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 Twenty-eight (10 x2)

Day 2 of Quarantine Gratitude. It’s been a pretty rough day, and I’m disappointed by online learning for Newcomers, so this is going to be hard, but I am trying here!

  1. Gas prices. I know Trump’s an asshole, and these countries are having a bidding war right now, and I should have an electric car, but these prices are eleven years old, this is the first time I’ve filled my car in a month, and it’s a relief.
  2. Speaking of cars… it’s nice to run an errand with just a little traffic. Denver has horrible traffic, and it’s been nonexistent lately.
  3. People listening to the governor. Went to the grocery store today, and they had it all set up for social distancing with one-way aisles, a line around the store, and most people were wearing masks! It was good to not be the only one.             
  4. Speaking of food: our school’s food bank, and in particular, Jaclyn Yelich. She called me two days ago because she just knew some students weren’t getting food. In the midst of a crisis, when she had to move her entire food bank to another location, she knew that some of my ELLs were getting desperate. We made a plan. She formed her delivery team, she asked me to help, and we brought food to six of my Newcomer families. She had a whole warehouse of boxes and bags ready to go for each family. This woman has worked all her life, raised her daughter, and now has given up her entire retirement to feed the families at our school, which takes more time than a full-time job. She gives hope when there is no hope.
  5. The moon. I have always loved the moon, and in high school even won an award for a story titled, “Catch Me a Moon.” In all its clichéd symbolism, its constancy is calming right now. Knowing that it’s up there, shining bright, so far from all of our problems, connecting us all with our own special glimpses of it wherever we might be in the world, is a comfort.
  6. Gardening friends. I am certainly not a master gardener, though I bought a house from one! What a joy today to receive the generous gift of an entire tray of spices and vegetables for my garden. Their petite green stems bring life to this sunny window, waiting, just like us, for the frost to stop and the world to be ready for a permanent move to a better life that is waiting on the other side of the glass.
  7. Audiobooks. In a house of six, it’s difficult to sit down and read. So many distractions and background noise. I love audiobooks because I can take them anywhere with me–in the car, walking the dog, gardening, or cross-stitching.
  8. Cross-stitching. I will never be a seamstress, but this I learned to do when I cross-stitched baby blankets for my three girls. It is relaxing and methodical, and fulfills my need to always be doing something with my hands. And when this is all over, I’ll have a pretty picture to hang! 
  9. Work flexibility. My district and school have handled these crazy circumstances very well, and they’ve offered us so much flexibility with office hours, grading expectations, and the amount of assignments. It has been so refreshing to work within a schedule that I create, which as a teacher, just never happens. It’s so nice to have time on weekdays to run errands, to fit in an appointment, and to make my own schedule.
  10. To go with the theme of weekdays and flexibility, it’s refreshing to be able to clean my house whenever I want and not try to cram the chores in between a harried workday, harried dinner prep, and a harried life. Cheers to vacuuming on a Friday morning and a non-harried life!

 

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.

 

 

 

Dread

i have no energy to write tonight

’cause i’m trapped in  the battle of fight or flight

(i know i’m not and i can’t rhyme for shit

but this crushing feeling is def legit)

what an insult, this new paygrade i got

why should i bother with this cursed rot?

because it is the weight i must carry

since he is the one i chose to marry

of course i love him more than anything

but that will never take away the sting

of knowing that i must pay all the bills

with a paycheck that allows zero frills

 

and the frills are what makes life worth living

after hours and months and years of giving

yet this is my lot on this Tuesday night:

not quite fight or flight–rather fright, fright, fright.