1,000 Piece Puzzles & Formula 1: Who Even Am I (Are We) 16 Months Into Pandemic?

This photo of me and K-Pants next to a puzzle was taken in May 2020, when I still thought 500-piece puzzles were a strong enough pandemic tonic.

One night back in October or November 2020 or January 2021–it’s hard to say, it was one of those months when the darkness fell before evening–I sat hunched over the kids’ table in our kitchen, my legs in a squat to the side of my tiny chair. The kids’ table is wooden. My grandpa etched leaves and flowers into it, and I always remember it being with us growing up. Now it’s in my kitchen. And it was the only surface in the house that was free, where I could do my 1,000-piece puzzle somewhat protected from the other pandemic inhabitants.

I needed cookie sheets to handle all the pieces. One puzzle chunk on this sheet, another on the table, another over here on that sheet propped up on a second tiny chair. At one point a kid or a husband collided with one of my cookie sheets. But my dangly and possessive claws caught it just in time. 

My precious, precious puzzle pieces. 

My beady eyes scanned the room for the culprit and hissed in disdain.  

I am not a puzzle person. Or am I? Nothing makes sense really. 

Puzzles are boring. Pointless. 

What?! Musn’t say that! Musn’t hurt the precious, precious puzzle. Musn’t have the puzzle hear. 

But really what’s the point? Puzzles are the opposite of adventure and movement. They’re inside things. Why would you even do a 1,000-piece puzzle? 

We wants it, we needs it. We needs our puzzle. 

Why fight it? I was staying up regularly until 11:30pm because I just had to do another piece. Coronavirus made me a puzzle person. My friend Adrina even got me a felt puzzle mat after the cookie-sheet Gollum incident. But then I suddenly stopped in the late spring. I got vaccinated. Things were looking up. 

Now here we are, with the Delta variant swarming and the great hordes of unvaccinated White Walkers upon us as winter is coming. 

We wants it, we needs it. We needs our puzzle.

So if you have any 1,000-piece puzzles, I would like to borrow them. And a shout out to my friends Robin and Jessica and Tommi’s little lending library for loaning me puzzles last winter. If I were a cat, the 1,000-piece puzzle would be that hand rubbing my back while I purred. I was not expecting to ever write that sentence. 

And then there’s Formula 1. 

I would like to talk to you about Formula 1. My sister and brother-in-law introduced me and K-Pants to Drive to Survive. The Pants learned the meaning of a Netflix binge through this show. I have never understood race car driving or watching a race or why it’s a sport or why anyone would attend one of these monotonous events in person. 

But I feel conflicted and anxious even writing that because of my August 2021 self. 

SHUT YOUR FACE, WOMAN. SHUT YOUR DAMN FACE. F1 IS THE BEST THIS WORLD HAS TO OFFER BESIDES PUZZLES. AND YOU KNOW IT.

There. She feels much better now. 

Name a current F1 driver. August 2021 Evelyn can tell you five facts about them–who they might be driving for next year, what might happen if Valterri Bottas doesn’t drive for Mercedes and it shakes up the whole lineup… I have 10+ reasons why Lewis Hamilton is my favorite driver (predictable, I know, but how can you NOT?!), followed by Sebastian Vettel (did you see his LGBTQIA+ solidarity rainbow helmet in Hungary? And of course you saw him stop to check on Lando Norris after that huge crash in qualifying at Spa), and why I would definitely be married to Fernando Alonso in my imaginary F1 life in which I am also the technical lead of the Alpine Renault F1 team (because HELLO of course we would travel as a pair). Look, I lived in Spain, so of course I would choose a Spaniard, and I know that Carlos Sainz is the young dreamboat, but I’m not really a Ferrari girl, plus BONUS Fernando and I would get to hang out with Esteban Ocon all the time (who definitely should be your favorite young driver. There are so many great young drivers, I know, but I’ll convince you about Esteban, don’t you worry). 

WHO AM I?! WHO? AM? I? 

I am a girl who freaking loves Formula 1 and 1,000-piece puzzles and the only way you’re going to get them away from me is if you steal them and climb to the top of Mount Doom, where you–like me–will become consumed by the pure joy of these two things and lose your focus. Don’t worry, though. I’ll bring you back to reality by snatching them out of your hand as I bite it off and fall to my fiery death. 

Who’s watching the Dutch Grand Prix with me Sunday?

Your 2021 Beaverton School Board Voter’s Guide

If you read your 2021 Washington County voter’s pamphlet, there’s a lot of delightful and often neutral sounding stuff in there: let’s get back to school, let’s keep class sizes down, let’s keep kids safe. We all want that. But there’s a lot under the rhetoric. Let’s break it down.

  • Four races are happening for Beaverton School District positions.
  • Everyone who is a voter within the Beaverton School District boundaries votes in all the races.
  • Our school board is seven members, six are white (the one Black member of the board is not running for re-election and her spot is open).
  • Our county is over half people of color. Race does not determine someone’s views or positions, but lived experience is important to bring to the board. For example, our school district disproportionately disciplines Black and Latinx kids, kids who come from families with low-incomes, and special ed kids. We need school board members who will actively build relationships within those student populations and not rely on the district and other school officials explaining away the problems.

We can assume that everyone in the district is a good person and no one is intending to cause harm. And yet we still have very inequitable outcomes for students. Nice people is not enough. We’ve had plenty of time with white, don’t-rock-the-boat school boards. It’s time to meet the moment and get a board ready to achieve equity and seek racial justice. Let’s get some shit done.

Here’s who to vote for:

Ugonna Enyinnaya. As an attorney, an immigrant, a woman of color, and a mother of a BSD student, Ugonna will bring skill, unique insights and important lived experiences to the School Board.

Ugonna will make an excellent school board member and bring a perspective that the board sorely needs. She’s very interested in listening to students and is raising a son who is currently in middle school. Raising a Black son in the Beaverton School District is a challenge. We need Ugonna’s voice. And yet, this is the hardest race to win because Ugonna’s opponent is a very middle-of-the-road white lady incumbent. In the school board meetings I’ve watched, I can’t point to one interesting thing that Ugonna’s opponent has said. But she’s a safe white lady who has been on the board. Those things alone will probably sway white, middle class voters. But not us! We’re voting Ugonna. Let’s do this, people!

Dr. Karen Pérez-Da Silva. Karen has 20+ years of experience in education and advocacy. Her expertise in bilingual, bicultural education, along with her support of initiatives to diversify the teacher workforce in Oregon will build momentum for racial justice in our school district. She’s awesome. Of course vote for her. She’ll be running for a higher position at some point I hope–she’s incredibly talented.
Sunita Garg. Sunita believes taking an in-depth look at the diverse BSD population is critical to eradicating the status quo. Sunita’s experiences and perspectives are key for strong action toward achieving equity for all students. Sunita’s opponent Saralyn Dougall is running on an all-lives-matter platform. She believes Black lives matter insofar as everyone matters. This is a problem because in order to create a more just society, we have to look at how our society has been set up specifically to drive inequality for centuries. More on this below. Vote Sunita. It’s important.
Now this is a fun race. Susan Greenberg has been on the school board and she’s fine. Susan is more willing than other current school board members to talk about equity, and yet we still haven’t seen strong stances from Susan when it comes to meeting the needs of our students facing the most trauma–whether due to race, class, or immigration status. But, Susan’s opponent Jeanette Schade is a real bummer of a candidate. Think white Christian nationalism and… well that really sums it up. Christianity is entwined with white supremacy going WAY back, and the trouble is that the dulcet tones of eternal salvation through a rigid interpretation of the Bible that only accepts heterosexual, cisgendered people who stick to specific male/female norms are just so sweet. I’m Christian (devout, progressive), and this white Christian nationalism BS really gets my panties in a wad. So vote for Susan. Susan is CLEARLY the right choice, just also please donate to Ugonna’s campaign and maybe be real about the fact that Susan is still very middle-of-the-road. But with a cool new board around her, there’s hope!

Confusing Rhetoric Explained

We’ve seen candidates like use confusing language. Let’s unpack some of it.

What does it mean if you hear a candidate say that science should be taught “based on biology”?

This is transphobic language. It means the candidate believes that sex and gender are always the same. Our LGBTQIA+ students suffer under policies made based on this thinking that excludes students who don’t conform to heterosexual norms. This is the same type of thinking that has allowed the spread of discriminatory anti-trans legislation like “bathroom bills” and athletics bills. We should be seeking to undo and heal harm rather than perpetuate it.

What does “politics out of schools” mean?

“Politics out of schools” is being used in backlash to 2020’s racial justice tipping point. It assumes that before 2020, schools were neutral and apolitical. The fight for Black lives, equity, and human rights is not inherently political, but it does mean reexamining school norms and learning to be better.

What does it mean if you hear a candidate say that Critical Race Theory has no place in our schools or is racist?

Critical Race Theory (CRT) has been around for decades. It’s a field of study that helps people see where and how racism exists today. In order to fight racism, we must understand how it works. Racism is much more than our own individual beliefs. Critical Race Theory helps us see how the long history of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow, voter suppression, immigration practices, etc. continue to impact US laws, policy, attitudes, education, justice, and more.

Fear-mongering about Critical Race Theory falls into a well-worn pattern of white supremacy that seeks to discredit racial justice movements. Beware of claims of reverse racism, Marxism, communism, or other fear tactics that have been used since the Civil Rights Movement to stoke fear when the status quo is challenged.

Graphics content collaboratively created by West Haven for Black Lives. Graphics by Nectar Digital Collaborative.

Wandering Around Listless in a Primal Scream State at the One-Year Anniversary of Pandemic

I snuck in one last flight last year around this time for an out-and-back trip to Los Angeles for a meeting. It was sunny and gorgeous in LA and dark and dreary in Portland. The flights were already basically empty. 

And that was it. 

I am now wandering around listlessly in a pandemic purgatory dream state.

***

I do not care about the history of Daylight Savings Time. I just want it to stop. That’s never been more clear than at the one year anniversary of pandemic. I’m sad for seemingly no reason, and I’ve been talking with friends who are feeling the same way. 

My internet was acting up yesterday right before a video call. I texted my kick-ass client Sarah to ask if she might be able to run the meeting if I disappeared into the nothingness of physical life. She responded with what will become my motto for 2021: “I can assert that I’m not in a mental headspace to lead this ship.”

***

Some days are too much. And some days are too much and they also steal an hour from you. It’s not that anything catastrophic happened on Sunday after the construct of Daylight Savings Time snatched away 60 minutes, it’s that each thing piled up to leave me crying in the kitchen at 9:00pm wondering how to dry dishes. 

It started this way.

My grandmother, who shall never know that her existence has been mentioned here on the blog because we are never going to tell her because she hates the idea of things on the internet, has been getting hundreds of spam text messages. She is 87-years-young and she’s a voracious texter, and she loves it when we text her photos of the great-grandchildren. She doesn’t know not to respond to stupid spam texts. So she says things like “Stop” or “Your grandma loves you,” which encourages more texts and now she’s being invited by the dozen to view sites like findamilf.com and raunchysingles.com. Sites she would totally love, of course, it’s just that now it’s hard to find the family members she likes to text amidst all these delightful invitations. And she accidentally pinned all the spam numbers to her favorites in what ostensibly was a fit of frustrated right swiping. 

So the Fairy Pig and I swung by with a box of Girl Scout cookies and an invitation to walk over to get a cappuccino, where we could all sit outside, socially distanced in the rain, to try to solve this phone situation. Spoiler alert: just get the TextKiller or SMS Filter apps. Verizon can’t do anything. But after a very long time which included me taking a five-year-old to the bathroom in a strange place while chatting with the phone company, my customer service helper did suggest those. Totally worth the hour on the phone to freeze your poor grandma’s bones off in the rain. 

And then the series of little things just piled on…

I got home to cook, and as I washed my rice before cooking, bunches of little weevil bodies floated to the top.

I googled, “my rice has bugs can I eat it.” Yes, just wash them out. So then I washed my rice like 100 more times and then looked through the pantry to figure out if the weevils had friends.

Then I remembered it was jury duty for me on Monday, and I was supposed to call to find out if I needed to report. The automated system told me it couldn’t recognize me or find my number. I decided Captcha has been right all along. I probably am a robot. 

Then we put the kids down after tons of little fights–the kind of fights where people say cutting things to each other but it never really comes to full-out meltdowns, your sanity just dies slowly over the course of a few hours.

Then I stubbed my toe on the wave board that had been left in the middle of the kitchen and suddenly it was 9:00pm, because an hour had been snatched out of my little hands.

***

Here we are on Friday. Jury duty, it turns out, had been canceled. Monday, I got to go for a long drive, which allowed me to ponder whether my own screams could give me a headache–cars being basically soundproof isolation chambers, when you have the chance to be in one by yourself.

The week just kept coming with its slow churn of sadness. Not deep, dark sadness, just rainy and mundane sadness and emotional fatigue. 

So if you all are feeling it, I see you. And for those of you who have already shared or affirmed your own grief or sadness that seems to have sort of come out of nowhere, thank you.

Grief and Transformation in Pandemic Parenting

This is a stuffed bear from my childhood. It's upside down, standing on its head on a futon.

It’s February and we’re coming up on the one year mark of when we all started Pandemic Parenting. If my great-great grandmother were alive, I could ask her about parenting through a pandemic, and the corresponding anti-mask societies that had popped up then. No one likes a pandemic and we all rebel against its restrictions, sometimes to our deadly comeuppance. Or to the unintended deaths of others. Because cause and effect, it turns out, are never more apparent than in a pandemic.

But she is not alive. And so we forge ahead untethered. 

And in this period of blind progress through time, I am sitting here, almost one year in, feeling a lot of grief. “I feel like we’ve taken one step forward and ten steps back,” I said when I was chatting with my husband in the bathroom last week. 

I have grief about parenting through a pandemic, about how my anger flares up so quickly, about how I wish my children wouldn’t remember me as a screamer but how I watch myself cementing those memories week over week. 

We are 11 years–a bachelor’s and a Master’s and a Ph.D.–into parenting, and here I am unmoored from the dock and I find myself lilting in the wild, open seas. All the parenting books and classes and child therapists we’ve seen, nothing has left me prepared or feeling like I’ve passed the course. 

I recently took the parenting anger management and kid anger books off the shelf and dropped them off at one of our little neighborhood free libraries. Those clear-cabineted giant birdhouses that hold literary gems and cast-offs. In fact, you may drop any parenting books that you feel might transform my life off on my front door, and I shall find homes for them in the little book birdhouses nearby. 

I find myself taking a radical new tack. I am centering my own wholeness and healing and liberation. I started to find hope through a transformational ending racism course I took, and the amazing mentoring of my business coach, Shamaka Schumake. Two avenues that are not focused on children. For me this comes as a shock and aha!

We’ve gone about parenting struggles as if they were child-centered and solving them focused on solving the child with parenting strategies. I remember myself as a compassionate and thoughtful person who didn’t yell before I had kids. So it seemed natural that kids were the root of my turmoil. But perhaps they are a beloved mirror, the original #unfiltered. They’re showing me my whole self.

I asked my husband to take an ending oppression workshop with me in March. It’s premise is that all people are good and all people are hurt, that oppression hurts everyone who participates in it, and that we must heal and discharge trauma so that we don’t keep perpetuating it. We were weighing whether we could afford the course for both of us. “We would spend this much on an intervention for one of our children,” I said. 

My oldest is two years past the halfway mark of his time with us, our middle child is halfway through, and our youngest is almost a third of the way. I have time. I can show them that I’m growing and learning and capable of transforming even under circumstances that only my great-great-grandmother would remember. 


P.S. A note on my parenting advice boundaries. You are welcome to share your experiences with things that have changed your life. I ask that you keep it focused on you and your experience without suggesting that I do the same thing that worked for you. As many of us with challenging parenting situations will tell you, we’ve had 6,000 different strategies recommended and we’ve tried 8,000. And although you are likely coming from a place of feeling like you are unique in recommending the thing that will change my life, you might not know that I’ve already been offered the thing unsolicited many, many times. What I don’t see offered up online enough are real and candid talks about parenting struggles in a way that centers the humanity and goodness of people. Writing also fulfills my need to be seen and heard. So I will keep writing and keep offering any unsolicited advice to the book birdhouses of the world (which, as a side note, is also where I stash phrases like this too shall pass and cherish every moment, perhaps because my heart is just a block of Minecraft obsidian).