Grocery Day

It is grocery shopping where I am able to see how the world has changed. I see it in the shelves that are empty. I see it in the people waiting to enter the store, carefully spacing themselves out instead of clumping.

I see it in the masks on other’s faces and feel it in the mask I wear myself. My experience is that people are patient and mostly considerate. There are more mask-wearers this week, though maskless is still the majority. When I am home or even at our warehouse, everything feels almost the same as things were before. At the grocery store I can see the changes.

The pandemic models were updated today and the predicted death count went down. That is good. But the models assume that the current level of lockdown/ social distancing continues through August. The changes I see at the store are going to continue for a very long time.

Checking In

“I just wanted to check with you and see how you’re doing.”
Sometimes it is a text. Sometimes it is an email. Occasionally it is a phone call. Sometimes I’m on the receiving end, other times I’m sending. Each message is a tiny connection between people and no matter what prompted the sending, it is a gift to be honored. Someone thought of me, or I thought of someone.

“How are you doing?”
“We’re good, found flour at the store this week, and you?”
“We’re good too.”

And the conversation ends there. Most of the time that is all it needs to be. Yet when I receive an inquiry, it forces me to pause and think about how I am doing. I have to see my situation and evaluate my feelings about it. This is good for me as I tend to set myself aside to do the necessary things. If I continually set myself aside without pausing to process my feelings, I’m setting myself up for a massive crash later. It is also not great because self examination interrupts whatever life-flow I may have achieved to put me back into a place where I’m thinking about where I’m at and what I might need in the future. Self examination wakes up any anxiety that I’ve managed to put to sleep.

When I was going through radiation therapy (twenty-five years ago, for a tumor that was non-cancerous but aggressive) I remember standing in the hallways at church. I don’t even remember who I spoke to, probably because it wasn’t a single conversation. I was standing there faced with a kind person who loved me and wanted to know how I was doing. I had two options in answering. I could give the quick answer to make the conversation over, or I could open up my pit of emotions and invite them to swim in it with me. I could keep this beloved person at arms length or I could draw them close and possibly overwhelm them with my depression. I stopped going to church for several months because that choice got too hard to make.

I think about that now with all the quick pandemic check ins. With each person checking in on me, I have an echo of that same choice. Do I tell them how I’m okay, or do I tell them what feels hard? I might be tempted to not check in, to leave people alone so I don’t force this choice on them, except the check-ins are are critically important because when someone hits a breaking point, the point where they desperately need to not be alone in their feelings, then someone needs to be there. The key is that the person who is asking needs to be ready to sit with whatever feelings their inquiry opens up. We need to be willing to mourn with those who mourn as never before. Because we are all mourning right now. Every one of us has already lost something. Everyone has something they’re afraid they may yet lose. Sometimes the person at the other end of our inquiry needs to affirm that they’re okay. Other times they need to be given permission to cry.

Most often I answer that I’m okay, because it is true. I have a house. I have the means to pay my bills for the next few months. I have enough food to last me at least a couple of weeks. I have people in my house that I can hug. I have cats to amuse and annoy me. I have friends who check on us. I have a large network of loved ones both local and distant who will jump to aid should I end up in need. I have so much to be grateful for.

It is also true that I’m not okay. My business has already shut down some pieces and we’ll likely have to shutdown more. I’m not certain if the supply chains I need to keep running my business will hold. I have friends who are sick. I watch the massive social shifts around me and I don’t know what that will do to my long term ability to pay my bills. I don’t know how my adult children will build futures they want. I’ve no idea when I’ll get to hug loved ones who don’t live in my house. I don’t know who will get sick, who will recover, and who won’t.

In comparing the last two paragraphs I can clearly see that the “Okay” paragraph is all centered in now. The “not okay” paragraph is all about the future. Which reminds me that happiness is in the present. Regret/grief is focused in the past. Anxiety is focused on the future. Which reminds me of the advice given by Lucille Ellison age 102:

I’ve been through so many things. To cope with this virus, and all that’s going on, I would tell people to not get stressed about planning far ahead. You can’t do it.

And perhaps that is also the answer to all those check ins, why they’re important and how to handle them. “How are you today” while acknowledging that today is fleeting and tomorrow might be different. Accepting today for what it is, even if it is full of crying. Answering the needs of today with the resources that are available today. And if we really need to think about the future, think in weeks, not months. Trying to solve problems that are months away is wasted effort because everything will shift again before we get there. In the meantime, we check in on each other and try to help everyone be okay with what we have today.

The Moments Pandemic Feels Real

It is strange how the pandemic I’m living through sometimes feels very real and threatening, but other times feels far away and not real at all. It’s also odd which things make it come into focus for me. It first felt real to me on March 12th when the NBA canceled their games, my church canceled sunday meetings, and Disney parks closed. That day was a big reality check and it was hammered home that evening when I went to the store and many of the shelves were empty. These days the store shelves are emptier than they were before, but I’ve seen things be restocked. Going to the store doesn’t make the pandemic feel real anymore. I’ve adapted to it. It used to be that looking at the numbers and graphs on various websites made the pandemic feel real, but that is fading too. Looking at numbers and graphs has started to feel like a normal, daily check in rather than panicked alert watchfulness. Today that thing that made pandemic feel real was driving past a hospital on my way to the warehouse to ship packages. There were large signs everywhere, on the sidewalk, out in the street, staked in the grass: “This way to drive-up Covid-19 testing. Pre-registrtion required.” The test station didn’t look particularly busy. They were organized and leisurely from what I could see as they drove past. That was reassuring. This hospital is a ten minute walk from my house. The pandemic is now within walking distance.

The rest of today has been normal. Our new normal, where I stay at home and use a facebook group to arrange for a neighborhood kid to mow my lawn, where I bake bread because I managed to find flour at the store, where we’ve got a Pokemon watching party in the family room while Howard and I work in our offices. I’ve managed to find some peace this last day or so. It is the peace of appreciating this quiet moment, because I get to keep it in memory no matter what comes next. Or maybe it is denial. I think sometimes we need to let the pandemic feel unreal so we can function. I also need to expect those moments when the reality of it all hits home. That is part of the new normal too.

Hard Choices

When my kids were little, several of them were susceptible to croup. This is a particular barking cough which is usually triggered by a cold. It always struck at night after the doctor’s offices were closed for the day. I got good at the home remedies, steaming bathrooms, cool outdoor air, etc. Yet even though I became practiced at managing it, each incident was alarming. Most of the time croup is a passing reaction, but if it gets bad enough the baby stops being able to breathe and then there are only minutes to intubate before damage is done. We never got to that point, but we did make several night time trips to the ER for breathing treatments of nebulized albuterol. Later we acquired a home nebulizer and a prescription so we could do these treatments at home, but I didn’t even know that was an option for years. I still remember vividly sitting in a steamy bathroom with a barking, coughing baby in my lap, trying to decide whether to go to the ER. There was a financial calculation, because even with the good insurance we had back then the ER still was a financial hit. There was also the knowledge that half the time the croup would mostly clear up just from taking the baby in the car to the ER. It was all probably nothing, everything was probably going to be fine, but if it was NOT fine and I stayed home the consequences were so very devastating that most of the time I took the financial hit and went to the emergency room. Then I entered a strange emotional place where I hoped that my baby’s symptoms stayed bad enough that the hospital personnel would not think me a high-strung over-reactive mother.

Right now, at every level of government, my elected leaders are like me in that steamy bathroom weighing the consequences, because if they do nothing everything might be fine. Bit by bit, I’ve watched most of them come down on the side of caution, preferring to be seen as overreacting rather than to live with the regret of not having done enough. At this moment there really isn’t much more to do. We all have to wait and see how bad it does or doesn’t get. I imagine that many leaders are in that strange place of wanting things to get bad enough that their choices are vindicated while simultaneously feeling guilty for wanting things to be bad. If things do not get bad, then they have to deal with the financial fallout of the prior decisions. No matter how they decide and no matter what the result, people will be angry with them for the choices they made. I do not envy elected officials.

I don’t know yet what the financial fallout will be for my small business. We’re not taking an immediate hit, but that doesn’t mean we are safe. Far from it. I’m watching entire industries grind to a halt, millions of people out of work, and I know that the ripple effects from these events are going to be much bigger than a single stimulus bill can adjust for. Some of those ripples are going to hit my business and my family. Yet, as my elected leaders decided, I’d prefer to err on the side of caution and take the financial hit later. Losses are inevitable, but I’d rather lose money than lose lives.

My Weekly Quarantine Schedule

One of the biggest challenges when Howard quit Novell to be a full time cartoonist was lack of schedule. This is a common problem. If I have three hours to get ten things done, I’ll do all ten. If I have all day to do one thing, odds are it won’t get done at all because I will always feel like I could do it later. So with the external schedule items like school drop offs and pick ups removed from my schedule, there has been a bit of floundering and losing track of which day of the week I’m in. Fortunately some of the requirements of quarantine living have begun to show me what are the fixed points in my week.

Fixed Points
Sunday: Church at home and trying to avoid doing money earning work in an effort to keep the sabbath holy. Since work is a thing we cling to in times of stress, Sundays can sometimes be a challenge.

Monday: Mailing packages, fill up gas (if needed,) Food inventory in the evening, clear counters for groceries to arrive in the morning. Right now our online store is still allowed to function as it falls under “mailing services.” Also I go solo to a warehouse where no one else is allowed to enter, make packages, and drop them at a post office without interacting with anyone else. If my state goes full lock down, mailing will stop. Until then we still have something of an income. The food inventory is something I’m adding for next week. I’ve started grocery shopping once per week. At first we were in stock-up mode and I would pick up one or two of any item that we tend to use. Today I got home from the store and realized that I’d picked up some items we were already fully stocked on. It isn’t a problem. We’ll use them, but I need to be inventorying what we’ve used in the past week, making a list, and paying attention to it while shopping so that I’m not accidentally overstocking all the time.

Tuesday: Grocery shopping, sanitizing groceries, putting them away, updating list with things I couldn’t get this week. I have two grocery stores I go to each week. They have conveniently staggered opening hours so I can get to the first one as it opens then go to the next one an hour later as it opens. Being there for opening means the store is at its cleanest and it is as re-stocked as it will get that day. It is less critical to be there for open now that I’ve got a sufficient supply of flour, but I like getting the major task of the day done first. There are a few items that are only available at Walmart or Sam’s club, but it looks like I’ll be able to only go to those places about once per month or so. When I get home we wipe the groceries with a disinfectant and put things away. This includes partitioning and freezing portions of meats, moving dry goods into plastic canisters, and other arrangements so that everything stores in easily accessible packaging. In the evenings Howard is part of a live stream so the big TV has to be off from 7-10pm. (It used to be that Howard would leave the house for this live stream then my 17yo and I would watch movies that no one else in the house wanted to see. We’ve yet to find a replacement movie time.)

Wednesday: Is currently lacking any sort of requirement. This means it might be a good day for me to declare as Fiction First where I have to do fiction writing before anything else.

Thursday: package mailing and Writer’s group via Zoom in the evening. This means I have reading to do earlier in the day.

Friday: Accounting. I used to also have preparing the printed program for church, but that job is on hold until church meetings resume. I always sit down with my accounts once per week even if not much has happened in the week. Being regularly familiar with the numbers prevents me from avoiding looking at them because I’m afraid they’ll be scary.

Saturday: No fixed requirement

Floating schedule items
Telehealth therapy sessions for two of my kids. Times and days vary week to week.
Any other online social things I might want to schedule or participate in.

That is the shape of my weekly schedule. My daily schedule is squishier and that is where I get a bit lost. If I want to put exercise into every day, where does it fit? If I put it first thing in the morning, then the morning grocery trips interfere with the pattern. Also it is really easy for me to decide to stay up later than usual, so then getting up in the morning is variable. But writing this out has pointed out to me the squishiness of my daily schedule, so now I can think on it and perhaps find some solutions.

A List of Happy Things

I’m feeling low today, so I am going to list some things that I am grateful for or that are making me happy today.
1. My house has five people in it. This has its own set of challenges, but it means that we are not isolated and alone. We can mix and match to share activities and generally take care of each other.
2. The sun is shining and flowers are blooming. This is such a strange spring with the world shutting down and horizon’s being constricted, but it would feel so much worse if we were mid-winter.
3. I managed to find flour in enough quantity that I’m comfortable baking whenever I feel like it rather than needing to carefully ration the supply.
4. Things that had vanished from stores are starting to come back again.
5. As said even more beautifully in this tweet, people all over the world have walked inside and shut their doors behind them to protect the vulnerable among us.
6. This poem: The Unseen by Fran Wilde, which reminds me that even though the world has contracted for a time, the mountains and vistas are still out there. We’ll reclaim them when the fog has cleared.
7. The UN found a stockpile of 250,000 masks and is sending them to New York. Throughout the world those who are better off are taking care of those who are not.
8. Talking to my 76 year old mother on the phone from two states away, and hearing her tell how several of her neighbors have checked in on her and offered to bring her groceries. “They’re watching out for the elderly.” She says in an amused voice because she doesn’t consider herself elderly, instead she is looking out for those who are older than her and many who are younger because she feels they need more help than she does. (But she’s also staying home and having groceries delivered.)
9. Our three cats who continue doing all their regular things completely oblivious to any changes in the world outside our house other than the fact that there is now green grass out there which they sometimes get to nom.
10. Friends who reach out to me in various ways or reach out to each other where I get to see.
11. Howard working magic in the kitchen to turn raw ingredients into delicious food. He is a kitchen hedge wizard who can work magic with the supplies on hand.

Site Update

I’m updating the site architecture because the WordPress theme I’ve been using since 2012-ish was terrible for reading on mobile devices. The site looks more plain now, but it is more readable, especially on mobile devices. Hopefully I’ll figure out how to pretty it up as I go.

Scattered Thoughts

You’d think that since we did partial homeschooling for a year an a half before Covid-19 that switching back to schooling online would be easy. Instead I’m watching increased likelihood that my teen will drop out and do a GED instead.


I’ve read books and seen movies about people living in times of upheaval. Often it is a war, sometimes a Great Depression. Those fictionalized accounts focus on people whose lives intersect with the most dramatic parts of their setting, like the way that somehow Rose and Jack manage to see every exciting moment of the Titanic sinking during the course of the movie. I never understood before how much of living through a major world shift is boring. Boring mixed with inconvenience and sprinkled over with uncertainty.


I’m glad that my state government and health department have created a cohesive plan with action points which trigger based on scientific data. That feels like the right approach to me. This is also a moment when I’m glad to have a state government that is separate from the national government and a city government that is separate from the state government. It creates a world of political wrangling, but there are people out there making hard decisions as best they can. I also think that Utah has an advantage in that our Governor had already announced he’s not seeking re-election. That means his choices are not being tugged at by needing to make voters approve of him.


Some people are posting their experiences using number designators (IE: Quarrantine Day 3.) I have no idea which day was my day one. Do I start from the day when Howard and I started pulling back and self isolating? Do I start from the day I canceled a trip? Do I start from when NBA was canceled? Or church was canceled? Or school was canceled? I suppose I could start with the official Utah social distancing instructions. It all rolled out in pieces without a specific day as Day One. I’m pretty sure I’m somewhere in week two, but we might have rolled over into week three. I’m watching updates and graphs, wondering if my state will also end up with a Stay At Home order. Right now many people are still going to work and many businesses are open. We’re prepared for it.


I don’t like wondering if tightness in my chest is anxiety or illness. So far, anxiety.


I wish that in this time of crisis my country had a president who would choose a course of action and stick with it by explaining and educating the public on why the course was chosen. Instead we have a weather vane of a president who changes his position with every shift in societal winds. Sometimes he shifts his position halfway through a sentence or a thought. I watch the rippling reactions on social media to his every sentence. In the past 24 hours he’s started suggesting that we need to re-open the economy and just take the hit in lives lost. I would not be surprised to see him swing back the other way as the death toll climbs. He’s already wobbled in his course multiple times, I expect that to continue.

I think we were always going to have a broad spectrum of reactions to this crisis, but I wish we had a national leader who would draw us together into one country. Instead we have to look to more local leaders for inspiration to pull us together. I’m not just talking about elected officials, but also those within communities who step up to calm, explain, exhort, and organize. None of us knows what the future will bring. Every choice has consequences. All we can do is try to think beyond ourselves and help each other as best we can.

Emotional Reactions and Grocery Shopping

I read a twitter announcement of another state issuing a Stay At Home order. The thing that was most interesting to me was the responses to the announcement. There people angry that the governor had decided to participate in “this unnecessary hoax and farce.” There were people asking fearful questions trying to determine how their particular situation was impacted. Some advocated ending the craziness by letting people go back to work. Some were doing the terrible math of cost benefit and were more afraid of permanent economic damage than the body count. Some were grateful that the step was finally being taken. Some praised the decision. I did not spend too much time reading these comments, the first two dozen were emblematic of what I expect the remaining thousands would also say. As I read, I felt so much sympathy for all of these frightened people whose worlds have become uncertain. Yes I even feel sympathy for the ones who are defiant and angry about disruptions they consider unnecessary. I’ve heard each of these opinions inside my own head as I look at the world around me. I think all of these things and then I choose which of those thoughts get expression in word and action. I hope for the sake of the angry defiant people that they get to keep their angry denial rather than being a person who ends up in the hospital or being a person who loses a loved one.

This morning my church issued a statement to remind all the missionaries who’ve been pulled back home about the importance of isolating for 14 days. Apparently a large mass of missionaries came home all at once and they were greeted at the airport by a large mass of family and friends who came to greet them. The perfect mix for a transmission event. I understand this behavior too, the longing to hold onto some fragments of the things we expected to have. Missionary families look forward to that reunion moment for years and it has always taken place at the airport. In fact the new construction at the airport is designed to allow for exactly that. It hasn’t hit everyone yet how much has changed, how much needs to change. On a smaller scale, my family had to decide whether my married daughter and her husband are allowed to come into our house bringing their different germ exposures with them. It is the same decision as greeting at the airport, do we get to continue doing this thing the way we’ve always done, or do we have to lose this thing we enjoyed. The answers are not easy because the emotional need to retain what we can is critically important.

I set my alarm this morning so that I could be at Walmart when the doors opened at 7am. There was a line outside of about 15 people. Everyone entered politely and most scurried to the toilet paper aisle. I went for baked goods because the first item on my list was flour. Flour wasn’t available, but I was able to get a pack of toilet paper and a pack of paper towels. One per customer. By 8am the small supply was all claimed. Supply chains are still functioning and still trying to adapt to the shifts in consumer behavior. Flour will probably become available again in a week or two, but I’ll probably have to be present when the doors open to be able to get it. I had yet another expensive shopping trip, because we’re still doing our initial stock up on essentials. Flour is the last item. After this the trips will be smaller because we’ll simply be replenishing.

And now I’m off to learn how to run a Zoom meeting because apparently I’m drafted to run tech for TypecastRPG while they can’t meet in person.