This is a brief daily journal of thoughts during the time of COVID-19, from Cleveland Ohio. As of the latest update, neither I nor my family have the virus.
Monday March 16 (Day 1): First day of kids home from school. All food and supplies good, spirits good. Susan went to the office but came back after 2 hours because she was there alone and getting paranoid about someone coughing in the hall. Kids are playing together and reworking the song “The Cat Came Back” to include more fart references. Amelie’s laptop arrived today. Generally peaceful day with some work accomplished. Molly feels we shouldn’t visit Toledo as planned; to be discussed as a family tomorrow.
Tuesday March 17 (Day 2): Meetings and work, interspersed with errands and time with the kids. Picked up supplies from Camille’s school (very organized), made a bank deposit, dropped checks for Neal and our housekeeper in the mail along with Susan’s ballot. Today was to be primary election day but it was postponed to June for public health reasons. Loaded up on bread from the Breadsmith, had lunch with the girls (they packed their own lunches this morning with Susan). The kids and I walked Marla, then I had a couple more meetings. Picked up some prepared food from The Gourmet Guy, and stopped by Mitchells for ice cream pints but they were already sold out and closed indefinitely. Didn’t feel like working when I got home so I read a couple of pages of Harry Potter and took a nap til dinner time. The kids played together some but mostly used their tablet and laptop. Susan did an art project with them before dinner. Susan and I discussed how many dishes we’re using and how quickly we’re going through food, now that we’re eating exclusively at home. It’s St. Patrick’s Day and also Marla’s birthday. (She’s 12.) The girls made Marla birthday treats from crackers, peanut butter, and mayonnaise. I added a sweet potato fry and dino chicken nugget, and we topped it off with birthday candles (“12”). It was a good day.
Wednesday March 18 (Day 3): Susan discussed travel plans with Molly and the rest of her family last night. We will not go to Toledo for now. Her father is taking some of his backlogged sick time from work (he has loads) and her mother has closed her shop. They are mostly staying home. I had meetings and work today, and time with the family. Susan created a schedule which integrates Amelie and Camille’s school assignments, and our work. It gives both of us time to be responsible for home stuff, and time to dedicate to work. It was pretty easy to follow the first day, even though we didn’t plan to follow it strictly. There was some tension between Susan and I about who should go to the grocery store, and when. Kind of heated discussion, but we worked it out. We will try to stick to one trip a week for now. I wanted to go fly the drone a bit but didn’t get to it before the afternoon meetings and rain. The kids are pretty wound up but we’re all getting along. Nail salons, tattoo shops, massage studios closed by the state today. Current plan with the schools is to reopen in 2-1/2 weeks but the governor and most people feel it will extend at least to the beginning of summer. NORCODA board meeting tonight and Drew (PHASTAR) said he expects 8-18 months with this as the new reality.
Thursday March 19 (Day 4): First day of Spring. Today would have been the day we left for our spring break trip to Mexico. Settling in to a routine at home. The kids are doing well. Susan went to Whole Foods early this morning and was able to get basically everything on our extensive list. There were purchase limits in place and the store is open 1 hr early for seniors. Our fridge and cabinets are stuffed with things we normally buy. We’re eating the things we prefer and enjoy.
So far, this is mainly a logistical inconvenience. We are now responsible for our professional daily schedules and deliverables, in addition to our childrens’. I flew the drone a bit this afternoon as I didn’t feel much like working. I see lots of people out walking, and lots more runners throughout the day. The daily update from the governor and health director didn’t announce any new closures. Everyone is still free to move around and travel, and we are limited only by business closures and our own ethical boundaries.
Friday March 20 (Day 5): End of the first week. The kids have been playing together all day and are getting along remarkably well. What I originally thought was an absurdly large backstock of hand soap dispensers is turning out to be rather comforting. Overall I’ve been easily distracted from my primary work this week.
On the upside, old things are being addressed. Since I’ve been forced to shed a large amount of volunteer work I’ve been making my way through old tasks and to-do lists, which is delightful. The same is happening in our kitchen. We’re eating all meals at home and working through the lower layers of items long-buried in the freezer or the backs of cabinets. There is still plenty of food on hand and more coming in from the store, but we’re being more intentional about understanding and using what we have on hand.
Saturday March 21 (Day 6): Susan and I worked up a long grocery list for me to get from Heinens, but Susan was concerned about the store being busy this morning, and thus a high risk. I think she’s being overly cautious but agreed to not go. Reflecting on the week over breakfast with the kids, Amelie said it felt like “a really long, boring weekend”.
We discussed shopping again during the day and felt a short trip for a few essentials would be acceptable, so I went for bread @ Breadsmith, and a few items from Heinens around 2pm. Heinens was busy and there were bare spots on a few shelves, but overall the store was well stocked. I used a sanitizing wipe on my shopping basket for the first time in my life.
Today we didn’t follow our working schedule (it’s the weekend after all) and the girls were in pajamas all day. I made a fire in the backyard pit after dinner and burned a few old logs and sticks from the yard while talking with my mother. She shared stories of life in Kansas when she was a little girl, and of her mother buying a house at auction for $100 (without Pappy’s blessing), and of moving day adventures in which Pappy surprised my mother by having her drive their truckload of fragile items and jars of precious food on the country back-road. My mother being a new driver mostly just drove from ditch to ditch but managed eventually to get the load a mile and half to its destination unharmed. We both had a good laugh over these stories, which felt cathartic after this week.
Sunday March 22 (Day 7): Watching Paul Simon play guitar and sing in a live stream from (presumably) his house. I always enjoy the positivity in his lyrics. He ends the stream with “Stay safe, everyone. Stay well.”
Today the governor announced a statewide Stay at Home (aka Shelter in Place) order that starts late Monday night and remains in effect for two weeks. I’ve been thinking about the global economic fallout that’s coming, and the millions of people living today in marginalized communities such as refugee camps, where medical assistance is barely available and wholly unprepared for what’s coming. Those aren’t places where you stock up on lunchmeat and chocolate from Whole Foods and ride out the inconvenience while juggling conference calls food prep and laundry, and worry about maximizing your kids home learning opportunities.
I’ve been thinking about how respiratory illness tends to knock me out pretty badly anymore (those 16 early years smoking Marlboros did not help). I’ve been thinking about the stories I hear of people who aren’t elderly or immunocompromised who caught the virus and got super sick. Suffocation is one of my deepest fears. I’ve been thinking about how I’m a 1099 contractor at my day job and whether I’m really ready to be among the first staffing cuts when belts need to be tightened and departments need to be “right sized”.
Just one of those days I guess. On a lighter note, I tackled some yard cleanup projects, relocated some plants to better spots in the yard, and spent some time in the sun. The girls played in the front yard and chased each other and played in the dirt for several hours, despite the 42-degree weather. They have a lot of pent-up energy and they are so lucky to have each other right now.
Monday March 23 (Day 8): Back on the work/school schedule today. Susan is taking vacation from work this week and doing more activities with the kids – mainly art projects. I felt better about work and being more productive, but still easily distracted by the news. I see lots of political outrage right now as the white house and supporters are starting to change their tune again, from focus on the epidemic to a focus on restoring the economy. Tonight the Ohio stay-at-home order takes effect, but it doesn’t change anything for us. We were already operating that way. Susan and I are both grateful we are weathering this storm in Cleveland, vs 3-4 years ago in Denver. Our finances are stable, we have some financial reserves and runway, monthly expenses are much lower, kids are old enough to entertain themselves for long stretches, no employees depending on us for their livelihood, no need to sell projects or pester clients to pay their bills. So lucky.
Tuesday March 24 (Day 9): Very productive day, focused on the work things that should be priorities, and feeling good about it. Molly had a FaceTime session with the girls this afternoon to teach them a bit about maps and geography, so that’s wonderful. Amelie and I looked for bears and stuffed animals in peoples’ windows today during our lunchtime walk, but there were none. Susan and the girls cut and painted a ton of flowers from colored paper a couple of days ago, and they put them all up in the front window today. It’s beautiful. Maybe we’ll see more sprout on the block.
Wednesday March 25 (Day 10): At the end of the day we took advantage of dry weather for backyard camping. After dinner we had a fire in the fire pit, cooked a menagerie of girl scout cookies together in foil, and took turns reading riddles. We all had a good laugh. The kids and I slept in the tent, but came in during the night because a nearby noise was keeping us awake and we had to pee.
Thursday March 26 (Day 11): Beautiful weather in the low 60s today. I had my first run in several weeks, and boy did I need it. My mood was significantly improved. Today would have been opening day for the Cleveland Indians, and by all accounts the weather is usually pretty crappy. What would have been the nicest opening day in a long time, didn’t happen. Cleveland sports just can’t catch a break. A historic US unemployment claims report was released today. 3.3 million, an all-time record. Also today, the Fed chairman: “We may be in a recession.” Um… yup.
Friday March 27 (Day 12): COVID-19 new cases have been falling in China for a while, and recently also in Italy. Still on the rise in Spain and the US. Largest jump to date, in Ohio. Now officially 1,137 but everybody understands the real number is much higher because all states are severely limited in available testing. Tests are prioritized to medical personnel and some others (not sure how the rest are determined). State governors and health departments continue to lead the actual pandemic response, and the US president has daily press briefings where he avoids responsibility, deflects blame and attacks journalists. It’s emergency management theater. The CDC chief is really trying to make the best of it, but he can only do so much. Today a new “Doctor” appeared in news reports to compliment the president and praise his scientific understanding and business acumen. Barf.
I went to Heinens (grocery), The Breadsmith, Rite Aid, and CVS. Grocery availability is good, TP very limited and sanitary wipes are nowhere to be found. The kids are in good spirits, but their lego game the last couple of days has been an elaborate game that includes elaborate houses, many characters, Elsa and her remote castle, a hospital, coronavirus patients, and a cemetery.