In my last blog post in 2020, I wrote about a promise to my son. That when COVID had passed and we were all free to move safely about the country, there’d be celebrations everywhere. Life made a liar of me.
Keeping the kids busy hasn’t been terribly hard. Keeping them from engaging in periodic sibling head-butting is the main issue, though they’ve shown remarkable restraint (why is restraint always remarkable?) and have yet to bludgeon, guillotine, or otherwise massacre each other. As mentioned, until their school sets up tele-classes, or what have you, we’ve given them a loose educational schedule involving worksheets, reading time, art classes, and phys ed (“GO OUTSIDE, DAMMIT!”). It’s not always easy to mind them while keeping on top of emails from work and meetings, and the various teaching, editing, proofing, copywriting, and podcasting tasks that come along. Fortunately, they’re both old enough to occupy themselves. Yes, as I said, there’s the occasional scuffle, born out of boredom, usually starting as wacky hijinks but quickly devolving into lizard-brain screaming and pushing. Mostly though, they’ve been a dream.
They’re lucky they don’t have a social media presence yet. Beyond what I say about them, of course, though I try to keep the pictures and accounts of their lives to a minimum because their lives are their lives. What I mean though is that they have the barest awareness of what’s going on right now. We aren’t keeping them in the dark, and certainly their teachers have talked about what’s been happening. But I doubt the gravity of the situation has really hit them. So far Flynn seems perfectly content, but like her father she prefers to be home. Nate was a little depressed the other night, and when we asked what was up he got teary-eyed and said he missed his friends mostly. He’s been able to play games and chat with his buddies Ike and Francisco via FaceTime, but I imagine that’s not enough. We consoled and promised him that when this is all over—quickly, quickly, and may we all be safe and healthy—he’s going to see celebrations like you wouldn’t believe. And surely, he can have all his pals over for game night or whatever he’d like.
That’s an ongoing challenge with kids and acclimating them to social isolation, particularly if they’re pretty social. You have to make it all seem normal, but at the same time you have to throw in a surprise or adventure once in a while. We told Nate and Flynn they could camp out in the living room tonight, which is little more than sleeping bags in front of the fireplace. They were all for it though there was one trade-off. I had to sit in the easy chair nearby, in the dark, while they drifted off. Living rooms are scary places after hours, don’t you know? No problem. I sat and socialized my media, wrote up the early part of this post, and plotted for tomorrow while they sailed off to hushabye mountain. One more day down. How many more months to go? Sigh.
A friend of mine, Eric Kirsammer, suggested I regularly post something during this period of social isolation. Some kind of online diary, “in your style” as he put it. Presumably he meant with an ironic, sarcastic, and semi-bitter tone, owing to the complete absence of that sort of writing from the Interweb.
Ohhhh, that’s what he meant. As the philosopher Britannia Jean Spears expounded, “Oops. I did it again.”
Very well then. I’ll try to share what my family and I have been up to during the days of social-distancing.Â One hopes all this social isolationÂ andÂ people avoidanceÂ will keep the body count way down, and my blog will remain a silly whimsical thing.
Starting March 16, my employer sent us to work at home, originally for two weeks. Supposedly, we’d be back in the office byÂ the following Friday. Within a few days Illinois Governor Pritzker issued the first order to shelter in place, self-isolate, social distance, and all the other fun new terms and verbs, and it was decided we wouldn’t go back until the near-end of April, at least. It probably didn’t help that a few peopleÂ in our buildingÂ were diagnosed with COVID-19. I hesitate to use the phrase, “it’s all for the best”, but I suppose it is. My wife Michael, a teacher, and two kids, Nate (12) and Flynn (8), being Illinoisans, had their schools closed the Thursday before. Mike and I both hoped that I’d get to work at home, because the idea of her doing her jobÂ andÂ minding and homeschooling the kids alone didn’t sit well with either of us. Working for a healthcare association, however, I knew they’d do the right thing, and lo and behold they did.
I work at home twice a month. That’s one of the cushy benefits of my job, something for which I am deeply grateful. I choose two Fridays toÂ stay home so I can walkÂ my daughter Flannery to school and be there to meet them both afterward. It’s a pleasant perk. Wish I could do it more often. As it turns out, the past few days showed that I could. As a copywriter and copy editor my job is all about creating and reviewing documents.Â With a laptop I can carry my office in my backpack. For the past year I’ve also produced podcasts forÂ my association. Again, luckily, my recording studio is portable. Just saying, in case anyone is listening, working at home has been easy. I’ve participated in several meetings, and frankly they’ve been shorter andÂ more to the point thanÂ all the in-person ones. Does a lack of an audienceâ€”beyond a grid of taking headsâ€”encourage people to not perform or pad out a meeting? Maybe so.
I started this blog a couple of weeks ago, but I’ve really been too busy to maintain it.* And I mean busy-busy. My workload, praise Cthulhu, has been consistent enough to justify my paycheck. I know how damned lucky I am (so far) to have a job I can rely on. Again, it’s a healthcare gig, and I suppose today we’reÂ enjoying(?) a bull market. I’ve also been takingÂ every advantage of being home, with no need to commute and no social or child obligations (no soccer, basketball, Boy Scouts, swimming, etc. to take the kids to and from). I can read without interruption. I’ve had greater motivation to work up stuff for Third Coast Review and interact withÂ a group of fine, generous writers. I’ve even been able to give that whole writing thing I basically abandoned over the years another look. In a plague year,Â knowing it can all blow to hellÂ andÂ having extra time is a powerful motivator to attack projects. Also, I seriously, desperately, frightfully need the distraction. Yet, as wonderful as it is to feel productive, I hope it doesn’t last long.