Sunday, April 26, 2020

quarantine log week 5

A good 7 days after writing last week’s quarantine log, this is about the time I would be regretting cutting those bangs. 

It rained all day Sunday but the sun has been out every day since.  The birds are singing every morning as the sunlight spills over the tree tops and across the front yard.  The kids have been going outside every evening after dinner and we’ve been playing wiffle ball and swatting the swarming gnats before retreating to the safety of the front porch hammock.  The temperatures have swung pretty wide but each day has been warm enough for me to not regret wearing shorts.  I’ve had to throw a sweatshirt on a couple of days, but no complaints about that.  My run this morning was at about 38 degrees and it was almost perfect.

While last week felt gloomy and cursed, this week has felt a little more light and hopeful.  I’m totally ready to leave the house and be social again, but I’ve developed a list of tasks that need to be accomplished every day and that has helped to keep me busy and moving forward without falling into the pit of despair (shameless Princess Bride reference).

I mentioned some of those daily tasks last week but I don’t think I mentioned the art remixes I’ve been doing.  Several weeks ago one of my running friends from the Netherlands sent me a link to a museum encouraging their Instagram followers to spend their time in quarantine recreating famous works of art using only items they had with them in lockdown.  These were pretty funny as they featured costumes and props related to the toilet paper shortages and face masks. 

Our art department was looking for ways to engage our students from a distance and we put this challenge out to them as well.  That meant I had to do a couple of art remixes to give some examples and it turned out to be very fun.  I had to involve my kids in the making of costumes and props and they also had to help position me and take the photos.  I have a healthy sense of humor and a low threshold of shame which apparently is a great combination when it comes to doing things like this.

I started posting them on Instagram and some of them were reposted enough that they sort of took off and got hundreds of likes.  Many of my friends commented on them and said the images made them laugh.  That was the inspiration I needed to attempt to recreate a new one every day.  Now each day holds a new creative problem to solve and this engages my mind in a challenging way.  I’m limited to what I have around the house and the time I have left in each day after doing school and managing my other creative outlets.  It’s been a fun thing to do and honestly, it’s been a welcome distraction for me.

Beyond that, I know that everyone’s screen time is up during quarantine.  I also know that many of us experience a broad spectrum of emotions and moods during a regular quarantine day.  Most days there’s at least a small period of time where I find myself very irritable for no apparent reason.  During those times, I appreciate a kind word from a friend or a laugh delivered by the internet.  There may be some who would say I get obsessed with things like this and maybe I don’t have to do it every single day.  Those people would be the unfortunate souls who have been stuck in this house with me for the last 5 weeks.  But don’t worry, I’m very stubborn.  I’ll go until I get bored or run out of ideas.

On Thursday we heard that our state public boat ramps were going to reopen.  Violet and I immediately started talking about going kayaking.  We figured this was something we could do while still being safe and thoughtful to our fellow humans.  And we really, really needed to get out of the house. 

Violet in the front seat

Saturday morning she was up before me, dressed and ready to go.  She was so excited.  We drove to our nearest lake and paddled around for a couple of hours.  The weather was perfect.  We saw ducks, geese, turtles, herons, and hawks.  It was so great to be out in the sun.  On the lake there was no hint of pandemic.  It was a brief reminder that the world keeps on spinning and we, like the animals, are just passing through.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

quarantine log week 4

How are y’all doing? 

If I had hair, yesterday I would have probably cut my own bangs.  Does that tell you anything about how things are here?

It’s week 4 of self-quarantine.  Everyone here is healthy.  We’ve probably dodged our first exposure to the plague.  School stuff is rolling on, and that at least helps me to keep track of the weekdays.  I’m having critiques, grading projects, and trying to find ways to entertain my friends through Instagram each day. 

The plague is set to hang out for another few weeks, and that has me feeling down.  I was not thrilled with leaving campus and switching to online learning.  I was really not thrilled with the cancellation of all of our fun spring school events.  I was deeply not thrilled to have to move the Sand Sculpture trip to the fall.  This week we lost our annual early summer family vacation week at the beach, and that may have been the straw that broke the camel’s back.  After the camel’s back was broken, COVID-19 stepped in to beat the camel to death with a big stick when the hospital sent G home with an 8 week furlough. 

We’re both a little angry about this, and I realize we’re both also taking it personally.  It’s really hard not to do that.  She’s been a faithful employee of this particular hospital for 27 years. For 27 years, in the midst of southern snows and terrible ice storms, she’s been told that she’s essential to daily operations. That she should report to work no matter what.  For the last few years she’s been in a position that calls for her to be on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week.  That seems pretty essential to me.  It certainly feels that way when she has field calls, emails, and text messages at all hours and on family vacations.  But now with the hospital reeling financially because of the virus, suddenly she’s seen as a way to cut spending.  Not cool.  That’s not how I would treat an employee.  However, we can drop that in the file of “Things Beyond Our Control,” and get over it I guess.  Not a lot of other choices.   

You know how once you’re irritated at something, every little thing seems to irritate you?  At least 143 times this week I’ve opened the cabinet door to throw something away and discovered the trash piled up 6 feet above the top of the trash can.  And for there to be so much trash in and around that trash can, it’s amazing how many empty wrappers and napkins I seem to find placed randomly through the house.  Apparently when we finish using something the only option is to leave that thing right where we finished using it.  I counted 7 pairs of shoes with no humans in them scattered across the house walking to my computer moments ago.  Clearly I need to get outside for a while.

So how do we stay sane and not make our families hate us during this quarantine?  Well, here’s what I’m choosing to do:

Every morning I get up and run before I speak to anyone.  This lessens the chances I’ll say something devastatingly cruel to them.  For about 25 minutes I run on the trail alone with my thoughts.  I pray and plan.  I can’t describe just how much this helps me mentally and emotionally every single day.  If you don’t hate me, this 25 minutes is why.

Some mornings I’m following up that run with a PiYo workout.  But every morning the run is followed by a big cup of the best coffee you’ve never had.  You’ve never had it because I make it here at my house.  It’s really a religious experience and I don’t even mean that as a joke.  There’s a liturgy in the process of grinding the beans, tamping the grounds in the holder, warming up the machine, steaming the milk, and stirring the white steamed milk and the brown coffee foam into a swirl.  Then there’s that first sip. Oh my goodness. It touches my soul. 

All this is time I’m alone, but in addition to this, I take some time to myself every day.  If I must, I walk around outside.  I work in the basement studio on 3D projects.  I’ve also been lucky enough to spend time each day in my drawing studio.  Sometimes I sit in the silence of the studio and listen to the sleeping dog breathe.  Sometimes I listen to a podcast or some music.  But generally speaking, I’m by myself on my tiny hermit island at these times.

I also practice absurdity.  God help my kids because of my ridiculous ideas.  I may decide we’re going on a 4 mile backyard hike or we’ll take the dogs in the car for a 10 minute drive to the mailbox, which is only a 30 second drive to the actual mailbox and a 9 minute 30 second drive around the yard.  I’ve also been attempting to recreate famous works of art in and around the house.  The kids have both had to assist me in various ways. Both have been disgusted by the costumes I’ve had to wear for these photos.  They both complain a little when I drag them away from their screens and devices for these crazy exercises, but they both laugh a lot while we do it. 

And then there are the waffles.  Once each week we have a waffle morning. I get up and after that run and that first sip of coffee I’ll slap some fresh, hot waffles on plates, yelling for the kids.  My waffle creations are sweet, wonderful, and delicious.  They are love on a plate; a warm waffle covers a multitude of sins. 

I hope there are things you’re doing each day to help you through these strange weeks we’re enduring together, apart.  I hope you’re finding ways to connect with your friends and family.  I hope you’re emotionally and mentally well, and if you’re struggling at any point, send me a message.  I’m probably struggling too, and we can complain together.  Maybe I’ll mail you a waffle. 

Monday, April 6, 2020

quarantine log week 3

Well that didn’t take long. 

I think this is week three of the self-imposed/government suggested self-quarantine.  I haven’t yet started scratching the days into my studio walls.  My kids had two weeks of remote learning, and this week they are enjoying their official spring break. I’m on my third week of teaching sculpture from home and kind of, sort of monitoring the kids. At least to make sure they’re not tearing the house down or fighting each other with sticks.  I have regular class meetings with my students each day by video, and I’m trying to keep up with the tons of other school related tasks that must be done during the spring semester.

I kinda live here now.

I’m lucky to still be working from home.  I’m seeing a lot of people talking about being bored and asking for suggestions for what to watch on Netflix. They say they’ve watched everything available.  Meanwhile I’m over here struggling to get my school stuff done and still have time to make dinner and wash the dishes before bed.  Maybe that’s a tiny exaggeration.  I am sleeping later than I would if I was still driving to school every day. I’m making time to do silly things with the kids each day.  I’m also working in shorts every day, so the quarantine dress code is pretty nice. 

Backyard hiking destination.

Last Saturday the sun came out. It was warm. We slept in and had waffles. I told the kids to pack a lunch because we were going hiking.  The state parks are closed, so they asked where we were hiking.  I told them we were hiking at home.  The woods behind us go on forever, and some of our neighbors have four wheeler trails that meander along a big creek and it’s tributaries.  When the kids were tiny, we used to ride the four wheeler down to a few cool places. On this particular day, one kid was excited about the adventure, the other was not. I told them to suck it up and get outside; this was a dad-mandated trip.

Backyard hikers of various attitudes.

I will admit that it was hot enough for it to not be a comfortable hike.  I will admit that we saw a large black snake.  I will admit that I had to get a tick off of Violet’s leg.  However, those unfortunate details did not warrant the amount of complaining I had to endure for the two hour hike.  When we arrived back home, I needed some quiet time. 

G works in healthcare at a decent sized hospital.  You know, the kind of place where people from all walks of life go during the course of a week bringing their germs and nastiness with them?  The kind of place where people who test positive for the COVID-19 virus go to get help?  Yeah, she goes there every day.  Early last week I started playing a weird game in my head.  It was a little like “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” except it was using G instead and trying to figure out just how easily she (and by default I) could be exposed to the virus.  The game didn’t take long.  So an imaginary person goes to the hospital to get checked.  Everyone they are close to is exposed.  Then everyone those people are close to for the rest of the day are exposed.  As I understand it, everyone those people are close to for the next 14 days at the least are exposed.  It goes from multiplication to exponents very quickly.  Which is a way of saying that she was probably exposed last week and so was I.

I probably worried about it for 15 minutes or so before my phone went off again, and my focus shifted to answering emails.  Life is weird.  I don’t watch the news, and I certainly don’t try to find news on the internet.  My bubble here in the country is pretty small.  The things I’ve heard about the impacts of the virus on individuals ranges from symptoms so slight they’re unnoticeable to rapid death.  I’ve heard only those who are health impaired are dangerously impacted, and I’ve also heard of healthy people younger than me dying from it.  But my kids are asking to hook the water hose up to the slip ‘n’ slide, the dogs need to go out, and I have a new drawing idea in my head.  Who has time to worry?  And aren’t those the things I should be doing anyway?

The slip 'n' slide.

So I’m still getting up with an alarm four days a week.  I’m still running and doing all my school stuff.  I’m still drinking a respectable amount of coffee. I’m still being sillier than 90% of people my age, checking on my friends, and trying to keep making people laugh. I’m living a life worth living.  I think that’s what I should be doing.