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.

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.

And.

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 Forty-three

my perfect birthday,

in my mind, pre-corona,

would never be this

(there might be mountains,

a fondue restaurant, views

not in the background)

but with so much time

and simply nowhere to go

love works its way in

my middle’s painting,

a dress hand sewn by my mom,

hand-dipped strawberries

and saved till tonight

my oldest breaks, repairs me

with this card; her words

my perfect birthday

brought to me by a virus

with two gifts: Time. Love.

Coronatine, Day Forty-one

i don’t fit in here

day forty-one in this house

it could be better

it could be tulips

it could be the longest ride

or the furthest drive

 

it could be a hike

or getting up before noon

or saying thank you

 

it could be a plan

a plan, for once, that’s not mine

without complaining

 

it could be me, free.

sewing patterns, riding bikes,

walking my puppy

or someone knowing

the hard work to make this work

that i always do

 

instead, i’m a nag

i’m a demon, i’m a bitch

i won’t leave them be

 

i won’t leave them be

when all they do is leave me

for forty-one days

 

if i lived alone

i could do what i wanted

(always moving, me)

 

no one would question

no one would complain, name-call,

or outright ignore

 

it would just be me

cross-stitching my way through days

one peace at a time

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-six (10×10)

I’ve made it to the final day of gratitude! The ten last bits of gratitude for the Coronatine.

  1. Always love a bike ride. We wore the new masks my friend made, even though I’ll admit they weren’t wholly necessary because I planned a route that did not involve crowds (I have avoided the Cherry Creek path like the plague, pun intended).
  2. We stopped at a local cafe. Of course, it wasn’t the same. We couldn’t sit down, we couldn’t have a nice brunch, but we could still get some lattes and support a local business and tip the server with a 50% tip.
  3. While we were riding, we saw the Thunderbirds fly right over us on 12th Avenue!
  4. I spent a lot of time this morning reviewing our budget. I rarely do, and in fact don’t really deal with our money because Bruce is a money master. But I think it might be possible, if we are very careful, to live on my salary (which they’re already threatening might be frozen soon) and our savings for a year, so hopefully, that will give the economy enough time to recover and Bruce to be able to find work.
  5. Speaking of that salary, I am SO GRATEFUL that I just got a raise on March 1 because of my National Board Certification. What a difference that will make!
  6. I reorganized the garage, the hall closet, and the basement storage room to make more space for stocking up on supplies while we still have two paychecks. It really is nice to have time to do this without the craziness of working so many hours, especially since Bruce was going to be laid off anyway before the quarantine was put in place.
  7. I really do work at an amazing place with extremely dedicated teachers and students. Our school’s weekly news show has continued during this crazy time, and this week included an in-depth interview with an NFL player who graduated from South in 2004. He couldn’t stop talking about how influential his teachers were and how his experiences traveling to New York on a student trip and participating in the musical made high school so special. It’s so nice to hear that and to know how important schools are in the lives of students.
  8. My counselor colleague helped me (through a Facebook post) avoid paying the AP exam fees for the four AP exams for Izzy and Mythili! I really hope that this virus will help everyone realize what a scam standardized tests are. I’m so over the College Board and AP. It’s a bait and switch, most colleges won’t give you credit, and most students can’t get the score they need anyway. So I’m hopeful that all of these tests will become less important in the future.
  9. In cleaning out the garage, I found the tent stakes I’ve been meaning to put in the tent bag, and since a neighbor girl needed to earn a Girl Scout badge by setting up a tent and didn’t have her own, the tent was already out! I have been trying to get those stakes into that stake bag for three years, and it took coronavirus to make it happen!
  10. Let’s hope we can camp this summer, or at least go on hikes. Let’s just keep hoping that something is gonna give, soon. Testing, isolation, whatever it takes. Because we gotta make this work for our world. We just gotta.

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.