Mary Beth Writes

We had three inches of rain here yesterday. This is what the Fox River by Riverwalk condominiums looks like today.

While I was walking along here, an older woman (says me, ahem…) was standing on her sidewalk with her nervous beagle, looking at the over-its-banks river.

I said something friendly and boring, as one will. She replied that this was the most flooded she’s seen it, although she had only lived in this area for three years. I said I’ve been here four years. And then we both chuckled because the world thinks old ladies stay where they are, but pretty often we don’t.

It’s raining again this afternoon. It’s going to rain tomorrow.

In seminary I learned that when the minister baptizes someone, they cup some water from the font, put it on the victim’s head, and now they have a wet hand. This is the proper moment to flick their hand so that the water hits people in the front row – and then pronounce in serious, ministerial tones, “Remember your baptism and be grateful.” This sounds meaningful and most congregants don’t realize one does this because what else is one going to do, wipe their hands on their pants?

Getting wet when one doesn’t actually want to get wet (it was raining this morning and my glasses were a mess) reminds me of that. When in doubt, be grateful.

One can always switch emotions later in the day.

Last week two of my kids were informed that for the foreseeable future, their jobs are to be performed from home.

Just like that, the way the world works shifted. My kids still have their jobs but they don’t have an office a half hour commute from where they live. No co-workers to say hi to. No kitchenette with a coffee pot and free granola bars. No elevators and parking lots and wondering why your project partner is doing that and why your boss just closed her door and on and on.

This is how it will be for months and maybe forever.

It is serendipitous that both moved last year to homes with an extra room. Neither have kids so both can work pretty conveniently, although both mention that wearing professional outfits every day isn’t happening.

Also, sometimes the pets are distracting.

Len and I belong to our local Unitarian Universalist Association. Last week we got an email from the national office advising congregations to make plans to meet VIRTUALLY for the coming YEAR. Yeah, that was something to take in. The letter was thoughtful and said what we all know. Churches are enclosed spaces heavily sprinkled with older folks (ahem again) – and talking, hugging, and singing are powerful ways to spread the virus.

Our lives are being powerfully impacted. We are looking at a life and lifestyle we never imagined.

I am trying to wrap my head around this. How can Len and I enjoy and be productive and helpful to our friends, family, neighbors? What does a good retirement look like now?

Traveling is iffy. Can we rent a trailer with a bathroom and a kitchen? I never wanted a Winnebago, not even a little one. Do we have to look at this as an option?

For the society around us: What will jobs look like?

I can’t imagine teachers teaching two half classes of sticky kids who can’t remember to social distance, for the foreseeable future - for the salary and disrespect they currently receive. Impossible. To have children doing virtual school from home half the week, in-class socially distant classes the other half of the week? Impossible.

And what does that “solution” do for parents? One third of American families are headed by single parents. If we are sending kids to school half time, are we saying those families get to live in poverty, or the kids are unsupervised half the week?

School are currently the source of social work services, kids’ daily breakfast and lunch, afterschool daycare, and childhood enrichment activities – as well as education. Where is all that going if kids go to real school halftime and virtual school halftime?

School boards and politicians are, absolutely, talking about half week classes next fall. We need a better and long-term solution that starts with the way life happens now, not the way life worked on a farm in 1946.

Daycare? Good lord, how is anyone going to offer daycare in the next two years?

I am writing and writing here and I have no solutions. But I do have good questions, don’t I?

Here is my best idea for someone who wants to makes their fortune in this pandemic.

Invent small rooms with  “clean room” technology that filters viruses out and fresh air in. Put two “suits” in the wall in the middle of this room. You pay money, you go into this divided room with the person you really need a hug from. You each go into one side of the room, walk into the hug suit which meshes up with the hug suit on the other side, and you hug and hug and hug. I'd pay $10 to hug my people.

We are going to a virtual birthday party this coming weekend for our grandson who is turning one. 

Everything is different.

Except for how much we love each other.

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Comments

This all truly makes me crazy. I love your last two sentences. Very true.

Lots of interesting questions. It was so much easier to accept all of this when it seemed it would be over soon. I love the hug room idea. I hope you have a patent on it!

thank you

I picture the movie “The Andromeda Strain“ from the 1970s where the nurse has to climb into a similar suit to feed the baby! That might be an interesting movie to watch. But now that I remember the ending, the virus “just disappears”, so I wonder if You-Know-Who saw this movie and that’s how he became an expert in virology, medicine, etc.!!
Mary Beth's picture

OMG The Andromeda Strain. I think you are right. That's where Trump got his virology expertise.

A friend of mine tells me our current public education system was designed to train the future workers of the industrial revolution, and it hasn't changed much sense. I hope that someone somewhere (who has power) will see this pandemic/it's consequences for the opportunity it is to rethink our entire education system! I don't have the answers either... But I know there are some. We need to get out of this box; realize who our kids really are and what they really need; and figure out a way to keep them safe and happy, even as they learn. I also feel certain technology is not the solution--a tool, sure. I'll give ya that. But it's not the answer!! This is a moment for true reform! Is anyone going to take it?
Mary Beth's picture

People who can think outside the box are so seldom the same people who want to work on committees, run for public office, put up with the BS of politics. Occasionally we get someone who can do both but it's damn rare and they are hampered by all the power-sucking, doing-it-by-rote people around them. So does politics have to change? I 'm not for term limits. I think they kick out the rare ones who actually learn things and ought to be in politics because they know who and how. But how about instead of the stock market as our marker for national prosperity - we invent a moving calculation of the medium income of ALL adults in the nation and no politician can earn more than the national medium figure and no pol can have a net worth greater than the average net worth of all Americans. And after that, we go on with the constitution and laws that we have - and see if they suddenly WORK for average Americans instead of the Oligarchy.

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Quarantine Diary #150 8/11/2020 Taking a Break

I’m depressed. How about you?  I’m not the kind of depressed where I should call a doctor. I’m more “Michelle Obama depressed.”  Things feel stuck, wrong, and getting worse. There’s the pandemic and the feeble, chaotic response to it. There’s racial strife. When, if ever, will the police police themselves? Teachers and kids are being thrown back into schools like spaghetti thrown against a wall - to see who will stick? There’s the angry self-entitled idiocy of too many people.

Quarantine Diary #142 Swimming Lessons

“It's a good idea to begin at the bottom in everything except in learning to swim.” Unknown author

I was well into my 40’s when I realized that one doesn’t have to wait for perfect weather if one wants to go into the water. 

Quarantine Diary #141 8/5/2020 "Red Dust"

I just finished reading “Red Dust – A Path Through China” by Ma Jain.  It is a remarkable book that asks more questions than it answers.

Ma Jain was born in the 50’s and grew up grew up very poor in a small Chinese city. He remembers when his mother would simmer stones for dinner so that the neighbors would see her cooking and not realize how poor they were.  (A whole different take on the children’s tale “Stone Soup.") The violent and terrifying Cultural Revolution that Chinese citizens lived through is over but memories of it are in everyone’s minds.

Quarantine Diary #140 7/31/2020 Wishing you a Merry Quarantine Weekend

When I’m in a certain mood I love how-to articles – and I’m in that mood right now. I think it happens at the intersection of reasonable weather and Friday ... when happiness still seems possible.

I googled “How to have a nice weekend in the time of Covid” and guess what? There are no Wiki-How articles on how to be happy in a pandemic.

Let’s invent this right here, right now.

Quarantine Diary #134 Written while sweating …

My best coping skill for appalling weather is to show it who is boss. 30 below?  Cool. Let me put on all my clothes plus a hat down to my eyebrows and another one up to my glasses, and I’ll go out there.

Quarantine Diary #131 7/23/2020 "Becoming Labrador"

Yesterday I forgot to write about a movie we watched which I think many of you might like to watch, also.  We’ve been talking here about what one can stand to read and watch these days when our spirits are stressed and anxious.

I thought I wanted to reprise some of our Canada travels.  FYI, if you’ve traveled in a place you loved, put that place into your streaming service Search window, find some great or mediocre documentaries about that place, and revisit your memories.  It’s fun.

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