Seven Zinger Years

Dear Zinger,

The pandemic took over the world last year.

COVID-19 shut your school down the Friday right after your kindergarten IEP, and you didn’t attend school in person again until a year later, just a few weeks ago.

During that isolation period you turned six years old. You were already growing so big. Sorry for skipping your letter last year. Circumstances were a little hectic.

You lost your first tooth just before shutdown, on March 8.

You’ve lost four teeth since then: 10 April, 6 November 2020. 5 February and 13 March 2021. Another one is getting ready to come out. So exciting!

Your hair has grown so long. We last cut your hair just before kindergarten, and over a year-and-a-half later it desperately needs a trim.

You’ve navigated a full school year of online classes: last term of kindergarten and 2 trimesters of first grade. Your teachers accommodated us and took great care to keep everyone safe. At your IEP last month they all said they were impressed with your progress with online school. They were so proud of you.

I am so proud of you.

Seven years. Never have I felt more blessed, so lucky.

Sometimes I wish time would slow down. That I could spend as much time with you as possible. It’s all passing too quickly. We want the world you’re growing up in to be safe, and we want you to be healthy. We’re doing everything we can to prepare you for this world as your eyes widen and your exploring tendencies expand. We desire so much for you to realize your potential. Hopefully the pandemic will get under better control so you can roam more freely.

I’m so grateful you’re in our lives, a part of our family. We love you so much.

Happy birthday, big girl.

Love, Mom

COVID-19 Vaccine, Dose 1 Symptoms

The first night of receiving the vaccine, although I’d massaged my arm at the injection site, my shoulder was developing soreness. This soreness persisted through Friday and Saturday, as well as a barely-noticeable undercurrent of a general malaise. Just enough to make itself known.

My body was working on developing some badass immunity.

I didn’t sleep well Thursday night.

But Friday and Saturday night, the sleep was glorious. That feeling of waking up refreshed: nothing like it.

When Sunday morning arrived, I was feeling fantastic.

My second dose is four weeks after the first dose.

I’m totally ready for this week.

COVID-19 Vaccine, Dose 1

In Utah teachers were prioritized for the vaccine, so that means Reilly was able to get both doses earlier than a lot of us. But as of March 24, anyone over the age of 16 could get vaccinated.

The vaccine isn’t readily available to everyone yet, so scheduling an appointment was a little challenging, but not impossible. I got lucky with finding a place that wasn’t too far away.

The sign at the entrance said not to go inside until 15 minutes before my appointment. The email instructions said not to go in until 5 minutes before. I split the difference and went in 10 minutes prior to the scheduled time. They verified my ID and told me to stand in line.

It was less than a minute of waiting until I was in a chair. The nurse pushed up my left sleeve and rubbed an alcohol swab over my shoulder. She broke out the syringe, pierced my skin with the needle, injected the stuff, and covered the wound with a bandage, all in less than 10 seconds. Super duper quick.

Then I found an empty chair and sat for 15 minutes and massaged the injection site while nurses passed by, making sure no one was having adverse effects to the virus.

I drove home, ate dinner, took an ibuprofen for an approaching headache. Took a bath, tucked in my beautiful child who seems to be feeling much better from this morning. Hung out with Reilly and Frank.

Just some soreness in my arm.

Hoping to sleep well.

Halfway there.

Terrified

these thoughts are nowhere near complete. just a quick ramble.

today z is staying home from school. she had some early morning nausea, and i don’t want to get her class or teachers sick.

her sheets and one of her blankets are in the washer. there’s more laundry to do.

she’s gotten to the point of understanding to vomit into the toilet. or bucket. or bowl. or whatever receptacle is nearby.

she’s watching a disney film. as i sit i the adjoining office, i hear her little jabberings in the family room.

ever since she’s returned to school the thought has crossed my mind.

is she safe.

covid is still a concern, but it’s less so now that mass shootings are back at the forefront?

reopen the country, and active killings become more prevalent?

again?

because we’ve never solved for them?

since columbine?

since sandy hook?

when it was somehow decided that killing children was acceptable?

so.

z’s classroom is very close to an exit.

that exit–and probably all exits–can only be opened by a teacher’s badge.

she will have to learn shooter drills. will she understand?

every time she’s sick the empathy kicks in hard and a lump in my throat and a sinking feeling in my stomach follow me around until she’s better. sometimes those feelings linger. because i’m her mom.

and her safety always brings a constant undercurrent of worry.

this

is the world she’s growing up in. that her dad and i have to navigate with her.

these recent shootings and almost-shootings have terrified me. really just continued the terror from the past almost-30 years.

that i have been scared for so long

has also angered me

a lot.

i just love her so much.

This Week

Posted from other social media:

Baby Z is returning to school today, after a year of not attending in person. We have been spending so much time together. And now: taking these photos and walking her to class, my heart doesn’t know what to do. She’s probably fine. I don’t know if I am.

Here’s what she earned her first day back. She does like Crazy Bread:

She seems to be getting the hang of school. Tomorrow is Friday, and we’re all ready for the weekend.

***

The Asian hate crimes committed in the past year and finally being brought to light by the mass shooting in Atlanta has really made me sick to my stomach. I’ve been trying to process all of this in the last few months, and thoughts swirl and feelings jumble, and I don’t know what to make of it.

But friends and family have been supportive. They’ve reached out and checked in, and I’m so grateful.

I came across this Instagram post by Chanel Miller. So eloquent. Concise. Expresses much of what has been on my mind.

I hope everyone out there is safe and feels loved. The hate is unbearable.

Beyond Sleight of Hand

Saturday night, Reilly emails me a final paper for one of his classes for me to proofread. The subtitle is “Implications of the Freudian Double in Coraline,” which sounds so intriguing and intellectual. He analyzes the movie through a Freudian lens. I can’t wait to read it.

We both sit on the couch. The Jazz game plays in the background on the television. I check my email and open the document. I turn on Track Changes and start reading.

I feel a little bit of movement in my tummy. There are little flutters but also some strong jabs and pokes. This activity continues as I type comments in the margins of Reilly’s paper.

***

I have been feeling distinct movement for the past few weeks, and with each passing day the pokes and kicks and rolls have been gaining strength. It’s a lot of fun.

Early Saturday morning, I still lay in bed, mustering the mental and physical strength to get up, because getting out of bed is not just a psychological challenge anymore. I turned on my Kindle and started checking headlines and Facebook.

It seemed that Baby had an easier time getting up than I did. She kicked and rolled around for a little bit. Then she calmed down and I felt gentler “ghost” movements deeper in the hollows of my tummy. I grabbed Reilly’s hand and placed it on the part of my tummy where I last felt movement. We were probably talking about a federal court’s finding Utah’s polygamy laws unconstitutional when I felt movement again. Just the slightest flutter. I was in the middle of a sentence when I asked Reilly, “Are you feeling that?” He said, “Uh, yes …?” without much confidence.

I finished my thought, then we got up and got ready to see the Hobbit.

***

As I read Reilly’s very interesting paper, Baby seems pretty active and wants to play. It’s like she tries to punch through a balloon, except with more resistance, not as much stretch. In a chamber that could be described as my stomach area. She shifts around and makes her presence known.

I scoot over on the couch. With the laptop still on my lap, I reach for Reilly’s hand and place it to the right of my belly button. I continue reading; he’s being patient.

About a minute passes. All of a sudden, I feel a strongish push right under Reilly’s hand, and at the same time, I see Reilly’s hand raise.

Reilly says, “I felt that!” And I laugh. I ask if he said he felt movement in the morning because he wanted to feel it and not necessarily because he actually did. Reilly keeps his hand on my tummy and says that was true.

And maybe Baby feels and hears me laughing and her dad reacting and responds for a few minutes with several more pokes of varying strength. Reilly feels them all. He enjoys it immensely.

About three and a half months left. It’s surreal going from talking about a baby in the abstract to talking about a baby who can actually hear me and eat and move and suck her thumb. IN MY WOMB. And then my husband wants to feel the baby all the time. At least when he’s not sleeping or writing papers or eating. His hand finds my tummy and he waits for that connection, the instant but lasting affection. Of course I don’t mind. He’s spending time with our daughter, with whom he’s obviously already in love. And I love seeing his big baby blue eyes light up during that contact.

I enjoy his joy.

A Sequence con Sequence

1. I read this article and watched the video.

2. Then I read this article, which is part of this book.

3. Then Reilly and I watched this movie.

4. Then Reilly put the book on hold at the library. Then he checked out the book when it became available.

5. Today, I finished the book. I wrote this little review on Goodreads:

Conversational, thoughtful. Balanced; I forgive the author because she admits her biases. Covers and interweaves three main discussions: bullying, being a good parent/concerned adult/assertive innocent bystander, and mental illness. There’s also an exploration of solutions and encouragement of ongoing conversation, which I wholeheartedly support.

6. At 12:05pm, I decided to write the author of the book. Because that’s what I sometimes do.

Ms. Bazelon,

I finished Sticks and Stones about ten minutes ago, and I found it fascinating. And infuriating. And heartwrenching. And, at times, relieving. I appreciate your huge undertaking of a project such as this, your first, book. Yay!

Your interview with Stephen Colbert (as featured in Slate–about time somebody made him cry 😉 ) piqued my interest in the book, but first I watched the 2012 Weinstein documentary you happened to mention, Bully. So many times people or media want to point a finger at something more concrete, more visible, such as bullying. But when I hear of suicide, I almost always think first of mental illness as a possible cause. I’m glad you explore this subject, and as I read Phoebe Prince’s case, I was disappointed that the right people didn’t consider her psychological issues. It’s always more complicated than people usually perceive.

On the other hand, the ones who were able to pull through–the ones who found new friends or went to new schools or where school administration implemented effective bullying prevention–those kids were became incredibly insightful, self-aware, and empathetic. The way they grew up really impressed me.

Anyway, I loved the book. There’s so much more I could mention! Congratulations on your success, and may we all continue in courage to have these important conversations for our families, society; humanity.

7. At 1:39, I received this reply:

What a lovely note–thank you so much! If you’re inspired to share your feelings on Facebook or via email, please do–I need ambassadors! And I am up for calling or Skyping into book groups, for parents or teachers or anyone.

All the best, thanks again,

Emily

Replies do not always happen, and I was thrilled when the message landed in my inbox.

Thing is, as I read the book, I couldn’t help thinking of the young man who took his life in front of his schoolmates just north of here. I wish there were greater awareness; I wish people weren’t too scared to acknowledge and address mental illness and to examine all the causes of bullying and not just label these kinds of events “bullycide.”

It would be great to have a constructive discussion about this. Because my husband is a school teacher, I would love to organize something to see what steps are in place in local schools to help reduce bullying. It would be so wonderful to set up a call with Emily and maybe some school administrators and some ladies at church to have a heartfelt conversation about safety for our community’s children.

I always feel drawn to the underdog. It’s getting harder just to stand by and do nothing, and feeling helpless is no longer an excuse.

8. – ∞

On Facebook This Morning

I posted an article whose headline was: “Mormon stake president gets political at church, laments election results.”  Assumptions emerged and a few comments followed. Six.

  1. Oh dear. Stake president FAIL.
  2. I read some of his talk, but then just couldn’t read any more. So awful.
  3. The lines quoted in the second paragraph are the only ones from the talk that I found inappropriate. I don’t agree with his pessimistic viewpoint, but I think that headline is incredibly misleading.
  4. Abortion and using tax dollars to do so, same sex marriage, take God out of the Goverment, leagalization of pot, forces alighning to stop school prayer, but allowing the handing out of birth control etc…Yeah…that sounds like something I want to fight for. Jesus would stand right beside me right?! … Matthew 24:24 Have you read his entire talk…He is quoting past prophets…. and you are offended?!
  5. The Church has made a statement that it is politically neutral, so going against that by sharing your political viewpoints over the pulpit in church is always inappropriate, whether or not you think their political party is right or wrong. There’s nothing wrong with quoting prophets, unless you’re using them toward your own personal agenda. It’s unfortunate is all, because even though they shouldn’t take it personally, some of the church members will probably be offended and turn away 😦
  6. noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooope

The article doesn’t necessarily represent me or demonstrate that my testimony is crumbling. I hadn’t read the article when I posted it. I put it on my timeline to remind myself to read it later.

This afternoon, I read the article and the talk that the author referenced. Then I reread the comments from the Facebook thread. Then I reconsidered my initial responses to the comments.

1.

  • Before: This sounds like a heavily political talk.
  • After: The stake president could have left a few statements out and still have given a powerful talk.

2.

  • Before: This sounds like the stake president is ignoring any sort of neutrality in his talk.
  • After: The stake president could have left a few statements out and still have given a powerful talk.

3.

  • Before: I’ll have to read the second paragraph of the article and read through the talk.
  • After: These are the statements that the stake president could have left out. The headline made the talk sound way more politically charged than it felt to me.

4.

  • Before: Knowing my heart, Jesus would have talked to me in complete sentences and with a lot less interrobang. He probably also would have given me a hug. Basically, I find your typos offensive. Also, thanks for your condemnation.
  • After: The world does seem to be taking a turn for the worse, the divide between good and evil is definitely more distinct, and I understand the stake president’s frustration. He could have left out a few statements and still have given a powerful talk.

5.

  • Before: The Church has taken a politically neutral stance, and I can’t stop thinking of how I was accused of being offended in the last comment.
  • After: It’s a shame that people get offended either way because of a talk. In a leadership position you really have to make matters more about the Spirit and less about politics. In a leadership position, you often find it hard to separate your politics from church. I’ve definitely heard much worse from the pulpit.

6.

  • Before: I can tell you have something articulate and inspired to say.
  • After: Without even saying anything else, I know what you mean.

Two Sundays ago a guy gave a talk in Church and he said he’s majoring in communications and political science so that one day he can have his own conservative talk show like Brother Glenn Beck.

He went on to tell stories about Bible bashing on his mission. He brought up the scripture about casting your pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6). He kept saying, “Why NOT cast your pearls? You’ll never run out of pearls.”

He made it quite clear that he referred to those against whom he Bible-bashed as swine. And then he pretty blatantly compared pearls to ammunition. You’ll never run out of pearls. You’ll never run out of ammunition. You can just keep shooting at the swine.

His talk was about studying your scriptures with faith.

The aforementioned Matthew 24:24 is about being deceived by false Christs and false prophets. Much of the chapter uses apocalyptic language to describe the world before the Second Coming. I would guess that my friend, commenter #4, attributes the decline of morality in the world to these falsities.

I was bothered by the politics in both talks, not so much because I disagreed with them but because I knew there would be people in each congregation (and now among those who have read the article) who would cling to those few statements and use them as an excuse never to come back to church.

It’s definitely easier to say to hold strong in a church regardless of its imperfect members. But part of the reason the Church has a stance on political neutrality is to protect its imperfect members from themselves, to help us to use our hearts, to look past politics and into souls. Our souls are bigger and worth way more than the limits this fallen world puts on them.

There’s definitely a lot more to say. I’m tired.

Friday Hodgepodge

Tears, people. And partial bafflement.

This morning a new post appeared on my reader from my friend Amy’s blog. On Fridays she tries to post a Special Needs Spotlight, but today she decided to feature a video about the beloved American gymnast who emancipated from her parents when she was 16, Dominique Moceanu. If you know Amy’s blog, you’ll have a deeper understanding of why she posted the video. It’s inspiring even outside of this context, but nonetheless, I’m grateful she shared this video:

Two books, by worthy prizewinners:

Yesterday I finished Blindness, by José Saramago. Toward the end of my commute to work I finished a particular heartbreaking scene and held back tears while making sure my fellow commuters didn’t see how distraught I was. On my commute home I read another scene that brought joyful tears to my eyes.

This morning I finished The One and Only Ivan, by Katherine Applegate. She won the Newbery Medal in 2012. This book also made me cry, also because of sad and happy moments.

Excellent writing about important issues. Call to action and most definitely to contemplation.

I highly recommend both novels.

The other day I observed a conversation where one person said to the other,

I don’t know what your political leanings are, but there is one side that does whatever they want, and then there’s the other side with principles.

As I observed this conversation, I realized I was the other person, and the one person was talking to me. Approximately 67 trillion assumptions bounced around in my head, attracting and repelling each other until an image formed — like the kind with a magnet and iron shavings — of a big question mark. I didn’t say anything, because there were stray thoughts circling this question mark, trying to find a niche but also seeming to defy the magnetic force. In this defiance, these stray thoughts kept my brow from furrowing; they allowed me to have mercy on the one person’s soul. And if all I wanted to say was, “Huh?” I know that the one person’s “principles” would have tried to replace my metal shavings with shavings made of soap. Because the one person stands on a box of soap. Which is fine. I respect the one person’s opinion and I won’t treat the one person like less of a human being. This kind of understanding and regard is a principle the one person and I have in common. So we’re actually on the same side.

But we’re so, so not.

Guns, You Guys

I don’t even know how to formulate a decent argument about this, you guys. You would think I would learn what not to do by observing all the sloppy, lopsided “discussions” out there. I think I know a good argument when I see one. I try to consider opinions I disagree with; I try to understand why I disagree with certain opinions.

I recently watched this appeal by Senator Gabrielle Giffords. They gave her the floor, they let her make her powerful point in 13 sentences, but I wonder if her efforts are futile. I wonder how many people dismissed her or even the idea of her once she finished speaking.

I recently read this essay by Stephen King, which felt like a pretty even argument and a realistic perspective on what to expect with gun legislation.

I recently saw that David Mamet recently published his opinion about the gun issue. I haven’t read it yet, but I plan to, probably tonight.

ETA: I read Mamet’s essay, and it definitely provides contrast to Stephen King’s perspective.

It’s impressive that the gun conversation has lasted this long. More children have died in the meantime. It won’t be as impressive if nothing ends up getting done about it. I wish I could argue this decently; I wish more that I felt that I didn’t have to argue this. I wish I understood those who insist on doing nothing. I wish the argument could lead sooner to a real solution than to more of an argument.

I’ll quote my high school friend Brian who perfectly expresses my frustration: “It bothers me that this argument always boils down to ‘I could kill a bunch of people at a school no matter WHAT you do.'”