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Continuous Partial Attention

We are ok. Limping along through our new routines. I have the privilege - and guilt - of being able to work from home, and to have our groceries and household essentials delivered to us. But there are days I feel overwhelmed and I have far more difficulty focusing now than ever before. And that’s saying something. I need to take more frequent breaks to get through the day. Recently I took an entire Friday off, which helped. Even though I have nowhere to go, I still have loads of vacation time to use and I may as well give myself a break. In the past, blogging or journaling has been helpful. But after struggling to concentrate all day on work tasks the last thing I want to do is document my thoughts and feelings. I know I’m not alone, at least. Even the creator of Black Mirror says the world is too bleak right now for season six to happen.

‘Zoom fatigue’ is taxing the brain. Here’s why that happens.
Video calls seemed an elegant solution to remote work, but they wear on the psyche in complicated ways.

We passed a few significant milestones in our household. Events that had been scheduled to happen that are meaningful to us but have been postponed, obviously. Like Free Comic Book Day and the Heart of the Beast’s May Day Parade. Those are major highlights for us every year. And I was slated to travel to Austin, TX for the first time ever this week, to present a session at an accessibility conference. I had been very excited about that. Not to mention all the live music shows we won’t be attending. Even if this micrashell personal hazmat suit goes into mass production (I imagine it would be cost prohibitive).

The therapist I’ve been seeing since 2014 just returned from maternity leave. Last week we had our first telehealth session. She spotted my cat Olive in the background and got SO excited. I’d never heard her voice do that before. Olive is really cute though. We had a nice check-in. I have learned a lot from her over the years. I’m able to better identify when I’m struggling and take action to course correct. I’ve found this circle of control graphic to be particularly helpful lately.

I have gratitude for:

  • My son, as always. Last week he ordered a beautiful Mother’s Day cake for me from Vegan East. I realize he just really wanted some of their cake so this was a great excuse to get one, but he did ask which flavor I wanted. Chocolate salted caramel, of course. We took a long walk together that day, through the nearby cemetery. Then I prepared a delicious vegetarian sushi spread for our Mother’s Day dinner and we watched Knives Out. Perfection.
  • Our Imperfect Foods delivery included a mini watermelon and it was wonderful.
  • A book I pre-ordered back in November was released last week and it did not disappoint. I tried to savor it but finished reading Network Effect, the fifth book in The Murderbot Diaries in four or five days and it was a goddamned delight.
  • The other day I needed a change of scenery. I got in my car and drove up the Minnehaha Parkway, which is beautiful right now with the leaves coming in on all the trees, and parked near Lake Nokomis to walk around a different lake than my usual. It helped.
  • Early on in the lockdown I was consuming too much news, even in my podcasts. Lately I’ve switched over to more comedy. Not sure how I missed the Adulting podcast last year, since I adore Michelle Buteau, but I just binge listened to all episodes over the weekend and into this week and it was the BEST. I also have a serious Jordan Carlos crush now.

This post has been in draft mode for weeks. Fitting, given the post title. But I am about to hit the Publish button and will hopefully feel a sense of accomplishment. Or a slight dopamine rush.

Man wearing t-shirt of Adventure Time's Jake th4e Dog character while holding a beautifully frosted cake
Young man with a scruffy beard and orange hair wearing novelty hypno glasses with black and white swirls
Slices of watermelon on a green cutting board
tray full of homemade vegan sushi

Evidence of Absence

At times I can be forgetful. But grief and trauma? Those memories are etched in stone. My brother died on this day in 1989. He was just 18. I remember so many little details. Taking the bus after school from White Bear Lake to Maplewood Mall to downtown St. Paul to hang out with him at United Hospital. Getting tired of the lousy hospital food and walking over to Cossetta’s to pick up some mostaccioli to share. But sometimes he felt too sick to eat, because of the brutal chemo. He had a private hospital room in the adult oncology ward but we had to request to wheel in a TV with a VCR to watch movies. 15 year-old me pulled together some cash to go to a record store at the mall to get U2’s Rattle and Hum documentary on VHS so we could watch that together. Sometimes I would shake his plasma bags for the nurses before he received a transfusion. And I held the bucket for him when he was coughing up bile. On his better days we could play Nintendo together. The console was a gift from his employers at Kowalski’s grocery store in our hometown. At the end, I was sleeping in his room overnight but still in denial that he was dying. That last morning a few of us went downstairs for bad cafeteria food and to stand outside in the fresh air for a bit. I lingered in the sunshine. When I went back upstairs I washed my hands thoroughly before entering his room but he was already gone. I never said goodbye properly because I held on to the hope he would recover somehow. That the leukemia would go into remission. Even though it was pneumonia that had killed him by that point. His airways were being suctioned regularly. He was so very sick. But he knew I was there. I hope that’s enough. And it’s more closure than a lot of people are getting now, who are losing family members during this pandemic.

Best brother ever. But far too briefly. Thomas Oliver Morrow October 14, 1970 - May 9, 1989

Holding Pattern

An unfinished puzzle has been on our dining room table for over a month. The dishwasher died before that. The bathroom sink is leaking. The whole place could use a serious deep cleaning but I’m just keeping my head above water for now. On Friday I put on a dress and lipstick for the first time in ages and listened to the same song on repeat too many times and started worrying that we’re getting a little too Grey Gardens over here.

Five items of note:

On Saturday, my son and I engaged in Morrow-style social distancing. We hadn’t seen my folks at all in 2020, even though they only live 21 miles away. They do not have internet, so no video calls. We drove over and stood around on their front lawn, shouting up at them on their 2nd floor deck. I adore my dear weird Dad. Before we arrived he left an unexpected package outside for me, with inexplicable contents. He bequeathed to me a waterpik(?), a patterned tote bag, and a random assortment of DVDs. My son and I watched the 1938 version of The Adventures of Robin Hood last night. It has excellent elevated frame rate fight scenes with Errol Flynn. Anyhow, it was excellent to see my Dad and his wife. I wanted to give him a hug but did not. After our shouting match from a safe distance we turned around and went straight back home.

Showing off my tiger

Uncomfortably Numb

Trauma is nothing new for me. Before all this I’d been working through some past shit. But these current conditions have put everything on pause. I’m an artist but I don’t feel creative. Most days I’m just trying to get by. Going into this past weekend I was disheartened by so many things. In particular, the idiots protesting to “open up” the economy again, whatever that means. And a former married co-worker resurfaced out of the blue to proposition me (during a pandemic?) again so yeah, why not heap some weird vibes on top of my pandemic fatigue and burnout. And I didn’t even want to cook anymore, which is something I generally find therapeutic. Laundry? Forget about it. Right now I feel very little beyond exhaustion. But it will come. Later. And I do have an appointment with my therapist next month. She has been on maternity leave all year. I know I’m not alone on this roller coaster. This twitter thread sums it up perfectly.

Here are five better things:

Blue skies and melting snow

I Could Live in Hope

Last night I felt exceptionally useless. I ordered pizza delivery. After work I sat on the couch drinking a White Claw and cramming greasy cheese pizza into my face while playing more Animal Crossing. I also pondered the newest adaptation of Dune (with all of the stars in it, ALL OF THEM) and watched the pilot episode of Run. Which I will keep on watching. Man, I am a sucker for the gorgeous Domhnall Gleeson. It was a perfectly comfortable evening and I am ok with occasionally zoning out after a day of work, staring at my screens. But I feel like I need to be doing more. I don’t have the energy to work on my novel right now, and that’s ok. But I want to be doing something for others. After listening to the latest 99% Invisible episode, about unhoused people in the Bay Area, I volunteered to be a Meals on Wheels delivery driver. It seems like something that can be done safely and they do have contactless protocols in place. And I’m paying this ridiculous car payment plus insurance for a Subaru that is just sitting in my driveway.

This morning I also received my government stimulus check. I’m still working, my main job at least, so I turned around and donated a portion of it to a few organizations. And used some of it to buy a half share in the Open Farms CSA for this summer. I’d like to find other ways to help in the coming months. My classes at the college may pick up again in the Fall, once they figure out remote learning for Continuing Education courses. And then I will have much less free time (again). I do hope to find a way to teach my curriculum, for free, to younger learners over the summer.

Social distancing at the cemetery

Bruised and Distracted

My life — and this blog — have always leaned into distractions. The self-soothing techniques I learned as a little kid in a dysfunctional household may not be the healthiest: escapism through reading; watching movies and TV; and playing video games. But I had no idea this early training would serve me so well in my 40s. Or that stress cooking and baking would factor so heavily into my adulthood. And it is strange to watch the rest of the world catching up with these coping mechanisms. Well, those, like me, who have the luxury to stay home, away from the pandemic’s front lines. People who once had other distractions that don’t apply to me. Like sports (watching and playing them), regularly spending lots of time with family (haven’t got any really), going to all day beer festivals, etc. Those folks are just now figuring out how to hang out at home and how to cook and bake and plan meals. This is all old hat to me. But I do miss live music shows, eating out at restaurants, traveling, and socializing around fire pits. And we’ve only gotten one month of this under our belts, as of today.

Lowlights from the weekend:

  • While drinking boxed wine Friday night, I had the brilliant idea to chop off my split ends with kitchen shears.
  • I had to take too many doses of Excedrin for a splitting headache verging on a migraine and my heart has still been racing, despite my decreased caffeine intake (yes, I know Excedrin contains caffeine, which is one reason I’ve been decreasing my coffee intake to half a cup in the morning).
  • I did not go for any walks or do yoga.
  • Vacuuming did not happen.
  • I didn’t feel like talking to anyone, other than my kid.
  • I failed to Harvest my Hamama microgreens at their peak, yesterday, and woke up to find them looking sadly wilted. I know the feeling.

Highlights from the weekend:

  • When we moved into this place in August I noticed the signal from the wireless router in the living room didn’t quite stretch to the back bedrooms so well. A few months in I bought a Meshforce wifi extender system but it sat in the box until yesterday. It’s all set up now and the signal has been boosted.
  • I watched Portrait of a Lady on Fire and it was as wonderful as everyone has been saying.
  • While it was snowing in April outside I whipped up a hearty seitan stew and listened to a lovely episode of The Daily from the NY Times: Weird Al Yankovic’s Weirdly Enduring Appeal. Here’s Weird Al with his daughter cosplaying as him. Adorable.
  • Saturday I watched Superman: Red Son with my son. It’s getting harder and harder to find new movies he’ll agree to watch with me so I was thankful for this one.
  • I put in way too many hours playing Animal Crossing. But I finally got the hang of fishing and we’re done with that creepy bunny day rabbit. Hoping to see some shooting stars soon.
  • I waited so long for this Killing Eve season premiere. And then they went and killed off one of my favorite characters! But it was all done so perfectly.
  • Another fine episode of Westworld. I particularly enjoyed this week’s plot device with Caleb. And a subtle observation from Bernard: “She’s sending them off their loops.” Chilling.

File under a little of column A, a little of column B. I have piles of unread books but I opted to re-read Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files. All of them. There are like, 17 books and a bunch of short stories. I think I’m on book eight already. I have a love/hate relationship with this series. Overall, they are fun and I enjoy the world-building. But he’s crap at writing women. So many micro-aggressions in these books along with misogyny and subtle racism. I’d forgotten about or blocked out a lot of it. But it’s still like being reunited with old friends. Old, flawed friends. Like real life. That’s oddly comforting.

Yesterday I set up the wifi extender but I also assembled a vegan Easter basket for my 20 year-old son. And collaborated with my ex-husband’s wife to arrange a social distancing Easter egg hunt in our backyard for my boy. That was definitely the highlight of the weekend.

Social distancing Easter Egg Hunt

Physiological Noise

Well, I made it through another work week. But these big moods are taking a toll on my body. I have an unusually low resting heart rate. 55bpm. But not this week. My heart has been racing, no matter what I do. Initially, I blamed Sudafed. But I only took one dose of that on Monday. Even after that was out of my system, the racing heart systems persisted. I’ve tried meditating with my Calm app and doing yoga and decreasing my caffeine intake. No dice. It’s not quite to Tachycardia levels but still. So I am about to have my first telemedicine doc appointment to see about some relief. Possibly in the form of Propranolol, a beta blocker often used to treat anxiety. We’ll see.

Five items of note for this new era:

Update: The telemedicine doc was 20 minutes late. Just like in real life! But there was no virtual waiting room or any way of knowing that she was running behind. So that only caused my anxiety to increase. We had a thorough discussion of my general health history and recent symptoms and she does not think I have anything to worry about. But to get in touch if this is still troubling me in a week. She also suggested I see if my therapist is taking telemedicine patients yet (she has been out on maternity leave all year).

My album cover

Adaptation in the Face of Crisis

I have been trying my best to limit the amount of news I take in daily. But every day there’s one new gut punch after another. I was in tears this morning before my coffee was done brewing. Like some, I am lucky to still have my job and it is one I am able to perform from home. But like I’m seeing others state, I am at home during a crisis, trying to work. It’s not the same as when I worked from home before, in the Pre-Hanks/Wilson era. That’s a term I picked up from the Staying In with Emily & Kumail podcast. It’s pretty perfect. I remember having to go into the office one more workday after the news broke about the Hanks/Wilson diagnosis. But that really did feel like a turning point in the US. Anyhow, last night I needed an escape after my workday was done. Our small two-bedroom condo is starting to smell stale. And it’s not yet warm enough to air it out. So I sat in our building’s cramped backyard, drinking alone and listening to podcasts while sitting on the glider swing I brought along when we moved in last summer. This morning brought news that the City of Minneapolis won’t open beaches, waterparks or wading pools for the summer. It makes sense. But our condo doesn’t have central air. I hope, for everyone’s sake, that it will be a mild summer.

When I came back into the house I felt like zoning out to some TV. I settled on rewatching Counterpart. J.K. Simmons is brilliant in it. So I put on the pilot and quickly remembered one of the subplots. Residents of Berlin are walking around in face masks because a deadly virus had killed hundreds of millions of people. Not so relaxing. So I played a little Animal Crossing before bed instead but my danged museum still isn’t ready yet.

This morning I listened to the latest Endless Thread episode, with Max Brooks. If you haven’t yet, watch the adorable PSA with Max Brooks and Mel Brooks. Then listen to this: Max Brooks, Preppers, And What ‘World War Z’ Can Teach Us About Coronavirus

Good stuff. It includes an interview at the end with a longtime prepper. I used to be more dismissive of those folks, I will admit. But this advice tickles my list-making heart. Do you feel unprepared or underprepared for the current crisis? Do you want to be better prepared in the future? Start by making a list. That’s what I’ve been using Evernote and Trello for, for years, as well as plain old-fashioned paper. Though the adorable 2020 planner I picked up in Portugal in January? That seems pretty useless right now.

And from author Charles Stross, a writer I’ve been enjoying for years, who posted about reality stealing his line. I would much rather read a novel about the coronavirus written by him than actually live through this current bullshit.

Lastly, the message we’re receiving from all corners boils down to inequality in health outcomes putting the entire population at greater risk. In other words: “We all do better when we all do better” (man, I miss Paul Wellstone). Yet, our greedy and power-hungry political and corporate overlords keep making all the wrong moves. And all I can do is keep watching the train wreck.

Remember hugging?

Soundtrack for Daydreams

Is it really the last day of March? The longest March I have ever known. Last March flew by. All week Facebook Memories have been reminding me how much fun my son and I were having this time last year, in the Netherlands. The only netherlands I’m visiting now? Our slightly spooky basement and storage locker. It has been a particularly strange and stressful day. And it wasn’t until this evening I realized two things: 1) our state parks pass expires today. And 2) my long-estranged mother turned 70 today. Strangely, I remember the day she turned 30. Which makes me feel old and sad. And there’s more than enough of that going around. Thankfully, I saw a pair of perfect tweets the other day that took me back to my alternative youth:

The new NIN albums that came out today are like spa music for goths. Super love it. cc: @kittenwithawhip

Kat Kinsman @kittenwithawhip
This is extremely accurate. I had no idea as an angsty, misfit goth teen in my parent’s basement listening to Pretty Hate Machine on repeat that Trent Reznor and I would somehow evolve together, but here we are. The new stuff is so, so good and needed right now.

Since then, I’ve been listening to it non-stop. Some write-ups:

It has been the perfect quarantine soundtrack. Though I have also been taking an extended island vacation. In Animal Crossing for the Switch. We broke down and bought it last weekend when the weather was non-stop gloomy with some extra snow thrown in. But yesterday the sun came out again. So I took a long walk near the local lakes. But it wasn’t nearly as relaxing as I’d hoped. Everyone else had the same idea and most people weren’t practicing proper social distancing, despite the posted signage. It was frustrating and only amped up my anxiety. Today’s walk was better. I realized that cemeteries can be a great place for social distancing and there happens to be a gorgeous one near us. Much more peaceful. I posted some photos, of course. A friend saw them and sent along this interesting article. Right up my alley. Or walkway.

Our First Public Parks: The Forgotten History of Cemeteries
From tiny plots to wide-open “rural cemeteries” and modern “memorial parks,” the evolving design of cities of the dead

I’ll definitely be returning for more leisurely strolls. I’m still trying to convince my son to leave our condo for fresh air more often.


Fear is the Mind-Killer

Years ago I was at a Half Price Books when I stumbled on a stash of ridiculousness, on clearance. A giant pile of activity books from David Lynch’s 1984 adaptation of Dune. I bought multiple copies of each. Over the years I’ve given some away as gifts but I still have two complete sets. I’m not the only one totally baffled by this strange marketing tie-in.


We reached a point in our last week of social isolation / quarantine where my kid was SO bored, I allowed him to put the papercraft together from one of them. We have not made the Spice cookies. Yet. (I tweeted about this and it was moderately popular among my fellow nerds.)

Dune activity books
Reverend Mother's Mind Trick
The spice must flow
Paul Atreides, facedown on a giant sandworm