2020 vision revision

As of November 6th, there is a new mandate in Massachusetts requiring that masks be worn whenever people are out in public, even outdoors and when social distancing is possible. Previously, the state didn’t require masks for outdoor spaces where it was possible to keep 6 feet or more of distance. Up until the new requirement, whereas I wore a mask for any shopping or outdoor group events, I wasn’t wearing a mask while walking the dog. (I live in a pretty uncrowded area.)

In any case, with the new requirement, I’ve started wearing a mask while walking the dog. I have collected a few different styles of cloth masks, of varying degrees of comfort. The one I wore this morning is one that I like, style-wise, but I couldn’t get the nose-wire adjusted well enough. My glasses kept fogging up in the frosty morning air. After a number of unsuccessful adjustments as I headed down my street, I decided to just take off my glasses, and deal with a bit of blur. I put my glasses in my coat pocket, and we continued on our way. With my perfect 2020 hindsight, I realize now that this was a Bad Idea.

I didn’t really have too much trouble seeing. (It’s not like I need to read any road signs while walking the dog). However, further along in our walk, I saw another person and dog in the distance. I couldn’t make out who it was, so I decided to put my glasses back on. This was when I discovered that my glasses were not in my pocket.

Much to my dog’s disappointment, I turned us around to head back, so that we could retrace our steps, all the while hoping that I hadn’t dropped them in the busy street we’d crossed. I looked carefully on the ground as we walked, hoping to find them somewhere, uncrushed.

There were two major challenges to this endeavor. 1) Much of the ground looked like this:

And 2) I was not wearing my glasses, so I couldn’t see the ground very clearly.

I rushed us back home to get an old pair of glasses so that I could better stand a chance of seeing my glasses. And then we walked again, retracing our steps once more. And then all the way home again. And I saw a lot, I mean A LOT, of leaves.

What I did not see was my glasses.

On the bright side, my glasses were over a year old, and it was time to replace them. And I have some old glasses that are close enough to my current prescription. However I still didn’t like losing them. And I knew it was going to bug me endlessly. I was almost at the point of hoping to find them crushed somewhere, just to have the resolution of it.

When the time came for the dog’s afternoon walk, I bundled up again, put on an older pair of glasses, and a mask that doesn’t tend to causes fogginess. And we went back once again, retracing the path of the morning walk again. And on our way back home, I carefully stepped along the side of the road, pushing through the leaves with my feet. (And shuddering at the crunch any time I stepped on an acorn.) But then amazingly, miraculously, I saw an unexpected vision: my glasses peeking out from the leaves. They were remarkably unmarked from their ordeal.

Sending out thanks

I’m still feeling the joy of yesterday’s declaration of the Biden-Harris win. I love seeing the term “joyscrolling,” as people read about the excitement over this historic moment. I am feeling deeply thankful. I am sending out my thanks to the universe, but also to the people who worked tirelessly to combat voter suppression, and to make sure that more voices are heard in our democracy. And to many others who made this election and its results happen.

I’m also working on more directly thanking the group of people I connected with on my postcard and letter writing projects. I’m historically Very Bad at sending mail, especially thank you notes. (But also things like letters, emails, and even birth announcements¹. I usually send one Christmas card each year to one uncle, but rarely manage more than that.) So relatives of mine who have noticed my Postal Deficiency Disorder may be surprised to know that I personally mailed out over 600 pieces of mail to voters, and organized several thousand more. And they might be even more shocked that I am planning to send out handwritten thank you notes (or at least postcards) to the 50+ people who helped me with this project. I have finished writing 46 of them, and have only 9 to go.

So, I don’t have a lot of time to write tonight, because I need to write tonight. (Though now I’m realizing that I did just spend a fair amount of time writing this post explaining why I didn’t have time to write a post.)

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¹ Let it be known that I only ever sent off one (yes, count them: one) birth announcement when Theo was born. And it was somewhat by mistake, because I had meant to wait to send that one until the rest (or at least some others) were finished. However, John saw the stamped and addressed envelope ready to go and helpfully mailed it. And then who knows what happened to interrupt the writing and sending of the rest of the pile. Here it is, over 12 years later, and I probably still have relatives who don’t know I have a second child.

Doing a happy dance

This morning the news broke that the presidential election was called for Biden. While votes are still being tallied, it looks like the Biden/Harris campaign has surpassed the needed 270 electoral votes. (Thank you, Pennsylvania!) The rest of my day has been a whirl of emotions. I’ve cried some tears of joy and relief, talked and texted with friends and family, and spent a good hour and a half dancing around my house. (Bonus: this was a pretty solid cardio workout.)

I know there’s still a lot of work to be done. The pandemic is still raging, and this country is more divided than ever. But for today and tonight, I’m going to drink in the joy and relief. (I also drank in a bit of sparkling wine that I had in the fridge.)

Count every vote.

As many people predicted, the results of the US presidential election are not yet determined. While this isn’t the definitive rejection of the current administration I’d hoped for, I am holding out hope for an electoral college win for Biden. But I won’t count my chickens until all the votes are counted.

Count every vote. (I painted my sign in the couple of minutes between a meeting and the time I was leaving for the event.)

I attended a “Protect the Results” event in a nearby town tonight. Many such events were planned around the country, but most were not activated. But still, every vote needs to be counted.

Count every vote.

Last night and this morning left me feeling tied up in knots with worry and a sense of impending doom. I’ve been trying to focus on the bits of good, like my little red town going for Biden. Plus I’ve been making sure to count my blessings, and feel thankful for the many good people I have in my life, plus my dog, my home, and the many things in my life that bring me joy. Too many to count right now.

Today was a bit of a blur.

I’m pretty well exhausted from the emotional rollercoaster of the last couple of days. In fact, I am in bed already, even though it’s barely after 9:00 p.m. I was almost asleep when I remembered that I hadn’t posted here.

And now I need to close up my laptop and get to sleep. (I won’t need to count sheep. Though I may well dream of counting ballots.)

hoping, expecting, waiting

I sometimes say that I can tell that I’m an optimist because I’m so often disappointed.

Back in mid March, our governor announced that all schools in Massachusetts would be closed for three weeks. Our district had already announced a closure for two weeks, and the additional week seemed prudent. Massachusetts was just starting to see a steep rise in Covid cases. A couple of weeks later, the governor announced that the statewide school closures were being extended to May 4th. Again, this seemed wise.

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As the weeks went by, statewide cases and deaths continued to rise alarmingly. It was clear that Massachusetts was being hit hard, climbing up to number 3 for confirmed cases in the US, and third also in terms of cases by population density. It seemed unlikely that schools would be reopening in May. With many states already having announced school closures for the rest of the year, I didn’t really expect that our schools would reopen. My head knew that things looked bad. The writing was on the wall, and my head could read it just fine.

And yet it turned out that there was, apparently, still a teeny, tiny barely perceptible fiber of hope embedded in my heart, as it were. Some part of me thought that maybe, just maybe, the kids could return to school by June for the last few weeks. Maybe they could have a brief reunion with friends and teachers. Maybe my eighth grade daughter could have at least some modified fragment of the send off from middle school before leaving for high school.

I really only realized that this hope had been there when it was announced, two weeks ago, that schools would not be reopening this school year.

I expected it. I really did. I just hoped for something different.

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It got me thinking, as I’ve done before, about the distinction between hope and expect. In Portuguese, the same verb, esperar, can mean either to hope or to expect. The two concepts share a root, grounded in thoughts of the future. And yet one branches out to mean what our head believes will happen, and the other what our heart wants to happen.

Interestingly, esperar also means to wait. And now the days pass into weeks into months, and we must wait to know what to expect. We wait for testing to become more widely available. We wait for a vaccine to be discovered.  We wait, expectantly, hopefully, for signs that we have turned the corner.

Espero. I hope. Espero. I expect. Espero. I wait.

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I’m including photos of early spring leaf buds from my recent walks. I find buds to be so hopeful, with their potential bundled up and gradually unfurling. 

grieving the big, small and in between

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My family has been fortunate so far in these stressful times. We have a comfortable home and abundant amenities, and live in a place where we can enjoy being outside. We are able to both stay home and keep working at our jobs, and the kids have access to at least some version of schooling. We are healthy and safe. I am grateful every day for our good fortune.

But there has still been loss, of things big and small.

Today was to have been a day for celebrating the life of my aunt, one of my late father’s siblings, who passed away in early March. My family in the midwest had barely scheduled the memorial when it was postponed indefinitely due to the pandemic. My aunt was in her 90s, and her life was full and long. But I still grieve her loss, and the loss of the connection with my father’s family.

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Life being complicated, today would also have been an important chorus concert for my daughter, one that she had auditioned for in early February. Of course, I could not have attended both the concert and the memorial for my aunt. I barely had time to agonize over this before the complications compounded, and effectively made my own decisions easier.

These are only two of the disrupted plans in my life and household. March and April had plenty more. Many I let go with a shrug. A few I was happy to relinquish. A few others, though, have taken a lot more processing. (And maybe a bit of packing them up to process later.)

I chose these photos to go with this post because I’m not sure I want to post photos of my aunt at this time. But looking back at the handful of photos I have of her from decades past, I noted that she was wearing yellow in two of them taken over 10 years apart. So the daffodils are for her. The daffodils have also been cheering me, and encouraging me with their resilience in the temperamental New England spring weather. They bounced back remarkably well after a snow storm.

May showers

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAToday was the first day of May. Somehow April both flew by and felt interminable. As usual, I struggle to find time to do all the things I’ve committed to doing, and haven’t carved out much time for the creative projects I’ve wanted to do. The days go by in a blur of meetings and cooking and work projects and reading the news and talking with family and friends.

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I still take photos many days, in particular when I’m out walking the dog. This afternoon after most of a day of rain, (and a bunch of meetings) the sun came out. I went outside to see if there was a rainbow. There was only a very faint rainbow above, but the yard was full of color and light. The late afternoon sun lit up the flowers and new leaves, and water drops sparkled everywhere.

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I took a few photos with my phone, but then decided to go inside to get my real camera. (It can be hard to get the iPhone to focus on a tiny drop of water or leaf.)

Somehow this feels like a good way to start the month. A bit of sharp focus in a blur of days.

 

 

adjusting to the new normal

It’s strange to realize that it was less than 2 weeks ago that the fallout from the Covid-19 really hit my state. I’d been watching it like storm clouds in the distance, but the storm was already here before we saw it.

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Clouds over a parking lot a little over 2 weeks ago, when I was still casually running errands.

Yesterday, our governor announced that Massachusetts schools would not resume until at least early May, an extension of several weeks from the first statewide pronouncement. Many people (including me) are expecting that school likely won’t be back in session (at least physically) for the rest of the school year. Our school district, like many others, is working out a new system of remote learning. Both kids have been having assignments, and occasional virtual meetings with their teachers.
The kids and I started having our music lessons remotely this week. Both kids and I take violin lessons, both kids take piano lessons, and Phoebe started learning the guitar in the fall. I’m glad that our teachers are able to keep up their work.
These days I have even more (remote) meetings than ever, as I’m involved with multiple research and teaching projects. Plus I’ve started some volunteer work with a project to encourage green energy in my community. I’m busy with various commitments to each of the projects between meetings. I’ve been getting a bit more work done this week than last, but I continue to be distracted by the news. (I know I’m not alone.) Sometimes it feels odd to be pushing forward with projects when so much is uncertain about the coming months, but at the same time, it’s good to feel like work goes on.
I spend time talking with friends and family members every day, by phone, zoom or FaceTime. I’m having trouble finding time to check in with all the people I care about. (I owe responses to several texts, emails and at least one voice mail.)
I’m still walking the dog every day, and I’m grateful for the motivation to get up and get dressed early every morning. Plus I get to see the neighborhood. The dog is a bit uncertain about having the whole family home all day every day. His previous routine of napping on the couch for 5 hours after the walk is often disrupted by others using the couch. He’s a dog who shows his love through enthusiastic greetings, but he also likes to have his space. He’s definitely not a snuggler.

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The dog in one of his alternate lairs when his favorite spot on the couch is occupied.

I drove for the first time yesterday in almost two weeks, to pick up a share of produce I got through at CSA. (Someone I know arranged for  a farm to deliver shares to her home in a neighboring town. We were able to get fresh produce and avoid being in a store, or within 6 feet of any other people.) I asked the kids if they wanted to come with me, even though they’d stay in the car. They both joined me, and it felt like a fun excursion. It’s so odd to think that my previous life involved me driving almost every day.

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Carrots from the CSA farm share. Purple on the outside,  and surprisingly yellow/orange on the inside.

I have so many ideas for posts as well as creative projects I want to do, but the hours seem to evaporate most days. So instead of getting creative here, I’m just documenting. Because I know that this new normal is likely to change again.
And speaking of normal, my temperature has managed to stay basically normal the last couple of days. The low-grade fever went on so long that I was having doubts that the thermometer was working.

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View from an afternoon walk.

sobering times

There’s no doubt about it, these days are stressful. People the world over are dealing with new stresses, big stresses, and unprecedented stresses. But they are also still dealing with old stresses, minor stresses, and daily ongoing stresses. The emergence of a big global crisis didn’t make the other problems go away. Indeed, in many ways it has magnified them.

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I have been very, very careful the last couple of weeks to take care of my health. Whether or not I have the dreaded covid-19 or just some other unusual virus, this is not a good time to be sick*. So I have been working my hardest to do everything I can think of to keep myself from getting sicker. I’ve made an effort to eat fresh produce and other healthy foods, and limit my sugar intake. I’ve made sure to do a moderate amount of physical activity every day, without pushing myself too hard. I’ve kept myself well-hydrated, mixing up and chugging an electrolyte drink at least a couple of times a day. I have limited my caffeine intake. I have made sure to be well-rested. And I have not allowed myself to have any alcohol.

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I’m not a regular drinker. I am an occasional social drinker. (Some years or months have more such occasions than others.) I am such a lightweight, I never have more than one drink. But every once in a while, such as after a particularly stressful week, I have allowed myself to unwind at home with a beer or a glass of wine.

In these stressful past couple of weeks, watching the news unfold in increasingly alarming ways, I have thought it would be nice to just sit back with a bit of wine to decompress. But I have resisted. And in that resistance, I have felt for those who are also choosing not to drink for their own personal reasons.

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I know that there are many people out there who are in recovery, and for whom this must be an exceedingly difficult time. If this applies to you, I see you. I wish you continued courage and strength. I raise my water glass to you!

For everyone out there, please take special care of your physical health, but also your mental health. Be kind to yourself.

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*By the way, my low-grade fever, fatigue and chills are almost completely gone now, and I’m coughing only occasionally. I felt more like myself today.**
**Also, even though this is apparently a serious post, I still apparently can’t resist the urge to use a pun. This is part of feeling like myself. My self likes puns.