In the Boat

This is an excerpt from Shelter in Place season 2, episode 3. Listen to full story above.


In his essay, “The Blessing of Friends Who Weather the Storm With Us, Omid Safi writes “We learn a lot about the people who stay in our boat during the storm. Sometimes it’s exactly who you expect. Sometimes there are those whom we expect to be in our boat, and at the moment of deepest
crisis, they go missing.”

Going into this school year, there was one friend in particular who I was sure would be in my boat. Ruth lives just a few blocks away. Her kids are the same ages as our kids, and they’ve all gone to school together since they were toddlers. Ruth’s family is one of the few families in our neighborhood who share our faith. We’ve shared a lot of life, too. We’ve carpooled to school, dropped off dinner for each other weekly, shared countless meals, swapped keys to each other’s houses. We were each other’s emergency contacts. For years Ruth’s house had been the place my kids felt safest outside their own home.

But a couple of weeks before school started Ruth and I had coffee in her backyard, and she told me she’d formed a distance learning pod with another family from our school. They were going to hire a tutor, and the tutor wasn’t comfortable taking on any more kids.

I tried not to feel stung, but as I walked home from her house that day, I realized I’d taken it for granted that Ruth and I were in each other’s boat. Now I began to doubt not just that assumption, but our friendship.

A couple of days later, Ruth reached out again. She gave me the names of several parents she knew who might be interested in teaming up with me, but she also wanted to check in to make sure we were okay.

It was a watershed moment in our friendship, and it says a lot about what a good friend Ruth is that she invited that conversation. It wasn’t easy for either of us. For the first time we peeled back the layers of our friendship, revealing unspoken expectations. Ruth and I had been in each other’s lives daily for years. In the absence of family nearby, I’d thought of Ruth and her family as our substitute family. It had never occurred to me that with their own parents in the same state, Ruth and her family didn’t have the same expectations for us.

And that’s the thing about friendship. There are no written codes or contracts. Most of the time, we don’t even realize what we expect of our friends until a particular situation reveals it.

Safi says when you turn around and the friends you thought would be in your boat aren’t there, don’t assume the worst. He writes, “Maybe they were trying to survive in their own boat. It’s been said before, whenever
possible. Be kind. You never know what battles others are fighting.”

Ruth confessed her own weariness. She’s a frontline essential worker. Parenting during the pandemic had been hard. She’d often felt like she wanted to be there for me, but she was so exhausted that she didn’t have the energy.

“You do so much,” Ruth said. “Your tolerance for chaos is so high. Sometimes, I just don’t want to get swept up in the tornado.”

Later she said she regretted that comment. She worried that it came off as overly harsh. But her words rang true. I don’t want to be the tornado family–I long for us not to be–but the amount of chaos and disorder in our life during this pandemic in particular has felt torrential. Part of that was circumstantial. Our family has dealt with a massive amount of change in 2020. We’re still dealing with it.

“Most of the time, we don’t even realize what we expect of our friends until a particular situation reveals it.”

Part of it was personality. Ruth had often told me that her central need in life is to preserve harmony in her environment. I like peace. I even long for it. But if given the choice in relationships, I’ll choose intimacy over ease every single time.

When I stepped away from the emotion of the situation, the feeling that Ruth wasn’t in my boat, I could see that what I was asking of Ruth was more than any of my friends could give me, especially in a time when we were all just trying to survive and keep our own boats afloat. No one is able to be in our boat all the time. Not substitute family. Not actual family. Not the best of friends. The trick is learning to appreciate who is in your boat–even if it’s not who you thought it would be, or if their shift is brief, because they’ve got to tend to their own crew. It’s learning to be in other people’s boats, too.

This is an excerpt from Shelter in Place’s season 2 episode 3: In the Boat. Read the full transcript here.

“U’i (Beautiful)

My brother

on top of Koko Head peak today

any other day

he may be lost

or just on other mountaintops

Diamond Head

Lanikai Pillbox 

Some days he is small 

in his head

bible in hands

pain, remembrance of

days lost as a kid

We all had to grow up

a little too fast

we all had to survive

a little too much

to make it through days

as skeletons floating

like piñatas 

above winery land

We were hot air balloons 

in Calistoga

on days our childhood house

was always in mode

of lights out and violence

Now you walk outside to see 

colorful fabrics high in the air

flames giving way to

speed and light to

fly away from this life

to be bigger than this life

Brother

you and I

they and us

we aren’t kids anymore

it’s like we took those shades off and

see this new panorama

see this scenery

see these murals with messages

broadcasting how we don’t belong

to our skeletons of sad children

We can be anywhere

like you are now

in the Honolulu hills

Oahu beaches

pineapple mountains 

and palm trees

There is nothing bigger than your grace

bigger than you

e kūlia i ka nu’u

Photo by Georgina Marie, Tropical Flowers in Rural Country, Ukiah, California

e kūlia i ka nu’u” is a Hawaiian proverb meaning “strive to reach the highest”.

-Georgina Marie, Poet in Residence

The Spaces in Our Togetherness

risk everything.

And nothing.

I found you whole, a perfect imperfection.

Saucy and hot!

Stay close, hug up on me, bump me–again, worry, smile, cry, mansplain, masseur, get provisions, pay the bills, pick up G, wake up too early, laugh, grade papers, water the garden, teach, teach right after, teach some more, learn two or three things from your wife, get takeout, walk up the hill, put out the bins, close up the house, deliver my bud, check your email, call your siblings–

all kind as love!

And, just this morning.

Edissa mentors artists and writers of all ages in alignment with her conviction for working in radical solidarity to achieve social justice.

Featured photo by Jason Reyes for Living Artist Project.

Don’t Miss “Screenagers” (Streaming Thursday, Sept. 10th!)

Dear Beloved Parents and Friends,


I’m writing to day to share this important and beneficial resource for all of our families during COVID-19. Our youth are all experiencing the loss of crucial socialization with their peers; students of all ages are struggling with online learning and engagement with new technologies without previous support systems; and parents and families are grappling with the challenges of balancing work, study, community and free time with the use of technology such as video games, tablets, computers, TVs and other devices. In short, we’re inundated with electronic media.


Join us for a free streaming of the documentary Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age by filmmaker and Primary Care Physician Dr. Delany Ruston. This family film addresses the concerns and needs of the average American family experiencing fallout of the Coronavirus global pandemic. This webinar event is sponsored by Intivix in San Francisco, and includes a one-hour screening, followed by a 45-minute moderated discussion with Licensed Clinical Social Worker Ali Tabb, who will answer questions from parents and children about how to adapt to our current circumstances.


For Secure Webinar Registration to Screenagers: Growing Up in the Digital Age visit:

https://www.intivix.com/ScreenagersDigitalAge

Thursday, September 10th, 6:30-7:30PM PST

Facilitated Discussion: 7:30pm-8:15pm PST


Join us for this special family event sponsored by Intivix founder Rob Schenk, a parent of a 7th grader who works with community members in his capacity as Sensei at Aikido Institute of San Francisco.

It’s On Us… (A BLM Essay)

There is so much to be said and there is so much being said. Lack of efforts are not a good enough excuse ignorance and silence. Black people deserve to live full lives. They deserve to have joy, love, shelter, food, and opportunities… and if you (a non black person) continues to believe that they have the same opportunities as the rest of us, you’re still not listening. You’re still asleep. Policies need to change! We need to ensure protection for black humans.

🙏🏽 Join your city council meetings if you haven’t already done so. 🙏🏽
Policies need to change. We need to protect black people. We need to protect black trans people. We need to protect black women. We need to protect black children.

This painting has gone to a beautiful interracial family who just announced the birth of their first baby. I hope the future is a safe space for her. It is our job to ensure the future of all black children, children of color and queer children. The painting represents the strength, resilience, innocence, and beauty of black girls and women in all kinds of relationships–be it siblings, parents, and friendships. It represents the bonds and communities they create and all the curious and magical ways they continue to uplift themselves.

We don’t deserve them, but they continue to forgive and love us.

Untitled by Christina Xu for Living Artist Project

Christina Xu, is an artist and muralist living in the San Francisco Bay Area. She has been a Living Artist Project Contributing Artist since 2014. Find her work at www.christinaxu.art or follow her on IG @ChristinaXu_.

Early Childhood Education Series Pt. 8: Home Preschool Curriculum

@prestonwb Will Preston @wbpreston

Early childhood education at home in the time of social distancing can be restricting and confining, however it does not close off opportunities to provide your students with enriching and vital educational opportunities. There are many resources available to parents looking for academic activities for their preschool age children to engage in. Though some are more time consuming for the parent in terms of setup and materials, there are many activities that can get your student to work quickly and require little of the parent’s time. The key to a solid activity is one that engages the student’s motor skills and hand eye coordination while also laying the foundation for future academic lessons. For example, drawing letters or numbers, coloring shapes, and cutting and pasting, when combined these activities activate the most important elements in the education of a preschool age child.

There are a few examples here that are great activities for students of this age. There are other less academic activities that are in some cases more important and engaging while also providing vital foundational life skills for the student. Allow daily tasks around the house to become learning opportunities for everyday life skills. Children have a tendency to mimic the routines performed everyday by adults. Utilize this need in your student for learning from watching to learning by doing. Turn daily chores into a fun way of taking care of the house and students will not only learn how to complete these tasks, they will also associate these tasks with positive memories and experiences. Though it may take more time, allow the student the extra time for sweeping the floor, or for meal prep, or making the bed. Though these seem like small tasks and the time needed for a preschool aged student to accomplish them may seem wasted, these learning moments are invaluable to the growth and development of the student.

When cooking allow the student to use cleaning and cooking utensils that fit into a child’s hand. This provides an opportunity for the student to accomplish real work on a smaller scale and will boost the student’s confidence and give them real experience and solid groundwork for advancement in the skill. Working with food that is healthy and fresh provides an opportunity to teach the student about diet and the process and place for food in the health cycle. Through their experience in the cooking process students are working with numbers and math whenever they are using a measuring cup or getting the right number of ingredients. During a cooking activity students are introduced to science and chemistry in the form of the transformational process between ingredients to meal, as well as the chemical change that takes place when cooking.

There are natural ways in which the student learns and explores their world that facilitate the development of mental faculties that are incredibly important but can be difficult to access from the position of teacher or parent. These imaginative capabilities are utilized and sharpened whenever the student is at play with their imagination. When they are in the play zone, for example playing with a bucket of toys and talking or singing, the student is working through problems or scenarios that the adult mind does not consider, but with which the mind of the child must engage in order to make sense of the world in relation to their perception and experiences up to this point. Though the problem or scenario be imagined, the work that the mind of the child is doing to solve the imaginary problem is concrete and necessary for the healthy development of the mind.

Early Childhood Education Series Pt. 7: Practical Homeschooling

@prestonwb Will Preston @wbpreston

August is here and with it arrives back to school time. With no clear guidance or plan from leaders and government and no end to the pandemic in sight, parents and teachers alike are wondering what exactly school is going to look like for their children and students. Fear and confusion is natural in times like these, especially with teacher unions threatening to strike, one way to combat this chaotic situation is to take matters into your own hands. You can turn every moment of everyday into a learning experience for you and your student. 

Learners in early childhood education settings are learning basic life skills and foundational elements of academic concepts. Life skill learning can be implemented through daily chore activities, such as having your child clean up a messy playroom. Academics can be emphasized by having the student count and name each item as they take it from the floor and return it to its proper place. Learning and reciting household rules, brushing teeth, combing hair, and clearing the table can all be educational and a part of the everyday routine for the student.

On the topic of routine, ensure that a daily time is set for starting the day, and that the morning routine is completed in a similar manner each day as to help with the memorization and learning process taking place in the growing student in early childhood education. All of this should be interspersed with rest, breaks, or nap time in order to allow for periods of relaxation throughout the day. 

The basics of academic concepts should be reinforced during the day, and these can be made into fun tasks or games that emphasize learning. For example, the alphabet can be learned through locating items in the house that start with each letter. Story time can become learning time when students are asked certain questions that call upon the student’s memory and analysis of the story that they just heard. Students should practice writing their name, the letters of the alphabet and as many numbers as possible in preparation for the next grade level. Students should try to write the names of objects that they drew or colored and write the names of shapes and colors. A beneficial daily practice includes taking turns speaking, and speaking in complete sentences as well as following instructions. As much as possible try to incorporate motor function skills in a daily routine that includes cutting and gluing in the exploration of the topics above. For example, a sheet of paper with the shapes printed on it and within each shape the name of a different color. Have the student identify the correct color that each shape should be and color in that shape with its designated color. Then have the student cut the shape out and glue it onto a lined sheet of paper and beside them write the name of the shape and its color.

These activities should be extended out to include learning the different forms of the weather, the days of the week, the months of the year, the seasons, identifying different animals, usually beginning with domesticated, and the continents, and really any aspects of the physical and natural world that you feel the student is capable of identifying. Physical activity is also important, so getting outside and running, climbing, jumping, playing a sport, cycling, even early exposure to self defense are all healthy and beneficial to the growth and education in these early stages of the student’s development. 

These are all ways in which education can be implemented and accessed in a very loose and informal manner, that parents can use on a day to day basis to enrich and lay critical foundational structures in place for their child’s education. However there are more formally planned and structured activities that can also be utilized in a home setting, which will be explored further in Part 8 next week.

Early Childhood Education Series Pt. 6: Homeschool Education

@prestonwb Will Preston @wbpreston

As we near what would be the start of the school year in the new reality of coronavirus and the possibility in some states of another quarantine, more and more school districts will be opting for a distance learning education model for the first few months at least. Though difficult, students older than 8 who have access to the technology, will encounter similar curriculum and assignments that they would have had in a in class setting. But what about students in early childhood education age groups? How can distance learning be effective for preschool or daycare aged students? What can parents do to ensure that their younger students still have the most effective learning environment possible in this unique situation?

The first thing to know is that children under 6 learn best through play. This is the natural way that all children learn. Through exploration of their environment and hands on experience, children in this age group are introduced to the fundamentals of the world around them. Crucial to the development at this stage in the child’s education is the opportunity to learn from play. 

This can be made more complicated than it need be, but really everything a child does during their day is an opportunity to learn from their experiences. Playing with toys like blocks in the form of shapes teaches young students the differences between the shapes, and what shapes can be stacked and which shapes do not fit together. They learn about momentum and instability when stacking blocks too high. On the playground they learn that climbing to the top of the jungle gym is easier using the steps rather than the slide. Interacting with other children teaches them how to take turns and share and to communicate. The magnetic alphabet teaches students to differentiate between upper and lowercase and to recognize letters.

As a parent, providing the tools for your child to learn during this time does not have to be expensive or complicated. Pebbles, sticks, leaves, books, toys, water, can all become valuable tools in the early education of a child. One example is to write a number on a piece of paper and have the child hold up the amount of objects that match the number. The most important thing is that the activity be fun, because the students will learn something that you intend them to learn, and something that you were not expecting them to learn. Kids have shown higher abilities to retain information when the learning is centered around a fun activity.

It is also important to have some easy to use workbooks for math and writing, but it should not be the basis for their learning, because they are so young it is important that they associate learning with fun or interesting rather than boredom or force. The workbooks should be utilized in association with play. Let them decide how they work in it, where they want to start in the book, and how they want to interact with it. 

Finally, it is suggested that students get outdoors as much as possible, and the distance learning scenario allows for more exploration than ever before. Take students to libraries, go to parks and playgrounds, if there is nature somewhere in walking distance allow students to explore it as often as possible. Everything that the young student experiences during this time in their life is a learning opportunity and easily enriched through play and exploration of new environments. 

Early Childhood Education Series Pt. 5: Naming Emotions

@prestonwb Will Preston @wbprest0n

How can parents help their child understand and express their emotions in healthy and constructive ways? First by assigning a name to the emotion the child is feeling, and encouraging conversation about what they are feeling. With a vocabulary for emotions the child now has a tool for exploring and understanding their feelings. Second by giving children the chance to determine what they are feeling and what someone else may be feeling. Third by pointing out the variety of reactions to their feelings available to them, and this can be reinforced by the parent with their own experiences in dealing with their emotions in the form of stories that serve as examples for how to react to emotions and feelings. Fourth by utilizing friends and family as examples for the child to see different ways to react to emotions.

When naming emotions it is important to use a name that is easily understandable for the child. This can be done while watching kids television shows or movies, or reading children books. The child can point out what emotion the character is feeling and how they reacted to it. Also utilizing the actual events that are taking place in their lives as examples and teaching moments for the child to identify their own emotion. If they felt sad yesterday due to some event, talk to them about what they felt and why, and have them assign a name to it. These are the beginning steps of building their vocabulary around their feelings and connecting them to their experiences. 

Communicating with the child on the possible responses available to them when experiencing emotions is vital to developing their understanding and their relationship to their feelings. The more that the child can be responsible for their own strategies for dealing with emotions the better. They should come up with how they will handle their feelings. Then parents should discuss with the child the positive and negative responses to emotions. When the child uses inappropriate expression when dealing with an emotion the parent should present healthy alternative strategies to the child that can help them with future similar situations. It is important that the child experience the negative response as a way of emphasizing why the positive response is preferred.

When children choose to talk about their feelings it is important that they be met with positivity and encouragement. Clear instruction as to what the child did right and what the child did wrong will encourage them to communicate about their feelings and feel comfortable coming to the parent for future discussions and development of their understanding. It is important that the time and space for these conversations be daily and predictable. During dinner, or game time, when the child is open to engagement on these types of topics. Throughout the day things will happen that provide topics for conversations surrounding emotions and feelings and every opportunity should be utilized to practice discussing how they felt about their day and how they should respond.

It is important that when the child is emotionally charged, that these conversations do not take place. The child should be calm and at ease when discussing their feelings and strategies for dealing with and responding to their emotions. They should associate these communications with parents as positive experiences, rather than as negative experiences attached to discipline for misbehaving. After the tantrum or emotionally charged situation, and the child is calm and ready to receive information in a positive form, the strategies above can be utilized to help the child analyze the situation, their emotions around it, and how they responded. Part 6 next week will center around emotional governance.

Regulating Emotions: Early Childhood Education Series (Pt. 4)

@prestonwb Will Preston @wbprest0n

One of the key aspects of emotional intelligence is the ability to regulate one’s own emotions. Development of the understanding of language in the process of emotional maturation is vital to children in the early childhood educational setting. The evolution of the ability to communicate is directly connected to the progress of the emotional regulation ability. Once the child has developed the language with which to identify and describe emotions, the ability to assess effective methods of handling emotionally charged situations. The language connection to emotional awareness, emotional intelligence, and emotion regulation, is the point where culture intersects with practice. Different cultures have different ways in which emotion is processed, where emotion is felt, how emotion is felt, when emotion is felt, and to whom emotion is expressed. So it is critical that early childhood educational practices within a multicultural setting take into account the varying relationships to emotion that different cultures possess. 

Socialization in early childhood educational settings is directly connected to the ability of a student to navigate relationships with peers and teachers, and is a signifier of the level of emotional competence the student demonstrates. When a child cannot regulate their emotions properly, or in accordance with societal norms, their judgment and decision making become compromised. One area where emotional regulation is important is in transitioning from one stage of life to another. In early childhood education a major milestone for the student is also an opportunity to assess which students can transition from preschool to kindergarten successfully. The successful transition is an indicator of the ability to regulate emotions, while a difficult transition may be an indicator that the student may need more support in the area of emotion regulation. However the goal should be to provide students with the tools necessary to have a successful transition to kindergarten, as this is directly correlated to the ability to access academic information. 

The ability for adults to perform cognitive tasks is connected to their ability to regulate their emotions. This is true for children as well, as planning, memory, and attention are inhibited in the student unskilled in emotional regulation. The ability to be successful in the early academic setting is tied to this skill, lacking this, students are less able to be present for and retain the information being presented. Emotional regulation is also connected to behavioral regulation, and impacts the student’s ability to complete academic tasks and assignments. 

So what does this all mean? The key takeaway is that students need to be able to respond instead of to react. A response requires forethought and planning, whereas a reaction can take place without thought and lead to undesired consequences. Once a student is equipped with the tools of forethought or emotional awareness, they can more readily attend to the various academic requirements that they may face for the rest of their lives. This is an example of the old saying, fix a big problem while it’s small. In this case while the student is small, if we can teach them to identify their emotions as well as the emotions of those around them, and then provide them with the tools for regulating their emotions, then that is one less obstacle in their path towards academic success. 

Of the categories above: emotional awareness, behavioral awareness, and social awareness, all can be placed under the umbrella of self regulation, which will be the topic next week in part 5 of this ongoing series exploring early childhood education.