Category Archives: Uncategorized

9/11, pandemics and missing New York City

On September 11, 2001, I was a college freshman at a University about three hours north and west of New York City. That morning, I walked over to my 10 a.m. class and was greeted by a note on the door informing us that we would not be meeting today. At this point, two planes had already crashed into the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center, another into the Pentagon and another in Pennsylvania (supposedly headed to the White House).

Perhaps my later class was a blessing, because seeing these events unfold live might have pushed me over the emotional edge. Instead, I caught the continuous replay of the horrifying and unimaginable footage.

Still adjusting to college life, I didn’t allow myself to fully accept what was happening. It took me years before I could properly acknowledge my grieving friends and let myself feel the full weight of the day. Though I didn’t have a strong connection to the buildings that fell, as someone who grew up in the city, my heart will always be there, even if I am away.

But being away came with a good dose of guilt. Guilt I wouldn’t feel again until this year (but more on that later). For years after, I heard the stories from friends and family of how they could see the smoke from across the river in New Jersey, how they ran and ran from the destruction, how they were trapped in subway cars for hours, how they thanked whatever God they worshipped or just plain luck for keeping them alive that day.

And I heard the stories of others who lost their parents, their children, their siblings, their partners and their friends. Every year, I hear a new one. As if to remind me of the magnitude of this loss.

Yet, I wasn’t there. I was away and safe. Still in New York state, but far enough to not be effected. I was in my college bubble. I suppose I could have gone down to Manhattan, gone down to help in the clean up and rebuilding efforts. I thought about it, but I never did. I don’t think I could handle it.

Maybe the universe wanted me away. Maybe I was being protected.

It’s funny how that works.

I felt the same thing this year.

When the Coronavirus started destroying New York City, a large part of me felt ashamed for not being there. While I was away my city-dwelling friends were recounting stories of overrun hospitals, loss of loved ones and constant fear. I felt awful being so far away and not able to share in that discomfort. But, I also missed the comraderie, the sense of community which brought the city together to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and get life back again. Because just like after 9/11, the city fought hard to rebuild and came back stronger.

New York City may seem a bleak and hopeless cause. As more and more people seek new life in the New York suburbs and beyond, one wonders what will become of this great city.

A few weeks ago, my husband and I went out to dinner in Manhattan with some friends. The Midtown streets we dined on were quiet save for a few boisterous twentysomethings attempting to have some semblance of a youth.

It would be easy to say Manhattan was done.

They said the same thing after September 11, 2001. In the aftermath, nobody thought Lower Manhattan, especially the areas surrounding the World Trade Center would ever again be a place of thriving business and tourism. Yet, almost 20 years later, Battery Park has become one of the best neighborhoods to live in, TriBeca grew into the destination for fine dining and business has returned to the World Trade Center.

Of course, the impact of the New Coronavirus is unique. People have adjusted to working from home and cramped apartments seem smaller than ever. People are venturing back to their old lives, but will it ever be normal again?

Probably not. But that’s OK. New York City will be forever changed, but it will always hold a special place in the hearts of all of us who love it despite all its flaws and hardships.

How parents can support our educators in these unprecedented times

Schools across the United States have begun the process of “opening” back up for students. In some areas this means full-time, in-person learning. In others, it means 100% remote learning. In others, it means some combination of the two. Some districts are already well into whatever learning method they chose, while others are still waiting to see what works best for them.

No matter where you live or what you plan on doing with your children this academic year, we can all agree our teachers, principals, special education staff and more are going to need a lot of help make the school experience as safe, effective and emotionally supportive as possible.

Reaching out to educators via my blog page as well as in my local parents group, I learned teachers are dedicated to helping students adapt to this “new normal.” They are working through their own worries to provide parents and students with the comfort they need heading back to school.

For parents sending their kids back into the school building, teachers advise getting those students familiar with new protocols BEFORE school begins. This means practicing mask wearing for extended periods of time, making sure younger children can perform tasks like zippering and opening containers by themselves, and keeping a positive attitude about the changes to the typical classroom experience.

Teachers also hope parents will be mindful of the risks of sending sick kids to school and keep them home if need be. They also asked that families limit travel outside their community/state to minimize exposure to COVID-19.

Families choosing remote options are reminded to give their kids plent of screen breaks and to keep mindfulness in the routine. Taking a few moments to breathe and reset can do wonders.

To help students adapt to virtual learning, Jill Herzberg Morgenstern, an educator with 13 years of classroom experience and current religious school teacher, offers this advice:

“Zoom with friends/family. Have them read stories to your children virtually to practice sitting and listening, taking turns talking, muting/unmuting. Hopefully the novelty of making faces in the camera and touching all the controls will wear off! Also talk to kids about internet safety and best practices. “

Morgenstern, who will be teaching virtually for at least part of the year, also encourages parents to do what she always encourages them to do: read books, have conversations and share meals together.

Parental attitude goes a long way, as several educators noted. Explaining the need for social distancing in a factual and supportive manner can go a long way in helping students, especially younger ones, adapt to new normals in the classroom.

With new health restrictions, teachers have to work even harder this year to create a supportive learning environment for their students. As we all know, many purchase their own classroom supplies and are greatly underfunded. Though it’s not a substitute for necessary reform, you can help ease some of the burden by purchasing teacher-requested items off of Amazon. This website has curated lists from around the country. Just click on the state and class you wish to help and you will be directed to an Amazon Wish List from which to purchase items. 

Whatever any of us decide, let’s keep our educators in our minds and hearts as we navigate these unchartered waters. With a little grace, patience, and understanding, we can get through this.

We should “social distance” more often

A few weeks ago, I asked my friend, fellow writer and environmental expert, Shannon Brescher Shea of We’ll Eat You Up We Love You So, how COVID-19 was impacting our world. Over Twitter, she shared with me how the factories closing in China had significantly reduced pollution in that nation and improved air quality. I’ve heard many there are starting to see stars in the night sky for the first time in ages.

It’s almost as if this Coronavirus pandemic has helped the planet get a much need breather and chance to recuperate.

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On a personal level, my family has driven far less these past couple of weeks, is spending more time exploring in our own yard/street, and simply doing “less.” I will admit, our use of paper and other consumables is up, but overall, I believe we and other families have reduced our carbon footprints in a big way.

The Earth isn’t the only thing getting a chance to breathe and recuperate.

We are as well.

Without my kids on their usual school schedule, I have been able to sleep in more, stress less about getting them ready, and been able to ease up on the usual regimen. I’ve enabled my children to take the lead on their own learning, and have been amazed with the results. My seven-year-old, for example, now spends a few hours a day writing and reading on his own, all without any prompting from me.

As a family, we are enjoying quieter, simpler activities together, no longer rushing from one activity to the next.

I have also witnessed a higher level of connection with friends and family. I find myself checking in (and being checked on) more than ever. As if, being forced apart has brought us even closer.

It’s nice. It’s necessary.

I wish it didn’t take a global illness to do it. Continue reading

It’s time to stop ‘boot-strapping’ parenthood

Scrolling through my Instagram feed the other day, I came across a video featuring a well-known motivational speaker, who this person is doesn’t matter, as the message shared is pretty much the same for the lot of them:

“I worked hard, came from nothing, did this all on my own, became successful, and you can too, if you just tried.”

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At face value, this is an encouraging sentiment, and provides us with that “can-do” attitude we need to achieve our dreams.

Yet. when we dig deeper, we find that success is never achieved in an isolated vacuum, and this message is dangerous no matter what you are pursuing, but it is especially true for parents — women and mothers in particular — who are taught we most work harder, better and smarter, with little or no help from society at large, because this is the American way.

Suck it up, pull up those proverbial “bootstraps,” and do what you gotta do.

This toxic message roots itself deep in our psyche and tells us that asking for help is a sign of weakness. Continue reading

For those days when you don’t feel thankful

With Thanksgiving this week, we tend to focus on gratitude, taking the time to appreciate our good fortune and express our thanks to family, friends, colleagues and, sometimes, a higher power.

This is the time of year for commercials that make us cry and Hallmark movies that make us swoon. We will read inspirational quotes plastered on our Facebook feeds, and share heartfelt videos reminding us of our many blessings. These lovely reminders will resonate with many of us. They will be enough to put a smile on our faces and joy in our hearts.

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For some of you, they may not.

Some of you may not be feeling all that “grateful.”

You may have lost a job.

Your relationship may have ended.

Your child may be suffering at school.

Your spouse might be ill.

Your pet may have died.

You may just be having a bad year.

Maybe there is no reason.

Whatever the reason — or lack thereof — it is OK to not feel thankful. When you sit around the dinner table Thursday, and people share what they are grateful for, it is OK to not answer, or to just excuse yourself during that part. You aren’t a bad person if you can’t find something. You are a human who is entitled to feel angry, sad, lonely or confused.

You don’t owe anyone a smile or pleasantries. You don’t need to “fake it.” You can just be.

Continue reading