Lucky Shot

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My last post was about deaths associated with Covid-19 vaccines. I also mentioned my pending first dose appointment, which is now behind me.

I have been reading Ontario news reports of “vaccine shopping” recently. Some reports point to some preference for Pfizer over Moderna, for example:

Vaccine shopping to avoid Moderna shot is ‘alarming,’ unnecessary and potentially harmful, doctors say.

The above article quotes a medical officer of health:

…the science behind how Moderna and Pfizer vaccines work to stop COVID-19 infections is almost identical.”

So far, many of my family members who have had first, and now second doses, got Moderna. All have fared well, so I felt very confident that it would be a good vaccine for me when my turn came.

I had read and became aware that some individuals might be allergic to components of the vaccines, but that severe reactions were rare. I have never had allergies, so I didn’t give it much concern or further investigation. But as my vaccine appointment approached, I started to review the information to prepare for it and any potential issues. I am not even sure how I came across the details about vaccine ingredients, but I was quite startled to read that there is a component (Trometamol) in Moderna that may also be used in contrast dyes for MRI scans. The only time I have had a allergic skin reaction was after an MRI scan. I had given consent to the use of a contrast dye to improve the scan results. It wasn’t a serious anaphylactic reaction, but I will have to report such if I ever have a MRI again. Further poking around on the internet led to some confirmed cases of allergic reactions to contrast dyes and the Moderna vaccine.

I certainly thought about turning down the vaccine if it was Moderna. I did get some good information and reassurance from my local health unit, but I wasn’t able to get confirmation which vaccine would be administered on the day of my appointment when I called the day before it. I knew that Pfizer vaccines had arrived in our region though. I decided to go ahead with it regardless, but it did weigh on me. It wasn’t long after I sat down for the shot that it was communicated to me, “You will be receiving the Pfizer vaccine today.” I admit that I felt tremendous relief and I explained that to the nurse. The rest of the experience and care at the vaccine clinic was excellent.

But enough about me. We can be so overloaded with information and not always get the clarification and confidence needed to make a decision. And we don’t always know what is behind someone putting off a decision or making a certain decision. I felt that I was informed enough, but was I?

Sacrifices

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I started writing this post before the AstraZeneca vaccine got a “pause” as a first dose in Ontario. I started the post because I was struggling with the news of a first death due to the Covid-19 vaccine. And since then, there have been a few more deaths in Canada related to the AstraZeneca (AZ) vaccine and blood clots.

***

After all we have been through and sacrificed since the pandemic started, I know that I can’t be okay with a single person dying because of the Covid-19 vaccines. Medical officials have attempted to reassure that there will always be some risks with vaccines and that the risk still remains low. If I lose a loved one because of the vaccine, I am not sure such reassurance will help me feel better. Hearing a political leader or famous person say they are 100% fine that they took a certain vaccine probably wouldn’t help my grief much either. Sure, we choose things in our lives on our own accord that pose various elements of risk and we can lose close ones to such, but I am not comfortable with those comparisons when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccines. These vaccines are supposed to reduce risk, prevent sickness, help us all live, help restore our lives and work, etc. We are told this. We are getting a sense that being vaccinated will lessen restrictions on our lives and that not being vaccinated could limit our choices and opportunities ahead, even though not mandatory… yet.

But no one should have to die taking it, whether to help themselves or the greater good — That is where I stand. If we are supposed to be okay with the “sacrificial lamb” kind of thing when we hear about deaths due to the Covid-19 vaccines, I don’t think I can be. Is anyone responsible for these deaths? Should anyone be? Who should apologize for bad outcomes?

I don’t have any expertise or theories in this — just writing from the heart. I have an appointment soon for the first dose of a vaccine and I want to be excited, but I still have some trepidation because that’s me, I suppose. The constant “unknowns” about this virus and now the vaccines can seem so heavy at times, but I will keep turning my thoughts to summer and beyond. I do hope that those who had “AZ” as a first dose will also navigate successfully ahead through the second dose phase. Let’s get through this!

Time is the…

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Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash

I stumbled upon this song and video recently: Time is a Killer. It features REM’s lead singer, Michael Stipe, so that might have been the draw for me, or the pandemic is drawing me to certain songs. The song is written and also sang by Rain Phoenix, River Phoenix’s sister. The song is likely a part of her healing from her loss. At first it seems a bit dark, but also soothing in a way. The lyrics start on a sad note and perhaps speak to some sad realities of our times too, but I was happy to take it all in. I ended up really appreciating the last few statements about time in the lyrics (below in bold). But, here are the lyrics from the beginning:

Everybody’s dying
To know
Where we go
When we die

Everybody’s crying
For those
Who go
Before their time

Time is the killer
Time is the killer
Time

Everybody’s lying
When we say
We are not
Afraid

Everybody is trying
So hard
To be
So brave

Time is the killer
Time is the killer
Time

Time is the killer
Time is the killer
Time

Time.

Everybody is blaming
The other
When things
Don’t go right

Everybody’s judging
Each other
And picking
Fights

Time is the killer
Time is the killer
Time is the mirror
Time is the healer
Time is the teacher

(Songwriters: Kirk Hellie / Rain Phoenix)

I have written thoughts about time inspired by a song before on this blog: Who Knows…?

Readers, feel free to share a song or quote that resonates with you about time.

Mask Productions

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**Moments after I finished this post today, the Ontario premier issued a mandatory mask order for the entire province.  (I didn’t think there were any regions without one, but I guess we will find out?)

Just some thoughts about masks — then, now, ahead …

I live in a region that has stayed relatively low in risk and cases of the Covid-19 virus so far.  I was a bit surprised that the mask order came for my city before July was through.  Some of the rationale from local health and elected officials included that it would be proactive and help normalize mask wearing before a second wave and the flu season.  There was also the suggestion that it was a good idea given more business openings in Ontario’s Stage 3.  I think there is also hope that mask wearing will reduce or prevent future lockdowns.  It was also done in respect to schools opening in Sept. and to help the reopening proceed for schools.

As October begins, NW Ontario covid-19 cases still remain low.  Mask orders are across the region now, with the Kenora area’s order in effect since the middle of August (regions in Manitoba just started issuing orders in Sept.).  It might be difficult to know for sure how preventative mask wearing has been.  In the spring, we were not advised to wear them.  Here in the north, we got through the “first wave” without a crisis, but it was very scary for a long time for many.  I still wondered about the “buy-in” for masks in our region though, but it seems generally supported now.  The “civilian mask wars” on social media were a bit too much, I thought, and I avoided participating in those “discussions” that started up in the summer.

I am sure mask wearing will be a thing for quite some time ahead — or at least until next spring?  I know this is a good thing to do and something we can do.  I also think it is okay to let someone vent about the discomfort of wearing one without, “Would you rather wear a ventilator?” kind of response.  Not everyone can wear one in temperature controlled settings and some have to wear them for many hours.  Even the local health unit and a mental health service provider advised us to be kind and not question why someone might not be wearing one.

I think I have a good system now for wearing a medical, disposable one or a cloth one, depending on what I am doing.  I still do worry about the volume of the single use ones and where they will end up.  I still get concerned if people are not cleaning and wearing them properly.  And, instead of wearing a mask when one can’t distance, it often seems like some are not distancing as much because they were wearing a mask.  I am not sure if we have to worry about a shortage of masks ahead.  Production of cloth ones have been taken up by many businesses, companies and individuals.  I am still surprised that they have become used to promote businesses, organizations and products!  Maybe I should have seen that coming.

There is so much that we didn’t see coming since the pandemic started.  I hope we can get through this pandemic soon and celebrate the day that all things covid-19 and masks are “behind us”, if they really can be at some point in time!  Staying hopeful.

Here I Am Again

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I have had mixed feelings about posting on this blog during a pandemic.  I no longer post regularly, so I wasn’t sure what would be appropriate.  I have done some personal writing as I often do to process events and clarify emotions, but nothing I would post online at this point.  Writing is important to me, but I think I will always remain shy about it — posted publicly or not.

I did appreciate Doug Peterson’s approach and nudge in his post, 10 Things I’ve learned.  Soon into this alarming COVID-19 situation, I said to my family, “We will probably learn a lot about ourselves and others, and the world.”  But then, this is all new territory to navigate and our emotions and behaviours will be confusing.  I shared a quote on Facebook recently (via @thereisgoodinstore) that resonated,

There is no right way to feel right now.”

I am trying to take one day at a time, one feeling at a time, and trying to reserve judgement of others in their own struggles.  The focus is often in the short term, as with many emergencies.  I still have moments that I wonder what we will learn about the virus, our communities, and our world.  Will we learn more compared to past pandemics?  What will change?  Will there be a lasting imprint?  Yet, preoccupation with my own life and health quickly takes over, as well as worry about family members.  This pandemic has overshadowed everything.

There will definitely be much learning.  There will also be mistakes — mistakes made because of fear and also out of love for our family.  This is only human, I believe.

I have been finding comfort in music a lot lately.  The title of this post is taken from the title of my first post to this blog, Here I Am.  I didn’t give proper mention/credit of that title at the time — it is also a title of a Melanie song.  The lyrics came to mind and really hit me this time:

Here I am, standin’ still
Knowin’ I’m not goin’ nowhere today
And maybe not tomorrow
No no, maybe not tomorrow
Maybe not tomorrow
But that’s okay …

Here I am, dear I am, standing still
With a lot of time to make a rhyme
And a lot of time to kill …

If you want to hear her sing the whole song:

 

Take care, everyone!

 

Minding the Children

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Whether it is the end of the school year or at the beginning, the posts on social media that poke fun about parents or teachers “handing off” the kids don’t always sit right with me.  Maybe they are just for a chuckle and mean no harm, but they often seem inappropriate to me.  Whether it is, “Tag, parents, you’re it!” in June or parents doing the happy dance posts on the first day of school, I am sure that both transitions are often bittersweet for those involved.  I am also not sure if such humour does much to support working relationships and respect between teachers and parents.  It doesn’t have to be about the teachers or parents, if the focus is on what students and children need from us — in and out of school and from our communities (it takes a village…).  I get it — sometimes teaching becomes parenting, and parenting is teaching.  If there is a sigh of relief about a break from either role, I don’t think it has to be jab in either direction.  Both roles are hard work.  Teachers and schools can have limitations in support, as do many families.  Communities may also vary in the support (of schools and families.)  Both teaching and parenting can be lonely and isolating.  The school year presents difficulties to parents, as well as the summer months. Playing in the community has changed for children and it can be hard to transition from the structure of school to the open-ended days of summer.  Many parents have to work and adjustments are plenty for the months the children are off school — regardless of work and family schedules.

Do I need to lighten up about this?  I would hope such “jokes” are really an expression of and/or a reaction to the lack of support that can be the case for each role.  If support improved (for parents, teachers and children), would such “handing off” jokes even be a thing?  I have to wonder…

Web Intentions

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I have been thinking about my experiences online and on social media in the past few years and what has impacted my experiences and participation.  There is a lot of pondering: “Is it just me, or is it the web?”; “Is it the world, or the web?”; “Have ‘things’ changed, or have I?”  Reading articles that touch on similar questions are helpful to sort out my thoughts and help me understand the shifts that may be occurring.  Others research it and articulate it better than I have been able to do.

Doug Peterson recently included a post by Bonnie Stewart in his weekly curation of Ontario Education blog posts and he wrote an additional post of his own in response to it, “Good and Bad“.

Bonnie’s post begins with:  “So. We need to talk about the web.”  It was encouraging to read about her thoughts on networks and the “participatory web”, and her plans to keep pushing change,

To try to counter misinformation, yes. But also to try to push for change, and for a more pro-social and humane digital space through three key ideas: complexity, cooperation, and contribution.”

In Doug’s post, he contrasted two examples of participation online and shared his thoughts on some changes he has experienced and made,

“The Bad” ended up sneaking its way into my circles and I don’t like it. Not liking it typically means getting out of that circle so that I don’t see more of it. It’s easily done. But, it bothers me that I have to do this in the first place.

Have we, as a society, become so hungry for attention that we search for the shock factor to get it?”

Doug’s question reminded me of some articles I had been reading to help answer similar questions.

What is getting rewarded now? What are we letting ourselves be drawn to, thus rewarding what gets posted online?  What influences what?

It is unsettling to me to read about “strategies” used by new performers, musicians, etc., to get the attention of an online audience.  For example, When Bad Behaviour Goes Viral.  A few points made in the article:

Bregoli is an example of what I’ve termed the “memeocracy,” a social media-based system that rewards people for attention-grabbing behavior rather than talent. Bregoli and those who have engineered her rise have hijacked a psychology that favors outrage over hard work.”

and,

These people aren’t good or bad themselves — they are simply a reflection of their time.”

But how sustaining is this approach to a career and/or fame?

It seems there may be an impact on music as well, based on a few studies:

Anger and Sadness Are On the Rise in Popular Music Lyrics

Unsettling if true:

Unfortunately, anger started to skyrocket in song lyrics as the 1980s were winding down and there was more and more anger every year from the 1990s till the end of compiled analytic data in 2016.”

Are we all less happy? Do ‘mean’ and angry sell better?  Is there something “emotional” going on?

This article brought my attention to a book that examined historical trends in views on boredom, self-expression and community, Bored Lonely Angry Stupid.  The article shares a transcript from an interview with the book’s author who is a cultural historian at a university in the U.S.  She refers to a very big, mainstream emotional style emerging.  The whole interview is good, but here are a few points that I found interesting:

  • We also saw people who talked about how they thought there was a connection between narcissism and anger; that people felt eager to get attention on the internet, and that having really strong and sometimes aggressive opinions on social media was one way to bring more business, more traffic to your tweet or to your update.
  • Of course, that’s not the only reason people get angry on the internet. I don’t want to minimize some of the socially momentous and just causes people are pursuing online, where anger is a very legitimate tool for social change.
  • We certainly don’t want to say it’s all due to technology. But there are some devices — whether it’s the 19th-century camera, the telephone, the radio, or the smartphone — that have reshaped Americans’ inner lives. These devices don’t do it alone, though.  Changing religious theologies are reinforcing these patterns. Changes in our capitalist economy are undergirding them, and these devices are both products of that culture and shapers of that culture. So it’s very much a reciprocal process; technology is a driver, but it’s not the only driver.
  • I really do believe emotions change over time, not just because of technology but as a result of a whole set of cultural and economic changes. Yes, we have more tools with which to express ourselves, but we have new feelings to express that are distinctive to our time and place. Emotions don’t just hold steady and get expressed through new devices. Devices transform them — teach us new habits, nurture new expectations, and model new behaviors, too.

So, I don’t know… I used to write a lot on this blog hopeful of more positive outcomes of networks, social media and new communication technologies.  Will it just be a continual adjusting for the “bad and the ugly” in order to focus on the good?  Not that everyone agrees on what is bad and what is good…. it is certainly complicated.

And I am all for some melancholy in the music, but I have my limits there too.

 

 

Re-Purpose – Part 2

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I didn’t plan to think and write so much about purpose, but I keep coming across interesting related reading so I pick up the thread again…. (“Part 1” here)

An HBR article, You Don’t Find Your Purpose — You Build It, discussed 3 misconceptions about finding purpose in life and each one presents good reminders.  I liked the message that our lives will have multiple sources of purpose that will also provide multiple sources of meaning to our lives.

I read another article that lists 11 myths about finding your purpose.  The author posted a subsequent follow up article that lists 11 Ways to Know When You’ve Found Your Purpose.  I found this statement from the list somewhat encouraging,

And when you find your purpose, when you find the thing that you’ve been preparing for your whole life, you will look back and realize it wasn’t a waste of your time and effort at all.”

Maybe many people are doing “the work” of finding purpose without realizing and without any pressure or stress.  Do we dwell on it too much?  Is it “oversold”?  At what age do we start to worry about our life’s purpose? At what age should we?  How many different stages or repurposes are there in a lifetime?

I thought this was a good article for parents with teens and young adults, Adolescence and Repurposing One’s Life.  I hadn’t thought about stages of growth and independence in terms of a “repurposing” before.  From the article,

So, at both the outset and end of adolescence, interest, meaning, direction, and challenge may need to be altered to redefine and reinvigorate sense of purpose for the next leg of the journey through life.”

With recent news again of another mass shooting at a school, it leaves me with many questions about how an individual may come to believe that their purpose includes such violence.  Complicated and very sad.

I have noticed that the words meaning and purpose are often used interchangeably in regards to one’s life and choices.  I found this 11 min. video thought-provoking about the past and the future:  30000 Days – Living Life with Meaning & Purpose.

I welcome your thoughts on my questions, or links to other related reading on this topic.

Not in Kansas…

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I am extending a conversation started by Lisa Noble on her blog and a response by Doug Peterson on his blog.  Both posts have further comments and responses that extend this “not in Kansas anymore” theme.  I think the conversation is a good one in light of the many on-going discussions about “kids these days” and the concerns about their resilience, independence, and mental health.

Lisa, through her post, reflects on past experiences and travels away from family and compares them to the context of today with technology impacting those experiences and the connections made with others.  Her “not in Kansas anymore” experience (I will refer to it as NIKA from here on in) was a continent away from her family.  Doug’s “NIKA” experience was his time away at university.

I think many of us can recall our own “NIKA” moment:

From Lisa’s post,

That “out here on my own” thing we were all experiencing together, with no opportunity for helicopter parenting – no cell phones, no e-mail, no Skype or FaceTime. I sent a couple of postcards, but my parents were very far away – literally and metaphorically.”

Lisa’s questions:

What was that defining experience for you – when you knew that you weren’t in Kansas anymore, and that you were okay with that? Who were the people you shared it with? Are they still part of your world?”

And also,

Do those opportunities still exist for our students and our children in this ultra-connected world? Do we encourage our students and kids to take them, and then get out of the way? How might the technology that enriches our lives be getting in the way of this kind of adventure? How do we help our parent/teacher selves let go?”

Doug shared about two NIKA experiences in his post — away at university and later returning to his home that had changed.  This part made me giggle, but well said,

No matter how tired and tough the day was, we had to cook and clean or go without.  How can people live like this?  And raise kids?  My parents were saints.”

Doug answered the rest of Lisa’s questions on his post with references to current issues of travel and added this point about technology,

Why wouldn’t we use the available technology to ensure a certain level of safety or, in this day of the selfie, fully document the experience?”

It all got me reflecting on my past and now my children’s lives.  I will extend the discussion to a parent perspective as well.

I had a few school trips away from my parents:  3 nights in a cabin for outdoor education in Gr. 6, a trip to Toronto in Gr. 8, and a trip to BC for about a week in Gr. 11.  I have no idea what my parents worried about, but I am sure they did.  I don’t recall having much worry or apprehension about the trips and I only have memories of the fun.  Maybe such shorter trips also help parents prepare for even more natural separation that will occur as their children grow and mature.  I am trying to imagine what it would have been like for my parents — there would be no contact from me and if there was, it would be an emergency or for a serious reason.  As a parent now, I haven’t had to go through that with my own children.  They haven’t had that many trips away, but texting easily provided assurance and helped put worries aside for all.  But do we come to rely on that too much?

Like Doug, my own NIKA defining moment would have been going to a different city for university.  I don’t think I thanked my parents enough for driving 2 full days to drop off their youngest in a city they had never been to (not to mention their drive back to an empty nest).  I was eager and felt ready for the experience (did Gr. 13/being 19 help?), so I don’t recall too much sadness on my part.  My contact ahead with my parents would be letters in the mail and usually a phone call on Sunday nights (cheaper after 6 pm 🙂 )  I did get a landline in my residence room and my phone cord would stretch into my closet to get some privacy from my roommate.

And so, for Lisa’s question, I was okay with this defining experience — no regrets.  As for people who I shared it with, some connections have faded away.  Two close friends from my program travelled to my northern hometown for my wedding a few years after graduation.  Unfortunately, I have kept contact with only one of them over the years (Christmas cards, Facebook.)

Fast forward 30+ years to the experiences of my own grown children away for school in other cities.  We often have discussions about the impacts of communication technologies and the many differences of life experiences — then and now.  The capacity now to stay in touch is great, but it can also feel like “too much” at times.  It also sets us up in a way, as now when a check in or confirmation isn’t received by text, it can be easy to worry the worst.  The convenience of technology to stay in touch can ease worries and create them!

I believe that the some NIKA experiences can help independence, maturity, and confidence.  Families will “scaffold” supports in different ways for each child, with or without technology.  Ideally, I think it would be good to have a few NIKA experiences during a time when one knows that they can return to “Kansas” as they knew it.  Life and hometowns can change fast.  Similar to Doug, I recall how I struggled with my parents selling our family home while I was away for my 4th year of university.

I haven’t really come up with any definitive opinions about “today’s” NIKA experiences vs. the past, but I suppose there are many ways to nudge the independence of children, teens, and young adults.  The process will have its discomforts for parents as well, but the confidence building and letting go can go both ways.

Whenever I came to write a bit more on this topic, I would find myself humming the song by Melanie called Kansas.  I found a cool video created for the song.  As the description says, “Trippy little rocker…”.

Memory matters

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Sad, but true, I finally finished a novel this past summer that I had started reading the previous summer.  I have read most of John Irving’s novels, so I was determined to finish: In One Person.  (From a New York Times review:  “In One Person is a story about memory.”)  I can always count on Irving’s stories and characters to make me think deeply and differently about social justice and issues.  After I finish his novels, there are always a few lines or passages that stick with me.

The main character of In One Person eventually becomes a writer.  Written in the first person, this character quotes some of his own writing and thoughts on growing up (p. 259-260):

That moment when you are tired of being treated like a child – tired of adolescence, too – that suddenly opening but quickly closing passage, when you irreversibly want to grow up, is a dangerous time.”

Ambition robs you of your childhood. The moment you want to become an adult – in any way – something in your childhood dies.”

This bit about memory also lingered with me:

Your memory is a monster; you forget – it doesn’t. It simply files things away; it keeps things for you, or hides things from you. Your memory summons things to your recall with a will of its own. You imagine you have a memory, but your memory has you!”

It is an interesting reminder to me that while growing up is desired and (mostly) inevitable, it can come with a sense of loss.  We have our memories, but maybe some of the forgetting is important in the process of letting go of our childhood and becoming an adult.  Why do we remember certain things and forget other things from our past?  I have about a handful of experiences that I can recall from early childhood, a lot more as an older child, and so on.  It is interesting to think about the early memories that I have retained to this day, and yet they might also be forgotten one day.  I value the different things my memory has helped me with, but it is easy to take it for granted.

I know that memory is extensively researched and continues to be.  There are so many interesting aspects of memory to wonder (and worry!) about.  It intersects with the understanding of cognition, learning, aging, etc.  I recently read the article, Our Memory Quirks:  Are They for Us or against Us?  The author reviews a book about memory research and shares some good points to consider. For example:

False memory research, especially, should concern us in an era in which leaders often lie and fake news has flooded social media.”

And also,

Although some researchers suggest that education might evolve toward critical thinking skills over information memorization, in fact, there is a need for both. Critical reasoning doesn’t work on its own.”

I wonder if collaborative online sites like Wikipedia will become even more important in verifying facts ahead. Check out:  Once Reviled in Education, Wikipedia Now Embraced by Many Professors.

Does our memory have us, or are there things we should do (or should not do) to help memory (short term and long term)?  A very recent study by the University of Waterloo (Ontario), for example, found that reading information aloud improves memory.

I know that I should finish novels in a shorter time!

 

 

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