Weird Moments of Sadness

Weird moments of sadness ambush you, moments you don’t even want to indulge. Yesterday, I cleaned up the backyard firepit area, which has enough seating for eight or so. We were just starting to get to the age when Kavi might have friends over to hang out back there, and I had imagined keeping an eye on them from the windows. Might there be kissing in the evening, by the firelight? Maybe. I was just about her age when I first became seriously interested in kissing.

My own life is finally slowing down enough that I’d been hoping for more inviting friends over for grilling and marshmallow toasting and beer and cider on long summer nights. Liz and Nara and Roshani and Valerie and Pam and so many others. I’d imagined inviting my friends with little ones, Nivedita and Deborah and others, over to chase fireflies through our backyard. Getting to know them all better…

For this summer, though, it’s probably going to be just the four of us. A tiny loss; it feels ridiculous to even count it in the midst of so much greater grief. Every day, my sisters are putting on their PPE and walking into fire to treat patients at the hospital. I should just shut up and sew.

Yesterday, I read a thread, parents on local parenting groups mourning their kids not getting a proper 8th grade graduation, fretting about the fall transition to 6th grade and what that already difficult passage will look like if entirely online. A part of me was frustrated by that — all around the world, people are dying. All around the world, children suffer so much worse.

So this school year will look a little different? In 1983, Black July hit Sri Lanka, thousands of Tamils murdered in the capital in ethnic violence. Despite being Tamil myself, I was safe in CT, and my 7th grade to 8th grade transition went along completely unencumbered. While in Sri Lanka, my aunt Priya, only a year older than me, faced war and devastation and having to flee her country entirely. Deaths all around.

Children might have to cope with the trauma of losing parents to Covid-19, if we don’t physically distance as much as we can. Too many children have already lost beloved grandparents. In the face of that, the loss of a graduation, the difficulty of a transition to online learning, seems almost not worth counting —

— and yet, of course, it’s not that simple. Some children will handle the shift with ease and grace; others will struggle. Some of those who were already struggling will fall further behind, and of course, it is the most marginalized, the black and brown and poor and disabled children who will bear the brunt of this, as always. So we have to worry about them, we have to fret, we have to weigh the cost to the next generation of what we ask of them today, this spring, this fall, this next year.

As a teacher, I do think we can make up the lost time, that we can even perhaps use this as an opportunity to find better ways of teaching, opportunities to use online learning to reach students who were not well served in the physical school. My own ADD son is so much happier learning at home, even if it’s in a mostly unschooled sort of way.

But if we want those potential unschooling benefits to extend beyond the privileged children of professors who have good computers and stable internet connections with plenty of broadband, it’s going to require a massive restructuring of how we do education in this country, perhaps how we do it around the world. It will take a sustained, conscious effort by parents, by teachers, by school administration, by voters and elected officials. I am not sure if we’ll pull it off; I can’t guarantee that to the parents in my community, and so I can’t blame them for worrying. There’s plenty to worry about.

Just because there are worse losses out there, doesn’t mean our own griefs aren’t worth counting. And sometimes, when we are bearing up under a great grief, it’s the little ones that break us. Marshmallows by the fireside. Fireflies in the garden.

There it is. Loss piled on loss piled on loss. Today, I’m grateful for a sweet cat, bringing a quick smile in the midst of sorrow.

Tomorrow, I hope to wake up with enough energy and courage and strength to try to help build a better world.

The Easter Bunny Has Visited Our Block!

(for my neighbors, posted on our little free library, but here just in case people are more likely to see it here)

“The Easter Bunny
has visited our block!

The bunny has brought eggs with tiny toys suitable for small children (no candy, sorry), and would love it if kids would take some home with them. You’ll find eggs up and down the block near the sidewalk (not in people’s yards or gardens), and also lots in this front garden (332 Wisconsin). Please feel free to wander through this front garden hunting for eggs on Sunday.

The Easter Bunny will come through again Sunday night and collect any leftover eggs (and just so you know, the bunny wore bunny gloves when distributing eggs, and the toys inside were packed at the bunny toy factory).

Enjoy!”

A Little Bit of Relief

A friend posted this, and it made me feel better, and I don’t think she’d mind if I shared this:

“[My husband] was to leave for NYC today–he was assigned to Bellevue where he did his residency–but we just heard that they have all the healthcare volunteers they need right now (over 20,000 people volunteered to help!). He’s now on emergency standby for NYC and Detroit.”

A little bit of relief. Thank you.

Sewing Masks and Wishing for Walks

Took an hour to sew masks for the four of us, so that we can go on walks still; we don’t feel like it’s socially responsible of us to go out beyond the boundaries of our yard otherwise, given that we live in a pretty crowded urban environment.

Kevin would be perfectly content to stay indoors for months on end, but I hate it — I can manage a week or so, but after that, I start feeling like I’m clawing at the walls of a glass cage. Walks are pretty key to my sanity, and I think they’re good for the kids too.

I’ve started getting people messaging me asking if I can sew them masks, and I’m sorry, but no — all my time and energy for that (I can only sew for about two hours a day before my back starts to really hurt) is going to sewing masks for healthcare workers who are still critically short of them. It looks like you can buy masks on Etsy for about $10 right now, and there are quite a few no-sew patterns out there if you google.

If I have energy, I’m hoping to update my mask FAQ (http://oakparkmutualaid.com/faq-on-masks/) with some discussion of different patterns and why you might want to do what, maybe even some tutorial video. But even if I don’t get to it, there are a lot of patterns and tutorial videos out there already now.

If you’re interested in learning to sew masks yourself, now might be a good time — sewing your own means you can pick your fabrics too, which adds a little fun to an otherwise disheartening project. I went with a Middle-Earth map for Kevin, some spring-y glass terrariums for me, Kavi picked out a blue (it was too bright for her taste, but I flipped it so the underside is facing out, and the muted effect is much more what she likes), and Anand went for space!

Once you know how to use a machine, it’s super-easy to hem pants and hem curtains, and not too hard to do things like taking in clothes that are too big. (Tailoring trick — buy something that fits well at the largest part of you, then take in everywhere else, to end up with a nicely fitted garment.)

A very basic sewing machine seems to run around $80. I’d recommend taking 2-4 hrs of online sewing classes as well; there are a few things that are not intuitive, and it’s MUCH easier to start out if you have someone to problem-solve what you’re doing. Specifically:

– winding the bobbin
– threading the machine
– inserting the bobbin and catching up the thread
– getting the tension right
– helping fabric progress (esp. if you’re making masks with pleats, this can be tricky), so you don’t end up with nasty thread tangles
– solving the nasty thread tangles when they inevitably happen (they happen a LOT to beginners)

At this point, I can make the basic Deaconness Hospital pleated mask (which I’m doing with two layers of cotton and one layer of non-woven filter fabric sewn in, not removable) in about 15 minutes, so doing four for my family took about an hour. Maybe a little longer with ironing, but not much.

So if you’d like to make masks for yourself and others, that’s about how much you’d need to invest in learning and doing — maybe $100 – $125 for supplies (fabric, thread, elastic, sewing machine, scissors, ruler; an iron is helpful, but not strictly required for this). Maybe 2-6 hours in learning, and then I’d allow 1 hr to make your first mask, with it speeding up a lot after that.

And then, like me, you can sew masks for healthcare workers, first responders, and other front-line workers who need them, many of whom can’t afford to drop $10 each on masks for themselves and their family members. If you have the time and money, join us. We could use you.

Easter Eggs

Easter note: I’m planning to go out on that Sunday morning early, plant eggs (pre-filled with tiny dinosaurs) everywhere up and down the block. The 300 block of Wisconsin, between Washington and Randolph — neighbors, if you can leave the eggs for the kids, and encourage your kids to just take a few, that’d be great.  Maintain social distancing while hunting, please.

Anonymous Donor Book Giveaway for A Feast of Serendib!

Anonymous Donor Book Giveaway for A Feast of Serendib!
March 2020
People are reaching out with wonderful, creative ways of helping. Two anonymous donors have offered to help make A Feast of Serendib available to people who want the book but can’t afford to buy it right now. Together these generous folks have donated a total of $1,000 in books for this purpose!
To make the donations go as far as possible, and because we want everyone to be able to access the book in the format that is best for them, we’ve dropped the price too, so we can offer a combination of 15 hardcovers and 30 paperbacks; Serendib Press will match the physical book donations with 50 additional eBook copies as well.
From one of the anonymous donors: “I’m doing this because I have found Mary Anne’s cookbook to be so key in helping me feed myself good food this year and I want other people to be able to care for themselves in the same way.”
We’re going to do this on a first come, first serve basis, for people who want the book but can’t afford to buy it right now, on the honor system. Physical books can only be shipped within the U.S., but eBooks are available internationally!
If you’d like a copy of the book, please comment on the post at the link below and let us know if you’d prefer hardcover, paperback, or eBook. We’ll contact you within a day or two to get your mailing information.
(The paperback doesn’t have photos in the book, but comes with a link to a full web archive of color photos. The eBook reviews indicate that people are finding it works really well for them as an option for a tablet, esp. on a stand in the kitchen.)
_________________________________________
$500 x 2 = $1,000
15 Hardcovers = $450 — 13 left
Discounted to $30 each
30 Paperback = $450 — 27 left
Discounted to $15 each
50 eBooks
Mary Anne’s matching contribution
_________________________________________
MORE COOKBOOK DETAILS:
Feast is now an Amazon bestseller! Woot!
1) ORDERING: You can order A Feast of Serendib (signed / personalized, if you like) directly from me right now, at www.serendibkitchen.com, or from my publisher, Mascot Books: https://mascotbooks.com/mascot-marketplace/buy-books/cookbooks/regional/a-feast-of-serendib/. The limited release paperback can only be ordered directly from my website. If you’re in the U.S., you can also add on my hand-roasted Sri Lankan curry powder.
A Feast of Serendib launched officially March 6, 2020, and we hope it’ll be widely available in bookstores and libraries. You can request it from your local bookstore or library! Please do! It’ll also be available on Amazon US, UK, and Canada; you can order it online.
ORDERING INFO:
978-1-64543-275-3 Hardcover (distributed by Ingram)
978-1-64543-377-4 ebook (on Amazon, etc.)
2370000696366 (trade paperback; only available directly from me, at Serendib Kitchen site; you can also buy the hardcover or ebook there)
2) REVIEW OR BUY IT HERE (reviews are hugely helpful in boosting visibility!):
Amazon
3) JOIN THE COOKBOOK CLUB: If you’d like to support the development of more mostly Sri Lankan recipes, I’d love to have you join the cookbook club — for $2 / month, you’ll get recipes delivered to your inbox (fairly) regularly: https://www.patreon.com/mohanraj. For $10 / month, you can subscribe for fabulous treats mailed to you! (US-only).
4) FOODIE SOCIAL MEDIA:

My personal FB page:

https://www.facebook.com/mary.a.mohanraj
Serendib Kitchen blog: http://serendibkitchen.com

Serendib FB Group:

https://www.facebook.com/groups/132029834135500/

Serendib FB Page:

https://www.facebook.com/mohanrajserendib/
5) PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY starred review: “Mohanraj (Bodies in Motion), a literature professor at the University of Illinois, Chicago, introduces readers to the comforting cuisine of Sri Lanka in this illuminating collection of more than 100 recipes. Waves of immigration from China, England, the Netherlands, and Portugal influenced the unique cuisine of Sri Lanka, Mohanraj writes, as evidenced by such dishes as Chinese rolls (a take on classic egg rolls in the form of stuffed crepes that are breaded and fried); fish cutlets (a culinary cousin of Dutch bitterballen fried croquettes); and English tea sandwiches (filled here with beets, spinach, and carrots). With Sri Lanka’s proximity to India, curry figures heavily, with options for chicken, lamb, cuttlefish, or mackerel. A number of poriyal dishes, consisting of sautéed vegetables with a featured ingredient, such as asparagus or brussels sprouts, showcase a Tamil influence. Throughout, Mohanraj does a superb job of combining easily sourced ingredients with clear, instructive guidance and menu recommendations for all manner of events, including a Royal Feast for over 200 people. This is a terrific survey of an overlooked cuisine.”
*****
Thanks so much for your support! Indie publishing is absolutely reliant on word of mouth and the support of friends, family, and friendly internet acquaintances.
— Mary Anne

Serious Talk With the Kids

I sat the kids down and had a serious talk with them this morning after breakfast. We’ve been talking about all this in bits and pieces, of course, but this was more focused than that. I told them:

– this is a serious disease, and we may well be in our house for 12-18 months

[we discussed the rate of infection, how fast the numbers are doubling, and that if we don’t work hard in the next week on social distancing, a million Americans may die this year]

– we are very lucky that we have a big house and garden, that many of their friends and others don’t have that; we also have enough money to buy the food we need, parents who can work at home, and more

– it’s our responsibility, since we have these privileges, to do as much as we can to help everyone else

– that Mommy is working really hard right now on trying to figure out what are the best ways regular people can help each other, and it’s not easy, and it takes a lot of staring at the computer, and it’s making me very tired and very sad

– that I yelled at Daddy a little bit yesterday for not helping me, and he was sorry and is going to try really hard to help me more with the computer work today

– that I need their help too, especially for the next week, when I’ll be working particularly hard

– that I think their teachers are assigning too much schoolwork, and it’s not a priority for me or their dad, but that it’s good if they learn things, so if there’s time, they should still try to keep up

[Kavya interjected at this point that she is NOT learning things — for example, in her math class, they have her doing MobiMath and doing really easy stuff she learned in elementary school; I told her that her math teacher was probably overwhelmed and she should try to be patient with him]

[we also discussed that if we are basically homeschooling for some months, we can really think about what we’d like to learn and how we’re going to go about it — for example, I told them if we wanted to all work as a family to become fluent in Spanish, we could download Duolingo and really work on it, and if we made good progress, we could also save up money to go visit Mexico or Spain in a year or two when all this is over; Kavi is VERY excited about the prospect of going to Spain]

– I told them that if they could do a good job taking care of themselves, the house, and Mommy in the next week, it would be a HUGE help; they are excited about doing some meal planning and cooking

– I said that I had a hard time thinking when the rooms are messy around me. Anand suggested I just go to the shed, which is actually not a bad plan, but I said if they can help clean up, that would be even better, because otherwise I would be fretting about the messy house some anyway. It took them maybe 10 minutes to straighten and vacuum the living room just now. I had to give them some direction, because they’re not used to it, but they could absolutely do all the actual work themselves.

– I also told them that Mommy had gained two pounds in the last week (true), and though it’s not a great idea to focus just on weight, we *are* getting a lot less movement stuck in our house than we’re used to, and we’re going to have to be very intentional about adding more movement (and not eating junk food) if we don’t want to roll out of here in a year. They liked the idea of making a big chart with different kinds of movement, and at least three times a day, picking something off the chart to do together. I’ll try to remember to post that once we have it done.

[Kavi has now taken Anand for a walk around the block; I suggested they walk most of a length, then when they passed the last alley, race to the corner, then repeat that going around the square; I did that with Anand the other day, and it worked pretty well]

*****

I honestly felt so bad, scaring them a little. But on the other hand — I really need their help right now, and it’s honestly a scary time. I’m proud of our kids for stepping up to help mama (and the world) out.

Brainstorming on How to Work From Home

URGENT: Brainstorming help, please. My primary goal for this morning is to create a structured task list for what people can work on effectively from home, that will support one of these three urgent-need categories:

a) communication around social distancing
b) economic support for social distancing practices
c) support for healthcare workers

I’d love your thoughts, and I’ll keep adding ones that make sense to me back into this list over the course of the day, so we can build out something coherent. Help?

*****

PART A: Communication Around Social Distancing

Problem: Too many people still haven’t seen or understood the full story, the scope of what’s going on, both the immediate need, and the likely long-term 12-18 month situation. There’s still masses of misinformation going around — the idea that “kids can’t catch it,” for example, when in fact, kids are almost certainly massive vectors for infection.

– break it down into demographic groups — what media do these groups consume? How do we get the message out on SnapChat? (20-30-somethings?) (Faculty, can you brainstorm this with your students?) What about Next Door? (older folks?)

– can we build a library of particularly effective informational resources that are already out there? Articles, yes, but also videos and infographics and memes and even humor? (I’d love to have a team of volunteers working on just that piece of it, gathering and sorting information. Librarians? We need you.)

– can we reach out to celebrities to spread the word faster and more effectively? can we get a list of influencers in our genres / fields who are willing to be propagates of critical information? (i.e., I contact John Scalzi and N.K. Jemisin and ask them if they’d be willing to commit to reposting important pieces, and we then put them on the list, and send them a few pieces / day)

– essentially, we need a social media campaign for coronavirus info; are there communications professionals who can step up and volunteer their services? can we wrangle an actual ad agency into setting aside their other projects for a week and working on this?

***

PART B: Economic Support for Social Distancing Practices

Problem: Too much of America is too poor (and I include most of the supposed ‘middle class’ here) to be able to afford long-term social distancing with jobs at risk, massive unexpected childcare expenses; it is going to take government releasing funding to make the costs feasible without driving families into poverty (which eventually also leads to deaths).

Essential workers in particular need safe and affordable (preferably free) childcare for their kids, so that they’re not sending their kids into contaminated makeshift childcare environments (with elderly parents, for example) and contributing to disease spread.

– who is working on effective lobbying efforts? where should we concentrate our political efforts at the national level?

– who qualifies as essential? Healthcare, obv. Vermont and another Minnesota just classified grocery store workers as essential.

– what can be done at the local level through governmental efforts? Can village and other taxing body reserve funds be tapped to provide essential childcare immediately, to be hopefully replenished by federal funds down the road? (I don’t know how you’d set up a mechanism for this, but for just one example, our library has a few million dollar in the reserve fund, and having it sitting in the bank right now does not make sense to me. Reserves are meant to support in a rainy day — this is the rainy day.)

– what can be done through non-governmental efforts? People are certainly setting up ad hoc networks of childcare, but without organization, many of those may end up contributing to disease spread through the kids going back and forth. Can we create ‘pods’ of co-isolating groups, at least? Can we set up mutual aid spreadsheets, utilizing Google Forms, and give people guidance on how to provide community childcare effectively?

– compile a neighborhood contact list, and make sure every house on your block is on it. Leave the existing list with neighbors who aren’t on it.

***

Part C: Support for Healthcare Workers

(Ania Kolak notes that she’s willing to help with this section overall)

– free coaching sessions for healthcare workers and first responders (Ania Kolak notes that she’s doing this through a few national/international orgs but would really love to do it locally; also it would make sense to mobilize some other local coaches who would be interested in helping)

***

– okay, need to take a breath, break from brainstorming for a minute, will come back to edit this more. But feel free to start adding thoughts in the comments.

I’m mostly looking to fill out this set of needs and plans right now, but if anyone wants to take ‘ownership’ of developing or even working on a particular piece of this, please let me know that too.

I think this is my job here. It’s taken me a little time to realize that, but if there’s one thing I’m good at it, it’s seeing a problem, assessing the structure of what the solution should be, and gathering people to fix it. Let’s do this.

#communityinatimeofpandemic

Creating a structured task list

URGENT: Brainstorming help, please. My primary goal for this morning is to create a structured task list for what people can work on effectively from home, that will support one of these three urgent-need categories:
a) communication around social distancing
b) economic support for social distancing practices
c) support for healthcare workers
I’d love your thoughts, and I’ll keep adding ones that make sense to me back into this list over the course of the day, so we can build out something coherent. Help?
*****
PART A: Communication Around Social Distancing
Problem: Too many people still haven’t seen or understood the full story, the scope of what’s going on, both the immediate need, and the likely long-term 12-18 month situation. There’s still masses of misinformation going around — the idea that “kids can’t catch it,” for example, when in fact, kids are almost certainly massive vectors for infection.
– break it down into demographic groups — what media do these groups consume? How do we get the message out on SnapChat? (20-30-somethings?) (Faculty, can you brainstorm this with your students?) What about Next Door? (older folks?)
– can we build a library of particularly effective informational resources that are already out there? Articles, yes, but also videos and infographics and memes and even humor? (I’d love to have a team of volunteers working on just that piece of it, gathering and sorting information. Librarians? We need you.)
– can we reach out to celebrities to spread the word faster and more effectively? can we get a list of influencers in our genres / fields who are willing to be propagates of critical information? (i.e., I contact John Scalzi and N.K. Jemisin and ask them if they’d be willing to commit to reposting important pieces, and we then put them on the list, and send them a few pieces / day)
– essentially, we need a social media campaign for coronavirus info; are there communications professionals who can step up and volunteer their services? can we wrangle an actual ad agency into setting aside their other projects for a week and working on this?
***
PART B: Economic Support for Social Distancing Practices
Problem: Too much of America is too poor (and I include most of the supposed ‘middle class’ here) to be able to afford long-term social distancing with jobs at risk, massive unexpected childcare expenses; it is going to take government releasing funding to make the costs feasible without driving families into poverty (which eventually also leads to deaths).
Essential workers in particular need safe and affordable (preferably free) childcare for their kids, so that they’re not sending their kids into contaminated makeshift childcare environments (with elderly parents, for example) and contributing to disease spread.
– who is working on effective lobbying efforts? where should we concentrate our political efforts at the national level?
– who qualifies as essential? Healthcare, obv. Vermont and another Minnesota just classified grocery store workers as essential.
– what can be done at the local level through governmental efforts? Can village and other taxing body reserve funds be tapped to provide essential childcare immediately, to be hopefully replenished by federal funds down the road? (I don’t know how you’d set up a mechanism for this, but for just one example, our library has a few million dollar in the reserve fund, and having it sitting in the bank right now does not make sense to me. Reserves are meant to support in a rainy day — this is the rainy day.)
– what can be done through non-governmental efforts? People are certainly setting up ad hoc networks of childcare, but without organization, many of those may end up contributing to disease spread through the kids going back and forth. Can we create ‘pods’ of co-isolating groups, at least? Can we set up mutual aid spreadsheets, utilizing Google Forms, and give people guidance on how to provide community childcare effectively?
– compile a neighborhood contact list, and make sure every house on your block is on it. Leave the existing list with neighbors who aren’t on it.
***
Part C: Support for Healthcare Workers
(Ania Kolak notes that she’s willing to help with this section overall)
– free coaching sessions for healthcare workers and first responders (Ania Kolak notes that she’s doing this through a few national/international orgs but would really love to do it locally; also it would make sense to mobilize some other local coaches who would be interested in helping)
***
– okay, need to take a breath, break from brainstorming for a minute, will come back to edit this more. But feel free to start adding thoughts in the comments.
I’m mostly looking to fill out this set of needs and plans right now, but if anyone wants to take ‘ownership’ of developing or even working on a particular piece of this, please let me know that too.
I think this is my job here. It’s taken me a little time to realize that, but if there’s one thing I’m good at it, it’s seeing a problem, assessing the structure of what the solution should be, and gathering people to fix it. Let’s do this.

The Wolf at Our Door

It isn’t reasonable to expect people to become convinced and internalize that we’re entered a serious crisis situation in just a few days. I know that.

Even if they do get to that point, many of us are overwhelmed with work and care responsibilities, mental health concerns, fear for ourselves and our loved ones. There’s a lot of moving parts and shifting information, with all the authorities seemingly caught just as flat-footed as the rest of us, scrambling, and our capitalist society is breathing economic panic at us, the wolf always at our door. I get that.

And of course, the data projections are terrifying, even for me, and I am normally the most chill of humans. If we do nothing, we’re looking at more than a million deaths in just the U.S. A million. The problem is so big, so scary, and honestly, the scale of it feels so out of the blue still, despite the fact that China has been fighting this for months. Many folks are going to have a very hard time even READING about the truth of it; they’ll want to look away. That is only human.

I would love to give people time to process, give our society time to adapt.

And yet the ticking clock means that we can’t actually do that. In the last week I’ve become convinced (and I WISH I’d realized it much faster, I’m so angry at myself for how long it took me to understand the truth of what I was reading), that this is an all hands on deck situation. Right now.

In the next 7-10 days, those of us Americans who aren’t in healthcare have to do EVERYTHING we can to support those who are working the problem directly. If that means our kids watch screens for a few weeks, if it means our students get essentially placeholder e-mails for a few weeks (keep up with the reading, we’ll be back soon with a revised course plan, assuming we actually manage to finish out the semester), that is OKAY.

We’re trying to drag a projected million-plus deaths this year in America down to a few thousand. We might even be able to do it, if we have the commitment, the political and personal will.

We need to reset our priorities immediately, collectively. We have to start thinking seriously about what is nonessential and can be put to the side for a few weeks. There’ll be time to catch up on the kids’ homework soon. Right now, there is so much work to do, that has to be done FAST. Work, work, work — rest enough to keep your strength and spirits up, because you can’t help if you collapse, read something funny, laugh for a moment — then work some more.

And I know some of you are reading this and maybe getting pretty angry at me, because you have DONE everything you’ve been asked to do and more, you would LOVE to be able to help, and you’re incredibly frustrated that you can’t figure out how to help. I was arguing with my husband about this, just barely not yelling at him, and that’s pretty much what he just barely managed not to yell at me in response. I get that.

Here’s the thing. I spread the word a little. I did some community work. But only with a little bit of my attention, my focus.

I think I kept waiting for a higher-up, a community leader, a medical person, to step forward and say, “Okay, here’s the plan, here’s the task we need you to do.” But they’re all scrambling too. And of course, they ARE working the problem — a lot of people are working really hard.

But some of them, a lot of them, are working the WRONG problem. They’re focused on their own domain, trusting that someone else is handling the larger picture. And that’s just not enough right now. We all need to think and look wider. If you were in government, if you were in charge, what would you want to see happening?

It makes me want to weep, seeing how many faculty have earnestly spent the last two weeks trying to become experts in engaging online education, so they can help their students achieve the course objectives set in calculus and composition pedgagogy two months ago. And that’s totally understandable, but it’s wrong. It’s just wrong.

Professors, take those skills and shift them outward, away from just your classes. You and I, we need to be public intellectuals right now.

And everyone, whatever your education and work background, if you have the skills — community-building skills, tech skills, organizational skills, communication skills, if you are the voice in your community that people listen to — the world needs you. It needs you right now.

Look around. Find the people near you who are working the social distancing & healthcare ramp-up problems hard, working them well — there ARE a lot of them, and many of them have been running flat out for weeks, so busy and anxious and exhausted that they don’t even have the capacity to reach out and say, “Help.”

Ask them what they need, ask them how you can help. I’m afraid if no one near you (online or off) is doing anything really useful to combat the wildfire spread of coronavirus, then maybe you’re going to have to be the one to organize something, to rally the troops. (If you’re in a state that hasn’t closed the schools yet, you know what your next task to work on is. Indiana just closed their schools. Another step. More lives saved. Onwards.)

What else? Form a mutual aid group. Figure out which legislators to lobby for disaster relief funds so people can afford to stay home from their jobs without starving. Find out what the hospitals and healthcare workers need most urgently, that you can help supply. (Childcare funds and an organization that will provide safe childcare while maintaining social distancing? Is that something you can work on?)

MOST OF ALL, do whatever you can to support social distancing this week. From now (3/19) until the end of March. Spread the word effectively, emphatically, compassionately. Build a social media campaign. Design memes and write stories (short ones). Record tik-toks. If you know people with broader social reach than you (if you know celebrities!), rope them in. If you know people with money, businesses in a position to donate funds, talk to them too.

Help make social distancing economically and practically and legally feasible for as many people as possible.

There are going to be many societal problems to work in coming months, as we see a seismic shift in how we live our lives, but THIS is the urgent one for the next 7-10 days.

(And then rest a little, and work it some more, because we’re going to explain this to people and do it over and over again, probably for 12-18 months. If that surprises you, please read the article linked at the end.)

I’m going to try to put together a more concrete task list and post it by tomorrow morning. It will fall broadly into three categories:

– communication around social distancing
– economic support for social distancing practices
– support for healthcare workers

As far as I can see, those are the three failure points that need serious and sustained reinforcement. I’ll link to the task list here once I have it ready.

But right now, please. If you have capacity without endangering your health (physical or mental) — look around. See who’s supporting social distancing and healthcare effectively. Help them.

And read this: https://www.washingtonpost.com/…/coronavirus-projections-us/

Update 3/20: I’ve started my brainstorming structure list here; I’d appreciate your thoughts: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10160666035969616&set=a.10150140183694616&type=3

#communityinatimeofpandemic
#teachinginatimeofpandemic

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