Quarantine Report #1

I had some stories I was going to write-up a couple of weeks ago. And then the world imploded and it seemed weird to write about events that happened before everything shut down. But I didn’t have anything to say about life in the Pandemic. So I wrote nothing. Seems time to rectify that, so here we go.

Here is a list of every fun thing my incredibly privileged sons could be doing or learning to do during their shelter-in-place at our house:

  • reading
  • writing
  • playing video games
  • working logic puzzles
  • throwing pottery on a wheel
  • slab or coil building pottery
  • firing a kiln: electric, gas, or wood
  • stained glass
  • glass fusing
  • bottle slumping
  • bottle cutting
  • jewelry making
  • painting
  • quilting
  • sewing
  • machine embroidering
  • knitting
  • crocheting
  • felting
  • Kumohimo braiding
  • 3D printing
  • coding (computer programming)
  • archery
  • basketball
  • four square
  • treadmill
  • stationary bike
  • laying outside in a hammock
  • gardening
  • cooking
  • baking
  • playing with the dog
  • playing the cello
  • playing the keyboard
  • working jigsaw puzzles
  • playing board games (we have hundreds!)

Here is a list of everything they are actually doing:

  • playing Terraria together on the ps-4
  • playing video games on the laptop or Kindle Fire or cellphone
  • watching Netflix

The eleven year old is also, when pressed to get off screens, sometimes building some KiwiCo kits he got in the mail over the last few months. And playing with the dog more than usual and helping bake some. And the sixteen year old is fond of sleeping. But that’s it.

So forget all your free virtual tours of museums and other cool stuff that everyone is sharing online. My kids have more variety available to them than I would wager any other people on the planet, and they. Won’t. Take. It.

I hope someday they look back and see how unique their existence was. And how much they squandered the possibilities. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to that 2000-piece puzzle I’ve been working mostly on my own. Then I’ll make some more progress on the quilt. And the book I’m reading. Oh, and that bottle of wine. 😉

Hal Learns Mimi’s Storied Past

Hal and I were sitting in the front pew next to each other, each with an ashen cross on our foreheads. The rest of the two congregations that had joined together for Ash Wednesday were lined up the center aisle, progressing forward for the Imposition of Ashes.

We saw someone he knows best from outside of church in the line and I asked if he had noticed her. He had. “Does she go to that church?” he asked, motioning to the other pastor.

I laughed and said that no, she went to ours but she hadn’t been on Sundays that much lately (and when she is there, he’s usually too busy running around to notice her anyway).

“She doesn’t come on Sunday but came on Ash Wednesday?!

“Everyone has their own lives and their own complications. People stop coming to church regularly for different reasons. Sometimes they have scheduling conflicts or they fall out of the habit or they are struggling with something. Mimi stopped going to church for years because she was mad at the church.”

I realized right after the words were out of my mouth that I had stepped into dangerous territory.

“Why was she mad at the church?”

“Well, it had to do with Grandpa.”

Hal, not understanding the difference between a local church and the greater denominational structure that I was referring to, looked up at me shocked.

“Mimi used to go to Grandpa’s church?!”

“Um, well, yes. You know they were married, right?”

“What?!! I didn’t know that!”

“They are my mom and dad!” I responded, equally surprised but also amused.

“I know that, but I didn’t know they were married.”

“Ok, so do you know that Poppy and Grandma were married?” I asked, referring to my husband’s parents.

“Yes,” he responded. No recognition was in his voice on the lack of symmetry in his understanding of his grandparents. To be clear, I don’t think the distinction in his mind was that they had perhaps been an unmarried couple. He had just never put together that my parents must have been together at some point in the past. Yet he somehow came to that conclusion for the other set. It was strange and quite humorous.

“Well Mimi and Grandpa divorced when I was 5 and Mimi stopped going to church for a long time. She started going back when Papa…” I paused as a whole flood of emotions washed over me.

My mom started going back to church when my step-dad was diagnosed with cancer. He announced one day that they were going to church and she said ok and off they went, becoming weekly attendees and involved congregants in almost no time. The church-involved Mimi is the only Mimi Hal knows.

But Papa Bill…Hal doesn’t know him at all. He died three years before Hal was born. By the time Hal was born, my mom had fallen in love again and moved out of my childhood home. Hal knew none of that.

“Well,” I picked up again. “Mimi remarried after the divorce. She was married to Papa Bill. You don’t know him because he died from cancer before you were born.”

He nodded quietly. That was a lot of information to absorb suddenly like that. Not only had Mimi been married to Grandpa, but she had been married to someone else before the only man that Hal has ever thought of as Mimi’s husband.

We don’t make it to Ash Wednesday service every year. We try to make it a priority but it doesn’t always work out. Hal doesn’t recall having ever attended before, although I know he has. I can’t help but think that this one was memorable enough to be retained.

Because Voting Matters, As Do Skunks

On election day, my husband was preparing to take our youngest to school about the same time I was preparing to go vote before heading to work. He let the dog out to potty and then opened the hatchback of his car for her to jump in. She loves to go with him.

As I approached the polling place, my phone rang. It was my husband.

“Did you vote?” he asked.

“I’m on my way to vote,” I said. “Why?”

His voice conveyed his agitation as the words tumbled out. “Rose got sprayed by a skunk! She was in the car and then she got sprayed!”

“She got sprayed while she was in the car?!” I interrupted.

“No! She was in the car and then I went in to tell Hal something and she apparently saw a skunk. I don’t have time for this. I have to get Hal to school!”

“Do you want me to do something,” I asked hesitantly, glancing down at my nice dress clothes and crossing my virtual fingers.

“No,” he finally said. “Just go ahead and vote. I’ll figure it out. I’m just going to leave her outside right now.”

“Ok, honey. I love you.”

With that, I got out of the car and entered our polling station to vote. It was about 7:30 in the morning, 30 minutes after they opened.

I should explain that I live in Texas and my polling place is in a sparse rural area. The Democrats always have the table to the right of the entrance, right next to the wall. The Republicans have the more prominent spot in the center of the room to the left of the entrance.

I am an independent. I have never registered for a political party and for years never voted in a primary because of that. But in Texas, if you want to have a say, it has to be in the Republican primary. At least for now, whoever wins that goes on to win the general election. And there were some local races that I had opinions on.

“Republican or Democrat?” asked one of the Republican pollsters. There were two each, a man and a woman from each party.

I gave the same nuanced answer that I always give: “I’m voting in the Republican primary.”

The Republicans looked harried. They were rifling through boxes that were stacked on the table.

“Can I see your ID?” asked the Republican woman.

I showed it to her; she looked me up in her list, and then highlighted my name.

“I need you to sign in,” she said, motioning to the roster before resuming her search through the boxes.

I don’t know how it is other places, but our roster has three columns: one for what I assume is a unique number, one for your printed name, and one for your signature. The signature block is upside down. The idea is that they don’t have to turn the roster back and forth. Instead, they write in your number and print your name. And then you just sign from your side of the table, making your signature upside down as compared to your printed name.

Now, I didn’t remember this clearly when she told me to sign my name. I looked down at the roster and there was one name already there with a signature that I couldn’t read. She didn’t write my name or my number and the paper was backwards. The printed name was facing me and the signature was upside down. As I tried to remember how it worked (since I wasn’t receiving direction), I thought maybe the polling person signed that I was who I said I was. Seems silly now but I’m really not supposed to be left to my own devices on this.

I printed my name below the other person’s name and asked if they were going to write a number in for me. I guess they didn’t hear me because she just asked, “Do you want paper or electronic?”

They seemed so frenzied that I responded, “Whichever is easier for you I suppose.”

“Electronic would be easier, I think” was her response. Followed by: “I don’t know how to do electronic. I don’t know how to work the machine!” She sounded a little panicked and she was talking to her fellow Republican pollster, not me.

“I’ll show you how to do it,” he said and walked to the other end of the room. She didn’t follow him but I did. After receiving my strip of paper and confirming that I had done this before, I waited for the other voter to finish. And listened to the conversation.

“I just don’t know where they are. I can’t find them!” he said.

“Did you look in the car?” she asked.

“Yes! They aren’t there.”

The Democrats were more relaxed. One of them asked, “What are you looking for?”

“The ballots. The paper ballots.”

My eyes went wide.

The Democrat patted a large metal box in front of him and said, “They should have been in a box. Like this one.”

I finished my voting and prepared to leave. The Republicans were still searching and setting up. Very busy. I smiled at the Democrats. “Have a nice day!” I said to the room.

“You look familiar,” said the Democrat man.

The Democrat woman responded to him, “Of course she does! She’s been here before. Many times.”

I smiled and said, “I recognize you too. You’ve been here all those times.”

We exchanged a few niceties and then I went out to my car. As I backed out of the parking space, I pressed the screen on my dashboard to call my husband. I didn’t really want to help with the stinky dog, but figured I should check in.

Just as he answered, the Republican woman came running out of the building waving her arms. “Wait! Wait!”

I rolled down my window. The Democrat woman was trailing behind her. The Republican said, “You didn’t sign the roster!”

“Oh, ok,” I said, pulling back in to park. “You had it upside down,” I then muttered, finally working out in my mind what was supposed to have happened.

The Republican sagged in relief.

Meanwhile, the Democrat had returned to the building, retrieved the Republican roster and a pen, and was now hurrying to my car. “Here,” she said. “You can just sign it out here so you don’t have to go back in.”

“Thanks,” I said, taking the paper and signing it although, I realized right as I did it, without turning it upside down first. So there I was, the second name on the voting roster and my name was going to be backwards of everyone else’s. Assuming they started running the table properly. Otherwise, maybe I set the tone and everyone followed suit.

I can’t know this for sure, but I can’t help but think that the friendly exchange with the Democrat caused her to go glance at the roster to see my name. And that she’s the one that pointed out to them that my signature was missing.

All’s well that ends well, I suppose. I hope they got their act together. When I called my confused husband back after having hung up on him the previous time, he let me off the hook on returning home to help with the stinky dog. And he later told me that by the time he got there that afternoon, at least, they had found the paper ballots.

Roger That

As we walked toward the Start Line for the Cowtown 5K in Fort Worth, TX, our eleven-year-old son Hal asked his dad a question.

“What is Captain America’s first name?”

“His name is Steve. Steve Rogers.”

“Oh.” There was a slight pause. “Ok, then is Will Mr. Rogers’ first name?”

“No,” my husband said with a laugh. “Mr. Rogers’ first name was Fred.”

Another pause was followed by an exasperated huff and the final question. The one he apparently should have led with: “Then who is Will Rogers?”

“He was a cowboy humorist and newspaper columnist from Oklahoma,” we said.

And I suddenly understood where his questions were coming from. We were passing in front of the Will Rogers Memorial building and Hal was trying to put together who that was.

I’m impressed that he thought of two different famous Rogers folks and amused that he thought someone might name a building after Captain America. Then again, why not?