Behind the Mask –Coronavirus Diary Part 13

Before I began writing this, I let out a long, heavy sigh. This is the third or forth (now fifth) attempt I’ve made to write this blog and it’s not going well. Many iterations of this blog have sat in my drafts file.

You are here

Since I started writing this a couple of weeks ago, so much more has happened in this country that the grief and bewilderment from it all is just emotionally crushing. We surpassed 100,000 Covid-19 deaths in the US. A black man was murdered (on video) by a cop, as others stood by and watched. Minneapolis is on fire. Business are being looted. Journalists, who were just doing their jobs, covering the protests were arrested on live tv by Minnesota state police. The president’s tweets are un-presidental and grotesque. The pandemic is still raging. No one in this country agrees on anything–including the basics, like whether or not we should wear masks or continue social distancing. Covid infection rates are still rising. Millions are still unemployed, hungry, and unable to pay the bills.

Things are brewing just under the surface

I’m honestly at the limit of my capacity to process it all.

And sitting here, in my house, in Upstate NY, I feel helpless to do anything about the BIG THINGS going on in the world. I hesitate to even add my voice to the millions of voices who have already weighed in. I’m weary of the body-less echo chamber, the compulsive need everyone has to share their opinions with the world. It really doesn’t help, does it, to have a nation of jackasses braying back and forth at each other? With all that noise and indignation, the people who should be talking are being drowned out. And we’re accomplishing so little, despite so much noise.

I’ll just cover my mouth.

I feel guilty in my inaction, but I also feel like I’m doing my part simply by staying out of the fray.

And then there are the little tragedies that hit closer to home.

We cancelled our much-anticipated trip to Disney World in August. We had so enjoyed planning for it, and imagining all the fun we would have. Now, with that off the calendar, the summer stretches on like an endless Groundhog Day.

Which one of these is not like the others?

Yesterday, I dropped the boys off for their scheduled “locker clean out” at the middle school. Masks were required. Social distancing was in effect. I couldn’t go in, but they tell me that they checked in, went to their lockers (which the school had already unlocked for them), grabbed their stuff, went to their gym locker, grabbed their stuff, went to the art room, grabbed their stuff. Then they were shown the door.

They didn’t have much to say about it, beyond how weird it all was. But for me, personally, it was just another micro trauma. Sam’s unceremonious exit from middle school is all the goodbye he gets before he transitions to high school (and nobody knows what that will look like). In his shoes, I’d feel unfinished, unprepared, anxious. As a parent, because he is my oldest, I think I needed that long eighth grade goodbye to prepare myself emotionally for the next stage of his life. And I didn’t get that transition either. How do I parent in this haze? How to I prepare him for something I can’t know and can’t visualize?

That stings a little

I have so much on my mind these days, and so little energy to unpack it all. And even if I did have the energy to do a deep dive into my psyche, who would I even talk about it to? I’ve said before that the world has telescoped so small, and we’ve all diminished ourselves to such a degree, that the outside world is more like a drive-through holiday pageant. Other people are going through their little daily routines, and without any meaningful interactions with them, you are their theater and they are yours.

All business in the front, but foxy in the back 🦊

It starts to wear on you after a while. And with everything else going on, this lack of human contact and communication makes the world seem impersonal and scary–as hard to read as a face behind a mask.

I went back and read some of my earliest Coronavirus blogs, and it just seems like a different time. Back then, I thought it might be bad, but I couldn’t fathom how bad. And while I figured we’d be quarantined a while, I couldn’t have imagined for how long. There’s an energy and optimism to my earlier posts that I just don’t feel anymore. I have matured into the reality at hand and have settled into this weird, new, socially distant lifestyle to such a degree that the before time might as well be some event in the far flung past.

Are campgrounds open yet?

Did we hug once? Pack into theaters? Visit each other’s houses? Laugh? I don’t remember.

Occasionally, something will happen, and I’ll get a shocking reminder of my previous life. Once upon a time, I was querying a novel, wasn’t I? I heard back from one of the literary agents who had my full manuscript. Reading her email was like reliving a hazy dream, a distorted reality. She wrote me an incredibly long, thoughtful, detailed email–honestly more like an editorial letter than a “thanks, but no thanks”, and gave me some really specific feedback on ways to make my story better.

I’m not in the frame of mind to write anything right now. And that stresses me out. I should be able to power through, right? But I’m afraid I will try (badly) and the story will seem forced and jammed together–which is worse than writing nothing at all.

In the meantime, I make masks. It makes me happy. It takes my mind off the crush of everything else. All the spoken worries, and the unspoken ones. It’s the only thing making me feel any sense of purpose. The part of my brain that controls mask making is raring to go, and I have endless energy and creativity for it. I’m too on edge to disappear into fantasy worlds. But when I’m sewing, I can still be creative. Still have a little fun with the fabrics.

Dreaming of travel and tropical getaways

I’m struggling badly and I know I can’t be the only one. My good and bad days come in waves. A really good day will be followed by a bad one. It’s almost if my brain can’t accept dual realities — that something horrible is happening and that the world is still beautiful and amazing and things can be wonderful. Is it survivors guilt? I don’t know. But every day I get on the emotional seesaw and ride it up and down, up and down.

I hate that we have to wear masks, and making them makes me sad. But at the same time, I love finding a cool new fabric to work with. I love playing with different fabric combinations, and exploring how different prints translate to mask fashion. I also love reversible masks and playing with the idea of what we show to the world, and what we keep on the inside. Probably no one realizes that I’m doing that. They just think “Ooh! Options!”

The outside of the previous mask.

And that’s okay. It’s good for my mental health to be playful like this.

There’s a big debate about wearing masks in this country right now. And I get it. We’ve all been conditioned to see masks as unnecessary at best and dangerous or suspicious at worst. Villains and bank robbers wear masks. They are frighteningly impersonal. No one up to any good wants to wear them either. They suck. They’re hot. It’s hard to be heard. Verbal and nonverbal communication– especially friendliness–is muted. There’s also a lot of debate about whether they even work and make a difference. But I’m willing to risk it. Trying something is better than doing nothing.

Yeah for science!

When I started making masks, I wanted to make masks out of fun fabrics with tons of personality. I wanted people who wouldn’t ordinarily want to wear a mask (starting with me), feel a little better about it by injecting some fun and whimsy into a decidedly not-fun and not-whimsical experience.

Of course the dog that looks like Archie has road rage 🙂

I hope my masks do that. I hope they help. Because otherwise, I feel very helpless.

Just spinning my wheels…

Renew & Restart -Coronavirus Diary Part 12

I’ve been reflecting on the dramatic changes to my life, pre-pandemic, to the life I’m living now. If you had told me in early March that by May, I would be a mask maker in a pandemic, I would’ve thought you were nuts. But here we are. Making masks. Writing blogs. Living history.

I feel like I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, too. The stay at home order flattened the curve and now we’re able to start slowly venturing out again.

New York’s PAUSE expires Friday. I’m not sure how much life will really change for us for the foreseeable future. Restaurants are still take out only. Retail is still divided into essential/curb side pick up only/ or closed (Peter Harris, I miss you!). We can’t travel anywhere or do much of anything. But things are starting to open up finally.

Jumping Jacks opened (but then they closed again after issues with their phones), ice cream stands, drive in movies, and the dog park did too. These are all the seasonal markers Upstate New Yorkers look forward to every year — confirmation that winter is over and finally the best part of the year (for the warm weather lovers among us) has arrived. You can almost feel the deep, collective sigh of relief when this happens each year, but especially now, after the spring we’re had (capped off by a freak May snowstorm). I think I speak for all New Yorkers when I say we’re just screaming into the void at this point. We need these things in our lives right now. Bad.

It’s not surprising that with so much returning to normal, my quarantine appearance started to bug me. I needed to go to the salon in January. In the fall, I dyed my hair red, and most of it faded out except a stubborn stripe around my head. I kept putting it off because I didn’t have the money for a $100 fix. I wanted red hair, damnit, but not if it mostly washed out leaving weird red stripes in random spots.

Then, as news of Covid-19 spread, I decided to severely limit my non-essential trips out of the house. There was no way I setting foot in a salon. Then PAUSE happened. And as it stands, salons won’t be reopening for a while still.

My hair was starting to look tragic. A line of natural ash blond striped with grey, then that stubborn stripe of red, plus last year’s highlights. Jeremy, God love him, said it looked just fine. But it was sooo not fine.

Perhaps this is melodramatic, but we have a pandemic on, and I didn’t want to possibly die with this hair. If I have to go out, and I have a choice, it won’t be looking like this.

I considered Loreal Preference, but I have skin reactions to all kinds of things, had never used it before, and now is not the time for a bad reaction to anything. Plus, I am one of those people who can never rely on *anything* to go on and, on my face and hair, stay the color it was intended to.

Purple lipsticks turn pink. Pinks turn orange. Reds turn coral.

I once dyed my hair what was supposed to be blonde with a touch of copper and it went burgandy.

So no way was I picking a hair color based off a photoshopped model’s picture on a box. I wanted to fix my problem, not create a new one.

Henna seemed like a solid option though. I’d tried it once before, with my host sister when I was living in Hungary, and remembered liking the results. Being plant based, I wasn’t likely to have an allergic reaction, the color is permanent, it covers grey hair, and it’s cheap.

So I ordered some. While I waited for it to arrive, I read a bunch of henna hair dying tips. Then I ordered a bunch of disposable plastic caps and gloves because it is MESSY.

While I was attempting an in-home spring makeover, there was the issue of my eyebrows, which were a hot, hot mess. I have never had any success with in home waxing kits, but tweezers are the devil’s own torture device, and I was getting desperate. I ordered this kit.

I decided today would be beauty makeover day. After sewing masks feverishly all day in order to get to the post office before closing, I started with the eyebrows.

Y’all, I don’t know what magical elixer went into the wax, but it was the easiest, most pain-free eyebrow wax of my life. I’m never going to a salon for eyebrows again.

Bouyed by new optimism I tried the henna. Whatever I did once in Hungary, it was not this. You cannot begin to imagine how messy it is.

I started with a green powder of crushed up natural henna. Added boiling water. Stirred until it resembled the consistency of yogurt. Let it sit an hour.

The glop in the bowl turned brown with a vague greenish tint–like guacamole that’s been sitting out all day. After an hour, I coated all my hair in what looked like a baby’s diaper explosion, covered it in two plastic caps, and let it sit for 2.5 hours. It has a decidedly planty smell and felt like I had a wet mud pie sitting on my head. Not the best sensation, to be sure. But also kind of fun to guess what kind of redhead it was about to turn me into.

2.5 hours later, I hopped in the shower and starting rinsing the henna out. After I got the majority out, I used A LOT of conditioner to work out the last of the paste. Then I rinsed it again (no shampoo), brushed it out, and dried it with a hair dryer to set the color.

I am really happy with the end result. It’s not unlike a $100 salon job, but this won’t wash out EVER.

People keep talking about what people have learned/discovered from being in quarantine and how this newfound self reliance will translate to a post-pandemic world.

I know I’m going to do my own eyebrows and hair color from now on. This was so much cheaper AND so much easier that going to a salon. I will not, however, be attempting to give myself haircuts. That is just a bridge too far.

In the Jungle – Coronavirus Diary Part 11

This is a weird time during the Covid-19 pandemic. The natives are getting restless. More and more people are protesting the lock down and the molasses slow reopening.

I could write about that, but historians will most likely cover it in far better detail than I could–from home–watching it all unfold from afar.

I am not protesting the reopening of anything. 1. It would do me no good. I will not be working again for some time, with schools and non-essential retail both closed for the foreseeable future. 2. I don’t disagree with it. I’m terrified of this virus and what it could potentially do to my body. I’m prone to bronchitis and inflammation, so this is not something I want to mess around with. And the more I hear about it, the less I want to play Russian Roulette with my immune system.

I’ll just hunker down in the house (where I always wanted to be pre-pandemic anyway) and wait it out.

And technically, I should be happy.

Jeremy is still working (and working from home until mid-July, at least). We have shelter over our heads, food in our fridge, good health insurance, and I’m one of the lucky ones in New York whose unemployment benefits are being paid. The boys are here, and we’re all together. Cases in this area are rising somewhat, but the number of local cases hasn’t overwhelmed local hospitals, and I wouldn’t call this area a hotspot. It’s safer than a lot of places right now.

So, rationally speaking, I am fine. And if this were a normal time, I could use this time to be so productive. Everywhere I look, I see projects I now have the time to tackle. It would be awesome.

But my brain disagrees. It perceives that I am in danger–a danger it cannot see or predict–and therefore all systems– flight/fight/adrenaline/cortisol–are cranked to 10.

I can’t shake this constant mental restlessness, the need to stay vigilant, the total inability to relax. Now, confronted with all these options, my brain just flat out will not cooperate. I have no attention span. I can’t lose myself in anything. It’s like my brain has literally raised the floor, minimizing the space in which my mind can hunker down. Where once I had three floors and a basement, now I’m trapped in the attic. Forget big, involved tasks. Cleaning the basement, organizing the attic, revising my novel, writing a new novel, even reading a book.

My brain says “no, thank you” and steers me toward shorter, less time involving tasks. Things with one step or, at most, two. Things that require no concentration. Emptying the trash. Cleaning the stove top. Brushing the cat.

I’m no neurologist, but I think my brain is saying, “Let’s not get too distracted. The shit can hit the fan at any moment. So best be on guard and vigilant at all times.”

Jeremy and I check in with each other pretty much daily. We are constantly asking each other “Are you okay?” “Anything I can do to make this easier for you?”

I was telling him how I don’t like my brain right now. I can’t get comfortable and it’s unlike me to have no focus. I am a focused person. Historically, when I’ve lost myself in a task, I really lost myself. I don’t recognize myself in this disorienting mental landscape. It reminds me of the depressive brain fog I was in post-divorce. Like a cloud of ether hung around my head, when life became a disorienting haze. I would really rather avoid that place again, if I can.

He was trying to understand my mental state, when I came up with the perfectly analogy to describe why it feels like it does right now.

Imagine you are in a jungle with a group of people, and somehow you get separated from the group and lost in the jungle. You know they will eventually find you and lead you out of the jungle. But you also know that in this jungle, there are poisonous plants, venomous snakes, crocodile infested rivers, and predatory animals that can kill you. The safest thing for you to do is find shelter, hunker down, and wait for rescue. You have a backpack of supplies. Plenty of food. Plenty of water. And a book.

It may be a while until your group finds you. You might pass the time more pleasurably by reading. Do you read? No, you don’t. You stay alert. Listening for approaching sounds. Staying vigilant. Constantly assessing your safety.

You probably couldn’t read even if you wanted to. And your mind would amplify every leaf rustle, cracking twig, and bird call, amping up your adrenaline, and making it difficult to even sit and wait.

I think that’s where we all are now, collectively.

We are all sitting in a hostile jungle, waiting for rescue.

Coronavirus Diary Part 10

In a perfect world, I would be using time in quarantine to very productively write something magnificent. Because, seriously, what else do I have to do in these never ending stream of endless days?

I wish it worked like that, but alas…

My brain is a soppy mess of ennui. The fitful bursts of creativity I can eke out intermittently are mostly spent inspiring my whimsical mask designs. I have nothing left for stringing thoughts together. Especially the kind of elevated fancy-pants thoughts, and constant mental whirling, needed to write fiction. Everything in my brain is disjointed. A series of train tracks, with sections missing, on precarious trestles, liable to collapse under the weight of the heavy nothingness in the air.

And then I hear from a literary agent who requested my full manuscript.

I will admit that sometimes when I hear criticism of my book, my hackles immediately go up, and my overwhelming thought is “Fuck that shit. You’re an idiot.”

I have heard all types of critiques about my novel: that it starts too slow, that it starts too fast, that the plot is edge-of-your-seat-stay-up-all-night-reading exciting, and also deadly dull. My characters are vibrant, fun, and highly enjoyable, and also straight out of Beverly Hillbilly central casting. That my Appalachian dialogue is rich and authentic and entertaining and also nerve-grating and headache-inducing. The romance between my protagonists is realistic. Unrealistic. Requires spicing up. Needs toning down. That I do a fine job of showing versus telling and also that I use too much exposition and don’t let the novel unfold visually.

You get so much conflicting feedback that the only way to press forward is to trust your instincts and write what feels true.

You never feel like it’s perfect. But it’s good. As good as you are capable of making it at that moment. And you have to be content with what you’ve done, while always balancing the doubts that you haven’t done enough.

When I started querying my novel, I still had doubts about certain aspects of the story. But since the reactions to it never reached a consensus, it was hard to pinpoint what more I could do to improve it.

So anyway, the literary agent read the entire book. And then wrote me an incredibly lovely, long, detailed email about all its shortcomings, with very specific editorial suggestions that might make it something amazing. She called it “a gem in the making” and I am holding that very close to my heart.

And immediately her suggestions resonated with me. I read every one of them, my heart leaping out of my chest, thinking “YES! YES! She’s so right! She gets this book! She gets what I’m doing here! And I absolutely agree! I should start writing immediately!”

And then I immediately think “Oh my God, it’s too much right now. I can’t think about writing right now. I have one and a half functioning brain cells right now.”

And yet, I find myself deconstructing my novel– I liken it to tearing a puzzle apart, fitting pieces together in different ways, curious about the new picture that emerges. And, in my head at least, I’ve constructed a MUCH STRONGER beginning. A stronger beginning that frames all the other changes I’m going to make. I’m actually getting excited about writing again.

And that’s saying something, if it can cut through this heavy cloud of sadness hovering over everything right now.

I decided to buy new fabric. Some people are eating through their stress, others are drinking, some are crying, or binge watching Netflix. I’m stress crafting, and 100% cotton is my drug of choice. The Joann’s Fabric in Queensbury (47 miles away) had some garden gnome fabric I HAD TO HAVE. I also found some other awesome happiness-inducing fabrics, So Jeremy and I trekked up to the Back of Beyond for my fix.

They do no contact delivery–you drive up and they stick your bag in the trunk of your car–and off you go. So it wasn’t until we got home that I discovered that my gnome fabric wasn’t in the bag.

(Never fear, I found it on ebay and bought 2 yards.) But I was more than slightly displeased.

Since we hauled ourselves all the way to Queensbury, we stopped at the Target there. Pre-pandemic, I think Jeremy and I went to Target nearly every day. Neither of us had set foot in a big box store since early March, but Queensbury has far fewer cases than we do, so it seemed safe enough.

We donned our (now required) masks. Big signs posted on the doors said masks were mandatory and not to set foot inside the store if you felt at all sick. It was like something out of a Spanish Flu documentary, only it was in color and not black and white.

The internal Starbucks was barricaded closed. Everyone was in a mask. It was not the fun, breezy shopping experience I remembered. It was, instead, unnaturally somber. We were greeted at the door with a big sign stating what essential items were and were not in stock. As it happened, they had both toilet paper and paper towels–two items we had been unable to get in our grocery orders for the last month at Shoprite (despite weekly requests). So we headed to the household essential items and played supermarket sweep grabbing things we knew we’d need–laundry detergent, dishwasher tablets, sponges, pine-sol, and then hustled back up to the front of the store and waited in line to check out, six feet from other customers, waaay back between racks in the children’s section. Before we were allowed to go to the self check out register, an employee disinfected the ENTIRE checkout station.

It’s a surreal experience to be sure.

Then I was checking Twitter on the way home and saw that armed protesters had entered the Michigan statehouse and were demanding the state reopen.

There’s a similar protest scheduled for tomorrow in Albany. We live in scary times.

(Sam’s Diary) Coronavirus Diary Part 9

For 8th Grade Social Studies, Sam was asked to write five journal entries about life right now. The Social Studies teacher pointed out that someday, these journals will be considered primary sources for students studying the Covid-19 Pandemic in the future.

This is also why I nominally started my Coronavirus diary, even though it’s hard to wrap my mind around a post-Covid-19 world. I skimmed over an article where someone designed an anti-microbial suit with a mask and face shield. It looked very space age and futuristic, but maybe a change of fashion could save lives? Who knows. I had a fleeting thought of “This is how it begins. This is how the world will change.”

Anyway, I sat down with Sam and interviewed him about his thoughts and Coronavirus experiences for this assignment, but they were so interesting, I asked him if he’d be okay if I published his thoughts on here.

So here are his thoughts…

Talking about going to the outdoor Schenectady Greenmarket:

There were less people than usual and they had to wear masks. If you weren’t wearing a mask you couldn’t enter. People who weren’t wearing masks could not come to the market. They were mad and arguing with a police officer. He kept them outside of the market perimeter and told them to go home. There were police and security everywhere preventing people without masks from entering. It makes me feel uneasy to see everyone in masks because the stereotype person wearing a mask is a “bad guy”. Some people were wearing cloth masks (we were), medical masks, bandannas and cloths. The stalls were all ten feet apart and tape on the ground made a bracket where their stall needed to be inside. You could only go up one person at a time and if you were waiting you had to stand six feet away. We waited for Jeremy on the sidewalk or in the gaps where the stores couldn’t be, so we weren’t near people walking in the middle of the main walking area. More than half of the sellers weren’t there and even some of the shops advertised to be there didn’t come. It wasn’t fun anymore. It was gloomy and everyone was depressed. It was strange to be there. I’m not used to seeing people wearing masks and avoiding each other. You couldn’t say hello to anyone’s dog. People didn’t interact with each other. Everything felt strange. It felt like the whole world changed–because it kind of did.

About online learning:

Online learning is on a computer. It’s harder because the teacher really can’t guide you through the lesson. I was afraid that I would have to show my face and I don’t like that. Luckily, I don’t have to show it. I feel like I’m better at listening and following directions now than in the regular classroom because it’s not as distracting, interruptions, and the teacher can get to the point and then I can work at my own pace. That’s so much easier for me. I do like that there’s less work, so it’s less stressful. I would like to home school in the future after the pandemic. If you don’t understand something the teacher can’t really help you and google isn’t reliable. I miss getting to interact with my friends at school and having something to do. Days are so long. Playing video games feels boring. You can’t go outside and really play with people. It’s fun talking to my online friends and it gives me something to do, but Coronavirus has made everything boring. I made a friend right before the lock down and we’ve become good friends and normally I could walk to his house to hang out, but now I can’t.

About going to Elms Farm on Sunday:

On Sunday we got out of the house and went to Elms Farm to get apple cider donuts. It was weird. In the past, they wouldn’t even be open because they are open in the fall. We got there and picked up our apple cider donuts. They were standing under a tent with a table full of bags. They had gloves on, a mask on, hand sanitizer. We were all wearing masks which are HARD to breathe in! I hate it. They are so annoying and I feel like I’m going to have an asthma attack every time I breathe in. We pulled up, they checked our name off a list, and they handed us our bag of donuts. The whole system was designed so we didn’t really interact with each other. Then we drove around the farm on a behind the scenes tour of stuff that would be open in the fall or winter. We saw a lot of growing Christmas trees and the pumpkin patch fields. It was nice to get out and get some fresh air. Usually we’d do much more exciting things for entertainment, but since we haven’t done anything in forever, we enjoyed it, even though we normally wouldn’t find any enjoyment in it.

On ordering groceries and shopping online:

It’s weird ordering groceries now because now you actually have to plan ahead what you get because you’re we’re not going to the shops anymore. We are ordering everything online and then the shops are bringing things out to us. Sometimes we order things and the shops are out. People are fighting over toilet paper and buying it all up and now it’s hard to find in stores sometimes. It’s also hard to find hand sanitizer and hand soap and Clorox wipes. We order groceries when we can get a time slot and sometimes we can’t order for a whole week. When we do get a time slot we have to decide what we want from the store about a week in advance. That is weird. I haven’t had much of an appetite lately. I don’t know why. My favorite quarantine foods/drinks are gatorade, nutella and bread, and pancakes. 

My mom bought a bunch of emergency food years ago that lasts 30 years and when we can’t go to the grocery store we can eat from that. She made us pancakes and pasta alfredo and it was awesome. I was expecting it to taste stale, but it was like a normal pancake. 

Mom has bought me shorts and sandals online. She also ordered us Easter candy online. 

On Easter we got takeout at Turf Tavern. It was pretty good, but it was all boxed up and we had to wash out hands before we could eat because we touched the boxes. I had medium rare Prime Rib with au jus. It’s weird to eat fancy food outside of a restaurant. Easter was weird because we were at home and we didn’t go somewhere fun. We were going to go to see family in Potsdam for Easter, but we couldn’t go because we might get them sick. We were supposed to go to Myrtle Beach for spring break and couldn’t go anywhere. Instead, we spent spring break doing what we usually did any normal day. We had no spring break. We did online learning and not much else.

On his general thoughts about the pandemic:

I hate the coronavirus. It’s made my life so different. It has made my transition to high school so weird. Now it’s just like– GO! I won’t be taking any of the major tests we’ve been prepping for this year. They’re just gone. We don’t even know if we’ll have school next year. It could last all the way past freshman year. We don’t know yet, but studies have shown it’s possible. I don’t think we’ll be going back to school this year. People say every day that cases are slowly declining, but people are still getting infected. It’s so boring not to see my friends. I miss going to their houses and hanging out. I was looking forward to taking the Regents. We were supposed to take some trips to a science museum out of town and a trip to Great Escape. We won’t be going now and I don’t know if they’ll refund our money but people could use it right now. We don’t know if we’re going to be able to go on our Disney trip in August.  I want to go but I don’t know if it will be safe in August. If the virus is still lingering then it won’t be safe to go. We’ll probably have to reschedule. I’ve already been waiting half a year for this so I can be patient. I’ve adapted to this. I’m used to the whole home school thing. I’ve accepted things the way they are. I kind of enjoy this and the freedom I have to do things on my own. I like the 2 hour delay schedule. I like getting an assignment and a due date and working at my own pace, so I actually wouldn’t want to go back to the way things were. But people are dying and I’m not happy about it.

Coronavirus Diary Part 8

Thankfully, I haven’t had any major drama in the last week. My sewing machine has helped me churn out one mask after another. It’s been nice to go a week without a crisis (besides, of course, the general coronavirus crisis).

In that regard, it’s been a week.

Around the country, people are protesting the president’s own stay at home orders. Governors in some states are lifting these orders just as cases begin to rise. And the president is encouraging his followers in certain states to liberate themselves from the rules he himself put into place, during a national emergency he declared. It’s a real head scratcher.

Being in NY, there is no way our state will be among those reopening any time soon. And that is both a stress and a comfort. I was talking to some twitter friends weeks ago and said this time makes me feel like Shrodinger’s Cat. My friend Chris perfectly summed up the Quarantine Feeling when he coined Shrodinger’s Hierarchy of Needs:

You both have and do not have access to food and shelter. You both have and do not have social emotional support. You both have and do not have a sense of personal fulfillment.

Can I just state for the record that I’m emotionally exhausted from living in interesting times? I read an article today about a guy who’s hunkering down through this pandemic in an isolated, windswept cottage in the Shetland Islands. I am so on board with this idea. If it was possible to fly internationally right now, I would love to jet off into the middle of nowhere. Preferably a place with no power, since it’s impossible to avoid the news, which gets nuttier by the minute.

At this point in the quarantine, I feel like a human made up mostly of cortisol, adrenaline, and coffee.

My masks are traveling around the country, so I have gone to the post office a few times now. It is so deeply disconcerting to see the big plexiglass walls that have been erected at the registers. At the post office, at Walmart, at the drive in at McDonalds. For take out now, you order on an app, pay on the app, slip in, grab your food, and get out.

We have compressed ourselves into slivers, making our lives and our impact as small as possible. This is how you defeat a virus, but it’s no way to live a life.

It’s hard right now. Hard for those whose lives are just slightly inconvenienced. Harder for those who’ve lost their jobs, and their steady, reliable incomes. Their food security. Their sense of purpose. And for those who never even had a tightrope to walk on, it’s been absolutely devastating. I worry about these people so much. So much is wrong with a society where so many people are in such poverty.

I hope that something good will come of it. I imagine the world could be like Japanese Kintsugi, where gold is filled inside cracks to make broken objects more beautiful.

We live in a very fractured, broken country right now. Perhaps after all of this is over, a shared experience will help people understand each other better.

Of Masks and Mayhem: Coronavirus Diary Part 7

I have a lot of time on my hands right now. A LOT a lot. And I have learned in the past that the healthiest thing I can do if I’m stressed out is craft.

When the CDC changed its guidance and recommended that everyone wear a mask in public, I decided that I could make masks for me, Jeremy, and the boys, and then, a few more as a little side business. And since John has been wanting to buy steadily more expensive computer parts, he could help and make some money in the process.

Like all my ideas, this one started out simple enough.

Except for some slight speed bumps to my plan:

  1. My sewing machine was out of commission– it had lost its foot during my 2016 move, the bobbin and I had never been on good terms, and I recalled that the last time I used it, it hadn’t gone well at all.
  2. Elastic and non-woven interfacing (arguably the most important components of any mask) are currently the toilet paper and Clorox wipes of the crafting world. Maybe I could trade my oldest child on the black market for a yard of elastic, but probably not.

So, I tried to make do with what was available. I saw a YouTube tutorial that explained that non-woven shopping bags make a good substitute for interfacing, and I was able to find some in bulk on Ebay. I ordered some ribbon (also hard, but not impossible to come by) fabric, non-woven lining, and a cheap sewing machine online, and while I waited for everything to arrive, I got to work hand sewing a few test masks.

Attempt #1:

I am not a medical worker and had never worn a mask before. I am also spatially disinclined. So when I started cutting out the pattern, I cut it out and assembled the mask the way I thought it should go, based on my rudimentary understanding of masks. Then I realized that the mask was upside down. And since the fabric was made of little dogs everywhere, all my dogs were upside down. Hand sewing masks isn’t fun, but I managed to make a few. My 43-year-old hands do like hours and hours of hand stitching and I prayed to the sewing machine gods that my new sewing machine would arrive quickly.

Then, I tried out my new masks, and was not pleased with them at all. Mine kept creeping up over my eyes, the grosgrain ribbon straps were too short, they wouldn’t stay tied, and it was hot and generally a pain in the ass to wear. But masks aren’t supposed to be a fun, bold fashion statement, or else we would’ve all been wearing them before now. I chalked this up to more general unpleasantness surrounding our new normal.

I wanted elastic, but couldn’t find any to buy anywhere. And Joann Fabrics took the interfacing out of my cart.

Attempt #2

I was so proud of myself. This time, I cut out the fabric with the print right side up. I even put dog stickers on the pattern (because all the writing was the wrong way) to remind me to turn it before I started cutting. I decided to ditch the grosgrain ribbon in favor of t-shirt ribbon (I found a tutorial on YouTube and re-purposed a couple of t-shirts for this purpose). I discovered some floral wire in my craft supplies, and added wire to the nose area for a better fit. Still hand-sewing masks. The sewing machine had still not arrived. I I found bulk elastic on Ebay and ordered it immediately. Hallelujah! I started stalking the tracking number online. I mentioned on Facebook that I was making masks, and overnight I got 40 orders.

Since the second batch of masks were better, I felt confident that I’d be able to make some nice masks for sale. I handmade a few more, this time with the t-shirt ribbon and nose wire, and shipped a few out to relatives who needed masks. These stayed on better and the straps were more comfortable. Then, I washed my masks for the first time and the t-shirt strap frayed in the wash. God-damn it.

Attempt #3

The sewing machine arrived! YAY!

But it arrived with a sliced-in-two AC adapter. It literally looked hacked apart by a box cutter. How the hell was I supposed to sew anything now? And I had 40 masks to make! I couldn’t very well return it, and I didn’t have the time to wait for a spare part to arrive. It’s like the freaking Pony Express at the USPS right now–heavy on pony, not so much express (and rightfully so, stay safe postal workers!). That was just one more unexpected consequence of the Covid-19 shut down. Nothing happens lightning fast anymore.

But Jeremy to the rescue! He had a spare AC adapter that fit the machine, and even though it wasn’t exactly the right current and voltage rating, he assured me that it probably wouldn’t cause the new sewing machine to catch on fire.

Spoiler alert: it did not catch on fire.

It was a dream to use. So easy and user friendly. Nothing like the hunk of garbage covered in cobwebs in my craft armoire that I’d cursed at in passing for three and a half years.

I happily cut out fabric (right side up!) and grocery-store-reusable-bag lining, and prepped for the glorious moment that the elastic would arrive and I could get all these pre-cut masks finished. I was congratulating myself on my ingenuity and creativity in such a hard situation. I was a pioneer, alone in my Little-House-On-The-Prairie homestead, surviving on sheer grit and determination. Except I had YouTube tutorials! Because this was the 21st century! And they would help my figure out the best way to put in the nose wire.

And also help me figure out that I had been wearing my mask UPSIDE-FREAKING-DOWN the whole time, and the reason mine kept creeping up over my eyes was because IT WAS THE CHIN PART and the pattern had literally PARTS CUT OUT FOR THE EYES. And now, I legit had cut every single pattern UPSIDE DOWN and had WIRE IN THE FUCKING CHIN.

I clearly couldn’t sell that. I bought more fabric.

I sheepishly noted that the pattern was printed absolutely correctly and if I had just not been a colossal dumbass, I wouldn’t be in the fix I was currently in.

On the bright side, the new fabric arrived before the elastic did. So no harm, no foul.

I re-cut out the fabric (Right side up this time? Third time’s a charm? Is upside down really right side up in this crazy world? Do I even have a clue what I’m doing anymore?).

I added the elastic. I figured out how to add the nose metal (to the nose!).

Life was grand. Until the needle touched the metal and snapped completely in half.

So Brittany learned how to replace a sewing machine needle. Thank you to the handy trouble-shooting section of the owner’s manual.

We are learning new things! We are rocking quarantine! We are moving and grooving and homesteading and cooking and baking and sewing and mask making and churning butter and felling trees and plowing fields with our ox teams in our gingham sunbonnets…

And then a single top thread inched it’s way down to the bobbin, twisted the wrong way against the bobbin thread. They jerked and pulled against each other, there was a grinding noise, and just like that, my little Sewing Machine That Could became a very expensive bobbin winder.

I tried everything. I changed the needle. I changed the bobbin. I looked up YouTube tutorials, and read the manual. But the bobbin casing was no more. It had spun it’s last spin.

What the hell was I going to do now?

I’d brave Walmart! I’d buy a new machine! Except no I wouldn’t. There was not a sewing machine under $500 to be had anywhere in the Capital District. And maybe I had masks to make, but I’m also not working, and with my attention span, and my ability to stick to one type of craft project for long, I could almost guarantee that I didn’t have any use for a sewing machine that fancy, even if I could afford it.

*Insert some existential despair, internal wailing, external teeth-gnashing and hair pulling, and a colorful cornucopia of expletives as I descended into madness and a mostly-complete nervous breakdown*

What the ever-loving FUCK did I do to the universe and why did it have to hate me so??? All I wanted to do was make some masks, and stay alive, and help other people stay alive, and what the fuck was I going to do now???

I took a few hours to feel really sorry for myself, slept on it, and the next morning I started calling friends. Surely someone had a sewing machine tucked in their attic that they weren’t planning to use. I borrowed one–and my friend wasn’t sure it would even work. And found a backup in case it didn’t.

The borrowed sewing machine was probably my age, and like most middle-aged things, it wasn’t exactly a slim and stream-lined thing. It was a giant, honking chunk of metal and it wasn’t going to take any of my shit thank-you-very-much. As I tried to figure out it’s incomprehensible threading system (spatially disinclined, remember?) and figure out how to thread the bobbin, the whole bobbin casing fell out of the machine in pieces.

What in the fucking fresh hell now?

Back to YouTube and more re-assemble-your-40-year-old-sewing machine tutorials.

In the process, I learned how how to unscrew the pressure foot, adjust the tension by tightening the bobbin screw, and got to have a lovely phone call with my mom where she tried to teach her visual learning/ spatially disinclined/ mechanically-impaired daughter the finer points of sewing machine repair.

I got the top thread whipped into submission, but the bottom thread wasn’t cooperating at all. The tension was a wreck and no amount of tweaking fixed it. And then, because the sewing machine gods were apparently displeased with me, the whole bobbin casing would randomly fall out of the sewing machine mid-sew.

So that wasn’t going to work. On to sewing machine #4 (or borrowed sewing machine #2).

My friend said to come pick it up in the afternoon. So I decided to 1) borrow her machine temporarily and 2) order the parts I needed to get my original cobwebby machine working again. I got online, ordered a new pressure foot, more needles, machine oil, and everything else I’d learned I needed to keep a sewing machine running smoothly. Then I went to take a shower while I waited to learn my mask-making destiny.

As I showered, I went through the whole series of events in my mind–trying to set my thoughts in order and not completely lose perspective–because if I’m honest, I was teetering close to the brink of obsessive hysteria.

I started thinking about how I could fix this situation. I had one sewing machine with a broken foot/weird tension. One sewing machine with a broken bobbin casing. A borrowed sewing machine with bobbin issues of indeterminate, but probably mechanical origin, and a future sewing machine that maybe worked, but was a big question mark. And then, those angry sewing machine gods smiled upon me, and suggested, much like Glinda suggested to Dorothy, that I had had the solution to my problem all along.

I could take off the needle and the pressure foot on my second broken machine and put them on my broken first machine! I knew how to fix tension now! I could clean up and reassemble my bobbin case! It was cobwebby sewing machine’s time to shine!

I pulled her out of the craft armoire, and this time I didn’t sneer at her. I looked at her with hope. and love and appreciation. I took the needle, I took the pressure foot, and I lovingly replaced her parts, returning her to her previous glory! I tightened her tension, and thanked her for her perfectly matched cord, working lightbulb, and can do attitude.

And then, I finally made masks.

Coronavirus Diary Part 6

Years ago I watched a video that I can’t help replaying in my mind over and over. In it, a little Boston Terrier has been tied to the back bumper of an 18 Wheeler, and the driver, blissfully unaware of its plight, is accelerating out of the truck stop parking lot and about to turn onto the highway. The terrified dog is running madly to keep up, its tiny legs making a valiant effort, all the while knowing it can only keep this pace up for so long. Happily, a highway patrolman observes the unfolding tragedy, and stops the truck driver, rescuing the dog and reuniting it with its oblivious, but now distraught, owner.

Right now, America is the dog and Coronavirus is the big rig, about to launch us full speed onto the interstate.

One would hope that rescue is coming, but I fear that instead of an eagle-eyed hero in a squad car, the people sworn to serve and protect us are asleep at the wheel.

To sum up where we are right now: The amount of Americans dead in the last month from Coronavirus are over four times the number of deaths from 9/11 and six times the number of deaths at Pearl Harbor. Eight million Americans have applied for unemployment. Up to 35 million Americans have lost their health insurance due to Coronavirus layoffs. The economy is hanging by a thread. The news is filled with story after story of front line medical workers pleading for more PPE (protective personal equipment) as well as stories about the lengths states have gone to procure it.

Meanwhile, our president (I won’t dignify that man with a capital letter) is too busy holding self-congratulatory pep rallies on TV every day and trying to blame everybody in the known universe for his failure to 1) give a shit and 2) properly address the crisis in the first place.

If I see one more Trump apologist wring their hands and say something to the effect of “Everyone is so hard on the President. He had no idea this was coming” I will completely lose it.

It’s absolute and utter bullshit.

I am a lowly substitute teacher/retail worker in Upstate New York, who spends half my time on Pinterest and YouTube making whimsical craft projects. I am not psychic, nor do I have the intelligence community of the CIA and FBI, or the medical expertise of the WHO and CDC, at my daily disposal.

However, the other half of my time, I spend paying fucking attention to what is going on in the world, and *I* knew about Coronavirus in January. I knew it was hella bad in Wuhan. And then I watched it get even more hella bad in the rest of China. And then Italy happened. I read first hand accounts on twitter, and looked up news stories from papers around the world.

(Guess what, you can do that–the US doesn’t have the planet’s only free press. Want to figure out what’s going on in any given situation? Then don’t get all your news from one news source.)

In early February, I started adding to my stockpile of Welp-we-may-be-going-to-war-with-North-Korea-or-Iran supplies I’d already stress-bought a year ago, and starting preparing for a months-long quarantine in my house.

By late February, there were known Coronavirus cases in the US, and again, because I have half a functioning brain cell, I assumed it had spread throughout the country–especially to New York, because being a major city in the US, if a virus was going to be spread somewhere, it was going to arrive with the gazillion visitors to New York City. It was not a stretch to think it would then come right on up I-87 to the Upstate. By early March, I was bordering on panic, stockpiling feverishly, not taking subbing jobs, and staying at home as much as possible.

So how in the everloving fuck is it even conceivable that I was more prepared for this than our federal government?

That is a rhetorical question for another day.

So here we are. And this is our new normal: There are new plexiglass screens at the checkout at grocery stores and the post office. They are like sneeze guards on steroids. We’ve all been asked to wear masks now if we leave our houses.

No one is going back to school or work until May now–but the prevailing wisdom is it won’t be May either. The boys and I are learning how to do remote learning, and god bless their teachers for providing some stability and support through all of this. I see a marked change in the boys’ after they see and interact with their teachers and classmates.

We’re all collectively going a little nuts. Jeremy has work to keep him occupied. And when he’s not working, he plays piano and reads. I stay busy making various crafts all day. I went from painting pottery to weaving potholders to embroidery and hand sewing masks. Now my back and hands hurt, and my mind spins without a project to keep it occupied. I wish I could write another novel, or even lose myself in a good book, but I am jumpy and nervous. My adrenaline is high and my patience is at an all time low. I am too mentally restless to fully concentrate on anything. Although, watching Onward on Disney+ was a highlight of the week. As was binge watching Project Runway and Zoey’s Infinite Playlist. These are bright spots in otherwise sad days.

Sam seems to be taking things in stride. He’s enjoying being home, working through his schoolwork, cooking with me, playing video games with his friends. John, like me, is mentally restless and easily overwhelmed. I’ve been encouraging him to work with his hands as well.

He’s been wanting to buy what sounds more and more like a super computer. The price tag on this thing, at last count, was $5000. I let him dream, but you can’t get blood from a turnip. I’ve already told him he’s not going to get that kind of money from me, and he should plan to find some means of making his own money if he ever wants to buy it. Now that masks are so in demand, I plan to put all this nervous energy to use, and try to sell a few to make up for (some of) my lost income. I suggested to John that he also consider making masks as a way to earn some money himself. I am cautiously optimistic that he’ll have the patience to sit through sewing lessons (on the new sewing machine that will be here Friday – for which my hands will be eternally grateful) and then also have the patience to make enough masks to get himself a little nest egg.

Now is the time to side hustle if you can.

Some people, like Jeremy, are lucky enough to work from home, and this has proven to be a mild, albeit boring, inconvenience. For others (me without Jeremy), this little virus has upended their entire lives and livelihoods, laying bare the reality way too many people are barely making ends meet, struggling to feed themselves, struggling to afford medical care, and it takes just the tiniest nudge off their stable footing for them to go careening into financial disaster.

I’ve lost both of my jobs. Weeks ago, by some miracle, I managed to submit an unemployment claim on the overwhelmed NY Department of Labor website, but now I have to speak with an actual human to complete it. I can’t get through. The number rings once then goes dead and hangs up. The system wasn’t designed to handle millions of calls. But, I also suspect, it was designed to discourage people from making claims. There is no virtual queue. No waiting in line to speak to the next representative. Just a message–all phone lines are busy, please call back later. Then dial tone. Trying to reach a person, and jump through that one last hoop, becomes a full time job in and of itself. I have read stories of people making hundreds and thousands of phone calls, over and over and over, to no avail. I haven’t tried that tactic. We still have Jeremy’s income, so I’ll let those who need the money desperately go now and I’ll try again when things calm down. If they calm down.

Jeremy and I were laying in bed talking last night, and agree that whatever existed before all this seems like another world. I asked him what he’d want to do or see when all of this is over, and he didn’t really have an answer.

He spoke for us both when he said, “I’m afraid nothing is going to be safe for a long time.”

Coronavirus Diary Part 5

Isolation is the pits. I think that’s fairly obvious at this point. We’re going into our third week of house arrest, or whatever you want to call this. I actually love being home, with just my family and my pets, not having much to do, and all the time in the world to do it. But we’re looking at weeks and weeks of it, with no end in sight, and that’s the part that is starting to make me a little crazy. I can’t predict what the world will look like tomorrow. It’s an unsettling time and it’s hard to settle in and enjoy the experience when there’s so much uncertainty.

Fun fact about Brittany time: I’ve taken the Myers Briggs personality assessment and I’m an INFJ.

There’s no doubt at all whether I’m an introvert or an extrovert. I am a hardcore introvert. I feel about going out and socializing like most people feel about going to work. Even if you love the work you do, who wouldn’t rather have unstructured free time? For me, it’s a necessary evil. Don’t get me wrong, I like people and love my friends and always want to hang out one on one. But more people than that and it stops being fun for me.

I am also plainly an N (Intuition) and an F (Feeler). If you ask me what is going to happen with Susie and Fred next Thursday, I can gut feeling/imagine a pretty accurate outcome in my mind. Ask me to calculate something like the square footage of my living room, and honest to God, I’d rather set myself on fire. Am I curious why a microwave works? Not in the slightest. In my world, it could be powered by a magical pink squirrel on a treadmill. The world of imagination: great. The world of math and science and facts: not great.

*This is not to say that I don’t have a healthy respect for the Sensors and Perceivers of the world. I am in no way a science denyer and I also know there’s no pink squirrel powering my microwave. I just like the mathy sciencey people to do their thing and leave me to my not-mathy-sciencey-imagination.

Anyway, I say all of this to emphasize that I am strongly an INF.

But all of that pales in comparison to how strongly I am a J (Judger). Judgers are decisive. They make quick decisions. Bold moves. No diverging off the path to sniff tulips. They are point A to point B people. And the one thing that makes them absolutely bananas is a lack of closure. You know that conversation you had with your friend three weeks ago, where you were about to tell them that funny thing that happened to you at the grocery store with the grapefruits, but then you had to go help your kid with homework and never got to finish the story. I can guarantee a J is still stewing about it, unable to rest until you FINISH THE GODDAMN STORY, GODDAMNIT! It will be the very first thing they ask you about the next time you chat, and I can also guarantee that the fact that you have no recollection whatsoever anymore of this little grapefruit incident, and now, will NEVER TELL THEM THE ENDING is going to drive them absolutely insane for the next forty years.

This is my life in a nutshell. I am preturnaturally dispossessed to enjoying open ended anything.

Case in point: when I had my ultrasound and discovered my youngest was going to be a boy, I had to figure out his name him on the ride home from the doctor’s office. Could I wait a week or even a day to think about it? Mull it over in my mind? Take my time and think it over? I had about twenty more weeks to decide. Like hell. I absolutely could not. Just the thought of it had me climbing out of my skin with impatience.

So perhaps you can imagine my mental state right now, living in a world I could never have predicted, where uncertainty and inaction is the name of the game. I am not okay. I have so much pent up anxiety and nervous energy I could practically gnaw through the baseboards like a beaver. Readers, go check on your J friends. We are not okay.

I am trying to keep busy. I am trying to exert some control over my life.

My oldest, Sam, is starting high school in the fall. Before all this craziness began, I was really starting to feel that I didn’t have much time with him left. When our lives were so busy with work and school, it was easy to push those feelings into a wistful nothing-I-can-do-about corner. We planned a Disney trip – a kind of last hurrah to childhood, in preparation for the inevitable teen years that were coming, when a trip with the family would be anything but cool.

But the coronavirus derailed all of that.

Disney is closed for who knows how long (again–here’s me–not knowing if our trip in cancelled. Or not cancelled. What’s going to be happening in August? I don’t know! No one knows!) *insert hysterical weeping*

And now I have more time than I can imagine with the boys. One of the things that I really wanted to do with/for Sam was give him some intensive writing help. It’s something he really struggles with, and also something I am uniquely suited to help him with. Before the lock down began, in a moment of inexplicable prescience, I ordered a writing workbook in hopes that we could work through it together.

Now, along with all of his regular school assignments, we have been having a daily writing lesson. We started a unit on descriptive writing, and I discovered that Sam was really hesitant to use descriptive language because it felt too flowery and inaccurate to him. Realizing that that thinking was holding him back, we spent a long time discovering ways to incorporate descriptive writing for more accuracy. Sam is catching on and his writing is growing richer and more descriptive by the day. It’s actually lots of fun to write with him. Maybe some day he’ll look back on this time with me fondly.

We’re hardly a factory of industrial-sized joy here, though. That’s about as much activity as I can muster in a given day. This lock down, the stories on the news, my Facebook news feed, and general shock at our situation has laid me out emotionally. Most of the day it’s all I can do to drag myself off the couch, I’m so sapped energetically.

I’ve worked on a few small, insignificant projects that I can see the end of–giving me a little bit of the closure I crave. Organizing (some of) my crafts and organizing the books on our book shelf by color. There are so many other, more substantial projects I could attack, but I just don’t have the bandwidth I’d need to tackle them.

My brain and my body are stuck in gear, hopelessly mired, and unable to maintain any momentum. I would love to start a new writing project, but even that is going nowhere, because none of the stories my brain conjures have the slightest forward momentum to them.

Jeremy, god bless him, knows that after a day spent stuck in my head, the best thing for me is to get out of the house and go for a walk. We’ve had weather in the 50s, and Monday’s snow is mostly melted, so we decided to try Garnsey Park in Rexford. Neither of us had ever been there before, even though we’d driven past it thousands of times.

It was a nice walk–a bluebird trail through meadowland. It was also horrifically muddy. We tried to navigate the mud, and it ended up sucking our shoes right up to our ankles in the mud and did pull me out of my shoes. My shoes disappeared and had to be dug out, and I ended up taking off my shoes and walking through the mud barefoot. It was quite a sight, but more than anything, it reminded me that I’m human, and life is ridiculous, and messy, and sometimes we get a little dirty in the process of navigating the path we’re on. I laughed. I’ll admit it. Sometimes that’s all you can do. There are greater problems in the world than muddy feet.

Generally speaking, we’re all okay. So far we’re all healthy. Local cases haven’t exploded, so that’s a relief, especially when the situation in NYC deteriorates more and more by the day. We’re avoiding nearly all human contact with the exception of occasional takeout and drive through Starbucks. My sleep cycle is a mess. I’m up all night, sleepy all day. Sometimes I can nap, but most of the time I can’t. Lattes feel a lot like love and warm hugs right now.

Supplies in the area, to my knowledge, are fine. I haven’t set foot in a store since March 10th or 11th so I have no idea. We’ve been lucky to find home farm share delivery. We also got a personal shopping appointment at a local grocery store, so it’s just a matter of going and picking our groceries up tonight.

We are controlling what we can control, and that’s not much.

Coronavirus Diary Part 4

We may have gone out for the last time in a while. New York’s new laws took effect last night at 8pm. In a nutshell, we’re allowed to stay in our houses, only to leave for groceries, medications, emergencies, and walks, alone. The military has arrived. There are videos of their big trucks convoying at Crossgates Mall. Everything is closed–even businesses that can stay open.

We got takeout from one of our favorite Mexican restaurant yesterday. It has a foyer before you enter the actual restaurant. The door was barricaded by a table AND the hostess podium. One lone guy was working the takeout orders. He told us that even though their takeout business was okay, that they’d be closing that night and not reopening until this was all over. He said they were having supply issues, things were completely up in the air, and being a family-run business, if one of them got sick, they’d all be sick. We wished him well, and said we’d be back for celebratory drinks when they reopened.

We got back to Scotia and our favorite Chinese takeout place was closed until further notice too. You can still order things online, but there’s no telling when things will get delivered. Our next door neighbor is a truck driver, and he said that NY has suspended all regulations and they can now work a 120 hour week. He advised us to get some extra dog food–that he foresaw some uneven availability of things in the future. He said if we needed anything to leave a note on his door, and he’d try to find it for us.

All the little bright spots are fading out. The world is getting very dark. But I have to say, our little community is trying it’s hardest to keep it together.

Everywhere you look, people have posted rainbows in their windows. It reminds me of all the American flags that appeared after September 11th. Everyone is hungry to help each other. Social distancing is the pits. The rainbows are a great way to tell your neighbor I’m thinking of you. I care about how you’re feeling. I’m sending you love. We’re going to get through this. You can read more about it here:…/518-rainbow-hunt-grows-to-20…/.

I’m cheering myself up by going through my craft supplies and making rainbows too. I found these wooden cats in the attic–a Halloween project I attempted that never came to fruition. They’re being repurposed for some front porch cheer.

Yesterday I saw on Facebook that my friend is making cloth masks for healthcare workers. My sewing machine is broken at the moment, and in truth, I’m not much of a seamstress (I’ve always preferred hand sewing). She was looking for elastic. I had elastic. We drove over and put it in her mailbox so she could keep the masks coming. American ingenuity is a thing. As a nation, we don’t like the word “no”. The lack of testing and supplies for medical workers is completely unacceptable, so as a nation, we’re taking matters into our own hands. It’s great to see so many people stepping up and coming together.

I guess I’m doing my part by keeping my butt at home. Inaction isn’t very satisfying, but right now it’s necessary.

We’re supporting the community however we can. While the grocery stores are nearly filled to bursting with people, we’re trying home delivery farm share. I’ve got to say, Upstate New York has A LOT going for it. We are perfectly located to hop back and forth from urban/suburban/rural all the time. Our farm share supports local family farms. We don’t have to worry about national supply chain issues. Maybe we can’t get everything in the known universe, but we can get a good variety of things–without stepping foot outside the house.

While we’re stuck inside, I’ve been getting my Holly Homemaker on–dehydrating apple chips in the dehydrator and making banana bread, crafting up a storm. I should probably clean the house and organize the closets, but I haven’t gotten bored enough yet. I’m going to repaint the bathroom at some point too, but I’m not motivated enough to tackle that either.

Even when things are crazy, it’s nice to know some things will never change. 😉