Stories of Family in the Time of Covid-19 – Part 1

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Like most everyone now, I can see the effects of the Covid-19 crisis playing out in different ways for different family members depending on their circumstances. I hear stories of how various people are being affected and I think, yes, I see that in my family. Here are just a few of their representative stories. More will be coming.

Family in Indiana

Susie and Phil are what we call in the midwest “snowbirds.” My sister and her husband leave their home in Evansville, Indiana every year around Thanksgiving time and return at the beginning of April. They live for those months in their large pop-out camper in beautiful Fort Myers Beach, Florida. This year found them at the Florida beaches at the peak of the pandemic shut-down. They sequestered there until the first week of April and headed home through four states before arriving back in Indiana. Any time in April, Susie tells me, I-75 heading north out of Florida is bumper to bumper. This year, she says, they flew right through. And the roads all the way home were almost empty except for big-rigs. At gas stations they masked and gloved up to pump gas. Inside the convenience stores you told the clerk what you wanted and they got it for you. Fortunately, since they were pulling the camper they didn’t have to use the public restrooms and they carried their own food.

David, my 46 year old nephew in Indiana was laid off from his job at in early March due to pandemic cutbacks – a victim of last in, first out. Fortunately, he was able to file fairly quickly for unemployment and is also receiving the $600 a week CARES act supplement. As long as that lasts, he tells me, he’s making more than when he was working. Not very reassuring for the long term, but the government support is helping him make it through. He had to think twice, though, before deciding to replace his 25 year old bed.

Graham
Photo by Amanda Willis

David’s sister, Amanda, is working full-time from home while playing teacher for first grade Eleanor and taking care of Graham, who turned one in January and is now walking – wherever he wants. Her husband, Jedd, still goes to work because he works for an “essential” company that makes parts for the U.S. Navy. (That’s all we know about that. If he told us, he’d have to kill us.) Amanda is the stereotype of the going-mad working mother juggling it all while sequestered at home.

Meanwhile in New Mexico

Here in Albuquerque, daughter Rachel and her husband, Bret, are teaching from home. Because Rachel is the educational technologist for her large elementary school, she was slammed when the schools closed in mid-March. Teachers were scrambling to implement online teaching and needed support and training. Students without the equipment to access online learning needed to be supplied with Chromebooks, and a system for cataloging and distributing those had to be set up and implemented. Bret provides counseling and classes for college preparation at his charter high-school, so all of that went online or on video-conferencing.

Meanwhile, at home are two high-school daughters, a son sent home from college and taking his classes online, and a now learning at home kindergartener who celebrated his sixth birthday while sequestered. When Henry is home from college, he usually has a job at a restaurant that keeps him busy and provides funding for his college expenses. That job, of course, is now nonexistent. A pre-med student, he was slated to start his dream job in a lab at the University in May. Fortunately, he will be able to begin that in June.

Lucy, 15 and a high school freshman, is struggling with difficult math concepts in her online class. She at least has a friend to hang out with in her “bubble.” Frances, her very academic twin sister goes to a different high school and is less than challenged now that her courses are online. sometimes she is the only student participating in her online lectures and discussions. She didn’t have a friend she was comfortable enough with to make her one outside contact, so the isolation has been difficult for her, especially since her volleyball season was brought to a halt by the pandemic.

Colin and Thor
Photo by Rachel Aaker

Precocious six-year old Colin takes long hikes in the mountains with his parents and their dog, Thor. He tries to entertain himself while both parents work from home, and mostly succeeds in not bombing their video conferences. His online learning is sometimes fun, especially when Coach pays a virtual visit to his class. It’s May now so all of them except Bret and Lucy, whose school is on a year-round calendar, are now on summer break. It will be interesting to see how that develops as the reopening gradually plays out.

And I am here in Albuquerque. For two months or so my only family visits were from Rachel, who delivered the groceries that she and Bret purchased for me when they went shopping. She often stayed for a socially-distant happy hour. In the past few weeks, we’ve expanded our family visits to include all of them at an appropriate distance. And in the past week or so some family members have walked to the park with me. All of us are trying to figure out the best way for our family contact to change as the pandemic stays while some of the distancing rules are relaxed and the world opens up a little. My big adventure was shopping at Trader Joe’s during their seniors only hour yesterday. This was my first visit to an indoor public place since mid-March. We’re entering Pandemic: Phase II.

Shuttered Albuquerque

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New Mexico’s governor announced new reopening guidelines on Wednesday, May 13. As of Saturday, May 16, retail shops and some other gathering places, such as churches, may reopen with limited capacity and safety restrictions such as masks. I’d been wanting to document some of the closed shopping and tourist areas, so decided on Thursday that I would photograph some of them. It will be interesting to compare the landscapes a week from now as people tentatively venture out and a month from now when perhaps they will be more or less tentative. Pandemic history unfolding. [Click on images to view full sized.]

Random Pandemic Realizations

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Germophobes are vindicated.

Inside my head can be a scary place.

I’m sick of the “peeing section in the pool” metaphor.

Essential and dispensable should not be synonymous.

My belief that everything takes longer than you think it will and is harder remains unchanged.

We’re all finding out what we care most about.

Most common planning phrase, “When this is over….”

Most common communication complaint, “I’m sick of zoom.”

Pretty sure Ritz crackers have medicinal properties.

 

Sunday Afternoon – Route 66

This week I had a wonderful Sunday afternoon.  In an effort to combine photographic and exercise goals, I drove down to Central Avenue to wander and to photograph the art and architecture of Route 66.  This historic highway is an important part of Albuquerque’s history and there are many relics of the motels, restaurants, and businesses of its heyday.  Some are repurposed, some are derelict.  This stretch of the old highway goes through Albuquerque’s downtown and Nob Hill districts and there is also much public art from the present era on the buildings.

It was a beautiful day, mild temperatures and those unsurpassed New Mexico blue skies with just enough clouds to make it potographically perfect.  And a photographer’s dream: few people or vehicles.  In fact the traffic on the drive down and back and on Central Avenue was eerily sparse.  This, of course, is the two-edged sword of the Covid-19 restrictions.  The businesses were closed.  The ART busses weren’t running. It was a rare opportunity for uncluttered photographs, but sad and ominous.

As an added bonus, I listened to classic country music on the drive – windows down, excellent stereo in the new Prius. I do love the older country music, although some of it is a little culturally dated, like Willie Nelson singing Good Hearted Woman, followed by Johnny Cash and June Carter’s rendition of It Ain’t Me Babe.  Now if it the “me” in the latter song were June instead of Johnny, that one would have been fixed.

The photos below represent only the few blocks that I walked.  I plan to do this again on another section of the road.

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The DeAnza Motor Lodge repurposed for office space.

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Behind the DeAnza is a modern gated apartment complex.

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Decor on the repurposed DeAnza Motor Lodge

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Area Rapid Transit Sign

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Quiet ART Station

Central Avenue Uninhabited

 

Musings While Sequestered

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Easter: A Cake for my Bunnies

It’s been a couple of weeks since I wrote a post.  Time flies in spite of spending most of it home alone!  I’ve found that I’m very good at finding ways to while away time.  Some of them are more productive than others, but I’m learning that when I feel like I’ve done nothing, I’ve, of course, been doing something.  So, reading the news on my phone or catching up with people on email or Facebook isn’t necessarily wasting time.  It’s just that the floor is still dusty, or the dishes are still in the dishwasher, or Hitchens’ Arguably is till unread.  But who cares?  If these things are important, they’ll be taken care of eventually.

 

I’ve worked several jigsaw puzzles in the past few weeks.  I can really get into the zone for hours at a time on these.  Again, could be considered a trivial use of time, but they’re good for the brain and help prevent dwelling on the angst of current events.

Another, perhaps more productive, way I’ve found to become fully absorbed is sewing.  I really love the creative aspects of sewing, and you actually have something to show for your efforts.  I’ve made protective face masks for family and friends and cloth napkins for Rachel and family, since they use them for every meal and three meals a day for six people generates a lot of washing.

 

***Complete Randomness***

 

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    Today’s Google Doodle

  • The other morning I woke up and looked around thinking, I’m surrounded by rectangles.  Thank goodness for my oval vanity mirror.  But really, in human construction the rectangle seems to be by far the most common shape. Not so in nature.  Maybe that’s why architecture like the Guggenheim Museum is so appealing.
  • I’ve been having lots of strange and complex dreams.  For a while I thought it was from the pain medication I was taking for my knee replacement, but I haven’t taken any for several weeks and am still having weird dreams.  I think it’s just because I’m awake off and on all night because of pain and stiffness in my leg caused by lying in one position for too long.  My surgery was six months ago and my mobility is good, but I’m not out of the discomfort woods yet.  They say it can take a year, so I’ll wait another six months before I start worrying about that.
  • They say that the stay at home and other distancing measures are “flattening the curve” of the Corona virus spread.  This makes it sound like the measures aren’t resulting in fewer cases, just spreading them over a longer time period.  I don’t understand why it wouldn’t mean that there would be fewer sick  and dying people.  I need to do some research.  Maybe I’m not understanding the math, or the concept.

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April in Albuquerque: Poppies

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…and Snow

Another Day, Another….

I just wanted and image in the post. Random stairs from long ago.

I’m glowing with accomplishment because I just completed doing my exercise video for the third time this week. It’s more challenging to motivate myself for this than for exercise class, but I do enjoy doing it once I’ve started. Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes on a different topic: “In writing, the only hard part is to begin.” Substitute exercise for writing, and there you have it.

I finished four of Anne’s sewing projects and arranged and paid for a package pickup, then the mailman didn’t show up for two days. I don’t know whether to be concerned about the health of my mail carrier or pissed off that he skipped me for two days (at least). Rachel took the package to give to her carrier. Hope it makes it. Mundane life in the time of the plague.

I still have one sewing project – placemats and napkins – for Anne, and I’m going to make face masks for Rachel and her colleagues to use when distributing Chromebooks to their students. School has been canceled for the rest of the term, and they’re working on a distance learning plan. Since Rachel’s job is in educational technology, she has been working very hard and long during this “downtime”.

Today is Colin’s sixth birthday. In lieu of a party, he has requested a hike and a picnic for his birthday. He isn’t lacking for presents. He opened several from me and various others yesterday and has a pile from his parents to open today. I made birthday cupcakes for him and am including a photo to illustrate my pitiful cake decorating skills. However, I ate one yesterday for quality control purposes and can tell you that they taste great.

Well, on to the next great thing. Maybe I’ll take a shower. No image for that. You’re welcome.

Bit by Bit

Spring in Montgomery Park

Day by day, bit by bit, I’m working to accomplish my goals for time management, exercise, and project completion. As an aside, what is this compulsion we have for accomplishing something, anything, rather than just letting our days flow? It feels almost inherent. Since I posted three days ago, I have accomplished a few things. Two days ago I took a nice long walk from my house to Montgomery Park. As illustrated to the left, spring is budding and blooming there, and really all around me.

Spring on Hahn Arroyo

It’s so much fun to look out the window from day to see and to see things getting greener and greener. Yesterday, after maybe overdoing the walk the day before, I didn’t exercise. The long walk made my new knee leg hurt all night. Guess I’ll make the lengths of the walks a little more gradual. Today for about an hour I did one of the exercise videos I screened the other day. I’m feeling pretty virtuous about that. When I’m done here, I think I’ll take a shortish walk. The weather is getting warmer as the days progress.

I’ve also been sewing. I completed one of Anne’s table runners and am working on a second one. I have enough left over fabric from the second on to make placemats and napkins. Sewing is a creative outlet for me, so I’m having fun with this.

I made chocolate chip cookies yesterday. They are good but not as good as Anne’s. They never are. She claims she uses the recipe on the bag of chips, and I do that, too. But they’re not the same! Oh well, that’s her signature dish, so I guess it’s just magic.

Trying to Organize

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In an earlier post I mentioned the idea of creating a sort of block schedule to organize my days and increase worthwhile use of my time.  Since I’m determinedly retired, I don’t want to use “productivity”, since that word reeks of corporate management.

There are a few discouraging things I realize about myself that relate to this attempt:

  1. I am terrible about creating an exercise routine at home.  I loved my exercise class and was as consistent as I could be at attending, but I have ALWAYS been bad about doing it at home.
  2. I tend to be loosey-goosey about timeframes when I’m in charge of my day.  I don’t want to say I’m lazy.  I’m not lazy.  Well, sometimes I’m lazy.
  3. I can tend to procrastinate the things I’m not so crazy about doing and rationalize by doing something else instead.  Oops!  Ran out of time for that.
  4. Due to all of the above, I’m afraid to do a block schedule, even though my better self wants to.

What to do, what to do.  I guess I’ll just blather on about something else (see #3 above) until I make up my mind.

On the national scene, California, home of my daughter Rebecca, has issued a shelter in place order and shut down most non-vital businesses and services.  Much of the rest of the country will probably soon follow suit.  While this certainly makes sense in terms of containing the Covid-19 virus, the social and economic effects in the short and longterm are almost incomprehensible.  The government is taking sweeping measures to help individuals and businesses and to stabilize the economy, but at what cost to our already monumental national debt? History will tell the story. Rebecca already works from home, so will probably be ok, at least for now.

Daughter Rachel and her family are all being treated for strep throat.  Not great, but glad it’s nothing worse.  I woke up last night worrying about the family’s restless teenagers, who are, of course, immortal and don’t want to be confined to home.  The consequences of them exposing themselves to this essentially social disease might be minimal for them but deadly for the younger and older members of their family.

Yesterday I cleaned out the files in my drawer containing the most current and active stuff.  Felt pretty good, but is just the tip of that iceberg.  Also, I got the material sister Anne mailed to me for her sewing projects.  I like sewing projects.  Today I need to update all the online accounts that use my expiring credit card.  Fun times.

TimeframeActivity Set
8 AM – 10 AMGet up
Morning routine – teeth, meds, etc, coffee
MWF – Exercise video, other days-recumbent bike
10 AM – NoonHousehold chores, blogging, reading
1 PM – 2 PMTake a walk, work outside, hike
2 PM-5:30 PMWork on projects, read, write to friends/family
5:30 PM-7:00 PMCocktail hour, begin dinner prep
7:00 – 10 PMDinner, TV, reading, unstructured time
10 PMGo to bed
Tentative Shelter in Place Block Schedule

There. I did it. I hereby remind myself that there will be no recriminations for straying from the schedule and that it will be amended as necessary. I consider this a social experiment. Furthermore, I exempt myself today, since I’m already off from the plan.