It doesn’t always feel like it, but there is too much time elapsed between when I last wrote in April and now to attempt and go through a genuine update of any kind. The great mystery of how time has elapsed in the midst of this global pandemic will keep brains busy for many years to come.
But time has, indeed, passed. And there are, of course, the things we are all aware of that have marked this long season – the stupidity of the American people stretching this pandemic out and fanning its flames; a large scale reckoning about anti-black racism in our culture; the ever more shocking and terrifying assaults on democracy by our president. Those things have marked and colored our days, shaped our experiences of life over the last 6 months. And, like so many of you, we have adapted (are adapting?) to a new normal that includes working from home until . . . well, until further notice; daily refreshing the school district website to get more information about what the fall might hold; daily conversations about how to plan for the sustainability of our family in the midst of so much unknown.
And, we’ve had our share of experiences and events that are unique to us as well. Most of those have been positive. I have been trying to stay focused on the vast array of privilege we’ve had in the midst of a time when so many people have experienced such great loss and trial. I’m hoping if I can keep my gratitude in focus it will help me to do what I can to share the gifts we have as well.
So, here are some of the updates from the last few months:
- I continue to be redeployed/reassigned to support COVID response. My specific assignments have varied since March, but for the last couple of months, I have been consistently supporting the homelessness response work as a communications liaison and also picking up some projects with the disability rights task force to ensure businesses are compliant with the ADA when making adjustments aligned with COVID mandates. I knew very little about any of this coming in (I did work in homelessness services for some time a while back, but never in Washington and never on the medical end of things) but I’m a strong writer and a quick learner. I’ve met a lot of amazing people and learned so much. I don’t really miss my ‘old job’ because it just feels so unfathomable to be doing right now, but I am slowly starting to pick up a few health education pieces of work. I guess time will tell what the demand for sex education online looks like, or what might shift as things continue to unravel in this wild new world.
- We have gone on a ton of adventures to state parks and have found it pretty easy to keep our distance from others, for the most part. We’ve also frequently been taking Seamus – a laminated cut out picture and wooden stick representation of L’s cousin’s 17 year old who was diagnosed with anaplastic astrocytoma in the spring. You can do your own research, but suffice to say of all the diagnoses a 17 year old kid could get, this might be at the very top of the list. L takes pictures and video and then edits them together to make fun clips to share with Seamus and his family.
- Furthering our adventures, we bought a fucking pop up camper. It’s not that it came out of no where – we’d talked about it for some time before this – but the final decision was a bit more sudden. It’s a 2018 Opus (don’t be fooled by the fancy ‘air’ versions you see here, ours takes a lot of sweat and muscle to get fully up!) and we got it for a song because the dealership stopped selling this brand and wanted this last one gone, stat. We’ve taken it out twice – once for a test run to a park nearby (Where I nearly had a panic attack when we got to the beach at the end of our hike because there were so many people hanging out together without masks) and again last week for a five day trip to the Olympic Peninsula. I love it, the kids love it, L loves it. I’m so excited for the opportunities it’s giving us to get out, adventure, connect, and see this remarkable place we live.
- Our garden is thriving, and I’ve been putting a ton of time into it. It’s been a while since we had a garden, and I’ve never had one that has done so well. The PNW is an easy place to grow things! We’ve eaten kale for months, plenty of zucchini, strawberries, and we should be rolling in tomatoes in just a little while longer. Looks like we’ll have a bumper crop of pumpkins as well! Less prolific but still doing well are the cucumbers, summer squash and herbs – though the latter got a late start. And finally, we’ve harvested two small anaheim peppers and have a few sweet peppers growing as well, though I’m not sure they’ll ever get beyond green.
- ANGUS TURNED 3!! He’s still tiny (last weigh-in he was 28lbs) but is absurdly witty, verbal, and funny. He picks up a lot of subtleties in communication that make him seem older and more ridiculous than he is or intends to be. He’s more physical – both in the sporty sense and the aggressive sense – than Ansel, but is still very sweet. He adores Ansel and talks all the time about being just like his ‘bruddah.’ His favorites: superheros (all kinds, but esp Spiderman, Iron Man, and Captain America), pink + sparkles, snacks (again, all kinds) and huggles. For his birthday, we had a very small party with just the four of us + our BFF ‘framily’ with whom we are ‘podded’ (in part b/c they are Ansel’s therapists but also because they are our BFF Framily) and L’s mom. We hired Spiderman to come out and the company was great about creating an experience while also keeping everyone safe. Once Ansel heard the spiderman plan, they decided they would dress up like Black Panther and then “Black panther AND Spiderman can come to your birthday, Angus!” We got them a costume and they spent weeks laying the groundwork for the illusion (“Angus, did you know that me and Black Panther are the same height?) I feel pretty sure Angus figured it out pretty quick, but Ansel stayed in character the whole time and no one else ruined it either – I think they both liked pretending.
- My mom was in the hospital – again – for opioid medication toxicity – again. This time, she also had a heart attack while in the hospital. These medication toxicity events have been happening somewhat regularly for the last three years at least. They tend to follow the same pattern – she starts acting strangely (unable to communicate, isn’t tracking on things, sometimes seems confused about things like who my dad is or where she is) and so my dad either takes her to the hospital or calls paramedics who take her. Once there, they usually find that she is dehydrated, her kidney function is in the gutter, and often she has some kind of UTI or other infection. They usually pump her full of fluids and maybe antibiotics and then once she’s lucid again, they release her and she returns to her usual state for weeks or months until it happens again. You’d think, given that she goes to the same hospital each time, that somewhere in the last 3 years and 20+ events, someone would try and further investigate why this was happening over and over again. You’d be wrong. Not until THIS stay did someone reach out to coordinate with her pain doctor or PCP to make longer term changes. And honestly, I’m not sure it would have happened this time but for the heart attack. As for that issue, she’s had a long history of high blood pressure and a more recent history of that high BP not being well controlled, as well as some history of arrhythmia. Now, of course, she also has been diagnosed with congestive heart failure and she’ll be seeing a cardiologist as well. In addition to the heart attack (which I actually wasn’t told about for some time) it took her much longer than usual to come around from the cognitive concerns and because of this, I made the decision a week into her hospital stay to travel to Denver to see her. It really turned into a bit of an intervention where it became quite clear that despite these ongoing health issues and my dad’s ever decreased mobility, my parents don’t think they really need to be concerned about aging and making changes to their lives due to their own aging. They are 100% against moving from their 4000sqft single family home in the farthest reaches of the suburbs and are only just beginning to come around to the idea of having people come in to provide additional support. My mom also had me go get her fast food for lunch the day after she was released from the hospital and only maybe 72 hours out from her heart attack which was another piece of evidence that she actually isn’t convinced that she needs to make changes to her life. But I am powerless here, as my visit very much proved. And so, I try and let it go to the extent that I can. On the upside, I saw my nephew and my friends’ 5 month old baby (though not being able to squeeze that baby felt a little like torture.)
I have been talking a lot about getting our ‘sustainability plan’ in place for surviving through this pandemic. Like many of you, I would guess, I have been viewing these changes in the world as transient – a season to get through. And while that perspective isn’t entirely inaccurate – there will be a time when the larger threat of this pandemic is past – it’s also not a complete picture. This season will likely last until next summer for most of us in the U.S. (sorry, friends) – at least, based on best case scenario vaccine timelines and the necessary vaccine uptake for herd immunity. Of course, there are many, many other factors at play as well. And honestly, if people could just start answering their phone for contact tracers and wearing masks consistently, we’d probably be able to do a lot of things we can’t now. But I’ve learned over the last six months that the American populace can’t be trusted to do these things even in the face of illness and death.
But it’s hard to make that plan when so much remains unknown.
What I know:
- I will be working from home until January 2021.
- Ansel will be starting kindergarten in remote learning mode
- I have access to 80 hours of paid leave to support my kid with remote learning
What I DON’T know but REALLY need to:
- How much of my regular, pre-COVID work will need to happen
- Where will I be redeployed and what will I be doing in that redeployment?
- What the hell does remote learning look like for a kindergartner? How many hours will they be staring at a screen and how will I manage and monitor that while doing my regular job?
- What will Ansel do for the other times when they aren’t online remote learning?
And many more that I am sure I will remember at 3 am when I wake up in a pool of sweat and anxiety.
Without so much of this, its harder to even begin to tackle the more existential questions about sustaining and surviving. Things like: what will we do once the sky turns steady slate gray and its raining and we can’t escape the confines of our home so often? What will the holidays – so interwoven with experiences outside our home – look like? What level of strange fall out might come when Ansel IS finally able to go to school in person?
Its small comfort – but comfort nevertheless – to know that while the details vary, we are all in this same shit show – wallowing in deep unknown and settling into our powerlessness.
To that end, I thought I’d share this piece of Rain by Mary Oliver with you. I read it this morning (I am trying to read poems and respond to them in a good old fashioned paper journal each morning, and I’ve started with Mary Oliver’s New and Selected Poems, Vol. 1) and it very much spoke to this feeling of fear and powerlessness:
7 The ForestIn the distance/the owl cries out./ The snake knows/these are the owl’s woods,/these are the woods of death,/these are the woods of hardship/where you crawl and crawl,/where you live in the husks of trees,/where you lie on the wild twigs/and they cannot bear your weight,/where life has no purpose/and is neither civil nor intelligent./ Where life has not purpose,/and is neither civil nor intelligent,/it begins/to rain,/it begins/to smell like the bodies/of flowers./At the back of the neck/the old skin splits./The snake shivers/but does not hesitate./He inches forward./He begins to bleed through/like satin.