Thoughts on Father’s Day

When lockdown began, all the millennials went home.

They were told not to go home–directly told, in C’s case, by a New York City ER doc overwhelmed by patients and expecting his hospital’s ICU to be overrun. But they went home anyway.

We quarantined our returnee inside the house for two weeks. Separate Corona chair, separate bathroom (door closed before and after use!), a designated seat at the far end of the dinner table, hands off the Nespresso machine and the spoons and forks and everything else a person must touch to feed himself. It felt like an adventure.

(And yes, I’m grateful we have enough space to quarantine another human being. Wish we had enough space for all 3 grown sons, but that’s another story.)

I thought millennials went home because home feels safe, virus or no.

That was true.

What I didn’t realize is that safety is a 2-way street.

A few days ago, I spoke to a 25-year old who told me: “I haven’t let my mother out of my sight.”

As I thought about it, I realized she could have been describing C’s behavior. Only in the past few weeks has he let us out of his sight. For 6 weeks straight, neither Ed nor I left the house for any reason at all apart from a daily hourlong march (or patrol?) around the neighborhood. Every errand that had to be done, C. did, willingly, happily, without having to be asked.

He used to call it “going to the outside world.”

He would return bearing groceries, supplies, and field intelligence. How many masks, how many people in the check out lanes, the wonders of no-traffic in Westchester County. Later in the day, he would walk the neighborhood with us.

Last weekend, C. went to his first small get-together with friends since all of this began. Every one of them said they had spent the initial month of quarantine terrified they would give COVID to their parents, and their parents would die.

I’ve tried to imagine that, and I can’t.

They were terrified they would kill their own parents.

They braved this fear, and they made sure no one else killed their parents. For a young adult, this will be a formative experience, I think. Millennials: the good guys.

Happy Father’s Day!

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Closer

Earlier today I had an alert from the college where I teach: a colleague has been diagnosed with Coronavirus. (I’m not teaching this semester, but I went to a small meeting there just yesterday.)

Twenty minutes later Ed walked in and said one of his colleagues has pneumonia and is awaiting test results. Probable coronavirus.

So …. getting closer. 

Continue reading

Bullet journals and barking dogs

Just saw this in a New Yorker story on bullet journals:

He started writing down his thoughts in short bursts throughout the day and found that it calmed him, allowing him to see past his anxieties to their root causes. “When there’s a barking dog outside, you can’t hear anything else,” he told me recently, by way of analogy. “But when you go to the window you realize there might be something wrong, you think about it, you get the context. It’s barking at something. You actually get up and look. And, for me, writing is that process.”

The dog is barking at something. I love that.

Of course, in my own case, what with the two American Labs who weren’t bred to be “lifestyle dogs” and all, the real trick is training my adrenal glands not to launch a tsunami of cortisol every time the dogs explode into a frenzy of barking and hardwood-floor scrabbling over nothing at all.

I have an extremely reactive startle reflex. Medical science can do nothing to help (I’ve asked).

So the dogs we live with–Luke and Lucy–are the exact wrong dogs on that score. Roughly once a day I have the same bodily reaction to my own pets that I would to being caught in crossfire in Syria, say, or Yemen. Except there are no guns and no enemy combatants, quite apart from the fact that there is nothing in the yard that needs barking at. 

Keeping a bullet journal, which I do, doesn’t help with any of this, sad to say. I already know, as I’m jumping out of my skin, what the context is and whether there’s anything either I or my insane dogs actually need to worry about. 

There isn’t.

Progress Report, part 2

re: Happy New Year

  1. Dry January is going swimmingly. Not so swimmingly that I’m tempted to adopt Dry February, too, but never mind that. I recommend it. 
  2. 7,000 steps is going. Mostly, I’m hitting the mark, even this week, under the influence of a protracted flu that keeps me up nights coughing. 
  3. Andrew and I are 2 steps forward, 1 step back, which has set me to wondering whether all implicit learning is like that. More on that later. 

Today’s question: suppose I were to buy the ridiculously pricey Nylora tights leggings I’ve been cruising at Neiman Marcus.

Would that make me get in my car and drive to the gym? Because I bought ridiculously pricey Nylora tights leggings so now I’m obligated? 

And see:
Happy New Year !
Sober January, too
Progress report
News you can use: the 7,000

Progress Report, part 2

Is ‘bad’ grammar a tell ?

I realized a while back that I base decisions about whether to trust an expert on the expert’s writing style.

Specifically: I instantly trust experts whose writing style signals that they want to be understood by non-specialists. I feel, intuitively, that they:

a) know what they’re talking about, and
b) want me to know, too.

I also tend to trust experts whose writing style signals that they’re writing in the style of their field, however difficult that writing may be for outsiders.

But experts who seem actively to wish readers not to have the first clue what they’re on about are another category altogether. For them I have zero trust, plus a big round zero on the feeling thermometer.

Extended lean toolkit for total productivity,” for instance. No. Go away.

Having a reflexive trust in clear writing is the reason I came to own a copy of Siegfried Engelmann’s Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons years before I knew anything about phonics and/or the reading wars. His prose. Engelmann’s prose told me that he wanted everyone who picked up the book to understand every word in it. 

So I trusted he knew what he was talking about.

Recently, I’ve realized that I also use non-standard grammar as a tell. I take non-standard grammar, in speech and in text, as a sign of authenticity. 

By non-standard, I mean constructions like: “I am making this statement on behalf of me and my sister.”

Obviously, “me and my sister” is standard for the person using this construction. But it’s not Standard Written Englishand because it’s not, I reflexively assume the speaker (or writer, in the case I’m thinking about) is telling the truth as he sees it. 

Another example: “wrong” participles.

I heard a politician, a few weeks ago, use the construction “If we had went to that meeting.”

None of his colleagues say things like “if we had went,” and the fact that he does makes me see him as truthful in a way I don’t see the others as truthful. I see him as not “polished,” not “slick.”

I have no idea whether I should be making such judgments, of course (although I’m pretty sure the nothing-to-hide principle works in the case of education writers). 

But here’s my question: if a person wanted to fake authenticity by using non-standard grammar, could he or she do it ?

I’m pretty sure Katie can, but I’m pretty sure I can’t. 1

Which makes me think your average person can’t fake grammar. 

Your average person can lie.

Average people can lie about what they’re doing or thinking or planning or hiding.

But they can’t lie about what participles they use. 
.

1. Katie’s a linguist.

Allez les bleus !

Just back from watching France beat Belgium — fantastically exciting — it’s astonishing how hair-raising a 1-0 game turns out to be. I had no idea.

Crowds are massed on the Champs-Elysées and cars are streaming down Avenue Maine, where we are, honking their horns and flying the Tricolore — yet, strangely, no one is turning parked vehicles over, stripping down to their underwear, or setting anything on fire. 

If this were England, things would be different.

Or Philadelphia.

If this were Philadelphia, things would be completely different.

C. and Ed are watching the post-game coverage …. 

C.: “They’re climbing light poles! I’m so proud of them!”

Ed and C. are Phillies Eagles 1 fans. C. missed the post-game riots, but he did go to the post-game parade, which was riot-like.

He came home with a big gash on his leg, which he says was worth it.

(Wifi and privacy restrictions are funky here, so we’ll see if the videos load. Preview isn’t working at the moment.)

1. sheesh

Happy 4th !

I can’t believe I’m missing the 4th of July (worse yet, I’m missing the 4th in Tarrytown, which has a fantastic celebration) — and I’m going to be missing Bastille Day here in France, too, because we fly home that day.

I have no idea what Bastille Day is like here, and now I’m not going to find out. 

Arrrghhh

Oh, well, c’est la vie !

(Progress report: I’m on the cusp of knowing why it’s C’est la vie, not Il est la vie.)

Happy 4th !