You can leave, but you can’t go anywhere.
Today we ran out of butter, and I almost lost it. More butter is on the way, set for delivery tomorrow—but still! How did we even approach this butterless event horizon?? Two is one, and one, certainly, is none! And none butter means no more baking projects, no lima beans for dinner, and no toast for breakfast. I ended up making banana bread with cream cheese—AND SHAME—instead. It turned out fine.
Obviously it’s not about butter. Life in the house feels delicately balanced, just waiting for the very next thing to knock it over. Today that was butter. Tomorrow, who knows! Maybe I’ll open up the new curriculum sent out by the school district, feel incompetent, close the tab, and take a shameful nap for the rest of the day?
I keep thinking about this sign that hangs in the Cobra Cabana bathroom (assuming Cobra Cabana still exists):
PLEASE!! DO NOT FLUSH HYGINE PRODUCTS, PAPER TOWELS OR ANYTHING ELSE THAT DOESN’T BELONG DOWN THE TOILET. WE HAVE A REAL FRAGILE ECO SYSTEM HAPPENING HERE AND ITS BALANCE MUST BE MAINTAINED AT ALL COST. WE APPRECIATE YOUR COMPLIANCE.
Right now, we’re all a toilet filled with things that don’t belong. We’re doing our best, at least in this house, to maintain the balance and preserve the eco system, but, dang, y’all. Dang.
Today I rode my bicycle 100 kilometers. It was the hardest thing I’ve done in a while.
I am absolutely exhausted by the thought of cooking dinner yet again and have decided we’re eating chips and ramen for the duration. As with pre-virustimes, meal planning is absolutely awful, and, like then, I just can’t bring myself to do it. Now, though, as we shelter in place for the next forever, there’s nothing to fall back. No carnitas from Mi Jalisco, no 7-layer burrito from Taco Bell, and certainly no milkshakes from CookOut. I keep aspirationally saving recipes to my AnyList database, but the thought of looking through them with my family to find something acceptable to everyone sounds horrible.
Every day, almost minutes after breakfast, I get asked “what’s for dinner?” I don’t know what’s for dinner! Chips and tequila, and we’re all out of chips?
Suddenly, there’s a ton of tequila in my house. Here’s to the weekend!
Immediately ordering a printer as quarantine began stands as one of our best coronavirus decisions to date. We’ve used it to print D&D miniatures, math work sheets, and, most recently, the Cards Against Humanity: Family Edition. If you’ve got a tween at home, I can’t recommend the latter enough. It’s chock full of poop jokes, and just the thing to lighten the load for an hour during This Most Unusual Time. It felt good to laugh together as a family.
This, from the Chronicle of Higher Education, resonated with me:
No matter what your family unit looks like, you will need a team in the weeks and months ahead. The best way to build a team is to be a good teammate, so take some initiative to ensure that you are not alone. If you do not put this psychological infrastructure in place, the challenge of necessary physical-distancing measures will be crushing. Build a sustainable and safe social system now.
In a lot of ways, literal and otherwise, this is a survival situation. And like Survivorman says, the first thing you need to do is build a fire—not necessarily to stay warm, but to feel safe. Something about a fire makes the deep-down of your brain relax. These first couple of coronavirus weeks have definitely been about building a fire (aka psychological infrastructure) and getting prepared to make it through the next several months.
I’ve been baking a lot. Monday is Bread Day during the Family Activity portion of our schedule (3:00–4:00 PM), and so far we’ve made: A cheesy quick bread, Southern cast-iron cornbread, and butter fan rolls. All of the recipes came from Bread Illustrated.
I know everyone is doing #sourdoughchallenge or whatever and using up the world’s supply of flour, but can you blame them? Baking is a wonderfully slow and methodical activity. It lends well to working as a team and (usually) doesn’t require a lot of technical skill so nearly everyone can get involved somehow. Baking also begets baking, and we’ve ended up with some bonus cookies (first peanut butter, then oatmeal cranberry). It’s a single activity that works against a lot of the worst parts of quarantined coronavirus life.
Pastor Erik wrote well about this last year—the satisfyingly slow nature of baking, not the bonus cookies:
The habit of baking bread slows me down. Baking bread takes all day. Were I to rush the folding process, the bread wouldn’t rise. Were I to skip the resting, the flavor wouldn’t develop. In our on-demand society where we expect instant results, baking bread helps me learn the slower rhythms of God’s grace. Mix, fold, rest. Inhale, exhale.
Virustime is so fluid. Slowing down to bake helps stake claim to a portion of time and make it fixed and finite. Plus, bonus cookies!
My son’s entire day centered around the fact that we were having frozen pizza for dinner. After a bunch of days stuck inside the house, he just really, really wanted pizza. So right! So pure!
On Sundays we attend church in our living room. City Church, our church for more than a decade, has done a really excellent job creating a way to asynchronously work through the liturgy we’ve come to expect week after week. It doesn’t replace a corporate worship service, but it still feels communal in This Most Unusual Time. We’ve got readings to read and questions to think about, but also songs recorded remotely (à la The Postal Service) and video views into the lives of quarantined congregants. While we’re only on week two of Church From Afar, it’s still been nice to see faces and hear voices we wouldn’t have otherwise.
Today, we put our Christmas lights back up.
Friday night is movie night here in Catrow Coronatown, and we decided to watch The Day After Tomorrow—which is, by far, my favorite disaster movie. Made in 2004, it’s supposed to be a far-fetched look at how climate change will ruin our planet. Sitting here 16 years later, though, it feels both not-far-fetched-enough and especially prescient about how Republicans in Congress speak about climate change.
However, now that the coronavirus colors the context of every discussion we have and all the media we consume, you can’t watch this movie, hear fictional politicians say things like “We can’t let the cure be worse than the disease,” and not think about This Most Unusual Time. Trump literally said “WE CANNOT LET THE CURE BE WORSE THAN THE PROBLEM ITSELF.” five days ago! Of course, in The Day After Tomorrow, early warnings from scientists to take dramatic action go unheeded by the federal government and millions of people die unnecessarily.
Dang, two weeks already? Virus time is weird, because, in some ways, it feels like 600 weeks has past, but, in other ways, I remember writing this just a couple hours ago:
I’ve got a lot of questions about what life looks like after its familiar routines get twisted and bent by the unknown. Do we make the big pot of coffee every day instead of just on the weekends? Do we have recess, but, like, for the whole family? Does anyone expect any work to really get done? How bent and twisted will our routines get and how long will it take for those new routines to feel commonplace? When will things get back to normal? Will this be the new normal?
Now to answer Past Ross’s questions:
- We do make the big pot of coffee every day, but, the past few days I’ve been cutting the Good Coffee with a bit of the Bad Coffee to preserve our supply. This weekend though, 100% Good Coffee all the way.
- We have dedicated, daily out-of-doors time at 11:00 AM. One day this week it rained, so we jogged in place while watching an episode of My Hero Academia.
- I’m still unclear on if people expect work to get done, but I can tell you there’s not a ton of work getting done. Working on quarantine? More like quarantining my work!
- Our old routines were almost immediately bent and twisted (a bit by our own design) and now, honestly, feel commonplace. People are so adaptable, and that’s incredible.
- I have no idea when things will get back to normal. Everything seems to point to peakvirus in Virginia at some point next month—that’s at least a bunch more weeks of our new normal.
- While I don’t think we’ll sit confined to our homes for the rest of our days, I do think that bits of our new routines and coronaculture will make themselves a permanent part of how we live our lives.
I teach a class at VCU with my pal Max on active and sustainable transportation. We talk about bikes, buses, good land use, and how they all work together to make cities wonderful. The class itself is great and filled with a bunch of awesomely nerdy students with strong opinions on transportation. We’ve had a lot of fun this semester so far, but, as with almost every other college across the country, VCU has moved to remote learning for the rest of the year. What even is remote learning?
I think this is only my sixth semester adjuncting, but I’ve never taught any of those remotely. While this is a big change for me, it’s a massive change for students, and, given the upheaval I feel in my life, I can’t imagine what they’re dealing with right now.
That’s why we decided to run the class completely asynchronously. We’ll record our lecture as a podcast rather than schedule a Zoom. We’ll post in discussion boards rather than chat in Slack. We’ll encourage students to email us with questions rather than hosting office hours. I deeply value my schedule in This Most Unusual Time—often it feels like the only thing holding life together—but, at this point, I really can’t imagine dedicating a weekly two-hour block of time to sit on a video call with two dozen similarly frazzled people.
Who knows what will come of work and class and meetings after the coronavirus, but I’m hoping more things will move asynchronous. I’ve already started to value, in a way, the enforced slow down on my previous pace of life.
I forgot to write this yesterday. One thing that’s surprised me is how my reaction to the coronacrisis hasn’t been linear or even consistently in the same direction. Some days I’m feeling excited to face an unprecedented challenge, some days I’m feeling trapped under the uncertainty. I know that’s “normal,” but my own emotional rollercoaster exhausts me.
Today the Governor announced that he’s closing schools for the rest of the academic year. I watched a little bit of the press conference on Twitter, and the live comments instantly flooded with high school students angry about missing their friends and graduations.
Is the assumption that we’ll all need to continue our social distancing, our shelter in placing, until at least June 12th, the before-today last day of school? Because that’s 81 days from now. That’s 22% of the entire year. That’s…a lot of time to spend in this house with my family.
Thinking about it for a minute, I hope that canceling the school year is a proactive step to help teachers and administrators plan rather than a harbinger of 11 weeks of isolation.
Two things from today that raised my stress level:
- Tylenol is extremely difficult to find right now.
- Our neighbor ran his leaf blower for three and a half hours this afternoon.
It’s the weekend! And, somehow—despite the simultaneous blurring, expansion, and contraction of time lately—it actually feels like a weekend. Today, the schedule went out the window and everyone had plenty of free time to spend however they liked. There was napping. There was much Minecraft. I made cookies and spent an hour drinking and playing a text adventure game with friends over Discord. We might run out of High Life soon.
One of the things I’m most afraid over the next couple of weeks is losing track of time and having the days start to feel monotonous and endless. Sticking to the schedule this past week helped and so did abandoning the schedule today.