pandemic diaries: weeks 39-42

Tomorrow, the first day of a new year, rounds out week 42 since the last day the kids attended in-person school, which is how I'm keeping track of time during this pandemic. Which means they've been schooling via distance learning for exactly one school year. Wow. Thank goodness playgrounds only re-closed for a few days earlier this month. I don't even know what to write about it anymore. I refuse to normalize any of this, let me just say that (and I think that teachers should be vaccinated sooner than later IF it allows schools to reopen; otherwise, don't bother bumping them to the front of the very long line if schools won't reopen until kids are vaccinated, too, something that's not likely to happen until fall, at the earliest).

But enough about school. Let's talk about holiday shenanigans and fast-forward a bit to winter break. My DIY knock-off gingerbread train, inspired by the 2013 Harry & David holiday catalog, got some fresh traffic these past few weeks. I realized I never posted pics of my 2017 gingerbread studio (based on my 120 square foot backyard studio, of course).

This year I made a dumpster, complete with candy flames. It didn't hold up too well and did not, as I fully expected it to, go viral. Alas, it was fun to make and pleasant to consume, unlike most things in 2020.

We got our tree from the neighborhood lot and a wreath from Fairyland, which just announced it will be closed until at least the spring. Needless to say, while the tree and decorations have already been taken down, that wreath will stay on our front door until all the pine needles have fallen off.

As Oakland-proud as I may be, relocating is still a very real possibility in 2021. That said, we've been moving forward on a few projects around the house, prioritizing items that also fall in the bucket of things we feel like we'd probably need to do in order to sell our house if and when the time comes. 



On Christmas Eve Eve I was tasked with keeping the kids out of the house for about six hours while our interior doors were replaced, something I've wanted to do since before we closed on this place 10 1/2 years ago! So what did we do all day during a local stay-at-home order? Outdoor ice skating in the 'burbs!

As you all know (because you read every blog post in full, correct?) we've been "mostly vegan" since late May. Holiday treats have proven challenging for avoiding dairy, but I'm going to try to redeem myself after today (okay, maybe starting on Monday) by participating in (a probably dry) Veganuary

Not vegan :\

Most days I am truly, mostly vegan, but I continue to eat pasture-raised eggs and a wee bit of cheese in said eggs. So it shouldn't be that hard, right? The dry part is just something I've never done because I've never felt like alcohol was an issue for me, having 2-3 drinks per week total on the weekends only. Other than beer Thursdays, however, which started when I was doing my long training runs on Fridays (because, carbs...more about that in a later post), and if we felt we'd earned a margarita on Taco Tuesdays. So, yeah, you get the idea. It's easy to bend the rules and drink almost every day and I just want to see how I feel after a few weeks of no alcohol. (Speaking of running, I absolutely loved this essay by Lyz Lenz.)

Lots of kid-friendly suggestions for your viewing pleasure this month, including Hilda, which Daphne binge-watched and is now watching again. It's really cute and clever, based on the graphic novels by Luke Pearson. We also watched Soul, which was quite lovely. The middle school band from Elias's school (not including him - I believe it was all 8th graders and some alumni who are now in high school) perform in the beginning of the movie and during the virtual premiere. This particular middle school band is the main reason cited by the middle schooler for preferring to stay in Oakland versus moving elsewhere, at least through 8th grade. Mr. Pitt-Smith is a real gem of a teacher.

And this just in: my 30 year old sewing machine still works! Daphne has been nagging me to dust it off ever since she tried sewing machine sewing at summer camp a year and a half ago! The last day of 2020 seemed like a good day to finally give it a go (alas, I never did learn to bake sourdough bread).

Otherwise, I don't (yet) have any deep reflections on 2020 since time is arbitrary and let's be honest we'll still be very much in the thick of things come tomorrow morning, but I will leave you with this, some of the things we'll remember when we look back on this year. My hope for 2021 and beyond is that things like Black lives and postal workers and craft projects with kids will continue to be more important than celebrity culture.

See you in the New Year!


pandemic diaries: weeks 32-38

Breaking my record (which was previously four weeks between updates), it's now been another SIX weeks since I last updated the pandemic diaries. Since air quality has been a consistent theme over the last several updates, why not begin with weather? We're currently in the middle of yet another red flag warning, not because of excessive heat, of course, this being December and all, but because things are still very dry, which makes any kind of wind event potentially dangerous. If you don't think climate change is real, come to California.

Adding to this sense of déjà vu is the new stay-at-home order affecting much of California, including five Bay Area counties, in advance of hospital ICU capacity hitting 85% (Alameda county is currently hovering around 75%). The only change that really affects us is the re-closing of playgrounds, which I frankly think is mostly unnecessary. 

I'm personally pretty bummed about museums, too, and glad we managed to sneak in one more SFMOMA visit before they closed, again.

Halloween came and went. I dressed up as the birth of democracy (it's a TP Parthenon and I'm the golden statue of Athena, duh), accompanied by a witch and a penguin.

I jokingly threatened to leave California if Prop 15 didn't pass. Sadly, it did not pass and here we are, still living in California. That said, like a lot of folks right now, forced by the pandemic to spend every waking (and sleeping) minute in cozy houses with kids and spouses who would normally be at school and work, simultaneously pondering what roots us in a particular place, I've been perusing Redfin way more than I ought to. Leading contenders for a potential relocation include Sacramento and Portland. Or staying in Oakland, of course (ask me again if we're still here for fireworks season which is followed closely these past 3-4 years by wildfire season). On a related note, considering all the reasons why we like living in/near cities in the first place, here's an interesting convo in part with SF mayor London Breed about why cities are (still) so expensive.

I wrote a bit in my last update about how businesses in Oakland are closing one after the other, specifically video game museum The MADE. On a more positive note this time around, Oakland's donut savant, which closed its downtown location before the pandemic because of development and related demolition in the area, recently reopened. And now they're just one neighborhood away, a short 10-minute walk door to door, god help us.

I've been pretty down on distance learning since the beginning (I'm not a teacher and homeschooling my kids was never motivation for motherhood), but there was one silver lining in late October when my 2nd grader got to visit Luvin Arms animal sanctuary in Erie, Colorado, a location my 7 year old reminded me several times is 18 hours away. Pretty cool thing, I suppose, that they wouldn't have been able to do otherwise. But I still hate distance learning (this week, by the way, is week 28 if you include the 11 weeks last spring). And the conversation in Oakland, at least, is a total hot mess, with parents frustrated with the union, teachers frustrated with parents, and kids caught in the middle (and arguably the ones who will suffer most because of this from an educational and social-emotional perspective).

Oh yeah, the election happened too. Interesting to reread this, a brief blog post I wrote five days before the 2016 election. Sadly, I think we find ourselves as a country still very much in the same predicament, but I'm hopeful voting Trump out (and who knows, maybe even McConnell in the Georgia run-offs in January? can you imagine??) is the first step to making some of the many changes we so desperately need to move forward. Leading up to election night, I made a "songs for anxiety" playlist GenXer that I am. The election was finally called on Saturday, while we were driving to SoCal for a pre-Thanksgiving pandemic-friendly visit with my brother and in-laws (all masked, outside, yada yada yada). Trump still has not conceded. But that's okay; Liz Plank did it for him

And it's not just Biden and Harris I'm excited about. Biden's German Shepard Major also makes history as the first adopted rescue dog in the white house (they're also getting a cat!).

Since it was just us for Thanksgiving this year, and still mostly vegan as we are, we decided to celebrate Thanksvegan instead (we even symbolically adopted a turkey by making a donation to the National Audubon Society)! 

Moving right along to the next holiday, 'tis the season for the snack basket for delivery folks, which I remembered to put out early this year (interestingly, the item taken most often is water).

We'll get our tree and put up lights and decorations this weekend, in honor of what would be my Mom's 65th birthday on Friday.

Persimmageddon 2020 was epic. The above picture is the second batch of persimmons we put out for neighbors to enjoy (there are 7-8 persimmons in each of those bags). And there are still easily 100-200 persimmons on the tree to pick this week/weekend.

One of my New Year's resolutions that I plan to get a head start on over winter break is to spend more time on creative projects. I've spent so little time in the studio over the last couple of months. The biggest chunk of time I spent in the studio not on meetings for my day job was spent cleaning and rearranging - again - the 120 square foot space (I think the third time was the charm; pretty pleased with the current configuration). 

In the process, I finally recycled all of the postcards from the various design/print projects I tackled in grad school. It felt good to purge, but didn't open up nearly enough space (postcards are insignificant in size, after all).

But enough about me. For your viewing pleasure I recommend Sex Education. For a little ear candy, following up on this developing story, listen to They Might Be Giants 'The Statue Got Me High.' "And though I once preferred a human being's company, they pale before the monolith that towers over me."

Last but not least, this blog celebrated its 15th blogiversary in true pandemic style (I wrote about the 10th blogiversary here). Which is to say I did very little to mark the occasion other than to acknowledge it on the internet. 15 years of blogging and still no book deal. Sigh.