Want to Survive the Winter? Be Taylor Swift

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I am political person. I strongly believe in advocating loudly for vulnerable groups and fighting injustice. (I blogged about taking the kids to a Black Lives Matter protest this summer.) For the past year, I used my modest soap box to call attention to groups that are not thriving during this pandemic. School kids, in particular young, disabled, and low-income, are isolated and not educated right now; our country owes these groups buckets of support, once this pandemic passes. 

But being angry all the time takes a toll on a person, as does parental stress and the general looming dread that is covering us like a thick layer of snow. 

And snow — the real, cold stuff — will be here soon, which will lock us in homes for weeks, just as the pandemic reaches its peak. We’re looking at a possible tsunami of anger, dread, cold weather, and a rising death count. 

How does a person survive all that? Well, we all have to be Taylor Swift. 

Swift used this pandemic time to release a second album, which is getting good reviews. I guess she’s not touring and not going to award shows, so she’s got some time on her hands, so she’s being creative and making music. 

I’ve been doing that, too. Sure, I tweeted out education research and blogged about elections. Last week, I tried — unsuccessfully — to publish an opinion piece calling for disabled kids to get vaccinated first, because they’ve suffered the most by school shutdowns. But I’ve also been doing lots of home-y stuff this year. 

Last night, as I scrolled through our yearly pictures to create a late Christmas card, I saw lots of images of dinners, home projects, outdoor hikesmuseums, and car trips around the country. There were pictures for my Etsy book website and of backyard gatherings. Selfies on running trails and bike paths. Tomorrow, I’ll take pictures when put up a Christmas tree; it’s a little early for us, but we’re trying to make the most out of Ian’s 10-day COVID exposure quarantine. Scrolling through iPhoto, I realized that we really did thrive this year. 

When we walked away from politics, stress, and work, we lived. Hannah Arendt said that we are political animals; we are the most human when we are participating in politics. After months and months of unrelenting politics, I am questioning that notion. I may be most myself, when I’m making a big bowl of pasta. 

So, as we enter into a rough time — Ian’s school is closed again — I am determined to continue making things and having fun. Taylor Swift forever! 

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17 thoughts on “Want to Survive the Winter? Be Taylor Swift

  1. My own view is that most political activity is foolish and misguided. Homicides are up 30% in NYC this year, due to the police being directed to pull back. Most of the dead are black and brown. Suburbanites who come and demonstrate and then go back to lily white suburbs don’t improve that situation. Similarly, previous generations or activists fought for the right of public sector workers to unionize. Now the inmates run the asylum, and they don’t educate disabled children.


    1. I love all political action, even misguided political action. Voting is a form of political action, after all. The BLM marches were not problem-free, and the left certainly failed to call out the looters and other bad behavior that piggy backed on the marches. American cities were seriously harmed by some of the repercussions of the marches. After a while, we took our BLM sign off our front lawn, because I was unhappy with how things played out in the end. But I did embrace many of the notions of the marches and truly enjoyed introducing my kids to political activism.


      1. I love that you love all political action and believe in the possibility of creating a more perfect nation. It reminds me in my belief of science providing real value in making the world a better place and reflects our belief in our individual training.


      2. It’s easy to take down a yard sign, but it’s been more difficult and less enjoyable to deal with the breakdown of civil order in NYC. There have been several muggings on Central Park West in the past months, so I have to worry about my wife whenever she goes out. And the Walgreen’s near my office is subject to such constant pilferage that it has become very inconvenient to shop there (the shelves are all locked up), and I don’t know how long they can stay in business. If civil order isn’t restored, we may move to Florida, and stop paying taxes to liberal Democrats.


  2. This is a lovely post. For me, I started doing some holiday baking, which led to thinking about food insecurity, which led to participating in a local food drive, which led to talking to some people online, and now I’m doing some work around lobbying for transitional housing. Who knew?


  3. I have been doing random gifting in my family in the month of December. We do light candles for Hanukkah, but I’ve decided that saving gifts when they could be used now was silly (and, so, gave sherpa pants and boxing toys to my kiddo early). Last night, for the 2nd night, I gave each of the kids a box of chocolates from a local shop that they could deploy as they chose. It was pretty delightful to watch them look at the chocolates with the feeling of abundance (and control) guessing what each was (we had a list of the chocolates, but not a diagram). College kiddo wouldn’t have been home so, it was a time to take measure of the good.


  4. I guess that if I had a net worth of over 300 million and no responsibility for anyone by myself (Taylor Swift) – I could ‘afford’ to spend lockdown being creative.

    But the rest of the world has to deal with worrying about family in this time of Covid (especially kids and older relatives) – and in the back of our minds is always money (I’m OK right now, but what if….)

    Right now, I’m beyond exhausted. And we haven’t even had the severe impacts that the rest of the world has endured. I haven’t the energy for politics (or at least any meaningful political participation), or charity (beyond giving money), or even much creativity (anything that requires mental ‘space’ just isn’t going to happen).

    Yes, we’re doing the usual Christmas activities/decoration/baking – mostly because my 13-year-old adores it – so I push the boat out for him.

    I’m just hanging out for the 10 days of Christmas (because our office for the First Time Ever is shutting between Christmas and New Year – so *everyone* has to take leave).

    Maybe I can find some creative mojo again…..


    1. I think the call to be creative has to be what sustains you, not an additional weight on your shoulders. I am trying to find ways to support myself (and, really, I don’t have a lot on my shoulders — mostly existential angst). So, for me, trying to find ways to be creative is a way to be distracted from angst, to find ways to control concerns about others and the world, and find joy. No one should see it as an argument for, say, everyone adding decorating cookies or making calligraphy cards or . . . . to their schedule if they find it burdensome.

      I have been painting my nails (just graduated to something between a don’t and a do for ombre nails) and am trying to schedule reading, because I need to read more (which has never been a problem for me before, but I am finding it difficult now).


      1. bj said, ” I need to read more (which has never been a problem for me before, but I am finding it difficult now).”

        I’ve also found it hard to read actual books for a while.

        I’ve started a somewhat ruthless program where I keep a couple of books in the smallest room in the house. If I don’t find the book gripping, I stop reading and either shelve it (if it’s a good book that I don’t happen to like), give it away or (worst case scenario) throw away. That last one sounds unthinkable, but it’s sometimes the most reasonable solution. (Nobody but me is going to read a certain cheap, pulpy Russian paperback, and if I don’t like it, it’s not going to find a home at our county library sale.) The advantage of ruthlessness is that I am moving more quickly through my books and am finding books in my collection that I want to read, rather than having a sad stack of books I’m pretending to read. I’m really enjoying Pictures from an Institution.

        A related issue is that I’m suffering some middle aged shifts in eyesight and haven’t gotten into bifocals yet, so pulpy pages with small print are not my friend anymore, and some books I own aren’t that accessible to me anymore. I have a magnifying glass that I am planning to use if I get around to Crazy Rich Asians.

        I am also back to doing a running commentary on Bryan Caplan’s Case Against Education on a small private forum. I’m nearly 3/4 done. If/when I finish, I plan to do Tough’s The Years That Matter Most, because I think of them as companion volumes.


    2. “Right now, I’m beyond exhausted.”

      Hang in there, Ann. You are doing great, your family is making it – and that’s all we ask. I’ve never thought of Britains during WW2 or Canadians during the Depression and been all like “how come they weren’t more creative,” I’ve just admired that they survived.


      1. Jenn said, “You are doing great, your family is making it – and that’s all we ask. I’ve never thought of Britains during WW2 or Canadians during the Depression and been all like “how come they weren’t more creative,” I’ve just admired that they survived.”

        That’s true!


  5. Also, I have stepped, very lightly, in trying to work towards speaking up about opening public schools in our city — for which there has been absolutely no planning. I do not know how to do it and am not on the same page as you (both in need — kid is unhappy, but is learning and socially and emotionally OK and in belief in the possibility of opening safely). But, at the last school board meeting, it was apparent that there is an utter lack of planning at all, with no plans to open schools, even for the most vulnerable and for younger students (which I think needs to be done). I feel I’ve been gas-lighted about the plans to open for the special needs kids who were assessed as being *impossible* to serve remotely. Our most recent messaging said a “small” number of students were being served, and this appears to be 2, in a district with nearly 50K students. So, I’m trying to do political action (which means joining a Facebook group and speaking up) and trying to find a room for liberal/progressive activism in favor of planning to open schools safely.

    We’ll see how far I can go, The FB group is suffering growing pains (in 5 days) over the issue of whether advocating for opening schools will end up being synonymous with advocating with “right wing extremist groups” Not off to a good start when folks tried to associate with a reopen schools rally in our capitol that turned out to be simultaneously scheduled with a Proud Boys protest (I think it was accidental, but who knows). And, the PB rally turned violent with one of them being arrested for firing a gun.


    1. bj said, “Our most recent messaging said a “small” number of students were being served, and this appears to be 2, in a district with nearly 50K students.”



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