6/8/20

Personal Reflections on COVID 19


***

I cleaned my car last week. I took it to the local carwash to rinse away the pine pollen that had turned my brown CRV bright yellow. This happens every year, but not normally to this extent, because my car has been mostly sitting for months. Months, because we've been sheltering at home due to the Novel Coronavirus, everything is closed, the kids have been home from school since March. There's nowhere to go, really. So the car has sat and collected pollen, turning from brown to yellow as we shelter in place here in the woods.

I cleaned the inside of the car, too. It's like a time capsule. Sitting on my dash is a packet of papers from the parent meeting about my high school junior's tennis season. Sports physical information, a team roster, dates for future matches, our athletics code of conduct. Two days after the meeting, our schools closed. First for snow, then for the rest of the year due to COVID19. We knew, sitting at that meeting, that not getting a season was a possibility. There was optimism about resuming travel and matches in April, but my gut told me that was unlikely. I was watching the numbers in New York, feeling my anxiety spike, and trying to come to terms with the fact that we weren't controlling the spread anywhere and quietly panicking about what to do if the schools here didn't close, because I had been sick for six weeks from a respiratory virus brought home from school. I didn't want to deal with COVID coming home, too.

The first few weeks of our lockdown were frustrating. It just kept snowing, which meant the kids were inside much of the time. We had no clear idea what to do about school. What the plan was. School officials were talking about equity and access issues. The kids in upper grades all had school laptops, but some of them had left them at school. How did we get them? Do we clean out our lockers? Do we need our textbooks? What the hell is Zoom, anyway?

Our school district decided to make the first month of "distance learning" optional, which was confusing for students and parents alike. Do I make my child do their work? Will it affect their grades? What do I tell my child who watches their peers blow off school and hang out with their friends? It created a lot of friction in my house and a lot of resentment. Not only could they not see their friends, but we had to isolate from their grandma, too, because she was especially at risk.

Google Classroom quickly became the most hated part of my day. Parents aren't really encouraged to use or understand exactly what's being assigned in classrooms, and I found that especially true for Google Classroom. For junior high and high school, there were seven classes with different teachers. Some teachers were organized. Some were not. Some posted on Mondays. Some posted at midnight on Sunday. Some posted assignments at random days and times, with alerts going off constantly as new assignments went up or new announcements were added. Finding all of the assignments and due dates was confusing, even for me, and I consider myself relatively tech savvy and competent. How many families weren't blowing off assignments, but were just missing them because of technology challenges?

March turned into April, and it finally stopped snowing. The enormity of what my kids had lost started to sink in. First it was tennis season. Then it became the rest of the school year. My eldest's birthday, without his friends or extended family. Easter. End of school traditions. A trip to Washington, DC my son had won. College visits. Band concerts. Taking the SAT. School field trips. Music lessons. All of it just cancelled with nothing to replace it. Just sitting at home, watching the car built up pollen.

As we switched to required learning at the end of April, there was a shift in the way the district communicated with parents, and it wasn't for the better. The rules for Zoom meetings were ridiculous: don't wear hoodies, don't wear blankets, don't take Zoom calls in bed. Not caring if kids didn't have anywhere else to take those calls. Not caring if families had ran out of firewood and it was cold. One teacher even sent out a letter telling us to keep younger siblings quiet during her class and demanding parents  get someone else to watch them if necessary. Homes became schools and suddenly our district felt like they could police those spaces as well. It made me incredibly angry, and I felt like schools had more important things to worry about than what students were wearing on Zoom calls. Like what was happening in those households where kids weren't able to Zoom at all?

The decision to just end school two weeks early at the end of May came quickly. We'd heard rumors of it, but it still caught us off guard. We were told it was for training of staff, but if I'm honest? I don't really understand closing early to train staff before summer break. I think it's because teachers, like the rest of us, were just so sick of this. Sick of watching only half of the class show up. Sick of pretending the kids were still being educated. Sick of acting like everything was fine. Everything isn't fine.

It felt appropriate to start "summer" by cleaning the car. Start a new season fresh. Get rid of the reminders of cancelled plans and try making new ones. There's a sign up list for fall sports at the high school, but I'm reluctant to sign my kid up. Do I set them up for disappointment when public health nixes our fall sports season, too? Do I sign them up, choosing optimism that we'll have kids on campus at all? I'd rather just *know* that we're not going back than to go through this constant cycle of optimism and disappointment. But that's the frustrating thing about this pandemic. You can either make plans and constantly cancel them or you can avoid plans, but feel stuck in a fog of waiting with no goals and nothing to really do. So I washed my car, even knowing that we're not going much of anywhere this summer and that the pine trees will continue dumping their yellow junk on it. Because we *could* go somewhere. We could need to drive to school again. I want to believe that's an option, eventually.

3/24/20

Review: Love Hard by Nalini Singh

Format: ebook
Publisher: Self published via TKA Distribution
Pub Date: March 9, 2020
Length: 320 pages
FTC: Purchased myself
CW: death of a partner (backstory), some violence

I'm not really impartial when it comes to Nalini Singh's writing. I'm predisposed to love it. That being said, this series is a bit different from her paranormal ones. Set in New Zealand and featuring lots of rugby.

Despite the grim backstory of this book, it's relatively low angst, which was just what I needed. I'm not normally a fan of children in romances, either, since 99% of the time they're either cardboard cutouts or way too old for their supposed ages. I think Nalini gets it right and limits the amount of page time Jacob's daughter gets. And what's there doesn't seem weird.

The only complaint I had was that callbacks to other books in this series sometimes took over the story. There's so many secondary characters who make an appearance from the other books that it feels crowded. And I think it makes this book a little less satisfying for people who haven't read the others in the series.

My Grade: B+

The Blurb:

Jacob Esera, star rugby player and young single father, has worked hard to create a joyous life for his six-year-old daughter. After the death of his childhood sweetheart soon after their daughter’s birth, all Jake wants is safety and stability. No risks. No wild chances. And especially no Juliet Nelisi, former classmate, scandal magnet, and a woman who is a thorn in his side.


As a lonely teenager, Juliet embraced her bad-girl reputation as a shield against loneliness and rejection. Years later, having kicked a cheating sports-star ex to the curb, she has a prestigious job and loyal friends—and wants nothing to do with sportsmen. The last thing she expects is the fire that ignites between her and the stuffed-shirt golden boy who once loved her best friend.


Straitlaced Jacob Esera versus wild-at-heart Juliet Nelisi? Place your bets.

3/23/20

Review: Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow

Format: ebook
Pub Date: October 2019
Publisher: Hachette
Length: 464 pages
POV: Mostly first person past, some 3rd person
FTC: borrowed from the library
Content Warning: this book details patterns of abuse, rape, sexual assault and harassment including a few graphic descriptions. 

While the blog was on "hiatus" due to my broken laptop, I decided I needed to try reading more nonfiction and other genres besides romance. Because I was in a rut. Most of the books everyone was squeeing about were written in first person present, a tense POV combo I cannot stand, and many of the books being lauded just weren't my cup of tea. So I asked for recommendations and placed several holds through my rural library. It took months, but this one finally became available last week. It feels like forever ago, but Harvey Weinstein was sentenced on March 11. So it's been 12 days. I'm incredibly glad I waited to read this post-conviction, because it reads like a true crime novel with an element of justice now. I'm not sure it would have felt the same without the real life conclusion.

11/13/19

Review: Not the Girl You Marry by Andie J. Christopher

Format: trade paperback
Pub Date; November 12, 2019
Publisher: Berkley
Length: 313 pages
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher
POV: 3rd, past

I read this book way back in April after receiving it at Apollycon. It’s been a long 7 months, because not talking about this book felt like torture. It’s one of my favorite books of the last few years. Fake relationships or secret agendas really aren’t my usual thing since they often involve so much dishonesty, but Christopher’s strong voice just draws you in. The whole book is delightful.

Knowing my well publicized distaste for cartoon covers might make you a little leery, but I assure you: this book is a ROMANCE. It’s not chick lit. It’s not women’s fiction. It’s not mainstream fiction. It’s a romance. I promise.

8/26/19

Review: Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews (Hidden Legacy)

Format: mass market
Pub Date: August 2019
Publisher: Avon
Length: 400 pages
POV: 1st, past
FTC: Review copy courtesy of the publisher

I've been a BIG fan of Ilona Andrews for years. They started solidly in Urban Fantasy, and the Hidden Legacy series is still mostly in that genre, with strong romantic elements.  The original trilogy featuring Nevada Baylor ended with Wildfire, with the novella Diamond Fire acting as a bridge between that trilogy and this book. If you haven't read any of the previous books, I think you could enjoy this one, but there is a distinct chronology, and you'll definitely get more out of it if you've read the other books.

Unlike the previous trilogy, this one is told from Catalina's POV, which is a bit jarring at first if you're used to Nevada. Quite a lot has happened in the three years since Wildfire. Nevada is no longer Head of House Baylor. Catalina has taken over that role, which is a bit of a struggle for her. Rogan's mother has taken her under her wing, and helped train her...which is a good thing for someone whose magic is not combat oriented. She's also primarily responsible for running Baylor Investigations, and it's that role that once again gets her, and her family, into trouble when an old acquaintance asks her for help.