19 April 2020

A Month And A Half Of Pandemic Living

My first post at this blog about COVID-19 was on March 6, 2020 and the virus was something happening abroad or just starting to get my attention in the weeks before then. It has had an impact on my daily life for about a month and a half now. I'll take this post to write a bit about my personal experiences without looking at the bigger picture.


We've been fortunate. No one in my family has gotten sick or needed urgent or emergency care.

I've lost nineteen pounds since the lockdown started on March 16, mostly assisted by signing up for a sixteen week program with Noom.com early into the lockdown. The lockdown has made it easier to eat health, home cooked foods and fit in time walking. I'm still not down to the low point I reached when losing more than sixty pounds after reaching a peak weight on April 2, 2018 when I had a BMI in excess of 40 (severe, category III obesity) and a type II diabetes diagnosis. I gained a lot back this past fall and winter. But, I could easily get there in two to four weeks. Five pounds beyond that and I would be the lightest I've been since January 1, 2004, the farthest back I've been able to locate good weight records so far.

I wasn't an athletic kid, but I had a BMI of 23.4 (well within the "normal" range of 18.5 to 24.9) when I graduated from high school despite having dropping high school athletics after spending my freshman year on the high school swim team and performing dismally. And, while I don't have good records from graduating from high school until 2004, I'm pretty sure that I put on most of that weight in college where I had unlimited dining hall food and few limitations of any kind in life, and more in law school, then steadily inched up after that point with no organized exercise or diet planning.

My current goal is less ambitious than getting back to the weight and fitness level I had when I was eighteen years old. I'm attempting to get down to the merely "overweight" category (BMI of 25 to 29.9), and to bring my H1C markers used to diagnose diabetes back down to the normal range where I was before inching up over the last few months into the just barely "pre-diabetic" range. This would be the lightest I've been in more than twenty years (assuming a counterfactual straight line weight gain from graduating from high school to 2004 which under estimates how fast I gained weight in college), to a point I haven't been since before my children were born.

Fitness-wise has been tougher for my wife who was training for the Colfax marathon, was regular at the gym and yoga studio, and has been swimming laps at least five days a week for a quarter century or so. The gyms, the yoga studios and the pools are all closed. Appointments with someone providing running tips couldn't be continued. The marathon itself that was her goal has been postponed indefinitely; so have all other competitive races in the country. She can't even go in person to buy new running shoes (something for which ordering over the Internet isn't a good substitute). And, Denver's premier park, Washington Park, where she has been doing most of her long run training, has become too congested with other people who aren't observing social distancing properly to run except when its too cold, cloudy or extremely early in the morning, to train for long distances. So, she's been stuck with streaming yoga sessions over the computer, furtive shorter runs at odd moments, using a few small dumb bells, and a little bit of in house cardio to workout videos.

My son has squeezed workouts and some physical therapy exercises in with a pull up bar he ordered, an improvised piece of work out equipment cobbled together from two dining room chairs and a garden hoe, and some improvised parallel bars put together with two other dining room chairs and towels.

Work and School

The biggest change was that every school, college and university in the country has switched over to remote learning. My daughter had an SUV at college in Maine and loaded up everything it could carry for an early final departure from college in her final semester. En route, we had to line up an emergency stop for her at a car repair shop after a check engine light came on and they found something that wouldn't have waited for the three thousand mile trip home. Commencement festivities and family gatherings whose arrangements had just been put in place were canceled. She stopped by her brother's college in Rhode Island to pick up him and his things, and then they drive home to Colorado for several days as the country shut down behind them. The last restaurants in Ohio were shut down a couple of hours after they had dinner there. Soon enough, they were settled in, and kept self-isolated for the better part of a couple of weeks since no one observed social distancing or was careful as they said their goodbyes and several people at each college had been diagnosed with coronavirus.

Now, they are getting a half a semester glimpse of what college is like without the campus life component. They are showing up to classes by videoconference, reading textbooks and novels, writing essays and taking open book tests. My daughter's job as a teaching assistant is ongoing, although her second job as a multicultural affairs secretary has ended (with full pay for the full semester) and a couple of one credit classes that had to be in person were terminated on a pass-fail basis. In about four weeks, my daughter will be a college graduate and my son's freshman year will be completed.

My daughter has, in theory, a job lined up that starts in August as a community organizer which hasn't been withdrawn yet, and had been looking for a summer job. My son had had a summer job lined up teaching computer science at a University of Denver summer program which is now in limbo, and it isn't entirely certain that classes will restart on campus as usual in the fall.

My wife works mostly as a promotional model, brand ambassador and doing special events. Her entire industry has been completely shut down. She wasn't necessarily working the maximum number of jobs she could have while marathon training, but she was working regularly until there were no jobs at all. She's doing some online classes in the house to get certified for certain kinds of work (e.g. serving alcohol) since they were available at a discount, but workwise, she's dead in the water as are all of her professional peers, many of whom aren't lucky enough to have a working spouse to keep the family's head above water economically and some of whom have reached the point of relying on food banks and not paying rent since their own incomes have gone to zero, while looking for temporary work in grocery stores and cleaning jobs. Gig workers, prior to the CARES Act, weren't even eligible for unemployment payments.

As an attorney, my job is, in theory, an essential service and I could go into the office. But, with one person in my office officially diagnosed and hospitalized with coronavirus, two more who have almost certainly gotten sick with it even though testing has not been available, and one more person who might have had a mildly symptomatic case, all but one of us in my office have been working from home as much as absolutely possible. I've made three or four trips into the office in the last month to pick up papers and books that I need to do my work and have made a couple of stops by my assistant's apartment where he is in isolation with a probably case although not officially tested, to drop off things he needs to do his job.

In normal times, working at home is extremely productive and what I do when I need to work without the interruptions of office life. Lately, it has been more challenging. Instead of being alone in the house with my wife out working out or running somewhere for hours at a time, all four of us are sharing our small house pretty much 24/7. Home cooked meals for four every day mean that the kitchen is usually busy. After a long period of time when the other half of parts of our triplex were empty, they are now full of people and pets too increasing the hum of activity. Little earthquakes like a refrigerator that broke down have had more of an impact when restaurants are closed and trips to the grocery store are an ordeal with hit and miss results.

It isn't just that there are more distractions at home either. Constant developments in the news that affect your cases and clients and daily life steal away your attention. And, there is a learning curve to go from occasionally doing a specific project at home for a day or a weekend, to running an entire practice with no one in the office that way. It hasn't been a really steep learning curve as the nature of practicing law has been trending in ways that support that for a while, but it is still a change that you have to adapt to.

All this is to say that while business has continued not entirely unlike the way that it usually does, that it hasn't been quite business as usual, or as productive as usual, under the circumstances, working almost entirely from home.

Daily Life

My life before was pretty dull. Go to work, hang out in the house, open swim at the rec center once or twice a week, eat out or watch a movie now and then, do chores. In that respect, my life has changed the least day to day. The precinct caucuses in Colorado were held shortly before the virus had invaded our everyday lives.

I make the family grocery runs, which are an endeavor since you never know what will be available, with masks my daughter has sewn by hand. When I get home, the groceries are wiped down with Clorox wipes or washed with soap, and my clothes go straight to the laundry. At my daughter's urging we bought some essentials like toilet paper and wipes before they completely vanished from the shelves for several weeks, although still not in true hoarding quantities.

I have a scarce stash of hand sanitizer in the car (from my daughter's car that she hasn't used since she returned except to take it to the shop) that I wipe down the steering wheel an other controls that I touch with after being out. Sanitation standards in our house are way up too with door handles and the like being bleached regularly.

Partially as an excuse to get out, and partially because it is one productive thing I can do while everything else is closed, I've gotten all three of the family cars completely caught up with deferred maintenance. We were planning to sell her SUV this summer anyway are looking into the best way to do that and find a more fuel efficient replacement (it gets 13 miles to the gallon) as her long anticipated graduation present for graduating from college in three years instead of four (saving heaps of money on tuition, etc.).

Liquor stores and marijuana dispensaries remain open, and we are well stocked, in part, because of an emergency restock run I sent my assistant on when for two hours it looked like Denver was going to close both down indefinitely as non-essentially businesses and it then changed its mind.

I've been to the pharmacy a couple of times with mask on, my temperature screened, and other unusual precautions.

I managed one trip to the bank before their lobby hours were all closed and have learned to do my banking via a mobile phone app.

Food delivery options are open, but we haven't used any yet. Eating and drinking out has been confined to a single cup of coffee in the last month. My wife and I had one last restaurant meal the night before they were ordered to close. But, we have baked several kinds of bread and otherwise engaged in more ambitious cooking than we have in years at home.

In person visits with friends and family are almost completely over, although we are now having regular multi-person videoconferences with my wife's extended family. A girlfriend of my son from high school, whom he'd been planning to go on a date with in Boston a few days after he was forced to leave, has become his "one friend" whom we've opened our stay at home social circle of in person contact to include and welcome into our home. This makes everything feel slightly more normal and its nice to hear about how this has affected her family, interrupting wedding plans, for example, in the wake of her older sister's engagement. 

Everyone in the family is in touch with their friends but only via phone and the Internet. We together followed the story of one of my daughter's college friends whose parents had recently relocated from the U.S. to Taiwan as she managed to catch a last company sponsored chartered flight to get her from Maine to Taiwan as international flights were cancelled en masse, followed by a long and very strict quarantine there as someone coming from a country where the pandemic was more out of control. Most of our friends are experiencing lives much like ours, although things have been particularly tricky for friends with blended families.

We all try to get out for a walk in the neighborhood once a day. I've done the eight o'clock howl several times, although no one else in the family has yet. We've talked with our neighbors about as much as we usually do. Trash collection and street sweeping have continued as normal. 

Most stores are closed but a steady stream of packages full of things we might have picked up in person before, show up on our porch, where porch pirates are no longer a concern because we and our neighbors are always home.

I've streamed videos, but only marginally more than I did before, and still read books either downloaded electronically from the library or ordered online with credit card points.

Not overloading with the constant stream of bad news and stupid decisions by our President has been perhaps one of the most difficult parts.


Dave Barnes said...

"stupid decisions by our President"
should be
stupid decisions by The Dumpster®
stupid decisions by an incoherent, inarticulate, incompetent, morbidly obese, narcissistic sociopath

Dave Barnes said...

HOw much beer and wine do you get to drink on this diet?

andrew said...

The primary limit is in calories per day, with suggested avoidance of high calorie density foods (including liquor) and medium calorie density foods (including beer). As a practical matter, I fit in about one drink per day most days, but not every day, and very rarely two.

Dave Barnes said...

Well, if "one drink"is 600ml, then I am OK with that.
There is a reason that Riedel created burgundy glasses.

andrew said...