Monday Minutiae – 03.08.2021

Cross-Curricular Studies

A couple of weeks ago, we passed the 500,000 mark of those in the US who have died from the coronavirus, and the response from Texas and Mississippi was, yep, we’re opening up 100% without any restrictions.

It feels like a big “f*ck you” to all of those deaths. And I’ve been wondering how, 10-20 years from now, how will this pandemic be remembered?

I know people who still think all this mask-wearing and restrictions is “insanity”. I know people who have done lots of traveling in the past year in spite of recommendations against it. I know people who have barely changed their lifestyle at all and my biggest disappointment is that none of them will remember this past year+ as being any big deal. Or, let’s be honest. They won’t realize that they have, directly or indirectly, played a role in the half a million deaths.

For those who have contracted the virus and experienced no lingering effects (including death): you were lucky. For those who may have unknowingly contracted the virus, but were asymptomatic: you were lucky. For those who have not yet contracted the virus: you have been lucky.

And why have we’ve been lucky? (“we” since I fall into one of the above categories of lucky) Because enough of us have been careful, and continue to believe in epidemiologists and science. What if we hadn’t? What would our death toll have been if none of us took the precautions? I remember a year ago when many kept posting “if our numbers remain low, it’s because our precautions WORKED, which is the goal”. I don’t know how to help my “insanity, I’m going to live my life, everyone dies sometime of something” believers change their mindset. Some would say (including those believers) I shouldn’t try.

Except I know people who have died from the virus. I know people who have long-term effects from the virus (some still serious, a year later). For them and for who it will still be, I wish I could change mindsets.

“History has its eyes on us.”

I Love to Read Month

“I Love to Read” month, which, as I understand it (without doing any extra research right now), developed from celebrating Dr. Seuss’ birthday on March 2. In recent years, we’ve opened our eyes to the racist depictions in some of his books and earlier this month, Dr. Seuss Enterprises announced they would no longer publish six of Seuss’ titles that exhibit the racist drawings and texts. Naturally, all kinds of people yelled “CANCEL CULTURE!!”, which it isn’t. First of all, it’s only six of his books. Second of all, if they were all terrible, then maybe we should “cancel” them. In part of his interview with Anderson Cooper, LeVar Burton said, “They are being a responsible steward of the brand.”

In an NPR Code Switch article a couple of weeks ago, Tiara Jenkins and Jessica Yarmosky wrote:

“That tension between Seuss and Seuss-free classrooms is emblematic of a bigger debate playing out across the country — should we continue to teach classic books that may be problematic, or eschew them in favor of works that more positively represent people of color?”

What makes a book a classic? And why do we think only a certain set of books should only ever be considered in that “classic” canon? Or be taught, period?

Last week I caught this post about the how we teach To Kill a Mockingbird to our students, but the author also addresses the idea of whether or not we still teach it at all. Do you know what a better book would be to teach the idea of an unjust system due to racist laws and policies? The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Or All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brendan Kiely. Or any other number of books. Want the historical aspect of the novel? Let’s try something by Toni Morrison or James Baldwin.

Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better. - Maya Angelou

White teachers get SO STUCK on what we think we should teach…mostly with the argument of, “but this is what we’ve always taught” followed by “but this is what I can relate to”. It’s nonsense. No single book should be a permanent installment in a curriculum at any level. Not Dr. Seuss, not To Kill a Mockingbird, not even Shakespeare. There are so many amazing books to choose from, let’s change up the canon to be a more accurate representation of our population and our history.

Currently Reading (print): A Song for the Road (A) – Kathleen Basi

Currently Reading (audio): Leaving Atlanta (A) – Tayari Jones

Song of the Week:

I discovered this song when listening to either the Global Top 50 or Global Viral 50 list on Spotify. It’s in Hebrew and all I know about it is that it was written about the pandemic and arrival of vaccinations in Israel. Part of the title, “chadash”, means “new” or “as new”. I’d love to know a little bit more of what he is singing, but I couldn’t find printed lyrics anywhere. I’m sharing because I have faith it’s all good – it’s so upbeat! I love it.

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Monday Minutiae – 02.15.2021

Extra Recess

Are you still getting your #friluftsliv on? I am. I’ll admit, during the work week, I have not been loving the sub-zero temps. I dress well enough for my daily commute, but the drive early in the morning is sometimes tricky, especially if we’ve gotten a little bit of snow, and basic errands in a pandemic are hard enough, let alone adding in always having to endure a cold car to do them.

Frozen waterfall with people walking "into" the waterfall.

On the weekends, though? My hikes have been A+. The sun has usually been out, the trails pretty, and my warm gear is warm. It’s a good workout and the deliberate welcoming of fresh air when I have the energy for it has done wonders.

A few more days of this super cold this week and we’ll be hitting upper 20s and low 30s again. I’ve managed the cold and done pretty well to (partly) embrace it, but don’t get me wrong, I will welcome the warmer temps again.

(Photo at right: Frozen waterfall! Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis, MN)

Academic Stamina

I was thinking about this a bit over the past week as the remaining two grades in the elementary school I work in returned to in-person learning. Not hybrid, but full in-person learning for the families that still chose that. The safety to all is a different conversation, but what our teachers (and students) have been re-learning is stamina. We started out the year in full distance, then had a couple of months of hybrid learning (ie: no more than about 12 students in the classroom at a time), then full distance, and then to come back to full in-person? It’s a whole different kind of energy. I heard teachers talking about getting used to so many moving bodies and the extra stimulation and how that alone, is exhausting.

It got me thinking about later this calendar year or next year. How will we all adapt as most return (hopefully) to workplaces? For those with children, I’m sure there might be a feeling of relief, a respite. On the other hand, it is a different kind of energy and thinking of the article I posted two weeks ago, about how our many different kinds of relationships have changed or disappeared, I wonder if we are prepared for the transition. I wonder how my Youngest Child, currently in 8th grade, who has been doing quite well with distance learning, how he will do starting high school next fall in a presumably full in-person model? Will his anxiety, which has more or less simmered under a controlled temperature this year skyrocket?

It’s a good problem to worry about, but still one I think we should keep in the back of our heads so that it doesn’t take us completely unaware when the transition to another new normal arrives.

Curriculum Review

Looking for a book written by a BIPOC author? Or are you a BIPOC writer hoping to connect with an agent or editor who knows how to support you? The BIPOC Bookshelf is bigger and better every day. I’m pretty sure I’ve talked about the site before, but it’s worth another mention. It’s a great database to help you find the kinds of books you want to read and depending on your reading habits, encourage a more diverse reading experience.

Along those same lines, I read this post by Foz Meadows about the continuing problem of jaded reviews of works by BIPOC authors or authors from other underrepresented populations. For my own part, I’ve been frustrated with beta readers and other critiques of my work for having “too many” of a certain kind of character, even though none of them had any complaints about how many white, cis, straight, etc characters I had. And that’s not even close to what ACTUAL authors of the different lived experiences are having about representing their OWN experience. Before you write your next review of a book that is written by someone who doesn’t “look” like you, take a step back and pause. Is any of your negative criticism based upon the idea that you haven’t experienced what the characters have? I’ve made mistakes like that in the past, but I continue to learn and do better. We all have room to grow in this area.

Geography

I haven’t been writing as much lately, for a variety of reasons (one of which is I still have a story that’s trying to work itself out in my brain), which has left me LOTS of time to read and I’m off to an amazing start this year. For Christmas, Middle Child gave me a bulletin board map with pushpins so I can indicate the setting for each book I read this year. FUN. Here’s what it looks like so far. Pretty US-centric, but it’s only mid-February. Lots of time to broaden my horizons!

World map with push pins in various parts of the map.

Currently Reading (audio) Their Eyes Were Watching God  (A) – Zora Neale Hurston

Currently Reading (print) Amari and the Night Brothers (MG) – B.B. Alston

Song of the Week

Thank you to my friend Cerrissa for posting this a couple of days ago. It’s a re-make of Peter Gabriel’s “Biko”, recorded with artists from around the world and it’s a beautiful and better rendition than the original, IMO.

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Monday Minutiae – 02.01.2021

Assess and Re-Assess

At the end of last year, I finally, after a lot of resistance, tried out yoga for a bit, and while it didn’t “take” for me, I did come away with some good resources. One was Diane Bondy, who is fantastic for following on IG for body positivity and also Anna Guest-Jelley, who runs the Curvy Yoga Studio. I really appreciated a “safe” space for my body and trying out yoga. Here’s another reason I liked her approach. This was the first part of her newsletter this past weekend:

“I was creating a yoga video the other day, and it included a balance pose. I balanced fine on my left side, but my right side was a different story.

I was wobbly, and I fell out. I came back and tried again, and I fell out again. I then came back one more time, modified the pose in a different way, and made it work.

For a moment, I had a voice in my head tell me to start over. To edit that part out and make my balance appear to be effortless and the same from side-to-side. That voice told me that people have a lot more options for online yoga videos these days, and that those options are a lot more perfect than mine. 

As I was about to walk over to the camera to start over, I paused. And I just thought: Wait, is this what I’m trying to teach? Am I trying to teach perfection?”

And doesn’t this fit well with my One Word Resolution this  year of “elasticity”? For sure. The key bits from Anna’s words above are “tried again” and “modified the pose in a different way and made it work.”

I think we are all trying to modify things in a lot of different ways to make them work, don’t you?

Rigor and Stamina

I’ve been struggling with the continuing effects of our past four years of damaging rhetoric: the “can’t win for losing” arguments. The latest: who gets the vaccine. I’ve cheered every single time I’ve seen a photo go through my various social media feeds of someone I know getting the Covid-19 vaccine. And I think many were cheering when that first happened, but now I’m seeing complaints about fairness. I get the frustration. Vaccinations can’t happen fast enough as we are all weary of this pandemic and weary from the worrying about the virus. But, commonly, we’ve grown this idea that if someone hasn’t gotten the vaccine, yet, then it’s not still good that someone else HAS. I understand the impatience, I do. And yet, the more who DO receive the vaccination brings us closer to what we truly want: an end to all that is separating us.

Environmental Learning

Do you remember when the Danish concept of “hygge” was all the rage? My friend Marcia taught me a similar Norwegian equivalent:  friluftsliv. Lonely Planet writer, Sasha Brady says it is “a concept that roughly translates to ‘open-air-living’. It’s sort of like the Danish hygge, but where hygge is about finding comfort indoors, friluftsliv is about finding it outdoors.”

Snow-packed path through the forest

I’m a warm-weather fan. A HOT weather fan, but a couple of years ago, I looked at the upcoming winter and thought, I can keep dreading the neverending season of cold every year, or I can accept that this is where I live (MN) and re-learn how to enjoy it. There’s nothing wrong with staying inside and finding cozy activities, but winter lasts forever here and wouldn’t I be happier getting fresh air? When the sun is out is usually when we are at the coldest temps, but, SUN. So I bought better snow pants, hiking boots, and this year I added the snuggly earflap hat like hunters wear because, as my husband says, “there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing.”

Winter hiking is a different kind of beauty and exercise. And even better? No mosquitoes! And when I return home: cozy activities like reading (and maybe writing) await me. The best of both friluftsliv AND hygge.

Social Learning

I saw this article last week about another impact of pandemic living: missing out on our casual friends, acquaintances. It’s true, I think. Honestly, I have been pretty terrible at keeping up with my close friends and family let alone those I don’t see as often like neighbors or that same waiter we always have at Outback Steakhouse when my partner and I go out to eat for date night. “The way worlds are created is by people sharing with and recognizing each other,” says William Rawlins, a communications professor at Ohio University. When I look at things this way, I see how small our worlds have become and begin to understand why so many people are limited by what they watch on their TV. The more people we are exposed to, the more expansive our empathy. Frequently I notice some people do not do or believe certain things simply because it doesn’t affect them. But what happens when I witness my Black neighbor harassed for simply walking on their sidewalk? How do I feel when I find out that the waiter who told us all about her kids has died from Covid complications?

And what happens when I don’t know this happens, because I no longer see them, even casually?

The Atlantic article speaks to a lot of different ways casual relationships affect our lives. It’s an interesting read, highlighting situations I hadn’t fully noticed, but feel familiar.

Currently Reading (audio): The Lost Book of Adana Moreau – Michael Zapata (A)

Currently Reading (print): Your House Will Pay – Steph Cha

Song of the Week:

This is an old song (and an old video), but one of my friends shared it and it felt appealing on multiple levels. Enjoy the upbeat visual and message we can all try to hold onto for each other.

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Monday Minutiae – 01.18.2021

Spiral Instruction

Do you ever just get tired of yourself? I don’t mean in the serious, mental health concern way, but rather you pause and think, “I am in a rut, not a groove.” Like many, I have certainly been struggling with this whole pandemic thing and at the beginning, which is now eleventy billion years ago, I was ready to go with it and make it all work. And then it kept going.

And going.

And going.

And going.

Cue “Big Sigh.” So, I tell myself, “Okay, time to change things up!” (again) and at this point I balk a little at the work entailed in continuing to be creative, and yet it is also in my nature to keep doing it, even if at a much slower pace right now. Here’s what I’m trying right now: returning to knitting, returning to this blog to keep me from staying inside my head too much, returning to writing (eventually) something new, changing up the exercise/movement routines, tackling house projects that everyone else in the world tackled ten months ago. Do you see the pattern of “returning” included with the new? Everything is a cycle.

Plus, I’m remembering the vaccine is coming. We have a long way to go ahead of this, but the proverbial light at the end is finally visible.

What about you? What are you doing to get over yet more hurdles during this time?

Language Elective

I started reading Fredrik Backman’s latest, Anxious People and both the writer AND language instructor in me got a kick out of a couple of early lines.

"Okeydokey!" the real estate agent chirrups, as if that were a real Swedish word.

Backman’s books are originally published in his native language of Swedish, so as I read this translated copy, I wonder, did Backman truly write “okeydokey” in English, and thus the translation above is quite literal? Or was there some other nonsense word in there instead?

And then there’s this:

"It's called House Tricks! Get it? Because when you buy an apartment, you want to buy from someone who knows all the tricks, don't you? So when I answer the phone, I say: Hello, you've reached the House Tricks Real Estate Agency! HOW'S TRICKS?"

This translation of the real estate agency is based upon a play on words. Did the translator have to come up with something completely different than what the Swedish version was? And if so, how difficult was that to do?

I did some digging to see if I could find out. So far, I’ve not found an answer, but I did find this fun interview of Neil Smith about translating literature in general and what I most appreciated was this: “Capturing the tone of a book is simultaneously the most difficult and the most rewarding part of the job: once you’ve nailed that, the rest flows fairly naturally.” So many great bits in the interview, I highly encourage you to check it out.

Test Prep

Are you curious about the publishing journey? About the process behind what authors do once their book is on the verge of getting out in the world and into readers’ hands? Author and avid reader/podcaster Zibby Owens has a really great post that highlights many things the average reader might not know. (h/t Kathleen West)

Currently Reading (print): Anxious People (A) -Fredrik Backman

Currently Reading (audio): The Sound of Stars (YA) – Alechia Dow

Song of the Week:

I’m going with hope this week, even though I have a bit of nervousness, too.

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