Slow down. Reconnect. Trade frenzy for fun.
Copyright 2002-2021. Susan Sachs Lipman. All rights reserved.
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I am thrilled that one of my photos was included in the exhibit ICPConcerned: Global Images for Global Crisis at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in New York. The show ran from Oct. 1, 2020, to Jan. 4, 2021, and featured photos from more than 65 countries, in response to events of this tumultuous time—a global pandemic, the Black Lives Matter and similar movements, the effects of climate change, the U.S. presidential elections and many more events that were felt and depicted in ways both epic and very personal.
My photo (above), “Golden Gate Market, 8:15 a.m. Sausalito, CA”, was taken on Sept. 9, 2020. That day, smoke from a series of wildfires on the U.S. West Coast gave the sky over the San Francisco Bay Area an apocalyptic orange glow for most of the day. I recorded some audio to give context to the photo.
The exhibit was organized and presented in much the way the photos from around the world were taken. Throughout the year, starting with the first shelter-at-home orders in March, the show grew to cover the gallery’s blank walls, which were denoted by month.
ICP describes “concerned photography” as “socially and politically minded images that can educate and change the world.” As a longtime fan of ICP and of this kind of photography, I was thrilled and honored to be part of the show. I was also very moved to participate in a presentation, during which ICP Director David Campany walked us through the exhibit, sharing the processes and all the images, which had the effect of making me feel more connected to and unified with the experiences of others whom I’ll never meet. Over the year, the exhibit grew to approximately 1,000 images. Future projects, such as a book, may be forthcoming.
See my gallery, Climate Change is Real, which includes the Sept. 9 photo.
Exhibit photos: International Center of Photography
When many schools across the U.S. announced that they would continue to rely on distance learning, at least partially, until schools are able to reopen safely, some parents, especially those with means, went into overdrive to organize small-group “pods” for learning and socialization. It’s hard to cast aspersions on any parent, most of whom are already profoundly stretched by juggling the demands of work, household, children and school during this extraordinary time. Yet, a sad consequence of the pods, some of which are able to hire tutors, is that they will further exacerbate the yawning equity gap that already exists in schools and in virtually all our systems, even during “normal” times.
Here are just a few things that happen to lower-income children* during the pandemic, and those whose parents lack the time and means to create and manage a pod:
- Food insecurity when school meals end
- Lack of internet access to do classwork
- Lack of supervision when parents are working
- Lack of proper work space
- Little or no socialization with peers
- Scarce outdoor or physical activity
- Academic and social progress falls further behind
*also rural children, children with special needs, those whose parents don’t speak fluent English or understand the lessons, and more
Educational and other forms of inequity is a huge issue and one I’m passionate about. In that spirit, I’d like to offer a few alternatives to the way the 2020-2021 academic year seems to be shaping up.
Acknowledge the hard work of teachers and parents
All teachers and parents have been heroes. They’ve devoted countless hours and done the best possible work to keep kids educated, occupied and safe, in an exceedingly frightening, ever-changing and uncertain time–often without fanfare or thanks. Teachers have, as usual, had to put in not only extra time but additional personal expense, many while their own kids are at home. Hats off to all.
Rethink the concept of “left behind”
I’ve long thought that the metrics of school academics are skewed to the very top achievers, causing stress and burnout for the rest. Because the entire U.S. is affected by this public health crisis, this would be a great time to pause and reconsider the important aspects of education and when it would be important to learn them. 4th grade isn’t going to look the same this year as it did last year, so why should we use outdated benchmarks as to what a 4th grader should achieve?
Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers (and the closest we have to a national leader on this issue) proposes that we think of the next school year as a bridge year, and begin by addressing the social-emotional needs of children, even before the academic ones.
To that point, parents might wish to form social pods with a few families, to meet (perhaps outdoors) with a rotating parent from the group. This solution provides kids with important interaction with peers, for socialization and learning. (Yes, learning.) Children, especially preschoolers, learn through play, so perhaps this anomalous year will allow us to retire the outdated idea of kindergarten readiness, while allowing older kids to interact for their mental and physical health and stimulation.
Learn outside the box
Schools will still likely provide curriculum, in the form of lectures, assignments and worksheets, but what about the kinds of things that can be taught at home? This could be a great time for kids to explore independent projects and interests. Some ideas:
- Join a citizen science project at home. Or keep a journal for a month to record the phases of the moon or observations in the neighborhood or out the window.
- Prepare food with a parent to learn some planning and math skills by considering steps and measuring ingredients.
- Watch a movie about a different period in history and talk about it afterward.
- Interview family members and write/ draw their stories or make a family tree
- Teach your kids about financial literacy, something they will need in life that they won’t likely get in school.
- As 2020 is an election year, take the time to learn about government and voting and perhaps be a more engaged citizen.
- Read, draw, take walks, play games, cuddle. Do some of the things you think you don’t have time for normally.
Support organizations that are closing the education equity gap
Thankfully, through public and private support, some organizations are rising to the meet the tremendous gap in education opportunities during Covid-19. For instance, the city of San Francisco is refitting libraries, community centers and other public buildings into staffed learning hubs, where young students most in need can access digital classwork and receive help.
Here are some individual organizations that you can help:
Oakland Reach City Wide Virtual Hub is a wonderful model that provides online learning, enrichment and community for the most in need and at risk and pays families to participate. Classes are taught be skilled teachers, and families learn, too, in an effort to close learning gaps at a time when they would only widen otherwise. Read more about Oakland Reach.
Adopt a Classroom’s Disaster Relief Fund helps those across the U.S. who are most immediately in need of technology, supplies, PPE and more, due to Covid-19.
Communities in Schools helps those most in need of food, medical, financial and technological assistance in 25 states and D.C.
First Book delivers books to children around the U.S. who don’t have books or internet access.
The Intercultural Development Research Association is a long-time San Antonio organization that offers assistance to those most in need, in English and Spanish.
National Digital Computer Alliance redistributes donated computers to those in need.
If you wish to help in a specific geographic region try Googling covid relief fund or community foundation and the name of the region.
Support groups that are helping in other ways
This is an excellent and thorough resource from CNN for helping and getting many different kinds of help during the coronovirus crisis–including food, medical supplies, international aid, and support for small businesses, restaurant workers, homeless people, arts organizations and more.
The JFCS Community Emergency Fund helps seniors, families and those most in need, with food, visits, therapy and more, in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Share information and resources
Read 6 Tips for Homeschooling During Coronavirus from NPR.
Read about Creating a Home Classroom for kids with sensory processing or other challenges, from the Center for Children and Youth.
Read 11 Tips to Help your Teen Succeed at Online Learning, from a college senior.
This is an excellent piece from Turn it In that offers with many ideas about adjusting distance learning to make it more inclusive and successful for more students.
This Chalkbeat piece shares national data and takeaways about distance learning in spring, 2020.
NPR outlines some of the gaps that occurred during remote learning.
This crisis has made it abundantly clear that we are all interconnected and need to work together toward solutions. It also provides an opportunity to rethink outdated norms and create greater equity, in education and elsewhere.
Special note to incoming college students: I’m so sorry your high school senior year and entrance to college have been so disappointing. There’s no way to sugar-coat this situation. While some are choosing to take a gap year, many counselors are advising to power through your least desirable required courses online to get them over with, especially if your gap year doesn’t have a strong, particular purpose. You will return to normal on-campus life at some point and have college experiences with your peers.
Here are some tips for Self-care and Wellness for Students during Covid-19, from the Foundation for CA Community Colleges.
Wishing educational success for all, and peace to parents and students, in whatever personal choices they make.
Photos: Pexels Public Domain
When the calendar turned to April, two weeks into the shelter-in-place order that had become the new normal, I decided to take a break from work and leave the house for something other than a walk around my neighborhood or the weekly trip to the market. I would visit one neighborhood over, and I would drive.
Simply starting the car and backing it out of the garage were revelatory activities, behaviors from another life. There was my winter coat, in the back seat, where I’d left it. There were my notebooks and reusable grocery bags. I briefly rolled down the car window to breathe the fresh spring air–and then wondered if I should put it back up in case I ran into a neighbor from whom I was unable to stay six feet apart. I felt skittish driving, anxious about any encounters.
I drove to a stand of tulips I knew from over the years to be in front of a neighbor’s house. To my disappointment, they were largely gone. True, great splashes of color remained, among the thicket of bare stems. But they were frail and bent, far past peak, sun shining through their delicate crevices.
I was disappointed, of course. I’d stayed inside my house, in my neighborhood, for two-plus weeks and missed the whole show. Now I had the proverbial setback of having to “wait until next year”. I parked and walked over to the flowers anyway.
From close up, I could see the erratic, faded petals, frozen in mid-curl, the pistils and bits of pollen. The midday sun exaggerated the tulips’ veins where petals met stems.
The flowers were beautiful and dying and somehow fitting for this time. They fit the grief I had felt in the car, the grief and awe from merely being in a different neighborhood, a neighborhood right next to my own, where I used to go all the time and which now seemed newly fraught with danger in each set of approaching footsteps, as people walked around me with dogs or on phones, and kids skateboarded in the empty streets. Even as the April sun blazed and the world appeared especially peaceful.
I became absorbed taking pictures, something I used to do avidly at least weekly, often more, which I hadn’t done in almost a month. It felt good to be out in the world, even if still in my small corner of it. Even if the whole world had changed.
As I continued to shoot, new layers of decrepitude revealed themselves, my lens ever closer, as if I might be saved, at least momentarily, by focusing on increasingly small things that were within my control. A particular rotting husk, a translucent colorful thread, the way a curve of a petal could recall a woman’s scarf. In noticing those tiny things, for a devoted period of time, the world slipped away just a bit.
If we’re lucky, we live most of our days without thinking much about life’s fragility, about our own mortality, yet lately those things had become foremost in the news and in our minds. In the flowers, those ideas were made visible, yet also hopeful–even in their decay, the tulips were majestic, and even they would ultimately be reborn.
Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman
In his New Yorker essay Take the F, Ian Frazier describes life in his Brooklyn neighborhood and building, before relaying the story of a neighbor who had taken ill. While she was in the hospital, the whole building was “expectant, spooky, quiet”.
The neighbor finally returned, pale but on the mend. In celebration, Frazier “walked to the garden, seeing glory everywhere.” He “took a big Betsy McCall rose to (his) face and breathed into it as if it were an oxygen mask.”
I read this essay 25 years ago, and I still think about its life-affirming qualities often. I look forward to once again surrounding myself with roses, like these in the Sonoma (CA) Plaza, captured during the fullness of May.
What do you look forward to?
Italians, under siege from coronavirus, began taking to their balconies and windows, at an appointed hour each night, to serenade one another with their national anthem. It was a show of solidarity, something to provide uplift in these brutal times. Residents in Chicago followed suit, singing a city-wide version of Bon Jovi’s Livin’ on a Prayer. In Dallas, people sang Bill Withers’ Lean on Me in unison. In Brussels, Seattle, New York, Medellín–in places all over the globe–people started standing on balconies and doorsteps and clapping to applaud health-care workers, often at 8 p.m., local time. The phenomenon even spawned a hashtag: #solidarityat8.
In Mill Valley, CA, we have the Mill Valley Howl. Started a week after shelter-in-place orders, the Howl has grown to a citywide cry at 8 p.m. each evening, when cooped-up residents open their windows or go out onto their front yards, decks and streets, and howl at one another into the night. It’s an amazing show of solidarity, of a kind of momentary community joy, while at the same time evincing something more primal. I hear anguish in the Howl. I hear prayer (or perhaps I feel it, looking up at the bright star of Venus, while we’re all baying into the twilight.)
From my house, the Howl seems to start low in the valley and swell and run through the neighborhoods and canyons and up into the hills. It takes on different shapes in its few short minutes, before dying back down. Dogs and perhaps actual coyotes join in. I howl back at the noise and my neighbors’ lit houses. I howl to thank the first responders on the front lines. I howl to mark the days of this strange time. In a town in which people are temporarily sequestered in houses that are largely tucked away from view, howling lets others know, distinctly, “I am here. And I see (or at least hear) you.”
The Howl suits this place, at the edge of the wilderness, the same way operatic versions of the national anthem suit Italy. A howl is a call of social pack animals. We’re bonding with each other as we mark our territory–this territory, this moment–we’re here in our houses, we’re here on the planet, we’re with one another, alone and yet together.
Photos: Mill Valley Fall Arts Festival, Suz Lipman; Public Domain
Coronavirus is changing the lives of everyone on the planet. In addition to impacting day-to-day lifestyles and habits, cancelling large events and closing schools, the health crises is making many aware or newly aware of our interconnectedness and dependency on one another for health and safety.
This time may be particularly challenging for parents: School, job and other routines are disrupted, and it can be difficult to strike a balance between managing our own needs and anxieties with those of our kids. We’re also, by necessity, having to slow down and get creative with the way we’re spending our time.
Try these tips to help you get through.
How to talk to kids about Coronavirus
Tips for staying healthy
8 Best Ways to Keep Your Family Healthy (anytime)
Fun stuff to do at home
Free Educational Apps, Games and Web Sites from Common Sense Media
PBS Fun and Educational Family Activities (games, apps, crafts)
Dealing with stress in general
CDC: Managing Anxiety and Stress (for self and parents)
We Will Emerge from these Times as Heroes (and the importance of letting kids play)
Meditation Apps for Kids from Common Sense Media
I wish you good health, stamina and calm.
Photos: Public Domain, Susan Sachs Lipman (last photo)
Half the fun of family travel is “getting there”, right? Whether you’re embarking on a Great American Road or Train Trip, or merely hoping to get from Point A to Point B with your humor intact, a few tips and classic travel games will surely make the going more pleasant.
Family Travel Tips
- Involve kids in the planning or have them follow the trip’s progress on a map. If you’re an AAA member, maps are free. Some kids may want to keep a trip journal and add photos when they get home.
- Have food and drinks on hand, if possible, and take frequent breaks to eat, use restrooms, or just stretch your bodies.
- Remind kids who are on screens to take breaks, to play a game or look around at the passing, and sometimes awe-inspiring world
- Pack along a few portable items for outdoor breaks and quiet times, so you can play card games, jump rope games, Mad Libs or jacks.
- Play some of the tried-and-true road trip games, below, that don’t require any equipment. They help make family memories when you’re driving, flying, or waiting in line.
Tried-and-True Road Trip Games
What I See From A to Z
Players try to find letters in license plates, billboards, road signs, or objects and must call out “I see an A,” or “I see something that starts with B,” when they spot a letter.
The first person to complete the alphabet wins. A variation for younger children is to pick one letter and have everyone look for that.
If you’re traveling on the interstate, you will probably have a lot of trucks for company, and this fun game makes use of that.
Each player chooses a different color. That color will be the color of truck trailer that the player is then searching for. Players announce when they see a semi on the road in their color, and they get one point for each.
A scorekeeper can be appointed to keep count, or everyone can keep their own score. The game is played until one person reaches 25 points, or another agreed-upon number.
Travel Scavenger Hunt (also known as Travel Olympics)
You’ll need: Pencil and paper for each player
Players all contribute to one list of 10-20 things they can see from or do in the car. For example, a list might include passing a cow pasture, seeing a gas station that has the color red in its logo, holding one’s breath through a tunnel, spotting two yellow license plates, or passing an RV.
The first person to accomplish everything on the list wins.
License Plate Scramble
The first player calls out all the letters, in order, that appear on a passing license plate.
All players try to create a word using those letters, in the same order. The first person to do so gets a point. For example, a player might call out ARN, and he, she, or any other player might come up with “arachnid” or “yarn”.
Decide if you want to play to a certain number of points, like 25. The first player to reach that total wins.
Players search passing cars for “out of state” license plates (out of the state they are currently traveling in.)
When such a plate is spotted, the player yells, “O.S.L.P.!” If they are the first to see a particular plate, they score a point.
Decide if you want to play to a certain number of points, like 10. The first player to reach that total wins.
One player decides on an object that all players could conceivably see and says, for instance, “I spy with my little eye .. something that begins with the letter A” or “I spy with my little eye .. something that is blue.”
Other players take turns trying to guess what the object is.
When players run out of guesses, the first player gives another clue and other players guess again.
The person who guesses the object gets to be the next spy.
What Animal Am I?
One player thinks of an animal. Other players ask “yes” or “no” questions to determine what animal the first player is. Players might ask, “Do you live in the ocean?” or “Do you have four legs?”
There is no limit to the number of questions. Players can simply give up when stumped and choose who gets to be the animal next. Otherwise, the player who guessed the animal gets to be the next up.
This is a good group game for rest stops or outdoor settings.
You’ll need: A rock or coin
Players sit or stand in a circle, palms out to their sides, facing up. Right palms should be directly over right neighbor’s left palm, continuing around the circle. One player is in the center of the circle. That player momentarily closes his or her eyes while the rock is given to someone in the circle. Each player lifts his or her right hand and moves it across the body to the left neighbor’s right hand. The person with the rock in hand does this as well. After a couple of such motions, the person in the middle opens their eyes. The rock moves around the circle but, because everyone is making a passing motion, the person in the middle can’t see where it is. As the rock moves around the circle, players chant, in rhythm with their hand motions:
Rock, rock where do you wander?
In one hand and out the other.
Is it fair? Is it fair?
To keep poor _____ (name of player in the middle) sitting/standing there?
At the end of the chant, the person in the middle guesses where the rock is. If he or she guesses, correctly or doesn’t guess after three tries, the person with the rock goes into the middle. (If that person has already gone in the middle, you can have the person next to them, clock-wise, go in.)
Have fun on the road, and wherever your adventure takes you!
Road trip activities are adapted from Fed Up with Frenzy: Slow Parenting in a Fast-Moving World, which contains more travel games in addition to 300+ fun family activities.
Other Slow Family posts you might like:
Enjoy Roadside Attractions Along California’s Redwood Highway
12 Fun Family Activities for Screen-Free Week
8 Fun Things to do While it’s Still Summer
Recess: Playground and Jump Rope Games
Slow Nature: Have a Cloud Race
Graphic: Wood for the Trees
I first learned about Pi Day when my daughter was in Middle School. I wondered where this day had been my whole life! Now a global tradition almost 30 years old, Pi Day is best celebrated at 1:59 p.m. on March 14 to match the first few digits of the number Pi (and the extent of most people’s memorization, 3.14159), with a pie, of course – savory or dessert version.
Math moment: What is Pi anyway? Ahem – Pi is the number expressing the ratio of a circle’s circumference to its diameter. It’s used in engineering, science and statistics and begins with 3.14 and goes on into infinity. It’s also captured a lot of people’s imaginations. The record for Longest Pi Recitation belongs to Japan’s Akira Hawaguchi, who recited from memory an astounding 100,000 digits over 16+ hours. How is that even possible?? (Here are some tips for memorizing pi.) A teen holds the North American record.
It seems Pi Day as we know it didn’t catch on until about 30 years ago, when it was begun at the San Francisco Exploratorium. Now it is celebrated around the world. Try some of these Pi Day games and activities from the Exploratorium, where Pi Day began!
I’ve gathered a few pies to help you celebrate. It seems like a more fun way to mark the day than memorizing digits. But, to each his or her own!
Pictured, at top, Pillsbury’s Triple Berry Pi Day Pie.
This is my own recipe for Classic Apple Pie. You could add a Pi symbol in crust (or cut out a Pi symbol) to the top of this, or any, pie.
When I think of Pie Mavens, I think of my friend Leah Brooks and her stunning and sometimes unexpected fruit pies, like apple with thyme or double lemon blueberry, or her chocolate cream, pumpkin, lattice-topped cherry, or perfect pecan pies!
Happy Pi Day!
Photos: Pillsbury, Orlando News Center, Serious Eats
When Benjamin Franklin wrote An Economical Project, his 1794 discourse in which he proposed the idea that would become our current Daylight Saving Time, it probably didn’t occur to him that the world would be using his system of adjusting human activities to maximize natural daylight more than 200 years later.
It also probably didn’t occur to him that others would take so long to embrace it. Attempts to legislate Daylight Saving were still widely ridiculed at the beginning of the 20th century. (It took the energy needs of WWI for many to finally enact them.) Standard times, brought about in the U.S. and Canada by the needs of the railways, which straddled various locales, also took a few decades to eventually pass into law.
While there was some reasoning behind the idea of idea of Daylight Saving Time and of course a need for time zones, the system is home to tremendous quirkiness and variations. (One year, 23 different pairs of DST start and end dates were used in Iowa alone.) Indiana only adopted Daylight Saving Time in 2005. Arizona opts out of Daylight Savings, although the Navajo nations within it opt in. Hawaii also does not observe Daylight Saving Time, as its proximity to the Equator makes for relatively consistent sunrises and sunsets year-round, regardless of season. (Why mess with success?) While some states are trying to do away with Daylight Saving Time, there was a movement (which did not pass) in Arizona to join the rest of the continental U.S.
Cities and countries around the world begin, end and practice Daylight Savings at a variety of times and in a variety of ways.
Most of the U.S. begins Daylight Saving Time at 2:00 a.m. (local time) on the second Sunday in March and reverts to standard time at 2:00 a.m. on the first Sunday in November.
How does Daylight Saving Time impact safety, particularly on the roads? Apparently the first dark evenings in Fall, when the time changes back, see an increase in pedestrian and auto accidents, as some people readjust to driving in darkness. In 2007, Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. was moved to the first weekend in November, in the hopes of getting more Halloween Trick-or-Treaters out during daylight and presumed safety, which may be good for the youngest Trick-or-Treaters.
Here’s hoping you enjoy Slow Time, seasonal change, and the wonder of time in general, whether you practice Daylight Saving or not.
Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman; Railroad photo: ctempemplymentlawblog.
Does your family have spring fever? You know the symptoms–lax lunches, half-hearted homework checks, award-ceremony overdose and field-trip fatigue.
Fear not: Summer is on its way.
Here are 6 tips to help your family reach the end of the school year with greater ease.
Cut yourself some slack
The end of the school year can feel like both a marathon and a sprint. This is exhausting to even the most superhuman among us. The world won’t end if the softball uniform isn’t squeaky clean or pizza seems to be the main attraction at more dinners than usual.
Give yourself permission to skip some events
Try to honor everyone’s limits, including your own. Check in with your family to see if they might prefer some downtime to one more event on the calendar. There will be more end-of-the-year ice cream socials in other years. Try these tips for recharging in any season.
Discuss your child’s feelings
Despite the celebratory nature of many of the events, some children may feel confusion or sadness about the end of the school year and the passage of time. Others may be overwhelmed by any celebration or attention. Check in with your child about their feelings and needs at this transitional time.
Spend some unstructured time outdoors
Nature is a great antidote to a hectic schedule. The outdoors helps us get some perspective and experience awe. It can also provide some space in which to run around and let off steam or, conversely, to calm ourselves and recharge. Try these tips for enjoying nature as a family.
Leave some volunteer tasks for others
It’s nice to do your part, and volunteering can be very rewarding. It can also allow you to make the most of each activity and not feel as if the events are flying by. However, do listen to your gut if it tells you you’re taking on too much, and scale back accordingly.
Try to get enough sleep
Busy schedules, excess homework and long, sunny days make it even harder than usual for everyone to get the sleep they need. Try to get to bed at a reasonable hour. Try these tips to help your kids get a good night’s sleep.
Read more about how to help your family transition to summer.
This post originally appeared on Parents Place.
Photos: Susan Sachs Lipman