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.


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.


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.


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!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

They Can't Cancel My Virtual Race

I didn't run for several months, so when I signed up for a spring virtual race in January, it was because I needed a no-pressure goal to get me back into running. Of course now that every race in the world has been cancelled, it is now the only game in town and I'm feeling pretty smug about being able to stay on my race goals.

Actually, I'm feeling heartbroken for everyone who has been training for races that were cancelled. I know how upset I've felt when I've had to miss races because of injury or they've been cancelled for weather, etc. None of them were goal races or races I'd been looking forward to for a long time. It has to be so distressing to have trained for a race, to still be able to train for the race, and then just not have it held.  If this is you, I'm so sorry.

In a way, I know how you feel though because until this month, I hadn't run since last June. I ran a 5K race (on my birthday no less) and had a great time, with the exception of the sudden ping in my left leg with about a mile left to go. I ran through it and then began my journey through eight months of injury.

Photo of me post-race. I am sweaty, smiling, and holding a glass of free beer.
Post race, pre realization of injury
At first I just limped and waited for it to get better. I Googled the difference between shin splints and stress fractures and was disappointed to discover that my pains more closely aligned with a stress fracture. Eventually I went to my orthopedist who sent me to get an MRI. Evidently I didn't have a stress fracture, but the MRI indicated damage that could have led to a stress fracture (or something; it was a long time ago, I'm foggy on details)

Photo of a computer screen on which is an MRI image of my leg. It's gray with white lines running through it.
I waited for the doctor to leave the room then took this photo of the MRI image that was on the computer. I don't know what it means, but look how cool it is!
I rested it for several weeks and then got another MRI at which point the ortho told me it was better but not healed and I should wait a few more weeks.

I waited for those weeks, tentatively started to run, and the leg pains jumped from the left shin to the right shin.

See, I had run a mile on my treadmill and took an entire week to recover. I ran another mile and based on my pain level decided that something was definitely wrong with my right leg, I was evidently made of glass, and I should probably go back to the ortho. He sent me for another MRI, which showed a slight meniscus tear and I don't know what else but the ortho—who by this point was just tired of seeing me, I think—told me to rest it longer.

So I did. I rested it, I stretched it, I did some ugly crying during the movie "Brittany Runs a Marathon." I developed a growing fear of never being able to run again. I asked my PCP about it. I went to a rheumatologist about it. I talked to my therapist about it. I started taking a joint supplement. I was aware of my pain level at all times.

In a fit of optimism based on waning pain in January, I signed up for a virtual race taking place in April and May. I figured that worst case scenario I could walk it and I'd at least be outside on trails again. But mostly I wanted to run it. I didn't want to sign up for a real race, worried that the pressure of an actual event might lead me to train too hard if I wasn't ready and knowing I wouldn't want to walk at an actual race.

Every doctor pretty much told me that I might not be able to run anymore. I grew to actively resent every person I saw running on sidewalks and trails, up to and including Alex, who is kicking the shit out of running, which is great and infuriating all at the same time.

Photo of Alex dressed in all black in a gym. He looks buff.
Look at stupid Alex with his stupid hardbody. Infuriating!
Alex, who had watched me mope for several months, was excited by my registering for my virtual race and bought me maybe the most thoughtful gift of our entire marriage.

Photo of a silver necklace inside a purple mesh bag. It is the silhouette of a female runner.
It even has my ponytail. *sniff*
I put the thing on and have worn it every day, even as doctors tell me I probably shouldn't run anymore. It reminds me that I am a runner. I also realized at some point that what I was talking about and what my doctors were talking about were probably two different things.

I was talking about acute pain that showed up when I would run. I think my doctors were talking about my shitty, deteriorating knees that have been shitty and deteriorating for years. I've been ignoring doctors talking about that for forever. I just wanted to be able to run without sharp pain that made me limp.

I was afraid to try running again. After waiting so many weeks for my left leg to heal (it now feels wonderfully stable) and then for my right leg to immediately crumble, I was terrified that trying again would end everything.

Early this month, I did some walking workouts and incorporated some running into them. When nothing hurt more than it did when I started, I took an outdoor run/walk. For a couple of weeks, I did one bootcamp workout with walk/runs and one outdoor walk/run. Yesterday I added another run/walk to my weekly routine. I think on a chronic level, my knees actually hurt less when I am running regularly. I remember thinking that years ago, but based on my experiences this month, I really think it's true.

I am slow as shit. Running is so goddamn hard. I am waaaay behind where I used to be. I am supposed to run my virtual race any time between April 28 and May 19 and am hoping that I can run 5K with no walk breaks by then—partly because, as I mentioned before, running is HARD, and partly because I am very intentionally increasing mileage incredibly slowly to prevent more injury. I really don't want to go through this again.

I'm doing the Zombies, Run! virtual spring race. They have an app with story missions, but the races are independent of that storyline. I've used the app for years. I love it. One of the sad parts of not being able to run for so long is that I am way behind on the story now. I'm excited to catch up.

I've done one other Zombies, Run! virtual race before and it was really fun, so I'm excited to do this one. There is a package to be opened at the end of my mission that is suspiciously medal shaped. Normally I wouldn't be too excited about a virtual race medal, but I have a feeling this one is going to mean a lot.

Until then (and even after), I have my own permanent medal that I get to wear.

Selfie of me post workout wearing the runner necklace and a necklace that reads "Stimey"

If you run, you are a runner. And I run.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Silver Linings

So. We're all at home now, yeah?

Alex still has to go into the office, but I think he spends time with fewer people every day than I do in my home, so he's okay.

We're hanging in. I've been writing and mostly keeping to a schedule with my kiddos so we don't lose our damn minds.

Photo of my whiteboard on which I've written a schedule for Tuesday: 8-10: morning ablutions; 10-10:01: look up ablutions; 10:02-12: hoomework/internship; 12-1 lunch and virtual escape romo; 1-3: Free time; 3-4 outside time - earn $$ for lawn mowing; 4-5 reading time or bassooon practice; 5 free time; 5:30 Jack oonline workout; Dad goes to office
I am a GREAT mom.
That was Tuesday. Things have deteriorated.

Same whiteboard: I've written Thursday What should we do today? and numbered 1-6 down the side. A kid wrote Animal Crossing :) on line one. The rest is blank.
I am a TERRIBLE mom.

If things are feeling a little rough right now, I wanted to try to cheer you up because there are definitely some silver linings and I am going to tell you about them.

The introverts won! This is probably not a silver lining if you are an extrovert, but as someone who doesn't really like to spend that much time with people, I feel like I have been ready for social distancing for my Entire. Goddamn. Life. I've been getting exactly the kinds of interactions I like: friendly, brief, from a loooong way away.

We get to sleep in! I could not be happier about this. Normally I have to wake up before 7 to make sure my kids are on their buses and out of my hair. These days I am waking up at a very civilized 9am. Or 9:30. Or today it was 10, but we already established that Thursday has gone downhill.

There is no end of time to work out! Usually I have to sit down every Sunday and figure out where I can cram in my workouts throughout the week to make sure they get done. Now, with no errands, a commute that consists of a trip down a staircase, and everything in the universe being cancelled, I pretty much have my pick of times to workout. I use my Peloton equipment, do some outside stuff, and do Peloton strength and stretching workouts. If you are lost about what to do, consider getting a free 90-day trial membership of Peloton Digital. You don't need a bike or a treadmill and you can stream all kinds of workouts on  your phone or tablet. And if you decide you want to buy the Peloton equipment because I told you it was awesome, use my referral code (CQDC58) and we both get free stuff.

We're working through the older food in our freezer and pantry! Hey, look! There's a frozen pizza from 2019! No need to go to the store—pop that shit in the oven! Etcetera.

Traffic is awesome! On the rare occasions I do have to go out, there is almost no traffic. In fact, I think I'm going to take advantage of this and have Jack do a ton of driving practice while this continues. I have to drive into DC once a week to do some work at my office and it takes half the time to get there. And there is parking right outside my building! And at the post office! And at the bank! It is bizarre.

I have cleaned and decluttered my entire house! Ha! Just kidding. I've thought about it, but...

I get to spend some solid quality time with Katie before she heads off to college! I love this one. She can't see friends. She doesn't have a busy schedule. At this point, I'm the best game in town and I am taking full advantage of it.

I get to spend a ton of time with my favorite people in the world! Along those same lines, I've gotten some pretty good time in with my other kiddos and Alex too. Thank God my kids are old enough to take care of themselves, but not too old to run away from me when I approach. I really like my family and I'm glad that I get to hang out with them.

People are good! I mean, not all of them, obviously. Most people are the worst. But I keep seeing examples of people doing good things. People are delivering cookies to sick people and leaving them on the porch. Artists and art institutions have hosted so many free, virtual performances and tours. People are looking out for each other and sharing what they can. Small example: One person in my neighborhood created a scavenger hunt featuring unique landmarks so people on their walks could have some fun. (Guess who's on the scavenger hunt?)

Close up of a carved wooden bear.
That's right! Claude the mailbox bear!
It could be worse! I've read all of the apocalypse books and usually with the pandemic comes the crashing of the infrastructure, anarchy, and eventually it all ends with people fighting each other with knives. We still have electricity, internet, gas, delivery services, and pretty much everything else we need. We haven't yet come to the point where we're looking for sharp sticks with which to defend ourselves.

I firmly believe in silver linings. I've had disappointments over the past couple weeks and will continue to have more in the coming weeks. I do acknowledge that this crisis has left some people in ruin. I am trying to do my part by safely patronizing local businesses and donating what I can and I know it's not enough. I hate that part. It's bad, you guys, but there are shiny edges.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

The Very Best Thing in the Whole Entire World

Graphic reading "That's DELIGHTFUL!" with multicolored silhouettes of an ice cream cone, mouse, smiley face, runner, cat, unicorn, and heart
Who wants some happiness? Welcome to my new series, "That's DELIGHTFUL!" wherein I tell you about things that are great in an effort to make you forget the shitshow in which we are living.

For my first installment, I am going to tell you about the best purchase I have ever made noreallythebestpurchaseIloveitsomuch!

Several years ago my family was on a trip. We were staying in a hotel and were sitting in the hotel restaurant waiting for food. Because my childrens were small and impatient and generally problematic at restaurant tables, a couple of us went for a walk through the hotel where we found the most delightful (That's DELIGHTFUL!) curtain made of tiny metal beads. Jack and Quinn and I kind of lost our minds. It was probably the most wonderful, stimmy thing we had ever been given tacit permission to play with.

Since then, I have run across the same type of curtain several times, almost always at hotels or cafes. I've badly wanted one, but was never able to find the cheapo version on Amazon that would make me happy. I also don't really have the type of house that lends itself to metal bead curtain decor. I mostly gave up on owning one and pinned my hopes on running across them in the wild.

A couple of months ago, however, I decided that if I really wanted one and had wanted one for, like, ten years, and I had a closet doorway in my bedroom that looked terrible, I should go goddamn ahead and buy myself the thing I wanted most in the world.

You guys. I am about to show you a photo of the door that used to be on my closet (we had to take a mirror off of it) next to a photo of my new double density steel ball chain curtain. Are you ready?

Side by side photos of a doorway in a green wall. On the left is a white door with errant mirror-hanging hardware and a non-painted square int he middle of it; on the right, the door is gone and a curtain of long metal bead strands covers the opening.
I mean, can you even?
In case you are like me and desperately want this in your life, you should know that I purchased this through Shop Wild Things. They answered all my questions via email and I ordered a custom curtain without having to speak to a single person. My door opening was two feet wide and the curtain they ended up sending in error was 20 inches and they handled getting me a free replacement and the original curtain return with so much ease and grace. I could not be happier with them.

Also, I get to walk through this thing every day. Multiple times! Alex asked me if I wanted hooks in case I wanted to hold the curtain back and I was all, "Why on Earth would I want to create a situation where I didn't touch the thing every time I go into my closet?"

Seriously, it is so heavy and tactile and wonderful.

Close up photo of my hand holding some of the beads.
It feels SO good.
Alex sent Jack up to our room to ask me a question the other day and I pointed out the curtain to him. Then he spent, like, twenty minutes playing with it. It is sooooo good, you guys.

I mean, the only downside to the whole thing is that the curtain is right next to where my upstairs cats (if you don't know this story, it's long and complicated) eat and they think the curtain is the first sign of the apocalypse.
Photo of two white cats eating out of bowls right next to the curtain.
I mean, they're not on a hunger strike or anything, but if you shake the beads, they'll abandon their food—and that is NOT something they do lightly.

Sometimes it's the small things. In this case, it is dozens of small things strung together and hung in a doorway. 

Photo of me standing behind the curtain. I'm smiling and there is a gap where I'm holding the beads aside.
Me in my happy place.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

It's Getting Weird Out There

It's been an intense week, huh?

I mean, honestly, that's really saying something considering the past few years, but shit has really ramped up since, say March 11, which was FOUR DAYS AGO. I mean, when your mindless iPhone game starts giving public health advice, things are getting weird.

Screenshot from my Candy Crush game telling me to wash my hands and stay safe.
Et tu, Candy Crush?
I've gotten emails from every store or service I've ever purchased anything from—or thought about purchasing anything from—letting me know how they're handling the Coronavirus. I mean, I just got one from the Ironman people today telling me about how they are handling my event and, trust me, I don't have any Ironman events.

It's pretty hardcore how fast things went from "we're kind of watching the situation" to "CANCEL EVERYTHING."

Last Saturday, at our weekly trip to the grocery store, Alex did some eye rolling at me suggesting we purchase some extra supplies. Cut to Thursday afternoon when he calls me from work to suggest I go to the store immediately to purchase stuff.

I have just one question for you: How do you panic shop for an emergency situation when you aren't really a cook in even the best circumstances? I got eggs because Alex specifically asked for those. Then I threw a bunch of stuff in the cart on top of them. I haven't been able to bring myself to double check to make sure they survived. Rice, pasta, and tuna seemed like good options, but I don't know who exactly is going to eat the tuna. I also bought cupcakes because it can't be all bleach and toilet paper.

[Here is an article on stocking up. I'm sure there are a million more online.]

I was smart that evening though when I was buying takeout pizza for my kids because I had an evening appointment—I bought TWO pizzas. I feel like hoarding takeout is different than hoarding hand sanitizer. I mean, if I'd really been thinking, I would have gone around to Five Guys and the Peruvian chicken place to buy ahead as well because, let's face it, social distancing isn't going to make me any more excited to cook than I am now.

I am definitely in the Cut Off All Contact Immediately camp. I mean, I saw Contagion. I know how it goes. But, seriously, don't watch that movie unless you want to freak the fuck out. What you should do instead is read some articles about "flattening the curve," and do your part to help.

[Here are a couple articles on why staying home and not having contact with other people any more than necessary is a good idea: Social Distancing: This is Not a Snow Day and Cancel Everything.]

As of today, we're not going to restaurants, not having people over, not going to people's houses, and not going to public places unless absolutely necessary.

It's super hard to not feel like you're overreacting, especially when your kid is all, "but I saw him yesterday so if he has it, I have it," and still say no, but I figure two weeks alone with my family won't kill us (although we may have to disband and start anew with different families after we're allowed out again). Hopefully social distancing will work and then we can all feel like we made a big deal out of nothing and feel silly about it but most of us will still be alive.

[What happens when hospitals are overwhelmed. You should read this.]

All this is pretty grim and scary, I know. But we aren't without silver linings. You know how the greatest thing in the world is when you have something on the calendar and it gets cancelled? We are living the goddamn dream, people. And frankly, I'm surprised that there aren't photos of empty racks of what used to hold sweatpants, because that is all I am putting on my body for at least the next two weeks.

Frankly, I've been training for this my whole life.

I am also aware that we are pretty much on Day Two of isolation and the two weeks that everyone has cancelled things could well extend longer. I am also aware that I am so fucking privileged that I can do this so easily. I know that shit might get pretty bad for me and extremely bad for the more vulnerable. I know that I carelessly wrote, "most of us will still be alive," a couple of paragraphs ago and if that didn't upset you, it probably should, because "most" doesn't mean "all."

I know that my sister and her wife are both doctors and they don't get to telework for the next two weeks like I do. I always say that they are heroes and they shrug it off because I think maybe they think I'm joking, but I'm not and I really want to say it again: My sister, her wife, and all the health care workers out there are heroes. (As are grocery store clerks and gas station attendants and subway drivers and I could go on and on.)

Stay safe. Wash your hands. Love your family. Love strangers. Let's take care of each other.

Now, because I am a glutton for punishment, I am going to go reread "Station Eleven" to hone my apocalypse skills.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Staying on Brand

Remember how in my last post I was all, "We are all connected and brought together by our community 7-Elevens and our shared need for Twinkies blah-de-blah-de-fucking-blah?"

Well. That was before Monday.

Because Monday I made such a scene that I considered never going back to my 7-Eleven. I had refilled my soda. It was my seventh, so my app gave it to me for free and I the cashier made a dumb joke about me owing him $10 and I made a dumb joke about, "I am giving you nothing!" and there were eight hundred people in line and I went to leave the store and tripped on a tiny ripple in their rug and went straight down, face-first, fully stretched out, half-in and half-out of the 7-Eleven.

Bad Photoshop drawing of Jean falling out the door of a 7-Eleven, dropping her phone and Big Gulp.
I mean, thank God someone was holding the door for me so I didn't go through the glass with my face, but still.
There were gasps. Of course there were gasps. The man holding the door for me was agape. I registered four things immediately:

1. My soda was EVERYWHERE.

2. All the fingernails on my right hand were broken.

3. I was pretty sure my phone was smashed to smithereens.

4. Ouch.

I think the door holder asked me if I was okay and, me being me, I immediately insisted I was fine before I'd even assessed anything other than my fingernails, had a vague realization that my phone had exploded, and felt a dull throbbing from my knee.

"You're going to need a refill," the door holder said.

I pried myself off the ground, picked up my phone and now empty cup, and turned around to see about 12 people who looked exactly like this:

a stick figure drawing of a face with mouth wide open and startled eyes
EXACTLY like this.
All I really wanted to do was leave, but the crowd was now filled with two different factions: (a) those that wanted me to refill my Big Gulp ("get a whole new cup," said the cashier), and (b) those who were going to figure out exactly which ripple in the carpet had tripped me.

I did some muttering and refilled my cup with soda I really no longer fucking wanted and left for my car as fast as possible. Some kind soul had already balled up the carpet and put it to the side of the door, so fortunately I didn't meet the ground again.

I'm okay. Weirdly, my right tricep was sore for two full days, but it seems fine now. My knee, which is already a nightmare, seems to be no worse for the wear. The offending carpet is back in front of the 7-Eleven door (I went back the next day in the morning instead of the afternoon, when a different staff was on duty.)

My phone, however, didn't make it.

Photo of an iPhone with a super smashed up screen. There is some light running through the cracks.
I enjoyed the glass splinters it gave me.
That photo is with the phone on. The touch screen, weirdly, no longer works. I suppose that's what happens when you hurl it to the concrete. The alarm, however, did continue to work until this morning, which I know because I got to listen to it from 6 to 8am on Tuesday and Wednesday because there was NO WAY TO TURN IT OFF.

No, I don't plan on suing, because then where would I get my soda, huh? Did you think about that? That said, I will be high-stepping it out of the entrance from now on because I've learned my lesson about trusting the ground.

(That lesson? Don't. Don't trust the ground.)

Other than the weird satisfaction I get from embarrassing myself in public and then embarrassing myself again by telling everyone about it, I am posting this to assure you all that if you thought Stimeyland 2 was going to be different than the original, rest assured, I will be staying on brand.*

*Brand: Clumsy doofus with a foul mouth and a propensity to cause scenes.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020


Some people like to be regulars at a place. Alex has a coffee shop that he goes to sometimes twice in one day. At Christmas time they gave him a free mug just because they know him. He is abreast of who works there and where they're going to go to college. He loves it. It is my worst nightmare.

I, on the other hand, would sort of prefer to only see people once and then never again. I spread out my purchasing so people at stores and restaurants don't get too used to me. Sometimes though, it doesn't work out.

I get a refill on a Big Gulp every day at 7-Eleven and even though I have two or three key locations, the one closest to my house sees me more days than not. The other regulars and I will sometimes give nods to each other. The cashiers know me and joke with me. One even proudly showed me a photo of his daughter's wedding in Bangladesh after he returned from a visit there. Occasionally there is a new cashier who rings up my refill incorrectly, so one of my usual cashiers will step in to help.

I mentioned the other regulars. There are the lotto players and the drink fillers like me. There are maintenance and landscaping crews who get their daily drinks and lunches there. There are also sometimes the homeless, who come in to get coffee or food.

There was one lady who's been a regular on the 7-Eleven corner for a while now. I first met her on January 1, 2019. I remember that date because I was running past the road island where she was asking for money.

"New Year's resolution?" she asked, referring to my run. "My resolution is to get off the street this year."

I told her good luck and headed down the sidewalk, but I continued to think about her. I don't know her story. She usually wore a sign that said, "This is what domestic abuse looks like." I would see her in the 7-Eleven sometimes and I gave her money a few times. I always remembered the first time we met and although I'm sure she didn't remember me, I always wished I knew what to do to help her keep her resolution.

I went to the 7-Eleven today and drove past a couple of men talking in the parking lot as I parked. As I stood in line, the cashier—the one with the newlywed daughter—was talking to another regular about the woman.

"She died yesterday," he said. "That's her boyfriend out there. She had trouble with her kidneys. God bless her."

I feel sad. I wish she had made it. I wish that whatever her story was, that it hadn't been so hard, that it had a happy ending. I wish I had helped her more. I didn't know her name and she is gone now.

Her loss won't have a big impact on my life. Someone else will move into her spot. I will continue to give money sometimes and not do it other times. When someone who clearly needs help asks me to buy them food in a 7-Eleven, I will buy them whatever they need. But I won't have a big impact on their life either.

No matter what though, we are connected. Due to place, time, or even a need for cheap food or soda, we all orbit each other and we all affect each other. I'm not sure what the point of this is, but I felt the need to write. I wanted to say that I remember her. That she mattered, not just to her boyfriend, or the dog she sometimes had with her, but to others as well. I wanted to say that we are all regulars in each other's lives, whether we know it or not.

Saturday, January 25, 2020

Welcome to Stimeyland Too!

Or Stimeyland Two...

Or Stimeyland II...

Or Stimeyland the Second...

Or Stimeyland the Sequel...

Well, you get the point.