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.

clouds
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.
doggo-lair
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.
carrots
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.
sunny-day
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.

waterglass3

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.

waterglass1

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.

waterglass2

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.

—-
*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.

chilling at home

My life has been a blur the last few days. Busy and surreal. Plus my head has been a little foggy.

white-crocus-snow

I came down with a low-grade fever Thursday night, and a mild cough, and the almost-but-not-quite-fever has continued to linger. I can’t know whether my symptoms are a mild version of the dreaded coronavirus or something else, because I don’t meet the criteria for testing in this area. (My symptoms aren’t severe, I didn’t recently travel internationally, and I don’t know of a direct contact with someone with the virus. Never mind the fact that in the week preceding the start of my symptoms, I’d ridden public transportation in Boston, where lots of cases have been emerging following the Biogen conference, and that I’d attended two large events with over a hundred people each.)

In any case, we have been taking the social distancing seriously. We kept both kids home on Friday, and were relieved when the district closed schools for the upcoming two weeks. (And further relieved when the governor closed all Massachusetts public schools for 3 weeks.)

purple-crocus-snow

Because I primarily work from home, my own daytime schedule hasn’t dramatically changed with the new guidelines. Except that there are more people around. But that’s only part of why I’ve had trouble focusing on work. (I know I’m not alone.) I can’t look away from what’s going on in other parts of the world, and I can’t stop thinking about what we are likely to be faced with in this country in the coming weeks and months. It feels like I am watching a slow motion train wreck that’s about to happen, knowing that I can’t stop it.

But I know that at least my family and I are doing our small part to keep others safe. We are staying away from people. I have only left the house to walk the dog, or to go into the woods behind our house with the kids, and we have steered clear of other people. I walked the dog early yesterday, because it’s easier to avoid the neighbors and their dogs. And we got to enjoy this last bit of winter snow before it melted.

hyacinth-snow

John has ventured out a little further. First, to deliver some medications to his mother’s assisted living before they locked down the building to outside visitors, and for some shopping. (One trip was to try to get me Tylenol, since it turns out we don’t have any, aside from a small expired bottle of chewable children’s Tylenol. But sadly, CVS didn’t have any either.) Other than the Tylenol, we’ve been in pretty good shape for supplies.

I had considered driving the kids somewhere to hike on a nearby trail, but I realized I shouldn’t drive until my fever is cleared. Even though it mostly hovers under 100 degrees, I’ve noticed that my judgement and reactions are a bit impaired when the temperature goes up. My temperature is trending back downward, and yesterday and today I’ve even been back down to normal from time-to-time. (And then back up again, but not usually as high.) The cough is improving, so that’s good. Mostly I just feel some chills tonight.

vines-snow

So far, we are mostly enjoying being at home together. The kids have had some school assignments, and done some independent projects. John and I have still had our various work commitments and remote meetings. But we’ve been enjoying having more time in the evenings due to the suddenly changed schedules. John’s not going to his mom’s every night, and we’re not driving the kids to various activities.

I’m hoping to be able to do some art or craft projects in the coming three weeks. And we have tons of puzzles and games I’d love to do, not to mention lots of books I want to read. But somehow, I’m mostly neither doing a lot of the fun things, nor getting the work done that I’ve committed to doing. I’m trying to go easy on myself, though, because even though I feel pretty good most of the time, I am definitely under the weather much of the time, too.

And there’s the whole experience of getting through this uncharted territory. I’ve spend way too much time reading on FB, and reading news articles. But I’ve also been focusing on spending quality time with the kids every day, making sure we are all eating some healthy food, and checking in with friends and family. (I still have many more friends and family members to check in on.)

shrubbery-snow

I didn’t think I was going to write all that, but there it is. Those were a *lot* of words. Now I should be either going to bed or looking at some data for a meeting I have in the morning. (Probably going to go to bed.)

(These are some photos I took yesterday morning, when we had a quick reminder that it’s still technically winter.)

 

bursts of cheer in a bleak landscape

yellow-crocus-bud

Things are looking pretty bleak these days. Just about all anyone can think about (including me) is the global coronavirus pandemic and the changes to our lives. I don’t really have a lot to say about that just now (or at least not that I have the energy for tonight). But I have realized that I want to make sure to include activities in my daily life that bring me joy.

purple-crocus

On that note, I decided to start blogging regularly again. Back when I was dealing with the social isolation of being a new parent in 2006, I started to blog. It helped me to connect with people outside my immediate circle. In the following several years, I got to know a lot of new people, many of whom I still consider dear friends.

yellow-crocus-in-sunPlus I had a lot of *fun* blogging. Some people who only know me in meatspace may not realize what a goofball I really am. This is how I like to react to stress: bad puns and general silliness. Also by sharing photos.

purple-yellow-crocus

Am I stressed now? You betcha. Who isn’t? At least my household is in pretty good shape for the next few weeks of social distancing. But unfortunately I’ve been a little sick for the last few days. (Maybe I’ll write about that tomorrow. Or maybe not.)

white-crocus

In any case, I’ve been enjoying these bright little crocuses that we planted last fall. They are springing up in my yard. Cheerful little heralds of brighter days to come. (Some day.)

work in progress

The last few weeks have been packed with activity. (Personal. Professional. Political.) I’ve been pulled in lots of directions with a variety of projects, and a few things haven’t quite gotten finished.

When my mother visited for Thanksgiving, one of our planned activities was to make gingerbread houses. We are not ones to buy a kit with a pre-baked house. We make the dough from scratch, and each design our house. (Or structure, which is not necessarily a house. Last year I made my town’s Town Hall building. This year my mother made a Japanese gate.) In any case, the way we do things, it’s a multi-day process.

gingerbread1-ingredientsHere we put together the ingredients for the dough. My photo library tells me this was November 30th. I then mixed each batch up to let it chill overnight. (Possibly a few overnights.)

gingerbread2-modelWe all designed prototypes for our structures using cardboard. I used a stack of leftover political mailers.

gingerbread3-cutThe cardboard/cardstock cutouts then served as the stencil for cutting out the baked dough.

gingerbread4-hardeningThe cut pieces then needed to dry out some more before assembly. They smelled amazing, but the particular gluten-free blend of flours I used was a bit fragile and persnickety.

gingerbread5-part-builtMy house took a while to assemble, as there were some breakages that needed repairing.

gingerbread6-undecoratedAlso, the thickness of the baked pieces meant that my walls and roof didn’t quite fit together as intended. I improvise by making a tower to cover for a gap between the walls. I was quite pleased with the new shape. All that was left was to decorate and embellish (and cover my messy seams), and my gingerbread house would be ready to display.

The trouble is, this project isn’t exactly the only one that I’ve been working on. The big “distraction” was a conference deadline, and three of the research groups I am involved with were planning to submit. The deadline for a 4-page paper was December 21st. (The deadline was then somewhat extended such that an abstract, title and author info could be submitted on the 21st, but the full paper could be edited until January 3rd before being sent out to reviewers.)

The loosening of the deadline left a bit more breathing room for things like holiday shopping and political protests. But in spite of getting our tree up and decorated right  after Thanksgiving, I haven’t managed to put up many other decorations. We are the one house on our little street without festive lights and/or other outdoor decorations. I find it amusing that my little gingerbread house is leading a parallel existence.

gingerbread7-with-candy-pile

Tonight I hope to do some decorating. Of the gingerbread house, not the real house. (The bulk of our Christmas decorations are staying in bins this year.) Phoebe still had plans for landscaping her gingerbread house that she didn’t have time for, so I am using that as an excuse to make up a batch of the appropriate icing so we can get to work. (But I’m also  prepping for Christmas dinner, need to excavate our dining room table, and need to wrap a big pile of gifts…So we’ll see.)

Darling buds of December

The buds of May are many moons away, but I have been appreciating the promise held in the buds I see on the trees and shrubs now. I am especially drawn to their little budding forms when they are encased in ice and/or dusted in snow. buds7

buds1

buds2

buds3

buds5

buds8

rhododendron-bud-snow

Most of these were taken on various morning walks with the dog this month. (The combination of morning light and post-ice-storm sparkle can be totally mesmerizing. I’ve been caught in its particular snares before.)

Impeachment afterglow

impeach-banner

Last night I went to one of hundreds of events that were held all across the US in support of the impeachment and removal from office of the current occupant of the White House. Most rallies were set for 5:30 p.m., as the one I attended. Being up quite far north, and it being almost at the solstice, the sun sets a little after 4:00 here. So by 5:30, it’s oh-so-dark. Preparing for this, I wanted my sign to be visible.

I stopped by a dollar store Monday night, and got myself a black poster board and a bunch of glow sticks. (The cashier commented “kids just love these.” “Right,” I thought. “For the kids.”)

glow-sticks

Tuesday dawned dark and dreary and covered in ice. Schools were closed. Government offices closed. Meetings were cancelled. But I heard that the rally was still on.

Seeing as glow sticks only glow for so long, I didn’t want to get ahead of myself, and waited until after 4 to get cracking. I cracked open the packages, and cracked the sticks to start the glow.

impeach-in-progress

Then I used packing tape to secure my glowstick letters. (This turned out to be a bit of a pain, just because I was trying to hurry. And packing tape will not be rushed. It will wrap itself back around the roll, and your fingers, and whatever else is around just to show its contempt for your hurry.) I’d planned out how I’d make the letters, and counted out how many glowsticks I’d need for each letter. I’d thought about “impeach and remove,” but the sign wasn’t really big enough.

impeach-sign-supplies

I was quite pleased with the glowing results. My sign was bright and visible in the dark. And my heart was warmed by the enthusiastic turnout at the rally, in spite of the ongoing ice storm.

impeach-square

After the protest, I brought my sign back home to share its glow. And I made my Christmas wish. (Today I got at least part of my wish.)

all-i-want-for-christmas

(And know that my merriment is only a coping mechanism in these dark times. The next few months and the coming election next year are very uncertain. Meanwhile,  I am thankful for my right to protest, and don’t take it for granted.)