In honor of Mother’s Day weekend, I am sharing a favorite story of mine that came out of the pandemic last May. This story was written by freelance writer and mom extraordinaire, Becky Kivlovitz O'Connor, who used some creativity to take her kiddos on an around-the-world trip during quarantine.
This month, a portion of the profits from paid newsletter subscriptions will be donated to Project Hope. Previous organizations we’ve supported include Womankind, Girls Write Now, Women for Women, Heart of Dinner & Black Mamas Matter. If you’ve found your way here but are not yet subscribed, let me help you with that:
I transition from one role to the next — from super mom to super teacher — as the days of quarantine stretch on before us. I stay up until midnight grading online assignments and filming YouTube lectures with cheesy special effects. I wake up at 5:30 AM to sobbing demands for waffles, juice, and my undivided attention. With sticky, syrup-covered hands, a baby in my lap, and a toddler drawing with a permanent marker on the wall, I email out the weekly tasks to all my students and fire up Google Meet for my first two classes.
Our lives look different now in quarantine. COVID-19 is overturning the tables of our normalcy and enacting unthinkable tragedy and loss upon millions, and so we stay home. We are tasked with flattening the curve to maintain our fragile, broken healthcare system and to protect those on the frontlines. This means I teach high school English Language Arts at home while parenting my one-year-old son and three-year-old daughter.
Now — after the breakfasts, the emails, and the meetings — the children demand to be played with. It is noon on day 50 of this Groundhog Day pandemic loop. I want to whisk my family away from the incessant dings of incoming emails and the ever-vibrating cell phone notifications. I want to tell my dear children: “Yes! I would love to play! I am not too tired! No obstacle (or pandemic) is too large or exhausting to keep me from showing you this big, beautiful world!”
My kids have been around the world in their few short years. Travel is how we feel, learn, and grow in cultures and places different from our own. We must break free of this “stay-at-home” prison. “Children!” I say with a coffee cup in hand, my metaphorical super mom cape fluttering in the wind behind my back, “Grab the paints! I’ll get the cardboard and almond flour. We’re going to France today.”
We install the still-wet cardboard Patisserie sign, break out the berets, and transform our kitchen into something resembling Paris. It’s shocking how a bit of pretend has summoned The City of Lights enchantment. My three-year-old daughter and I don our matching aprons as we take on the most complicated French baking endeavor in existence: the macaron. We let our egg whites age, we beat them until stiff peaks form, we giggle as the sifting sugar shoots up in snow-like flurries around us. Though true Parisians may turn up their noses at our lumpy macaron results, we celebrate by licking our purple frosted lips and admiring the view of our cardboard Eiffel Tower.
For our next adventure, we decide to hit the trails in Yellowstone National Park, which proved a huge hit during our family road trip last summer. I dust off the old Yellowstone gift shop bison, pitch the tent, and artistically recreate a chalk rendering of the Grand Prismatic Spring. Instead of the 800-mile drive, we take a few steps out the back door and post up around a crackling fire pit.
S’mores whisk us away from lockdown suburbia and into the rustic woodlands of camping trips of yore. Sticky, dimpled hands wipe against my face affectionately, as we snuggle by the fire. The sun glows in its golden hour as I hold that squirmy baby boy tight, filled with love and gratitude.
With creativity, imagination, and some cardboard, we venture to The North Pole for hot cocoa and Santa Claus stories, we embark on a wildlife scavenger hunt in the Australian outback, and even channel our inner-Van Goghs in Holland. Finally, we gulp down juice and build lego oranges in the Florida groves.
Here, at the end of our world travels, I find myself a rejuvenated super mom and super teacher. While my hands are stained with paint and weary from electronically grading essays, we are saved by the world we have created within these walls. The world suffers around us in this time of virus and quarantine. My heart breaks as we lose people, small-business dreams, and stability. But, my house will remain an active adventure instead of the mere day-to-day survival it once was. My children and my students require my artistry and invention now more than ever.
As I teach and as I parent, I will be present and I will create. We will grow, learn, and travel together as we expand our minds to pass the limits of our current realities. We will create our own happiness, regardless of circumstance. Even when the playgrounds are roped off with yellow caution tape and the prom is canceled, even when graduation is online and playdates now unfold over FaceTime, we can — and should — make our short, fragile lives into something worth living.
This was originally published in May 2020. Read the full version of Becky’s story here.
Helping India fight the Coronavirus
As life in the United States begins to return to some semblance of normalcy, it can be easy to forget that the pandemic is still raging on in other countries. One such country is India, where the pandemic has spiraled out of control and taken their health care system beyond a breaking point. This month, I’ll be donating a percentage of profits from this newsletter to Project Hope, a nonprofit helping in India’s fight against COVID.
Animal videos and true crime junkies
If I’m ever in need of a pick-me-up, I often turn to The Dodo for their uplifting animal stories. Whether it’s feral cats or abandoned pups finding their forever homes or people going out of their way to rescue an animal in need, The Dodo restores my faith in humanity. This week, I saw this video about a surrendered dog named Brutus who was deemed “too aggressive” to deal with. Well, Brutus ends up being the sweetest doggo ever and quickly finds a new home at The Asher House. I promise this is not a paid advertisement for The Dodo.
On the opposite end of the spectrum is my love for true crime. This week, I’ve been listening to the latest season of Counter-Clock, which comes from the woman-founded podcast company, AudioChuck. This podcast follows investigative journalist, Delia D’Ambra, as she looks into a famous cold case from Indiana’s history. If you listen or are listening to this podcast, please let me know your thoughts on the Pelley Family case. I have some thoughts!