Trending toward stage level four

Trending toward stage level four

On Sunday morning I sent out the weekly update to families telling them that it was likely that Austin Public Health was going to drop the city back down to risk stage level four in February, and the numbers are trending in the right direction, although I doubted that they would do it this week. But to be prepared.

I also addressed the issue of pandemic fatigue:

It’s been a long year. A really long year. Continuing to take the pandemic seriously while much of society has relaxed their approach to protecting others gets harder by the day. But with over one million people being vaccinated per day it seems that the end is finally in sight. Unfortunately, we are not going to hit herd immunity until the summer at the earliest, so it really is incumbent upon us all to keep engaging in safer practices even if schools are reopening and people are going into restaurants again. Please note that the B117 variant is here and it is 43-82% more transmissible than ancestral variants, meaning that we run the risk of a fourth wave breaking out. The best thing that we can do at Abrome is continue to meet outdoors when the risk stage level drops to four, continue to mask up when near each other, and do our daily screenings each morning. The best thing that we can do at home is to avoid going out if we do not need to, to mask up when we do leave the home, and to not congregate indoors with people outside our home (e.g., restaurants, bars, religious services). 

And then I threw in an appeal to families to please skip any Super Bowl gatherings:

[T]oday is Super Bowl Sunday. A day when people come together to eat and drink a lot, and unmasked, and to scream and yell. It is an ideal setting for the spread of Covid-19 and if there was ever a year to watch it at home or to skip it altogether this would be the year

Day 84 of the pandacademic year started at 5:00 a.m. with me packing N95 masks into paper bags for four Abrome families, and then setting out at 5:30 a.m. to deliver them. We had already delivered masks to most of the families at Abrome the prior week, and would only have a couple more after my early morning run into the furthest west communities that Abrome families live in. With the premature relaxing of Covid-19 safety protocols (I’m also talking about last May and June, not just in the present) and the growing threat of the B117 variant, I wanted to get N95 masks into the hands of all Abrome community members who would be coming into contact with others over the coming couple of months. While we are super excited about the vaccination drive that is happening and the prospects for a post-pandemic late summer or fall, we also know that now is a dangerous time because of people who are going to let down their guard thinking that the worst is behind us.

As I was driving home from my deliveries I noticed lots of school buses driving around in the moonless, dark winter morning. At 6:42 as I was nearing home I drove by two adults and three schoolchildren standing on the side of the road waiting for a bus. I felt awful for the kids who were forced to wake up way too early for the daily routine of schooling that strips them of their autonomy and, in most cases, undermines their learning. But I felt even worse knowing that they were doing so during a pandemic, and in the process being forced to potentially contribute to the suffering of others.

By the time I got settled back at my desk, I still had three hours left before the Abrome day started. An hour later I jumped on a zoom writing session with a friend, and we each wrote for about an hour. When that writing session ended, there was still an hour left before any Abrome Learners would log on. At 9:30 a.m. the Facilitators jumped on our Monday morning call to talk about the week ahead and to review each of our schedules.

At 10:00 a.m. Facilitator Ariel started the morning meeting. He told everyone the agenda for the meeting, reviewed the Community Awareness Board, and opened up the meeting for announcements. After announcements, using pass the ball for the game shifting method to improve our communication in the meeting, most of us shared one negative way and one positive way to communicate. The negative ways included talking over people, walking away or closing the app that you are communicating on, holding a lot of energy in wanting to be heard and understood (as opposed to hearing what the other person is saying), screaming, yelling, talking behind someone’s back, not being a team player, and telling someone they suck at something. The positive ways people shared often offset the negative ways: acknowledge someone before moving on, put more energy into hearing and understanding others, speak in a more monotone manner, sound interested in what someone is saying (and he followed that up with “be interested”), compliment them (“if sincere”), be calm, don’t say bad things about people, try to let everyone else fit in, tell them they are great at something.

Our struggles with people being present at meetings continues. We have raised multiple awarenesses around the issue such as actively listen and minimize apps, but some Learners cannot help but to focus on their phone or games in the middle of a meeting. On this morning, even though we wrote the prompt in the chat and 11 others answered the prompt before her, the last Learner who was passed the virtual ball asked, “what’s the prompt?” If we are still virtual this Friday I will be sure to raise it as an awareness, again.

Postcards for Friday’s offering

Postcards for Friday’s offering

We then held our Set-the-Week meeting where Facilitators and Learners placed offerings on the calendar, and scheduled them around the needs of others, and in a couple of circumstances asked for firm commitments from people to attend. One such offering was Facilitator Ariel’s postcard making offering set for Friday. He created blank postcards out of water color paper that are ready to be designed (drawn on, painted, etc.) so that anyone who joins can mail it to someone they cared about. By asking for commitments we know who we will need to deliver them to by the Friday offering.

7-minute workout

7-minute workout

At 10:45 a.m. we jumped into our 7-minute workout with the usual crew, again. But on this day, the 7-minute workout was not the only way we got bodies moving during this remote experience (it is pretty easy to get moving when we are meeting outdoors). In addition to the 7-minute workout, Facilitator Lauren was hosting a yoga offering in the middle of the day, and an adolescent Learner was hosting a 45-minute workout at the end of the day.

Following the 7-minute workout I hosted my daily free write offering, while Facilitator Ariel hosted a breakfast chat offering. The Facilitators are doing their best during this painfully extended remote experience (all of January and all of the first week of February) to hold space for Learners. I choose to do it through regularly scheduled offerings such as the 7-minute workout and free write, while Facilitator Ariel opens up an unstructured block of time so people can just drop in and chat. Neither are drawing many Learners, and that’s okay. Facilitator Lauren dropped in for Facilitator Ariel’s offering and they spent the entire hour chatting, and they followed that up with Facilitator Lauren’s yoga offering and then chatted some more post-workout.

An offering that I thought might be helpful was ‘questions/puzzles/mysteries we want answers to,’ where we could share things that confounded us that we could dive into together. I was trying to recreate something that happens pretty naturally in-person, online. Looks like I will have to wait until we are in-person again.

Later in the afternoon I had two scheduled one-to-one check-ins with Learners, and then I rolled into my first extended workout led by an adolescent Learner. The Learner chose to host these workouts on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays of this cycle. Last week, the first week of the cycle, she asked for a 75-minute block of time which prevented me from joining, and I regretted that as the reviews of the workout were great, meaning pretty challenging but leaving people feeling really good. One attendee even claimed that the workouts were more intense than our daily 7-minute workout. So more intense and 11x as long?

45-minute workout

45-minute workout

This week, at the Set-the-Week meeting held earlier that morning, the Learner said that she overestimated the time it would take to complete the workout and only needed a 45-minute block of time. I could commit to that and together we reworked the calendar, shifting some offerings up or back, to include the workout offering, and moving around one-to-one check-ins, so that I could attend all three workouts this week. A Learner who has only showed up for gaming offerings also committed to joining for the workout that day. And everyone who said they would show up then showed up. And yeah, it was more intense than the morning 7-minute workout was. Hopefully our bodies will recover sufficiently for the Wednesday workout session.

Fortunately I had thirty minutes to recover before the afternoon roundup. I started the meeting with a review of the Community Awareness Board, and then I asked everyone what practice they have prioritized, and if they did not have one prioritized which practice would they prioritize tomorrow. We then shared announcements, and for game shifting we went back to pass the ball. Then each of us shared a situation that was hard, difficult, or painful, but that made us stronger because of it. Mine was a no-brainer—when I called out two cops I saw assaulting someone in 2012, even though it led to a false arrest and years of harassment and follow-on arrests by the police. Some of the other difficult situations included not graduating on time from their master’s program (taught him a lot about empathy, resilience, and learning); leaving their past job because of Covid-19 concerns (but that allowed her to find Abrome!); leaving Houston and his old school (because of his friends); moving away from Houston (and leaving two friends); leaving Amarillo (because of relationships), giving roosters away (because they were picking on hens); and leaving Houston (because of friends and family). We have a lot of folks who left another town to move to Austin.

That evening I dropped off final masks that I would be delivering to an Abrome family, and I handed off another bag of masks to Facilitator Ariel that he would deliver to the last family the next day. In return he gave me the postcards that needed to be delivered to Learners west of Austin.