However you’re coping is fine

So. How are you?

Staring at the walls? Stress baking? Getting work done while your kids grumble their way through online assignments and your cat attacks the back of your desk chair? (Okay, that one’s me.)

Whatever you’re doing is fine.


Someone has been leaving rocks with sweet messages along our local walking path.

It’s okay to be upset. Especially if, like me, you already know someone who’s died from the coronavirus. I didn’t know him well—we worked together briefly—but I worked with his wife for years. Both wonderful people, by all accounts, and this is awful.

It’s okay to be completely non-productive and let the kids stare at screens a little more.

It’s okay to work in your pajamas. Or in a fancy dress. Or in a three-piece suit and slippers if that’s your thing.

It’s okay to write, or draw, or create in whatever way you want if you’re up for it. It’s also okay if you’re not up for it and you’d rather lie on the couch and watch “Star Trek.” (This week, I’ve done both.)

It’s okay to take walks. Please take walks. Wave hello to people from a distance.

It’s okay to acknowledge that these are scary times and we’re trying to get through them as best we can, without getting sick or making other people sick.

Stay safe, wash your hands, enjoy the sunshine even if it’s only through your kitchen window.


P.S. It’s not okay to get all your news through social media. Many newspapers are currently making their coronavirus coverage free to non-subscribers. If you think they’re doing a good job, please consider subscribing.

Yes, the jokes matter

Exercise class had just begun and some of the other students were joking about how this was the “slow” class, because we’re mostly newbies. Uh-oh, I thought, already seeing where this was going.

Sure enough, a few students made the “we’re the special class” joke, and then another one said it: “They’ll have to send the short bus.”

“My son used to ride that bus,” I said quietly. “Can you not make that joke?”

Someone muttered an apology. “Thanks,” I said, and let it drop.

I have no idea whether the other students respected my stance and felt at all bad about their “jokes,” or whether they waited for me to leave so they could complain about blah blah political correctness and you can’t say anything anymore and it was fine to make these jokes when we were kids and how come everybody’s so sensitive now?

Now, I don’t totally expect people of, let’s say certain generations to understand how the ground has shifted around them. Yep, it sure was okay to make those jokes when they were kids. I heard those jokes when I was a kid.

But it was never okay.

I’ll repeat: It was NEVER OKAY.

It’s just that people didn’t think the feelings of special needs kids mattered then. Or that special needs kids mattered, period.

My son is 12, and he knows he’s not like the other kids. They laugh at him. And if he ever heard an adult making those jokes, it would crush him.

He’s not required to “toughen up” so the people around him get to keep being jerks without consequence. The people around him need to not be jerks.

I say this as a kidlit writer, and as a parent. What we pass on to the next generation matters. That includes what we joke about, and how, and what that shows about whether we respect the other person.

If people are serious about wanting to change the mental health problem in our country, if they at all agree that we need to raise awareness, it’s not enough to say, “Well, I don’t make those jokes.” They also shouldn’t stand by while someone else makes those jokes.

If someone is saying something mean, or crude or obnoxious, about another person or group of people whose great offense is being different from them—if they’re punching down, as the saying goes—anyone listening has the power to stop it. Anyone listening. Because nothing changes unless we stand up for each other, and look out for each other.

You want to joke around? Great, me too! But get some different material. Plenty of other things to joke about.

So, we’ll see what happens at the next class. Maybe the others will just ignore me. But maybe speaking up changed something. You never know.