The Virus Diaries: The Kids are Better than All Right

April 5, 2020 at 12:40 pm (Cat pics, Entries that matter, Fully Sick, general life, Mum Stuff)

My kids are 5 and 8. It’s TJ’s first year of school; a moment that I have looked forward to with GREAT excitement for many years. He’s done plenty of day care and preschool, but Kindy is different. Apart from anything else, his education is finally in sync with Louisette’s.

But.

It’s kind of nice, to once more be the world expert on my kids. I mean, I was still the expert when they went to school but there was a huge chunk of every weekday I didn’t see or even know about. Because of COVID-19, I am once more the absolute centre of their world. Even when I’m not actively doing anything and/or when Chris is taking charge of everything kid-related, I can hear them and I know what’s going on in their lives every hour of every day.

I saw TJ’s face as his first tooth fell out.

I planted potatoes with Louisette.

I finally read one of my own books to TJ, and he loved it.

I’ve gotten back into reading with Louisette.

I’m almost as good as TJ on MarioKart.

Louisette is getting good at her times tables because of me.

Never forget that the reason your kids misbehave so much is that they know you’ll still love them no matter what they do.

This is the first generation in a long time to spend so much time with their primary caregiver/s after they reached school age. Years from now, the kids—mine and yours—won’t remember COVID-19 the way we do. They will remember wearing their PJs for weeks at a time, and sleeping in every day, and never having to rush to get to school. They’ll remember the time you got sick of education and watched a movie with them instead, and the time you burned popcorn together and stunk out the entire house. They’ll remember countless hours spent becoming a genuinely skilled athlete thanks to your cheap plastic basketball hoop, and jumping every day on the trampoline that they’d forgotten existed. They’ll remember eating wraps for lunch instead of regular bread, and drinking juice instead of milk—we’ll know it was because we couldn’t find the groceries we needed, but they’ll just remember how fun it was—and they’ll forget the day they screamed because there was only half a fish fillet in their dinner instead of a whole one. They’ll remember lying in the sun at lunchtime with you, talking about nothing because for once you had nothing better to do and no one more interesting to talk to. They’ll remember how you coloured in next to them, and the day you whispered that you can never remember your eight times tables either. They’ll remember being with you, day in and day out; being at the centre of your world and knowing they’re surrounded every second by the ones who love them the most. They’ll carry that feeling of love and connection for the rest of their lives.

Kids who experienced 2020 will be kinder than other kids. They’ll know to check on the elderly and the chronically ill, and will consider it a normal part of everyday life. They’ll always smile at strangers, and will never hesitate to help someone in trouble. They will never take hugs for granted. They will always know that they are loved at their worst, no matter what, and at the same time they’ll know that their parents are sometimes scared or tired, and sometimes not even very good at being parents. They will reflect our own exhausted 2020-style love back to us when we’re too old to care for ourselves, and in those future days they’ll be the ones putting up with our eccentric clothing styles and constant whinging for treats.

They’ll know that no amount of money or possessions can stop a person depending on other people to get through the hard times, and they’ll live in a serene faith that when the chips are down, all of humanity can cooperate, and all of humanity actually does a pretty good job of looking after each other. They’ll know that even the most vile and selfish politicians eventually do the right thing because there are enough good and clever people in the world to sway the balance of public opinion towards facts and scientific truth. They’ll be more empathetic and flexible than other generations, and more connected to the global community. They will be the generation that sees the world take united action against Climate Change, because they’ll know from experience that the whole world can achieve amazing things. They will be the best adults this world has ever seen.

Resource of the day: Your kids are surprisingly resourceful. What’s something they’ve always wanted to do but you never had time for?

Recommended donation of the day: Who can you ‘donate’ time to today?

Personal action of the day: Find a different song to wash your hands to. Anything that takes twenty seconds is good, and that’s the length of many popular choruses.

Hoarding item of the day: This is the final day for hoarding, as grocery shops will start restricting customer numbers from tomorrow. Maybe get a haircut, since everyone’s trying to get in one last shop today (before the queues start)?

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The Virus Diaries: Things That Suck

April 4, 2020 at 1:12 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Mental illness, Mum Stuff)

Sometimes it can help to be specific when figuring out what problems to accept and what problems to solve. Since I have an anxiety disorder, I’m an expert at dealing with stress, so let’s dive in. I’ve bolded the ones that apply to me and then given myself advice in italics.

Things That Suck About The Rona

1. People dying.

2. People sick/hospitalised.

3. People afraid of getting sick/dying or sickness/death of their loved ones.

Choose not to prioritise this anxiety unless someone important to me actually gets sick. Remind myself that nothing bad has actually happened to me or anyone I love and end the thought process there.

4. Politicians on the news more.

5. Lots of cool stuff cancelled.

6. Lots of jobs lost, many permanently.

7. Some businesses will collapse, or have already collapsed (sucky for them and for their customers).

8. Some jobs, especially casual jobs, suddenly offering way less hours.

9. Financial stress, both short and long term.

Pfft. That’s normality for us. We’re saving money on car fuel and social obligations at the moment, so that’s kinda cool.

10. Jobs being altered eg working from home, dealing with unfamiliar technology, and often also having kids at home. So even if your job and pay are fundamentally unchanged, they suck at the moment.

We’re settling into a routine now, and I’m coping remarkably well.

11. Kids. At. Home. All the time. Parents don’t get time to themselves at all any more.

Going semi-nocturnal and having Chris and I sleeping in separate rooms has basically solved this. Also Chris can be called on if I’m losing it, which is extremely good to know.

12. Attempting to educate kids.

I’m doing great with that, and the kids are used to it too.

13. Not allowed to do basic stuff such as go to restaurants, bars, haircuts, picnics.

Oh well. We bought a month’s worth of Amazon Prime which is an equally good treat in my book.

14. Stir crazy from being at home for so long.

The yard and (mostly) good weather still has great novelty for me (as you can tell by all the pics of/from the hammock).

15. Worrying about all the people not obeying quarantine rules or guidelines.

It turns out around 75% compliance does the job of flattening the curve very well. But don’t tell them that.

16. Not able to get various things sorted due to isolation rules eg new car, house extension.

17. Dating is extremely difficult.

18. Tension and crankiness due to household being stuck together all the time.

19. Shopping is difficult, and about to get worse.

20. Lack of certain supplies eg toilet paper.

We haven’t run out of either toilet paper or milk yet, so no one’s suffering here. And there’s still plenty of chocolate and lollies.

21. Weddings and funerals have strict laws about how many people can be present.

22. People can’t (for the most part) visit relatives in nursing homes. Or even healthy grandparents in their own homes. Or have grandparents babysit so parents get a break. And the grandparents miss their kids and grandkids.

Yeah, that sucks. But we have FaceTime at least. My parents and in-laws can survive without the kids’ hugs for a bit.

23. Special events such as Passover, Easter, Anzac Day, and Mothers’ Day cannot be communally celebrated.

Ditto. And on the up side, I don’t have to bother going to other people’s houses (which tend to make me sick for one reason or another).

24. Lots of movies delayed.

25. Stressed people treating others badly (especially those in food retail). Including some people choosing to go in full denial who are eating at crowded restaurants, or even coughing or spitting on people.

26. An increase in racist actions against Asians.

My Asian friends are tough. And they know they’re loved and valuable members of the community.

27. Awful conditions for health workers, as well as the risk of death due to being at work.

28. Incompetent governments making things worse.

Always. *shrug*

29. The heartbreaking maths of who gets a respirator when there aren’t enough for everyone.

30. Worried for strangers, and the world. Knowing there are people worse off than us.

There is exactly one thing I can do to help the world right now, and that is to STAY HOME. I have to tell myself that I AM helping, and I’m helping enough, and that the world is not my personal responsibility anyway.

This is… not Zipper. This is our previous cat, Ana, who didn’t mind photography as much.

Resource of the day: A reminder from writer (and extremely crude swearmaster) Chuck Wendig that this is a big deal and you’re not meant to be as productive (or whatever) as usual.

Recommended donation of the day: A medical helicopter service that usually gets a bunch of donations through events… which are cancelled.

Personal action of the day: Face your anxiety, whatever it may be, and try to either accept it or deal with it. Perhaps write it down and then burn it? Accept that you can’t save the whole world, but you can make a difference by staying home (or not, if you’re an essential worker). Remember that staying home is hard.

Hoarding item of the day: If you’re lactose free and having trouble finding milk, it’s time to get into the chemist for some lactease or lactace tablets/drops.

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The Virus Diaries: My Apocalypse Garden

April 3, 2020 at 4:39 pm (Cat pics, Fully Sick, general life, Mum Stuff)

One of the great joys of parenthood is being able to skillfully manipulative one’s children. So when TJ asked to shoot 100 baskets (which would take at least an hour of throwing, running after the ball, and throwing again) instead of jumping on the trampoline 100 times (which takes about a minute), of course I said yes.

He’s up to 17 so far (I relented of course and let him jump on the trampoline), and he’s getting pretty good. I predict a lot of kids will be AMAZING at shooting baskets by the time quarantine is over.

All these photos were taken from different shots, but they look awesome in this order.

It was raining all day yesterday, but we all coped fine. Ditto today, plus I had a big phone appointment with my doctor so she can write a letter specifying my 35 points of Impairment for Centrelink. And I’m still holding up well at 4:35pm. Plus I did lessons for both kids, and washed my hair. I’m winning at life, is what I’m saying.

This Sunday marks our third week of isolation. But, in a reverse of normal life, I’m very much looking forward to school holidays (which start on either this coming Wednesday or Thursday). Because normally I’m terrified to spend a full day at home with the kids and no Chris, but these holidays will be easier than trying to also educate them—plus Chris will be on hand if I have a panic attack or I’m not coping in whatever way.

My quest to have Zipper come on my lap in the hammock continues. Twice now I’ve actually lifted her into my lap and gently held her for a few seconds. She jumped off immediately, but she didn’t flee the area and she didn’t eviscerate me so clearly she didn’t mind all that much. I have a billion photos of her taken from the hammock, as she usually comes and sits close by (walking underneath me every so often to collect a pat on the way through).

Weirdly, she’s been even more affectionate lately. A lot of cats are probably stressed out by having their owners around all the time (and the kids) but Zipper apparently likes it. She loves it when I have insomnia (most nights) and get up to watch more TV or whatever late at night.

Louisette and I planted our (very green and sprouting) potatoes the other day. We cut them in half (I’m pretty sure that’s what Matt Damon did in “The Martian”) and planted them in a section of the front garden that Chris had weeded for us. Louisette adores gardening.

I have killed many many Woolies variety basil plants. This one has some brown bits but is otherwise… well, alive. And that’s the main thing. I’m hoping it can last long enough for me to use it as “greens” for Passover (by which I mean the Christian version, celebrating what we see as something God deliberately designed to foreshadow Jesus’ arrival and resurrection), which I’ll be doing via Zoom with my family (probably). Assuming I get over my slight phobia of video chats.

Greens and potatoes are an absolute must in any apocalypse garden. Greens because green vegetables are so important, and potatoes because they provide almost everything a person needs in a single delicious item. (Assuming no Blight, of course…)

I also have a lemon tree, which started producing a few edible fruit from last year (after contributing exactly nothing for four years). Great for staving off scurvy, and of course making lemonade.

And it’s not food but I’m trying to grow a cutting off a purple bush in my front yard. So far I kept it in water for several weeks (and it didn’t die) then stuck it in a pot with another plant. It’s looking unhappy but I think it misses having all the water it could drink so I’m watering it more when I remember.

A LOT of people are starting or expanding their existing food gardens at the moment, so if you’re trying to start your own you might have trouble getting plants. But my facebook feed is now about 70% gardens (mostly flowers) so that’s kinda nice.

Resource of the day: Advice for those gardening in Canberra.

Recomended donation of the day: Got something edible growing in your garden? I bet people in your neighbourhood would love cuttings and/or home grown food. You can leave some out the front of your house with a sign telling people to help themselves.

Personal action of the day: If you have a pet, take them to a vet for a checkup immediately. Vets are currently stocktaking their supplies so that some medical equipment can be used to save human lives. Which means there won’t be any for pets. So try to keep your pet in good health, if you can.

Recommended hoarding item of the day: Gifts for your family and friends for the next 6 months (possibly from your garden).

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The Virus Diaries: Aftermath

April 2, 2020 at 12:35 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Love and CJ, Mental illness, Mum Stuff)

I’m going to keep talking about the rejected application for Disability Support today, because it’s a big deal.

The immediate issue is that we need to get new ducted reverse cycle air conditioning (the long-term issue is, “How do we pay our bills?” but you probably guessed that). In Australia, ducted AC is considered a luxury (we didn’t have it on our list of must-haves when we bought our house, but we were pleasantly surprised that it happened to be there). Unfortunately I’m extremely sensitive to heat due to a combination of auto-immune diseases and fibromyalgia, so it’s a medical necessity for us.

Do I sound defensive? I feel defensive. Our AC broke rather badly quite a while ago, and even with my health issues I feel like a spoiled brat insisting on a system that will cost around $8000 to replace. That’s more than I usually make in a year, and of course a lot of people around me are saying, “Are you SURE you NEED it?” (That Gaslighting entry just keeps popping up, doesn’t it?)

So I feel a little better now that winter is on the horizon and our entire heating system is a tiny fan heater the size of our cat—and three hot water bottles. I actually handle cold quite well (a major advantage of being overweight) so the focus has now shifted to what Chris and the children need, which I’m much more comfortable advocating for. Louisette in particular feels the cold.

We applied for one form of financing yesterday, and were rejected. Today we’ll apply for another, our best remaining option. If we’re rejected for that, we’ll be in trouble. Thanks again, Centrelink!

There are five bits of good news:

1. I did some mid-week fiction writing last night, so I’m feeling good about The Floating City. I MIGHT be able to finish it during the school holidays, maybe.

2. TJ has decided he no longer needs company when going to the toilet. Fantastic. He’s also stopped singing “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” and… I’m not missing it.

3. I respond well to crisis situations so at the moment I’m mostly feeling okay. I went through about forty pages of Impairment Tables last night and my impairments add up to 35 points (excluding one condition that I’m getting new meds for today), so theoretically it should be simple to get proof for at least 20 points’ worth. I’ve made a phone appointment with my doctor for tomorrow.

4. We have almost completely recovered from the various expenses of last summer’s apocalyptic events (for us, the golfball-sized hail was the most expensive part). So… yay.

5. Staying in isolation means less fuel for the car, so that’s saving some cash. And of course there are no expensive social events, which is helpful too (financially speaking) even though our friends aren’t the type to do anything more expensive than a pot luck dinner (and about one movie a year).

There’s something about concrete that makes Zipper start going belly-up.

Resource of the day: If you get regular medication, you chemist will probably arrange delivery. Mine does.

Recommended donation of the day: Make your street brighter by displaying bears and/or rainbows. The bears are for kids to spot as they walk around their suburbs. The rainbows are to say that things will get better.

Recommended hoarding item of the day: Money? Money is super useful. This isn’t one of those ‘cash-free’ apocalypses you read about.

Tomorrow: My Apocalypse Garden

PS I’m still editing the videos I took of my kids while I read Farting My ABCs. There are some classic moments in there.

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The Virus Diaries: Rejected

April 1, 2020 at 4:40 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Mental illness)

“After considering your circumstances, we have made a decision that you are not eligible for Disability Support Pension. To be eligible for Disability Support Pension, you need to have an impairment of 20 points or more under the Impairment Tables. These tables are used to assess how much your ability to work is affected by any permanent medical condition that is fully diagnosed, treated and stabilised. You have been assessed as not having an impairment rating of 20 points or more.”

Thus ran the message I received in response to the Disability Support Pension application I filed in February.

The good news is that my various conditions are diagnosed, treated (with varying levels of success) and stabilised. One of them is about to get a new treatment which is promising, but the rest are pretty useless.

I’m way over 20 points of impairment, but now I’ll have to gather more data to support that, then apply again, then wait months for the next response.

This is not an unusual story. Many people with fibromyalgia (and other conditions, but fibromyalgia is relatively new so it makes it easier for people to deny its existence) wade through paperwork and expensive specialists for years before getting approved (which we’ve already done for an average of 5 years before getting diagnosed). Drowning disabled people in complicated tasks and paperwork is a great way to save money, because loads of them are too sick to keep applying.

I have at least one more round in me. After that, we’ll see.

I’ve printed off thirty or so pages of Impairment Tables to go through item by item, and then take to my GP. I’ll also need to figure out what form to use for an appeal, probably by calling Centrelink. At the moment, most of Australia is already on hold to Centrelink. Wait times are at least two hours. Well, fine. It’s not like I was busy attempting to educate my kids or anything.

Resource of the day: Anything that’s not Centrelink.

Recommended donation of the day: I’m not the only person dealing with Centrelink at the moment. Send some chocolate to someone you know who’s “lucky” enough to be abruptly unemployed.

A lot of people are suddenly discovering that when circumstances beyond your control send you to the dole queue, it’s not nearly as fun or helpful as you would think.

Personal action of the day: Don’t get sick. (I’m just full of usefulness today, aren’t I?)

Recommended hoarding item of the day: If you’re chronically or seriously ill, make sure you keep all your medical paperwork. If nothing else, it’s another handy source of toilet paper.

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The Virus Diaries: My Mum

March 31, 2020 at 11:00 am (Uncategorized)

I mentioned earlier that my Mum finished painting the copper signs for my escape room business (… the one that’s not currently running). Here they are, isolating outside before getting the all-clear and coming inside.

That copper is gorgeous, isn’t it?

As a chaplain, my mother has been declared an “essential service” at the nursing homes where she works, since visitors are not allowed. I have mixed feelings about that, but at least my mum thrives in a crisis.

While visiting as many people as possible in the nursing homes, she’s also been making masks. These are the ones she made for our family:

Pretty, aren’t they? Obviously they’re just cloth: good mainly for reminding us not to touch our faces and/or to ease the fears of other people if for some reason we venture outside.

Since I needed to pick them up from her porch, and since I knew my sister’s trampoline was currently in her backyard, and since she’s my mother… the kids and I paid my mum a visit. We stayed in the yard (avoiding even the deck, since it has furniture on it) and I chatted to my mum from a safe distance while the kids jumped on the trampoline and looked at her fish.

Visiting my mum is, as far as I understand, an “orange” activity. It’s allowed, if I’m super careful. I certainly won’t do it often because there’s too much at play: my diabetes; small sticky children; both my parents over 60; my mum coming into contact with dozens of high-risk people.

But it was nice.

In other news, a long time ago, I wrote a book. This particular book was called Farting My ABCs. It was never published, because it’s too long for the fart-oriented age group and too farty for the chapter-book set.

A lot of people have been reading books aloud on video for other people to watch. It’s abundantly clear that TJ is smack bang in the fart zone. Here’s the final evolution of “The Lion Sings Tonight” (which he’s since stopped singing, presumably because the experience had reached its height):

I swear this happened before I started reading the book to him.

Anyway, so the Secret Project I’ve been working on is reading that book. But instead of sitting in a chair and reading to camera, I kept the camera on the kids. Boredom, confusion, disgust, delight: it’s all in their faces. And each chapter will be released on a different day throughout the school holidays. They’ll all be in different locations, too, because I know we’re all bored of walls by now.

Hey look! I managed to stay under 500 words today! (Nearly.)

Resource of the day: Playschool did a special “Welcome to Country” episode with a bunch of parent and educator resources. It’s here. Learning about Australia’s indigenous peoples is a vital part of a balanced education. They’re also doing a series on “Same but Different” including lots of visibly disabled presenters.

Recommended ‘donation’ of the day: I know a woman who makes amazing wings for both adults and children, including gorgeous miniature wings for hearing aids. Her etsy page is here.

Personal action of the day: With normal routines screwed up, you’re in danger of forgetting bin night. Set a weekly alarm.

Hoarding item of the day: Extra garbage bags/plastic bags just in case a lot of garbage collectors get sick and there is a minor disruption in services. If it happens it’s most likely to happen in Winter, so you can hopefully just double-bag rubbish and stick it outside as needed without it rotting too badly. Don’t buy a ridiculous amount though.

 

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The Virus Diaries: Men

March 30, 2020 at 7:54 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Love and CJ, Mum Stuff)

Today Louisette’s apocalypse wear is: sitting inside a tub that she has filled with soft toys.

I’m going to keep this one brief, for my own sanity. I’m also sticking to heteronormative relationships, since that’s what I know best. And, obviously, this doesn’t apply to all men. Just most of them.

Here’s some articles that I’m deliberately not reading because they’re too close to home (lolz):

Even Breadwinning Wives Don’t Get Equality At Home.

Why Men Who Earn Less Still Do Less Housework.

Dirty Secret: Why is there still a housework gender gap?

 

Research Shows Moms With Husbands or Live-In Male Partners Do More Housework Than Single Moms

I was looking for a particular stat, but a simple google search came up with pages and pages of articles like these.

Here’s another stat: Women who have children earn less…. but men who have children earn more. Presumably because employers know that women will be bearing the brunt of the kid-related work and stress.

And another one: After becoming fathers, men do LESS housework than before. Presumably because employers are right… and because women are too tired to have to tell yet ANOTHER human being basic stuff like, “Darling, it would be nice if you did the dishes.” If we want to politely and constantly tell someone to do something they should already know they should be doing, we’d have more children.

ProTip: If you act like a child, we will not be attracted to you. Seriously. And if you are SO SMUG that you did a few dishes or vacuumed or did whatever other basic, standard chore… yeah, that’s good, but it’s not some super impressive achievement. You’re on Level 1 and we’re on Level 15. Don’t make us pretend you’re more amazing than you are.

That last article above also says that women with a live-in male partner SLEEP LESS than single mothers. Ew. So men are often worse than useless. You better be pretty, boys.

Fun fact: Above a certain IQ point, a woman’s chance of marrying falls, and keeps falling the higher her IQ. (And yes, I’m aware that IQ tests are deeply flawed. That’s not the point here.) Is it because men are so invested in the idea that they’re superior that they can’t marry someone smarter than them… or is is because smarter women know that getting married is a bad idea? You decide!

The ‘invisible’ jobs of motherhood, such as those specifically outlined above (and stuff like remembering to get the kids’ homework done, and their costume for the school play, and arranging playdates, and checking for lice, and remembering every family birthday, and noticing when the household is running low on peanut butter, and so much more) are a whole insidious realm that a shockingly high percentage of men don’t even recognise as work. Or difficult.

Every time I stand up I glance around the room looking for things (toys, dirty dishes) that need to be moved. Every time I walk through a room I see at least five jobs that need to be done, and I typically pick one and do it. Today I picked up lolly wrappers from around Chris’s computer keyboard because he doesn’t even see what’s directly in front of him (or remember that he planned to deal with it later).

I’ve mentioned before (and it’s been mentioned in the news many times) that a lot of people will be getting divorced this year. A lot of unresolved issues will be VERY MUCH in the foreground both emotionally and physically, and a lot of people will not be able to live with their partners any more.

Most of those people will be women.

Most men think they do as much or more work around the house as their partner does. Most men are wildly incorrect. Most men need to learn fast, or they won’t be married much longer. (And I’m sure you’ve forgotten how desperately you hoped your wife would love you back before she was your wife. She is still a prize that any man would be lucky to have. But other women won’t be impressed by a man that doesn’t pull his weight around the house. If you’re old enough to be married, women your age are old enough to know how to tell if a man is disrespectful to women even if he doesn’t know himself.)

And yes, gentlemen, I know things are rough for you and there is a lot of uncertainty at work, and health fears (for you and your parents and friends and family), and a lot of restrictions on your usual stress-relief activities, and so on and so on. But I can almost guarantee you that your wife is going through everything you are plus the hassle of looking after YOU. Your mess, your meals, your work needs.

If your kids are at home, and your wife works the same number of hours as you (or, as in my case, works as much as they are physically able to), you better be doing your share of looking after those little disease vectors that are suddenly home full-time and needing some educating too. And yeah, your work will suffer. Hers probably already is, so if you actually see her as equal then you need to prioritise family over work right now too. Yes, even if she earns less than you. Money is important but being a good father is more than just your earning capacity. It’s also how much actual adulting you do at home.

Too many men STILL walk through the front door and utterly relax. They’re home, in their beautiful castle, and the work day is over.

Well guess what. Your work day isn’t over. Your wife isn’t relaxing. She’s been working without a break since you stepped out the door, and she’s still working now.

Here are some basic survival-level chores (what Chris does is in italics):

FOOD:

-Plan necessary food shopping (which includes meal prep, and knowing that Kid A is only eating green apples and not red apples this week, and attempting to get fruit and veggies and protein into your kids every day).

-Shopping.

-Cooking/Preparing breakfast, lunch, at least two snacks, and dinner. (Chris prepares his lunch and the kids’ lunches when they’re at school; he is continuing to make their lunches on days he is working from home. He also does kids’ breakfast every day although I prepare milk etc the night before so they can have a drink and Louisette’s medicine before we wake up.)

-Cleaning up all the food stuff, doing dishes, and wiping down surfaces.

HYGIENE:

-Shower, teeth, and brushing hair. Same for kids. Every day. I was doing the kids’ showers every day, but now that Chris doesn’t have to be on the bus for two hours a day he is taking care of that. And he’s playing wii with TJ for at least an extra hour per day.

CLEANLINESS:

-Washing, drying, sorting, and putting away clothes.

-Clean bathrooms once a week.

-Vacuum the whole house at least once a month, probably once a week.

KIDS:

-taking them to/from school

-staying on top of loads of school communication, plus school events, plus assignments and homework, plus contributing to the school community.

-play dates and birthday parties (I organise and run our kids’ birthday parties; Chris takes the kids to other peoples’ parties)

-researching and deciding on toys, keeping kids amused, spending time with kids. (Chris is ‘Primary Parent’ on weekends.)

-putting them to bed, and possibly getting them up in the morning. (Chris puts TJ to bed and I do the same for Louisette. They both wake before us in the morning and watch TV.)

SOCIAL:

-Organising gifts for people’s birthdays, weddings, and other events (we have at least one event a month just from our immediate families).

-Checking schedules and keeping a family calendar.

-Showing up to stuff. With everybody dressed and all the paraphernalia that kids need to bring.

Obviously a lot of people mop floors, clean windows, wipe down cupboards, and so on. We sometimes mop (about twice a year), and we never iron. Gardening is a thing which we’re not doing super well at (Chris does about an hour of weeding on weekends when I ask him to).

I’m a better cook than Chris, and doing dishes is physically painful for me, so we’re set in our roles there. Sometimes Chris cooks (on the weekend), but he still does the dishes those nights. Like most male cooks, his cooking typically leaves more dishes and mess than mine does.

Before we were married, I felt that the biggest threat to our relationship was that we could far too easily fall into the pattern where I took responsibility for everything around the house, and also had to constantly ask Chris to do his share. I talked to Chris about this several times and I don’t think he ever understood. But we’ve settled into it now and at least the basic stuff gets done (when I ask Chris to do it). We’ve been married 11 years, and there are a few very big important things that I don’t have to remind Chris to do every single day any more: he prepares breakfast for the kids, helps them brush their teeth morning and night, and he has learned to do the nightly dishes without being told. Oddly enough he often leaves several items (an empty bottle of milk that just needs to be rinsed and put in the recycling; not wiping down the table, etc) undone. So I do tend to check up on the kitchen every morning, and often I’ll get that sinking feeling when I realise I need to finish it off for him. This is deeply unsexy, but it’s something I can live with (I am also aware that people with ADD don’t get the “Ah, I’m finished!” satisfied feeling that most people get when finishing an unpleasant job). And yes, he reads this blog. Hello sweetheart.

Guys, women don’t actually like nagging you. In fact, we hate it more than you do.

I strongly recommend that, if you are one of two adults in your house, you sit down and AGREE on who is responsible for what jobs during isolation time. And when they should be done, and how (eg vacuuming involves moving light furniture and catching the dust bunnies under the couch). Think very carefully about what ALL the jobs are. Is someone keeping track of government guidelines as they change day by day? Is someone setting up play dates via Zoom? Is one person doing all the lesson planning (that’s fine as long as it’s compensated for elsewhere) or all the teaching (ditto)? Or all the keeping-in-touch with humanity? Or all the tech support?

Kindness, and doing more than just your assigned job is all good! But make sure you do your own jobs BEFORE you play the hero and do hers. Because otherwise what’s the point?

Resource of the day: Two articles (here and here) about domestic abuse, and how it’s getting worse. There are a (very) few suggestions on what to do. The advice, as always, is: if you’re afraid, you’re right, and you need to get OUT even though it’s terrifying and difficult. If you’re someone who has my phone number or another mode of contact, you can talk to me and I’ll see if I can find a safe place for you in your area. My email is fellissimo@hotmail.com

Yeah, it’s not a coincidence that I talked about lazy/oblivious menfolk in the same entry as domestic violence. Because they both involve men having more power than their wives, and using that to benefit themselves while treating women as second class citizens.

Recommended donation of the day: Rize up, a charity that helps victims of domestic abuse.

Personal action of the day: Is someone you know very isolated, and all the more so during this COVID-19 time? Try to connect with them, if you can. If you suspect abuse, be VERY careful as their partner may read their mail and SMSes, listen in on phone calls, etc.

Hoarding item of the day: Firewood. I think when Winter hits it’ll become a hot property, so stock up now rather than stocking up at the last minute.

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The Virus Diaries: The Floating City

March 29, 2020 at 6:42 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Interactive Fiction, Mum Stuff, My Novels, Slow Writing)

Today is Sunday, which means I get to (mostly) ignore the kids and (theoretically) focus on my writing. I did have a reasonably good day yesterday: I was too tired to do much of anything until the kids were asleep, but then I finished expanding Chapter 11, including adding a section on future quarantine methods (someone from another city is visiting the main city, so he has to have blood, saliva and mucus samples taken, and have a chemical bath, and have his movements tracked for six weeks via his wrist computer). It’s a minor section, but of course I think it’s super cool that my vision of the future has learned a major lesson from COVID-19.

Zipper remains unimpressed.

A long, long time ago, when TJ looked like this…

… I had an idea for a story set in a floating city after the ice caps have melted. The idea bubbled away for years as I worked on other things. I’d always think of it when I went swimming, because of course the population of a floating city would be amazing swimmers (and because swimming laps is not exactly mentally taxing, so it’s an excellent time for random pondering).

I began properly researching for “The Floating City” in very early 2017. Inspired by Trump, I wanted to write some disabled characters (since he was being horrid to disabled citizens, among others). I was generally aware that there are more disabled people in the world than in fiction, so I thought it’d be good to change that balance a little. I was also aware that I knew very little and would need to go to some extra effort to make sure my representation of disabled characters did more good than harm.

I was originally going to have the reader choose whether they were mute, a double amputee, or phobic of deep water. The main issue with that is that the nature of ChoiceScript games is that choices should for the most part be very balanced. So having such a choice implied that those three options were all equally difficult. I couldn’t say whether they are or aren’t, but that just makes it even worse.

I’m fascinated by languages (I actually studied linguistics at uni, although not as a major) so of course the many sign languages in the world are very interesting (things like facial expression or the expansiveness of a gesture showing “tone”, and variations from place to place). Like most people, I’m aware that some Deaf people will elect to NOT get their hearing “fixed” given the option, because there is a whole Deaf subculture that is more important to some people than the ability to hear (the rough unpleasant sound of electronic “hearing” is definitely a factor too). I also liked the idea of a floating city made of glass spheres that people both lived in and travelled through. I imagined there might be sealed hatches that took an annoying few seconds to open. So I figured some basic sign language would be handy for people to communicate through glass, and I invented “Tapping” which is handy for those awkward minutes talking through glass, as well as giving people the option of tapping directly onto a person for a kind of “whisper” effect. Therefore, my floating city had a normal sign language dialect plus Tapping.

And, with Tapping being universally spoken, people would be more open to learning a few regular signs as well, if only to make those through-glass (or underwater) conversations more satisfying. I didn’t think that would be enough to actually have a fully bilingual city, so I made up something else: around a third of the population is Hard of Hearing or Deaf (a rather limited population pool brings out recessive genes).

With all that background, it was natural for most denizens of Kota Perahu to speak both sign language and Tapping. Which of course means being Deaf or Hard of Hearing is no longer a disability there, much as being very shortsighted is not a disability for me, since I can wear glasses.

I really liked the idea of a story showing by its world-building that it’s society rather than physical impairment that makes life difficult for disabled people.

I also really like the fact that certain disabled athletes are literally better than their able-bodied equivalents, because prosthetic technology is really cool. Someone I used to babysit works in the field of making cheap prosthetics for third world countries. People are 3D printing bright pink glittery arms, and tentacles (why not?) and water pistol arms. Kids are designing their own prosthetic limbs for fun.

So of course a person on a floating island could, hypothetically, become a real-life mermaid.

They’d need to be a double above-knee amputee for maximum movement, which would require considerable tech to overcome. But… a real tail? I couldn’t give up the idea.

So I badly wanted at least one profoundly Deaf major character, and a double above-knee amputee for the main character (so readers could ‘experience’ swimming with a real tail).

And that is how the story ended up, disability-wise. But I didn’t expect my research to have such a profound effect on my own family.

Chris has innattentive ADD. If you’ve ever met him you’ll notice he’s not hyperactive. Like… not at ALL. If he was any more laid back he’d stop breathing. But I knew there was a genetic element (apart from anything else, his dad also has ADD) so for the first two years of Lousiette’s life, she didn’t watch TV. That’s recommended for preventing or lessening ADD. This is an epic achievement, and all the more so when you consider how much screen time my kids get nowadays (… all of it).

Louisette as a baby.

 

I also watched her behaviour, and I noticed that actually she had amazing focus, even as an infant. She was, I thought, basically the opposite of someone with ADD.

But then when I was chatting to people about disabilities, someone mentioned “hyperfocus” as a symptom of ADD. The word alone was enough to stop me in my tracks. As the name implies, people with ADD are super duper focused on certain things, to the exclusion of the rest of the world. Just like… Louisette.

She was about to start Kindy, so I did some more research and was able to let her teacher know that we suspected she also had innattentive ADD. Twelve months later, it had been overwhelmingly confirmed and she started taking Ritalin at the relatively early age of 6. (Let’s not get into talking about Ritalin here. ADHD is both over- and under-diagnosed and plenty of people mistakenly believe it’s not a real condition or that it’s due to bad parenting and/or have legitimate concerns about Ritalin as it’s a very powerful drug. Yes, I know.)

At this stage—in 2017 I’d been too sick to work for two years, although I didn’t have the fibromyalgia diagnosis for another three years—it also slowly dawned on me that *I* was disabled.

Now obviously chronic illness and disability are technically different things. But there is a whole disabled community, and I’m in it. From that point onwards I grew used to the idea of calling myself “disabled” (It’s been five years now since I was able to do normal work, and it’s highly unlikely I’ll ever recover). Sure I’m not paralysed (as we always think of when someone says “disabled”). That doesn’t make me able-bodied.

So here I am. Disabled. Connected to others, and experiencing a lot of what other disabled people experience. I applied for a disability parking permit back in 2018 or so, which is SO GOOD and helps me to still be able to do some basic stuff like dropping the kids at school. This year I applied for the disability support pension, and that’s basically the bright shining light at the end of the tunnel of financial failure that is my life. I hope it’s not a train.

Ah, we were all so cute back then.

 

Anyway.

As part of the writing process, I tried to imagine how the current world could plausibly end up looking like the world of The Floating City, especially since the titular floating city was mostly made up of Indonesian refugees (that’s never actually mentioned in the story, although it’s mentioned that most Kota Perahu people have brown skin and most of those living in the underground city of New Sydney are pale).

So I decided that a world that had experienced the stupidity and racism of Trump might have a massive swing in the opposite direction, and briefly face the very real problem of Climate Change—and the immense numbers of climate refugees—head on, prioritising compassion, scientific innovation, and long-term thinking. Including massive investments of capital.

So in my version of the future, there is the invention of Glass, which is stronger than regular glass and also acts as a solar panel and a computer screen. The whole city is made of it.

And Australia builds Kota Perahu, and populates it with a balance of skills, prioritising refugees (or those who are in danger of becoming refugees eg those from the Maldives) but sprinkling in others as well. It is well built, sustainable, and fundamentally independent. It has certain regions that it travels through over the course of a year, trading along the way. It is very difficult to gain citizenship, which is darkly amusing when the ice caps finish melting and several major cities (including Sydney) are largely destroyed, making ‘rich’ refugees beg for entry to Kota Perahu. (That doesn’t actually enter in to the final story, but it would definitely have happened in their past.)

Other floating cities are built around the world. Some are done properly, and some are thrown together cheaply or in a hurry. Some thrive, and some are effectively new third world countries.

Here’s an image I’ve bought off Shutterstock for the cover:

Life settles into a new normal in which a lot of animal species have died out, others have adapted, and the chips have fallen into their new pattern. Australia has a new inland sea (never mentioned in the tale, although there’s a floating city there too), there are several major underground cities, and there are a lot more deserts.

And that’s where the story takes place, from the perspective of someone who’s grown up in a rather nice floating city and feels sorry for anyone who hasn’t. And their generation can spend a much longer time underwater than ours (based on a few people groups with amazing skills that exist today).

So. That’s pretty much the deal with The Floating City. I quite often write the first 50,000 words of a book in 4-6 weeks. This one IS technically finished (still editing) and it’s over 100,000 words… but it’s by far the book that’s taken me the longest to write. I don’t fully know why. Maybe because it’s scifi (just barely) rather than fantasy? Or because I knew I needed to research and really think about what I was writing? Maybe because this marks a shift in my writing (it does: my mojo is incredibly weak right now)?

I’m nearly there. Nearly. And I’ll be doing some more tonight. There are five versions of Chapter 12 (the climactic chapter) so it’ll be hard to stay enthusiastic all the way through, but I’m determined to do a good job.

An image for the icon when it’s on sale:

Like all my other ChoiceScript tales, it’ll be a Hosted Game released by Choice of Games.

Eventually.

Resource of the day: Check out all the Hosted Games by Choice of Games here. There are a lot of beauties there (including several that I’m involved in, the most recent of which is the cozy crime tale Death at the Rectory available on pretty much any device). They are a very easy entry into interactive fiction, and super fun.

Recommended donation of the day: Here’s a Tasmanian artist who can post stuff to you.

Recommended personal action of the day: Go for a walk.

Recommended hoarding item of the day: Chalk. There’s so much cool chalk art in people’s driveways right now!

 

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The Virus Diaries: Welcome to Pain, Healthy People

March 28, 2020 at 3:41 pm (Fully Sick, general life, Mental illness)

trigger warning: discussion of depression and suicide.

 

One of the facebook groups I’m on (two in fact) are for sufferers of fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue—all-encompassing, usually permanent conditions that change everything for the person who is sick.

A few people have taken a quiet or not-so-quiet satisfaction in the way healthy people, ordered to stay home and relax, have freaked out. Here’s one person’s take, used with her permission:

I wrote quite a bit about the weird mental uncertainty of this COVID-19 moment in my gaslighting post, and it was natural to talk about fibromyalgia there too. One of the surprising bits of the chronic illness experience (definitely including mental illnesses) is how hard it is to believe that it’s really happening and your life really is changed forever (let alone how hard it is to get family—especially close family—and medical professionals to treat you seriously).

Now the whole world is turned upside down and inside out, and there are oh so many people sitting at home going mad (some literally; sorry about that) and struggling with thoughts of, “Is it really that bad? I feel fine. Would I even get sick if I was exposed?”

Disabled people all over my twitter were pointing out earlier this year that the message of, “If you’re healthy then you’ve got nothing to worry about!” was also saying, “Don’t worry, only old people and sick people will die, and they’re not really people so THAT’s fine.”

Going further back, let’s talk about Robin Williams and Stephen Hawking: two brilliant men; one who was mentally ill and one who was disabled. So when they died, there were a LOT of images like these:

And I’ll be honest: those are beautiful images, and my heart does a little leap for joy to think those two beautiful men might be free of pain.

But.

As many pointed out at the time, both images also say that people who are depressed or disabled are better off dead. Which is especially bad because so many people really do, in their heart of hearts, believe that to be true.

Some people believe it in a semi-noble way, being empathetic or at least trying to be. Hopefully that sense of empathy leads them to take useful action in their lives, like making their house wheelchair accessible or voting to increase funding for groups that help the disabled. Others are purely selfish, and want to pay less tax—and that means cutting funding to those less fortunate and quietly hoping they just vanish.

And let’s be honest. For the most part, vanishing is what we do. People who get sick stay home. People who are chronically ill soon realise that talking about their normal life (sprained my back brushing my hair so now I can’t sit up for two weeks) get real boring—and real depressing—real fast. So if they’re smart, they stop talking about what’s actually taking up the majority of their time and brain space (pain, struggling to pay bills, etc) and keep their conversation to acceptable bounds. Most of our friends aren’t able or willing to accommodate our needs, or don’t understand that our shy request to have people come to our house rather than theirs might be because we have suppurating boils that might bleed through our clothes at any moment so we’re scared to go out. Or that being in a room above 20 degrees gives us diarrhea for the next three days. Or that driving our car makes our wrist throb for the next week because we’re too weak to safely change gears.

So we just… don’t show up. And we’re isolated and scared and in pain, and very very poor (which makes us feel utterly worthless).

Welcome to our world, healthy people. I hope this helps you to understand the sick a whole lot better when the world is “normal” again.

And I’ll try to be more honest about my needs, too.

I frequently pretend to be super lazy so I don’t make people uncomfortable eg. “Hey Felicity, got any cool plans for the weekend?” “Me? I’m gonna make Chris do some gardening and then I’m going to nap. It’s going to be awesome.” when really I WISH I could stay awake a full day, and weed the garden myself, and maybe even actually play with my kids or *gasp* go out and DO something fun.

Anyway, here’s a cat looking adorably pissed off:

Unfortunately, although chronically ill people might be professionals at staying home looking at the wall, there are other bad things going on for us: difficulty getting medication, the loss of support staff and services, difficulty getting the very specific foods that our digestive systems can take, etc. And of course no visitors.

Resource of the day: Most chemists are now delivering regular medications. If you’re immunocompromised or over 60, consider calling and asking them for assistance.

Donation of the day:

A friend of mine makes gorgeous hair bows for primary age and under girls. Let me know if you’re interested and I’ll hook you up. She also has fibromyalgia… and three kids suddenly all at home. Ouch.

Her web site is here, and this is a bow I bought off her, that Louisette adores.

Personal action of the day: Reduce the number of times per month you go shopping, if you possibly can.

Hoarding item of the day: Having said that, Aldi has $50 fire pits (and $70 camping stoves) which are fun AND will be lifesavers if the power gets interrupted in winter (very unlikely to last more than an hour but I’m hip to the apocalypse baby). I literally got one. Plus if we’re still isolated when TJ’s birthday comes around, that + marshmallows will make an epic party for him.

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The Virus Diaries: The Truth About My Routine

March 27, 2020 at 12:09 pm (Cat pics, Fully Sick, general life, Mental illness, Mum Stuff)

Not so long ago, I wrote a post on sanity, including ten tips to stay sane while self-isolating. Let’s go through them and see if I am actually following my own advice (unlikely, since it’s designed for healthy people and I am really not healthy at all).

1. Do something. Whether it’s your job, journalling, writing a novel, gardening, or whatever, try not to slide into the utter nothingness of pure unfettered laziness for too long (it gets old after about three days, and it can be hard to snap out of it). Wear pants. Shower. Eat breakfast at breakfast time. Cook proper food and clean the kitchen every night. A lot of people are celebrating “Formal Fridays” where they dress up for the day and post photos online.

Lol nope. People with chronic illness will know what I mean when I say “couch days”. Some days you can’t do anything, and barely stir from the couch. It’s not fun, even though I bet it looks like it from the outside (to ignorant healthy people, who wish they could do more of nothing… sick people WISH we could have the dignity of a steady job).

I haven’t worn pants (jeans) since Boxing Day 2018. I remember that date very clearly, because it was just over a month since I’d had major abdominal surgery, and it was very exciting to be able to wear pants. The next day, I was back in hospital for a post-op infection and had to get operated on again. It wasn’t definitely the fault of the jeans, but I haven’t attempted jeans since. My stomach still has major issues, and I’m not that big on jeans anyway. Anyone who knows me in real life will know that I wear ankle length skirts every day. It’s the closest thing to a hospital gown, if you think about it (except for the gap in the back): comfortable and loose-fitting.

I wore a bra briefly yesterday and it really hurt my back. Not because of the bra, which doesn’t even have underwire, but because my back is that dodgy. So I don’t even do Wear-A-Bra Wednesday.

I’ve gone semi-nocturnal, waking around midday. And actually that’s working really well.

2. Stop. Take at least one day a week off, whatever that means for you. Enjoy that lazy Sunday vibe, stay in your PJs all day, eat nothing but cereal, do no schoolwork, whatever. Apart from anything else, this gives you something to look forward to.

I’m very excited about the weekend, when I shall cheerfully shove all parenting responsibility onto Chris for the full two days, and hopefully get some of MY work done. At the moment I need writing more than a true day off.

3. Do healthy stuff. Eat well (especially fruit and vegies, or things will not go well in your bathroom), and figure out a way to exercise (walking, running up and down stairs, playing soccer with the kids, whatever). Make yourself get up at a certain time each day (with one ‘sleep in’ day a week because sleeping in is awesome). Get some sunshine if you possibly can (I’m assuming you at least have a balcony). It really helps your body feel like you’ve done something and can therefore sleep at night.

Yeah nope. Never done much of that (since I got too sick for most of it) and certainly not starting now.

4. Be polite no matter what.

Hmm. So far, mostly. Wanted to punch Chris in the face today and instead simply told him that I was angry and he apologised. So that’s a moral victory, I suppose.

5. Pick your goals wisely, and change course as required.

Yeah, that I do.

6. Failure is always an option.

I do that too.

7. Remember humans are amazingly adaptable, even you.

I’m astonished at how well I’m holding up so far. Of course, I’m also aware that there’s a manic episode happening. When I come down things may get rough. If I look after myself as much as possible while manic, the fall won’t be as hard.

8. Do fun stuff.

It has been fun to pour my creativity into stuff like the obstacle course (which Louisette still likes and TJ still refuses to do) and a Secret Project I’m prepping for the holidays.

9. Humour.

Always.

10. Whatever works.

Always.

My normal weekday routine pre-COVID-19:

7-9am: Get up, get kids ready for school, put a load of washing on, drop them at school.

9ish-12ish: Immediately change into PJS. Watch TV and/or write stuff. Lunch.

12ish-2:30ish: Nap.

3-6: Fetch kids, immediately change into PJs, play wii with TJ, make kids shower, prepare dinner.

6:30-8: Dinner and bedtime routine.

8pm-11ish: Watch TV and/or write stuff. Go to bed.

And now:

12ish: Wake up, eat breakfast, do a load of washing, fetch kids’ lunches. (Chris gets the kids breakfast around 7am and then goes to work in his study.)

1-4ish: Louisette is at her best (it’s her Ritalin window) so make sure to do her schooling (currently just the obstacle course) and make her shower in this time window. Also do TJ’s schooling (which he begs for) and shower (which he begs not to do, but it only takes 60 seconds once he’s in).

3ish-6ish: Write blog, usually (in bits and pieces between other things) and play wii/watch NumberBlocks with TJ while Louisette watches TV in her room.

6:30-8: Dinner and bedtime routine.

8pm-1am ish: Watch TV and/or write stuff (usually too tired to do any writing). Go to bed.

This is Louisette working on the obstacle course.

 

I hope looking at my routine makes you feel better about yours. Honestly, I really am doing amazingly well. Since Chris is working form home now, which means 2 hours extra in his day, it’s time for him to start doing useful stuff with the kids. So he takes care of showering the kids now (YAY). And he’s home at 5pm instead of 6:30, which is VERY helpful since by then I’m too tired to play on the wii with TJ, but TJ is too tired to amuse himself.

Resource of the day:

A lot of people are encouraging kids to get into letter-writing or play on playgrounds. Please don’t—playgrounds and paper are both very able to carry COVID-19 for several days (possibly as much as 17 days).

Donation of the day:

People still have medical expenses. Have a look at GoFundMe and pick a winner.

Personal action of the day:

Use gloves when opening your mail (or leave it somewhere safe for at least a week before opening it), and carefully throw away envelopes.

Hoarding item of the day:

Tongs? Since gloves are probably out of stock everywhere.

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