Free throws in quarantine

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I’ve always called myself unathletic. The word rolls off my tongue, always ready — issued like a warning. The judgment of others means less when you’re judging yourself. Don’t expect too much of me, unathletic says.

Growing up, I was the kid who faked a headache to get out of volleyball. I warmed the bleachers like a full-time job. I jumped rope sometimes, if I had to; I played scooter hockey. I do remember being strangely good at jumping hurdles in middle school, but never attempted it again. Maybe I threw a discus well once, too?

Aside from the awkwardness of changing into school-issued T-shirts and shorts in front of classmates (seriously — does anyone ever escape that shame?), I didn’t dislike gym class. But I had it in my head that I was garbage at anything that required moving my body in a particular way, including dancing, and I’m nothing if not stubborn. I never gave myself a chance to enjoy playing games.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I recently discovered how much I like … basketball. “Basketball,” I mean; we’re not exactly talking regulation sports here. Our hoop is way too low. Most of the backboard is missing, with the last shards recently snapped loose in a windstorm. And up until a month ago, our single basketball had a slow leak.

Quarantine changes things.

How are you doing in self-isolation? I mean, we’re all cleaning. If Instagram is any barometer, lots of folks have also started baking from scratch; others are teaching themselves to knit, draw, or sew masks. Most parents seem too focused on gripping tightly to their sanity to take up a new hobby, because … you know. Kids. Kids all the time. Kids with no distractions. Kids who are just as stir-crazy and confused as we are.

Definitely not learning needlepoint over here.

Basketball? Basketball is different. When Spence and I were house-hunting, the hoop cemented next to our driveway was hard to miss. For a while, avoiding it with my vehicle was the extent of my relationship with it. But after Ollie arrived, someone — my dad? my sister? — decided the kid needed a basketball. We goofed around with it sometimes, but my kids have always been more interested in “playing tornado” and spinning until someone falls or pukes, so.

But getting outside has been a major part of our routine during COVID-19. While I continue physically reporting to work, my husband has handled the brunt of childcare responsibilities while also working full-time. When I get home, he desperately needs a break. The kids need fresh air. I need to clear my head. Feel some sun on my arms. Remember we’re alive and this too shall pass, etc. etc.

Grab the ball and go.

As the daughter of a sportswriter, I’m surprised by how much sports knowledge I actually have pinging around. On the rare occasions when I have a need or desire to dig it out, terms like dribble and lay-up are conjured up from nowhere. I guide our son to our makeshift free throw line in pink chalk. My husband lifts our daughter high, cheering as she dunks.

I’m five-foot-two and winded by a single trot up the steps. But I feel silly, happy and free when I’m outside with the kids, taking shot after shot in the sunshine. I’ve come to look forward to it.

Most of my attempts sail straight through the spot where the backboard should be, rolling toward the woods behind the house. Others hit the rim and come flying back at my face. But every now and then? I make it. Swish. So satisfying.

“You did it, Mommy!” Ollie will yell. “And the world goes wiiiiiiiild!”

The world has gone wild, my friend.

Still, we play on.

 

Have myself a home life

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I think I’m gonna stay home, have myself a home life
Sitting in the slow-mo, and listening to the daylight …
—John Mayer, “Home Life”

Today was the sort of picture-perfect early spring afternoon — cool in the shade; warm and resplendent in the sun — that makes it easy to forget anything scary is happening in the world.

And that’s a good thing.

Now roughly two weeks into the craziness of COVID-19, I finally feel like I’m not waking up daily with a pit in my stomach. Since I rely on books and articles to make sense of nearly everything in life, Scott Berinato’s piece “That Discomfort You’re Feeling is Grief” landed just right with me. This passage, especially:

There’s denial, which we say a lot of early on: This virus won’t affect us. There’s anger: You’re making me stay home and taking away my activities. There’s bargaining: Okay, if I social distance for two weeks everything will be better, right? There’s sadness: I don’t know when this will end. And finally there’s acceptance. This is happening; I have to figure out how to proceed.

For us, proceeding has meant developing new routines. While I’m still reporting to the hospital for my work in marketing and communications, dispatching daily COVID updates, my husband is working remotely for the foreseeable future. Schools and daycare are closed by order of the governor. We can’t ask friends or family to help with the kids, given we’re all self-isolating.

We’ve had to find a way.

I’m really proud of Spence. Were the cards flipped and I was the one home with a 3- and 4-year-old while trying to work full-time, do you know how that would work out? … It wouldn’t. I mean, seriously. I’m high-strung on a normal day, let alone when my children morph into banshees the moment I go to take a critical phone call.

My husband has been handling this development with patience and grace. The kids seem happy and busy, rediscovering toys long-buried in bins around the house and getting outside as much as they can. I’ve adjusted my time so I’m coming home mid-afternoon, and I love having those extra hours of daylight to spend with them before the bustle of dinnertime.

If I weren’t donning a surgical mask the moment I reach my office, I’d say it’s almost peaceful.

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While part of me recognizes that we’re likely in the eye of the hurricane with the strongest winds yet to blow, I’m learning to focus on the here and now — a lifelong struggle, and one that’s all the more important when the future seems so unknown. I miss my family. The kids miss their friends. It’s still weird and surreal. But I’m reaching “acceptance,” because we’re in this for the long haul.

Searching for the positive in this strange situation, I’ve come up with plenty of unexpected gifts brought on by a pandemic. Of course I continue to worry for everyone’s health — that’s a given. But as we all practice social distancing and stay home save trips to work or the grocery store, there have been lots of glimmers to appreciate:

  • We’re eating at home. Save a few carry-out meals to support our local restaurants, breakfast, lunch and dinner have been served up right from our stove. I’m taking leftovers to work. We’re getting creative with what’s in our pantry and fridge, since we’re trying to shop as little as possible. Also, Spence busted out a crepe pan this morning. A crepe pan. When have we ever made the time or gone to the trouble to use that thing?
  • The kids are bonding. Hadley and Oliver haven’t spent this much uninterrupted time together since my second maternity leave — and, you know, I don’t think either was much aware of the other’s presence at that point. They still squabble, but they’re getting along remarkably well. They only have each other (and us), after all. I see them using their imaginations and helping each other, which is heart-swelling.
  • I’m caught up on laundry. Like: really caught up.
  • I’ve been reading. Because we’re spending so much time at home, the kids are used to hanging out more and playing by themselves. I’m totally enthralled with Brantley Hargrove’s The Man Who Caught the Storm right now. The man is #goals, y’all — his writing is insane.
  • The community is coming together. There have been so many offers of help and rallying of the troops, which is so reassuring. I just hope we keep that spirit alive if the days get harder … and when they get easier, too.

Happy Sunday, friends. ❤

 

Every tremor, every pulse

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The work truck was parked on the shoulder, door ajar.

I saw it long before I actually reached Allens Fresh — a stretch of marsh off the Wicomico. My commute takes me straight through this lowland daily. I might not have noticed the vehicle on a “normal day,” when fishermen crowd this strip and drop their skiffs. But this wasn’t a normal day. This is life in the time of COVID-19.

The roads haven’t been empty this week, but traffic has certainly been lighter. I’ve continued to report to the county hospital where drive-through COVID testing is now set up, working on communications. I’ve had a low-grade headache since Monday. Adrenaline has temporarily replaced caffeine. Sleep rushes up at me hard every night, thick and dreamless. Everything is surreal.

I noticed the truck because our vehicles were the only ones on this stretch of road. He’d pulled over just by the bridge — the one wiped out in the back-to-back tropical storms of 2011, the floodwaters erasing everything in their path.

I noticed the truck because, these days, I notice everything. Daily life has halted. Routines are totally disrupted. I’m hyper-aware of every sea change, every tremor, every pulse. Like all of us, I am waiting.

The sun was just cresting the horizon, painting Allens Fresh with warm orange light. Everything felt still. I was listening to The Killers — my current COVID coping mechanism — and trying to tune my brain to only white noise.

At first I thought the man was sick. He was so hastily stopped, not bothering with hazard lights. Not bothering to close the driver’s door. His work van was crookedly parked on the shoulder, like he’d skidded to a halt just in time. He couldn’t wait another second.

He was taking a picture.

On that strange morning, he’d hopped out to catch the sunrise. He was still.

I slowed as I passed, looking over to see the clear morning as he saw it. Miles later, I stopped to take a different picture: the tractor, the message … a reminder in strange times. Maybe a hopeful one, too. If everyone sees it, will they listen?

I got back to work.

And yes, I washed my hands.

October weekend

Farm fun

An October weekend is sunny cornfields, mountains of laundry, a crisp morning with the first wisps of visible breath.

Apple-cider donuts. Driving with the windows down. Trying on our costumes weeks in advance, and “practicing” our trick-or-treating.

Dodging the candy aisle in Target. Begrudgingly tucking arms into jackets, all shed by lunchtime. Crunching through a yard full of leaves.

Packing away the shorts and tees, then shopping to cover the kids’ ever-longer limbs. Replacing their whole wardrobe as they grow taller. Listening hard as they grow funnier, and wiser.

Chili on the stovetop, cornbread in the oven. Pies and whipped cream with an extra “shot” right from the can. Watching “Boss Baby” while I wash bedding. Fielding requests for “Peppa Pig” as we dim the lights for bedtime, now earlier and earlier.

It’s the four of us settling down on a Sunday night, with the house smelling of Lysol and (most of) the toys all tucked away.

It’s another donut for good measure. Monday’s on its way.

Ollie apple donut

Well, hi

Fall color

I hate to break the fourth wall and go all “sorry I haven’t been blogging,” but sorry I haven’t been blogging. Between getting sick last week, battling through general exhaustion and a few grueling projects at work, my head has been all over the place and, quite honestly, I’m just trying to muddle through.

That sounded a little more depressing than I intended. Everything is okay! I am good! But I’m tired and sort of boring right now, though I anticipate having some fun stories to share with you soon. And probably some pictures . . . once I get my camera batteries charged again. I’m slacking.

How are the leaves where you are? Because here, friends, they’re kind of sucking. Most of the trees behind the house have uniformly shed their leaves without much color change at all, leaving us with all of the yard work and none of the beauty. Which is pretty terrible, actually. I’m still waiting for “real” fall to begin . . . it’s been muggy, stormy and weird. I need my autumn breezes.

So, yes — going to try and get my act together. I miss you guys. I miss having mildly entertaining and/or whacky things to talk about. I’m optimistic — cautiously? — that I’ll get back into the groove soon.

Until then, I’ll be on the couch.


Five things on Friday

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1. I’m totally cheating on my beloved coffee lately, and . . . you know what? I’m okay with it. Most mornings find me hovered over the Keurig making a chai tea latte — just brewed chai with milk — and it’s my new obsession. Have you tried chai? Are you a tea drinker? If not, consider this your invitation! And if you’re feeling really fancy, add cinnamon. It’s totally like the delicious drink at Panera Bread and Panera is also my happy place.

2. Speaking of Panera, I took myself to lunch yesterday! In an effort to stay on budget and watch how much we’re eating out (er, often), I’ve been trying to limit my weekday work lunches to leftovers and soup. Which is fine, you know . . . most of the time. But sometimes? One gets a hankering for kettle chips. And soup. And chipotle sauce. And when that happens, there’s only one thing to do — so I did it. No regrets.

3. After confessing to my book rut earlier this week, I’ve actually found my interest in reading has been making a turn-around! I’m halfway through Samantha Verant’s Seven Letters From Paris — a fun memoir for francophiles — and just started Stephanie Perkins’ Isla and the Happily Ever After. The latter is a library book, so I’m trying to stay motivated; because it’s such a hot item, I doubt I’ll be able to renew it. And if we get to crunch time before it’s due, I will stay up all night because no. Returning an enjoyable library book half-read is torture.

4. Is it really bad for me to admit I started Christmas shopping already? I actually have three gifts hidden away for the holidays. I’m something of a gift-giving nut — I love, love to pick out presents — and it’s giving me a “project.” Now that the house is (mostly) put together and the wedding is over, I’m finding myself rather idle. Planning for the holidays is definitely a way to

5. In my travels over at Etsy, I’ve fallen in love with this print and this one and also this quote, probably because we married in November and I’m a fall fanatic. I’m pretty sure I need one or all of them, but I’ll refrain and be a good girl.

For now.


Happy weekend, friends!


Five things on Friday

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1. Are these or are these not the most adorable stamps you’ve ever seen? We know I’m a mail nerd, so it should come as no surprise that I’m positively geeking out over them — but really. Sunflowers and vegetables and adorable baskets on a stamp. I just sort of look at and pet them, and then I put them on love letters. Or letters to my grandma, ’cause that’s how I roll.

2. I’m in the middle of no less than three books right now (one on Kindle; one print; one audio), but that didn’t stop me from starting Gabrielle Zevin’s The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry because Patti recommended it and y’all gushed about it — and what can I say? The power of persuasion. Though I started my other reads days or weeks ago, I’m almost finished with A.J. — and have thoroughly enjoyed it! Very charming.

3. We haven’t done much cooking lately, but have somehow been feeding ourselves . . . I’m thinking mostly off of frozen skillet meals, leftovers and the occasional dinner out (with more leftovers). But we did make slow cooker beef stew on Tuesday, and it turned out quite delicious. I took zero photos, though, so you’ll have to take my word for it? Sorry about that. #bloggerfail

4. Now that the library is coming along and my books are nestled in their new nook, I’m preoccupied with finding the perfect comfy reading chair. I was standing in the doorway last night, trying to picture this piece of furniture or that while cradling my laptop, and I’m pretty sure this is the one since I keep thinking about it. I want the vibe in there to be fun, funky and colorful — like all the spines of our books — and think it will fit well? But I’m so gun-shy about actually ordering it. Another adult milestone I have yet to cross: buying furniture. (Everything we have was passed along by family or purchased by Spencer pre-marriage.)

5. It’s almost craft fair season, y’all! Is that a thing where you are? Here in Southern Maryland, firehouses, churches and halls will soon fill with crafters selling home decor, jewelry, candles, Christmas stuff . . . and I will love every second of it. Hitting the many craft fairs is a family pastime in the fall, and I actually have a place for my craft fair finds these days. I don’t want to be broke, either, but I’m ridiculously excited about it.

Happy weekend, friends!