Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Days of Covid, 18

Two things to report today: I got my OK from the state for unemployment. It's not much! It wouldn't be enough no matter how frugal I was if not for the CARES act boost it will get. I mean, I get why: in normal times you don't want people feeling as comfortable not working as they are working, because there are, presumable, jobs they could get if they try - but it's very easy to not get a job if you don't really want one.
Anyway it doesn't matter, because this isn't normal times.

I also re-started DuoLingo. About five years ago I got my first & only smartphone. I got it so I could take use a credit card reader at art fairs, but as we all know, they can do a great deal more than that. One of the apps I got was DuoLingo. I've been pecking away at learning Spanish for years, not, honestly, making much progress - I know a lot of words, I can repeat back phrases, but I could never have a conversation. DuoLingo was great but my cellphone isn't! Being an artist, I do not have a bunch of money lying around for stuff like that, so I got a $70 Android, which serves its intended purpose well, but only has room for a couple of apps. DuoLingo was not one that I absolutely needed, so I deleted it and forgot about it. I have re-discovered it, for laptop. I should have known they would have a website! Will it stick this time? It's hard to say.

In virus news:
More than 30,000 people are expected to die from coronavirus in the US next month alone.

Before this is over we all will have lost someone we care about. I fear for my mother, her cousin, and my godmother, all ladies in their 80s, all with underlying health conditions. They are self-isolating but nobody can isolate perfectly. I fear for my husband, as men are harder hit than women, and he's never been an attention-to-detail guy, so things like "Wash your hands frequently" and "Don't touch your face unless you just washed your hands" don't make much of an impression on him. He tries! I think he's got some ADHD going on. I don't really fear for me, or maybe I just don't think about it as much.

Days of Covid, 17: Some Days I'm All...

It alternates, though imperfectly. Some days I'm all in to do everything that needs doing: make pots, cook well, clean the studio! Pedal 10 miles before breakfast!

Yesterday was not one of those days. Yesterday I did manage to do my grocery shopping, but after that was all put away (dipped everything in plastic into soapy water with a splash of bleach; wiped down everything else with same) I just plopped into a chair and stayed there. I wasn't tired, exactly, but I was exhausted. If that makes any sense.

Today is one of the former, thankfully. The latter are not good days.

Saturday, March 28, 2020

Covid days 15: One thing and then another thing and then another thing

That is how I structure my days: just do a thing. Then do another thing. Then another. No task has any more urgency than any other, for the duration. In this way I prevent myself from becoming a twitter zombie, desperately scrolling for some new piece of information (or, some new piece that isn't just more awfulness) or something that will make it make sense.

Today I am cleaning & organizing my studio. I keep seeing friends who are not artists posting "Think of all the amazing art that will come out of this period!" Yeahno.

I can't speak for everyone, but let me stomp a mudhole in the idea that hard times create better art. Artists, like everyone else, work better when they are safe, secure, and well-fed. I'm sure there are exceptions, but no more than for any other profession. We don't think scientists make more valuable discoveries if they are poor. We don't think money managers see market conditions more clearly when they are hungry. Artists are no different.

Some of this thinking is because many of us have home studios, and since we can't go anywhere else, we are probably making lots of stuff. That's not entirely untrue, but A) You need materials to make art, and art supply houses are not considered essential businesses and more importantly B) It's hard to be creative when your world is threatened. A couple of artist friends told me that just today they finally felt the cloud of fear and stress lifting enough to begin to create again. Maybe due to the passage of time, but I suspect just as much due to the passage of the relief bill - and a relief it is (even with its flaws), because if the economy collapses, the last thing people are going to spend on is art.

Which brings me full circle. The best way to save the economy is to defeat the virus. The best way to defeat the virus is to stay the fuck home.

In other news, I just read that the CDC is going to be updating its guidelines to state that people should wear masks in public spaces, after previously saying that masks wouldn't help. That was never logical to me: if a danger is inhaling droplets from someone's cough, a mask helps. If a danger is touching your face after touching an infected surface, a mask helps! If not a mask, then a scarf over your face. This is me, ready to go to the grocery store:

Friday, March 27, 2020

Covid Days, 14

Yesterday the US for the first time had the highest number of reported cases on Covid-19 of any country in the world. It is highly likely, of course, that China is lying, but in a way so is the US: we have had so little testing relative to the size of our population that the virus could easily be 10x as widespread as positive results indicate. You can't have a positive result if you never get tested.

I want to believe that this will be over by, say, mid-May. (I can't trick even my most optimistic self into believing it could be earlier than that.) I so so want to believe that, and maybe it could be, if people could perfectly isolate; but A) People aren't perfectly isolating - some states they aren't isolating at all!  and B) even if everyone were willing, it isn't possible. Doctors and nurses, for the most obvious example, must continue to go to work. Lots of less obvious cases, too: my brother works for a firm that prints the forms that hospitals use to write prescriptions and order supplies. They have to keep on going to work, too.

Only half my fear comes from the virus itself; the other is the ineptitude of the response. The president seems to be using access to resources to respond to the pandemic as a way to punish states that didn't vote for him, or whose governors have been critical of him. Just yesterday he claimed they didn't actually need 30000 ventilators in New York, which is utterly absurd. What possible benefit would come of lying about it? News out of New York is bad; they are already triage-ing who gets a ventilator. And the president of the United States is playing vindictive games about it.

If we had a competent president, this would have been nipped in the bud back in January, when they could have selectively isolated anyone who came in contact with an infected person. Now that isn't possible - there are just too many people infected. Now we all have to isolate. All because trump wanted to hide the numbers, thinking they would hurt his re-election chances. If there is any justice in the world the numbers now will DOOM his re-election chances.

But anyway. I'm not really here to be political, or anymore than I can help. I am journaling to help me keep my sense of time, and to help me make sense, in my own mind, of this strange, surreal experience.

For most of my life I had a great faith in the institutional memory of the government of the United States. It was not even a matter of who, at any one moment, was in charge. There have been presidents I admired, presidents I agreed with, mostly, and others that I didn't, but I always believed that any president would utilize the machinery of government - the expertise, the resources - to protect the country in a crisis. That this is no longer true - that this president is blatantly using the crisis to punish people who have criticized him - is frankly terrifying. It's like we don't have a leader.

That is where my fear mostly comes from. I don't know if we can recover from this in my lifetime without leadership. Try to imagine ANY recent president: Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Bush I, on down, behaving like this. Ronald Reagan, whom I despised at the time, would have worked with all his might to minimize loss of life. Bush One, who I also didn't like, would have handled this like a statesman and Comforter-in-Chief. Until the trump presidency such childish vindictiveness from the White House was unimaginable.

I fear for my country. I fear for the people I love who are more medically vulnerable. I see no leadership coming to help us, and no way out of this.

Whoops, guess I got political again. Oh well.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Days of Covid, 13

I am starting to adjust, I think; I don't run out of steam at noon or one now. When I can't concentrate enough to make stuff, I clean. Here is a thing I hope I remember when the world starts turning again: even when I spend all day cleaning, the house is still not as clean as I have it in my head that it should be. No wonder I couldn't get there when I still had classes to teach.

My May order canceled - no surprise there. They can't buy pots they have no way to sell.

It's Thursday! A new episode of Star Trek: Picard tonight! Funny but that's a big deal, now, something I look forward to.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Days of Covid, 12

We went to the arboretum today. It is still so chilly & muddy we figured that no one would be there, unlike the rail trail, which is paved, & likely to be crowded. Well, relatively crowded. Crowded enough that we might occasionally be within 6 feet of someone.

Not the Arboretum, though - we guessed correctly. It was very muddy, with little rills of snowmelt over the path in places. It was just nice to see something that is not the inside of the house for a little while. It was chilly, though, and we didn't stay long.

When we returned to the entrance, there were a group of maybe 3 families - five adults, 7 kids - in the sculpture park there, playing, climbing on things, rough housing. While I have some sympathy - it must be hard to just stay home with littles for weeks - this is not social distancing. This is dangerous Please, people! Doctors & nurses are risking their lives to save people, the least you could do is not risk becoming one of the people they have to try to save.

I got a lot of housecleaning done today. Housecleaning is a thing I often can make myself do even when I am too overwhelmed to do more productive things. My productive day lasted until about 4:30 today.

For the third day in a row we were promised that a relief bill was imminent, and for the third day none materialized. The obstacle today was three Republican senators objecting to the $600/week add-on for unemployment benefits. They fear it will make people want to be laid off. I'd point out the stupidity here (firstly, workers can't *decide* to be laid off. Employers decide that) but I'm tired.

Monday, March 23, 2020

The Days of Covid, 10

Every day I start out fine. I have my coffee, I get stuff done...until about mid-afternoon, when I basically dissolve in a puddle of anxiety or rage. Today it's rage! I am enraged because Congress can not get this basic bill passed: they have to tack on all kinds of shit ($500,000,000,000.00 for Mnuchin to do whatever he wants with - no oversight, no accountability!) Supposedly they all - Dems and Republicans - agree on sending out relief checks, so fucking PASS THE PART THEY AGREE ON. Quit trying to shoehorn in all this other crap, deal with that in separate bills.

You can't tell people they can't work for weeks (or months!) and then not do anything to help them.

I did our grocery shopping this morning. I wore a bandanna over my nose & mouth, and rubber gloves. I felt like an idiot...but I didn't take them off. I know they tell us masks & scarves don't keep you from getting corona, but it did keep my from touching my face the whole time I was out in the world.

Any trip into the world that needs to be done, I do instead of my husband, because the virus is much more deadly for men than women, and Doug is a smoker. Of course if I got it he'd probably get sick too; but I don't know how we can isolate any more than we already are.

Tomorrow a trip to Portland to pick up clay. I ordered & paid by phone & they will just leave it outside for me: a no-contact transaction.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Covid Days, 8

I got through to my credit card company this morning. They told me I don't have to make my next due payment, but that interest would continue to accrue. Rat bastards. Not that it matters for me - mine is in a no-interest program, one of those balance transfer deal where you pay 3% upfront, then pay no interest for some pre-determined period of time. But for most people, that would ultimately mean paying more, because then you'd pay interest on the interest.

Like I said, rat bastards. They even find a way to take advantage of a global crisis to make more money.

My mortgage company has also put out a statement suggesting they might do payment deferrals, also - whaddaya want to bet they will also continue to accrue interest? Not that it matters, if th offer is on the table i have no choice but to take it.

This morning I broke down crying for the first time, out of fear for our future. I worked so hard to get us to this point! I was having a great year, before the virus said "HA!"

Friday, March 20, 2020

Covid Days, 7

I talked to human beings in person today, who aren't even my husband! First time in a week. We stayed a good 12 feet apart - I was just baby sitting the Hallowell Clay Works studio so students could pick up their tools & other items, so they can make stuff at home during our shutdown.

Treasury Secretary Mnuchin tweeted today that the filing deadline for taxes has been pushed back to July 15th. That's good - and it's frankly the very least they could do - but it's good news for another reason, too: it's a sign that people with, presumably, all the information, think we will be able ot get taxes done by July! Maybe the outbreak has a foreseeable end.

Or, idk, maybe I am grasping at straws. Whatever, if it looks like hope I'll take it.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

The Days of Covid, 6

I thought the hiatus from classes would be like an extended snow day: might as well get comfy! Read more, clean some things that need cleaning, enjoy some enforced inactivity. It really doesn't feel like that; the anxiety is almost incapacitating, but there is next to nothing I can do to avoid the trouble we are headed straight for, and I don't know how long it will go on or how bad it will get.

Despite my best efforts to stay optimistic, I am having a hard time believing we will be able to go back to work in 15 days. I fear we are in this for months. It's useless to follow that thought but I am helpless not to.

I felt better when the relief package passed but now it is seeming hopelessly complicated & the information on it is incomplete or contradictory. It's based on 2019, so if you haven't filed your 2019 taxes as of today...do you get nothing? Nobody knows. And it's mid-March, millions and millions will not have filed their 2019 taxes yet!

My credit card company says "Contact us if you've been affected by Covid-19!" but then the function on their website crashes, and nobody answers the phone. I filed for unemployment but who knows when they will be able to talk to me. The things that are supposed to help, so far have not been helpful. I know there are good reasons for this - well, one very good reason, and that is that everyone needs help right now. But the credit card company, for example - they could have just suspended payments for 60 days, no penalties, no interest. They could have taken that worry off people's shoulders, without piling on one more call to hold on for hours, one more decision of someone else's to wait on. Don't tell me they couldn't afford it: it costs something to staff those call lines, too.

I see individuals & small businesses stepping up. I will try to focus on that.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

The Days of Covid, 5

I took a walk on the rail trial today. There were people out, families with young children. We stayed far apart! It was good to get out, to pull my eyes - if not my mind - away from the news sites.

When I got home I discovered that the Senate passed what they are calling a stimulus package, which will help a lot, though I won't be doing any extra spending: it's less money than the amount I am losing by not working during the crisis. Still, for 2 months we won't have to worry about losing our house, so that is definitely a load off my mind. Will the crisis be over by the end of May? I hope so but the more I read, the more I doubt it.

I filled out an online form to collect unemployment. I kind of don't think I qualify, as my classes only amounted to 15 hours a week, I think I read somewhere a long time ago that you have to be coming off a full-time job to collect unemployment; but I don't know, so I applied. The office must be crazy busy, so who knows when they will get back to me.

I called an elderly friend - my godmother, actually - to see if she needed anything. Her health is frail, so I figured it would be safer for me to shop for her, but she is all set. I will call her again in a couple of days, and I call my mother a few times a day. I know they are staying safe at home but I worry about isolation.

I also created an Upworthy profile, to do proofreading or copy editing as piecework. It's not launched yet, as I am having a hard time writing an good description of my skills, and I keep thinking, why would anyone choose me for this? I think I could do it well but my education & experience are not specific to that. I'll tweak it a bit more tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Days of Covid, 4


Got some work done in the studio today - might as well put this time to good use.

I tried to apply for unemployment, too. I don't know what the requirements are, so I don't know if I will qualify, but the website kept crashing, so I couldn't get through. I will try again at like 2 am, when fewer people will be using the system.

I am somewhat less freaked out than yesterday, although a lot of the news is not great - Treasury Secretary Mnuchin reportedly told senators that we could see 20% unemployment as a result of Covid-19.

There is talk, though, of stimulus checks being sent out soon. I guess they are just arguing about how much and to whom - the most recent report I read was a thousand dollar check to every adult who makes less than 85,000 dollars a year. If this lasts a month  (maybe even two, if we are ridiculously frugal) we could squeak by on that. We're artists, we are accustomed to living on little. Anyway that is a some weight off my mind.

Still sheltering in place. I had to talk my mom out of going out to lunch with her friends today. Why is anyone still doing that?!? They are all in the high risk group, just GO HOME. STAY HOME! I call her two or three times a day because it must be very hard being alone all the time.

Days of Covid, 3

Today was...not great. It started pretty good! I cleaned in the morning - just basic stuff, not the deep cleaning I've been promising myself I'd use all this extra time for - I made bread, roasted a chicken, spent some time reading a book in a sunny window: the very picture of quarantine contentment. Then I made a bad mistake: I decided I could go ahead & not be productive for a day, so I didn't go into the studio. Instead I spent the latter part of the day reading the news, trying to gather information about the crisis.

That was my mistake.

Yesterday in a press conference, the president just casually said that this might last until JULY OR AUGUST. He didn't mention any plans to help people who simply can't not work for FOUR MONTHS. It left me feeling like we're on our own out here. I don't know how I will pay my mortgage & utilities if my classes & sales events are cancelled for four months.

For the first time I am feeling like everything will not be ok.

Sunday, March 15, 2020

The Days of Covid, 2

Both of the studios I teach at have suspended classes for 2 weeks. The Universities have told student not to return from spring break. Businesses are still open but advice is basically to shelter in place.

I went to the grocery store today to get cat food & litter, and also a half-gallon of milk to freeze, so I won't have to go again for a long while. We have enough of everything else. I bought a loaf of bread yesterday, and the shelves were full; today there was no bread. No toilet paper or hand sanitizer, either, but that is to be expected at this point. Doug's medical marijuana provider was giving out little spritz bottles of sanitizer, so we have some; I feel silly doing it but I sprayed down the cart before shopping. Inside the store, there are sanitizer wipes; I took one and used it to wipe every item before putting it in the cart.

The thing is, if these measures work, I will look back on this and it will seem absurd; but maybe it will have been measures like this that prevent thousands of deaths.

I have clay, I have glaze. I will make stuff during our recess. I keep reading about people defying advice and going out to bars and restaurants - I hope most people are smarter than that. I'd make a joke about natural selection, but it really isn't funny, and it's mostly not themselves these dumbasses are going to get killed.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Love in the Days of Covid-19

Day 1: March 13, 2020  - the day of the lighbulb moment
A funny thing happened on the way to the social distancing. As recently as Wednesday, coronavirus and its associated illness was, to me, a very upsetting and worrisome thing that was likely to happen to some other unfortunate people, pretty far away. I didn't consciously think that; if you'd asked me I would have said that of course I was worried, of course I was being vigilant about washing my hands. I wasn't shaking hands anymore, I was trying (and often failing) to stop touching my face. Those are just basic responsible behaviors in the time of Covid-19.

If I dug a little deeper, though, I probably thought that someone else would handle it, someone whose job it was to understand such things. A very Smart Person would know how to keep us safe. Very Smart People kept us safe from Ebola and H1N1 and Avian Flu. Every summer we are threatened with Triple-E, passed by mosquitoes, and every year the disease is outsmarted by these clever folk.

I didn't think I had to actually change anything; surely I didn't have to rearrange my life. The Very Smart People would handle it! My faith in the Very Smart people was strong even as late as Wednesday.

Then I started reading facebook posts from a friend in Italy. The situation there kept getting worse and worse! The government suggested they avoid large gatherings, and then all non-essential public places were shut down! Only grocers and pharmacies could remain open. It sounded crazy and it happened so fast!

I still thought, Well, that's terrible for Italy! But really believed that having their example, the Very Smart People here would now know what to do to keep it away from us.

Many people I have talked to about this have what could be described as a lightbulb moment. I had sort of a lightbulb few hours. Friday morning I was all wash-your-hands-&-live-your-life. The idea that I might have to make uncomfortable changes...well, it hadn't even occurred to me that it might happen. By Friday evening all that had changed. I realized social distancing means everyone - not just kids at universities in corona-hotbed states.

Social distancing means me. It means postponing the pottery tour. It means persuading the studios I teach at to suspend classes. It's gonna suck & I'm gonna have to figure out how to live on no money for a couple of weeks. It's gonna get real uncomfortable, but I have to do it.

So do you. If you haven't had your lightbulb moment, let me push you in that direction. The Very Smart People aren't going to be able to make this pass by barely noticed, like Swine Flu. The Very Smart People are saying, Stay away from other people - that's the only way to save lives.

So I'm gonna do it, and so should you.