Masks, Take 2 (Updated 4/29/20)


ETA:  What’s it Like to Be Deaf when Everyone is Wearing Face Masks?

Wearing Eyeglasses with a Face Mask
I will also updating the two mask posts into one post next week so it’s all in one space. I will also include a photo of my newly made face mask.

I discovered that instead of folding my bandana into halves twice that folding it into halves and then thirds made the mask less bulky and it fit better. It also doesn’t sit as high up under my glasses and caused less fogging. The CDC has directions (the bandana directions are at the bottom of the link), but the gist of it is the same as the original that I posted, which can be found here.

Photo below cut:

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Tomie de Paola, Children’s Book Illustrator and Writer (1934-2020)


When I was an Early Childhood teacher, I produced my own lesson plans. I wrote most aspects of the daily/weekly curriculum within a philosophical framework. Different schools had different core objectives, but one thing every school I taught for had in common was literature. Books fit into every aspect of every other subject. The play area was filled with role playing items and dress-up clothes that related to a book we were reading. Blocks, Lego, and building supplies re-enacted scenes from the stories we read all week. Exercise and walks outdoors were times to talk about the children and their families and again, relate their lived experiences to what they had seen and heard their favorite characters do.

Early childhood settings often, more often than not have a period that we call circle time. The kids and their teacher sit in a circle on the floor and begin their day with language. Talking, singing, reading. Repetition is one of the major factors in the early childhood curriculum. Many of the books I chose could be read and enjoyed simply by listening, but others lent themselves easily to child participation.

Each morning, the first book I read was Here are My Hands by Bill Martin, Jr. and John Archambeault. It was beautifully illustrated, but simply written, and easy to follow. Rhyming, watercolor illustrations, parts of the body. Everything you could want in a circle time book.

Here are my hands for catching and throwing,

Here are my feet for running and growing.

Easy to remember, too.

I’d read and when I read a body part, the children would lift it up and name it in unison. Many of the books read that way.

One of my favorites at the time (and still is) was Charlie Needs a New Cloak by Tomie de Paola. There was just something about its simplicity, how it showed the process of making cloth, from sheep shearing to sewing. As each part was told, the last line was, Charlie needs a new cloak. The kids listened intently, and each time it came up they all chorused, “Charlie needs a new cloak.” Each successive time getting louder and louder. (We disturbed other groups, but we were learning and laughing.) I can still hear their voices rising, their bodies moving in anticipation of their favorite line.

As a teacher I collected many books. Many of them were written and illustrated by Tomie de Paola. Most people are familiar with Strega Nona who was a witch who had a magic pasta pot. She always had enough, and always had enough to share with her helper, Big Anthony who once made the pot overflow. This was a favorite of the kids. It had everything: magic, friendship, good deeds, respect, and of course, spaghetti. The book was set in Calabria, which is where Tomie’s Italian grandparents were from.

When I began to go on retreats a few years ago, I sat quietly in the retreat house chapel, staring at the enchanting mural at the back, on the wall behind the altar, behind the plants, behind the tabernacle. Seven women, saints, and the Blessed Mother. There was something about them. They were captivating, and they seemed alive. I have a friend who says that she can see Mary move when she’s watching her. It’s a wonderful mural, bright colors with their names labeled under their feet. I take a new photo of it nearly every time I visit. It is such a peaceful place for meditation and contemplation. The mural is just one of the many reasons why. I don’t know when I noticed a newspaper article in the retreat house that mentions the artist, Tomie de Paola. I had no idea, although once I saw his name, the images clicked with his art that I was already familiar with. He painted the mural in 1958. It still looks like it did when he first did it; like he painted it last week.

I was so sad to hear that he had died just a few weeks ago, in March. He was eighty-five, and died from complications from surgery after a fall in his barn studio, He lived in New Hampshire, and being so close by I had always thought I might meet him. I don’t know why I thought this, and I am heartbroken to see him go. His books, and his art will live on through eternity.

Mural at the Dominican Retreat Conference Center in Niskayuna, NY (by Tomie de Paola, 1958). Cover of Charlie Needs a Cloak by Tomie de Paola. (c)2020

Photo of some of my Tomie de Paola Collection of children’s literature. (c)2020

Election Connection: 29 Weeks: Save the Post Office


All weekend my Twitter feed was the same thing. #SaveUSPS. I knew that the post office got screwed back in the Bush Administration, but I also knew that they would manage; they always did. What I didn’t know was that this White House refused any stimulus money to go towards keeping the Postal Service afloat. This made me angry in a weekend of anger caused by this incompetent and insensitive Administration run by an ignorant nincompoop.

Why should we care about whether or not the post office continues its mission?

For one thing, the post office has been operational since 1775, BEFORE the Declaration of Independence. Benjamin Franklin was its first Postmaster General. When our family visited Philadelphia several years ago, one of the stops I insisted on making was to the Ben Franklin Post Office. We waited in line to get envelopes hand-stamped as souvenirs. We still have them. For another thing, the mail doesn’t discriminate. If you have an address you get mail. No matter how far from the center of town or across the water. In Alaska, mail is delivered in some places by seaplane. Without the post office, those services would cease to function. FedEx and UPS hand off their nonprofitable items to the United States Postal Service for the last leg of the trip to get the items where they need to go. And that leads into the third thing about why we should care about the post office:

The post office isn’t supposed to make a profit. It is a public service, delivering mail to everyone regardless of status or wealth. It’s in the Constitution. Right there in Article 1, Section 8, it states that “The Congress shall have power to establish Post Offices and post Roads;” The implication being that Congress is the one that has the power to disestablish; not the White House. Congress also controls the purse strings through taxes and distribution of monies. And one other thing: the post office pays its own way. Until that Act (under Bush) requiring them to pay into pension plans for fifty years in the future (which no other department or business does), it was making a PROFIT.

Is the Post Office really all that important?

You tell me – how do you feel when you receive a Christmas card from someone you don’t hear from? A wedding invitation that you then hang on the bulletin board? I visit my local post office weekly to mail something, to pick up something, to check out the new stamps. I’ll be back their in two or so days to mail my taxes. To send them certified mail, it will cost me $6.40. If I sent the same via FedEx, it would cost a minimum of $13.75, and it’s not certified mail. It does not count for the legal system according to a 2018 ruling.

For me, from a personal standpoint, I grew up in the back of the post office. Both of my parents worked for many individual branches as clerks until they both retired. My mother also did bookkeeping. They sometimes worked in different offices, and sometimes in the same office. (Would not recommend.) I remember sitting in the back waiting for my Dad to finish up after visiting the eye doctor down the street. He had to count his drawer and return the stamps to the safe in the postmaster’s office, and I spun in the spinny chair, stamped dozens or more of scrap paper with Air Mail, Postage Due, Fragile, Perishable, and whatever else was there on Gloria’s desk. She had a whole box of stamps. The back smelled of stamp ink and cigarette smoke. Everybody smoked back then. Sometimes I would sort the mail (but don’t tell anyone!) I also skipped many a line going in the employee door. It was supposed to be locked, but it almost never was; not then. If it was, someone would buzz me in. Everyone knew me. At one job I had, my “status” was raised when the assistant manager recognized my father from his local post office in Queens, NY. My Dad always helped him, and he remembered the personal service.

When I was younger, actually older than I’d like to admit, I used to think that one of the perks of working for the post office was free postage. I was wrong. I would leave letters in the hinge of the bathroom mirror for my parents to take to work. I didn’t realize that they were paying for the stamps. My parents also collected stamps as I also do, but not as extensively. When my son was small, we decorated his room in framed stamps ranging from comic strips to dinosaurs to baseball players to DC Super Heroes. I’ve made special trips to the post office to get Mr. Rogers, Harry Potter, Star Trek (which I keep framed, and even gave a set as a gift), Star Wars, and most recently, Gwen Ifill’s Forever stamp for the Black Heritage series.

When I took defensive driving, I was the only student who knew that postal trucks have the right of way even over police and fire vehicles, although I don’t imagine they use that law to get by a stop sign or red light. I know that you can’t put anything in anyone’s mailbox unless it has a stamp on it, and I know that opening someone else’s mail is a federal offense.

The mail is probably one of the most important things we have in this country. The United States Postal Service delivers to all areas, regardless of profit margin. In fact, as I said above they weren’t supposed to make a profit. They are self-sustaining (until the Bush Admin and Republican threats to privatize.) As a public service, they should be supported by the government. In its entirety. From birthday cards to pen pals across the globe, magazines, letters to and from Grandma as well as medicine deliveries like I get. I’m always excited to see what the mailbox has in store for me on a daily basis. I can hear when the mail carrier delivers the mail, and I often run out (or send my kids out) immediately. Yesterday, in fact, I got a check from the state for unclaimed funds.

Twenty-five dollars!

They are also the largest single employer of veterans and people of color. Their offices and routes are filled with diversity, women, and veterans.

Why do Republicans want the post office to fail?

Simple. Mail-in voting. They lose when we vote. They rolled the dice in Wisconsin. They made the rules. They forced people out into long lines to vote during the COVID-19 pandemic instead of postponing and extending vote by mail or absentee ballot deadlines. The Democrat won. Now they are crying foul. They made the rules. They forced the vote, but somehow when the Democrat wins it’s unfair.

When I saw the headline about the White House’s refusal to bail out the post office in The Washington Post, I was disturbed, especially after last week’s debacle in Wisconsin!

Some threads to read:

The Debate over a Post Office Bailout, Explained (Vox)

Thread on USPS

Congress is Sabotaging Your Post Office (from May/June, 2019) (Washington Monthly)

Ben White of Politico: A reminder that the USPS funding “crisis” has nothing to do with what it charges Amazon or others and everything to do with a massively burdensome congressional mandate.

How Congress Manufactured a Postal Service Crisis and How to Fix It

Facts about USPS (from USPS)

Twitter thread (long but well worth it) from a Mail Carrier

NOW, call Congress and the White House, and tell them you want the postal service to survive. Tell them you want the bailout.

You want to vote by mail. When we vote, we win. And this election is like no other in our lifetimes.

Call Congress. Call the White House. Make your voices heard.

Anything less is unpatriotic and undemocratic because undermining democracy is what they’ve been doing for the last three years (more if you include Republican Senators) and we will not stand for it.

Call your Senators at: 202-224-3121

Call the White House at: 202-456-141

COVID-19 Masks


Now that most places across the country are asking people to wear masks when they go out, I thought that now would be a good time to share some information on making your own masks. The CDC does not want people wearing N95 or surgical masks; those are to be saved for medical and hospital staff. Out in the everyday world, we should be wearing cloth masks. I’ve been wearing one for a little more than a week. Last week, my husband went to Ocean State Job Lots where they were giving out free fabric/cloth in order to make your own masks. You can check their website to see if those are still available. At the time, there was a limit of 5 per person.

Me in my mask. It’s a little too bulky, but I’m not willing to cut my bandana smaller. I will make another one when I am able to get fabric, but in the mean time, this does the job. (c)2020

The instructions that I used to make my NO SEW mask can be found on YouTube.

FREE pattern for sewing a surgical face mask

The CDC Now Recommends Everyone Use Cloth Masks in Public (Vox)

DIY Homemade Face Mask Tutorials (Vox)

CDC – Cloth Face Covers