Coronavirus Diary Part 3

I’m afraid this blog is going to start getting really boring. The days seem to blend together, with very little to break up the monotony of having to stay inside. Yesterday, two (semi) exciting things happened (and the fact that they were exciting shows how bored we are.) Jeremy and I went to deposit a check at the bank and then got coffee. When we got home, we got a delivery of fresh produce from Field Goods.

Because of my diet, I really enjoy fruits and vegetables now. Fruit, especially, is my fun food. They must’ve known that I have some corned beef in the freezer because they sent me a cabbage bigger than my head, a bunch of potatoes, and big, fat carrots.

We also got a bag full of apples, lots of bananas, some pears, and some mandarin oranges. We ordered a few other things too–cashews and the cheese of the week. I avoid dairy completely except for the rare latte and some hard cheese. It doesn’t seem to bother me, but I’m avoiding dairy right now because it makes me mucus-y and I have enough to worry about without wondering if every sniffle is Coronavirus. (I’m looking at you, seasonal allergies.)

Today we took the dogs up to Saratoga Spa State Park and had a nice walk. We’re having such a nice, warm spring and it’s so nice to get out, exercise, and get some fresh air. On the way home, we stopped at got some bagels at the local bagel shop, and then stopped in at a convenience store for some eggs (for the banana bread). We feel fortunate that food stores are all open and well stocked. We’re trying to avoid going out as much as possible and minimizing our contact with others (For example, I will not set foot in a grocery store. I’ll go foraging in the woods first.) But at the same time, we feel like we should support local businesses as much as possible. Everything is take out now, and according to the CDC we’re safe to get food that way. I guess it remains to be seen if that’s enough to prevent the spread.

New York has the most cases in the US, but cases locally aren’t quite as crazy (although, admittedly, no one is really getting tested). Part of me wants to barricade myself in the house and not come out til this is over, but they say this may last months and months, so that’s not really an option.

We went on another walk around the neighborhood looking for rainbows in people’s windows. That has really exploded in the last couple of days. The group has been on the news several times now and rainbows are everywhere. It’s cheerful and makes this all a little less hard.

I have to admit, I love being home and having nowhere I need to go, but with everything going on in the world, I feel deeply troubled and on edge. I am trying hard to keep my spirits up and I’m doing that through crafting.

I’ve done some embroidery.

I also brought home some pottery from the studio and spent all day painting. Tomorrow the studio is closing until further notice. This makes me incredibly sad. It feels a little like the world is ending in tiny increments. I had to apply for unemployment on Friday. It gives me a weird, un-tethered feeling.

I need to focus my energy on something else–maybe write a new novel. Unfortunately, I can’t get out of my head to write something happy, and all the other ideas I have are very sad. I don’t much want to marinate in sadness for a prolonged period of time. It won’t be good for my mental health.

Hopefully inspiration will strike soon. I’m looking for something new to do.

As I type this, I am dehydrating cinnamon apple chips in the dehydrator. Tomorrow I’ll make some loaves of banana bread to freeze. I’m going to get fancy and add some chocolate chips. That’s what passes for excitement around here these days.

Coronavirus Diary Part 2

It hasn’t even been a week since my first Coronavirus post, and in that time, I feel like I’ve lived ten lifetimes. I am keeping this diary as a record of what is happening, and also because I scarcely believe what is happening myself. Maybe if I write it down it will start to feel real.

It wasn’t long ago that Jeremy and I were driving back from a stock up shopping run at Target. It was a beautiful day and life was so, so normal. But I had this gut feeling that this was the last good day. I remember telling Jeremy that we should enjoy this day, because, just like we all might’ve felt on September 10th, if we were clairvoyant, there was this sense that whatever normal felt like, we’d seen the last of it for a long time.

Since Friday, the schools closed, nominally, for a week. Then the governor over a succession of days, closed not only the schools, the theaters, and all large public gatherings, but all the stores, all the gyms, any place people might gather. We went from no gatherings below 250 to 100 to 50 to 10. As the week has progressed, our lives have telescoped inwards until there is very little left of it. There is a rhythm to life in our little village. Spring means Jumping Jacks opens. There are concerts at the Village Green. Collins Park is always hopping. For entertainment, there is the little one-screen movie theater, or Proctors theater in Schenectady. When the weather warms up, the drive ins open. After a long, isolating winter, people start flocking together, enjoying the warm weather. None of that can happen right now.

What can we do? We can stay in the house. Homeschool our bewildered children. Take a walk, but only with our immediate family. With the news constantly admonishing social distancing, saying we should all assume we have Coronavirus until further notice, no one says hello anymore. There’s a wariness when others approach. The dogs are confused. What is the world where the people never leave the house, and where strangers don’t stop or acknowledge them? Today we walked the dogs around the block. Neighbors were out, so I waved and said hello. The woman hid behind her glass screen door and looked spooked by my greeting. Restaurants that were once thriving and busy can only do takeout now. But so can bars. New York changed its laws to allow take out booze. Busy owners are lost. No one had any time to prepare for all these changes. They’ve swept us up and we just have to figure it out. Teachers are scrambling to put lessons together for students they have no idea when they’ll see next. And business owners have to create a new business model and pivot, for who knows how long, praying a community where few are working supports them enough to survive.

There are no words.

And this, the experts say, is just the beginning. This is the pre-emptive shit. We haven’t even seen the shitstorm on the horizon.

The news makes it sound like we’re all just ticking time bombs, and in a week or two, those of us who lost the viral lottery are suddenly going to start showing symptoms. In the meantime, what can we do? Not take ibuprofen, or elderberry, or gargle hot water, because none of it works. You’re either going to be okay or you’re not, and may the odds (and your immune system) be ever in your favor.

I am not enjoying this plot twist that has turned my life into bad YA apocalyptic fiction–that’s all take out restaurants and toilet paper shortages? Come on! Who wrote this shit?

Anyway, people are doing the best they can to bolster each other. Since our only entertainment these days is walking or driving around the neighborhood, a local elementary school PTA suggested we should have a neighborhood rainbow hunt, so parents can take their kids out for a scavenger hunt. God knows I have enough craft supplies here to keep me busy for the duration of our quarantine and then some, so I whipped this little guy up.

He’s the rainbowiest rainbow gnome that ever rainbowed.

I wish I could do more. I know so many people are just completely at the end of their tether. But somehow art makes everything better. We’re all turning to it in this time of great uncertainty. I spent the whole day embroidering today, trying to settle myself. When I’m finished, I’ll post a picture. For now it’s a work in progress.

Figuring It Out

I don’t want you to get the wrong impression from the title–I have, most definitely, NOT figured anything out. But every day I’m getting a little closer.

On Sunday I was hired to work as an instructor at a local paint your own pottery shop and I’m looking forward to getting started. It’s exactly the sort of place a person like me should work, full of creativity, and color, and whimsy. And as I said in my interview, the world is getting more serious and prescriptive by the day. Places like that are a haven for the out of the box thinkers and creative types.

One of the saddest things I’ve seen so far as a substitute teacher was in a kindergarten class. There was a poster on the classroom wall, showing the students how to color. The rules were simple. 1. Stay inside the lines. 2. Leave no white space. 3. Make sure the colors are realistic. In another classroom, once again, not only were the students asked to color a picture realistically, they were told what colors they were supposed to color everything.

My inner artist was having an internal Donald Duck tantrum at how demoralizing and limiting that would feel. Maybe it’s for the best that I’m not an “official” teacher, because that poster would never see the light of day in my classroom, and I would be all about encouraging my students to experiment with their coloring, realism be damned.

In any case, at the art studio, there are no rules about such things and it will be great to witness people express themselves with wild abandon, flaunting all the rules they were given when they were 5.

It’s been a good few days. I got that job and then I got another full manuscript request, so I figured to heck with my diet, I’d go to Applebees and get crazy. I had vegetables cooked in butter (not allowed), green beans (not allowed) seasoned with pepper (not allowed), and a hard cider (also not allowed). And it was awesome. Until I came home and immediately broke out in hives.

My stomach issues have resolved since taking coconut out of my diet, and clearly something I ate last night (my money is on the alcohol) was problematic. So I’m considering starting the diet all over again, removing the rice I’ve been eating, omitting all coconut, not cheating with green beans and butter, and give my body a chance to really heal, as intended.

I don’t want to do this. But my face is still itchy this morning.

I could also try a low histamine diet. It sucks for someone who loves food as much as I do to have to eliminate so much from my diet. But I want to be healthy and I’m determined to figure it all out.

To Each Their Own

Jeremy and I were talking not too long ago about our desire for a lazy weekend, but then complaining about how even the most potentially lazy weekends become consumed with doing things. All that spare time seems to get filled up so quickly by errands, chores, and lately, birthday parties and holiday visits. We both wished for just a couple of hours to do something creative (me) or hit the casino for some poker (Jeremy), but also filed those wishes away as not likely to happen.

My life has taken on a certain pattern. On weekends when I have the boys, I try to plan fun activities for us to do together, and it’s usually a whirlwind of day trips, eating out, and general adventuring. Then the weekends I don’t have the boys become a mad scramble to take care of all the things I neglected the previous weekend and an attempt to carve out some time to myself to pursue the things that fill my life when I’m not creating foreign customs documentation.

This weekend was shaping up to be equally nuts. The boys have an all day taekwando event today, and since the rain has decided to give us a reprieve, I have several months worth of yard maintenance I need to tackle, and windows that desperately need a cleaning. Super fun. Not. But then John was invited to a sleepover last night, which coincided with a painting I was dying to try at Saratoga Paint and Sip. The wheels started turning.

I can’t tell you the last time I did anything one on one with either of the boys, so I texted Sam and asked him if he’d like to go on a “mom date” with me. He readily agreed. After that was settled, I sent Jeremy a text and said “You are going to have the house to yourself Friday night. I strongly suggest you go play some poker.”

This is one area that I am absolutely adamant about in our marriage. It is healthy to have time to ourselves to do the things we love. I am not one of those wives who discourages Jeremy from doing the things he enjoys. And he is not one of those husbands who discourages me from doing what I enjoy. In fact, we push each other to cut the self-sacrificing bullshit and do things for ourselves whenever those rare moments present themselves. This is why I married him.

He acted like I’d just presented him with a bow-wrapped Porshe in the driveway. A night to himself to do whatever the heck he wanted? Sign him up!

So we were all happy.

I told Sam that he could pick the restaurant for dinner, and to my surprise, he chose The Whistling Kettle in Ballston Spa. Ever since Jeremy and I honeymooned in Paris and introduced the boys to the crepes we fell in love with there, the boys have become serious crepe connoisseurs. When we took them to Montreal, they ate their weights in crepes, and are determined to partake in crepes everywhere. The Whistling Kettle makes amazing crepes and has always been one of my favorite restaurants in the area, so I was absolutely fine with that suggestion.

After dinner, we drove up to Saratoga Springs, another one of my favorite places in the area. And then we painted.

The finished products

Every time we go we see lots of women, usually a very small contingent of men, and never any moms with kids. I don’t get it. For me, it’s the perfect bonding activity with the boys. They put their video games and phones away, we talk, we compare, we ask for advice, we bond in the shared experience of doing something together. As a parent, when was the last time your kids saw you trying and failing and doing something completely new and working through figuring it out? We are constantly on the sidelines watching and cheering on our children, but how often are the roles reversed? And how often do our children get the opportunity to work side by side with us, as peers?

Sam’s Paso Fino

At work, in the break room, an Everything-I-Ever-Needed-To-Learn-I-Learned-In-Kindergarten poster hangs on the wall. But for me, there are some major life lessons to be learned at Paint and Sip.

  1. Everybody is looking at the same image, everybody receives the same instructions, has the same paint, and the same paintbrushes, and every single person is going to interpret that image differently. It’s amazing at the end of a class to walk around and see all the little micro decisions people made that completely changed their painting from the one used as an example. It’s a lot like life, plus it’s a metaphor for the ages.
  2. It’s ok to go rogue. Just because everybody is doing the same painting, that doesn’t mean you can’t do something entirely different. Anything goes at Paint and Sip. It’s your painting, so do what will make you happy to hang it on your wall.
  3. Everything is more fun when we support each other. There’s something truly magical about the camaraderie, the encouragement, and the whole lack of judgement at Paint and Sip. We’re painting a horse and you think yours looks like a duck? Awesome! Paint or duck! Or, we’ll fix it!
  4. Everything can be fixed. There is no such thing as a painting emergency.
  5. The finished product is not the point. The process is the point. The learning is the point. The figuring it out as you go is the point. And it’s also the fun part.
My Paso Fino