Beautiful blanket of snow outside Abrome on Monday morning

Beautiful blanket of snow outside Abrome on Monday morning

Day 89 of this ridiculous pandacademic year was something extra. When I woke up the windchill was -8 degrees. I wrote the following message to families when I formally cancelled in-person meet ups it was -9 degrees. At 5:23 a.m. I sent Abrome families the following message:

As I sit here and write this the ground is covered with snow and the windchill is currently -9 degrees. Many schools have already cancelled school or are meeting only remotely through Thursday or Friday. We will take it day by day but it is probably safe to assume that we will be remote at least through Wednesday.


By 7:30 a.m. it was -10 degrees. Then it slowly warmed up. A local news station tweeted out a comparison of Austin temperatures to places much further north. If the cold weather (and ice) wasn’t bad enough, there were also the very serious issues of blackouts (one Abrome family had their power go out at 2:00 a.m., and houseless folks being stuck in the cold (compounded by the city and state repeatedly razing their campgrounds and throwing away vital lifesaving supplies such as blankets and jackets).

At 9:30 a.m. the Facilitators attempted to hold their morning check-in, but Facilitator Lauren was without power and I was without internet. Facilitator Lauren patched me and Facilitator Ariel in on a 3-way call, and we attempted to plan out the day. It was hard because Facilitator Ariel’s cell service was spotty. We did our best to try to decipher what each other was saying, and we knew that we would be in for a tough day.

I was supposed to lead the morning meeting but there was no way I could do so given my inability to access wifi, so Facilitator Ariel took over the meeting. Given the chaos that was happening all around us, with some families out of power and more out of internet, we were not surprised to have a record low attendance of only five people, and three of us were Facilitators! Facilitator Ariel reviewed the Community Awareness Board, and then opened it up for announcements. He then asked, considering the weather and internet, what can we do to connect with each other today. They responded, drink a warm drink at 11:15 a.m. with anyone else who wants to join, communicate over Discord chat or calls, show up for the meeting, text or call each other, and I said that I would use Discord. I later found out no one heard my response.

Still unable to connect, I cancelled my 7-minute workout, and later my free write. Facilitators Ariel and Lauren focused on holding space for Learners who wanted to connect. Facilitator Ariel had his regular breakfast chats offering at 11:00 a.m. which one Learner showed up for. That same Learner also showed up for the snow day hangs offering with Facilitator Lauren, as did Facilitator Ariel. During the hang out the got into a deep discussion about how human connections are formed, how you can tell if you can trust someone, and what to do if plans don’t work out. It was a conversation that had the Facilitators focusing on listening and not talking.

Cuddle Buddies playing in the deepest snow they’ve ever seen

Cuddle Buddies playing in the deepest snow they’ve ever seen

Things got a little bit lighter for Facilitator Ariel’s gaming offering that the youngest Abrome Learner chose to drop in for. Meanwhile, after two days of refusing to relieve themselves because of the cold weather I finally got Cuddle Buddies Ivan and Ingrid to get more than 30 feet out of Abrome. They also released a lot of energy running around and through the snow. Like many of the Abrome Learners, they have never seen so much snow in their lives!

As the day progressed we continued to receive news of rolling blackouts being implemented to try to prevent the entire grid from crashing, news of entire parts of the city and regions of the state losing power, and stories of heroic efforts by mutual aid groups to get the houseless off the streets.

Afternoon roundup (from my phone)

Afternoon roundup (from my phone)

While I had electrical energy all day, without internet connectivity I was in the dark about what was going on with Learners during offerings and check-ins. The Facilitators collectively struggled to get the Zoom room up and running, and we started the roundup several minutes late. One Learner tried to log on but simply could not, and let us know in Discord. With my internet so spotty I couldn’t really hear much but I stayed on the call just to let people know I was there.

Facilitator Lauren was leading the meeting and asked each person to reflect and share one negative aspect and one positive aspect of their ongoing winter storm experience. There responses were as follows:

  • (-) Worried about people who are without power and shelter; (+) The day was novel and exciting, and there were no mechanical noises last night (quiet nights are a rarity)

  • (-) Too cold to go outside; (+) perfect day for playing video games

  • (-) Can’t be together in-person (inclement weather) or remote (spotty internet); (+) I got to very briefly play in the snow

  • (-) Heater is cranky; (+) I got to video chat with boyfriend

  • (-) It’s hecka cold; (+) I got to play games with friends

  • (-) It’s freezing!; (+) It’s freezing!

Afterward, the Facilitators reviewed the day as we always do. The after action review was longer than most. We discussed some issues of concern in life choices that a newer older Learner has been making, and we committed to being available to make ourselves available to listen to the Learner, see them, hear them, and give feedback when they want it. We want to be able to engage in serious conversation with them without having them shut down. Next we discussed the many challenges of the day. It was quite an exhausting day, but we agreed that even with the limitations we had that we were able to hold space for the Learners and each other. Also, Facilitator Lauren’s power finally came back on, so that was worth celebrating. But at least two Abrome families did not have power. We ended the meeting with a plan to reach out to each of the Abrome families to make sure they were doing alright, and to see if we could support them. We acknowledged that the chances of us coming together in-person on Tuesday was slim to none, but that we would make a final call early that morning. Then we wished each other a warm night with electrical power.