Coronavirus Diaries: Week Twelve

May 16

It took all week, but the play set is built. It’s still missing a few small accessories, but it has swings and slides and a climbing wall and they’re all secure, so I say it’s good to go. Amelia agrees. With every new part we added, she had a new level of elation. Thank goodness the weather was nice today so she could play on it while we finished it up (even though she had to go hide every time we used the drill).

“Come slide with me, Mommy,” she said. The set has a 100-pound limit.

“Oh, Mommy’s too big,” I said. And then I felt sad. As an only child during this pandemic, Amelia really only has me and her dad to play with. And now she has this super cool new toy, and she can’t play with either of us on it.

When this all started, I was filling out one of those surveys on Facebook, and one of the questions was “Is there any chance you’ll have a covid baby in nine months?” And I answered “N-O spells NO.” Chris and I still talk about the possibility of having another child, but the conclusion is always the same: we’re good with one.

I know this pandemic is kind of an anomaly. And I know it won’t last forever. Someday soon, Amelia will go back to school and make friends and her cousins will come visit and we’ll go visit them, and she’ll have plenty of people to play on that set with.

But in the meantime, I just wish she had someone her own age to play with.

Amanda Gibson summed it up quite eloquently in her piece on Motherwell. I feel you, Amanda. I feel you.


May 18

I started a trial of Noom today, that vague weight-loss ad that everyone is seeing in their social media newsfeeds. I was already developing pretty unhealthy habits before this all struck, and then those habits became even more unhealthy since sheltering in place: baking, processed foods, takeout. I’ve gained around 10 pounds in two months. It’s not pretty.

I kept making the excuse that these are hard times, that everyone is overeating right now. When the world is in chaos and life shovels on an extra dose of difficult, like everyone else, I find it’s easier to be happier when I’m eating whatever I want. That’s what I loved most about being pregnant. I ate whatever, and it felt so liberating. I didn’t have to beat myself up about every single thing that went in my mouth. 

But I’m not pregnant, and this weight won’t magically go away like it did with childbirth and then again with cancer. It’s looking more and more likely that work will be starting up in two weeks, and it’s easy to pack on the pounds when no one is looking at me, but soon people will be looking at me, and what do I want them to see?

It’s not just that, though. I can feel how unhealthy I’ve become. I’ve been going to bed with an upset stomach that keeps me from falling asleep and then wakes me up in the middle of night. I haven’t been drinking enough water, so my digestion is a mess. I’m crabby. It’s almost as if I’m making this pandemic harder on myself. At this point, it seems like it would actually be EASIER to diet.

So that’s what I’m gonna try.


May 20

So far so good on losing weight and being healthier. I already feel a lot better. But there’s a new downfall that I hadn’t factored in. Since what I eat has become so important, I’m the one responsible for planning and cooking meals. Which I normally am anyhow, but on nights when I didn’t feel like it or nights when I have too much to do, I can delegate to Chris or to takeout. Where I usually had over an hour to work when Chris was done for his day, I’ve lost that time to exercise and cooking. I know those things are just as important as writing and getting my library work done, that I need all those things to be healthy and secure. But it’s becoming more clear how I gained all that weight in the first place. Exercise or write? Cook or work?


May 21

After a staff Zoom meeting, it’s sounding more and more likely that we’ll be heading back to the library June 1. We’ll stay closed to the public, but will offer curbside pickup and allow items to be returned (even though they’ll have to be quarantined for a WEEK). The governor is starting to relax restrictions (although it seems against her will), so I doubt the stay at home order will be extended–she would have done it by now.

It just seems that so many places are relaxing restrictions when the threat is still strong out there. My mother-in-law is a little worried about restarting her babysitting duties, and I don’t blame her. Although it’s not likely the virus travels between people on items like paper, so our risk handling library materials is low, I’ll still be more exposed than I have in the last two months by just being around other people and interacting with other people’s things. They keep assuring us that staff will be as safe as they could be, but that’s not a very promising promise.

And yet the idea of being able to be around coworkers and family again is exciting. As soon as I heard that the governor is “allowing” groups of less than ten to gather, I wanted to call my brother and ask when we can come visit. But I didn’t because I know this is far from over and we all need to take our time.


May 22

This morning, the city put on a “parade” of sorts–their municipal trucks drove through all the neighborhoods honking their horns. It was a nice idea. We opened the door up and waved to the drivers. And then they honked their horns, and Amelia hid her head in my shoulder and told me to shut the door. She is so sensitive to noise.

It’s funny how people are connecting in a time when everyone is hiding in their house. At Easter, our neighbors put pictures of decorated eggs in their window for a neighborhood “egg hunt.” Strange that I feel closer to my neighbors than ever before because I see them walking their dogs and working in their yards, and they smile and wave. We’ve become the talk of the neighborhood since finishing the play set. People keep stopping by and commenting on it.

I keep thinking this virus is going to make everyone afraid of each other, but it seems to have had the opposite effect.

Coronavirus Diaries: Week Eleven

May 9

Chris called Costco earlier in the week to ask when they would be getting more play sets, because play sets are like gold bars now. There’s only so many, and it’s hard to get your hands on one. The person said to check back on Monday, but Chris didn’t trust them for some reason, so this morning, he went to Costco at open, saw another dad with a play set on his cart, asked where he got it, and managed to claim one of the five play sets they had in stock. He had to rent a UHaul to bring to home.

This thing is four big heavy boxes and a double slide just wrapped in plastic. Once built, it will be three stories tall and have three swings and three slides. It’s ridiculous: a child’s dream come true.

We opened up the boxes to get a feel for how difficult it will be to assemble, and I immediately felt overwhelmed. It looks like so much work. The box says it takes between 8 and 20 hours for an average Joe to assemble.

As I look at all the parts sprawled in the side yard, I can’t help but wonder if this is really necessary. We have two decent sized city playgrounds within walking distance from our house. But it might take all summer for those the be safe to play at again.

Still, it seems a little wasteful to build this huge wonderland for our single daughter. After this is all over, she’s seriously gonna need to make some friends to share it with.


May 10

Ever since I moved away for college, I’ve been telling myself how unimportant holidays are. Not the celebrations themselves, but the days they fall on. Because it isn’t always easy to schedule birthday dinners when I live three hours away from the birthday boy or girl, and it isn’t possible to celebrate traditional Christmas Eve simultaneously with two families on opposite sides of the state, and because my mom’s birthday is just before Christmas and my mother-in-law’s birthday is sometimes on Mother’s day, and then Chris is a father now, so we want to do what he wants on Father’s day instead of what his father wants or my father wants. Holidays don’t have to be only one specific day. When they are, we can’t do everything, and we can’t please everyone.

So for a long time now, I haven’t worried too much about what day we do what. It doesn’t matter to me if we do a birthday the weekend before or after, or if we smush two birthday celebrations together. It doesn’t matter if we do Thanksgiving on the following Friday or Saturday or Sunday, so long as there’s turkey and pie whenever we do it.

And as for Mother’s Day, well, I learned my first year as a mother that Mother’s Day is never going to be as relaxing or luxurious as commercials make it out to be, so even though Chris kept calling it my “special day,” it was like, whatever, it’s just Sunday. Give me some pancakes and a little alone time and a lot of hugs and a card and then a nice dinner and some good booze, and I’m set.

So Mother’s Day in the time of Covid really wasn’t all that different for me. Amelia did let me sleep until almost 8am, and I got to go for a bike ride and read a little without disruption. Amelia had one meltdown, and the place we got take out from forgot to throw in my key lime pie, so it was pretty good, but it wasn’t perfect, but what Mother’s Day is?


May 11

I still have routine oncologist checkups after my brush with ovarian cancer three years ago, but my April appointment was pushed back to May, and I expected them to push it back again, but they didn’t. They just said not to bring guests and to wear a face covering.

The future of face coverings has been on my mind a lot, mostly because our planned trip to Disney in September still seems to be a go, with the caveat that we’ll likely have to wear masks in the parks. In Florida. In the heat. And I hate that idea. I get hot wearing my mask for 20 minutes while I grocery shop. I don’t know how people with glasses are making it work with the constant fogging.

Besides being uncomfortable, there’s just a general weird feeling about wearing masks. Even though it’s not the least bit dramatic–it’s actually a very simple solution to staying healthy–my mind can’t help interpret it as dramatic, as though the air isn’t safe enough to breathe (and in some ways, I suppose, it’s not). And if the air isn’t safe enough to breathe, then we must be living in some post-apocalyptic, frightening, hopeless world.

When I went to my oncology appointment, though, that wasn’t the case at all. I was greeted at the door by a woman with a thermometer, and she seemed almost apologetic that she had to inconvenience me with taking my temperature. The receptionist was all business as usual, even though she, too, sported a face covering and I found myself standing further back from the counter than I normally would. My nurse was joking about her computer freezing. My oncologist and I were swapping stories about how hard it is to eat healthy during Covid. It was all so normal, I forgot I was wearing a mask, and I never actually felt hot.

I expected human conversation with face masks on to be short, abrupt, to the point. I definitely didn’t expect kindness or joke-telling or general everyday banter. Granted, this was a doctor’s office, and they thrive on good customer service, but it didn’t feel like they were going out of their way to be nice. It felt like they were just being their nice normal selves.

I guess just because the mouth is covered doesn’t mean the world is ending.


May 12

10:42am

K: If you could have anything in the world for lunch today, what would you have?

J: Haha. Uh…not sure. What are you gonna have?

K: Probably avocado toast. Okay, time to walk the dogs. Conclude random awkward Tuesday texts! (Swirls cape mysteriously over face, leaps from building like Batman or something)

J: GIF of Blake Shelton saying “WHAT JUST HAPPENED?”

11:10am

K: Jenny. Jenny. Are you ready? Get ready.

J: Haha What????????

K: Your sandwich is out for delivery.

J: Aw you are so sweet! I can’t wait for my surprise!

K: Oh, man, this is exciting. I can watch William driving in real time. He’s heading south! Go, William, Go!

J: GIF of a woman shouting excitedly

K: He’s hesitating at 44th St. TURN LEFT WILLIAM! GO EAST!

K: Ope, he did. Now south on Eastern.

J: GIF of Ross Geller slow-clapping

K: He’s approaching 52nd! JENNY. GET READY.

J: I’M READY!

J: Um, I think he gave me the wrong order.

K: ?

J: Image of food. Look at all this food! Not just a sandwich!

K: Oh, that’s correct!

J: TOO MUCH.

K: GIF of Brittany from Glee snapping her fingers with the caption DEAL WITH IT.

J: I love you. You’re the best.

The rather funny thing is I was just thinking about how people are doing parades for people’s birthdays or graduations or dropping surprises on porches for neighbors and how I didn’t think that was something that would happen to us or we’d participate in. We really don’t have many close connections here. I’ve always been a bit introverted, kind of a loner, and I don’t mind not having a community, at least until I find myself in a community and realize how nice it can be. So most of the time I’m not sad about not having many people to connect to. But sometimes I get a little sad about it.

And then my best friend goes and orders me a surprise lunch with enough food to feed my whole family for three meals. Not only that, but my daughter keeps getting packages in the mail from her grandparents, and my neighbor actually has dropped off a plate of cookies on our porch once. So maybe I do have more community than I thought I did.


May 14

Things I haven’t done since Covid (besides the obvious) that I normally do:

I have not watched the news

I have not moved my purse from its hanger

I have not plucked my eyebrows (looking pretty scary about now)

I have not gotten coffee from anywhere but my kitchen

I have not put gas in either of my cars

I have not touched my makeup or jewelry

Thing I have done since Covid that I normally don’t do:

I have been painting my nails, and in weird colors, too: yellow, then orange, and now rainbow colors. It strangely makes me happy for some unknown reason. I wonder if I’ll keep doing it post-pandemic.

Coronavirus Diaries: Week Ten

May 3

My house is a mess.

I know a lot of people are using this time to clean their houses from top to bottom, organize, declutter. I did some of that in February, and I was amazed at how fast my house became a mess again. It all seems a little futile to put so much effort into cleaning when I know it will be awful again a day later. Hashtag life with a toddler.

That’s not to say we’re living in filth or anything. But all my cleaning has been piecemeal. Today while Amelia was playing in the yard, I got out the vacuum, and as I swept, I kicked things out of the way. I put a good amount of effort into making sure all surfaces were swept, but I put away no toys nor books nor myriads of misplaced things. I just kicked them or tossed them into new locations away from where I was working.

Part of me wants to scream when I look around and I can’t see the surface of the dining room table or the living room carpet. But mostly, I figure it’s just as anxiety-inducing to worry about cleaning it than leaving it be.


May 5

The days are getting rather repetitive, and we’re running out of original ideas. When this first started, I was taking a lot of pictures of all our new adventures, of all the playing Amelia was doing and all the crafts we attempted. Now I’m not finding much new to take pictures of, and so my camera roll is a bit sparse.

I’ve been talking to a good friend of mine about how people tend to not have the impulse to photograph sad or hard times. This stay-at-home order has been fun in many ways–the proof is in my pictures–but it’s been just as tough, too, and I don’t have any pictures of that. What will I remember when I think back on this time? Will I only remember the happy times, because that’s what shows in the pictures? What about the struggles? Will I even want to remember them?


May 6

The weather was beautiful today, so even though I had just mowed the lawn on Saturday, I decided to do it again, and when that was done, I went for a walk. I haven’t been wearing a mask when I go for walks or runs. I know some people do, and I know some people get upset to see people on the trails without masks. I don’t quite understand the science of wearing a mask while you exercise. It seems like all the nitrogen getting trapped in my mask would suffocate me. Besides, I’m outside. We’re not enclosed, our germs bouncing off walls and back to each other’s faces. Masks outside is where I seem to draw the line.

And yet I acknowledge that the paths are narrow, and sometimes a 6-foot distance can be hard to achieve. Today while I walked, there were a couple of times the path just wasn’t wide enough, and as I neared a stranger, I veered off into the grass to give us more separation. Only I couldn’t help feeling a bit rude about it. Any other time, moving into the grass when someone approaches would indicate they are gross or smelly or undesirable in some other way. I hoped they didn’t take it personally when I veered away.


May 7

When this all started, I thought for sure I’d be able to convince myself to get up early every day so I could get more done. That was a pipe dream, I realize now. I am not a morning person, not even on my best days. And trauma makes you more tired. And even though I might not realize this quarantine is traumatic now because I’m too busy operating in survival mode, I know deep down that it is traumatic and stressful and that my body needs extra recovery time in the form of sleep and that’s okay.

So imagine my frustration when I hear jackhammers outside my window at 6:30 this morning.

Our storm sewer has a sinkhole behind it that we’ve been bugging the city to fix. Of course they decided 6:30 on a Thursday morning was the perfect time to fix it.

Oh, but it’s not even fixed. They just made the hole bigger. And they were done by 7am. *Facepalm*


May 8

Yesterday was a rough day, so when Chris was done with work, I went to Horrocks to escape the house and do some retail therapy in the form of buying plants. With mother’s day coming up this weekend, I knew their supply would be overrun, so I figured the earlier the better. And I was able to come back with tomato plants and pepper plants and herb plants and seeds for cucumbers, lettuce, and green beans.

Only the weather is turning for the worst this weekend. Chance of snow (!) and definitely nights below freezing. But I just couldn’t let myself wait any longer. So I’ll bring the plants in during the night and put them back out when it warms during the day. And if they all die, which wouldn’t be the least surprising, then at least I’m starting early enough that maybe I’ll have a chance to get more plants before they are all sold out.

Coronavirus Diaries: Week Nine

April 26

The weather was beautiful today: warm sun shining but refreshing breeze blowing. A great day for flying a kite, which Amelia wanted to do all day long. In the evening, while potatoes were roasting in the oven for dinner, I sat on the front porch, propped myself up on the brick facade, and read a book while Chris and Amelia fought with the kite across the street in the open field.

I had gone to the store that day, and for the first time, it didn’t look like the world was ending. Most things were decently stocked. Still, as the weather starts to turn, I’m anxious to secure vegetable plants for our summer garden. I have a feeling that everyone will have the same idea I do, and I don’t want to miss out. But this is Michigan and planting before Memorial Day is an ensured death wish for gardens, so I’m trying to be patient.


April 28

Even though the governor extended the stay-at-home until May 18, there was still a lot of talk on our weekly work Zoom meeting about what we’ll have to do to stay safe when we inevitably have to return to work: gloves and masks and the buddy system for curbside pickup and disabling every other computer so people stay the proper distance from each other and sneeze guards on the info desk and wiping every surface we touch before and after we touch it. So much disinfecting and hand washing. Storing returned books for 72 hours before we even think of touching them.

I know we provide a service and that service is severely missed. I know–I miss it probably more than anybody. But the procedures for going back sound insane. And it sounds like they might drive us all insane in the process.


April 29

I was on Teams call today with a bunch of other librarians; it was training for readers’ advisory, which is a fancy way to say we help you find a book to read that you’ll like. I didn’t have to talk. I didn’t have my microphone or my video on. But Chris was taking a phone call in the office and Amelia was watching a show in the living room, and I couldn’t really hear my own computer. So I plugged my earbuds into my head so I could focus.

Ten minutes in, Amelia shouts to me, and I have to take out my earbuds and get out of my seat and go into the living room, where she tells me she wants more pretzels. I rush to fill her snack cup and then get back to my seat in front of my laptop at the dining room table.

Five minutes later, I hear Amelia’s little voice shouting to me again through my headphones. She’s decided she doesn’t like the episode that’s playing and wants me to change it. But she doesn’t know WHICH episode she wants, so I have to list them all for her. She chooses one, and I go to start it, and then she says, “don’t want that one.” MAKE UP YOUR MIND, CHILD. I’VE GOT THINGS TO DO.

I’m impatient. I’m annoyed. I’m flustered. I may be missing out on important information because Amelia needs something unimportant.

It reminds me when I was trying to teach online when Amelia was a baby, how frustrating it was to try to work when Amelia constantly needed things from me. If I hadn’t been in a training, I wouldn’t have been the least bit bothered by refilling her snack or helping her choose a new show. But because I was trying to work when she demanded attention and care, I was suddenly so inconvenienced.

And then I feel like a bad mom AND a bad employee all at once.


April 30

I’m almost done reading The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See, and it’s a fabulous book, but it was hard to read at times because it was so violent and sad. It documents the hardships on and occupations of a Korean island called Jeju. The people there see many tragedies and lose many loved ones, and it’s actually helped me feel a tiny bit better about the coronavirus. At least our killing is coming from something we can’t control, something that is just doing what it exists to do instead of people turning on people, instead of people killing each other. At least a virus can’t torture or rape or mutilate.

But then a group of armed civilians rushed the state capital today, and maybe the virus isn’t the only thing we have to fear right now.


May 1

Wow, I can’t believe we’ve spent the entirety of a month sheltering in place. I can’t believe the whole month of April was confined to our home. It’s looking like May might be the same.

But today the weather is beautiful and warm and I feel calm and hopeful that we will make it through this just fine.

Coronavirus Diaries: Week Eight

April 18

We were able to acquire a couple Covid antibody tests. I took one this morning. I had to use the supplied needle to poke my finger, slurp up some blood into a pipette, and then mix it with enclosed chemical. I couldn’t do all that by myself; Chris had to come slurp up my blood while I pushed on my severed finger. Then we took the solution and poured it into something that looked like a pregnancy test. Results would show in eight minutes, and waiting in that time felt like waiting for a pregnancy test. Whether you want a baby or not, it’s anxiety inducing to even be taking it.

We set a timer, and when it beep-beeped, we went back to look. There was a line at the “C,” which meant the test worked, but there was no line at the “T,” which meant that my body hadn’t yet made the antibodies for covid-19. In other words, now I know I haven’t had it, and I’m still at risk for catching it and bringing it home to my family.

If the test read positive for antibodies, I would have still stayed home just as much as I am now, and I would have still worn a mask when I absolutely had to go somewhere. The general public wouldn’t know I was immune, and I would want to encourage others to keep following the rules. But I would have felt a protective barrier around me, my family, our house. I would have known that we had had it and we survived.


April 19

We eat a lot more at the table during the weekends. When Chris is in his office doing work, I’ll often let Amelia eat breakfast and lunch in the living room, either wandering around or watching a video. A lot of times, she eats better than way.

But during the weekend, when we are all trying to spend valuable time together, every meal gets eaten at the table.

Since being locked up together for the past months, though, our table meals have gotten a lot quieter. I usually stare out the sliding glass door. Chris usually scrolls on his phone. Amelia, even, often looks up at the ceiling while she drops her food into her open mouth, trying to make the meal even the least bit interesting. Even she seems to realize that we all have nothing to say to each other anymore. It’s pretty profound for a three-and-a-half year old to run out of things to say.


April 20

I started making plans for a garden today.

Only, the catch is, I am terrible with plants. And usually I hate gardening, because there’s weeds and bugs and worms, and it all ends up being a lot more work than you realize.

So why am I excited to plant a garden? Why am I even considering planting a garden?

I guess to have another task on the to-do list, something I can do with Amelia that I know she’ll love, something to steal a tiny bit more time out of my day to keep it from lasting forever.

And for something to look forward to. I love the idea of a garden anyhow, the warm summer sun, temperatures above 50, playing in the dirt, picking tomatoes and cucumbers and green beans. It all sounds so nice.


April 21

The Stay-at-Home order may expire at the end of the month. And so the library is trying to organize if that happens. They want to know what my schedule could be if they open on May 4th. Amelia’s preschool is also planning on opening May 4th. We didn’t want to have Amelia’s grandma come up here to watch Amelia while I work if Amelia was going back to preschool, too. Too much exposure to people, and Grandma is of at-risk age. So it would have to be one or the other–Grandma or preschool. How to make the choice? Why do I even have to choose when we don’t yet know if the order will be extended?

Now it’s more stressful to think about life getting back to “normal” than it is to stay how we’ve become.


April 22

A quarantine mother’s haiku:

So many stuffed friends
Need check ups from doctor mom
Shoot me in the face


April 23

I was sitting on the living room floor after playing what felt like the twelfth game of Candyland that day. I picked up my phone to give myself a little parenting break, but before I knew it, my 3-year-old was climbing up my back. She found a comfortable spot sitting on my shoulders. She then proceeded to wiggle back and forth while humming a song, knocking out my ponytail of unwashed hair with her movements. You have got to be kidding me, I thought to myself.

But instead of pulling her off me, instead of scolding her for treating me like a jungle gym, instead of ruining her fun, I opened the camera app on my phone and videoed her ridiculousness. Then I posted it to Instagram.

That evening, after my daughter was in bed and my husband and I were sharing a beer, my brother texted me to say he couldn’t stop watching that video of my toddler scatting on my shoulders, conceding that at least she gave a “dope soundtrack” to her shenanigans, and reiterating that it makes him laugh every time. As his texts rolled in, I went back and watched the video once, twice, three times, too, laughing more and more with every viewing. And soon I was laughing uncontrollably, too. My brother and I, laughing like morons at the same time at the same thing, 300 miles apart.               

My husband patted my leg and told me to make sure I get out of the house tomorrow.


April 24

The Governor just extended the stay-at-home order two more weeks. Kind of relieved, to be honest.

Coronavirus Diaries: Week Seven

April 13

I honestly don’t know how families who have two full-time working adults AND children are doing this right now.

Granted, my 3-year-old is especially clingy, so she rarely “plays on her own,” which means that unless she’s watching TV, she’s probably making me play with her. And when she is watching TV, I am trying to check my work email, my personal email, my writer email, or trying to relax and take a break myself, but am likely just cutting up apples the whole time because she snacks on them like a madwoman.

Chris, on the other hand, is at his desk from 7-3:30, taking phone calls, web meetings, writing emails, only budging, really, to refill his tea or grab a bite of food (which he eats in front of his computer). That’s what full-time work looks like for a lot of people during this Covid-of-our-discontent: 8 hours in front of their computer uninterrupted.

How would this possibly work if I, too, had a full-time job to tend, with no one to watch Amelia?

I do have a job–jobs–to attend to, though: online library work and my own personal writing. Now in this full-time-mom mode, it’s impossible to accomplish all of my tasks in one day.

I keep thinking I can find time in the day to make it all work. That if I just found the right routine, I could exercise for an hour every day, work for two hours every day, write for at least hour every day, and still be able to give Amelia the attention she craves while Chris is working. There has to be a way to fit it all in.

And yet, I am trying to give myself some grace, to allow myself a semblance of failure and acceptance, to know that I can’t do it all, that I don’t have the energy or the stamina to do it all right now; I rarely have the stamina to do it when I’m at my best, let alone in these outstanding circumstances.


April 14

A truly rotten day. Amelia didn’t want to listen. Everything was a battle today. The minute Chris emerged from the office and said he was done with work, I said, “THANK GOD” and took his place in the office, closing the door behind me. But with my newfound freedom, all I really wanted to do was sleep. I nearly put my head down on my closed laptop and took a nap, but I couldn’t reconcile giving up the small amount of me time. Eventually I got some writing down, and the fatigue and bad attitude started to dissipate.

A lot of people I talk to seem to have found what they’re calling “a new normal.” I’m not sure we’ve found that yet. Then again, what is “normal” anyhow with a toddler in the house? The routine is predictable, and maybe that’s all people mean when they call it the new normal. Every day is predictable because every day is the same.

But we haven’t found a harmonious rhythm. It’s a jazz riff. And I hate jazz. Too much cacophony, too much chaos. The songs never seem to end. They just keep going and going and going and going…

And it’s snowing. In April. Give me a break.


April 15

It’s really snowing today. Inches accumulating. Last week it was 60 and we were playing in the grass. Today it is 30 and we’re playing in the snow.

Amelia is happy to welcome it back. Bundled in her snow pants and parka, her little hands wrapped in water-resistant pink fabric, she scoops up handfuls of snow and launches them into the air.

“Do you want to build a snowman?” she quotes Frozen. I try to explain to her that this is fluffy snow, not packing snow, a distinction she will learn soon enough as a Michigander, but not yet at her early age of 3. Instead she answers, “Help me build one.”

There is such a great difference in everyone’s attitude when it’s possible to go outside, even if outside means snow pants and parkas. Earlier this week, unyielding winds kept us inside, and the days dragged on. All this is much easier to handle when there’s a change of scenery, a change of play, a breath of fresh air.


April 16

I had a work call this morning via Zoom. We decided to use that platform instead of Teams because you can see everyone at once. I found there to be a strange new intimacy that comes from being able to see people in their “natural habitats.”

With my coworkers, I know so much about who they are at work, but have only visited one coworker’s house. Two of my coworkers have been to my house. So I know most of my coworkers from what I see at work only.

I enjoyed seeing these small snippets of their abodes, these hints of their interior design, the tastes of their styles, the sense of their leisure. While on the call this morning, I got up and made a piece of toast with apricot jam; the whole process, I realized after, they could see. They saw my fridge door open, all the kid artwork hanging from magnets. They saw that I put butter on the toast first and then the jam–a rather indulgent method. They saw what tea kettle I used when I filled up my mug. But I didn’t really mind, because they’re friends, good friends, and I’m okay with them seeing me in my normal environment. I enjoyed seeing them in theirs.


April 17

It’s still snowing. Come on, already.

Coronavirus Diaries: Easter Edition

April 10

I’ve struggled with how much I want to invest in Easter this year. Easter is not one of my favorite holidays, not for any particular reason. I think I don’t like that it’s constantly changing days from year to year, sometimes ending up in a totally different season. You never know if egg hunts will be done in shorts and sandals or boots and coats. Oh, and it’s a Christian holiday, and while my family are all still Christians, I am not, so there’s that.

Last year, though, I made my peace with the holiday, decided that it could be merely be a day that celebrates the end of winter, the beginning of spring, which is where its origins seem to lie anyhow, with our celebration of baby chicks and bunnies and eggs. Plus, now I have a daughter, and I didn’t want to deprive her of the non-Jesus holiday traditions like coloring and hunting for eggs: activities that are fun for children.

So even though we don’t celebrate the resurrection of Christ in this house, I did grab a couple bags of candy, some egg dye, and a stuffed bunny on my last grocery trip.

Amelia, lately, has gotten rather obsessed with getting mail. Every time we check the mailbox, she asks if there’s anything for her. Since this week leads up to a holiday that all our family still celebrates, and since no one is allowed to see each other physically (#coronavirus), when Amelia asks if that package is for her, the answer has been pretty steadily “yes.”

Today a big box from her grandparents arrived. We FaceTimed them as she opened it. The box was filled with puzzles, bubbles, stuffies, and little plastic eggs that rattled when they were shaken. Amelia went to open an egg, and her dad stopped her. “No, we’ll do an Easter egg hunt this weekend so you can find them.”

I thought back to last year, when Amelia had an egg hunt partner in her cousin Bijou, who is a year younger than her. And then I made the grandparents hunt for eggs as well. There was a delicious spread of food to which everyone contributed and me and my sister-in-law sporting bunny ears most of the day and the general cacophony of family celebrating their love for each other together, celebrating each other’s company together.

My last semester of my Master’s program, Chris and I opted out of Easter. I was working diligently on my thesis and the semester was quickly coming to a close. When the day came, and I scrolled through social media, I saw pictures of not only my family gathering without me but everyone else’s families gathering together, and I felt a tinge of regret that we hadn’t participated.

Now it feels strange and a little sad to know that no one can be with their families on this major holiday. That the coronavirus has cancelled Easter, or Easter gatherings anyhow, because it’s not safe to be around family. It seems to be a contradiction, when, for some people, family is where they feel the most safe.


April 11

Amelia and my colds turned into infections, so we’ve both been on antibiotics for the past ten days, finishing up last night. I woke up this morning at 5am with the irrepressible urge to cough. I worry that the antibiotics maybe hadn’t done their job.

The last time Amelia had double ear infections (only two months ago), the first dose of antibiotics didn’t knock it out, and she was prescribed medicine that wasn’t nearly as delicious as amoxicillin, which she fought us on every night. I really didn’t want that to happen again.

Someone in our family has been sick since Thanksgiving. That’s five months of sickness in this house. When I told my cousin that, she suggested that I rid our house of negative energy.

As I’ve stated, I’m not religious. I’m also not superstitious. And I would probably say I’m not even all that spiritual.

What I am is desperate.

So this morning, I got out some sage and told Amelia we were going to cleanse the house. We opened all the windows. I struck a match. The dried yellow sage turned black and red and glowed and smoked. I waved it in front of the wall.

“Amelia do it?” she asked.

“Sure, Bubs,” I answered, and handed the sage over to her. The smoke swirled around her little body, weaved itself through her curly hair. She swatted playfully at it with her hand.

I led her around the house to each of the rooms, instructing her to cover as much area as her tiny attention span allowed before moving onto the next room.

When we got to the front door, I asked her for the sage, and I waved it around her body. Then I handed it back to her and asked her to cleanse me. I twirled around in a circle as she held the sage out toward me. Then we opened the door and let the negative energy exit.

I snubbed out the embers on the end of the sage.

“Do it again?” Amelia asked immediately.

“No, Bubs, I think we’re cleansed enough for now.”

“Cleanse again? Cleanse again, please?” she begged.

I shrugged my shoulders and chuckled. Can’t hurt, right? “Okay, Bubs.”

“I’m so excited we’re going to do it again!” she said, jumping.

I don’t know if the sage cleared out the negative energy or if I just enjoyed Amelia’s enthusiasm for this new ritual. Maybe a little of both? But a contentedness fell over the house immediately.

Feels a little strange to perform a pagan ritual during a Christian holiday weekend, especially when I’m neither pagan nor Christian. I definitely had no intention to appropriate anyone’s religious practices. I was just looking for a little extra help on what seemed to be “a lot of bad juju,” as my cousin said.

Without religion, there is not much use for ritual in one’s daily life. I will admit that what I miss the most about the church are the rituals, the traditions, the sacredness. Plastic eggs and stuffed bunnies, though tradition, don’t really feel all that sacred. But burning sage and cleansing my home with my daughter brought sacredness back into the weekend.


April 12

We did Amelia’s Easter egg hunt yesterday because it was supposed to rain today. Then this morning, the clouds cleared and the temps rose above 50, so when Amelia asked (incessantly) for another egg hunt, I put on some cartoons for her while I filled a few more eggs and hid them in the landscaping.

As she skirted around the house, crouching for eggs and putting them in her basket, the rest of the neighborhood was silent. I expected other families to be out doing what we were doing. Usually Easter morning would be filled with children’s giggles wafting through the air. I at least expected to see families on porches in their Easter attire, taking family portraits. But doors were closed. Yards were empty. I guess no one had anything to dress up for today.

I’m sure people are still celebrating. Hams are cooking in the ovens. Eggs are being dyed all sorts of bright colors. Chocolates are being unwrapped and consumed in unhealthy amounts. Maybe egg hunts are going on and I’m just not seeing them.

The day seems strangely quiet, though. Holidays tend to be boisterous. But with the windows open in the house, all I hear are a few distant cars and the wind blowing through the trees.

Coronavirus Diaries: Week Six

April 5

The sun is out, and the temperature is mild. Amelia playing in the yard drew our attention to its shagginess.

“We should probably mow,” Chris mumbles.

“I was just thinking that,” I answer.

Neither of us have ever been a fan of mowing, not until Amelia came along and mowing came to mean an hour of solitude, listening to music, outside of the house. Now it’s one of my favorite chores.

I march back and forth across the front yard, the sun warming my face, the breeze cooling my neck. Chris and Amelia play with slingshot arrow copters on the sidewalk and wave to me sporadically. The copter shoots high up into the air, disappearing for a second, and, twirling rapidly, floats across the street. They cross the yard to fetch it, hand-in-hand. I get a whiff of hot dogs blistering on a nearby grill.

This is the perfect spring scene. Things simply couldn’t be better.

Well, yes, they could.

It’s a contradiction to feel so content in an active pandemic.

This morning, I read that Michigan has become the state with the third-highest number of cases and deaths of Covid-19, only behind New York and New Jersey. According to NPR, America has the third-highest number of deaths, closely trailing Italy and Spain. Tens of thousands of people have died in this country from this virus. No place has yet reached their peak of cases, which means there are more deaths coming. I’ve read accounts from nurses and doctors about how scary, how sad their workplaces have become, how they’ve chosen to distance themselves from their own families in order to protect them.

Their lives are anything but content.

Same for those who have lost loved ones. Those who have lost jobs. Those who have lost their sense of stability.

I am so grateful to have so far been spared any of the realities associated with this virus. I don’t know how or why we’ve been so lucky.

I also feel guilty that we are allowed to have perfect spring days like this. It doesn’t seem fair.


April 6

To-do: (1) 3 hours of library at-home work, (2) blog drafting, (3) generate content for new memoir project.

7:15 am: Husband and I overslept. Amelia is already awake.

8am: Coffee, news, and catching up on social media while Amelia watches cartoons.

9am: Coloring at the kitchen table, only Amelia’s recently become allergic to coloring, so she insists I color for her while she tells me what colors go where.

9:30am: Outside time, where Amelia demands I blow bubbles, color for her some more on the sidewalk with chalk, guide and support her as she plays with her trike, her bike, and her scooter (spoiled girl).

10:30am: I let Amelia watch more cartoons while I log into my work email, catch up on Yammer and Teams, peruse the tasks list, read some recommended articles.

11:30am: Prepare and eat lunch. Amelia insists we eat on the deck, but we haven’t got out the table yet, so one hand on my plate, one hand on my fork. No free hand for me.

12:30pm: More cartoons for Amelia. I could use this time for more work or writing or exercising, but the grocery list on the dry erase board is getting too long. I better run to the store.

1:30pm: I’m back and groceries are put away. Okay, Amelia, that’s enough television. Back outside.

2:00pm: Amelia wants to play in the sandbox. I sit next to her on the deck and open a book, but she demands I come over and make molds of doughnuts in the sand. She ignores me, caught up in her own world, but if I venture to my chair, she beckons me back immediately for more doughnut molds.

3:00pm: A round of Candy Land, a round of Go Fish, a round of Sorry (which is not fun to play with a 3-year-old). She gets out Phase 10, and we separate the cards into piles by color. She grabs the stack of yellow cards and carries it around the house.

3:30pm: Husband is done with work. He leads Amelia outside to play again. I sit on the couch and catch up on work emails again. I watch a webinar about how libraries are handling the coronavirus.

5:00pm: Assemble and eat dinner.

6:00pm: I haven’t had any exercise today, so I go for a walk. I listen to Bruno Mars and Ed Sheeran. On the trail is chalked encouraging phrases like “We can do hard things” and “Perseverance creates character.” I spot wild daffodils and two mallards–a female and a male–walking together in the grass. I relish this alone time.

7:00pm: Bedtime routine for Amelia.

7:30pm: Chris and I grab drinks and popcorn and sit down to watch a movie.

9:30pm: Chris and I read in bed until we turn out the lights.

Tomorrow will have the same to-do list, with only one of those items completed for the day.

How to be a writer during a pandemic? I haven’t figured it out yet.


April 8

Yesterday morning, I had my first work video conference since this started. I saw my coworker’s faces and a small swatch of their homes–some kitchens, some basements, some bedrooms. We mostly talked about how we were holding up sequestered in our homes with our loved ones and hypothesized about how long it would be before it was safe to open the library again to the public (the answer: really long). It was nice to see and talk to people outside of my extended family.

I’ve been telling myself I haven’t really missed socializing. I like to keep to myself for the most part. I don’t have a lot of friends. My one best friend lives with me (i.e. husband) and my other best friend lives in New Mexico, so I’m used to talking to her virtually anyhow. I like my coworkers as my friends. I still have a couple of college friends in the area. I have a small circle of writer friends.

Before social distancing became a necessity, if I scheduled “friend time” with one of those groups, I was almost always dreading the commitment. I’d rather be using that time to be by myself. The only company I usually ever crave is my own.

This evening, I had my first Zoom call with my writer pals. As the call time approached, I did feel a little bit of dread, a tiny inclination to flake. But when I saw their faces and heard their voices and we talked writing and family and hardships, it felt good. I had missed my friends, even if i hadn’t realized it. I had missed socializing, even if I hadn’t realized it.

Coronavirus Diaries: Week Five

March 31

We’ve fallen into a routine of sorts. It wasn’t the routine I was hoping for, but it is a routine all the same, and whether or not it’s perfect is of no matter. It’s just nice to have some predictability.

Every morning when I get Amelia out of bed, she asks what day it is. She always used to do that, but she was trying to verify if it was a school day or not.

“It’s Tuesday,” I tell her.

“No school today,” she answers back.

“No, no school today. School’s closed. No school for a while now.” And I silently wonder how much she understands. She knows everything is closed because everyone is sick. She thinks it’s because she’s sick (we both have colds now). I wonder what will happen when we’re both feeling better, if she’ll think we can go out and do things then. “Mama and Mimi day,” I say.

“Family day,” she insists.

“Well, Daddy’s here, but he’s working.”

“He’s in the home office.”

“Yes.”

“Gonna go tell him good morning.” She disappears down the hall.

It’s quite nice. She wakes up every day smiling, energetic. No struggling, no tears, no refusal to get dressed. I let her watch cartoons while I drink my coffee. Then we play Candyland and Go Fish and color and draw.

And I’m strangely content, which is not something I usually am after watching Amelia nonstop for nine hours a day, for being submerged in toddler talk and games and not having a minute to myself, to do anything for myself. The general consensus around the virus, though, is that Michigan won’t “peak” with cases until mid May. Which means social distancing for six more weeks at the least. Maybe I subconsciously realize that this is going to last a lot longer than I hoped it would, and maybe that has flipped a patience switch somewhere, allowing me to accept and maybe even appreciate this time I have with Amelia.


April 2

The weather has turned. The sun is out, and the temperature is rising. It’s the perfect spring day to be outside.

Unfortunately, every other Michigander feels this way.

Amelia rode in the stroller as I walked the trail to the playground. But the trail was overrun with people desperate for Vitamin D. The trail width itself is a mere 3 feet, half the size of the recommended between people. My walk changed to a jog, zig-zagging around various virus bombs as fast as possible, holding my breath, as if that would make a difference. My sanctuary of nature felt more like a minefield with all these people around.

I let out a breath of relief when we reached the playground, empty except for one family: a mom and three kids. There are two playground sets, so we went to the one they weren’t on. But out of nowhere, I turned around, and there was a 6-year-old boy standing right behind me. I put my hand on the back of Amelia’s head to guide her to step further away while I looked at the boy in disgust, as is he were the virus himself. But every step away we took, he took a step closer.

“You better get over to your family,” I told him.

“Why?”

“Because we’re not supposed to be around strangers right now. There’s a virus.”

“Yeah, we have to stay three feet away.”

“Six,” I corrected.

He just stared at me.

I glanced over my shoulder at his family on the other play set, completely oblivious to the fact that one kid was missing. I continued to guide Amelia away from him, serving as a blockade between him and her.

I wasn’t sure what else to do. I didn’t want to hurt this poor kid’s feelings. He was just trying to make a friend. He had been away from his friends for weeks now. He hadn’t met anyone new. He knew what he was supposed to do–stay away–but likely didn’t understand the severity, so didn’t want to follow the rules.

I couldn’t see him as a confused little boy, though. I could only see him as a potential threat to my life and my daughter’s life.

Coronavirus Diaries: Week Four

March 21

So many states have now been ordered to shelter-in-place, and though Michigan is still low on confirmed cases compared to other states, our governor is proactive about containing this virus. We’re certain she’ll order us to stay home soon. We have provisions to last a week, but we haven’t really planned ahead long-term. We figured a trip to Costco was necessary; besides, we are low on paper towels, and with a shortage of toilet paper, those are certainly next on the to-hoard list.

Everything looked the same on the drive over, but when we parked in the half-empty lot, there was a line out the door. A staff person said the store was at capacity, so we had to wait to be let in. There have been plenty of weekends where we’ve struggled to find a parking spot, and yet the store hadn’t been at capacity then. There was a pile of pallets separating us into two lines, lines that were at least 6 feet apart. Those carts are almost 6 feet long themselves, so we stayed a safe distance between those in front of and behind us. For once, people weren’t crowding, weren’t shoving, weren’t trying to get ahead. We all just waited patiently out in the cold.

Once inside, we saw they were out of paper towels. Go figure.


March 22

It’s still chilly outside, but the sun was out, and I wanted to enjoy it and escape my family for a little while. I walked to the playground that Amelia and I usually walk to in the summertime, because for some odd reason, I wanted to see what it looked like. Would it be wrapped in caution tape? Would there be kids playing on it? Would it even still be there? I felt like it had possibly disappeared. There’s that old riddle: if a tree falls in a woods, and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a playground sits in a field and no kids can play on it, does it even exist? I honestly didn’t know. I had to see for myself.

Naturally, everything was still there and still the same, only some punk kids had graffitied the sidewalk. I wasn’t surprised. These times feel a bit like the wild west: desolate, dangerous. Every step out of the house is risky. Those punk kids were just trying to show their grit, I’m sure, like one accepting a dare. When the stakes are so high, even the smallest acts seem reckless. And people love to be reckless.


March 23

Today, any large events for the foreseeable future were postponed or cancelled. Restaurants, bars, gyms, anywhere that usually held more than ten people at a time, were ordered to close their doors. It seemed like the world was shutting down.

Not the whole world, though.

My daughter’s private preschool/daycare is still open, too. She attends four days a week for half days in the morning. They assure parents that they are taking new precautions to keep everyone as safe from Covid-19 as possible: vigilant cleaning, regular hand washing, etc.

I could keep my 3-year-old home. I am off work. I am available to watch her all day. My niece’s preschool is still open, too, but as soon as a coronavirus case tested positive in the state, my brother pulled her out.

My daughter has never really been all that excited to go to school. She puts up a fight at every drop-off. Usually tears and snot flow from her face as she grips tightly to my arms; her teacher pries her off me. But the minute I’m gone, they tell me, she’s fine. She smiles. She plays. She’s a happy girl. They send picture after picture of her dancing, coloring, finding hidden items on scavenger hunts. When I pick her up after lunch, she walks with me calmly to the door, not in a frantic rush to leave, and waves to her friends and teachers. I ask her if she had a good day, and she says with a smile, “yeah.” I ask what she did, and she tells me with enthusiasm. She likes school, I know she does, even if she doesn’t like leaving me every morning.

Motherhood has come easy for me in the way that I instantly loved my daughter, instantly knew I would do anything to protect her, comfort her, make her happy. She makes me laugh and she makes me smile and I am so grateful and so lucky to have her in my life.

Motherhood has not come easy for me in any other way. I have always been more of an introvert. I like my space. I like having time for me. I like being able to do what I want to do with my days.

When she’s at preschool in the morning, I get that space, that time, that freedom to do what I want to do. I can write. I can read. I can be who I am outside of the title of “mother.” It’s a hard thing to give up voluntarily.

I have plenty of excuses or explanations. Covid-19 isn’t very high yet in my state. Children are the demographic that handle Covid-19 the best. If she gets sick, she will likely be fine. If we take her out of school, it will be so much harder to get her to go back. She needs the socialization. She needs time away from her mommy. She needs to remember that other adults can care for her besides her parents.

Her school is good for her. Her school is good for me, too.

Any yet school in general is being targeted as harmful. School is where viruses spread unknowingly. School is where people get sick. School is where silent killers lay on all surfaces, just waiting to infect.

It feels dangerous to let her keep going in these pandemic times. But it feels just as dangerous to keep her home.


March 24

Our governor called for a shelter-in-place of all of us, so Amelia is officially off school for at least three weeks. And Chris has moved into his home office. So it’s all of us all of the time now for at least the next three weeks.