Diary of a partial-quarantine: week one

We started our coronavirus quarantine this week. I found out that I’m not very good at quarantines.

I don’t know if it’s being American, or if it’s just me, but I began my first week of recommended/forced quarantine by working more hours from home than I ever have in one week’s time, while cooking more, sanitizing more, and sleeping less. The week began (on a Friday because that’s when I began taking this virus seriously) by me writing and submitting an article about how we can all benefit from the extra time at home and the decreased chaos of normal American life during this uncertain time of a pandemic. It’s a good article, but I’m a moron.

I’m here to say that my quality of life has not improved. But I’m still well, so I’m definitely blessed. I’ll share my week with you for 3 reasons:

  • it validates the energy I expended for 7 days
  • it might validate the energy you expended for 7 days because you did the same or better than me
  • it might be read 100 years from now when another pandemic hits the globe and the people of the future will verify how we prepared for COVID-19. (Nope, that won’t happen. This diary isn’t going to help anyone except maybe you and me. But here’s a great article about someone who knew this was coming!)
  • okay, here’s a better third reason: journaling helps you deal with life. I suggest you try it. (Here’s another sample journal.)

Friday—Spent the day emailing events, writing and submitting an article about COVID-19, canceling speaking appointments, submitting requests for airline refunds, and generally freaking out about the lost income and my complete inability to write new material. Meanwhile, fourth quarter started, and my high school English classes will need a complete overhaul to be online-friendly. This is the time of the school year where my classes are supposed to get easier. Now all that has changed. I’m re-planning everything without knowing if my ideas will work. For a mental break (because re-organizing calms me), I cleaned some closets and put away winter clothes. It’s going to be 80 this week. Although I may have just jinxed the weather by pulling out spring clothing. And I got rid of some things, which always feels nice and liberating. (You can read about the benefits of de-cluttering here.)

Saturday—Ran some errands. The streets are empty. I find myself using a lot of hand sanitizer and then panicking because I think this little bottle in my purse is my last one. And nobody has any left. Nobody. Whoever invented this product is a multi-billionaire. I also realize how much I touch my face. I’ve been reading about coronavirus online, trying to get caught up. I do not feel better with more information. I’m wondering if my non-alarmist approach to life wasn’t mistake in this case. I have only 3 packs of toilet paper and a handful of paper plates. And one case of water. Why is everyone buying water? This is not a natural disaster. At home, I wiped down door knobs, toilet and sink handles, light switches, surfaces, steering wheels, car handles, sliding doors. I washed the bath linens and jackets. Hoping for 80s. Will that kill the virus? Since they have it in South Korea and Australia, I’m guessing not. But sometimes, re-organizing things you can change helps you handle the things you can’t change. (You can read a blog about that here.) I took a walk–had to get outside and breathe. A lot of other people must be thinking the same thing.

Sunday—My husband preached our church service online: we had record-breaking online numbers–2800 devices! If a whole family watched on 1 device, the numbers could easily be double, triple, or quadruple that amount. I’m working feverishly on setting up my Webex platform so I can hold online classes this week, pretending I know what I’m doing and hoping I can figure it out. Joining an online class is so much easier than setting one up, apparently. I walked with a friend in the afternoon. I’m marveling at the number of people walking in my neighborhood. Usually it’s just me and a random runner, passing with brief waves while we listen to our airpods. My friend and I inhaled the spring air and didn’t breathe on each other, hoping that’s enough. (You can’t exactly walk 6 feet away from someone and have a conversation.) Later, my family went out to dinner with friends, and I’ve concluded that wasn’t a good idea for germ containment. Waitresses were wearing latex gloves, and the salt and pepper weren’t on the table. Too many people. This will probably be our last restaurant meal for a while.

Monday—I skipped an early-morning Google classroom training for teachers because I thought I knew what I was doing. Showed up at the end and realized I’m clueless. It’s our first week without class. I met a few students and parents who came to school to drop off work before we go to digital-only. Then I went to the grocery. The shelves are empty. I’m living in an apocalypse. Are we really going to run out of meat, soup, soap, Clorox wipes, and toilet paper? I’m astounded. I guess I need to be more of an alarmist. I am not prepared for this. I hear that the President and Governor both called for social groups to be less than 10 people. Incredible! I spend the rest of the day responding to hundreds of emails from students sending in assignments piece by piece. I’ll never be able to accurately record all this. Kicking myself that I haven’t been doing Google classroom all  year long, or at least since last week. I’ve always been a paper person. The 21st century is definitely kicking me in the butt now; I have ridden the part-paper/part-online wave until now. I must surrender to fully online. During my test-run for my online classes this afternoon, almost everyone checked in accordingly, but my audio went in and out. I think my Netgear Wifi booster in my office was interfering with reception. My family and I went to a movie in celebration of our last night out. We reserved our seats, but there were only about 10 people there. I tried not to touch anything. I think this was our last movie for awhile. It’s a little somber to think that normal parts of my life will be non-existent for weeks, maybe months into the future.

Tuesday—I spent the morning online going over questions and hosting a guest speaker in my online class. She can’t sign in the second time because I had forgotten to send her multiple invites. I quickly sent her the link for my second class. Some students have glitches with sound or video. As I had unplugged the Netgear, mine is now working great. Maybe I’m not a total idiot. A Webex-expert parent emails me and kindly suggests that I switch my host site to the school’s site (I didn’t know I should have done that—another reason not to skip the meeting.) He sits with me for a couple hours online while he figures out how to move me over and walks me though using the forum. I guess I am an idiot, but I’m okay with that because the world if full of nice people who don’t treat you like one. Another good lesson to learn here. I realize as I cook dinner, that I will be cooking dinner every night, given the quarantine situation. And now that all my adult children are returning home to stay or at least eat for free, I’ll be cooking a lot lately. This isn’t a happy revelation. I baked chocolate chip cookies so I’d feel better. It helped a little. But now I feel guilty for eating them. Seriously, I do not want to make dinner every night.

Wednesday—I don’t know where the day went, but I was glued to my computer for all of it. Sending emails, explaining process, re-planning classes, submitting 3rd quarter grades for report cards. Reading a zillion emails from students and parents with homework, questions, and suggestions that I want to absorb but have zero brain power left with which to process, especially while trying to become competent. Meanwhile, my college student-who’s-not-going-back-to-college is having a lovely couple weeks sleeping late, hanging with friends, and eating from a free cafeteria. At the moment, this quarantine is making his life better. I can’t wait for his classes to resume next week. I missed my walk today, and I needed it. I called an elderly neighbor from my old neighborhood to check on her. She’s good.

Thursday—I held another online class today. It went well on my end—I had another guest speaker—but several students couldn’t get their audio/video to work. Worked on setting up Google classroom again. It looks great. Now how to transfer over the test I just wrote in Word without having to re-write it on Classroom. I hope this is possible. It’s 80 today but I’m inside, bugging out my eyes in front of my laptop. I watched some Antigone videos online looking for fun links to send to my students during our next unit. Can’t even believe I’ll be teaching a play that we can’t act out in class. I feel cheated. But I don’t have the virus (yet), so that’s a blessing. Perspective. My grad-school son came home tonight but left after dinner to hang with friends. I guess quarantines don’t apply to young adults.

Friday—Up at a ridiculous hour because I’ve got work on my brain. Then my son and I drove to Virginia Tech 4 hours away to pack up his dorm room and drove four hours back home. And then to wash everything, find a place for everything, and feed another person who’s continually asking when we’re going to eat again. Unpacking, washing, sorting, throwing away. Eliminating the smell of mildew, dust, and college dorm room. Yes, we’ll be talking about shared duties. But for right now, I want to make sure these things actually get washed. My son and I do not have the same standard of smell. So in the real world where the virus is rampant, the rumors speak of a complete quarantine with law enforcement patrolling our streets. Can this be possible? It has to be social media out of control. There’s no way Americans are staying indoors continually. We visited Shane’s parents tonight. All is well.

Since it’s already Saturday, and I haven’t posted this blog yet, I’m adding the day I’m having today.

Saturday—Another venture into the world—I got up early to hit the grocery store, office supply store, Target, bank…. Hundreds of dollars on staples and preparatory items for the eminent shut-down of everything. I felt like I was shopping in a foreign country: my usual brands, veggies, fruit, cleaning supplies were all gone, so I looked for something that would suffice. The Kleenex and toilet paper aisle are eternally empty, a vast lane of metal shelving like an closed express lane. And still, there is so much abundance everywhere. It’s startling how deprived one can feel, while at the same moment be presented with so many options. Okay, the rest of my day went like this: clean out the pantry, put away groceries, clean the house (this is a testament to my empty-nest life where I almost never clean–a life that has vanished for the unforeseeable future). One week into quarantine, my house is filthy, not to mention, probably contaminated. I stopped cleaning halfway through the house because I’m exhausted. And I’m not cleaning bedrooms where young adults live.

I wonder if other countries of the world possesses greater endurance than us, because they live in a state of adaptation and contentment? Are people who aren’t used to vaccinations the true over-comers, those people with limited options and an uncertain future? Or are we the eternal optimists because we don’t think things will be as bad as people say and we are confident that life will return to normal shortly?

Perhaps we are the great over-comers after all.

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