Notes from The Tail-end of The Strangest Summer on Record

Pandemic-ing
When this started I thought I was secretly pleased with myself because I was not naive enough to imagine our kids would go back to school before the end of the year. “I don’t see us going back until the fall,” I’d said, cynical and so sure of myself. That was cute. Our district announced they’re doing online only at least to start (but let’s face it that’s going to be the whole  year, right? Like our numbers are going to come down now that the college students return?)

Meanwhile I’d already decided to home school my kids, who are going into first and third grades. It’s going to be home school-lite. If they need a tutor when you’re allowed to sit at a table with a stranger and learn fractions while breathing the same air, then we’ll hire a tutor.

I am aware of and a little embarrassed to publicly acknowledge my privilege here, but I’m not sure what the alternative is. I figure my bare bones home school plan is going to be a drain on my resources. But so would supervising my kids’ online learning (which would also require them to be on screens most of the day plus I’m still really unclear what the whole thing would look like). I’d rather accept the requirements of homeschooling on my own terms than try to adhere to and supervise what the teachers want.

Below: Reflections on my stay at home summer in list form (thank you Abby Rasminksy for this writing prompt):

Pizza in the driveway, boxed red wine and laughs on the sidewalk, audio books on  long walks in the neighborhood, Michelle Obama narrating her memoir in my earbuds in the early morning light, Jessica Simpson reading aloud to me at dusk, Monday cocktails on the neighbor’s patio,  reserving a lap lane at Spruce pool feels like winning the lottery, book club is a refuge even if it’s on the driveway, coffee in a parking lot with a friend on a lawnchair feels like heaven, early morning cuddles in the cozy chair, Sweet Cow without a line, Dowdy Draw is still my favorite place, missing the library, work punctuated by snack requests and pop-up craft shows, dipping feet in the creek, the Dunkin Donuts drive-through is a luxury, leaving the kids with a sitter (with instructions to stay outside) to go to Home Depot is our first date since March, at the zoo with a friend and our kids and so what if we are wearing masks we still get to watch our kids delight over the sea otter named Lucy.

Reading
I feel like if anything should make me read more it’s a pandemic but it’s having the opposite effect. I think one of the reasons my reading has suffered is I rarely go anywhere which means I rarely have to wait. You’d be surprised how much you can read in those small periods of time when you’re waiting for a friend or an appointment. That said, we camped for a week and I read a ton then.

This isn’t a comprehensive list of everything I’ve read this summer but it’s everything I’d strongly recommend.

Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano 
Fiction
Seemed like it would be too dark (a 12-year-old boy is the sole survivor of a plane crash) but I was pleasantly surprised by how uplifting it was.

Wild Game by Adrienne Brodeur
Memoir
After listening to Brodeur as a guest on Dani Shapiro’s podcast, Family Secrets, I had to read it. It’s the story of a woman who was a teen when her mother engaged her as a co-conspirator in the mom’s extramarital affair.

So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
Non-fiction/ Performative white person reading (lol that’s not a genre but it should be.)
A direct, straightforward, informative, heartfelt read on systemic racism and… you guessed it, how to talk about race (and how not to).

Separation Anxiety by Laura Zigman
Fiction
I was laughing out loud at certain parts and crying at others. A touching story of love, family, community, friendship, and creativity that pokes fun at crunchy Montessori moms and Instagram influencers.

Wow, No Thank You by Samantha Irby
Non-fiction
I think this was my favorite book by Irby thus far. She’s a creative genius and funny as hell.

Magical Realism for Non-Believers by Anika Fajardo
Non-fiction
A memoir of family, place, and belonging. It was so beautiful it almost felt like poetry.

Stray by Stephanie Danler
Memoir
If you liked Sweetbitter, I think you’ll probably like Danler’s memoir. It’s dark and sad but well written and ultimately a gorgeous heroine’s journey.

I Might Regret This by Abbi Jacobson
Memoir
Funny and light, a perfect pandemic read. I would call it a coming of age story except Jacobson is chronicling her 30’s mostly.

Writing
Since my last post, I’ve been busier than ever and I am so incredibly grateful for that.  Part of me is waiting for the other shoe to drop but there’s another part of me going, “That Pam? The one that’s afraid good things won’t last? She can’t come to the phone. SHE’S DEAD.”

Speaking of Taylor Swift, I really enjoyed her documentary, Miss Americana, despite not knowing anything about her before I saw it. Then I heard she was accused of cultural appropriation and now… I’m still trying to decide what I think.

To Build Strength at Home Without Buying Bulky Resistance Equipment, Try Resistance Bands. Here’s How. (The Washington Post) 
As usual, I learned a ton when I wrote this article plus I got to talk to experts, including Todd Durkin. I’ve listened to his podcast and bought (and used) his fitness book, so getting to speak to him on the phone felt like speaking to a celebrity. Of course I also broke out my resistance bands while drafting this one but I’ll be honest, I prefer dumbbells and barbells. I’m competitive by nature and I like being able to quantify my workout. That said, you cannot beat resistance bands for saving space and money.

‘I Feel Helpless’: Three People on Their Grueling Covid-19 Stories’ (The Guardian)
TLDR: Wear your mask.

What an honor to tell these people’s stories. Interviewing these covid survivors reminded me a lot of my occupational therapy days and made me recall what I enjoyed about healthcare: connecting with people and (hopefully) helping them.

“When I Started Podcasting I was Stealing Everything I Could”: How Jack Rhysider Built Darknet Diaries (Timber.fm)
While cybercrime podcasts definitely fall outside my beat, this story was surprisingly fun to write. It was assigned to me which is a lovely thing for a freelance writer (in other words, no pitching necessary). In preparation for my interview with Jack Rhysider, the host of an incredibly popular podcast on internet security breaches, I listened to a few episodes and was shocked to discover the show was captivating. And I don’t mean captivating for something I’m not interested in. I mean it was captivating, period.

Why Quarantine Led Some People to Better Fitness Habits and How They Can Maintain Them (The Washington Post)
This one gave me better insight into one of my favorite topics—habits. The truth is, habits are what makes you work out, not discipline. I don’t work out nearly every day because I have a ton of willpower. My will is weak! I’m fit because I’ve been working out forever and being fit is part of my identity—and my routine. Habits are why writers write, artists paint, and runners run.

Some Fitness Instructors Say They Don’t Feel Safe at Work. How Should Gym Members React? (The Washington Post)
While I can’t say this one was fun, it was rewarding, especially when a reader messaged me to say how much she appreciated it. It was a lot of work to interview as many people as I did (some of whose quotes didn’t end up in the final draft) and a lot of care to be sure I was reporting as fairly as possible.

I had about a week to turn this one in and I have soooo much respect for journalists who have to turn this kind of writing around in hours.

Narrowing Her Focus Expanded Her Audience (Timber.fm) A chance to interview a podcaster whose work I admire and whose message I love!? YES, PLEASE. I got to profile Christy Harrison, the host of Food Psych and author of The Anti-Diet and she was as lovely on the phone as she is on her show.

15 Reasons You’re Waking Up in the Middle of the Night (Parsley Health)
I’ll give you three: Nighttime computer use, my six-year-old (I know, right?), and stress. Those are mine, at least. As usual, I learned a lot from this story.

How to Tell if Your Sciatica is Actually Piriformis Syndrome (Spine Universe)
TLDR: The sciatic nerve can be super sneaky. If you have unexplained butt pain or pain that radiates from your glutes down one or both legs, it’s worth a read.

I Used to Hate Shabbat Dinner. During Covid-19, It’s The Highlight of My Week. (Kveller)
I hate writing personal essays but I love having written them. It took me forever to get it right and I wondered if I sat on this idea too long for it to be publish-able but it turned out I didn’t and it was.

 

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