We’ll See

国产三级Our local YMCA pool opens for lap swim and private swim lessons this coming Monday (as IL moves into phase 4 of reopening). For the record, Kevin and I aren’t sure whether it’ll feel safe enough for us to take the kids there, but I’m still excited; swimming is one of the things I’ve most missed in all this. I’ll probably go and at least try lap swimming once myself (not using changing rooms, just wearing something I can pull off and pull back on poolside over my swimsuit), suss out how busy it seems, etc., and then maybe will go back for more, maybe even sign the kids up for swim lessons. We’ll see. Wish it was an outdoors pool, but oh well.


I have to say, I don’t know how I’d handle reopening myself, if the decisions were up to me as governor. You have to assume that every time you open the state up a step, that will lead to some increased spread, and therefore to some people dying.

But the fact of the matter is that without the political will to tax the wealthy and the corporations heavily enough to support the middle class, working class, and the unemployed through this, the burden will fall on them, and some of them will die from the state being closed — to suicide, to domestic violence, to increased street violence as people become desperate to feed their families, etc.

Just letting the economy crash costs lives, so it becomes a complicated dance, and every single decision has deaths as a consequence. So all you can do, really, is try your best to gather the data that will let you best mitigate harm. Very hard.

The library board met last night, and the library is expecting to move to the next phase of its reopening plan July 22, letting people into the main library building again in a very limited fashion (library service level 2). (Assuming we don’t see a spike, in which case, that date may get pushed further out.)

We’ve already re-opened enough for contact-free holds pick-up and contact-free returns (library service level 1), so if you’ve been jonesing for library books or desperate to return ones from months ago, please feel free. Details on the OPPL library website. Research now seems pretty conclusive the circulating materials should be safe after 3 days, so we’re ‘quarantining’ materials appropriately.

Fingers crossed opening the library further is the right decision, or at least the best decision we can make, under the circumstances. I’ve signed off on it as a library board trustee. We’ll see.

Board Games, Flowers, and Books

Mornings are settling into a good summer routine here, though I’d still like to shift them 30 minutes or so earlier, so I can get to work a little sooner. But this is what we have so far:

– Anand wakes up early, usually by 7 or so

– by 8, he’s supposed to feed and water the cats, the dog, and himself (he finds it very amusing that he’s supposed to water himself)

– by 8, I’ve gotten up and had breakfast, coffee, meds, then we set out on our walk. So far, we’re just doing a 20-minute loop through Mills Park (pictured with lovely native prairie plantings, coneflower and such) and a few neighboring streets; as he gets used to walking, I’m planning to extend that to 25 minutes or 30. We occasionally jog a little. We listen to the Zombies, Run! app while we go, usually turning down the music in between the story segments and chatting. He is a talkative child.

– 8:30ish, we play a quick 30-minute board game; today I taught him Lotus, which I told him was sort of like Risk, but with flowers. Anand says it’s not really like Risk, but he had fun anyway. It’s a territory control game, is what I’m saying. Anyway.?

– 9-ish, he’s free for an hour (until it’s time for him to go wake Kavi @ 10), and I start working. In theory.

In practice today, I finished re-reading a Star Trek novel (Diane Duane‘s “Doctor’s Orders”, which is just charming and sweet, and it amuses me how it implies that Star Trek and her Young Wizards are basically in the same universe…) while watering the front annual pots and new perennial plantings. But now I’m going to settle into work.

Board games and flowers and books. Good. Hey, I’ve not done a good job of keeping up with posting about it, but the Serendib House board game library is still open, so do feel free to borrow games for up to two weeks; just let me know.

Another Pitch Sale for Wild Cards

Pleased to note another pitch sale for Wild Cards, to the upcoming volume “Sleeper Straddle”. This is going to be a perhaps slightly challenging story to write; I pitched them an alternate history Sri Lanka, set in the present day. In the Wild Cards universe, Jayawardene negotiated a peace with the Tamil Tigers some time back, so for a long time, the island was relatively quiet, and the LTTE are no longer a major political force.

But in this story, rising Sinhala nationalism has become coupled to narratives of purity and anti-joker (and ace) sentiment, leading to ghettoization, etc. and a new resistance movement has formed; my protagonist Nikisha, is a young rebel woman fighting with them. She’s Tamil, but also affected by the Wild Card, with a body that has been changed and a little bit of a superpower…

This new group is trying to occupy a moral high ground, so they haven’t utilized suicide bombers, child soldiers, etc. But it’s still complex and murky, as such conflicts often are. Will be fascinating to explore.

Pandemic Weariness

Hey, folks. I hit some pandemic weariness last night in a big way — ended up bursting into tears for quite a while, while Kevin and the kids tried to comfort me. The last month or so, I think we’ve been doing too much retreating into our separate electronic spaces to help cope, and I just got very lonely.

They have now promised to take Mommy on walks, and play board games with her, and do more chores together, which should help. I need more socializing than I’ve been getting, clearly.

Kev and I spent a while talking last night about where we are in terms of caution, etc. On the one hand, we’re both pretty firmly on the side of not wanting to contribute to community spread while R is over 1, and though IL was doing pretty well for a while, dropping nicely, it’s stalled out the last few days. We’re a little under 1, but not by much, and with more places opening up, I wouldn’t be surprised if we ticked up again in the next few weeks. So Kev’s inclination is to mostly just keep sheltering-in-place for some time to come.

But on the flip side, I clearly don’t do well with this much solitude, and although the kids aren’t complaining, they’re also doing more electronics-coping than I like to see. Given that I expect that we’ll likely see Covid-19 spiking again in the fall with a second wave (or for some of the country, just an ongoing first wave, sigh), and I expect we’ll be back to strict shelter-in-place by October / November, it seems that for mental health, we should take advantage of this window.

Slowly, carefully, wearing masks and social distancing, of course. I think that’s where we are right now, as a family, planning to do some cautious additional activities in July-Sept, keeping an eye on infection rates, being prepared to pull back if it seems needed. I’m writing all this out in part because I think it’s helpful, seeing what other people are doing, and how they’re thinking about things. We have to set these norms together.


Different specific things we’ve talked about:

– we’ve been doing big orders of takeout 2 times / week since all this started, which is quite a bit more restaurant food than we usually eat, to help support our local restaurants. It’s a little bit of a budget hit, but do-able for us. We’re sticking to that going forward, and not actually going to restaurants, even to outdoor seating, which might be relatively safe for us (though the thought of a margarita and a shared plate of nachos with a friend is SO appealing right now, it makes me want to cry just thinking about it), because it feels unfair to have servers (bending over patrons to put down plates) and kitchen staff (working shoulder to shoulder on a crowded line in a fully operational restaurant kitchen) forced to work in these conditions. It’s a tremendous failure of government, acting like it’s safe for restaurants to re-open when it’s clearly not, just because they don’t want to spend the funds to support them during this time.

(Caveat: I have friends who own / run food establishments, and some of those are open now, and for at least a few, it seems like they can manage it in reasonable safety for their staff. I’m thinking of The Daly Bagel, for example, which does curbside pickup + carryout orders. But for the vast majority of restaurants, I think that’s just not possible, given their layout and staffing needs.)

– there’s a new pottery studio that opened up two blocks north of us on Marion (Via Clay), and I’m super-excited for it, but even though it’s pretty airy and is limiting to no more than ten masked people inside at a time, it’s still indoors with recirculated air, which just seems like an unnecessary risk, so at least for now, we’re not starting classes or the kid camp there. We may re-assess that in a few weeks, depending on how R does in Illinois, because I really do think Anand (my ADHD son) in particular would LOVE the tactile nature of a pottery class. If we don’t go soon, we’re at least buy some gift cards for future classes, since we definitely want them to stay in business.

– we talked about outdoor camps, and while I think those are relatively safe, if they keep the kids masked and in small groups and spaced out, that seems like it’s also challenging to do, esp. with random high school students tasked with managing it. I spent a while thinking about whether I could manage running such a class for a week or two (outdoor game design class? tables set up in the backyard six feet apart for about 4-6 kids?), but it would be a lot of work, and it would be super-hard to keep the kids from running over to each other to look at each others’ projects, etc. And of course, I’m still working pretty full days over the summer, so running such a camp would mean pushing work time into the evening / weekends, which I’m trying to avoid. I don’t know. We haven’t ruled the idea out, either having the kids attend an outdoor camp or running a mini one ourselves, but we’re not doing anything like that yet.

– for exercise, tennis seems ideal, but it was miserably hot and humid here last week, and I don’t think any of us would’ve been happy about showing up for a tennis lesson in those conditions; tennis is also somewhat discouraging to start, in my experience, and I don’t think either of my kids would take to it well right now. We’ve been doing backyard badminton instead, which seems to work, thankfully; the kids are having fun with it, esp. when we play too. (Still haven’t managed to find a reasonably priced above-ground pool, or would’ve seriously considered eating up our whole backyard and killing all the grass for that. Kevin thinks the pool companies are ramping up production, and they’ll be more available soon, but I’m not convinced.)

– there are some outdoor yoga classes happening now, and I’m planning to take one; my daughter might join me for that. My son and husband are less inclined, but I’m wondering if anyone is doing tai chi in the park? I think they might be up for that.

– we talked about hiring a high school student to come teach our kids soccer in the backyard or at the park ; Kevin wasn’t enthused, but I might end up pushing for it, if we don’t manage to get them exercising more on our own in the next week or two. We also talked about hiring my personal trainer from the Y, if she’s available / willing, to do the same, although that’d cost a lot more, and we probably couldn’t afford to have her come as often as a high school kid. $60 / hr vs. $15 / hr. We’ll see.

– a friend just got an inflatable tandem kayak (!), and she said on FB that she was taking it to local creeks and such, and I want to follow up with her on where she was going, because that seems like it might be a great option to do with the kids, if there are relatively isolated areas to go to

– we wanted to do more hikes in the forest preserves or go to the beach, but the chatter on the mom boards makes it seem like it’s almost impossible to do in a socially isolated way, and then there’s the bathroom problem, sigh. But if there are good places within 1 hr drive, so we can do a morning trip and not have to worry about public bathrooms, maybe we’ll do some more of that. (I am okay with pee-ing in the woods, but my 13-year-old daughter is currently horrified by the idea…)

– also in the conversation was vacation. Usually, taking at least 7-10 days in summer to visit grandparents is fairly key to having a break from our work lives, resetting our sanity, etc. That seems unlikely to happen this year — both sets of grandparents are on opposite coasts, so it’d be a lot of driving to even attempt, the kids get carsick very quickly, etc. We thought about renting a small house in the woods, which seems relatively safe in a non-crowded area, but I really would like such a place to have access to water in some form — a lake to kayak on, for example — and from the chatter on the mom boards, it seems like those may all be booked at this point, because we’re not the first to have that idea. Gah. If you know of such a place, let me know? Willing to drive up to 4 or so hours away.

– I’ve set up a six foot table on the porch, with folding chairs on either end, and Kavi and I are going to start having friends over to hangout — outside, with masks on most of the time, but removing them to eat / drink as needed. We need the socialization.

Anyway — that’s where we are.

Anand and I started listening to _Zombies, Run!_ together this morning on a walk together, and he thought it was pretty funny, which is good — I’ve also gotten worried about just how sedentary he’s gotten in the last three months. I told him he was going to start growing into his video gaming chair soon. If we can do a walk every morning and work up to jogging / running with the app, it’ll be good for both of us. We followed it with a short board game of Lanterns, which was also fun, and then I sent him off to wake his sister so she can have breakfast and they can do their morning chores.

I keep setting up routines (very helpful generally for me with ADD and my son with ADHD), and then I think I get a little depressed from pandemic isolation, and then I get lax about reminding the family, and then they get lax, and then we just all watch TV / play video games too much, and then I get frustrated, and then we have to set the procedures up all over again. We’ve mostly sorted out the joint house cleaning, at least, over the last month, which is a vast improvement, but there’s a long way to go otherwise.

Charts. This morning, I’m going to spend some time setting up some schedules and charts, printing them out to hang on the wall, so the kids can tick things off as they go. Maybe Kevin and I need charts too. We’ll see. Also time to write back to my therapist and schedule that next appointment…phone therapy isn’t ideal, but definitely better than nothing.

Roses and Hibiscus Tea

If you’re growing roses and hibiscus, you can easily make yourself a lovely tea. I actually didn’t use my own hibiscus flowers for this, I should note — they aren’t blooming yet, so I used some purchased dried hibiscus, which you can buy in bulk online.

I added some citrus peel — slice thin and dry in a 200F oven for 20-25 minutes or so. Also some Ceylon cinnamon, but that, I didn’t try to grow myself.??I’m not sure I can manage cinnamon trees in Oak Park.

The little packets will be going out in the Patreon June treat boxes, though I did also pack up a nice big bag for a local friend. I like this tea with honey, lime juice, and a little candied ginger — brew a pot, and then enjoy it chilled on a hot summer day. Though it’s also tasty hot!

Lime, Rosewater, and Candied Ginger Shortbread, decorated with Pansies and Violas

When you find yourself going back into the kitchen to see if there are any crumbs left on the plate, you know you have a winning recipe; I think this is now my absolute favorite shortbread. Adding in some citric acid gives a seriously tangy punch to these buttery-rich bites.

Note: I find that a pair of kitchen shears is much easier to work with than a knife for cutting up sticky crystallized ginger.


3/4 pound unsalted butter at room temperature

1 c. sugar

2 scraped vanilla beans or 2 t. pure vanilla extract

3/4 t. salt

1 lime, zest and juice

1 t. citric acid (optional)

1 T rosewater

3 1/2 cups flour

1/2 c. crystallized ginger, chopped fine

edible flowers, pressed flat (this can be done over a few weeks in the pages of a book, or done quickly in a microwave or with an iron — google for instructions on those processes)

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.

2. Cream together the butter and sugar; add the vanilla and salt, citric acid, lime juice, lime zest, and rosewater. Then add flour and mix on low until dough forms. Stir in ginger.

3. Turn out dough onto floured board. (If it’s not coming together into a dough, the heat of your hands will help.) Firmly pat flat (to desired cookie height, usually about 1/2 inch). If using cookie cutters, cut out shapes, place on parchment-covered baking sheet, and chill for 15 minutes (to help hold shape).

NOTE: Can be kept chilled at this point for several days, covered in plastic wrap, and then rolled, cut, and baked fresh.

Alternately, press into baking pan or shortbread mold, prick with fork. You can also cut shapes out after baking — shortbread is very forgiving that way — but then the individual cookie edges won’t be browned.

4. Remove from fridge and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the edges begin to brown, then remove to wire rack to cool.

5. Gently press flowers into the tops of cookies while still warm; the moist heat should help it adhere. If any don’t stick, a little fondant dissolved in warm water makes an excellent edible glue.??Sprinkle with a little sugar.


(I appear to have graduated to the BIG bags of candied ginger. The Patreon treat boxes will be getting one each of the large rounds and little hearts. The elephants, it turns out, are very tricky to un-mold, so getting sixteen of them without broken trunks was quite beyond me. I’m just not that patient, I think…we’ll just have to eat those.)

Relaxing and Feeling Proud

Feeling proud of myself for relaxing and not trying to do work from 4 p.m. until bedtime tonight. I mean, okay, I did read a food magazine by the fire after we grilled dinner out there, while Kevin and Kavi were playing badminton in the backyard (v. cute), but a) I was drinking a hard cider while I did it, and b) I only took a few mental notes for essays to write and recipes to make, which doesn’t count as working at all.

Look at me! Resting!