Thursday, March 19, 2020

Oh 2020....

Seriously. We had such hope for you.  I mean.... 2020. The future. The greatest year. So much hope and promise, amirite?

January took about a year in my world.  Ian was having challenging stuff  with the walls burning, and the month just wouldn't end.

February was decent in my world.  Ian was here for most of it and we saw Katherine and Nicholas, and then Jonathon in the UK, and it was just nice and peaceful.

March started and you know the rest, not just for my world but all of our worlds. Ian went back and things continued to blow up -literally- over there and at the same time blow up -in a different sense- everywhere else.

It's been a long, long year.  And we're only in March.  Everyone is being impacted differently.

Jonathon is doing his classes on-line.  The UK is one of the few places that hasn't closed all their universities.  He's living in his dorm and doing his work. It helps that spring break starts next week so a lot of the kids were already going home this week, and they'll all be gone for the next month on break.  That may have played a role in why the school didn't just close up.

Nicholas's training in Norway has been canceled? Delayed? Who knows.  But rather than being out of the country for 6 months, he's now essentially confined to base, if not to barracks, in NC.  He is not happy.

Rebecca's school has moved all classes on-line which is rather hard for an arts school where most of the majors are hands-on, workshop, and program related.  The dorms closed, but she only has 2 classes left and she lives off-campus, so she's hunkered in Savannah.  But the worst kick in the teeth for her.... her college graduation/commencement has been canceled. There's no way to not make that hurt.

Katherine works in a service industry and she's sick. She called her doctor to request testing, they couldn't help her.  She called the MD Health office, they couldn't help her.  Everyone told her to go to the ER. So she did, and they put her in isolation while they ran tests and checked her lungs, because yes, she is really sick.  She came back positive for RSV, and there the tests stopped. They didn't test her for COVID.  She picked up prescriptions and is staying home.  As we learn more about how the 20-45 range is a nice big chunk of those falling ill, it totally makes sense not to test someone for the pandemic virus who's sick in your waiting room /sarcasm.

I am still going in to work. I take the Metro there and back but there are so few people now that it's easy to not touch anything and sit 6 feet away from folks, and I sit 6 feet away from my nearest co-worker in the office too.  But hey, the 3rd floor in my building was shut down today due to a positive COVID result in one of the offices there, so yeah, don't touch the elevator buttons.

The bright side, if you can call it that, is that today with the gorgeous weather I walked around downtown and had some time with Ian showing him the cherry blossoms and the empty sidewalks. There were plenty of people still out but nothing close to normal.  People walking dogs, people kicking balls on the grass, and yes, some tourists. I stayed away from most of them as I passed the Vietnam, Korean, Lincoln, Jefferson, and MLK memorials, and the Washington monument. There were people about, but not that many.

I needed that walk for my soul.  Taking the metro in each day with people who all seem a little dejected.  Sitting at the office where most people work with headphones on. Coming home where now the loudest things outside are the helicopters flying by and the sirens, and the loudest thing inside is the cat.  Watching TV (please, someone give me a recommendation).  Just being alone a lot.  I needed something warm and pretty and not so lonesome, and walking around this city while talking with Ian did me some good.

Take care of yourselves.

Remember that feeling on 9/11 when all the planes were being told to land and we held our breathes as a nation for hours as we watched the blips disappear from the radar screens? And then the silence.  And then the days and days of "what the hell." We all knew we'd had a major hit to our sense of security and felt the sudden loss of life. For myself, this has had a similar feeling but I didn't really recognize it until today because it's been so sloooooooow, so protracted. Yes, while it feels like things are changing hour to hour, the changes have been smaller pieces of a much bigger picture.  Life came to a screeching halt in 2001, this has been more subtle. It's a like an interminably slow squeeze, and it's no wonder that people feel like the world is closing in on them, even if they didn't realize at first that it was.

The last major flu in 1918 didn't have a lot what we have today to the extent that we have it today.  Clean water in our homes, indoor plumbing, stockpiles of tissues and wipes, a doctor on every corner, lots of hospitals, gloves and masks, stocked grocery stores, trash pick-up, mail delivery, home entertainment, and more that all of that, science, risk awareness, and global communication. We have the ability to social distance and self-quarantine that folks in the last flu didn't, and the means to do it safely and dare I say, happily, so it's on us to take those steps. We have 100-years-of progress-advantages, use them.

So yeah, take care of yourselves. Breathe. Eat well. Go outside! If the weather cooperates, open the doors and windows and let the outside in. Talk to people, a lot, over some digital form of communication. Read that book.  If you have a book inside you, write it. Sing on your balcony. Walk the dog. Play with your family and enjoy this time. All that good stuff.  Seems like every museum has free virtual tours and every restaurant delivers. So watch some Kennedy Center or Met Opera streams while you learn how to bake bread or make ice cream. Support the arts, today and always, and recognize how important all genres of the arts world affect our lives and feed our minds, bodies, and souls.

2020 has been anything but predictable. People, there are still 8 1/2 more months to go in this year.... which according to my internal calendar means we'll be in 2020 for roughly 12.48 more years. Just please, don't let my hope that all this will ease soon be met with a stab in the back, or a punch in the gut, or a blindside, OK 2020? We'd all just like to make it through in one piece. I want my kids safe and healthy. And I want my husband home and healthy.  Is that too much to ask?

Just please, no blindsides.

Oh, and if everyone who wants to get tested could get tested, that would be great too.

Sunday, March 1, 2020

R&R#2 in the books.

Ian is back in Baghdad and I've started my job.  It's been a busy 8 weeks. January and half of February was dedicated to ConGen, the generic term for the consular training course at FSI, and Ian arrived stateside on Feb 7 with out HHE delivery on 10 January, so you know... busy. I'm still working on boxes. There is no way that the stuff for a family of 6 that filled a 3-story/5-bedroom house in Jordan can easily fit into 1185sqft of apartment. I feel like the paring down I did in Frankfurt was a good start, but that's all it was, a start.  I didn't really think how "paring down" to 12 pots and pans still wouldn't fit in a single kitchen cabinet. So. Much. Stuff.

So Ian arrived on 7 Feb, and so did Nicholas.  We had Nicholas with us for 10 days, a wonderful time as he'll be heading out on some cold-weather training for 6 months and won't be available again until the fall sometime.

But I have to admit, this R&R was just so different from #1.  For one thing, dishes. And laundry. Taking a bus to class.  Let's just boil it down to, I had to set an alarm.  An alarm!  I couldn't just BE with my spouse and my kid, there were other things pulling me around, and I didn't really like that. We were out every night the first week, which was great but tiring. Dinners with friends. Celebrating Katherine's 24th birthday. "The King's Speech" at The National Theater.  A Caps game. Valentine's Day. Dinner with my parents. The following Monday was a holiday, Katherine and Erich came down for an escape room which we blew through.

So. Many. Boxes.

Something we've noticed with Escape Rooms - as we get better at good rooms we spend less time in them. It's a catch-22, but still a fun one.

The next week, Nicholas returned to Camp Lejeune, we had another sad Caps game, and then Friday Ian and I flew to the UK to visit with our youngest at university.  We strongly recommend the four-poster room at the Rose and Crown Best Western in Colchester. There's a delight in staying in a converted 15th century pub house. The other Best Western I recommend is in Istanbul, it's just gorgeous.  Let's lay it out there - the international branch of Best Western is nothing like the US branch.

Oops, fuzzy, but yes, we had to duck.

Between the raindrops, we checked out the school (we did a college tour in June 2018, very different from gloomy Feburary), saw the boy's dorm room, ate on campus, saw his classrooms and some of his projects, and most importantly, took him off campus for a bit. The weather really didn't cooperate, so the blustery, cloudy, and periodically heavy downpours kept us from really wandering - the required rain boots or hiking boots didn't fit in my carry-on - but we did amble through Colchester High Street by the castle in the oldest settlement in England, and visited the tiny village of Dedham. Dedham has a nice restaurant we tried to go, The Boathouse, but as it was all reserved we had delightful light fare at the Tiptree Tea Room. Tiptree tea rooms are all over Essex and super cute, with cakes and sandwiches, and of course afternoon tea.  That's something I haven't had an opportunity for yet.  We just figured out that upstairs dining rooms in pubs are the place to eat, not the communal tables by the bar - tea rooms are a step beyond that we haven't reached yet. We did an Escape Room with Jonathon too, another successful outing.

The boy.

The last night we had him we had dinner at the hotel restaurant, which shockingly was out of fish and chips (we remedied that the next day in London). I thoroughly enjoyed my dinner with these 2, chatting, having dessert, and some awesome Strongbow cider. Though we'd planned to see him for breakfast the next day before our departure, school got in the way so we said our goodbyes.

As happens every time we leave one of the kids or the kids leave us, I get weepy. Ian hadn't seen J since June, and he won't see him again until July when he comes home.

Colchester is just under 2 hours from Heathrow, but still too far IMO to do the drive the same morning as our flights.  So we returned to the airport, turned in the car, then took the train into town where Ian gave a talk to the Consular ELOs about his time in Baghdad, before we had our fish and chips and caught a showing of "Magic Goes Wrong." I hadn't ever heard of it, but Ian had and we're fans of Penn&Teller. The crazy thing with the show is that they do some actual magic, but there's so much silliness going on you don't really pay attention to the slight of hand. The Mischief Theater Company has 2 other shows currently running in the West End too, so be impressed they've secured so much stage space.

Wednesday morning came too soon.  Ian went to his gate and I went to mine, and 12 hours later we'd arrived at our respective "homes." Opposite directions.

One more R&R to go.