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  • Writer's pictureLeann Shamash

Eight Women: An Update (February/March)

I have done two updates on a collaborative project that I am involved with. The project, Eight Women (it started as Nine Women, but one woman dropped out), is a look at Covid through the eyes of eight women, each of a different decade. Each month the women take photos of their lives. We've been collecting photos and meeting every few weeks since September. Over the months, as would be expected, patterns have developed and each participant has seen themes in their lives. We range in age from 17-93, we live in different communities and we each have our own life narratives that come alive through these photos but also through reflections that the women have written.

This is a little piece of history. Nothing earth shattering, but a look at the lives that could be any of us during these past months.



When Covid all started, I was feeling excited because it was a break from school for what we thought was going to be only two weeks. It was a nice and relaxing time because there hadn’t really been any cases in my area so it just felt like a break. I did lots of baking, exercise, and saw some friends. Once it started to get warmer, I went for lots of walks and spent time outside. Once it had been about a month, I wanted to go back to school. Once summer came, I started to see friends a lot more and not really worry about covid. I did have a greater summer full of trips to the beach, seeing friends and fun experiences, so I’m very happy I still was able to make the best out of my summer. When school started up again, I was able to make a return to dance which was nice. Since it was junior year though, the stress was already building up. I started to struggle more with anxiety in the fall and winter of 2020, and reached a low point sometime around then. I soon after got a therapist, and learned how to be mindful and lots of techniques and ways to get rid of my anxious mindset. I believe this was partly set off by the pandemic, and many teens have struggled with mental health in 2020. In the past few months, I’ve been feeling a lot better. I have been trying my best to focus on school, and even starting to look at colleges. This has been stressful, but i'm doing my best with it. Lately, I’ve still been finding ways to have fun. I went to Boston with a friend, I’ve been babysitting a few times a week and I have been driving and skiing often. Three weeks ago, I started up with in person hybrid school. I go on Monday and Tuesday in the morning only. Although waking up early is difficult, I enjoy getting a change of scenery and it helps me feel more productive. I had a lot of trouble focusing on the zooms for school, and often find myself walking around and losing my attention span. Being in person has really helped me with this, and my focus and participation. It definitely feels different to be back, since it’s been such a long time but I would say it’s a good difference. Two events I'm looking forward to are my dance recital and sisters' Bat Mitzvah in May!


Celebrating a birthday, Covid Shot

One of the most exciting that happened was that I got my first COVID vaccine! The DC Government reached out to my organization and told us that we qualified because we are still providing some in-person services to our clients. With both of our laptops open, my boyfriend helped me register and secure an appointment. I received my first shot on February 24 and will receive my second later in March. My organization wanted to share our vaccine pictures on social media to encourage our clients to register as well. While I did not take a vaccine selfie (I do NOT do well with needles and a picture of me getting the vaccine would likely act as more of a vaccine deterrent), I was happy to pose with my vaccine card.

Now that the DC area is finally edging into spring, I’ve been able to take advantage of the nice weather and actually get together with some friends outside. We took a trip to the National Arboretum and enjoyed both nature and spending some time with friends. Between the cold winter weather and my surgery in December, I haven’t been able to see many friends and was feeling a bit isolated. So I really enjoyed the opportunity to go on a nice long walk and feel a little more normal.

One of the most surreal things that happened was that I celebrated my 29th birthday on March 13, which is basically the day that everything shut down last year. My boyfriend and I had originally had plans for a really nice dinner for my birthday last year, but we wound up cancelling with the intent of delaying it just a few weeks. That delayed birthday celebration never happened. And here we are again. It almost doesn’t feel like the past year really happened. It’s almost like I turned 28 just a month ago and now I’m right back at my birthday again. I was lucky that this time I was able to do something that felt special. Since I had worked so many extra hours in February, I was able to flex a workday on Friday so my boyfriend and I both spent the day walking to Georgetown and eating lunch by the river. I’m really happy that I got to do something for my birthday and the vaccine rollout makes me feel like there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. But when I turn 30, I hope that I don’t look back on the prior year and regret all that I missed.


A Developing Relationship

During the month of February, things started to become a bit more hopeful. I received the second dose of my vaccine and celebrated a special weekend away with Scott. We drove to the Poconos to an AirbnB where we had the chance to bond. We had time to read, relax in the hot tub, make s'mores together and hike in the snow. February also had its stressful moments with parent teacher conferences. The photo of all the food packages on the table is of Shabbat dinner that my mom sent me from a local supermarket. In a week of having too many meetings, my mom stepped in and took cooking Shabbat food off my plate. Very appreciated!

March has been an exciting month. We celebrated Purim together- this is significant because it is actually our second time celebrating Purim together during our relationship. We are starting to create traditions and memories associated with these holidays. We joined megillah reading on Zoom and made hamantaschen together. Since March has started, we have also started apartment hunting. The photo of Scott and our real estate agent in one of our potential apartments, signifies the beginning of our new home together. The apartment hunt is on! Scott got me these flowers and a card to thank me for doing so much research on the apartment search which is very sweet. On top of apartment hunting I am also job hunting so things are gearing up and becoming very busy! I'm looking forward to my spring break at the end of March.


Mothering and Teaching

Here's a photo of me getting my first Moderna vaccine on Friday! I was crying happy tears when I got there.

Also, yesterday was my birthday. My students got me flowers. My husband got me champagne. I corrected student work last night. Not a grand celebration, but I have so much to be thankful for. Looking forward to what my 42nd year brings.

A photo of my son. He just learned how to play America the Beautiful. I'm not much of a patriotic song person, but when he played it I got so excited. He's been playing the viola for a year and a half and is getting so good. Watching him learn and grow in his music has been such a joyful journey. His music makes me so happy.


A Call to Action: Political Activism and Food Saving

Marla continues to energetically pursue two passions, local and national politics and food saving. Marla is involved with new food pursuits in her home community. In a special election recently, Marla once again worked the polls. Her many photos give the viewer a sense of what the work entails, particularly in the winter months.

March has been full of new and continued community and civil service opportunities.

I have been continuing my weekly volunteer slots transporting food to pantries. I wanted to capture the sense too that there are so many people, on the ground working the food pantries to bring food to over 900 families per week, in my city of Newton. I was struck by a self directed young 10 year old, who told me he comes with is dad every Tuesday to volunteer, as he carefully placed a pineapple in the many bags that lay in front of him. This pandemic has shown it definitely takes a village.

I am working on the Fresh Truck, most consistently in Roxbury/ Boston MA. On the truck this month, we for once had a consistent team of volunteers- 3 of us, Doris, Ty and myself, had all committed together unknowingly for the same weekly slots. That changed the atmosphere on the truck, because after week one, we all were familiar with one another. We worked even faster knowing each other’s strengths and we even got a bit creative! Instead of bagging the produce orders, we decided to use the empty boxes holding a particular fruit or vegetable, as the container for the order. Then we rearranged the client’s order in the most spectacular way to present to them this gift of fruit and vegetables, outside the bus. As someone who loves the smells, sights, texture and taste that surrounds me on the Fresh Truck, this changed process of packing the order was truly invigorating and changed the atmosphere from a manic workstation to a place of personal creativity and energy.

This month also presented me with the opportunity of contributing my civic duty, with our citywide councilor elections. I went to vote myself, with my dog accompanying me, of course- Alfie always wants to be where the action is! My 8 hour poll worker shift was pretty low key and straightforward... yet as always it was important to witness everyone’s power to elect at work, as we closed out the night counting and recounting to ensure the voter registration booklets were counted in the final tally! Here Here to DEMOCRACY!



I finished saying kaddish for my mom in December, but I continue to attend the KI early morning minyan every morning. Standing by my window each morning and reciting the Amida brings me a certain unexpected peace. Being in the virtual room with people who get together each morning brings routine, comfort and a place where people can remember their loved ones. Being in a Zoom room enables all of us to see each other's faces as we speak. We see tears and eyes searching for the right words to say. Perhaps this is what minyan is, being there for each other face to face. Being a witness to each other's pain and joy. I've been collecting people's thoughts about this special space. In these two photos you see my Mikdash Me'at, my own space and the thoughts of the service leader.


Connecting with family far from home

My daughter and I both find joy in the kitchen. Sometimes we just talk while cooking, me in San Francisco and she in Brooklyn.

Every few months or so we do a baking project together, supposed to be for my nine year old granddaughter to round out her Zoom school day but mostly she eats the finished product.

So far this past year we have made Challah, bagels and hamantashen. We were a week late, as Purim had passed, but that didn’t matter to us. Hamantash were my major food group that day.



Bernice has found ways to communicate with her children, grandchildren and great grandchildren during Covid. Despite the necessary restrictions at her place of residence she has been busier than ever, participating in lectures, exercise, services and entertainment on the television set. As residents got their vaccines, things have begun to open up. Bernice writes an elated update below!!!


And I am released! I can have visitors again! 2 at a time!

And we can have up to 6 people in an apartment!

And I can have 45 minutes in the pool ‍♂️ 3 times a week (2 people in the pool)

And a maximum of 35 people in the ballroom for concerts(by appointment) others can see concerts on our in house TV

And knitting classes (if I only had time to knit)

And new Lifetime Learning Classes(I,m going to take New Wave French films,

And maybe,maybe,maybe our dining rooms will open soon(with 6 ft. Distancing,of course!

Oh Yay, we,re going to feel like we,re on the Good Ship OC soon again!🥰

If you'd like to look at some of the earlier 8 Women posts, please to to:

Please note that we started out this project with nine women. A few of the women changed in the fall, and you will see this in earlier posts.

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