How am I?
Hmm, I have no idea what day we’re on. Or what day of the week it is. At the beginning of the quarantine, I figured it would last a long time, and I thought it would be better for my psyche not to count them. Because if you’re counting, you have expectations for how far you count. Right? I didn’t want to disappoint myself by having to go longer than an expected endpoint. I don’t know how long we’ve been home. It feels like a lifetime. But it’s fine. We’re all fine.
In the grand scheme of things, we’re the lucky ones. BestestHusband’s company was the epicenter of spread here in Boston. But he never had a fever, none of the classic symptoms. He found out after the fact that he was exposed to people who were confirmed to have Covid-19. He probably should have been contacted and told to self-quarantine, but never was. We looked into it, as my job has me entering assisted living facilities, often multiple in the same day. But they didn’t have enough tests to test him, especially as he wasn’t obviously ill. The kind nurse on the phone and my own bosses agreed that it would be wise for me to self-quarantine until the incubation period was over. It’s fine. The 14 day incubation period passed without any of us getting sick. I only missed one day of work. And then the assisted living facilities stopped letting us in to see patients. So my work has mostly dried up. But Brian’s still employed, so we can pay the bills. Neither of us has been laid off yet. We’re fine.
We’re luckier than a lot of our friends and neighbors. So many people working in healthcare have gotten sick from their patients. Friends, neighbors, they were all healthcare providers, and all survived. One didn’t work in healthcare, he recovered, too. The same can’t be said for a sweet older lady at my church. I really wish we could have had a nice memorial service for her at church. She was an inspiration and longtime volunteer. She deserves a really nice service. But it’s fine. I’m sure we’ll do one when society opens up again. Anyway, my home care agency was rationing hand sanitizer and face masks. We didn’t have any N95 masks for a while. But luckily, the owner of the local football team sent his plane over to China to get us some masks. And I think Israel was supposed to send us some, too. So now we have masks! It’s fine! But they’re not really considered trustworthy to fully protect us from Covid-19, so we wear a surgical mask over them when we work. We have to wear them for 3 visits before we can get a new one. And they count them out and distribute them weekly to match our caseload. Our infection control policies seem to change every week, every time we can actually get our hands on more personal protective equipment (PPE). It makes me wonder if the “safety recommendations” are actually what they think will keep us the most safe? Or if they’re just the best we can manage given the limited supply of PPE? But it’s fine. The equipment is coming just in time, as we’re getting more Covid-positive people discharged from the hospital into home care. I don’t see that many patients right now, so I’m not really concerned about getting my family sick. I’m more concerned about actually picking up germs from patients and passing them to the other patients. Or coming in contact with an asymptomatic carrier and accidentally spreading the germs to my very vulnerable patients. But it’s fine. We’re fine.
We’re lucky because we have a free-standing house. And a yard. We can enter and exit without wondering how many other people have touched our doorknob and whether or not they wash their hands. Our friends living in the large condo building with the new baby don’t have that comfort. And we don’t have any family members that are emergency responders or ER employees. We don’t worry about what germs hitchhiked a ride home on uniforms or scrubs. And if we did, we just put in a new door in the basement that would allow someone to walk in a separate door, put clothes immediately in the laundry, and then sleep in the basement without worrying about infecting anyone else. We’re pretty isolated. And insulated. We’re fine. On sunny days, we can play in the yard or go outside in the neighborhood. We’re fortunate enough to live in a neighborhood with broad and quiet enough streets that people can be outside and still stay more than 6 feet away. So we’re very lucky. Too bad this spring has been very rainy and cool, generally 20 degrees below average. The sun is lovely when it’s out, very strong and warm. But the wind is generally strong and bitter. So it’s a bit of a disappointment going outside. The girls seem to think it’s some kind of torture and whine when I make them go out for recess. I can’t really blame them. My motivation to run is directly related to the weather outside. Mostly we just want to stay inside under the covers and look at screens. But we’re fine.
We’re lucky that we have good healthcare coverage. I struggle every winter with seasonal affect disorder (SAD) and have been trying different strategies to stay functional when the sun goes away and I struggle to stay warm in our drafty old house. I tried acupuncture this year instead of medications. It was working pretty well. Possibly because the house had new insulation and an HVAC system, and the winter wasn’t as bitterly cold as winters past. I made it through February break without needing medical intervention. And then ongoing dreariness took its toll. And then the quarantine started. It’s fine. I’m taking two medications together, both to help my mood and to cancel out each other’s undesirable side effects. It’s working pretty well. Especially considering my previous coping mechanisms – work, ability to go to the gym, going places by myself, getting together with friends – aren’t really viable options right now. I know I’m not alone. I don’t know a mom who’s not struggling right now. Most of us weren’t prepared to stay home 24/7 and homeschool without any breaks. I wonder what the eventual mental health fallout will be. I assume it will be massive. But I’m fine. We’re fine.
We’ve saved a lot of money on gas. Since I’m not driving around seeing so many patients and I’m not rushing kids to after-school activities, I don’t drive much. And gas got a lot cheaper! On top of it all, we had a windy spring storm that sent a branch from a neighbor’s tree careening off of our slate roof and directly onto our minivan. The sunroof was completely shattered, and we don’t have a functional garage. So we covered it with a tarp and took it to the collision shop the next day. We avoided water damage in the heavy storm, which was good. But the branch did a lot of damage to the van, and needed extensive repairs. So we’ve been without a vehicle for the last three weeks. They’re repairing and repainting so many of the body panels that we decided to just have the bumpers replaced, too. So for the price of our $950 deductible and an extra $1500 we’ll have a brand-new-looking seven year old van! BestestHusband believes in self-insuring whenever possible, so we didn’t have rental replacement coverage. But since we’re not allowed to go anywhere and I don’t have much work, it’s totally worked out in our favor. My neighbor has allowed me to borrow her vehicle one day per week, and I can do all of my shopping after seeing my one patient. We’ve gotten by just fine without the rental! Renting a minivan for three weeks would have cost as much as all of the car repairs. So I figure we’re getting a pretty good deal on it all, thanks to the timing. It’s fine. It will be nice to go for a drive again. I think we’ll get the van back on Friday. We’re fine.
I’ve had the chance to really expand my cooking skills. In January, we started a kitchen renovation, with significant plumbing and electrical projects. So our kitchen is totally gutted, and multiple parts of the house are work zones. Then everything shut down in March, including building projects. Our contractor was supposed to stop working per regulations. He has medically vulnerable people in his family, so he loaded them all up and took them to the Cape. I certainly can’t blame him for that. So my dining room will continue to be my kitchen for the foreseeable future. With the dogs underfoot constantly. And kids running through to get to the playroom. I’ve expanded what I can accomplish with an Instant Pot, toaster, and microwave. Did you know you can bake bread and brownies in an Instant Pot? They didn’t burn in there like they did on the grill. Now that it’s a little warmer, I’ve been experimenting with baking on the grill. Given the side-burner, I’ve made entire meals on the grill, including couscous and brownies! I haven’t quite figured out how to cook a frozen pizza without burning the bottom. But I’ll keep trying. I’ve resumed making sourdough. That works much better on the grill than the brownies did. The interplay of outside temperature, wind, rain, and inside grill temps is something I haven’t quite mastered yet. But I’ll keep trying. After making that tuna fish jello mold, my family is more appreciative of my usual cooking. And with no chance to get my kitchen built any time soon, I’ll have plenty of time to master cooking on the grill. It’s fine. Did you know that my kids can consume an entire loaf of bread and a gallon of milk in a day? I’m really tired of washing dishes in my basement laundry sink. We’re fine.
The kids are doing pretty well. The youngest never has a chance to get lonely, and always has playmates around. Her slightly older sister enjoys taking charge of their play, and the youngest is pretty willing to follow her specific directions. Most of the time. The oldest two have become closer, mostly in mutual frustration with their slightly-younger sister. When the older three are doing online school, the youngest gets her own tablet time. It’s all educational, so it’s fine. Right? We’re co-contagioning with our neighbor friends, so we get the four year olds together a few times a week as a little preschool co-op. So they can fight with each other instead of their own siblings. It’s a nice change of pace. Especially for the siblings. But we’re lucky. We have that yard outside, with the swing set and sand box and sidewalk chalk and all sorts of other toys. It’s a good place for all of the running and kicking and throwing and screaming they want to do inside. School is going well. Our urban school district hit the ground running with learning opportunities for the kids, and online learning has been going on from the beginning. They were much more organized than the ritzy suburban districts, and were dispensing laptops and food right away. We’ve been so proud of our teachers. It felt like September again at first, trying to figure out how to make all of the pieces fit. But it worked out fine. And then the state made final decisions about the school year and districts had to figure out how to take attendance and do school more like they did at school and now we have 31 separate zoom meetings to track in the week. Seriously. 31. That doesn’t even include gymnastics workouts. We have September all over again this week. The kids need constant help to try to get to all of their zoom meetings. But it’s fine. Their art teacher is amazing and has an art therapy background, which is really helpful right now. She’s been encouraging the kids to express their feelings in their artwork. I’ve been seeing a lot of tears in the girls’ drawings. At least the older girls. They say they’re fine. They don’t really want to try to arrange socially-distant interactions with friends or call them. They say that school at home is working out ok. They’re fine. They don’t need a lot of zoom chats with friends. They’d rather just get their work done. The insomnia from one of them isn’t that different from her night-owl tendencies. She’s been a lot harder to get out of bed in the mornings. But she still makes it to 9:30 meetings. She’s fine. We’re fine.
I mean, I know how really lucky we are. We’re not losing our jobs or our home. We have nice neighbors with standing orders to get us milk whenever they go to the store. We have our co-contagioning friends to share childcare and cooking burdens. And booze. I didn’t use to drink wine every night. I certainly never bought it by the box before all of this happened. But it’s fine, right? Isn’t everyone self-medicating a bit these days? What is an introvert with four talkative kids supposed to do when she’s cooped up at home 24/7 with no end in sight? With no kitchen and no car and down to one bathroom and a dog that now has to be carried outside (and what’s the final straw that will force us to pull the plug?) and an antagonistic child with a promising career as a lawyer and a spring that doesn’t want to seem to really come and no will power or initiation to do the smart helpful things like running instead of drinking and no ability to keep track of anything but the barest minimums… and constant, constant chaos?
It’s fine. I’m fine. We’re fine.
I’m sure that very soon our country will have the necessary resources to provide PPE to all of the healthcare providers that need it and enough tests to test everyone and enough understanding of Covid-19 to make rational choices about balancing everyone’s health and safety with the need for society to continue in some tolerable form. It’ll be fine. We’ll be fine.
How are you?