Why Do We Social Media?

One of our next-door neighbors doesn’t talk to the GalPal and me. I understand her not talking to me, but the GalPal, come on, she is as friendly as they come.

The couple who sold to us told us that would be the case, which helps not taking it personally. But man, it’s odd. Especially when Ms. NextDoor posts on-line about ordinary, face-to-face stuff. For example, this weekend she broadcasted to the whole neighborhood, plus surrounding ones I think, that her college aged sons were temporarily moving home, as well as other extended family, so she wanted everyone to know more cars will be coming and going. The kind of thing you’d say when bumping into a neighbor on a walk.

But so far, 4.5 years in, I’ve never seen her take a walk. But what do I know, maybe she has a treadmill in her crib and is running 10 miles a day. But I digress.

Alas, I prob have a log in my own eye. I just left a comment on a Facebook Group page called “Saving Guilford College”, the small Quaker liberal arts college in Greensboro, NC where I taught previously. I wrote the following in response to a post from a woman about her deceased husband, my former colleague. She wrote that when he was near death in the hospital he said, “Guilford College killed me.” That got my hackles up. So obviously a delicate sitch. You can decide for yourself how well I balanced respect for her and her family with my frustration at his lack of personal responsibility.

“I was a down-the-hall colleague of Bill’s from 93-98 (Education Studies). He was always super nice and clearly good at what he did. I’m very sorry he didn’t get to enjoy a post-work life with you and the rest of your family. However, respectfully, I don’t understand his contention that Guilford killed him. College professors have lots of autonomy over exactly how hard they work and for how long.”

Was that a wise investment of time? Did I make the world a better place by getting that off my chest? No and no, and yet, I couldn’t help myself. My excuse is I’m supposed to be reading students’ papers today which always gives rise to world class procrastinating. And yes, I’ve already vacuumed. 

Now I’m afraid to open FaceBook to see the probable backlash. What’s keeping me from quitting Facebook? 

How Long Will We Slight The Social-Emotional Costs Of On-Line Learning?

Thursday, First Year Writing, The Morken Building 131, the first in-person class of the academic year. Students take turns summarizing their first papers about whether one needs, as a Stoic philosopher we read argues, a coherent philosophy of life and a “grand goal of living” to avoid squandering one’s life. They’re smart, so they push back at the suggestion one can neatly plan their life. They talk about some things being outside of our control, like viruses.

If not a coherent philosophy of life, what about guiding principles I wonder. And if so, which ones? They’re not quite ready for subtly, nuance, ambiguity, complexity. That’s why college is four years long. For now at least, I keep those thoughts to myself and just listen.

One student says her mother died in February. Not expecting that, I loose track of what follows, wondering how she died and what would it be like to lose your mom at 17 or 18. She says doing well in school doesn’t matter as much as it did previously.

The students, many who say they struggle with anxiety, have never enjoyed going to class more. Not because of the doofus facilitating things, because they’re famished for friendship. Flat out famished. They linger afterwards, partly to disinfect the tables, but mostly to extend our shared sense of normalcy as long as possible.

The student whose mother died walks up to the front to talk to me. Through my mask I thank her for having the courage to share that news and gently inquire about her mother’s passing. She tells me her mother chose “Death With Dignity” after a lifetime of being severely disabled. And she wanted me to know the paper was really challenging to write, but my sense was, not in a bad way, in an important way. I think it caused her to grieve her mother in a way she hadn’t. She ended up writing her mother a letter and using parts of it to begin her paper.

For those few moments, as her classmates slowly filed out of the room in small groups, she and I shared a human connection that superseded our teacher-student identities. I saw her and heard her in a way that’s utterly impossible on-line.

I am all in on the scientific consensus regarding masks, social distancing, maximizing time outdoors, and washing hands. I am comfortable enough returning to the classroom because my university has done an excellent job preparing for as safe as possible a return to in-person classes. I will not help politicize this public health crisis.

What follows is a non-partisan question, my reference point is the social-emotional health of young people.

If we don’t begin implementing “blended” or “hybrid” teaching methods soon, with at least some in-person instruction, what are the social and emotional costs to friendless students who are not being seen or heard in any kind of meaningful way?

Wednesday Required Reading

1. Canceled Races Aren’t Stopping Endurance Athletes From Setting Wild New Records. I’ve been lethargic lately, postponing and/or bagging workouts altogether. Maybe I should try to take one of these records down, but which one? Wonderland in 18 hours? With the help of an electric mtb.

2. Is Your Blood Sugar Undermining Your Workouts? Uh, maybe that’s my problem seeing that I’ve been hitting Costco’s cakes hard all summer.

3. Garmin reportedly paid multimillion-dollar ransom after suffering cyberattack.

4A. Liberty University Poured Millions Into Sports. Now Its Black Athletes Are Leaving. 4B. Photo appears to show Jerry Falwell Jr. with zipper down and arm around a woman. I recommend college presidents, to the best of their abilities, keep their zippers out of the news.

5. Shira Haas of ‘Unorthodox’ on Sharing the Joys of Her First Emmy Nod. I dare you to try to watch Unorthodox’s four episodes over four days.

6. Make Pizza … On Your Grill. Then invite me over.

Best And Worst Countries To Raise A Family

Top 35 according to a Los Angeles based travel website.

Two stories, one related to #5, and the other, #34. A year or so ago, one of my favorite PLU students from the early years reconnected with me via Zuck’s monopoly.* Her family had recently moved from London to Luxembourg. She posted this little Lux missive yesterday.

“Since the late 1300s they (Luxembourgers) have held a Fun Fair called Schuberfour down the road from us, in light of Covid it was cancelled. Instead they put up small carnival rides all over the city for the kids to enjoy for free. The bumper cars happen to be a 7 minute walk from our house. They also set up a drive in movie theatre where we were able to enjoy Back to the Future with the kids.”

Seven hundred year old fair, LOL. And walkable bumper cars is very tough to compete with.

Shifting gears to #34. Our church’s brand new pastor, who is in his early 30’s is leaving after one year. One of the primary reasons. . . his family can’t afford housing on his pastor’s salary. And Olympia is less expensive than Tacoma which is less expensive than Seattle. Reminds me of the personal finance retirement advice I often read when the topic is pre-medicare medical insurance, consider moving to another country.

* Teachers often have fav students. The statue of limitations of admitting SF was one of mine has long passed.

“I Never Told My Father I Was Proud of Him”

Maureen Dowd, “Good Cops, Bad Cops”.

Going against type, Dowd plays it straight. And the result is moving.

“As we rein in and reimagine how a police force should work, we should avoid that word ‘all’.”

If you’re fortunate enough to have a kind and caring dad in your life, avoid Dowd’s mistake of waiting far too long to express your own particular appreciation.

Not For Sale

These are strange days. The Good Wife kicks off most with an early morning walk through the hood, visiting assorted animals, and then stopping at Jim’s at the end to pick wild flowers.

We never met Jim, who lived two houses away, he died before we moved in, but his story lives. He was generous to a fault, much more committed to caring for others than himself, which explains his dilapidated home that’s now owned by some bank. Like Jim, his yard keeps giving even in its natural state, especially in its natural state—apples, pears, and amazing flowers.

The GalPal should’ve been a florist because she is a natural at arranging flowers. And they bring her incredible joy. She just beams at them. I’ve tried talking her into setting up a table out front where she could sell her bouquets to passersby so that I could buy more raspberry chocolate gelato as the weather warms, but she has no interest in homegrown laissez faire capitalism.

Probably because she studied abroad in Sweden in college. Whatever the reason, do not look to her to jumpstart our moribund economy. But by all means, do look to her for natural beauty.

IMG_0913.jpg

My Republican Friends Are Right

They tell me life is filled with risks. People die all the time from lots of different things. So why shutdown the economy over a stinkin’ virus.

I didn’t realize their amazing insight until today when I hit the yard HARD. Trimmed trees and bushes. Mowed. Edged. Blowed. Don’t hate me because the place looks so good.

Some of the bushes are twice my height necessitating a ladder. When working on parts of the bushes, I don’t have sufficient space to spread the legs properly so I simply lean the ladder against the bush. “Friends” who sometimes call me Slip because of my propensity to fall while running on ice in the winter, know where this is going. At one point, a bush I was leaning too heavily against gave out and TIMBER! Somehow I survived the fall but not without scaring The Good Wife who came running from the house fretting who she’d get to trim the bushes next year.

A little rain and lasagna later, I was mowing the steep short hill in the backyard overlooking the Salish Sea. Surprise, surprise, I slipped, this time going down faster than a Porsche Taycan. Total yard sale. Somehow, like an elite cowboy, I held on to the mower keeping it from disappearing over the bluff. And even though no one was watching, I immediately bounced up like Marshawn Lynch after a hard tackle.

Fast forward four hours. I thought I was done with dinner, but The Gal Pal requested “one more egg”. Well, of course, but plugging the cord back into the skillet is hard ya’ll. Burned my middle finger. I’d show you a picture, but I respect you too much.

The plan from here is to watch a little t.v., read in the tub, and ever so slowly climb into bed to fight another day. On second thought, the tub requires two big steps, so maybe a shower.

 

 

Sometimes I Amaze Myself

Of the many athletic accomplishments in my life, and a pending ESPN documentary tentatively titled “Wonderbread” will detail them for history’s sake, I might be most proud of my winter 1982 feat.

In mid-December 1982, on break from school in SoCal, I flew to Tampa Bay to visit my parents who had recently moved there.

When I arrived on December 19th, my dad informed me he and I were going to that afternoon’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers NFL game against the Buffalo Bills, a 24-23 win for the home team which is now trending for some reason(s).

A week later, pops came through again with tickets to the Lions game, a 23-21 win. And a week later, a day before my return to the Left Coast, the ticket trifecta, a 26-23 OT win over da’ Bears.

1982 was a strike shortened season, 9 total games, 5 home, 4 away. I was in town for 15 days and saw over half the Buc’s home games.

Pick your parents well.

Screen Shot 2020-04-22 at 2.24.02 PM.png

 

Book of the Week—Geezerball

I’m on a nice little reading roll, meaning a book a week. This week I cheated though when I subbed in a fun, short read, for a long, dryish, academic one that I was plodding through.

Geezerball: North Carolina Basketball at its Eldest (Sort of a Memoir) by Richie Zweigenhaft tells the story of the Guilford College noon pickup basketball game that I played in between 1993-1998 when I taught at the “small Quaker college”. The game is 44 years old and counting and some of the participants have been playing most or all of those years. One of the game’s mottos is “You don’t stop playing because you grow old; you grow old because you stop playing.”

Richie, also known as “The Commissioner” is an accomplished author of several books on diversity in the American power structure. Now 75 years young, he’s the glue that’s held the game together over the decades.

Geezerball prompted a lot of reminiscing about those years and reflection on what’s most important in life. I remember 11 of the 29 players on the current geezer email list which is pretty remarkable given how bad I am with names. It also speaks to the game’s stability and what demographers have been telling us for awhile—that Americans aren’t moving nearly as much as in the past.

The game combines two of the very few things upon which most medical doctors and social scientists respectively agree—the importance of exercise to our physical health and the importance of close interpersonal relationships to our mental health.

“My wife says she expects to get a call one day saying I’ve died on the basketball court,” one geezer writes in the book. “If that happens, she’ll know I died happy.” In actuality, the game is probably extending the life of the participants. Even more importantly, it’s adding tremendously to the quality of their lives. Their friendships, and the humor that marks their interactions, are testaments to the power of community.

Among other remarkable aspects of the game is the fact that nearly all the participants are men. As a runner, I can’t help but notice more women running together; like the geezers, strengthening their bodies, their hearts, and their minds simultaneously. Same with the Gal Pal and her girlfriends who go on long walks every Saturday morning while catching up on the week’s events. I don’t know if it’s true, but it seems like men are more prone than women to prioritize their work lives, often to their own detriment. Given that, I find it inspiring that a dozen men in Greensboro, NC have been defying that norm every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday for 44 years.

The sort of memoir reminded me of exactly how cool of an addendum the game is to the participants’ lives. But now, upon further thought, I can’t help but wonder if when those men near the end of their lives, they’ll think of the game as one of the most essential parts of their lives, and their work as more of an addendum. Meaning, what if we all have it backwards? What if the GalPal’s Saturday morning walks, my Saturday morning group runs, my Tuesday and Thursday night group rides are the core and everything else is the periphery?

This line of thinking may be just one more example of my economic privilege at work, but I can’t help but wonder what would happen if we organized our lives around Geezerball-like communities, where we prioritized movement and friendship over material wealth and status? Put another way, how much is enough? When it comes to work hours and money, there’s always a point of diminishing returns. At a certain point, more work means more impoverished relationships with family and friends.

In contrast, when it comes to walking, running, cycling, swimming, surfing, or playing basketball or golf with friends, there is no point of diminishing returns. Our physical and mental health just keep improving. Our entire well-being. That’s the lesson of Geezerball.

download.jpg