All posts by Russ Campbell

The Front Steps Project: Maynard – Jessica

Jessica –

Overall, I think our family is handling this better than I imagined when it was first announced. My husband and I work full time, and I work in drug development, so as you can imagine, our schedules are actually busier than they were pre-quarantine. Add homeschooling to that and it’s a bit overwhelming.

But as the weeks go on, I’ve learned it’s more important to do what works for us as a family than to stress myself out about my children falling behind in school. I’ve realized they are learning just as much about life right now, as academics, and that’s just as important (maybe more so).

My son has autism so I thought this would be especially hard for him, because of the disruption to his routine. However, he seems to be handling it the best of all of us, and is just loving this extra time home with our family, and playing with his big sister all day, every day.

As hard as this is most days, I think we will look back on this time with fondness as a time we got to hit “pause” on life and just got to enjoy being together. And we will know we did our part to be safe, and not put others at risk.

The Front Steps Project: Maynard – Lauren & Patricia

Lauren & Patricia
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Lauren & Patricia –

Like most of you, we are finding this wild, weird time just that – a wild, weird time. But we are also finding it to be an incredible opportunity. As people who always felt grateful for so much in our lives, we are finding that daily the depth of gratitude grows. Some days it means looking up at someone you always respected and loved and saying “WOW .. you are really ARE an amazing human being”. Other days it is gratitude that we just got through our day without losing our *&%$.

Day-to-day, our lives feel very busy talking with clients, expanding our knowledge base as much as we can, and doing a lot more cooking and cleaning than usual. Interestingly enough, we are finding deepening friendships as time stretches to allow for longer phone calls, zoom calls and just genuine sharing of hopes and fears. There are worries: about the health and well-being of friends, family and clients, the impact of economic changes for all of us and about the future. But that’s what the doggo’s are for – their patient listening and constant willingness snuggle or to go for a walk.

There is much of our current normal that we hope will remain part of whatever the “new normal” looks like. Until we can hug you, dear friends and neighbors, please know we send our love.

The Front Steps Project: Maynard – Mary

Mary –

“Finding the Silver Lining” has been the motto of our time at home. My husband and I both work at a High School locally – we are balancing teaching via live zoom and entertaining/socializing a 2 year old! It has been challenging at times but we are welcoming it all as positively as possible! I am a high school softball coach and with the disappointing news of our season being cancelled, I am making the daily effort to focus on all of this time that I would not have had with our son. We are seeking out the bright side every day.

The Front Steps Project: Maynard – Whitney and EJ

(repost of this great photo, with Whitney’s story)

Whitney and EJ

Superheroes have always been big in our house (well, for about seven years, that is). So when we posted on social media that we were doing the Front Steps Project with Russ to support the Maynard Community Chest’s critical work in our community, one friend commented, “I hope there is some sort of super hero cape involved.” Challenge Accepted.

COVID-19 is one of the most formidable villains we’ve come up against. Currently, EJ is fulfilling her responsibilities as Captain Caretaker, using her powers of compassion and commitment to guide the long-term care facility she directs through multiple positive cases of the coronavirus. This leaves Whitney and Kaya home as the Dynamic Domestic Duo, navigating the pitfalls (both emotional and physical) of full-time work from home, the ever-changing expectations of educating-at-home, parenting during a pandemic, and household management.

We feel extremely grateful to have the resources we have at this time. And grateful to organizations like the Maynard Community Chest for helping to get support to those who need it.

This time is SO. SO. HARD. We all need to call upon our inner superheroes to get ourselves and each other through. If you need a cape or mask, we’ve got some extras.

Remember: you can still make a donation to the Maynard Community Chest to help make a difference in the lives of your fellow townsfolk: DONATE.

The Front Steps Project: Maynard – Sara

Sara –

John and I are both retired and enjoy our time together at home, taking care of our 4 young grandchildren who live nearby, and visiting our 3 older grandchildren who live in Western Massachusetts. Life is good! We love Maynard and our neighbors! Of course, like everyone else, we had no idea that everyday life could change so quickly.

The first few weeks of staying at home were great! I had so many projects that have been on my list, all complete now. I play the piano every day and have actually improved. Wow! John sits in his recliner and listens, sometimes with his eyes closed (?!!)

Now I miss my family so much that it is a physical ache and I feel tears in my eyes as I type this. Yes, we see them on Facetime and Zoom. We all text constantly. Yet that doesn’t compare to seeing my family and hugging my grandchldren. I know this time will end, yet I wonder how life will be changed.

Still, John and I are so fortunate. We are comfortable. We are healthy right now and no one we know has been sick. And that is wonderful.

The Front Steps Project: Maynard – Patty

Patty –

Day to day life for us is beginning to take shape in a new way. I am the only one in the family who goes to work outside of the home since the place I work is considered an essential business and the office has a staff of less than ten people. Our company makes machines that are being used for Covid-19 testing. It stresses me out every time I leave the house, but I know my coworkers and I are taking all the measures necessary to be safe and I know the work we are doing is helping where it counts.

My husband works from home and has experienced a huge increase in workload as he is developing software for virtual graduation ceremonies for colleges and universities. The kids have been adjusting to online learning and socializing. The adjustment has been tough at points, especially for the youngest. I’ve seen some moodiness and a lot of naps. I’ve also seen some great creativity expressed and clever workarounds to get in exercise and play. I’ve been heartened by the bonding moments with family. We have been communicating much more with siblings in other states and especially with my dad, who lives in assisted living and is very bored and lonely.

As a community, I recognize how much we are interconnected in all of this. I have been so inspired by the many stories of folks reaching out to support each other in many ways: those making masks to distribute or delivering groceries and take-out food to others in town, the teachers and educators who are giving so much to keep their students connected and learning, and the people on the front-lines of the pandemic who are fighting to keep us safe. For these things, I am deeply grateful.

The Front Steps Project: Maynard – Tifany

Tifany –

As a mom of two teenage girls I have found, like many others, we were over worked and over scheduled. It is just a part of life. We all were accustomed to relying on what our calendar said we needed to do hour by hour. Staying home 24/7 certainly wasn’t what we were used to.

We have adjusted well to the change, welcoming more family time while playing games, watching movies and enjoying playing outside. We know how precious these next few years are in the life of a teenager and reality is they will not be under our roof forever.

I am so thankful that we were able to have this extra time with our children who are growing and maturing right before our eyes.

Lastly, I encourage all to shop local, encourage others, and choose kind.

The Front Steps Project: Maynard – Karen & Neil

Neil reflects:

Soon after my bachelor’s degree, I moved from central NY State to Auburn, Alabama for grad school. It was a shock to my system in many ways, especially the heat. I was more of a cold-weather person then. There was a decent music scene for such a small place. That combined with the club lacrosse team helped me gain some continuity between my previous life and my new one in Alabama. There was a band called the Month of Sundays. That phrase puzzled me. Southerners were familiar with it, but I never got a sense of what it meant. Until now. Now, even with work, I feel like we are living a month of Sundays.

Prior to COVID, and like so many people, Karen and I were commuting or working long days, packing our two children onto the bus at 8 am and picking them up between 5:15 and 6:45 pm. They were long days, something I reflected upon since my kindergarten days were half-days. Before COVID, I spent too much time in the car each week and was stressed over a lot of things.

As you can see in the image, we have a decent yard that, if you squint in your mind’s eye, mimics a forest. I am a forest ecologist and my goal with the backyard is to turn it back into a forest, from floor to ceiling. What you cannot see is that it is tiny, but for a children, it is big enough for now. It gives us an escape, like I hope the treehouse will provide for them when they are older.

We live on a cul-de-sac and the traffic is light and often slow. Our neighbors have gotten used to us being in the street playing. We are extremely fortunate and have plenty of space to work out feelings and have some fun during these times.

Karen reflects:

Neil writes about a “Month of Sundays.” I likewise feel some unexpected blessings from having more time together with our kids, more time outside (lucky us on our cul-de-sac), and, especially, the privilege of flexible jobs that mean we are not worried about loss of income, even as that worry is so widespread among people we know and in our community as a whole. The photographs, I think, reflect that.

Neil reflects:

Now in our COVID world, Karen and I are splitting our workdays and trying to keep our children on a healthy path during this Month of Sundays. I work, Karen guides, teaches, watches, plays, and feeds and then we switch roles, splitting mornings for work when we are at our most focused and caring for the children at the end of the day when their emotions become more fragile. When we had big projects or deadlines, this is what one of our weekend days was like.

Karen reflects:

And yet…there are significant stressors for everyone. The challenge of trying to balance work with homeschooling, to manage the anxiety our kids, our feelings, and to contain worries for family members and friends who work in hospitals and in other essential services. I wake up every morning, and for about 5 seconds, I exist in a world where I have forgotten all of those things. And then I remember, and the day starts anew.

Neil reflects

We are fortunate in the setting of our home and that everyone we know so far is ok. Beyond the existential dread and the preventable illnesses and deaths, which weigh us down, we are getting a slower, more thoughtful pace of life in [in between the conflicts between children who are missing their friends, teachers, grandparents, and cousins]. My health has noticeably improved and, despite 25+ years working in the forest as a part of my career, I am noticing new phases of life and kinds of life in the sliver of woods near our house. I miss colleagues and visiting with friends, but as a student of environmental history, these types of events are relatively common for humans to experience and endure [as is true for all other biological creatures].

It is our turn to endure this rollercoaster of conditions and emotions, from hours to days, from weeks to months, and from months to [hopefully not more than two] years. In that light, and in reflecting on human intelligence, creativity, and our ability to endure and grow through common cause, I am trying to keep the dread at bay, capture the moments of joy, and hold steady as we move through our new world.

While there is much talk about how we will not go back to normal or that everything will be different, I take a different view. We will reach back to before this time, reflect on the good during these times, and build continuity in our lives between the pre- and post-COVID Era.

The Front Steps Project: Maynard – Denise

Denise, with her family, some holding photos of family members who weren’t there for the photo.

Denise –

As a mom of 7, I feel like I have been on the run with a crazy scheduled life for over 2 decades now. If this time has given me anything, its the ability to slow down and fully appreciate what I have. Daily walks in the woods with just my dog has given me the time for self refection that I don’t remember having for a very long time.

That being said, as a two educator family with 4 teenagers still in the house, it’s also a bit crazy. Trying to navigate all online schooling and changes to how we ‘do’ education has made all of us think more deeply about education as a whole. We have had some great dinner conversations about how this all works, and what everyone is getting from it all.

When we come out on the other end of all this, my hope is that we all look at education a little differently, and perhaps adjust our priorities when thinking about education and our children. Maybe there is a ‘light’ at the end of this tunnel.

Even though the project is on hold at the moment, please consider making a donation to the Maynard Community Chest – as time goes on, your help is needed even more! Donate now.