The future is now, but what about when it wasn’t?

Social Distance Park BenchesLike so many others attempting to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and really just anyone whether we know them or not, safe amid the current pandemic, our family has been at home and self-isolating.

Yes, irritability has been high when you’re all together in one house for such an extended period of time. It can at times feel a bit like living in a quasi-Groundhog Day loop of MTV’s The Real World. Of course, my only reference for the Real World, if I’m being honest and showing my age, is the one season I recall ever watching of the show, which was San Francisco during its initial airing in 1994. 

VHS 90s VideotapeMan, 1994. Imagine going through this type of worldwide situation those 25+ years ago. No smartphones, no streaming services, no online shopping, no internet availability, at least not as we know it today. Cable television and telephones were pretty much it. You wanted food delivery? Call for pizza or Chinese food. That was essentially it in most areas. Want to watch a movie or TV show that’s not on TV at the moment? Hope you have it on VHS (as I assume if this happened in ‘94, video stores would not have been open during the crisis).

It makes me think of just how fortunate (and I use that word incredibly loosely in this context) people are that if a worldwide crisis like this happens, that they are having it happen in the era we live, with so many luxuries at their fingertips.

And yet, despite all that, there are many who complain about being bored. Being bored! There are more than 100,000 people deceased in America as I type this and the pandemic still spreads across the land. It doesn’t end just because we get bored, by the way. It’s a virus. It’s still there. The world is available at our fingertips these days – from a phone, to a TV, to a computer. Now, let me admit up front that not everyone has that privilege of access to the web or these services. But yet, so many who complain about their boredom certainly do, and I just can’t understand it. 

What would people have done back in 1994?

Heck, let’s go back even further. Let’s take all the complaining and outrage and arguments of people who don’t care about the risk they are putting not only exposing themselves to, but so many others and let’s not transplant it 26 years ago. 

Old Radio 1940sLet’s go back to the 1940s. Let’s go back to World War II. Telephones to communicate, but maybe you were on a party line where you picked up the line along with any number of your neighbors. Better watch what you say, you never know who’s listening. You want entertainment? Pull out a book or magazine from the newsstand, turn the radio dial to what might be on at the moment. Streaming? There’s no creek around here, kid. 

Can you imagine if, during one of the most iconic times of “rallying together for the common good” throughout American history, instead of the now iconic WPA posters and messages pulling the country to sacrifice on the home front and help the overall effort, people shouted “Screw that! I’m American! I’m gonna use all the food and rubber and paper I want!” 

The landscape would certainly look very different, that’s for sure. So, why is it that even with the world at our very fingertips, there are people who just can’t seem to find it in themselves to sacrifice a little for the good of all those around them. It makes you feel that maybe they just don’t care about those around them. And I hope that’s not the case because that’s a very sad thing. 

I can’t help but feel it would have disappointed all those generations prior who had no problem making far greater sacrifices, without any of the luxuries we’re lucky to currently live with.

Perhaps a little less entitlement, and a little more gratitude and compassion for others could go a long way, not just in respect for others that we share a society in, but a great respect for those who came before us and made great sacrifices for generations to come.

Before and After

humming-bird-5052592_1920
Busy, busy, busy, like a hummingbird.

About a week or ago, I got an email that caught me by surprise – there was an update to my blog!

I was immediately puzzled because I had not recalled scheduling anything, but I opened up the email and there it was…a blog post about always feeling like there’s not enough time in the day. It was, in the brief moments before I logged in to take it down, like staring into the past of a previous life. I had written this and scheduled it far ahead, some months ago. We’ll call it the ‘before times,’ because that’s what it feels like most days.

In the before times, I thought nothing of writing about how overwhelmed I felt by a barrage of daily responsibilities all tumbling down at the same time and now I look back on that as rather…naive?  

Like many other folks out there, we’ve been social distancing since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic and though only a few months have passed since that began, it seems in many ways like another era, something that I came face to face with when reading this post drafted so many months ago about problems that seemed ‘crucial.’

Since then, grocery store trips have become a solo venture, my mask and gloves firmly in place, postage gets purchased and printed online for packages that need to be mailed, work is done remotely, the schoolroom is virtual, and talking to friends or family becomes a bit of an ‘event’ and done so through the safety of technology or talks through a window to the driveway. It’s become a new world, at least it has if you’re taking the steps necessary to keep yourself and especially those around you healthy.

In so many ways, it really is another time and accidentally looking back at a mindset of a past not so long ago but so vastly different is a great reminder that no matter what our situation is in this time of crisis, that we hopefully recognize that some of the irks of our lives then are put into a bit of perspective, and we see that some things were not as much a reason for concern as we thought.

There’s a lot of voices crying out for a return to normal. But as has been said by wiser people than myself, maybe we should stop and think of what parts of ‘normal’ we really want to go back to.

No, you don’t.

working at computer deskThere’s a philosophy/mindset out there being shared across the internet that’s really unhealthy, something that irritates me to no end right now, as people try their best to keep life going amid the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Oh, there’s different variations on it, but they pretty much hit the same notes. They go something like:

If you don’t come out of this situation with that project done, a new skill, or a side hustle you always wanted, it’s not that you lacked the time, it’s that you lacked discipline.

No, you don’t. This, my friends, is absolutely, 100% false. 

Yet I am sure there are people beating themselves up over the fact that they are not living up to this random internet person’s expectations that life is exactly the same for everyone else as it is for them. 

It’s not. And it is incredibly important for people to realize this.

Child doing schoolworkEvery single person’s experiences and circumstances are different. There may be similarities, but each one is uniquely their own. You may be deemed an essential employee and still be putting in mental, emotional, and physically-exhausting shifts every day. Maybe you are able to work from home, maybe you have a spouse who is too. Maybe you have children who are home from school with assignments for every class that need to be accomplished daily, so you’re playing the role of teacher as well. If you have multiple children, then you’re playing teacher to each of them, each with their own sets of work, classes, and needs. Maybe you, yourself, are having problems dealing and coping with the emotional tolls of this situation, its impact, those affected. Or perhaps you’re a single parent trying to juggle some, most, or all of the above. 

paint brush and tray houseOh, and, oh yes – you’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. Unprecedented times unlike something that many of us have seen or expected to see in our lifetimes. 

So get outta here, internet know-it-alls, who think your situation applies to everyone, shaming those who can’t accomplish what you feel they should because this situation offers you more time. This time is what each person can make of it, based on everything they’re dealing with and trying to handle. 

Instead, just try to be good to each other. Be kind and not judge people for how they’re juggling, handling, coping with the situation at hand. Because if this situation should be teaching us anything, it’s that the world and life can change pretty fast, so maybe we should be a little more kind and adaptable with others as well.

The Little Lamp by Dave Dellecese

Incredible thanks to Patricia Tilton and Children’s Book Heal for this wonderful review of “The Little Lamp.”

If you haven’t yet, I hope you’ll consider checking it out:

From Barnes & Noble: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-little-lamp-dave-dellecese/1130195163

From Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Little-Lamp-Dave-Dellecese/dp/1970156988

Children's Books Heal

The Little Lamp

Dave Dellecese, Author

Ada Konewki, Illustrator

Dandy Press, Fiction, Feb. 12, 2019

Suitable for Ages: 4-7

Themes: Lamp, Love, Purpose, Obsolete, Resilience, Re-purpose, Rhyme

Opening: In a tiny brick apartment, / at Jasper Drive and Main, / Lived the custest little couple / Known as Jack and Jane McShane.

Synopsis:

Little Lamp shines his light on the Jane and Jack McShane. A gift from Gramma, it always sits on a table while they read books in the evening and sip their tea. When they have their first child, Little Lamp is beside them as they play and read books to Baby.  At night time he watches the baby sleep. Little Lamp is very happy.

Then one day Jack McShane brings home a big, shiny lamp. Little Lamp is sad when he’s taken to the cold basement and set on a top shelf next…

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A simple thank you

Thank You trash binI was in the grocery store grabbing a few things this past week (safely keeping my distance away from fellow shoppers and staff). Like any grocery store across the U.S. right now, it can be a madhouse.

I only had a bag or two worth of items so decided my quickest exit (and avoiding getting too close to anyone) was the self checkout. As I was bagging the last of my items I saw an older woman bagging at the register over. I asked her how she was holding up. She told me she’s never seen anything like this and it’s not hard to believe her. I could see there were other folks in line behind me so I grabbed my things, smiled and told her thank you for everything she and her co-workers are doing and dealing with, that it’s making a difference to people.

At home, it was garbage night and we put our son’s creative abilities to work with some signs. They were bright, they were colorful and they had a simple message – thank you.

One was left on our mailbox and the other on our garbage bin. Just a note to let the folks helping keep things clean and the person making sure letters, cards and these days so many packages get to and from.

Thank you replyOur son smiled as he watched from the window, a big honk honk coming from the garbage truck as they pulled away and waved. And the next day, atop a package was a note commending his art and appreciation for the sign.

Just two simple words but words that are oh so important and words that many folks don’t hear enough, even in ‘normal times.’

And things aren’t normal right n ow. We’re in some strange times at the moment. Times when the best thing we can do to help others and stop the spread of infection is to just stay put if we’re able to.

But there are many who are still on the job every day, doing what they do to allow our society and our lives to continue, even in chaos like now.

And for that – thank you.

Thank your healthcare workers.
Thank your grocery store employees.
Thank your sanitation workers.
Thank your postal carriers.
Thank your public safety officers.
Thank your journalists.
Thank your food services folks.

And thank everyone else who’s out there working every day in a crazy, uncertain time for you.

And pay them appropriately.

Social Distancing

img_5420We certainly live in strange times.

Like much of the world as of this writing, America is dealing with the growing impact and spread of the COVID-19 virus. The numbers seem to grow at more rapid paces each day, and this week the big word has been “social distancing.”

In our area, like countless others, schools have been shut down, and health officials from the federal to the state and local levels are urging those who have the ability to work from home to do so and stay put.

Let me stop right here to acknowledge upfront my privilege, in that I am lucky to have a workplace that, in attempts to be proactive, has directed many of its employees to work from home during this time. My wife, an educator, has the same luxury.

So many are not as fortunate and I want to take a moment to recognize all you’re dealing with – physically, mentally, emotionally, and economically amid already heightened times.

My father, my brother, and other family and friends are among them.

I worry about my parents. I worry about whether my father (who has had 3-4 bouts with respiratory health issues this year) is coming into contact with individuals who could be carriers and not even know it, in a job that shows no sign of making changes to their daily business. I worry about my mother, who has her own share of health issues, who watches our children during the workday and whom I Skyped with for the very first time Sunday night.

It felt a little surreal. They weren’t in another state. They weren’t on vacation. They were their usually 20+ minute drive away. It’s surreal and weird, and I’m sure it unnerved them as well to be talking to a son and grandchildren they see practically every day through now only a screen, but it’s to do our best and protect them. Or at least as best we can.

We’re all just trying our best to watch out for one another. And keep each other safe. Our family. Our friends. Our communities.

In our household, these first few days we are setting our expectations low, but hoping to do our best managing the day to day office work while trying to maintain some type of routine or schedule for the kids when it comes to schoolwork and learning so they don’t fall behind. It will be rough, it will be messy, and it will require patience that I’m not convinced we have, but we’re going to do our best.

It’s an adjustment to a whole new way of living for a bit and acknowledging (and accepting) the interruption to the way of daily life you’re used to.

I have no doubt that, to many, these types of actions may seem overreactive. It’s hard to really feel a threat that you not only don’t see, but don’t see it’s effects immediately around you. But then, I guess that’s the point. If nothing happens, then that means it worked. And that’s good.

Sometimes doing what you feel is right is not always what’s popular.

How I Met Your Mother

Bar Busy with peopleSit down, kids, and I’ll tell you a story.

One of the greatest things I ever did was to take a low point in my life and esteem and turn it into motivation to focus on time for myself, and getting back in touch with things I enjoyed.

I was in my late 20s, single, and going through what might have been classified in retrospect as a form of depression. A good portion of that time was admittedly spent going out, drinking, dating, and in some form or another, always landing right back to the same starting point again, rinse and repeat. I also (being able to look back retrospectively and introspectively on myself) was not my best self and feel that I lacked a bit of maturity and awareness of the world outside my own interests and vision. Perhaps a symptom of my age at the time, perhaps just something that develops through our life experiences. But I’m glad I can see and admit that now.

I wasn’t happy and at the time I looked at many outside factors as things that might potentially make me happy. Only now, almost but not quite 15 years later, am I able to have the perspective to realize that nothing, not a thing that I could have obtained (a different job, a different living space, a relationship with XY or Z), none of it would have actually made a difference.

Because now I’m incredibly fortunate enough to realize that happiness can’t be found in any particular thing. You can chase it, but if you get it, you’ll find yourself still struggling to understand why you’re not better. That’s because being happy comes from something much closer to home. It can only be found within oneself. It’s in your outlook, your mindset, your gratitude for the good in life and letting it tip the scale on the bad.

Hand holding remote controlOne particular Fall/Winter season, after a few of those vicious cycles, I decided it was time to pull back and focus on a new way and a new focus, namely myself. I didn’t go out. I’d come home to my apartment after work, get cozy, make some food, watch some television or read, maybe work on something creative, and call it a night.

To some I think it might have looked like turning into a hermit, but for me at the time, it was refocusing my energies back onto time for myself and things I enjoyed. Quiet time. A time to get back in touch with myself again.

I tried theatre again – something I hadn’t done at that point since high school. Eventually that led to a small part at a playhouse I had never heard of about a half hour away. A friend had suggested to me that I give it a try. There, I met a wonderful group of people in what seemed like a rag tag group of performers trying their best with minimal resources to put on a show (paralleling a similar type of circumstance in the play’s story itself). And among that crew was a new friend – well, sort of. She’d make fun of me a lot. And I’d often leave thinking “that girl is so weird.”

Theatre stage curtain seatsBut, we were becoming friends.

About five or six months later, another play came around at the same playhouse and having had such a fun experience, I tried again. Lo and behold, “that weird girl” and I were both in the cast again and we found our friendship beginning to grow.

By the time the show’s run ended a few months later, we must have realized that we liked each other because I asked her out to a touring production of a Broadway show that came through town.

And I guess the rest, as they say, is history. Three-kids later history.

The realization to look inward for my happiness, that season of reconnecting with myself led me somewhere I never would have guessed, and somewhere I wouldn’t change for the world.

And that, kids, is how I met your mother.

Fifty Years of Sunny Days

Classic SesameCan you tell me how to get…how to get to Sesame Street?

I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone in this world who can’t tell you where on dial (okay, even if there are no dials anymore) to find that famous neighborhood where sunny days sweep the clouds away.

I personally have a hard time thinking of any other children’s television program that has consistency come into the homes of families as long as Sesame Street has, talking directly to their audience and guiding them through the essentials of childhood learning, from ABCs and 123s, colors and patterns, and just plain being good people.

The show has left five decades worth of legacy behind as of this writing. Five decades. It is incredible to stop and think about how many childhoods that encompasses, that have been touched and impacted by this product of the Children’s Television Workshop, now known as Sesame Workshop.

So it was with great joy that our family gathered around the television a few weeks back to watch Sesame Street’s 50th Anniversary Special on PBS Kids. For us, it was a family event. I even made popcorn.

The look-back celebration didn’t disappoint. With songs and clips from throughout the shows storied history, it was a trip down nostalgia lane with Muppets last seen long ago reappearing in various cameos (looking at you, Amazing Mumford, Roosevelt Franklin, Sherlock Hemlock, Harvey Kneeslapper, and Guy Smiley, among so many others).

Even the Baker who famously dropped his plate of whatever it would be at the time, re-emerged, most of his face cleverly hidden by pies, but his voice still provided thanks to a recording from the late, great Jim Henson. “Ten…banana cream…pies!!!!” **tumble** **crash**

And much to my delight, even Kermit the Frog re-emerged for a visit back to Sesame Street, as let’s not forget Kermit was once a regular on the Street back in the day.

Sesame 50th - Susan and BobAnd the humans. Sigh. It just wouldn’t have been a Sesame Street anniversary without a check-in of the human cast members from days gone by. Maria, Gordon, Susan, Luis, Bob, even Linda were all back to join in the fun with a few lines and songs that would make even the most curmudgeonly viewers feel like a kid again. I beamed.

All that in itself would have been enough, but they did even better by having a few performers on the special’s back end to talk about what the show meant to them personally. I was especially touched by the words of Jason Schwartzman, who talked about what the introduction of the character Julia meant to his family.

I can’t think of Sesame Street without thinking of the episode that stayed with me my entire life. Sure, there were songs, and characters and skits that were memorable. And yes, long before I had been working in the world of journalism as a reporter, toddler-aged me used to sit in our apartment using a paper lunch bag to make a trench coat for my stuffed Kermit the Frog so he could be “Kermit the Frog, reporting live from Sesame Street.”

sesame - mr hooperBut what struck me the most throughout the years, no matter how old I got, was the episode that dealt with the death of actor Will Lee, who played Mr. Hooper. The episode first aired in 1982, and my memory can’t distinguish if I had seen it then (I would have been 2 at the time) or as a rerun a year or so after that. But it’s the one that I’ll never forget. It was my first understanding of death, just like Big Bird, and an emotional impact that stays with me to this day.

Five decades of teaching. Five decades of helping. Five decades of giving kids from all backgrounds and all walks of life a chance to say “hey, that’s like me.” It’s what makes Sesame Street so darn special to so many people and has for so many years.

It’s part of why we all wish we could live on a street like Sesame.

Sesame 50th Group

Voicing the childhood of generations

russi taylorI think about Russi Taylor a lot.

I know that’s a weird sentence to start a piece with, but it’s true.

It’s said that when she was a little girl, Russi was at Disneyland with her mother and brother when she spotted Walt Disney sitting on a bench in the park at night. They started up a conversation and when Walt asked her what she wanted to do when she grew up, the young Russi replied, “Work for you!” And she did.

In 1986 she beat out 200 others auditioning for the role of the famous female mouse and she has voiced her ever since.

She was no one-trick pony either. Her career included voice-overs for countless other characters across television and film, including Martin Prince on The Simpsons and Huey, Dewey and Louie in the original DuckTales. And those who work with her say she was just as sweet as the Minnie she portrayed.

She passed away in July at the age of 75, but her work…well, like so many others, it’s around me every single day.

Minnie and DaisyWith three kids at home, we watch a lot of Mickey and Minnie Mouse cartoons. From Mickey’s Clubhouse and Minnie’s Bow-tique to Roadster Racers and Mixed Up Adventures, Minnie’s with us every there. And that means that Russi Taylor’s Minnie is a constant presence. Throw in any Minnie Mouse doll, toy car, toy phone or anything else that talks in-character, and well, she’s heard about as much as any family member.

That’s a little strange, right? This person whom I’ve never met in my life but felt sadness for upon hearing of her passing. I didn’t know Russi Taylor. But like so many who experience characters that have become such a part of our lives, you don’t need to know them personally for them to mean something to you. She gave voice and life for more than 30 years to a beloved character that’s been a part of multiple childhoods.

CHIP, DALE, DONALD, MICKEY, PLUTO, MINNIE, JIMINY JOHNSON, DANNI SUE, DAISY, CUCKOO LOCA, GOOFYAnd yet, though she is no longer with us, the Disney Legend continues to live on in every character she brought to life and every childhood she touched and brought joy to. The sound of Minnie Mouse surrounds so many of us every day, and because of that, she has become such a large part of so many childhoods, lives, and lives on in some small way in each person whose face she brought a smile to, even if it was remotely, through the wonder of animation and technology.

I’m fixing a hole

I spent a lot of time patching up holes at our house this summer. I’m not going to lie. I often spent much of that time simultaneously patching and singing The Beatles 1967 hit of the same name.

I’m fixing a hole where the rain gets in

And stops my mind from wandering

Where it will go

I’m filling the cracks that ran through the door

And kept my mind from wandering

Where it will go

But why? What holes? Why was this such an ongoing project throughout the summer?

The answer, my friends, is a small one. A chipmunk-sized one. Because it’s a chipmunk.

June 28, 2019 - Driveway chipmunk problem 02Early this summer we noticed a hole in our driveway, not far from where the garage door is. We assumed, as it was below the path of gutters above, that excess water had worn it away over time. So, one afternoon I went out, filled it with some rocks, mixed up a little concrete (with plans to cover it with cold patch once it dried) and filled up the hole. Inside the house I went and peeked out the window about an hour later to see if it had dried up yet and ready for the next step.

I did a double take at the window. Wait, what?

June 28, 2019 - Driveway chipmunk problem 06The entire hole had been dug up, or rather pushed up from the inside. Before the concrete could dry, it and the rocks below it now sat in the driveway, scattered about. As I inspected closer, I found that it wasn’t just a hole. It was a tunnel! A tunnel that led to the grass just off to the side of our driveway, where a tiny little chipmunk looked at me before running off.

I couldn’t believe it.

So, I patched up the hole again, this time covering it with a bucket and stone on top, while covering the other end of the tunnel with a big brick. This time it worked.

June 28, 2019 - Driveway chipmunk problem 07Until another hole popped up a few feet away. And then we discovered multiple holes in the masonry walls of the garage itself where our little friend was coming and going, leaving his droppings and gnawing away at any bags of birdseed. Which I discovered by picking up said bag and having it spill out from the bottom thanks to a chewed hole on the bottom.

Because I apparently live in a reality akin to 1940s Donald Duck cartoons where yes, I’m playing the role of Donald to my tiny co-star of Chip, Dale, whichever one is burrowing holes into our driveway and garage.

Adonald chip and dales the sun begins to set on summer, so too (at least I think) has the sun set on the cartoonish ongoing battle with our small antagonist (or are they the protagonist and I’m the antagonist?). The holes have been successfully filled in with rocks, concrete and a layer of cold patch on top. The holes in the garage walls have been filled in with steel wool, spray foam insulation, and where possible, a layer of concrete.

All those years of laughing at Donald Duck’s over the top attempts to stop those little chipmunks from causing chaos in his quiet little world have finally come back to bite me, I suppose.

But if you see me in my driveway, doing the Donald Duck angry tantrum bit again next season, you’ll know why.

Donald Duck tantrum

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