Thursday, June 03, 2021

426 Days At Home

*PROLOGUE - As I write this prologue, it is now early June of 2021. Life has gotten so much better since beginning this post last fall.            (Don't worry, this entry isn't all doom and gloom at all, it just starts off that way. )               

After all was said and done, we ended up stay in our home, pretty literally, for almost 14 months to the day. 426 days. As I go on to mention below, for 14 months we avoided stores, restaurants, get togethers with friends and family. It was really really difficult. Detroit was hit very hard with three waves of the Coronavirus and since we were lucky enough to have Jon working from home, and Noah doing virtual school, we took that safety bubble of ours very seriously.  Like so many of you, I know lots of people who have contracted the virus over the past 18 months and sadly almost as many who have had parents and Grandparents pass from this awful disease. So, we take it very seriously!

During the fall of 2020, when I wrote the following post, I was feeling so low. Pandemic fatigue and loneliness had set in and the social and political climate in America had really really gotten me down. Our country was on fire. It's the best way that I can put it. Everyday was like watching a distressing movie. That's how it felt for me. 

I've decided to go ahead an publish this half-finished post because I want to park it on the blog to remember this time. This hasn't been a good year and a half, but it's been a life-changing year and a half, so it's important to document. Thanks for following along.

(The morning we received our 2nd. vaccines.)


I'm sitting in the bathtub while I type this.  Which, I just realized, is probably not recommended. So because I am a rule follower, I will now close my laptop and brb...

I'm back. I was sitting in the bathtub typing this, and now I'm post-bath, flat on my back, typing from bed.  

In an attempt to lower my anxiety and rid myself of a stress headache , I had decide to take one of those epsom salt, magnesium baths. Do you know the kind? I also have a scented soy wax melt thingy going.  It's called "Honey Soaked Apples,"  in honor I suppose of Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year that is soon upon us, and for some strange reason I am hyper focusing on for the first time in my  entire life. 

(Spent days drawing the Rosh Hashanah greeting card.)

I would have to guess that this is because anything to focus on rather than my anxiety is a good thing.  Also, just to note,  Noah and Jonathan both said that my new wax melt smells like pineapple, not apples and honey, and it has ruined my fall mood.

It's so funny, because before the past week or two, I was actually doing well throughout this pandemic.  Like, truly well, even in terms of anxiety.                      I held myself together, stayed upbeat, positive, driven, focused and in control! There were grand, exciting plans for food storage and farming, and household essentials stockpiled in the basement.  I made online accounts for produce delivery, weekly grocery delivery, costco delivery, medication delivery, school supplies and books and even a chest freezer for our garage.  There was lots of disinfectants and online therapy and you name it, I had it figured out . I even found how to accurately measure Noah's ever-growing feet with some online, printable measuring device and ordered him snow boots. BAM! 

 I was king of this pandemic. So much so that it was I, scaredy cat Lauren who was reassuring and holding it together for OTHER people. "I've got this and you've got this!" I said.

But then, I don't know, something changed.  Maybe it was just fatigue as we approach this week- the 6th full month of staying home. We're more "careful" than 99% of my friends. For six months, we haven't been to a single store, grocery store, restaurant , carryout, friend visit, trip, adventure....just nothing.  We can't even take walks around our busy area , unless it's at night, but even the four times we did that, each one involved groups of teens whizzing by us or endless other people walking their dog in the cover of night too. 

Maybe though, my sudden anxiety is probably also up because our country has just spiraled into a totally divisive, conflict riddled hell. It's absolutely depressing to me, the state of our society, parts of our culture, parts of our past and parts of our now. I know with 100% of my heart, that I don't belong here. I'm not an American at heart. So maybe that's it- I feel trapped in a place that stresses me out and upsets me on a daily basis. As a friend put it, it's like being on a ship captained by a madman. Beyond that though, I'm sitting here trapped in a stress bubble because there is a pandemic outside of my window and it's out-of-control in our particular country compared to most of the rest of the world. It's because nobody cared in the first place to just stick around home and get our numbers to a manageable level during the first wave. We are a hopeless society on a whole.

Thank you. Ok, I feel better now. I just needed to get that off of my chest. You might not agree with me on the state of my country, or maybe you do, but...Im feeling down and worried and mostly just really really  sad about what's been going on around here, and concerned about the future too.

For the past six months I have been keeping busy. Very busy actually, in a good way! In a striving to never be bored way. First off, I've learned how to make digital art using the program "procreate" and an ipad. It's is SO MUCH FUN! It's wonderfully relaxing to spend an evening doodling in bed. Here is my favorite place- our local cider mill.

And then squirrels and a chipmunk driving to my favorite place-our local cider mill.

I will include some other drawings.  Actually, I opened an Etsy store to sell prints and stickers. I wasn't planing to do that, but some friends asked for framable prints and refused to accept them for free.  I found an online company that does art prints, created an Etsy shop, connected the two and voila'! It's been interesting to learn how the whole thing works. I have a lot of respect for independent creators. They work hard. My shop is called "Lolo's Little Studio."

*EPILOGUE- And that my friends, is where I stopped for the night back in 2020.  I was tired. There's more to document though. This has been such a strange time, so I would love to park a few memory on the blog and keep in this post going.

The new digital art hobby went on to become an actual thing! I've absolutely loved drawing on the iPad and have kept it up. There were a lot of winter themed drawings that got me through the cold, dark months. Like these:

I just kept going and even did several commissioned drawings of people's homes and businesses. My most recent was just run as an ad for a
 restaurant in a local paper! 

For the most part though, a lot has just been nostalgic, fun drawing. The bustling little hill where I live:

My favorite bread, Challah.....

A fantasy world where I am the only one at my local soft serve .

Some little inspirational ditties....

               I tried my hand at making some stickers, which was really fun and....

And I learned how to create mini animations!!

Like I mentioned, this time was all about keeping busy, making the most of things, and learning everything that I could. I tried to stay sane and to help keep my family going. We cooked every single meal and tried lots of new dishes. We baked! I kept a detailed list of each new recipe. There was vegetable gardening and planting flowers. Crocheting and reading and learning a new language- Yiddish! I kept a journal, we took drives and I read the news each day. I listened to A LOT of podcasts, I love podcasts. I was interviewed about going gray on a Youtube channel and was a guest on a webinar. Those were first for me!  Also, there were Zoom calls with all of our family and friends and Zoom parties and Zoom family reunions, Zoom classes, Zoom groups.  One of them being a weekly chat group that I lead for people at our synagogue who were stuck at home like myself and looking for some company and encouragement  Basically it was Zoom everyday all day for a while. I'm really thankful for this technology. 

My niece and nephew and I like to have a watch parties with Youtube videos of animals. 

I'd Zoom from outside. (More on our deck bubble later.)

There were the birthday parties

And more and more and more....

I learned how to change my background and Jon grew a large "Pandemic Beard."

Oh, and there were some great Zoom memes during this time.

It really is astonishing to me, when I go back and look over the photos form the past year and a half, just how much we have done together at home. It was stressful and a bit scary, but more so, it was such a gift of time to be together. I will never ever forget that. Here are a few more pictures for posterity of some of the things that we did. I'll try to go in chronological order the best that I can.

It started out like this. I told you I was all holding it together, going in to this pandemic STRONG!  I tore apart out utility closet, bought some shelves and turned it into what we affectionately call the "Prepper Closet." Then I filled it and and pantry full of emergency bulk food items. I was ready and a lot of people were laughing at me. They thought I was Chicken Little and over reacting. Then I made this drawing and posted it on my Facebook page.

I was trying to be positive and upbeat for everyone, by making a series of hopeful front window decorations.

In retrospect, maybe I was a little bit too idealistic. πŸ˜…πŸ˜¬

Crocheted this useful gem. πŸ˜‚

TODAY is my Grandma's 99th Birthday!! Can you believe it!? Isn't that great? Last spring, at the beginning of the Pandemic, my parents brought her home from her senior living apartment to stay at their house for four months. It was just safer that way. My Mom sent me these photos. My Uncle drove four hours just to surprise my Grandma and speak to her through the window. It was so sad. She hadn't seen him in a while and we didn't know the next time that she would be able to hug her son.

After a short visit, he gave her a kiss through the window before he left for home. 

As soon as the snow melted we decided to make the most of our outdoor space for the coming spring and summer. So we made bonfires and roasted marshmallows over it on sticks and made S'mores.

I became REALLY into graphing my own daily case counts for our county and annoyed everyone with updates. Until official tracking websites popped up.    

I started my vegetables from seeds, on a rickety, old clothes drying rack turned shelves, because everyone knows it's a good idea to play with dirt in your bedroom. Over carpet. With two cats and a dog bumping into it everyday. 

But like always, the sun started shining more and the birds began to sing. Last spring our wisteria vine Harry had the most magnificent blooms!!!

I grew wildflowers, lots of wildflowers out front to make people smile, and this spring even more have popped up, all on their own!

And here is my extra big, Sunflower. πŸ’“

The vegetable garden had some success, mostly lettuces and tomatoes. It just ended up being too shady for a lot of plants. I hadn't realized how much shade we actually get in that corner when everything is full and grown in. What a great learning experience though. I had a pumpkin and mellon patch on the lawn. I need to find a picture of that!

Here are my HUGE carrots and pumpkins!!! SUCCESS!! πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

The herb garden that I kept did much better. I was able to make some mint tea and dried a bunch of different herbs. The lavender smelled so fantastic! I dried it and then displayed it in a vase.

In the summer I wanted to spend some time volunteering from home. I was involved in this great project. We were crocheting sleeping mats for homeless people made from "plarn." Plarn is plastic yarn. Yarn made from plastic grocery bags that were flattened, made into strips and connected together to for the largest balls of yarn you have ever seen. The mats are surprisingly durable and soft and perfect for insulating. They keep the cold of a floor at bay. You roll the mats up and they come with a crocheted tie and carrying strap.

We sat outside often on warm summer nights.

We talked. It was incredibly nice spending time with Noah.

Gosh I'm lucky to have had this summer with him around the house. We had great conversations about politics and current events. Each day brought something new and surprising to talk about in the evening.

Politics and society and civics. We got to turn in my voting ballot together and tried to support the causes that we believe in. It was a nerve wracking but exciting time.

Oh and you guys, the food. The FOOD! It was out of control. We literally did not eat restaurant food for 14 months. Instead, we cooked. Jon did a ton of cooking. I'm so lucky. We cooked and baked and budgeted and learned a whole new cookbook worth of recipes. Every time that one of us missed a dish or cuisine, we took it upon ourselves to try to recreate it! That was so incredible. Jon even made ingredients that were difficult to find or have delivered. He made his own ghee for Indian dishes and paneer to go in them for me. Also matzo for the Passover the first year. 

We missed Ethiopian food, and while the Injera bread didn't work, there was all kinds of ginger and garlic and greens and lentils and spices. It was WONDERFUL.

There was the painstaking perfection of bagel making.

And bread, too much bread! Fresh loaves once or twice a week. It became Jon's hobby. He ordered hundreds of pounds of flour it feels like. There is a farm in Illinois that grinds to your preference and sells in bulk. His latest endeavor has been Rye bread with Caraway seeds. We've had endless Whole Wheat loaves and Brioche and Julia Child's White Bread. No Kneed bread and Focaccia turned into pizza. Flat bread and homemade pita for fresh falafel sandwiches. Pan Au Chocolate and homemade rolls. I'm telling you, all too much!

I went through a "vegan lifestyle" phase (probably in response to all of the bread.) This is my vegan "cheese" made from cashews and nutritional yeast. πŸ˜‚ During this time, I also tried to become an expert in tempeh and new tofu dishes. We experimented with lots of vegetarian protein sources and ate more bean and lentil dishes than I can count.

There was Jon's Pastie phase. Hand pies with potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables, beef for them, veggie for me. All in a buttery, flakey crust. It was heavenly! 

When it came to Asian cuisine, we missed it ALL! So naturally, we had to at least try to make some. For Noah's birthday he asked for sushi.  Jon found company in Seattle that would send fresh, sushi grade fish on dry ice to you. This isn't something we'd normally do, but it was his birthday and you know. We tried to recreate some of the Vietnamese food that we missed like fresh rolls and vermicelli bowls. Then there was our attempts at homemade ramen and soba and pad thai.

I'm honestly embarrassed to talk about the baking. It was spread out over nearly a year and a half, and we made things for each of our birthdays and holidays. Still it sounds like a lot. My favorite was Jon's chocolate Babka I think. There was also these old fashioned lemon meltway cookies with glaze that I made for us.

I was presented with this cake for my birthday! Best birthday, nicest day by the way. This was yellow cake with a mocha icing. Jon also made us carrot cake. There were cinnamon breakfast muffins and blueberry muffins.

My friend in England inspired me to make for the first time "Millionaire's Shortbread." It was a homemade shortbread base, with caramel and chocolate on top.  One of the longest processes but worth it. Like most of our desserts, I cut the shortbread into servings and then we froze the rest and had some to eat for quite a while!

The same friend in England inspired me again, this time, chocolate dipped pretzel rods. I thought they came out cheerful.

I also made peppermint bark for the first time. I don't think I've eaten it before. Maybe? It was so delicious and dangerous to have around the house!

Oh, and before I end with desserts, I have to say, the best thing we did was make a big big batch of chocolate chip cookie dough. We'd roll it up into four parts, wrap them in parchment and freeze. Then we'd bake off one roll or half a roll and have fresh cookies anytime. That worked out great and we have repeated the process several times.

HERE IS THE CRAZY THING- after all of this food I didn't gain weight!
Furthermore, we SAVED a bunch of money each month on food! I'm not joking. It seems crazy to me, but I  think that by eating mostly homemade, planning our meals and grocery lists carefully, we managed to do quite well. Dinner leftovers were often lunch the next day and it was fabulous. We never felt deprived, the opposite! I feel as though by being mindful and devoting our time to doing it correctly, we ate a lot more veggies and greens and legumes and just good stuff 
and at a reasonable price. 

Switching gears now- the bubble. As summer turned into fall, I knew that we would have a long six months of cool and freezing and snowy weather ahead. I figured that a little sunshine, as much as we could get, would help to keep our spirits up. That and the fact that we could use any extra space for the three of us living day and night in our small house. The bubble is a pop-up kind of clear tent that I found on Amazon. We set it up on the deck, strung some fairy lights and voila! It was perfect!

We spent most of fall out there reading and drinking coffee and even working on our laptops.  Don't ask me about wintertime and the bubble though. I meant well. We had a little portable heater that was great. It would have been perfect had we ever actually decided to go outside in the cold. πŸ™†

In the  early fall, (before the second wave) our numbers were down and I started to realize that I could find places outdoors to walk that were less busy than my neighborhood and more open. We ended up taking Josie to run at my old high school quite a bit. We'd throw the ball and she would fly!  

We began to explore some new trails, a nature center and a gorgeous nearby estate.

In November, Noah celebrated his 16th birthday! I felt so badly that he was all set and ready for his driver's license but couldn't sit for it due to the virus. He worked so hard to log 40 practice hours with us. It's ok, we have an appointment in July now (they are so backed up). Noah is a great sport about it all. Here he is in his present, a "gaming chair." 😎

Probably the biggest event in our house this past year has been Petey. Petey , the world's best squirrel. It's a long story but I began feeding Petey in the fall. He would come everyday and stare at me in the kitchen through the window until I would bring him some peanuts. Long story short, I trained Petey to instead come to my bedroom window and let me know when he was up in the morning. I would "take his order" (watch the video below) and then as soon as he would see me walk towards the stairs, he would race down to our back door. I'd meet him there with his order and he would eat! Soon Petey invited his friends and now I have a lot of customers.

Putting in his order.

It was such a strange  year for manufacturing and business.  For all companies I'm sure. On the one hand, it was fantastic for us because women were deciding to ditch the hair dye and grow their gray out. We sold out of our two most popular products! On the other hand, Covid-19 really disrupted supply chains and hence the speed of manufacturing. It's taken us a while to get back on track. Excitingly, our new shipment of product will be on sale next week, including a brand new item!! (Which is a surprise, for now.) We spent this slower time to work with a designer on a new color pallet and design direction for labels. That was an interesting process.

Had some Chanukah at home and Christmas and New Years. Oh and Thanksgiving before that. All quiet but relaxing.

At Christmas I neurotically stressed baked cookies and did a porch drop at my parent's house. It was kind of sad. 

During the winter I became obsessed with the tiny snow sweeping vehicles that would clear the sidewalks. It was weird, I was so into them, I even drew a picture of one. It was my thing for a while. 

This meant many snowy nights just sitting and watching out of my window. It was weird but so peaceful and nice.

We took winter walks late at night when no one was out. Absolute quiet.

The same thing along the river.

Then it was spring again! We had a mini seder for Passover. Noah did not want to pose for another family portrait. πŸ™ˆ

The animals did well in quarantine. Hector has grown older in recent years, so we decided to turn our bedroom into a little "senior apartment" for him. He's free to come and go as he pleases, but with Hector's food, water, toys, bed and kitty litter up here, he rarely chooses to navigate the steep stairs anymore. He's content to lounge upstairs in the sun. He actually seems happier than ever , so that's really great. πŸ’–

Josie and Alice continue their strange love/hate deal. 

I found out that Josie possess the most perfect proportions for the Golden Ratio!!!

Noah built a fort in his bedroom and slept on the floor for a week. I have no idea. 😐

And finally, most recently, there has been chess. πŸ˜ƒ

Then, almost exactly 14 months to the day that the quarantine started, we became fully vaccinated and life kind of began to open up again. We really don't go many places, but we have visited with our parents which has been great. We hadn't seen Jon's parents in a year and a half. 😰 It was a long time. Noah finally got together with a friend! We're catching up on appointments and a few necessary stores here and there, but for the most part, we stay around home. It feels really good though, at least to know it is safer out there when we need to go somewhere.

I will never live my life in the same way that I did before Coronavirus. At least, I don't think I will.  I've learned how much I love the peace, quiet and simplicity of being home, and how much I loath busy stores. I'm content living with less, living more slowly rather than constantly going out. It just works for me.

Finally, one last share. It's funny, even though I missed/miss my friends dearly. I do feel like we've done a good job of regularly keeping in touch and connected. I laugh out loud when I receive a funny meme from one of  them. I was looking over some of the items that I saved over the past year. Then I began to sense a theme in them........LOL

I guess I was learning how to let go of control?  πŸ˜‚πŸ˜œ

Here are some of my favorite memes of recent. 
The first had me seriously laughing out loud. My FAVORITE meme of 2020.

Working and schooling from home 2020 meme.

And this one! πŸ˜‚
(It's NOT true.)

And that my friends has been our pandemic year. This is where I've been. Just here. As I watch the world struggling and people hurting in so many different ways, I'm constantly thankful. Constantly aware of how fortunate we've been to weather this time with my family safely and with relative ease.  We've been very conscious of giving back  to others and to  those in need right now and we won't stop. This past year and a half has taught me so much about the world, about being a fellow human, about gratitude and love and just how much we need each other.

Until next time!



Anita said...

Thank you so much Lauren for bringing all this items up and for telling us your pandemic year story! I felt reminded to some.of my own experiences. I was not soo much onto this cooking thing but I kind of enjoyed preparing our own meals and feeling safer.
Living in a big city make some things easier and some heavier, like finding enough space and resr as literally everyone tries to spend their life outside... And living in a small condo working plenty of office days from home was not always pure pleasure either.

I found so much care and heart in your post. I have to bookmark it and read it again and again. As I find a lot of wisdom in it, silver sister Lauren!
(By the way I used these months of lockdown by letting my hair grow and grow. It's now silver again, more grey than ever and really in need of a hairdresser's hand.:-p
I like to pictures and your drawings! Wow, you are a talented person!
I only did the language leaning challenge, that was fun!
Now I'm dreaming of a holiday abroad to test my newly leaned Spanish.:-D

Hope to reading from you again soon!
Don't mind my bad English please.

Kindest regards

Lauren said...

Dear Anita,

\(^-^)/ HELLO my Silver Sister! My dear , sweet friend, that was one of the nicest comments I have every received. Thank you for your beautiful, kind words. You english is very good! I could understand everything! Thank you for making me smile and thank you for taking time to read this blog post!

Anita, that city do you live in? I can imagine that city life in the pandemic can be quite stressful. When you went outside in crowded areas were you nervous? I do hope that these days it is a little easier for you to get out safely. With summer coming, perhaps it will get better.
Also, hooray! Spanish. Oh yes, please, take your holiday if you are able. That would be lovely! :)

I bet your silvers are beautiful. Will you be able to see a hairdresser soon? Are they open in your area and do you feel safe to visit them? I was very hair was super long and I decided to trim it myself! I should have waited to visit a hairdresser. My husband had to help fix my uneven cut!

Thank you again for so many caring work. I hope you have a nice, relaxing weekend friend!
Lauren :)

Julie A. said...

OOOOOOO you're back!!!! :-)
I would check once in a while and am glad to know that you are well!!!
It is late and I want to savor it all so will read your post in bits and pieces but wanted to stop in and say thanks! I enjoy your writing and your life! We used to live in RO so it's fun to picture things you talk about but I suppose in this post there won't be much talk about local things since you were at home! I always enjoy your writing, as a teacher I feel like your home school journey was very inspiring and I also admire your creativity.
Thanks again for the update.
Take care

Lauren said...

Hi Julie!!! Oh that is so nice of you to check on me! Awww! That's so sweet! Thank you.
I really appreciate your comment too. I know, this is a long one, so no worries about reading it all!! I am HONORED that a teacher would say that our homeschool journey has been inspiring. I really truly do miss our teachers and school community. Thank you for the support though. I can do an update post, but Noah is doing absolutely wonderful these days with dual enrollment at our local community college. He just loved the atmosphere of the lecture/debate in class. It's been an amazing experience and this fall will be his third year taking classes there.

We were just in RO for two days ago! It's so nice to walk around with a coffee. Do you still live in Michigan? I should take photos of my walks and post a little about each community. If you want me to do a nostalgic trip back to RO for you, just let me know! :)

Thanks for such a nice comment and especially for caring and following along. xoxoxo!!!