Coronavirus: One Month In

About three weeks ago I wrote a coronavirus checkin post, trying to capture where things were at “mid-stream, as I called it. Of course that was March 16, and hardly seems “mid-stream” now. That was just the beginning.

Milestones

Last time I shared milestones. Big news items that made this feel big. Now? I don’t know. Everything is shut down?

  • Minnesota Governor Tim Walz just extended our stay-at-home order to May 4.
  • School is happening via distance learning through at least May 4. I expect it to last through the end of the school year.
  • Only “essential” businesses are open, which is still a lot of places, but if you want to pick up a book or go to the movies, nope.
  • I saw a stat the other day that 11% of the workforce was unemployed. Hopefully those numbers will fall just as quickly as they rose when this is over, but that assumes businesses are still around to bring workers back.
  • We’ve shifted from news coming every day, often every few hours, to things being a little more hunkered down. There’s not much more to close or cancel or reschedule. Just stay home.
  • Stores are still out of toilet paper. Rice and pasta are also hit and miss. Sometimes eggs and cheese. The puzzle aisle at Target was almost empty.

The Mood

  • Up until this week, life has felt like an extended spring break. The kids slept in, we watched a lot of TV, played games, and did puzzles. But this week distance learning started, so the kids now have something to do. I’m pretty grateful for this. Now our kids are good at entertaining themselves, and for the most part they’ve kept themselves busy. But having them back in school and doing something “productive” is reassuring. Of course our kids are also self-motivated, so distance learning is pretty easy. They do their own thing. Makes it easier for me to do my own thing. We’re watching less TV this week, which is probably a good thing.
  • Work is slow. It’s been slow for a while, but I was making progress looking for new work. Now looking for new work seems pretty hopeless. I’m pursuing some projects and trying some new things, so we’ll see.
  • I am turning to projects to keep myself busy and stimulated. Over the last week I refinished window frames, which involved lots of sanding and scraping (bleh). I finished a Lego project today, which took way longer than it should have. One funny moment: My daughter came up this morning while I was playing Legos and asked why I didn’t have any work to do. Yeah, you and me both. Last week we did more puzzling and I became a little obsessed. Whatever the project, the feeling of accomplishment helps.
  • Reading has been hard. I commented on social media the other day that I finished a book, the first book I’d finished in three weeks. I struck a chord, as a lot of people chimed in that they’ve had the same problem. Since then I’ve started a new book and I’m halfway through it. Picking the right kind of book is super helpful (in my case, fast-paced fiction; non-fiction is dead to me right now).
  • I try to go for walks nearly every day, both for the exercise and to get outside. When I walk past friends’ houses, I try to message them and give a ‘digital wave’. Super dorky, but it helps to reach out to people. One friend came outside on her porch and we talked for a few minutes (while standing about 10 feet apart). It was nice to see a friendly face.
  • I worry about all these work-at-home folks and their ergonomics. A local company has some tips, so take care of yourself. Eye strain can be a real problem if you’re not used to being on a computer all day.
  • We’ve tried to keep baked goods handy, usually bars or brownies or something easy. That helps.
  • My son and I had haircuts scheduled for March 17. They were cancelled. So I’m way, way overdue. I did trim my winter beard off, but now my hair is just doing this shaggy, ridiculous thing. I’ve given up on keeping it under control.
  • My daughter is fairly introverted, and I think the staying at home is right up her alley. She doesn’t seem to mind too much, though we do need to remind her to get outside. My son is pretty extroverted, though he doesn’t admit it. The screen time limits are pretty much out the window, and he does a lot of talking to his friends online. I dislike the extended screen time, but I think he needs the connection so I let it go.
  • We’ve been doing church online since churches closed. I actually like it. It’s usually a short, 25-minute service or less, and it feels good to take some time on Sunday morning for that. It feels more intentional somehow.
  • Time is nonexistent. It feels like we’ve been doing this for months on end. I guess we’re in the fourth week.
  • Sidewalk chalk is magic. I yearn for signs of hope, and love seeing them in whatever form they take.

What Now?

What’s especially weird about this situation is there doesn’t seem to be any immediate danger. Certainly there’s a deadly virus out there, but it doesn’t feel very immediate. I’ve know of one or two people personally who have tested positive, and we’re certainly taking this seriously, but as weird and hard as this time is, it doesn’t feel like a national emergency.

I think of hard times people have been through, when they are physically threatened or driven from their homes or facing war—and this isn’t anything like that. We stay at home, eat brownies, and watch TV.

Must be rough.

And yet it is. Kind of.

It’s kind of a weird place to be. It is a difficult time, but yet it also isn’t.

The Essentials

Since my wife is teaching kindergarten from home, I hear her in the next room recording videos for her kids. She says this as a sign off to her morning meetings and it gives me all the feels:

“Remember: Work hard, try your best, play safe, and most importantly, be kind.”

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