Tuesday, March 31, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 16

Grey Skies and the DSL Dies

Today stretched our collective patience. All four of us were home, the weather was cold and damp, we all had work to do, and there wasn't enough connectivity and square footage to keep all of us off each other's nerves and out of each other's space.

As evidence, I offer up to you the various post titles I considered throughout the day:

  • Bandwidth Struggles IRL
  • IXL Can Kiss My Ass
  • In Need of Better Soundproofing
  • In Defense of Day-Drinking

The day started with a Jury Summons notice for me in the mailbox, a "you're out of Mobile Hotspot data for April" text message (it's still MARCH), and a glitchy router. I ordered pajama pants off Amazon because mine could probably walk on their own at this point, and then immediately felt guilty for endangering Amazon workers and small businesses everywhere because I was too lazy to put on real clothes. Sam melted down when I woke him up 30 min later than he'd written on his schedule, again when he remembered that he'd left his guitar at his Dad's, and repeatedly again over dividing fractions as he tried to teach himself 6th grade math online. Both kids refused to eat the homemade chicken noodle soup I'd made in the Crockpot for them and settled for hot dogs. I couldn't find a lid to fit the Gladware container I'd put the leftovers in. Michael got booted from his VPN with the State of MI in the middle of his workday. My seniors are distraught over the loss of their senior year, and I don't know how to console them. My attempts to conference with an AP Lit student to give feedback over an essay ended in a dropped Zoom and no audio. Prime Video wouldn't play the yoga video. Helena saw a stink bug corpse in her room. Katniss scratched all the whiskers off her face again. Dobby is depressed because he can't see and his nails are too long.

We are tired of being stuck in this house and of the grey skies, y'all.

But the afternoon brightened, a bit. I took the dog for a cold, damp walk. Sam got his guitar back. We were able to reset the DSL. When I clicked into T-Mobile's website, I saw that they were offering 20 GB (10 GB/month) of free Hotspot Data for the next 60 days. Sam was able to be part of a Zoomed surprise birthday party for one of his friends; they laughed and sang, and he played guitar and they danced around their living rooms. Helena started a book report and put her laundry away. I made bread.

And today, I successfully did a chaturanga (mostly) without flopping like a fish.

This shelter-in-place is a great test of our resilience, flexibility, and patience. It's hard to stay positive in the face of so much unknown. But I do know that we have our health, our home, and each other. As long as my liver makes it, we will come out of this stronger as individuals and as a family.

And the weather report says that sunshine and warmer temps will be here in just a few more days.

Monday, March 30, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 15

To Educate or Not to Educate? That is the Question

Ever since schools in Michigan closed with very little warning 2 weeks ago, the question on everyone's mind (besides which stores have toilet paper in stock) is if our schools will ever re-open. Now, according to a Bridge article just released, that's all she wrote, folks. School is probably definitely maybe closed. Of course, there may still be online options, graded or not, required or not, adequate or not. At this point, my own district is anticipating moving to online course delivery on April 13. But no one knows what this will actually look like. (I am personally quite curious as to how I'll teach Public Speaking via Social Distancing, as one of my five preps.) There are many kinks to work out and more questions than answers at this point.

On social media, the endless questions circle like buzzards over roadkill.

Why is my district not providing online instruction right now? Why aren't they doing something?

Why is my district demanding that students attend online classes right now? Why do they think I can work from home and homeschool?

Why are the teachers doing nothing? What are they even getting paid to do right now?

Why are the teachers requiring so much? Why does any of this even matter if the world is ending?

Why is my district not communicating daily?

Why does my district send out so many damn emails?

Why are my kids' teachers calling my house? 

Why haven't my kids' teachers called me? 

Personally, I've been holding office hours daily, for my English 3 and AP Lit students who want to come to "class." I've created assignments, uploaded links, found podcasts, recorded videos, brainstormed activities. Less than 10% of my students are showing up. I've got some questions, too.

We're used to our schools providing us a sense of normalcy. We're used to our schools having all of the answers, even if we bash them constantly for not solving all of society's ills. When everything else seemingly falls to pieces, we can send out kids off to school. We know that the teachers will show up whether we like them or not; that the kids will be fed even if they hate the food; that there will be toilet paper in at least one of the stalls.

And now? Now we just don't know. And neither do our schools. And neither does our Governor, the Michigan Department of Education, or our teachers' unions.

And even though I have 24 years of teaching experience and my doctorate in ed tech, I just don't know either.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 14

The New Normal

We are all trying to figure out what normal is. We are all trying to create some sort of normal in our homes, in our days, in our schedules. 

But none of this is normal. 

It's not normal for me to wear pajama pants to Meijer. It's not normal for me to watch Tiger King. It's definitely not normal for me to consider trying to give the dog a haircut with the kitchen scissors so that he can see.

And most importantly, it is not normal for me to dust. 

Today, I wore pajama pants to the grocery store. I watched several episodes of Tiger King. I did not give the dog a haircut with the kitchen scissors. Yet.

I dusted the living room. I also cleaned the ceiling fan.

None of this is normal.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 13

The Ultimate Guide for Choosing a Hallmark Movie

Now, hear me out. I know that you are already yelling, ''But they are all so WHOLESOME!" and I agree and raise with the problematic issue that they are also so very WHITE, CIS, and STRAIGHT. Yes, I get it. These are problems, and if we ever get to leave the house again, I propose we pool our fat government checks and start our own movie channel that represents all of us, not just the white, cis, straight, 32-year old demographic. But we have to set that dream aside, for now, and play the hand we've been dealt.

Unlike a book, you can most definitely judge a Hallmark movie by its cover. 

These are the criteria to avoid, because the movie will be trite, awful, and must be paired with 80 proof vodka in order to be watchable. 

1. The word "Home" or "Homecoming" in the title
This is always a sign of a plot that will not end well for our leading lady. If the word "Home" is in the title, our lady has a thriving career or a fantastic job offer on the line in a large city surrounded by vibrant colleagues. However, she must return home for the holidays, save the family business, fall in love with the maintenance man, and decide to give up her damn career in order to move again to podunk America and live happily ever after, throwing away every chance she'll ever have of wearing nice shoes again. The word "Home" must be avoided.

2. The word "Wedding" is in the title
No. Don't watch it. Please. It's either an attempt to recreate chemistry and write a sequel to a previous Hallmark movie (there's not enough plot there, I promise, no matter how great the first movie was), or it's a plot full of senseless drama around a wedding that the bride and groom shouldn't be planning because they've only been together for 6 months and maybe they should just get a puppy instead.

3. A musician or athlete trying to cross over into acting
There is a very good chance that they cannot act, and it will be very painful to watch them try. The supporting cast, however, will be fantastic, but will ultimately not be able to create chemistry with a wooden board.

4. Dolly Parton
I love Dolly Parton. But her presence in the movie is just gratuitous. And she's not acting. She's just being Dolly. So if you love Dolly and you want to see some Dolly, then go for it. But the movie would be better without trying to write a story in which she fits.

5. A child
This one could go either way. The child always adds cuteness, a dilemma, and a chance for the actors to interact with more than each other. But the child's other parent is dead. The child is sad. The parent is sad. And it is ultimately a story about rescuing someone who is sad. That's not really a love story. That's just sad. If only the parent could just be divorced, the dad living down the street in a duplex: this would be a better story. But, divorce is not a possible plot feature in a Hallmark movie. (Let's add divorce to our post-Coronacation movie channel dream list.)

6. Santa 
Gratuitous Santa is like Gratuitous Dolly Parton. You can have a friendly janitor without him being Santa. In fact, without Santa being there, magically saving the day, the movie would be BETTER. Let the characters save the day! And more often than not, only the poor motherless child (see item #5) can see Santa, which gives us a weird "I see dead people" vibe that just adds to the tragedy.

BUT NEVER FEAR! Because there are some criteria that almost guarantee a great movie ahead, easily enjoyed with a glass of wine and some popcorn.

1. An actress from a 90's sitcom
No matter what character she plays, she will convince you that her character is equally competent and insecure. She is cute, but not so gorgeous to force you to eat shredded cheese straight from the bag out of self-pity. She will be self-effacing, but also intelligent, and she will convince you that that guy's haircut isn't as bad as you first thought. You will root for this leading lady. You believe in her dreams.

2. Meghan Markle
I love her. You will, too. That is all. Just please don't tell the Hallmark Channel that she is not white.

3. Chef Aprons
Chef aprons in the promo photo means that there will be a struggling restaurant or unemployed chef. But that's okay. Because struggling restaurants and unemployed chefs give us great banter about and around food, and a chance for our couple to experience chemistry-chemistry. They can touch hands while reaching for the basil. They can knead the dough, which is way sexier than making clay pots with a dead guy.

4. An actor that looks like Patrick Dempsey but isn't
I don't know what it is about Patrick Dempsey look-alikes, but they are in the best Hallmark movies, and you must watch them.

5. Mariah Carey
Not only will the very strange soft-focus camera lens add an artsy factor, but this girl is actually pretty funny. Why is she in a Hallmark movie? We may never know. (Actually, she produced it.) But she adds a quirkiness to this weird movie, that also stars an actress from a 90's sitcom and an actor that looks like Patrick Dempsey but isn't.

6. A dog
This final criteria, the dog, is the penultimate item to guarantee a great Hallmark movie. It adds the cuteness of a child, without the presence of a dead parent. It adds the chemistry connections of the chef aprons, without the mess of all that flour. And, with a dog, you can go on hikes in the woods, play at the dog park, share custody, and smile. Dogs remind us that we can someday go outside again, and play in the park, and fall in love.

Friday, March 27, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 12

The "Grocery Shopping for Dummies" Episode

Look, I get it. It's a dangerous world out there, and we all need to do our very best to keep ourselves, our loved ones, and our communities safe. And I get that we all need to go to the store to get things from time to time. I've ended up at Meijer, Quality Dairy, and Aldi all within the last 7 days.  (By the way, if you need bagels, I accidentally hoarded them. I didn't mean too...I forgot that I'd bought them. Twice. I have a lot of bagels.) But what I don't get is why common sense and general awareness of others and a sense of one's own physical dimensions in the universe seemingly flies out the door in the presence of a grocery cart. 

So, in order to keep us all sane, here are a few basic grocery shopping guidelines.

1. There is a 6 foot rule: try to keep 6 feet between you and everyone else, for safety. Many grocery aisles are not much wider than 6 feet. So, this means that everyone needs to KEEP MOVING. Now is not the time to inspect the ingredients of each box, get out your calculator to figure per-ounce pricing, compare the packaging photos, and google for recipes whilst standing in aisle 7. If you stop moving to read the calorie information of the Stove Top Stuffing, the entire store HAS TO STOP. We can't pass you. We can't back up. We're trapped there, next to the breadcrumbs, unable to move forward until you make up your mind.

2. When in the produce section, I get that you have to squeeze the avocados. Too hard will eventually be okay; too soft is a disaster. But you know what you don't have to squeeze? Every apple. Every single goddamn Pink Lady apple. You do not have to pick each one up, inspect it, and then put it back. You're in a medical mask, Karen, because you don't want to get sick. And yet you have touched 356 apples while we've all just stood here, patiently waiting. Please buy some apples. In fact, buy all of them, because YOU TOUCHED ALL OF THEM. But please, PLEASE just make up your mind and MOVE.

3. If you are shopping with your significant other, although it is great that you can do this together, please be aware of the fact that you are two distinctly separate bodies. And if you decide to shop both sides and all directions simultaneously in the frozen food aisle, you keep all the rest of us bobbing and weaving and desperately trying to distance ourselves without ping-ponging off of the others in the aisle while you plan your dinners together. Maybe just move together as one unified unit, so as to save the rest of us the stress of having to swerve to avoid you, like a couple of insane squirrels.

4. Quit buying ALL the toilet paper. You've got two loaves of bread, a gallon of milk, a pound of hamburger, 4 cans of soup, and 36 rolls of toilet paper in your cart. Unless you are planning to eat it for lunch, you will not use 36 rolls this week. You are going to run out of Franzia long before you run out of toilet paper, and you will be back in the store in a week. Leave a roll or 12 for someone else.

5. And finally, when in the liquor aisle? Who are you kidding? Just buy all of it. Just swoop, grab, and drop it all in the cart as you walk slowly by. You don't even have to come to a complete stop. Don't worry about brands and genres. Just buy a variety. Otherwise, you'll have to hit QD and the liquor store on Monday.


Thursday, March 26, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 11

Cheez-Its. It's What's for Dinner.

It's not that we're out of food.

It's that we just no longer care.

We have apples and pears in the fridge; there are cans of soup and chili in the pantry (all beans no meat and all meat no beans); there is pasta and rice in the cupboard, and a bag of chicken nuggets in the freezer that no one will eat. Yesterday, I made beer brats and mushroom soup/rice. Today, I made a lasagna, kinda. The kids didn't touch either meal. They were already full, from eating lunch at 4.

I tried valiantly, the first few days, to enforce an eating schedule that made sense. But, snacks.
I tried valiantly, the first few days, to serve meals that were homemade, nutritious, and balanced.

But it is the Coronapocalypse, and we all have slowly realized that we might never leave the house again. We've already stopped brushing our hair. I haven't put on eye-liner in a week. It doesn't matter. No one will see us, and if they do, it will be from at least two yards away. A century from now, they will find us, ashen like the corpses at Pompeii, bloated Weeble bodies buried under a mountain of empty wine bottles and toilet paper rolls.

Tomorrow, I will probably have to make a run to the grocery store. Don't worry; we're not out of food or toilet paper. But we are out of wine, vodka, bourbon, and decent beer. This is a grocery emergency if I've ever seen one. I still won't put on eye-liner or brush my hair, but I might put on mascara and a hat. And while I'm there, wandering the empty aisles and actively not touching my face, I'll search fruitlessly for foods that my family might someday decide to eat, once the Cheez-Its are gone.
Our Household Food Pyramid

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 10

The Day the Sun Came Out

Three things happened today: First, I legit got to leave the neighborhood because I had physical therapy. Second, a piece I wrote while working on my doctorate was published today. But most importantly, today the sun came out!

We've been working hard to get out of the house, take lots of walks, get fresh air, and generally not dissolve into mashed potatoes on the couch. But, with both of us working from home and a full pantry (and a box of wine), we haven't had a legitimate excuse to leave. Today, however, I drove out of the driveway, guilt-free, and went to PT. The physical therapist complimented my leggings. I didn't tell her that I'd worn them now for three days in a row. On my way back from PT, I stopped by Quality Dairy to get cash and a giant Diet Coke. It tasted like heaven. As Tom Keifer so eloquently penned, "Don't know what you got (till it's gone)."

And what's been gone for a long, long time around here (besides bars and restaurants and face-to-face conversations and schools and gyms and some semblance of a schedule) is the sun. If you drew a line between the 12th least sunny city in the US and #25 on the list of US cities that get the least sun. our house would be dead in the middle. The center of MIchigan is dark and gloomy and everyone has SAD and is generally sad.

But today, the sun came out.

Today felt like spring. It was 50 degrees and gorgeous. The water sparkled like it had been glitter-bombed. All of the bulbs suddenly shot through the dead and decaying leaves. The trees budded. The birds sang. The fat daddy robins strutted their stuff. And everyone was outside. You can tell that we've all been cooped up for a bit, and that we're all going slightly insane.

There was the biker couple riding bikes: the man with his handlebar mustache and long grey hair flying in the wind as he yelled, "my legs hurt! Let's go up this hill!" and his lady friend called out to me, "hello, person! Hello, person's dog!"

Walking past the house on the corner, I see a man, wearing a protective mask, holding a pickaxe. I try not to stare.

In the next yard, a tree full of birds, alive with an orchestra of sound. Two yards later, three kids and a dad, all in shorts and t-shirts, barefoot, hanging Easter eggs from the trees with bright ribbons. Walking by, a couple in fur-lined parkas. Swerving around them, a child on a bike wearing winter boots and a t-shirt. And racing by me, a fit runner in a sports bra and short shorts.

Today, I planted the bulbs and I took down the candy canes and the metal snowman in the front flower bed. I dug the flower whirligig and the glass gazing ball out of the shed and stuck them emphatically through the dead leaves and into the earth.

Today, the clouds cleared. 

And we went outside, staggering slightly in the blinding sun. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 9

The Episode Where We Basically Did Nothing and Didn't Know What Day it Was

Remember when we had all that time and energy and didn't know what to do with it all? That was, like, days ago. We wrote lists and we had dreams and we set goals and we made plans. 

But now we are under the "Stay Home, Stay Safe" Executive Order and people keep speculating that we'll be like this until June (please, gods, no) and there really seems to be no pressing need to do anything much at all. If I don't get it done today? Meh. There's always tomorrow. Or next Thursday.

Today I started with plans. I made a list. I planned to plant some flower bulbs I'd impulse-bought when I spent my entire paycheck at Meijer over the weekend. I also planned to dust--which, if you know me, is crazy talk. I planned to finally hook up of the stereo (unhooked since the great kitchen remodel of 2018); I planned to walk around the lake, fold the laundry, and make a deliciously nutritious meal.

Instead, I reread the two chapters I'd gotten through but immediately forgotten in the last lit book I picked up; I watched a movie in order to prepare for the class discussion tomorrow; I zoomed a yoga video for a friend and she and I and my daughter attempted to yoga in our respective living rooms; I took a nap; I made pizza for dinner; I went for a walk. I did some things. But the things I had planned to do? I did not do them. 

My daughter also asked for a checklist for the day. At the end of the day, I asked her to summarize what she did. Her answer: 

I woke up.
I don't remember what I did after that.
Then I zoomed online with my social studies teacher.
Then I arted.
Then I read for a bit?
We ate something.
Then I went outside, I think.
Now I'm sitting here.

I think, after the kids go to bed, that I might fold the laundry. I'll probably do the dishes. I might throw the tennis ball for the dog.

But I am definitely not going to hook up the stereo or plant bulbs or dust. I can always do that tomorrow. Or Thursday. Or maybe next week.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 8

Zoom Zoom Zoom

We knew it was coming. We just weren't sure when. But it happened today. The "Stay home, Stay safe" Executive Order was issued by Governor Whitmer. Starting at midnight tonight, the State of Michigan becomes a "Shelter in Place" state.

So what does this mean? Zoom, Zoom, and so much Zoom. 

I've Zoomed a lot in the past, having completed my doctorate online and attended weekly classes in Zoom. And I used Zoom all last week to hold class with my AP Lit students. And now, because of the Executive Order, the kids are Zooming their music lessons. 

When I set up the music lessons through Okemos Music Academy, it only made sense that the kids had lessons at the same time. Monday nights, Sam has piano and Helena has voice. Wednesday nights, Sam has guitar and Helena has piano. What makes sense F2F (face-to-face) becomes a lot harder when we can't leave the house. Problem 1, Zoom takes a lot of bandwidth; Problem 2, our house is not very big. Problem 3, it is also decidedly not soundproof. 

But I am a problem solver. 

I set Sam up at the piano with my geriatric Chromebook and connected him to the wifi. We apologized profusely to his piano teacher for making his ears bleed with our horribly out-of-tune piano, figured out how to prop the Chromebook so that the teacher could see Sam's hands, and his lesson began.

Helena was banished to the basement with my newer Chromebook and my phone. We connected her to my hotspot, apologized profusely to her voice teacher for making his ears bleed with the loud piano playing banging through the ceiling, and her lesson began.

And then I escaped out the door, to walk the dog around the block repeatedly in relative silence. Michael disappeared upstairs, I assumed to cover his head with a pillow and attempt to nap. And 30 minutes later, it was all over. 

Tomorrow, I will Zoom yoga with a friend, Helena will Zoom her social studies class, and I will Zoom with students. By the end of this Coronacation, Zoom will be verbed just like Google, and will forever after be an understood word accepted and spoken all over the world, (except by the Académie française).

Drink tonight, my friends, for tomorrow we Zoom.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 7

The Mysteries of Kitty Litter and Exploding Kitchens

Today I tackled two things I'd been putting off: grocery shopping and cleaning out the fridge.

First, I braved the grocery store. I hadn't been in two weeks, choosing to do the emergency liquor and hot dog runs to Rite Aid instead. But the grocery list had grown too long and random for Rite Aid. It was time to brave Meijer. Surprisingly, I was able to find almost everything I needed, save 3 things: yeast, a thermometer, and cat litter.

I knew that the thermometer would be tricky. I also know there's one around here in the house somewhere. I had it recently, 'cause I had to use it on my cat when she was under the weather. (Don't worry, I bought a package of those plastic sheath things.) But now I can't find the cat-butt thermometer, and Michael is positive that, if any of us actually spiked a fever, we would never know, if we don't have a thermometer. I argued that it's pretty obvious when you are running a fever, and I can actually tell in both of my kids just by looking at them. But then he launched into a long story about this one time when he had a fever of 103 but no other symptoms (which I then pointed out would not actually be a sign of COVID-19), but he was adamant: we needed a thermometer, STAT. So, I dutifully put "thermometer" on the grocery list. along with everyone else in the state who is on Team Michael.

I also knew that yeast would be tough to find, having been warned about the shortage already on Facebook. But really, Michigan? Are all y'all really out there baking vast quantities of bread? I've made my own bread for years, but I am not aware of a single other person out there who doesn't buy store-bought bread. What ya gonna do with all that yeast, Michigan?

The missing item that caught me off guard, though, was kitty litter. I guess I shouldn't have been surprised, because kitty litter is kinda like toilet paper...kinda. But then I started to wonder...who was using all of that kitty litter? And for what purpose?

When I got home, I figured I might as well tackle cleaning out the fridge before I put the groceries away.  I emptied all the items out of the fridge, and threw away the random packets of Arby's Sauce and of all of the stuff that was expired or we hadn't touched in years (is baking soda normally supposed to be hard? and when was the last time I was in Europe? because that was when I bought that truffle salt...) I then pulled out all of the shelves and washed down the inside of the fridge and started washing the shelves in the sink.

And that was when it happened: The large bottom shelf exploded as I was holding it. I didn't knock it on anything, and there wasn't a brutal temperature change, nothing to cause the shatterproof glass to completely...shatter. I was just standing in the middle of the kitchen with the shelf in one hand while I argued with Sam about Pop Tarts..and then the shelf exploded. And it went everywhere. There was glass on me, glass on the counter, glass on the floor, glass on the kitchen table, glass in the living room, glass on the stairs, glass in my water glass, glass in the stand mixer. Glass flew a good 15 feet in every direction. It crackled, as all of the larger chunks continued to snap, crackle, and pop long after the initial explosion, some pieces periodically jumping off the counter like popcorn kernels popping.

So, if you are out there and suddenly realized that you had purchased yeast  before you remembered that you don't actually know how to make bread, or you accidentally got confused and bought kitty litter instead of toilet paper and need to make a trade, just let me know. 'Cause I have lots of TP left from my monthly Amazon order and would be happy to make a trade. If you do come over, though, make sure you wear shoes. Because I have a feeling we will be discovering pieces of the refrigerator shelf throughout our house for quite awhile.

Tomorrow, I tackle cleaning the living room. Stay tuned for the adventure. Who knows, maybe I'll even find the thermometer.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 6

In Search of a Fresh Start 

On December 1, 2019, I broke my ankle. I was on day 1.064 of a #runstreak, having put in 2,365 miles over almost 3 years. But I was also dreadfully overweight and out of shape, even with all of the running, and I knew that I needed to build muscle and flexibility. I was trying to branch out and learn new skills, and unfortunately they broke me before I mastered them. Fast-forward to now, 3 1/2 months later. I've put on another 15 lbs, and lost what fitness I had. It's time to press reset, and gain back the fitness I've lost (and lose some of the weight I've gained).

I had started to tone up and gain strength over the last 6 weeks by swimming everyday, but then the closings began. With the Y closed and no access to physical therapy, I'm on my own with this thing. So, here goes. It's time for a fresh start. What better time to change it up and take control, then during a pandemic when we've lost control of pretty much everything else in our lives? I've got 3 weeks (or more, god forbid) to start new habits and work on a new me. 3 weeks, 3 challenges. Bring it on.

Challenge #1: Regain the ability to walk without limping, wincing, or generally whinging.

Challenge #2: Regain the ability to do chaturanga without flopping on the ground like a fish.

Challenge #3: Regain an abdominal muscle and find a core somewhere under the muffin top.

I started this week by vowing to walk at least two miles each day. This should be a no-brainer, a time to escape the dishes and the never-ending mountain of laundry, and get outside into the fresh air. Plus, I can walk the dog and get some sunshine. Win/Win! 

I also started rebuilding a yoga practice this week. I found a free yoga series on Amazon Prime, "30 Days of Yoga to a New You." The instructor is ridiculously perky with abs that don't quit, but she breaks down each pose with each muscle that needs to be engaged, and she is easy to follow for beginners and returners. Plus, each video is only about 22 minutes long. Totally doable. 

And finally, I decided to revisit my favorite workout video: "6 week 6-pack" with Jillian Michaels. This video is HARD, but the routine repeats 15 minutes in, it's low-impact, and it definitely builds core strength. I've done this video series off and on for years, and always appreciate how HARD it is, but also how doable it is and how the results are almost immediate. Stronger core, here I come!

By the end of these 3 weeks, I want to be able to comfortably walk around the lake (4.5 miles) every morning, be able to do a full sun salutation A and B, and complete a 30 minute core workout video. It's like a New Year's Resolution, but with fewer fireworks and champagne, and more social distancing.

Today was the end of week 1. This was how it went today.

I started with the yoga. I'm on Day 3 of the 30 days video, having repeated a couple of the days to build strength, and taking a day off because of the god-awful shin splints (more on that later). Today, we spent an ungodly amount of time in chair pose. But I've got quads, so I can do this. Plus, the stretch in the ankle mirrors the PT stretches I'm supposed to be doing, so I can check that off the PT list for the day! All went well until I had to chaturanga again. Yeah, not so much. Still flopping like a fish. And then moving into downward facing dog? Let's just say that I climb to my feet more like a toddler than like a graceful pup. But I finished day 3, and completed a very awkward Warrior 1.

Things took a turn for the worst during burpee time in the core workout video. I can march, I can squat, I can even crunch. But burpee? I literally cannot. By the end of the first sequence (15 min in), I had to barrel roll to try to transition from long-lever crunches back to standing. It wasn't pretty. It took about 15 seconds. That's okay, though, because it got me out of 15 seconds of caterpillar planks, a move that sounds much prettier than it looks. I'm not sure I actually pulled off any of the actual moves. But I did move for 15 minutes, so I'm gonna call that a win.

And then it was time to walk. I wanted to conquer the lake and I enlisted Michael to journey with me. (He was game, because he was actively avoiding going for a run.) Walking this week has been tough; I gave myself terrible shin splints by trying to do all the physical therapy exercises at home, and every step has been painful. But, I've been stretching and icing and elevating and doing all of the recovery things, and it was time to tackle the long walk. The sky was MEH and the temperature was BRRR, and my fastest pace is S L O W, but I bundled up my bloated potato body like the kid from A Christmas Story and we tackled the long walk. For the first mile, the pain in my foot was so severe, that I had to concentrate on every muscle and every step to make sure that I wasn't limping. And then I realized that I was short of breath because I was holding my breath. But still, we walked, and we chatted about the history of the area and the architecture of the houses and the absurdities of the current situation.

At 2 miles in, the sun came out. At 3 miles in, the pain was generally gone. (At 4 miles in, I really had to pee.) But we made it. All the way around the lake. It took forever, and my ankle is now the size of a grapefruit, but we made it. And along the way, we saw some signs that spring might eventually get here. Soon, there will be turtles sunning themselves in the marshes, and the cobra chickens will be chasing us off the road, and there will be leaves on the trees and it will be safe to go back to work and gather in crowds and march in parades and do sun salutations and someday, eventually, it will be safe to run.

Friday, March 20, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 5

When The Bars and Restaurants Are All Closed

It's our Friday night tradition: dinner out with Tracy at a locally-owned pub, usually Blue Gill Grill or the Mayfair, while the kids begrudgingly put their electronics away during the meal and then tune us out during the pints before and after. It's always been this way. Dinner @ 5:30, arranged by text message. Kids dragged along, rolling their eyes. But it's tradition. It's what we do.

Now the bars and restaurants are all closed. 

I had planned to cook something at home, and then drive up to the Mayfair to tip out their front of the house staff with what we would have normally spent on a weekend. But 5:30 hit and I was hungry. The idea of spending another half hour or hour trying to cook something that anyone in the family would like was daunting. I didn't have the energy or emotional stamina to do it again.

 I called in an order to go. Kelly (the bartender) took the order and recognized my voice right away. The 25 minute quote time extended to 45 minutes as the kitchen was slammed and the phone was ringing off the hook. It was all okay, though. Seeing her as we picked up the food and chatted a bit (no more than 5 people allowed inside at a time) was nostalgic, like we hadn't seen each other in years, and not simply just a few days. We talked about how things used to be; about how things would be again, soon...we hoped. We left an envelope of cash for the waitstaff and bartenders, asking that it will be passed out by the owner with paychecks. 

We took our food home, and ate it at the kitchen table. The kids didn't even try to bring electronics to the table this time. They also lingered a bit after we were done eating instead of rushing back upstairs and putting the earbuds back in. And then they wandered off, and I read, and folded laundry, and emptied the dishwasher, and thought about how different the pace is, suddenly. 

The brakes have been applied, and everything has slowed to frame-by-frame instead of real time. My sister Katie called it "The slowing down to what is essential, primary, necessary..." For most of the week, I've been trying to hold the panic at bay, knowing that I cannot control the unknown, refusing to speculate about all of the what-ifs, and trying to help others process their own rising anxiety. And I know that my own anxiety will rise again, throughout the coming days and weeks, as I try to figure out how to regroup and get back all that we are losing. 

But tonight, I also can see that, with this tremendous change, comes a tremendous gain. A chance to slow down to what is essential, primary, necessary.

So, order a meal from your locally owned favorite place. Tip the waitstaff as if you were there. Take a deep breath. Take it all in. These are strange, strange days, but they are days, nonetheless. Maybe we can learn to cherish them, even while we strain and hope that they will be over soon, and we can get back to normal.

Photo by John Baker on Unsplash

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries: Episode 4

The One Where She Refuses to Suffocate 

I fell back asleep after Michael got up at 5:30 (to get ready to work from home) and I dreamed that I was trapped. I was lying on my back, Michelangelo-style, trying to screw sagging ceiling boards back into the joists, to keep the ceiling from falling. Each screw tightened the boards and closed the gaping sags between them. And yet, sandwiched between the deck of the scaffolding and the ceiling, I began to sweat. Some of the boards were sagging so badly that insulation layers were exposed above. It was hot, and dark, and frustrating. I wasn't exactly scared, but I was itchy, disconcerted, uncomfortable, claustrophobic, and mad. And I was goddamn determined to beat this sagging ceiling, one joist at a time.

I woke up, too warm, feeling suffocated by the too-heavy feather bed and ready for coffee, even if it was still dark outside. I checked the breaking news updates, the Facebook notifications, the emails. I checked the number of cases. I wrote lesson ideas for my classes. I finished a book. I got the kids up. I made breakfast. I held class. I wrote emails to all of the parents. I wrote a poem. I emptied the dishwasher. (I did not clean out the refrigerator.) I checked the number of cases.

I'm used to being active, to being on the go all the time. The kids and I have so many activities after school that we are always constantly in motion. Derby practice and baseball practice and Boy Scouts  and Girl Scouts and alternative ed and Taekwondo and physical therapy and choir concerts and band concerts and guitar and piano and voice. Every night there are several places to be. There is a purpose. 3 months of severely limited mobility has taken its toll on my weight, and on my physical sense of self. But access to the pool at the Y has kept me sane since I was cleared to put 50% weight on my ankle eight weeks ago. 

Now the gyms are closed. Physical therapy is cancelled. All of the kids' sports are postponed indefinitely. Everything has screeched to a halt, without much warning. I try to write, to find humor in the ridiculousness of the day. I try to do yoga in my living room, try to regain strength and mobility. I try to find excuses to walk outside in the rain. It's cold, but the dog needs a walk. It's wet, but I "need" to buy wine. I could drive, but I want the exercise. I could give up, throw in the towel, put down the drill, let the ceiling fall, but I refuse to suffocate.

I laugh as I fall out of plank repeatedly and my child's pose resembles a Quonset hut more than a peaceful child. I teach my daughter how to make homemade whipped cream and fresh strawberry sauce. We eat breakfast for dinner. I check the number of cases. I check my email. I check the number of reads on my blog posts. I check the breaking news. I check my notifications. I call my mom. I text my dad. I pour a glass of wine. I stretch and ice my ankle. I check the number of cases. 

I straighten the too-heavy feather bed. I turn down the heat. I pour a glass of wine. I pour my kids into bed. I check the number of cases. 

I write a blog post. I try to keep it light. It turns out pretty dark.

I post it anyway. 

I let the dog out. I stand outside in the rain.

I refuse to suffocate. 

I will beat this sagging feeling. 

One plank at a time.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries: Episode 3

The One Where Texting Destroys All Attempts at Communication

Part of the torture of social distancing is the lack of face-to-face communication. It's nearly impossible to read tone in a text message, and it's often way too complicated and way too disjointed to have any soft of meaningful conversation. 

Disclaimer: I HATE talking on the phone. Hate it. I'm really bad at it. But, it turns out that I am also really, really bad at texting. And so is everyone else. Autocorrect is not our friend. 

So far today, I've introduced myself to my daughter's teacher as "Jeremiah g," had to Google what a "chelate" was, fed a vegetarian chicken noodle soup, and texted the babysitter about "surprise sex." I can't even make this up.

Speaking of educational endeavors, if you are like me, you've heard the word "chelate" before, but not known what it was. So, I googled it (like a life-long learner), and learned that a chelate is: 

  1. a compound containing a ligand (typically organic) bonded to a central metal atom at two or more points.

This definition does not at all explain what is then meant by the following text message...

When I asked for clarification, there was a very confusing back and forth that eventually needed a screenshot before I learned that chelate actually was supposed to be "chocolate." Which, I might add, I never did get to sample. 

She did get to sample the chicken noodle soup in the Crock-Pot, however. 

But the winner winner chicken (soup) dinner text of the day is offered below, without further anticipation or explanation.


 TL;DR: if the Coronavirus doesn't destroy our civilization, communicating via text message most certainly will.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries: Episode 2

The "Nothing to See Here, Everything is Normal" Edition

It's hard to know what the right thing to do is in situations that we've literally never faced before. How do I meaningfully explain to my kid that I guess I"m okay with him being outside riding bikes with his best friend, but not okay with them being in the house? Fresh air and exercise and the limited friend group are probably okay, but closer quarters are not? There are so many rules and so many precautions and finding the rules that feel right for us (and for the community as a whole) is a continuously moving target. It was okay to eat out at our "home away from home" bar over the weekend. It was not okay to eat out yesterday. It was okay to swim at the Y yesterday. All gyms in the State of Michigan are closed today.

Meanwhile, Ivanka is helpfully Tweeting artistically posed photos with advice to "throw a bedsheet over some taped together broomsticks. Plan a menu and 'pack' sandwiches, salads (S'mores optional)"; whilst my kitchen counter is a hot mess of electronics, bills, hairbrushes, and dog toys, and my kids wouldn't eat salads unless they were literally made out of S'mores. My daughter ate Nutella out of the jar and a hotdog for breakfast and I made coffee creamer out of almond milk, honey, and hot fudge (artistically labeled with painter's tape and Sharpee. Take that, Ivanka).

And now I will attempt to make soup out of chicken nuggets because that's what's in the freezer.

None of us really knows what we're doing here.

Except for the cat, who is stalking the mouse that lives in our stove. The cat knows. The cat is watching.

Monday, March 16, 2020

The Coronacation Diaries, Episode 1

Building the Schedule

Let’s be honest: for a teacher and for her kids, an unexpected 3-week vacation is like manna from heaven at the end of a dull, grey winter: a gift of precious days of sleep and recovery direct from the gods of teenage hormones and eye-rolling wars. This is a chance to get the house clean, get the rooms finally sorted and organized after the great remodel of 2018, get a fitness routine going after the great ankle-breakage of 2019, get that writing done, get started on reading that pile of books, get the kids prepared to test out of 6th grade math and 9th grade English, and generally get a grip on all of the things in our lives. BUT, I know what weekends are like in my household, with the constant arguing about the need for more cleaning of the bedrooms and less watching of the Youtube. Plus, with Michael working his DTMB job at home in the basement, there was no way we could survive as a family with the door slamming and the stomping up the stairs and the living on cheez-its and the earbuds in...I knew we had to build a schedule, or else we would be at each other’s throats all day every day, and we’d emerge at the end of the social distancing experiment as pale, flabby, angry lumps of (well-rested) dull stupidity. 

I’d seen the schedules floating around. The ideal schedule, clearly built by a control freak, and shared a thousand times on social media:

And the mock schedules, clearly built by others who are flies on the wall in my own home:


My kids were resistant (oh, so resistant) and mad (oh, so mad) that I wouldn’t just let them build their own schedules and do whatever they wanted whenever they wanted. (If you attempted to enter their bedrooms, you would understand why this would be an oh, so terrible idea.) But, I pulled the parent card (either you build a schedule or I'll build one for you) and handed out pencils and pads of paper. We all built our ideal schedules and then lined them up to compare. Surprisingly, they were all pretty similar and all fairly sensible. 

I am somewhat apprehensive about attempting to adhere to 3 different schedules in the house, but I am also thinking that this compromise might be a way to get them to take some ownership of their day-to-day, and see if they can keep to their word and police themselves. In the classroom, choice and voice lead to ownership and engagement, so here's hoping that the same is true in the home.

And I’m going to hold myself to my own schedule, as well. Because I’ve got things to clean and pieces to write and books to read and pounds to lose and rooms to sort and the only way I’m going to avoid succumbing to day-drinking and watching marathons of Hallmark movies is with some serious ownership of the day-to-day.

I've got things to accomplish and a three-week gift of time.

Starting tomorrow.