the coronavirus diaries: week three

on a walk with my mom
photo credit: my older daughter

These days, I feel twitchy. On edge.

Our normal homeschool studies, already at a bare minimum, have all but screeched to a halt. Not because we don’t have time — we have all the time in the world — but because I’m too distracted. 

Writing, normally a difficult task, is even harder because I can’t still my racing mind long enough to focus. Which is exactly what I need to do, of course — my brain craves a break.

And so I try to write something, anything…


In the middle of the night when I wake to go to the bathroom, in the fuzzy space between dreamland and wakefulness, consciousness comes in fragments — … falling apart … quarantine the entire world … virus … taking over trapped — and I think, Wow, what a horrible nightmare, and then, a second later, Oh wait. That’s reality.


Nothing is easy. Even the ordinary things, like reading a book, feel complicated. Because once that book is done, then what? Can I swap books with my mom? With my friends? Do I order from Amazon?


And the absence of routine — church, babysitting, coffee shops, pop-in visits — is more draining than it is freeing. Figuring out what to do instead, or how to live without, sucks energy and takes concentration.

delivery girl: from one quarantined household to another

The deluge of information is overwhelming. At first glance, each new announcement — a hundred more positive cases! such-and-such a famous person sick! yet another preposterous statement! chilling revelation! heartwarming video! — is exciting.

But then the kick of adrenaline fades, leaving behind fear and anxiety, rage, and something akin to grief.

It’s a lot to process.


Everything’s happening so fast. Two days from now — two weeks, two months — what will I be wishing I’d thought of now?

So, at my urging, my husband and I sat down to come up with a plan.

We asked ourselves, what do we normally need/do in April, May, and June? If we’re stuck at home, what projects might we tackle? What materials might we need? What should we buy now to keep the house running smoothly?

Our list wasn’t that long — the headlight on the car is out; the riding mower needs some repairs; we’re almost out of lightbulbs; the propane tanks should be refilled; we ought to refill our gas cans and maybe get a couple more; it wouldn’t hurt to buy a little extra flour — but it felt good to think things through.

What am I forgetting?


Yesterday I went to Costco. I was a little nervous about what I’d find, but the store was wonderfully calm.

Precautionary measures were everywhere: An employee was wiping down carts. Posted signs reminded customers to stay six feet apart. Stands of antibacterial wipes were at the entrance and exit. Open registers were staggered, and the checkout was a single line at the head of which was an employee allowing customers to pass when a register became available.

Some items were missing — no chicken, no frozen beef, no frozen peas and broccoli, no toilet paper (of course) — and certain things, like butter and oil and sugar, were restricted to just one per customer, but most of the shelves were full.

Since I was also shopping for my brother’s family, who is quarantined right now, and, even though we had lots of duplicates between our two carts, they let us pay for everything with my membership card, no problem.

photo credit: my older daughter

I followed up at Food Lion to fill in the gaps, but there were still a number of things (frozen orange juice, rubbing alcohol, frozen peas, toilet paper) that we couldn’t find. The whole hit-or-miss nature of shopping is so similar to what it’s like in other countries I’ve lived in — everything simply isn’t always available.

Which is a new concept for us, here.

And a bit of a rude awakening. We aren’t invincible after all.


One of my friends was recently very sick. We (I, she, her doctor, etc) were sure it was Covid-19, but her test came back negative. Which made me wonder: is there such a thing as a false negative?

When I mentioned this to my brother, he sent me this article. So I’m not the only one asking this question!

And when I mentioned this to Kim, she said that her friend in the UK never had the test but, after a week, they considered her a confirmed case, based on her symptoms only. Will the U.S. start doing this soon, too?

Then just today my brother sent me a new link: false positives are unlikely; false negatives are more likely.


If you have time to listen to just one thing today, let it be this: Monday’s Fresh Air interview with Max Brooks, an apocalyptic novelist who is somewhat of an expert on pandemics. At Mom’s urging, I’d started listening to it yesterday afternoon but then stopped — I wanted the whole family to hear it.

So last night, after our supper of Thai chicken curry and rice (I found chicken at Food Lion), we lingered at the table, listening. Even though there was nothing pleasant about the truth of our situation, just hearing someone speak about the issues plainly, with intelligence and thoughtfulness, gave me hope.


And, for a little humor, this lovely, spot-on essay written by one of my friends: Mom, You’re Grounded.


Jesus Loves Me is longer than 20 seconds.

This same time, years previous: the quotidian (3.25.19), the solo, apricot couronne, more springtime babies, the pigpen, the quotidian (3.24.14), the walk home, of a moody Sunday, sour cherry crumb pie.


  • Margo

    Thank you, Jennifer, for this thoughtful yet raw post. I am being currently interrupted by a child and I can't think – and virus. hahahahah! DISTRACTION.

  • Unknown

    Hi from up here in the Maritimes in Canada. I think the best way I've found to cope with all of this is…..don't think of it being stuck at home, think of it as being safe at home. Simple, but true. Elbow bumps! And keep safe!

  • Becky

    It is so hard to concentrate! One of my side projects right now is editing a book on psychiatry, which was difficult enough BEFORE all this….now I've got to find a way to push through as my publisher is losing patience with me….

  • Lissa

    Concentration is very hard here. Comfort re-reads okay. Shows like Leave it to Beaver. hahah
    Walks with the dog keeping me functional. Daughter MD in Chicago. Extremely terrifying to talk to her. She needs to process, but what to do with mom and dad feelings? Husband MD at the VA who does senior management. We gripe about some of the people he works with because it's too stressful to talk illness.

    Daughter is OB/Gyn: she always says "Baby is Boss" to mom who come in with their fancy birth plans. Right now: Virus is boss.

    Your son might like this link:

  • Unknown

    You are such a brilliant writer…truly what you share is just captivating…it is honest, thought-provoking, real. Thank you!!

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