My husband and I were watching the news and we saw the story on the new preliminary Covid vaccine that boasts almost 95% effectiveness. Also keep in mind that since the election I’ve been rewatching/listening to Hamilton and I’ve been inserting lyrics from the show into everyday life whenever they fit the situation at hand. You’d be surprised how often this is forced by me actually happens, to my delight.
Me: Oooh, with this news plus the election results, it’s finally the light at the end of the tunnel that’s gonna get me through this shitty winter.
Me: I think the hardest part is that we’ll have to…(I start getting a sparkle in my eye)…wait for it, wait for it.
H: Ha, yes.
The news, discussing which emerging vaccine may be the best: The best vaccine is the one you get, so don’t wait around for a particular brand. The vaccine will be rolled out in stages, with healthcare workers the first in line…
Me: Ha, this reminds me of how they rolled out the vaccine in Contagion. I wonder if we’ll get cool wristbands?! Will there be a run on the pharmacies to get them? I wonder how crazy it’ll be! I picture myself at the front of the line with somebody trying to cut in front of me and I’m screaming, I’M NOT THROWING AWAY MY SHOT!
H, giving me the side-eye: I’m sure it will be fine. What I’m wondering is if the virus will mutate in the meantime, making these vaccines less effective.
Me: Ugh, that would suck. I’m sure if that were to happen, all the scientists and vaccine-producers would feel so helpless…help-leessssss!
H: …I suppose.
Me: And in the meantime, we’re still stuck social distancing and mask-wearing. Trying to stay alive til this horror show is past. Chick-a-plao!
H: …are you still singing over there?
Me: You know that until we have a vaccine I will never be satisfied!
H: I think you should talk less…smile more.
Me: Awesome, wow.
Shout-out to Lin Manuel, cuz this woman’s ready to be in the sequel.
Here’s something that annoyed me but I did not allow to ruin my day.
We went hiking today. The weather app on my phone did not predict rain. I live in Oregon. I’ve lived here for almost exactly 7 years now. Fricknfrack, I should know better to carry rain gear with me wherever I go after Labor Day, whatever the app may or may not say. I’m just so tired of lugging my entire household with me whenever we go on an outing. Jackets aaaaaand rain jackets, hats, snacks, water, plastic bags for when things get wet and/or dirty, extra snacks, and now I’ve included masks and hand sanitizer, plus the toddler potty in case the restrooms are closed due to Covid. Ugh.
At any rate, we got rained on. In true form, the kids complained at first that we weren’t going on the long hike. And then later on, they complained that they were “wet” and “tired.” We didn’t get completely drenched and we didn’t have any complete meltdowns so that’s considered a success in our book. The kids reported that their favorite part was the snack. Parenting high-five!
2. Here’s something that brought tears to my eyes and made my heart happy
We watched the SpaceX launch today. A multicultural, international team of three men and one woman got catapulted into space today and they’re headed to the ISS!! My eyes teared up as soon as they reached max q, a few minutes after launch.
What made me even MORE happy was to see a panel OF THREE WICKED SMART LADIES giving us commentary after the launch. I can’t remember a time where I have ever watched any sort of big, important science endeavor be presented and interpreted for the public via a panel of womenfolk. Moving forward, I’d like to get to a place where I am no longer astounded by this. But for now, good on you, NASA and SpaceX.
3. Here’s something that tickled my funny bone.
Yesterday, a lonely, lonely person with a sexual affinity for clowns stumbled across my blog and I feel like I owe that person a heartfelt apology.
I’m so sorry you didn’t find what you were looking for here. I hope you enjoyed a post or two before moving onto…more edgy entertainment…but if not, I understand too. The heart wants what the heart wants. Good luck to you!
I woke up around 8:45am Pacific time this morning.
I could hear my kids playing downstairs and my husband was stirring next to me. I was enjoying the moment, just lying there, peaceful and rested and warm.
My husband grabbed his phone and started checking things. He thrust his phone in my face. I could tell it was a picture of Biden, but without my glasses I couldn’t read it, and so he read me the headline.
Then I grabbed my phone and, instead of reading the news, I first saw a barrage of celebratory gifs from my friends. I started laughing and couldn’t stop. It was such a release, the laughter.
I looked at the time and realized I should get moving if I was going to make it to my Saturday morning zoom yoga class. I’ve been missing yoga lately, eating way too much Halloween candy, my nightly teeth-grinding has ramped up. I’ve been wound really tight lately, as many of us have.
I crammed breakfast into my mouth and shut myself in my son’s room and logged in. It was especially hard for my mind to stay in the here-and-now during the class. It was running all over the place, thinking about the future and how Kamala made history and ending this pandemic and the laundry and oh I need to clean and do all the things.
But my body. It’s hard to describe other than a release. I’ve been doing yoga so long that the poses and the flow feel extremely natural in my body. For a long time I haven’t had to think about what comes next, my body just does it. It’s literally muscle memory. And the simple act of moving my body broke all these tiny dams within me that were storing stress. worry. trauma. pain.
The roof of my mouth and my jaw started to ache, from the nightly grinding. My glutes relaxed and let go. My right shoulder gets gummed up frequently and that, too, started aching. My core woke up and felt alive, activated, welcoming the use. My knees and back were popping, crunching with the movements. I’m developing a headache as I type this, still sitting on my yoga mat.
But somehow this all feels…good. Or at least appropriate. I wouldn’t be surprised if tears develop for me later on, another way my body might purge. Reminds me of how people tend to get sick while on vacation, when their bodies are finally allowed to relax.
I’ve seen footage from friends around the country, some of which are marching, dancing in the streets. I’m doing that in spirit right now. I’m right there with you, finally breathing a sigh of relief.
Today, I was able to shut the world out for several hours in the best way – I read my book semi-uninterrupted.
I say semi because I have small children. People with small children, or who once had small children and maintain an accurate memory (read: not the kind of biased memory that leads you to grow old and senile and shout ENJOY EVERY MOMENT! at moms in the grocery store) know exactly what I mean. For those who have never had the intense pleasure, I’ll briefly elaborate: interruptions ranged from forced verbal admiration of random lego pieces pressed together to wiping butts to trouble shooting the online math platform to an obligatory distance high-five for getting 100% on the online math assessment. All in a day’s work.
What am I reading? Funny you should ask. Those who know me, or who have read this blog for long enough know that I have a terribly unhealthy habit of choosing varying levels of traumatic entertainment media, now being no exception. And actually, now is a classic combination of some poor choices mixed with some bad timing. See, for October I thought it would be fun to choose a spooky book to read because I enjoy Halloween more than most human contact and I was concerned that Covid would steal away my joy. In an attempt to capture some additional spooky Halloween spirit, I chose Bird Box by Josh Malerman. It was a great choice for several reasons: 1) There was no wait at the library, and 2) I had already seen the movie sooooo how scary could it be, really?
In the middle of reading the book, I was not-so-gently reminded just how vulnerable my nervous system has become since 1) giving birth to and parenting two small children, and 2) the anxiety rollercoaster ride of Covid quarantine, among other things. The book struck close to home because it’s a mom trying to survive with one daughter and one son (I have those things), and she’s doing it while wearing a face covering and trying to stay away from dangerous people and entities unknown. Add those real-world similarities to the forgotten fact that BOOKS ARE LEAGUES SCARIER THAN MOVIES and I was toast. I usually read books at night, in bed, with the red filter of my headlamp. For this book I had to turn on the light.
Fast forward to now. Because I don’t know how to quit you, I decided the sequel to Bird Box would be an excellent idea. And I’m not sure how it happened, (read: I’m lying and I know exactly what happened) but my friends started chatting about the Haunting of Hill House and I thought my husband had watched it and he’d only seen the first episode and was willing to see more. I was intrigued, and in my pre-motherhood days I enjoyed a ghostly horror flick from time to time but DEAR LORD (no spoilers, please, dear readers). I think we’re averaging 1.5 episodes per week because my nerves can’t take any more than that. And watch is a loose term, because the way I’m getting through these is by cuddling with my emotional support husband, with a blanket, and oh look it’s a scary part up comes the blanket over my eyes! And then my husband narrates what’s happening so I’m still included in the action.
Me: OMG! What’s happening now?!
Husband: She sees a hand.
Me: What?! What’s it doing?
Husband: Moving. It looks dead.
Me: Just a hand?! Is there more?
Husband: Now she’s scared, she’s backing away. She’s gonna escape up the ladder.
Me: Are you sure?!
Husband: No wait. More than a hand. It’s got her…it just pulled her tongue out through her anus…..aaaand now she’s dead. You can look now.
We’ll finish the series eventually, at the cost of my remaining sanity.
And so my motivation to sit and read for an extended period of time today was threefold: 1) I enjoy reading for long periods of time, 2) I wanted to shut out any and all election news and take a frickin break, and 3) For the love of all that is holy I need to finish this book because I can’t be reading a scary book AND be watching a scary series at the same time because my. nerves. can’t. take. it. but failure is not an option and I refuse to just up and quit. So there you have it.
Also, I didn’t intend for this blog post to become one of many lists, but now you see how my mind works so you’re welcome.
Welcome to Day 1 of NaBloPoMo, or as I like to call it, HolyShitIForgotINeedToGoPostSomethingBRB. I really enjoy writing, but give me a deadline and it almost immediately becomes a yucky chore. So I do this month to challenge myself and I do it in 2020 because why the hell not? It’s a healthy outlet that I will add to my pile of leftover Halloween candy and leftover Labor Day booze (that’s a thing right?). Also, I figure that this healthy activity gets me out of things because now I just hole myself up in my room (ok, the bathroom) and yell SORRY, CAN’T! I’M BLOGGING!
Without any further ado.
I am basking in the Halloween afterglow, you guys.
We saved it, and I’m so glad.
Halloween is my very most favorite, but my expectations were appropriately low because hashtag dumpster fire. As you know, I usually make or put together as much of the costumes as possible. I don’t like to buy the premade costumes cuz that feels like cheating.
While my kids are still young and impressionable, I also try to wrangle my living companions into a family group costume and this year was no exception. Because I wanted to do something easy, I convinced my kids that we could all be The Incredibles. Sure, it’s been done, but it would be fun to be a superhero family who runs around putting out dumpster fires! Plus, I figured it couldn’t be too hard to find some red clothes and slap on some black masks.
Well….after some online shopping and price comparison, I realized that buying all the materials to make 4 Incredibles was going to cost about 2-3 times as much as the premade ones. Soooo, I found myself giving in because 2020 has sucked all my energy. I filled my Amazon shopping cart with the costumes we’d need and then I headed to the local Halloween popup store to see what they had. I called my husband from the store sounding frantic because I was second guessing what I was about to do; my husband probably thought I had been in a car accident or something.
Me: Brian! The store doesn’t have all we need! I’ll need to get some on Amazon!
B: Then do that.
Me: But what if they don’t fit!! And this one’s too expensive! Do the kids even want to be The Incredibles anyway?!
B: Just come home. Are you okay?
Me: I’m not okay! Nothing about this is okay! Do we need any more fake blood? Maybe I’ll just use my own.
B: What? Put down the knife and come home. I’m hanging up now.
The takeaway here is that 2020 has also zapped my ability to make any kind of decision.
It’s true that originally my kids wanted us to be characters from Frozen. We haven’t done that Disney movie yet for Halloween, and my kids are still obsessed. I had originally vetoed the idea because there was no way I’d be able to make all those costumes during Covid when I can’t spend hours at Goodwill like I usually would. But. Now I was considering…gulp…buying premade costumes. I was this close to pulling the trigger on the premade Incredibles when the ghost of Covid Halloween came to me and said, hey. hey you. put down the knife and look at me. first of all, there is such a thing as too much blood in a Halloween display. please. let’s keep this classy. second. you’re allowed to buy premade Halloween costumes during Covid. I give you permission. make your kids happy.
And that’s how I was finally able to buy an Olaf costume for my son, an Anna costume for myself, and spruced up an Elsa costume that had been given to us for my daughter. My husband was to be Kristoff, but those costumes were super expensive, and so my mom came to the rescue! She bought a quarter zip black jackety thing, took out the zipper and sewed on the fake fur and burgundy trim. We used the same fabric for his chic burgundy sash. Lastly, my mom fashioned some awesome curly-toed bootie out of felt and fake fur that strapped on over his normal shoes. He added a black beanie and bam! We were set.
As soon as these decisions were made, I felt so much better. Not only were we gonna be what my kids actually wanted to be in the first place, but I realized that I was gonna get to play a Disney princess for the first time in my life!! And not just any princess – one of my favorites!
What was better still was that we were able to plan and enjoy socially distant Halloween fun that made the holiday feel just as fun and festive as any other year. I helped plan and execute a mini parade where families watched from their parked cars, and on Halloween night we did a treasure hunt fully masked with some friends.
One thing that continually brings me hope during Covid is how humans refuse to give up. So many of us are making the most of this situation and we’re finding the most creative ways to still have fun and be as safe as possible.
A dumpster fire, you say? Let’s all sit around it and roast our fucking marshmallows. I hope everyone had a happy and safe Halloween!
With Covid floating around in the air and threatening to jump into our face holes, we’ve had to get really creative about how we have fun, amirite?!
And if you know me or have read this blog for any reasonable length of time, you know that Halloween and creepy shit is the only thing that personally makes the slow, steady descent into winter oblivion worth staying conscious for. Adding Covid into the mix this year requires even more creepy and dark humor.
I started decorating my house – inside and out – for Halloween early this year. Let’s just say I was inspired by the orange smoky death cloud that hung over the greater Portland (Oregon) area for a good chunk of September. We were stuck inside and it looked like The Road outside so I figured celebrating the day the dead returns to the earth was a good call. Maybe they [the dead] could give us some pro tips on how to suffer in style.
I picked up an apocalyptic DVD bundle at the library and took advantage of the extra couch time. I revisited The Road and Hunger Games. I watched 1984 and Clockwork Orange for the first time and now I think I’m all set to hide under my bed and sip my Xanax milkshakes until the Supreme Court decides if it’s okay that Americans can experience safety and joy ever again.
I’m struggling now to remember how it came up, but a few of my mama friends and I text pretty much daily while hiding from our children. We were discussing Halloween and what freaked us out (I think?) when my friend mentioned she had a creepy doll stashed in the back of her closet that gave her the heebie-jeebies. Her mom had picked it up at a garage sale with care, love, and my friend’s daughter in mind, but I’m guessing my friend didn’t want her daughter to get sucked into The Upside-down so into the closet it went. “Isn’t this how most horror movies start?” you ask. And you’d be right.
We (and by we, I mean me) made a few jokes about haha, wouldn’t it be funny to scare some mom-friends by leaving the doll on their porch in a bloody mess and then running away? And then my friends texted back a tentative suuuuuure and changed the subject.
I then started texting only my doll-having friend to see just how willing she was to use the doll in this way. It will be hilarious! I said. It’s the perfect socially-distant creepy fun! I said. LET ME HAVE THIS. I screamed. At long last, she sent me a pic of the doll and I swiped right, my friends. This was happening.
My friend didn’t want to completely fuck up her doll so we compromised and I made a creepy sign with red paint to accompany her. We also wanted to scare the crap out of our victim friend without making a huge bloody mess on her porch, because we enjoy maintaining friendships.
Not to be outdone, the afternoon before we were scheduled to scare our mutual mama-friend, my doll-having friend dropped off the possessed plaything on my porch without telling me and then texted with: knock, knock. For one quick second after I opened my door, she scared the poop out of me.
Touche, my friend. Touche. The messers become the messees!
And so sweet, little Gwenivere (more on this later) came to live at my house for an afternoon. You guys, I had never seen a doll quite as uniquely creepy as she was. Her facial expression was very dead-in-the-eyes meets resting bitchface. When I picked her up, which I don’t recommend, she was surprisingly heavy in an unsettling way. She slumped over when set down. And the worst, by far, was that she fucking smelled. I can’t even describe it, but I’m going to try. It was a scent that used to be sweet, or was trying to be sweet, but missed the mark. It was like super, off-the-charts sweet that had gone sour with age, under a layer of mothballs. And the scent clung to everything it came in contact with. Sadly, I realized this after it was too late.
I set the doll at the bottom of my stairs for the afternoon and she scared my husband and me no less than 10 times. My daughter wanted to keep her. NO! I shouted, SHE’S NOT FOR YOU AND SHE’S LEAVING TONIGHT. Before I grabbed the doll to go scare my friend, my daughter came up and whispered in my ear that she had kissed the doll goodbye. Dear lord, I really wished she hadn’t. She [my little girl] smelled like rancid Koolaid mothballs.
During our magical afternoon together, the name Gwenivere for my little guest just came to me, out of the blue. My husband later informed me that it was the name of the ill-fated van from Onward, which we had watched the previous night, but I prefer to believe otherwise. On a whim, I decided to look up the meaning of the name, just to see if it fit.
Gender: female. Origin: Welsh. Meaning: white ghost, phantom.
My doll-having friend picked me up and we drove the short distance to our other mama-friend’s house. It was dark and windy and raining. In other words, perfect. Gwennie stunk up the car with her evil wrath but man it was worth it. We successfully deposited her and her bloody sign on their doorstep without the dog barking (until we rapped on the door), and then we ran behind a parked car to watch and giggle.
The initial response was underwhelming, but what turned out to be hilarious (from my point of view, anyway) was that my friend’s two daughters instantly loved Gwenivere and wanted to keep her. We were texted a pic of her girls cuddling with the smelly, possessed demon and I was laughing so hard that tears were streaming down onto my mask.
Needless to say, the fun won’t stop here. I think Gwennie and her sinister stank needs to be introduced to all of my friends. She has so much more love to give.
I’m feeling pretty drained. That’s an understatement.
I’m trying to think of a good metaphor for how I feel that won’t make me sound suicidal – because I’m not. But I have no energy left, you guys. I’m just trying to make it through the days and sometimes I dare to hope and then other days my state gets set on fire or RBG dies and I find myself at a new low that I didn’t know was possible.
Three things happened all at once: summer [weather] ended, fire and smoke made it impossible for me to breathe or leave my house for ten days, and distance learning began for my 1st grader. It sent the precarious balance we had achieved in our household over the summer into a quiet, sluggish chaos.
In 2007 the fire alarm woke me up and my boyfriend (now husband) and I grabbed whatever was in front of us and ran out of our burning apartment building. For months after I would go to sleep and hallucinate the smell of smoke. That thick, putrid, choking scent that makes one’s pulse jump. My heart would race, I’d get a rush of adrenaline, and then I’d have to get up and check to make sure there wasn’t any actual danger. After that, it was pretty hard to calm down and get any rest. It was bad.
I was in my master’s program for counseling psychology at the time and I had started therapy for the first time as a client that previous year. When the fire happened I was on a break from therapy in an attempt to stretch my mental health benefits to last until the end of the year. American healthcare – you suck. At any rate, when I returned to therapy I mentioned the fire and the difficulty sleeping I was having. PTSD, you say? Oooh, crap. So this is what it’s like. It’s always so much easier to diagnose other people. Well, shit.
And, while definitely not as bad, it came back recently. Our sense of smell is so powerful, so tied to our emotions. And the smell of smoke is a warning to everyone – it’s supposed to be. But put that together with absolute terror and it’s a horrible combination.
Plus, the chest pains I was getting from the smoke signaled anxiety to my brain aaand cue positive feedback loop. Sore throat, headaches. I felt physically ill on top of everything else.
With my bucket being pretty freaking empty, I’m struggling to be a good parent, teacher, wife, and friend.
As far as the friend thing goes, I struggle to be social. Being social in person really sucks because I’m worried about Covid the whole time. Being social, while I still enjoy it, often requires energy I’m not sure I have. It’s hard to pay attention and remember details. I find myself so worried about my and my family’s health and safety that it’s hard to be concerned with anyone else’s enough to ask. It’s not that I don’t care- I do. Stress just seems to push everything else out of focus. I’m really sorry if I forget about that thing going on in your life. I’m sorry that I totally forgot to ask how your new job is going. Sorry If my texts come across the wrong way. I feel like my stress and survival mode make everything come out wrong, even more so than my socially-awkward normal. I still love and respect my friends, and I still want to be friends.
I worry that writing about my mental health issues sounds…wallowy, self-centered, whiny. Repetitive. Fishing for pity.
While it might be repetitive (and none of the rest), I decided that talking/writing about it helps me. It’s honest, it’s real. If it helps normalize mental health struggles – great. But this is mainly for me. It’s a journal, it’s documentation, it’s creative expression, it’s cathartic.
On Monday night, a severe windstorm ripped through Oregon and caused the already-burning wildfires to explode westward and threaten many communities. My area is still technically on alert, just in case we may need to evacuate, although it seems that the threat of fire has diminished. What we’re left with is putrid smelling smoke that has settled into our valley and is seeping into homes. I’ve heard that the hotels in my town are full of evacuees from neighboring rural communities. Besides getting groceries, the mail, and gas for the car, my family hasn’t left the house in 4 days.
My outdoor yoga class was canceled. Meditation class was canceled. Farmer’s market was canceled. The library closed. School was canceled. My husband’s workplace closed for the remainder of the week. The only good part- apparently Oregonians will only pump their own gas during a pandemic firestorm. Mmm, the smell of sweet, sweet anarchy.
This suuuuuucks. Just when I didn’t think that things could get much worse, holy crapnuggets they did. Now I find myself just wishing, bargaining (with whom, I have no idea) that things would go back to how they were last week, when we had pandemic with sun and blue skies. Either that, or for the rain to come early. Imagine that, me wishing for rain.
If nothing else, all this shit just forces me…us…to dig even deeper into ourselves to cope. In whatever way we can. For me, often times it’s shutting out the world. Often it’s getting creative in how we entertain the kids.
I find that I’m giving myself more and more permission to do what feels good. Staying up late. Sleeping in. Eating sugar. Having more caffeine. Numbing out with really craptastic TV. I’m trying to choose coping skills that aren’t completely unhealthy. Finding a balance looks quite different when you’re standing on a sinking ship, with one end submerged in water and the other bobbing up in the air.
My world keeps shrinking, and with that comes a narrowed, more focused view of what’s important. I got an email about my son’s boyscout pack yesterday and IT WAS FULL OF EXCLAMATION POINTS!!!! This year is gonna be so great you guys!! My eyes glazed over and I sent it flying into a folder where I wouldn’t have to look at it. Not important right now.
So. This brings me to the mental list of things that I find myself newly thankful for.
I am thankful that our power didn’t go out.
I am thankful that the outside temperature has dropped, so we can shut off our AC and still be comfortable indoors.
I am thankful that we got outside and enjoyed the sunshine and fresh air when it was here. Boy do we miss it now.
I am thankful that we own a beautiful home with plenty of space for my family.
I am thankful that we had N95s, a respirator, and air filters before all the smoke hit.
I am thankful for firefighters who are putting their lives on the line to save human lives, animal lives, wildlife, and property.
I am thankful that we haven’t had to evacuate. We’ve been able to hunker down in the comfort of our own home.
I pull the blinds closed, so I can’t see the smoke or the creepy orange sepia glow.
Now I can fool myself into thinking things are normal.
I stand in the shower and zone out while the water pours over me, in an attempt to wash off my grief. The dread. It’s so much that it clogs the drain.
I turn the TV on and eat sugar and numb out. Forget the outside world. Forget the trauma. I get to yell at characters who aren’t real. Consequences that don’t exist. I judge their choices because I know better. People I’ll never see. Places I’ll never be.
Why not stretch it out? It’s easier when the world is dark. One more show.
I go through the routine of getting ready for bed. Like nothing’s wrong. Next I huddle under the covers and read. Old favorites or new worlds. Vampires that sparkle or dystopian kids doomed to die. I judge their choices because I know better.
Eventually, sleep. Far too late into the night, but it’s comforting.
Anything to put off waking up to a world that is sick and burning. Glowing orange and choking on its own smoke.