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  • Melissa Westemeier


This pandemic has revealed a few sobering truths to me. That's bound to happen when isolated with your own thoughts, there's no distraction from reality, no matter how hard I try to escape it.

Turns out I don't hate making dinner so much when I have enough time. It's awful coming home from work and rushing straight to the kitchen to begin preparing a meal two people will eat and two other people will encounter hours later after it's been put into Tupperware storage in the fridge. When I can glide fifteen steps from a relaxing afternoon in the library to the kitchen without racing against the clock and all five people in our house sit down together to eat, making dinner becomes a less loathsome task.

My offspring eat a LOT. Like Hobbit-level eating. They eat at least five or six times a day. They will eat the dinner, then they roll through two hours later for snacks. I wait until 8:00 to clean the kitchen and it looks pretty nice when I head to bed later in the evening. Somehow, when I wake up the next morning, I encounter a sink full of dishes because sometime between 10:30 p.m. and 6:30 a.m. Team Testosterone has made milkshakes and Taquitos and sandwiches and bowls of cereal. It is like living with a plague of locusts.

When asked to share the burden of making dinner, Mr. G warmed up to it immediately. He took the first shift, came armed with a YouTube video of a recipe he wanted to make, spent over two hours frolicking his way through the steps to make chicken quesadillas and white cake with chocolate frosting, and asked when he gets to cook dinner again. The other two have yet to take their shift. I generally make whatever's fast and easy for a meal, but when I get hang out and chat with G for two hours, I'm perfectly happy to take extra measures like marinating meat and shredding two types of cheese to blend together. We never got to do that before, mess around in the kitchen without pressure from the clock and the sports schedule.

I shed a LOT. Obviously as a mammal I shed hair because I grow hair and my hair is longer than normal lately, but I find it EVERYWHERE. Apparently when I would go other places (outside of this house), my shedding was spread out enough that I didn't notice long strands ALL THE TIME. But now that my radius of travel has shrunk to five rooms and our back yard, I discover SO MUCH HAIR on furniture, on floors, on my clothes. I haven't found bald patches and it seems I have the same amount of hair as before, so it must be that I shed this much all the time. It's astonishing. I wonder what it's like being quarantined with a house full of daughters with long hair--it must be terrible!

There are a couple other creatures in this house who shed a lot. We have to vacuum every day to keep up with damage. Behold: a gratuitous picture of Thorn!

I don't miss being busy all the time with all the things. I miss some of the things (watching a baseball game, for example, or my monthly book club meetings), but not as much as I thought I might. There's much to recommend a lazy morning of listening to the news, drinking coffee, reading a bit, then starting work at 9-ish. My few scheduled tasks make me chafe. I'm still productive, but it turns out I prefer an unscheduled life without obligations to clocks. I don't miss watching clocks and being aware of the time and mentally calculating when to do task A before I need to be ready for task B. I wonder how I might work no schedules into a post-pandemic world, you know, the one where we don't shake hands and food buffets are a thing of the uncivilized past. (Random fun fact: did you know public spitting was very much a THING before the flu pandemic? And then prohibitions happened to protect public health, spittoons disappeared and now we're all grossed out when somebody hocks a lugie while walking down the hall.)

I still cannot write while I'm teaching, even though my teaching day looks very different than it did before. That was a disappointing discovery. I honestly believed I would be able to tinker with a new project but teaching online taps my mental energy just as much as (and sometimes more) than teaching in person. The workarounds I have to invent are just EXHAUSTING.

Teaching is less fun when I don't interact with students in person. I cannot imagine what it would be like to teach these classes if I hadn't already established a personal connections before we went online. All of the humor, the liveliness, the fun, the excitement, the diversity leaks out when we do online school, and the entire business boils down to tasks. The small amount of onscreen and phone conversations with students have become the high point of teaching these days. I wonder if my students feel the same way? I believe they do, at least most of them.

Spill it, reader. What have you discovered as a result of this pandemic?

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