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Archive for April, 2020

zoom
/zo͞om/
verb
(especially of a car or aircraft) move or travel very quickly.
“we watched the fly zooming about”
2.
(of a camera) change smoothly from a long shot to a close-up or vice versa.
“the camera zoomed in for a close-up of his face”
noun
a camera shot that changes smoothly from a long shot to a close-up or vice versa.
“the zoom button”
exclamation
1. used to express sudden fast movement.
“then suddenly, zoom!, he’s off”
Google Dictionary
Two months ago, these were all of my definitions of the word zoom, but it has, in a very short time, become so much more.
If you work from home, you’re no doubt familiar with Zoom (capital Z), the video conferencing website. Companies and groups all over the world are using Zoom, and other video conferencing companies/apps like Google Meet or Facebook video calls, to conduct business and hold meetings while friends and family are using it to connect in this time of social distancing.
For this, I am profoundly grateful.
Now, I will stress this: it’s not the same. You can’t hug or kiss anyone, shake hands, fist bump, etc. You can’t whisper a secret in a friend’s ear or snuggle a new baby, but it’s better than nothing.
Here are some ways that I’ve been using video conferencing in the last 6 1/2 weeks.
  • An Easter video chat with Oldest Child and Amazing Girlfriend.
  • Weekly board meetings with my theatre. I’m not a big board meeting fan (even though it’s necessary), but it’s SO good to see and talk to my friends.
  • A long-overdue chat with my Italian bestie. We’ve never done that before, I’ve never been very comfortable with video chats, but we had a lovely time on Sunday. This will be a new normal, especially since she’s monitoring my work in Italian. ❤
  • Coloring (or whatever) nights with theatre peeps.
  • Sermon Chats with our church group, where we discuss all sorts of things theological and personal.
  • Check-ins with students. We were using Google Meet, but some students gave out their codes to others and there were some highly inappropriate things that went on, so we’re moving to a more secure platform.
  • Work meetings. I love my coworkers, they’re amazing people, and meetings that used to be a chore are now a joy.

This virus sucks, that’s for sure, but it would be a hell of a lot worse without this way to connect. I have had some dark times through this, to be sure, but I look forward to those times when I can have a semblance of normalcy.

How are you connecting these days?

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Exactly two months ago, the night of February 17, I was so excited. The next morning, I would board my plane to Boston and begin my mini-adventure in Salem.  I was packed and ready. barely able to fall asleep. I remember it well. At that point, COVID-19 was the furthest thing from my mind. Little did I know

Fast forward to now. It’s only been two months since my trip, but it seems like years ago. Travel isn’t even on the radar at the moment. There have been some really rough days, I’ll admit. Emotions have run the gamut: Fear, inspiration, hope, anger (this past week, especially), frustration, all ramped up due to the situation.

I’m trying not to let my OCD and anxiety run away with those negative emotions, going round and round in my brain for hours without stopping. It’s times like these when I seriously rethink my therapist’s offer of medication. I’m not going to lie, Wednesday was really difficult, watching people completely disregard safety regulations, getting out of cars and clumping together, with such ugliness, waving Confederate flags and white power signs that had nothing to do with what they were supposedly protesting. Just for the record, I believe in the right to peaceful protest; I do NOT believe that we have the right to put other people in danger by potentially exposing them to a deadly disease (including children, OMG!!! There were several children there!), clogging up streets and honking horns for EIGHT HOURS around a Level 1 trauma hospital where there are tons of sick people, children, and a maternity ward. WTF??? Seriously, what is wrong with people? Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. That’s all I’m going to say on that matter, so trolls, step off. Don’t even try to defend that mess,

That being said, there are many positive things about this social isolation episode that I am focusing on. Such as:

  • Family time. Youngest Child is a brilliant musician and he’s been teaching (forcing) me to learn piano chords. I can already read music, I sing and play the flute/piccolo/tin whistle, but my piano experience has been limited to very simple tunes. Now, I’m learning some really cool stuff. He’s also helping me with learning ukulele. I always wanted to play and, of course, he knows how. We’ve been watching a lot of movies as a family, eating dinner together every night, and playing games. Yes, we get tired of each other and need some alone time, but for the most part, I love spending more time with Marty and Youngest Child. (Oldest lives on his own now, two hours away, and Middle is in his apartment at school since he has better internet and still has an active lease.)
  • Sleeping in. We’re working, Marty teaches, too, but no more 6:00 am wake-up times for us. School starts when we want it to. We’re honestly working a lot of hours, more than we normally do, but we have sleep. Yay!
  • I’m writing regularly. I finished the yet-unnamed sequel to Traveler, began another book, and plan to begin editing (and naming) the sequel this week. I’m also writing a lot more blog posts, in case you haven’t noticed.
  • Languages. I’ve dusted off my Italian and French and am going full-force on Duolingo. It’s awesome. Future plans…
  • I’m starting my Shakespeare garden indoors with seeds. See my Shakespeare Garden post for more on that. It’s so cool, watching everything sprout!
  • Zoom meetings. Two months ago, I couldn’t have told you what Zoom was. Now I use it every day. It helps me to stay connected to my theatre family and my church family. I truly don’t know what I’d do without it. I even get to have my therapy appointment online, which is very much needed.

Now, with things looking a bit better with this stupid virus running its course, there’s a little light shining at the end of the tunnel, if people don’t screw it up and start a giant second wave. We (myself included) need to focus more on the positive, not to ignore the problems, but to keep things from getting very dark.

In the comments, share a positive with me, some bright spot in this dark time, no matter where in the world you are. I want to celebrate with you!

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Right now, everyone wants to know when we’re going to get back to normal, myself included. The short answer is: never. Of course, we’ll get back out there eventually, open the economy, hug people, travel again. Of course we will. The world has been through pandemics before and will resolve itself at some point. To quote one of my favorite movies, “Life finds a way.”

However, we will never get back to the normal we knew. We never do after catastrophic events. Think about life before 9/11 and the subsequent bombing attempts soon after, if you’re old enough to remember. In February of 2001, a few months before the attacks, I went to Ireland with a group of friends. Going through airport security and customs was really not a big deal. If I remember correctly, we just walked through metal detectors. When we landed in Shannon, we did have to walk across a mat soaked in disinfectant to kill the germs on our shoes because of Mad Cow disease. That was it. Since then, air travel has definitely changed as we know it. Shoes and belts come off, cuffs get unrolled, and we get full-on body scans. Heck, I even got a pat down at Detroit Metro this past February, and I was just on my way to Boston. We suddenly had a new normal. Traveling by air will never go back to the way it was before, and neither will a lot of things when COVID-19 is done with us.

I don’t know what will change, exactly. Perhaps grocery quantities will always be limited, or stores will keep one-way aisles. Maybe we’ll all have to have our temperatures taken before we’re allowed on an airplane. It’s hard to imagine what the new normal will be. Maybe the changes will be positive. A better health care, system, anyone? More respect for workers that we now know are essential?

Whatever happens, life won’t be the same as it was before. It will be interesting to see where we are in a year or so. All I know is that I can’t wait to hug people again.

Stay safe. Stay home. Wash your hands.

 

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This Easter will definitely go down in the books as one to remember. It’s a bit anticlimactic. When our boys were small, Easter was a big deal, what with the bunny and all. There was Holy Week, beginning with Palm Sunday, followed by Maundy Thursday and Good Friday. Then there were the new outfits for church, going to a packed Easter Sunday service, smelling all of the flowers in the sanctuary. For the last several years, we’ve celebrated Easter dinner with family, at my brother/cousin’s house. It’s always been something to look forward to and enjoy. This year is different, of course. Church will be on YouTube, Youngest Child is too old to hunt eggs, and while I plan on making a nice ham dinner, it will only be the three of us. It’s a bit of a downer.

Of course, there have been other Easters that haven’t been “normal”. Seven years ago, we spent Easter in Disney World with my mom, brothers, sister-in-law, my niece, and my nephew. (Side note: Disney World is not the happiest place on earth, especially around nap time.) I brought some Easter candy to Florida with us to make it seem a little more festive, especially because Youngest Child was on that edge of belief and unbelief. It was a good Easter, just different.

Then there was the Easter that Middle Child got RSV. It was his first Easter, he was only a little more than two weeks old. His breathing didn’t sound right on the day before Easter so I took him to the doctor. We ended up taking an ambulance to the hospital where they tried to give him a spinal tap, but he gave them such a hard time that they gave up. We were there for three days, absolutely terrifying. Marty was left on his own to handle Easter for Oldest Child who wasn’t even two, so I assume he isn’t terribly scarred from the experience. That was the worst Easter, even worse than this one, for us anyway. Things went from zero to sixty so fast and we were scared. Thank God that little fighter made it through and is now quarantining in his campus apartment. He gets better internet for his classes there and still has a lease, so he’ll be home when things start clearing up.

Easter is about resurrection, rebirth, renewal. We don’t get to celebrate the way we usually do, so we have to keep perspective in mind. In Christianity, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, the basis of our faith, a renewal of sorts. We’re going through kind of a renewal right now, a reluctant one, but a renewal nonetheless. It’s uncomfortable, but I don’t think Easter, true Easter, is supposed to be comfortable. Change never is. Things are different this year, but it’s still Easter.

I wish you blessings, wherever in the world you are, whatever religion or creed that you believe, or not. What’s in your heart makes no difference to me, I just wish you love and blessings. We all kind of need that right now, don’t we?

Stay safe. Stay home. Wash your hands. We’ll get through this.

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“There’s fennel for you, and columbines. There’s rue for you; and here’s some
for me: we may call it herb of grace a’ Sundays. You may wear your rue with a difference. There’s a daisy. I would give you some violets, but they withered all when my father died.” ~William Shakespeare

Ophelia, in Hamlet, Act IV scene v Lines 180-185

In the middle of this quarantine, I’ve started my Shakespeare garden. This idea was not an original one, I take no credit for that. I got the idea from the Shakespeare garden in Stratford, Ontario. Stratford holds a Shakespeare/theatre festival every year, normally beginning in late April and ending in October.

Marty and I went to Stratford last summer for the first time in many years to see Othello. In front of the theatre was a beautiful garden with all sorts of plants from Shakespeare’s works. I took a ton of pictures and the wheels started turning.

We have a lot of junk grass in our yard. We purposely use no chemicals, so the lawn is a mixture of grass, clover, and other green things. We don’t mind. We’re not the fussy type and we definitely don’t want to add to the poison in the groundwater. I would like it to look pretty, however, and at be somewhat useful, as opposed to boring grassy stuff. Hence, the Shakespeare garden.

No photo description available.

Many of the plants I’m putting in can be used in cooking or tea, some for other things. There will be thyme, rosemary, columbines, and marjoram when the garden centers open back up and I can buy established plants. Yesterday, I planted seeds for mugwort (more tea!), yarrow, rue (herb of grace), wolfsbane (I’ll finally keep those pesky werewolves away), foxglove, black seed poppies, wild angelica, and even mandrake. I can’t lie, the mandrake has a huge Harry Potter appeal for me and it comes with a full sheet of instructions, so they will definitely be getting names if they germinate. There’s even a Hawthorn bush/tree arriving in a couple of weeks so the fae folk have somewhere to live. Violets naturally grow in our yard and I already have daisies. I also plan to put little signs around the garden, explaining what they are and where they can be found in Shakespeare’s works.

I could never have started a project of this size without being in quarantine. Honestly, this would still be a seed in my mind (see what I did there?) if we hadn’t been compelled to stay at home. Will it all work out? I hope so. I hope it will be beautiful, I hope I can have friends over for drinks in my Shakespeare garden. I hope the bees and butterflies will be happy with all of their new blooms. I have hope.

I’ll keep you posted.

By the way, I ordered my seeds from https://www.alchemy-works.com/seed_index.html where they carry a lot of hard-to-find seeds. The customer service was superb, but have patience during this time of pandemic.

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I usually consider myself a pretty good sport. I play by the rules, accept my defeats (mostly), and shake them off. I’m not an obnoxious winner, only a little gloating, especially when I beat Marty in Jeopardy. Hey, if you beat Marty in Jeopardy you would gloat, too.

But I’m having trouble being a good sport right now. I’m a person who craves authenticity, realness, hands-on experiences and that’s not happening right now, nor is the possibility. I love the idea that zoos and museums are streaming live animal cams and virtual tours; I think that’s fabulous. These are things that I would normally watch and plan to visit, or put it on my wish list to visit, like the Louvre or the Bronx Zoo. But right now, I can’t and I don’t have the heart to watch.

There was a woman on the news yesterday, from somewhere in my area, who was supposed to leave for Hawaii yesterday, I think, with close friends. They had been planning the trip for seven years. Yep, seven. Of course, their trip was cancelled because of COVID-19 and so she made the best of it. She made several videos as if she were on the cruise, folding towels into animals, pretending that she was on the deck drinking lovely tropical drinks, wearing big, floppy, cruise hats. Of course, she was disappointed, but she really made an effort to turn it around.

A friend of mine posted a video of having Spring Break in her backyard with her kids, to the tune of “Vacation” by the Go Gos. It was adorable. It was so much fun to watch. I don’t know if she was actually planning on going anywhere for Spring Break, but if her plans were cancelled, she sure didn’t look defeated. I admire that.

I don’t have it in me to do that. I’m doing what I need to do, socially isolating, only going out for absolute necessities, staying as active as possible, but, damn, this sucks. I don’t have any immediate travel plans, just an overnight in Stratford, Ontario at the end of July. That’s still up in the air, whether that happens or not, but there’s hope. Right now, though, it feels like nothing good will ever happen again. I can’t watch those live streams because it’s not real. I’m not there, I’m not experiencing those things and, honestly, right now, it doesn’t feel like I will.

Now, there are some good things coming of this quarantine. Youngest Child has us all to himself and I get more impressed with him every day. He’s an amazing kid. He’s still messy, but one step at a time. I’ve been cleaning out closets and cupboards, throwing out useless things and preparing other things to donate. We have our health. We are still getting paid. We are still teaching. We have everything that we need, including toilet paper. We are fortunate beyond words, I know that. This is another thing to not point out to me. I get it. I’m not a good sport about this, I know, so please don’t tell me to look on the bright side or anything like that. Do you think I haven’t said that to myself? I am able to meet with dear friends for brunch and Coloring Night on Zoom, Tap Club on Facebook Live.   My theatre board meetings are on Zoom as well. Church, Sermon Chat,  and all of Holy Week are online. I may never go to church without my couch blanket again.

I’m not a good sport about this, I know, so please don’t tell me to look on the bright side or anything like that. Do you think I haven’t said that to myself? My inner Amanda Wingfield is coming out: “Nothing offends folks more than…” That being said, my theatre is still heavy on my mind, as well as all of our sister theatres. We’re all struggling to continue to do the thing we love. My show was cancelled, as well as many other shows. All of those dreams are gone. Honestly, theatre keeps me going through the year. It’s what I look forward to, what I need, and it’s not happening for the foreseeable future. The thought of not being able to even be in the building for months makes me anxious. I want my make-up room, the ghost light, the stage. I want to hug my friends who accept my weirdness, who love me for who I am. I can’t do that and I’m not okay.

I’ve always had a phobia about feeling trapped (let’s go back to childhood trauma, shall we?) and here I am: Trapped. Now, I do have a loving family to be trapped with, a killer garden planned, and neighbor cats who think they live here and bring other cats to visit. I can walk in my neighborhood. I’m freaking (desperately wanting to say the other word but won’t here) wanting to accept everything, to be at peace in my mind, but I’m not. I’m not. And I want you to know that it’s okay to say that, to not fool yourself into thinking that it’s not okay if you don’t feel that way. Be real with your feelings.

Will it ever be okay? Sure, someday. We’ll have a vaccine or a cure at some point. Things will open back up. We will, thank God, travel again, hug again, congregate again.

But right now, I’m not a good sport about it. I hate this. And that’s okay. It’s okay to not be okay.

 

 

 

 

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Marty and I just finished watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, where Tom Hanks stars as Fred Rogers. (If you don’t know who Mr. Rogers is, Google him. He’s an American icon.) In the movie, Mr. Rogers is being interviewed by a reporter for Esquire magazine named Lloyd Vogel, a man who had a very difficult childhood and hasn’t processed things well, to make a long story short. At first, he is convinced that Mr. Rogers can’t possibly be the person that he portrays on television, but slowly learns that he truly does care about people and their feelings, children especially. He also learns that while Mr. Rogers isn’t a “saint”, he continually works on ways to express his negative emotions in a healthy way. Through the film, Lloyd is able to resolve his anger.

There’s a lot more to the movie than that, but I took that message to heart. There are so many ways that I can change my reaction to things to be a better person. I don’t have to make the comment I feel like making, I can stop and think more before I react to someone or somebody. Just last night, I could have responded in a better way to someone online. I didn’t insult the person, someone who gets under my skin and deliberately baits me from time to time, but I definitely could have done a better job with what I did say. I was defensive, which doesn’t work and just makes a person look desperate. Mr. Rogers would have known how to respond in a loving way, not in a defensive way.

A few weeks ago, Marty and I got into an argument because I overreacted to something he said. I can see it now, in hindsight, and I own it but I’m still upset with myself that I didn’t handle it well. It upsets me that I wasn’t a terribly patient mom when my boys were growing up. That’s a big regret. I know that after ten years, I’m not a terribly patient teacher when it comes to behavior, especially with I’m faced with deliberate defiance and blatant disrespect. Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks, actually) just reminded me that I can choose how I handle my anger and frustration instead of taking the easy way out and unleashing those negative emotions on someone else.

Do some people deserve our anger? Sure. I don’t think Mr. Rogers’ message was that we shouldn’t be angry, or that being angry wasn’t healthy, but not to be destructive in our anger. I still need to work on that lesson. I have a lot of things to be angry about, a lot of unresolved issues, especially from my childhood, but I can choose my response to that. I can be kinder, I can be more understanding about what someone is is feeling or going through. It’s really, really, hard sometimes because we want to hurt the person who hurt us, or put them in their place, but what does that achieve?

Something to think about.

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