Are We There Yet?

As I write this, Maryland is reporting its highest daily increase in COVID cases ever–by a big margin. At the grocery store yesterday, the paper goods aisle was more empty than stocked, and our schools state-wide have gone back to remote learning.

Not this again. But we know what to do–stay home, mask up, wash up. We’ve  figured that much out.

I’ve spent the past week attending a virtual writer’s workshop, and to hear the voices of people I know, inside my own house (coming through my Zoom screen) was disorienting because for months, that hasn’t happened. I haven’t associated with any of my familiars (except a few outdoor lunches with Graham). No writers conferences, no trips with my sisters. Nada.

It is important to properly prepare for your Zoom meeting.

And my situation is not unusual, except perhaps in that I live alone in the sparsely-populated countryside. I can walk for miles around my neighborhood and meet nobody in real life. (My neighborhood is rife with Regency characters not visible to the naked eye.) So the challenge for me, as we head into the big, bad winter, is how to connect up.

My six siblings have been a lot more text-y in recent months, and for major topics (one brother with a young daughter asked the sisters about playing with dolls), we’ll take it to email. One sister with progeny in Denmark is a pretty adept Facetimer. My Zoom skills certainly improved this past week, and I will propose to my sibs that we play Brady Bunch in my personal Zoom meeting room.

I’m seeing more content from my family on social media, and with my sisters, at least, we do occasionally talk on the phone–very occasionally. I suspect this winter we’ll resort to the phones more frequently, along with more email threads. I would not normally interact with my family all that much, but enforced isolation, a looming threat to everybody’s well being, and sheer loneliness will likely result in a different–and better–family dynamic.

How are you preparing for the COVID bonus rounds nobody wanted to see? In particular, how are you staying connected with the people you care about, and keeping the love going? How are you dealing with anxiety, and when this is all over (we will get through this!) how will you celebrate?

Because stocking up on books should be part of everybody’s coping strategy, I’ll send a $50 Amazon, Kobo, Apple, or Barnes & Noble gift card to one commenter–your choice of retailer.


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21 comments on “Are We There Yet?

  1. I am not doing much at this point. Speaking with my 92 (almost 93) year old Dad today, I agreed to put off deciding about Thanksgiving until next week. I called to cancel (and that was part of the deal, if we had to cancel, we would)but felt he deserved another of week of *let’s see what happens* but….we’re gonna cancel. And Christmas? Probably not in-person but I suppose anything could happen.

    I am going to the grocery store early next week to make SURE I can get a Turkey and fixings because even if we can’t be together, I want to observe the holiday. And….I’ve decorated for Thanksgiving and brought out tons of things I haven’t used in years. I want festive and fun, even if this year is far from it. 🙁

    I’ve learned fro earlier in the year how to stock up on certain things we really need and am going to start every shopping list with those items to MAKE SURE I don’t forget them.

    The first thing after this is over is to SING IN PUBLIC. I miss my profession and my singers and friends and I am going to do it brazenly too! 🙂

    I began reading your latest this week and am limiting myself to a chapter a night. I want to make this one last, for some reason, because your books seem to go by so fast and I want to savor this one!

  2. Earlier this year I was talking more with my sisters on the phone with updates on my 93-year-old mother’s medical condition. But as she’s now in Long Term Care and there’s nothing to report, I’m back to my hermit ways. I do, however, call her every night, as I did before she broke her leg and became immobile, even though she’s not as coherent these days and the calls are pretty short. My sister with all the kids already cancelled the family Thanksgiving dinner (that usually had at least 30 people) but I had already decided not to attend even if they had it. My one brother-in-law, who’s pretty social, offered a small dinner in their garage with my sister and nephew but I passed on that one, too. While I’m not super high risk except for being over 70, I am the healthcare surrogate/POA for my mom and I won’t do anything that would prevent me being able to take care of her needs. I won’t be attending if they decide to do Christmas. But I have strong anti-social tendencies anyway and that extends to my family. I probably shouldn’t admit it but I wouldn’t hang out with most of them if we weren’t related (we just don’t have very much in common). I will probably call each of my sisters on Thanksgiving just to say “hi.” Really, I’m not exactly a grump!

    I’m dealing with anxiety by mostly ignoring it.

  3. I just keep on keeping on. I was pretty much house bound even before the Covid crisis began. The only in-person visitors I have nowadays are my sister, brother-in-law, nephew, and great nephew. Calls and e-mails with everyone else. I don’t like to text.

    Adding to the general anxiety is the fact that most of the people I care most about are experiencing health issues other than Covid. I have my moments, but I am usually able to talk, laugh, or pray my way out of them. I count my blessings too because I know I’m much better off than many are.

    Stay safe everyone.

  4. I do zoom mtg with family about once a month. I make quilts to give to family, friends and random acquaintances, walk my daughter’s dog, pretend to exercise. Did you write a book about Sir Leviticus? Interesting character. More on him?

  5. We in England are into our second week of lockdown and it seems to be going very slowly,the weather doesn’t help,very wet dark and gloomy.I’ve been making my plans about Christmas present shopping and have spoken to my family and friends.I have explained that when the shops ‘re-open on December the second I will not be one of those running around like a headless chicken panic buying and getting in a right state.Playing the ace card comes in useful(getting old).The grandkids are teenagers and young adults so vouchers and money.Problem solved.We do not know yet what we will be allowed to have regarding family/friends over the Christmas period.It does not look good at the moment.Some people are behaving badly and showing themselves up.Including our government who we need to be strong and United not bickering.Looking out my window the rain is pelting down,the sky dark and grey.Time to put some music on —I fancy Santana today.I might skip around and dust the furniture while I listen,then I might not.I have enjoyed your latest book which I read to quickly I could not put it down.I waited till midnight and it was on my I pad by 12 02. I had read about half when I forced myself to put it down and sleep.A delightful love story of soulmates.Be safe be happy,soon things will come right.

  6. I live in a state chick full of stubborn individuals who refuse to mask and are blithely living like there is no pandemic. It is beyond infuriating, especially as I and my coworkers risk our lives to work with those who are ill.
    Hubby and I have a carefully curated (and sadly small) group of people who are also cautious that we have very limited outdoor interactions with. But mostly, I am meditating and working out. And also baking like a fiend.
    My family is going to do a Thanksgiving dessert happy hour on Zoom, which I am looking forward to. I have fruitcake, bourbon balls, rum balls, and molasses cookies made so far for our enjoyment. It will be nice to see faces on the computer screen, since we can’t see them in person this year.

    • We are stocking up on the basics, flour, sugar, butter, paper goods and tp. I will order extra dog food & bones in a few weeks. I organized the downstairs pantry so we know what’s needed.
      I am going to see my Mom this coming weekend. My brother, sister and I have been texting more- checking in.
      We are having 2 close friends over for turkey day. Both work from home and are careful. I am cooking a turkey breast with the fixings. It will be a good day with friends.
      I am thinking of sending Christmas cards this year as a way to stay in touch with people that live out of state.
      I hope this pandemic will be over by Spring. My wish is for my family and friends to stay healthy…

  7. I had those same glasses & braids! Only no bangs.

    The isolation has pretty much been the norm for me since 2001 & disability, so online devotions with my congregation is pretty much the only change. Yay for Zoom/Skype/Messenger so I can finally see faces with voices.

    Having just had yet another hurricane/tropical storm sail over, I’ve stocked up on everything while I could get it & will worry about the credit cards later. Books, comfy cozy clothes, enough food & TP to handle any sudden lockdowns & got my car serviced so I can go another year without having to worry.

    I have one friend I can count on for emergency runs to stores or to haul me to & from any medical procedures I can’t drive myself. Otherwise, so long as the interweb & cell towers hold out & my lawn mowing neighbor continues hacking the jungle down to HOA-approved levels, I’m set.

  8. I’m lucky enough to be able to work from home and my direct coworkers are in different locations. When it is safe to travel again, I’m hoping to go on a cruise or some other kind of trip.

  9. I live alone too – my ex-sister-in-law is the only family I’ve seen in person since last Christmas (the rest are in other states), but we do family zooms (especially for the kiddies birthdays) and plan one for Thanksgiving dinner time. Occasional use of Facetime is fun (one household just got set up) and is easier to move around with than Zoom on the laptop. I’m feeling more optimistic with some of the recent news and hope by this time next year things will be back to ‘normal’ (at least mostly).

  10. To keep ourselves sane in these insane times, we have been connecting with a really lovely couple who we met only a year or so ago at an exercise class (back when we could actually attend classes!). We are similar in age, both have 2 children and 2 grand children who we miss terribly, have compatible political views, and all feel strongly that this pandemic needs to be taken deadly seriously. We meet outside once a week, usually go for a long hike together (they have introduced us to some lovely parks nearby), then we order takeout and eat at a large table (socially distant) in our back yard. The biggest challenge has been trying to keep warm (we live in the northeast), so we shifted our visits from dinners to lunches to take advantage of the sun. We bought a fire pit, but have found that the shifting wind makes us smell like a BBQ by the time the visit is over. I have ordered a propane fire pit to see if that works better. We also use a space heater in our screened porch, but that has been less than cozy. We will keep doing this for as long as possible. I can see that as the weather gets colder still that we might just meet for hikes and skip the meal. We cherish these weekly visits!

    In addition we FaceTime with our daughter once a week or so and we’ve pitched in to watch our son’s kids a few times (it was easier over the summer when we could spend time in the pool and running around the yard!). The grandkids are 7 & 10, so they are responsible enough to understand the necessity of wearing masks when they come into the house. We also run an air purifier if we have to spend any significant amount of time inside (we like to cook together!) We have even managed to do some creative projects and play games by passing parts around the table with our lazy Susan! In between visits we use FaceBook Messenger with the kiddies. It gives us a dose of the sillies that refreshes us.

    We are creative and resourceful and are managing by not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. We are adjusting, relishing the contact we can safely enjoy, and looking forward to the day when we can return to normal. Though I have warned my grandkids to brace themselves because when this is over I intend to spend at least a full day just hugging them!

  11. Take a look at Governor Inslee’s orders for the state of Washington. Most of my immediate family is there. Now I’m stressed! My mom is 92, lives alone and is not particularly tech savvy.

    I will be visiting as soon as allowed.

  12. 2020 has been an awful year for so many people for so many reasons, including, but not limited to, the horror that is COVID. I’ve seen an increase in anxiety and the usage of anti-anxiety medication for a lot of people, myself included. With a glass of wine in the evening or a hot cup of herbal tea in the morning, I force myself to breathe deeply and try to let things go, at least for a little while. My Kindle library is a means of escape, and thinking about our out-of-state move in two months is a distraction – both exciting and somewhat terrifying – but mostly exciting. Looking forward to celebrating big time when this is all over – by heading to Napa for a wine-centric vacation. There are days, though, when that seems like an impossibility. Life after COVID – what will the new normal be like?

  13. Different generations require different media, I find. Texting with adult kids, emailing with friends, phone calls to elderly parents! And even, scheduling phone calls with the adult kids and grandkids (because, I have heard from my students, that calling without an appt is rude!).
    and, praying for them all keeps them close to my heart.
    I’m so grateful for a spouse to live with, and for front yard encounters with neighbors and friends!

  14. I think a lot of people have developed Zoom skills lately. We’ve done a few extended family birthday parties via Zoom. We are hoping the weather cooperates for an outdoor Thanksgiving get together – Turkey burgers instead of the big sit down dinner. Since we have 2 family birthdays within a couple weeks of Turkey day, we’ll be celebrating birthdays then as well. My in-laws are bound and determined that we will have the entire family together. However, our son now has the ability to take a quick response test at his place of work. He plans on testing before heading out for his 7 hour drive and obviously won’t come if he tests positive. We are all hoping that nothing happens to make our daughter more worried about coming.

    Stay safe, Grace!

  15. Happy Sunday! I do send email and messenger but my mainline of communication is writing letters. When I was in junior high school, I read a book called The Gift of a Letter. This nonfiction book extolled the value of letters. I saved my allowance and bought some Crane stationery. I bought pretty stamps and a nice pen. I started to write letters. It has taken me years but now I love letterwriting. Crane stationery is still expensive so I still budget to buy it. I also make cards, fold origami and indulge in notecards. I do call people but the Gift of a Letter shared that letters can be reread and are never intrusions. Since I lost my mother earlier this year I am also doing other projects. This week I am making little appreciation bags. A Thanksgiving decorated bag with seven little notes of things I appreciate about them. I love reading and sometimes your books inspire me. I loved the letters that were discussed in Lady Louisa’s book. Thank you for your great books. Have a blessed week!

  16. I also live in the rural countryside of Virginia. Several years ago my husband had a stroke and taking him on as another job has fallen to me. Sold my 2 horses abandoned my greenhouse temporarily and my sewing studio. The COVID virus has impacted me somewhat, going anywhere takes too much time as I cannot leave home unless someone is here with my husband. Use to have hospice helpers sit with him but that stopped with the COVID. I order most things on line , carry my own trash to the dumpster, mow my pastures myself, oh yes I have become a part time mechanic, tractor is an older model as am I. We have been married 57 yrs. and I have read every one of your books all last winter, spring into the working season of summer. Very glad to see frost and the end of the growing season, can take a break from outdoor work and enjoy my cats and dog now. Keep writing am looking forward to your mystery series, I do read lots of mysteries. Was sad to see MC Beaton pass away. I see that I got very long winded, but there is not any one to talk to today! Have a nice Holiday Season Paula Slack

  17. My father recently passed from cancer/ cancer treatment / old age. We had a warm wave and as we were able to keep my dad at home, we were all able to cycle through and spend some time with him inside while the others congregated outside (masks, distance etc) and I can not even express my gratitude that everything aligned and I was able to be there and my dad was never in isolation. It stayed warm and we were able to spend lengths of time outdoors with my mom afterward, and that has also been a mercy. So, accepting further restrictions now feels remarkably okay after having the gift of the time together when it felt most important (and boy do I feel compassion for those who have lost people close to them that were in isolation, no goodbyes or holding a hand). We are heading back to zoom Thanksgiving etc. but I plan on trying to continue walks with my best friend (masks, distance etc.) as long as I can tolerate the cold. I’m lucky enough to be surrounded by my husband and kids, so we will hibernate together and eat a lot of baked goods. When the pandemic is over I’m looking forward to smiling and being smiled at and a “taking my daughter to college” road trip next fall hopefully.

  18. Hi Grace! It was such a delight to meet you this past week at the workshop. You’re inspiring and you get real, which is exactly what I needed to see and hear. To write for the joy of writing, that’s the path I want to take, too. Thank you for all you shared.

    My immediate family did weekly Google Meets – which I like better than Zoom, back in the Spring. Then everyone got busy, some people going back to work. Looks like it’s time for the virtual meets again.

    This time around I’m going to try to do more virtual visits with friends, maybe go to some virtual book events, etc. Hope to “see you” again, soon.