Thursday, July 23, 2020

Brown paper packages tied up with string...

Last month we got a package from Hawaii and my kids took it and sniffed it and said they smelled sand and sun and seaweed. All I could smell was...cardboard...but I suppose I'm lacking imagination in my old age. We do all wish we could go to the beach, but we're simply not sure how to make that happen right now when the beaches are so crowded and sharing spaces (even campground bathrooms) seems particularly scary. And so we're staying put.

But my brother Patrick sent us some lovely tropical goodies from Hawaii. To celebrate Benjamin's baptism, Patrick sent a box of special chocolates. Benjamin opened them and ate one and then hid his box. Then he found his box, ate one, and hid his box in a new place. Then he found the box again, ate one, and hid the box again in a different place. He repeated this throughout the day until he'd consumed his box of chocolates (and had hidden it in 8 or 10 or 12 different places (I never got a good look at the box so I'm not sure how many pieces were in it)).

Patrick also slipped in a package of "Coconut Macaroon Macadamias," which I just polished off the other day. They were my birthday present so I didn't share them with anybody, but that was alright because there was also a package of chocolate-covered macadamias, which everyone else got to enjoy (I believe there are still some in the pantry, as a matter of fact).

Then Josie texted me the other day to ask for our address and after I told her she sent a message that said, "Be on the look out for a non-threatening box of chalk and a book."

Well, the book arrived today and it's a good thing I knew it had come from Josie because the title wasn't all that innocuous after all! It was called ILLEGAL. And it looked like it would be right up Benjamin's alley. I recently picked up A Long Walk to Water by Linda Sue Park, and after reading it thought Benjamin would enjoy it (I enjoyed it, too, but wish it had been a little more, though I realize the audience was middle grade so I guess the watered-down feel of it was appropriate) so I handed it to him and he loved it.

He loved how the storylines danced together throughout the book before colliding at the end.

"I want another story like this one!" he said.

So I handed him Refugee by Alan Gratz. That book is taking him a little longer to get through, but he's really enjoying it as well (though he does wish each character was typeset in a different font, as they were in A Long Walk to Water (he has mentioned this to me at least a dozen times)).

I ordered another one of Alan Gratz's books, which should come...sometime (you never can be sure with used books)...and in the meantime I had been wondering what to hand to him when he was finished with Refugee. But I didn't have to worry when Josie's package arrived because when Benjamin saw it we both knew he'd love it.

"It's another story about a refugee," I said. "And it goes back and forth between past and present. I think you'll really like it."

I read it while he was making "skip counting" squares on the driveway (he's learning how to skip count but it's slow going so I've made him write out little step stones with the numbers on them so he can say them as he hops: 7-14-21-28-15... It's how he (finally) learned to say the alphabet, so I'm hoping the movement will help him solidify his numbers, as well).

"It's a comic book!" he squealed with joy.

A graphic novel, some might say.

I can't find this story anywhere on the blog (though I distinctly remember writing about it (and have alluded to it more than once)), which really is a shame because I can't quite think of the exact beginnings of the story. In fact, now I think the story is two stories, which almost makes it funnier.

In one scenario, I remember recommending My Persepolis to Grandpa. And I say something like, "It's so good. It's a graphic novel about..."

And Grandpa was like, "Whoa—hold it right there. Graphic novel!?"

"Yeah," I answered nonchalantly. "It's bout a girl who grows up in Iran during the..."

"Wait. Graphic novel?" He repeated his question very seriously.

"Yeah, like a...comic book..." I offered.

"Oh!" he sighed in relief. "I thought you meant, like, an adult book."

"Goodness, no! A comic book!"

That scenario would have taken place years ago (either in our Cairo or Durham days when Grandpa was out for a visit), if it did happen, which I think it may have. The last scenario, then, occurred several years later shortly after we moved to Spanish Fork and I had taken the kids to get library cards and explore the (meagre) collection (they're planning on building a new library and I'm so excited for that community even though I'm not likely to ever use it). Anyway, despite the obviously holes in their collection (they had one shelf of non-fiction books in the children's, they had a whole wall of graphic novels!

So I came home from the library and was talking about things we were excited about and things we weren't so happy about (like the 10-item limit for our family for the first three months...ummm...hi, I'm going to need to check out more than ten items and three months is practically a lifetime) and I said, "Oh, and they had a whole wall of graphic novels!"

Grandpa, once again, was completely shocked. Like, if he had been drinking something he would have spat it out for sure. There would have been water everywhere.

"And you're happy about that?" he asked.

"Sure," I said. "I mean, they're maybe not the best of literature, in my opinion, but they're great for reluctant readers and..."

"Wait," he said. "And by graphic novel you mean..."

"A novel that is told in comic book format..."

"Oh," Grandpa sighed. "I thought you meant..."

"Adult books?" I said. "Yeah, no. Not that kind of graphic."

So, yes. Illegal is a graphic novel about a young boy traveling from Africa to Europe, and it was a very touching tale. I wished that it had been true. I mean, except for the tragic parts, I suppose (which...were plentiful), but although it's based on reality in general, the main characters are all fictitious. I guess I just wish it was autobiographical, truly. I mean, Andrew Donkin wrote Artemis Fowl (which I've never read but which is famous) and this was good, so he's good at what he does. But I just kind of wishing all along that the story had actually been told to me by someone who knew how it felt to be an outcast from their own society and their chosen society, rather than the way some white person imagined it. But, it was still a beautiful story and you should definitely read it!

All this talk has me really missing the library. It's open now (it opened on my birthday!) and I've thought about going but I just haven't been able to bring myself to go. And I could also put books on hold for their drive-thru services, but I'm a little nervous even to do that. So we just haven't been to the library since, literally, March, and that seems like forever and a day! And I'm not quite sure how I'm going to make it through the school year without the library, but I also know that I'm more of a browsing person when it comes to libraries. Like, I enjoy going through the stacks and oooohhing and aaaahhhing over the books. Doing a drive-thru kind of takes all the joy out of it...and yet we need books to run a good homeschool, honestly.

Guys, are you ready for another COVID rant? Great! So am I!

Thinks are crazy out there. Our school district has now moved to be completely online when school starts up the second week of August (not that it matters for us now that we're all in this homeschooling boat together) and Georgia is floating the idea of pushing the start of the school year into September so that start date might not even happen (it was originally supposed to be the first week of August). Hospitals are filling up all over the place, case numbers and deaths are rising, and yet still the idea of needing to open things up and return to "normal life" is rampant.

Over the entire course of the flu season (in 7 months—the end of September into May), 18 people ages 18–49 died (check out 2020's week 20 influence report). Over the course of 4/4.5 months (March through the present (July)), 222 people ages 18–49 have died from COVID-19. That's like twelve times as many people (in half the amount of time)!

94 deaths from the flu (total) compared to 3335 COVID deaths (total). 35 times the number of deaths from the flu!

I just can't jump back into society. But, the good news is that even my friends who were so staunchly opposed to any sort of shutdown back in March have cooled their jets and is relatively supportive of schools not opening in-person in the fall. One particularly vocal friend is disappointed but understands that it's in everyone's best interest. And I was shocked (but happy) to hear that.

My heart is so, so heavy that it has taken so many deaths for people to start to realize that this virus is a thing that could affect them, their family, their friends and loved ones.

Any sort of non-essential trip feels...superfluous. The library? Not worth it.

Oh, how about the baptism that is happening this weekend where they are allowing people to attend?! A limited number, sure, but likely more than we were allowed (we were allowed 10 and had 9: Our family of seven, the bishop, and the primary president) since they are a family of at least 5, plus I know they have grandparents in the area, plus...however many else. We'll be tuning in online.

I'm not jealous that they will have people there. I am confused that it's allowed at this point. I realize that we are learning more about the disease and how to limit transmission (with masks but...more importantly with distance) but I simply don't understand how we weren't allowed to invite anyone beyond our immediate family and they are!

There were 738 cases reported in Georgia on June 6.

There were 3314 cases reported in Georgia today (July 22).

Transmission is very clearly up since June, not down...schools are all remaining closed...and yet we're making plans for returning to church...when we can very easily continue worshipping at home as we have been? I just am floored by that reasoning.

I assure you that when we can safely gather people will want to gather. I just don't think it's safe to gather, like, tomorrow (so I'll be skipping out on that Relief Society get-together). It's hard. I get it. It's hard. But if we don't do it... If we don't make an effort to get this thing under control, we...won't. I think we've already proven that it won't just go away "like a miracle." We have to...actually do something. We might have to sacrifice some comforts; we might have to suffer (like such as having schools open online rather than in-person).

Honestly, if we had all just done these things when it first became a problem we wouldn't still be faced with having to do them! Our kids might have been returning to school. If we had only banded together and put aside our frivolous wants for the good of society at large.

Yet here we are...


  1. Colleen said she hopes this doesn't last as long as the flu epidemic of 1918-1919 did. 15 months, 1/3 of the population of the world had it. I kind of think that we will be lucky if it is only 15 months. I think there is about zero chance it will be shorter than 15 months.

    1. I am with you. This is a long haul thing for sure.

  2. The first graphic novel incident was when you guys came to SLC for Christmas when we lived in the Day Break house. I have the sneaking suspicion you are a donkey on the edge with your fascination of graphic novels. The name still scares me.