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Here are things I need to be reminded of:

I cannot save or fix everyone and everything. Or anyone and anything. In recent days and weeks I find myself increasing feeling frantic, as if I have to act urgently to keep people I love safe and healthy, and I have to buy things and order food to keep businesses and restaurants I like from going under. I have to find things to do to help. I have to find ways to keep my kids busy and engaged and not on a screen all summer. What I actually need to do is take one million deep breaths. It is not all up to me. In fact, very little is up to me.

Why is this so hard to remember?

I’m sure I’m not the only person whose feelings of anxiety and despair manifest in weird ways. I know I’m not the only parent desperate to figure out a plan for their kids for the summer. When you’re isolated with your family it’s easy to forget that you aren’t the only one spinning in this vortex of stress. I text and talk and zoom with friends and family, but most of the time I’m just in my head. Also, my head hurts. Often.


A friend pointed out to me recently (in a conversation via Facebook Messenger) that one thing we’ve lost to the coronavirus quasi-quarantine is informal connection. I don’t get to see and chat with the other parents and kids and the awesome staff at EvolveAll while my kids are doing martial arts. I don’t get to engage in unplanned conversations before or after church or get hugs from friends there or run into people in the parking lot and say hello or smile. I don’t see parents and teachers at school drop-off or pick-up or chat with parents when delivering my kids to playdates. None of these interactions is replicated with a zoom call. A lot of life’s most interesting moments happen by accident. Not that life isn’t still interesting, but it’s much narrower now.


I’ve been spending way too much money lately online, but all in the service of education, family togetherness, and food. I must be Outschool’s new favorite customer, as I’ve signed my kids up for a zillion classes. I decided I need to cut myself off from any new registrations for a while. Today I ordered supplies from Michael’s for several of these classes. Perhaps if we’re lucky we will have a house full of embroidered, knitted, and hand-sewn creations by the end of the summer. Not to mention stunning photographs and other works of visual art.

I was super proud of myself because I ordered a four-bike bike rack (on sale) from REI and consulted with a mechanic about the hitch required to install on our van to attach the bike rack to. The mechanic recommended a hitch but suggested I consult with the manufacturer of the bike rack to make sure it was compatible, which I did, and it was, so I ordered it. The mechanic is going to install the hitch when it arrives and then we can take our bikes…somewhere…to ride them down a country lane while we breathe in virus-free fresh air far away from other humans.

In an attempt to simultaneously encourage Zeke’s love of reading and support my local independent bookstores and used book sites, I invested a significant amount of time soliciting recommendations for new books for him to read, and then ordering a bunch of them from different places. Man, do I miss the library. I really really really miss the library. I am excited for the arrival of all these books, none of which Zeke knows about yet. It’s always fun to talk about books with teacher friends and parent friends and booksellers. And books are always worth spending money on. In my opinion.

But now I need to rein it in. I don’t need to spend any more money for a long while. Except, of course, on food, since everyone in my house seems to want to eat constantly. And somehow I still forget to feed them sometimes. We have everything we could need right now to educate and entertain us. We have each other. We could honestly use a little more space. The 12×12 tent I bought and put up (with the kids’ help) in our backyard is nice, but not without its challenges. Since our townhouse is part of a condo complex, the condo association hires a landscaping crew to take care of maintenance. This is great except that we don’t know when they’re coming or what they’re going to do. So this morning I was sitting in our family room trying to work when I heard the mower approaching out back. I ran outside and unstaked the tent and more or less held it up and scrunched onto the patio while the guy went back and forth with the mower. Meanwhile, he moved the hammock out of the way because I couldn’t move the hammock while holding up the tent. I really can’t do everything. I know that. I’ve just got to learn to stop trying so hard.

Last night around 7pm Zoe was taking a walk around our neighborhood. When she realized she was being followed by an older man, she texted me to ask what to do. She said the man had shouted to her, “You don’t know who I am, do you?” I told her to cross the street. She did and reported that he was still watching her from across the street and keeping pace with her. I offered to come pick her up and she said yes. When I picked her up she pointed out the man who was still directly across the street from where I found her. After we pulled back into traffic I asked Zoe to take a photo, just in case. We drive home with Zoe clutching my hand.

Once home, after many hugs and reassurances that she was safe, and after we ate dinner, I shared the story on Facebook. Several friends urged me to report the incident to the police. The thought had crossed my mind but I dismissed it, figuring that the man hadn’t committed any crime. He freaked out my teenager, but that’s not illegal. Eventually I decided to report it online, and Zoe described everything again in detail as I filled in the web form.

Afterward Zoe told me how glad she was that I had talked with her about how to handle situations like this. A few years ago when I gave her permission to walk to a shopping area with friends after school, I instructed her to always be on the lookout for people who made her feel uncomfortable and to listen to her gut. I told her if someone was bothering her she should go into a a store or restaurant and tell them what was happening and they would let her stay there and call me. I told her if she’s out somewhere and there’s no place to go inside that she should find a group of people to attach herself to until she can get somewhere she feels safe.

A friend (and mom of teenage girls ) on Facebook tagged a self-defense instructor in her response to my post, suggesting the need for online self-defense classes as so many kids are out walking now for exercise. I mentioned that Zoe is a black belt in martial arts. If she were standing on a mat with this man, she could certainly punch and kick and put him in holds. But she does that on the mat. With other martial artists. Not when she’s walking down a street feeling nervous. I took self-defense classes in my 20s and I struggled to get past the verbal part of the practice exchanges with potential assailants because I didn’t want to be rude. I feel like there’s a chasm between an impulse to escape to safety when you feel threatened and actually preparing to fight or defend yourself physically. I imagine the last thing Zoe was thinking of on the street yesterday was what techniques she would use if the man caught up to her and attacked her. But maybe I’m wrong.

A couple friends on Facebook also suggested I share the story on our community Facebook page to alert others, which I did. What I discovered then was that this man seems to be well known in the neighborhood. Several people who I do not know in real life commented that they have encountered the man many times and some know his name and his story. A few commenters said the man seems to show signs of “cognitive decline” and that “he drinks a lot” and acts “disoriented,” but that he’s “sweet” and “harmless.” A few people said they had been wary of him getting too close to them or their kids. A few said the man reminded them of relatives or people they knew with Alzheimer’s.

I noticed that most of the people in the “he’s harmless” camp were men, and more people in the concerned camp were women, but neither perspective was entirely along gender lines. Two women asked if Zoe was ok and praised her for being aware of a situation that made her uncomfortable and knowing to ask for help.

The gist of the discussion, which, keep in mind, was among people (with one exception) who do not know my daughter or me, was that this man likely meant no harm to Zoe. So that is somewhat reassuring. Except for the fact that he is evidently experiencing significant enough cognitive decline or disorientation or intoxication that he doesn’t know or remember it’s not appropriate to follow and stare at and shout at 13-year-old girls walking down the street.

So here’s where it gets tricky. One man on the community Facebook page said he talks to the guy frequently and that we should “treat him with the kindness and respect we’d want for our own parents.” While I am all for treating people with kindness and respect, I also hope and expect that I—and members of my family—will be treated with kindness and respect. And it did not feel kind or respectful to Zoe when this man was following her, watching her, and shouting at her.

I understand that this man has the right to walk around his neighborhood. I understand that he is friendly and talkative and seems to want to engage with people. I also understand that my daughter has the right to walk around her neighborhood without feeling harassed or threatened or unsafe. These things are both true at the same time.

Of course I want my parents to be treated with kindness and respect when they are out walking in their neighborhood. But if my dad was following girls around and staring at them and make them feel uneasy, I would be concerned about his health. I would want to make sure his freedom to enjoy safely walking down the street wasn’t keeping other people from enjoying that same freedom.

I try not to engage in weighty conversation with strangers on the internet because I know where that goes and it’s usually nowhere good. I’ve been trolled and vilified by strangers in the comments. I am so conflict averse that sometimes if I post something that ends up sparking debate or argument among my friends I will delete the whole thing. I keep considering taking down my post to the neighborhood group, but I haven’t. What about the kindness and respect we would want for our own children?

Some of the subtle and unsettling changes in daily life that you notice 65 days into quasi-quarantine:

Instead of searching through the piles of clean laundry on the couch looking for some underwear or the pants that still fit, you’re mostly looking for a clean mask that fits.

You don’t realize until nighttime when you’re on a zoom call with friends that you haven’t looked in a mirror all day and had no idea that your hair looked like that.

Instead of showering at your convenience, you have to negotiate shower privileges with your spouse because both of you roll out of bed and start the day without bothering to shower until a) your first zoom call of the day or b) you need to leave the house to go to the grocery store or pickup takeout food.

Even though you can’t see it behind the mask, you still put on lipstick before leaving the house. Some habits stick around.

Instead of attempting to clean the house, you engage in micro cleaning. If one kitchen counter is wiped down, or one table cleared, or one shelf tidied, you count it as a victory. It is impossible to clean the whole house when everyone is in it all the time.

You realize that Target brand toilet paper is actually fine. Even though you’ve always been a toilet paper snob, both a Charmin loyalist and disdainful of Scott, when you found shelves filled with Target brand you snapped it up and have been pleasantly surprised.

You are grateful to three different friends who generously gave you gifts of dish soap. When you ran out, before your friends came to the rescue, you ordered dish soap online. Then it arrived and now you are blessed with dish soap to last for a while, which is good because your family continues to eat and drink with gusto.

You cannot concentrate on anything for mire than 30 seconds except when you are alone, which typically happens only after midnight or before 9am if you are able to wake up at 8. You seldom use these hours wisely, but that’s nothing new. Occasionally you meditate or write, and that has to be good enough.

Tomorrow morning Zeke is taking a class about lemurs and I am super excited about it. Seriously. My friend Dana said her kids were going to try out classes on Outschool and demystified it for me. I’ve seen ads for Outschool on Facebook for months and months–way before pandemic time-but never needed to add another thing to my kids’ schedule. And also they were in school! And learning new things there! But now, as learning has slowed to a crawl and “school” will end in a month and it’s possible that all the camps will be canceled, I’ve gotta do something. Dana explained to me that some of the Outschool classes include several sessions over the course of a week or several weeks, and some are just 45 minutes long! And they cost $10 (the short ones).

One of the reasons I have been lamenting the prospect of no camp (other than the obvious one of my kids being out of the house for several hours a day interacting with people outside their family) is that camp is where they try new things. Camp is where they learn and practice things that we don’t know how to teach them. Camp is where they explore subjects and activities that that interest them and not necessarily their parents. Turns out that Outschool does this! Of course Outschool also includes classes in reading and writing and math, but for my purposes my kids can take digital SLR photography and consumer finance and superhero costume design and, starting tomorrow, Lemurs, Monkeys & Apes! I have no idea what the classes will be like, but I am optimistic. Did you pick that up?


Today included a variety of small, happy moments. Zoe and I unexpectedly found toilet paper at Target. Randy made a delicious dinner of sausage, peppers, and polenta. We used to eat polenta all the time but then we stopped. It was so lovely to see polenta on my plate again. Zeke did the whole lesson plan I created for him today with no actual complaining.

His video was a collection of images by Yayoi Kusama, who he learned about when we were looking through the Outschool course offerings (we signed him up for this class which I am definitely going to be taking with him but silently off camera. He made it completely on his own by googling Kusama and taking screen shots of photographs of her and her work. At the end, he showed it to me and I asked him if he could add the artist’s name to the first screen. He couldn’t remember how to do this so he looked up instructions in iMovie help and on YouTube and he made the edit, 100% on his own. I was super impressed.

While he was playing with the Sculpey, Zoe joined in and made this adorable little pig.

front view of pig
rear view of pig
top view of pig

AND in an special post-Mother’s Day treat, both my children played (or perhaps hung out?) outside in our micro-back yard for a while this afternoon. I don’t know what they were doing except that involved the hammock and funny accents. But they were laughing and they were together and they were outside and that filled me with joy and delight.

(Another post-Mother’s Day treat was my husband using the plumbing snake kit I ordered online to snake all of our sinks, none of which back up anymore! It’s a Mother’s Day miracle!)


Our family decided today to cancel our beach vacation scheduled for July. We’ve gone to the beach together–in various combinations of extended family at various beaches up and down the East Coast–since I was a baby. These are not glamorous excursions to fancy resorts. But they are familiar and fun and something we always look forward to. It’s hard to imagine not going, but I understand that it’s too risky for my parents. At least we have tomorrow’s lemurs.

I am sitting in my car, which is parked in front of our house, hiding from my kids.

I just spent a long time talking to a friend commiserating about mom stuff. Even though I know it intellectually it is always reassuring to hear how other people’s kids aren’t perfect and are, in fact, making their mothers crazy the same way yours are.

Of course you know I love my kids with all of my being, but this 24/7 togetherness is wearing on me. I’m sure it’s wearing on them too. And they have even less opportunity to escape since they can’t drive. I guess theoretically they could go hide in the car too. But they haven’t tried. Yet.

It is not my nature to find people to blame my troubles on. Nor do I usually fault myself for everything that goes wrong. But under sustained stress I begin casting about for the culprit. This afternoon while Zeke was finishing his lunch I started clearing the space in the family room where he does his online martial arts class. I sent him to put his uniform on. When he tried to open the door to his and his sister’s room, she quickly shut it because she was about to change. Zeke came back downstairs, still in his pajamas. So I ran upstairs and yelled at Zoe that Zeke’s class started in five minutes and he needed his uniform. She yelled that she didn’t know that and stormed out of the room to change in the bathroom. I brought the uniform downstairs and turned off the video on the Zoom call so Zeke could change. I tried to tie his belt, because Zoe usually does it but she was in the bathroom, and I did it wrong because I always do. Zeke’s supposed to know how to do it himself, and he learned it, but then forgot, because the instructors or Zoe always do it for him. Meanwhile, his instructor on the Zoom call is doing a belt tying lesson at that exact moment, and Zeke is playing with Legos. I tell him to look at the screen and follow along. He says he can’t see the screen (perhaps because he’s not looking). I attempt to drag him away from the Legos to in front of the tv so he can follow the demonstration. Apparently the dragging hurts him and he crumpled and starts to cry. So I feel terrible that I hurt him and furious that he wouldn’t listen and irritated that he can’t remember how to tie the freaking belt. I am mad at myself, at him, and at Zoe. Then I shift that anger to the coronavirus. And then to Trump. And white supremacists and our white supremacist culture. Maybe I’m also a little pissed off at whoever it was in Wuhan, China who ate a bat or a pangolin or whatever animal it was that transmitted the virus to humans, thereby launching a global pandemic. And what is a wet market anyway? It sounds messy and gross.

So I’m in my car. Not meditating. Not doing yoga. I didn’t do the yoga yesterday that I promised myself. Just stewing while looking through the windshield at the hot pink roses and watching the blue sky through the window.


Zeke has figured out how to get a laugh. He just shouts or says or sings outrageous words or phrases, sometimes using funny voices. When he was learning to ride his bike he kept yelling, “Peruvian chicken!” as if it were a battle cry. Another day he circled the family room saying, “Romania! Where are you? Romania!” At dinner he’s come out with so many weird remarks that Zoe started keeping a list. Then last night I was carrying him up the stairs to bed because he insisted he was too tired to move and because I’m a sucker. He looked over my shoulder at Randy, who was at the bottom of the stairs, and said, in a pretty good approximation of an old lady voice, “Matthew! Get some water for Granny!” And I started to laugh so hard that I had to put him down because my stomach hurt.

So I’ll probably go back in the house now, because my kids are usually funny and nice. And I’m hungry.

The mood swings are killing me. And not my 13-year-old’s mood swings, but mine.

The quasi-quarantine (I acknowledge, as a friend pointed out recently, that we are not actually in quarantine, which is more serious) feels a little to me like what I remember of being drunk. Admittedly it has been decades since I’ve experienced that. Now after having a bottle of hard cider with pizza for dinner I wake up in the middle of the night and have to eat crackers and take Tums. What I mean, though, is that every emotion seems to be magnified times a thousand. For a few days this week I felt like I was trying to swim through molasses. I couldn’t motivate myself to do anything. I was napping even more than usual. I wasn’t showering until 6pm. I was yelling at my kids. After reading news stories about the projected future of this virus and trying to wrap my head around the idea that our lives will never be the same, I was despondent.

Reading, which is usually my refuge, has been doing me a disservice. My default activity was scrolling through Facebook and clicking on articles about epidemiology, the current administration’s irresponsible and deadly response to the virus, the response of white vigilante terrorists to measures designed to save lives, the actions of white vigilante terrorists who killed a black man who was out for a jog, the number of people suffering because they have no jobs and therefore not much food, and the fact that my zip code has the highest concentration of COVID-19 cases in Arlington.

So during the 4am-6am period that I was awake last night, I deleted Facebook from my phone. This is a step I’ve taken many times before, and I always re-install it after a few days. But today was so much better.

Zeke and I made wonderful French toast with the delicious challah bread I picked up yesterday from Great Harvest Bread Company. I had more energy than I’ve had in several days–the molasses was gone–and I coerced my family into helping clean the house. We threw away so much stuff, and organized, and dusted. We have now–over the span of the quasi-quarantine–accumulated four large boxes of things to give away or sell. I am still not sure when I will be able to give these things away or sell them, but at least now they’re in boxes instead of scattered all over the house. We played Jackbox games over Zoom with friends who we used to have dinner with often and friends who live far away who we haven’t seen in a while and we all laughed and laughed and all our kids played too and it was pure joy.

Saying that taking the Facebook app off my phone immediately led to a state of bliss would be an oversimplification. But it helped for sure.


I have a stack of notes I need to write. These blank cards, addressed and stamped but not yet written, had been piling up on my desk since December. Since Randy is now using my desk to work, the notes are now cascading in piles of my stuff on the edge of the dining room table (where Randy’s papers used to live). If you are a member of my extended family and you have not received a Christmas card, Valentine, thank you note, or other expected correspondence from me over the past six months, I apologize. And I promise I will write the cards. But when I think about what I would say, I start to have that molasses feeling again. Looking back on what our lives were like back in December, and January, and even February, my heart hurts. I feel naive. I feel nostalgic. I feel overwhelmed, like I need to sit down because I’m going to faint. Despite the abundance of news and information, there is a distinct lack of clarity and certainty. I still can’t wrap my head around our existence right now. My Dad asked for Washington Nationals face masks and a donation to a food bank for his birthday. My sister and I debated at length how to make it as safe as possible to spend time with our Mom on Mother’s Day. Almost every ordinary activity takes on extraordinary meaning when you have to decide how much danger is inherent in each decision.

I used to be a person who possessed a lot of energy. While I am not quite a sack of potatoes yet, my motor operates at a much slower speed than before. I know this happens to people in their 40s, but I don’t like it. The precipitous decline for me came after Zeke was born. No matter what anyone tells you, having two kids is way harder than having just one. And Zeke’s sleeplessness for the first two years of his life is probably what led to my sleep disorder. Not that I blame him. He’s worth it. 🙂 But this quasi-quarantine is squeezing what energy I have left. Of course there are moments–even hours!–of fun and diversion and creativity and relaxation. But they seem to be bracketed by confusion, doubt, and exhaustion. There’s a heaviness that lingers, a longing for freedom.


Since tomorrow is Mother’s Day, my family decided it would be just like my birthday in that I could make the plan for the day. My aspiration for tomorrow morning is to get myself out of bed and do yoga. I have many yoga teacher friends and so many sources for online classes, but I have not done a single one of them since we’ve been staying home. Partly because there always seems to be something more urgent demanding my attention, and partly because my house bears no resemblance to the clean, peaceful emptiness of a yoga studio. I have never once regretted going to a yoga class, but I have also never succeeded in sticking to a practice at home. I struggle to stick to much of anything sometimes. I know, however, that if I’m going to survive this thing, I need to take better care of myself. Making myself a priority has always been anathema to me. It seems selfish, and to me selfishness is a serious character flaw. Of course I’ve been told by friends, therapists, and many people who love me that I need to put on my own oxygen mask first. I know this is true. It’s just so much easier to do when everyone else is out of the house. I can take fabulous care of myself when I have plenty of time and resources. Learning so many new ways to be is a lot of work. No wonder I’m so moody.

Commonly asked questions in our house during the past two months of quasi-quarantine.

What is that smell?

What is there to eat?

Where are the clean masks?

Is that smell coming from me?

Can I have some screen time?

Is it Saturday?

Can we go outside?

Can we stay inside?

Can I have a snack?

Have you eaten any food today?

How are you eating all that food?

Are you done working?

Why do I have to do schoolwork?

Why do I need to go to bed?

Does this count as schoolwork?

Can I FaceTime someone?

Can I set up a zoom call?

Do I have to do the zoom call?

Do I have to turn my camera on?

Why is everyone texting me?

Why isn’t anyone texting me?

Why do I need to shower?

Is that safe?

Are you sure?

Why do I need to get dressed?

Are we ever going to be able to _______ again?

It turns out I only know the answers to a few of these questions. Still don’t know what that smell is.

This will be short because I have a migraine, but it’s day 50 (other people’s day 50s have come and gone but I’ve never been good with numbers) and we got some tough news today so I feel compelled to write. Actually I’m a writer so I always feel compelled to write, but I have less stamina tonight.

We learned that Camp Friendship, the phenomenal sleepaway camp where Zoe has gone the past five summers, decided to cancel its summer season. Randy and Zoe were not surprised. I, as usual, was holding out hope for a miracle. It turns out I’m much more disappointed in camp being canceled than school.

Even though it’s not the same, Zoe can learn more or less all the important academic stuff from home. But we can’t give her the freedom she gets at camp—choosing all her own activities, interacting with kids and adults from all over the world, roaming around outside all day every day, swimming every day in the lake and doing archery and singing around a campfire and all the things. We can not recreate that experience. And especially when she’s in the house with us all day every day, she needs that outlet. I get why the camp made the decision and it’s probably the safest thing for everyone, but I am sad. Camp means so much to Zoe and to so many other kids and grownups. This is a big loss.

Ordinarily I am distracted by looking at myself on zoom calls, but tonight at UUCA’s congregational meeting where we announced our call of Rev. Amanda Poppei to be our next senior minister and she accepted, I was beaming. I couldn’t stop smiling.

There are few endeavors I’ve been a part of that have been as demanding and singularly focused as the ministerial search committee. The two that come to mind are pregnancy and childbirth. While those experiences were definitely more physically taxing, I think serving on the MSC may have been more emotionally and intellectually challenging. Of course since it’s been 7 years since I was last pregnant I could be misremembering in that way that the details of childbirth become hazy when you’re removed from it.

In one of the books I just read, Writers & Lovers, the narrator—Casey—talks about how all the male writers she’s known have been unwaveringly confident that they have at least one great book inside, ready to be written. But neither she nor her female writer friends ever seem so sure, even when they devote their lives to writing that book. In one scene, Casey is talking with her obnoxious landlord and he says to her about her book something like, “I can’t imagine you have anything to say.” Which makes Casey wonder if she does.

I was thinking tonight about this and about a conversation I had with my friend Art from church at a leadership retreat a couple years ago. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about except that it had to do with my writing, and what was keeping me from sharing more of it with the world. I think he asked me something like what was I afraid of, and I didn’t know. I realize now that this is vague and doesn’t sound particularly motivational, but whatever he said made me feel braver.

At first I resisted the nomination to join the MSC, for a variety of good reasons. Then my friend D, who is also a writer, and who served on a previous MSC, told me that the heart of the search process is storytelling, and that’s why I needed to serve. She explained that the first part of the search is listening to the congregation’s stories and crafting a narrative from them about the church. The next part of the process is listening to the stories of the ministers who apply for the position. And finally, you have to tell the story of your candidate to the congregation so they will see in the candidate what you saw and vote to call them as your minister. Of course this is a significant oversimplification, and she didn’t mention how many thousands of hours the whole thing takes, but what D describes was true. And I thought, that’s what I’m good at—listening to people and helping tell their stories.

Often when strangers ask what I do for a living and I say writer, they ask if I’ve written any books. No, I haven’t written any books, I explain. And most people move on or tune out after that. But if they actually want to know more, I tell them. And I am really proud of what I do. I’m proud of the people who I interview and write about and they say, “you made me sound so much more interesting than I actually am.” But they really are more interesting than they realize. I’m proud of the stories I write about nonprofit organizations that educate and inspire people to get involved or contribute. I’m proud of the essays and poems I write that people can relate to, or that make people laugh, or think about something differently. And I am proud of everything I wrote for the ministerial search committee because what I wrote helped us find a spectacular new minister. Of course I didn’t do it alone. Our team was made up of some of the most thoughtful, intelligent, and hardworking people I have ever known. The rest of them have skills and insights that I do not possess. But I am proud that my skills and insights mattered. D was absolutely correct that the search process is about storytelling. I feel so lucky to have had the opportunity to be a storyteller for this community that I love, especially knowing that the person we found to be our next minister is going to change people’s lives and those people will change the world, in ways large and small. To know this, and to know that words I wrote are catalysts, like the object at the beginning of a Rube Goldberg invention that gets the ball rolling to cause a spectacular chain reaction, fills me with joy.

I think girls and women are often told, subconsciously or overtly, to stay small and be nice, and are criticized when they stand up for themselves or proudly stand by their hard work. Elizabeth Warren, Taylor Swift, Megan Rapinoe, and Glennon Doyle are women I admire who come to mind, but there are a million more examples. I will probably never be famous, but I am a role model for my kids, and I’m a writer, and I’m proud of what I do.

How could you be stressed in a place so beautiful?

If you’ve ever had a baby (or even if you haven’t), you might be familiar with the phenomenon of being so utterly exhausted you can barely function yet when you lie down to sleep, you just can’t. Or if you have migraines, or any kind of recurring pain, you might know the feeling of desperately needing to sleep to relieve your misery but hurting so much that you just can’t. Why are our bodies so contradictory and stubborn? What is that about? And why do doctors ask if you’ve been experiencing a lot of stress lately. When have I not been experiencing a lot of stress? Not that I am stressed 24/7, but it’s always there, lurking.

Today we went to a beautiful state park where I had never been. At the ranger station, I dropped my money into a fishnet that the ranger extended out the window. She returned the net to me with my receipt and a map.

The sun was shining and the temperature was about 70 degrees and it was a lovely day. A lot of other people thought so too and had also come to the park. I would estimate that about 80% of them were not wearing masks. In fact, we received some strange looks because of our masks. In Arlington, I feel like at least 90% of the people I see are wearing masks. I don’t know if that’s because Arlington is more densely populated or because the number of confirmed coronavirus cases here has passed 1,000, or because people in my community are getting their news from different sources. At one point on the trail in the park we passed a mom with two small kids. The mom said loudly, ostensibly to her daughter, “are you afraid of the masks?” And I took my mask off to smile at her. I said, “it’s ok, it’s just us,” as if we knew the girl or that made the slightest bit of sense. The mom said again, “she’s just really afraid of masks.” And hurried the kids along. The girl was not visibly upset. The mom seemed more upset, perhaps by the prospect of the girl getting upset? I don’t know what the girl’s (or the mom’s) history with masked people is, but I hoped for all of their sakes they would overcome the fear because masked people are not going away. And we were not wearing scary monster masks or those creepy giant face masks of Richard Nixon or Ronald Reagan. We were all actually wearing cute, hand sewn masks in whimsical fabrics. Zeke was wearing a rainbow buff. But I still felt strange, as if we had done something inadvertently offensive.

So all the while as we were walking by the water and through the woods, my mind kept returning to the masks. Were we being over reactive? Were all these other people endangering their health and ours? Did any of us really know what was going on? What are the actual chances that anyone at the park was a carrier of the virus? I have no clue.

One thing I have learned (or relearned, really) during this pandemic is how people I know and love have significantly different styles of thinking about and reacting to unknowable questions and unsolvable problems. Some people like to speculate. What do you think is going to happen? Why do you think that? When do you think we will be able to go out normally again? I am sure that many people could come up with creative and perhaps profound answers to these questions. Maybe people who have this mindset are the ones that reimagine the future and make things better for humanity.

This is not me. I know that I cannot stand to speculate. I don’t know if this represents a failure of imagination or just an affinity for facts, but I truly do not want to discuss what may or may not happen two or four or six months from now until I have actual information in front of me with which to make decisions. And right now none of us (or at least none of the people with whom I talk to regularly) have any of this essential information. I’m not saying this information doesn’t exist, but I don’t know it and it doesn’t seem to be common knowledge.

For example, could you get coronavirus in a swimming pool? Would the chlorine kill it? Does it depend on who’s swimming in the pool? Is it possible to test all the kids arriving at summer camp? What about their families? If you test them when they arrive could they still be carrying the virus? How do you know if it’s safe to be in a house with people who you haven’t been quarantined with but who have also been quarantining for months? If you aren’t likely to get the virus from a surface, why is everything still closed? Could you get it in the ocean? Could you get it on the beach if you’re not close to anyone? What if you’re in a tent? I DON’T KNOW! Does anyone know? I don’t know if anyone knows. I don’t know when we will find these things out. So how can we make any decisions without knowing the answers?

Now I’m just getting riled up. I don’t know what exactly it says about me or my personality that I need information like this. Part of my feels like it’s paradoxical because a lot of my decision making is emotional, based largely on what my heart and gut tell me. I guess in these kinds of times, you can’t go with your heart and gut when people’s lives are on the line. I don’t usually make a lot of life or death decisions. Thank God.

These days are long and meandering. And even longer when you can’t sleep. Again tonight Randy and I had to tag team bedtime with Zeke several times because Zeke can’t sleep, and he is the most visibly upset about his insomnia of all of us. After Randy relieved me and I came back into our bedroom I ordered some melatonin for pickup tomorrow at the vitamin store. We used this a lot when Zeke was younger because he couldn’t sleep them either, but not because of pandemic stress. He just could never settle down. Then he outgrew that issue and we stopped the melatonin and all was well (at least on the sleep front) for a few years. I guess that returning to outgrown challenges requires revisiting old solutions. Better living through chemistry. In fact, over the 45 that I’ve been writing this, my migraine medicine finally, blissfully, kicked in. Maybe now I can get some sleep.

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