Day 148: Burnout.

There’s a theme threading its way through my work, home, and social media channels. I sense we are coming to a state in this pandemic that is akin to burnout. It’s not burnout in the traditional sense, when your work and life are off balance. I think it is related to the bizarre choices we are forced to make, or are being made for us.

Imagine we are all in this advanced math class where the logic sets get switched out for every equation. And we must choose at random from improbable variables and rework the equation again. Each time, the equation spits out the wrong answer. But there are only wrong answers. And we have to pick the wrong answer that is least wrong based on the corner of the equation we can see and based on this moment only, because – by the way – we’re in the Quantum Realm, and by choosing X instead of Y we’ve just spun off some accidental, even more terrible future and…

It’s exhausting and unfair. Can we collectively admit this?

We’re running low on willpower as a species, and that leads to burnout. What can we do about it? We have to keep going. You can’t put the pandemic down and come back to it when you’ve refilled your tank.

One thing we can do is take care of ourselves. I am not a fan of the phrase “self care.” It evokes images of people with lots of free time and perfect skin, lounging around at a spa with hot rocks on their eyes sighing with bliss a lot. (Actually that sounds really nice, never mind.) But caring for your brain, body, and spirit right now is survival. It’s not extra credit. We’re burning all our pistons right now and something is going to crack if we don’t take care of our machinery.

So that’s why I’m drinking Sleepytime tea every night this week and going to bed on time. I’m going to listen to the universe. I hope it speaks to you through this blog if you also need to hear it.

What am I grateful for today?

I had a really nice, silly evening with the kids today. And my dinner turned out nice – I made fettuccine with roasted tomatoes and shrimp. The baby loves shrimp! Who knew?

Day 147: Back to…What?

Our kids are too small for school, but when it starts up again, Sal’s schedule changes. His art school transitions from summer camps to adult classes and after-school programs. But this era of closures and distance learning has changed the meaning of Back to School and after-school. What does after-school mean when your kids are being taught at home? I can’t fathom how weird and stressful this month is for parents of school kids. All of my hats are off to you guys.

What am I grateful for today?

I had a very nice catch up Zoom with my brother, sister, and little niece. The baby was very interested in talking to them. He intently babbled something clearly very important, but indecipherable.

Day 146: Nature?

“Since we did Nothing last weekend, let’s go for a little day trip,” I pitch to Sal on Friday. “Let’s go to the beach.”

“Ok, we can go Sunday morning,” he says. “It’s less crowded on Sunday.”

“Yeah, I can go grocery shopping on Saturday then. It’s a plan!”

But when Sal checks the forecast this morning, it’s going to be cool, high of 70. We usually get to the beach early in the morning to avoid crowds, which means it will be in the mid 50s. “Not a great beach weekend,” Sal says.

“How about Big Basin?” I say. “We haven’t been there in a long time.”

Sal looks it up. “It looks open.”

We run the idea by the preschooler and he is very excited. We pack the kids in the car by 11:00 am for the 45 minute drive. By the time we hit the highway, there’s an accident and traffic is down to a crawl. Now it’s almost going to be an hour, and the baby is already getting fussy.

“Look on the map and see if there’s a park nearby,” Sal says. “We can just get some lunch and hang out.”

I find a park at a reservoir and we stop in Los Gatos to pick up Taco Bell. By the time we park, it’s 91 degrees. We eat in the car and try to figure out a path down to the water. It’s a strange park. The paths are all designed for boats, and swimming isn’t allowed. We finally find a path to the water but it’s too bumpy for the stroller, and we forgot the baby’s shoes, so Sal has to carry him.

“What are we going to do when we get down there?” I ask. “Hold him the whole time?”

Sal shrugs. “I doubled up his socks. He’ll be fine.”

The reservoir is beautiful from a distance. The water is a lovely, cool green-blue, with plenty of trees and birds circling lazily over it. But when we get close, there’s no beach really. It’s just a bunch of rocks. But not natural rocks, like gravel rocks or jackhammered concrete.

I’m hot and a little sulky, thinking about the redwood trees and the sound of crashing waves. I can hear the highway traffic across the pond. This isn’t real nature, I think.

The preschooler and baby disagree. They love it. They pick up rocks and plop them into the water. The baby sits on the gravel in the water and splashes with his double socks, squealing with glee. Sal gives me an umbrella to hold and the bit of shade helps. I de-grump enough to throw some rocks and go wading with the preschooler.

What am I grateful for today?

The discovery of a pond close to us. Maybe we can get an inflatable boat and some life jackets and have a little boating day.

Day 145: Meta blog.

My blog is starting to write my life. I feel very meta writing about this phenomenon. Here’s an example from today…

On my working Fridays I get off early to cover for Sal. He pops upstairs to set up his Zoom call. It looks like a tiny movie set – he has an iPhone mic stand, angled lighting, and multiple devices going.

I shuffle the littles into the preschooler’s room. We play “Dinosaur Get Get.” I can’t remember who made it up – it’s just as likely to be Sal as it is the preschooler. You put dinosaurs around the room and use this knitted sock to “get” them. You get two tries to get one and then it’s someone else’s turn. You may have questions about this game. (Why are there two Gets? Why a knitted sock? Why dinosaurs?) I wonder these myself but I have come to accept the mystery and allure that is Dinosaur Get Get.

Anyway, as you may know, Fridays are Pizza and Movie Night in our miniverse.* Showtime is 5:00 pm. So I send the preschooler downstairs every once in a while to check the oven clock and see how close it we’re getting. After one reconnaissance mission, he comes bounding upstairs and practically shouts, “Mom, it’s 5:06!!” It’s easy to get lost in Dinosaur Get Get and lose track of time. 

Where was I going with all of this? I don’t know, but by the end of the day today I was very tired. I decide to skip the blog posting and just sit around. I check my social media and one of my friends has made a comment on a thread of yesterday’s post: “Don’t forget to do your exercises.”

She knew! She knew I wanted to skip them. And her accountability nudge worked. I get off my lazy butt and do the PT exercises. And that’s how my blog readers are affecting my life irl.

What am I grateful for today?

The exercises do seem to be working. That’s nice.

*A miniverse is your own personal home universe. A useful term in Quarantine, would you agree? Please create miniverse memes and use your internet powers to make it go viral. I don’t ask for much and this would make me very happy.

Day 144: A critical look at my routine.

I should get out more. I’ve gotten in this routine during the work week that keeps me in the house for days at a time. I rarely leave at all, and if I do, it’s for like 10 minutes chasing the baby or preschooler around our condo complex. That can’t be good for one’s long term health, right? Here’s my routine – maybe if I lay it out I’ll be able to find spaces for improvement:

Whenever the baby wakes up: Wake up.

7:30 – 8:00 am: Get coffee and start work day in “the office” (my desk against my bedroom wall). Also some toast or something.

10:30: Wander downstairs and warm up coffee.

1:10 pm: Shut down “the office” and move downstairs so Sal can put the baby down for a nap.

1:15: Lunch break. Eat lunch and wash a dish or two. Maybe call someone.

2:00: Back to work on the kitchen table or the balcony.

3:30 or 4:00: Make tea and move back upstairs to “the office” after the baby wakes up.

5:30 or 6:00: Finish up work and make dinner.

6:30: Dinner time.

7:00: Play with the kids, kids’ bath time, or a walk outside.

8:00: Kids’ bedtime.

8:30 or 9:00: Evening chores and Grown Up Time – dishes, wipe stuff down, pick up 1,000 matchbox cars, blog post, watch funny videos with Sal, read perhaps.

10:30 or 11:00 pm: Sleep.

How can I improve this? I’m open to suggestions as long as they don’t sound like this: “wake up at 5:00 am and go for a jog!” Because that is never, ever going to happen. Ever.

What am I grateful for today?

That the internet signal reaches to the balcony.

 

Day 143: PPE organization.

On Day 84 of Shelter in Place I pondered the emotional phases of Quarantine. Before Sal went back to work and the kids back to daycare, we were in the Bargaining phase of Quarantine. We had a haphazard approach to personal protection equipment (PPE). We had a few masks that were leftover from smoke events from wildfires. Our stuff was all over the place and it was a scramble to get out of the house. Hand sanitizer was somewhere near the keys, in a backpack or diaper bag, or on the window sill. Clean masks were also on the window sill. Keys and wallet were in the kitchen.

Now I would place us squarely in the Acceptance phase. This is how I know – we designed an organizing system specifically for our PPE:

Shelf next to the door with masks handing on hooks and bottles of hand sanitizer, keys, wallet, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
My masks on the left and Sal’s on the right. On the shelf: wallet, the preschooler’s bug observation capsule, keys, sunglasses, travel hand sanitizer, sunblock, large bottle of hand sanitizer.

Now, we just grab everything and go! For errands and outings, I bring a backpack and I keep a smaller waist pack inside it. I take the waist pack with me into the store so I can easily access the hand sanitizer, keys, card, etc. The backpack stays in the car and has stuff like diapers, wipes, and the baby’s shoes in it.

When we get in the car, we take off our masks and place them on the dashboard while we drive. The direct, hot sunlight kills germs, and it’s also a visual cue to put the mask back on when we exit the car or enter a drive-through. I put my used mask in my back pocket to remind myself to wash it.

What am I grateful for today?

It was a cool, cloudy day. Those are rare in San Jose in the summer.

 

Day 142: Exercise regimen.

Yesterday I had a follow up video appointment with the physical therapist. I was not looking forward to it. I have been slacking off on my exercises. I had an excuse ready for him: “I was home with my baby every day and used my shoulder a lot to pick him up, so I scaled back this week.”

He’s kind and understanding, but firm, as all good PTs are – he reinforces the regimen – three different band exercises 5 days a week, and stretches every day. He ends with a pep talk: keep going, even if it doesn’t feel like it’s working; the strength will build up if I stick with it. Inspired, I go through the whole cycle after we end the meeting, and am very pleased with myself.

That was yesterday. Now I’m tired and just want to sit on the couch and read. As I rock the baby to sleep, I think of all the things I have to do before I can read. The playing cards all over the floor. Dishes in the sink. Those exercises. How long did he say I have to keep them up? Twelve bloody weeks.

But when I get downstairs, the cards are cleaned up and Sal is loading the dishwasher. And I remember that today is a “stretching only” day! Things are looking up.

What am I grateful for today?

Just enough time to read!

 

Day 141: Errand.

I have an errand to run today! I’m returning a package to StitchFix – some shoes that didn’t work out for the preschooler. Pre-COVID, I’d drop it in the mailboxes near the office. Now, it’s been sitting on the kitchen table for days, because I have no idea where the mailboxes are in my neighborhood. I try Google maps and search “mailbox” – not effective. I search “mailbox map” and find one, but it’s fiddly and freezes up. Not even the USPS site has them mapped.

“There’s one by the park, I think,” Sal says. He looks it up on Google street view and finds it!

“I’ll be back in 20 minutes,” I say. It’s about a mile away, so I take the Leaf.

I park at the corner where the box is, pull my mask on, and take the package out of my backpack. When I get to the box, it does say “US Mail” but there’s no slot to insert the mail. It says “relay” or something on it, and it’s this dull army green-grey color. Fail.

I Google search for an actual post office. The closest one is in downtown. Normally, I’d drive out of my way to avoid downtown San Jose at noon, but maybe it won’t be too bad in the Stay at Home era.

I find parking right near the post office! I drop off the package and pick up a poke bowl as a treat. By the time I get back, I’ve blown through my break, so I eat my lunch in front of the laptop.

It occurs to me that I used up an entire blog post to describe how I dropped off some mail. This is what I’m reduced to, people. 

What am I grateful for today?

The poke bowl. I haven’t had poke in months.

Day 140: Burgers and birds.

To complete our weekend of Nothing, I forgo cooking dinner tonight. We pick up Five Guys burgers and eat in the parking lot. I bring squeezies (little packets of applesauce with vegetables blended in) for the boys as a supplement. The baby has finally leveled up his dexterity enough to squeeze the pouch entirely into his mouth. The squeezies are good for holding off the hangry cries while the burger is cooling down, as well as staving off my Mom Guilt for feeding them fast food so often.

We arrive at Alviso Marina County Park at around 7:00 and walk around the wetlands. Small flocks of white birds take turns flying over the water. They turn in unison – a wave, a ripple, a sheet of living cloth – the preschooler and I watch and watch. The baby makes a beeline for the water, and cries in frustration when Sal redirects him.

As we approach the parking lot to leave, a man is announcing with a bullhorn that he’s going to fine everyone $45 if they don’t leave by 8:15. (The park closes at sunset.) We push it to 8:08, just enough time to for Sal to take an Instagram worthy shot of the sun splashing its last rays on the water:

IMG-1289It’s well past bedtime when we settle back in the condo. We get the boys to bed in record time, though. I hope the sound of wind through grasses and bird calls are the soundtrack to their dreams.

What am I grateful for today?

On the way home, the moon shone over the hills – a warm beige at first, then orange gold, then pale yellow glow in the near darkness. It was so clear that I could see the craters. It’s been a very long time since I could see such detail in the moon. Maybe the lack of air pollution from less cars on the road?

Day 139: Nothing weekend.

“Let’s plan our weekend,” I say to Sal as I pour my coffee. “What do you want to do today?”

“Nothing.”

“How about tomorrow?”

“Nothing.”

I laugh. So Nothing is our plan. Today we hang around, rearrange things on the counter, blow bubbles into the rotating fan, have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for lunch and reheated lasagna for dinner. The most like a “Thing” that we do is take the kids for a walk in the park after dinner.

Tonight, I pop popcorn and convince Sal to watch Apollo 13 with me. I re-discovered that we owned it when the baby pulled a bunch of DVDs out of the cabinet. I’ve never seen it, but Sal has.

“You sure you don’t mind watching it again?” I ask.

“No, that’s fine. I’ll work on my website while we watch.”

I guess that’s also kind of a Thing. But whatever. Close enough.

What am I grateful for today?

It was a lemony-orange sort of evening at the park. Cool and warm at the same time. Northern California early evenings are pleasant dichotomies.