Social Distancing. Day Three.

Building the garden and cleaning up the yard. Such simple goals for three weeks off, no travel, no Starbucks, no restaurants.

Staying home with four teenagers who want to do nothing other than mope and defy. “Why can’t we see our friends? Why can’t we get a Frappucino? Why can’t there be school? Why was my musical canceled? Why do I have to spend time with my family?”

And so the doors shut. The chores get left unattended. The no-phone-for-twenty-four-hours rule gets enforced for three out of four children, spiraling me further into the “I HATE you” zone.

Building the garden and cleaning up the yard, I tell myself.

It is a sunny day, as always, and I begin to rake out last year’s overtaking of sunflower plants, the dried grasses, the remnants of onions, to load them into the compost bin.

I rake the soil to see how soft it remains after seven months of resting under snowfall and sun, freezing temps, whispers of fog, violent gusts of wind. It is supple, loose enough to filter through the tongs of the metal rake, to easily sift through with seeds.

I listen to my audiobook as I rake, listen until it’s done. Each child comes to the door to see what I’m doing, but none of them will agree to help (gardening is not on their chore list).

I begin to lay out the soaker hose, a necessity in this dry state, and realize it’s broken in too many places to fully function.

And here is where coronavirus has followed me, on a day when I, too, decided to put down the phone, the endless scrolling, research, reading every article ever written about this disease, the daily cases, the daily death tolls, reading the ever-present news that details how our country is nowhere near able to handle this pandemic.

I cannot continue my garden, my laying out of black snake-like coils, without going to the store. How dare I go to the store for such a non-essential thing as a soaker hose, exposing myself and everyone there (because who knows which of us has it)?

But I have three weeks, at the very minimum, in this house, in this empty, bitter house, and if I don’t plant this spinach today, it will be too late.

And so I risk it. I pack dishwashing gloves and put them on in the parking lot. I am careful about what I touch. About staying six feet away from everyone. I overhear dark conversations. “Why are you here today?” “Well I sure as hell ain’t workin’. The government shut down everything, all the restaurants.” “Did you see my application?” “Yes, but we just can’t be hiring people right now. This coronavirus is taking everything down. Normally I’d be hiring ten people.” “Do you have any bleach?” “We haven’t had bleach for days.”

I take the gloves off before touching my car door and soak them in bleach when I get home. And I take my new hoses and configure them four times before they’re perfect, before I feel confident that they are coiled in a way to keep my garden going all summer.

I look at my two spinach and one radish seed packets. They are so light in my hands, so inadequate, and remorse floods my mouth like vomit. “Plant your spinach every ten days throughout early spring in order to have a continuous crop,” the packet instructions inform me.

Any other year, this wouldn’t matter. But now all the shelves of every frozen vegetable in every grocery store are completely empty, and I am. SCARED. Soon it will be fresh vegetables gone. Soon it will be milk. Soon it will be us.

And I only have two packets, and spinach can’t sustain us.

I decide to use just one, setting an alarm on my phone for ten days later so that at least we’ll have two weeks of “a continuous crop.”

Building the garden and cleaning up the yard. Every year I do this, bit by bit, in between working and skiing, throughout the spring. Now I have three weeks, three glorious weeks, to distribute this massive undertaking each day. I even made a list this morning of which tasks to do each day: mowing the lawn, cutting back old plants, spreading mulch, trimming trees, picking up dog shit.

Now I have three weeks, three sleepless weeks, to discover what will prevent me from continuing. To argue with my teens and husband about stranger danger (friend danger just doesn’t sound as good). To sift through social media and see all the creative suggestions people have for what they can do with their kids, everything from learning about new topics through books and documentaries to vast art and Lego projects, and I can’t even build my garden, get through day three, without having a panic attack about visiting a store, without feeling like every moment of every day for however long this lasts, I will fail them.

My fifteen-year-old refused to play Monopoly last night, refuses to go to the dog park today. The dog park! The chillest, friendliest hike known to legs. “I don’t want to spend any time with any of you!”

“Even if it means losing your phone for another day?”

“I am NOT going. I don’t want to be near anyone.”

“Spend time enjoying your families,” my principal writes in an email. “Get to know each other on a deeper level.”

And I wanted this post to be about the beauty of my garden. About how it represents renewal, rebirth, about how, in six weeks, I’ll fill my bowl with spinach, and maybe this will all be over?

But it won’t be over because my husband had already been laid off before this even happened, and what now? What are we supposed to do now?

We are supposed to make a list of what yardwork we can accomplish while trapped at home.

To be proud that said-fifteen-year-old finally finished the leaf pile of this forsaken puzzle three months and three quarantined days after we started.

To snap pictures of this my-kids-are-all-teens-now-so-i’m-getting-a-puppy face as he happily bolts through the dog park.

To start again, to try again, tomorrow.

Who knows? Maybe I’ll build a garden. Maybe I’ll clean up the yard. Maybe I’ll get my kids to come out of their rooms.

And maybe I’ll get through another day.

 

The Story of my Life

I can’t write about all the things I wish to write about, but it has been HELL at work.

It’s not the kids (it is never the kids).

You know the burdens if you have carried them. Weights of national, state, and school district policies that bear down on our daily instruction. Weights of internal decisions that are never made with the voice of a teacher who sits each day with those kids. Weights of parents who sometimes don’t have any idea what it’s like to gather, with full attention, the love of thirty-two strangers. Every. Day.

And here we are, Friday Night Lights, chasing our peaks.

The sun is setting later now, and our ski seasons are coming to an end. I can’t even write the sentence without crying.

Because skiing is a luxury afforded to rich white people, which we have been for exactly four years and nine months.

Because this is our last little weekend getaway for a long time.

Because whenever we open our home, it seems like the world closes its doors.

But check out this sauna:

It comes at the very affordable $94 rate for the singular queen-size bed and free breakfast, just 47 minutes from the closest free parking lot (shuttle to the slopes).

It comes quickly and too hot and it feels amazing on my too-cold skin. My skin that has shivered for a week with news I don’t want to carry.

It is the story of every American. That, even with two raises, even after a teachers’ strike, even after committing seventeen years to a profession, I cannot afford to pay for my house or my bills on a singular salary.

It is the story of my husband who can fix anything you ever asked for with his hands, from laying a hardwood floor to replacing a toilet to connecting fiber optic wires to fully cleaning the impossibly-dirty grout in my parents’ bathroom… But who did not earn a degree, only four years of service to this God Bless America Country that has done nothing other than save us from down payments on properties.

It is the story of health insurance that we will either no longer have or can no longer pay for because I make too much to qualify for Medicaid but shouldn’t I provide shelter for the four children living under my roof?

It is the story of my life.

And we have less than three months to figure out exactly how to win these mountains back.

 

 

 

Snowed Day

So Steamboat didn’t happen. They closed I-70 right after we bought chains, and closed 285 right when we’d gathered our courage to leave.

The roads are atrocious, the highways are closed, and it took so much planning and money and sub plans and my entire car packed for six people… And it’s heartbreaking.

And our Airbnb hostess tried to argue with me about going the Walden route and not refunding me.

Bitch, I’m a Taurus, and I WILL spend an hour on hold and send links to every damn CDOT warning ever made to get my money back.

So now I have a snowy weekend with this snow-loving Pomapoo, my money, and my family safe at home.

I love you snow, but you’re kind of killing me right now. Time to get out the Nordic skis.

My Last One Hundred Miles

for my last one hundred miles
i will
pound the pavement with
every last bit of angst
that aches to pour out
with the spin of my tires

for my last one hundred miles
i will
let loose the screaming soul
within my soul
and forget for a moment
why i am here

for my last one hundred miles
i will
be the dream i dreamt of me
chase the sun into the horizon
and allow the night to
envelop my desires

for my last one hundred miles
i will
pound the pavement with a plan
that will carry me to the top of
the mountain,
to the next one hundred,
one thousand,
two thousand miles.

Races (Raises)

in the midst of this exhaustion-induced chaos.
i attempt to take control,
but it seeps away as the screams increase,
as the moment builds up,
tense block by tense block,
tears dripping down scream-reddened cheeks,
the clutching of toys
that refuse to be shared,
the day giving in to a night that will be
filled with frustration.

i am not one of them
even though my heart races,
my voice incalculably raises,
but you forget this.
soon we are all pouting our way to bed,
our sorrow and frustration
wrapped up with the heavy quilts
hand-sewn with the love that
should be holding us together.