We’re all coming unglued

At the risk of sounded like a spoiled, entitled Karen (I had to look that up), I’m freaking done with this stay-at-home shit.

As I’ve documented ad nauseam in previous posts, our family has been hunkered down since March 15. As Governor Inslee tightened the restrictions, we did as we were told. Back then, my city was the epicenter of coronavirus. CDC officials got takeout at my favorite falafel place in Juanita Village. I was scared shitless that the virus was going to come in through the windows and doors.

My friend Robyn called me in early April, freaking out about the news that Mayor Garcetti had urged Angelenos to wear masks in public. Remember, back in early April, the CDC was begging people to leave the masks for the first responders. It felt very scary for a public official to make a different recommendation. Did he know something we didn’t? Were we all going to die?

There’s been lots of little freak-outs ever since then, but I’ve always managed to pull myself together, and solider on. What choice did I have? It’s not like I could decamp to my luxurious (and fictional) beachfront oasis. And even if I could, the local residents might show up with pitchforks. So we stayed in.

It’s now the end of April. My house is a disaster, no matter what I do. Steve is trying to work and trying to stay calm every time one of the kids calls out “Daaaad?” My kids are losing their minds in different ways. I am Evan’s personal second grade teacher, his disciplinarian, and his only playmate. Bini is self-winding with his schoolwork, until he gets frustrated and the whole family gets sucked into his umbrage tornado.

We try to stay positive, and point out the necessity of protecting ourselves and other people. And my kids, they take that seriously. But they feel the strain, the strangeness of being cooped up for weeks and weeks, and it smashes up against this important duty we’re doing for others. There’s nowhere to put that fear, and confusion. And the adults in their lives? We don’t have any answers. That’s freaking bananas for a kid, not to mention two kids from trauma.

Bini argues with everything we say. Oh, I hear you out there — that’s what adolescents do. No. No. Noooooo. This is extreme. Every interaction with our almost-12-year-old son ends in yelling and slammed doors. We try ignoring his behavior — the breathtaking displays of impudence. It tests every bit of patience that we possess as parents. But Steve and I understand that he’s struggling, that we’re all struggling, and he misses his friends. He misses school. He misses being away from us for six hours a day. 

And so I’ve tried, within the confines of what we’re allowed, to help him.  I’ve engineered FaceTime group chats with his friends, and he’s not interested. I forced him to go on a socially distant bike ride with his friend up the street and he kept insisting that it wasn’t allowed, it wasn’t allowed. I’ve tried talking to him, but he shuts me down.

And then there’s Evan, our formerly happy-happy-joy-joy boy. The first two weeks of having Mommy as teacher were SO much fun! We looked for specimens to look at under his microscope. We did chalk drawings. He ripped through workbook pages and delighted in his Outschool classes, which I put him in until the school district could get its ever-loving act together.

And then, as soon as we started getting packets from his teacher, he rebelled. Evan, usually cooperative, refused to do his work. He would moan and cry about the four zillion learning websites he now has to do, every day, every week. I implored his teacher for a 5-minute confab over Microsoft Teams, or Skype, or whatever. After 24 hours without a word, I nudged her again and she replied with a terse email for us to read aloud to Evan. Was it effective? What do you think?

Today, Evan had an Outschool class with all of his friends. And he stood with his back to us and patently refused to do it.

Evan bag
Evan, wearing a bag on his head.

“But it’s your friends!” I pointed out.

“No it’s not! It’s just them on a computer!” Evan yelled. “It’s not the same!”

I appreciate the way that everyone (except Evan’s elementary school teacher) has stepped up and adapted to this abrupt and terrifying sea change. Our karate studio figured it out. Bini’s tutor figured it out. My friends and I figured it out. But it’s not enough, it’s not OK, it’s not normal, and we’re all coming fucking unglued.

What am I going to do about it? Nothing. I’m going to do nothing, except write this damn post and complain. And then I’m going to go downstairs, empty my dishwasher for the 47th time, and make a dinner my kids won’t eat. And then, we do it all again.



I can’t stand to look at myself

We’ve been self-quarantined for six weeks, and I can’t stand to look at myself anymore.

My eyelash extensions, which make me look awake when I’m not, are shedding. But not in a uniform way, mind you. I have these weird bald patches next to extensions that are grown out and cockeyed. I look like I have spiders on my face. I bought a lash serum to spur natural lash growth and it turned my eyelids maroon. I’m wearing mascara for the first time in five years. And for what? My family? They couldn’t care less.

My hair, cut into a long pixie, looks like a lawn that a drunk person mowed. Pixies need a trim every 5 weeks, and I was due when the shutdown happened. I’m impulse-buying hair products on Amazon which I quickly abandon. I’m experimenting with bobby pins. I’m pestering my stylist every week, as if she has any insight into when beauty salons will be allowed to open.

And my teeth — good Christ, my teeth. I’m drinking more coffee and red wine than usual, and my teeth are showing the effects. So I dusted off my GLO Science Teeth Whitening System (I’m vain — OK?)  and started using it every night. And then, the next day, I’d drink coffee and red wine again. Sisyphean, this process.

At first, my friends and I were having all these Zoom happy hours. Look at us! Trying to maintain some normalcy during these crazy times! The first one I did was celebratory, with all of us doing virtual toasts and chattering to catch up after two weeks. TWO WEEKS. We were still positive, still looking on the bright side. I’m sentimental for those times.

Image 4-25-20 at 7.07 PM
I never considered myself high maintenance. I was wrong.

As the weeks went on, my book club met twice on Zoom. I’ve attended several more happy hours, a game night, and a couple of birthday Zoom parties. I’ve discovered how to position my desk lamp for more flattering lighting, and how to enable the “Touch Up My Appearance” setting on Zoom. It helps a little, but I still find myself fluffing my hair to no avail, and looking at my neck. What the hell happened to my NECK?

The virtual parties have leveled off.  I wonder if it’s because everyone is tired of looking at themselves, or if I’m not being invited anymore because of the incessant hair-fluffing.

I’m keenly aware of how privileged I am to even be worrying about my appearance during a pandemic. For awhile, I was able to forestall my descent into vanity because I was doing a lot for others. I can’t outrun my frailties, though. If I sit with myself, the things that start to bubble to the surface are these mundane worries. Should I cut my own hair? Are my jeans tighter than they were last week? Is my face mask giving me acne?

I think I’m focused on these things because I don’t want to confront the bigger things. I went from worrying about getting into grad school to worrying about whether I’ll ever see my parents again. I’m worried about what this social distancing is doing to my kids. I’m worried about whether we can count on Steve’s paycheck in six months, nine months, a year.

So yeah, I think I’ll worry about my teeth instead. And refill my wineglass.


Life in the time of coronavirus

IMG_3086I haven’t blogged in years. In fact, when our credit card was compromised and WordPress kindly requested my updated information, I deleted the email. I didn’t have time to blog for my personal site because I was working. And then, I became a podcaster. But since the new coronavirus, COVID-19, surfaced in my town on February 29, I’ve had this itch to write.

I live in Kirkland, the epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States. Life Care, the nursing home at the center of the outbreak, is less than three miles from my front door. We’re the test case for the rest of the country. And it’s kind of incredible how much has changed in the last couple of weeks.

At first, people in the Seattle area were concerned, but still going about their business as usual. Maybe washing their hands more. We asked ourselves things like: Was it OK for Bini to go to a sleepover? Was it OK for me to take the kids to visit my parents in the Bay Area? Should we have our PTSA board meeting in person, or virtually? 

News spread that the virus had likely been in the Seattle area six weeks longer than originally thought. That’s when the potential magnitude began to sink in, but the White House was still blowing it off. We weren’t getting any guidance from local health officials either, except to wash our hands and stay home if we were sick.

We began to ask ourselves different questions: Should Steve work from home? Should we cancel our spring break plans? Would we be able to travel this summer? We watched what was happening in Northern Italy and wondered if it was a harbinger for what was to come. My social media feed was split between those who thought this was really freaking serious, and those who thought it was “just a flu.”  It was hard to know if you were overreacting, or under-reacting. It felt like we were on our own. 

Stores started getting cleaned out of things like toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and Clorox wipes. Then, it was rubbing alcohol, and, oddly, razor blades. Parents in our school district were screaming for officials to close the schools. I was one of the people who thought they needed to chill out and stop imposing their panic on others. It’s possible I was wrong. 

On March 12, the district announced that it would close schools through March 27. When I read that, I finally panicked. Yes, I was worried about the virus, but also, about what the hell I was going to do with my kids all day. My kids are hard right now — Evan is nearly 8, and needs constant attention (adoption thing), and Bini is 11, and alternates between truculence and indifference (we think it’s an adolescent thing?). I pitched an idea of a homeschooling co-op to a group of second-grade moms, and everyone was on board. I was confident that our schools would be doing some sort of remote learning.

Then, things started moving very quickly. On March 13, Governor Jay Inslee ordered all schools closed until April 24, and a ban on gatherings larger than 250 people. That’s when shit got really real. We weren’t going to be able to do any kind of co-op. We were going to have to stay home, and do this social-distancing thing for real. And because of equity issues, it’s not clear that we will be doing e-learning as originally hoped. Steve and I will be homeschooling our kids, and cobbling together a curriculum. Once, when I pondered the fleeting thought of homeschooling, Steve said to me, very gravely: “That is not a good choice for our family.” That’s because I am not a patient person. So I’m going to suck at this, and my kids are going to hate me.

Today, March 16, the governor ordered a two-week closure for all bars and restaurants, except for takeout. Gyms, salons, and spas are shuttered too. Steve and Evan desperately need haircuts, and I can’t really imagine life without the gym, but this is reality now. Everything is shut. My inbox is clogged with emails from places I’ve patronized announcing their closures, from retail stores to Evan’s dojo. Arts organizations are openly begging for donations to stay afloat.

In other states, like California, the changes have been swift — a major punch to the gut instead of a flurry of quick, sharp jabs. In other states, people still think the COVID-19 is a hoax cooked up by the Democrats, or a hysteria created by those libtards in Seattle. So either we’re the test case, and the drastic steps we’re taking can slow the spread, or you’ve just read what your state will be facing. Soon.