I think it’s starting to hit the kids that they’re not going back to school soon. Gwen this morning, while doing one of her worksheets: “I thought this was going to be fun, but I don’t like it any more.”

Right there with ya, kid.

We’re distracting ourselves with Animal Crossing now. I’m trying to sketch a little every day, even though I’m not really feeling it. We’ve made a commitment to once-a-week takeout from local places, at least while that’s still feasible, and “movie night” is any night we feel like watching a movie. Distraction, distraction, distraction.

The mental exhaustion is taking its toll. I lean hard on escapism and naps, my favorite depressive coping strategies (although I wouldn’t qualify myself as “depressed” right now). I think I’ve accepted the grief, and now I’m feeling pre-survivor’s guilt; I’m just waiting for people to die, even though we have it relatively good here. My imagination gets the better of me when I read about accounts of young, healthy folks succumbing to COVID-19, though.

So I set up a phone appointment with my therapist and I’m looking forward to that. I’m trying to focus on the good things; the weather is great, so we’ve been out for regular walks. Spring is springing earlier than usual. We have plenty of food. We have steady income and understanding employers. I managed to find yeast at our local co-op so I can finally make bread. Shortages appear to be slowing down. I can afford to donate to those less fortunate than us. Gratitude is the bright spot.

Meanwhile, Tim brought home what he referred to as “the white gold” and I immediately knew he meant toilet paper. We live in weird times.

before and after

This virus has divided time into two segments for me; Before and After. I’m mostly fine day to day; the anxiety has settled to a low hum (or maybe I’ve just gotten used to it), but then I’ll see a commercial or a photo that depicts something from before, and I’ll get sad. And sometimes the sads drop in for no discernible reason at all.

My dog does not get “social distancing”

I’m waiting for Maine to institute a shelter-in-place order; I think we’ll see one soon. I don’t think it would change much, though. We already practice social distancing by virtue of living in the country, so we’re used to hunkering down, especially during the cold months. My goal is to keep our trips to town to once a week, but keeping these kids in food is no joke. I should buy stock in chicken nuggets and ketchup.

This weekend I took them with me on a grocery run so they could get outside and play at the library park (not a playground, just a big open space). It was pretty desolate for a Saturday afternoon; there were a few people out for walks, but many local businesses have already closed their doors to the public.

The kids stayed in the car while I shopped (I checked three stores, and I still couldn’t find any yeast) and picked up a neighbor’s prescription at the pharmacy. We celebrated our first official week of isolation by ordering take-out from The Vault and renting The Addams Family.

Neither does Stitch.

We’ve had a couple tough conversations with the kids about what might happen in the coming weeks; namely, they should be prepared not to go back to school or see their friends any time soon, that it’s unlikely we’ll be taking that trip to PEI this summer, their summer camps probably won’t be open (even if they are, I don’t feel comfortable sending them), and even Disney at Christmas is unlikely. It’s a careful balance, trying to give them age-appropriate information without scaring them, but still conveying the seriousness of the situation, and leaving space for all the feelings. What a time to grow up!

We’re saving a lot of money this way, at least. No traveling to Bangor to shop at Target, no vacation budgeting, no visiting family on the coast, eating at home almost exclusively, no movie theaters or date nights. At this rate, we’ll pay off the majority of our debts by the end of the year. Silver linings!

hot mess remote working

Many of my coworkers have already written eloquently about their experiences with remote work and how to be an effective remote worker. I’m not going to do that, because despite working from home for the last eight years, I’m not qualified to talk about it. I do everything you’re not supposed to do.

I’m terrible about separating my workspace from the rest of the house. I have a desk, but it’s usually a mess and I’m usually too tired to clean it. I find my dining room chairs more comfortable than my fancy ergonomic one.

I rarely stick to anything more than a very rough sketch of a routine. I sleep in. I leave at 3 pm and return at 8 pm, or I work straight from 9 am to 4:30 pm. I forget to eat lunch, I eat dinner at 4.

Sometimes I don’t bother to put on a bra (that’s what sweatshirts are for), sometimes I curl my hair and wear my Nice Clothes, sometimes I don’t shower until I can smell myself.

I always wear pants. Ahem.

I work when I feel like it. I stop when I’m tired/hungry/a kid bops me on the head with a stuffed animal and asks me to play Monopoly on the iPad for the nth time.

I position myself strategically in front of my camera so my colleagues won’t have to look upon the pile of dirty dishes in the sink behind me. (This is a good thing. You’re welcome, Automatticians!)

I’m a hot mess remote worker, but I do my job and I do it well.

Right now, the fact that any of us are working at all is a testament to the human spirit. It’s hard to feel like moving pixels around on a screen and sitting in a video chat with your team is helping anything when it feels like the world is crumbling around you–but we persist!

If you’re juggling kids and a job and all the regular household stuff and not just staying under your comforter all day, you’re basically a superhero.

And y’know what, even if you’re stuck under that comforter, even if you’re only responsible for you, yourself, and your cat, you’re still a superhero because you’re surviving.

Good job, you!

venturing back into blog territory

So, COVID-19 real talk. I’m going to make a point of documenting our lives in a bit more detail using this blog, because one day we’ll look back at this series of events and marvel at what a strange time it was.

They closed the kids’ school this week, along with many others in the state. Initially they were slated to reopen in two weeks, but then the governor changed that to “indefinitely”, which leads me to believe kids across the nation are getting the world’s longest summer break, starting now.

Yesterday I picked up their work packets outside the elementary school; I drove up, and Ellie’s gifted/talented teacher handed me her work through the passenger window. She said she was grateful I hadn’t brought Ellie or she might have cried. You can tell their teachers miss them, but they’ve done an amazing job of putting together a curriculum at the last minute.

I also picked up a couple prescriptions for our pets, having paid over the phone so I never had to get out of the car. Weird.

The grocery store was another story; many Hannaford locations in our state offer curbside pickup, but ours isn’t one of them. I’ve never seen the shelves so empty. The run on paper goods like toilet paper is probably the most strange (y’all gonna eat toilet paper when things get bad?), but bread, frozen veggies, and canned goods were picked over, too. I watched a woman pile at least forty bags of frozen vegetables onto the checkout conveyor. We got ahead of the rush by stocking up last week, so I only needed to pick up a few things; I’d hoped to find a sense of normalcy by getting out of the house, but I left the store feeling more disconcerted than ever.

Even in the pandemic apocalypse, no one will use “Dude Wipes”.

Everything else–dance lessons, counseling, physical therapy, school board meetings, etc.–is cancelled. Restaurants and bars have been ordered to close their dining rooms. We’re only going out to shop for groceries and other necessities. The atmosphere in town is weird, and maybe it’s because we just watched Contagion, but I can imagine society slowly devolving as this drags on. I’m not afraid of the virus, I’m afraid of people’s fear, and the American every-man-for-himself attitude. I hear gun sales are on the rise nationwide.

Thankfully the weather has cooperated and we’ve been able to get out for walks up and down the road. We’re also baking, and playing video games, and watching TV, and reading books. It all feels a bit perfunctory under the circumstances, but we’re trying to keep things as light and normal for the kids as possible.

Packaged peanut butter cookies with leftover Halloween candy toppings.

Throughout all this, our jobs haven’t changed much; people need the internet more than ever, and we already work from home. The mechanics are the same, but the constant anxiety makes it hard to focus. Automattic (as always) encourages us to take the time we need to rest up, and I did take last-minute AFK on Tuesday because I couldn’t juggle the kids and everything else going on in my head. But I don’t want to take too much time because work can be a nice distraction when things feel heavy, and because everyone is experiencing some variation of this slow-moving disaster.

I have a sinking feeling things are going to get worse over the coming weeks and months, as the number of cases in the US continues to rise and we realize we reacted too late. What a house of cards our nation is built on, that one little virus could take so many lives and livelihoods.

I’d be happy to be proven wrong.

Amsterdam, Netherlands, 2020

Amsterdam! You were charming. A lovely city worth revisiting when the world is not mired in a pandemic clusterfuck.

In other news, wow, this week has really been something, huh? I’m tired. Thankfully it looks like I have a good excuse to stay home as much as possible for the foreseeable future. I could do without this chronic, low-lying anxiety, though. I feel like I’ve had too much coffee, sans the energy boost.