A month at home during a pandemic

It’s now about a month since we shifted to our new reality. More than a month ago was the last time I picked up the kids after school.

Earlier that week there were emails from teachers about the possibility of switching to remote learning, but it was expressed in a vague “just in case” sentiment. But things moved quickly and the following Monday we went to the school so the students could gather their belongings (the students were hand-sanitized before entering the front gate to head to their classrooms and lockers and parents waited at the front entrance chatting to each other from a distance). The next day, the remote learning became a reality.

Our work commutes ended just as quickly as the commute to the boys’ school. Fortunately we both easily transitioned to working from home that week as well.

So far we’ve had three weeks of remote learning, with Google Meets and Zoom conferences and the teachers did an amazing job of having to readjust their curriculum to adapt. They’ve tried to keep the schedule similar to their weekly schedule so we printed out their schedules and put them on the refrigerator and they work their way through their schedule (with a bit of nudging in some cases). I’ve been able to get more work done on a daily basis since I don’t have the commute and I plan my breaks to correspond with preparing food for the boys’ snacks and lunches (as well as to nudge as needed).

This week and last was spring break, which includes the full holiday of Passover. It’s a little ironic that my husband and I both scheduled some time off over these two weeks so we could spend time with the kids over the holiday and we had even discussed some ideas for a quick trip to Northern Arizona over the weekend. Sometimes it’s useful to procrastinate because we never ended up making any hotel reservations.

We’re already a month into this “stay at home” lifestyle and it still feels surreal. Although everyone in the world has their unique story of how COVID-19 has affected their life, what they do have in common is that their world has changed.

That realization of the enormity of the differences of how people are experiencing this has really struck me lately.

Hardest hit are the people deep in the trenches of this pandemic. As of today, there were more than 2 million global confirmed cases of COVID-19, according to the Johns Hopkins University & Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center. Yesterday the CDC reported that In the U.S., it’s 579,005 cases and 22,252 total deaths.

The heroes in this story are definitely the health-care workers. I’ve always been in awe of those in this profession anyway, but even more so these days. Other heroes are all the others who keep showing up – the grocery store workers, the delivery people, volunteers and others who are keeping things going.

The numbers of those affected are already mind-boggling, but then when you think of all their family members and loved ones who are affected, it’s really difficult to comprehend. Not only to lose loved ones but not to be able to visit them in the hospital when they are ill and spend their last moments with them. It’s heartbreaking.

Another group is affected economically with job losses and loss of resources. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of unemployed persons rose by 1.4 million to 7.1 million in March; this sharp increase was attributed to the effects of the coronavirus and efforts to contain it.

The list of those to be concerned about goes on, such as those for whom “stay at home orders” are horrific or unfathomable – victims of domestic violence, impoverished individuals or families whose space at home doesn’t allow for social distancing or those who don’t have any place to call home. There’s also those who have mental health issues or those who are feeling isolated.

Some stages of life are more difficult than others. For instance, my experience of life at home with three school-age children is likely extremely different than parents of younger children who need more constant attention. And then there are those who were already in the midst of experiencing challenges, whether they be health issues or financial stresses.

Some people are expressing on Facebook that they are viewing it as a kind of vacation, a time to search within, nurture passions and finally read the books on their reading lists or organize their hall closet. Others are barely hanging on, whether dealing with the illness itself either personally or with ill family members, being overwhelmed by trying to juggle working from home with homeschooling their children or feeling isolated and worried about the future.

People react very differently, too. Some are following the recommendation to stay home, others are still hosting large gatherings. Some are pretty much staying home but occasionally visiting hiking trails. (This is what I’m discovering from home while viewing Facebook posts and reading comments to posted articles.)There are even some that believe this is a conspiracy to have people give up their civil liberties and they feel everything should reopen ASAP to save the economy.

On the positive side, I’ve also seen so much creativity and goodness. People trying to inspire and entertain others. Jimmy Fallon doing “The Tonight Show” from his home with his wife filming and his adorable kids often being a part of the show. He also does celebrity interviews and Zoom musical performances. The “Saturday Night Live” crew filming segments from their home and actor Tom Hanks delivering the monologue from his kitchen. Musicians performing free to raise money to help those affected. My favorite rock star, Rick Springfield, is doing two series of funny videos to entertain his fans. Businesses are offering free content and assistance.

So many stories, so much to digest.

What will my sons remember about this time? Will it be the puzzles? Will it be the video game negotiations? Socializing with their friends via video games? Trampoline time (for the younger ones) and shooting basketball hoops (for the older one)? The Zoom Passover seder? Saying hello to their grandparents from the sidewalk outside their homes? Lounging in the hammock? The constant reminders to wash their hands? Watching “The Simpsons” together? Solving “Clue” mysteries? Planting and watering the trees and herbs?

As for me, I feel fortunate that I like the people I’m staying at home with (although there are challenging moments for sure) and that my husband is such a good cook! I’m also grateful that I can work from home and offer some kind of benefit to the community through my work. (Also grateful that I don’t currently have any commute. Judging from recent environmental reports, the Earth is also benefiting from the worldwide decline in commuting.)

Rather than sitting in traffic in the afternoon, I’ve been able to catch my sister’s Facebook Live dance fitness classes and play a little more guitar than usual (thank you to Fender for offering three months of free guitar lessons!) My studio recording class is now an online class and the school arranged for a three-month trial of ProTools so I hope to figure that out, too. I wish that a simple trip to the grocery store didn’t seem so threatening and that it wasn’t dangerous to have friends and family over, but otherwise I’m rather enjoying all this family time at home. (And of course then I immediately feel guilty for saying that because I know it’s not the case for so many people right now.)

Learning from those who have suffered massive tragedies is important at this time. For instance, I recently spoke to a Holocaust survivor who is isolated in his room in a retirement facility. All programs were cancelled and food is delivered to their rooms rather than eaten in the group dining area. When I spoke to him, he was sitting outside his patio reading a newspaper and enjoying the nice weather, appreciating that he was in a safe place and having what he needed.

As of now, everything is on hold until April 30, which is in about two weeks. It seems unlikely that school and the rest of life will open up in two weeks. So for now, we’re taking it day by day.

Everything stopped
We were running and running around
Then the world stopped
Life as we knew it shut down

It became dangerous to be with ones we love
No longer safe to shake hands or hug
No one’s immune to the threat we face
How did we get to this place

Where we’re taking it day by day
Trying to find our way
Hoping we’ll be OK

Day by day
Day by day.

-“Day by Day” by Leisah Woldoff

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