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May 22, 2020

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We have a little less than a month to decide if we are going to keep the plan to do the annual trip to vacation with my extended family. It was planned for a state that is currently under stricter stay-at-home than any of us have. We see my family twice a year at most.

One of my siblings has been letting their offspring play with other neighborhood kids since the beginning of the pandemic. My father has been out and about for his post-retirement job to a neighboring state with fewer restrictions than our home state.

My parents will be really disappointed if we (and by we, I mean mostly spouse and me who so far are the only ones having misgivings that I know about) don't go. But I have misgivings. I was sort of hoping that our state's travel ban would stick around until the planned trip so I could just say "the governor says not to go anywhere.") But the travel ban expired.

Our bubble has been expanded since the beginning. We let our kids play with 2 families of neighbor kids. We visited my parents weekly. We moved from Orange County CA where the very 1st case was identified (on the night my daughter sang at a huge Chinese New Year celebration) so we suspected that we had already been exposed. Still, we wore masks at grocery stores and gloves when getting gas and had a very robust hand washing / sanitizing routine in place. When we drove for 2 days, we continued to wear gloves/ masks and wash hands. Since being in Texas, we’ve had dinner at a childhood friend’s home, gone to church twice and eaten on the outdoor patios of a couple of restaurants. As well as the daily Costco/ Home Depot/ hobby lobby runs that come with moving and setting up a new house. My daughter went to ice hockey practice yesterday, my son to the batting cage. We are moving back into regular life.

we are doing what we can to mitigate risk for ourselves and those around us with hand washing and mask wearing when required. I used to think of myself as extremely risk adverse, but in the last 2 years, I’ve realized that by owning a business, that really isn’t the case. Our whole lives could fall apart due to circumstances completely out of my control (which is actually why we moved in the middle of a pandemic, but that’s another story). Yet, I continue because I love what I do and I honestly believe God has prepared me to do this work and that it is important. In the same way, I honestly believe that God is in control of mine and my family’s, and my neighbor’s health and if Covid is something that we have to face, no amount of self-isolating will prevent that.
Last year a was horrible year for people I knew dying— some suddenly, some after battles with cancer, some of old age. We are mortal after all and perhaps that year of mourning prepared my perspective for this year. Be smart, yes. Risk adverse, yes. But live. At my godmother’s funeral last summer, (she was 52, had twin 17-year old sons) we all talked about the things we had hoped to do with her, but also the times we were thankful we had. When the lockdown orders began and we considered staying away from my parents, I made the conscious choice to choose to make more memories instead of plans for a future we are never guaranteed.

I'm not getting haircuts any time soon. The kids missed their last dental appointment because they were at college -- they were due in February, we were pushing them out to June to get onto a schedule that matched semester breaks -- and our dentists' office is doing fogging and distancing and a bunch of other stuff. So they will go in August, if we can get them slots that are all together (meaning that three of the four rooms will be occupied by them anyway). And if the numbers look bad, we will cancel. (Two of the three kids have "bad" teeth that develop cavities quickly if not cleaned regularly.)

My FIL is a fox-news fan who already shops daily at the nearby grocery store. (Don't let's get started.) We are talking about doing a socially distanced dinner soon -- he would sit on the porch, we would sit at the table inside.

Spouse reports that early studies suggest that bookstores may be dangerous, but two of the three kids really want to go inside bookstores. I'm hoping to divert them with outdoor garden centers instead, at times when crowds are smaller. But I expect to lose that battle.

One of the kids is hearing reports from her campus that they will not be returning in the fall. One just got a return date. One will hear mid-June. Two of them very much want to reunited with campus friends. A surprisingly large number of their friends (or is it surprising?) have parents in high-risk categories, and so their families have been following social distancing closely. We are inclined to allow them to open their bubbles to those friends, but in both cases, it involves driving to AirBnB locations.

The problem I'm facing is that we're likely to be in this situation for another year. For a variety of reasons, we are unlikely to be able to seal our family bubble for a year (I work in a K-5 school; 50% of the kids in my school are not participating in virtual learning; the risk of continuing virtual school, the cost of it, is catastrophically high; I assume we will be returning to face-to-face school in August). Calculating the risk-reward stuff is already exhausting.

I believe God calls me especially to care for the vulnerable in my community. So all my considerations about bubbles and risks return always to the question: how will this affect the least of God's children? I do not want to make choices that speed transmission in my community, because that endangers the elderly. It endangers those with vulnerable health status. It endangers the poor.

I can wait on my own wants because it feels like God's calling to do so. It's harder and messier to negotiate these questions with the three young adults in my house, none of whom expected or wanted to be here this spring. But I don't have a solution to that conundrum, just a lot of messy conversations.

It's really the question of the hour, isn't it! We had been maintaining an iron bubble for the sake of our most vulnerable family member, my husband. But he has ventured out for short shopping missions lately. My daughter has been a total recluse, but today she's going to socialize at a park in masks with a friend. Some of my friends do want to visit and some don't. I miss them but I'm in no rush. I feel like it's all going to work out. Mostly I just want to go somePLACE more than I want to see someONE. I'm so bored and stressed.

We've been both doing shopping trips weekly. Me to the grocery store, Dom and I both the the pharmacy for milk and other supplies. Includes occasional runs to the liquor store, too. Masks are required here so everyone is wearing masks. Stores are only open at 40% capacity (our grocery store closed one entrance and has a guy at the door logging people as they come in). They also have one way aisles and tape marking six-feet distances. I feel like stores are a fairly low risk with those precautions.

So far the kids have been going on hikes in local nature preserves but not going out. Local stores are asking only one household member at a time and we've been abiding by that.

Last week my nephew graduated and was commissioned in the Army. So my brother-in-law organized a surprise parade. After the parade we parked and got out and visited for about 15-20 minutes while staying at least six feet apart. No hugs is hard for a Sicilian family! My poor father-in-law kept trying to get up to hug and kiss everyone. But that gathering was within my comfort level, knowing that everyone has been isolating and was keeping their distance. But it was so so good to see people in person and not through a screen. We hadn't seen them in person since Christmas.

But I'm not sure about big family gatherings inside or that last a lot longer. We'll see where things go over the summer. When we were gathering ahead of time for the parade a lot of the "friends" group were out of their cars and hanging out with a lot less distance than I'm comfortable with.

Mass is set to reopen here next weekend and while I'm very glad to see there's going to be limited capacity and spacing and required masks and all, I'm still feeling a bit hesitant knowing that our parish is in a town that has a very high case count-- all our area does. I really want to go, but I think we might hold back a few weeks. Not least because I'm not sure how the kids will manage the masks.

Have no idea when scouts will be in person. The cubs have started doing zoom pack meetings twice a month, but we've missed a few. The BSA girls haven't had a meeting yet and are sad about canceled camping trips and activities. They're talking about doing some badges via zoom. Dom has already done one round of badge counseling online. It was weird, he said. Scouts above all need to be in person, so it's hard.

Today we had our first farmer's market of the year-- preorder online, drive through, the vendor puts your order in your trunk. The vendors and organizers were all in masks. It felt bizarre, but it was good to see some of our friends, albeit at a distance. We've been going to the same market for more than 10 years. We got coffee at our favorite coffee shop-- they're serving it out the window. It's nice to get out.

We're not sure what we're doing, really. Taking it one week at a time. One decision at a time. Do we feel comfortable doing this? Ok but what about this?

We're not courting risk, but we'll need to take some on. I have an extremely talkative, deeply extroverted three-year-old and a cute but fairly active eleven-month-old, and my husband and I both work remotely. Right now I'm doing half-days on FMLA (they expanded eligibility to people who lost childcare), but they will run out in mid-June. This wil sound melodramatic, but the primary thing I have learned during lockdown is that my husband and I are heartbreakingly bad at being the working parents in a smallish apartment of a very extroverted and argumentative three-year-old, so quitting my job to stay-at-home-mom is just about the worst thing I could do for everybody. Hence, resuming daycare as soon as they'll let us.

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