Ummm. I’m nearly at a loss of what to write. It all seems pretty trivial at the moment, but maybe a little triviality is part of what we need during these unprecedented times?
First off, how are you all? I truly believe the nation and world is in a collective stage of grief. Many of us have had our fair or unfair shares of grief in life, so it is a familiar feeling–only different in that everyone is experiencing it. There is so much uncertainty in where this is going and what the world will look like when it’s “over.” I’ve spoken about it with others experienced and studied in grief, we are grieving the loss of an imagined future. This is normal and okay. Sometimes it’s good to have a way to label our experiences and emotions. Please be kind to yourselves and loved ones while we navigate these murky waters. Cracking under the pressure is expected, crying at the most menial of occurrences is a healthy way that your body and psyche forces you to check in, ignoring it all is a natural coping mechanism. Acceptance that this is happening is the goal. It is where we can find our own integrity.
I have actually personally been very well and relatively stress free during this all. We have acknowledged our privilege–we have the company of our kids and my husband and I really like each other. We still have money coming in. We have plenty of land to recreate on. Alternative, frugal living is already a goal of ours. We eat “weird” things that are readily available at the grocery. Our lifestyle hasn’t changed that much aside from our often overly packed social schedule. I feel guilty saying it, but it’s kind of a relief. I find that I can deal with this “real” stress better than the stress associated with the daily grind and social expectations. My stress is now more deep seated, beyond the shallow stressors of timeliness and cleanliness. It extends beyond my own misguided ego–to those who are struggling financially, those who are living in dangerous or violent situations, those who cannot go outside, those dealing with deaths and sickness of loved ones whether they be covid related or not. It’s a lot to take in.
If any of you have gotten “screen time” time updates from your phones over the last couple of weeks, you might have been surprised/aghast/embarrassed at the uptick in time. I will not share my daily number of hours (FAR too embarrassing…) but I will share that my phone time has doubled in recent weeks (thankfully not exponentially week by week, we’ve seen too many exponential graphs lately).
With all of this extra screen ogling, if you are like me, you’ve seen the memes. They are topically funny–jabs at the economy, light-hearted parodies of well known ideas, manipulation of headlines, confused pets, those sorts of things. There are also the numerous song covers. The most revealing meme I saw was about the songs and rhymes that have always come out of times of war and plague. Think “Ring around the rosy…” It is one way that we make sense of tragedy and collective grief. We can’t take things too seriously all of the time.
I know some people are shielding their children from the reality of what is going on, and I accept that as your family’s way to navigate this weird part of history. As an educator, I’ve embraced the idea that any information can be delivered to any age and stage of development in an appropriate way. My kids know that there is a new coronavirus spreading and that it can be dangerous for some people to contract it. They know that “corona” is latin for crown and what the virus looks like. They know that viruses are veeerrryyyy small and the basics of how they spread and multiply. They also know that this is their time to embrace their special power of staying home and away from their friends and community gatherings.
It is hard, but important. There aren’t many times when our little kids can protect adults and grandparents! This is their time to be heroes. As in many times of trauma and uncertainty, there have been many games, songs and scenarios playing out among my girls regarding staying at home and the coronavirus. Navigating this new reality through play is something I’ve tried to embrace.
There’s also been this huge push to do all of things. Pleas from celebrities and “influencers” to embrace this special time of solitude. Encouragement to embark on all of the things we don’t have time for in “normal” life…All of the goals that have been superseded by the daily grind…Write the next great American (or Australian or Brazilian or whatever) novel, knit socks for entire villages, build all of your furniture using tongue and groove, hone in on your basket weaving, start your own farm, come up with the newest scientific laws.
This isn’t the time to pressure people to do anything. Doing is a way for many to cope, and that is great! Do away. Similarly, sitting and thinking and feeling is another way people cope. There are, of course, many other ways people cope, and I hope you are finding a non-destructive way to work through this time of physical distancing. To top it all off, while there are many people struggling with boredom and isolation, there are just as many overwhelmed people–those working from home with kids, those who must continue to work right now or risk losing their jobs. As in all things, the experiences are varied and complex.
With that said, please don’t feel like you should be doing these things or anything for that matter. I think having goals similar to goals after having a baby are sufficient: brush your teeth, eat something that is green, go outside if you can, stay hydrated, try to sleep, move your body at least once per hour when not sleeping. I fall in a few categories for coping, as I’m sure most of us do. We’ve taken on a few projects. I’ve also found potato chips in my bra and wondered what day it is while sporting a three-day old (maybe more?) messy bun. As a family, we have roamed our woods, admired moose, made delicious and nutritious meals, explored new learning topics and created some fun art and LEGO creations. We’ve had time together that will be cherished forever. We’ve also watched pretty much every Disney production from the last 70 years about 8 million times and eaten alarming amounts of sugary, processed treats while surrounded by a melting pot of toys/clothes/blankets/what is that?/dishes that is just too much to deal with right now. And then we frantically clean when the mood strikes. You do you.
Sooo, with that said, I want to share our accomplishments and goals for the coming weeks as a way that I’m coping with the current situation. One of my ways is to be prepared. And I don’t mean filling my crawl space with toilet paper (I’ll get to it)!
I was already planning on doing this, but it seems all the more pressing during this time of uncertainty. I’m planting as much as I can accommodate in hopes that I will end up with way too much and can share the excess with friends and neighbors. Luckily, we are lazy and haven’t been to the recycling center in months, so I have extra cans and containers to utilize when my limited starting trays and pots run out.
Evan and I are similar in our work/laziness ethic. We like to keep busy just as much as we like to binge watch Tiger King (I told you I have embarassing confessions). We’ve started a few projects as the kids allow. He is working from home which is both great (more time with him overall!) and stressful (the kids are super excited that he’s home, and managing their eagerness to be with him has been difficult). I continue to work from home, although in a different capacity. I’ve found I’m getting less done even though I theoretically have more time. Perhaps my daily phone time has something to do with it? That plus the often ignored exhaustion of navigating new collective waters.
We have, however, started a home schooling desk area for the kids and are fabricating some shelves. I also have plans to build an inside climbing structure called a “Swedish Gym” for Fern’s birthday (she’s 2 on April 3!). The gym hasn’t been started, so it will have to be a belated gift. I made homemade stain for the desk and shelves with black tea, vinegar and steel wool (looks like walnut stain). I also made furniture polish for the wood using beeswax, olive oil, coconut oil and some essential oils.
Working with wood is meditative to me, and the resulting desks and shelves will provide us with some extra space for books and art that need homes.
I’ve had a copy of Maryjane Butter’s “Wild Bread” for a couple years now and never done much more than admire all of the beautiful photos and the story of how Maryjane came to be part owner of a flour mill. With the recent yeast shortage and my family’s penchant for bread, I’ve embarked on starting my own sourdough starter! The only thing standing in my way now is a flour shortage…We will see how it all pans out. I’m only four days in now, but the little guy seems to be working great! Smells good and looks good for now. We are going to try it in some waffles this weekend.
You should definitely try to procure the book if you can. It is gorgeous and amazingly user friendly. Long story short–you mix water and flour and leave it on your counter for a month, “feeding” it twice a day and using part of the mixture once per week. It collects wild yeast from your environment. After four weeks–voila! you’ve made your own sourdough starter to make amazing, healthy, gluten intolerant (that’s me) friendly breads for years to come. Plus you can share the excess with friends and neighbors who can’t find baker’s yeast.
I wish I was a more prolific seamstress like many of you are! I enjoy sewing, but I’ve never followed a pattern and I kind of make it up as I go. I can’t make something to size, so thankfully I haven’t been forced to clothe my family with my sewing skillz. We would just all wear moomoos :). I would have to outsource that to Evan, the real seamster in our house. I can, however, sew things into non uniform squares and such.
I have wanted to embark on a “Family Cloth” journey for years, especially after starting cloth diapering with babies. I haven’t for a few reasons–it’s considered weird and gross, I haven’t found the time to actually just do it, and toilet paper is affordable and convenient. Have you heard of family cloth? Basically–it’s forgoing toilet paper for reusable cloth wipes. They are especially useful if you have a bidet–we do not but we do have a diaper sprayer that I need to hook up, and it could probably work? But a bidet isn’t necessary. You just have two receptacles next to the potty–one for clean cloth and one for used. The clean cloth can just be in a basket, while the dirty can be in a lidded trashcan or a wet can if you prefer or a bag or whatever! Wash the cloths as you would cloth diapers–I just do them on hot and strip them when they start to retain stink in a sink or bath full of bleach or vinegar water. Laying or hanging them in the sun is a great treatment, too. There are plenty of other methods depending on your water and preferences, but this seems to work for us (for diapers at least).
The wipes can be as simple as tiny baby washcloths or strips of fleece, but I’m going to sew together strips with brushed cotton (the wiping side) on one side and cute cotton prints on the other. I have a bunch of scrap material from making costumes and other projects over the years so I don’t have to go out and buy anything. We will see how it is accepted by my feral children :). I will still keep the paper stuff and disposable wipes on hand for guests and us if we want to use them.
Soooo, this isn’t accessible to everyone or wanted by many, but…I’m pregnant! I’m due in July. We don’t know the sex and will wait until we meet the little one. I’m planning on a home birth already, so that is a relief. Baby Wilder #4! Thought you all might like some good news amongst the yuck. The pregnancy started out really rough, but I’ve been great since getting over the first trimester nausea and exhaustion. I’m starting to get into third trimester tiredness and find myself falling asleep at 8 or 9 every night with the kids. Life goes on even during a worldwide emergency. The juxtaposition of new life with sickness and death will always be a fascinating and fodder for deep thoughts. It keeps the melancholic poet in me going.
Whoa. Long post!
I titled this post “SIP” as an acronym for “Shelter in Place” as that is what we are doing in Alaska, and I know many of you are under the same orders. The idea of “sipping” is appealing to me. Sipping tea, of course, comes to mind. What is more grounding than pondering life while watching the steam swirl and warmth spread through your soul? But it is also a metaphor for this time (at least for me)–a time to take it slow and easy to sip away at our obligations and desires while spending a lot of time on ourselves and our relationships.
Again–how are you all faring during this strange time? Please reach out to me or anyone if you are struggling. There are people who want to help and be there for you, from a distance. We will get to hug our loves again some day.
Sending you peace, love and good health from Alaska,
Alex, the Rural Farmgirl