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Poor Zeke could not get to sleep tonight. Tomorrow is his birthday, which under ordinary circumstances would be cause for anticipatory restlessness, but on day 43 of a quarantine after your sister and your mom have celebrated birthdays in the past month, the night before your birthday is just unbearable.

Randy put him to bed the first time. Meanwhile I was downstairs making the cake (strawberry, as is our custom). Then Zoe and I started working on a treasure hunt for Zeke to find his presents, coming up with totally brilliant and original rhymes. Eventually I crept upstairs to rescue Randy, who I suspected had fallen asleep putting Zeke to bed. Randy cake downstairs but then unexpectedly so did Zeke. Zoe and I tried to scramble to cover up the presents scattered across the dining room table waiting to be wrapped. I ushered Zeke back upstairs so Randy could have something to eat and take a turn helping Zoe come up with clues in couplet form.

I tried to get Zeke settled and he seemed to fall asleep a couple times, but if I shifted slightly he would sit up and ask what time it was. After a couple iterations he started quietly crying, worried that he would never get to sleep and would end up sleeping through his birthday as a result. I felt so bad for him.

I played a sleep story using my Calm app and it seemed to do the trick. Then I sat up and Zeke’s eyes flashed open. At that point I summoned Randy for a second handoff so I could finish the cake. I eased the first layer out of the pan and slathered strawberry jam on top, followed by the second layer. Then I covered the whole thing with cream cheese icing and turned it over to Zoe to decorate.

I reminded Zoe when I said good night to her to be absolutely silent going into her and Zeke’s room. I am reluctant to go upstairs for fear that the creaky floors will disturb any children who may have finally fallen asleep.

Our whole family’s sleep schedule has been a mess since quarantine started, and Zeke often sleeps in now until 9 or later. Tomorrow, however, is the first virtual morning meeting of his first grade class. I don’t really understand why it’s taken his teacher so long to organize this, but we’re not going to miss it. Stay tuned for another blog post coming soon about education policy and my growing dissatisfaction with our whole system after talking with mom friends whose kids are in a variety of school districts.

Anyway, I am confident that Zeke’s birthday energy will propel him out of bed in the morning and adrenaline and presents will keep him going. Apparently one of his chosen activities is making me play Goat Simulator with him on the Xbox. Wish me luck!

I am existentially tired. Also my body is tired. And my brain hurts.

There is SO MUCH INPUT.

I read an article today about why online meetings are so exhausting. One reason is that you are distracted by looking at yourself. I had not thought much about this before, but it’s true. Yes, superficially I’m looking to see if my hair is weirder than usual or wondering if my neck always looks like that, but I’m also trying to make sure my facial expressions are appropriate, check whether or not my microphone is muted, and notice if either of my children has stealthily appeared behind me. In an ordinary meeting, none of these things are concerns. Randy told me that in Zoom you can hide your own picture on the screen, which I tried tonight during my book club zoom, but then I reinserted myself because what if I was making a strange face and didn’t realize it?

I love my book club. I think we have given up discussing books for the moment because we are in survival mode, but we thankfully we realize that survival includes each other. We did share with each other what we’re doing to feed our souls, which I guess means we’re elevated slightly above survival mode. We offered up the tv shows and music and books and podcasts and quirky Twitter feeds that are providing distraction and amusement and solace. We talked about the hard things and happy things that are happening in our lives, unrelated to the pandemic but made more meaningful or menacing because of it.

So many and so few other things happened today that are already fading away. What brought me joy was unpacking groceries with Zoe while we chatted in atrocious Scottish (or Irish? or maybe British? or Indian?) accents and laughed until we doubled over. And Zeke gave me so many hugs. He wore the Yoda pajamas he slept in last night for the entire day, and wore them again to bed tonight. I’m not sure if he brushed his teeth. But he gave me so many hugs. Thank God for the laughter and the hugs.

On Saturdays we become feral. While our pre-pandemic weekends were packed with activities and outings, Saturdays especially are now anarchy. When each of us is sleeping or eating or dressed is anyone’s guess. By Saturday I have no energy left to organize anyone or anything.

Yesterday evening, Zoe and I went for a masked walk around the neighborhood. we walked almost the same exact route we had walked 24 hours earlier, but somehow noticed new houses and different flowers along the way. We saw fewer people out, perhaps because it had been drizzling. Walking is nice and it’s a relief to be out of the house, but wearing a mask and detouring to avoid other people, few of whom make eye contact or say hello, remains uncomfortable and disorienting.

Meanwhile, Randy and Zeke had not left the house all day. The effect of this on Randy was an attack of lethargy at 8pm and Zeke was running laps around the first floor of our house. I suggested they do a workout, and soon they were both on our puzzle piece mats in front of the tv doing squats and burpees and planks in 30-second intervals.

At this point everyone had gotten their second wind. I had been trying for several days to figure out how to play games using the Houseparty app or Jackbox games. Neither of these things are all that complicated, but my brain power has been compromised by the new normal.

So the kids and I played a few rounds of a drawing game with Zoe’s ukulele teacher, and after Randy dragged Zeke to bed, the three of us played some trivia games and something called chips and guac which is basically like Apples to Apples. I was reminded that I am old because the games included slang I’d never heard of, but there are also words Zoe doesn’t know so I guess we’re even.

I don’t even remember what time I attempted to go to sleep, only that by 3am I had not achieved success, so I got out of bed and wrote the first draft of the call to worship for next Sunday’s church service. I have always loved helping lead worship, but I haven’t done it in a while because of my ministerial search committee duties. Next Sunday, however, is (hopefully) the culmination of our search odyssey, as our candidate gives her second candidating sermon and the congregation votes on whether to call her as our next senior minister. So I was asked to serve as worship associate for the service. I feel a wee bit of pressure to perform, but it’s all self-imposed. I am excited about the opportunity to collaborate with Rev. Amanda and see what happens.

Sundays are less lethargic days, at least for me, because I make myself get out of bed to watch church. Also today I had many zoom meetings to host—both related to church and for family and friends. While there is something to be said for the convenience of video calls, they are just never going to beat being in the same room with people. I miss people! And hugs! Have I mentioned how I miss hugging people?

Monday and its accompanying structure—however erratic—is coming soon enough.

I gave blood today, but not as much blood as I wanted to give. I usually donate power red, which means they extract two pints of whole blood but pump your plasma back into your veins. To do power red, your hemoglobin count needs to be at least 13.3. Today mine was 12.6 despite the fact that I ate salmon and spinach for dinner last night and eggs and bacon for breakfast. I guess I should’ve had a burger. Last time I went to donate they pricked a finger in my other hand and that one contained sufficient hemoglobin but today’s technician said they’re not supposed to do that.

So I gave a pint, which takes no time at all compared to power red, although the tech did have to call over someone else to help angle the needle correctly because of my tricky veins. And I ate my cheez-its and miniature nutter butters and drank two tiny boxes of cranberry juice. I’ll make an appointment for 56 days from now to go back and next time I will go full carnivore to ensure that 13.3.

From the Red Cross I stopped by my parents’ house to deliver some masks and attempt to fix an issue with my mom’s iPad, which I think I made worse. My mom wanted me to come in but I felt like it was safer to stay on the front porch. I was wearing my mask. It felt all wrong.

Then I stopped to fill up my gas tank for the first time in weeks. With my grocery points, my gas was $1.67 per gallon and I filled the tank for $30, which I don’t remember ever doing. I also filled with anxiety, dealing with all the things you have to touch when you pump gas. I wrapped baby wipes around my fingers and have sanitizer my hands five times since filling up the van. Then I picked up dry cleaning. More sanitizing. I keep wishing every business had automatic doors because I have to keep touching doors and door handles and it makes me cringe.

Now I’m sitting in my car, waiting for my breathing to slow so I can drive home.

It is not lost on me that today is day 40. I would like someone to lead us out of the wilderness now and into a healthy, just, equitable, and safe new world.

I’ve been pretty grumpy the past couple days. Migraines, the sorry state of our government, and the needless suffering of so many humans, especially those who have already been systematically oppressed for centuries.

An occupational hazard of working with organizations that are trying to heal the world is that I spend a lot of time reading and writing about all the brokenness. I’ve been editing a lot of documents lately about the lasting effects of institutional racism, such as dramatic health and educational disparities. I learn over and over again about systems and policies based in selfishness, greed, and so many people’s inability to walk in someone else’s shoes, or even believe that someone else wears a different kind of shoes. Why are we so arrogant?

Surprisingly, what got me out of my funk tonight was a ministerial search committee meeting via zoom. Our committee is in the home stretch of our epic two-year mission, and we are all stressed. But we received some wise guidance from our wonderful interim minister and shared some funny stories with each other and I felt a sense of relief being together. Meanwhile, Randy and Zoe made a delicious dinner of maple glazed salmon and maple glazed baby carrots and pearled couscous and spinach salad with strawberries. Zoe brought a plate up to the office for me to eat during my meeting and it was so tasty.

I am thankful for my search committee team members for so many things, but especially because they push me and inspire me to be my best self—to evolve and grow and look at the world in different ways—and to always think about what it’s like to walk in someone else’s shoes.

I miss eating at an Indian or Thai restaurant and ordering something that’s just a little spicier than I expected and having my water glass endlessly refilled by the server.

I miss taking my kids to the library. Does anyone else feel increasingly awkward about having all these books checked out way past their due date? I miss reading about a new book or discovering a new author or series with Zeke and going immediately to the library app to put something on hold.

I miss variety.

I miss hugging my parents and my sister and brother-in-law and nephews. I especially miss all the baby snuggles I am missing out on.

I miss planning fun excursions for my family and actually going on them.

I miss being able to think a complete thought in solitude.

I miss sitting across the table from friends and having breakfast or lunch or dinner and a conversation no one else is listening to. Or if other people are listening, they’re strangers so it doesn’t matter.

I miss the assurance that if something breaks or someone gets hurt I can get it fixed or get them checked out without endangering anyone.

I miss browsing.

I miss Zeke and his cousin playing together in person, even though it isn’t always peaceful. Zeke texted Susannah recently that Charlie is his best friend.

I miss managing Zoe’s complicated social life.

I miss being able to run to the store for a couple items and not have my family tell me to stay safe, like I need to be vigilant and ob the lookout for a dangerous virus that might jump out from behind a tower of cereal and attack me.

I miss privacy.

After Zeke zipped around the track several times on his bike, riding at least a mile or two, I suggested for a new challenge that he could ride around the elementary school. There’s a brick walkway down the side of the school, which becomes a paved path that goes through the woods to a residential street, and there’s a paved area near the playground where kids ordinarily play basketball and run around and hang out.

I forgot that, because this was not Zeke’s elementary school, he was not as familiar with the path and the basketball court area as I was. This was his sister’s school. Also I forgot that he goes fast now, and if I don’t run behind him I am not going to be able to see him. Also I forgot that when you’re wearing a facemask it’s harder to make your shouting heard.

Fortunately on the first foray, he zoomed up the asphalt path, through the trees, and stopped just short of the sidewalk leading to the street. When I caught up to him he said, “I didn’t know where this went and I couldn’t stop!” Well, I guess he could stop, just not as soon as he would’ve liked.

So we turned around and headed back to the playground. I attempted to shout after him that he should turn right at the end of the path and loop around the paved area to go back to the brick walkway. Due to the aforementioned voice muffling effect of the face mask, he didn’t hear me. I watched him careen around the pavement and head straight toward the school. I broke into a run even before I heard the screaming.

I guess he had slowed himself down at least a little before he hit the brick wall. Apparently he thought there was another path on that side of the school, but there isn’t. Luckily he wasn’t hurt nearly as badly as Zoe was a couple weeks ago. He scraped his hand and leg and bruised his leg and tush, I think. But he screamed a lot, so I wasn’t quite sure at first what was hurt. I couldn’t carry him and his bike back to the car, but I offered to give him a piggyback ride. He declined. So I held his (unscraped) hand and walked his bike back to the front of the school. By then he had stopped crying so I left him on the curb with the bike and ran to drive the car around to pick them up.

When we got home I brought him into my bedroom for first aid. When Zoe got hurt I bought a bunch of new first aid supplies, including some different kinds of antiseptic sprays, in the hopes that they might be less offensive than our standby hydrogen peroxide. Also the store was out of peroxide. When I tried to get the cap off one of the sprays, it popped off and hit Zeke in the eye. A few more tears were shed. After I had atoned for that and successfully sprayed the scrape, I put a nonstick pad on top of the wound, because it was in one of those awkward places where no bandaid will stay. Then I tried to wrap Zeke’s hand with the kind of bandage that sticks to itself, and somehow when I tried to gently put the bandage on top of the nonstick pad, the nonstick pad flew off his hand and under the bed. Eventually we got it wrapped.

Three hours later, it is now unwrapped, but Zeke seems fine. We had a little talk about brakes, and how he needs to learn to use them. One thing at a time.

Tonight I spent a couple hours driving around Northern Virginia—probably more time in the car than the past five weeks combined—because my daughter is incredibly thoughtful.

A few weeks ago Zoe decided to make coronavirus care packages for a few friends. She gathered some little surprises and we bought candy. She made each friend a necklace and I picked up a few treasures on my Target runs. Today she might chocolate chip cookies and we were ready to deliver.

Her friends were so surprised and delighted. At our last stop, the whole family came out to say hello and thank you. For a few minutes, Zoe and her friend and her friend’s brother were running around the yard laughing, so excited to see each other. Their parents invited us to come back on the weekend and sit in the driveway.

I know it was hard for Zoe not to hug her friends when she delivered their packages. It feels so weird to see someone you love and stop short.

Earlier in our outing we stopped by the home of another thoughtful person who I know from high school who is sewing dozens (hundreds?) of masks for whoever needs them. In return she is accepting donations of food or funds for the food pantry at her church where she volunteers. I dropped off a bag of beans and pasta and reusable tote bags at her house and she handed over several beautiful masks. We delivered some to my sister, gave one to a friend, and will bring some to my parents this week. This mask maker is still working her full-time government job (from home) and sewing at night and on the weekends.

I am super proud of Zoe for spending so much time and energy thinking about exactly what would bring joy to her friends. I know my Nana would be proud and my parents will be proud too. We have learned from our parents to always be generous and share and do what you can to spread joy. I know my kids have learned this too. This is what I love about my family.

Yesterday it was my birthday
I hung one more year on the line
I should be depressed
My life’s a mess
But I’m having a good time

Paul Simon

This year I received birthday greetings from my neurologist, my dentist, my kids’ dentist, the Red Cross, William and Mary, Michaels, Starbucks, DSW, and District Taco. Oh, and a lot of people who I actually know and who love me!

I would not have guessed that a having a birthday while in quarantine could be so lovely, but it was. My people made me feel special.

A popular thing to do on Facebook is throw a fundraiser for a nonprofit you like. In the midst of a global public health crisis, it’s hard to pick one. The day before my birthday I invited people to do something to help their local food bank, or any organization that is helping people through the pandemic. Scrolling through all the people who listed the organizations where they had volunteered, donated food, or contributed money made me so ecstatic. A few people said they were turning over their stimulus checks to community food pantries, and they would think of me when they made the donation.

I had a Zoom birthday party, which was just as weird and silly as I expected. A Zoom party enables you to introduce people you love to each other, which is one of my favorite things in the world. Everyone said how they knew me, and it was cool to see so many people who were in our wedding on the screen together for the first time since our wedding video. For the party, I made a quiz about myself on Kahoot! which apparently was much more challenging than I thought. My sister won, which was not surprising. I think she won Zoe’s quiz too. She’s a clever one.

Then my parents and clever sister surprised me by appearing for a six-feet-apart sidewalk and parking lot party! My sister, wearing a mask, brought me a Wonder Woman balloon and a bouquet of flowers. My parents brought presents and my dad read a poem by Billy Collins, my favorite poet.

My husband brought home lunch from Pupatella, our favorite pizza place in Arlington. My family made me a delicious and messy cake. Our sweet next door neighbor wrote me a lovely card and gave me a journal covered with almond blossoms, which she stealthily left on our doorstep.

After I took a little nap while my family played Goat Simulator on the Xbox, we went for a hike at Scott’s Run, one of the parks we discovered since quarantine started. Like most of these hikes, it runs along the Potomac, and unlike most of the hikes, features a lovely waterfall. We were all wearing masks, but we didn’t see too many people, and those we passed on the trail stayed respectfully several feet away.

I hadn’t realized how much it had rained since the last time we were there, about a month ago. But clearly, it had, since the fallen trees Zeke climbed on were now separated from the shore by rushing water.

We opted not to swim out to recreate the picture. But we did put in 3.2 miles and, according to my Apple Health app, climbed 22 floors, also known as hills.

At home I took my second shower of the day, because you know I love to be clean, and I enjoyed a SamGram–a little FaceTime with my nine-month-old nephew, watching him grab toys and make noise and roll around and wiggle his little legs. The next best thing to snuggling.

Meanwhile Randy and Zoe made me non-dairy fettuccine alfredo at my request. If it were just me, I’d have the regular kind with cream, but since Randy is allergic to dairy and I think Zoe may be lactose intolerant, I wanted a treat everyone could enjoy. This involved them soaking cashews in water and blending them with some other ingredients. The alfredo sauce was not, perhaps, quite as creamy as what I’ve had before, but it was tasty and the whole thing was delicious because they made it for me.

I would give almost anything for this quarantine to be over–for enough tests to test everyone and a vaccine and leaders who are willing and able to take care of their people. But I wouldn’t have had my birthday any other way. Thanks, guys!

What woke me up at 3am with a headache and sent me stumbling downstairs in search of Cheez-Its and orange juice.

We were about to announce the candidate for new senior minister at church [which just happened in real life and I’m on the ministerial search committee so it was a big moment] and I was in the wrong room trying to finish writing the announcement. Also I realized I had a baby and had left him somewhere but I wasn’t sure where. Someone told me it was time so I ran into a room that looked like a high school gym, where people were crowded around a makeshift stage. I knew I was supposed to be on the stage with the rest of my committee, but none of them were there. Instead, a young Black guy wearing an outfit that was a cross between JROTC and marching band uniform was prancing across the stage with a fake rifle performing sort of a made-up color guard routine, but all by himself. A teenage girl with big black glasses and afro puffs was yelling at him that he was doing it all wrong and it was disrespectful. Then our interim senior minister Rev. Terasa, asked if there were any nominations for senior minister from the floor. I looked around, shocked, because this was not how it was supposed to happen. Suddenly the crowd included a bunch of kids from my high school. There were murmurs in the crowd and it was clear someone was coming up with a nomination from the floor. I was still stunned, trying to protest, but unable to get anyone to hear or pay attention to me. Then a young Asian man with wire-rimmed glasses bounced up to Rev. Terasa and handed her a piece of paper as he smiled at the crowd. Rev. Terasa look at the paper and shouted, “We have our nominee and it is Pete Buttigieg!” However, the person who then emerged from the crowd and started walking to the stage did not look like this:

The real Pete Buttigieg

He looked like this:

From Wikipedia: “Jefferson Davis “J.D.” Hogg, known as Boss Hogg, is a fictional character featured in the American television series The Dukes of Hazzard. He was the greedy, unethical commissioner of Hazzard County.”

I was mortified that this guy was apparently going to be our new minister, but everyone else was cheering wildly.

In the next scene of my dream, I was asleep in my childhood bedroom, but next to my mom. I woke up, having just heard that the new minister was going to be Pete Buttigieg/Boss Hogg. I muttered, “it’s not true, it can’t be true,” and my mom, even though she seemed to be still asleep, opened her eyes wide and hissed, “IT’S TRUE!” in a really scary way.

Across the bedroom my dad was slumped in a chair, fast asleep but still wearing a khaki suit and a red polka dot tie. I wondered where Zeke was, because he was supposed to be asleep in another bed in the room, but he wasn’t. I reached for a sweatshirt to put on because I was cold, but the shirts I kept trying to wear were Zeke’s pajama shirts. They didn’t fit.

I looked out the window and noticed that Zeke had climbed up to the height of the second story window by stepping on a tree and then onto some latticework or an arbor. He was sucking on a lollipop and wearing a baseball cap. I was alarmed. “It’s the middle of the night! Why are you outside climbing a tree?”

He looked at me and grinned slyly and said, “I have the day off tomorrow.” I ran downstairs and out the front door and retrieved him from the tree.

And then I woke up, head and heart both pounding, used the bathroom, and headed downstairs (in real life) for a snack. While writing this I have finished the box of Cheez-Its (it was almost empty anyway) and my glass of Tropicana (no pulp).

Yesterday a family member sent me this article from National Geographic explaining why people are having dreams like this during a pandemic. Apparently I’m not the only one and there’s science behind it all. But I really hope this isn’t going to be a recurring 3am activity for the rest of the quarantine. I really hope not.

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