Tag Archives: virus

COVID-19 Chronicles – Kinda Stuck Here

It’s been a year since I went back to Kentucky to visit my family.  A whole year since I last saw my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, my nieces… a year since Sadie sat in a grocery cart while I pushed her recklessly around the store, making race car noises as she giggled madly.  A year since I played tag with a crawling Lydia and watched her pull herself up for the first time.

Sadie is almost too big to fit into the shopping cart now.  She’s writing her own name, and spelling words, and is more like me than I could have ever imagined one of my sister’s kids ever becoming.  And Lydia has been running, now, for ages.  She talks.  She said my name today (well, most of it… it’s four syllables long, and is a big word for a one year old) for the first time ever.

And I’m missing it.  All of it.  FaceTime, I’m starting to realize, is not a replacement for being there.  Not when they’re this little.

Part of this is my fault.  I should have made a point to travel up over Christmas… but I was busy moving (and moving is expensive) and didn’t think I’d have the energy to do both.  That was probably true, but if I’d known a goddamn pandemic was on its way, I probably would have tried to find some energy.  Or moved something around.  Or something.

When I first planned to move here, ten years ago, my old supervisor back in Louisville asked if I was worried I’d get “stuck” here.  I looked at her, smiled, and said, “I can think of worse places to be stuck.”  This is not an untrue statement, but I couldn’t fathom then (and I can’t fathom now, even if I’m living in it) a situation in which I’d be so stuck that there’d be nowhere to go to escape.

Now?  Now I don’t know when I can go back.  I’m thankful that Kentucky’s cases are dropping… that takes a load off my mind, as I sit here in this reckless-ass state where the cases are rising and the hospitals are (apparently) getting close to maxing out their resources.  At least my family is safer than I am.  That’s what matters.

It’s not that I flew home that often, see.  It’s not that I made plans to fly back all the time… flying was/is expensive and while I’m comfortable, I’m not rolling in it.  At least not since UT.  I live freaking far away by design, and because there’s not a market for what I do up there.  Being this far away has never been “easy” (and it’s gotten harder since my nieces were born), but it was made easier by the knowledge that… if I wanted to go back or if I needed to go back, I could just hop on a plane and make it happen.  Now?  Now, even if I got in my VW and drove the whole way with minimal stops I wouldn’t feel right about it.  I couldn’t be SURE that I wasn’t bringing the virus with me, and as our caseload here climbs higher and higher, the chances of that happening if I tried to make the trip, however I did it, are more likely every day.  I won’t put my family at risk.

Someone asked me today what I would have done differently if, six months before the pandemic started, I’d known it was coming.  My answer: I’d go see my family.

Because when I saw this coming, I had planned for the food shortage (not so much the toilet paper shortage, but somehow I worked that out and shouldn’t have to buy any for months).  I’ve been training for “quarantine-style introversion” most of my life.  I’d already switched jobs, which (unknowingly) set me up so that I could work from home and further limit my exposure later.  I’m good at doing what I have to do, on the ground level, to survive.  I’m good at planning ahead so that I don’t go without.  When it comes to this, though… visiting… I’ve been completely reactionary.  All I can do is hoard my vacation time so that when I can visit, I can stay long enough to try to make up for the time I’ve lost.  I mean you can’t really make up time… it doesn’t work like that… but I can try anyway.

My parents have a second, smaller house that they bought to be closer to the grandkids.  They didn’t have a TV there the last time I visited, only a CD Player and they liked to play old WWII music.  The last song that I remember hearing before I left to get to the airport, a year ago this week, was this one… and it was so appropriate (though none of us realized how appropriate at the time).

COVID-19 Chronicles: Day 27-29

Yeah those loaves were NOT what I had in mind… I had to throw them both away.  There wasn’t enough starter to try again, so I’m replenishing it.  I’ve got a different recipe, its ratings are pretty good, and I’ll try again.  Note to self: whatever they say, I still need to add yeast IN ADDITION TO the yeast that’s growing in the starter.  (And no, the starter isn’t dead… it still bubbles when I feed it.)  Moving on…

Yesterday, Hillsborough County instituted a curfew (we’re still grounded, so it’s a curfew on top of being grounded).  They said that it was because too many people were still gathering together in private places.  In a way, I get it.  And it doesn’t affect me much because, well, I don’t have anywhere to BE after 9:00 anyway.  I’m in bed by 10 usually, since I log into work so damn early, but it’s the principle of the thing.  Like when my first grade teacher couldn’t figure out who was screaming in the bathroom and so she took the whole class out in the hall and paddled everyone (this was back in the days when corporal punishment was legal).  I was lucky enough to be sick that day, or I’d have gotten it too.  I WAS THE QUIET KID… though you wouldn’t guess that about me now, more than likely.

Anyway, along the lines of luck – I FOUND TOILET PAPER.  AND PAPER TOWELS.  That is a big deal because I was not one of those crazy people that bought a fuck ton of it as this got started (stocking up on food instead, remember) and as the shelves have been pretty bare since those days, I had begun to worry about having some on hand when I ran out of the little bit that I did have.  To the point that I was limiting myself to two squares per toilet use… and not cleaning things with paper towels (using washable dishtowels instead).  The dishtowel trick isn’t new… it’s just more frequent… and it doesn’t work on cat vomit.  At any rate, I went home from the store feeling pretty good.

It’s the last trip I’ll be able to make for a while because apparently as of Thursday the county is going to start requiring everyone to wear masks in public places.  I don’t have a mask.  It is impossible to GET a mask.  I don’t sew that well and couldn’t effectively make one if I had the material, so I’m fucked.  I ordered some off of Etsy last night (with a Star Wars theme, because I have to make something decent out of this shitty situation), but they won’t be here for a week or more… so what I got today (and what I already had on hand) is going to have to last until they arrive.  Mom said she’d sew me one, but I don’t know when she will get to it.  This particular thing… I don’t think is fair… I mean I get WHY you would do that, but it’s not like masks are readily available to people, and for those of us who can’t sew and who are literally having to order them, you have to give us some TIME to get them.  Or provide them.  Two days is not enough warning.  Honestly, I think this is particularly a little extreme.

Knee has been acting up again.. probably from non-use.  I started stretching and doing leg lifts (with weights) again today, then of course walked through the grocery store.. unloaded my car up two flights of stairs (four times).  Moving helps.  I have to stop being so damn stagnant.  That is the one thing I miss about the apartment complex I used to live in, because there’s no real walking path here.  I mean there’s a sidewalk, and it’s usually pretty deserted, but there’s some weird swamp property or something that’s on either side of it with no trespassing signs on either side and someone sits out there (on both sides) all damn day (always with a different license plate) just watching it.  It’s beyond bizarre, and I’m a little paranoid about what the hell is going on there, so I don’t go near it on foot.

Noblegarden on WoW.  Working on the achievement.  Been trying to get “What A Long, Strange Trip it’s Been” since I got the game and I always just kind of tire out before I can get there.  Oddly, doing the Easter Egg Hunt is kind of relaxing.  I mean I figure I can get half of it now, do the rest another year… you may ask how I know I will keep doing this… well… because I haven’t stopped since 2008.  I don’t see that changing.

Back to WoW, I guess.  I’m out of words.

Stuff I’m celebrating:

  • Got a notification that the Baby Yoda I preordered back in February is now processing.  (I know he’s “The Child” but until they give him a name, he’s Baby Yoda.  Even after they give him a name, he’s probably still going to be Baby Yoda.  Disney kind of screwed themselves, imho, by not giving him an identifier up front.
  • Found more bread flour.  That’s almost as difficult to find as the paper towels and toilet paper.
  • Tomorrow is Wednesday and I get to run a training.  That will give me a break from the writing projects I’m working on and it also helps me to break up the day a little.
  • After a day of seemingly continuous vomiting (yesterday), Milo and Cleo are both feeling much, much better today.  We had a very active game of fetch several hours ago (yes, they both know to bring their toy back so I can throw it again).

COVID-19 Chronicles: Day 26

Today was eventful and worth writing about on its own…

I woke up with the goal of completing three projects:
1. Bread baking.
2. Fixing my garden gnome (his hat had a big hole in it that I wanted to seal).
3. Taking my trash out to the dumpster (I pay for valet trash here but since the virus got started, they’ve been skimping on pickup a lot – even though I still pay for it – and I don’t like for it to just sit in there).

I started the bread with a new recipe this morning that actually said not to add any additional yeast – that the starter would take care of everything. So I took it at its word and put it together, let it sit in the pan to rise, but honestly it had a weird look to it and I didn’t have a good feeling about it from the beginning, but I’ll try anything once (and I didn’t want to waste all the flour I’d used).

Sure enough, though, an hour and a half later, it was the same size it was when I put it in the bowl. I separated it into loaves (like that would make a difference) and thought I’d see if it would do better that way… left it… started on the next project.

The trash part was easy. I had to double bag it because it had been sitting in the can for so long that it was leaking, but that wasn’t a problem. The weather was decent and it was a nice little walk (and probably the furthest that I’ve walked in flip flops since I hurt my knee back in 2018). I stopped by the Beetle to get the supplies I’d purchased at Lowes for the gnome and brought them up – checked on the bread… nothing.

I was feeling pretty defeated by this point, but I didn’t want to toss it all and start over (logistically, I couldn’t have anyway, since the starter needs to rebuild itself) so I made a separate mixture of dough with a little bit of yeast dissolved in warm water and flour, with the intent of adding that to the dough I already had to see if it would give it a boost (the same concept as adding a little bit of water and cornstarch to a broth or something to thicken it).

Then I went out on the patio to work on the gnome. This is where things got sticky. Literally. I bought a can of Great Stuff from Lowes (the stuff you use to seal up cracks and shit). I sprayed some in the gnome but apparently went overboard because it just kept… growing… out of its head. At first I tried blotting it with a paper towel (which is also stupid, given the general shortage of those), but ended up getting it all over my hands. Again… stupid… it is incredibly sticky… and it did NOT wipe off like I thought it would.

So while the gnome’s head was erupting like some sticky, yellow-ish volcano, I got up and decided I probably needed to wash my hands as soon as possible… except that it’d already started to dry… and my hands were sticky. Like so sticky that they got stuck to the doorknob.

Finally wrenched them off the doorknob and got to the bathroom (again, another sticky doorknob), tried to clean it off with soap and water (nope), Dawn (nope), elbow grease (nope), and by this time I’m really panicking because it is ALL. OVER. MY. HANDS. And I wear contacts that HAVE to be taken out at night, and I don’t want to do that with glue-like shit all over them.

At this point it’s all dry. Some of it will peel off, but most of it is just… like a second set of skin… so I pray that my iPhone will still recognize my fingerprint to unlock (it did) and I start frantically looking up stuff to take this off with. The internet suggests Goof Off… I don’t have any and don’t want to drive anywhere to get any because I didn’t want any of this shit to get on my Bug’s steering wheel. It then suggests… well… using a three-blade razor to gently shave your fingers.

Surprisingly… that worked… at least enough so that I think I’ll be able to take my contacts out later.  The gnome looks like it’s grown out some fancy Madonna-quality ponytail… but I can chop that off tomorrow. 

 

 

gnomeBut there was still the bread to tangle with – I dumped the new dough into a bowl with the old dough and let it sit for another hour. Finally, got some action… it rose enough to split it and put it back into the loaf pans.

At this point there’s no recipe for this bread anymore, I’ve added so much shit to it that wasn’t originally in the written version, so I had to really guess as to how long to let it rise in the loaf pans, then how long to bake it.

At any rate, about eight hours after I mixed the dough, I finally have two loaves cooling on the stove. I have no idea if they will do what I wanted them to do (I was going for a softer loaf that retained the sourdough flavor but that was pliable enough to make sandwiches with and was less crumbly)… but I’ll find out tomorrow when I slice into it.

 

 

 

 

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COVID-19 Chronicles: Day 1

I realize that COVID has been a thing for months now… but it’s affected me, personally, very little, except that I decided early on that this could be really bad and that I should probably go out and make sure my stock of cold medicines and tissues was stable.  I bought one package of toilet paper then (but because I was basically out) and a little bit of food, but left it at that because things hadn’t blown up in the US yet and I wanted to see what would happen.

As the news got worse, and it made its way over here, I’ve spent the last four weeks stocking up on non-perishable food items (they’ll also last through hurricane season), stuff I’ll want if I do get sick, and food and litter for the cats.  I was comfortably prepared for this thing before it got ridiculous.  I am proud of that.

Two weeks ago, at work, the order came for us to start preparing to work from home – there was no word on whether we actually would, but they wanted us to test our connections and apps to make sure we could if we had to.  Yesterday the order came for us to begin remote-working today, so this is it.

Working from home is not so bad.  I made the best chocolate chip cookies I’ve ever made in my life on Saturday night, with some left over to snack on (and they need to be – their shelf life is only about 5 days).  I get up and log in at my normal time (around 6:45), but I do it in my fuzzy socks and with one of the cats in my lap periodically.  I miss my work friends, but I am also really digging getting to hang out with the cats all day, so I guess it’s the ultimate trade off.

Social isolation is not difficult for a lifelong introvert… I guess you could say that, in a way, I’ve been rehearsing for this my whole life.  Granted, I’ve gotten better about my introversion over the years, but I also have absolutely no qualms about binge watching an entire television series or playing four straight hours of World of Warcraft and getting achievements that I just don’t have time to go for during normal periods of my life.

I am, of course, worried about my family – but, most of them live in a very small town in a rural area.  They are pretty social within the confines of that town, however, people in that town don’t travel much and it’s not a bustling tourist destination.  You could argue that they practice a less extreme form of social isolation all the time.  And I call them pretty much daily now so I know they’re ok.

At any rate, because I find myself with more “downtime” than I am accustomed to and because I am a historian (seriously, I have a degree in this) with a fascination for social history and change – and in a weirdly twisted way, I am flattered to be living in the middle of it – I’ve decided to chronicle this all here.

I’m not doing this because I’m anticipating getting a lot of hits… I would imagine WordPress (among other sites) is FULL of posts like mine right now… (probably from people that are a whole lot worse off and, by proxy, more interesting) but because I really want to be able to come back to this someday and read about it all. If you do decide to join me for this series, please note that I’m not going to be getting engaged in scientific discussions (I am not qualified), nor political ones (not qualified for that either).  I think the best thing we can do for ourselves now, and for each other, is to remain as positive as we can.  And that’s what I’ll be doing.

With any luck, I’ll be able to post daily (or semi-daily).

Daily Developments:

  • Florida’s Primary elections are still taking place.  This is a big deal because other states have changed the date of theirs.
  • Tampa’s bars and clubs are closed. Restaurants are limited to 50% capacity (and are urging takeout).
  • People are still coming down here for Spring Break, which I find odd, but y’all also help ensure we don’t pay state income tax, so thanks.
  • The Clearwater Pier was recently closed (but the beach is still open)… South Beach, I hear, is closed, though.

Things I’m happy about:

  • I have food… enough to last through hurricane season if I’m careful.
  • Milo spent a good half of the day in my lap. He spent part of it watching a webinar.  If this is my new “normal” for work, I’ll take it.
  • Grocery stores here are still pretty much stocked with everything (except toilet paper and hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial soap)… so I can easily replace what I consume. This is what I plan to do until this either ends or I get sick and have to quarantine myself.  If I have to quarantine myself, I have enough supplies to get by on until that quarantine period ends.
  • I still have a job – seriously… I’ve already seen one major recession in my adult life, and I was unemployed and basically homeless during that one. I am thankful, THANKFUL that I have work, and that my employer lets me work from home instead of forcing me on furlough, and also that my rent is reasonable since I moved to another area of town.

— ‘Till tomorrow.