2020 Census

2020 Census

I took the 2020 Census online last week and aside from the major issue I have with the not-so-veiled racism, which I will leave for another time, my major concern right now is that I told the government how many people were alive in my house on the day I filled it out and while #staypositive I hope we all make it to April 1, I also have to say that in all honesty it’s possible one or all of us could be in the hospital by then and…I can’t write it. I can’t. Let’s just say that all four of us better still be alive and well love after April 1st.

Why does this matter?

Aside from my own personal nuclear family, this matters because there are tons of people who have filled out the census or who are going to fill out the census in the next week or so who have since become ill or will become ill from COVID-19 and some of these people will die.

The death toll in Italy, China, Spain, here in the United States…it’s ridiculous. It’s insane. It’s mind boggling. When you find out Italy stopped counting their dead. When you find out Spain turned an ice rink into a morgue. When you find out the United States has literally no idea how many cases of coronavirus we have and yet it could all be over by Easter. (Please tell me you’re not believing that, by the way).

My point is this, and my intention is in no way to minimize the lives being lost or the humanity of this pandemic: how will we know our census is correct?

The census is kind of a big deal.

The census is a major undertaking. It goes down every ten years. It cost $2.6 million to do the census in 1990 and I can only assume it will cost as much or more to do it in 2020. So this is not a cheap undertaking. Nor is it without serious labor. For every census address that is not returned or returned incorrectly or incomplete, actual physical people are sent out to the address.

Wait, what?

Yes. Amid COVID-19 people will be dispatched to follow up with homes that did not complete the census.

The census is a “constitutional obligation,” and therefore there is absolutely nothing that can stop the census from taking place fully and completely every ten years. And you actually want to be counted in the census, you really really do because it allocates funding to your neighborhood and determines your number of seats in the House of Representatives among other things.

We need the census to be complete. We need the census to be accurate. We also need people to contain the spread of coronavirus.

How will we know it’s accurate?

How will the government know that on March 20th there were four people living in 1234 Main Street, Anywhere, USA but that on April 10th one of those people died? And when you take this and multiply it across all the residences that will lose loved ones to this disease across America, how will we know that our numbers are correct?

If we are a nation of 327 million people today-ish and by August we are a nation of 294 million I would say it matters. It matters for businesses, real estate, districting, funding, and those precious House seats I mentioned earlier.

How is the government going to know that I live in one district but my nearest hospital is in another district? In other words, I took my census in city A but my death was recorded in city B. Or will the numbers somehow work themselves out when looked at as counties?

This whole post is depressing and morbid and disgusting and I also can’t stop thinking about it. I feel like I’m missing a major component in all this. I feel like there’s some major A-HA! thing that I should be getting out of this but all I can think of are the people dying. So many people dying.

And we all have to assume it’s an inevitability. We will all get coronavirus at some point. It will be impossible to avoid. We are all just waiting for the hospitals to get to a place where they can handle the influx of patients, that whole flattening the curve thing. So if everything about this is a matter of “when” and not “if” it all becomes a bit overwhelming. And right now I can’t see the forest for the trees (oddly the title of a book I’m reading right now, too).

Help me. What am I missing? How would the inaccuracies of the 2020 Census affect you?

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Stop Saying “Fine”

“How are you?”
“Fine.”

Every conversation between casual acquaintances

I am guilty of ignoring my feelings and robotically saying “fine” when asked how I am. It’s a habit. It’s a wall. It’s a lie.

I don’t mean to lie. I don’t consider myself a liar. But we can’t be “fine” all the time…hell, I don’t actually want to be “fine” all the time; what a boring f-ing life.

And yet…

“How are you?”
“Fine. You?” (or “Good. You?” or “Alright. You?” These are all the same lie).

Usually what I mean when I say “fine” is that I either:

  • Have no actual idea how I am because I haven’t checked in with myself, too busy running after kids or running errands or running around inside my head
  • Am super emotional and don’t have the ability to talk about what’s bothering me
  • Am super emotional and don’t want to talk about it

The other day amidst all this COVID-19 business, a friend and I were texting and because it’s texting when she asked me how I was I said “good.” That would be *big eyeroll* fine because we were texting except that it wasn’t fine by any stretch of the imagination because she had just finished telling me a rather harrowing story about how she’d spent the last week under crippling anxiety. Instead of commiserating with her, being honest with her about all the feelings I’m dealing with, I said I was “good.”

Now here’s the thing: I am good. I am.

  • I am unbelievably happy with my husband and my two kids and my dog and the roof over my head and the food in our kitchen and the wood stove that keeps us warm
  • I am lucky
  • I am grateful

Now here’s the other thing: I am not good. I am not.

  • I am terrified every time I cough that it’s coronavirus and I’m going to kill my immunocompromised husband
  • I am certain that we already caught the virus in January when we were all the sickest any of us have ever been in our lives for three straight weeks
  • I’m petrified that we haven’t had COVID-19 but that I’m going to bring it home from the post office when I get our mail once a week or from the grocery store when I break down and go after not going for two and a half weeks
  • I am sad because I saw my mom for the first time in three weeks through her living room window while I stood out in the yard and texted with her
  • I am happy because the grocery store checker I used to see every single week without fail was there today when I finally went grocery shopping. Our eyes met and we both broke into big smiles and we were like long lost friends: how are you feeling? How’s the family? Is everyone being kind? Are you finding time to take care of yourself? etc.
  • I am worried this if our life until August at the earliest
  • I am grateful we live where we can go outside every single day and never encounter another person
  • I am going crazy because half of me needs to be with my babies every moment of every day to ward the virus off of them like some kind of supermama talisman and I also desperately need some time alone to meditate, to hear my own thoughts, to be

The thing is, I could talk to people about any and all of these things, not everybody who asks how I am obviously, but the close friends who ask and really want to know. I could tell them. I should tell them. There is no reason to put up the “fine” lie-wall.

While I’m not using “fine” in a passive-aggressive sense, I am actually being very very passive. Passive in my friendships and passive in my own well-being. It doesn’t benefit anyone when I say “fine.”

I am going to work on this. I am going to actively attempt to tell people who ask how I really am and if I hear myself saying “fine” I plan to catch it and admit that it was a habitual response and untrue.

I want to be fine and good and okay some of the time. I also want to be angry and sad and ecstatic and thrilled and tired and worried and all the feelings. I want to let people in to my full life, and that includes me. I can’t very well say I’m living a full life when I don’t even check how I feel from day-to-day.

So, I’ll start: How are you?

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Our Lives Are Big

Our individual lives are allowed to be big even in a pandemic

The other day an incredible author, roxane gay @rgay, on Twitter posted that this pandemic has been hell on her wedding planning. She then called that small.

My heart broke.

Weddings are huge. For some people their wedding is the ultimate big event of their lives, the thing they’ve been planning in some form since they were old enough to know that people got married. A wedding even on the smallest of small scales can take a ton of planning (and I know this because my wedding was one of the smallest weddings I’ve ever been to and I planned it all myself while pregnant).

Weddings are supposed to be huge, even when they’re small, they’re huge on emotion and beautify and family and friends and love. And here’s the thing, weddings aren’t the only things people are trying to plan for or have to cancel. All over the world people are changing vacation plans (we were supposed to go to Hawaii, my first time, with our family as a celebration of my life for my stepdad, and we cancelled), wedding dates, concerts, birthday parties, bar and bat mitzvahs, quinceaneras…funerals.

A pandemic is a global thing. It can feel so overwhelming. It affects so many people that we begin to feel that how it affects us shouldn’t matter. People begin comparing: yes, my anxiety is through the roof, but really that’s nothing compared to so-and-so whose grandma just died. Wait, what? So someone else had a relative die and that means your anxiety is now small potatoes? No. Wrong.

Our individual lives are allowed to be big even in a pandemic.

Reread it.

Our individual lives are allowed to be big even in a pandemic.

Again.

Our individual lives are allowed to be big even in a pandemic.

You do not diminish in importance or scale simply because something outside of your control rages in size and gains importance. This is not a physics equation of conservation of mass. You have every right to feel all your feels right now. Angry? Good. Scared? I feel ya. Lonely? Gotcha. Guilty? Hold the phone. Ashamed? Stop right there.

Take a deep breath. Now, for exactly one minute and one minute only, go ahead and feel guilty and ashamed because your life matters to you. Go ahead and feel it. I can’t make you stop anyway. Plus, once you’ve run through those feeling of guilt and shame they lose their power cause you’ve let them have free reign. When your minute is up, stop.

What would you say to your best friend if they told you they thought their wedding was a small thing, unworthy of complaining about amidst a pandemic? What would you hope your best friend would tell you?

Allow your life to be big. Allow your life to take up space. Allow your life to be loud.

Your life is valid. Your feelings are valid. You can live your life. You can cry about your struggles.

Your life is big.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Pessimist or Realist

Pessimist or Realist

I live pretty far away from things, it’s a good hour plus drive to a Costco and while my little town has a grocery store it’s one of those pay three times as much as you would anywhere else because of fuel charges kind of store. Once a week, every week, I used to (in my pre-quarantine days) go down the hill (that’s what we call leaving the mountain) with my kids so we could all visit with my mom for a few hours and have lunch, then the kids and I would go grocery shopping and run any other errands that can only be accomplished down the hill.

I haven’t been down the hill in two weeks. I was supposed to go tomorrow because Costco Instacart delivery won’t deliver up here but they will deliver to my mom. She was able to get us some things we haven’t been able to get since all this panic began, things like baby wipes. For our baby. Who poops in a diaper and then we have to wipe it. With baby wipes. Which have 0% alcohol in them. And yet…people are hoarding baby wipes that don’t kill the Coronavirus and for what? But I digress, I was supposed to go down the hill tomorrow to pick up the order of stuff she was able to get delivered to her house for us.

The plan was that everything would be out by the garage. I could arrive, load up my car, wave through the living room window at her, maybe call her cell and talk to her on the phone as we stared at each other through the window. You know, first world tragic stuff. And then afterwards I’d go to the grocery store and see if there was any fresh produce I could purchase since we haven’t eaten anything fresh in a week. But sadly plans got changed around and now it looks like I won’t be going down until Monday.

This sucks, y’all. I was equal parts dreading this trip, because of the grocery store part, and needing this escape from my home and immediate family. And I could say that it makes me a horrible person to say that, and maybe it does, but the truth of the matter is: there is no one I would rather be in isolation with than my husband and kids and also I desperately need to get away from my husband and kids. I need roughly twenty minutes, but two hours would be heaven, of silence. I need to be in my own head while also physically busy doing something (driving would be perfect) so that I can concentrate on my thoughts without concentrating on them.

Did that make any sense at all?

I will admit that for a moment I considered not telling my husband the plans had changed to Monday. I considered saying nothing and leaving tomorrow and getting my time to myself and then coming home and shrugging, oh man, plans changed but I was already down the hill, sorry it took me so long to turn around and get back…. But that would be shitty. Just like when I consider staying in the shower longer than I technically need to.

Because the truth is, if I told my husband, I desperately need two hours to myself he would shrug and say, “go! Do it!” He would have absolutely no problem with it whatsoever. And as I type this out and realize the truth I’ve known but not admitted to myself I wonder why the hell I still haven’t turned to him and said “I desperately need two hours to myself!”

I think part of it is just recognizing that I could have this time to myself if I asked for it, allows me to breathe a little deeper and not be quite so desperate for it. I think part of it is that I desperately want that time to myself and I also can’t stand to be apart from my family for one minute, and especially right now. Seeing them and hearing them and being with them reassures me that they are okay, that I am okay, that we are alive and surviving. So even though I need my space, I also can’t bring myself to take it.

I think the answer is a family hike. We all need to get out and move. We all need some fresh air and some outside time. We can all be together but also be in our heads. Writing that out feels right. Writing that out feels like, “ah, yes, that is the answer.” And so I have just therapized myself through writing. Huzzah!

It’s fascinating to me how often I can be spinning out inside my mind, spiraling into anger or frustration (same thing), not able to figure out why, and then just sitting and writing for a moment allows me the space to work through it. Like earlier at the dinner table, my leg was jumping up and down, up and down, up and down, and my husband asks “nervous?” And I was like “yes, I’m anxious, which really means I’m afraid but I don’t know what I’m afraid of.” And that’s when I had to stop and breathe and realize that I was afraid not of going to the store so much as the store not having what we need.

While the store being out of what we need is a legit fear it’s also ridiculous for us. We live so far away that we are always pretty well backstocked on stuff. And sure, I was supposed to restock our TP supply right as the pandemic hit and thus we are actually running quite low on TP and those baby wipes I was wha-whaing about earlier. But the thing is, we are okay. We are extremely lucky. We have stuff in the freezer and stuff on our shelves. We can go at least one more week just making up random meals based on what we scrounge through and those random meals will be decent.

The bigger fear really is that I fear this will go on much longer than anticipated.

I told a girlfriend on text last night that I expect it will be August before things will slow down. It shocked me when I sent it because I hadn’t realized I believed that until I saw it in writing. But I do. She was shocked. And I texted that they originally predicted it would peak in May but that I think that’s too optimistic. I’m not usually this pessimistic. And then I saw posts about schools remaining closed until Fall and realized, I’m not being a pessimist, I’m being a realist.

Or maybe I just really need to get outside for a hike.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Lockdown

Lockdown

It’s official, our state is now on lockdown. It’s been less than an hour since it was announced and already people are freaking out. I don’t get it. Why are you freaking out? Did you not see this coming? Italy warned us. The governor warned us. It happened. There was no broadside.

Maybe, being an introvert, this is just not scary for me? Maybe, living an hour from any kind of “city” makes this easy for me? Maybe the fact that we are all still so incredibly connected thanks to phones, texts, and the internet makes this seem like a pretty simple demand of me?

I realize I am showing my privilege here. I recognize there are people who will not be drawing a paycheck, who will be worried about their next meal, their children’s next meal, that are worried about being in lockdown with an abuser. I get that. That is not my reality and I will not even pretend that it is.

I think there are many ways to help make this a wee bit easier and I’m going to lead with the one that will probably piss a lot of people off but may actually prevent a lot of insanity and panic:

One: Play Ostrich

Stick your head in the sand. Use your internet for nothing more than Netflix, Hulu, Disney+, AmazonPrimeVideo, etc. DO NOT PAY ATTENTION TO THE NEWS. Live in the bubble that is your home and don’t come out until August at the earliest…even then maybe just peak at a headline or two and then decide whether or not to go back into your forced hibernation…which I guess makes you a bear, not an ostrich.

Two: Stay Informed

The complete opposite of option one here folks. This requires that you be on multiple platforms and keep appraised of the situation and ONLY LOOK AT LEGITIMATE NEWS. Do you realize how many nefarious things are going on right now? Senators dumping stocks right before everything crashed! The Chairman of the NYSE is married to a senator and was using information to also dump stocks. Stay informed. Hold them accountable. Don’t lose sight of the political in the personal.

Three: Stay Social Via Internet

Do not become suicidal because you’re an extrovert and this is literally killing your will to live. You can still be super social (you weirdo, you). There’s FaceTime, Zoom, Google Chat (or something?), GoToMeeting, Skype, and probably lots of others I don’t know about because I’m really just not that cool. People are literally dating in all this. You can do it!

Four: Volunteer

Bear with me here, you do not have to break lockdown to help others. You can write letters (COVID-19 dies on paper in 24 hours) to:

You can volunteer to foster an animal in need. Lots of shelters are losing their volunteers right now. There are tons of critters that need a dedicated foster home. You can start by asking at your local Humane Society and they will most likely be able to direct you if they are not in need themselves.

These are my top suggestions but if you Google “how to volunteer without leaving home” you will be inundated with more options than you could possibly get through in one lockdown.

Five: Get Out

Yes, you’re not supposed to leave your home unless it’s to get groceries, fuel, or medical. That doesn’t mean you can’t supply your brain and your body with the outdoors they need to stay healthy. You must have at least one window in your home you can open for twenty minutes a day. Look out that window, even if you’re looking at a brick wall, smell that outside air. Obviously the further you can see out the better, it’s actually super important for your brain and eyes if you can focus on a distance for fifteen minutes a day. If you’re lucky enough to have a balcony or patio or backyard use them. This may seem small but it’s actually huge for your mental health.

Six: Humor and Beauty

Search for the humor and the beauty during all this, they exist, I promise (it’s helpful if you’re on Twitter). Humor is going to be very important in the coming months.

You got this America. You are not alone. The entire world is gonna have to be mad COVID strong, y’all. We are all in this together even when we’re apart. Stay connected with your friends and family. Sit in your scared moments together. Laugh in your happy moments together. Remember to be extra gentle with yourself and others, extra forgiving. We are all simultaneously fragile and stronger than we previously thought.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Beauty and Terror

All my life and it has come to no more than this: beauty and terror

Mary Oliver

So many people seem to be living in terror, in barely checked panic. And rightfully so. There’s been so much fear the last three years. So many groups have been the target of so much hatred and anger. And now it’s all culminating not because the current president is about to be removed from office (huzzah! Just ten more months y’all) but because COVID-19 doesn’t care about how white, cis, straight, or male you might be. The only silver lining in this whole virus, the beauty and the terror: lack of discrimination.

When people with kids to tend first started trying to figure out what to do home with kids for at least three weeks there was panic. People terrified their little charges would be held back a year, would lose a year of education. At some point it began to shift to ways they and the kiddos could help others, like making and sending cards to the people in retirement communities who would be least likely to have access to the knowledge or technology for things like Zoom and would thus be missing family and social interaction most. But you can’t in good conscience send a COVID-19 card (aka a smallpox blanket) to a senior citizen. The beauty here is two-fold: one, people want to help others even when they themselves are terrified, and two, we’ve since discovered the virus doesn’t last on paper for more than 24 hours.

I know families who barely had five minutes to spend together a day, families who lived from “wake up” to “breakfast” to “go to schoool/work” to “come home” to “eat dinner” to “do homework” to “go to bed” and repeat. There wasn’t time for more than that. I know kids and adults who were completely stressed out by this arrangement but there wasn’t time to find time to ease the terror. Being home together now means family meals and games, family movie time and chores, family reading and jokes. For some of the families I know this virus if the most terrible beautiful thing that could happen to them.

In our small town there’s been an outpouring of love and offered assistance. Even amidst the terror of contracting and spreading the virus there are those reaching out to offer assistance and food to those in need. The desire to be helpful, the pulling together to offer kindness and trade goods is beautiful.

I challenge you to think of one beautiful thing that has occurred that doesn’t also have something terrible related to it, or something that sparks terror that isn’t also beautiful. Be real. My miscarriages were terrible. I was very hard pressed to find any beauty there. But there was. The beauty of how much you can love a person you’ve never met, a person you will never meet, a person you’ve only known a few short weeks and even then there isn’t much I could tell you about them except that they’re missed. There was also a beauty to the very natural and terrible process. It’s not anything I ever wish to live through again, and I’m finally healed from it by the birth of a rainbow baby, and perhaps that’s the only reason I am able to look back on them as beautiful while still terrible.

Many of us now have a lot more time to focus on our terror. I challenge you to also find our beauty.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Doing Our Best

We went to the desert today to go hiking. A spot not many people go to or know about prior to COVID-19, and sure enough we didn’t see anyone the entire time we were out. Not even parked cars along the route of people hiking some other trail off the main one. We were outside in the sun and wind and clouds for hours and it was amazing. It was also eerie.

From the top of a mountain we looked down at the highways and saw no cars.

We hiked for a good long while, as much of a good long hike as you can have with a four-year-old and a one-year-old who isn’t doing much in the way of walking right now and thus needs to be carried. Clean air. Fresh blooming flowers. Sage.

We collected handfuls of sage to bring the outside inside.

We drove a bit further and stopped along an extremely popular hiking through trail that also happens to have the perfect fallen tree that acts as a bench and ate our packed lunch: tuna salad with avocado and almond crackers. A couple apples. We walked a portion of the trail, just so I could finally say “I’ve walked a portion of the PCT.”

There were no hikers.

We continued to drive through to the other highway that would loop us around and back home. We finally saw someone. On a bike. An older man, certainly over sixty, most likely a prime candidate for the entire self-isolation movement. He slowed down as though he wanted to chat. We waved and mouthed “hi” as we drove through. He waved back.

This is social distancing without a couch.

And then we blew it. We were driving back towards town and saw two through-hikers who needed a lift into town. It’s a long hike into town. The clouds are coming in good now and the wind has picked up. It is very, very cold outside. These two kids need to get in out of the storm and fast. The cab of our truck is full with two adults and two kids in car seats, but our truck has a shell on it and the dog is in back.

We stop for the hikers.

The hikers have no problem climbing in back with the dog. They’re shivering. They say they want a hotel and food and they’ll go anywhere we think will take them. We close them up in the back, tell them to bang the glass if they need us to stop before we get to town. We start driving, and texting with a true trail angel to see if she wants hiker company for the night.

She’s had a strange day.

She pulls over and waits for us to get up the hill with our hikers. We pull over and ask the hikers if they still want to go to town and pay for a hotel and pay for food or if they want to go home with the world’s most epic trail angel where they’ll have showers, laundry, food, beer, and a game room all for free.

The hikers jump in with her.

We continue on our way home. We have our homemade kombucha and discuss how grateful we are to come home to a wood stove and to have spent a day together. Yes, we broke isolation by letting trail hikers ride in the back of our truck. Yes, we broke isolation by stopping to let those hikers get a much better deal for the night than a hotel would give them.

We are not learning from Italy.

My kids are perfectly healthy. I’m perfectly healthy. We are probably carriers if we have been exposed. My husband is currently, knock-on-wood, perfectly healthy. He is also immunocompromised. We risk his health more than ours when we do what we did today.

My joy at helping others could soon be tempered.

This is my greatest fear. Not that I may have compromised my husbands immune system by breaking isolation, although that terrifies me more than I know how to put into words, but that I may become too afraid to help others. And yes, it’s fine to say, just let the people who don’t have immunocompromised people in their family be the helpers. And yes, it’s fine to say, just let the people who don’t have 60+ people in their family be the helpers.

Expecting others to be the helpers seems pretty entitled.

When we returned home I saw an invite on social media to join a group for helpers in our area. A group for those who want to help and for those who need help. I haven’t yet seen anyone raise their hand needing help, and I’m grateful. I’m hopeful no one will need it.

I feel like a hypocrite.

I will wait for someone who needs eggs, then I’ll deliver to their doorstep fresh from our hens. I will wait for someone who needs rice, then I’ll deliver from our enormous Costco bag purchased before the panic buying began. I will wait for someone who needs a smile, then I’ll FaceTime with them and my goofy children.

I will do my best.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Self-Care

“It should not be this hard to find a chocolate lava cake,” she said aloud to no one in particular, although a few people turned in her direction. She tossed her head to get her bangs out of her face and carried on. She’d been walking around the downtown area for at least an hour, popping in to different restaurants and eateries, finding pies and brownies and sundaes and all sorts of cheesecakes and more ice cream than anyone could eat in a week, but no chocolate lava cake. “Damn.”

She stopped on a corner for a moment to catch her breath and figure out her next step. She could always go back to the place with brownies, brownies were chocolate and kinda cake-y and hell if you heat up some chocolate sauce and pour it on top that’s kinda chocolate lava cake-ish, right? Her brain congratulated her on an excellent idea but her stomach, oh who was she kidding, her uterus laughed and said “oh no, only chocolate lava cake is chocolate lava cake, and if you’re not going to grow a child and you want to survive the next week without intense pains, you will get me what I want: chocolate lava cake.

She sighed and wracked her brain. Surely there was somewhere within a sixty mile radius that would have chocolate lava cake. She pulled out her phone and opened Yelp! She searched for chocolate lava cake and found only poor substitutes and imitations unless she wanted to drive through three hours of traffic, which she did not. She closed Yelp! and opened Google and performed the same search. No dice, same info. She stomped her foot, suddenly a toddler being told she couldn’t have her way, furious with the world and all who would undermine her.

Close to tears she finally searched the internet for recipes and found one. The most decadent sounding chocolate lava cake she’d ever seen pictured or read about. The reviews were spectacular, she could pronounce the ingredients and even knew she had some of them at home. She shoved her phone back in her purse and went in search of her car and a trip to the grocery store.

Home with her items: chocolate, butter, eggs, flour, sugar, and salt, she proceeded to unpack her purchases and wash her hands. She then pulled down from her cabinet six small ramekins which she’d had for years thinking she’d someday make her own creme brulee, which she never did, but she still had the ramekins and now they would be perfect. She proceeded to follow the instructions on the recipe, turning the oven to 450 degrees and mixing, whisking, boiling.

She filled all six ramekins, then covered five in plastic wrap and set them in the fridge. She’d have one each night until she got sick of them. The remaining ramekin she put in the oven and tapped her nails waiting, realizing as she did so that she should really put some fresh paint on them or at least remove the chipped paint. Twelve minutes had never taken so long. When the timer finally went off she yanked the little cake out and set it on the counter for one minute as instructed, then put a plate over the top and flipped it over. She listened as the dessert inside slid down and plopped onto the plate.

Removing the ramekin and setting it in the sink she turned her attention to the beautiful chocolate lump in front of her. It looked like a little chocolate muffin or a cupcake that needed icing. She grabbed a fork from the drawer before thinking better of it and grabbing a spoon. She pushed the spoon into the little cake and scooped up a bite, thrilling as the chocolate began to ooze slowly out of the hole her spoon had created.

The first bite of cake was the most orgasmic moment she’d had in ages. The cake was rich but not too sweet, the chocolate almost too hot but not quite. She considered letting it melt on her tongue rather than chewing but couldn’t stop herself. Before she knew it the entire little cake was gone, a few smears of chocolate on the plate all that remained. She drug her finger through the smears and sucked on her finger for a moment. “there are five more in the fridge…” she thought.

They were so tiny, these little ramekins of bliss. Surely one more wouldn’t be too much. She pulled the ramekin out and found it was a bit chilled but certainly not cold enough to warrant sitting on the counter to bring to room temperature. She removed the plastic wrap and threw the little ramekin into the oven. Setting the timer for twelve minutes was much easier this time, the wait no longer interminable. Nor was it difficult to wait the one minute while it sat on the counter a cooled a bit before she plated it.

This second cake was just as delicious as the first. There was absolutely no loss of joy or flavor. She did a little dance as she ate the second cake, humming as she sucked chocolate off the spoon, and licking the chocolate off the plate when she was done rather than dredging her finger through what was left. She briefly considered having one more but decided she really was sated now, and if she knew anything about her body by now it’s that she’d be wanting another cake or two tomorrow.

She drew a bath, poured a glass of port, and grabbed a book, Glennon Doyle Melton’s Love Warrior. No need for candlelight or music, she wasn’t that high maintenance. She slipped into the hot water, took a sip of port, and proceeded to read her book. The introduction was amazing and she was quickly whisked away; nothing was better than a good memoir…except maybe chocolate lava cake. “Damn.”

She put a bookmark in the book and set it down, finished what was left of her port, and grabbed her towel. Pulling the drain on the tub she went back into the kitchen and turned the oven back on. She pulled a third ramekin out of the fridge and removed the plastic wrap. She went back to her room to get pajamas on as the oven and the dessert warmed up. Grabbing a bottle of nail polish remover, some cotton balls, and a bottle of nail polish she went back out to the kitchen and put the ramekin in the oven.

She painted the nails on her left hand while she waited, then pulled the ramekin out with her right hand and set it down to cool for one minute. Setting the plate on top she realized she’d painted her left hand prematurely. Shrugging, she set her left hand on top of the plate and used her right to grab the ramekin and flipped everything over. She set the ramekin down and then grabbed the plate and a spoon with her right hand. She sighed in relief as she wiggled her left hand in front of her and realized all five nails were unaffected.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Please note, I do not know Glennon Doyle (although I’d love to!) and I am in no way affiliated with her, her book(s), or her site(s). I do not make any money or get anything for free from her if you visit her site. It’s simply the book I just started and literally read the intro and can’t wait to read the rest. This is how real life slips into fiction sometimes 🙂

What To Do: Home With Kids

Home with the kids for the forseeable future because school is closed? Debating going to the movies or a local zoo or museum because you don’t know what to do to keep them and yourself from going insane over the next few weeks? I get it. I stay home with my kids 24/7 (although I use the term home loosely as we are generally running around doing things), but I know exactly how crazy it can be. But here’s the thing, the whole point of schools being closed is so that kids won’t be exposed to the virus and/or spread the virus. So keep your kids home. And find stuff to do…. Here are some of the best ideas of heard.

If You Need a Schedule

Some kids (and adults) do best with a schedule. Sure the first day can be a free for all where everyone sleeps in and eats breakfast for dinner and revels in a day home from school. But what then? By the third day you and your munchkins may be going a little insane. It can help everyone if there’s a plan in place. Here’s a suggested schedule from Jessica McHale Photography:

The thing to remember here is that you can make the schedule any way you’d like, reorganize according to when your family wakes up and goes to bed and the things your family enjoys doing.

For Those With Internet Access

There is SO much you can find for free online, and it seems many of them are coming out of the woodwork with this virus. Here’s a picture with some good ideas from That Fun Teacher:

For Those With Access to the Outdoors

If you are lucky enough to have a patio, yard, or several acres and can go outside there are tons of things to do. Our favorite outdoor resource for ideas is the 1000 Hours Outside Challenge website.

  • Give the kids paper and pens and have them draw the nature they see: leaves, insects, trees, birds, etc. If you have access to field guides or the internet this activity can be extended to later figuring out what all everyone saw
  • If you have sand toys and access to dirt and water you can make awesome mud cities and car tracks
  • Basically anything you’d normally do inside you can take outside: dolls, cars, games, etc.

What We Do

In our house we try to do a mix of the things above as well as those below, and rather than use a schedule we just go with the flow and try not to have every day look exactly the same or the kids go insane (and so do I). Feel free to pick and choose from the list below:

  • Chase: parents chasing kids or kids chasing parents (if you have slick floors make sure socks are off). This is usually done with one of our kids bent over a truck trying to run us over
  • Hide and Seek: you’d be amazed at how fun this can be in your home, especially after the first few rounds when you have to really start getting inventive (it is especially fun if you have young ones who may take awhile to recognize the lump under the covers is mommy = instant ninja nap!)
  • Craft Time: pull out everything from old buttons and crayons to broken dishes and boxed noodles. Let the kids decide what they want to make and just be on hand in case they need adult assistance
  • Cardboard Box: it’s not just for Calvin and Hobbes, cardboard boxes are the bomb! Young kids like to pretend they’re houses or airplanes or cars and older kids can turn themselves into a robot or build a time machine. There’s no end to a box, especially if you keep it around for a few days. The first day they may just pretend with it and the second day ignore it until you suggest decorating it. Suddenly the box has a whole new life as they paint or color it and add stickers
  • Water Play: you do not need a fancy water table. Pull chairs up to the kitchen or bathroom sink, put a large bowl in there and fill it with water. Give the kids nonbreakable items to play with like metal funnels, metal measuring cups and spoons, wooden spoons, plastic cups, etc. In our house this activity can literally keep my kids occupied for an hour
  • Reading Time: books they love and have heard a thousand times can be “read” to you and books they’ve only read a couple times can be re-read now. Expand this activity by asking if they want to write a book. You can write the words for them if they don’t write yet, but let them have full charge telling the story. You can even expand this activity to the next day by asking them if they want to illustrate their book. Want to expand it for another day? Have the kids create costumes and a set and enact their book for you!
  • Donation Time: you may have cleaned out rooms before the holidays to make way for new toys, or you may not, but now is a great time to do it again, after all it has been three months. Get two garbage bags and help the kids go through their stuff throwing garbage in one bag and toys that still have life but are not entertaining for your kiddos anymore into another bag (feel free to let them do this by their selves if their old enough while you go do your own stuff)
  • Slime: there are TONS of videos on YouTube that will show you how to make your own slime and you are almost certain to have the necessary ingredients on hand. This can take half a day from finding the “recipe” the kids want to try, to following the recipe, to playing with their slime
  • Cards: did the kids already thank everyone for their holiday gifts? Have they made Mother’s Day cards for grandma (or you)? Is anyone having a birthday soon? When was the last time you thanked your waste disposal person or your package delivery or mail delivery person? There are tons and tons of reasons to make your own cards (especially just to say hi!). They can make cards for family members, friends, people in your neighborhood who may be elderly and at particular risk of infection right now but who could use a happy card to cheer them up, etc. (please note that if you DO make cards for the elderly that you should actually wait to give the to them since the the card itself could transmit the virus to them)
  • Camping/Cooking: build forts or tents in the living room and then pretend camp in them. Have a picnic lunch in the tent or a high tea. Honestly, there’s so much about food prep that can take up so much time if done with children instead of for children. Not only does it take up time, it’s also teaching a valuable skill
  • Dance Party: we love to throw on music and have a family dance party. We all dance as wild as we can for as long as we can. Great way to use up energy and hilarious. It’s also fun to then play a Simon Says style dance party where everyone tries to copy the moves of another person
  • Laundry: even the youngest kids can marry socks and the older ones can help with hanging stuff up. Make it fun by playing sock puppets while you find the mate or dressing up your stuffed animals in the clothes before folding and putting away
  • Shoe Boxes: everybody has these bad boys lying about. They are great to turn into DIY doll houses, car parking garages, diaramas, etc.
  • Games/Cards: obviously…
  • Puzzles: when you run out of the ones you have, make your own! A piece of paper or a piece of cardboard painted/drawn on/colored is all you need. Then cut the painting into pieces, mix em up, instant puzzle
  • Plant Seeds/Pits: when we find a particularly delicious orange or apple or avocado (or whatever) we save the seeds. Grab an old egg carton, throw some soil in the egg cups, and stick in your seeds. Water them and wait. Every few days check if they need more water and within a week or so you should see some green popping up from anything that was viable. When they get big enough you can transplant them or cut up the egg carton and give your seedlings away (or if your kids are older and entrepreneurial, they can sell them!)

And since this isn’t really what I do for a living, I’m sure there are way better ideas out there as well. A Google search will probably give you an unending assortment of ideas. This is just what’s been on my mind today as I hear about more and more school closures and hear parents starting to panic not because of the virus but because they simply don’t know what to do with their kids all day.

I sincerely hope you have the ability to stay home with your kids. I sincerely hope you have the disposition to enjoy it. And I sincerely hope you all remain healthy and happy and calm.

~~~That’s one hour~~~

Please Note: I am in no way, shape, or form affiliated with any of the above links. I do not make a penny, get any free stuff, or in any way benefit if you use any of the above information. This is purely caregiver to caregiver love. Be well.

COVID-19

It’s astounding to me that Italy has effectively shut down, no school, no businesses except groceries and pharmacies, shut down. I’ve been to Italy twice in my life, and been grateful for each visit. It’s a country I have a heartfelt kinship with although I don’t believe my DNA test revealed any Italian in my ancestry…hang on while I double check that. Whew, I wasn’t lying, no Italian. So, even though I’m unrelated to the people of the country, it’s a place where I’ve always felt at home and me, a person who can get lost in my own neighborhood, has never once gotten lost in Rome. It’s like a map of the city is written somewhere in my bones and becomes accessible the moment I arrive. Sigh.

My first trip to Italy I met a friend in Rome who did some touristy thing with me one day, and then we went our separate ways. The touristy things were cool, some would argue necessary, but my favorite parts of Rome were the things I bungled into: a piece of art on the outside of an apartment building that looked like a window with a woman peeking out, the cafe that made absolutely phenomenal coffee and beyond perfect cannoli, and my all time favorite, the crazy middle of nowhere restaurant that was practically empty when I arrived and where after the very best meal I have ever eaten in my life I thought I was going to be murdered or raped or sold a slave when the waiter/chef/owner insisted I follow him downstairs and where I was then shown an unbelievable train set of the entire city in perfect and minute detail.

I can’t imagine how many people had plans to travel to Italy in the next few months and now won’t get to go. I can’t imagine what will happen to the US when we eventually succumb to the same lock down, because it’s inevitable. The thing is, the entire world is going to be exposed to COVID-19, there’s no way to avoid it. We will all be exposed and we will all die or become immune, and then COVID-19 won’t be a problem for us until the next generation comes along, the generation that wasn’t alive when this first swept through and therefore isn’t immune. It won’t happen right away, but at some point, there will be enough new generations that haven’t been exposed that we’ll be primed for another outbreak. Unless of course a vaccine is developed before then.

What You Can Do

I was texting with my family about this today and the point I was trying to make is that we will all get it eventually, so there’s no sense worrying about getting it, you will, accept it. The point is that right now everyone is getting it all at once and there’s currently no way to treat all the cases erupting exponentially each day, so your best bet is to do all you can do for yourself and your family and your community to delay getting it as long as possible. Give the medical community a chance to figure out what we’re dealing with and how best to do so.

Take care of yourself:

  • exercise
  • eat well
  • sauna (if you can)
  • keep your immune system up
  • wash your hands
  • stay home as much as possible to avoid contracting the virus or spreading the virus (since you may already have it but not yet be symptomatic)
  • keep abreast of the truth by visiting only vetted sources of information, this is an excellent one: CDC Website on COVID-19

I was speaking with a friend today who, like my husband, has a weakened immune system, and we were saying how important it is for people without weakened immune systems to be aware that just because we can quickly and easily fight off an illness it doesn’t mean that others can. We have a responsibility to ourselves as well as to others not to go out when we’re sick expecting that others will recover as we do.

Mister Rogers’ mom said something beautiful like how even in the worst tragedies there are always helpers and to look for the helpers. I’d like to take this a step further and say look for the humor. Yes, this is a tragic turn of events, especially on the heels of all our political devastation recently, and still there is humor. There are brilliantly hilarious memes circulating and laughter is an important part of keeping your health and your sanity. Some of my favorite memes are the hand washing ones, like this from Imgur and DilligafDiva:

Labyrinth Hand Washing Meme Courtesy of Imgur and DilligafDiva
Labyrinth Hand Washing Meme Courtesy of Imgur and DilligafDiva

I wish you all the best of health now and always. Keep your chin up, and sense of humor intact.

~~~That’s one hour~~~