Home school options

Hey all,

So sorry this is overdue! I promised so many of you this information. And while I have you-NO I am not starting a school in the hamptons (no idea where that misinformation started!).

So for those of you still pulling out your hair looking for an education solution this fall, I want to share this resource. Vivvi has educators that come to your home, I share this for you mom/dad of kids 5 years old or younger. Hang in there!

Vivvi is a care & learning company for today’s families. We work with employers of all sizes to make full time and backup care accessible for their workforce at campuses currently located in New York City.  Since COVID forced a pause on early childhood programs, Vivvi has been supporting employer partners with in-home programs whereby experienced educators work with families 1-on-1 or in small groups.  Vivvi has begun to expand its work beyond the city and would be more than happy to work with your family to provide this service.  For more information, please email, Ben Newton, co founder & COO, at ben@vivvi.co.

(267) 879-5589

@vivviearlylearn

www.vivvi.coInc Magazine: 50 World-Changing Startups to Watch in 2019

Another broken promise

Benno nails it again.

He always does.

And it comes with a punch, or rather, a dagger, right to the chest. 

Painful? yes.

Wrong? no.

But it sucks. It does. I can’t pretend that his words aren’t true, but I also can’t walk away. I can’t turn my back on this moment.

I’m a female educational entrepreneur. That was fun to write.

I guess that is what you call a female educator starting a company. I know of no title for someone like me because I have yet to meet one. Beyond a tutoring business, I have yet to personally see a female educator start their own businesses to solve the problems. We usually sit back and watch the “business people” do this. 

However, I think I understand why now…thanks Benno…

But what he doesn’t understand is that I do it for him. I do it for all of them. But, this is hard. I’m not going to lie, HARD AS HELL and the guilt doesn’t help. I’m not asking for sympathy Benno (okay…maybe a little), but really more forgiveness.

So I write this letter to hold myself accountable. To remember my choices to learn from them.

And the truth? I lied.

 As I write this, I am here at home and my family is off on an adventure.

Benno let me stay home when push came to shove. All the calls I would need to reschedule are with potential investors. I explained to him that I need wifi. That this is an important time in education. He nodded. He said “okay.” He is the best kid like that.

But I feel anything but okay. A mom who again broke a promise.

I hope one day this moment is a footnote in Benno’s biography. That he reflects on how proud his was of his mother.  That she is a true entrepreneur and never gave up and sacrificed. 

But who knows how he will view this time. 

And its SO frustrating. I guess I am like every entrepreneur, I think I am sitting on the BEST idea. I have a perspective. I can’t help staring at the sheep and wonder how they walk with no thought of how the grassy plain feels on their hooves. Just jumping through the gates (maybe they are even ivy gates) placed in front of them to follow the path to wherever it may go, even if that is to the slaughterhouse. However, these sheep are real humans, we call them students and they pay a lot for this journey.

And it is all falling to pieces.

 And I have the math to prove it! I have graph after graph. I’m swimming in them. I can show you. I can PROVE I have a good idea. One you can invest in with just common basic math. Supply and demand curves. Supply up (colleges a plenty), demand down (applications dwindling). I have millions of data points (each one an actual human being). I have the media supporting my cause. Every major outlet from the Times to CNN exposing the reality of education right now pushing students to defer and hold on to their CASH. Even putting the media aside, you have millions of students using their voices saying they will defer this fall as the distant college experience turns out to be not college at all. We are finally saying aloud that college is 90% party and 10% about the class. AND let me be clear there is nothing wrong with that! Think back to your college days, think about the value of those friendships, those heartaches (first broken heart), those frisbee matches on the quad, they have value, but it just can’t be done distantly as it is currently designed. AND let’s not forget the FACT that even when college is in person, the graduates are walking in unprepared for life. Only 14% “succeed”  (graduates not riddled in debt, use their degrees, and are not underemployed).

And that is what I do all day because it all doesn’t matter until we secure the funding needed. So my day is here without my family. A day of convincing the VC male world, that Mind the Gap doesn’t just matter because it will help kids, but is an OPPORTUNITY. 

I only hope one day I look back at this post and say “yes” this was the right call. This was the right decision. This was worth it.

Dear college aged parent,

People have found this email we send to interested parents helpful so passing along. It tries to give some answers in a world of questions to parents navigating the every changing reality of higher education.

DEAR PARENT,

We at Mind the Gap Now hear your cries. This pandemic has many victims, including your student (and you). We have kids too. We understand how stressful this is for everyone in your family. 

In a world of uncertainty with a lot of questions, MTG felt that you would appreciate what we DO KNOW to help you navigate through this time.

WE DO KNOW that the value of college/university education is based on in-person instruction. In-person learning is how higher education is designed and has operated for decades. We at MTG believe that 20% of the learning on campus happens in the classroom, the other 80% in the quad. We are not alone in this belief; just ask the students. Recent polls show that the majority (one survey reporting 64%) of incoming sophomores, juniors, and seniors will defer if their college has ANY distant learning plans after this last Spring semester. This data speaks for itself. The user has spoken. Universities and colleges, unfortunately, are forced to pivot into a model that they are not designed for nor excel at. 

WE DO KNOW that the pandemic will bring disruptions to this fall semester. Some colleges have already announced that they will be entirely distant this fall, while others have adopted blended approaches. These approaches attempt to decrease the density of the population on campus in accordance with social distancing guidelines. Regardless of each campus’s method, it is clear that the fall will not be the experience your student knows and loves. At MTG, we think your student has been robbed of enough.

WE DO KNOW that graduating in the Fall of 2020 or the Spring of 2021 will be the worst job market in recent history due to record unemployment. This is not the time to push to graduate. We at MTG believe that those who graduate will be forced back into the education system. Having no other options, students will enroll in graduate programs, taking on more debt, and even more devastating, continuing on a career path that they have no idea if they will love or hate. They have yet to see the world. 

WE DO KNOW that a gap semester/year is the greatest gift you can give your student. The research is clear, a student that takes a gap year experience outperforms in school and life. 

SO BREATHE! You have options. Your student has options.

Make this time not a loss, but a gain. 

Let us fill the GAPS, become LIFE READY

Program Calendar: 14 weeks (September 8th- December 18th)

Tuition: $5,000

Applications Open: June 8th

LIFE READY

To answer all of the questions I received. Below is information on LIFE READY by MTG.

We will ONLY accept 300 students for fall 2020. I would recommend applying ASAP as 10M students will be deferring this fall. Applications open June 8th.

www.mtgnow.org

MTG proudly presents LIFE READY

Informed by the data sciences, the Mind the Gap team believes deeply in the “gap” space. The research is clear. A “gap” is an advantage and the best-kept secret. Students who gap prior to or during their higher education have a clear advantage. 

Gap students are more likely to…

  • Outperform: gap students have higher GPA’s than their peers. They are also 60% more likely to take their academics more seriously.
  • Graduate: gap students are more likely to graduate (and on time!). They are less likely to transfer too. Students who gap 60% more likely to know what they want to study and stick with their majors. 
  • Be Happy: Gap year students report a higher sense of self-awareness and report feeling “more mature” than their peers allowing them to navigate anxiety and stress easier. 
  • Get a job: 75% of gap year students report that their gap year played a role in their first job placement.

Therefore, we created LIFE READY, a gap program like no other. Not a year “off,” but a step into the future. Our graduates leave having trust in their abilities because they have the skills and knowledge to tackle any problem. They are READY to enter the world.

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education.” —Mark Twain

LIFE READY is a semester online learning community. Our fellows are recent high school graduates (graduated in the last 5 years) who are looking to enrich their lives by investing in themselves. 

The LIFE READY program is a journey of self-discovery. It is also a clear advantage as LIFE READY fills the gaps in education by giving our fellows the skills to find success not just in school, but life. 

With an emphasis on the personal journey (MTG COACH), the importance of life skills (MTG LIFE HACKS), and the need for career exploration (MTG NEXT) before deciding next educational steps, our fellow leave confident, equipped, and READY to make their next move in the world.

MTG COACH: 

LIFE READY fellows are assigned a life coach trained by the Co-Active Training Institute. MTG coaches meet fellows where they are to empower them to dream wildly with unwavering trust and resilience by facilitating a process of self-discovery and transformation because we believe in the personal journey. MTG life coaching curriculum covers five program domains – Health & Wellness, Inward Self, Outward Self, Learning, and Hard Skills. 

Coaches work with fellows one on one twice a week in addition to a weekly peer coaching session.

MTG LIFE HACKS

#adulting can be done. We will show fellows how to “adult” with easy hacks. MTG Life Hacks expose fellows to all the things that are never taught in education, but yet, are needed for success in day to day life. Learning with experts in the field, topics include home maintenance, health insurance, cooking, cybersecurity, and more. MTG Life Hacks give our fellows the tools for success in the real world.

MTG NEXT

Seventy-three percent of college graduates are not using their degrees (but yet are still paying for them). It is an unrealistic expectation for students to pick a major after a High School education. MTG Next is an opportunity to explore various vocational fields that include healthcare, public policy and law, entertainment, business, and more! Through project-based learning challenges, students will be solving real problems in the field and learning how these vocations suit their inherent strengths. 

MTG TRIBES

At MTG we believe in community. Every fellow will be assigned a tribe (1 learning cohort of 10 peers) that is overseen by a Learning Facilitator.  The Learning Facilitators guide tribes through the design thinking process and collaborative work strategies. Together fellows will learn how to leverage each other’s strengths to creatively problem solve. Entrepreneurship is at the core of the tribe’s challenges.

Tribes will be diverse groups of fellows from your local time zone. Using video conferencing, fellows will speak to their tribe daily as they reflect, discuss, and execute ideas. In addition, tribes will have social e-gatherings like distant dinner parties with our Wednesday dinner and a movie. The MTG community is as rich as our fellows and clubs will play a role. We are excited to see what the cohort of fall 2020 proposes. 

Below are articles college aged students and their parents should be reading.

HERE, HERE and HERE

ALSO! We have launched our LIFE READY ambassador program. This is for college aged students who want to not just be part of the program, but want to help shape it. Some roles have compensation. If you know of a college aged student who wants to join our ambassador program please have them email at abrody@mtgnow.org for more information.

Loud & Clear

Life is coming in loud and clear over here.

Right Jacob? 


We are on day two of our new superpower, hearing! Jacob has his new hearing aids and a new stuffed bear named “hearing bear” that also has hearing aids. They have become best buds. Jacob is very proud of his new flair! He picked out bright red ones with a fire flame decal. Oh baby! They are not subtle;)

So how did it go?

When they put them in, Jacob was quick to withdraw and say its too loud. No Jacob, life hasn’t gotten louder, you are just hearing life. Welcome back. We are happy to have you.

We are still adjusting and Jacob will need some time before his voice volume recalculates (as he was screaming to hear himself talk before). We are looking forward to a house that is a bit quieter. Amen.

And its true.

life is coming in louder.

It is like someone is screaming in my ear too.

And after this year I’ve learned to listen. When the Universe talks, you listen. Life can change on a dime and there are no coincidences so it is our job to figure out what it all means. Well…world I’m listening.

And right now is THE TIME in education. I spent the 2 last years screaming to people and investors about the cracking signs in higher education. That there would be a reckoning day. That it was just basic math. Supply demand. Look at the tuition curves. Look at wages curve. Name a market that has 90% margins and less than 50% success! I can…higher education!

But always I was told I was “too soon.” Or even once “too passionate.” And even those who understood the math, understood the realities and would nod with enthusiasm that things need to change, would still turn around and continue down the same old path. Regardless of the cost, the outcomes, trudging down the “path,” but no blame there, they had no choice (until NOW).

And that path we know well… We have millions of data points. Millions of young adults graduating who walk into the workforce burdened by student debt, lacking workplace skills (can’t get a job), and reporting high levels of anxiety and depression. 

But do you hear it? Or is it just in my head. The universe is speaking. It says enough. Every thesis that MTG was founded on is happening at an accelerated pace and we are READY. We are uniquely positioned. We have been READY for over a year.

It was ME that wasn’t ready. I had a child with cancer.

And now I don’t. I have a child is remission and my “normal” is an average person’s nightmare. I can give my child a shot and take a conference call. Cancer moms can do anything.

AND now look at the world. 10 million students are looking to gap this fall. Everything is falling into place at the right time. If someone told me those nights when I was sleeping in the hospital, that I would have this opportunity to help change the trajectory of education and help kids, I would have just cried at your ignorance. “No. I’m cancer mom.” I have no role but this.

But guess what? I’m Abby too. I’m an educator with a lot to give.

The signs are coming in LOUD & CLEAR.

It’s time to be LIFE READY. 

Follow up to “What do I do this fall?”

When I reread my post, I saw how this post can be misinterpreted.

But before I clarify let me be clear with what this blog is. This is a way for me to communicate with Nightwing and a place for me to remember. I read the blog daily.

The last post yesterday was written fast and literally on the go (in a car). Truly these conversations about your child schooling should happen one on one with each of you. Each of your personal situations is different. I’m just so stretched. Last week was a hospital week (immunotherapy- that is pure torture and I do alone. So Jacob was drugged for most of the week) AND Mind the Gap is LAUNCHING (HOORAY!). Oh, and I have two kids to homeschool too. So I apologize for the short cut.

But this week is not a hospital week so please do give me a call. I love all of you and want to be there for you…so CALL ME/ TEXT ME. I promise to call you back, even if I don’t personally know you. If you are reading this- I’m here for you! If you don’t have my number, find it. I’m sure you can call someone and get it.

My advice for the fall can be taken out of context. I am ONLY speaking in a COVID context ONLY. My advice is based on no therapeutics nor vaccine. Things can change. I pray things can change. However, as someone who spends her entire life looking at trials and possible cures for hard to cure diseases, I tend to have a more pessimistic view of that being a reality by start of school.

Without a major change in therapeutics and testing, schools should not open. However, I still think schools WILL open. We will do everything we can to restart the economy and childcare is imperative to that. Public schools will attempt to open and in return private will follow. But…they will again close. Rationally how can they not? With the knowledge we have about the virus and if nothing has changed, how can schools not become HOTSPOTS?

There are loads of models out there to attempt to reopen safely. Week on and week off models that put 50% of students in the school building at a time. But in NYC to properly social distance in our already smaller classrooms than the suburbs, I think it would require 25% capacity at a time. And how do you explain to a five-year-old that they can’t touch their friend? How does recess work? How do collaborative projects and play work?!

It doesn’t.

But let me be clear, when this thing is over, you put that kid back in school. Like immediately. I doubt I need to sell you on this. I’m sure you already feel the same, but I just want to be clear that I am SCHOOL ADVOCATE, obviously. I do NOT think parents can “teach” their children like a teacher. Nope. Impossible. Just the relationship alone between a parent and child sets you up for failure. In addition, a school is a place where children create their identities outside of the home. It is a place to experiment. It has HUGE benefits to development. It is a place to try things that you would never at home because someone inspiring shows you what you can be  (thank you teachers!). By no means was my last post saying that you can do what schools do. How could you?! You don’t have the training nor the resources to recreate school.

My last post was meant to say- Don’t worry about that! No one expects you to. And that it will be OKAY.  Kids are resilient and a year off is not the end of the world. And if you need that tuition for food, do THAT. Or if your child HATES online learning, forget it! Or if you are up in arms that you are paying that tuition for online learning, don’t do it!

JUST BREATH.

For children to return to school safely I believe the following needs to happen:

  1. No social distancing requirements. I just don’t see how any child younger than 8 can be expected to social distance. And to have teachers shouting across the room “Don’t touch him!” I think has very negative consequences for everyone. And the things that make school “a school” won’t exist. No morning circle. No community.
  2. The faculty and staff are ALSO being considered. That they are at no higher risk by school opening. We often forget about these saints and take them for granted when we press schools to open. 
  3. You can safely COMMUTE to school which in NYC means using mass transit.
  4. YOU are comfortable sending your child. This needs to be a personal call. The last thing a school needs is a parent who is challenging. They already have so much on their plates. If you send your child to school, you accept the terms the school is offering and leave it there. They can’t promise you that your child won’t get COVID, but I promise they will do everything in their power to mitigate that risk.

I also beg us parent to not judge each other. Some will not send their kids back to school even if they open. Some parents don’t feel comfortable returning to NYC for a long while. Some parents have no choices. This truly needs to be a personal family decision. No shaming each other!!

So thanks for letting me clarify. There is nothing not magical about early childhood years in school. But for me, safety is first and if you ask me a direct question I will always answer it truthfully.

And remember I’m cancer mom. I know that children are most likely going to be okay, but I never thought I would be the .001% that has a child with a rare cancer. I’m a statistical anomaly, but there is always one.

What should I do this fall?

I swear I hear you. I promise to get your emails.

So let me just respond to all of the emails here. It will be easier since they are all along the same theme.

What should I do this fall with school if I KNOW distant learning is not working for my child?  is the general theme.

It should be noted that each of your situations is different, but here are my general opinions.

For children 2-4: 

Distant learning at this age is near to impossible because let’s be clear the most important part of the Early Learning years is hands on exploratory learning AND socialization!! The only reason we send kids to school this young is for socialization and CHILDCARE. Whenever anyone asks me “What is the best nursery/pre-K school in the city?” I always have the same response. THE CLOSEST ONE. At those ages, convenience reigns supreme. Especially today when your commute may be the most dangerous part of your child’s day using mass transit.

Pre-K and nursery are not necessary necessary. Of course they are SO INCREDIBLE during normal times. Your child finds their first sense of self outside of the home. They learn to respect others. But right now…take a deep breath. If distant learning is not working, Your kid will not become a “school drop out” I promise.

Remember that Pre-K didn’t even exist before 1965 and never really took off until the 80’s. It is true that there are very strong correlations between Pre-K programs and later literacy skills (as you see with the Pre-K for all movement), but as long as you are reading to your child and talking to them and provide “social like” experiences with adult guidance, you too can be an early learning center. 

So if finances have changed or your little one refuses to do distant learning, do not feel like a failure if you pull your child for a year. You are BLESSED! Young kids are SO resilient. The younger the more resilient They will be FINE. 

AND there are LOADS of free resources at your disposal. If you have a Pre-K child, enroll them in public school so you get all the free resources! Distant learning from the DOE is not that much different than the private sector (currently!). 

Do online music classes. Do online craft classes. All of this exist and a lot of it for free.

NOTE: This will not be easy. I know I’m making it sound that way. It will be what you are doing now. I know…ugh.

That’s why I HIGHLY recommend you form micro-communities as the most important learning is socialization. Find 3 families your child’s age and poof! You got yourself a school. You can take turns hosting it too so you have downtime yourself.

And just so I can answer this once and for all. 

  • Yes, I agree with you that 50-60K is not okay for distant learning. But you need to understand that schools were not equipped for this change and have HUGE overheads to deal with. I’m not quite sure how and if they will change their tuition. Please know that your school is TRYING and hears you…oh boy do they hear you, but they too are victims.
  • Yes, I do think there will be distant learning this fall and you should plan for that.

Elementary Students:

This is a tough one for me to answer because every family is so different as I picture all of you in my head. If you are talking about a Kindergartener, you can look above for a lot of you and all of the learning outcomes expected are clear. You can use the common core to make sure you hit them. Here is a link to a common core map that can fit on your fridge even. This link can also take you to all the activities to support those learning outcomes by teachers!

But for the rest (G1-G5), you should probably keep your current school and distant learning plan just because it is your child’s community. That is where their friends are. That’s where your friends are too. You will need a community!

Over the summer schools will have a time to reset too. I’m sure you have already seen such growth in your school from the start of distant learning to now. Schools have been learning on the GO. The summer will be a great time for teachers to start thinking AHEAD.

Now for those of you who have financial difficulties that have been paying for private school are under a lot of stress. And maybe those funds are needed for other purposes now.  Pulling for a year and enrolling your child in public school is NOT the end of the world. The public sector has been VERY impressive. When your school had “spring break” at the beginning of the pandemic, the public system was in session. They went from in-person to online within a span of a weekend. While many private schools couldn’t get there stuff together at all. And when you take away the fancy food program, facilities, security, etc, and are left with distant learning…you don’t see many differences. It is actually quite beautiful the democratization happening right now in education. Public and private both using google classroom. Both having the same tools. 

Will I get back in to my school if I pull for a year?! Basic economics says YES to me, but honestly, I don’t know each school’s position so don’t quote me on that one.  Common sense tells us that every school will have spots in every grade open for the next few years. The predicted exodus out of cities will drive that especially in the finance sector where people are working distantly and wondering why they ever paid NYC rent. I don’t know about you, but the number one question I get is “are you returning to the city?!” An unfathomable question a year ago is now the hot topic. I believe getting into private schools will be easier.

MIDDLE/ UPPER:

Distant learning does work better with these grades. I would STICK. Peers are EVERYTHING at this age. They need to be tied to them.

CLASS of 2020+

You are my days and nights. I am most concerned about you. BUT I’ve been working overtime here and soon Mind the Gap will be accepting applications for the fall semester. This is the BEST work I’ve ever done and have never felt more passionate about its need. It will do SUCH good.

 I will write about it soon. Just too busy over here making it happen. 

And then the final question that I get daily? WILL YOU OPEN A DISTANT LEARNING PROGRAM THIS FALL (for ELC and elementary students). 

Sadly, my heart is elsewhere. I truly KNOW your kids will be fine. This will be a blip in their education narrative. There are millions of young adults who have no options come fall. Distant learning in college is NOT an option in my opinion. College (as it is currently designed) is about human to human interaction, parties, learning to drink, living in a dorm, etc. Paying 50K for distant learning in college is NOT acceptable especially when before all of this the price of your degree is less than its market value. 

It’s time to NOT rush to grow up. It is time to BREATH. 

Get LIFE READY this fall with MIND THE GAP.

Working moms

The fallout of this pandemic is hard to grasp. All the industries from education, to manufacturing are struggling. And put economics aside, life is struggling.  The amount of domestic abuse, the amount of anxiety and depression,  the amount of children with no fall options, etc. 

So I hate to add on, but I am worried.  

I’m worried about us working moms. 

I don’t know about you…but I am seeing things . I see a future where women take a back seat in the workplace. It’s already happening. Or at least it is happening here, in my home.

While there is no doubt that this is THE moment in education. I am limited in my abilities. I can’t do what I would normally do. Creating programming for all these children without options is a heavy lift. One that I’m passionate about and able to do, but AHHHHH! I am so limited.  My workday has now become only three REAL hours after homeschooling my kids. And even in those three wee hours, I have yet to have a call where my children are not screaming my name or banging on the door. I have had to reschedule calls. I’ve even missed some.

And while I don’t know for a fact, I do rationally know that I’m not alone here. 

I bet the women are taking the brunt of the home responsibilities, even if they also work like their partners. Even if their work impacts loads of others. Even if they are needed.  They are not available to do the work.

Statistically speaking, the moms, most likely make less than their partner. I know that is VERY true for this mom. It only makes sense for the breadwinner (especially in times like these) to be prioritized. Sorry social worker mom. Sorry teacher mom. I know your job is more important than ever, but you are now working double.

And men seem so useless sometimes!  Telling my husband what to do with our kids is just more work for me.  How do you explain distant learning?! I don’t have the time to bring him up to speed. So what do I do? I just do it.

The reality-works has to give. 

I can see it…women slowly moving out of the workforce or being assigned fewer assignments due to their limited ability to execute. Slowly…pushing them down the corporate ladder.

I’m sure when Steve reads this he will shout in fury. I will help! I can do it. “That’s unfair Abby what you posted. Stop trying to make this a woman man thing.” (I can hear his voice as I write this). Trust me this conversation will happen tonight.

But…let’s be real. In the real world, this isn’t happening. It is a woman man thing. Sure, Steve, you could help more, but it’s more complicated than that. 

We women have more going on than just our schedules. We have these roles (real or not real that play in our heads). I know that I’m supposed to be this mom like all the ones I see on Instagram. I have this mental image of what mom is. And for some reason, I think my kids do too. I didn’t teach them this, but yet it exists. They always want ME. If they need help do they yell “DAD?” Nope. MOM. Every time mom.  Even in a dual working home, even when mommy for 7 years left for work before dad and came home hours later, I am still in this role that has been handed to me. I am still in charge of the kids and distant learning will fall on my shoulders.

And it is even MORE complicated than that my dear Steve. We also want that. As you men point out daily, we are hard to understand. I agree. I live in this body and can’t understand it. We want to be there for our children. We want to do right by them. But I also love my work and it’s important too. AHHHH! No winning.

So working moms…life just got a LOT more complicated. 

I guess its all relative. I thought it was hard before balancing it all. But five more balls have just been added to the juggling act. 

Snuggles all have cancer

The entire snuggle family has cancer. 

It started slowly. First it was just snuggle puppy last winter who declared in our pet shop game that he needed a home, but before I adopt him I should know he has cancer. But now it is a regular theme in our play. This Spring Jacob has introduced me to snuggle horse, snuggle hyena, and snuggle chicken. Each time I adopt one of these animals from the pet store he informs me that they have cancer. Snuggle Hyena shared yesterday that he has spent a year living in the hospital. “Getting so many surgeries! They kept cutting me open.”

When I inquired if Snuggle Hyena was sad. He said “yes, he missed a whole year of school with his friends.” And when I asked if he was mad that he had to go to the hospital, snuggle hyena said “No. If I didn’t go I would have died! Are you crazy?” (with a slap to his head!). 

There is was. It hung in the air, at least it did for me. Jacob was quick to keep on talking. Saying the “d” word with no effect whatsoever. Just factual. “I would have died.”

But I on the other hand, have not truly recovered.

And today was the topper. He asked in his zoom call with his class if he could share something. He told the class the following.

“I would have been in this class earlier, but I had to go to the hospital because I had constipation, but it turned out I had CANCER (he said this very loudly).” Then he lifted his shirt and showed two butterfly needles coming out of his chest. “See. This is my port.” He then went on to show the needles etc.

Jacob is talking about cancer and it seems he knows more than we thought he did. He knows all.

The new normal I tell ya.

Coping

A friend reached out for advice.

Advice on how you can reach your new normal mentally. How you can accept reality and find peace. At first, I laughed. I would NOT be the one to give this advice. Me? Peace? Please.

Have you met me? But…yet she pressed.

I guess I am ahead of many of you. Not claiming I have cracked the code on coping in hard situations, but I recognize that not everyone has had the experience where your life turns upside down in a span of 24hrs. The virus may be your first era-defining moment. I can imagine that must be hard. Especially for my friends who pride themselves on their planning. You know… planning every after school activity, pick-up/drop off schedule, every vacation months in advance. They have that soccer schedule pinned proudly to the door. They control it all. They are in charge. 

But they’re not.

It may be your first time feeling like that too. First time feeling like a small blip on the wheel of chaos. Learning that tomorrow is not promised even if there is a soccer meet scheduled. Even if it is written right there on your family calendar in sharpie. GONE.

This may be new turf for you.

It was for me when I had my first era-defining moment. I thrived in structure and order. I never even left the structure and safety of school. I left one imposed schedule of classes as a student to go and create them for others as a teacher. Blocks in schedules felt safe. I knew where I was, where I am, and where I am going. I had it all laid out in front of me. No surprises. Nope. I was the captain of this ship.

But that is not how I live anymore nor you. That may be VERY unsettling. But I will add that your era defining moment is a shared one. Take comfort that go with the world, not alone.

So I will share my coping strategies as requested. This is not Dr. Recommended.

  1. Write. I write to remember. I write down what happened so I can feel like I controlled the past. It works as evidence for me. I did that. You don’t need to publish it. But writing REALLY helps.
  2. Take pictures of the hard times (thank you, Jenny, for recommending that). When you scroll in your photos you see bright happy moments, but let’s be clear…that is not the reality. Capture that to allow yourself a balanced perspective on the past to make real expectations to the future
  3. Limit social media. Nothing pisses me off more than all these people talking about how nice this family time has been. A very privileged thing to say. Yes, the 1% of the world will have that story, but the rest of the 99% are having a very different reality. So all these photos put me a bit over the edge. I stay away as much as possible. And trust me I’m on month 11. There is NOTHING fun about 11 months of isolation.
  4. Pick up the phone and call a friend. DO IT. Even if you hate the phone.
  5. Work. If you can work, do work for OTHERS. Do something to help society at large. Through that process, you will meet awe-inspiring people that will remind you that the world is capable of so much. It will also take your mental energy off your own situation.
  6. Limit the news to every other day (or every 3 days if you can). Trust me, nothing changes except your anxiety. 
  7. Listen to music (a lot). 
  8. Smoke/ chew/ digest weed. If me… a lot of it.  It is my retreat from thoughts, every day at 5 pm. Sorry- this is the truth. It helps me sleep too. You asked. I answered. 
  9. Meditate. I am terrible at this but adding it because the research is so clear. 
  10. Medicate. If you are finding each day hard to get through and find yourself crying in your closet (or at least that was my spot), get a consult with your doctor. This is nothing to be ashamed of. Medications exist to help.
  11. Forgiveness. You may be letting your child on more screens than ever. There were a good two months last summer where Benno’s entire world was online. Jacob is confined to a bed for hours, screens SAVE us.  SO BE IT. Or you may be struggling with distant learning. LET IT GO! You aren’t the only one. LET IT GO.

Hope this is helpful.