Here in the US, businesses are starting to open back up after weeks of pandemic lockdown. We’re about to enter a new phase in this journey together.
Today marks 60 days that my family and I have lived and worked and been schooled from home, the five of us. It’s been a cozy little cocoon these many weeks. The weather is finally starting to improve in Ohio with warmer temps, no snow, less rain. This particular way we’ve been living life is coming to an end.
We all know how easy it can be to lament the many things we’ve lost over these 60 days: people chief among them, followed by jobs and life savings, milestones like proms and graduations and weddings and spring sports, and then maybe even followed by civility among our fellow Americans.
Let’s not focus on that. Let’s focus on what we’ve gained, what we vow to do differently. I don’t want to go back to the way things were.
I’ll go first. In no particular order and by no stretch all-inclusive, here’s what I have gained and want to keep in my day-to-day life:
Routine family dinner, and all this extra time with the kids
Working from home (aka, the three-minute commute) with a puppy in my lap now and then
Reconnecting with far-flung friends using any manner of video technology
Netflix (yes!) for on-demand comedy
Savings that arose from not buying gas, lunch, clothes, etc.
The ability to focus on and truly enjoy the moments that make up the here and now
The realization that some things are truly outside of our control
The gift of my tribe – my tight circle of family, friends, and coworkers who I love
Simplicity of routine and in possessions
The sound of birds singing
Extra time for more hiking
A mostly empty evening and weekend calendar to use as the mood strikes me
Immense gratitude for my health and for all front line care givers, essential workers, and creative types who found ways to inject joy into these crazy days.
How about you? I’d love to hear at least one thing you discovered or reclaimed since the pandemic and you resolve to continue, to do different than you did before the world changed.
My youngest turns 10 tomorrow. Double digits. Normally we would be having a pretty cool birthday party with his friends, maybe even hire a gaming truck to come to our neighborhood so the kids can compete to their hearts’ content.
Not this year.
Nope. We’re stuck in the house, doing the same old, same old, as we have for – what? – the last 60 days.
Oh Lord, it’s even been SNOWING here in Ohio. Mother Nature isn’t even cooperating with us.
I can’t imagine what it must be like for a kid to go through a pandemic and celebrate a birthday, although at this point I know quite a few who have. Shoot, I’m an adult, and I still can’t wrap my head around it.
But you know what? ANYBODY celebrating a birthday in a pandemic is something to celebrate.
All told, though, it won’t be that bad. Frankly, it will be pretty awesome by many standards. We ordered a cool gift online and it’s arrived. We’ll order take-out dinner from his favorite local Japanese hibachi place and a Dairy Queen ice cream cake, you know, the kind with the chocolate fudge and crunchies on the inside. I’ll make a sign for the front yard. His Dad and I will blow up balloons overnight while he’s sleeping and cover his floor with them so he has to wade through it when he wakes up, and we’ll tack crepe paper streamers down his bedroom door, to usher in the big 1-0 in style. For extra flair, I’ll put a lip stick smiley on his bathroom mirror.
Maybe we’ll even deliver breakfast in bed, since it’s entirely possible to pull it off.
I wrote to some friends to see if they’d be interested in forming one of those car parades in front of our house so he can see his old school and soccer buddies. It’s been two months after all, and who knows when he’ll see them all again for real.
I even floated the idea of a single kid sleeping over if the parent consented but hubby nixed the idea because our other two kids will beg for exceptions we are not willing to grant, so isolated we will remain for now.
My baby is 10. He’s healthy, he’s happy. He’s AWESOME. He’s loved. He knows that.
Never in my wildest imagination did I expect this is how we’d celebrate his big birthday. But we are blessed beyond measure inside Louie Lodge, no matter how much the crazy swirls around us.
By the grace of God, the five of us are still hanging strong here at Louie Lodge, today being Day 27. Here’s what I know:
The organization genes run strong in my 12 year old daughter. She has taken it upon herself to start cleaning out drawers and cupboards in the kitchen, God bless her. You know those utensil drawers you can’t quite close because it’s overflowing with stuff? Marie Kondo would be proud.
I’m so grateful we all have a small, adorable Maltipoo to keep us company in this craziness. One of our favorite nicknames for her is Pupperton, which sometimes morphs into Snuggleton, and recently after a bath: Flufferton. Just in case someone in the house isn’t feeling all that snuggly, we have our pup to turn to. Seriously, thank God for her.
There’s no getting around it: March was a sobering month but nothing like the prospect of flipping the calendar to April with the frightening thought that some of us won’t live to see the end of the month. April 15 in the US is predicted to be the peak and as we entered the month, April 19 was supposed to be Ohio’s peak.
However, the Ohio models show that our social distancing efforts are working. We might be a week or two out from the peak which has plummeted to 1,600 new cases a day from recent estimates of 9,800 per day.
That’s incredibly good news. We are flattening the curve. To quote Dr. Amy Acton:
School resumed remotely, in some fashion this week. The kids received their assignments from each teacher as of 9 am Monday in an online portal our school district uses, and they have a week to complete them. Teachers are holding “office hours” to answer questions and some have posted videos to explain concepts or lecture. It’s not quite the same thing as the real thing of course but we’ll see how it goes. I doubt they will return to physical classrooms this academic year. Some kids in our school district do not have access to computers but they can get access to district-provided Chromebooks which is wonderful.
Dance classes have resumed, fully online too. Ryun continues to pick up a few more private students for online classes and my work continues online en force.
I really haven’t left the house other than the occasional walk with our dog. What I have done is taken the time I have otherwise spent writing using it instead to connect using Facebook Messenger video calling with a friend in Moscow I haven’t spoken to in over 25 years, and I’ll be doing the same with another friend in London this upcoming weekend. And I probably ought to do the same with another 30-year friend in Japan since they just went into a state of emergency there. It’s amazing that technologies exist to allow us to do these sorts of things.
And as if things weren’t interesting enough, we awoke at midnight to the emergency signal on our cell phones advising us to take immediate shelter in the basement, which we did for 30 minutes while an F1 tornado promptly touched down in our town. We were spared but a few houses a mile from our house did not fare so well.
A few things brought a huge smile to my face this week, as it did for a lot of people. The first Randy Rainbow’s tribute to Andrew Cuomo. If you haven’t seen his parodies, you are missing out on some seriously clever entertainment. The part where he mentions Chris Cuomo made me belly laugh for a full five minutes. Did I ever need that.
And for the record: seriously, Chris has got to pull through.
A local cartoonist whose name I wish I knew so I could give credit created this parody of Governor Mike DeWine and Dr. Amy Acton using the theme song from Laverne and Shirley as the basis.
I strongly recommend John Krasinski’s Some Good News, already on Episode 2, which brought tears of joy to my eyes in that it allowed me to remember when I saw Hamilton on Broadway.
And finally for the pure feel-good vibe of it, is this family lip-synching to Hold My Hand. Watch Dad. I mean, daughter is pretty darn good but the tree that apple fell from is impressive!
Seek out the joy, peeps. Seek out and share the joy in these crazy times.
Feeling a little more somber today. Heard from another friend of mine, a doctor. She read yesterday’s blog post but stopped when she got to the part about the joys of working from home. She admitted it was because she felt a little jealous.
This news gave me pause. I felt sheepish, ashamed, because let’s face it: she doesn’t have that luxury. No one in the medical industry has that luxury today or in the foreseeable future. This particular friend of mine has gone through two separate instances of chemo from ovarian cancer, and yet here she is on the front lines of the pandemic, selflessly serving others.
She shared how she sees many older patients in her practice, some of whom look forward to their doctor appointment because it’s the only social interaction they get all day, or even most days.
If you’re struggling with these new restrictions, think of the elderly people in your life. Think of the doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, other hospital, hospice, and elder care workers. Think of the daycare workers who are working with kids while juggling the risks and restrictions placed on them, every day let alone today. There are all kinds of people to think about, to thank.
We need to support one another, however we can.
In another one of those incredible, perspective-inducing memes:
Your grandparents were called to war. You’re being asked to sit on your couch. You can do this.
Ohio Governor Mike DeWine asked people to hang the American flag as a sign of solidarity, presumably because many of us might not have an Ohio flag, cool as it is with its pennant shape. The previous owners of our home had a flag pole in the yard but it was broken and became rusty so we pitched it several years ago. I will have to make an effort to hang our US flag somewhere on our house this weekend.
In today’s press conference Lt. Governor John Husted reminded us that tough times reveal our character. He spoke of a grocery store fight that broke out between two customers over toilet paper. Toilet paper. As much as I’ve joked about it, it’s not worth fighting with a fellow citizen.
Contrast that story with the one about a state employee, a technical guy who worked tirelessly to launch the state’s coronavirus unemployment benefits web page even while a close family member was dying. He chose a selfless act of service for his fellow citizens in a time of crisis over personal tragedy.
I sit in my house today wondering if my throat feels funny, like my glands are starting to swell. Maybe my imagination is running wild. It worries me. I realize I’ve been in a happy little bubble, but I really need to brace myself in case it bursts in the coming days.
This last week, my coworkers have all reliably shown up for work on conference calls like I confidently assumed they would, but it hit me: we will start hearing stories about people who are falling ill. People we know. The rumor mill is running with the name of an infected high school student in our community of roughly 27,000 people. Will it get more real when we hear that news first-hand from someone?
Is it more real now that the first Ohioan has passed from this virus? The numbers in Ohio and the US are really starting to jump. I’m not surprised at the numbers as we’ve been warned they would, and warned that we are just beginning this upward slope.
What if yesterday was Week One of Eight? What if it is Week One of much longer?
We are hearing reports that China and South Korea are slowly beginning to return to normal, but their societies are quite different than ours. I’m not an economist but I know America increasingly runs a small business and gig economy. How resilient are those to a pandemic? A few of my learned business friends are quite concerned about the long-term economic devastation about to hit America if this drags on longer-term.
One of those people is my best friend from college, Greg. I dreamt about him the night before, so I took it as a sign to Facetime him last night. We caught up for the first time after several months and I didn’t care that my face was sans make-up. He is hunkered down in his Manhattan apartment with his new fiancé and their two cats.
They pretty much can’t leave, and they haven’t for two weeks now. It’s impossible to step outside in New York and be six feet apart from people. He shared how the EMTs came the day before to take away his neighbor who couldn’t breathe.
He’s thinking through the logistics of packing up their lives and cats and traveling to Ohio to live with his elderly mom in the country for a few months until New Yorkers get the all clear. He figures he’ll be there to help his mom should she have a medical emergency, fix things around her house, and step out for fresh air by walking in the woods. He has the financial luxury to take a couple of months off from his work.
We talked daily in college, mostly to get through honors accounting homework and deal with our tough, formidable professor together, but just as often our talks turned to life and the future. Greg always called me “dear” and could finish my sentences for me, but despite all that, we always agreed to politely disagree about money.
Greg thinks we’re headed to a great depression of monumental proportions. I know exactly what kind of dominos need to fall for that to happen, and part of me knows he’s right about that, but for now I’m still hanging onto hope. If China and South Korea can emerge from this, maybe we can too. There will be casualties of the real and metaphoric kind, but I won’t mourn that yet. That time will come but not now.
Speaking of being hunkered down, I see many references to people reflecting on the dignity of Anne Frank, hiding in a 450 square foot space with her four other family members for two entire years, trying to avoid being heard and captured.
Perspective. We can do hard things.
Ryun and I need to do a better job of explaining that to our kids. Believe it or not, we finally sat down for family dinner last night and it wasn’t quite the Norman Rockwell moment we would have liked. Our kids had nearly a full week of free-for-all without curfews or much in the way of chores so the mere thought of gathering at the same time daily for – egads – a meal together was a crimp on their freedom.
I wanted to use the backside of my hand on each of them. I didn’t. I whipped out the old, “in my day we didn’t have the luxuries you did…” diatribe but it rang hollow. Eye rolls in every direction.
It was time to appeal to a higher good within them.
In between bites of spaghetti, they learned that for the rest of their lives, they will be asked, “What did you do during the pandemic?” and we explained we wanted them to be proud of their answer. Ryun and I suggested enrichment activities that – get this – each of them enjoys.
I may as well have told them the internet was dead. Or asked them to amputate an arm and return their electronic devices to owner. Not a proud parent moment. We have some work to do at Louie Lodge.
In closing, I leave you with this today, author unknown but full of grace.
Today I used up the last square on a roll of toilet paper in the powder room on the main floor and it hit me: we should number the rolls remaining in the house and keep a tally on the dry erase board in the kitchen, like our own little Louie Lodge Doomsday Clock. And then gather solemnly to play taps when another one spins, freely, its original mission in life complete.
After tossing the empty roll in the trash, I sang the first verse from Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” while washing my hands, followed by a re-creation of the dancing in the jail scene of The Replacements. Alternatively, I’ve heard we should try a verse of “Old MacDonald”, “Happy Birthday”, or “The Stars and Stripes Forever” (we are a music family, after all), or even better, the Lord’s Prayer (now that’s a good one). This reminds me, I really do need to listen to Rita Wilson’s quarantine playlist on Spotify.
After I wrapped up work for the day, my husband Ryun, the extrovert, asked me if I was itching to be out among people. Me, the introvert? Dude, I’ve been practicing for this moment my whole life. True, I’ll be itching for a road trip when this is all over, but honestly, I feel a tiny bit more renewed each day I spend it in my Louie Lodge cocoon.
NOW would have been the time to binge watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. And uh, no thanks, Netflix. Are you seriously streaming Outbreak? Groan.
It’s really kinda hard to think this isn’t the end of times when you learn there was a 5.7 earthquake in Salt Lake City earlier today. That happens to be home for my mother-in-law. (She’s ok, the house is ok…) I mean, really. The governor talked of counties releasing people from jails. What’s next? The Cascadia fault line collapsing? Massive power outages? [God, if you’re listening….? That’s not a dare or anything, I promise.]
I do continue to catch Governor DeWine’s daily press conference. Major shout out to the sign language interpreters. The woman with glasses is fun to watch: she is a human emoji. Even better, my PC froze right when she was making this move that looked like she was casting a Harry Potter spell. The look on her face was priceless. She deserves an Emmy.
Can I tell you how nice it is that a soft, warm, snuggly, 1-year-old, puppy-sized Maltipoo named Zoe hangs out on my lap for part of the day while I work? And Zoe is Greek for “life” which is a lovely reminder these days?
My spirits remain high. Same with the kids. We’re all still healthy. Ryun is busy teaching his lessons. A few more parents and students took him up on online lessons. He doesn’t want to advertise more broadly than his existing student base, in solidarity with other musicians who might be hurting right now where gigs and schools are cancelled, and online lessons might be the only form of income they have.
Can I tell you I looooove how thoughtful he is about that sort of thing? He never ever wants to poach business from a fellow musician under normal circumstances and certainly not now.
On the topic of food…
Our fridge is packed to the gills but I’m trying to figure out whether a leprechaun bestowed it with vending machine capabilities because it magically produced a fresh, new gallon of milk I swear wasn’t there yesterday.
Ryun hid the brownies in the house because we’re tearing through them like they’re speed pills. He thinks I don’t know where they are. Now I’ve hid them in my tummy.
I miss Kind bars. They were all out of them at the stores. Thank God for the Girl Scout cookie supply chain. I may or may not stress-eat Samoas and Do-Si-Dos.
Heads will roll in this home, so help me God, if the lunchmeat in the fridge goes bad before we make a dent in it. Seriously. Hubby does the grocery shopping, but he also buys entirely too much food that can spoil simultaneously.
Speaking of grocery shopping, pro tip: see if your favorite store has an app or an option to “scan as you go”. Our store, Giant Eagle does. It’s GENIUS. Ryun scanned each item as he shopped, paid/checked out on his phone, had a store employee check his bag at the exit, and bypassed several incredibly long lines of people at each register on his way out the door. No wait. It will be neat to see the wealth of ingenuity that comes of these times.
This whole pandemic is no laughing matter but you gotta give props to the people who can joke at a time like this.
I swear I don’t have a fixation on Keith Richards, but I have to share this one:
And then there’s Betty White. I don’t know if she legit took that hit in the Snickers commercial a few years ago but she has GOT to survive this or I will cry.
Saw another great meme yesterday: we’ll see if the anti-vaxxers put up or shut up now!
One of my teacher friends shared a Facebook post that her children are engaging in the following enrichment activities: AP laundry and spring cleaning, honors dishwashing and yardwork.
And now for the macabre….don’t judge me. Don’t say I didn’t warn you either.
Ryun and I chatted again before bed last night and yeah, thoughts turned to what would happen if either of us died. He expressed his distaste for an open-casket service for himself. He’d rather be cremated but I had to explain, now that he’s converted to Orthodox Christianity, that they don’t permit cremation.
And the whole open casket viewing thing? I don’t even know….is that just an Ohio/western PA thing? Or a Catholic/Orthodox thing? The more exposure I get to other Christian faiths and wakes over the last few decades, it seems like nobody does that but us. Are open caskets passé? Are we that old school?
It’s important to remind you that he’s a musician and operates a percussion studio. He’s just as well known for being a classical timpanist as he is a jazz drum set player. We’ve got a lot of equipment: timpani, marimba, drum kits, xylophone, etc., mostly so he could practice his chops these many years.
As I laid beside him and thought about his wishes, the conversation got weird, totally my doing. Thank God he loves me.
“You know hon, I could always take the head off one of the timpani drums and bury you in there. For that matter, if you don’t behave, I’ll just stick you inside a bongo. Oh, I know! I’ll put you inside of a set of maracas. Maybe we’ll preserve your teeth and add them in for a little extra percussion,” as I wiggled in bed and pretended to shake an imaginary pair. We are a musical family, after all.
It was twisted. I’ll grant you that. I howled like a hyena while he shook his head at me and buried it in the pillow, “Aw, that’s just great.”
1. I touch my face constantly. Actually, that’s a lie. I have incredible self-awareness about my habit of face-touching.
2. People in this house drink a ridiculous amount of milk. We had three gallons two days ago. Now we’re down to our last half gallon. Under normal circumstances I would cheer that my kids drink milk. But now? I really don’t want anyone to step outside for it. They can eat dry cereal. We’ll send a single forager when we truly run out of necessary food and the way this kitchen and pantry are stocked, that could take a few days. Or weeks.
3. 15 people have signed up for online drum lessons which is not anywhere near my husband’s normal 40-student private teaching workload but it’s better than nothing and it’s way more than I thought! Today is the first day he’s giving it a go. Maybe he can open up his services across America for that matter.
4. My youngest cried because his favorite Nintendo game was somehow deleted off his Switch in attempts to upgrade it or apply a patch. Like Christmas day, every kid in America is likely downloading software from Nintendo and it’s crashing their servers. It’s the end of his world, you know.
5. My butt still really hurts from sitting on the newly assembled bar stool in my makeshift office after 1.5 days so I moved all my home computer equipment out of my real home office into the kitchen so my work equipment could move in. My home office doesn’t have a lot of desk space but at least the faux leather Ikea chair is comfy. I can’t imagine eight weeks with a bruised tailbone. I suspect that will be the least of my worries. It’s a lot louder on the main floor with the kids.
6. It’s St. Patrick’s Day. No parties and parades this year other than the line of cars at Cleveland Clinic waiting for COVID-19 testing. Ohio polls are closed per order of Dr. Acton in defiance of a judge’s order to remain open. I think the judge is wrong. I hate the idea of delaying our primary election, but these are not normal circumstances. I wore green today though – does that count? Then again, I’m on day three of the same outfit that wasn’t green on day one. LOL
7. My kids are just winging it now. I haven’t outlined “enrichment” activities for them, but I will be doing so over the next few days. I’m going to see if the ACT tutor we hired for our oldest can coach him over the phone since her schedule may have opened up. His certainly has. He’s pretty ticked that he doesn’t have the final quarter of the year to improve his GPA. Dude: we’ve been telling you about the significance of your GPA since 8th grade. You pick THIS QUARTER to pay attention?
8. Today we learned of the first person on the corporate campus of my employer who is presumed to test positive for COVID-19. By virtue of the fact that I was not emailed directly about this individual, they did not work on my floor, but I get around. We have a few thousand people on campus, and they hail from all over northeast Ohio, some driving up to 45-60 minutes to get to work. Today’s news was inevitable. HR will notify us if we’ve come into contact with someone who tests positive or is presumed to be.
9. I have no plans to wear makeup during the next eight weeks. I am fixing my hair because it’s short and I don’t need a reminder that I look like Keith Richards every time I look in the mirror. LOL Despite wearing the same clothes for the last three days, I am sporting fresh undies. The best is no bra. NO BRA for the next several weeks. Girls, can I get a hallelujah on that one?
10. No, I haven’t started that walking or yoga or tai chi routine. My husband started tai chi on Friday (“Hug the moon,” he coached me). I think that’s kinda cool.
11. Other than the normal kid fights, we’re doing ok. As we laid in bed last night, my husband admitted he is a little bit scared. I’m cool headed about it. I haven’t cried. I cry over everything but this? No tears. Not yet. I’m surprised I can fall asleep ok. Then again: no symptoms. I do feel like I should make quite a few phone calls though.
12. My youngest reminded me of his entrepreneurial and humanitarian tendencies, “Um, Evan S. and I at school heard that you can make, like, $500 million if you come up with the cure for the coronavirus so we’re going to use science and do it. If we split that 50/50,” long pause inserted for effect, “we both get $250 million so I’ll be able to pay for my own college.” My response? “Dude, if you discover the cure for the coronavirus, people will come to YOU for college.” LOL
13. Seriously, if you’re holed up in your house for an indefinite period, what are you going to do with this once-in-a-lifetime precious time of yours? Will you better yourself, connect with distant loved ones, tackle that home project you always said you would, or help the elderly and lonely in your own community? What do YOU plan to do? Even if you plan to rest – and that’s valid in its own right – what do you plan to do? I’d love to hear from you.