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Work From Home (WFH) tip:

  • Start every day (after dealing with urgent email) by mapping out the day on iCal or Google Calendar. Red is for family activities, Green is for work, Yellow is for dumb chores, Orange is for birthdays (set for yearly repeat).
  • If you’re a parent and you have a ton of dumb chores, like food shopping, dinner making, and now… fun, fun, fun… homeschooling. Put it all on the calendar. Recognize ALL the work that you do.
  • Make sure you put time on the calendar for exercise. If you don’t write it down, it doesn’t happen.

And taking my own advice, I’ve made my list of chores for the day. Writing chores are slated for after lunch today, but I do have some links that I want to jot down now.

Stuck home with your kids next week without school, camps, outings, and playdates to keep them home. Looking into the abyss? Here are some online activities that are getting passed around. Ian will probably do a computer class, but it’s structured and a full day program.

Looking for something to do with all those canned beans? Cheesy White Bean-Tomato Bake looks good.

Springtime for Introverts.

Great map from the NYT about where people didn’t obey social distancing/travel rules.

When we’re done with all this, we’re all going to have a long chat about federalism. Some governors are making good choices. Others, like that asshole in Florida, are downright stupid and evil, ie those cruise ships outside Florida begging for help.

My in-laws subscribe to Heather Cox Richardson’s newsletter. Everyday, she breaks down & explains the big news stories of that day. She’s a history professor at BU. She writes for regular folks, like my in-laws, but leans into her academic background.

Back this afternoon.

Bunker Even More (Plague, Day 29, April 1, 2020)

1:30am — During this pandemic, matters regarding health and the economy should be of top priority to political leaders and the news editors who set the agenda for the nation. Schools, my little area of expertise, ought to take a backseat to keeping people from dying or from becoming homeless.

But it’s not inconsequential that some kids are not being educated at all right now and that others are suffering without the safety net of schools. The lack of learning matters. When kids get derailed, they never get back on the road to degree, credentials, and diplomas.

I’ve talked with many teachers over the past few weeks. They tell me that they are able to reach motivated kids, like Ian, with well resourced families like ours. Ian sits at his computer promptly at 8am every day and plugs through the laundry list of educational chores. After some (alright, a lot) advocating from me, Ian now has daily face to face contact with most, if not all, of his teachers. He’s not getting live classes yet, but things have improved from Week 1.

Other kids aren’t doing any work at all, even in middle class suburbs. For these kids, the problem isn’t the digital divide. They weren’t engaged in school before; now, they aren’t even checking into Google Classrooms to look at their assignments. They’re done.

Learning is happening in fancy private schools and the strong charter schools. The learning divide is huge right now.

9am. — Greeting from the nation’s hot spot. Every morning, I check the mayor’s sick/hospitalized/dead list on Facebook. Friends are already getting sick or having business woes. But over next two weeks, the situation will get worse — more people will be sick and our hospitals overwhelmed.

I’m spending this morning preparing for the bad times. I’m making face masks, preparing for a massive pantry reboot tomorrow, making menu’s. One kid will turn 18 in 2 weeks, so must come up with a plan for that. I’m loading up on ice cream and wine.

My goal is to do complete social distancing for the next two weeks. Good bye, real life people!

I’m making also preparations to keep the kids busy and healthy and distracted. The college kid might do another online class to pick up a new skill, like CAD or programming. The high school kid needs interaction with teachers over spring break next week; his daily FaceTime chats with his teachers is the only thing keeping from dwelling permanently in AutismLand. So, I’m researching online camps that have a FaceTime component for him, too.

Social distancing is going to get more distance-y soon. Be smart, people. Be safe. Be well.

I’ll be back later, after I plow through some chores. Here are some links to keep prepared:

Keeping Busy (Plague, Day 28, March 31, 2020)

12:30pm Yesterday, I spent the day pulling together some random ideas into a 800-word semi-coherent essay about schools. At this point, I don’t think that there’s much new to say on the subject, but we’ll see what happens. At least, I got one essay out this month, which is actually the most popular thing thing that I’ve ever written. After sending the new essay out to the usual editors this morning, I turned my attention to used books.

Before the shit hit the fan, I managed to scramble out to a few estate sales, where I bought piles of books. Having a deep fear of boredom, I frantically bought stuff in the beginning of March to amuse myself during a lockdown. At the time, I had no idea if any of my purchases were worth anything or not. I just bought some cool stuff and hoped for the best.

In one house of a recently deceased doctor, I bought a bunch of vintage golfing books. I’m not a golf person at all, but figured that someone might like them. Turns out that old golfing books are worth a lot of money. Yay. I hope to have them all on the book website by the end of the day.

Here’s a picture of the hospital ship floating down the Hudson to hold all the sick city people. The picture was taken by one Steve’s colleagues who lives in Jersey City. Steve’s office, which has seen in over two weeks, is across the river.

On YouTube, John Kraskinski’s Some Good News show is pretty awesome. Are you watching The Tiger King? It’s pretty great, too.

Dinner tonight? Grilling pork chops with some Pixie Dust spice rub. Couscous, sautéed cabbage, salad.

Tip: Make a list of five friends/family members who need a phone call/face time chat at least once a week. Think about who is old, sick, isolated, grieving, overwhelmed right now. Write their names on a post-it note and stick the note to the edge of your computer screen.

Shopping While in Shutdown (Plague, Day 26, March 29, 2020)

It’s Sunday Shutdown. Some of you are struggling to stay awake while watching online mass. Others are checking in with extended family or going for a long hike. And many of you are shopping.

I totally approve of online shopping during the Pandemic. It keeps the economy moving. There’s not much evidence that the virus lives long on cardboard boxes. One report said that we should be leaving Amazon deliveries for medical emergencies, but I haven’t heard anybody else say that. So shop away!

There are some caveats. Don’t buy anything that you might need to return. Many states aren’t allowing returns on purchases. Besides, it would involve an unnecessary and risky trip to the post office. So, don’t buy anything that you’ll need to try on, or items that are super expensive.

  1. Buy things to supply your hobbies.
  • Steve and Jonah bought a bunch of new seeds. They’re going to spend the afternoon doubling their size of their backyard garden. They’re also growing extra for gifts for friends/family.
  • They usually get their seeds from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, but they seem to be having virus issues right now. Steve got extra seeds this week from Amazon. Here are some good seed packages.
  • Of course you need a lighting system and little trays for the seeds.

2. Buy things to be comfy.

  • I had an irrational, intense need to buy fun lounge pants last week. I can’t explain. I always work from home, so this isn’t anything new for me, and jeans are my typical outfit. But last week, I had the itch for inexpensive lounge pants.
  • I picked up this pair on Amazon. I have to say that I love cheap Amazon clothes. Yes, it takes some effort to sort through the tacky stuff, but when you find good stuff, it is so much cheaper than anything in the malls.
  • Keeping in mind the inexpensive rule for online shopping, I bought these lounge pants at the J. Crew outlet and have been eying this pair at H and M.
  • Since I’m padding around the house in my socks a lot, I tossed out all my old socks and got new ones.

3. Buy things to cook.

(And remember, if you do buy something through Amazon, please use a link for anything from this blog. Thanks!)

Silver Lining Playbook, Excerpt from the Newsletter (Plague, Day 25, March 28, 2020)

Latest newsletter: Silver Lining Playbook, Apt. 11D, March 27, 2020 Subscribe here.

Hi all!

We’ve been in our bunker for two weeks now, with only the briefest interactions with other people on milk-runs at Stop and Shop or at the drive-in lane at Dunkin’ Donuts.

The reason why we’re home in the bunkers is horrible – a global pandemic, which will endanger the lives of millions and possible usher into a giant recession. Already, 3.3 million people filed for unemployment insurance last week. Millions of kids aren’t being educated. My friends with small business are faltering. 

The virus cast its shadow over my family this week, as a beloved uncle passed away from unrelated issues. With the social distancing imperative, we are unable to mourn together as a family. His wife couldn’t hold his hand in the hospital, until the very last minute. 

But being a basically happy person, I can’t help but seeing signs, here and there, that all this social distancing is a much needed reboot of our very complicated, busy, self-involved lives. 

Even though we’re social distancing from the rest of the world, Steve and Jonah and Ian and I are social un-distancing from each other. We’ve spent nearly every minute of the past two weeks together. We haven’t spent this much time together, since Jonah was a small baby and Steve and I finished our dissertations full time. 

After that one year of togetherness, we’ve all gone our separate ways. Now, Steve works and commutes twelve hours a day. Jonah’s got his frat buds and his seminars at college half the year. Ian has school and summer camps. I’m here, as always, working in my little office, going to spin class, and maintaining the business of a house and home. I’ve got my own daytime friends and activities that don’t involve the others. 

But all that is over. No spin classes. No PTA meetings. No Wall Street offices. No train commutes. No band class. No International Relations lecture halls. No frat drinking fests. No sushi on a Friday night. We’re just here hanging out together and living off my cooking. 

Not going to lie. There were some adjustments. And adjustments are still happening as we decide whose job gets priority over unloading the dishwasher and whether we should badger the college kid to not fall asleep in front of Netflix on his laptop every night. But we’re working out the kinks with fewer flare ups and more cooperation. 

Maybe our lives had gotten too complicated. Maybe Ian has too many after-school activities, and Jonah had too much on his plate at college. Does he really need an internship this summer? Not really. Is there any reason that my husband should go back to his office, with its three-hour daily commute, when he gets everything done here just fine? Maybe I’ve put too much pressure on myself for professional success, when there’s a pretty awesome spot in the backyard to stare at the birds and the plants. 

The New York Times has a good article about how one party in Westport, CT helped to spread the disease. “The Westport soirée — Party Zero in southwestern Connecticut and beyond — is a story of how, in the Gilded Age of money, social connectedness and air travel, a pandemic has spread at lightning speed.” So no more parties for us; our weekend calendar is empty. 

Without weekend dinner plans and jaunts to museums and shows, we’re just chilling out. So weird. 

Now, I have to draw a line with all this domestic splendor somewhere. For me, it’s board games. Don’t talk to me about Jenga or whatever. I’m not even listening. I might occasionally bake, but I’m not breaking out any muffin tins on a daily basis. 

In our own way, we’re social un-distancing quite a bit. If we’re not in the kitchen making a complicated soup, then we’re taking walks around the neighborhood, watching Mario Cuomo on CNN, or on our devices in the same general area. For us, that’s a good thing.

Be well! Laura

SL 778

Are you nesting? Or stir crazy? Have you shopped on Amazon to supplement the new life style? I have. New cutting boards and fun lounge pants. Will post links later.

Without restaurant scraps, the rats may be moving into homes.

After learning about Will and Kate’s social scene, I started getting sucked into the Instagram pages of the rusticating rich British people. I’m a sucker for their gardens and their comfy reading nooks. 

If you are looking for a new TV series to binge watch, please check out Schitt’s Creek

Is Andrew Cuomo our de facto national leader? The real president now?

A Better Day (Plague, Day 24, March 27, 2020)

8:35am Ian woke up just fine. So, I’m cancelling his doctor’s appointment; there’s no point getting a test for a basically healthy person and clogging up the system.

Many people tell me that they are asymptomatic positive or were positive sometime in the past couple of months. Wouldn’t it be great if we knew that for sure? If we all have the antibodies, we could all be going back to work, sending out kids to school, sitting in nice sushi restaurants (God, I’m craving sushi), getting our nails done, and letting housecleaners back into our homes. My kingdom for 1 billion tests.

Well, I went to bed thinking my day was going involve long waits in a car with a feverish kid. I’m recalibrating my day now. All good news. I think the order of the day will be exercise, write draft 1 of new opinion piece, and make the black bean soup. Thank god no hospitals.

In the evening, I’ll package up a massive set of 1944 encyclopedias that finally sold on my online shop. The shipping alone will probably cost about $100, but a customer was willing to pay it.

I will also load into the shop a bunch of movie books that I found in squat home in a working class community the day before we went into total seclusion. I love old eccentric collector homes. They are my bread and butter.

In the basement of that house, I found a book from the early 1800s. It was a vellum book. First time that I’ve seen one of those in a suburban basement. I’ll show you all later.

Meanwhile, with much less drama than yesterday, we’re continuing to work through plague life with work and school on computers, FaceTime chats with my parents, family dinners, afternoon walks, a little grouchiness with all this togetherness, the healing power of baked goods, and some help from the evening glass of wine.

I’ll be here all day. Happily. Will post some links soon.