Monday, 6 June 2022

Roaring 20s and COVID

Do we, or don't we?  the parent party committee mused over Zoom. The gloomy chart from the Country showed the COVID levels in the wastewater were in a bullish upward trend. Parents were expecting us to put on the first year-end party in two school years. But imagining people filling the indoor venue didn't sit right. What if we have a super spreader event and land our little charter school in the local papers? There's a journalist there that just won't be able to resist tearing us a new one. 

We drew up a new plan to have everything outdoors for our roaring 20s fete. The setting was stunning, with twinkling lights under the canopy of redwood trees. Black and gold decor hung from everywhere, dancers demonstrated the Charleston, the bar was stocked with supplies to make my signature cocktail list: French 75, Sidecar, Old Fashioned. We pulled it off! And it was beautiful.

This shindig coincided with my parent's visit down from Canada. They'd arrived a week before, in time for us to have a fun weekend with the final season baseball games and family dinners. Then I got sick with a sinus infection and after isolating for a few days and testing negative each day, I opted for antibiotics and immediately got better. Phew, I thought! I dodged COVID again. I was better in time to enjoy the event I'd helped plan and we got that glittering evening in. 

We had a lovely weekend after that, outdoor brunch at our Barefoot Cafe in Fairfax and a hike in Deer Park with the kids and a late evening scrabble game for the adults. 

Monday morning I woke with heavy, wet-feeling lungs, a bit of asthma. I wandered upstairs to grab a cup of coffee and a Zyrtec. Once back downstairs again I thought, well maybe I should do a rapid test. The tiniest of tiny test lines faded into view and I just froze in shock. That began a the frantic process of isolating me downstairs again. I diligently reported my test to the County, they responded by texting me  my quarantine schedule. Then I did the iphone exposure notification for the state of California which pings all close contacts from the past few days. That was a little less simple as I had to get a number sent to me by the state health department to put into that app but it worked. I reached out to the parent party organizing committee members from the party and heard one other person had tested positive the same time but with so much going around, we likely weren't even linked. 

And so that was day one. I quickly developed a fever, cough, headache and nausea and joint pains that were more severe than I've had in the last 20 years. I was not expecting a breakthrough infection for me to be this dramatic. I couldn't keep anything down, not even liquids. I had a call with a nurse to monitor my O2 and a follow up the following day from a Dr of Internal medicine and was put onto prescription anti nauseants so I could take in fluids again. 

I had three days of being phenomenally ill and thinking I might get rolled out of this place on a gurney afterall, and then on day four it turned and started to recede. Just as the Dr said it would. By now Joel had joined me in my quarantine lair, only he won the lottery and got the cold version. He had a feverish night and lingering cough but really never got very sick. Our story is pretty typical of Omicron's BA.2. People are getting either this harsh flu or a cold and then it goes away. We felt we were being pretty careful still when we caught it. We were not dining indoors, we were masking with KN95 masks for shops and school, and being very conservative with any socializing. I think I may have picked it up having a drink outside on a patio at a local cocktail bar. My Dr. confirmed that yes, many people are reporting the same suspicions about outdoor spread. "It's just that contagious now" she said. 

My parents have been isolating with the boys upstairs. Joel and I, with our own house entrance are well set up to isolate in the lower part of the house. Joel even taped up the air return vent (he laughed that it reminded him of Station Eleven). My parents have been delivering meals to us (we've been ordering in a lot) and leaving all kinds of needed items outside our door. The boys are enjoying some grandparent time and lots of hikes. They haven't tested positive or been sick at all. After a week of isolating from us they went back to school today and are taking in their last three days of school before Summer holidays begin.

And so that's our COVID story. Glad to have caught a later variant which, after lots of jabs, seems self limiting. But I still wouldn't wish what I had on anyone. We are still both waiting to test out of quarantine. My tests are coming back positive at day 8 and Joel's at day 5. My parents have to drive up to Canada tomorrow so we're hoping we change the tide in the next 24 hours. We couldn't have cared for the kids  without them and are incredibly grateful for family.  

Monday, 2 May 2022

Cautiously Optimistic

It's May 1st, the birds are singing and it's not terribly hot out so I've been gardening while Joel is fishing with the boys. A perfect lazy Sunday. Loads of coffee, cat conversations, and just a sense that I'm perfectly happy with a day at home. In January we branched out from just school to having the boys in various after school things. Skateboarding, Capoeira, Baseball, Carpentry,  and they still do piano too. Children's programs dropped outdoor masking after the Winter surge and then in March, at various dates, some districts made masks optional everywhere. That was a huge change for everyone. Having been burned by that happening right before Delta most of our circle have been pretty conservative unmasking when out shopping or in a classroom. But also opening up our risk profiles a little more as this time goes on. 

We took our first family holiday to our old stomping grounds in LA since fall 2019. It was a fantastic week.

We had a home exchange place to stay in just in Santa Monica walking distance from where we used to live. We saw some old friends and ate excellent Mexican street food. Took did a spa day with a friend and Joel took the boys to see the space shuttle and we honestly caught up on a huge amount of sleep. We were cautious about crowded places and masked a lot indoors for shops but generally with all the outdoor time it felt like a perfectly relaxing family trip to do and happy to have been doing it at a time where things are on an upswing and the mood is really joyous. 

After spring break in LA we all had to COVID test again to have the kids return to school and were very pleased when our school had only two cases after that wave of testing. A testament to the care folks are taking (and our 98% vaccination rate for ages 5+). 

Easter came next. Again we did something we haven't done in years, we hosted the egg hunt in our garden and enjoyed a sun filled happy day basking in the rays and sipping mimosas. 

Wednesday, 15 December 2021

The Break In The Drought

Rain rain rain! We've had two or three of these atmospheric rivers come through so far. We usually get these in late December or January but we were certainly not complaining when the fire season came to an abrupt end with over 300mm of rain in a mere 24 hours. There was some short-lived flooding more due to the extraordinary high tides that were also happening at that time and it all resolved pretty fast. Then we had weeks of glorious warm sunny weather, shorts were worn and then another storm. This is what "winter" is mostly like for us. We get the rain stuff done in dramatic dumps and then get back to absorbing the vitamin D. The last two winters were very dry hence the phenomenal drought we were in but here's hoping this is a wet one to fill the lakes again and give us some buffer for the year ahead. 

Joel's parents drove down here as soon as the border opened to leisure travel to vaccinated guests. Our first family visitors in two years! There was much feasting and reading of stories with these bigger boys. They got their first fishing rods from grandpa and did a few fishing trips to Lake Lagunitas. 

2021 is wrapping up! Here's what would have gone into a Christmas letter had I any time to write one and get it in the mail this year. 

The boys have been in school now for 4 months. A is 8 1/2 and in third grade now. He is enrolled in a wilderness education program and an enriched math program. C just turned 6 and is reading everything he can get his hands on, and is eager to start skateboarding lessons in January. Both are in piano but they both are more interested in how the piano works and the music theory than actually playing music (who are these humans?) 

They both spend every moment while they are at home sketching machines, wiring circuits, programing robots to do things, or building lego. A is dead set on attending MIT to study robotics. C is so far angling for mechanical engineering. They have big plans. Needless to say, it was time to move them from the crunchy Waldorf school into this inquiry-led program this year. I'm not hearing moaning anymore about everything being too slow or boring. I think we'll be well placed here for a few years yet. 

My work drastically changed this fall as I rebranded my solo self-named operation to TreeHouse and began to be known as a design group. We got really busy in October and are tapering off nicely heading into the holidays. Lots of branding work as well as some projects for me with returning clients and local government. I was featured in a book about women in leadership, which was deeply flattering and quite unexpected. 

Joel's company, VIM, has begun to reap what they sowed so doggedly over the past three years. The sacrifices,  and sleepless nights are turning into deals and partnerships with household name brands. Not many start-ups rose out of the pandemic hiring and growing. But here we are. 

We are heading back to Canada by car in a few days. Our first time back since Christmas 2019. We're keeping it small and safe, a week with Joel's parents and then a week with mine. A Home Exchange family is heading here to keep watch over cat and home. 

Whatever 2022 brings, lets hope it brings healing, good health, and lots of aha moments.

Sunday, 22 August 2021

What We Did This Summer

 The Summer began with this burst of optimism as vaccination rates soared into the 90%s here. A few close friends we've only seen for socially distanced cocktails in the yard all year came in for a hug. I went away for a night with a close friend and stayed in a hotel and dined in style in Sonoma (though still avoiding indoors and crowds). We drank champagne and toasted our new year ahead. 

Look how happy!

After a massage and a walk through the gardens at Cornerstone I was feeling pretty great. The following week our pod family gave us a night away for father's day. Joel and I stayed in the legendary Olema House Inn and again enjoyed a patio dinner and once the restaurant cleared out late that night, we came in to enjoy a nightcap with the place to ourselves. Tiny steps toward normal. Marin's numbers got down to 0 new daily cases, there were no COVID cases in the hospitals and we hoped, this was the new normal. 

Well we know what happened next. The Delta Variant came along and had a heyday. Our local numbers went from 0 daily up to 12 and then 20 and now holding steady at 40-60 a day in our population of 250,000. Very few of those symptomatic cases are breakthrough cases, almost all are among the 50,000 unvaccinated 20-40 yr old adults and children under 12 who aren't eligible yet. And this is in a place where people are highly educated, we live outdoors almost all year round, and science reigns supreme. Delta really is a complete game changer. 

And somehow, in this place of uncertainly, we managed to take the leap of faith and send the boys to school last week. The school is well ventilated. There are no hallways, just open air courtyards. And classrooms have individual a/c and UV and HEPA filters and windows and doors open to outside. Kids are masked indoor and outdoor and our county is one of the few that is still quarrentining for exposures. In hopefully a month, the kids will get their first shot, we'll be eligible for boosters, and we can start to breath a sigh of relief again. 

Monday, 31 May 2021

The Lost Birthdays


A couple of days before the beginning of lockdown in 2020 we were supposed to be hosting a 7th Birthday for A at the Lego play space near us. We cancelled the party much to his disappointment but he is an incurable optimist and he rallied that day and enjoyed his gifts and cake and watched a movie with his friends online. As the year went on, every other kid had a COVID era birthday without the party or trip to the movies. Yesterday we had our very first gathering outside the pod with two families who we haven't seen in ages, we decided to celebrate all the kids birthdays. We sang, they had goodie bags and we hope they enjoyed a little piece of optimism of all that is to come this year. 

Sunday, 16 May 2021


At last! Joel and I are both fully vaccinated as are all the adults in our pod. Next week young Mr A will return to in-person piano lessons because his dear teacher also reached this milestone and is opening her mostly open air studio to him again. It's his first non-zoom lesson of any kind since March 13, 2020. 

Marin numbers are pretty impressive and all this while having people start to do lots of things. I'm feeling hopeful. Kids are returning to an actual in-person outdoor Summer day camp this year which they are ecstatic about. Thinking hopeful thoughts too for our friends around the world waiting on the same change of tide. 

Tuesday, 4 May 2021

The Road To Normal

Things are rapidly changing in California now that counties like ours have inched past 80% vaccination in the 16+ age group. People (mostly boomers who are finished their second doses) are out on the streets, or sitting at outdoor cafes looking like they are with someone from outside their household and it's safe for them to do that - wow! Our numbers are down into very low digits for daily new cases. The CDC just announced that fully vaccinated adults don't need to mask outdoors anymore, unless they are in a crowd. It's so different to see that same group of seniors who were our most dedicated maskers now smiling and unmasked. In a couple of weeks we'll be far enough past our second shots to join the outdoor group getting rid of the 'ol masks tan lines (OK I don't tan but apparently mask tan lines were a thing). 

We went on a road trip to visit Joshua Tree National Park a few weeks ago and were invited to visit dear friends in Palm Springs on the way. In their pod, most are fully vaccinated and one person just partially vaccinated. Meanwhile we were partially vaccinated and kids are not vaccinated. It was tricky to navigate but we read a bunch of articles with epidemiologists laying out safe scenarios and we followed these new protocols. Despite the careful planning, it felt like a natural homecoming and a bit surreal. Just seeing our friend's faces and having a family catch-up. What a dream. 

Our next challenge for our pod all getting vaccinated is, how do we open up and with whom and how fast? We've had a lot of discussions so far. I think our priority is to each choose 2 families with fully vaccinated adults we would like to reconnect with and just stay at that level of open-ness for awhile. Keep kids masking and stay outdoors but it's a huge step toward being social again. There are things our group is definitely not going to do yet like eating inside a restaurant or going to an indoor gym. Apparently Dr Fauci is saying he also is not doing those things so we're not that unusual I think. 

Saturday, 20 February 2021

The Numbers and The News

It's getting better. I'm sharing the Marin County (pop 250,000) COVID-19 stats -- 17% at least partially vaccinated now! Cases in care homes are now almost nil after their vaccine drive. Marin is moving from the the most restrictive tier ahead of most of the rest of the state. 

In the wake of the new variants arriving in the US and having an administration now giving more timely advice, masks are stepping up a notch much like what's happening in Europe. The phenomenon of double masking has emerged and also, for those who have them, the emergence of N95 and KN95 masks in daily use. Almost everyone we see walking around has leveled up in the mask department. Generally I stick to the cloth mask for running and walking outside and double up for a run into a store and reserve my one coveted N95 for visiting a clinic. Kids masks are also leveling up. I have small KN95 masks that fit the boys well enough to replace their cloth ones for a Drs visit. It's been good to see the CDC and all the medical journals all on the same page finally. 


In the news, headlines like 

White House says teacher vaccinations are 'not a requirement to reopen' schools

have reopened bitter resentment between teacher's unions and local parents and government. San Francisco is suing it's own school board in a case that's as ugly as that sounds. Some parents are picketing school boards with signs demanding an end to distance education while others are behind the unions demanding that teachers be put into the vaccine priority ahead of retired adults who can shelter in place at home a little longer. Other parents (more like us) are just staying out of the whole thing and planning to enroll next fall when everyone has had a chance to protect themselves as best they can. 

Sunday, 24 January 2021

The After Times

It's hard to describe the feeling of living here post inauguration. We got to the end of the week on Friday and no one had a drink in their hand, because just juggling work and kids and the usual stress of the Pandemic hadn't worn us down quite the same way as it did during the T**** era. I don't expect the harm to be erased, or the fights to be over, but knowing that functional adults are back in charge is incredibly good news. Just that look of glee on Fauci's face when he addressed the press spoke more to the people than any words could say. Help is here. It will get better. 

Tuesday, 5 January 2021

New Year Wishes

I can't really make a resolution. 2020 is still lying on the floor laughing at my list from last year. On the 31st we wrote on wish paper, lit it and watched it rise off the table and fall in floating grey ash clouds. 

What I hope happens this year is that we get enough vaccinations out there that our front line workers are safe and the deaths in care homes from COVID end. I feel somewhat confident that by Summer time we could see case rates fall to levels low enough to risk a road trip back to Canada with extreme measures of course, renting an RV to corral the kids, and quarantine at each end. We *could* be reunited with family as soon as June if things go even better than planned. I feel fairly confident that the kids will return to some kind of school in person in the fall of 2021. 

I don't think we'll really truly take a family holiday till Summer 2022. Our dreams of returning to France or doing a trip to Northern England, Scotland and Ireland might be possible then. Or what about getting back to Asia... 

We wonder what world travel might be like then. Will EVERYONE be suddenly taking the trip of a lifetime just because now they can? Will the usual haunts be so crowded that it's all like the Louvre in August or will people step out cautiously... maybe the financial ruin of the pandemic will still hinder most from taking the risk. 

I do feel wildly optimistic about one thing, 2021 has got to be better than 2020. To that I raise a toast, may we meet in person some day not too far off and HUG. Seriously, think about it. Hugging.