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Archive for the ‘Worries’ Category

It seems that melatonin doesn’t work particularly well for me. I had been having such trouble sleeping because of my personal-carelessness sunburn that I took a melatonin to help me fall asleep… and then woke up at 2:30 and couldn’t fall back to sleep. Obviously, 2:30 is when my brain does its best work. And by “best work” I mean cycling through all the things I could possibly worry about and over which I have no control at an increasingly frantic pace/tenor.

It strikes me that as we enter this new period of the pandemic – “re-opening” – that I am feeling the same kind of Fear of the Unknown and Abject Terror I was feeling in the early weeks of Coronavirus Has Reached My Country And Things Are Falling Apart.

Maybe it’s even worse, now? I’m not sure. Am I MORE stressed now than I was then? It’s hard to say. My stress levels have certainly been getting a workout over the past few months, though. So I decided to chart them. For posterity.

Pandemic Stress Level

This chart begins, for me, in the last week of February; the news was covering coronavirus all the time at that point, but we hadn’t yet discovered it/confirmed its presence here in the U.S. I was putting extra flour and ground beef in my grocery cart. I bought an extra package of toilet paper, even though we had a big package at home already. I felt a little silly, but the CDC was recommending setting aside enough supplies for two weeks of quarantine, so… Anyway, that’s where this starts for me. And now I have just completed Week 12 and I feel like I’m back where I was in early March, stress/panic-wise.

This chart has flaws; there are no call-outs for “distance learning is going to kill us all” or the sharp punches of Anger at People, Specific and General or the surprising spikes of happiness when I found myself spending a delightful day with my family. I think there should be an overlying chart that shows a steep rise in Comfort Eating that has since plateaued at the highest level; alas, my chart-making skills/desire have failed me. But overall, I think it represents the passage of time pretty well.

How are YOU? Are you feeling the anxiety ramp-up as the country starts to experiment with re-opening? Have you, too, experienced an Online Shopping phase?

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Our state is taking small steps toward “opening up.” And I have gone straight from Worrying About How Long the Shelter In Place Order Will Last to Worrying About What “The New Normal” Will Look Like and How Will I Possibly Participate In It. After being told, for weeks, that staying at home is the safest possible choice… how can we all of sudden just start… LEAVING THE HOUSE?

UGH.

If only I felt like there was A Reasonable Plan. A plan based on actual scientific evidence. Instead of all of our leaders feeling immense pressure to Do Something and so throwing a handful of re-opening spaghetti against the metaphorical wall of our society and seeing what sticks.

I am SURE I am not the only one fretting about this shift towards “normal.” You’re worrying about it too, right?

Here are some specific things my brain-hamster is running frantically toward without actually moving an inch:

When is it reasonable to ask my housecleaner to come back? We are fortunate to have been able to continue to pay her while we’ve all been staying at home. But how long is she going to hold our spot? Is she working for her other clients again? Is it safe for her to spend hours in our possibly-germ-filled house? Is it possible that she could be bringing in germs from her family/other clients that could make our family – or the people we are necessarily in contact with (grocery store workers, my husband’s patients) – sick? Could I reasonably ask her to wear a mask while in our house? And would I need to provide her one (this would be ideal, of course)? And would that make her uncomfortable? Obviously I can continue cleaning our house myself; a housecleaner is not a necessity, it is a luxury. But I don’t know if we can/should continue to pay our housecleaner to stay home. At some point, doing so becomes less “this is an interim solution” and more “I am paying someone I don’t intend to see again.” Not that I don’t intend to see her again! Most of all, I don’t want to let my wonderful, beloved housecleaner go because I am being overly cautious about coronavirus. But… IS there such a thing as being overly cautious?

How will I feel about sending Carla to camp, if that happens, and, eventually, school? The camps Carla is enrolled in have not yet made a ruling about whether they will happen this summer. It seems unlikely, but… I guess it’s possible? When I think about the possibility of Carla going to camp, and then going to school in the fall, I am ripped violently in two directions. The one direction is MASSIVE RELIEF, because distance learning is not going great and because I know Carla needs in-person interaction with people who aren’t her parents and because I have not had more a shower’s length of time alone in two months. The other direction is CRUSHING FEAR because I don’t want her to get sick. I don’t want her to bring home the virus and get us sick. I don’t want her to bring home the virus and give it to my husband and have him a) unable to work or b) INFECT HIS PATIENTS OMG. I don’t want to constantly be worrying about her counselors/teachers and her friends and checking to see if she has a fever and perking up instantly if she sneezes.

Are we just going to be able to… GO PLACES now? Seeing as going to the grocery store – or even the PROSPECT of going to Costco – is still a dreaded activity, I can’t really imagine going to less essential businesses on purpose. For instance, it has become clear that we need to get Carla a real desk (her little child-size folding table has been working for now, but it’s not a good long-term solution – and I sense more distance learning in our future), but I am not finding anything reasonable online (the Pottery Barn Kids desks seem to be around EIGHT HUNDRED AMERICAN DOLLARS) and it would be so nice to go to IKEA and see some options in person. But… The very thought fills me with horror.

What is work going to be like for my husband? This is a very big complicated snarl of Unknown and it is filling us both with extreme anxiety. I will not get into the details but OMG.

And then, of course, is The Big Worry. What happens if/when (it’s when, right?) there is another spike?

It feels like the very best thing I, personally, can do to help is to continue to stay home, to continue to keep Carla home, to continue – at least for now – to pay my housecleaner to stay away. But someday it will be okay to do other things, right?

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I still feel like I’m on a ship. Sometimes the seas are smooth, othertimes the waters are choppy and nauseating. Still others, the storms pummel the briny deep into great stomach-churning, heart-jolting valleys and peaks and I’m not sure whether my body or mind will break first before I am swallowed by the foaming depths. Every day, the wide indifferent ocean stretches to the horizon on all sides and I don’t know how long it will take to reach the shore. I do not like boats or water or the thought of nameless shapes shifting in the void below. Small — but significant — comfort to know that you’re out here too, guiding your own craft through the murky waves.

What better way to deal with such a mental state than to talk about food? I mean, what’s more basic than food? We all need it, for survival, for comfort, for distraction, for pleasure.

Of course I’ve been craving carbs, and making rice and noodles and various nacho-like concoctions with abandon. Well, not abandon exactly because I am conscious that finding replacement carbs may not be as easy as I’d like.

The surprising things on my quarantine cravings list? Raw carrots, celery, and bell peppers. Perhaps I can attribute these desires to the gargantuan vats of Hidden Valley Ranch dressing I am using as a veggie dip. But I think it’s more the potential scarcity of fresh veggies – or, if not the veggies themselves, but my ability to access them. I bought two one-pound bags of carrots right as self-isolation was beginning, in the second week of March. And then on my most recent trip to the store, I bought a third. (I recognize that this must sound absurd to those whose families include more than three humans.) I think I am halfway through the second bag; I used a good half of the first bag to make mirepoix, which I froze for future soup-making.

It is just past breakfast time, now, and I am already thinking about a tidy plate of crunchy carrots and my last stalk of celery. Stranger than this, I find myself craving these veggies but then… not eating them. A self-rationing, I guess. Are these the last carrots I will be able to get? I clicked IMMEDIATELY and FORCEFULLY away from the one article I saw that said the food supply chain was not as sturdy as we all think it is, so I don’t know if it was a breathless panic piece or something more reasonable. But I am always worrying that something will be the last. My daughter is eating a rotation of PB&J sandwiches and Lunchables each day, and when I noticed we only have two of the latter left, I dutifully put it on the grocery list. But… when will I be able to get groceries? And, when I can, will there be any Lunchables?

Best not to think about the worst case scenario, and just move forward as planned. Add things to the list, assuming I can get them – if not immediately, then at some point.

Lettuce is also, for similar reasons, on my cravings list. Oh how I long to cut a quarter of a nice, crunchy, nutritionally vapid globe of iceberg lettuce and, yes, drench it in ranch, and eat it without a care! But I do care. And I am saving our iceberg lettuce for tacos.

What are you craving the most, during this strange period of isolation?

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In college, I wrote a paper on the juxtaposition of the profane and the sublime in Milton’s epic poem “Paradise Lost.” Wow, is this ever a boring way to open a blog post! My memory of the whole thing, poem and all, is fuzzy, but the (very hastily summarized) point was that Milton would bring up sacred topics (God, angels, the Garden of Eden, etc.) but describe them in irreverent or disrespectful ways, often using language that would never be associated with the holy (bodily fluids and excretions abound in this poem). It was one of the distinctive hallmarks of the work — this discrepancy between subject matter and treatment. How could you talk about God and farts in a single line?

The reason I keep thinking about that, now, is that I feel we’re living through a similar dichotomy – the extreme/emergent walking hand in hand with the mundane. It’s so disorienting.

On the one side, we literally have people dying. We have hospitals that are overcrowded and suffering from shortages of vital equipment – both protective and life-saving. We have medical staff that are overloaded and fearful and putting their lives at risk. We have medical professionals who are trying to determine whether to resuscitate people with Covid-19, for God’s sake. We have countless people losing their source of income and stability. We have the looming specter of more of all of this – more death, more fear, more people at risk in immeasurable ways. We have what feels like a hopelessly irreparable political schism, and lack of leadership (understatement) at the highest levels. We have the ever-present possibility that we or our loved ones will get sick, be hospitalized, and even die.

These things are too much to bear. I find myself turning away, guarding my heart and my mind against the horror I feel when I think about any of them.

And then, far, far away from the frenetic life-and-death urgency of emergency rooms and ICUs all over our country — all over our planet — I am stuck at home. My family and I are (relatively, for now) safe. We have food (and toilet paper) and plenty to occupy us. And still I am able to find fault with our day-to-day.

I ask myself each morning if this is the morning I return to putting sweetener in my tea. I stopped when I started keto and haven’t resumed the habit. But my tea would taste so much better if I just put a little sugar in it. Why am I depriving myself, in These Unprecedented Times? But also… it seems like things could/are about to/definitely will get much, much worse… so maybe I should be doling out the indulgences a little more sparingly?

Things make me tear up, out of nowhere: a television commercial for T-mobile, of all things, in which people are social distancing but connecting via phone. A phone call from my kind neighbor, who has cancer and is afraid to leave her house but still called to see if Carla would want some things her granddaughter had outgrown. Seeing other neighbors out and about on our walks – but keeping a careful distance; watching Carla strain so hard to keep herself from petting all the neighborhood dogs. Canceling a long-planned dinner with friends.

I am annoyed because I have a canker sore on my tongue. It’s my own fault – the inevitable consequence of an entire week eating mainly chips and salsa – but it’s still irritating, and I can’t just run out to Target or Walgreens to get some Biotene mouthwash. And then I feel super guilty that I just placed an order from Target, because… was that the right thing to do? It is certainly preferable to order things than to take my own possibly-infected self to Target… but I didn’t truly NEED Oreos and sidewalk chalk. Am I helping someone keep her job? Or am I forcing someone to work while sick, to risk infecting someone else?

Where is our mail carrier? I really hope she is okay. We haven’t had mail all week and that seems… ominous. Do I call and check on her? Or will that get her in trouble? Or annoy the post office manager, who is probably dealing with A Lot right now?

My child won’t leave me alone. And it’s a BLESSING, that she is healthy and safe and wants to be with me. But I just want thirty uninterrupted minutes to write or read a book or think. She told me yesterday at 5:00 pm, after I had spent ALL DAY with her and asked her to go play by herself for TEN MINUTES that she feels abandoned – she literally used that exact word and OMG child, just play by yourself and cut the dramatics in half.

Is it time to pull out my giant bag of Reese’s peanut butter eggs – the one I went to Costco specifically to get, back in the first week of March, when I was doing keto and when buying things I couldn’t eat made me feel like I was staving off some of the panic I felt reading those early news reports about coronavirus? Or should I wait until I really need it? What will it look like, when I really need it?

My husband keeps going to work. We are so lucky that he has a job. But my heart is breaking because he has had to furlough some of his staff – people he loves, who support him and his patients – because the patient load has virtually dried up. He is taking a half day today, which should be cause for delight… but… our sole source of income is him seeing patients. And then I feel guilty about worrying about this, because we have savings and presumably he will be able to see patients again at some future time, while others are just completely out of a job and a paycheck and have no idea how they will pay rent or buy groceries.

We have some romaine in the fridge and I want to eat it before it goes bad, but also don’t want to eat it in case we can’t go to the grocery store and replace it.

I keep fretting about Carla’s extracurricular teacher. Like my husband, she has no salary; she only makes money when she gives lessons. Back when All This was just beginning, I asked her about it, and she was breezy and confident – my husband makes money, we will be fine, please don’t worry about me, she said. But… I AM worried about her. And I have no idea how to send her some money without offending her. I thought maybe I could buy a gift certificate to a restaurant doing takeout near her house… but I have no idea what she and her husband eat or if they are comfortable getting takeout or if that would offend her anyway

It’s all but certain that school will be cancelled for the rest of the year. Am I really going to be solely responsible for Carla’s education for the near term? HOW am I going to do that?

Are we being careless, not isolating ourselves from my husband? He is out in the world, every day, seeing people who may be infected. Am I putting Carla at risk needlessly? But then… I wouldn’t be able to sleep without my husband in the same bed, and Carla needs consistency and normalcy as much as possible, so… do those things balance out the risk of contracting the illness?

HOW am I going to listen to the same episode of Wow in the World one more time, when Carla seems like she can listen to them over and over and over and over?

 

Maybe I should be ashamed about feeling petulant that I can’t just go to the store and get some fresh raspberries. For marveling at how the book I am reading got published at all, it was so clearly NOT edited. For skipping over the news of how awful things are in some of our cities. For getting irritated with Carla when she interrupts a phone call with a friend.

But also, aren’t these feelings little glimmers of normalcy, and, therefore, necessary? Feeling anxious and bad and steeped in guilt and fear all the time can’t be healthy, can’t be conducive to getting through this, right?

 

It’s such a roller coaster between normal, everyday (well, not NORMAL or EVERYDAY), very MINOR annoyances… and huge, terrifying, life-altering fears and uncertainties. That alone – that juxtaposition between the mundane and the extreme – is enough to make me feel constantly off-kilter. And selfish. And numb.

 

The sun, FINALLY, is shining; we’ve had springlike weather two days in a row now. The robins are blustering around our yard, the finches have beaksful of twigs and grass. Carla is playing with magnetic Frozen dolls that our kind neighbor sent over the other day. I am drinking the same tea I drink every morning, typing silly words on my computer as I do every day. Everything FEELS very humdrum and typical. But it’s not. It’s not. It’s not.

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To those of you who have reached out: thank you. You are so sweet and it makes my heart so full to know that I have such a loving little community here on the internet.

My household is fine. I mean, we are all supposed to assume we are infected with coronavirus, right? but we are currently showing no symptoms.

I have been so grateful to those of you who are blogging through These Unprecedented Times. I keep wanting to blog – I keep thinking of things to tell you – but it is very difficult to write when I am obsessively refreshing the fifty or so news sites I now check in with each day. Usually I avoid all news because it causes me such roiling anxiety, but… well, now the roiling anxiety is just a state of being so, why not feed it on a minute-by-minute basis with frenzied updates from all possible media outlets? (My news roll includes Washington Post, NYT, the Atlantic, and CNN, plus a conservative news site that my parents follow so I can read what they are reading, plus three newspaper sites from three different areas of my home state, plus the news site from my brother’s city, plus my own city’s primary newspaper, plus Buzzfeed because sometimes you just need a 17 Cranky Cats in Tiny Sweaters palette cleanser.)

Anyway, what I am saying is that I should probably tone down the fear scrolling and instead do more reading/commenting on your posts and writing some of my own. After all, what we all need in These Unprecedented Times is more of my semi-hysterical trying-too-hard-to-be-funny overzealous-use-of-capital-letters-and-parentheses day-to-day-ridiculousness, right? Okay, so literally no one needs that. But distraction is useful.

When it comes to Blog Block, there’s also the Carla Consideration, as anyone who is both trying to work from home and now taking sole charge of Every Single Moment of their children’s time will be INTIMATELY familiar with. Just now, I had to move my computer from the kitchen table to my office because Carla was busy coloring some unicorns in a coloring book. And by “busy coloring” I mean saying, every six seconds, “Do you like this? How do you like how I colored this? Mommy? What color should this unicorn’s hooves be? And its ears? And its eyes? Is this the color you meant? Mommy? Should I make polka dots on the unicorn’s skin? Do you like this shade of aqua? Look, Mommy.” And it’s adorable and I am actually (SO FAR) cherishing this extra time we have together, but it is IMPOSSIBLE to think when you are constantly choosing unicorn-fur shade and oohing and aahing over a unicorn’s rainbow mane. There are approximately 7,192 unicorns in this book, which is a blessing and a curse.

Any reasonable update of what I’ve been up to since my last post (ha – remember that? a million years ago in The Time Before?) (seriously – I know time has taken on strange qualities but I was SHOCKED to learn that I wrote that carefree keto post less than a month ago) should include Carla, so let’s start there.

Pandemic schedules

Schedules! Useful both for Planning Your Day and also Knowing What Day It Is! Now taking bets on how long I will keep this up, which would have been “two days” except for Carla’s semi-reproachful comment that I hadn’t made today’s list in time for her to read it while eating breakfast.

  • As with the rest of the known universe, Carla is done with school for the foreseeable future. Her school has not gone so far as to put any sort of timeframe on our absence – but it seems like the world is moving toward cancelling the rest of the school year, so that’s what I’m anticipating. We are currently in Week 2 of her previously-scheduled Spring Break, which has given the administration a little breathing room to figure out some sort of distance learning program. We start next week and… I am VERY curious to discover how her very progressive, child-led-learning, no-homework-until-fifth-grade school designs remote lessons for a bunch of first graders.
  • Last week, because it was Spring Break, we put almost no limits on screen time. That was… awful. Carla loves screens but too much time watching shows transforms her from a curious, amiable, active child into a grouchy, defiant, hides-in-a-dark-room-with-only-the-images-from-her-ipad-as-lighting child and I do not care for it. So this week, we are doing more of a Loosely Scheduled thing. This means that I write up a list of tasks for us to complete each day (see above) and then we go through them at a very leisurely pace. It is better for Carla this way, because she just… needs expectations and targeted things to do. She’s good at distracting herself, don’t get me wrong, but unlimited screen time is NOT useful for her. It turns out that she has been very eager to complete all the tasks – more eager than I have been, truthfully; I’d rather sit and read all day than check off the items on the list I made. (Today, when I didn’t have a schedule pre-written and ready to go, she REQUESTED one. Then, when I made it, she pointed out that today’s list only has THIRTEEN items instead of FOURTEEN, when apparently the previous two days had – completely by accident – fourteen items. I am making this all up as I go along, Carla. There is no rhyme or reason to any of it!) I am relying heavily on the free daily activities and lessons from Scholastic, which requires next to zero thinking/planning on my part. Yesterday, we veered from Scholastic because I wanted to plant lettuce in Carla’s mini aero garden, so I designed a curriculum (HA) around the life cycle of a plant. If you think we are sticking EXACTLY to the schedule, you would be wrong. We definitely did not do a math worksheet yesterday, for instance. Or any exercise at all. Also, we have squeezed in lots of unscheduled cuddling/TV time – watching “educational” things like The Zoo and The Aquarium on Animal Planet.
  • We have been playing a lot of games. The games I enjoy include Exploding Kittens and Guess Who. The games I do NOT enjoy include Candy Land and Pit. We have a bunch of other games, of varying quality level, but I also ordered Sorry! from Target, which I have never played (full disclosure: mainly because I really wanted some Oreos and some tortilla chips, but they each only ship if you spend $25 and so I figured that a new game would help put us nicely over that total and also help stave off the inevitable cabin fever). Today, as you will note from our schedule, we will try out Bananagrams. Spelling work disguised as a game! Woo!
  • It is hard to tell what Carla thinks of…All This. She is, for the most part, a very happy, worry-free child. And that seems to persist, despite all these changes. I really need to lay off on things like telling her she shouldn’t eat an entire pint of blueberries in one sitting because they are hard to come by these days… and chiding her for wasting toilet paper. That doesn’t help anything. I am trying really hard to maintain as much a sense of normalcy as possible, but of course my husband and I talk about Pandemic Stuff all the time and Carla is very perceptive – I am sure she feels the palpable increase in tension around her. The only indication that she’s internalizing it is her sleep patterns: the other night, she came into my room at 4:30 and couldn’t get back to sleep until six. And last night, she wanted to sleep on the floor of our bedroom. But… these aren’t entirely abnormal for her, so it’s hard to say if they are Pandemic Related or not. I really, really hope that she is doing okay. Kids are adaptable and resilient… but man, this is all so uncertain and scary and… well, I just hope that everything works out okay.
  • One of the best things we are doing is daily chats with my niece. We have been Facetiming my niece – who lives in another state – and Carla has decided that they are going to read to each other every day. Carla is almost seven and her cousin is almost five. But they both seem to enjoy chatting with each other, and it’s nice for me to be able to have adult conversation – even if brief and interrupted – with my sister-in-law. (Ugh. I am worried about my sister-in-law, who is concerned she may be laid off. Also, she is a single parent who is currently working from home with a four-year-old. She is wonderfully creative and an excellent parent, but… what a CHALLENGE.) I should probably set up some remote “play dates” with Carla’s friends, but I’m not there yet.
  • One of the things I am as yet resisting is Group Interactions. Carla’s Girl Scouts troop leader mentioned that we could do meetings via Zoom or something (I am going to have to figure out what Zoom is, aren’t I?) and, while I get that we should definitely do our regularly scheduled monthly meeting, I am resistant to having additional meetings. It’s not like Carla can just hop on Zoom by herself. And I am not eager to participate in what will probably be a cacophony of seven-year-olds shouting at each other over various computers while their parents and troop leader try to get a word in edgewise. No thank you. Same goes for her ballet class. While the fact that her ballet teacher even suggested that they get together online makes me teary, it is so wonderful and sweet and caring of her to try to establish some sense of normalcy, I just cannot fathom how it would work. I am an introvert’s introvert, and the thought of even remote connection with other humans is challenging to wrap my head around.
  • What else can I update you on? Oh, obviously, keto is out the window. I lost nearly 10% of my bodyweight over the three weeks we did it, which was very gratifying. But I am putting keto on hold while we are in isolation because a) it is very expensive and requires a million trips to the grocery store to keep up our meat and cheese supplies and b) I need carbs to deal with the stress. I just do. On the plus side, being on keto just prior to a pandemic breaking out means that we have SO MUCH CHEESE in our house. Unfortunately, I am so sick of cheese that I have not been eating it. Except on tacos, which I have been loading into delicious, delicious shells.
  • My husband, obviously, is continuing to go to work each day. This is, technically, the most stressful thing in our lives right now. Which is fortunate; we aren’t sick, no one in our circle is sick. (Well, knowingly.) But getting sick feels… inevitable. He keeps leaving the house. He keeps meeting with people – patients, staff, other doctors – any of whom could be infected. When he comes home, he immediately washes his hands and changes his clothes. But… is that enough? I don’t know. I feel like Covid-19 is coming for us, at some point. We keep giving each other fearful, suspicious looks whenever one of us coughs or sneezes. Ugh.
  • My husband is not on the “front lines.” At least, not yet. His specialty is in the same vein as something like pediatrics or urology – where there is a wide spectrum of urgency. Some people need to be seen in the office or surgery center. Others, he can meet with via telehealth platforms or even over the phone. Some days, his patient load is fairly normal-for-a-slow-day; other days, he sees maybe two or three patients. He gets daily emails about changes to insurance and patient access and HIPAA regulations and emergency procedures. He and his partners have weekly meetings about staff changes and patient interaction. His primary office has closed all but one entrance and now takes everyone’s temperature when they enter. His hospital system, like others all over the country (and the world) is struggling with inadequate supplies of masks and gloves and other protective equipment. His hospital system, like others, is preparing for an overwhelming influx of emergent patients. His hospital system has informed him and other specialists that they may need to call on him to do Not His Specialty, but more general medicine, should the need for physicians overload the number of actual physicians available. The whole thing is weird and scary on many levels.
  • To drastically change tone, I have developed what I am referring to as Quarantine Skin. It is likely the result of a) not showering daily because what’s the point (there will come a point when I will need to shower daily for my mental health, but right now skipping showers feels more decadent than depressive) and b) near-constant anxiety and c) the leap back into an All Carbs All the Time lifestyle. I am less bothered by it than I would be if I had to be interacting with outside-my-family-humans, but I am aware that my body is not exactly happy with things at present.
  • As an introvert and an experienced work-from-homer, I am doing okay so far, in terms of our state’s Stay at Home order. Being at home is my preferred state, honestly. And we have a house full of books and videos and games and various digital distractions. Plus, we are very lucky to have a backyard – so, if it would only stop raining, we could go OUTSIDE. If I could just stop obsessing about the news, I would be much better. For the most part, I am sleeping okay. Not great – I wake up frequently to listen to my husband breathe, to listen to Carla turning over in her makeshift bed on my floor, to worry about what would happen if (when?) my husband contracts Covid-19 and brings it home to us, to worry about my parents and my brother and my friends – but okay; I fall asleep fairly easily and have been able to sleep in.
  • Sleeping in is probably the BEST part about this quarantine. My husband’s reduced patient load means that sometimes he isn’t needed at work until eight or even nine o’clock! There’s nothing any of us has to wake up early for, so we sleep in until decadent hours. Carla never seems to get enough sleep during the school year, so I am glad she is able to sleep until her body wakes her up.

 

Well. I have run out of steam for today. Please tell me how YOU are doing during These Unprecedented Times. I hope you and your loved ones are safe and well, and I am thinking of you, and I know that this will pass. There will be A Time After This, there will.  And the best thing we can do is get through today in whatever way we can.

 

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My husband and I have started watching The Outsider together. It is not a good program to watch before bed, let me tell you that. The music alone makes me jumpy, but then there’s the very creepy plot and the VERY creepy figure of a biped in a grey sweatshirt with a ruined/inhuman face peeking out from under the darkness of the hood that just STICKS WITH ME. Usually, following an episode with a Schitt’s Creek chaser helps dispel the creepiness, but sometimes it follows me to bed.

Despite this completely voluntary scaring-myself-out-of-my-wits, I have been enjoying a rare period of Good Sleep. It is not untroubled; I am having lots of Weird Dreams. Recently, I had what felt like a very long and drawn out version of that dream where you have exams approaching but you haven’t gone to class all semester and passing this class is necessary for you to graduate. I have not been in college for MANY YEARS, why does my brain persist in torturing me in this manner???? Anyway, by Good Sleep, I mean that I am able to fall asleep fairly easily and then stay asleep all night long. This is highly unusual for me, because I am a very light sleeper and also a champion worrier, and, as we all know, worries swell rapidly in the middle of the night when you have uninterrupted hours to DWELL on them.

But because I am unaccustomed to sleeping well, and because I am posting about this and surely jinxing it, I am sure another period of Fitful Sleep is just around the corner. (In fact, last night, I woke up at two o’clock and had a bit of trouble going back to sleep. Not enough that it was terribly bothersome, but enough that I wondered if the Good Sleep Period is on its way out.) (Cue ominous music.)

Swistle posted recently about having a hard time sleeping. I loved reading the comments, about ways to force yourself to sleep when sleep refuses to descend naturally. I especially loved one person’s suggestion to go through favorite things alphabetically – favorite foods, for instance, or TV shows, or birds, or whatever. That’s one I haven’t tried but sounds lovely.

After pondering it for awhile, I realized that I have been employing a bunch of techniques over the years to help myself get to sleep. Do you have any tried-and-true tactics that you use to fall asleep?

Get-to-sleep techniques that I have used for many years and work often (but not always, hence the multiple options):

1. A walk to/through someplace soothing. My dad gave me this technique decades ago, so it’s the one I’ve used the most. I have a family vacation spot I love, so I imagine myself leaving the house, walking to the car, getting in the car, driving down the driveway, turning onto the road, bumping over the deeply rutted gravel, passing the horse pasture, etc. etc. etc. until I arrive at the lake. The key to this one is to go through every step of the journey, imagining in as much detail as possible the surroundings and the path to get to the destination. I have also done this with the grocery store or Target – leaving my house, driving to the store, then walking through each aisle and naming pleasant/benign things as I put them into my cart. The only risk with the Target option is that I might start thinking about things I actually should get at Target, and that’s more wakeful than restful.

2. Silently reciting a poem. This one takes prep work, obviously. But it has been SO helpful. I use Frost’s “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and I just go through it line by line until I fall asleep. There was a particularly brutal period in my recent past when I could NOT get to sleep and I would have to go through the poem backwards as well as forwards. I don’t think I could do that anymore, but it was a distracting brain challenge that would eventually lull me into sleep. Perhaps I should get myself a new poem to memorize so I have choices.

3. Deep breathing. This is a technique I learned during a brief stint in therapy a few years ago. It’s for dealing with stress/anxiety, but I find it helpful when I’m trying to sleep, too. In for four counts, hold for four counts, out for four counts, hold for four counts. The counting makes it hard for my mind to drift and the breathing is soothing.

4. Counting my blessings. This one has the potential to create the opposite of the intended mindset, so. Use at your own risk. But I force myself to list things I’m grateful for, even the Very Smallest of Things, like “my husband is not currently snoring” or “someone else changed the toilet paper roll.” (In such cases, it’s critical to list the thing and move on quickly or else you can wind up feeling frustrated and put upon for having to be grateful for something as toilet paper rolls in the first place.) Or sometimes I will think of a loved one and list all the things I like about him/her, from the big (“kind,” “honest,” “wakes up singing”) to the small (“drew me a picture of a cat today,” “beard tickles pleasantly when we kiss”).

5. Mindless reading.This is something I turn to only when desperate, because I’ve read enough warnings about how screens can actually prevent you from sleeping to know better. But in dire cases, I will read something boring or soothing. In the soothing category is going through the archives of a much-loved blog, like Swistle’s or the Ask a Manager blog. (Although the latter can be potentially riling.) Or I will seek out a Wikipedia article on something I have very little interest in, like engines or stained glass or animal husbandry. Best case, I lull myself into sleep. Worst case, I learn something new which I can use to bore others to sleep.

If I absolutely STILL cannot fall asleep, I have found that the next step is getting out of the bed. Use the bathroom. Get a (small) drink of water. Walk around the house, checking on the other sleeping inhabitants. (Not recommended if you are in someone else’s house, or if you are hosting sleeping inhabitants who are not your own non-adult progeny; otherwise you risk troubling other people’s sleep for the rest of their creeped-out lives.)

Making a list often helps. Things that I am worrying about. Things I have to do the next day. Things I want to make for dinner. Things I want to eat right that second. Things I need to buy at Target. The content of the list doesn’t seem to matter as much as the act of list-making.

My Last Resort technique is to change my clothes. New underpants, new pajamas. Maybe I will even brush my hair and re-brush my teeth. It’s like a getting-ready-for-bed do-over.

I suppose the last last resort would be to just get up and start my day. But with all the above get-to-sleep techniques, I haven’t had to do that.

Yet. There’s still time.

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I mentioned the other day that we recently had a pretty severe storm that left us without power for four days. So today what I want to talk about is disaster preparation. Funsies!

FIRST OF ALL, I would like to say that we were so incredibly lucky. In the days after the storm, I walked around marveling at how it could have been SO MUCH worse and feeling super grateful. We had some very minor damage to our gutters and some broken tree limbs to clean up. That’s it. Like I said: we were very, very lucky. And overall, I think our city is okay. The storm ended quickly. I don’t think there were any deaths as a result of the storm. Some of our neighbors had tree damage to their homes and cars, which is awful, and I can only hope they have good support networks and good insurance. Our neighborhood lost a LOT of trees – even now, a week later, there are branches and split-up tree trunks on the sides of the roads, waiting to be turned into sawdust.

We haven’t had any extreme weather in the days since – it’s been mainly hot and sunny, but not TOO hot. There were still a few pockets of homes without power even after we got ours back, but electricity had been restored to pretty much everyone by the fifth day. Electricity servicepeople and tree servicepeople flooded the streets for a good week – you couldn’t go thirty feet without seeing a truck, with its attendant experts climbing up in a bucket to inspect a power line or chainsawing a fallen tree. They were ON IT. It was inspiring to see, and I felt my heart swelling with gratitude that there are people who DO THIS.

I have been thinking a LOT about the people in the Bahamas and in Sioux Falls and all over the world, who have been hit much harder with natural disasters and have suffered much, much more. And I have been thinking about next time, when we might not be so lucky.

This was such an easy outage – for my particular family, who admittedly has resources not everyone has – that it turned out to be a good test for our disaster preparedness. And it’s shown several spots where we could improve.

Things That Would Come in Handy During a Power Outage

I already have a good store of water – well, maybe not GREAT, but we’re talking about handling a short-term outage, not the apocalypse; in that case we are EFFED – and a hand-crank radio and a multi-tool. If I were thinking, truly, about the apocalypse, I would want a seed vaultand some gas masksand maybe an emergency kit. But if we’re talking merelyabout surviving a severe storm, here’s what I’d like to have on hand next time:

Tealights

photo from amazon.com

Unscented long-burning candles. We had plenty of candles to light the house, but a ton of them were scented and so I ended up with a headache. I found I much preferred the tea lights – especially the ones in their own little tin containers – to the tall pillar candles that I had to set on foil-wrapped plates. They gave off just as much light and they seemed less precarious, because of course I was afraid one of us was going to set the house on fire. And, of course, you need lots of matches.

 

Flameless

photo from amazon.com

Flameless candles. We had some flameless candles, too, which were very useful. Of course you don’t want to fall asleep in a room full of real candles, or you don’t if you are me, so I set up flameless candles in Carla’s room while she was sleeping, and put one in each of the bathrooms to act as little nightlights. I only used them for this, though, because they have batteries and so don’t have unlimited life. Probably I would also buy some extra batteries.

 

Flashlight

photo from amazon.com

More flashlights. We have a grand total of two flashlights. They were fine – and we had our phone flashlights, too, until the batteries died. But it would be great to have MORE. Plus backup batteries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lanterns

photo from amazon.com

 

Lanterns. Boy, I am really fixated on lighting, aren’t I? Well, those long hours once twilight falls can be pretty hard to fill when you are in the dark. A friend has these particular lanterns and loves them. I like that they are collapsible as well – I don’t know about you, but I have ONE SHELF in my basement that is devoted to survivalist stuff.

 

 

Fire starter

photo from amazon.com

Fire Starter. I think this would be really useful if it were winter and/or if we needed to find some way to cook food and didn’t have access to propane. Then again, maybe I have watched too many episodes of Naked and Afraid.

 

 

 

 

 

Fan

photo from amazon

 

Battery operated fan. As I said, we got lucky with the weather. It wasn’t too hot during the day, and at night it cooled down enough that we were fine with all the windows open. But if we were stuck without electricity in a super hot stretch of summer, I would definitely want a fan. And more batteries.

 

 

 

 

Phone charger

photo from amazon.com

Solar charger for my phone. Man, I certainly am addicted to my phone, aren’t I? But it would have been really nice to have a way to charge it that didn’t involve sitting in my car or driving to Starbucks.

 

 

 

 

 

Tea kettle

photo from amazon.com

Stovetop tea kettle. I drink tea every morning. Going without it for four days was not my favorite thing. I don’t particularly like stovetop kettles (my electric kettle is FAR SUPERIOR… but electric), but it would be nice to have one for dire times. This one looks easy to clean (and easy to tell if it IS clean). (By the way – our stove is gas, so we could simply use a match to light the burners. I suppose it might be nice to have a Coleman stove on hand in case you don’t have access to a gas stove, but… that’s beyond my research skills.)

 

 

Body wipes

photo from amazon.com

Body wipes. We have a gas water heater, so we had hot water during the power outage. But if water wasn’t usable, and/or if we had an electric water heater, these body wipes would have helped tremendously.

 

 

 

 

 

Dry shampoo

photo from amazon.com

Dry shampoo. Same thing for water-free hair cleansing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cooler

photo from amazon.com

A cooler. We don’t own a cooler, mainly because we have no regular use for one and partly because we don’t have a lot of extra room. I like this collapsible one – it would have been nice to fill it with ice and be able to eat more normally, rather than going to restaurants the whole time the power was out. Obviously, this assumes you have access to ice. But it might come in handy. 

 

 

Things I Already Have

Radio

photo from amazon.com

Hand-Powered Radio. If we hadn’t been able to charge our phones – if we didn’t have car chargers and/or there was no power in the whole city – we could have used this to charge our phones. Plus, it can get weather information which would be nice if we’d been inside a big string of storms.

 

 

 

 

Lifestraw

photo from amazon.com

LifestrawOur water was fine, but I am glad to have these (one for each person in my household) on hand, in case getting clean water became an issue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Multitool

photo from amazon.com

Multi-toolI didn’t have any sort of use for this in this emergency, but I am grateful to have it just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Paperwhite.JPGKindle PaperwhiteOne unexpected thing I was super grateful for was my ereader. I love nothing more than a good, solid book in my hands. But ebooks are inarguably useful in many contexts. When you have no electricity is definitely one of those contexts. My Kindle Paperwhite has a nice, long battery life and you can see the screen in the dark. Perfect for long evenings with no TV and no internet and a phone whose battery you want to spare.

And I was lucky to have a big cache of books to choose from – I started City of Mirrors, which is the third in The Passage series by Justin Cronin. But lying there at seven pm with nothing to do but read (my husband was on call), I was super glad to have it.

Do you need a good ebook recommendation? (Shameless plug alert!!!)Here is where I heartily urge that you buy a copy of my friend Kristina’s excellent first novel, Weight of Memory. She categorizes it as a horror novel, and there are certainly many deeply chilling things that happen in it… but I canNOT deal with being too scared, and I could not put this book down. It’s one of those books you think about a ton after the fact, because it was both pulse-pounding (I couldn’t wait to find out what would happen next) and thought-provoking (the premise, which is part occult and part evil charm, really got my brain churning; plus, the heartstring-plucking part of it, about the lengths we’d go to recapture time with a dead loved one, made me think a lot about the finality of the boundary between life and death). The main character is super strong and determined and I really, really like her – in large part because she feels so real. And the plot is one I have never encountered before and found really creepy/unsettling, but in a fun way. Anyway, the ebook is $10 and I think you should get a copy. (I ordered the paperback version for $20, because I really want her book on my bookshelf. But paperbacks don’t really tie into the theme of this blog post.)

Can opener

photo from amazon.com

Can opener. Just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CorkscrewBottle opener. Works on wine bottles and beer bottles alike. Just saying. Why this photo says “3 pack” yet shows four bottle openers is beyond me. But when it comes to wine-opening apparati, the more the merrier is my motto.

 

 

 

What do you keep on hand in case of a natural disaster? What am I missing from this list?

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