Coronavirus Day 67. From coats and boots to sleeveless and sandals.

I’m tired. Not the kind of tired from not having enough sleep or the being bored kind of tired, but the heavy cloaked tired that comes with not knowing mixed with fear and anxiety and topped off with the new realities that even after over 2 months, I’m still having a hard time with. I heard a name for this today – coronavirus fatigue. The symptoms for coronavirus fatigue didn’t present themselves immediately for me, but rather were gradual in their onset, but now seem to be present daily. Walking, nature, painting and writing seem to offer temporary relief.

A hundred years ago…. I’m surprised that masks haven’t changed more!
However strong it is, I don’t think mine is strong enough right now.

Things in Boulder are starting to change and last Saturday was the “soft” opening of retail shops. The doors opened to new rules of spacing and mandatory masks, but still, the doors opened and customers entered. I walked down Pearl Street, the Main Street downtown where the majority of the shops and restaurants are, out of curiosity. It was the eeriest walk down Pearl I’ve ever experienced in my short 9 months of living here. People were walking around wide-eyed and curious, as if seeing everything for the first time. It reminded me of when people exit their homes during the quiet after a big storm to assess the damage, with a vulnerability that made it seem like we had just gotten up and were still in our pajamas. Wider than normal swaths of gray roots and hair that looked long overdue for a trim were the norm. Something about that felt reassuring to me. My own hair is about 3 inches past its haircut due date, so no judgement there, just observation. Some of the shops had music playing and doors wide open, giving a sense of celebration to the area but even so, something didn’t feel right or normal or as it had been before. I realized that I hadn’t seen that many people in one place in a very long time and even with distancing and probably less than 1/4 of the population that would normally be there on a beautiful Saturday, it seemed like a lot of people to me. The other odd thing was seeing everyone with a mask on. It still looks like a science fiction movie to me, but at the same time, I was grateful to see so many people following the rules.

Empty sign boards…not much going on in Boulder these days…

I went into one of the shops, simply because I could I guess, but had no intentions of buying anything as I didn’t have my wallet with me. I had passed by the shop window many times on my walks during the past 2 months and had seen something in the window that caught my eye, so wanted a closer look. The thing, an old wooden vessel of sorts, was just as intriguing in person as it had been through the shop window but I’ve got to say, I had no desire whatsoever to go home, get my money and return for the purchase. In fact, I had no desire to buy anything. I know the small businesses need all the help they can get, but spending money on myself for things totally unnecessary didn’t feel right to me and being in a store, regardless of the distancing didn’t feel right either. At least not yet. Having adhered closely to the “quarantine rules,” my re-entry will be slow. And I’m nervous, but I am getting out. I’m going to the grocery store and made a few trips to a local nursery for flowers. This, to me, is the scary part. I’m afraid that with each venture out to a new public venue, I will get more and more casual about touching things and physical distancing. I know it’s odd, but I’m afraid I’ll be so distracted by the plants, the flowers, the produce, the shoes, the books, that I’ll forget about the virus, even while donning a mask. Again, my re-entry will be cautious and slow.

My way of dealing with difficult situations is to only take on what I can handle, a gradual easing in process. It’s nothing I do consciously but rather seems to be the mechanism my psyche has set up as a matter of protection. I’m guessing I’m not alone in that. Had I been told 2 months ago to prepare for a solo quarantine for 2 plus months then a gradual return to a very different reality, I’m not sure what I would have done. After hearing about the 2 week “self-isolation,” daunting as it was, I prepared both physically and emotionally and was ready for the challenge. And now, a month and a half later from that “challenge” when I hear things like “mid to late summer for large gatherings… maybe, airline travel will come with risk or stock up on masks as we will be wearing them for a very long time,” my reaction is a flat, dull, sure, OK… hardly what it was when I heard 2 weeks isolation. I’ve become desensitized but know my psyche has a hand in that. What I can manage right now is today. Just today. I’m living the lesson I’ve always tried to put into play – living in the moment – and that lesson has become a matter of emotional survival for me.

I love my walks. Still. I love getting to know my neighborhood and beyond and have to wonder how “deep” I would have gotten on my walks had it not become a very important 2 hours of my day simply for my sanity as well as my physical well-being. I drove to a small garden center a few days ago as I was told they practice very strict and safe distancing measures. I had to think about how to get there from my house, given one way streets that don’t matter when walking. Driving felt strange. I can’t say that I loved it. The last time I filled my car with gas was on my return trip from KC the first of March. I still have 3/4 of a tank. Once we’re back to our “new normal,” I hope to spend more time on foot or on my bike doing my errands, which I’m still wondering exactly what those errands that had me in and out of my car several times a day even were? Yes, things will look different, be different, feel different and for much of that, I’m thankful.

Dumpsters at my nearby middle school… budding artists everywhere!
Could not have said it better!
Clever advertising for a room for rent. These guys seem to like living here…oh, and that’s a chicken living on the lower level of the “room for rent” display….
One of my more “curious” finds…
Take the answer that applies…

I walked past the Catholic Church down the street from me on Mother’s Day and couldn’t help but notice that the parking lot was relatively full, something that looks out of place these days. My curiosity got the best of me and I stopped to try and figure out what was going on. When I saw the sign that gave the radio station to tune into, I realized that it was Mother’s Day mass in drive-in form. The priest was on a small covered “stage” at the front of the parking lot and the congregation were in their cars listening from their radios. Once it was over and the cars started leaving, I saw a couple of men stationed at the exit who were handing out flowers to the mothers in the cars. They’ve figured it out. Mass while maintaining social distancing. Maybe I’m just nosey or maybe I’m curious or maybe I crave conversations with others, but I did cobble together a conversation in Spanish with a woman who was leaving the mass to confirm what I thought. Yes, Mother’s Day Mass in cars. Honoring their religion, their mothers and the social distancing.

Yes, I’m nosey and curious and am stopping people more and more often these days simply to ask questions and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how friendly most have been. A couple of the restaurants with large plate glass windows in front have put large pieces of plywood over the windows during the temporary shut down, I’m guessing to stave off possible looting. It was sad and rather forbidding to see. A few days ago I walked past the same windows only to see they had been painted over with a beautiful landscape. I was lucky enough to be there as the artists were working on one of the window paintings and had a nice conversation with them. It was suggested that maybe the paintings could be auctioned off once the restaurants re-opened and the money given to the restaurant association to help those who have suffered so much during the quarantine. Maybe one of the restaurants would want the painting on an interior wall? I asked them if they’d mind if I just watched them paint for a bit and they said absolutely not and so I did. There are a lot of stories out there. I’m happy to hear some of them


Observations: 6 feet. We all know exactly what it looks like now with tape X’s and lines on the floors of the stores. The lines to get into stores often seem incredibly long, with the monitoring of one in one out rule, until I realized that there is 6 feet between every person and in reality, it’s only a handful of people who are making the line stretch out so long. It is the measurement of my life these days and I know by heart what it looks and feels like. How odd it will feel when we can all bunch together again, with ” excuse me” and “so sorry,”, when body parts accidentally touch. The thought seems very foreign to me right now.

I’ll let my photos tell the rest… always the most interesting part of my days…

“Help our rock garden…drop a rock of inspiration”. And it looks like many have! I may need to paint a rock and drop it off on my next walk…
I’m beyond blessed to have this trail a short 20 minute walk down the street from me….it’s become my retreat.

Stay safe. Stay hopeful.

Mother’s Day, 2020 Switching roles.

My favorite Mother’s Day photo, also possibly one of the only ones with everyone in the same shot as I was usually the one behind the camera.

I’ve always loved writing my Mother’s Day post more than any other as they seem to write themselves – the words flow effortlessly because it is a subject that I know well and hold close to my heart. This year is no different. Actually, it feels good to write about something else besides the coronavirus (59 days, by the way, which I’ve already rounded up to 2 months), but enough of that. Onto motherhood…

I was blessed with the title of Mom on April 30, 1986, when my son, Thomas, entered the world, followed by Grant in 1987 and rounding off our newly formed family of 5 with Emery in 1990. I look back on those early days of mothering, filled with exhaustion, adoration, frustration, devotion and lots of other words that end in “tion,” with such tenderness and nostalgia, but day to day, while in the throes of it, I’m not sure I would have used those words. The edges of life’s memories really do soften over time and although I was sleep-deprived and frustrated with babies who wouldn’t stop crying, while ignoring my own needs, those early baby days are some of my fondest, and as cliche as it is, the time really did fly by – days were long but the years were fast. I never thought I’d be that mom who tells her ‘new to their parenting role’ children, “It feels like only yesterday that YOU were that age and I was trying to get YOU to sleep, stop crying, eat, smile for the camera and so on.” But lo and behold, I am that mom. I’m also that mom who continues to tell any mom who is bemoaning the fact that their babies are growing up too quickly that EVERY age was my favorite ( small lie, middle school excluded…) and that includes the age they are today. Those silly, joyful, stubborn, curious beings are still there whether at 2 years or 32 years and getting the occasional glimpses or the gestures that take me back are my constant reminder of that. The gift continues even with my very young grandchildren, (ages 3, 1 and 6 months), when I see their parents in their facial expressions, gestures and sense of humor. It’s only now, that my children are grown and flew the nest over a decade ago, that I feel like I’ve gotten the distance necessary to see the 3 distinct phases that my journey into motherhood has taken me, each one, naturally, my favorite.

Phase One was infancy to leaving home for college – the exhausting and memorable years that filled photo albums and journals. It was my life and who I became and I’m darn proud of those years. I’m touched with my kid’s memories of the small gestures I made for reasons that varied from total enthusiasm to it will help us (me) get through the day. The fact that they remember the small things mean a whole lot more to me than the vacations, the Christmas’s or the gestures far grander than laying on a blanket in the front yard with our eyes to the sky while we looked for animals in the clouds, or midnight runs to the store for snacks in slippers and “loungewear” because we were watching World Cup soccer in a European time zone or having a campout in a closet that was far too small for much more than tiny clothes. Those years, while forming the adults my children are today, also played a very big role in my own self-development and my journey back to my own inner child – the creative, often dirty, probably too loud, happy little girl who tested boundaries and pushed edges. Because those years became such a part of who I am today, Phase Two, the empty nest phase, was a difficult one for me. That, coupled with divorce and finding my way through a newly emptied house on my own, was a difficult time for me. As much as I thought I was ready for each one of the kids exits to college, I wasn’t. While unloading over-filled cars, to undersized dorm rooms, always on the hottest day of the year, I held back tears as I watched my kids feather their new nests while leaving their old ones behind. But it turned out OK because the kids eventually did return and slept in their old beds and stayed out too late and left dirty dishes in the sink and trails of clothes on the floor and I still worried and nagged and asked too many questions and felt deliriously happy in the chaos of their brief returns and my return to “normal”.

What I didn’t realize at my time of empty nests and roots and wings metaphors was that there would be another phase – Phase Three, when my basement would be cleared of all my kid’s boxes and belongings because this time, I was the one moving. No longer would the kids be coming back to their own rooms, still holding glimpses of themselves on their walls, to stay during holidays or the occasional just because weekends. This time, the baby birds weren’t the only ones to leave the nest but the mama was also leaving. Not only did our nest change, but our roles have changed as well. The same children who used to hear the words so often that I think scar tissue formed in their ears:

“When will you be home? Who are you going with? Who’s driving? Did you finish your homework/project/room cleaning/assignment etc.? How are you going to get there? Did you remember your books/soccer gear/ ballet shoes/homework/project??? And no, for the 100th time, you can’t…”

Are the same kids who are now asking,

“Are you OK, Mom? Have you met your neighbors? Need me to tune up your bike, mow your lawn, sort out your blog website, get you groceries? Help you move that (insert anything heavy here…)?”

Granted, the quarantine has strengthened this concern and offers of helping out, but it didn’t create them as they were there long before I was in my solo-quarantine.

Less than a week into my quarantine, I went to bed, thinking all was OK and was quietly “congratulating” myself on making it through another day when out of nowhere, I began to sob – a chest heaving kind of sob. It didn’t matter how many times I told myself that it was going to be OK and that I was going to be OK, I clearly wasn’t. I was scared. I was alone. Without hesitation, I picked up my phone and called my son, Grant, whose time zone is an hour earlier than mine and I knew he’d still be up. My son became the voice of reason, insuring me that everything was going to be fine and I was going to be fine and just think, when we are on the other side of this, the stories we will all be able to tell of living through a pandemic.

“You’ll be ok, Mom. I love you, Mom.”

We talked for about an hour, he talking me off the quarantine wall while I listened to the sage advice and reassurance from the son who gave me so many sleepless nights and whose behavior my own parents had to tell me was strangely familiar as they had seen it before with me. That son. That same son that this parent was now calling for reassurance and simply because I was afraid.

“You’ll be OK, Mom.”

“Thank you, Grant.”

About a month after that call, my son, Thomas, texted that he was going to ride his bike over and would I like to go bike riding with him, keeping masks on and distancing, of course. And so we did, but only after he gave my bike a front to back tune up, something I had been quite remiss in keeping up with. After wandering around empty streets, me showing him some of my walking discoveries while he gave me riding tips (it had been a while since I had ridden on city streets, even though they were empty…), we sat in the yard and talked – about the quarantine, his daughter, Lilah, Boulder, life. That time together was exactly what I needed and I’m sure Thomas knew that. There’s an unspoken communication that parents develop with their kids which no doubt is where the saying “eyes in the back of our heads” originated. You know when your child is not telling you something or is lying or stretching a truth that they are “fine” when you know they aren’t, simply because you are the mom and moms know. I’ve got to think that the kids of those moms develop the same kind of intuition over time. Thomas knew I was having a rough few days even though I had said nothing to him and did what any caring child would do and invited me to go bike riding. After he left, I stayed outside, sat on my front porch and absorbed it all. Although we can’t hug, that time spent pedaling around the neighborhood was just about as close to a hug as I could get. This experience of quarantining is teaching me that there are many ways to hug, without physically touching, and for that, I’m continually grateful.

And finally, last week was my grandson, Arlo’s, 3rd birthday and although I hadn’t planned on seeing the kids that day due to coronavirus, Emery called me a few days before and insisted I come over. I had developed a pretty severe rash on my arms that was only getting worse and Emery thought that breaking social distancing rules at this point and going in for the hugs was more important for my health than staying away. I followed her suggestions and spent a few hours celebrating Arlo’s 3rd birthday with lots of hugs and family time. And the rash? The itching subsided that night and now, a week later, after having it for almost 3 weeks, it’s completely gone. Emery’s maternal nature and concern for me has come through with supplements and teas for my immune system, runs to the store, drive by’s with Arlo in the back seat, simply so I can get a quick “in person” look and FaceTimes almost daily to connect. A few days into the quarantine, when we were all thinking it would be 2 weeks and weren’t really sure of what was next, a package of goodies from a small local store was delivered to me from Emery. She knew. She’s developed the maternal eyes in the back of her head and I’m the lucky recipient. We are all taking care of each other in our words and our gestures and seem to know intuitively when to jump in and offer a virtual shoulder. Hugging from a distance.

Not only did the kid’s belongings leave the basement and the mama fly the nest in Phase Three, but the children become the parents. I have no intention of surrendering my parental role (is that even possible???), but have certainly loosened my grip and am happy to let my kids step in and offer to help or a listening ear. Those gestures of love mean as much to me as the stack of pop tarts and glass of orange juice, brought to me on a tray, with kids arguing about who got to hold it, while serving me “breakfast” in bed.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms out there. Whether a late night reassurance call, an impromptu bike ride, a morning of hugs or stacks of pop tarts on a plate, they all say the same thing…

” I love you, Mom.”

” I love you, too.”

In the midst of mothering, Phase One….
Mothering, Phase Three. Thomas, Grant and Emery (pregnant with her 2nd) at Griffith Park in LA.

Coronavirus Day 51. A lot of days.

Day 51, but who’s counting? I guess I am. The numbers seem kind of irrelevant though now as I feel like I’ve been in this pattern for long enough that the absurd has become the normal. Case in point, when I see photos of people standing next to each other I’m a bit stunned. Old photos, no doubt, but was it really that long ago when we gathered in groups, touched arms with people we knew or didn’t know while in line at the grocery store with strangers? When we said “excuse me” because we bumped into someone, actually touching bodies, in a narrow store aisle? Or stood shoulder to shoulder for a photo? Or actually embraced? That time seems like a very long ago to me.

My moods have waxed and waned – probably more waning than waxing the past few weeks and I know I’m not alone with that. The novelty of our daily reality has worn off and although I’m not sitting around bored and am spending a great deal of my day outside walking or in some sort of creative modality, the absence of having physical connections to other people is huge. The theme I’m living now would be inspiring for a solo retreat and no doubt I’d be intrigued by its description – maybe something like “exploring your inner soul, by yourself, while tapping into your creativity and nature.” (and in the fine print “You’re on your own for cooking, entertainment, and whatever you want to fill your day with but we will provide WIFI and internet….) I don’t think I would sign up for the 51 day package though….14 days, maybe, with the possibility of an add on weekend.

My walking has increased and I’m easily getting in 5 or 6 miles a day, every day. It’s been a real gift in getting to know my neighborhood, and beyond, and I’ve discovered so many interesting pockets that I doubt I never would have without the restrictions that we’re all under. I was riding bikes with my son a few days ago, and was able to point out curiosities and cool houses that he said he had never seen before. When you pay attention, I mean REALLY pay attention, it’s truly amazing what you can see. My walks have become a bit like an Easter egg hunt for me – always searching for the positive, the creative, the quirky and the memorable. Today’s memorable moment was a couple I passed while walking around a nearby lake. He was using a white cane, so I assumed he was blind and the woman with him had a gentle, yet directive, hold of his arm. As I passed them, I overheard her saying,

“We’re going to stop in a minute so I can tell you about all the flowers that are around us.”

Tell you about the flowers….” something about that touched me. I would have loved to have heard her describe the flowers but thought it would be too creepy of me to turn around and follow them, close enough to hear her words, yet far enough to maintain a safe distance. Gratitude presents itself far more now that I’m paying attention.

The saying that your body speaks its mind has come into play full tilt in my life during the past 2 weeks. I’ve developed an odd, very itchy rash on both of my arms. No where else, just the arms. I’ve not changed soaps, lotions, food or detergents (I’ve not gone to the store so have proof positive of that!) and yet this rash appeared from what seems to be out of nowhere for me and right in the hugging spot of my arms. I’ve dealt with pretty severe cases of poison ivy but this isn’t poison ivy or poison oak or any of the other poisons that can wreak havoc on the skin. My conclusion was that my arms hadn’t hugged in close to two months, and no doubt that takes a toll on the emotional body, but I have to believe that the physical body isn’t left out. I don’t feel stressed, and have to say that I have far more good days than bad, but who am I kidding? Of course I’m stressed! I’ve not had human contact in almost 2 months and we are social animals. We need physical contact. A few days, several days, one week or even two, but 2 months is too long to be alone, without any physical contact. I’ll spare you the photo on this one, but you’ll have to trust me. I’ve been in long sleeves since and we’ve had a few days in the mid 80’s, definitely not long sleeved weather. It looks that bad.

After seeing my rash (via face time), my daughter, Emery, insisted that I come over to the house to celebrate my grandson, Arlo’s, 3rd birthday, which happens to fall on my firstborn, Thomas’s birthday, the following day. She said we will do a joint celebration, while honoring physical distancing etc. I told her I wasn’t sure Arlo would understand that he couldn’t hug me and she said that’s fine. You both need to hug each other. And so yesterday, I celebrated Arlo and Thomas’ birthday, played out in the field behind their house, marveled at my 3 grandchildren (ages 3, 1 and 6 months) and felt the greatest joy I’ve felt in a very, very long time – at least 50 days, all of that preceded by a long time simply hugging. When I got out of my car, Arlo ran up to me, jumped into my arms, hugged me and laid his head on my shoulder. I sobbed… tears of joy, relief and confirmation that yes, the stress has been real. I had just started to reach for my mask to put it on when this happened but forgot about the mask and continued with what felt like real life to me. Familiar, hugging, no masks, no distancing. Emery said that she thought even Governor Polis would agree that this gathering and embracing of people, none who had left their houses in over a month was not only fine, but necessary. Thomas and Brooke and 1 year-old Lilah arrived a few minutes later and when Brooke got out of the car, she looked at us all bunched together with raised brows and a big smile said,

“Are we doing this?”

Yes. We’re doing this. More hugs. More embraces. More tears for me.

I didn’t come bearing gifts for my son or grandson, we didn’t eat birthday cake (it was 10:00 in the morning) and we didn’t even sing “Happy Birthday” (they would do that later with cake and candles), but it was the most wonderful celebration of birthdays and family and love that I’ve experienced in a very long time. I only wish Grant and Katie could have been there as well, but they did check in on Zoom. I realized that the celebration didn’t need the cake or the presents or the ceremony that usually happens but rather it was the love that carried us and made it one of the most celebratory moments I’ve ever experienced. I felt like I had been holding my breath for 51 days and finally, yesterday, I got to exhale and boy did it ever feel good. I told my kids it was the first time I’ve felt a sense of normal in close to two months. That’s a long time. Too long.

We will return to social distancing and will likely wear masks the next time, as Boulder is lifting restrictions in a week, which means we will have to be even more careful as we will be venturing out and coming into contact with others. Bending (or breaking?) the rules a bit yesterday became very necessary for all of our well-being. Oh, and the rash? It hardly itched at all yesterday and today, I have hope for the first time in over 2 weeks, that it’s on its way out. How can I NOT make a connection between the rash and the lack of hugging? Especially given that it only presented itself on my arms and no where else. A dermatologist would likely give me the diagnosis of “contact dermatitis” (which a dermatologist once told me simply means they have no idea…) and they would probably be right, but I can’t discount the role that stress and lack of human contact have played. *Note to anyone googling skin conditions…. heed the warnings. The photos are indeed disturbing…

These are stressful times and whether through sleepless nights, nervous stomach, headaches or a rash on the arms, it is showing up, one way or another, in our physical bodies. I’m just glad I was able to get the medication I so desperately needed yesterday – hugs. Lots of them. As I was hugging Arlo, he looked up at me and asked me if my arms still hurt ( Emery must have told him my arms “hurt”) and I answered,

“Not any more, Arlo, now that I’m hugging you.”

And his tight hug back was just about the best thing I’ve ever felt.

This. This I had missed so much.
Paying attention.

Boulder is FULL of art, and not necessarily in galleries. I know I’ve posted a lot of painted walls, fences, buildings and just when I think I have to have found them all in my neighborhood, I find more. Yesterday I read that Boulder is #3 in the country for creativity for small cities. I have no idea how they come to those numbers, but from what I’ve seen, it does make sense. Here are several from my past few walks.

These were actually outside shades on windows of the Boulder Museum. I wondered why I had never seen them before as I pass by often. I guess they weren’t down.

And finally, my banana bread game has never been stronger. I use a different recipe every time I make it and have found my keeper. I’ve also gotten much better at portion control and am eating it like a normal person, a few slices at a time, (albeit on the thick side). I’m into day 3 on my last loaf and have to say I’m feeling a sense of pride that it’s lasted that long. I read yesterday that banana bread has been the most baked item during quarantine (again, how do they come up with those numbers????). Who would have thought so many of us would be sharing comfort in a mixture of over-ripe bananas, flour, sugar, eggs and spices? Happy to be with the masses on that one.

Stay safe and when you leave home, be even safer.