Has it really been a year?

A year ago, I wanted to find a way to connect with my family and friends during a time when traditional connections would be challenging, if not impossible. So began Unscripted Musings, an oft-neglected (by me 😳), but fondly-regarded space where many of you have reached out to me. Thank you so much. You remind me of what keeps me going - a lot of humour, moments of wisdom, and dashes of wonder. So on this, the first anniversary of Unscripted Musings, let's see if we can conjure up a few more bits of magic to brighten our day.



Something to look forward to - the first blooms of spring!

A bit of beauty, courtesy of the crabapple tree (circa 2020) in my yard.



But first, an understatement


Well, it's been quite the year.


One year after the world was turned upside down, my kids still have not been able to hug their grandparents, and I don't remember the last time I wore tinted moisturizer, as the filtering effects of Zoom sufficiently pixelate my face such that spackle is not required. For real.


I only wish my Zoom calls are as colourful as this (Muppets Now trailer, Disney+).


Talk about tumultuous times. So much has changed, yet unfortunately, not enough has changed to move us into the clear - vaccinations are underway, but the pandemic has not let up, and the social tensions of last summer continue to simmer ominously. Economically, the world has taken a hit from which it may not fully recover, and it is increasingly apparent that the pandemic is insidious in its isolating and stressful effects on the mental and physical health of both adults and children.


Enough already. I'd like my kids to get back to being kids, not having to worry about the spectre of this invisible disease, and not having to miss out on just the regular stuff of childhood - hanging out with friends at the ice cream store, eating movie theatre popcorn in a movie theatre, playing volleyball with pals... I know, I know, these are first world problems, and we are beyond fortunate to have our health and the knowledge that our family and friends have not been touched by COVID-19, but this unease just hangs over us and dims our light a little. So I continue to seek ways to bring a little light to our days. Here, I present a few options.



Exhibit A: Armchair travels


Two years ago, my kids and I were fortunate to be able to travel with our karate club to Japan, where we spent a couple of weeks exploring Tokyo and soaking up the expertise of some serious karatekas. The Groundhog Day-esque quality of living in the alternate universe of COVID-19 restrictions makes it seem like it was AGES ago that we visited, but my kids and I remember the trip with such clarity and fondness, I am pretty sure that one day, we will go back.



Sigh. I still pinch myself - we were actually in Japan, eating our way through some fantastic fare and visiting some amazing parks, museums, and temples!


In the meantime, to remind myself of the wonders that await post-pandemic, I've taken to whetting my appetite with some armchair travels. I've decided to add Iceland to my bucket list, because it's gorgeous in a way that is unlike any other place on earth, and it's the setting of Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga, one of my pandemic Netflix selections of 2020. OK, maybe not so much because of the latter, but definitely because of something like this:


Ice caves of the Vatnajökull glacier, Iceland. Photograph by Julian Ratel.


That's ice! Isn't that crazy?? The world never fails to amaze me and over the past year, when I haven't been swamped by school work as a student by day (and late night) or parenting duties, I've caught myself gravitating towards earth's many wonders. This world is such a big place, and there is so much out there that defies explanation (well, by my limited knowledge), but that's OK - I may be a bit of a heathen, but there is definitely room in my world for magic. So, I will happily flip through photographs of inconceivable wonders, and read and watch footage of marvels beyond my comprehension.


Isn't Mother Nature just amazing?



Exhibit B: Always learning


Last year, I shared an infographic by Visual Capitalist, History of Pandemics, that placed the COVID-19 pandemic within the context of previous pandemics. It has since been updated, and the sobering reality is that since last year, an additional 2.7 million people have died because of the disease, and almost 139 million people have been infected (WHO Coronavirus Dashboard).


Death toll of pandemics, 165 AD to present (Visual Capitalist).


But the good news is that vaccinations are rolling out, providing a light at the end of the tunnel. The tunnel remains long, so I hope that people continue to exercise caution - this virus has stymied the best minds in the world, therefore it is incumbent on us to remain vigilant and to continue to do what needs to be done to look after each other.


This is a fantastic dashboard from Our World in Data. On the site, you can roll over the graph to see values associated with each curve. Canada's share of the current population that has received at least the first dose of the vaccine is currently 21%. By comparison - U.S.: 37%, Russia: 6%.


Continue to look out for each other. Wear a mask, wash your hands, and keep your distance. Respect the science and respect the numbers.



Exhibit C: And always self-deprecating


One thing that has definitely not improved over the past year is my ability to care for plants. You'd think that being my mother's daughter and being at home would give me an edge in that department. Alas, no, that's not the case.


Many years ago, my mom gifted a bonsai, one each, to my brother, sister, and me. In spite of me, my bonsai thrived, outlived my brother's plant, and outlived my sister's as well. Now, having a plant outlive any of my sister's plants is not a huge accomplishment by any stretch of the imagination. She can look at a plant and it would just wither away. The number of times she's had to bring a plant to my mom, on the brink of death, for resuscitation is a bit embarrassing. My mom is a plant whisperer, a veritable plant doctor - the way she has brought back some plants from death's door is truly impressive.


Which is why it's always been a point of pride that my bonsai has outlived the other bonsais. I'm never smug about it, because I know that my plants have done well in spite of me, but I've definitely reaped the benefits of being the sole child with the thriving bonsai - namely, my mom's good graces.


But then a few months ago, my bonsai shed its leaves. Not the seasonal 'drop-a-few-leaves-and-get-on-with-it' kind of shedding but a near-complete loss of foliage that alarmed me. It was a five-alarm kind of occurrence that prompted a panicked call to my mom. There I was, holding my phone up to the sad-looking plant, pointing out every single wilting or desiccated leaf, distraught. My mom, on the other hand, was uncharacteristically sanguine, stating that I might have dried it out a bit, and that I should give it a good soak and let it drain well.


I was a nervous Nelly, ministering to this poor bonsai. Unfortunately, I was not able to bring it back to its full glory, but a few branches survived the Great Exuviation. Now I was not basking in any self-praise because the bonsai was now mostly dried-up, used-to-look-like-a bonsai. My mom said that maybe the bonsai will emerge as a different beauty, a good lesson for anybody who, like me, may be a bit of a stick in the mud...


But the bonsai, alas, had other things in mind, and the tell-tale yellowing of its few remaining leaves during the past week was evidence of what I was fervently wishing against - the complete demise of a friend. To add further insult to injury, fellow occupants of its biosphere decided to join it, declaring mutiny, much to my dismay. Below, a text exchange between my sister and me:


OK, go ahead and laugh. Am I a dinosaur for avoiding acronyms and upholding some semblance of decent grammar in my text messages? Maybe, but for now, I'll continue to force my kid to emulate the same, so that all is not lost in the future. Youth. 👵🏻🙄


It's truly a horrible feeling, knowing that you're responsible for the death of a living thing. It may seem like I am totally overreacting, but in the context of multiple dying plants, where every single one is a gift from your mother? Ugh, that pit in my stomach feels awful. The guilt! But it's good to know that I served my siblings well in providing some laughs and levity for them 🤨 - I'll concede that there'll be some humour to be had for me in this mini debacle, once I get over the strong Asian tendency to filial guilt...


(I have not included photographic evidence of my poor bonsai's state, as it is too painful for me, and truly an insult to my bonsai's spirit. Rest in peace, bonsai - I shall miss you.)



In closing...


Another year down, and who knows how the next will look? Hopefully less "unprecedented" - I can do with some more even-keeled predictability! I hope you and your families have all been keeping well during these strange times, and wish you strength and sanity as we continue forward. While it is tempting to keep looking ahead for better days, I have to remind myself that today is where my focus should be - my kids will never be this young again, and there is still so much to celebrate in the here and now. So hold on to your loved ones, and laugh, learn, and love together today - like that phrase I used when my kids were little, this is how we fill our buckets.


"This is where it all begins. Everything starts here, today." - David Nicholls

Until next time,

・C・