From the Newsletter:
It was about Day 4 in our vacation when I finally relaxed. Effortlessly buoyant in the salty waters of Bermuda, I leaned back, closed my eyes, and let the stress leach out of my body into the sea.
We got home two days ago. I’m trying to keep that vacation-feeling going one more day, so I’m pretty much avoiding all people and responsibilities. Jonah starts college and Ian starts his jobs program/community college next Wednesday, so there is shit to do. They both need help organizing — one more than the other — and maybe a haircut. But I’ll deal with it tomorrow.
There’s been much written about how the pandemic increased economic inequities and K-shaped recovery trend, but little about the stress inequities. While some people loved working from home and slower pace of work, others lost their jobs, took care of family without state support, and juggled online schooling with their regular day job.
Now, I’m neurotic on a good day, but during the pandemic, I was a mess. I worried about the college kid who loathed remote education and the teen with autism whose few social skills withered as he spent months alone in his bedroom. Because I was too busy, distracted, and semi-hysterical to write a proper article, I worried about rebuilding my career this September. I worried about my parents, who went for nearly a year without a hug. Honestly, I did not worry about getting super sick after the first few months, because we took the normal precautions, got vaccinated, and are healthy.
With those nice vacation vibes still in my bones, I’m feeling very optimistic about this fall. With schools open, my kids can recover. And I can get back to work. I have several projects that I’m thinking about. I’m open to feedback.
Possible fall projects:
- The Hero Project. Do one interview per week with a parent/caretaker of disabled child/adult to find out how they managed during the past two years. What challenges did they face? How did they keep their marbles? There’s a million different stories out there, and I want to record them before they get lost.
- Long form article about post-high school options for students with disabilities. A look at everything from $200,000 boarding schools to new programs emerging in college around the nation. Higher education for disabled students is a growth field.
- Investigative piece on how schools have used their COVID federal funds that were earmarked for special education.
- Talk with special education teachers about the challenges that they are facing this fall, as some students enter a school for the first time in 18 months.
When I’m not writing, I’m going to continue to do whatever it takes to minimize stress. I’ll continue jogging (another 5K this Sunday. Woot!), reading (currently reading The Giver of Stars), and finding new things to do with our garden tomatoes. I also set up an alert on Kayak to notify us when discount tickets to Bermuda are available.
15 thoughts on “Respite: I Reset my Brain During a Short Vacation to Bermuda”
“Investigative piece on how schools have used their COVID federal funds that were earmarked for special education.”
I bet that varies a lot from state to state.
“When I’m not writing, I’m going to continue to do whatever it takes to minimize stress. I’ll continue jogging (another 5K this Sunday. Woot!).”
My new trainer (a college junior) just got back to town and I saw her yesterday and didn’t die. Yay! I’d kind of like to work up to twice a week with her, but she’s booked solid at the moment. One of her gigs (which I thinks sounds hilarious and I would totally watch a TV show of) is a “bride boot camp” where she has a group of 3 brides that she is whipping into shape for their weddings.
I’ve also belatedly started doing some Wii stuff, some 10 years after our family got our console. I mostly do (really easy) yoga, but I also do a couple of strength exercises and the hula hoop.
“I worried about my parents, who went for nearly a year without a hug.”
Presumably, they hugged each other! I don’t have anyone I know well living alone (except for the two months or so that my kiddo was effectively in lockdown at college), but I really worry about those people.
I like your first article/series, but, I do have a bias towards those personal stories. An example is this blog site that tried to collect stories of academic women scientists with children and “how they did it”. https://fairhalllab.com/careers/how-does-she-do-it/
It’s a bit too upbeat and personal solution oriented (and finances aren’t revealed, hiding the family resources that some of the women relied on). But, I still enjoy the individual perspective.
I don’t know if there’s a market for that set of stories, though.
I feel like there’s a renewed interest in post-high school futures for people with disabilities, but that there are also others in the space. Cammie McGovern just released a book, Hard Landings: https://www.amazon.com/Hard-Landings-Looking-Future-Autism-ebook/dp/B08PQDNRV2. I’ve read excerpts but not the book. Her son has intellectual disabilities in addition to autism, which changes the challenges. I haven’t seen a book focusing on futures for those without ID, but who still face challenges.
(In an internet connection mapping, I realized that Cammie is Elizabeth McGovern’s (Downton Abbey) sister and that they have a brother who is a math professor at UW).
It would be fascinating to hear what is being done with the stimulus funds in education but expect that would be a very data intensive investigation that would also be very district specific and very hard to peel out.
The pandemic and the response has brought out many of my anxieties (not clinical ones, just irrational ones like wearing lucky socks and “future of humanity” ones). We locked down entirely in the beginning and remain much more locked down than others around me. Family hasn’t traveled at all, except college kiddo, as an example; ate in restaurants in June-July about 10 times and haven’t since, . . . . I’m not worried about getting sick, really, but I have to shake the concept of infection as a personal failure.
My first personal exposure (i.e. a close contact who tested positive) was last week, a year and a half into the pandemic.: a breakthrough infection with mild symptoms and she reports that none of her contacts tested positive. So, presumably an example of successful vaccinations. I took OTC tests and tested negative, too. I am judging myself by whether I put myself in a position to transmit the virus, not whether we get sick. Since I don’t need to work and have low social needs, these personal decisions aren’t generally relevant to any policy making. But, not a sustainable way to live.
This attitude means I need to consume lots of stories of people relaxing in Bermuda or touring in Iceland (even if some of them get the virus!). But not stories that end in serious illness, long covid, or death There are far too many of those, and I need context. So keep those stories of venturing into the world coming.
bj said, “My first personal exposure (i.e. a close contact who tested positive) was last week, a year and a half into the pandemic.: a breakthrough infection with mild symptoms and she reports that none of her contacts tested positive.”
I somehow haven’t had any (official) direct contacts, although we think that our vaccinated high schooler got Delta in July. We’ve made an appointment to have him tested to check if he had Delta, as he had some lingering symptoms that would be concerning if they weren’t Delta.
So I may have gotten through the pandemic this far with no direct exposure, or I might not. A lot of people I read online think that everybody in the US is going to get Delta eventually.
Our city school district has just gone to requiring masks for kids. (Not sure about the legalities of this.) However, most public places that I spend time indoors are mask-optional, except for doctors’ offices.
I don’t think we’re making good enough use of home testing yet. It’s supposed to be way cheaper in places like Germany, because they have approved a lot more tests than the US has. Our family has invested in several boxes of them (a bit fiddly, but good for checking out a suspicious sniffle), but at $26 per 2-pack, it’s not as accessible as it ought to be.
As far as I know, delta can only be detected by sequencing the genome of the virus when the virus is actively shedding. Is there a way to detect delta post-infection?
Antibody testing is used to see if someone mounted a response to the virus (or to the spike protein via the vaccine) and I recently learned that vaccine-provoked immune response to the spike protein can be distinguished from what might have been a natural infection:
“In humans, the humoral response includes antibodies directed against S and N proteins. The S protein contains two subunits, S1 and S2. The S1 subunit contains the RBD that mediates binding of virus to susceptible cells.”
Antibodies to the N protein (the nucleocapsid) could indicate a previous COVID infection. But none of these tests would, I think, produce different response if a person had been infected with delta v another variant of the coronavirus.
I was just looking at my husband’s email to me, and that’s more or less what he told me–to get the “covid nucleocapsid antibody test.”
I’m not sure it’s Delta, but if I had to bet money, that’s how I’d bet.
Depending on the timing of the infection, betting on delta might be a good bet. The delta variant gathered speed in early June and was 50% of the infections by July 1 and is now 98-99%: https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/#variant-proportions
I just found out that (given local surges and concern about quarantine disruption) our private school is going to an indoor mask order for all kids indoors, PK-12. The decision was made by the school’s COVID task force, which includes a number of doctors.
I’m not thrilled about this (especially since PK-3 did not have to mask in the classroom last year), but they plan to revisit the issue in two weeks.
This is going to be a huge pain with our bouncy ADHD 3rd grader, who has a (at this point) well-known tendency to chew on and suck on masks and get them absolutely filthy. She has complained in the past that masks make her feel hot.
At this point, I don’t have any faith in the utility of masking kids in elementary school.
Mine were chewers too (still have to remind the almost 18 yo not to chew on hoodie strings on occasion! and spouse still chews on pencils).
If I were a parent in your school (and, by that I mean, the actual person who is me and my family), I would be relieved to see the mask mandate, not just because it would make me feel safer, but it would help convince me that the task force really was making the best decisions they could based on the current variables and that they were flexibly managing risk. I’d be more likely to trust when they said they *didn’t* think masks were necessary, too.
I feel like the private school my kids no longer attend is doing a very good job in being flexible, being willing to both tighten and loosen restrictions. I’m less confident of the public school my kid does attend because I think it is a bureaucratic freight train set on its path. Last year that meant being stuck in fear; this year it might mean being too permissive if things do get worse (which I hope they won’t — we’re starting off with good plans).
bj said, “I would be relieved to see the mask mandate, not just because it would make me feel safer, but it would help convince me that the task force really was making the best decisions they could based on the current variables and that they were flexibly managing risk. I’d be more likely to trust when they said they *didn’t* think masks were necessary, too.”
I feel like it means that they’ve missed several important recent articles on mask ineffectiveness in school, ineffectiveness of cloth and surgical masks, European school practices, as well as British success with testing instead of quarantining school students. (Fear of disruptive quarantine is something that they mentioned in the mass email.)
I’m really hoping that it’s only two weeks. I’m going to keep my mouth shut for another week and then send the school COVID task force a curated selection of recent articles around the time that they would presumably be making their plans for after the two-week trial period. As my husband pointed out, there may be some new findings within the week.
There’s a biggish surge happening in our county and I fear that people feel the need to do SOMETHING, even if it doesn’t work. (Somehow, Texas as a whole seems to have peaked already, while our county hasn’t.)
We’ll be sending our kids to school in the most comfortable (i.e. least effective) masks that satisfy school rules. The 3rd grader has sensory issues, so it’s going to be really hard for her and her teacher.
“I feel like the private school my kids no longer attend is doing a very good job in being flexible, being willing to both tighten and loosen restrictions. I’m less confident of the public school my kid does attend because I think it is a bureaucratic freight train set on its path.”
It does seem to be really hard for public entities to switch off and on.
Travel restrictions are another example–the details of international travel restrictions seem to lag far behind the facts on the ground.
The best I can hope for is that our 3rd grader’s teacher won’t be a stickler about how she wears her mask, because if she is, the whole day is going to be wasted. This is an ASD/ADHD kid who doesn’t notice when she’s got Nutella or peanut butter all over her hands and face, and who needs a fair amount of help with her clothes.
The 11th grader kind of hates masking too, but he’s a big kid and he can manage.
One of my guesses is that Hometown U.’s mandatory twice-weekly testing program for unvaccinated students and employees is helping to blow up our local COVID case stats.
Our 3rd grader also needs substantial help with toothbrushing.
I anticipate some phone calls from school over the 3rd grader’s masking skills.
On a happier note, I just remembered that last year, the upper school allowed kids to carry backpacks in the halls and into class (rather than the usual protocol of immediately stowing them in lockers) in order to reduce visits to lockers and hallway congestion. This was a really popular COVID policy. I just wrote the upper school principal, asking if we could bring back backpack liberty, at least as long as masking is required in the upper school building.
It’s worth a try!
My 10 year old nephew, who is a firecracker, apparently wears masks at school with no problem, according to my sister (she gets calls for other reasons).
We also have the issue (a little with my kid, and a *lot* with the son of a friend) of the whole ‘black and white’ distinctions for kids on the spectrum.
e.g. Masking is *really important,* therefore I’m going to get really stressed and angry if my schoolmates aren’t masking (or aren’t masking effectively). And, I’ll have no bandwidth for learning, because I’m so worried about everyone masking.
I’ve dealt with this by sharing my ‘masking is a tool – but it’s not the most important one’ discussion, with Mr 13. Being vaccinated is much more important (he’s just now eligible to be vaccinated – and will hopefully have his first dose before he goes back to school – looking like end of September for us, here in Auckland, NZ) and moving into the (oft repeated) ‘everyone doesn’t think the same way; good people can have different ideas about things’ discussion. Sheesh! Shades of grey is hard work…..
Of course, that means he’s likely to talk back to school admin and/or over-anxious school mates….. but you can’t win them all……
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