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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

A Request To Keep A Pandemic Diary

Since April, I've been telling my students that their generation will be the ultimate storytellers of this pandemic, as COVID-19's legacy will surely endure for decades. This semester, I've taken it a step further and required them to keep pandemic diaries.

Their weekly 500-word entries will help me gauge their writing progress and give me glimpses into how they are doing in this challenging time. Just as importantly, they will create a written record of who they were — in their lives and in this time in history.

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How Polite Of Melania Trump

I don't care about Melania Trump's past life as a model. She has a right to do as she wants with her own body. Any attempt by liberals to shame her for that is an act of hypocrisy.

I don't care what she wears or how she looks. She is glamorous and beautiful, which has nothing to do with her character.

I would never mock her accent, because that's the stuff of racist right-wingers, the ones who shout at Latinos to speak "American" even as they show barely a passing familiarity with the English language.

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Finding Our Hope In Her Ambition

In 2016, I wanted Hillary Clinton to be our next president, and I was sure that she would be.

I was devastated.

In 2019 and early 2020, I wanted a woman to win the Democratic Party's nomination for president. Instead, one qualified woman after another failed to get enough votes, and now Joe Biden is the presumptive nominee.

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Let’s Avoid A Duel Over Religious Dogma

On Thursday, President Donald Trump landed here in Cleveland and had barely plodded across the tarmac before declaring that Joe Biden would "hurt God."

I struggle for the words to convey my joy.

That Trump thinks Biden could inflict injury on God gives us a good idea of just how much he fears Biden. The clock is ticking, Mr. President. It's too bad the White House staff forgot to give Preacher Trump his Bible prop as he brayed into the wind. That visual worked so well for him last time.

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‘Walk With The Wind’…And Vote

What a moment in America.

On Thursday, three former U.S. presidents — George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama — walked into Atlanta's storied Ebenezer Baptist Church to deliver tributes to civil rights icon John Lewis, who died on July 17 at age 80.

Earlier this week, the current president of the United States refused to honor Lewis even in Washington, where Lewis' body lay in state in the Capitol rotunda on the Lincoln catafalque, a platform built in 1865 to hold the casket of Abraham Lincoln.

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For John Lewis, We Will Carry On

The first time I met John Lewis, in 2003, it was as the new girlfriend of his colleague in the House of Representatives. He had just sat down at his assigned seat in a room full of dinner tables, but as soon as he saw Sherrod and me walking toward him, John stood up and pulled me into a hug.

"You're the reason he can't stop smiling," John said.

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It’s Not A Debate — Wear A Mask

If you're still opposed to wearing a face mask in public, this column is for Very Special You.

I don't mean that sarcastically. One of us believes we're magically immune to this highly contagious virus, and it sure isn't me. I've never felt that special a day in my life. So, lucky you.

Except you probably aren't that lucky.

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For Dreamers. A Temporary Reprieve

On Thursday, the Supreme Court stopped President Donald Trump from inflicting the devastation that candidate Trump had vowed to inflict on 700,000 young immigrants in this country.

This is a temporary reprieve, which makes this another reason why this year's presidential election is the most important one in our lifetime, no matter our age. Casting our vote is our last chance to stop the most dangerous man to inhabit the White House before he burns to the ground whatever remains of the American dream.

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My Mother The Essential Worker

On the eve of my junior year in high school, my mother returned to the job she'd held before she became pregnant with me, at age 19, and married my father, who was also 19.

At age 36, Janey Schultz was once again a nurse's aide at the public hospital in our small town of Ashtabula, Ohio.

Today, we would call her an essential worker.

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Shhh, White People — And Listen

One morning earlier this week, my friend Kate and I were walking through our Cleveland neighborhood when our conversation, conducted at a safe distance from each other, turned to the funeral of Tamir Rice.

Only Pastor Kate would think to remember my story from that day.

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Annie Glenn, American Hero

In 2012, Annie Glenn and I were doing what we so often did, which was to sit side-by-side in a quiet place offstage, waiting for our extroverted husbands to finish speaking to a crowd.

We had been close friends for six years by then. My husband, Sherrod Brown, was running for reelection to the U.S. Senate. Annie's husband — that's how I always introduced him, to his delight — was former senator and astronaut John Glenn, who often joined Sherrod on the campaign trail.

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The Wildflowers Still Will Bloom

My annual order of wildflower seeds arrived in the mail, and I've never been so eager to start something new — something beautiful and immune to the virus taking so much away.

I love reading aloud the names of the flowers that, in theory, will thrive here in northeast Ohio.

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After Three Years, Who Are We Now?

A week after Donald Trump was elected president, writer and scholar Sarah Kendzior, who had predicted in 2015 that he would win, wrote a public letter to the American public.

"My fellow Americans," it began. "I have a favor to ask you. ... I want you to write about who you are, what you have experienced, and what you have endured."

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Parenting Now

Earlier this week, our daughter Cait texted a photo capturing a moment of her juggling her job and her two young children at home.

At first, I noticed only Cait's hand on the laptop, but as I studied it I saw the reason for snapping the picture. Two-year-old Ela was wedged next to her, her tiny left hand wrapped around her mother's pinky as she typed.

"Working from home," Cait texted, followed by three broken heart emojis. It takes so little for working mothers to feel guilty for wanting more.

For just a moment, I wanted to respond by sending a prized photo from her childhood. In it, I am wearing an old robe and the stare of the sleep deprived as I write on my Smith Corona typewriter with 9-month-old Cait on my lap.

"I know how you feel," I wanted to write, but then I stopped.

I really don't know what this is like for parents like her. This is not my familiar.

All three of our daughters have full-time jobs and two young children at home. Our son has a 12-year-old boy, who is also now spending every hour at home. All of our kids have the spouses you pray for during their dating years. They, too, are working full time from home.

The difference between my generation's working-at-home days and theirs defies all attempts to quantify. We have no idea how long this period of self-quarantine will last for them, and their children.

In the 1980s and '90s, I pecked away at the typewriter and, even in my exhaustion, knew my days would not always be so simultaneously bountiful and hard. Soon enough, I could tell myself, Cait would join her brother, Andy, in school. I would miss her, but work would be easier. I'd have whole days for interviews and writing, and to forge my career.

Our grown kids, and millions of parents like them, see no end in sight. Not only are they trying to be good employees, but teachers for their children, too. Any parents hoping to replicate their children's day care or school experiences are setting themselves up for the battering ram of self-doubt. This is an impossible undertaking, and yet they are taking it on.

I would like to ban, for all time, those pretend perfectionists' social media posts of their well-dressed children learning like little Einsteins at dining room tables. "You lie!" I shouted just yesterday, which startled my husband. He is also working at home. That's another dynamic, for another column.

I told Cait I would never have had the patience she daily shows her children. She scoffed. "I'd be great at homeschooling other people's kids," she said. "My own kids? Oh, Mom."

This was less than an hour after she had finished a conference call and discovered little Ela crammed behind a stack of large boxes next to the TV.

"Mama," four-year-old Milo announced without the slightest whisper of contrition, "I trapped Ela like a fish. She can only have water."

Today, I held two Zoom video conferences with my Kent State students. They were stacked on the screen like celebrity stars of the old Hollywood Squares. I was surprised by my joy at the sight of their faces, the sounds of their voices. Like countless college students across the country, mine have had to overcome so many obstacles to stay in school. And there they were on my computer screen, survivors still.

As I explained to them today, we don't know when this crisis will end, but we can be sure it will change us. This pandemic found us in one place, and it will leave us somewhere else.

One more story about a grandchild, because I'd rather leave you smiling.

Recently, four-year-old Carolyn and her mother, our family's Elizabeth, were walking around the neighborhood when Carolyn passed a dog.

Carolyn loves dogs. She loves to pet them and hug them. She has been known to sing made-up songs to our older dog, Franklin.

This time, though, Carolyn knew she had to keep her distance.

"I can't pet that dog because I have to stay six feet away," she told her mother.

What a mournful pause.

"I wish my arms were six feet long."

I keep imagining that. Our arms malleable and strong as they reach for the people we miss most. We cup their faces. We wrap our arms around them. We do all the gentle things we would have done one more time had we only known what was coming.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University's school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including "…and His Lovely Wife," which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, "The Daughters of Erietown," will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Not This Grandma

My, these aging men with their bright ideas.

First, it was the president, who has been openly contradicting medical experts with his pining for an early end to social distancing. This would threaten the lives of millions of Americans during the pandemic. Oh, well.

As he said, via tweet and at the microphone, “We cannot let the cure be worse than the problem itself.” Every time he says that, I can’t help feeling that women like me — over 60 and eternally over him — are on his checklist of things that can go.

It’s not sitting well, I have to tell you.

Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, on the verge of 70, spelled it out for us in an interview on Fox.

“No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”

He added: “I just think there are a lot of grandparents out there in this country like me — I have six grandchildren — that’s what we care about. … And I want to live smart and see through this, but I don’t want the whole country to be sacrificed. And that’s what I see.”

I don’t know who he’s looking at, but it sure isn’t this grandma to seven grandchildren. I would throw myself in front of a 137,000-pound Montana B-Train to save the life of a grandchild, but I will not risk a single hangnail to rescue corporate America.

Next up: Glenn Beck.

“Where do you stand?” he asked.

Nowhere near you, I answer.

“I’m in the danger zone,” he said on Blaze TV. “I’m right at the edge, I’m 56… So, I’m in the danger zone. I would rather have my children stay home and all of us who are over 50 go in and keep this economy going and working.”

He added, because there’s always something else, “Even if we all get sick, I’d rather die than kill the country.”

OK, Glenn.

I’m sorry these men hate their lives. I can’t name a single grandmother of my acquaintance who wants to throw away her life to save companies like Hobby Lobby, which has insisted on remaining open during this pandemic.

The craft company also told its managers to “make every effort to continue working the employees” while denying those same employees sick leave. Billionaire owner David Green is big on touting his right-wing version of Christianity, so we’ll see how that goes.

I’m with the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wing of Christianity. She said this after Congress passed the stimulus package:

“I wish that every person in America would subscribe to the fact that science is an answer to our prayers so that we can get through this in a very positive way.”

She’s a grandmother, by the way, and what a fine example she is setting in not volunteering for the Trump-Patrick-Beck cliff leap.

Regular readers will notice that I’ve been quoting poetry a lot in the last few weeks, and wouldn’t you know it? I’ve got another poem. This excerpt is from the late poet Grace Paley’s “Here,” about an old woman watching her old man in the yard:

at last a woman

in the old style sitting

stout thighs apart under

a big skirt grandchild sliding

on off my lap a pleasant

summer perspiration

that’s my old man across the yard

he’s talking to the meter reader

he’s telling the world’s sad story

how electricity is oil or uranium

and so forth I tell my grandson

run over to your grandpa. ask him

to sit beside me for a minute.

I am suddenly exhausted by my desire

to kiss his sweet explaining lips

Mercy.

Silly old men can cling to whatever economy-themed fantasies make them feel useful in the world.

I’ve got other plans, if God’s up for it. I want my grandchildren to know that for them, Grandma lived.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

When This Ends, We’ll Have Decisions To Make

A favorite book I try never to be without is by the late Irish poet and priest John O’Donohue. It’s on my bedside table, on my Kindle and on the Kindle app on my phone.

One needn’t be Catholic (I’m not) or Irish (I am, but I try not to brag) to appreciate O’Donohue’s calm and reassuring presence on every page of his book To Bless the Space Between Us.

The book is divided into various sections, each one beginning with an essay that leads into a series of blessings. Under the section titled “Beginnings,” there are seven blessings, including “A Morning Offering,” “In Praise of Fire” and “For a New Home.” Eleven blessings are in the section titled “Desires,” including “For Freedom,” “For Eros” and “In Praise of Air.”

His poem, For the Family and Friends of a Suicide, gave me the words I couldn’t find on my own after my brother killed himself last July. An excerpt:

As your eyes strain to sift

This sudden wall of dark

And no one can say why

In such a forsaken, secret way

This death was sent for…

May one of the lovely hours

Of memory return

Like a field of ease

Among these graveled days.

May the Angel of Wisdom

Enter this ruin of absence

And guide your minds

To receive this bitter chalice

So that you do not damage yourselves

By attending only at the hungry altar

Of regret and anger and guilt.

Because this is so often my go-to book when I am searching for reasons why, I picked it up when Ohio started shutting down in efforts to stem the spread of the coronavirus. I seldom agree with Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, but overall, he has been the strong leader we need right now, acting early to shut campuses and schools and countless other places for public gatherings.

If you are physically vulnerable in any way, because of age or medical conditions, or you love someone who is, it is easy to fall prey to the soul-sucking churning of worry and anxiety. Even the toughest among us have our weaker moments as we watch the news get worse and worse. This will get better, but when?

I confess to moments of feeling hollowed out by the need to isolate from friends, colleagues and family members. I miss my husband, who must be in Washington, in the Senate. I miss grandchildren, their scent and their voices, and their wide-eyed wonder, but their parents have rightfully made clear that we must stay away for our own good.

Seldom has doing the right thing for our physical health felt so wrong for our well-being.

Again, I turn to the poet O’Donohue:

You are in this time of the interim

Where everything seems withheld

The path you took to get here has washed out;

The way forward is still concealed from you.

“The old is not old enough to have died away;

The new is still too young to be born.”

But take heart, he writes.

What is being transfigured here is your mind,

And it is difficult and slow to become new.

The more faithfully you can endure here,

The more refined your heart will become

For your arrival in the new dawn.

When this pandemic comes to an end, we will not be who we were at its beginning. This is extraordinary.

Most of us will survive, and we will have some decisions to make. Will we seek to be more connected? Will we see anew how much we needed one another all along? Will we repair some of the damage we have inflicted on others and on ourselves?

Again, John O’Donohue:

Cradle yourself like a child

Learning to trust what emerges,

So that gradually

You may come to know

That deep in the black hole

You will find the blue flower

That holds the mystical light

Which will illuminate in you

The glimmer of springtime.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, “The Daughters of Erietown,” will be published by Random House in Spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.

Panic, If You Must, And Then Pivot

When is the last time someone told you to calm down, and it worked?

I’m not seeing a lot of raised hands.

Having someone tell us we’re overreacting is annoying and condescending. Infuriating, even. It makes you want to blind them with the whites of your eyes as you lean in menacingly close and yell, “No, you calm down,” preferably in public. (Or maybe that’s just me.) The point is that telling us not to feel what we’re feeling seldom works, and often makes it worse because now we’re angry, too, and that is not a good look on anyone.

I want you not to panic about the novel coronavirus, but I know telling you not to panic isn’t helpful. Too much is happening — and not happening — for us to pretend this is a normal March. You might be scared, and why not? Every news update feels like another cautionary tale.

Change is all around us. The NCAA announced that its basketball tournaments would go on but with no fans in the arenas. Even if you’ve never cared about the NCAA tournaments, it’s impossible to hear that and not think something big is happening. All around the country, concerts, conferences and sporting events are being canceled. So, avoid large gatherings for now.

The president of the United States continues to falsely downplay this health crisis. Fortunately, many state and local leaders are refusing to play along. They are helping us understand there are things we can do in this frightening time to protect ourselves and others. This is the America I love.

We can’t say this enough: Wash your hands regularly, and whenever possible, use soap and water. Public health experts tell us we should do this every time for at least 20 seconds. They recommend singing “Happy Birthday,” twice, before rinsing.

There are plenty of other songs, of course, and whichever one keeps you washing is the one you should be singing. In recent days, I’ve been belting out Ethel Merman’s Still Got My Health. Sing it with me:

The hip that I shake doesn’t make people stare,

But I got such health, what do I care?

The sight of my props never stops a thoroughfare,

But I still got my health, so what do I care?

No matter how often we wash our hands, we should not touch our faces, especially when we’re out in public. This sounds simple enough until you think of all the times you’ve pulled to a stop in traffic and watched the driver in the next lane excavating his nostrils.

That would never be you, I want to make clear, but do think about that guy’s hand touching the door handle you’re about to grab. As I explained to my last class of students before the campus closed down, your face is full of portals. I repeated this to them every 10 minutes or so, after providing another update on how many of them had just touched their eyes, their noses, their mouths. Once a mom…

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, many elderly poll workers here in Ohio are opting not to work on Election Day. They are smart to avoid interacting with the public, as their immune systems aren’t as strong as they used to be.

Our secretary of state is calling for replacement workers for our March 17 primary election. Fortunately, Gov. Mike DeWine had asked that all colleges and universities close down and turn to online teaching for a few weeks. Suddenly, thousands of healthy young people are no longer attending classes. Perfect poll workers! What a great way for them to witness firsthand how democracy works and help voting be an efficient and fair process — and a safe one, too, if they remind voters to wash their hands after touching the voting machines.

That’s the other thing we can do right now: Be signs of hope.

Many hourly wage earners — such as clerks, cashiers, hospital aides and restaurant workers — have little or no paid sick leave. They are increasingly at risk of contracting the virus and spreading it because they cannot afford to stay home.

Those lucky enough to hunker down can advocate for people like them. Call and write your members of Congress, daily, and push them to take care of all Americans as we ride out this medical emergency. It’s an election year. Make them fear you.

We need one another. If we act like it, more of us are going to be OK.

Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two non-fiction books, including …and His Lovely Wife, which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. Her novel, The Daughters of Erietown, will be published by Random House in spring 2020. To find out more about Connie Schultz (schultz.connie@gmail.com) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.