The Elasticity of Time – CoronaLife Day 124

It’s funny how time isn’t constant (even though it is). We’ve all experienced it. Time flies when you are having fun. The clock hands don’t seem to move when in a boring class or meeting. Our perception of time is elastic, with hours flashing by like minutes or minutes crawling by like hours.

I had mentioned that the last two weeks of March seemed to be several years long. Those first weeks of lockdown were endless. Then April, May, and June slid by in a blink. For me, July has slowed to a slug’s pace again. Granted, we are already halfway through July, but each day feels like a week, yet at the end of every long day I feel as if I have accomplished nothing.

When time is slow like this, I feel very heavy. It’s as if I am carrying emotional and physical weights. The state of the world seems darker, I feel helpless to do anything to combat it, and my stress level threatens to overwhelm me. I have difficulty falling asleep, I have no creative drive, and I feel the tears pressing on my eyes all the time. It’s like the collective anger and fear and hate swirling in our country presses in on me all at once, making it hard to breath. All I really want to do is hibernate and wake up when this is all over.

I’m not sure why July screeched to a halt for me. I have not yet parsed if my mood creates the time slowdown, or the slowdown causes my mood. Perhaps it is the looming specter of school in the fall on my mind. With all the unknowns about putting children together in groups again, it is eating at me. I’m also feeling the guilt of not getting any writing done, when I really have no excuse. I feel lazy and stupid and like a complete failure.

I don’t know what will snap the elastic back to the rapid time flow again. I have a feeling that if I could shake off the malaise, it would do the trick. But since I don’t know what triggered it in the first place, it’s hard to see a road leading out. There always is a road out, though, so I guess I will just have to ride along until I find it.

In the meantime, I hope you all are faring better than I am. Stay smart, stay safe, and see you later!

Wrapping Up – CoronaLife Day 117

Being that it’s now early July, a new month, “wrapping up” might seem a strange thing to be doing. However, that’s what I’ve been doing this week.

I am handing over my PTA Treasurer position to someone new tomorrow. So I have spent the last week and a half wrapping up all the loose ends. I finished the June books, plus the end-of-year numbers (our fiscal year is from June to July). I made a preliminary budget and all the spreadsheets for next year to help ease the transition, as the treasurer who handed off to me had done for me. I also filed the taxes and pulled together all the paperwork for the year-end audit.

Wrapping it all up.

My daughter’s remote learning adventure ended in late June, but I have still been wrapping up with that. We collected her school “stuff” the last week in June and left it to quarantine in our garage for a week. So now she has been able to get into that. I finally remembered to look at her report card, LOL. And we managed to figure out how to get her school online reading account connected with our home account.

Wrapping up.

I have just begun the 7th Harry Potter book as I re-read them. Why not? The last time I read them was back in 2007. I’ve been reading them aloud with my daughter (together we are on Book 4), so I’ve sort of read them twice in a row. But now I am nearing the end of my personal reading of the saga.

Wrapping up.

I wish I could say I am wrapping up the period of malaise and creative barrenness I have been in for a while, but I’m not seeing much signs of that. I’m not quite sure if I need to kick myself harder or stop beating myself up over it. I want to write, but find myself frittering away hours online instead. My focus has vanished, my drive has deserted me.

On my walks, I have begun listening to music. I have a collection of songs that has always been strongly tied to writing for me. That’s what I have been listening to. And it may be helping stir the Muse a bit. It’s too soon to tell. But I need something to shake me out of this, as I really am not happy where I am.

Where are you on your creative journey these days? Stay safe, everyone!

Before and After – CoronaLife Day 110

We’ve experienced an abrupt before-and-after this year: life before COVID-19, and life after it. For those of us in New Jersey, the before-and-after delineation date came on March 14th, the date the schools were closed and life in quarantine began.

Many of us have adjusted to a new normal, this coronalife we are living for the foreseeable future. We are holding on to the knowledge that this, too, shall pass, for nothing lasts forever, no matter how it feels, and that someday there will be an “after” to this present “before.”

Today, though, I had some fun with Before and After. MyHeritage, a genealogy site, had a free trial of their photo enhancing software, which both enhances and colorizes photos. This in no way changes the originals, so the past is preserved. The original photos—dings, creases, and all—hold the weight of history, and I cherish them for the truth that they hold. But I also appreciate the colorized versions as a bit of fun and a chance to imagine more fully people I have never known.

First up I did my 4 grandparents. All but one had died before I was 5 years old, and of course I would not have remembered them as the young people they are in these photos.

Next I did my great-grandparents. I never knew my great-grandfather, but my great-grandmother lived to be 96, when I was 16. My only memories of her are as an old lady in a nursing home, certainly not the elegant woman in the photo.

I went back in time, to my 2nd-great-grandparents, who were a shepherd and his wife in northern Scotland (note the sheepdog in the photo), and my 3rd-great-grandparents. My 3rd-great-grandfather came over from Ireland in 1842, settled in Delaware, and married my 3rd-great-grandmother, a descendant of Colonial settlers.

I think my favorite photo was my grandmother and her 2 sisters. It’s a sweet picture to start with, but the colorization brought an angelic innocence to it that I find endearing.

So that was my before and after adventure for today. I maxed out my free trial, but I may do more later, depending on the price to do so.

What do you do to relieve the stress and monotony of coronalife? Stay safe, and let’s all work together to get through this “before” and into the “after” as soon as possible.

Home Sweet Home – CoronaLife Day 103

We’ve passed over 100 days in our new way of life. Does it feel like a new normal to you yet? I think it actually does for me. Those first few weeks in March seemed to last for years. April and May flew by and now here we are staring at the end of June.

As many of you know, once the stay at home order was lifted both here and where my parents live, we decided to get tested so we could go see them. After nine very long days of waiting, my daughter’s test came back (negative, as mine had been), and we set out to see my folks the very next day!

We had a good, socially distanced visit. We sat in the shade under the trees in their backyard, ordered in food to eat, and only went indoors to use the bathroom right inside the back door. We wore masks in the house and of course washed our hands thoroughly.

After several hours of socializing, a random rainstorm swept in and chased them inside and us into our car. It was only about 20 minutes before I was planning to leave anyway, so not much time was lost. It felt so good to see them in person again! My daughter made her Grandpa a Father’s Day card that said that “when this is all over I’m gonna give you all the hugs I got.” I second that emotion!

We picked up my daughter’s stuff from school today, and now it’s sitting in the garage to quarantine for a few days (it’s not like we needs anything from there, it’s been at school since March!). My daughter was happy to see her teacher (from across a table, outdoors, and both masked) in person so she could properly say goodbye for the summer.

Some of you may remember the twin fawns born in our yard on Mother’s Day. Well, tonight I was making dinner and looked out the back window and there were 2 fawns in our yard! They seemed to be hiding out while Mama does adult deer stuff. They nibbled a bit at the clover, then settled down in the longer grass to wait. After dinner and until night fell, they had moved to under the tree in the middle of the yard. Wonder if they will still be there in the morning. We are assuming they are “our” fawns. They both look strong and healthy. It was nice to see them again.

Our world seems to have settled into a new routine. Stay healthy, everyone!

School’s Out! – CoronaLife Day 96

Since we are no longer under a stay-at-home order, I can’t call this series Lockdown Days anymore, so am switching to CoronaLife, since even with the state reopening, our lives are irrevocably changed and often still restricted by the coronavirus.

Biggest news this week is my daughter is finished with remote learning for this school year! Although I usually am sad when school ends, this year I am glad. I never wanted to be a teacher, and these last 3 months have cemented that.

This year summer does not include the summer camps by daughter has attended in the past. Some are simply not operating this year, others are operating with restrictions, and in any case, my daughter does not want to go to any of them. She is nervous about the virus, and I am not confident that proper social distancing can be maintained in any case. So we are staying home.

That’s not to say my daughter will be spending all her day staring at the computer screen watching YouTube and playing Minecraft. We will be continuing to take our daily exercise, of course. And we want to institute a 2 hour “creative time”, and a one-hour “together time.”

The 2-hour creative time will be time for her to work on non-computer-related creative pursuits like drawing, writing, composing, or even just playing an imaginative game. I will use that time to work on my creative writing, which has fallen woefully into the background. No blogs, no social media, just whatever creative writing project I want to work on.

The one-hour together time will be split in half. I will read to her from a book of my choice for half an hour (my daughter is notoriously scared to venture into new authors or series, this way she can make the leap with me), and the second half we will do what she wants—reading, drawing, etc.

I start off every summer with good intentions, but somehow my plans rarely work out. Hopefully this year will be different. My daughter is old enough to hold me accountable, so maybe that combined with having talked about it here, will make it happen.

We did get COVID tested on Thursday last week. An efficient if not entirely pleasant experience. But, hey, I had a baby via C-section, discomfort from a nasal swab barely registers on the pain scale. My daughter, of course, will tell you it was torture.

I got my results back (negative), but we are going on 7 days waiting for my daughter’s. It’s a frustrating wait, because we got tested so we could safely go see my parents, who we have not seen since February. So the waiting feels painfully long.

Any of you have summer plans? Stay safe, see you next week!

Testing, Testing, 1-2-3 – Lockdown Day 89

Since our governor lifted the stay-at-home order yesterday, I guess we are no longer technically on lockdown. But my family is going to continue as if we are, because far too many people are not following the safety protocols of wearing masks and keeping your distance. Also, my daughter and I are getting tested for COVID-19 tomorrow (I guess it will be today by the time this posts).

We have no reason to think we have it, and normally would not bother with the testing, but we need to go see my parents, who are in several high-risk groups for COVID, so we want to be as sure as possible that we are not carrying this right to their backyard (we are going to only interact outside).

Testing is available in NJ to everyone now, not only those with symptoms and a doctor’s note. You just call and make an appointment. So I did, and have one for the 11th. I was surprised that they said results would take 7-10 days, but they said they are having a lot of people testing right now, so volume is high. As soon as I get the results, we will set the date to go to my folks’ house. I am, of course, assuming we are going to be negative.

It’s really something of a trial to get testing done right, largely because of the long incubation period of this virus. The test cannot pick up a brand new infection, so if I got the virus today, I would still test as negative tomorrow. So for best results, you should get tested at least 3 days after your last possible exposure—5 days is better (the average time after exposure people get symptoms is 5 days). So my daughter and I have been very strict about contact outside the house for the past few days. Her last contact was Monday, mine was Friday.

So then you get tested. Supposedly takes just a couple of minutes, then you’re off home to await your results. But you should self-isolate while waiting, because you might be positive. And we are self-isolating because we don’t want to risk picking it up somewhere between the test and when we visit my parents. Then once the (hopefully negative) results are in, it may be a few days before we can get nice weather for the visit. So that’s a long time to be extra-careful.

I am grateful for the available testing, as it will give me some peace of mind. I am also awaiting accurate antibody tests, as I wouldn’t mind getting one, even though I do not think I have had coronavirus.

Be safe, everyone. Remember that even though the state is reopening and the weather is warm, the virus has not gone away. Be smart, be safe, stay healthy.

Pain, Protest, and Opportunity – Lockdown Day 82

***Due to bad storms, we have been without power since 12:30 PM Wednesday. Sorry for the delay in posting.***

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence helps the tormentor, never the tormented.” ~ Elie Wiesel

Last week, I wrote about civilization and how America needs to revisit the meaning of community and social responsibility.

This week has seen what happens when the social contract is broken with a particular group of people again and again and again for generations. When a group of people is consistently seen as less, as expendable, as not worthy of belonging to that social contract, we end up right here. With an officer of the law coldly and deliberately murdering a black man in broad daylight, in front of many witnesses, being videotaped…and not caring. He and the 3 officers that were his accomplices  were so assured they would suffer no consequences that they didn’t mind having an audience.

America is broken. For African-Americans, it has been broken for hundreds of years—and the massive protests we have seen in the wake of this latest brazen murder are the result.

I’m not talking about the looting. By most accounts, the looting is separate, instigated by people who would take advantage of the legitimate grief and rage and fear of Americans and twist it for their own agenda. Let it not distract us from the central issue.

The real protests, the peaceful protests, are filled with people who have had enough. Enough of the injustice. Enough of the inequality. Enough of the brutality. Enough of the hate. Enough of the death.

They are filled with people grieving the needless deaths of African-Americans, but also the death of the ideals we Americans profess to believe in—equality under the law, that all men are created equal, and the inalienable right to LIFE.

History shows that African-Americans have never really lived in that America. For them, it has been a litany of broken promises. The growing prevalence of cell phones and social media is shining the light on racism like never before. It is bringing its horror and ugliness into our living rooms, much as TV did the Vietnam War, and the results are similar. With the truth right in front of us, more and more people—of every skin color—are saying, “Enough!”

Enough.

The coronavius stopped the world and gave us a chance to contemplate what sort of “normal” we want to return to. I don’t want a normal where people have no health care. A normal where people live paycheck to paycheck. A normal where the lives of African-Americans are thrown away with such casual disdain.

Racism has been a cancer in America for too long. The convulsions we are experiencing are necessary to birth something better. Painful as this is, this moment is an opportunity. An opportunity to begin fixing a wrong too long unattended.

Let’s not waste this opportunity.

Let’s get it right this time.

I see you. I hear you. I stand with you.

Civilization – Lockdown Day 75

We’re quite a ways into this pandemic now, with still a long way to go, but many places are starting to reopen. Some slowly and methodically, guided by data and science, others all at once, willy-nilly. No state has achieved the suggested levels of cases, testing, and medical capacity to reopen, but lack of federal support for the unemployed and small businesses has caused economic pressure to reopen early. So now we are in a situation where we have gun-wielding pseudo-militiamen storming capitol buildings, governors being hung in effigy, and security guards murdered for asking people to wear a mask in a store.

The pandemic is clearly not bringing out the best in some people.

But the one image that has remained seared in my brain is the protestor holding the sign: “Sacrifice the Weak, Reopen TN”.

I find that notion horrifying. Who gets to decide who comprises “the weak”? Are the weak my parents, who are in their 70s but still working? Is it my 40-year-old friend who is on chemo? The child I know who is has an auto-immune disease? Is it the grocery store worker with asthma? The manicurist with the heart defect? Please, define for me just who are these “weak” people you want to sacrifice? Who are these people who, for you, hold absolutely no value in our society?

I cannot believe that America, home of “out of many, one”, has come to this.

Years ago, anthropologist Margaret Mead described what she thought was the first sign of civilization. Her answer surprised people. It was not an artifact or tool—it was a 15,000 year old healed femur bone.

Stunned, the questioner asked what was so important about this bone. Mead replied that in the animal world, a broken leg meant death. Absent modern medicine, it takes about 6 weeks for a broken human femur to heal. That meant that someone tended to this person for 6 weeks—protected them, nursed them, fed them. They didn’t just leave them to die. And that, she said, was civilization.

I’m glad that poor guy with the broken femur didn’t live with the person with the sign.

We in America seem to need a remedial lesson in society, in the notion of communal responsibility. We need to unlearn the toxic selfishness that has become such a part of our culture and relearn the idea of “a greater good.”

In June 1944, American soldiers ran into almost certain death to save democracy.

In June 2020, American “patriots” won’t even wear a mask to save Grandma.

I honestly don’t know where we go from here. How we cleanse the ugliness that has shown itself. How we heal the divides that have shattered us. How we give our children a better world than this one.

I suggest we start by emulating the empathy and compassion for others that those people showed 15,000 years ago. You know—back when we were civilized.

Lost a Day – Lockdown Day 68

Well, it finally happened—I totally lost track of what day it is! I have been a day off all week, so spent all day today (Thursday) thinking it was Wednesday. And that’s why this post is late!

Not that there is much to report. I have spent the last week helping my daughter do schoolwork and helping my mother learn how to Zoom with her students. I’ve had my own technical difficulties with a work email that refuses to accept the password tech support has given me, even though they say it works fine when they try it. Thankfully I can still access it on my phone, so I am not completely cut off.

I did get a little bit of writing done last night. As I lay cuddled in bed with my daughter, I suddenly had an idea for revising a scene in my story. So as soon as I got downstairs, I jotted it down so I wouldn’t forget. Only a few paragraphs, but it’s something.

I attended a Writers Coffeehouse on Sunday, which is always fun and enlightening. How can hanging out and chatting with other writers not be fun, right? I also attended a virtual Board of Ed meeting, where I kept dropping off the call. I wonder if they’re trying to tell me something, LOL?

I am trying to teach my daughter how to cook some simple meals for herself. She has burned herself twice and is scared of the oven, but we soldier on. Apparently 7 weeks is all I can take of spending hours in the kitchen cooking every meal for her. She’s going to get some independence whether she likes it or not, because Mommy is tired!

Other than that, we are plugging along, going out for our walks. My daughter got a new scooter, so she scoots with me while I walk. We are healthy, as is our extended family, and we hope to remain that way.

I hope all of you are staying safe, taking care, and doing well.

A Surprise for Mother’s Day – Lockdown Day 61

With the COVID-19 lockdown continuing, we knew this Mother’s Day was going to be different. No going to my mom’s house, nor any chance of seeing my mother-in-law. We’d be at home, like every other day for the past 2 months.

My daughter woke me up too early to inform me that I would need to wash her blanket because she had gotten blood on it (nosebleed). Apparently that news could not wait until I woke up on my own. But it turned out to be a good thing.

My husband couldn’t fall back to sleep after she came in, so he got up. As he looked out the back window, he told me that there was a doe and fawn in our backyard! So we ran downstairs to tell my daughter and we peered out the blinds at the Mama Deer. The fawn had obviously been born not long before, as it was just trying out its legs, unsteady and straddled. And then my daughter said, “I think there’s a second one!” Sure enough, Mama gave birth to a second fawn!

A second baby!

We watched the second one progress from still in its sac to wiggling over to Mama for milk, and eventually standing up (and falling down) to join its sibling. The family stayed in the yard all day. How incredible to watch the fawns go from not able to stand to just about running by the end of the day! The first fawn was more adventurous than the other, wandering much farther from Mama. My daughter declared that the first fawn was a girl and the second a boy, although of course we have no way of knowing.

As dusk fell, Mama wandered around the yard. She stopped at our sliding glass door and peered in at us. We stared back for a very long moment, not moving, not wanting to frighten her. Then she started chewing the grass in her mouth again and wandered off. When I looked out later, the babies were still there, but Mama had gone, perhaps in search of water. When we woke up in the morning, all three had gone.

Certainly not a Mother’s Day gift I expected, but it was an amazing experience—and a welcome break in the quarantine routine.

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