Tag Archives: coronavirus

Strange Smells and Wishful Thinking


There’s a strange smell in our house this morning.

We have a dog and several cats, so I have a good idea what it is, but I don’t know with certainty. I mean, it’s almost certainly poop, but there’s a vanishing chance it’s something not-poop. (Once, at the old house, a squirrel got into the attic and died of causes unknown. Several weeks later, after we had taken to calling the office room upstairs “the room of death” because of the smell — which we could not for the life of us locate — I got up to the attic and found the unfortunate critter in a partial state of decomposition. The surprising thing was how crispy it was. I went up with rubber gloves and garbage bags and an oversized roll of paper towels to take on the cleaning task, but I was able to lift the poor thing by the tail (it stood up in my gloved hand like a stick) and dispose of it without much fuss.) Could be a cat hairball, but those don’t smell so much as lie in wait for your bare feet to step in.

No, this is poop, and it’s waiting for me to find it.

And let’s be clear, I don’t want to find it.

What I want is to be wrong: the smell is not a poop on the floor, but rather a poop in the appropriate place that our fatter, lazier cat has failed to cover up. Or maybe the dog farted and it’s just, I mean, awful, but it’ll go away soon. Or maybe it’s that funky coffee brew my wife has that tricks my nose sometimes. (I usually love the smell of coffee — though I hate the taste — except for this one brand she buys that smells like pet defecation. She thinks I’m crazy for this, but I can’t help what I smell.)

I also don’t want to get up and look for the source of the smell. I want to not know the source, because if I get up and find it, and it is what I know it is, then I will have to clean it. And on this beautiful Saturday morning, the last thing I want is to clean up poop.

Unfortunately, what I want to be true and what is true are two concepts with little regard for each other. There is definitely poop somewhere, and that poop is going to have to be cleaned, no matter how much I would rather bury my head in the sand and sit on the couch and pretend life is normal.It’s here somewhere, no matter how much I want to sit and enjoy the sun streaming through the windows or to go and sit down at a restaurant or to not have to wear a mask when I go out in public, and people are getting sick and dying no matter how much some of us want to pretend that it’s okay and WHOOPS MY WHOLE METAPHOR BROKE DOWN THERE DIDN’T IT.

There’s poop in the house and if we all pretend there isn’t, it’s gonna pile up until we can’t pretend anymore.

This post is part of Stream of Consciousness Saturday.


In Times of Crisis, Set the Standard


We got a gut punch in my state last night. Teachers, students and parents got the unbelievable news that schools will be closed for the remainder of the school year. For those keeping track at home, that’s the two weeks we’ve already missed, plus this week, plus six more weeks (and our “Spring Break” week is there too, which is just hilarious to me because it just means we’re home like we’ve been for the past several weeks already but nobody can go anywhere). Nine weeks of class time, of face-to-face interaction, gone.

I’m shell-shocked right now.

I have feelings about the closure. I’m sure you do, too. But they’re irrelevant. The die is cast.

All I can think about is everything that’s broken, now.

I think about the musical we were in rehearsals for, which will now not be happening. Six weeks of rehearsal and months of building and planning, for a show that, at least the way we envisioned it, will not happen.

I think about my seniors, who will now miss out on their senior prom and their senior graduation and their final performances and bows on our stage.

I think about all of my students who are suddenly, shockingly, with no forewarning or preparation, deprived of their daily interactions with friends and teachers and coaches.

I think about our parents, likewise deprived of graduations and shows and sports; and oh yeah, they suddenly have to figure out how to continue their kids’ education at home while also struggling to keep making money in our trainwreck of an economy at the moment.

And I think about my fellow teachers, whose plans for the end of the year are shattered, who now have to figure out how the heck to teach their courses at a distance (and a bang-up job they’re doing, despite everything).

I look at all that, and it’s easy to feel hopeless. It’s overwhelming. It’s too much to process at one whack; there’s too much pain and sadness and loss. We’re all sucker-punched, laid out on the mat, staring dazedly at the ceiling.

Good news is, everybody is laid out. Everybody is reeling. It’s okay to be messed up, blurry-eyed, exhausted, uncertain.

But we can’t stay there. We have to pick ourselves up off the mat, lace ourselves back up, and start swinging again. Even though it feels hopeless. Even though it feels like it doesn’t matter. Even if we’re just “going through the motions.”

At times like these, the motions matter. It matters that we get up at a decent hour. That we put some real clothes on. That we get a little bit of exercise, brush our teeth, shave, and put some work in. It matters that we set the standards for our students — for our children — not just in the form of expectations, that they still have work to do, but also that we set the standards in terms of how to act when things get rough.

Because, spoiler alert: we’re setting those standards anyway. When the kids see what we’re doing, we are setting the standard. When they see how we continue to put in work, continue to attack the day with energy, how we relate to each other with resolve and determination and hope (or how we don’t) — we are setting the standard.

We can’t forget that.

It’s okay to feel scared, to feel uncertain. It’s okay to take a moment while we’re down here on the mat to catch your breath, to reorient, to recalibrate. But even if we’re terrified, even if we give in to thinking that none of this matters, even if the best we can offer is to go through the motions, we have to go through the motions.

We have to get up off the mat. We have to keep punching. Even if we get knocked down again and again.

We have to set the standard.

The kids are counting on us.

Everybody in our lives is counting on us.


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