The Dueling Manifestos


A post circulates Facebook featuring a teacher who is describing a school day during the covid19 pandemic. If you haven’t seen it, the point is that parents who are pushing for kids to be back to school face-to-face possibly aren’t thinking of what it will actually be like for kids (separated, masked, no partner work, no touch).

Cue 8 million vitriolic comments about how teachers are using fear tactics, they’re lazy, they just don’t want to go back to school.

The next day, a post circulates Facebook featuring a teacher who took the original post and point by point flipped it into how a teacher could make the day into a magical experience. “Oh, look! We are astronauts in our masks!”

Cue comments about how AMAZING this teacher is, and that’s who I want to teach my kid, and see, teachers, you don’t have to be negative about everything. 

This narrative of the dueling Facebook counterpoints is so tired. The reality is that, like with almost anything, neither one of those are what we will actually expect. They are hyperbole–used to help prove a point. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, however, people see them and nod their heads and suddenly they have ammunition. That first poster wasn’t saying she would NOT try to help the kids be comfortable at school–she was trying to help parents understand that it would not be the same. 

This black-and-white, I’m right and you’re wrong, “it only works if I can fit it in a meme” way of thinking is ruining us. I mean, memes are great. Some of them make me belly laugh. Some are meant to point out irony. And I’m leaving politics completely out of this because at this point what can any of us even do about that? And this isn’t even bringing up actual, try satire, which has really lost its place because things are so bananas right now, everything could be satire.

But, literally anyone can make a meme, or a point-by-point post. I know absolutely NOTHING about certain things. Like hockey. I know nothing about hockey. But I could pull up a website, make a very professional looking (thank you very much) meme that says, “90 % of hockey players go on to be paid higher than their peer group” and every hockey mom in America will be printing that shit out and placing it on their vision boards. You know, the vision boards they have for their kids. 

I’m not even sure most people have real opinions anymore, because their views are so shaped by what they see online. And this is dangerous because most of it is garbage. The word trauma is being thrown around all willy-nilly. Posts about human trafficking with wildly misinterpreted, misused, and even completely just made up numbers are making the rounds. And this doesn’t even touch on the political stuff (I just had heart palpitations thinking about it).

I’m so afraid of the way we’ve learned to interact with each other, particularly online. I know this isn’t new, but it is getting worse. We pepper insults into every comment. In real life, we are given the middle finger for wearing a mask, or not wearing a mask. We see one opinion someone has and decide they are rude or unkind. 

While I was writing this, I witnessed this interaction on Facebook:

Person 1: someone I know to be very concerned about the environment, and the chemicals we use in cleaning products. She shares an article about concerns over the amount of chemicals used in cleaning supplies to decontaminate schools.

Person 2: Just another fear mongering tactic to continue to keep kids out of school.


My GOODNESS we have lost touch. Not EVERYTHING is a personal affront on what you believe in. Not EVERYTHING is a fear tactic. Not EVERYTHING pertains to you and your exact situation. And, you don’t always have to comment.

Seeing it, being immersed in it, is affecting my mental health. I’m still recovering from a childhood where we were stupid bitches, cry-babies, idiots, and lazy. Those wounds run deep and, like anything else, I suppose sometimes we don’t break those cycles and so some of the people with these behaviors were also subject to that. And your answer might be, if you can’t handle it, then stay off social media.

But, you know what? That’s not fair. With the pandemic, I don’t see any of my friends. I want to see photos and what people are up to. I want to laugh at the fact that we all try to vacuum something up like 20 times rather than pick it up and throw it away. I want to read stories that move me. I want to learn what books to read and shows I might like. I want to get to know people. I love learning about people!

And I want us to fix it. I want us to think about what we’re sharing. I want us to think about what we’re saying in the comments. I’m not saying you shouldn’t be able to interact online, or disagree with someone, I just wish we could be kind. Be willing to admit you don’t know enough about a topic and you’ll learn more. Be willing to apologize. Be willing to admit you were wrong. That wasn’t a good source. I see that was incorrect. Leave out the insults along with the opinion. I really try to use my comments sparingly, and save them for things I feel like I’m sufficiently knowledgeable about.

 I just want us to do better. (This includes me, by the way. I’m not better than anyone else, just trying hard and working to be aware. Sometimes I’m totally surprised by the way other people interpret my opinion as closed-minded and then remember there are so many things I have yet to learn).

Know better, do better. 




Bits about this and that

Did you know that the state of Wisconsin is shaped just like your hand? Whenever I try to explain to people where I grew up, I simply turn my hand to them and point.

(See, my thumb is Door County, right?)


So, you’d find Sharon, the teeny-tiny town in which I grew up at the very bottom of that mitten. As in, if you rode your bike to the end of my street, it intersected with State Line Road. So, I’d go there and I’d hop over the center line, yelling, “I’m in Wisconsin! I’m in Illinois!”

And, yes, I was hopping the center line on a major road and I should not have been. My mom had no idea.

Sharon is a quiet town, one that has changed very much since I was a little girl. I find myself gravitating to memories from there often, though, especially lately. The pandemic has me so nostalgic for — maybe, simpler times? Happier times? I don’t know exactly what, but I find myself drawn back consistently. I’m writing essays about things that seem so unimportant, but I just need to get those words down.

My small town had its own newspaper, the Sharon Reporter. It was run by Mabel Jackson, a local journalist who also edited the newspaper. If I close my eyes and think of any event I ever went to, Mabel was there, with her camera and her tiny spiral notebook.

Each week, she had a column titled, “Bits About This and That.” It was basically the gossip section. She’d talk about her gardens, I remember, her family, if someone was moving or had gotten a new job.

I’m not exactly sure why, at 39 years old, years and years after that paper has been out of production, I still think about that column. However, here is my pandemic version of Bits About This and That:

Yes, my neck hurts all the time. ALL the time. I’m popping ibuprofen, using a neck hammock that I bought on Instagram, trying out new pillows, and trying so hard to put my phone down. It still just hurts.

I am LOVING the new album by the (Dixie)Chicks. It’s on repeat!

Well, today it is cool and breezy and suddenly feels like Autumn. Autumn makes me think of school. Of course. My whole life feels like it has been defined by the start of another school year. This year is so different. I’m so … unsettled. I don’t feel confident about school at all, and not because I don’t think I can figure out the technology, and not because I don’t think I can teach content, but in the way that I am afraid of missed connections. How can I do this with brand new students who I have never met? How do I do this? This weekend I had a surprise visit from two students I had as 4th graders who moved out of state several years ago. What a connection we have, right? Is it even possible over the computer?

I want a puppy.

Mental health wise, I am STRUGGLING. Being a parent in these 4 walls and trying so hard not to show my worry is hard. My kids are having a very hard time. I’ve started taking them to see a therapist because I am seeing changes that concern me. A friend of mine who is a therapist told me she is seeing many, many kids coming to therapy that normally would not be there. I feel so grateful I have this at my fingertips, and so weary that not everyone does. I hope it helps.

I finally got back my ability to focus long enough to read a book. I’m reading one after another after another.

Even though I’m with my family all day long, I feel disconnected. I long for a date night with my husband, but even if I had one, all we would talk about is the pandemic and politics and the opening of schools because it overshadows everything I do. We are not away from each other ever to have anything to tell each other and it makes me feel so sad. I feel like a broken record.

We are, however, binging the West Wing, and I recommend it.

I don’t know what to make for dinner anymore. Ever. Also, I hate cooking.

My social anxiety is growing. You know how the longer you don’t do something, the harder it is to start (think exercise)? I’ve been at home without people for so long that when the doorbell rings, I tense up and want to literally hide.

Several dozens of times a day, I think of things I’m grateful for. This pandemic has me clinging to the things I know are the most important. I feel oddly at peace, a little more solid than normal. Annoyances are let go, I don’t have the energy to give. I go for walks and I breathe in the air and think of how grateful I am for the weather, for the sun, for long walks and my legs that carry me.

I killed almost every plant in my garden. It’s a special skill.

I suppose I could go on forever, but I’ll stop here, yo.