Outbreak Journal, March 17th

I never thought I’d be using this little blog Steve threw together for me so much.

Today is St. Patrick’s Day and I made Grandmom’s Oat Scones for breakfast, Irish soda bread, a chocolate stout “Quarantine Cake” (aka a Crazy cake), corned beef and cabbage… and my last potatoes. I squelched the habit of immediately trying to get fresh potatoes. I have potatoes in other formats and I have starches to spare. Everyone is healthy and well, I gave the kids a reprieve from schoolwork for the holiday, but they’ve given me cause to regret it.

Last night I realized I couldn’t hear any cars on Rt. 18 or on Raritan Ave. No planes or helicopters either. We live in interesting times.

Today I returned to social media because there’s no IRL socializing at the moment, it’s less rewarding than the split second, at a distance interaction I had with a neighbor walking down the street early this morning, or the guy who came and operated the robotic crane to pick up our bag dumpster (still working on the basement), but it is good to glimpse others going about their daily business.

I’m struck that this lockdown is essentially a society wide act of altruism. Many, if not most, of the people who would be killed if this blew up are people who are unlikely to contribute more than they take from society, economically, for the rest of their lives, they are retired or on disability, but we have collectively decided we are all in this together anyway, and we are carrying on with a minimum of whining. It’s messy and raw, but I’m proud of us for stepping up after our initial fuck ups with this disease. I truly hope this wakes people up on the value of investing in our healthcare infrastructure and vaccine research (and actually TAKING the vaccines) from here on out.

Outbreak Journal, March 16th

The kids did the math this morning – to wit if we follow the CDC’s advice to avoid gatherings of over fifty people for eight weeks, and continue practicing social distancing, that will take us past Easter. They were chagrinned and then they just bounced back. I think they adapt to the temporary new normal faster than I do.

So far as they’re concerned, life goes on and their biggest concern is that I let the household run out of mint chip Yasso bars. We’ll have to make our own desserts soon, and the truth is that I don’t keep that much sugar in stock. Then we may actually feel the bite a little.

Outbreak Journal, March 15th

Broke my Facebook break to join in on the church’s Morning Prayer livestream. I miss the music, the Eucharist, and the coffee hour mingling afterward. Actually, and this is shocking to me, I miss casual handshakes and hugs. Me. With the startle reflex that once led me to duck under my own husband’s arms when I wasn’t expecting a hug.

I found a cabinet in the basement while I was demolishing moldy old drywall with Steve yesterday, it’s in pretty good shape and I have this bottle of stout I promised to set aside to share with friends when this is all over. I think I’ll spend this afternoon cleaning up the cabinet and putting it somewhere prominent to hold the stout, some champagne, and anything else I want to reserve for the celebration when this is over. Anything can be borne with something to look forward to.

In my brief visit to Facebook trying to find the link for the service, I spotted a tip I plan to put into practice: if you want to support your favorite businesses through this without running out and exposing yourself to the plague, buy gift certificates now. I have a few places in mind to support like Yestercades and Alfonso’s in Somerville.

Outbreak Journal, March 14th

Curiously, the number one complication in my life, during self-isolation, is neither food nor toilet paper, it’s still other people – both inside the house and out. People I can yell at if necessary, like the squirrelly children who want to shove their hand in a steaming quiche; and people I can’t, people I love who put themselves at serious and unnecessary risk.

It’s Saturday, the kids know how to do Saturday whether they’re stuck at home or not, so we mostly left them to it after lunch and decided to work out our anxieties by cleaning the basement out. It was a disaster that resulted in tearing down a ceiling and some walls looking for the source of a burning smell (apparently one cloth wrapped wire was left behind and live by the last owner’s handyman, and we managed to turn it on), but we were successfully distracted. I imagine there are lots of households who are making use of their time the same way.

E. tried her hand at making a quiche from scratch so we’re not missing takeout at all.

Outbreak Journal, March 13th

All alive, all accounted for, and the kids are finally over their flu, but we’ve made the decision to do our part and flatten the epidemic curve by staying home until the epidemic has peaked.

It’s been a week and a half of quasi-self-isolation since E. first showed flu symptoms, of course we didn’t know for sure what she had, so we decided it was nice to worry our neighbors with the threat of COVID-19 still hovering over us. Now it’s hear, and I’m a believer in going medieval on this problem until we have some more advanced methods (like a vaccine!) to fight it: lockdown.

Easy to say, but now that my kids are all healthy again, they are balls of nerves, constantly at each others throats. Isolation is not going to be easy, even though I know that it’s the best thing we can do to help.

We struggle to impose order and routine, daily exercise (thank Uncle Drew for the ring fit!), schoolwork (actually doubling and tripling up on that), and spurious new “traditions,” such as casual Fridays in pajamas, to go with the long-standing fish on Friday tradition. When my nerves get to me, I retreat to the piano and hammer out every apocalyptic song I have until we’re laughing. I like to finish with “Let’s Have Another Cup of Coffee” by Irving Berlin, only apocalyptic when you know that the Great Depression was just getting started when that song took off. We’re not sure how to reduce the sense of social isolation. I never thought that I, an only child, could ever feel lonely in a house of six, but I am missing casual get togethers.

And church. This is going to be one weird Lent. We’re working family Compline back into our bedtime routine, the way we traditionally do during Advent, and reading the morning office on Sundays in lieu of going to church. Maybe Steve will finally get us chanting the Psalms.

Future posts will probably be briefer. Probably. Assuming I don’t go all Jack Torrance on a cleaning binge around here.