Category Archives: technology

The Unprecedented

Salutations, precious scions. 

I am writing this to you from the distant past. My greatest wish is that it reaches you one day. That the Internet, for all its immeasurable beauty and hideous flaws, still exists. Although only Amazon knows what will happen between now and then. 

Where to start? Perhaps the beginning. 

Another morning dawns. Gentle purple receding from the open wound of pink as tides of orange begin flowing in on a sea of puffy pillows. If there is one thing in The Unprecedented that hasn’t changed it’s how beautifully a day can start. It’s almost enough to make up for the fact that the rest of the day will be just like all the others.

Almost.

In our Quadrant, the disease threat has lowered significantly but is ever looming. We are still in the earliest stages of Limited Phase 3. Restrictions abound. Face Coverings are still required. Droplet has become a dirty word. 

We try to make the best of it, however. My mask is flamboyant and covered in sequins. On the Hard Days, I secretly pretend I am a superhero. Captain Extra. Why not? Fun is in short supply here in The Unprecedented. It’s important to steal joy whenever we can. 

They have finally allowed us to consume some of our rations at the Eating Houses, although only in the Outside Zone. Many have rejoiced at this development but this has slowed down the neighborhood Banana Bread and Sourdough Black Market. No one has dropped off an extra loaf on the porch in weeks. I suppose it was inevitable. After all these months, baking can no longer compete with the allure of Doom Scrolling on our devices. 

The Libraries have also opened albeit in Limited Capacity. If you stand in the Outside Zone, the Blessed Ones will gather the books you desire and place your Bag of Knowledge within the appropriate Social Distance Sector for you to pick up once they have retreated back within the safety of the doors. This small gift from the Re-Opening Committee is like a breath of fresh air when one is drowning. 

The Remote Learning begins soon. The Educators have exhausted themselves preparing, faced with an impossible task. They are most noble, rising above and beyond and then beyond some more. Although I confess if I never come across the phrase “student log-in information” again it will be too soon. Cursed be thy passwords.

Those of us tasked with the homeside of Remote Learning have made a silent pact that Happy Hour will be whenever it is needed. We shall let the boxed wine flow unimpeded by the morality of who we were in the year of Two Thousand And Nineteen. Time and Units of Alcohol have become utterly meaningless in The Unprecedented.  

Some of the people have begun forming Pods. Humans, now and forever more, are social animals. It is much needed, especially for The Small Ones, who have turned feral and have begun rejecting pants.  

I confess, there are days when it all seems much too bleak. I do not know where we would be if we couldn’t turn to the Narrative Visual Arts for comfort. All hail the Streaming Services! Praise be to Hulu! 

It is uncertain if we shall ever return to living in precedented times, but, lo, through the swirling maelstrom of this accursed New Normal, we humans still manage to adjust. Adapt. Evolve. Just like we always have. It is this thought, late at night, when the Insomnia strikes again, that brings a small measure of comfort. The thought I cling to as though to a dream, while images hazy with the mists of nostalgia begin wafting up from my subconscious. 

Of the Before Times.  

Back when Personal Space was something one took for granted, not something that was bitterly fought for and doled out like currency among one’s own family. Back when we worshipped such frivolous things as precious metals, instead of the life-giving force of Alone Time. The utter bliss of an Empty House. Only in The Unprecedented could Working Remotely be both a blessing and a curse. 

Such fools we mortals are. To not appreciate what we had while we had it. In another timeline, one that had not descended into its darkest depths, I would be forcing my Small Ones to brush their teeth right now and stuffing them into their Before Times clothes. Ones with actual buttons and zippers, instead of the ill-fitting mixed textile sacks we have grown accustomed to. My Quarantine Partner would be heading to work in the Away From Here while I walked the offspring to School. Then I would head to the Local Coffeeshop up the hill, for a pastry and a giant coffee and cloth-free conversations with friends.

But now. 

Now. 

There is no danish. Only Zoom. 

Alas, I regret nothing. It has to be done. To protect the Vulnerable Ones.

In the end, let it be known there is still hope. There is always hope. If there wasn’t, I would not be writing this to you now. Humor is our preservation and Compassion is our weapon. After so much Devastation, I only desire, above all, that We can get our Shit together enough so that You, the future generations, may thrive.

Pandemically yours, 

Your Great Elder, 

A’rill Brandolor

Honey, I screwed up the kids

We are living through historic times. Unprecedented times. And with any luck my family and I will make it out of these times and, many years from now, my great grandkids will gather around and ask to hear all about the time Gam Gam lived through the Great Coronavirus of 2020. And I will tell them, my voice dripping in rich sepia tones, tales of staying up late into the night writing novels to stave off the insanity, the feasts I cooked to stave off the boredom, the endless books the children and I read to stave off the despair. And how we all hugged each other a little tighter each day to remember why isolation, as hard as it was, was important. 

I will tell them all these things and many more because I am going to lie. Lie so hard. All the lies. 

Because here’s the thing. Saying I ate my weight in delivery pizza and wine while battling depression and insomnia just doesn’t have quite the same ring to it. 

“And late one night, children, Gam Gam had so much to drink that she went on Amazon and bought roller skates for herself, completely forgetting she was 38-years-old and this activity would likely kill her. Oh no, I wasn’t a hero. Just a proud patriot doing her duty.”

This is all assuming, of course, that I eventually have great grandchildren. That I don’t screw up my children so thoroughly during this isolation period that they are able to eventually turn into semi-functioning adults who have families of their own. 

It ain’t looking too good so far. My kids are looking to me for structure, for guidance, for how to handle all the Very Big Feelings they are going through. And I, in my raggedy pajamas and roller skates, am looking back at them while eating an entire wheel of cheese and crying a little bit. 

There’s a reason why they say it takes a village to raise a child. It’s so that a child has multiple people to model for them how to survive in this world. People who don’t have a special Math Homework Cocktail she invented. 

It also doesn’t help that we can no longer do the things all those “parenting experts” hammered into our heads that we absolutely had to do in order to raise happy, healthy children.

Get your kids out in nature as much as possible!

Our yard is the size of a postage stamp and the parks are overrun with everyone else whose backyards are the size of postage stamps. 

Kids need unsupervised and unstructured play time!

Fantastic. Will you tell them that? Because they won’t leave me alone and I have nowhere to hide.

Be the calm in their storm! 

I respond to tantrums in only one of two ways anymore, depending on how little sleep I’ve gotten. It’s either dramatically screaming back or responding calmly that I will set their tablets on fire if they don’t knock it off. 

Limit screen time!

My son spends roughly three hours on screens doing school work, which means his younger sister is also in front of a screen for three hours unless I want to deal with a three hour long tantrum. And then when my son is done with school he wants more screen time because his screen time was school screen time, not fun screen time like his sister, so he gets fun screen time, which means his sister gets more screen time because I don’t know what I’m doing and can never seem to win these arguments. 

All of this, of course, with no end in sight.

Then, one morning after another sleepless night spent pointlessly worrying, I was helping my son with his reading assignment online. Every time he completed a task, a small snippet of a song would play. Just maybe ten seconds or so long. I happened to look over at him at that moment and saw that he was crying. 

“What’s wrong, baby!?” I asked, immediately assuming it was the stress from the schoolwork and ready to set the laptop on fire if so (I might have a problem). 

“It’s just so beautiful.”

“What is?”

“The song. It’s just a really beautiful song.” And a few more crocodile tears squeezed out. 

It wasn’t a beautiful song. In fact, I’m pretty sure it included bagpipes. But I started crying too. Because as I looked at him, I remembered that my kids have complicated emotions and deep intelligence and vast interior lives that I’m not privy to (even though on certain days it feels like they do, in fact, tell me every single thought in their heads). That they are strong and resilient and adaptable. That they are fantastic creatures that can be moved to tears by the beauty of music. 

And I realized it’s going to take a lot more than this to ruin them. All of them. The kids will be alright after all.  

 

Tired.

I’m tired. 

But don’t worry. This isn’t going to be one of those pieces where the author spends 800 words telling you just how much MORE tired they are than you. (Although I only got two hours of sleep last night. Not that it matters. Because, again, this isn’t THAT piece). 

See, I know you’re tired too. We’re all tired. The whole world is tired. None of us are getting enough sleep and all of us are under more and more pressure to do more during our waking hours. 

Which is why, I suspect, we as a society have turned tiredness into a competition. We all feel guilty that we aren’t doing more so we try to win the only contest we can: Who is more tired?

Person 1: “I’m so tired.”

Person 2: “Me too. I only got five hours of sleep last night.”

Person 1: “I only got four.”

Person 2: “Did I say last night? I meant for the whole week.”

Person 1: “I meant for the whole month.”

Person 2: “I basically haven’t slept since I was a child.”

Person 1: “Must be nice. I haven’t slept since I was literally in utero.”

Person 2: “Really? I couldn’t even sleep in there, what with that constant beating of mother’s heart.”

I don’t know how we got to this point. Maybe it was the Internet, connecting us all to the world 24/7. Maybe it was the rise of social media, connecting us all to each other 24/7. Or perhaps it’s just hard to get a solid eight hours when the world feels like a dumpster fire. But whatever the reason, it appears there is some fierce competition for the title of “Most Tired.” Because you can get into this competition with pretty much anyone. Take moms, for instance. 

Pregnant woman: I’m so tired. 

New mom: HAHAHAHA…just wait until they are born. 

Mom of toddler: Aw, that’s cute. Mine is mobile and can open doors and has opinions. 

Mom of teenager: Well, I haven’t slept since mine got his driver’s license. 

Mom of multiple teenagers: I’M TECHNICALLY DEAD. 

There’s also the generational tiredness rivalry. 

Old person: I’m so tired. My angina and trick knee kept me up all night.

Middle-aged person: I was up worrying about taking care of my aging parents and my growing kids. 

30-something: My career is killing me. 

20-something: I work three jobs and have no money and no future and the Arctic is literally on fire. 

College student: I had to pull an all-nighter for exams and then work all day at my unpaid internship.

Teenager: I had to pull an all-nighter for Fortnite. 

Everyone: Oh, shut up, Kyle.

Teenager (sulkily): I won, not that anyone cares.  

There’s also usually a romantic partner daily exhaustion war. My husband and I are experts at this. 

Husband: I had to finish 57 projects today and re-do the entire website and fight the crowds for the train home. 

Me: I had to drag two little kids all over town while dealing with 23 tantrums and 15 meltdowns and I have insomnia and I need to finish my blog about how much more tired I am than you and everyone else in the world.

(Again, NOT that this is all about how much more tired I am than you, dear reader. Even if it’s true, it’s not the point). 

And then there is all the situational tiredness. The bad job tired. You ever had a bad job? It’s exhausting. There’s the bad relationship tired, where your brain basically turns to mush rehearsing all the things you should say to your crappy partner but never do because you’re just too tired. Or the financial problems tired, where you trade sleep for calculating which limbs you can sell to make ends meet this month. 

And that’s all just the level of tiredness you feel when everything is going fairly well in your life. It’s a whole new level of fatigue when you are, say, battling a chronic disease. Or a mental illness. Or raising a child with special needs. Or dealing with racism and sexism and bigotry every day. Or struggling in poverty. Or…yeah, you get it. 

We’re tired. 

So who wins the award for most tired? I mean, clearly it’s me. Although the rest of you put up quite the battle. Which is why I’m going to pull a Cady Heron from “Mean Girls” and break apart the crown and give us all a piece of the title. 

And as for any solutions? How do we stop being so tired? Truthfully I have no idea.

But I’m sure I’ll be up all night thinking about it.

 

 

Maybe technology is cyclical

There are a lot of theories out there about the best way to raise children. These mostly come from people without kids, but a shocking amount of parents manage to form strong opinions about this subject too. Which they must do in-between chugging Merlot and crying in the shower, I imagine.

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I’ll admit I used to be one of those parents. With lofty ideals about proper nutrition and preschool STEM activities and basic human hygiene.

Pffft.

But that was before. Before the machine. Before…THE GAME.

Now none of it matters. Nothing matters. Nothing except…THE GAME.

Well, I mean, and my children and my husband and our collective health and world peace and our extended families and our beloved dog and protecting the environment and Jeff Goldblum because he’s a national treasure and all our friends.

But NOTHING ELSE.

It started innocently enough, like most of these scenarios that end up spiraling into a post-apocalyptic wasteland. I bought my husband one of those Nintendo Classic consoles for Christmas. You know, the ones with all the games from our childhood? PacMan. Donkey Kong. Super Mario Bros., ONE, TWO AND THREE.

And it quickly became clear once we turned it on that my family is unlikely to do anything for the next 15 years other than play Nintendo.

Like moths to a super pixelated light, my husband and I pressed our noses to the screen, that oh-so-unforgettable music filling our ears. The music of the angels, if angels sported mullets and Jordache jeans and oversized, unflattering eyeglasses.

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It was all so familiar, and yet somehow new, considering it had been close to three decades since either one of us had felt those comforting buttons beneath our fingers. Almost immediately we fell into that old trance, eyes glazed and fingers moving like lightning, murdering everything in our path with glee.

Our children, curious as to why we were refusing to feed them or take them for walks or generally acknowledging their existence in any form, eventually wandered over and were also immediately dragged under the spell of the Nintendo. All too soon, requests of “can I play next?” started pouring forth from their lips, eventually escalating into shouts of “IT’S MY TURN NOW!” Which, as their parents, we very maturely responded back “NO, IT’S STILL MY TURN!”

We haven’t cleaned in weeks. Empty pizza boxes are stacked like fortresses around our living room, with discarded juice boxes and wine bottles acting as moats around them. All of our hair has started to resemble the characters on those TV shows about Vikings.

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Sometimes, in those brief moments where I blink and remember there is a life outside of rescuing the princess, I wonder if I should be worried about what kind of damage this is doing to us. Especially the kids. Everyone is always yelling about the importance of limiting screen time and how video games are bad for developing brains and that Cheetos apparently don’t contain all the nutrients a body needs.  

But then, happily, it’s my turn again and those silly thoughts shoot right out of my head with the speed of a jumped-upon turtle shell in Super Mario Bros.

Besides, I choose to think of this whole thing as more like how families of yore used to sit around the fireplace, reading classic literature out loud to each other and bonding or whatever. Only instead of a fire we have a magic box that makes little Italian men run and jump and squish evil mushrooms sporting heavy eyebrows. And is there truly any more of a bonding experience than witnessing your 2-year-old finally learning how to run AND jump at the same time as opposed to just walking into a wall for eight minutes straight? I mean…

There is only one thing truly missing from my life right now. So if someone could just leave Doritos and Jolt Cola on my front porch, I’d really appreciate it.  

 

The Road Trip, Part Two: Even Trippier

 

Previously, on the “Chick Writes Stuff” blog…

Parent 1: “Hey, let’s take a road trip in our tiny car with two small children and an aging dog!”

Parent 2: “Brilliant!”

Thirty seconds after leaving the driveway…

Parent 1: “This is awful.”

Parent 2: “This is the worst idea we’ve ever had.”

One hour later…

Parent 1: “JUST THROW MORE DORITOS AT THEM!”

Parent 2: “IT’S NOT WORKING! THEY’RE DODGING THEM! OH GOD, WE’RE ALL GONNA DIE!”

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(Read Part One here)

One week later…

Hello, everyone. How are you? Good. Good. Glad to hear it. …Oh, me? I’m…fine. Everything’s fine. Just sitting here calmly at my computer, typing industriously away. Because everything is fine…now.

Plus the doctors say the constant twitching of my left eye should taper off any day now so there’s that.

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Of course, in hindsight, it wasn’t like our trip was ALL bad. There was a swimming pool at our hotel. That was fun. And I was smart enough to bring wine with us. That was REALLY fun. Yup. Really, really fun all the way until…bedtime.

Have you ever been unfortunate enough to sleep in the same bed as your child? What am I saying? Of course you have. You’re a parent. Which means that you already know that when children are small (and sometimes even the not-so-small ones), there is nothing they love more than sleeping with one foot up a parent’s nose and the other shoved in-between some parental ribs. They are also big fans of the game Musical Bed Positions. Because if they don’t move every three minutes while sleeping they die. At least that’s what I’m assuming based on the evidence.

And then there is the 2 a.m. stage whisper of “Momma! Is it morning yet?” Which wakes up their sibling, who also stage whispers “It’s morning! Can we get up? I need juice! And a cookie!” Which makes the other one go “I WANT A COOKIE TOO!” Which results in a dual meltdown after they are both informed by a gruff parent voice that NO ONE is getting a cookie and everyone needs to go back to sleep.

But it’s all worth it when you are forced awake again at 5 a.m. by your child’s creepy ghost face breathing heavily a mere half-inch from your face and then have to immediately deal with the fact they don’t understand live TV.

“Momma! Turn on the TV!”

(sleepily) mm-kay.”

“What is this?”

“A commercial.”

“Can you fast forward it?”

“No.”

“Can we watch a different episode?”

“No.”

“Can we watch a different show?”

“Only if you want to flip through 40 channels three times to find something else with no guarantee of finding something better.”

“Well, this isn’t fun.”

“You never would have survived the ‘80’s, kid.”

I really shouldn’t complain, though. The end result of all this was that we got to spend a wonderful week with my family in Ohio. Doing exotic things like napping while someone else kept our kids alive and eating homemade food someone else made and thoroughly enjoying those little moments where someone else yelled at our kids.

It was like a Norman Rockwell painting. But with more screaming and hitting.

Except I am going to complain. Because when it was all over…we had to come back.

I was determined though, DETERMINED, to make the best of it this time. Even with the awful snowstorm we drove through for three hours. And the windshield wipers that started malfunctioning. And the unsalted road before us that became a super fun slippery asphalt coil of death!

Hahahahaha! Road trips, man! Such a great American tradition! Right!? RIGHT!? They’re just the best! Hahahahaha!

The good news is that after what seemed like two hours past eternity, we finally arrived to our beloved home, with all our hearts and bladders full to bursting.

Only to find out that we did not currently have a toilet in said beloved home because the bathroom remodel the landlord scheduled while we were gone wasn’t finished yet.

But that, my dear friends, is a story I’m saving for my lawyer when I inevitably snap and start running naked through the streets laughing maniacally.

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