Monthly Archives: March 2020

Melanoma and Modern Dance

Well, Contemporary Dance but I digress. Good news on Ena’s melanoma. It is Stage 1 meaning it hadn’t metastasized (that took me three times to spell correctly). There is no further treatment. Now we just need to get the wound on the back of her calf healed up so she can get off of crutches.

We will know more about the cardiac issues by the end of the week. The fact that the cardiologist isn’t saying, “OMG, get to urgent care immediately” makes me think that this isn’t instant death threatening. Which is kind of reassuring. Though, we would like to know what and why and what’s next.

As I said before, the things we usually do that help us get through the gray Winter (dinners out, season tickets to Seattle Rep and the Meany Center’s World Dance series) have been cancelled. Which is sad for us and heartbreaking for both of the arts organizations and the performers.

Last night we dug through YouTube and watched some Grupo Corpo. Grupo Corpo is a (are a) Brazilian contemporary dance group. Their choreography is a mix of traditional afro-brazilian dance, ballet and contemporary dance. It is very accessible. Technically, they are stunning. When the whole ensemble dances in unison – they are in unison. Skirts all settle at the same moment.

Onqotô has a laid back tango feel. Sensual and lovely. Sem Mim brings the afro-brazilian beat and rapid movement together. The physicality, fitness and energy of the dancers is amazing. Grupo Corpo is posting dance performances on their site.

Take some time out from the crazy and enjoy a world-class contemporary dance group and lose yourself in art for bit.

Stay well.

Jim

Edit: corrected the spelling of Grupo Corpo. JP

So Sunday… and the ever resetting 5 day clock.

Last week was… challenging to say the least. Ena had surgery on Tuesday to remove a melanoma from her calf. She is now on crutches. During all of that, we discovered she has a cardiac issue too. So now we are dealing with that.

On Thursday, I had just gone to the grocery store in the hopes of not leaving the house for two weeks. Instead, we seem to running to Kaiser for tests and follow-ups every few days. When we get back from the clinic visits, we put our clothes and coats in the wash, wash our hands, then put on clean clothes.

I have set up a sanitation zone in the garage. All groceries and packages come into the garage. They sit for 24 hours if possible, then I unpack and sanitize things. If we don’t need them immediately, they sit on a shelf (dated of course) for 5 days. I’m willing to wait this out.

Every time I go out with people, I start a 5 day clock in my head. “How about today. Any symptoms?” At this rate, I never get past day three. We are back to Kaiser tomorrow morning.

From the amazing file: King Arthur Flour is out of flour and oats. There must be people who haven’t baked in 20 years who are now sitting on 50 pounds of All Purpose flour wondering if you put milk or water on it. They have it stacked in the back room on top of their 20 cases of toilet paper. Or maybe the US of A is discovering baking along with guns and beer.

There is an interesting trend according to this article. Baby chicks and seeds are sold out too. To quote:

“People are panic-buying chickens like they did toilet paper,” said Tom Watkins, the vice president of the company [Murry McMurry Hatchery].

People are heading back to the land and self-sufficiency. As the article says, “a new Victory Garden era”?

Finally, there is some light at the end of tunnel, at least in Washington. It appears we are bending the curve and getting towards a constant rate of new cases. We are NOT done with SARS-CoV-2 but we are getting out of crisis and more into maintenance. According to this prediction, the peak will hit us around April 17th. That doesn’t mean the end but it does mean that we can keep up the good (stay at home and 6 feet away from everyone) work and not have this get any worse.

To use a baseball analogy, which Brian McDonald of MOR Associates say I should never do: It is a home game. The visitors scored seven runs in the top of the first inning. We scored 4 runs to get back in the game. The games not over but at least we have a swinging chance.

Stay and healthy. Have a video conference dinner with friends. Buy some chickens and plant some seeds.

Jim

Week 4 begins

About to start up my fourth week of working from home (and thinking I should wash my hands and go sanitize all the light switches). Still looking for a more normal routine. I have really dropped looking at social media, news, websites from my routine. I check them in the morning. For the most part though, and for my sanity, I just plow on with my day. I check in to see how friends are doing and what they are posting but I skip the wider “I wonder what is happening on Twitter” which is always crazy-making anyhow.

I am trying to find a good book to read that will be the right balance of captivating and lighthearted. I watched and old Jeeves and Wooster yesterday. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie are such a great comedic duo. I might have to buy the complete series to get through the next few months.

I feel like we are waiting for the storm. This must be something like waiting for a hurricane to make landfall in old times before modern weather forecasts when you could see dark clouds on the horizon and rough swells and a boat pulled into harbor telling tells of 40 foot seas and winds that would blow you right off the deck. Or like waiting in England as WWII builds in Europe and you are listening to the news and wondering if war will break out and if so, will we be involved and how long it will go on for.

To keep myself buoyed up and my head above the Seas of Anxiety (located near Charybdis), I imagine the time when I will sit with friends and we will have a glass of wine and talk about COVID-19 in the past tense and be glad it is behind us.

Until then, stay well and healthy.

Talking with a friend, it helps!

Yesterday, we went to the grocery store in the morning. The store workers look frazzled and worried (like us all). I love our store and the workers there. When this is all over, I can’t wait to go up to each and everyone one of them and tell them how much we appreciated them.

After shopping, and using hand sanitizer, and washing our hands a bunch of times; we decided to get out of the house and go for a walk a Magnusson Park. It is a large open space but it was full of people. We were trekking off the paths to try to stay away from other people. That was probably the last time we do that for quite a while.

I swing between “OMG, We should have bought 6 dozen eggs and enough food that we won’t have to leave the house for 6 months” to “the risk to Ena and me personally is fairly low and we are doing what we can do… all we really can do is let this pass… what will be, will be“. I can do this switch several times in an hour. It is crazy making. [Did I mention that I was thinking that my next house would also be a giant autoclave?]

Yesterday evening, Christy called. Sometimes you don’t know what will help until it happens. It was great to chat with her. She is the CIO at our Bothell campus. Christy has been in full-time fire drill since this started trying to get the Bothell campus switched over to on-line learning – suddenly hearing from faculty who said (only recently) that they would never, in their life, teach on line.

She asked bluntly why was I so freaked out. I had to say, “It is just a perfect storm for anxiety”. Which is an admission that anxiety is running around being irrational… not me. I have a name for my anxiety when it is getting problematic. I call it Loki – the Norse God of Trouble. When anxiety pops up, I will say to myself, “Shut up Loki. Your not helping.” Guess I need to say that more.

Maybe we will follow the best case scenario in this NY Times article. COVID-19 might mutate and die out like SARS. It might go into seasonal reduction like flu. There are some promising anti-virals out there that might help the sickest survive. We might be back to something more normal by June. I hold onto this vision of a possible future (while planning for the worst).

Chris Hadfield has good advice. After all, the guy has been isolated in a dangerous environment before.

Cul De Sac Happy Hour – Managing the Madness

Our neighbors, Phillip and Maggie, sent us a text last night about 6 saying, “Want to have a Cul De Sac Happy Hour?” What a great idea. We replied, “sure”. They said, “meet us in 10 minutes.”

We headed out front with our drinks. They came out with lawn chairs so we grabbed ours. Maggie invited Mollie from 2 doors down to come up too. We chatted and sat (at least 6 feet apart) until the sun set. It was nice to see neighbors and have a moments respite from the craziness.

Mollie is small business owner. This is incredibly challenging for her as she tries to do the right thing for her employees like keeping them on insurance (see our broken medical care system) while also trying to stay afloat personally and professionally. The impact that COVID-19 will have our society are extremely deep, wide and long. It is scary to contemplate it all. Which makes it a perfect storm for my anxiety. Which is why it was nice to spend a couple of hours with our neighbors sitting in lawn in the cul de sac on the first day Spring.

As for my anxiety – that is taking all of my skills to manage at the moment. The disruption of normal routines, the loss of our usual distractions (plays, dances, dining out) and the knowledge that this is going to get much worse before it gets better all add up to … I don’t know how to state it… perfect feedback loops for amplifying anxiety. I get anxious in situations that are “unknown” and this is full of unknowns. What helps my manage my anxiety is stability and “rituals”. All of the usual rituals have been blown up. Stability (economic, health, societal) all on in question. So, meditation, exercise, trying to build new normals that will help me get through are top of my day.

We have just been told that we will be working remote until mid-June (at least). I have 3 months of this new life. Time to find balance and wash my hands.

Stay well everyone.

Working From Home in Seattle

I’m midway through my third week of working from home due to COVID-19 here in Seattle. The University just announced that Spring Quarter will be all remote classes. I’m starting to find a new normal but that has been hard. As someone who suffers from anxiety, this is a perfect storm. Fortunately, the weather has turned and we have beautiful sunny Spring days so that helps. Going for walk with Ena each afternoon gives us a chance to chat with neighbors (6 feet apart) and to see the Sun, the cherry blossoms, and to hear the birdsong.

It is terrible to see the city so shutdown and empty. Last night, we went down to Piatti’s at University Village to pick up dinner. The 373 (my commuter bus) passed us going North as we drove down. It was empty as far as I could tell. Normally, I would be on that bus and it would be standing room only. Piatti’s was dark with only the front end manager and Chef Dylan there. Dylan was in the kitchen by himself. Ours was the only order. It really hit me hard to see this lively fun place and the people we know riding this out alone in an empty restaurant. I was very sad. I hope that the restaurants and workers we know make it out of this and are able to start back up in the future.

I worry a lot about the economic impacts of the COVID-19 on many different levels. Many hourly workers and shift workers have had their jobs evaporate overnight. Washington and Seattle are working on plans to help them bridge the gap until the jobs come back. What about Fall quarter at UW? How many students will return and how many won’t be able to because their families no longer have the money to help them with college? Finally, the stock market has taken a nose dive and so has most people’s retirement funds. I’m a ways away from retirement but it still worries me.

We have house cleaners that we have put on hold. They are a young family. They just had a baby about a year ago. We have paid them for the next three visits (6 weeks basically) but told them they don’t have to come. It is these people, at the bottom of the ladder, who are really going to feel the pain of the social distancing and closures of so many things around Seattle and Washington.

This could go on for months. I think about that and what it means. I think about what are things that I always wanted to have time for that I can do now to make this a positive experience. Teleworking has given me back something like 90 minutes a day. Where can I invest those minutes? I’m also trying to think about the other side of this event. What will it be like in 2 years? Because there will be a moment when this is over and life returns to a new normal. What do I want that normal to be?

For now, I’m focused on finding some new normal rhythm. People at work are starting to have open Zoom Rooms for lunch and other events so you can at least drop in and chat with them and see their faces. We have our afternoon walks to get out of the house. What else to add to this new normal to help us traverse this pandemic and to help us come out where we want to be?