Coronatine, Day Sixty-one

I went to the grocery store today, and I don’t want to write about the nightmare I had last night where no one was wearing a mask.

Could you imagine, three months ago, having a nightmare about people not wearing masks in Target?

Actually, King Soopers was well-stocked today. Everyone I saw had a mask on. People at 8:30am obeyed the one-way aisle rules, and best of all? I stayed within my budget.

I made a budget for my post-work husband, starting at the beginning of May. $200 a week. It may sound extraordinarily excessive, but we’ve got six mouths to feed, and these are American prices, after all.

But I bought extras today. This bugleweed. A roll of packaging tape. And sushi because fuck Wednesday cooking.

And, my nightmares should end soon.

Because my post-work husband got a job, a non-union, non-seniority-screws-you job, doing exactly what he’s great at and wants to do forever, in the midst of a pandemic.


And you can call it what you want. White privilege. True. Luck. Absolutely. Divine intervention. Maybe.

Or just… fate. The fate that led him through the Air Force to me, that led the boy to our doorstep, that led three beautiful daughters into our home, that led his previous experience to him becoming the best candidate out of all the others being laid off.

Coronatine, day sixty-one. It’s a beautiful image filled with pets, hope, and love.

And I want to hold on to this non-nightmare feeling for as long as I can.


This cat was born to be a model. Good night.

Coronatine, Day Forty-seven (Land of the Free)

Should I continue to measure quarantine in days, or should this new life be measured in weeks now? Weeks since we’ve been to work. To school. Weeks since I went to the grocery store without spending $300-$500 trying to stock up for when we’re really going to need it.

Weeks since I made it through one day without crying.

Let’s try a countdown of weeks. Weeks until his job ends: three. Weeks until I have to spend 24% of my take-home pay on health insurance: four. Weeks until we run out of money based on this: twenty. Weeks until I will feel safe about seeing and kissing my husband, as he will no longer be an essential worker and risking his life every day: five.

Weeks until I make it one day without crying: zero.

But I thought I was done crying! I was writing gratitude posts, 10×10, one hundred goddamn things to be grateful for! On the final day, I spent hours reviewing our budget, stupidly thinking we could manage for up to a year on our savings, our tenant money, and my salary.

Because I saw this and did the math:

And what is $260×2, the bottom left plan, the only one we could afford? It’s $520. And add in dental and vision, it was going to be $650 a month, and we could just. Barely. Manage.

But it was a lie, a lie to myself, a bait-and-switch chart from the school district, a slap in the face at 5:00am this morning when I decided to open enroll. No, not $260 per paycheck. Here is the real price:

For the cheapest plan for my family. The plan with a $7000 deductible. So… other than a singular wellness-check visit to the doctor (should I be grateful this is included?), we will pay $12,000 a year in monthly premiums and then another $7000 if anything happens, and then 30% of the rest until we reach the out-of-pocket max of $12,700. Ummmm… shouldn’t the out-of-pocket max INCLUDE the $12,000 a year already spent on monthly premiums?  (Asking for a friend).

What could I do? What could I possibly do? I looked on the Colorado Marketplace website. On the initial page, I experienced another bait-and-switch: Let me tell you, we’re between tiers 2 and 3, and we have a family of five, not 3-4 like in the picture. Yay! It was looking good! We could get a premium tax credit!

So I started to fill out the application. And guess what?

Do I need to tell you? Or have you lived in the Land of the Free for all of your life and already know what a FUCKING LIE THAT IS?

Here’s the summary:

And here is what it costs without the premium tax benefit for the cheapest plan:

$1409 per month with an $8200 deductible. I couldn’t even make up these prices if I tried!

Dear Colorado and Billionaire Health Insurance CEOs: Would I be ON THIS FUCKING PAGE if I were shopping for health insurance for MYSELF ONLY? Because of COURSE it’s affordable for myself only! And of course, for myself only, according to my beautiful school district blue and green chart, I would be MAKING $11 a month, so yeah, it meets your goddamn threshold of “9.78%.” (But don’t you love how, even on their website, they put the word “Affordable” in quotes because they know it’s a fucking joke?)

Let’s return to the beautiful school district chart that shows “DPS Contributions” and I STUPIDLY thought that meant that DPS was footing part of the bill, but what they REALLY mean is the $422/month on my paycheck labeled “Cash for Benefits” which is unofficially part of my take-home salary. So their contribution is really MY contribution, or, in laymen’s terms, MY FUCKING MONEY.

And if we don’t pay? If we don’t give in to this bullshit in the midst of a pandemic?

You guessed it. We’d lose everything. Because we all know that in the Land of the Free, all it takes is one emergency room visit, one contraction of a deadly virus, one broken bone, to lead the uninsured straight to bankruptcy.

So, after seventeen years of teaching, two degrees, one advanced certification, and having seriously ONE form of debt (a mortgage, not a single student loan, not even a car payment), after working my way and paying my way through those degrees, after keeping my children out of daycare and living on a way-less teacher’s salary for eight years, after EVERYTHING…

We still can’t live on my salary.

How many weeks has it been that we’ve been trapped at home? That my husband has been going to work, entering businesses and homes and fucking medical clinics without a mask (because his company doesn’t provide masks) or any form of PPE, risking his and all of our lives before being laid off?

How many more fucking weeks will it be before he can find a job in this market?

Coronatine, Day Forty-seven. Week 7, almost 8.

Why does it feel like day one thousand, week ninety?

Because we live in the Land of the Free, where every life costs a fortune.

Coronatine, Day Thirty-eight

these organized shelves

ready to be fully stocked

with his last paychecks:

they represent us,

our Coronatine journal,

worry turned to work

work we’re still doing

with tiny pics on small screens

working for our kids

our creative kids

with a cat-house-building night

paw prints, love, and all

“new normal” softens

as we make the best of fate

on day thirty-eight

Coronatine, Day Thirty-two (10×6)

More than a month. We’re more than a month into this. Here goes day six of ten things I’m thankful for during this daily hell.

  1. Despite my husband being an essential worker, it seems that all of us are still healthy. Of course, it’s possible that we have it and are asymptomatic, but hopefully, that’s not the case.
  2. My mom made us these great masks. I’m grateful to have my parents still here, still healthy, still ready to help when needed. Even though we can’t hug, we can still see each other, and I can’t wait for the day when we can all get together and have a family dinner.  Grandparents are so essential to childhood, and my mother has spent endless hours teaching my girls to sew, draw, and paint. I can’t wait for her to have that time with them again.
  3. Speaking of masks, my first friend in Denver has been making hundreds to give away. She is a massage therapist, so her business has shut down. Now she’s using her healing hands to help the world. I first met her when I was eleven years old, where I moved to a very diverse and crowded Merrill Middle School after a very sheltered upbringing in an upstate New York town of 300 people. She was sitting behind me in math class, and when we compared our schedules, we realized we had every class together, including G/T, and became immediate friends. Just like that. I knew she was a golden soul, and she’s still shining her light in the world.
  4. Light (again). We had two FREEZING, snowy days, but of course, the Denver sun has returned, and isn’t it perfect?
  5. It is refreshing to see how many corporations are now working for the greater good. Distilleries making hand sanitizer. Sports equipment companies making PPE. We live in a capitalistic world, but at least it can help when we need help.
  6. Speaking of corporations and bringing a little more hope, NPR reports today that two of the biggest pharmaceutical competitors are working together to develop a vaccine. I feel that this is just another sign that the world will change after this is over. Companies, led by HUMANS, will realize that the common good is more important than the common dollar.
  7. And… maybe this quarantine is working? Though there were more deaths today, the hospital bed use is flattening. So people CAN collectively come together for the greater good. Hopefully they’ll remember in November!
  8. And now for a personal news report: Izzy asked me for advice about two essays she was writing today. My fiercely-independent 17-year-old hasn’t asked about homework since middle school, so this was a Coronatine-homeschooling-groundbreaking moment.
  9. With “homeschooling” comes so much extra time for art. For listening to music. For crying over our favorite songs and books and movies. And for my middle Mythili to create for me, with Avett Brothers lyrics, this beautiful picture on Procreate (through the iPad) that I cannot WAIT to one day print. I gave her the lines from the song and she created an image that is so me in every way with that beautiful full moon over us all.
  10. I almost even feel like a good mother! And according to one of my students who graduated almost four years ago, I am! Out of the blue, he wrote me a beautiful, detailed letter of gratitude. This is a student who’d seen two wars in his life, in Iraq and Syria, and worked tirelessly to finish high school in fewer than four years, finishing just as he was turning twenty-one. This is the student who sat in my room every morning, every lunch period, but would never eat; he would only study. (I hated how he wouldn’t eat, and often said so, and he mentioned this in the letter: “The things I faced before when I came to America are very hard and almost no one can survive if they live it.  The transition to life in America developed gradually, once we accustomed to the norms and culture everything started becoming easy.”) He writes to me now about how much I influenced his life, about what a great mother and teacher I am, about how much I encouraged him. And of course, being the selfless human that he is, he wants to help translate for my Newcomers, has already spent time translating for the Red Cross.

How lucky am I, thirty-two days into this hell? How lucky are we?

This actually wasn’t that hard to write after all. Be grateful.

Coronatine, Day Twenty-nine (10×3)

Here we go. It’s a Saturday, so it’s automatically easier for me to write this because my husband is at home. All you all out there who get tired of your spouse’s company, I’m sorry. I never get tired of mine.

Ten things for today that I am grateful for during the quarantine.

  1. Setting up the sprinklers. In our first house, we had a sprinkler system, and it was nothing but a nightmare. It was old, needed thousands of dollars of work on a regular basis, once burst in November and flooded our basement… I could go on. We change up our yard constantly, and not having a sprinkler system gives us the flexibility to do so. In Denver, with its endless sun, sprinklers are necessary to have greenery, and it’s a sign of spring.
  2. I have a second job. It’s mostly a curse, but I start a new class tomorrow, and I am grateful for that. I’m grateful that I’ve been doing online teaching for eleven years, and I have a pretty good idea of how it works, now that I’ve been thrust into it full time. The University of Phoenix doesn’t pay much, but in the year leading up to and the year in Spain, I had back-to-back courses, and it was literally the deciding factor in us being able to live there or not when I made virtually NO money with what the Spanish government offered. So… I keep on keeping on with this job. Sometimes it’s just a vacation fund, but right now it’s going to save our asses, again, with paying actual bills.
  3. Speaking of online learning… Screencastify is pretty much an awesome Chrome extension that I’d never heard of and now love. I have tried Flipgrid as well, but it sucks in comparison. I love being able to record videos on Screencastify that show both my face and the screen so that students know just where to click. Google has it figured out.
  4. Riona decided to get creative with the pancakes this morning, and Mythili joined in. I have a couple of little artists in these two.
  5. Egg coloring. We are not a religious family, so Easter is really just a celebration of spring. This is an extremely rare activity that ALL children agreed to do together, so as the parent of four teenagers, I call this a parenting win! And it is so nice out today that we were able to do it outside! Fabian, of course, had no idea what I was talking about, and he was mildly intrigued by this strange celebration.
  6. Riona wanted to mail art supplies to one friend and deliver some to another, so we fit in a bike ride. Everything is always better with a bike ride.
  7. The peas are coming up! I was a bit wary, but I’m happy to see them fighting the good fight.
  8. Riona finally started doing her piano lesson through FaceTime, and it has instantly motivated her to practice more! We’re trying to enjoy these last couple of months of piano lessons, because it’s something that will be unattainable soon…
  9. Speaking of artists, it’s so heartwarming to see all the artists coming together online to sing Hamilton songs or Carole King songs or have online choirs, dance routines, museum exhibits, etc…. We can’t officially call them essential workers, but art literally makes life worth living. And what do we all turn to when we are trapped at home? TV shows, movies, music, books, visual arts.
  10. Light. Pure sunlight. This is why I live in Denver and nowhere else. But in my bedroom, I’ve suffered for 4.5 years with very little light because we stupidly bought this massive king-sized bed before moving into the house. We’d been together for eighteen years and had never had a king-sized bed, so we were so excited to get it delivered the day we moved in that we didn’t take time to measure. And it has covered half of this south-facing window for the entire occupation of the Dream House. Bruce suggested cutting it down and placing the slate tiles onto the other part, admitting he didn’t have the tools to do so… But today, as we were folding laundry, he pointed out that we could just remove it. And, voila, boy-who-lives-with-us-and-can-carry-it-out-with-him, that headboard is gone! And there is SO MUCH LIGHT. My “home office” is brighter, my room is brighter, and goddamn it if my life isn’t lighter!

This is why I really don’t mind having my husband at home. He makes my quarantine so much more tolerable.

Coronatine, Day Twenty-seven (10×1)

I’ve been bitching a lot (and crying a lot), so here goes: ten good things about quarantine for ten days straight.

No promises. But I will try.

  1. I actually love being alone. The older I get, the more introverted I feel. I have very few actual friends anyway (the blessing and curse of being overly opinionated), and see them infrequently, which is fine with me. So the social distancing aspect is not challenging for me at all.
  2. Dinner. Isn’t it every working mom’s nightmare to be running between work and children’s activities and trying to do laundry and trying to grade papers and trying to keep a clean house… and trying to come up with a dinner idea every night? Well, now that I’m home all the time, I can set out meat early in the day (see yesterday’s post, haha) and pull up recipes well before noon. I can easily fit in a meal plan without feeling pressured or rushed.
  3. My garden. You are about to be overloaded with images of flowers and vegetables. Raised beds. Compost piles. Green grass growing. Perfect pink crabapple and redbuds blooming. Weed-pulling. The two hundred plants that fill my yard and take hundreds of hours of work to truly care for… hundreds of hours that I now actually have at a time of the school year that is normally jam-packed with so many activities that I can barely breathe. Well, now I can breathe.
  4. My dog. Sleeps on my legs and keeps me up half the night, cuddles right up against wherever I’m sitting and takes naps throughout the day. Jumps into my lap for extra cuddles and when he fears I might be considering going back to work. Never says no to me when I want to take him on walk number eighty-six. Trots happily beside me, leash or no leash. Has no idea why none of us ever leave anymore, but couldn’t be happier. There is no purer love than a puppy’s love.
  5. Not having to pack a lunch. Just feeling hungry at whatever random time, combining various leftovers from the fridge and never having to lug the Tupperware, the lunch bag, the silverware, the cloth napkin back and forth and forth and back.
  6. The mute and no camera features during virtual meetings which occur 90% less frequently than the endlessly wasteful meetings I normally sit through. I just want my thoughts, not my face, on the screen. It’s quite magical to have that sense of privacy, to be able to listen without being watched to see what my reaction might be.
  7. Casual Friday every. Fucking. Day. I think my comfy clothes alone could make this time actually magical.
  8. Never having to deal with silencing and unsilencing my phone. So simple, so redeeming.
  9. Seeing my children blossom in different ways (when they’re not driving me crazy). Riona building up her YouTube Channel, taking on art challenges, endlessly chatting with friends on FaceTime, getting all her schoolwork done with zero nagging and her handy checklist when I can’t ever get her to do homework on a normal day, giving me hugs, helping me when I ask for help, and being her ever-sweet self. Mythili taking walks or bike rides with me, never commenting on the length or the speed, working on her digital and painted artwork for hours or days, piecing together puzzles, easily managing her homework. Izzy creating coffee drinks to share with everyone, garnering followers with her quick TikTok videos, working on her badminton skills and perfecting how to curl her hair (often letting me braid it just like when she was a little girl). Fabian never once complaining, helping around the house before ever being asked, pulling a too-heavy compost bin off me with the strength of an ox, building a weight with a bar and some chopped old logs, getting his schoolwork done before the rest of the class meets on Google Meets each day at 1pm.
  10. I am so damn lucky to live in Denver. In a city with a thousand days of sun. With easygoing neighborhoods and walking-distance parks. With snow today, gone tomorrow. With a liberal governor and mayor who offer support for all people, broken-not-broken, immigrant or citizen, homeless or homed. With a network of streets that you could spend your life meandering through and never get lost. With my beautiful school across the street from the greatest park ever known. With bike lanes and bike paths everywhere. With everything I need to feel safe in this nightmare of unsafety.

Coronatine, Day Twenty-six

The day begins with this chicken lining the bottom layer of an IKEA/Costco bag beneath the bagels I’d actually been searching for, beneath its canned chicken counterparts, beneath a giant double box of mini-wheats.

This $22 worth of chicken, sitting at the bottom of a bag for five days and not put away into the freezer. This double-grocery trip, gloves and mask on, this bucket of Pinesol and hot water ready on the porch, me carefully removing the packaging, carefully scrubbing down every last item with the cloth rag and my made-up formula, carefully trying not to bring this virus into my house.

This chicken that I asked my oldest daughter to put away.

In my mind is everything: her loss of prom. Of not being in the first and only musical of her life. Of her not lettering in dance (her only chance of a letter). Of her high school days abruptly ending on March 13 because she’s already signed up to take all her classes next year at the community college. Of her missing AP Physics with the same pain she’d miss a boyfriend.

In my mind is everything: her words to me last week, completely out of the blue: “I’m moving in with my friend and her parents the second I turn 18.” Her friend since kindergarten running off with a boy in the middle of the night, her mother’s frantic phone calls at 3:30am, and my daughter’s candid retort the next night over dinner, after the friend had been found: “I’ve thought about running away so many times. So many times.”

In my mind is everything: soon to be without a second income, soon to be without decent health insurance, I’ve been stocking up on every last thing so that my storage room looks more like a second Costco and my freezer is (should be) filled with this goddamned chicken, and why can’t my ever-so-smart daughter do the simplest thing, show me some semblance of respect?

Everything spills out over tears that I can’t control before it’s even 7:30. Everything, everything: the wish to run away, the wish to move out, the haven’t-I-tried-to-be-good-to-you, the you-know-I-love-you-so-why-do-you-hate-me?

She is a lump in the bed, unresponsive to my words. All I can do is return to my room, flush out the tears, and record my daily video lesson for my Newcomers, which takes an hour longer because I have learned how to add subtitles for a deaf girl in my class, a refugee who cannot hear a word in any language but can draw Anime art like no one you’ve ever met.

Then Bernie drops out, the stock market immediately takes a leap of faith because this country will always be profits over people, and it seems there is no hope in the world on day twenty-six of this cursed Coronatine.

I pound my frustration into chopping vegetables for the pot roast, its scent soon spreading through the house like a virus worth scintillating.

I decide to finally make the summer trip cancellations, hoping for some semblance of refunds, but the travel industry is one of the most unforgiving on the planet, and I am left with a few small rewards and thirty hours of research and hopeful anticipation lost to sickness, layoffs, and disappointment that brings on wave after wave of new tears.

She doesn’t come downstairs for hours, and when she does, she is all made up, beautiful and young and representing the promise that everyone would want for our future. She avoids me further for another forty-five minutes, then offers to help me with the second sourdough I’ve attempted within a week, setting the timer to fold and re-fold the dough. She agrees, later, to watch Dirty Dancing with me because it’s the only thing I can think of that will cheer me up, and laughs at my pathetic attempt to chainsaw the juniper.

She makes her special sweet coffee drink for everyone, including Fabian who never in his life had heard of iced coffee, but gulps it down happily within seconds.

And I know that she is more than this stupid $22 worth of chicken. That seventeen-year-old girls say mean things to their moms just fucking because. That every problem I have listed here is a first-world problem.

And I know that small things are beginning to blossom in my yard. And I have to stop thinking about “What if” and “Why can’t we?” and start thinking about these small shoots and sprouts and flowers that pop up when I need them the most.

And my girls are still in spring even as I approach winter. They need sunlight, soil, refreshment.

And forgiveness.

And I have made it through another day of this. Just. Like. That.



Coronatine, Day Twenty-two

dough starts the morning

(impossible sourdough)

kneading, needing, rest.

victory garden

burns through this false spring sunshine

as we drill, hammer

my boy is fearless

removing every last leaf

from our high-pitched roof

my girls love salad

work the seeds into the ground

ready, row by row

we plant potatoes

in our newly-built raised bed

(plants will save us, right?)

it angles others

in defiance of the times

(ready to win this)

my baby makes art

a YouTube challenge (with hearts)

and we win this day

just in time for bread

that rises as the sun sets

we are safe. and well.