April Update: Factory Edition

Yes, I’m still alive. (In answer to Nann’s query.) However, everything around me seems as if it’s in a suspended state of animation. And on fire.

The latest coronavirus “pause” has been extended. “Pause” means The Young Human Factory, located in a county-wide hotspot, is closed to all but staff and a few choice young humans who need extra quality-control.

The Great Lakes State is in the throes of a surge (along with our neighbour Ontario). The official response is maddening. The state requested more vaccine doses; request denied. But good news: the US Department of Education (DOE) waived the use of test scores in teacher evaluations. Surely the students will be safely home for another week.

No. The DOE denied the state request to waive spring tests. Thus, the Factory is closed to students – except for mandatory test days.

I am already running around like a headless chicken. This latest is just “the sugar on the frosting,” as a sweet French-speaking lady put it.  

Hold the Congratulations

This is about politics, so feel free to skip.

Shortly after the election, friends from other countries began congratulating me on my new president. I had to explain that no, the media declaration doesn’t count. It’s official in December, after each state’s governor signs and sends its Certificate of Ascertainment to the US Archivist and the Electoral College electors meet.

December 14. That’s when.

Then some asked (scoffed, frankly), “You don’t feel there were problems with the election, do you?”

Of course, I don’t feel that. I live in Michigan. I know that.

In 2016, Green Party nominee Jill Stein demanded a recount in the Michigan. Ultimately, a court order halted the expensive recount, but not before turning up massive irregularities in Wayne County. Specifically, Detroit precincts tabulated more ballots than the number of actual voters. Why? Human error.

Human error was also responsible for Biden being reported as the winner in Antrim County in the northern lower peninsula of Michigan. (Fun facts: It’s home of beautiful Torch Lake and Hayo-Went-Ha, the oldest American summer camp that sits on its original site.)

Then, of course, there’s the completely sloppy way the voter registration is handled, not to mention groups actively opposing any sort of voter identification at the polls. My Mexican relatives were stunned that their system is more fraud-proof than ours. I told them about receiving an unsolicited form for an absentee ballot during the initial Covid-19 shutdown. The Secretary of State’s office sent to the last known address of each registered voter. As someone who moved four times in three years and currently maintains two mailing addresses, I’d rather restrict absentee ballots to direct requests.

To anyone who has read this far and is curious about how our system differs from your own, here is a good overview: Who formally declares the winner of the US presidential election?

Covid-19 Lockdown: A Child’s View

Between floods and riots, I sometimes forgot that it was May, not summer (yes, that’s the season of floods and riots). Only two weeks are left in The Young Human Factory’s scholastic year.

As a brief writing assignment, I asked middle schoolers to imagine that they were elderly and their grandchildren asked about the historic quarantine. I wanted to share some of their reflections on the shutdown. I did not edit them except for brevity and added commentary in brackets for clarification.

“Quarantine in 2020 was honestly very boring. There wasn’t much to do because of social distancing. A lot of kids were super happy at first because they didn’t have to go to school. But later on, they became super unmotivated to do the online school work.  Lot of them missed school because they missed the lack of being able to talk to their friends everyday that wasn’t through a screen.”

“Everybody went crazy and got toilet paper instead of food. There was no more toilet paper left.”

“I started to really miss my friends and the school environment. Even though all of us would complain about being at school everyday, we took that for granted because for a lot of us, that was our main source of socialization other than talking to our parents and/or siblings. We didn’t really know when Quarantine would end because every time there would be a date that the stay at home order would be lifted, it would get extended.”

“It was very scary thinking you could get a sickness that could kill you and you wouldn’t even know you had it for a few weeks and you could cause so many people to get sick and also die. It was also very scary for the people who were having a child during the pandemic because babies have very week immune systems and could easily get the virus and die from it. It was also scary for elder people with many health issues being it made them have a bad immune system and they could also get the virus and die.”

“Corona virus was one of the best and worst times of my life, everyone in the world was moving so fast and now the world slowed down more home cooked meals, family’s spending time together, people are enjoying nature I mean this has never happened. I enjoyed quarantine because I had time too play with my brother and I had time too also play my Xbox and enjoy peace and quiet.”

“i whould tell them like any old person whould it was horrible we fought over tolite paper as clans of goons seized towns…. breakins and horders scavaged the land gasmask filters were of thin supplie but i managed to find a few as total war raged outside … and just like that you have never wanted to talk to another human person in your life now GET OF MY LAWN!” [NOTE: I told the students specifically not to include “Get off my lawn.” But instructions, like auto-correct, don’t exist in this child’s world!]

Spring Unfurls

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The maple buds began unfurling Saturday morning and reached this stage by midday.

On Saturday, for the first time since the shutdown, I had visitors. A former student and her husband bought a house that has a “blank canvas” landscape. Having daffodils to spare, I dug some up (plus chives, the incongruous grape hyacinth* and yellow crocuses).

I was expecting her in the afternoon. I was NOT expecting her mother nor her sister, both of whom became my dear friends during a school trip to Madrid and Paris.

It was a delightful ambush!

For their part, the youngest girl was surprised to find I lived in that house. She said, “My friends and I used to drive past here on the way to their house, and I always thought it was the cutest little house.”  Sometime post-shutdown, she wants a tour.

Because they are a family of green thumbs, the talk was lively and bounced from topic to topic.** The garden is a work very much in progress, so it was fun to have other eyes notice things both good (radish sprouts) and bad (glass and cement patches left by the shed construction crew).


*aka muscari – thank you, Brenda, for the information.

** At one point, there was a disagreement over how to handle snakes one finds in the garden. One of the girls pulled out her phone to show me a photographic proof that, yes, she knew the correct way to hold a garter snake.

The Perils of Working from Home

C20EE642-1804-47FD-9790-6A30F674150CHow do I report a workplace accident?

That’s the remains of the 2-cup Pyrex measuring cup.

Given my klutziness, I’m surprised it lasted so long. It was one of my few new purchases when I moved into my second apartment (prior to that, M’e the Fashionista supplied a plethora of utensils and cookware). It survived tumbles into steel sinks and linoleum floors, but a stone countertop takes no prisoners.

Cleaning up the mess: wow! I swept, vacuumed, and ran wet paper napkins over various surfaces to pick up the fine, sharp particles. Somehow, none of the flying shards hit me, although they traveled even as far as the livingroom.

A less tangible hazard of Working from Home (WFH) has been Parkinson’s Law, the business adage that work expands to fill the time available for its completion. At the beginning of the shutdown, I ended every day – often in the wee hours of the morning – exhausted.

It wasn’t surprising in March, considering the sheer volume of mandates, updates, and queries that arrived in those early weeks. Continue reading

The New Neighbor

Since the destruction of the birdfeeder, I made a seedpile for the critters and gave up restocking. The usual critters came: grackles and cardinals and silent, stately mourning doves.

Then I spotted something that looked like a field mouse!  A squirrel chased it off during a ruckus with another. When it returned, I recognized it as a chipmunk. I tried several times to capture it on film, but the twitchy little thing kept bobbing its head up and down.

The best I could do was a hastily zoomed-in shot of his profile, complete with seed-stuffed cheeks:

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I kept a close eye on it because, unlike big squirrels, chipmunks have the mouselike ability to exploit tiny openings into human spaces. When we shared an apartment, M’e the Fashionista lost an entire sleeper sofa because the storage area was invaded by chipmunks. They managed not only to disembowel it – stuffing EVERYWHERE –  but filled every nook and cranny with acorns.

Luckily for me, Chip-chip-chipper lives somewhere beyond the fence. He came through while I was sweeping the deck and froze. He stayed frozen while I eyeballed him and snapped a better photo.
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Then I looked away, giving him the opportunity to unfreeze and run away through the hydrangea and under the fence.

 

A Happy Accident

My online classes go live next week, but today I had a little shakedown cruise to see how my 7th graders did. A little assignment (about 20 minutes).

The biggest problem is identifying who’s who. Many members of the Middle School Mafia REFUSE to be themselves, choosing instead usernames like SpazzAttack360. Then there were two unfortunate boys who, using their mothers’ phones, joined under their moms’ names.

A couple hours after the assignment was posted, I received a message from an unknown name, asking, “Did you get mine?” I checked and answered, “I did. But I don’t know who you are, Miss Magic!”

A very long reply followed. It started with – and I quote – “Hi! I am a fourth grader and I was helping my cousin get on and it accidentally signed it on my google account and I got an assignment and I decided just to do it.” It segued to an elaborate apology.

I laughed so hard, imagining a little girl trying to sneak into class with the “big kids,” most of whom find reading and writing a bore.

After I told her she could stay in the class, she messaged me back quickly: “Thank you so much I am so happy” (sic)

I can’t die of Covid-19. I have to stay alive long enough to have this girl as my real student!

Out, but not About

Yesterday I cleaned fallen limbs from the front yard. Last weekend’s windstorm broke dead sections from the treetops; they exploded on impact. It took quite a while to gather all the finger-length pieces (the perfect size for jamming the mower’s belt).

Eight people passed by during that time, including a family on a motley assortment of bikes and foot-operated scooters. Continue reading

Shutdown: Shut it ALL down…

My state’s governor is working on the final wording of the order to completely shut down schools, from public to parochial. Although it’s my vacation week, the depression has set in.

I became a teacher because I love teaching students, helping them, and watching them grow. The only thing I dislike about teaching is the paperwork. Now it’s all paperwork.

Things taken for granted…

…in no particular order.

  •  Seeing people regularly. We never bothered to get each other’s contact information because See you at work! See you at church! See you around!
  •  Restaurants. I’m surrounded by wonderful eateries,  all of which are closed. I hope they survive the shutdown.
  •  Cold medicine.
  •  Charity shops. With the arrival of warm weather, I put on last summer’s wardrobe. Everything is too big; I just have to deal with it for now.
  • The public library. E-books and online services are still available, but it’s not as satisfying as walking between the shelves and perusing titles.
  •  Walk-in hair salons.