What If This is the New Normal


When COVID was raging and we were all waiting impatiently for it to be over, like watching the Twin Towers get hit by a plane or watching our child hooked up to hospital equipment, this watching and waiting and feeling like it must all be a dream, surely, and when will it be over, when will I wake up…at some point, later, around the end of that first full year, many people began to ask, what if this is the new normal?

I stole it.

I stole the question.

What if this is the new normal?

I apply it to everything.

And it works to keep me going, moving forward.

For example, I had this gnarly rash, a “classic food allergy reaction” but the rash didn’t go away. It didn’t go away with a massively limited diet, it didn’t go away with topical creams, it didn’t go away with oral medication, it didn’t go away with a full dose of antibiotics. It remained undeterred and unchanged. It was there for three months before I broke down.

I asked myself, what if this is the new normal?

I stopped sleeping all the time (a reaction to the massive doses of Benadryl I was taking in order to continue breathing), I stopped sulking, I continued drinking the morning smoothie that didn’t alter the reaction at all but made me feel healthier. If this was the new normal, I wasn’t going to let it derail my life.

I don’t even remember when the rash finally went away. I’d decided it was the new normal and worked around it and then it was gone.

Reactions are what I call time sucks, and they exist everywhere and pup up constantly:

  • the kids want to join soccer
  • my husband wants to start a business
  • we need to buck wood or we won’t make it through winter

And constantly I have to remind myself that this reaction is the new normal.

If the kids being in soccer and needing to go to practice twice a week and games once a week is going to suck a minimum of eight hours of our week away every week forever (yes, soccer has a limited schedule, but let’s follow the bouncing ball) how do I incorporate it into my life without putting my life on hold?

The things we all have to remember when trying to achieve our goals are:

  • our families goals are just as important as our own
  • no ones life should be placed on hold, ever
  • we can all reach our goals, separately and together

There are a million metaphors for how we’re like houseplants, etc. but the bottom line is, the current goal is our new normal, make it work.

Take five minutes, right now, and

  1. close your eyes
  2. take a deep breath
  3. visualize the current reaction, really look at all the ways it causes problems
  4. look at how to work the reaction into your end goal in a daily way
  5. really see how tomorrow will look working the reaction in, now the next day
  6. write it down

I find it helpful at night, right before I fall asleep, to lay there and think of three things I’m grateful for from the current day, then visualize the next day from the moment I wake up to the moment I go to sleep. It often starts like this:

“I wake up around 5:30am after getting as much sleep as I need…”

Your current allergic reaction is your new normal. Are you going to sleep all day, or are you going to live your life?

Time To Myself

Time To Myself

Sometime in late February or early March I remember thinking to myself, and perhaps even saying out loud, “I just need a few hours to myself!” I was feeling overwhelmed by all the bad weather we’d been having, the kids being trapped in the house for days, not sleeping well because they weren’t burning energy during the day, and we were all just going a bit stir crazy. I remember wishing for time alone.

This isn’t what I meant.

See my husband is immunocompromised and needs to stay home with the kids on the one day every other week or every third week that I leave the house to go do all of our errands: grocery shopping, mail pickup at the post office (we have a PO Box), stopping at my mom’s house to drop off whatever food I was able to get that my mom wasn’t able to on her shopping trip, picking up whatever random item we need from the hardware store now that we’re always in the house and using/breaking things constantly.

These errand days used to happen once a week every week. Only I brought the kids with me. These errand days were literally the longest days of my life every week because they took so long to complete and the kids and I were all exhausted by the time we were finally on the road back home.

Now these days happen once every other week or every third week and I’m no longer getting kids in and out of carseats, in and out of shopping carts, cajoling them to please take a deep breath cause we’d be done soon, and even without all that, I’m completely exhausted by the time I’m finally on the road back home.

And the thing is, it is unbelievably easier to do all the errands now. I can literally accomplish the same number of errands or even more and it takes less than half the time. Less.Than.Half. And the entire time I am keenly aware of how much emotional pressure I’m under, how grateful I am that I can leave my kids safely at home, and how terribly much I miss them.

When I finally do arrive home, I bring in all the things and sanitize/put them away, then dump my mask and all my clothes directly into the washing machine, then go scrub myself in a hot shower with soap, then come back out and start the washing machine, before finally picking up the baby that’s been waiting for my boobs to come back.

These days leave me drained.

These days leave me in invisible tears.

This is not what I meant.

I take it back.



A friend recently posted that she’s becoming exhausted making lemonade out of lemons every day. I think we are all feeling that way. It is exhausting. It’s exhausting if you’re single, it’s exhausting if you’re married. It’s exhausting if you have kids, it’s exhausting if you have pets. It’s exhausting if it’s you, and only you, and no one else. But the thing is, it’s never just us, alone. There is no such thing as just us alone, unless of course you happen to live alone off-grid somewhere and you don’t even realize there’s a pandemic going on like that family in Russia (link here, it’s a fascinating read from 1978).

The thing is, we put so much pressure on ourselves to be everything to everyone and to do everything for everyone and all that time we aren’t caring for ourselves. And no, this won’t be another self-care blog, because you can find plenty of that everywhere, I probably did one, too. By now you know you need to make yourself a priority and if you’re not there’s nothing I can say that will change your mind.

Here we are in the middle of chaos and we still have expectations for ourselves that are ridiculous. Whether anyone else is saying anything or not, we have this belief that we need to be better, do better, do more.

Stop. Just. Stop.

If you get out of bed in the morning, that’s awesome. If you get out of pajamas and into clothes each day, good for you! If you set your kids in front of the television and let them watch whatever they want for eight hours straight, give yourself a pat on the back. If you make yourself a cup of coffee, drink it, and go back to bed, way to go! If the “only” thing you’ve accomplished all day is to breathe and make it to tomorrow, you’re winning!

Yes, there are TONS of things you could be doing because so much is free right now. There are courses and operas and movies and games and and and…. It’s all so very overwhelming.

There are also people dying, every day, and if you’ve lost someone my deepest sympathies to you.

It is okay to grieve.

There is nothing wrong with simply existing until this over. Because nothing about this is simple.

You do not need to have earned a doctorate when this over.

Give yourself the sort of love and kindness and empathy you would give a friend or a loved one. Give yourself the gift of acceptance. Accept where you are and how you’re feeling and that you want to spend the day (or the next three weeks) in pj’s in bed with Netflix.

Save that lemonade for a day when you can drink it with friends.

Today, tomorrow, just be.

Turmeric Ginger Honey

Turmeric Ginger Honey

My hubby has an autoimmune issue and is always on the lookout for things that will boost his immune system that don’t taste like ass and that actually help. Awhile ago he came across this idea that if you mix turmeric root, ginger root, and honey and drink it in tea that it’s super good for you. If you make the mix properly, it tastes good too. So we started making it at home.

If you are able to find fresh, organic roots, it’s much easier as you don’t need to peel them, just wash/scrub them like you would a potato or mushroom.

We have found the tastiest ratio to be 3/4 turmeric root and 1/4 ginger root.

In other words, you can use any amounts you want to get the desired final quantity, but the best ratio for taste it to always have 3:1.

I wash and scrub the roots, cut them into relatively large chunks of about half an inch or so, and throw them in a food processor. I suspect a Vitamix would work even better and will likely attempt that the next time I make this.

Let them get chopped up until they are just little itty bitty pieces, but not liquified.

Get jelly jars or any smaller glass containers you have with lids. Fill the containers almost to the top with the root mixture, but don’t tamp it down tight, leave it loose. You want to leave about a 1/4 to a 1/2 an inch of space at the top. Then pour in some honey and let it start to steep down into the root mix. You can help it along with a spoon. Add more honey and keep moving it around so the honey can get down in there, filling all the air pockets.

When you’re done you should have a jar that is easy to stir but not soupy. It’s definitely going to be thick. When ours has sat in the fridge for a few hours and the honey separates to the bottom you can see that there really isn’t much honey in there. Maybe like a 3:1 on root mix to honey.

Which means 3:1 is the handy thing to remember in all this.

At any rate, once you’ve filled your jars and stirred them all up, throw the lids on and put them in the fridge. They will keep for about a month, possibly more, we don’t know cause we always use it.

To use, take a spoonful and add it to your tea as often as you like. We only drink tea once a day in the evening before bed, but it certainly wouldn’t hurt to do it more often, you just have to remember that honey is a sugar and should be taken in moderation.

There are a whole host of things this stuff is supposed to help with from immune boosting to allergy relieving. I don’t know how much I believe all the hype, but it tastes good, it doesn’t hurt, and it’s easy to do.

I hope you enjoy.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Fresh Food

Fresh Food

Tomorrow is shopping day. It’s been over two weeks and we are down to nothing. We could probably scrape by for another day or two if we had to, but pickings are slim. I never used to worry about shopping day, or even think about it really. If I forgot something on the list, no big deal, just grab it the next time I’m out or the following week when I go shopping again. Now it’s different. Trying to only go shopping every two weeks or less makes things tough.

There’s this added stress of being sure not to forget anything. There’s the added stress of getting to the store and realizing half the stuff you need isn’t available anyway. There’s the stress of going to multiple stores just to get enough food to feed your family of four for two weeks, especially with the limitations many stores are putting in place.

We run out of the fresh stuff right away, of course. And that’s fine. We can limp along on frozen veggies and fruit. Not as delicious and probably not as nutritious, but totally doable. Still, for someone like me who lives a nearly vegan lifestyle for most of the day, not having that fresh stuff starts to really wear on me. Like right now, even though I just had a bite of Lily’s Dark Chocolate, oh my god so good, I’m still craving raspberries.

Why raspberries?

I have no idea. They aren’t my favorite. I rarely buy them because they tend to go bad immediately whereas the other berries seem to last at least a week. But the lack of fresh stuff has me getting these crazy cravings.

The other day we had zucchini that was about a day from needing to be chicken feed instead of people feed, so I made these “brownies” with them…epic. So freaking good. It got my kids and husband eating veggies and it was amazing. So definitely making those again. But the thing that’s weird is that no one else craves the veggies and fruit like I do.

In the mornings I have a breakfast of veggies fried up in avocado oil with some garlic, salt, and pepper. Then I put kimchi or salsa on top. So delicious. But I’ve been told it’s not breakfast. Why not? Because it doesn’t have eggs. Pfft. It’s totally a scramble or a skillet or whatever you want to call it, sans eggs. And it’s delicious. And I crave it.

Luckily even without fresh stuff I can usually get away with canned beans and artichokes, frozen spinach and broccoli, and then I throw in either frozen corn or peas or whatever. It’s a super easy thing to cook, I can eat a ton of it, and it has been keeping me full through to early afternoon when I can usually get away with a snack of nuts or something to tide me over til dinner.

Because in addition to only going grocery shopping every two weeks or less I’m also trying to only eat two meals a day. If I get a late start on breakfast or a huge breakfast, it usually works. It lets our food go a bit further and if I do the late breakfast thing then it’s good for my body as a kind of mini-fast.

What changes have you had to make to your eating with this whole pandemic?

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Quarantine Garage Sale

Quarantine Garage Sale

For the last four years we’ve been downsizing. We pay attention to the things we use and don’t use and once a week or so we pull things out we haven’t used in forever, double check that we really don’t think we’re ever going to use it, and then set in the pile of stuff to take to the thrift store each week (our thrift store has a drive thru donation line and it’s epic!).

With the ‘rona in force our thrift store is closed. We no longer have access to a place that will take all the stuff we don’t use and don’t want. But we’ve continued to downsize. If anything, we’ve been downsizing even more because what else are we going to do safe at home with two kids and a dog?

So now with nowhere to take it, we have this ever amassing pile o stuff and it’s getting a bit unwieldy. So I had the idea of a Quarantine Garage Sale. I’m posting the things online and whoever wants them can come to my driveway on an appointed date/time and back their car up, pop the trunk/hatch/whatever and I’ll load up their goods, pick up the cash, and they can be on their way.

It’s a great way to practice social distancing while still getting stuff done and giving people something to do. I actually had one person comment that they thought it was kind of sad that the online garage sale was the highlight of their day. Ha! I actually find that fabulous; it brings me joy that someone is smiling cause of something so simple.

What are you doing to keep yourself entertained and moving forward with your goals?

20 Pounds of Rice

20 Pounds of Rice

A little over a month ago, before this whole pandemic thing really gained traction in the US, we were having issues with our youngest having unbelievable gas pain at night. So gnarly that he couldn’t sleep, and neither could we. We decided that much like his brother, he has some food allergies that he’ll hopefully grow out of but in the meantime, since he’s still mostly on the boob, I’d have to change my diet.

To be fair, I’m already pretty strict on foods just because I don’t like the way they make me feel. I’ve read so many books like The Whole 30 and Clean Cuisine and Eat 4 Your Type, and I’ve followed so many of the diets for a minimum of 30 days that I’ve figured out how to make a mesh of all the advice and find the thing that works best for me. Safe to say, I already eat super minimal: tons of fruit and vegetables, no sugar, no dairy, no gluten, and animal protein only once a day.

With the littlest kid having gas though I also cut out soy. Helped but didn’t solve it. So I cut out eggs. Helped but didn’t solve it. So we decided I’d go down to a chicken and rice diet for a month, see if it helped, and then slowly start adding things in until we found the culprit (this is what we did for my first kiddo and it was a game changer). At any rate, we made this decision so I went out and bought the huge bag of Costco rice and a couple packs of the organic chicken thighs (because breast meat is dry and gross y’all) and came home eager to get my littlest sleeping again.

Fast forward three days and I was absolutely miserable. I was feeling headachey and body achey and totally miserable. It was too much protein and despite the fact that I was desperate for the calories, I couldn’t bring myself to eat one more bite of chicken. So we dropped it. I went back to eating my regular way, leaving eggs and soy out, and for whatever reason the baby went back to his normal anyway.

The point of all this is that before the pandemic hit we had an enormous bag of rice and a bunch of chicken thighs that no one was eager to eat. We don’t normally eat rice and don’t miss it. We’ll have it occasionally when we go out for Thai or Mexican but as a daily staple it’s not on our home menu. Now, however, we’ve been going through rice like crazy. We make at least a pot every other day. We have it with breakfast and lunch and dinner. And those chicken thighs are slowly getting cooked up and thrown into rotation.

We’ve been finding clever ways to use food that’s been sitting in the back of the freezer and the back of the cupboard (as long as it’s not expired) and it’s been kind of fun…exhausting but fun. I loathe cooking normally, but experimenting with new things has been interesting. One of the best parts has been learning that I can go to Google, type in the ingredients I have and “recipe” and search and all kinds of ideas pop up. Doing this reminded me that I also have lots of recipes in my head from growing up. Dishes that don’t have exact measurements or list of ingredients but are re-created each time by what’s on hand.

It’s as close to “fun” as cooking has ever been for me. And while I certainly don’t want to do this forever, it hasn’t been the worst part of the pandemic for me personally by any means. Plus it’s led me to find other fun things about food and cooking. One of my favorites is on Twitter, a woman named Kaitlyn McQuin @kaitlynmcquin posts every evening about what she’s having for dinner, but not in a here’s a gorgeous picture of the incredible seven course meal I made way. In fact, quite the opposite. Instead she describes what she’s eating for dinner using the most fabulous foodie words and then breaks down and tells you what she’s actually eating and it’s always something like Pop Tarts or Ritz Crackers with Cheeze Whiz. Absolutely hysterical and totally makes my evening every day.

I’ve also learned that my sister-in-law, perfect in every way like a real life Mary Poppins, is schooled in the way to use things before they go bad. This to me is not only a necessary skill but a skill which I don’t possess and have no idea how to garner. For instance, my mom got a ton of eggs all at once from us because we had stopped eating them. Rather than have any go bad, my SIL figured out a way to make what she wanted to make with them and then freeze that thing so that it can be used down the line. I don’t know what she did but it was much cooler than the advice I’ve read about scrambling the eggs and then freezing them to be re-used as actual scrambled eggs later (cause that sounds gross, although I’ve never tried it so I don’t know).

At any rate, this is the sort of thing that makes me go: yes! I want to know that too! But how do you even go about learning that sort of thing? I suppose a Google search would get me somewhere and then revising that search until I hit the nail on the head. It’s just so odd to have to search for something you want to know but you don’t even know what to call it so how do you search for it?

I miss my librarians.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Stay Curious

Stay Curious

Some of the good stuff to come out of this whole pandemic: some families are getting closer, some couples are deciding to stay together rather than divorce (I know, this shocked me, too), lots of artists are offering their products for free (NIN say what?!?!), and lots and lots of educational material is now free. It’s a homeschoolers heaven except for the whole being unable to go anywhere or let your kids play with other kids thing.

Anyway, with all this free stuff available I decided to bite. There are only so many times in your life where the things you want to learn are going to be free to you, so even though the amount of free time I have has not changed one iota (I had two kids who stayed with me all day before the pandemic and now I have two kids and a husband who stay home with me all day), I have still jumped at the chance to take two courses that I would be highly unlikely to take at any other time.

Yale: The Science of Well-Being

The first course is one that I didn’t really expect to get much out of but it sounded interesting: The Science of Well Being. It’s originally out of Yale and is supposedly their most popular course. I can see why, it’s all about happiness and why we think things will make us happy that don’t and why even when we know what makes us happy we don’t always do it. In other words, it’s about how we allow our brains to be illogical even when we know better.

I wasn’t really sure what I would think of this course, and I still can’t give it an overall grade as I’m only through the second week of teaching. What I can tell you though is that, so far, it is absolutely fascinating. Totally and completely. I’ve read a lot of books about happiness and seen some Ted Talks and stuff, but this is a really comprehensive course and it’s easy. You can go at your own pace, so if you have six to nine hours free, go ahead and take the whole course all at once. Or, if you’re like me and are lucky to get an hour here and an hour there, take your time.

You have an entire year to complete the course and unless you want a certificate for having taken it, it’s totally free. Even if you’re super happy all the time, I still think it would be a fascinating course. If you’re like the rest of us, mostly happy most of the time, or even someone who gets pretty blue, I think you will get a lot out of it. And if you don’t? It’s better than watching A Girlfriend’s Guide to Divorce on Netflix. I promise.

You can find The Science of Well-Being on coursera or through the article link here.

OSU’s: Master Gardener Vegetable Course

The other course I signed up for is a master gardeners course in vegetable gardening. It is being offered through Oregon State University. I am only partway through the very first part of this course so I feel I have no room to say whether or not it’s wonderful. I can tell you that the very teeny tiny bit I’ve done so far is basic and I haven’t learned anything new YET.

Here’s the thing though, I’ve done a ton of gardening. I’ve read a ton of books. I’ve been lucky enough to work with master gardeners on things. So to say I haven’t learned anything new YET just means exactly nothing right now.

If I look at what’s been covered so far, if I had never tried to grow anything before in my life I’d be super stoked right now. The little bit that’s I’ve done so far tells you exactly what to do. There is no rocket science going on. They are literally laying it out for you: do this, then do this, then do this. They are breaking it down and making it so easy that I have to remind myself “it really IS that easy.”

So if you’ve never started a garden before but you’re super into the idea (especially with everyone talking Victory Gardens like this is a war and not a pandemic) I suggest at least looking into the course. If you start it and don’t like it, no big deal. It costs you exactly $0.00

You can sign up for the vegetable course (and other courses, too, I’m sure) here.

Keep Learning. Stay Curious.

I know it’s super hard not to be a ball of anxiety in the corner of your closet right now. I get it. If you don’t like these two ideas for ways to help yourself through this crazy time, there are lots and lots of other ways to keep your brain healthy and distracted. A Google search for “free online learning” or “free online courses” will deliver you a plethora of options. Something is sure to tickle your fancy and then it’s just a hop, skip, and a jump til we’re out of this and on to the next big disaster. I guess what I’m saying is, don’t let the bastards grind you down. Keep learning. Stay curious.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Beautiful, Fragile, Temporary

Beautiful Fragile Temporary

I woke at 3am to the silence only snow brings. The house had gotten very cold, the wood stove unable to keep up against the chill without someone feeding it every hour. The baby finished his feed and rolled over back to sleep. I got up and peed, fed the stove, watched the snow fall waiting for the wood to catch, the stove to reawaken. The snow was so beautiful, and fragile, and temporary.

Beautiful. Fragile. Temporary.

It seemed a good mantra. It encapsulated how I have been feeling about the world, the people in it, myself.

A stunning blanket of white that makes the sky even bluer, the leaves of the first bulbs popping through the ground so much greener. There have been so many stories of beauty in all this chaos. People singing from their balconies, people assisting others with their shopping, companies and universities and artists giving their products away for free to help people through.

Despite or perhaps because of the beauty, everyone and everything feels so fragile. Anxieties flaring. Even the introverts struggling with the isolation because it’s so forced, so pervasive, no end in sight. The snow had created structures that looked like tatting, like lace or spider webs. Not the typical frost seen on window panes, these were actual structures of snow in between the railing of the deck and the deck itself. Like icicles without the conical structure and dagger-like point. The structures disappeared when approached, unable to withstand the heat from even two paces.

The snow too was thinner that I’d thought and an hour of sun set it all to melting, it was nothing more than slush, completely gone by the end of the day. Like the people dying in record numbers each day.

Suddenly beautiful, fragile, and temporary sounds like a pretty horrible mantra. And the thing is, I don’t much want to feel beautiful and fragile and temporary. I want to feel confident, useful, and strong.

I want to exude confidence that my family and loved ones will survive this thing. I want my sons to know that all is well, everything is handled, there’s nothing for them to concern themselves with here. Play cars, eat snacks, ride bikes in the driveway; you’ll be back to playing with friends at the library and park soon enough.

I want to be so fucking useful that I’m satisfied with my day when I lay down at night. I want to know exactly how to use the produce that’s quickly going bad and that I won’t be able to replace for at least another week. I want to whip up meals and crafts and family dance parties like some mountain mama caricature of Martha Stewart.

I want my strength to radiate from the inside out such that I can not only hold up under all my own emotion but I can show my sons how to hold up under theirs. I want that strength to extend to my physical body such that I can hold my kiddos for hours if necessary as we sway back and forth and look out at the world.

Instead I can barely lift my arms and hands to type. I can barely wash a dish, or take a picture, or smile another smile to dispel fear. Barely. But I do. I wash the dish after letting my husband cook the meal. I take the picture as my husband sleds with the boys. I smile another smile while my husband holds them in his arms. I type my one hour.

Because the thing is, this too shall pass. This thing that is not beautiful or fragile, is at least temporary. This pandemic will go, and those of us who survive will remember how it was handled, how it could have been handled better, what worked, what didn’t. We will carry this knowledge to the voting booths. We will carry this knowledge to the next disaster. Collectively we will exude confidence, we will prove our usefulness, and we will show our strength.

We are currently beautiful and fragile, and this is temporary.

~~~That’s one hour~~~



I know I got out for a walk yesterday but already it feels like I’ve been trapped inside for days, weeks even. It’s all in my head, and it’s all pervasive. This afternoon when the sun peeked through the cloud for a red hot minute and the wind died down from hurricane level to gale force, my husband announced that he was “going outside.” My sons quickly echoed him, the dog, too, jumping up barking his agreement. “You coming?”

I should have said “yup.”

Instead I weighed my need to go outside with my need for five minutes of silence and chose silence. I helped get the kids into coats and kissed smiling faces as they walked out.

I stood for a moment paralyzed by indecision: I have a minimum of five minutes to myself and possibly one hour, what to do? I could paint my nails, something I haven’t done in years but have been jonesing to do for some odd reason (and my nails are wicked short y’all, so this isn’t like a beautification thing, it’s more of a something to do thing). I could continue reading one of the many books I’m in different stages of reading (so many books, so little time). I could journal, something I’ve been desperately needing to do but unable to). I could clean something, our home is a bit of a disaster because no one ever leaves which means it can never get cleaned, and here was an opportunity!

I chose to sit and read.

I definitely should have gone outside. Or gone into my room and done some exercising. Or cleaned something. Anything to get my blood and body moving. Instead I read. And it was lovely. But also, not.

Now I’m restless and feel caged.

I need to hike, despite having done so yesterday. The hike I need is more than yesterdays little mile long jaunt. The hike I need would be two miles one way. A hike with journal and pen and thermos of hot tea. My dog, now dead but very much alive in this vision of my needs, at my side, panting happily. Out to a fallen tree we’re drawn, flopping down against it and marveling at the sky, the clouds, the cold, the birds, the small flowers. I write and write and write, my dog occasionally jumping up to investigate the movements of a squirrel or chipmunk before returning, sneezing his joy at our adventure.

The hike I need exists in my memories. I could re-create the hike. Get the family dog, grab a journal and pen and thermos of hot tea. Ask husband and kids to stay home together for a few hours while mommy has some alone time. This could happen if I ask for it. It might even be a good hike. It might even ease the restless. Still, it would not be the hike of my memories, the hike I need.

My dog is buried under an oak across from the barn. It’s the unofficial cemetery on our property. The previous home owners have a dog out there. We have a goat out there. I suspect the previous home owners have a mountain lion out there, too. It’s as good a place as any to be buried. A beautiful view of a mountain. A cool tree in the summer. People walking past every day on their way to collect eggs from the barn.

I realize this virus has me terrified that everyone I love will die unexpectedly.

My dog was perfectly fine. Fine. Young still, even for a big dog. And then one night he was panting, non-stop panting, and whining. At first I was annoyed, what had he eaten that was disagreeing with him so much and why wouldn’t he just go outside and throw it up, maybe I would have to give him peroxide. After a deep breath to calm my irritation I got out of bed and went to him, pacing. I held his big beautiful head in my hands and put my forehead to his forehead, a gesture of love I also do with my sons but didn’t realize until this moment.

I am trying to communicate telepathically with him: tell me what is wrong.

I begin running my hands along his slender body and suddenly I feel them: masses everywhere. Where did they come from? I had just run my hands along his body the day before, that morning even. Where had all these masses come from? Further inspection reveals that they are not the fatty tissue that sometimes develops on older dogs, the masses that hang off these dogs like golf balls and tennis balls shoved into too tight pockets. These are not fatty tissue. These are cancerous lumps.

The cancer is everywhere.

There is nothing I can do for my dog, not at 10:30 at night with the children asleep and the one needing boob in another hour or so. There are no emergency veterinarians anywhere near us. There is nothing I can do until morning. Only my dog can’t sleep. Can’t sit or lay down. Everything is panting and whining, pain. I ask my husband which of his pain meds is the strongest and he goes to the medicine cabinet and pulls out a bottle that’s been expired for over a year.

A 150 pound man should take one pill. I give my 60 pound dog two.

After an hour he finally lays down and sleeps. The sleep lasts roughly six hours. Then the pacing, panting, and whining begin again. My dog is in pain. My dog who was perfectly fine 24 hours ago is now dying painfully of cancer before my eyes.

And this is why I’m restless and caged today. Because my dog died nearly a year ago after being fine one day and riddled with cancer the next. Because this fucking virus is everywhere and we could already have it and not know it. Because my mom is over 60 and my immunocompromised husband lives with our two kids who are germ farms. Because everyone is fine today but what happens if they start whimpering in pain tonight?

After naming my restless I calm down. After naming my panic and fear I am not quite free, but also not so caged.

~~~That’s one hour~~~