"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Sunday, October 11, 2020

The Golden Birthday

Just days after we brought him home from the hospital, we took itty bitty baby Max to the pediatrician for his first in-office visit. After getting checked in, we sat in the waiting room with our little nugget who was sleeping contentedly in his carseat. A couple with a bitty bundle in an infant seat of their own checked in just behind us. I couldn't help but overhear that their baby, too, was named Max. 

Obviously, I struck up a conversation as they sat next to us. "Is that Max? This is Max, too!" I said, pointing. The mom smiled and said, "Yes! This is Max! Such a great name."

"Such a great name," I agreed.

"Is your Max short for anything?" the other mom asked.

"Yes! Maxwell! How about yours?"

The other couple exchanged a glance. "Oh! Maxwell! Of course! This is...Maximilian."

We oohed and ahhed over both versions of the name, of course, but for some reason, I got the impression that Maxwell hadn't occurred to them as an option for their baby's name and...they wished it had? Or maybe it was just my postpartum brain fog that imagined their reaction, so confident I was in our own choice. 

We told Max this story the other night at dinner, after he mentioned that he couldn't imagine being named anything other than Max. I asked, "If you could go back and choose, would you have wanted a full name? Which would you have picked?"

He thought for a minute, contemplating his choices. 

"Well, no offense, but I actually think I might have picked Maximilian because...you know...there's Max...well and then there's Max: A Million!" [Insert jazz fingers here.]

Oh, yes. I know, kiddo. Our Max is a million. There is simply no doubt about that.

Today, our Max: A Million! is 11. Eleven on the eleventh, his Golden Birthday. 


While he still enjoys baking for fun (and for the sweet result), he's changed career goals in the last year. He wants to be a  fourth or fifth grade teacher now, instead of running a bakery. He assures me he'll still bake for me, though...

And, let me tell you: I cannot wait for that baking to happen in his own kitchen. Max is my PigPen. It's not that I'm a control freak who needs a perfectly clean house all the time.....well, maybe it's a little bit of that. It's also, though, the fact that we are now Always. Home. I can't help but notice his sticky fingerprints on the refrigerator door, his footprints across the floor, the crumbs that trail behind him as he snacks while dancing around the living room...alllllll the live long day.

It drives Max crazy because he sees me as a constant nag. He meets my nagging with typical 11-year old annoyance and exasperated, dramatic sighing....and he's not wrong; I do feel myself constantly pointing out (mostly his) things that could be put away, wiped off, picked up....but we're living in a pandemic, people. I'm controlling what I can control. 

Max is hanging in there during this pandemic, though. He's adjusted (nearly) without complaint to everything we've had to throw at him...school is closed! No summer vacations! No get-togethers with friends! Okay, you can get together with your friends but you need to stay seated in these chairs, six feet apart! No visits with family! Okay, you can see your grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins, but stay far away! No hugging! Wear a mask! Wash your hands! Keep your distance! Okay, back to school--but at home! Figure out Zoom! And SeeSaw! And Google classroom! WASH YOUR HANDS!

Zoom School

He's adapting and figuring it out and rolling with the changes with flexibility and confidence and understanding. He is a big feeler and thinker....he asks a lot of questions and voices a lot of concerns (of which there are many these days...), but when it's time, he does All the Hard Things and he does them so well.

It helps that he's figured out some pretty effective coping strategies. Messaging his friends on his iPod, Fortnite meet-ups with his cousins, reading ALL the books, and music! So. Much. Music. 

Max has been a music lover since the beginning. He's been a creator of music from the early days of pots and pans drum sets and making up songs to sing to accompany his play, through his relatively recently discovered talent of teaching himself songs on the piano with YouTube tutorials. He taught himself Let It Be for a school Variety Show and Hamilton's Satisfied because, um, it's amazing! He uses an online song-maker program that his music teacher introduced him to, creating rhythms and music that I swear sound like something you'd hear on the radio.

He's a consumer of music, too: he first fell in love with listening to music after seeing Frozen. We listened to those songs on repeat for. ever. I'm pretty sure it was Frozen that inspired me to get Apple Music (so we could stream Adele, One Direction, and Sara Bareilles--his first faves--in addition to Elsa and Anna).

From early 2010s pop, Max discovered Taylor Swift's 1989, which opened the floodgates...Katie Perry, Lady Gaga, Jess Glynne, Alicia Keys, and Beyonce...more Taylor Swift...so much Taylor Swift. 

Then, in 2017, he discovered Just Dance. Just Dance introduced a whole new world of music and dance. Literally. He was dancing and singing to songs and artists from around the globe...Latin America, Israel, India, Brazil, and....[drumroll please]....South Korea.

2019 and 2020 has been all about K-pop. He can sing along with BlackPink in Korean and Japanese. He can name each of the nine singers of Twice: Nayeon, Jeong Yeon, Sana, Momo, Jihyo, Mina, Tzuyu, Dahyun, and Chaeyoung (Max needed to type that part for me...). He's a member of the BTS Army [swoon] and he can name, literally, a dozen other K-pop groups that I promise you've never heard of.

Max can watch a video once and he'll have the choreography to the chorus down. A few more viewings and he can dance the entire routine. He can mimic entire TikTok dances and he doesn't even have TikTok.  

He's got music in his heart and in his soul, that Max. 

I'll never forget my grandfather's words, just after he heard Max's name for the first time: "Max Harris!" he said, "What a name! I see that name in lights!" I wish he could have lived long enough to see just how right he was. 

Maxwell. Max: A Million! Pure light.

He's creative.

He's a hard worker, a perseverant problem-solver, a prolific writer.

He's an illustrator and a designer and an imaginative thinker.

He's a math whiz and a devourer of just about any YA fantasy series (Three Dark Crowns and Red Queen, in particular).

He is Such. A. Tween.

Bitmoji Max

He's mastered the art of the eyeroll, can stomp like a herd of elephants, slams doors like he means it, and can render you DED with one sidelong glance.

But he makes up for it with post-fight hugs and I'm sorry's. He's free with his I Love You's and his snuggles. He's quick with his wit AND his righteousness because he knows that Love Wins.

He is our One in a Million Max.

This year hasn't been an easy one...he's missing his 5th grade year in school...his chance, at long last, to be one of The Big Kids of his elementary school. The news that he reads and sees and overhears is hard and heavy and worrisome. He knows that the repercussions of this administration (this SINGLE TERM administration) will echo on for a generation...and it will be his generation that is tasked with picking up the pieces of the fallout. He's in the middle....old enough to know what's going on, too young to be a change-maker. Or so he thinks. He doesn't know, yet, that just by being who he is, he's changing hearts and minds. Just by being unapologetically, Max: A Million! people are seeing what it can look like to live authentically. Just by being the bright, shining light he is, he can make the darkness disappear, one closed mind at a time. The darkness IS disappearing. Even if it doesn't seem like it in this moment in our nation's history. 

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice....

To our Max: Happiest of birthdays, in this weird and wild world, just be you, and we'll all be the better for it. You are so deeply and joyfully loved.

Lesson Learned:

Eleven years ago today, I rushed to the hospital, bleeding. I needed oxygen and a shot in my arm to stall a too-fast, dangerous labor. When I finally held this baby in my arms, I thought the scary part was behind us. I could not have predicted or even imagine the wild ride our entire country would be forced to endure beginning seven years later. I had no idea how much this baby, his mother, and this world could possibly change in just eleven fast-as-lightning years. 

He points out my wrinkles and my gray hairs (earned, especially, these past four years). I call them smile lines and sparkles...he's not convinced. He sees the toll this world is taking on me and I know that's not fair. He's just a kid. We try to shield him from the hardest parts (especially the threats to the safety and civil rights of his LGBTQ community)....but he's so intuitive, he knows how bad things are, and how bad they could get, even if he doesn't know all of the details. He's just a kid....but a kid that, if we're not careful, will have to grow up fighting for his right to literally just Be himself. We can't mess this one up. 

The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice....if we work for it.

When he sees me painting signs for a protest, writing letters to inspire voters, on the phone leaving voicemails for my elected officials, making donations to social justice non-profits, I hope he knows that I'm doing it all for him (and his brother and sister, too, of course). Each wrinkle, each gray hair will have been worth it if the world these three inherit allows them to grow up in good health and freedom. 

My Max: A Million! I'll turn into a little old granny at 41 to prove the depth and strength of my love for you and to protect your fundamental rights....but I'm sorry....you're going to have to stan the BTS boys on your own, kiddo. 

**Edited to add: Never mind. I've had Dynamite on repeat for days. BTS, I love you, too. 

Thursday, July 2, 2020

We're Halfway There

We're halfway through this godforsaken year, people! Halle-freakin-lujah.

2020, with it's pandemic, economic meltdown, devastating loss of innocent lives, and long-overdue racial revolution (not to mention the murder hornets, Godzilla dust cloud, flying snakes, and a SECOND potential pandemic-causing viral outbreak) is officially mostly behind us and, I have to say, the latter half of this year is already off to a pretty awesome start in our home state.

July 1, 2020 in Virginia saw the enactment of the Virginia Values Act. This sweeping non-discrimination bill makes Virginia the first state in the south to recognize sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes, further protecting the LGBTQ community from employment and housing discrimination. 

A marijuana decriminalization bill also took effect on July 1, in addition to several laws that significantly ease restrictions on abortion access in this state. 

Gun safety advocates had big wins, too, with a new "red flag" law that will restrict access to guns when individuals are deemed to be an imminent risk to themselves or others, in addition to laws requiring background checks for firearm purchases, a purchase limit of one handgun per month, and giving localities the right to restrict firearm possession on public property.

And then, as the icing on this cake of progress, the MONUMENTS OF HATE AND OPPRESSION ARE COMING DOWN. Richmond is taking down their second confederate statue in as many days, leading the way for other localities in Virginia to follow suit and do right by their communities. 

Virginia, we are heading in the right direction!

Locally, we have more good news: Democrats in Virginia's 5th Congressional District elected Dr. Cameron Webb as our nominee. He's a doctor, a lawyer, an Obama-era health policy team member, the husband of an ER physician, a dad, and an all around Good Guy. He'll face off against a terrible Trumpian, ironically named "Good," (and who allegedly stole his party's nomination in a rigged caucus) in November and I firmly believe that we are going to Flip the Fifth, once and for all.

I've been feeling a strange, unfamiliar emotion lately....I remember it, distantly, as if from another life. It's called, I think, Hope.


Even closer to home, inside our home, in fact, we've found new peace and happiness, as well. 

Peace in that we've made the firm decision to enroll our kids in "virtual school" in the fall. 

Students in our district have the option to participate in a hybrid model in which they'll attend school for several days each week, alternating between home and school in cohorts to meet social distancing requirements. We hemmed and hawed over this decision weighing the pros and cons of this hybrid model. Ultimately, we opted to keep our kids home to complete all of their schooling virtually. From a self-serving standpoint, this will help us to keep a consistent schedule, something all three of my kids (and I) benefit from greatly. But really, this seems like the socially responsible choice, too. Sam and I have the flexibility to be home with our kids and, with my background in education, we feel as though we can support their learning at home while freeing up a bit of space in the physical classrooms for kids who need in-person learning for any number of reasons.

Happiness was found in the familiar comfort of friends. We have decided to let our kids interact with a small "bubble" of kids in the neighborhood, whose families' exposure risk was similar to ours (everyone working from home, limited community interaction, etc.). Being able to run out the back door and play basketball or capture the flag or hop on bikes and cruise the neighborhood with their old buddies has been a total game-changer for my kids. They know that we might have to pull back and return to social distancing if numbers spike in our area or our state reverses course on our phased re-opening but, for now, they're making the most of togetherness while they can. 


We are far from finished with this disaster. For the first time in a long time, though, I'm seeing the light at the end of this horrific tunnel...

BTW, Black Lives Matter. Black Trans Lives Matter. Every day.

Lesson Learned:
We'll make it I swear. 

[Image: Billboard]

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Quarantine Fatigue

Yesterday was a low day. Another low day, I should say, but this one was different because for the first time in a long time, it was the kids who bore the brunt of my mood. Typically, I've been able to maintain a calm, if not quite Pollyanna, optimistic front for the kids, only to collapse into sobbing the second my sister or brother or best friend since third grade asks me how I'm doing over the phone...or as soon as I get in the shower. Have you tried a cry shower? Highly recommend it.

Yesterday though, I just couldn't hold it together. I was snappy and impatient and nitpicky and quick to react. It was the culmination of anxiety, grief, anger, and hormones (didn't we all agree that periods needed to sit the pandemic out? WTF, body?), but also, it's fatigue. I was an overtired toddler with no productive place to put my feelings so I threw a tantrum.

It didn't feel good, tantrums never do, and it required some parent-child reconciliation. My oldest cut particularly deep when he responded to my rant with, "It's not my fault that you're high strung," and it's like....True. But also? Pot/kettle, apple/tree, whatever the idiom, it's you and me both, kid.

I keep telling the kids that We Can Do Hard Things and we can and we are, but every time I say the words to the kids, I ask myself, "But for how long?"

I'm really struggling with the Unknown Endpoint here. Even when our state reopens (not anytime soon, please, Governor...we're not ready.) and things start feeling less restricted, we won't have a vaccine that will likely prevent a resurgence of the virus in the fall. Our economy won't magically rebound. Our president won't magically be a smart thinker who is well-respected among other world leaders. When will things actually be better?

I remember staring down finals week in college. I remember looking at my list of projects, papers, and exams at the end of each semester and thinking "There's no way I can get all of this done." Then I'd organize a prioritized To Do List, fill out my calendar, and pick a day after the last assignment was due to set my sights on. "In two weeks, this will all be behind me. I can do anything for just two weeks." "On May 16th, I'll get a good night's sleep."

As much as I enjoyed being pregnant, I did the same thing as I went into labor. "As hard as this gets, I can do it. By this time tomorrow, I'll be holding this baby."

I can't remember another time in my life when I didn't know, at least vaguely, when the hard part was going to be over.

And I think what really stings with this current situation is that, when this IS all over--when we're no longer watching the daily death toll creep to heart-crushing numbers, when people have returned to work and school has regained a semblance of normalcy for our kids--I'll know that all of those people who defied stay-at-home orders and swarmed beaches and restaurants because they were tired of being at home...

...and all of those people who joined angry and aggressive protests demanding that their right to a haircut and manicure be restored...

...and all of those people who yelled at grocery store employees over empty shelves...

...and all of those people who forced a mom-and-pop ice cream shop to close because they were threatening the teenagers scooping their desserts....

...all of those Trump-loving, gun-toting, science-denying, racist, hate-filled idiots...are still going to be my fellow Americans and...they're going to keep voting.

That hard part isn't going to be over for a long, long time.

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Happiest of Birthdays to our QuaranTeen

There have been so many cringeworthy moments--because not all humor ages well and because there are so many more references to sex than I remembered (luckily the "That's what she said" jokes go completely over his head)--but I am basically living my parenting dream now that I can watch The Office with Evan. Sam and I deemed The Office appropriate at 13 (based on my not-from-a-parent's-point-of-view memory of it and the fact that Sam had never seen it) but, with the pandemic and all, we blurred the specifics and let Evan start watching it a few weeks ago. It's been our nightly routine...we tuck in the younger kids and settle in for a couple of episodes before we say goodnight to our, as of today, TEENAGER.

This kid is 13!

The other day we set up our portable ping pong set on our kitchen table. We don't use it much but, like a lot of other things in our house that haven't seen the light of day since before the pandemic forced us to take another look for entertainment in our cabinets, we've been enjoying it lately. As Evan geared up to take on Max in a match, I said, "Are you Jim or Darryl?" referring to an episode we had recently watched that featured a fierce ping pong competition. "Honestly? Probably Kelly or Pam," he joked about his lack of skills.

And I LOVE that our casual banter involves Office plot references!

But also? He's neither Jim, nor Darryl, nor Kelly, nor Pam. Evan is all of the very best of Dwight. (Especially now that he's practiced enough to hold his own against me or Sam in a ping pong match!)

When we first started watching The Office, Evan didn't "get" Dwight. He didn't really get Jim, either. He thought Jim was being mean and Dwight was annoying, both of which are technically true. (Fortunately, now that we're in Season 5 and characters have been more richly developed, he's grown fond of both.) I think Dwight might hit a little close to home for Evan, though. Both Dwight and Evan are logical to an extreme degree. Both speak the whole, unblemished, honest truth. Both lack a certain awareness of when Truth should end and socially acceptable "truthiness" should take over. Both are rule-followers who like order, precision, earned respect, and hierarchies of all kinds. Both have a "FACT!" at the ready in any situation.

Both are lovable softies at their core, but neither will let you easily in to see it.

Bears. Beets. Battlestar Galactica.

Xbox. Books. World War II.

Same, same.


My oldest child is 13. My Motherhood is a teenager. I maybe should have planned better...a teenage motherhood coinciding with having recently turned 40 and a global pandemic of all things has me on an emotional roller coaster like nothing I've ever experienced before.

Not Evan, though. He's as he's always been: Steady. Unmoved, at least on the outside, by all of these new realities we're living in...both globally and personally. He is a rock. He is determined and headstrong. Seeking autonomy and independence, with an attitude and sense of humor that has definitely caught up with his Teenaged status. But he still wants us to tuck him in at night.

He's handling homeschool (insofar as we're attempting it) really well. His teachers are providing assignments (ungraded), which he's completing on his own and finishing by lunchtime. Then, the rest of the day is filled with basketball, Lego, xbox, reading, bike-riding, and generally getting along decently with his siblings (unless Max is singing....then it might get heated). He's pretty thrilled with the change, actually. A homebody with literally no interest in the social aspects of school, he's inquired about homeschool before, multiple times. I tell him the same thing every time: "Evan, you're not a candidate for homeschool. Not with me as your teacher, anyway. I can't even ask you to put away your laundry without a fight...no way am I battling with you over persuasive essays and the periodic table."

Quarantine Virtual Learning is opening my eyes a little bit. He can be motivated when there's the prize of having total control over his schedule when his assignments are completed. I'd just hate for him to miss out on all of the extras of being part of a school community...whether he thinks he wants to be a part of it or not.

At dinner the other night, he told us a story about some lunchtime shenanigans that he witnessed before quarantine. Nothing over-the-top or inappropriate, just typical 7th grade boy stuff. I asked him if he missed that kind of thing...he shrugged and offered an unusual "Maybe..." acquiescing just a bit to the possibility that I might know a thing or two about how he's feeling. Maybe he's more plugged in to the social scene in school than he lets on.

I know he gets on well with his teachers. One day in early fall I got an email from his Principal: "I was covering Evan's Language Arts class the other day and he was telling me that your family is related to a signer of the Constitution, but I forgot his name. I happen to be at the National Constitution Center in Philly and I want to see if I can find him."  I responded and, a few minutes later, received these in my inbox:

This Principal has over 900 students in her building and she remembered a conversation she had with Evan. Pretty remarkable. But not surprising. The loss of relationships with his teachers is actually what I'm most disappointed about during school closures. I just love for other adults to have an opportunity to see what a clever and interesting kid Evan is. He's a closed book, most of the time, but when he opens up and feels comfortable enough to let his guard down, it's easy to see that he's a pretty awesome person. He's funny and weird.

Super good lookin'.

He's got a steel trap memory and is quick with logic and reasoning. We were working on a virtual Escape Room challenge the other day and one of our tasks required us to do multiple currency conversions. I could not for the life of me figure out how to do it. No math computation made sense to me. He was patient with me for a few minutes but finally just sighed and said, "You just multiply this by this, subtract this, then multiply that by this." He was right, of course. 

He asked for nothing but a mini-fridge for Christmas. We supplied it with a starter set of soda. He brought little cups up to his room and, over the next few months, doled out small individual servings for himself and, occasionally Max and Molly. He'd invite Sam up for a round of Star Wars Battlefront and a dixie cup sized serving of Orange Vanilla Coke. He's a planner. Not an over-indulger.

For his birthday, we're restocking the fridge. We also bought him tickets to see his favorite comedian, who was supposed to come to town in a few weeks. It looks like we'll have to continue the birthday celebration in October, when we get to attend the rescheduled show. A year-long celebration seems to be in order for our QuaranTeen. He's certainly earned it this year.

Our Baby Whisperer.

Our straight-shooter.

Our biggest kid, who made us parents...and the big brother who Protects the Magic of childhood for his younger siblings.

(Max recently learned the Big Truths about the world. When I mentioned his new understanding in front of Evan, Max shot me a look, nodded his head toward his brother, and mouthed, "Does he know?!" Evan did such a great job playing along....not that he had to for long...)

Evan with the quick wit and crazy eyes. Evan with the nickel knowledge and all the historical trivia. Evan with the deep feelings and the brave outer shell. Evan, who knows how to push my buttons because we are so scary similar in so many ways...yet who is a complete mystery to me, revealing new layers and strengths as he grows into himself. Evan, the boy who is now...a Teenager.

Lesson Learned: 

Evan, we love you so much. Waking up this morning, knowing that there's a teenager in this house, was a bit of a gut punch for me....Teenagers are the ones who leave home. Someday soon, during this next phase of his life, we'll have to kiss our teen goodbye and watch him spread his wings and try out life on his own. Don't tell him, but that may or may not be one of the reasons we bought this house with the apartment over our unattached garage. You can fly away, babe...but maybe not so far, okay? Live out back and practice being a grownup in your own apartment, but we'll be here with a home-cooked dinner for you any time you want, okay? You bring the Orange Vanilla Coke.

A mom can dream, right?

I wish for all of your birthday wishes to come true....even if that means Xbox over homeschool all the live long day today. xoxo

Monday, April 6, 2020

Covid-19 Quarantine Diaries: Day Whatever

We should be on a plane.

I'm not sure I ever really thought we'd go, though. The odds were stacked against us from almost the start. We had tickets to Florida purchased and a house booked by the first of January. I *wanted* to spend our Spring Break lounging in a hammock next to our private pool beneath tropical palm trees, just a short drive from the beach....

...but by January 11th we were reading that the streets of Fort Lauderdale, just blocks from our rental house, were flooded with raw sewage. It was then that I began to doubt our trip. Emergency action was taken by city officials. Spring Break in Fort Lauderdale was NOT going to be cancelled! Not for us and not for the thousands of other revenue-producing tourists planning to make their way there March through May. Then more pipes burst. More local waterways were closed. Our rental company reached out. They assured us our house, pool, and beaches were unaffected. We smiled and nodded and said, "Okay, thank you. We'll stay in touch."

Then it was late January and Sam, who spends his working life watching the markets, began to plant a new seed of doubt. "Coronavirus," he said. "It's coming."

Up until the first week of March, we said, "Let's wait and see." We had a feeling that there would come a day when we would know for sure...it would be obvious that no, of course we're not traveling at a time like this! or, Sure. Why wouldn't we go? Sewage can be drained, streets can be sanitized, and the Greatest Country on Earth can stop a pandemic in it's tracks, right?

Bless our hearts.

By the end of the second week of March it was clear. There would be no Spring Break, no private pool, no palm trees...and also no fear of raw sewage flooding our streets!

It seems like ages ago that our trip was cancelled and yet we were only just scheduled to go now. Time is so surreal. Days fly by and creep at a snail's pace simultaneously.

It's been forever since the kids have been in school, hasn't it? I get emails from teachers and principals and our district superintendent and I can't even really pay attention to the content. Virtual learning? Okay, I think we'll figure it out when the time comes so the kids stay occupied...but does anyone really care about grades still? Why are we still talking about grades at a time like this?! I saw something today about opportunities to make up the 2019-2020 school year over the summer or during the next academic year. Guys....I can't look that far ahead. I have no ability to conceive of future time.

My sister asked me what I was most anxious about: "Everything." I said, not trying to be obtuse. "I just have this feeling that, when we get to the other side of this, everything is going to be different. Not knowing how it's going to be different is stressful because, up until now, I've always known the rules. The rules are changing now and I can't quite picture what the game is going to look like once the new rules are written." And it will be, right? Different? We're all being collectively changed by this. Is it that I'm afraid of the change, though, or that we won't be changed enough?

I keep thinking about a tweet I read a few weeks ago (or days ago, I really don't know...). It read:

It's almost as if Mother Nature has sent us all to our rooms
to think about what we've done.

I keep seeing images of empty streetscapes, deserted city centers...and the resulting clean air over cities usually smothered by smog. People are outside enjoying nature more...posting pictures of their kids enjoying local parks and trails. Slowing down. Baking. So much bread.

Will we remember this? Will it change anything? Will this time of collective sacrifice have been worth it? It must be.

Will we remember to recognize the workers who have kept this country running....during this pandemic but also.... always? Will we thank our grocery store employees and delivery people and others who work around the clock but behind the scenes?

Will we have greater respect (read: $$$) for the professionals that many of us are now acknowledging that we'd never want to have to permanently trade places with...teachers and nurses come to mind...

Will we someday return to shaking hands or is that becoming a thing of the past right before our eyes..."You know, when I was a kid, people used to grasp each other's hands and vigorously shake them up and down when they met!" The great-grandkids may think we're nuts. 

Will we be more appreciative of the time we spend in other people's physical company? Even the introverts among us?


Will we remember the physical, emotional, and spiritual toll this pandemic is taking on all of us and give each other and ourselves the space and grace to recover from it?

And then it hits me all over again that, while most of us will recover from this, countless will not. Literal lives lost: 68,000 deaths worldwide and America is just now bracing for true impact. The next few weeks are going to be brutal. Millions of jobs lost, businesses shuttered, dreams dashed.

We, as a species and a society, will recover. To do so, we need to maintain our footing, but with flexibility and patience. We're in a rip current. Summers spent at the Jersey Shore as a kid taught me that when you're caught in an undertow, you don't fight it. Swim with it, parallel to the shoreline. When you get out of the controlling current, then head back to shore. Take your time. Keep your head. Don't. Panic.

I watched a story on 60 Minutes last night about the owner of a NYC restaurant, Melba's. Her life as a business-owner and restauranteur has been flipped upside down. Recovery is going to be painful.

She sounded like my grandmother, though, when she smiled with peace in her eyes and said, "This too shall pass."

And it will. If you all just do what you're told and stay home. These are the rules we know for now, so follow them. 

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Covid-19 Quarantine Diaries: Day 17

Day 17

The final day of March. Tomorrow begins a new month of Pandemic Quarantine. It'll be our first full month of isolation. The first of how many?

I have been on a roller coaster for the past two weeks. Quick to cry, swinging wildly from emotion to emotion, sitting heavily in each one until a new feeling struck. I'm no longer on the roller coaster....I'm...I think it's numb. I'm no longer sinking in strong feelings of sadness or worry or fear. I have moments of happiness and calm, moments of frustration, moments of loss....I'm not really sitting in any of them, though, and am left feeling....I do think it's numb. Is this acceptance? Resignation? Survival? I don't know if this is a positive development or a step backwards.

I don't need to know. I don't know how to do this because I've never done this before, so whatever I do and however I do it is okay. This has become my mantra.

The kids are fine. We're still not homeschooling so much as we are keeping occupied. We've been doing a few things regularly which are providing some sort of structure. We signed up for three free months of Rosetta Stone. Evan had been taking Spanish this year, so I figured this would be a good way for him to keep up with what he'd learned. Max and Molly are into it as much as he is, though, so it's become our pre-lunch activity.

My brother and his partner are huge Escape Room fans. They live in Richmond and their local Escape Room has put together a Quarantine Quest. They send you a puzzle a day to solve and, if you complete all 30, you are entered to win a gift certificate to be put towards a future Escape Room experience. So fun.

Other than that, it's still just a lot of walks, a lot of 4 Square, a lot of reading, and a fair amount of laziness. We're okay.


I read headlines and blurbs and get the important bits from Sam, but I am not watching the news. (A friend sent the link to John Krasinski's SGN. I may watch that.)

I *am* watching Tiger King, though. Can we talk about this?

Image via Netflix

I mean, we're all talking about it. It's just....unreal. But there's something specific I need to say about it.

I have a confession to make: When I was in college, I got mixed up with a bunch of overachieving do-gooders. They were part of a group and wanted me to join them because I, too, was an overachieving do-gooder. It was kind of like a fraternity, only less Greek and more secret. That's all I'm going to say about that.

As part of my initiation into the group (see: like a fraternity), I, along with the rest of my class of new initiates, was asked to participate in a service project (see: overachieving do-gooders). Guys. We were brought to a (probably illegal) big cat "rescue" facility and asked to build a cougar fence. Like...a safe and secure zoo-grade enclosure...for cougars. We were not qualified to build such a fence. And yet...

There were at least two tigers on the property, probably other big cats, too. Tiger cubs were rumored to be in the house, though we didn't see them or the people living in the house while we were there.

Guys. I think I was unwittingly caught up in BIG CAT CULTURE. This was central Virginia in the early '00s...what if those people knew Doc Antle?! What if the people we were volunteering for were buying and selling big cats with JOE EXOTIC himself?! What if I hadn't been so creeped out by everything we saw and did there that day that, instead of leaving as soon as possible and never speaking about that day or my involvement in illicit cougar-fence-building (until now), I went back, continuing to volunteer until I became central Virginia's Saff or Erik?! [shudder]

I sure hope that fence held. Or that it didn't? Perhaps the hope is that we, through our inexperience and ineptitude, accidentally aided and abetted in the escape of cougars into the forests of central Virginia? Yes. I'll go with that for the good of the cats....and likelihood: It was a pretty shitty fence.

Exhale. Conscience cleared. Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.

Okay. On with the Day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Covid-19 Quarantine Diaries: Days 8-10

Art by Nella. Find it here.

Day 8

We took a long walk/bike ride today all the way to my parents' house on the other side of the neighborhood. We met them in their yard, maintaining a safe social distance from them. So weird. They were excited to show the kids a discovery they had made...a bunny burrow, just inside their fence! The top layer of grass and fur wasn't fully covering the nest, so we could see teeny little bunny ears wiggling around. Totally made our day.

Max and I took the even longer way home, along the winding trail that hugs the outside edges of the neighborhood. It was quiet and peaceful and warm and sunny. Just right. Just what we needed.

We got home and I was feeling really good. Better and more hopeful than I had been. We are going to be okay!

But I looked across the street and noticed a few neighbors congregating. Their kids forehead to forehead as they decorated the sidewalk with chalk. Sharing a basketball, shooting hoops. Standing shoulder to shoulder as they chatted. More neighbors walked down from the end of the street. I didn't speak up. I wanted to scream and yell and rage. I wanted to tell them that it's our neighbors and friends who are the nurses and doctors watching the storm approach and wondering how their hospitals will handle the enormous needs that our area is about to experience.

I wanted to scream that it's my kid who requires medicine for a chronic condition that makes him more susceptible to this virus.

I didn't say a word.

Day 9

Today was the day we found out schools will be closed for the remainder of the year. I'm not surprised, but it still feels like a blow. Maybe this will convince the neighbors to finally take this seriously?

Today was art day. We followed How To Draw tutorials on YouTube. We broke out the canvases and acrylics. We practiced hand embroidery. It was just what we needed.

I saw a tweet that read: "It's almost like Mother Nature has sent us all to our rooms to think about what we've done" This speaks to me. Karma, man. It's a bitch.

Day 10

Thank god for The Office. We're halfway through season three with Evan and watching it together at night is practically the only time we see him. He spends almost all day in his room...working on his assignments from his teachers and reading...when I go to check on him he says he's "fine" and answers questions in one-word responses. I'm worried about him. He's a bottler and a deep-feeler and prone to anxiety. We're trying to keep things light and positive, but it's scary to not know what's going on in his head. Sam reminds me that he's on the verge of 13. It's normal for teens to not want to hang around their parents all day. It's normal for teens to be moody and less-than-chatty and want to stay in their rooms even under the best of circumstances. He reminds me to follow Evan's lead here and just Be Here. It's hard. I'm trying.

Thank god for FaceTime. Both Max and Molly had FaceTime play dates with buddies from school today. They're still learning how to use it...right now it's mostly making faces at each other and giggling...which is fine...but I do hope they get comfortable enough with the technology to really stay connected with their friends.

Molly is loving the hand embroidery. I've been working on a few of my own and she asked me to make a template for her to sew a banner for her room. She's doing such a great job.

We found an interactive Carmen Sandiego show on Netflix. It's Carmen Sandiego meets Choose Your Own Adventure and it's great. You need to watch on a laptop or enabled SmartTV, but check it out.

Sam braved Costco today. He said it wasn't as bad as he thought it might be (few shoppers, plenty of stock), but it was definitely weird. There were lines on the floor to help shoppers maintain safe distances as they waited in the check out lines and the cashiers stood behind walls of plexiglass. I took this as a good sign that the store is taking necessary precautions to remain open and keep their employees safe.

When we moved into this house, we hung a Welcome sign on our porch. We immediately received a letter from our HOA instructing us to remove our "yard sign." I wrote back saying there must be some mistake...we don't have a "yard sign," only "porch art." We've been exchanging letters ever since. I'm not taking the sign down. It's unobtrusive and inclusive.

Today felt like a good day to add another work of art. It was made by Nella and posted for download by her mom Kelle.

I think we'll keep adding art. It feels like a good way to be subversive right now.

Guys. I can't keep up with your lesson plans. I know it's not my job to, but damn. I am hanging on by a thread over here. Keep posting your lessons and your ideas and your successes and your perfect homeschool routines because I'm sure they're inspiring someone but I need to keep scrolling past them. It's too much for me right now.

Evan's math teacher sent a super supportive email to her students and their parents this week. It acknowledged that the news of no more school for the year hits everyone differently and it hit her pretty hard. She linked to some activities for the kids to work on if they're bored and looking for something to do. Then she said, "Be strong and do what is asked of you at home. Some of you won't be able to do school work because you have to babysit and that is alright. Do what your family needs you to do - and do it happily!"

I am so freaking grateful for this message. First, it reassures students that there is so much more to life than 7th grade math right now. Also, it's a great perspective to share with *those* parents (you know the ones) who have probably been emailing her asking for more work so their kids don't fall behind. How nice for them that 7th grade math is the biggest of their concerns right now. How fucking nice.

Guys. The social/economic/academic divides that already exist in our community are going to be significantly and devastatingly widened by this pandemic. I am heartbroken and angry and I just really needed to hear those words from this fantastic teacher. Everyone needs to wake up to community priorities...not individual priorities, but WHAT IS BEST FOR THE COMMUNITY...each and every member of it.

Everything is hard and weird and stressful and unknown. We've never done this before so it's okay to not know what to do. If you consider each decision you make in terms of what's best for the most people, though, you'll probably do the right thing in the long run.

Everything is going to be okay.

Follow along on Instagram for more photos of our days: @skh.4102