Day 79: Wednesday.

Well, here we are. Wednesday.

Facts today:

  • My kid climbed a tree for the second time. He can’t stop talking about it. “I hugged it and that’s how I didn’t fall down, mom.”
  • At bedtime, the baby made me sing “Itsy Bitsy Spider” four times and do the hand motions with his little hands in mine. I think he said “spider” but it’s hard to tell.
  • It was very hot in our condo. I made iced tea out of Kombucha Green Tea and Sal said, “It smells like a beer.”
  • Though our Shelter in Place Order has no end date still, the County is easing restrictions a bit on Friday.
  • Thousands of Americans hit the streets protesting for the sixth day in a row, during a pandemic.

We are right now writing a story that will be in some future kid’s history class. Sometimes the understanding of this hits me and I sit in awe of the moment we are in. I know some of those protesters and police officers out there today. I know people who have gotten sick from the virus. These are people I know, not historical facts yet, and it’s strange to know they will be. 

When this Quarantine started, I said, “I am going to re-start my blog and post every day during the Shelter in Place Order.” I expected it to last about two and a half weeks. It’s been almost 80 days and many times I have wanted to stop. But I feel compelled to document these moments, even the mundane stuff, before they slip into the cloud of collective memory. The awfulness, strangeness, sameness, frenetic energy, edgy weariness, uncertainty, slivers of hope, despair, division, connection.

What am I grateful for today?

Got some recommendations for my Quarantine Reading List; looking forward to starting one of them as a mental break.

 

Day 67: The catalytic converter prophecy.

“It’s 8:00. You coming down for breakfast?” Sal says, opening a curtain.

“8:00!” I throw off the covers. To a parent of tiny people, 8:00 is like sleeping until noon.

“Did you want to take {the preschooler} to the beach today?”

“I don’t know, it’s getting kind of late.”

“I have the bag ready. Up to you.”

Sal leaves me to shuffle out of bed and consider the options. Last time we got to the beach at Santa Cruz past 9:30, and it was already too crowded for my comfort. An officer had to interfere with some people who were gathered around a live seal that was sunning itself on the sand. One man tried to move it. Why? Did he think it was a beached whale? They weren’t even giving the seal a proper Social Distance. They were all still there when the kid and I left at 11:00 when the beach was closed.

There’s this little nagging feeling saying to delay, try another day, but I push it aside and rush my morning routine.

The kid and I are packed and in the car by 8:43. He’s cranked up his iPad for the 45 minute trip and is chattering happily about how “those people better not touch that seal.” I put the key in and push the ignition button. First, it sounds normal, but then….

VROOM VROOM!!!!!

Suddenly I’m in a scene from Grease, revving up for my epic drag race…wait, no, I’m in a 2007 Prius and am about to break the news to a still-happily-chattering preschooler that we are not going anywhere today.

I know what this sound is. I call Sal on speaker.

“Can you hear that?”

“Oh, man. Did it start when you turned it on?”

“No, but I think it’s because the electric motor kicked on first. Let me try it again.” I turn it off, wait, turn it back on. There’s a pleasant hum. I watch the battery screen and only the electric engine is running. Then, just as the gas engine kicks in –

VROOM VROOM!!!!!

“It’s the catalytic converter,” I shout to Sal. “I know it. We’re coming back inside.”

Mere days ago, I was warned of this by a prophet. Her catalytic converter was stolen from her 2006 Prius in her driveway – Apparently, it’s a thing. They sell devices to install over it, she foretold. Called a cat clamp or something, it makes it harder to steal them. She even sent me a link to said device. Did I listen? Did I get the clamp thingy installed? No! And now look at me. Staring down the abyss of an insurance claim and uncertain future mechanic bill…

Are you the owner of an aging (but still functional and beloved) Prius? Do you reside in the SF Bay Area? Are you reading these words?

Heed the Prophecy.

Install the clampy thing now.

What am I grateful for today?

That we aren’t relying on the Prius to drive to work right now!

Day 44: News today.

One of Sal’s many jobs is to keep me informed of current events.

“What’s going on in the world today?” I ask, seeing him scrolling.

“Apparently Australia has a drug that is helpful for the virus. And there’s proof of aliens.”

“What??”

“Now that the President is no longer the entirety of our news with his two hour briefings, the media have been forced to pay attention to other news.”

“Wait, no, what about the aliens?”

Sal shows me the footage of the UFOs and clips of interviews by the pilots. The footage was from 2004, and was supposed to be released then. What’s bizarre is, Sal and I saw the original news briefing about these UFOs in 2004. I remember the day! We were working out in the gym and whatever was playing on the TVs suspended above our heads cut to a news briefing – there was going to be a group of ex-military and government officials who were bringing proof of aliens to Congress! It was Sal, me, and a friend of ours – I remember us watching it, slack-jawed, saying to each other, “What does this mean? It’s really real! This changes everything!”

And then, the next day…nothing. And the next week…nothing. In fact, we never heard a peep about that UFO briefing again. I’ve had trouble convincing others that we had seen that announcement on the news at all.

But it was real! And now we have the footage. And for a moment, we watched the zippy blobs bounce around in the grainy footage and that feeling comes back…What does this mean?

Then later today, the news that the County’s Shelter in Place order is extended through the end of May.

It’s a big news day.

What am I grateful for today?

It was really cool to see those UFOs zip around. I’m a big fan of grainy UFO footage.

What am I looking forward to after the Quarantine?

It’s getting warmer, and I’d love to take the kids to the beach and get ice cream.

Day 21: Getting outside.

I started this thing in our Microsoft Teams meetings called the “Daily Resilience Question,” inspired by these Six Daily Questions to Ask Yourself in Quarantine. Each meeting ends with one question and an invitation for the team to share how they will answer it. Today’s question, “How am I enjoying nature today?” brings mixed feelings. Maybe that’s why I chose it.

All around us, parks and beaches are closing, schools are locking their fields, parking lots at popular natural spots are being barricaded. I understand the danger of crowding and the need to enforce social distancing. I get it. But for some reason, these closures really get under my skin. It’s bothering me in a way the other restrictions are not.

My childhood in the mountains of Southwestern Virginia was unruly. My relationship with nature was messy, unorganized, and intimate. I climbed trees to the top and sat for hours. I swam in ponds, lakes, rivers. I caught salamanders and turtles and lightning bugs. I ran barefoot in fields, lay on my back, watched clouds. I sat on logs in the forest and let the heavy quiet settle into my bones. The collection of these wild hours are a source of fierce strength and I would not trade them for anything.

When we moved here, I fell in love with the people and culture of Silicon Valley, but I resist this suburban life. Our condo complex is nicely landscaped, with patches of green grass and pretty flowers. But my baby can’t crawl in the grass, because of all the dog poop. And my kid can’t pick the flowers, because they’re “on purpose” flowers, not wild flowers. So basically we just walk around the sidewalk and ride bikes in the parking lot. It’s outside, yes. But does it count as enjoying nature?

We are lucky; we can still take walks and go to neighborhood parks. I know many of you in quarantine are not even allowed to do that, and I feel for you.

“How am I enjoying nature today?” We’re going to have to get creative answering this question for now. For some, it will be a quiet moment in your garden, or a chat with your houseplant. Watching a “jelly cam” or other live video feed of creatures from a number of wonderful zoos. My kid will jump in puddles and stare at snails on the sidewalk. My baby will squeal and smack the leaves on neatly trimmed bushes.

It’s not the same, but it will have to do for now.

What am I grateful for today?

That we can still go outside for walks.

What do I wish I had done before the Quarantine?

Taken the kids on more hikes around California.

 

 

Day 13: Virtual church.

Life is settling into a pattern of sorts. I more or less keep to my old work schedule and Sal has a routine sorted out for the kids during the week. Saturday we go somewhere together, like a park, drive through restaurant, or Krispy Kreme. Sundays we have Living Room Church.

IMG-0666
The Pulpit

We started attending this big church a couple months ago. They’ve got a campus vibe with a Silicon Valley twist – live band, excellent sound systems, flashy graphics, very well organized. Now we’re livestreaming the experience in our living room.

IMG-0665
The Congregation

Sal and I sing along with the songs, the baby takes a nap on Sal’s lap. The preschooler watches Kid’s Church on his iPad with Bluetooth headphones. I say “Good morning from San Jose!” in the chat box.

After Living Room Church we have snacks. It’s pretty nice.

What am I grateful for today?

A good internet connection.

What do I wish I had done before the Quarantine?

Bought some sitting around at home clothes. I realize I have PJs and work clothes, not much in between. I guess I could buy some online, but it’s nicer to try it on first.

Day 8: Shelter in Place-iversary.

One week ago this very day, millions of people took to their homes and stayed there. Can you believe, just days ago, that you could sit in a Philz and drink your Ether coffee? You could meet friends there – sit close enough to see the whites of their eyes – their eyeshadow even! Maybe you were wearing eyeshadow yourself!

But look at you now: PJs until you have to pop into a Microsoft Teams meeting (and then, PJs from the waist down). Introducing your co-workers to your dog. Pulling out cans from your cupboard you didn’t know were there. Calling everyone you know, setting up FaceTime playdates for your four-year-old. Sharing mini concerts #LiveFromHome on Instagram.

Do you remember when the words “quarantine” and “Shelter in Place” sent a cold shiver down your spine? Recalled images of pitchforks, empty shelves, zombies? (Why zombies? I don’t know. They always seem to appear when sh*t gets real.) Now look at you. Posting quarantine memes. Watching all your favorite night show hosts try to keep it going from their iPads and backyards, laughing together as we all try to figure this thing out.

Look at you rising above your fears and needs. Sharing your daily meditations, sharing your experiences, sharing the burden where you can. Trying to set up all those online services for your auntie or grandparent remotely. Driving by their house, pressing your face to the window, texting, calling, checking in. Or staying away because that’s what love means right now.

Letting go of all those expectations of getting it all done, making it all work, being everything to everyone. Just getting through this day and finding something in it to laugh about, or share, or connect with.

Just look at you.

What am I grateful for today?

Hey, Bay Area, we made it!

What do I wish I had done before the Quarantine?

Canceled a few services to make a little room in the budget.

Day 1: Teleworking

Overnight Sal has become a stay at home dad for our preschooler and baby. His workplace, an art school, is not permitted to operate under the order. Even if he could work, the preschooler’s daycare also shut down. He sets up a schedule of activities: music, snack, nap, free play. All within the little universe of our home.

I have become a telecommuter. Our tiny condo has no office. I set up my work station in our bedroom and drag a kitchen chair upstairs for my desk chair. 100% of our meetings are now held via chat, audio, or video, and this takes some getting used to. A colleague and I run a test video chat. The background in my video shows my unmade bed, shoe caddy, and the baby’s crib. I look around for a blank wall, but the room is so crammed with furniture, I can’t move the desk. I set up a clothes drying rack on top of the bed and throw a blanket over it, as a makeshift screen to block the view. It sort of works.

At first I’m acutely aware of the sounds: the baby crying, the music during the kid’s “dance time” downstairs. Someone outside sings in Spanish. A dog barks. But after a while it becomes background noise, like the whirring of the heater, hum of the copier, gurgle of the coffee machine, and the chatter of my colleagues at the office

During “coffee” breaks I pop in and chase one of the kids around or give Sal a few minutes break. I come downstairs for lunch with the family. We all go on a walk, in the cold rain, around 5:00. I coach the preschooler on Social Distance before we leave the house.

“Can I play with D.?” Preschooler asks.

“We can’t come near other people right now, but if D. is outside too, it’s ok to say hi. If he’s riding his bike, you can ride yours too, just not too close.”

We don’t see D. on our walk. We do see another family and chat for a few minutes from an abundant Social Distance.

Dinner, a call to check in on my mom, then bedtime for the boys. I tell the preschooler a story about a bird, flying high and free, on an adventure. I hope he dreams about the bird and the feeling of freedom and open air. He asks again if he will go to school in a few days.

“No, your daddy will be your teacher for a while.”

“He’s not a teacher. He’s a daddy.”

“Yes, but he will teach you and your brother until school opens again.”

He’s quiet for a moment. “Why do we have to stay inside the house all, all day?” Before I can answer, he says, “I know. It’s because a lot of people are sick.”

“Yes, a lot of people are sick right now.”

“Will we get sick?”

“I don’t know, but if we do, there are lots of helpers to help us – doctors and nurses, lots of helpers.”

He seems satisfied with this for now. Day 1 of Shelter in Place ends undramatically, quietly.

What am I grateful for today?

I’m grateful that I read an NPR article (or was it a comic?) and a CDC pamphlet on how to talk to kids about COVID-19. The “helpers” line was, well, helpful!

What do I wish I had done before the Quarantine?

I wish I had bought a monitor for my workspace and a desk chair.

This morning I woke up in a quarantine.

As of 12:01 AM this morning, a shelter in place order is in effect for me and 6.7 million San Francisco Bay Area souls. It’s 6:28 AM now, so we’re 6 hours and 27 minutes in. The quarantine will be in place for (at least? up to?) three weeks. There’s a lot of uncertainty and fear for all of us right now. By writing about it, I hope to take the sting out of the fear, and some of the uncertainty out for those of you who aren’t here yet, and worried that you may get here.

Getting the news

I watched the press conference live at work yesterday. I hear the words “shelter in place” and my stomach drops. “Shit.”

First feelings: fear, shock, dread. First thoughts: It’s really happening. Vague, untethered images of my kids, my family, empty store shelves.

While the public health directors of six counties give what I image is the most bizarre speech of their lives, I start calling people. My rational communications plan created 2 weeks ago forgotten, I call at random. First I try calling Sal, and get the “your call cannot be completed as dialed” message. I try texting. The first one also to Sal: “Call me right now.” (He does not “call me right now.”) The texts go through fine, so I stick with that for a while. After the initial flood of texts to my usual list, I look through my contacts and focus on people who don’t work for a public office, who may not know about this yet.  

The next few hours

We have until midnight to do…what? Escape? I guess some people can do that. People with houses in remote areas, those kind of people. Buy essentials? I had already stocked up for 2 weeks (including toilet paper, thank God). Go for one last “non-essential” drive? I need something to do. I decide on preparing to work from home. I call Best Buy to see if they have desktop monitors: “No, sorry. All the Best Buys in the area are out.”

I finally get hold of Sal. “I’ll pick a monitor up for you at the thrift shop,” he offers. “They have tons of them.”

“I called them yesterday. They’re out too.”

“Ok. We can prop up your laptop, no problem. Just bring home your keyboard and mouse.We need milk, I’ll pick it up on the way home.He is calm, cheerful. I feel annoyed and better at the same time. 

So I grab all my files, keyboard, mouse, desk snacks and tea, some books. I stuff it in my car in loads. I return to the office to say goodbyes, borrowing my friend’s line when she left to telework: “See you on the other side.”

Last evening

Traffic is light. I listen to music. I wonder if the radio will still work. Then I remember that media is an “essential service.” So yeah, radio should work. This is an exercise Sal and I will go through the rest of the night, asking questions and re-reading the order: Can I send a letter? Will Amazon deliver stuff? Can my mom go on a walk with her sisters?

In the garage, I spend a few minutes staring into space. Then I plug in the car and start unloading my portable office to my little desk in the bedroom.  

The kids are watching Toy Story 3, borrowed (now indefinitely) from the library. I ask the four-year old if he will miss his friends at school.

“I will see them in three days!” He says.

“Three weeks,” I correct him. He stares at me, trying to sort out the unfathomable length of three weeks. He looks back at the movie.

“They were out of milk. I got goat milk,” Sal says.

“Goat milk? You’re drinking that.”

“It’s just another animal, what’s the difference?” He starts pulling food out of the fridge. “Are we having stir fry?”

“Let’s do pasta,” I reach for the “red lentil” swirls, the last box of pasta left on the shelves yesterday. But then I remember.. “Hey! We’re in a quarantine. We can now use the Quarantine Supplies!”

Sal gets the box of spaghetti from our Quarantine cabinet.

After dinner, kids in bed, Sal and I with our devices on the couch.

“Hey! Let’s do face masks!”

Sal looks at me and chuckles. “Ok.”

I creep upstairs and get the “his and her” face masks that Sal bought us for Valentine’s Day. Sal puts the charcoal mask on in streaks, like camo paint.

I sit and read up on my Emergency Operations Center manual and check my email. It makes me feel better.

“It’s easier to digest for kids than cow milk,” Sal says. “Especially for kids over 1 year old.”

“Are you researching goat’s milk?” I laugh. I had assumed he was reading news on the shelter in place order. “I’m lucky to be in quarantine with you.”

I think of my dad, for the millionth time since this whole coronavirus thing started. I can hear his voice scratchy with tobacco smoke, smell the wood burning in his stove, see the earnest look in his blue eyes. “If you need to get out of Dodge, you can come right here. I got everything here. Plenty of room.”

I realize that he’s the reason I have two weeks of supplies in my cabinet, but not more than that. Why I bought mushrooms for their antiviral properties. Why I encouraged my colleagues, my friends here, to get ready – get ready – get ready. It’s coming. It was my dad’s scratchy voice in my head.

One of my friends sends us a list of questions to use during this quarantine. One of them is: What am I grateful for today?

Today I am grateful for my family, and the spaghetti in my cabinet.

Order of the Health Officer of the County of Santa Clara

ORDER OF THE HEALTH OFFICER OF THE COUNTY OF SANTA CLARA DIRECTING ALL INDIVIDUALS LIVING IN THE COUNTY TO SHELTER AT THEIR PLACE OF RESIDENCE EXCEPT THAT THEY MAY LEAVE TO PROVIDE OR RECEIVE CERTAIN ESSENTIAL SERVICES OR ENGAGE IN CERTAIN ESSENTIAL ACTIVITIES AND WORK FOR ESSENTIAL BUSINESSES AND GOVERNMENTAL SERVICES; EXEMPTING INDIVIDUALS EXPERIENCING HOMELESSNESS FROM THE SHELTER IN PLACE ORDER BUT URGING THEM TO FIND SHELTER AND GOVERNMENT AGENCIES TO PROVIDE IT; DIRECTING ALL BUSINESSES AND GOVERNMENTAL AGENCIES TO CEASE NON-ESSENTIAL OPERATIONS AT PHYSICAL LOCATIONS IN THE COUNTY; PROHIBITING ALL NON­ ESSENTIAL GATHERINGS OF ANY NUMBER OF INDIVIDUALS; AND ORDERING CESSATION OF ALL NON-ESSENTIAL TRAVEL

DATE OF ORDER: MARCH 16, 2020

Source: https://www.sccgov.org/sites/phd/DiseaseInformation/novel-coronavirus/Pages/order-health-officer-031620.aspx. Accessed 3/17/20 at 6:55 AM.

Gripe all you want, but deep down, you love tekkies…

The data says you do, anyway. Of note: how we feel about the tech industry is nearly the inverse of how we feel about government.

Check it out on priceonomics.com:

The Enduring Popularity of the Technology Industry.

On how listening to NPR can kind of ruin your day if you let it

To supplement my freelance writing experiment, I’m working part-time at a cafe. Part-time sounds breezy and fun, doesn’t it? Sometimes it is.  Some days, though, I spend seven hours on my feet and want to collapse on the floor in a dramatic faint. But I never do. I just get on my bike and ride back to our apartment, flop in a chair, and drink a cup of oolong. Where was I going with this?

Right, NPR.

So, it’s been a marathon day, and it ain’t over. I hop in the car to pick up the veg bag, and hit Silicon Valley’s infamous rush hour traffic. I mash buttons on the radio, landing on NPR. This guy is talking about organic products, and how maybe they are not organic, and there’s conflict of interest between the farmers and companies that certify organic products.

Are you kidding me, NPR? The organic label is all I have to assure me I’m buying actual food! And now you’re telling me I can’t trust it? That it might be full of pesticides and nano-computers or whatever? That the moral superiority I’ve been feeling in the checkout line has been for naught?

I mash buttons again, landing on “With or Without You” by U2. I wail along happily, cracking the window to release those inconvenient facts into the California breeze.

Some days I just want the radio to be nice to me and not challenge deeply held beliefs, ok?

Is that so much to ask?