Friday, December 22, 2023


After too much coffee? by Bill Slavin

2023, full of tragedy and tumult, has been in a personal way something to treasure.  Just like everyone else's, my smile disappeared behind a mask during the pandemic. I would smile as I talked with people, but my facial expression remained hidden partly because of the mask but because I also shielded my eyes by wearing large sunglasses. The glasses covered my eyes and most of my face quite well. With a mask and adding a hat, all my facial expressions vanished. With a mask on, I struggled to let people know that I had empathy for them. I removed my glasses so they could see my eyes, but that was not enough. My muffled voice behind the mask didn't carry the emotion I wanted to express. Body language became more important.


Merry Christmas Shout-Out

I rarely see someone with a mask on now. I am one of the cautious ones who still places one on my face when I know I will be in a crowded place for a long period. Most of the time. Until cold weather arrived, we continued to eat at restaurants on their patios instead of inside. We appreciate the wonderful dimension created by outdoor seating in a restaurant space. We are going to sporting events and other crowded activities that would not have been on our list during the pandemic. By pure luck, I haven't had Covid yet.

"Peeking at you"

People have often made comments about my wide smile, a family trait. My favorite came from a student at the end of the day. He said, "When I walk into your room and see your smile, I know I am okay." A smile has been my way to assure people of my good intentions, that I'm friendly, and that I appreciate the work they do.

Smiles, though, can be full of contradictions. In other cultures, a smile could be an indication of someone's poor mental health or a sign of danger. In our culture, women often are told they smile too much or they are told to smile because they look too stern.  Smile and a woman is too girlish. No smile and she is too severe. In 2023, I found that someone's smile was extra special to see.

Though I valued the mask for protecting me from Covid, I discovered one more unexpected consequence. Wearing a mask not only guarded against Covid, but affected how I communicated with others. 2023 has been a year of getting reacquainted with the smiles on other people's faces and seeing the other facial clues we express that signal how we are all feeling. I am glad.


  1. From Tena by email: I loved this Friday's blog about people's smiles. It was so true. I smile a lot and feel very fortunate for a variety of reasons: good marriage, great children (43 and 40), good heath, friends that I can count on and that help keep me grounded during these very trying times, lots of interesting areas that I enjoy ( gardening, learning, exercising and eating, a little traveling, AAUW, grandkids, etc.).

    1. Thank you, Tena, for expanding on the idea of smiles and how important they are to give.


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