Sunday, November 8, 2020

Singlehandedly Saving Democracy

You guys! Finally some hope! Oh thank God.

I wrote most of this prior to Saturday, a.k.a. The Day That We All Started to Breathe Again. I have lots of thoughts about elections and the next two months and imperfect candidates and the problems that still lie ahead and keeping in the fight, but I also have thoughts about sometimes just needing a few minutes to be happy. So instead of all of those thoughts, I'm going to tell you how I singlehandedly saved democracy.

For the first time ever in my life, I worked polls this election. Honestly, it had never really occurred to me before and then with COVID and fascism, it looked like we needed a bunch of new non-high risk poll workers or we would have one central voting location in each state and I don't care how much you love farms and interstates, that commute from San Francisco to the Bakersfield Voting Hub is a bitch.

I had a moment of inspiration two or three months ago when it occurred to me that *I* am not high risk and that if I contracted COVID, I'd probably be less likely to have serious problems (knockonwoodknockonwood) that the usual poll worker I am accustomed to, who is often elderly.

I went to my Board of Elections web site and signed up and felt really good about myself. I posted it on social media and took in the accolades from my friends. Then I started getting emails about training. At first it was "Watch these two videos and read sections 1, 2, and 5 on this document." Then it was, "Your work day will be 6am to 11pm," and finally it was, "Do your online training and quiz soon! It will probably take you six hours! Do it all in one 24-hour period, okay?!"

I got a little sadder then, but I did the damn thing and I got 100% on my quiz and I bragged about it on the internet and got more accolades and I waited for the BOE to contact me to schedule my in-person training, but no one did. I sort of half-heartedly sent a couple emails but didn't get a response. I thought about just not fucking pursuing it farther, but I'd done so much goddamn self congratulating that if I didn't work a poll, I was going to have to pretend that I did to save face. And frankly, that seemed like a lot of work.

I finally managed to talk to someone who scheduled my training and mentioned that they needed early voting workers too and was I interested? And it seemed wrong to say no, so I said yes and then I learned that to do early voting you have to work at least two days, which is weird because it's almost like they're trying to make everything awful, but I'd already said yes and it seemed like an asshole thing to do to take back everything at that point, so there I was.

I ended up working two early voting days, 6 am to about 9:30 pm both days, a set-up couple hours the night before election day, and a 6 am to 3 pm shift on election day. The mercy of that last scheduling made me so relieved that I almost cried.

There's a lot to know about working polls. The night before my first shift, it took me a really long time to fall asleep because I was so stressed about all the unknowns: Where would I store my lunch? What job were they going to give me? Do you think an active shooter will try to take down the voting center?

To aid anyone who might be wondering if poll working is for them, I have compiled a list of FAQs. I'm considering sending it to the Board of Elections so they can put it on their website.

Gosh, you've done a lot of complaining. Are you glad you did it? Yes. One hundred percent yes. It was not the easiest thing in the world to do, but it was really cool to see the voting process and the care that goes into it up close. It felt good to be doing something productive during these terrible times. I am happy that helped people vote. Plus I got all those accolades on social media.

Are you going to do it for the next election? Dude. It is way too soon to ask that question. Give me time to forget my stress and tiredness and I'll probably do it again.

Why on God's green Earth do they make you work a 6 am to 11 pm shift? This is the million fucking dollar question. There are 9-hour shifts, but the BOE seems to intentionally make it hard to sign up for those. If I could sign up for a 6 am to 3 pm shift, I would work every single election. But a 17-hour day seems sadistic.

What jobs were you assigned? I was literally never assigned a job. It was more of a "stand in the vicinity of the machine you'd like to operate" sort of thing. My first day of early voting, there were quite a few unstaffed poll books (the little computers where you check in upon first arriving) at 6:30 am, so I sat down at one and lived there for the next million hours. The next day of early voting, I sat at the exact same poll book because I fear change. 

On election day, I had several jobs. First I was a pointer, meaning I stood where people would see me and pointed at the place they were supposed to go. Then I worked the exit table with the comment cards and the pen return and the stickers. Finally I was the Lysol girl. I sprayed down voting booths after every voter.

What was the best job? Need you even ask? Clearly it was the sticker table. I spent a good two to three hours there and it was GREAT. No one had any hard questions. No one was mad because they had to vote a provisional ballot. There were never any lines. Everyone got a sticker. And we all know that the sticker is maybe the best part of voting. Plus there were three very cute Maryland-themed stickers this year as well as the old-school "I Voted/Yo Voté" classic. Everyone was happy. I got to make the joke "this is your last choice for this election" over and over and people would laugh every time. I was extremely liberal with my sticker disbursement. If you ever work an election, try for the sticker table.

What was the worst job? After the polls close, one of the things you have to do is count all the unused ballots so they know if any are missing. No, I didn't say count all the unused packs of ballots—I said count all the unused ballots. If a 100-pack has been opened, you have to count every. single. piece. of. paper. Oh, by the way, this election there were 255 different styles of 2-page ballots in my county. That's a lot of mind numbing counting.

Was it hard? Well. I did almost cry when I had to set my alarm for 4:45 am on election day. And the first four hours of the day did go a lot faster than the last 12. It was absolutely very difficult to hear people spell complicated names through a mask, plexiglass, and a large room full of noise. But it wasn't too bad. I mean, I basically got to say the same sentences 800 times. ("You are allowed to mark your ballot one of two ways: by hand on a paper ballot or electronically with a touchscreen ballot marking device.") Plus, very short, kinda scripted conversations with strangers are my favorite. It's not until I have to spend a full two or three minutes with someone that I get awkward. 

Was it hard for the voters? It's funny that when someone isn't expecting it and you ask them the month and day of their birth how long it takes for them to come up with the answer. Also, the decision to mark their ballot by hand or machine was extremely difficult for some people. It was the one question that wasn't in the sample ballot.

Was it COVID safe? Why don't we wait another week and I'll let you know? I don't have COVID yet! I mean, it wasn't ideal. I interacted with more people in three days than I had for the previous six months. And there were times when social distancing was very difficult. But the BOE tried! There was that plexiglass and required masks and some people got face shields and optional gloves (gloves would have been a deal-breaker for me—I cannot stand the feel of plastic gloves). Everyone had their own pen that they carried with them through the whole process and a lot of thought was put into trying to arrange lines in the best way. (By the way, it is really hard to direct people to a socially distanced line—it's tough to locate the end. And directing people to a specific place in a busy, huge room with multiple lines is difficult as well. The biggest innovation I saw was when someone put a traffic cone at the beginning of a line so I could say, "go stand by the orange cone" instead of my "stand behind the person with the hair" or a co-worker's "stand behind the lady with the mask.")

Was it busy? I worked three days. My first day was the second day of early voting (Tuesday) and it was very busy. We had more than 3,000 voters that day. I went back on Thursday and it was a lot slower, but it was raining and that had a dampening (haha) effect, I think. We still had more than 2,500 voters. Surprisingly, election day itself was pretty sparse—although that could be due to where I was assigned, which was a smaller center.

What was the best part? Other than learning about the voting process, I really liked working with a bunch of very nice people going out of their comfort zones to do a good thing. Many of us were first-timers, but we all wanted to help. It was lovely to have voters thank us for being there. It was exciting to celebrate first-time voters, young and old. Oh! And one of my co-workers' husbands brought us Dunkin' Donut munchkins, so that was pretty good too.

Were you mean to people wearing Trump/Pence stickers? No. I remained professional and treated them politely. Even if I thought sad thoughts looking at them.

Did you see election fraud? Only my egregious over-handing out of stickers. Also, I'm faceblind, so even though it looked like the same white guy with short, grayish hair voted 168 times, I'm pretty sure he didn't.

By the way, who won this election? 

Stylized photo of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris
Hope. Hope won this election.


Monday, September 7, 2020

My Harrowing Quarantine Experience

A week ago as I headed to bed, my throat felt a little sore. Because I've been semi-regularly stricken with 12-hour stretches of OH MY GOD I HAVE COVID I CAN TELL BECAUSE OF THIS [ONGOING MINOR SYPTOM] episodes over the past few months, I assumed I'd be fine the next morning. At least I'm a reasonable hypochondriac.

But Tuesday when I woke up I still had a sore throat. And Wednesday I still had a sore throat. And both of those days I had phantom Are Those Chills? Do I Have a Headache? Am I Dying? moments. So when I woke up on Thursday still with a sore throat, I decided it was time to bite the bullet and go in for the Q-tip into the brain test.

Thursday:

10:00 am: I arrive at the county testing facility and am ushered to a back "for the symptomatic" entrance. There is one person ahead of me in line.

10:05 am: I am reminded that it takes three to five business days to get results. As I am not planning on going anywhere, I am unconcerned.

10:10 am: I've filled out my paperwork and am given a little brush to insert into my nose to swish around. I've been dreading this, but it turns out to not be so bad. Did all those people who were so sad about this test have it administered by masochists who pushed up extra hard? Because I did it myself, I was gentle. Bedside manner = A+

10:15 am: I leave, only to be pursued by one of the testers letting me know that I hadn't checked my printout. Then he made me take a photo of it.

Photo of gloved fingers holding a paper with test details on it.
It is unclear why.

Noon: I am at home sitting on my couch when my phone rings. It is my sister, Ann. She is a doctor. I make the mistake of telling her that I recently went in for a Covid test. She immediately starts listing the draconian steps I have to take to isolate myself from my family until I get negative test results.

Noon-15 pm: After a whirlwind of activity, I am sitting in my bedroom with my computer, my book, my work files, my iPad, two sorta confused cats, and a vaguely surly husband downstairs who has just been promoted to room service clerk.

12:16 pm: I realize that three to five business days on Labor Fucking Day Weekend means that I could potentially be all alone in my bedroom from now to next Thursday.

1:00 pm: Awesome! I'm going to take a nap!

3:30 pm: Wake up. Don't wanna piss off Alex by texting a list of demands so I search my bedroom for food. Find a container of pretzels. Munch away while watching my cats discover the bag I brought all my stuff upstairs in. The rest of the weekend for them could be summarized thusly: Sleep on the bag. Look annoyed that the other cat is sleeping on the bag. Sit on top of the other cat on the bag. Shove the other cat off the bag. Repeat.

Photo of a white canvas bag on a bed with a white cat lying on it.
For the life of me, I can't figure out what is so great about the bag.

6:00 pm: I'm starving. The frozen burritos I am served for dinner come without the soda I'd ordered. I diplomatically decide to drink water instead of sending back the entire meal in protest. 

7:00 pm: What now? TV I guess. But what? Oh, that's right, I've been meaning to watch Little Fires Everywhere. I watch four hours of Little Fires Everywhere and force myself to go to bed at a reasonable time. Stretch out over entire bed and listen to Alex sadly shuffle up to bed in the guest room.

Friday:

10:00 am: Today is a work day! I have several hours in which I don't have to wonder what to do. I enthusiastically do my job, delighting in wirelessly sending things to my printer downstairs. I imagine that I am still affecting the downstairs environment even without my actual presence.

12:30 pm: I try to order lunch. Everything that I knew was in the fridge is now gone. Alex sends a shrug emoji when I ask him what we have. I sigh and ask for more frozen burritos. 

1:00 pm: My cats are not what you'd call super motivating.

Photo of two white cats stretched out on a bed/white canvas bag. One is asleep and the other's eyes are barely open.
You might notice that they are still on the bag.

3:00 pm: I give a little nod of thanks that my Peloton bike is in my bedroom and thus under my quarantine purview. Turns out I don't feel that sick anymore. Work out for one and a half hours.

4:45 pm: Text all of my kids to tell them I miss them. No one responds.

5:40 pm: As Alex brings me delicious taco dinner, I text him to tell him that I am fine and that I should be able to come downstairs. As if she can sense our resolve breaking, my sister texts me at that moment to ask how I am. I tell her I am 100% fine and that I should be allowed to break quarantine. She tells me no.

Screenshot of a text between me and Alex. Me: I feel fine. This is stupid. I WANT OUT Yum!!!! (dinner had been served) Alex: ok Me: ok what Alex: Come out Me: Ann JUST told me I can't Alex: What a bitch. Me RIGHT???
I don't thrown around the phrase "worse than Hitler" lightly, but...

7:00 pm: Before I settle down to watch several more hours of Little Fires Everywhere, I check my step goal for the day.

Screenshot of a walking emoji guy next to the words: Reach your step goal. A little slider tells me I have walked 42 steps.
Yep, that's about right.

Saturday:

8:00 am: I've decided to take advantage of my confinement to join some people from my online Peloton group for a two-hour series of rides starting at 9 am. I want to eat breakfast before I ride. Alex has just woken up and is still in bed. Why do these room service hours suck so bad? I should talk to management.

12:30 pm: Spend my post-workout morning reading, eating pretzels and occasionally texting "HELLO!!!!!!" to my three kids, all of whom ignore me.

3:00 pm: I've watched all the videos of school meetings I didn't attend but swore that I'd watch the recordings of. I've done step one of my election worker training and scored 38 out of 40 on my quiz. I've realized that Saturday is most likely not a business day and that I'm probably halfway through my quarantine at best. I check the internet to see how long after I no longer have symptoms that I can leave isolation. It's 10 days. No help. I do some conniving about how I could maybe eat dinner with my family but on the other side of the backyard maybe? Or I could wear a mask and sit across the room from them. Ann doesn't need to fucking know.

3:30 pm: Wallow.

4:00 pm: My phone rings. It's a local number, but there is no other ID. Normally I would ignore the hell out of the call, but I have a feeling about this one. I do a very un-Stimey thing and answer it. It's the county! Saturday IS a business day! My test is negative. I AM FREE!

4:03 pm: I've gathered all my things, knocked my cats off their favorite new sleeping bag, and departed the bedroom. Alex is happy. Katie comes out of a distant room to say yay and then retreats. Jack gives me a hug. Quinn doesn't turn away from his video game. I delight in the semi-warm embrace of my dumb family and think about how grateful I am for them and for my health.

Selfie of me and one of my cats from when I was in my bed.
Scene from my confinement.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Pandemic Puzzlin'


Has anyone else been doing a lot of puzzles lately? I always like puzzles, but I tend to go through phases where I do ALL THE PUZZLES and then go months without doing one. Hopefully I don't enter a fallow state when the puzzle is actually spread out on a table. Because that would be terrible.

Which brings me to a funny puzzle story. You know how everyone is doing puzzles because they're trapped at home? My sister's wife decided to go full Dining Room Makeover: Extreme Puzzle Edition. She bought my sister a NINE THOUSAND PIECE PUZZLE.

That puzzle is so big that you can really only do half of it at a time and even then it takes up your whole goddamn house.

Photo of a partially done puzzle covering an entire dining room table
This is, like, four months of work.
They're never going to eat on that table again. Also, that is only 4,500 of the pieces.

I spent about an hour thinking that doing a 9,000 piece puzzle would be SO fun and then I actually thought about it and made sure to tell Alex that I'd kill him in his sleep if he got such a thing for me. Fortunately for my sister-in-law, my sister is nicer than me.

I tend to think that 1,000 pieces is the sweet spot, although every once in a while I throw in a 500-piecer for a quick, fun puzzle adventure.

Really any blog post about puzzles being done in a family that has five cats should be called Cats vs. Puzzles.

Spoiler alert: The cats win.

There's a lot of walking on the puzzle, sitting on the puzzle, dropping pieces of the puzzle. One of my cats, Starfire, has constantly sweaty paws, so she will walk across the pieces, which will stick to her feet, causing her to shake them, which flings the pieces across the room. It's maximum entropy.

Photo of a black cat sitting on a partially completed puzzle. She looks to have quite an attitude.
This is Ruby. Do you see that fucking attitude?
I don't actually have all that many photos of cats lounging on my puzzles because after the first one it ceased to be fucking cute and became fucking infuriating. Especially considering that every puzzle I've completed during this pandemic has had at least one piece missing. Until, that is, Quinn or Alex crawls around on the ground under the table to find it.

Photo of Alex on all fours on a carpet looking for a puzzle piece. His shirt has tiny lobsters on it.
He found the one he was looking for, by the way.
We haven't vacuumed that room since March because we don't want to accidentally suck up an essential piece. Even so, we haven't always found them. They vanish into thin air or a cat tucks it carefully under some furniture; one of those things.

I thought that puzzle doing would be a fun family activity when I busted out the first one, a map of Yellowstone that Quinn had long ago agreed to do with me.

Photo of a black and white cat being held in a lap next to a table with some pieces on it. You can't see the person's face.
You're going to have to trust me that Quinn is holding that cat. He's not a fan of sharing his photo.
He watched me sort out some edges, decided it didn't look fun and permanently bailed. Katie came to the rescue for that one though. She helped me put the Yellowstone puzzle together, even after we ran into some trouble early on.
Photo of five corner pieces. Puzzles only have four corners.
This was the only time I ended up with MORE pieces than I needed.
Either this puzzle taught her that she hated puzzles, hated me, or that she was only interested in piecing together places she'd actually been, but this was the last I saw her at the puzzle table.

Photo of me and Katie giving thumbs ups near a finished puzzle.
We were victorious though.
Every once in a while Jack will pop by and help me out.

Photo of Jack studying a puzzle box and a puzzle.
We look at the box. We're not purists.

Jack is really good at puzzles. I have strict rules that no one is allowed to work on the puzzle when I'm not there because I need to see every piece go in. (I know.) I made an exception for one puzzle that I couldn't finish the edge of because all the pieces were exactly the same color. I told Jack he could do that part. I had to go into the office that day and when I got home, he'd finished the border! He's my favorite.

He's also condemned himself to doing the worst part of every puzzle.

Jack might have to help finish the border on my current puzzle, because a big chunk of it is all black.

Photo of a puzzle box that has a picture of a band from the back of a stage. It says "My Morning Jacket."
Alex bought this puzzle for me.
This is significant, because Alex looooooooves this band and I constantly make fun of them. (To be fair, they've grown on me a little, but I will never in a million years admit that to Alex. The party line is that I hate them.)

Alex got really excited one day because he had ordered "something we could do together," and wouldn't tell me anymore until the day he ran into the room where I was working out while shaking this box and telling me how it was the perfect activity for us.

It wasn't like, "I love My Morning Jacket and you love puzzles, so we can both be happy doing this!" It was a lot more like, "You hate MMJ and I hate doing puzzles, so we're both going to be miserable." We were meant for each other.

Puzzle pieces spread out on a table with a partially completed puzzle in the middle. There is a frame mat wrapped in plastic on the edge of the table.
I have an uneasy feeling that I've finished the easy part.
You may wonder about the frame mat on the end of the table. Originally, Alex ordered some frames that came with an extra mat and because it didn't affect his life, he just left it on the table. However, because cats like to sit on things, sometimes they will sit on that instead of the puzzle pieces, so I left it there as a cat lure. It's only partially effective.

So that's what I've been doing with my time, lest you think I've been doing anything productive. I will leave you with this post that I found on the internet. I have never in my life identified with something more.

Screenshot of an Instagram post. It is a photo of a puzzle piece on concrete. The caption says, "Somewhere a couple in quaranting is having a fucking meltdown."

Thursday, June 18, 2020

Running for Love

I left my house to meet people today. (GASP!)

I've been out of my house in the past few months, but not to meet people. It felt scandalous. Don't worry, we were appropriately distanced and masked. In fact, we met to run 3.1 miles and our different paces kept us out of sight of each other for most of the morning.

If you've been around a while, you could probably guess that I was running with my running pals Lyda and Heather.

Photo of me, Lyda, and Heather after the race. We are each sitting on a separate parking space curb.
Please excuse my giant head in the photo. It is difficult to take a proper socially distanced photo of three people.
It was not just any run, however. We met up to RACE.

Lyda had suggested we run the Run for Love Virtual 5K. The race benefited DC Frontrunners, which is "a running, walking, and social club serving Washington DC's LGBTQ+ community and their friends."
screenshot of a rainbow flag with the logos for Run for Love and the DC Frontrunners.
Hey! I'm friends with the DC LGBTQ+ community!
There's still time to run this race if you want. The race window closes on June 21. There's even an option to register for free—although if you do that, you should definitely make a donation.

It felt weird to ready myself for a race start after so long. (Remember that even before COVID-19, I was injured for several months.) I've done a couple other virtual 5Ks, but I did both of those by myself in my neighborhood. This was a big deal—getting up and prepped for a 10am start time! (We did have to push it back a couple of minutes for a last second porta-potty stop though.)

We had a wave start. It was self seeded based on the honor system. Heather went first, I went second, and Lyda went last. I kept track of Heather for about a third of a mile and then she was gooooone. We all have mileage watches, so we were running halfway out then turning around to come back. The first third of a mile was pretty consistently on a significant downhill, so that was nice. (There will be a callback to this important detail later.)

I would like to discuss the weather for a minute. It rained really hard last night. When I went up to bed at 10:30, it occurred to me that I might want to check the weather to see how heavily we were going to be rained on.
screenshot of the weather forecast. There are little lightning clouds until next Thursday.
Oh noooo.
I took that screenshot today, but it was pretty similar to last night's except last night there were only lightning clouds across the top. I almost texted Heather and Lyda to ask them if we were going to drown in the morning, but then I remembered that it was 10:30 at night and I decided to save my whining for the morning.

When I left the house it was raining. Not a lot, but it was definitely raining. By the time we were ready to race though, it was mostly just drizzling...and humid...oh, and pretty soon the sun did come out to heat things up a little. It was a great combination.

That said, this particular group of running buddies has a historically bad record with running weather, so we were not overly fazed. We're tough. Heather took this photo of me being tough on her way back when she passed me.
Photo of me running along a trail wearing mostly black. There is lots of green foliage behind me.
You can also see Lyda. She's that tiny orange dot.

Lyda had warned us to run a little past halfway so we wouldn't have to run UP the hill that we ran down at the start (told you there would be a callback). I cleverly checked my watch at the bottom of that hill and then did the math to figure out how much farther I would have to run to avoid said hill.

Heather was not so forward thinking. Yup. She had to run up that last hill. Bummer. I, however, had safely padded my out distance so my back distance left me without that particular challenge. Lyda, close on my heels, followed my lead and also avoided the hill, so I'm pretty much the hero of the Run for Love, Heather/Lyda/Jean edition.

I am happy that I am back running, but 3.1 miles is my current maximum, so I was getting tired for the last stretch. Remember when I used to run miles upon miles? One day I will again. Maybe. I'm building up slowly. I'd rather run shorter distances than hurt myself again. That was awful.

That said, I beat my last virtual 5K race time by a full minute, so I'm getting there!

Lyda had brought after-race snacks, so it was like a real race where you get snack food at the end. We were each provided with a bag of Doritos and a bottle of Diet Coke. (C'mon, you know you wish you raced with us.)

We sat (apart) and talked for a long time after. It was really nice. The run was great. But seeing my friends was even better.

Thanks, friends.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

We Are Living in a Nightmare of Our Own Making

Shit, everything is terrible out there, isn't it? I have lots of thoughts—about COVID-19, about Black Lives Matter, about Pride month, about transgender rights, about lots of stuff. You know, the usual.

Everything sucks. But we have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.

Do the work. Do the learning. Do the donating. Do the protesting. Do the calling and the petitioning and the mailing. Do the voting. Do the talking to people who don't get it. Do the support work if you're an ally. Do the leading if you're a stakeholder. Work for justice.

Take care of yourself. Wear a mask. Wash your hands. Take time to breathe. Get some fresh air. Celebrate the celebrations. (Katie graduated! Jack and Quinn killed distance learning! I functioned as an entire special education support team at my home!)

Look out for each other. Check in on someone who's having a hard time if you have that capacity. Tell someone you love them. Send a text to a friend to let them know you're thinking about them. Give your kid a hug. I was going to say smile at a stranger, but that is hard to do in a mask. Show through your actions that you care about every person you meet. Yeah, even that guy. Uh huh, her too. Yup, them as well. Be kind.

Hang in there.

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Chugging Along in My Personal Rut

Ugh, you guys, right? I think it is Thursday, but I really can't be sure because every day is like every other goddamn day around here. I mean, knock on wood and all, because if shit changes up it probably means someone is sick or the world is ending. Who can know for sure though?

My day usually starts with me rolling out of bed around 9. I spend a couple of minutes debating whether I want to wear workout leggings or sweatpants for the day. In a daily fit of optimism, I usually put on the leggings, which comes in handy around 4pm every day.

My first task of the morning is cat litter scooping. See, April is my month to do it, which has actually turned out pretty well, because it gets me outside every single day.
Photo of my  house's outdoor garbage nook where we keep our garbage and recycling bins.
Ah, fresh air!
From there, I move to my spot on the couch where I check my phone and eat my breakfast.

Photo of my breakfast: a can of Diet Coke and 7 pills
This breakfast keeps me from killing myself. It also helps my joints.
I run through my daily phone tasks, like checking Facebook where I can see memories from one year or five years or eight years ago that assure me that once there was a time when I really did leave the house on a regular basis. Instagram shows me people pretending to do really well in their tiny apartments. Then I check my email, where I learn about the number of COVID-19 cases in Harrison County, Indiana.

Screenshot of an email from a Harrison County Case Count noreply email address about number of cases in that county. A sentence at the bottom tells me that if I want to manage the way I receive the messages, I need to login to my account.
I don't live in Harrison County, Indiana.
See, there are people with my (married) name all over this fucking world who sign up for things with reckless abandon using my email address. I regularly get personal emails from people thinking they are inviting some other Jean to parties and stuff. Once I was invited to cat yoga in Pennsylvania, to which I considered going. There is a French Jean trying to sign up for PayPal who keeps trying to confirm MY email address as theirs. They are lucky that I am a good person. There's a Jean somewhere with a subscription to Country Living in serious arrears because all the invoices come to me and I can't stop them unless I can login to their account.

Which brings me to Harrison County, Indiana, which is doing a spectacular job of keeping their citizens informed during this time of crisis. Seriously. So many emails. I also have to login here if I want to stop these emails. Fortunately, I have Jean's email address, which I used to retrieve her user name. Unfortunately, I need to answer a security question before they will let me reset my password. After extensive research into this person, I am still unable to guess where is the city where their mother and father met. Lord have I tried! I also sent a pleading email to the only address I could find associated with their site, to no avail. I've finally reached acceptance.

From there, I usually wander to my computer, where I check Maryland stats for COVID-19 cases and try to remember that these aren't numbers. They are PEOPLE.  It's usually about 10am by this time, which is usually the first instance of Quinn asking what is for dinner.

The hours between 10am and 3pm are usually my productive hours, with a hard stop at 3. It's really hard to get anything done after that. I spend these hours either working, writing (it's 1:07 right now!), or pretending to do stuff while sitting at my desk. If I'm not sitting at my desk, I will take a nap and a 10am nap is really not good for anyone, so it's better if I'm sitting up.

I also use this time—my productivity time—to check my kids' homework, make lists of my kids' homework, harass my kids about their homework, and check to make sure my kids turned in their homework. My friend Teach Mama created an amazing organization sheet that is the only thing keeping my kids on the positive side of a passing grade.

Photo of a spreadsheet listing classes and assignments due
It's so simple, but nothing I would have managed to create on my own.
It is usually after I finish my important daily tasks that I fall into my mid-afternoon pit of despair.

Photo of me lying on my side on a bed looking defeated.
Every day.
I spend that time mulling over all my worries, anxieties, and do a thorough inventory of my flaws. I also wonder if there is any candy in the house that I don't know about and where it might be if there is.

From there, I remember that I am wearing workout leggings for a reason and I usually do a workout. To combat my almost complete inertia, I've been trying to find really hard workouts to do—something that will make me sore the next day. For the most part, I've been pretty successful. I've grown to really enjoy that first stiff, muscle soreness stretch in the morning.

By now it's 4 or 5 in the afternoon, which means two things: (1) my cats start thinking it is time for me to feed them and (2) clearly after I shower I am putting on pajamas, not clothes.

I used to workout later in the day, so my upstairs cats now associate my finishing a workout with getting fed, so they start throwing tantrums when I commence post-workout stretching.

Two photos: on left Pickles sitting on a green yoga mat next to my outstretched leg; on right: me laughing because Pickle is butting up against my head between me and the camera
Pickles does his part to help with the stretching though.
Their efforts are for naught though because 4 or 5pm is not actually cat dinner time although sometimes their desperate little furry faces convince me to pity feed them.

Photo of Sharky the white cat staring up at me desperately
I mean, c'mon.
Try walking away from that face. It's harder than you think.

Post workout is sitting time, so depending whether I want to let myself fall asleep or not, I'll try to read on the couch or work on a puzzle at the table. I can usually get in a solid 15 to 20 minutes of reading before I nod off. I have yet to fall asleep on a puzzle.

Then comes dinnertime, when Alex—who still has to go in to his office—and I play an elaborate game of chicken to see who will give up and make dinner first. There is no winner in this game. Especially not Quinn, who developed his own idea of what he wanted to eat way back before productivity time and is now disappointed that he is being forced to eat yet another veggie, chicken, and rice dish.

After dinner it's all milling about and watching television and playing video games until we all eventually give up and wander to our beds. Usually I'm the last one to go to my room because I have to wait until Alex goes to bed to watch the TV I like but he doesn't, which is most of what I like. Don't get me started.

Despite being nearly unable to keep my eyes open at 6pm, 1:30am is the time I lie in a dark room and think about all the things in the world that I have to worry about, which, it turns out, is a lot of things. So far I've always finally been able to fall asleep until the next morning, when I get to wake up and evaluate how successful the prior day's workout was in making me sore today.

What now? Workout leggings or sweatpants?

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Gray Centers

For every silver lining, there is a giant, dripping, fucking dark gray cloud. Welcome to my post about how March was the longest 600 days I've ever been through. Oh, and in case you were feeling optimistic, April shelter-in-place is TWICE as long as what we've already done.

Photo of gray clouds

Everything sucks and here is why:

There has only been one day. It began millennia ago and will end long after we're all dead and rotted away. Is it seriously only fucking Wednesday? OH MY GOD.

Everything is cancelled. Which is great right up until it's the one goddamn thing you wanted to do this spring and that was go see Jesus Christ Superstar at the Kennedy Center but it's in April, so you can't do it and also you have to donate the cost of the tickets so the great nonprofit theatre in your area doesn't have to shut down, so you're out $200 AND you don't get to see one of your Top 5 musicals.

You can't pretend to not be around when someone calls. Because everyone knows that everyone else is sitting forlornly in their homes staring at their phones all fucking day, so when someone calls and you text back to explain why you can't talk, it has to be for ridiculous reasons, like "I was playing a board game with my family," which everyone knows is a bald fucking lie because no one likes to play board games with their families during normal times and we certainly don't want to play Monopoly with the same people we spend twenty hours a day staring at.

Did anyone in my family ever like each other ever? Based on the bickering in my home, we have all hated each other since day one and as soon as the governor, who probably lives in a bigger house with fewer people than us, sets us free, we are all going to depart for separate vacations. The only thing I hear more often than "Can you not?" is "Stop fighting, you guys." Neither phrase is effective.

Pandemic pounds. It turns out that when the longest distance you walk is from that one couch to the other couch and your only stop is at the kitchen where you can eat your delicious, delicious feelings, you gain weight.

You can't pet dogs. And when you do get outside to go running or walking and you pass someone with a dog, you can't pet that dog, because no one's leash is six feet long and whereas in the previous world, dogs were all blase about being petted by strangers, now that's all they seem to want to do, so they are all desperate and lungey and sad and that makes it even worse because it's not just that you don't get to pet the dog, but you're disappointing the dog too.

Your kids don't leave for the school day but you still have to harass them about homework. On Monday, which was the first day of distance learning in our school district, I spent ONE HOUR figuring out what my kids needed to do and looking at the videos the district said I needed to look at and making sure that my kids were aware of their assignments and each of them spent five fucking minutes doing work. IT SEEMS UNFAIR.

Everyone will deliver food to your door except for the one place you want to deliver food to your door. Yesterday I got all sad about missing ice cream and my friend was all, "you can get that delivered," so I got my kids all excited about ice cream and had them submit their orders on DoorDash and kept saying things like, "Ice cream will be here in 24 minutes! Ice cream will be here in 18 minutes! Ice cream will be here in 17 minutes!" and then, just after I said, "Ice cream will be here in six minutes!" I got an email from DoorDash that my order was cancelled and the driver texted me to say that the store was closed, so I wasted that poor guy's time AND I got my kids, who had not been thinking about ice cream at all, to REALLY, REALLY wish that they had ice cream.

The line for the drive-through Starbucks is all around the building, out onto the street, and around the corner to the other street. Actually this one amuses me because I don't drink coffee.

It has become abundantly clear that I am an asshole. See above item.

Oh, also, people are sick and we have the worst president we could possibly have in a time of crisis, and people are evidently running out of toilet paper, and crisis, crisis, crisis!

Maybe April will be great!