pandemic diaries: week 23

Big news around the Bay during week 23 is that the mostly dry lightning event I mentioned in last week's update eventually resulted in several large fires by which we are now surrounded. While we're not directly affected by any evacuation warnings/orders, air quality has been moderate to downright unhealthy since about Wednesday last week, making me realize how much my morning runs, neighborhood walks, and family hikes are getting me through this pandemic. Without those (or with very brief morning and maybe evening walks, plus a little midday Just Dance) it's been a tough week, maybe the most challenging stretch for me since this all began. But I know it could be a lot worse and I think we're all just looking forward to relief, whenever it arrives. Here are a few other things that happened last week.

Sublime skies over Oakland.

If you've been homeschooling your kids for any part of the past six months, Alanis Morisette's performance of her new song 'Ablaze', with her daughter on her hip, might - okay definitely will - make you cry. "My mission is to keep the light in your eyes ablaze." Consider yourself warned (but it really is awfully sweet and a good reminder of what to prioritize right now as more and more parents return to juggling working from home with some portion of remote/online distance learning).

Speaking of school, the 7th grader continued to have just one hour of advisory per day last week, but he received his first mini-mester schedule on Friday, as anticipated, so his schedule this week has suddenly been quite a bit fuller. More about that in the next update. Not much change for the 2nd grader, either, although she did begin a Creative Spanish "after-school" class (via Zoom, of course) with one of her best buddies taking it, too, and I was pleasantly surprised by how much she enjoyed the first class last week.

This article in the SF Chronicle is one of many about how the pandemic has intensified, like so many issues, the struggle most (all?) working women face at some point between work and children. "Her husband shares the workload and was open to staying home, she added, but he earns more and his job provides the family health insurance." Same. One of these days I'm going to cobble together the many posts I've written about my own trajectory over the past 12+ years of motherhood. Over that time, I've dabbled in just about every option of motherhood plus making money (or not): not working, working full-time, working part-time, or being self-employed. In a weird way, my experiences trying to navigate some sort of peaceful coexistence between the work and family spheres (all the while sustaining some sort of creative practice) led me to my current gig, which is about as pandemic-proof as it gets. And for that I'm grateful.

In smaller victories, I was very happy to finally find some Fresca at a Target I don't normally frequent. Apparently there's an aluminum can shortage because all the usual bar-goers are buying and drinking more canned beer at home. 

Updated the numbers on our house, 10 years later.

Finally, one thing I failed to acknowledge in my week 22 update is that we celebrated our 10-year anniversary in our house on August 11th. I love our little house and all that's happened here and all we've done to the place, but like so many people right now, this pandemic has me reevaluating a lot of things, and where to call home is always top on that list. I'm envious of people who find themselves surrounded by extended family and close friends. I feel like both have always been or have become quite scattered lately, so I'm often questioning what roots us here and if we did move, where would we go? Seems like we have 3 options: we can stay in our current house in Oakland, sell and buy a different house in Oakland (1100 square feet feeling pretty cozy after 6 months of non-stop together time), or move out of the area altogether. Alas, where would we go? And is now a good time to make a big decision like that? I don't yet have answers to these questions but time will certainly tell.


pandemic diaries: week 22

We passed the 5 month mark on Thursday this week. 5 months since the last day the kids attended school in person (March 13th). Nearly 5 months since California issued a shelter-in-place order. And yet my brain is still processing this pandemic in weeks, so here goes: week 22. First, a quick report on distance learning. 

Not your typical first day of school picture.

Ugh, where to begin? The 2nd grader had a late, but pretty well fleshed out plan sent around to families by the end of the weekend. She meets with her teacher and full class via Zoom twice a day, once for morning meeting, and later in the day for a read-aloud. In between she does (most) of the 2nd grade curriculum included in the district's "strong start" plan. And it's been fine. I especially like the family reading included every day. We like her teacher, who's new to the school, but seems to be handling distance learning pretty well so far.

As for the 7th grader, while we were treated to a meet & greet with the 7th grade teaching team last Friday, which was great, he only met with his advisory teacher once each day this week. All week. The district and union finally came to an agreement around live instructional minutes for middle and high school in particular, so word on the street is he'll have his first mini-mester schedule tomorrow. The optional Jazz Lab and/or Jazz Ensemble, which is by audition, start up this week as well. Last year was rough for all of us, but band has probably been my favorite thing about his middle school, so I, for one, am excited he has that to look forward to each week beginning this week (even though he won't have actual band class until the next mini-mester).

Lunch al fresco, together - definitely a perk of our situation.

As a family unit, we're managing OK. We started going on a short morning walk between 8:30-9 (ish) and that has been working really well. We just do one lap around the neighborhood school, but it gets us all dressed and ready for the day, with a short blast of fresh air and exercise before we deal with anything else. 

As seen on one of our afternoon walks.

I'm also getting the kids out for an hour or so before they're allowed free/screen time each afternoon, which continues to be the time when I get most of my focused work done. Virtual gymnastics and karate continue twice a week, and we bookend our days with another short neighborhood walk after dinner. We watch a show together (still making our way through the many seasons of The Wonder Years - speaking of which, did you catch this news?) on Friday nights and do family movie night every Saturday night. Weekends are still a little too full with all the things I used to do solo during the week, given my part-time/flexible work schedule, things like grocery shopping, errands, and cleaning the house. I love that we clean the house together (chores!), but I wish we could squeeze more of those things in during the week so we could have a more relaxing weekend. Pandemic goals!

In the meantime, we did manage a pretty sweet outing yesterday, to pick strawberries at Blue House Farm in Pescadero (510 Families providing yet another hot tip). Given the heat wave we're currently experiencing in Northern California, including the freaky, mostly dry lightning event last night into this morning, we were competing with lots of folks making their escape to the beach. But the long drive there was worth it and the drive home was relatively short. Strawberry pie, which I managed to tweak to make fully vegan, is currently chilling in the fridge, but you'll have to follow me on Instagram to see a pic of the pie later tonight.

In random, listed-in-no-particular-order other news, this is a great article about what seems to me to be an overdue reckoning, of sorts, within the food/foodie/culinary industry with respect to its continued use of animal products, under the guise of "real" and/or "whole" foods. In full disclosure, I'd still describe our eating habits as mostly vegan, because we are still eating (pasture raised) eggs, occasionally fish, and some cheese, but even more sparingly. That said, I've had many, many days since late May where my diet was 100% vegan. We eat no butter, drink no cow's milk, and consume significantly less cheese than before. We've definitely made significant progress toward this somewhat gradual transition. But considering I wasn't even sure I could swing vegetarianism, and this "mostly vegan" week was a temporary boost for my diet and weight loss, which had plateaued in the first couple of months of the pandemic, I'd say we're doing pretty well.

This article about how the last remaining Blockbuster is offering up the entire store for rent for three nights to three different renters via Airbnb made me wistful for my short time living in Bend in 1996-97 and our near-annual trips there since, and sad we won't make it there this summer. Here's a picture we took of the last Blockbuster store when we visited last summer.

I've started reading The Secret Garden to Daphne before we watch the most recent film adaptation (I'm also frugal and refuse to pay $20 to "rent" a movie...at least, I try to hold off as long as possible). I loved the book as a child, but there have been entire passages I've had to skip over. I assume (hope) this has been corrected in the film version?

If you're looking for something funny to read about or in advance of a vasectomy, Rob Delaney has got you covered. I personally don't understand why any couple would consider any other form of "permanent" birth control, but that's between you and your partner, I guess.

I did some extra design work a few months ago, outside of my regular day job, and finally got paid for it. Naturally, I spent a fair chunk of it on a new cat tree for my two cats. In considering all the options, and seriously contemplating this idea for our existing tree, I wondered, publicly, why scratching posts aren't upholstered like the couch or sofa all my cats ever have always preferred to scratch. Naturally, that led to pondering the history of this building in Oakland, which I learned was indeed an upholstery business - Most's Upholstery - from 1949 until at least 1969. Read more about the Oakland Mosts here.

I want a studio this size with bulletin boards like this all the way around.

We wrapped up Fargo this week (ready for season 4 in a few weeks!) so we gave in and finally purchased the final season of The Good Place. We held out for a long time, but as Austin Kleon writes here, I consider this purchase a little present we gave ourselves. After many nights staying up a little too late watching a high-anxiety show like Fargo, I needed something a little lighter and, most importantly, shorter. This work from home/distance learning juggling act is so incredibly physically exhausting, I need all the sleep I can get.

Finally, have you ordered your Ruth Asawa stamps yet? It's truly the patriotic thing to do. Sigh.


pandemic diaries: weeks 20-21

School (100% remote) started yesterday, but more about that in next week's update.

The face I give my kids when they say they're done with their distance learning.

The Oakland Zoo reopened a couple of weeks ago. Very exciting, especially considering they were facing possible permanent closure if not allowed to reopen. We reserved a spot on the last Friday of July and it was so great to be back and have something old/new to do (and yes, we felt safe, etc.).

As we did the first week of summer break, we escaped the city during the final week of summer break for a pandemic-friendly vacation cabin camping in the Sierra foothills, on what used to be a golf course

We were pretty close to Yosemite, but opted to stay closer to the property instead, hiking nearby, biking the 6 miles of paved trails around the old golf course, and swimming in the pool, which we had almost entirely to ourselves during the three days we were there. 

S'mores cookies are, sadly, not vegan :\

We played cards, board games, and I finished two books, a bit of a record for me (more thoughts on Jenny O'dell's How To Do Nothing later). My tips for travel right now? Avoid weekends if you can, bring plenty of masks, pack in most, if not all the food you need, and pick a place with a private bathroom. We considered tent camping, but the thought of sharing bathroom facilities right now is even less appealing than usual.

We continue our daily (masked) outings/hikes, including shorter morning and evening walks now that school has started. We just do one lap around the neighborhood school in the morning, not because we want to feel like we're "going to school" so much as I hope a brief blast of fresh air and exercise will make for a good start to the day. 

Inspired by this article and my feeling that galleries and storefronts would be wise to make better use of window displays right now, for one of our midday outings this past weekend, we finally checked out The Roll Up Project in Oakland's Jack London Square (in the window is the work of Maria A. Guzmán Capron).

We watched the HBO documentary about Stockton Mayor Michael Tubbs and what he's done for the city over the past few years. Highly recommended (watch it here for free). We also watched The Old Guard and Doctor Sleep, both of which were...weird, and kind of felt like they should be TV shows instead. But not in a bad way. Speaking of movies that seem like TV shows, we've been making our way through Fargo, which has also been great for my heightened anxiety, as you can imagine.

In the mostly vegan cooking category this update - turns out these are fully vegan - we have lasagna...

...and cheesecake

Look, neither was quite as decadent and delicious as the real thing, but as is my motto lately, it's just food. And it's pretty tasty.