This pandemic journaling is a tough gig sometimes.
On the one hand I want to entertain whoever might be reading this, and after a while, though each day holds something just a bit different, the sameness of the days runs together, and that’s not fun to write about or to read about. On the other hand, I want to bear accurate witness to the sameness of these days– they deserve that and they should stand for what they are without my interference.
It’s why I don’t write every single day, though it might be good for me to do so. This week has been an up-and-down one. Tough hours, tough days, come right up close to easy good moments. There is no buffer.
Here are some things I find myself grateful for:
Cody is still making cold brew coffee. It is bananas how good it is.
Nadiya from the Great British Bake Off is posting IG stories of how to use up all your food scraps, and it is bananas, literally, because I learned you can COOK AND EAT banana peels, and I’m gonna do it next week probably.
Daily (nearly) walks with Nathan and Svea.
Time with Svea. Being a working mom is hard and I’ve missed some things in her short life. Now I have all of this glorious, precious time, and I love it. (I also love that I get this time while Nate is home too, because then he can take her when we get tired of each other.) (But for real, she is just the best thing in the whole world.)
Mercy. I am so thankful God is merciful because I am a rebellious, prideful person and this quarantine is bringing it allllllll out.
The other day (the days run together and I don’t know which one I’m talking about–I could figure it out but I don’t feel like undertaking the mental gymnastics required–I know it was this week at Some Point) was a Tough Day and I felt at the end of my rope. Then a thunderstorm came, and it poured down hail for a few minutes, and then I looked out my window and saw a rainbow, and it was just exactly the right moment for that to happen.
His ear is not deaf and his arm is not short. This is in His hand and under His control, and so am I. We are praying and praising our way through this as we disinfect groceries and lesson plan for Monday’s online classes to start meeting (my 9th grade class has already spammed the email list with memes and rickrolls) (Lord have mercy on me) and give that chubby baby of mine baths and take photos she is not interested in.
We were meant to take a walk today, but the weather interfered. After a glorious morning, the rain set in and ruled the afternoon. It’s hard to tell here with weather, though. It could be sunny again in a little while.
It was a productive morning: some spring cleaning got done (admittedly out of necessity rather than motivation). We have some neighbors who do not respect social distancing…
The house we rent, you see, is intruded upon by ants. When we moved in last year they were very welcoming but a little disrespectful for boundaries. They were legion and it was months before we conquered them. With the weather warming up they are again making excursions into our kitchen, so some defensive cleaning occurred in order to remove temptation and encourage the ants toward the path of righteousness, meaning, not the kitchen.
Ants do not recognize the state government’s authority. Fun fact of the day.
As with everyone the reality of the quarantine and of the pandemic comes in waves for me. I felt one roll over me earlier this morning, as I thought hopefully towards the summer. Instinctively I withdrew from the thoughts, and from the hope, too, and that was jarring. I’m learning there is a balance to be struck between surrendering my plans without necessarily surrendering hope.
A week from today my classes will resume and switch to an online format. I anticipate hilarity and headaches will follow. I’m currently building remote lesson plans and getting excited to work with my students.
I’ve been cooking and baking basically non-stop for the past few weeks. Does anyone else have to psych themselves up to try a new, unfamiliar recipe? I have to read it a few times and think it through for a day or two before I feel okay about actually making the attempt. Currently, I’m contemplating homemade Oreos or these buns we used to get in Korea that I’ve seen under a few different names…but if anyone has suggestions I’d love them.
(UPDATE: It’s now sunny. Maybe a walk is in store after all!)
I love staying home and not wearing professional clothes and never wearing shoes.
But I am rediscovering one reason why I enjoy the enforced rhythms of weekday routine: having Things To Do keeps my mind busy so that it has less time and energy to fixate and spiral over things I can’t fix or control.
That has been the hardest thing for me. I feel like I’m holding my breath, waiting for the virus to take someone I’m close to. Thankful that it hasn’t–praying that it won’t– praying for those it has– but waiting, waiting, waiting in case it strikes more closely. And the waiting produces nothing but fear and dread and a short temper. I only know one way to effectively combat it. To have long, honest conversations with God and with my people, to pray for one another, and to think of myself less. I guess that’s three ways?
Despite the “what day is it?” fog of disorientation that has accompanied the quarantine, each day so far has had a distinct characteristic. Yesterday was Friday and it was a Good Day. I went for my first solo walk and realized I need to do more of those. My introverted husband realized that sharing the house with everyone would be very different from his typical working from home scenario.
And I started a 30-day devotional thanks to some ladies on IG, including a favorite singer/writer of mine (Jillian Edwards). I am reading and mediating on Andrew Murray’s Abiding in Christ.
Today is Saturday and it is also a Good Day because I got to go grocery shopping. I find joy in it, because I love grocery shopping, but there was tension in the bodies and minds around me and I could feel it. The stores were fairly well stocked and people in general seemed to have an in-this-togetherness which is not a word but I can’t think of another one that describes it.
I came home to fresh cold brew and a baby who has been rolling over like crazy which is good news for her motor development.
And I am looking for ways to think of myself less and others more. If you have ideas leave a comment or call or text or message me please.
Sleep in, wake up with Svea around 7.30-8. (Nate is an early riser and is usually already up. He’ll have run, showered, made coffee, and had time in the Word before either of us girls is awake.) This morning is a slight variation: Svea woke up at 4. Nathan, Sainted husband, got up, gave her a bottle, and put her back down for a nap before heading out on his run.
Pump. (Since her first week of life, Svea has preferred to get her milk through a middleman, namely the bottle. She’s not interested in factory direct. She wants the boutique experience. This means I have been exclusively pumping for over seven months now. Praise God I’m down to four pumps a day.)
Nate feeds Svea and reads her Bible stories while I pump and read the Bible. I handle the milk storage and make breakfast. (I don’t usually eat breakfast but on quarantine we have been eating breakfast burritos on the daily.)
I catch up on my sister Marco Polo group and IG and FB. (I scroll Twitter for as long as I can stand it until the pit in my stomach gets too big and I shut it down.)
Svea time. Diaper changes, more bottles, sitting up, rolling over, engaging, laughing, walking around the house, trying to get that greatest of rewards-her gurgly laugh. It’s the best thing. Nate is usually working during these moments but has a bit more time these days. (I am on my phone during this time too, sometimes. Story after story of exhausted health care workers, interspersed with memes and homeschooling jokes.)
Pump again at noon.
Suit up and prep Svea for a walk or, as in today when it was drizzly, a drive. We walk the road outside of our neighborhood. It’s fairly busy and quarantine had had no discernible impact on traffic. The shoulder is wide and it’s popular with bikers and pedestrians, but we don’t encounter many when we go out. We do a 2 mile loop with Svea in her stroller. She falls asleep and naps for most of the walk.
At home again, I make lunch and then shower while Nate hangs with Svea. I think about dinner and baking. I think about school. I think about Nate and Svea. Her forehead feels warm. How warm? Are my hands cold? How does my forehead feel? My hands are a little cold.
I switch Svea duties with Nate so he can get work done. He has a few hours worth of remote lessons to teach so Svea and I stay in the bedroom. I do laundry or work on lesson plans and feed her another bottle. While I feed her I’m usually back online or watching something. Sometimes the internet cuts out, which our provider warned us could be a recurring issue with the increased demand. When that happens the room is still and I try to identify 5 things around me that I can hear. Yesterday it was: highway traffic in the distance. Birds. Svea breathing. I didn’t make it to five. That was all I heard.
Nate finishes lessons and meetings and I hand off Svea to make dinner, or I pop her in her bouncy seat and set her in the kitchen with me. I try to obey the baby books which say I should engage with her in moments like these so I narrate what I’m doing while I cook. It’s bizarrely stressful. I have new respect for cooking show hosts.
Between 5-6 I pump again.
Our housemates are home from their respective jobs. One is a housepainter and the other does siding, so both are still able to work, and as they each work alone the worry about exposure is lessened. We all eat the same thing for dinner and eat together loosely. I do most of the cooking but in general all four of us take turns. It helps that we all like to eat and we’re all fairly good cooks.
With the quarantine Nathan has upped his musical output dramatically. Every spare moment he is practicing or playing something. He can play, I think, any instrument he touches. We love hearing him play, but Svea might love it most.
Sometimes we watch movies together. Today we watched “The Meg,” a truly enjoyable piece of hot garbage that an actual human adult received usable, functional money to write, including the line “That living fossil just ate my friend!” Pure poetic cinema. I do so love terrible movies.
Other times we watch shows. Nate and I have very different tastes that converge in very specific areas, including sports documentaries. The Formula 1 series on Netflix is good, and we recently finished a series about the Australian cricket team. Do I understand cricket? No. For reasons I cannot explain we have recently been deeply invested in shows about the operation of 5-star hotels in Ireland.
Around 7.30 Svea begins issuing notice that she is displeased with the current state of affairs. Bath, bottle, bed follow suit. This is always flexible depending on Her Majesty’s mood. Tonight we put infant Tylenol in her bottle and she falls asleep within minutes. My hands aren’t cold. She’s warm. Slight temperature. But enough to make me say casually to Nate in the kitchen at the end of the night, “I don’t need to be worried, right?”
Tonight I have a virtual prayer group with friends from a church in Canada. We share and pray for one another and it’s what I need as I rock Svea to sleep, her chubby hand in its accustomed spot grasping my chin.
I bake dessert. So far in quarantine I’ve made my sister in law’s chocolate chip cookies and flapjacks, which are not pancakes but British chewy bars. They’re easy (I use Deb’s recipe from Smitten Kitchen, in news that will shock no one) and sweet and nutty and distracting. Tonight’s rendition didn’t turn out as well as last night’s but I still eat probably half the pan.
We divide chores in our shared house and this week I’m on trash and recycling. I take the barrels to the curb. The sky is ragged with orange clouds and beyond them the black sky is vividly punctuated with stars and planets. Am I imagining how bright they are? Is it the decrease in light pollution? I decide I don’t care and spend an extra minute just staring. Breathing in the smell of this afternoon’s rain on the accumulated dead leaves and underbrush of winter, the smell of growth that happens in the dark, the smell of the garage where Mark, our housemate, merrily dismantles and re…mantles? cars. When I come in and ask Nate if I need to be worried about Svea’s temperature he says, “No. She is fine.” And hugs me. We both believe this. And yet.
Its 10pm. Svea is down. Final pump of the day. Nate has been up since four and will be out before I’m done pumping. I’m the last one up, washing pump parts, storing milk. Tonight I can’t stop thinking about Svea’s (very low, probably nothing at all) temperature, so I decide to write another blog post. Because I am distracted writing, I pump longer than necessary. Ow.
I shut out the lights. Skip the skincare routine for tonight. Make a mental plan to inventory all my fun Korean sheet masks tomorrow. Make a mental plan for school lessons. Make a mental plan for brötchen tomorrow. Make a mental note to check Svea’s temperature as soon as she wakes up in the morning. Pray. Sleep.
Note the optimism of the title, dear reader. Not the pandemic because that’s not exactly optimistic but the “no. 1.” It’s almost like I never learn not to promise things?
I’m drawing encouragement from various sources to document this singular time in the world. Is it singular? Will it be? Questions no one can answer. What I know: I have run out of my secret stash of dark chocolate already and I can’t stop making breakfast burritos.
An update because I haven’t written in this space for lo, these many days:
We (I) had a baby 7 months ago. No one can pronounce her name, which is Svea Pagaard. She is the Greatest Child in the World ™️. I am not great at parenting but it is much less (and more) terrible than I assumed it would be. Now everyone is Svea to me and everything in the world breaks my heart.
I have taught high school for three years now. I thought I would hate that but I love it so much. This year I taught yearbook against my will and I also love that so much.
We still live in Western Washington in a little rental house. In the wilderness around our house grows blackberries, apple, quince, figs, and very sour plums. From the front door which is the back door you can see Dyes Inlet, and in the winter when a tree in a neighbor’s yard is leafless and the weather is clear you can see Mt. Rainier.
I am in much worse physical shape than I was in when we left Korea and probably much better mental and spiritual shape, but I am historically woefully limited in the gift of self-assessment, so who actually knows?
Because of my sister-in-law Nina I’m very fond of the Enneagram. As far as I can tell I am most probably a 6w7? But see above for self-assessment capacity.
The major takeaway from the above should be this: Jesus has used my entire adult life teaching me that I do not know what is good for me, because I keep getting that entirely wrong. I think I’ll hate what ends up being what I love so much. Will I ever learn? Stay tuned to find out.
We are under Quarantine Lite (no armed guards enforcing in the streets, etc.) and many people will certainly lose much more than I, but my mind these days wants to spiral into every dark possibility that lurks in the corners of my mind and my Twitter feed.
To combat this I am leaning hard on the Word. I am confronting anxiety in prayer. I am wearing out Marco Polo. I am walking outside with Nate and Svea. I am baking and cooking. I will be reading as much as I can with a 7 month old. In 2 weeks I will be teaching full time online. I am taking small steps and resisting the urges to be furious, critical, judging, selfish, impatient, unforgiving. I am seeking to abide in Christ.
I already know I will fail. I already know He will not.
Here’s a photo of Svee and me, in my makeup free quarantine glory, and her unbearably cute smile.