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Life In the Time of Corona (Third in an unlimited series)

 
Life In the Time of Corona (Third in an unlimited series)
by Chuck Cascio
chuckwrites@yahoo.com 

As a former high school and college educator over the course of 27 years, I was curious to know how students today feel about most academic institutions being closed for the remainder of the school year. So I asked my niece, Caroline, and five of my grandchildren (Maddie, Jack, Ryan, Zoey, and Wyatt) to write a few sentences about how the coronavirus and school closings are affecting them. Here, in their own words, are their comments (from youngest to oldest):

Wyatt (age 10; fifth grader)--The  coronavirus pandemic is a little bit scary to me because I have no school for the rest of the year. Coronavirus is a weird thing to handle for me because I cannot walk to any friends' houses or speak to any friends in person. I have no idea what to do now. I can't be near anyone or make any contact with anyone. I do go outside a lot and am bored when I can't go outside.

Zoey (age 13; eighth grader)--The corona quarantine and the virus in general will never be forgotten and will be a future history lesson. The quarantine has left a lot of different feelings to a lot of different people. To some, it might be an extended summer. To others, it is a serious pandemic. I believe that this is a serious time which should not be treated as a time to hang out with friends all day and go out to the mall or play games of any sort. Even though school was closed for the rest of the year, it is important to spend some of the day studying what you already learned during the year. Overall, I believe that this time should not be taken lightly because the virus is killing and infecting millions a day all over the world. 

 

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School grounds midday and midweek in the time of coronaphoto by chuck cascio

Ryan (age 14; high school freshman)— My time during the coronavirus has been a mixture of feelings. At first, this time off was the best thing ever--school was out, I could hang with my friends all day and nothing was better than this! Then my feelings started to change--my parents started saying no to hangouts, and I couldn’t hang with my friends as much. All in all, this “coronacation” has been a mixture of having fun with my friends, boredom, and overall getting more sleep!

Jack (age14; high school freshman)—This coronavirus quarantine has left me extremely bored and often wondering what I should do with my time. i have been able to practice sports in my backyard and lift weights in my garage. I wish this could all be over and everything would go back to normal. 

Maddie (age16; high school junior)—While I will admit I was one hoping for a few days off of school to make up for the missed snow days, this was not what I expected. I miss not having things to go to and do. I miss spring sports and school friends, and I miss a normal routine. Lately, at home, I have been spending a lot of time trying to do things outdoors. I refuse to sit inside all day and not do anything...it was making me go crazy! I am hoping to make the best of this and hope this all comes to an end soon so we can all get back to normalcy. 

Caroline (age 19; college freshman)--Although being quarantined in our houses is not fun, I think that it is the right thing to do to flatten the curve. I have taken all of this extra time to start a 400-hour violin practice challenge where I post videos of me playing each day. In addition to focusing on violin, I have also been cooking and baking a lot more, which I was unable to do during my time on campus each week. Finally, I think this has been a great time for everyone to reflect on their lifestyles and daily choices. Fewer people are going places, which isn’t fun, but it’s making the planet greener and reducing carbon emissions; people are eating healthier because they are forced to cook more or learn to cook; more people are contacting each other because they aren’t caught up in their own lives and activities; and people are forgiving themselves for not being busy and giving them “me time” where they learn or practice a skill that they’ve always wanted to do. Even though a lot of people’s new year resolutions might be messed up by this virus, we will be able to take this time to start new goals and find fun workouts to do at home by yourself or with your family! 

Have a comment or a story to add to the "Life in the Times of Corona" series? Write to me at chuckwrites@yahoo.com.

copyright chuck cascio; all rights reserved.

 

Life In the Time of Corona (Second in an unlimited series)

Life In the Time of Corona (Second in an unlimited series)

My friend and former colleague John Scott, an outstanding teacher and baseball coach, wrote the following, expressing his own affection for our National Pastime. I am proud to publish it with his permission.

 

Diamond Days
by
John Scott

Diamond Days....

Sights and sounds of days on the field…

The aroma of the fresh cut field. The soft breeze kicks up the dust. 

The smell of leather. The crack of the bat. 

Cheers. Chatter. All of that. 

You take the mound. He digs in at home. The catcher crouches, goes through his signs.

You tip your hat, re-grip the ball, begin your wind-up and then let loose the mighty pitch.

A curve spins along the way.

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The batter peers, picks up the seams as the ball draws near.

He sets his eyes, adjusts his stance, begins his swing...

He’s got a chance!

The swing is mighty. The crowd goes quiet as the ball meets the bat in a tremendous crack! 

They all look up, race toward the ball. The left fielder sprints, lays out but can’t quite reach the ball. 

The ump cries out, “FOUL BALL!” 

It’s just one pitch, and there are many more.

But to the boys it is so much more. 

Each pitch, each swing, each throw and catch is set in their memory from the field that day. 

There is something magical and therapeutic about playing—and watching—our  National Pastime! 

 

About John Scott: John played baseball from Little League, Babe Ruth League, American Legion, and high school through college and then coached baseball for 19 years at three different high schools in Fairfax County, VA.

Story copyright: John Scott, all rights reserved.

Photo copyright: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

 

 

 

Life In the Time of Corona (First in an unlimited series)

Life In the Time of Corona--First in an unlimited series
Baseball, where are ye?
by Chuck Cascio
chuckwrites@yahoo.com
 
Baseball, where are ye?
 
To me, you have always represented the start of the new year—
 
the presence of spring and time spent outdoors amid flowering trees and watching kids take on the challenge of the bat and ball;
 
the promise of summer ahead, replete with the gentle call of family, cookouts, beaches, and surf;
 
the ultimate beauty of fall with a series of games that defy analysis, challenge athleticism, and truly identify the sport's heroes;
 
Come back, baseball! 
 
Soon! 
 
You are missed!

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copyright text and photo: Chuck Cascio, all rights reserved.

 

The Movie "Just Mercy"--See. Think. Act

The Movie Just Mercy

See. Think. Act.

by

Chuck Cascio

     If you have not yet seen the movie Just Mercy, you should put it on your "must do" list, especially during Black History Month. It is a true story that provides viewers with reminders of past injustices, the realization that injustices still exist, and the sense of how much must be done to eliminate those injustices in the future. 

     Be prepared to feel uncomfortable but in a meaningful, important way when viewing Just Mercy. And the movie will also make you aware that there are people who truly commit their lives to eliminating injustice...and those people are the real, little-known heroes of history.

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     Just Mercy is the story of African American Bryan Stevenson (played powerfully by Michael A. Jordan), a young, Harvard-educated attorney, who in the late 1980s goes to Alabama to defend prisoners wrongly imprisoned and those not provided proper representation. The movie focuses on one case in particular--that of Walter McMillian (played by Jamie Foxx, in a moving performance), an African American in Alabama sentenced to die for the murder of an 18-year-old girl despite abundant evidence proving his innocence. The movie captures the racism and the legal and political obstacles Stevenson encounters while fighting for McMillian's life and the lives of many other prisoners.  

   The film is produced by Participant, a media company committed to developing entertainment that inspires positive social change, and the story succeeds in encouraging viewers to recognize the inequalities that existed in the era of this movie and those that still exist today. For me, a Boomer who moved from Brooklyn to Northern Virginia as a kid in the 1950s, the movie brought back uncomfortable memories from my youth. And it reminded me that, 30 years later during the years in which Just Mercy takes place, those injustices were still evident...and that too many still exist today albeit in less immediately obvious ways. Some of the realities the film brought back to me from my childhood:

     >>> Seeing signs above restrooms and water fountains and elsewhere that said, "Coloreds" and others that said, "Whites."

     >>> The street signs on motels that specified, "Coloreds not allowed."

     >>> Raw anger rippling through some classmates as Northern Virginia started to integrate schools.

     >>> The time an African American musician friend of mine was given a different menu at a restaurant from the one I was given, the prices on his menu several times more expensive than the prices on mine. We walked out, and as we were leaving someone behind us said, "Well, you can't say that we refused to serve him."

     And, sadly, there are many more from my 1950s-60s childhood. Incidents that confused me, incidents that my parents made sure I recognized as wrong, incidents that still run through my head. They are especially vivid when I see a movie like Just Mercy, so much so that I believe the movie should be shown to high school students and discussed in depth with them. The story is ideal for a conversation around racial injustice, where it has been, where it exists today, and what needs to be done about it in the future.

     As Just Mercy reveals, Bryan Stevenson did more than commit himself to a couple of years worth of work for the unjustly incarcerated. He formed the Equal Justice Initiative in 1989, a nonprofit organization that, as stated on its website (www.eji.org),

“…provides legal representation to people who have been illegally convicted, unfairly sentenced, or abused in state jails and prisons. We challenge the death penalty and excessive punishment and we provide re-entry assistance to formerly incarcerated people.” 

     There is much work to be done. According to the Pew Research Center, African Americans represent only 12% of the U.S. adult population but 33% of the sentenced prison population. Hispanics make up 16% of the adult population and account for 23% of inmates. Whites comprise 64% of adults and 30% of prisoners.  

     In these swirling, fast-paced times it is important to remind ourselves of the realities of past injustices, to take time to look closely at the current lives of minorities, and to take steps for a more equitable future. So here are three things to consider doing, any one of which will stimulate thinking and expand the much-needed conversation:

1) Just see the movie.

2) Think about, document, and/or discuss your own experiences regarding racism.

3) Go to the Equal Justice Initiative website (www.eji.org) and explore it, looking especially at the various materials developed for classroom use, which can also be used  in less-formal discussions with today's youths.

   Doing any of these will stimulate thoughts about where we were, where we are, and where we are headed. Sometimes mercy emerges from discomfort.

Copyright Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.

World Series Champs with a Lesson Beyond Baseball

WORLD SERIES CHAMPIONS WITH A LESSON BEYOND BASEBALL

By

Chuck Cascio

chuckwrites@yahoo.com

      We were doing Baby Shark!

     We were slapping high fives with strangers!

     We were cheering like children while surrounded by thousands of people our age and, yes, small packs of gleeful kids!

      My wife and I and two dear friends were part of the massive crowd at Nats Park in Washington, DC, watching on a giant TV screen that rainy night of October 30 as the Washington Nationals baseball team—who persisted throughout a difficult regular season with the motto “Stay In the Fight!”—brought the first World Series championship to Washington since 1924. And amid the cheering and hugging, I was taken by the realization that something more significant than a World Series victory was happening. 

     

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Nats Park wasted no time saluting the champions!

      I have always been enthralled with the uniqueness of baseball. And while all sports at virtually all levels from youth through pros have the potential to deliver responses from fans that border on pandemonium, the seventh game of the World Series is special. It marks the culmination of the longest season in all of sports, a sport that has countless nuances to analyze and interactions that require instant response from players, such as:

     >>>judging in a split second where that 95 miles per hour pitch is headed from just 60 feet, six inches away;    

     >>>calculating at the literal crack of a bat where a ball that is launched high into the sky, sunlight, or stadium lights will land; 

     >>>determining while running full speed if you should turn the corner and risk going to the next base or play it safe and stay where you are. 

     Baseball players' athleticism may stay dormant for innings and hours at a time and then, in one chaotic moment, they may find themselves in a spontaneous burst of reaction, speed, strength, and skill that determines the outcome of a game.

     As the Nats expressed their unlimited youthful glee (we watched on the giant screen as they danced, embraced, jumped joyfully, and laughed at their own Baby Shark impersonations) and the crowd reacted in kind, it was apparent that this was a period of pure joy in a city dominated by politics, a city whose events are too often wedded to talking points, a city whose beauty and history sometimes need an innocent event to reveal its charms, charms reflected in the core of its populace.

     I have no idea—nor do I care—about the political preferences of the strangers whose hands I was slapping, whose embraces I shared. We were all of the same mind in those moments. And something in the row in front of ours made a particularly strong impact on me that night:

     In that row, a group of 10 or so men and women who appeared to be in their late teens reacted with uninhibited, spontaneous, genuine exuberance. Hardcore baseball fans? Maybe; I don’t know, but I saw them experiencing feelings they will remember forever, something that I want more of for them...for my own family...for my friends...for everyone whether it comes from an athletic achievement, a personal accomplishment, or a simple moment in time that we recognize as unique. 

     Appreciation and happiness can surprise us at any time and, of course, baseball is not the only thing that can stimulate those responses. But a professional baseball team did it in Washington, DC, on that night, and my guess is that even those World Champion Washington Nationals players do not fully realize the lasting impact they made on the people of a city. 

     Thanks, Nats. 

     Thanks, baseball. 

     Thanks, fans. 

     Thanks, Baby Shark!

Copyright Chuck Cascio; all rights reserved.