Monday, March 30, 2020

Settling in

We've been on lock-down long enough now that it feels weird to think about going back to "normal." I go to work, the kids have started "practice week" of school, we walk the dog (just Scout because Atticus is an a-hole) a lot. I hit a breaking point last week so I stayed home Monday and Tuesday to recalibrate. I still worked, but it was good to get out of the panic for a second. 

I really want to be documenting this time, because I'm sure in a year I'll have forgotten a lot of the details like how compelled I feel to maintain my toilet paper stock and how eliminating food waste has been my primary focus. I also need to write so I have context as to why my teenage son is wearing a Descendant's bathrobe on a nature walk

Walking dogs
Averson wanted to wear it on our walk and quite honestly, I had no good reason for why she shouldn't. Then she got hot and asked Eli to carry it and then he rocked it like it was fashion. I have a whole blog post brewing about Corona-fashion. It's become quite epic.

We celebrated my mom's birthday last weekend. I made a cake from scratch! I haven't done that in years, and as soon as I did I felt stupid for not doing it more.
Birthday cake
She also got the traditional birthday donuts, Shelter in Place style. I love to support our local donut shop but Dunkin had a drive-thru.
Birthday donuts
The girls have been planning her birthday present for MONTHS and we've been brainstorming ideas. They came out perfectly and she loved them.
Murder Barbies!

The kids' chromebooks finally came (2 weeks for Prime!) just in time for us to get them set up for school. I kind of loved being there for the first day and I kind of love not having to do it every day.


More dog walks
We're filling our time and at the same time, I think we're getting more comfortable with being un-busy. My mom and I are working on our needlework, the boys nap a lot, Syd's been working on her birthday list in an effort to not freak out about the fact that she's probably not going to get the slumber party she's been planning for two years.

We’re crafting

So many naps

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Enough whining

I really thought about editing my last post. I don't love memorializing moments where I'm pitying myself, or lambasting others who are really doing the best they can. Then I remembered that when the pandemic was announced, one of my goals was to document my experience. So I'm going to leave it. I'm also going to say though, your mental well-being, especially in times of stress, is really impacted by the basics. I haven't been sleeping well and that coupled with the stress of the unknown, frustration with the current governments proclamation that he would "bring it all back up in a week or two," and the pressure I feel to support and energize my staff led to (what I hope) was my tipping point. Yesterday was ROUGH. I woke up at 2:00 to C choking in his sleep. We still don't know why but it gave my stress enough of a boost that I was up for the day and was sitting at my desk by 5:30. I legit questioned my lifelong rule of not crying in prison. I couldn't tell if I was short of breath or having a panic attack. It all felt like too much but there was no way to take a break.

BUT, it worked out fine. I signed up for Headspace (PSA: currently they're offering free access to healthcare providers in public service with a last name and NPI number) and did a quick meditation at my desk. When I opened my eyes, the rain was dripping off my open windows in the most lovely, peaceful way. It felt like just the reset that I needed. After work I came home to two girls who had been absently promised a spa night. So we bleached and dyed their hair (no school for the foreseeable future so it's a self-expression free-for-all) and painted our nails sparkly green. I got a solid 7 hours of sleep, kicked ass at work today, and when I came home C made dinner while I ordered games from a local shop that's offering curbside pick-up, personalized recommendations, and near daily admonitions to avoid crowds and abide by social distancing guidelines. He legit gave C the games on a pole and smelling strongly of disinfectant.

I am LOVING the innovation and acts of kindness that people are coming up with. The game shop that's trying to stay open by offering a really personalized on-line shopping experience and safe curbside pick-up (I firmly believe they're offering an essential service. We we

re completely rejuvenated by the delivery of new puzzles and games and promptly played two rounds of Bananagrams.) My cousin's market just installed wrist handles on her store's doors so that people can enter without touching the handles. At work yesterday, some of us pooled our money to buy towels at the auto parts store so that the nurses could clean the patients in our hospital unit. We ran out of wipes and there's no delivery in site. Rather than complain, we rallied and problem solved and came up with a solution. I'm nursing a fantasy right now that even if the president does "bring it all up" that we'll all continue to social distance so we can flatten the curve.

I won't minimize the fact that I'm scared. I'm scared that since I can't isolate or control who I interact with, I'll get sick, or that I'll be an asymptomatic carrier, and I'll bring it home and get my mom or my kids or C sick. I'm scared that people I know are going to die. I'm scared that my patients will die. I'm scared that I'll lose so many staff that the mental health program will start to look like an old asylum, and that we may not be able to restabilize the patients when we return to "normal." I'm scared my kids might actually kill each other. This whole thing is really, really scary, moreso because we're still in the "waiting for the wave to hit" phase.

It's scary, but what I know about myself is that I can't live in the state of fear. I can't do anything about the what-ifs. I can't quit my job or abandon my staff. I can't 100% anyone from getting sick. We can't pack up and move to Wyoming. I can wash my hands all the damn time. I can preach social distancing in a prison. I can make sure that our patients get as much treatment as we can give them while we still can. I can make sure to eat lunch every day and to eat all the fresh fruits and vegetables I can find. I can immediately take a shower and change my clothes when I get home from work. I can make wiping everything down with disinfecting wipes sound like a privilege instead of a chore so my kids will do it all the damn time. I can allow myself to be scared and yet not let that paralyze me. I can look for the good and the fun and the kind and the extraordinary.

We'll get through this because we don't have any other choice. We can do this.

Monday, March 23, 2020

Quarantine Catch-up

The kids and C are still home and the governor has instituted a Shelter in Place order. That means that all non-essential movement is now a misdemeanor. Unfortunately some a-holes still have a pretty generous idea of what "essential" means. And we're all getting real judgey and snarky over here. C keeps yelling out the window "SIX FEET" when he sees people congregating.

I'm still going to work (and sometimes it feels like I'm the only one) (cue snark). I'm so awed by how tirelessly some people have been working to figure out how we try to keep our patients healthy and the virus out of the prison, and simultaneously frustrated by how quickly some people made it clear how unessential they thought their jobs were. I'm also acknowledging that I am getting really burnt out with the long hours and complete lack of any historical precedent for how to manage the mental health program in a prison full of older and medically fragile people, while still being held to court standards and protocols. Nearly half of my leadership has been designated as "high risk" including my upper management. I feel like I'm making it up as I go and without a lot of resources to bounce ideas off of. I'm exhausted and a little resentful, if I'm really honest. I'm frequently muttering under my breath, "and the cheese stands alone." I'm hoping that this week we can settle into our "new normal" and that I and my staff can all take a breath and lean in. I shut down a significant amount of program, so I'm hoping the patients tolerate the lack of structure well. To be honest, I think they'd all really like it if we all just stayed away. Imagine if you were on social distancing and people kept walking through your house. There's no COVID in the prison (yet), so it's up to us to try to keep it out. I wouldn't want to be in their shoes right now. Today I walked through a few units trying to do some basic education about social distancing and hand-washing. I've been trying to stop in and talk to the clinical staff as much as I can. My non-clinical staff are all teleworking. I hope it helps? I don't know. Honestly, I'm making it up as I go. I'm trying not to be whiny but honestly I'm kind of over it and wish that I could stay home with everyone else. I won't, because I owe it to my staff to show up, but damn, some moments I'd really like to. Also, I really hate the commercials and billboards for places we can’t go. That just feels like adding insult to injury. But I digress (in a very un-stoic way.)

Back on the home front, no one has gone feral yet so that's good! The weekend was lovely. We took a long walk on Saturday with the dogs. The kids swam. C and I braved Walmart.

The kids built a fort under the stairs. Screens in a fort is a memory! 

We sacrificed  repurposed a bunch of crappy crayons in the interest of crafts

Local stores are really getting the hang of managing panic shoppers

So thrilled :) 
It's looking like the kids may not be going back to school this year. I panic ordered chromebooks for the two that didn't have one, plus an extra for the adults to use. The library extended everyone's due dates until June which is maybe the hardest hit I've gotten so far. There's some silver linings. I love not being so busy. My people are making some really fun memories. Traffic is AMAZING. 

Monday, March 16, 2020

So...That happened (aka Quarantine, day 1)

So... Yeah. The world basically turned into a dystopian YA novel a whole lot quicker than I think any of us were ready for. I work for several people versed in infectious disease, and even they're a little off-kilter. Last Friday all of our local schools were closed. My kids are off until mid-April. We were anticipating that, but also we thought that since C works at the school, childcare wasn't an issue. At the staff meeting however, he was told that his classification (non-teacher's union staff) would be required to report if they wanted to keep their jobs. Luckily last night they were contacted and told not to report, and today they were put off work for at least the week. Prison's don't close and my mom's in a high risk category, so if he has to work too we'll be in a bind. Eli's old enough to watch the girls but it turns out, the apocalypse doesn't stop them from fighting so I'm not sure all three would survive 8 hours alone together.

So many things have changed in just one day. When I left for work, everyone was out of school and we were all being encouraged to practice social distancing. By the time I got home, group sizes were reduced to below 10, several counties were instituting shelter in place, and I had an inbox full of "closed until further notice" messages.

I have to admit, after the weekend of compulsive news watching and prepping (but with a reasonable amount of toilet paper and no more disinfecting wipes than I already had on hand), I was reticent to leave my family and their little bubble. Both corrections and healthcare are still considered "essential," so even though several nearby counties have issued shelter-in-place orders I am still allowed to go to work. And I have a lot of staff who can't work from home because their whole job is to provide treatment to mentally ill patients. With all of the group size restrictions, I'm really not sure how much longer we'll be able to do most of our work, but while they're there, I will be too. That doesn't mean that I'm not taking a disinfecting shower the second I walk in the door though.

So what else are we doing? The kids were anticipating having on-line courses, but now all staff have been told to stay home so that's not in place. Today, they tried to go to the gym. They played a raucous game of Monopoly. They cleaned the house. They exceeded the recommended amount of screen time.

I didn't want to deal with all the nutty people at the stores over the past few weeks, so we'd been eating leftovers and clearing out the pantry. At the time, it seemed like a great idea. Friday, when all hell broke loose and we ate our last frozen mini taco, it seemed like one of my most regrettable decisions. C and I set out to Sam's Club, thinking that we'd avoid the more obvious Costco/Walmart/Target. That was a good idea, but we still ended up with some fucked up groceries. Tonight we're literally having mystery meat. The package says "pork" but it's seasoned with...something? I was also able to find a couple packages of meatballs, a bag of popcorn chicken, and a big bag of pre-cooked chicken strips. The veggies were about the same, so I've got tiny potatoes, romaine lettuce, and a shit ton of oranges. I was able to get two corned beef roasts at the Safeway and I hit Walmart yesterday early and got the last four cans of corn. So we'll eat but it's gonna be weird. At least I found bulk bags of coffee.

We'd luckily already gotten our Costco haul of toilet paper/paper towels/bar soap, so we didn't have to do that craziness. The checker at Sams mentioned that we hadn't bought toilet paper. C told her, "We have a fourteen year old son. We're always pretty stocked up." He said it with a totally straight face and I nearly died.

Other things I'm glad we did: I went to the library after work on the day that they announced the school closure and picked up a TON of books. I think we currently have 30 on our shelf. I suspect that the libraries may close soon, so I plan to go back tomorrow and get 30 more to get to our 60 book limit. I picked up a few chapter books for Eli (even though he hates to read anything longer than a comic), some biographies and a Judy Blume for Syd, and several early chapter books for Averson. Apparently I misjudged her current reading level because she's blown through all the Bad Kitties and the Heidi Hecklebecks already. So she needs a few more and then I need to grab a few for the rest of us. I got the second Harry Potter for us to read aloud, but I suspect that we may need at least one more.

The kids all have Facebook Messenger apps on their devices. If you don't have it yet and you're social distancing, I can't recommend it enough. The kids can video chat and play games with their friends in a safe, controlled social media platform.

Personally, I'm really working on controlling the things that I can. At work, that means having Plans A through E ready to go for any number of contingencies. I'm ready if we go back to business as usual but I'm also ready if they say that I have to reduce my on-site staff drastically or if 75% of my staff call out. At home, I'm trying to keep as much structure as I can in place. We ate dinner at the table and everyone had to use reasonable manners. The kids are getting dressed every day. I'm trying to be really mindful about my information consumption after realizing that I was compulsively reloading my phone. Now I'm trying to stick to actual news sites, not focusing on social media posts about empty shelves, and I'm being intentional about what I google. I'm also actively seeking out the good things, like the facebook page that was started in our community to trade diapers and formula or the library who extended everyone's due dates by a month or the strangers that bought the girls' Girl Scout cookies this weekend (since our council, unlike nearly EVERY other one, did not mitigate the girls' financial responsibility for unsold cookies. SMH).

Every doctor I've spoken with has said that they foresee this getting worse before it gets better. I'm finding myself increasingly more frustrated with the people who think we're all overreacting or that this is just a political tactic. I was having this conversation at work this morning, pleading with this woman to PLEASE adjust what she was doing, even if she was healthy and not at risk. In a last ditch effort to help her understand why we ALL needed to practice social distancing, I outlined the pool analogy. I can't find it now (I'm sure it was a meme on Facebook), but essentially social distancing is like if we're all in a big pool together. It's super crowded, but we're all having fun. We're jumping and laughing and diving around. Most of us can swim (are low risk) and will be fine. Some of us are wearing floaties or life jackets (medium risk). But some of the people in the pool can't swim and there aren't enough floaties for everyone. And the lifeguards have a hard time seeing who needs help because we're all in the pool splashing and yelling and jumping. So what we're doing right now by social distancing is this, those of us that know how to swim or have floaties are getting out of the pool. We're taking a break. That lets the lifeguards see who needs help and get to them in time.

So all that to say that I'm trying to lean in to hanging out on the pool deck for a minute. We're going to be okay. This is a big, weird new thing but we can do hard things.

Be safe everyone. Wash your hands. Be kind. Log into the cool FB live feeds early since it'll be you and 32k of your closest friends.

Edit to add that the mystery meat was DELICIOUS. Between that and quarantine traffic, today is full of silver linings! 

Monday, March 2, 2020


After several weeks of countdown, Averson turned seven yesterday! Her big ask was to get her ears pierced, so after we went for our traditional breakfast donuts we took her to Claire’s, where she picked studs in her birthstone and was stoically brave in the piercing chair.

Since we didn’t have a party, her birthday was really drawn out, starting with Syd’s gift first thing and ending with cake after dinner. She sweetly wrote thank you cards immediately after opening each gift

Thanking her grandparents for the slime :)
I have a killer bug, so we elected for a store bought cake instead of a plague cake. Then Averson asked if she could write on it. So. Much. Blue. Frosting.

This girl. She is really the most fun little creature. She’s nutty and spunky and excited and so, so easily distracted. She’s sweet and independent and confident and I’m so grateful that she’s ours.