social life (or more accurately my daughter’s) went from 0 to 60 without blinking. While we have both enjoyed being able to be around people and socialize in a way that hasn’t happened for quite a while it’s been weird having commitments again and I must remind myself that I don’t want to live in that frenzied state of running from one thing to the next without a break.

But as someone who thrives on engaging with others even in small doses, how can I meet that need without burning the candles at both ends? How can I feed my extrovert soul without shirking my responsibilities at home or the need to sometimes pause and reflect?

Photo by Ricardo Viana on Unsplash

The problem with being out all the time is I feel like my house is in shambles because we haven’t spent time cleaning up and putting things away because we’re running. My daughter has also found new friends on the block, so she is out the door to play with them most days after school; since it’s keeping her from becoming a screen zombie and it’s feeding her extrovert soul, I find it hard to tell her no but then she is also not learning responsibility around keeping up with the household chores.

Don’t get me wrong, our house is not an unsanitary, hazardous waste dump but there is just STUFF. Stuff that collects on every surface because we (yes, I do it to even though I tend to blame most of it on my husband and child) just come home and drop whatever we’re carrying or what needs to be sorted through in any number of places. I attempt to have clean surfaces, such as the breakfast nook or the dining room table but they quickly get overtaken by mail that needs to be sorted, kindergarten work that needs to be recycled in the dead of night, so she doesn’t notice it disappearing, or other items that need to find their home in our house.

I try to put systems in place that facilitate getting things put away in an organized manner, but my husband tends to rebel against those systems (he’s a rebel at heart, thanks Gretchen Rubin) and my daughter is now six so any thought process that extends beyond the here and now is lost on her. Days or weeks later she will ask for something — I’ll respond, “did you put it away?” and she’ll look bewildered at me like those are foreign words she’s never heard before.

But I know full well this is our fault. We have not instilled in her the need or the routines. Sure, she helps around the house, or she’ll put things away when I tell her to or withhold something from her when it gets really bad (“you can’t go play until….” “Or no TV until….”) which is not the best strategy. I’d like to raise a kid who puts things away and cleans up after herself but her parents haven’t been so hot at it either so I can’t really blame her.

Being someone who deals with ADHD symptoms, having systems in place and routines greatly helps keep me be organized and productive because when my environment is chaotic, my mind is chaotic because it’s struggling to keep tabs on ALL THE THINGS. Where are *insert item here*? What was I supposed to be doing? And then I’ll get distracted by the things that need to be put away or dealt with but trying to stay on top of these systems when I’m in essence forcing them on two other mostly autonomous beings in the house is another level of exhaustion so then I just say “screw it” even though I know that makes things worse for me in the long run.

I keep promising to myself that we will implement regular chores or time to clean up again both as a way to keep the house neat but also work on teaching her responsibility, but it always feels like I’m swimming against the current. And yet at the same time I know it will be good for all of us to go back to a little bit at a time — I just have to be the adult and make it happen.

Who knew that most of adulthood would be cleaning up the same $hit repeatedly?

And then I think about myself, it wasn’t until I got to college and had “itty bitty living space” where I really learned the value of putting things away and keeping things organized.

As with so many things in parenting, I know that we are sowing the seeds that take a long time to bloom but I just have to plant them.

Life and Health, Tips and Tricks

The Belvita Breakdown and Decision Fatigue

I’ve been thinking a lot about decision fatigue lately. If you don’t know, decision fatigue is the idea that every choice you must make takes mental energy. The more choices you have to make, the less mental energy you have.

Photo by Egor Myznik on Unsplash

Think of your brain like a bank account balance; if you start the day with $100 every decision you must make or question you need to answer withdraws from that bank account. The lower the number gets the harder it is to make decisions. And then add into the calculations if you didn’t get enough sleep or something is weighing on your mind and those items decrease your initial balance to get started. As you spend that $100 it gets harder and harder to make the right decisions because then you start making the easy ones (which aren’t always the healthiest) like doom scrolling on social media, zoning out in front of the TV, or eating ALL the snacks (yes, I have done all these, sometimes at the same time!!).

In an ideal world you will either just run out of your mental energy or still have a surplus when it’s time to go to bed but that definitely doesn’t seem like the case lately.

Therefore, developing habits that are routine make life easier. The more habits you have in place to accomplish the “adulting” the easier it is to make it through the day doing the right thing. For example, when I don’t meal plan, dinner easily becomes cereal in front of the TV. And while there is no shade for cereal in front of the TV for dinner on occasion, I know that it doesn’t really make me feel good when it happens too often during the week.

At school we instituted a rotating schedule amid coming out of a pandemic and returning to “normal” and I believe that has been the crux of my ability to settle into this year. When we have been trying to re-learn how to function as this pandemic raged on and is now (hopefully) turning the corner into an endemic reality of life I have been struggling to get used to and organize myself on this four-day rotating schedule where every day is different. It is March and I still haven’t stayed in a routine — every time I try to get into one at school something throws me a curveball, or my balance is already so low that I just sit and stare at my computer trying to think of what I should be doing.

This was evidenced a few weeks ago when my go to breakfast wasn’t available — it was 6:00am and there I was standing in the kitchen whining like my 5-year-old because I just couldn’t make a decision about what to eat for breakfast. My routine had been thrown out of whack by the simple miscalculation of how many Belvita breakfast biscuits were left in the pantry. With my morning routine thrown off it’s axis my day took a little while to get back on track. Something as simple as a package of “breakfast cookies” drained my bank account in the morning because I have been fighting to control the chaos of the past two years and maintain some level of normalcy or structure both for myself and my daughter.

If you have (or been around) children, you’ve probably noticed that being hungry is the quickest drain to the account. When trying to get my daughter breakfast on weekend mornings if we wait too long and we ask her “what do you want for breakfast?” the answer becomes a resounding “I DON’T KNOW!!” and at that point we should stop talking to her and throw some food at her until her bank account is restored.

It has been the constant barrage of changes, pivots and “what ifs” that has really tested my coping skills in the past two years.

Habits are the automatic deposits into the mental energy bank account; they are the psychological equivalent to “paying yourself first”. The more things you can make into a habit the less willpower your life takes. Gretchen Rubin has 21 strategies to use for habit change and James Clear (author of Atomic Habits) has a lot of information on building good or breaking bad habits. Finding the habits that automatically deposit into your account are crucial for feeling less drained and more productive overall.

Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

I am hoping that as Spring arrives in the Northern Hemisphere and it seems that the constant pivots are a thing of the past, I can work on building some new habits to lessen the decision fatigue and mental exhaustion that has felt like an omnipresent companion these past two years. I want to use my habits to add to the bank account instead of having to think about every choice in a 24-hour period (16 if you get 8 hours sleep). As a woman, wife, mother, and teacher there are lots of choices I need to make every day so if I can start moving more of those into the automatic payment column everything will be a little easier.

Life and Health

4 Things I Learned During a “Phone Sabbath”

Writer Casper ter Kuile in “The Power of Ritual” explains a complete tech sabbath every week but for me I decided to try to do just a phone sabbath from 7p Friday night until 7p Saturday night and here are the things I learned:

1. I use my phone for literally EVERYTHING. From looking up directions or phone numbers, keeping on top of the news, checking in on discord servers and everything in between. My phone is as much a tool as it is a distraction — it’s the calculator in my pocket that my high school math teacher swore I wouldn’t have and the on the go banking assistant that allows me to stay on budget. It keeps my calendar appointments and sends me reminders when its critically important that I don’t put them off or forget about them.

2. I did get things accomplished that I would have otherwise put off for the sake of sitting on the couch and zoning out with the doom scrolling. As I write this, we are 3 days into the Russian attack on Ukraine, so I’ve been reading the news a lot. Instead of reading the news I steam cleaned the rug, did the dishes in a timely fashion, checked on the finances, put laundry away, and set up some summer things for the munchkin and I to stay active.

3. I got bored and wished I could use my phone. When the munchkin starts her “I’m bored” tirade when she is not being engaged by an electronic device, I have a little more sympathy for her now. I too wished I could have been entertained but when it wasn’t an option, my brain was able to settle down and enjoy the world around me. It wasn’t until the phone wasn’t an option that I learned how much I really miss around me because I’m looking down.

4. Hanging out with friends and sleeping were two very good antidotes to phone withdrawal. Had I not been asleep or celebrating a friend’s birthday for probably close to 13 hours during the 24-hour phone lock out I would have been a lot more confused about what to do with myself. Physically resting and hanging out with friends kept me from wondering what I was missing out on in the digital space. When I reentered the digital world I realized I hadn’t really missed much.

Friday night I was exhausted so I started my phone break and pretty much fell right asleep around 8pm and slept almost straight through until 7am Saturday morning. Once I got up, I locked out my phone for everything but phone calls and text messages (I use the QualityTime App and since the latest software upgrade sometimes I can’t even get to the “allowed” apps). I do not have a landline, so I figured phone calls and text messages were neither the major culprit of my screen problems nor a good idea to block out just in case of emergencies. And through the rest of Saturday, I had to find things to do and ways to entertain myself that did not involve my phone.

By the end of Saturday night, I had finally broken my habit of checking my phone every spare chance I got — the phone had reverted to the useful tool instead of the constant distraction. I appreciate the ways in which my phone fosters connectedness and information, but I also can see more clearly now the ways in which it negatively inserts itself into my life.

Photo by Brett Jordan on Unsplash

It was like pushing reset and I am going to do it more often.

Life and Health

Many Hands Make Light Work

In a moment of social media weakness, I shared a post that said:

“You are totally replaceable at work. You’re not replaceable at home. Home is your real life. Keep that perspective. Always.”

Photo by Microsoft 365 on Unsplash

I tend to shy away from sharing things like that on social media because I almost always think “inspirational” or “though-provoking” memes need more context.

Like the one where people are pointing at the ground saying, “it’s a 6, no it’s a 9”, and then it’s supposedly some lesson about not understanding the point of view of the other person. I don’t know about you but any time I’ve seen numbers painted on the ground they are painted in a specific direction for a specific purpose (usually as a speed limit warning), but I digress.

After sharing the meme, I felt a little uneasy but so many people responded to it so I didn’t feel I could take it down. I firmly believe in the sentiment of the meme for MOST people. However, this meme doesn’t represent people who don’t have choices, paid vacation, or sick days, and people who own their own business. This meme doesn’t represent the hard work ethic that has been drilled into people and in some cases traumatized people. There are some, my partner included, who feel defined by how much work they do and contributing the bigger, better paycheck even at the expense of their home life (this is a point of much contention in our marriage).

We have been conditioned to “get a good job” and the job (or paycheck) determines how good of a member of society you are. One of the first questions usually asked when you are getting to know some one is “what do you do?” (Sidebar: as a mother this feels like a completely awkward question because it comes off incredibly judgmental and I have yet to find a comfortable way to phrase it when it comes to the SAHM vs. working mom debate……. Why is that still a debate? But that’s a topic for another post) as if we are defined by our jobs. It’s as if our jobs dictate how much value we bring to society. We are seeing this rhetoric play out in the minimum wage/fair living wage debates currently raging here in the United States. Nationwide value judgements are being placed on people based solely on what they do for a living. This rhetoric is harmful and plays into the “unskilled” labor myth.

We all have different skill sets and it is this diversity that allows us to create a fully functional society. I was a terrible tollbooth operator — I worked as a toll collector during a couple college summers and it was dreadful because there were many hours where I was alone with no one to talk to. There were cameras in the toll booths that the cops in the station could watch and I imagine they spent a good many hours laughing at this poor college kid who was talking to herself, dancing, doing anything possible to keep her energy contained in this tiny little box. Now someone who is an introvert might love that job but for me it was complete torture.

Anyone who’s ever worked in food service, retail, or other service industry jobs knows how hard they are but when we talk about those being “unskilled” jobs and they should “get a better job if they want more money” we are playing into the hands of the oligarchs. All our skills are valuable, all our skills are important, and we deserve to be treated as such.

If you have a screaming kid in the car because they’re hungry, the drive-thru workers will save your ears and your sanity — I think those workers are incredibly valuable in that moment.

We are all valuable because we are human beings contributing to the whole. My job is valuable, but it is not more valuable than that my friend who manages a restaurant (and teaches) or the one who is keeps lawyers and court reporters straight so legal proceedings can move forward. My job is different but I also value the landscapers who take care of our lawn — they are being paid to do a job I COULD do myself but frees me up to do other things (I’ll save the suburban lawn environmental disaster discussion for a later date). But so often we put ourselves in relationship to others in the hierarchy of “skilled” or “unskilled”, college educated or not and this plays into the hands of the puppet masters. Pitting us against each other instead of realizing that we need this diversity in order to thrive. The global supply chain issues have taught us that so many industries are interconnected and rely on the other puzzle pieces to work. We are all part of the puzzle that makes society work.

Photo by Ashkan Forouzani on Unsplash

While we are all replaceable at work and should lean more into a true work-life balance we also need to remember that WORKERS are people who use their skills to keep society afloat regardless of the industry.

Life and Health

Across the Rainbow Bridge

On December 18, 2021, we received the news that our family dog had “weeks” to live. I wasn’t particularly surprised by the news considering that he had a mass on his jaw and he was approaching 16 years old (ancient in dog years) but the news still hit me like a ton of bricks. This past weekend, on February 19, 2022, I made the decision to humanely euthanize him because he wasn’t living his best life anymore.

photo by author

In the past two months however we didn’t hide this news from my 5-year-old. We didn’t sanitize the idea that his life was coming to an end, and he was dying. She has already lived through two pets passing on us during this pandemic but this one was the worst. He has been my constant companion since 2008 when he was adopted at supposedly 18 months old. I think he was younger based on his behavior, but shelters do the best they can with what they’ve got.

We told the Munchkin at dinner Friday night that we were going to take Ajax to the vet to peacefully and comfortably pass away. She immediately got up from the table and ran to “get his love” and the somber mood started. Saturday was spent with some yelling and a lot of tears as we spent our last day together and I second guessed my decision — did I wait too long? Have I not waited long enough?

There’s never a right answer for the question “is it time?”; just the one you stick with.

As a scientist, I’ve always been the one to tell her exactly as it as the best way I can. Whenever she asks me a question, whether it was about my period, where babies come from, where the food in the grocery store came from, or whatever I’ve always tried to answer her as honestly as possible. I believe in the power of facts and the fact is that living things die. That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt, doesn’t mean we can’t be sad or upset, but it’s the truth. And this is a truth I didn’t keep from her.

When we had to put our first dog down in May 2020, she did not go to a farm or run away. While it may have been easier in the short term, I think these euphemisms for death make it harder in the long run. Yes, we have learned to cheat death — we can outwit it with medicine and technology but we can’t get away from it forever. The pandemic has shone a light on death and the limits of the human ability to outrun death.

Death used to be a much more matter of fact part of life. People used to have their (un-embalmed) family members sitting in their houses for a few days while family and friends came to pay their respects. Some of the only photographs families had of their loved ones were death portraits. Death used to be a part of life, because in the “ciiiiiirrrrcle of life” (cue dramatic Disney music) it’s supposed to be:

When we die, our bodies become the grass, and the antelope eat the grass. And so we are all connected in the great Circle of Life. — Mufasa, “The Lion King” (Disney, 1994)

For the cycle to keep turning, death needs to happen. Death makes way for the mold and the fungus, the bacteria and the worms to do their job and return the organic material back to the cycle.

Knowing and recognizing death is an essential part of the cycle doesn’t make it any easier though. It does make me wish I was the type of parent that could come up with flowery stories to explain away the hard stuff but ultimately, I am left with my facts.

And the facts are that living things die and when we love them it sucks.

But what is grief, if not love persevering? ~Vision, from “WandaVision” (Marvel/Disney, 2021)

photo by author

Life and Health

Feeling Unmotivated and Stagnant

I am feeling very Gretchen Rubin “rebel-like” lately. I don’t want to do anything and I’ve given myself the blanket excuse of if I can’t do it all perfectly then I might as well not do anything. I’m not sure why these feelings have washed over me in the past month. I was looking forward to 2022 because, even if it’s not over yet, the pandemic should be waning, my daughter is turning 6 and becoming more self-sufficient so I have time to do the things I want to do more and more but here I sit wanting to do absolutely nothing; productive, fun, or otherwise.

Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash

I’m not sure if this is just simply a case of “obliger rebellion” as Rubin puts it when obligers decide they’re done meeting expectations. Usually, according to Rubin, the obliger is tired of meeting expectations but generally the rebellion is focused on habits or behaviors that only affect the obliger so it often looks like self-sabotage. Even if the rebellion is caused by external forces (say work, pandemic, other commitments) it seems the obliger can’t kick their butt into gear and that feels like where I’m at.

I can’t find the motivation to do the things I want to do that makes doing the things I have to do easier. I am in a funk of going through the motions. When I get any down or alone time it is often spent watching TV or mindlessly scrolling. I’m not sure why and I’m at a loss of words and ideas.

Over the past two years I’ve really narrowed in on my “needs” when it comes to feeling like a full and happy human being but the past month it has been really hard to accomplish any of it. It feels like whatever January was it was NOT the “new year” energy I was hoping for. I haven’t subscribed to new year’s resolutions for many, many years but there still is a hope that comes on January 1 for some reason. Even though I can make different choices in the next moment, day, week, month, etc.. January 1 still feels like a powerful restart but this restart seems to have sputtered and died out.

By the end of December I had reached a rhythm and routine that felt manageable and easing the mental burden of the chaotic school year so far and then that rhythm was disrupted in January by the omicron surge (as was everything else). January was another rough month of “what ifs” with pandemic parenting and teaching. There is a palpable stress in the world, like we’re all teetering on the knife’s edge ready to fall at any moment. January felt like a month stuck in hyperarousal waiting for the next shoe to drop and trying to plan for when it did.

Now that January has passed, trying to recover from the stressed state has turned me into an absolute slug regarding any and all things other than the bare minimums (doing my job and making sure everyone is fed). I’ve been trying to work on identifying the steps right beyond the bare minimums that pull me out of these funks but so far I haven’t climbed out yet.

Hopefully I will find a ladder to climb, stay tuned.

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.