We’ve Been Here Before

I’ve been feeling a weird sense of deja vu the past few days.

Here in the Portland, Oregon area we’ve finally had some smoke settle into the valley. I say finally because we’ve had a large wildfire burning southeast of us for a while now and we’ve been fortunate to not have the smoke-filled wind heading our way until a few days ago. Oh hello. I’ve been expecting you.

Last September, a windstorm blew smoke into our valley that stuck around for 11 long days. For a time, we had the worst air quality in the world. The sky was orange, the sunsets were bloody, my kids didn’t leave the house, and smoke seeped into our house as we tried in vain to tape up every source of air leakage. Covid had made my home and the outdoors the only safe places, but airborne ash and soot were able to reach every crevice where Covid had missed. My safe space had gotten so small, I was ready to start crafting a cocoon. The only thing left to do was to hibernate and hope the time for butterflies would come sooner rather than later.

Schools are getting ready to open again. A few weeks ago, we got an email saying that masks would not be mandated. Before this announcement, a survey was sent out to parents asking if we planned to send our kids to school in person if masks weren’t mandated because personal opinion trumps science now. I was prepared to send yet another letter to the superintendent urging her to hear reason over the deafening cries of anti-mask, anti-vax parents. Thank goodness our governor came through with a K-12 mask mandate sooner rather than later.

Last summer, I remember getting an instant injection of anxiety-dread each time a new email was sent by the school district, principal, office, whoever. Every new change was a jolt to my system, a new adjustment in expectation, another calculation of perceived safety needed. There were many. It was overwhelming.

And so, a year has gone by. I’m so tired. I suppose a better word for it is weary. Traumatized.

The major positive difference this year is that the adults in my life are vaccinated. While that’s not nothing, it’s also not enough. When my husband and I got our shots, family members commented to us that they were so glad we could relax now. We rolled our eyes. Relax, you say? These were not people raising young children during a pandemic, and it showed. Yes, we’re all in the same storm, but only those in this boat containing tiny humans (controlling for all other sources of privilege) know the special hell of the last 17 months. And it’s not even close to being over.

But I digress.

While the alarming rise in Covid cases, smoke, chaos preceding the upcoming school year, and still-unvaccinated children gave me that sense of deja vu, it also feels different this time. My response has been different.

I can’t quite decide, but it’s either that I’m so traumatized that these now seasonal stressors are not surprising, and even expected – right on time, just like the arrival of pumpkin spice – or it’s that I’m stronger this time. More prepared. We have air purifiers. N95s. We’ve done the whole distance learning thing and we rocked it and we know we can do it again. We’ve been here before. Oh hello.

Or maybe it’s a little bit of both. Either way, we’ve done this before. We will do it again.

Wait and Ruminate

I’m spinning out today.

Some days I feel fine. Great, even. Others it feels like the sky is falling. Today is the latter.

I woke up with a cloud over my head and, because I live in a glass cage of emotion, immediately began sifting through the contents of my brain to figure out why. I came up with a few reasons, and my guess is that by embarking on this blog post, I’ll discover one or two more in the process.

Recently some people close to me have gotten their first dose of the vaccine. This triggered a simultaneous range of emotions. First, I am happy for them. I want them to be healthy and protected. I was also filled with jealousy. And I’m owning this as a reflection on me, not on my loved ones. If I were in their shoes, I’d have gotten the shot too. In a heartbeat. This is about my longing to feel safe again. I see others around me getting what I desperately want, and of course it’s going to trigger a reaction. It reminds me of how I felt when friends or acquaintances announced pregnancies when my own fertility status was unknown and precarious. I remember telling my therapist that those yucky feelings were getting in the way of my happiness for my friends. It’s my own junk that I have to work through, made more difficult by the fact that I have no idea how much longer I have to wait.

This is all compounded by my firm, often stubborn, adherence to standards of fairness and justice. Oregon leadership has decided to vaccinate educators ahead of seniors, and it makes my blood boil. They have decided that opening schools is more important than saving the lives of our parents and grandparents. Even so, many school districts are charging full speed ahead and are partially or fully opening even before educators have had the chance to get both shots and have enough time to build the required immunity for full protection, all in the name of getting kids into school buildings for 8 weeks – behind masks and plexiglass and glued to desks and working on computers. All this, while thousands of seniors wait and die waiting for vaccine doses with their names on them.

I have never been more glad that my parents do not live in this state. I’m angry now, but if I had to watch my parents wait through this, I’d be absolutely livid and out of my mind with fear for their safety.

The other fairness piece is that my immediate family and I have been social distancing as health experts have advised. We have sacrificed a lot in an attempt to ensure our family doesn’t get sick and that if we do, we won’t get anyone else sick. It’s hard for me to sit here, feeling like I’ve been a good girl following the rules, and watch other people enjoying extracurricular activities. I understand that my ability to social distance to this degree is a largely a function of privilege. My husband has a white collar job that he can do from home. We can afford for me to stay home and do unpaid childcare, unpaid tutoring, unpaid-keep-the-house-from-falling-apart. We have stable housing and a reliable internet connection, etc. etc. It’s because of this privilege, including that I’m young and white and healthy, that I can afford to wait longer for the vaccine than almost all other populations. As it should be.

At the same time, we’ve also made many, many choices to stay home when we very well could have gone out and socialized and taken risks. In that sense, I can’t help but feel anger and resentment when I see others get vaccinated who haven’t “followed the rules,” whatever that means. My “fairness and justice” button is large and sensitive.

And so I continue to wait and ruminate and worry and doom scroll. (Not to even mention the slow-motion race we’re in to vaccinate people ahead of these more contagious covid mutations and that’s not even mentioning the Brazilian or South African strains that may not respond to current vaccines…welcome to my brain.) I remind myself on a daily basis that I am safe (what a relative word that has become) – and some days require more intense persuasion than others. That I am doing what is right for me and my family. That this hellscape will not last forever. In theory. You know.

Happy Rambling 2021

I haven’t blogged in over a month. I’ve been all over the place. I feel scattered – everywhere at once. In an effort to “get things done” I start one task and then pause that and start another until I’m simultaneously trying to do several while none of them get finished and I end up forgetting what the first task was. Indeed, I started reading an article and then decided I should blog.

I feel lost. Every day is the same, and now that we’re past Christmas and New Year’s here in Oregon, it’s all the same gray, wet shit. My therapeutic happy light used to combat SAD needs to be, like, turbo charged cuz it’s not cutting it. I often don’t know what day it is. I have a million nitty gritty things to do that are made harder by Covid restrictions and trying to not get sick. Returns to retail stores. Repairing my car’s tire (AGAIN!). Relying on whatever substitutions our grocery store pickup offers us, which is sometimes bizarre.

The political junk is unreal. I told my husband the other day that I had the vague thought about needing to finish that one book about the attempted coup because I wanted to know how it ended before I realized…oh yeah. Not a book.

And then Oregon schools are just now moving in the direction of opening up and I’m pissed. We’ve been in lockdown more or less for 10 months now, and we have several vaccines in the pipeline (if you follow Oregon news, our government is slow as fuck getting those needles into people’s arms for some reason) and the government, school boards JUST NOW are making decisions to open up. Hey, I know! We’ve waited 10 months to try and flatten the curve and that didn’t work so you know what we should do?! Open the fuck up so that we can perpetuate community spread at the height of Oregon’s case numbers and deaths after the holiday surge. High five!

Oh, and I’m doing Whole 30 again so there’s that. All this fucking rabbit food had better kick in and make me feel better because it’s a goddamn miracle I didn’t reach for the mint chocolate chip on January 6th.

One good thing to end on – I randomly decided to mention a lifelong dream of mine to the members of my moms group – that I want to learn the piano at some point. I have zero musical experience. I don’t know how to read music. Never owned an instrument. I sing a lot and was in choir once, but I learned the songs by ear. Aaaaanyway, what comes up on my Facebook feed just days after I make this comment? A local piano teacher offering zoom classes for adult beginners. THAT’S ME! There was no way I couldn’t not NOT do it. So the teacher actually helped me spend a chunk of my Christmas money to buy a used keyboard and I signed up for the class……and it starts in two days!! I’m super excited and intimidated and nervous, but hey. It’s Covid and it’s zoom so it’s convenient and I’m not doing anything better besides drooling at Amos’ abs on The Expanse (ANYONE ELSE?! Dear lord don’t get me started.)

So there you have it.

Happy rambling 2021, you guys. May you feel safe and loved and relatively sane. Ish.

An iceberg in the path of our ship

I wrote the following letter to Kate Brown, the Governor of Oregon, because I can’t just sit here and do nothing when I know there’s an iceberg in the path of our ship.


July 15, 2020

Dear Governor Brown,

I am writing this letter to urgently beg you to move Oregon schools to online only education for at least the remainder of 2020.

As I write this, teachers and administrators are scrambling to do the impossible – to continue giving our children an in-person education amidst a global pandemic. It’s impossible to ensure the health and safety of our students, teachers, and staff, and ultimately the families and community members all of those people go home to each day.

Please, don’t make the mistake of waiting until our classrooms are overrun with positive cases and people start getting hospitalized and die. Please don’t wait.

Cases in Oregon, like the majority of the country, are spiking. If businesses and institutions continue to open, there’s only one direction in which we’re all headed. If indoor gatherings are capped at 10 (ten!), as per your current guidelines, then schools should be no exception.

Opening schools is not worth the risk. It’s not worth losing lives.

Be brave. Do the right thing and save lives by taking preventative measures.

We’re all in this together, and your policies should reflect that.

Urgently,
Melissa Lastname
Community member and mother of two


If you’re so inclined, write a letter to your representatives.

Here’s the link for Oregon, and here’s one for California, or search for your home state.

Be well.

 

We haven’t been living the same since.

This past two weeks has been nuts and I kinda want to document it more for my own mental recollection, but y’all can read it too if you’d like.

Mostly, I am amazed at how quickly things progressed. I remember watching the special features on the Titanic DVD, and James Cameron gave the extras a number on his panic scale as a way of letting them know how freaked out they should be acting. You know, 1-10, where 1 is totally chill and 10 is THIS SHIT IS SINKING WHERE IS THAT FLOATING DOOR?! My point is that I feel like I went from 1 to 10 in the span of about…5 or 6 days. Well, that’s not true. I suppose I was at a 2 for a while, but honestly I expected Covid-19 to be more how I remember SARS or Swine Flu – I remember seeing it on the news, and I was concerned, but it never affected me and I was never all that scared. We made jokes, and it passed. But this – I suppose I went from that 2 to about…a 9 in those few days. And then each day that passes I think that I can’t possibly get more paranoid but oh yes, Melissa’s nervous system, I sure as hell can. Especially when I intellectually know that this shit is going to get way worse before it gets better.

To back up, on Monday, March 9 I was having a meeting with the board members of my MOMS Club. We met in a happily crowded cafe, and we went over our agenda and planned out activities for the spring. I remember assuming that we would actually attend and enjoy all of these activities. An Easter egg hunt, a moms night out, an end of the year picnic. And then the week continued on and things in Washington state started ramping up a bit, Seattle had been shut down, their schools were starting to close, and there were rumblings that ours would soon close. Perhaps after our spring break, which was to start effectively on the 19th. Had there been deaths in Oregon yet? I can’t remember.

And then, that Thursday the 12th, a neighboring school district suddenly decided to close starting the next day. I say “suddenly” because it felt sudden to me. I’m pretty sure they were the first school district in the state to close, which was surprising considering there were more cases in other districts. At any rate, we knew ours wasn’t far behind. Turns out ours was only hours behind! Our school district decided to close starting the following Monday (the 16th). I remember this starting a second wave of local food/toilet paper shortages. There was one (just one? more?) even before all the school closure junk started. At this point I had resisted any panic buying, mainly because 1) we already had much of what we needed and 2) there wasn’t any availability of stuff that I was actually interested in buying, like all the cleaning supplies.

A side note: after all this, I find out that my husband, who does all the grocery lists and meal planning, had been stocking up on certain things for weeks. I’m the one who does the grocery shopping and putting stuff away, and so my misguided assumption when he bought more coffee when we had just bought some, and an additional box of wet cat food even though we had plenty, was that he was just forgetful. Nope. He was being awesome instead. PLUS, on a whim in early March I had just bought more toilet paper than I usually did. Why? I supposed only because I didn’t want to have to worry about remembering more too soon. I don’t know. I like these weird coincidences; we’re also not a family who tends to buy “too much” or in bulk or to store and/or hoard. We only buy what we know we’ll use in a reasonable amount of time. It’s how we stay frugal and make sure we’re not wasting stuff. But I digress.

Once we got notice that schools were actually closing, shit got real, at least for me. I started to internally panic…which quickly led to external panic. I announced to my husband that I was going to go to Target. I’d been seeing empty shelves for a few weeks now at the grocery store and I especially wanted to get some extra cold meds because we were (and still are) super sick with a nasty cold bug. I was terrified that we’d be stuck at home with sick kids and wouldn’t have Tylenol.

I got to Target and got what I could, which was a few paper towels and some Tylenol meant for infants (my youngest is 3) because it was ALL THAT WAS LEFT. When I got to the cold meds aisle, I almost burst into tears. My worry was starting to consume me, and the only silver lining was that everyone in the store was being super, duper nice. We were all fucking scared.

The next morning, Friday the 13th (woo), my husband told me as I got up that my oldest had pink eye. FUUUUUUUCK. There went his last day of school. I seriously started whining that all I wanted to do was GET TO MY PILATES CLASS BECAUSE I KNOW ITS THE LAST ONE AND THE WORLD IS ENDING and so my husband graciously stayed home from work for a few hours so I could 1) run to Walgreens because a friend had told me that had cold meds AND THEY DID! Thank god because we’re about to break into the meds I ended up buying that day, and 2) work my ass off so hard in Pilates like my life depended on it.

I got home, and another friend texted me. I don’t want to freak you out, she began, but there’s a run on the store and the food is going fast if you want to get down here.

I can’t! I texted back, panicked yet again. I fucking still had to pick up my youngest from preschool (which turned out to be her last day, because endoftheworld).

That friend was amazing and picked up some stuff for me, that totally got us through the following week (Thankyouthankyou) because we had to wait longer than we’d planned for our normal grocery pickup slot. It also allowed me to continue doing Whole30 because GODDAMN IT I AM FINISHING THIS THING BEFORE THE WORLD FINISHES BEING A CUNT. (too much? I’m stressed.)

And after I got my girl home, that’s when everything changed and we haven’t been living the same since.

I wrote letters to my representatives about gun control

Today, I am reposting this older post because not enough has changed.

When I originally wrote this post, I had one baby boy. Now I have two kids in school and shit is getting real. As a mom and citizen, I am getting increasingly scared, angry, and frustrated.
Let’s place human life above politics and money, research the hell out of the American gun violence phenomenon, and then implement evidence-based practices to prevent it.
Moving forward, no politician gets my vote unless she/he has a comprehensive gun violence prevention plan.
No more excuses.

nanopoblano2019

Psychobabble

The shooting in Roseburg, OR last week motivated me to write letters to my representatives encouraging them to pass sensible gun control laws.

I’m listing the Oregon reps (and their contact info) to whom I wrote, and below that I will include the basic letter that I wrote and adapted for each representative.

It’s not okay to take my writing from this site without my permission, but today, everyone has my permission for this post.  Please- take my letter and use it!  Write to your representatives and adapt my letter to make it say how you feel.  Make your voice be heard!

I’m sick and tired and frustrated, but I am also realistic.  I know there’s a good chance that all these reps will ignore my letter.  That is what it is.  But at least I did something.

Today, I did something.

What will you do?

———————-

Oregon Representatives

View original post 306 more words

Proverbial Sanity

I remember when federal holidays were super fun. Do you remember, dear Psychos?

I would get off of school or work and get to sleep in, and oh the bank is closed, so I can’t do that errand, might as well stay home in my pjs and drink tequila milkshakes. And then maybe, if I feel like putting on pants later, I’ll go out for a late lunchy dinner. Linner, if you will.

Remember that?! I don’t, mainly because of those damn milkshakes, but you get the idea.

Before the invasion of my sweet, beautiful children, holidays were fun. Relaxing. Looked forward to. But not anymore.

Now, it’s kinda the complete opposite. Now that I’ve gotten used to having my 5 year old in school 5 days a week, and my 2 year old in school 2 days a week (Ha! I didn’t notice how the numbers matched up like that until now. I think that means that because I’m 36, I should get that many paid vacation days per quarter.), having them both home on the same day is kinda painful. The cherry on top is that my go-to backup place to bring my kids in this small-town-with-nothing-to-do is the library, and on days like today, that’s also closed. It’s the proverbial final nail in the proverbial coffin of my proverbial sanity.

Sensing that the storm was coming, I called in reinforcements (aka MOMS Club) and set up an outdoor playdate for the kids. I’m suuuuper thankful that the weather more than cooperated (it was sunny and downright warm for this time of year!) and also suuuper thankful that moms and kids showed up, not only to entertain my kids, but also to say words to my face and allow me to say words back. A conversation! How delightful.

Now we’re well into the afternoon, and there’s been a minimal amount of yelling on my end. We might just get through the day without any major incidents, folks.

Now if only the small child would just stop kicking and fussing around in her crib and freaking nap already…


Check out the fun, y’all:   https://cheerpeppers.wordpress.com/

nanopoblano2019