Why is this night different from all other nights? an update chez Servetus

[edited b/c the typos were bugging me]

Last night was the first night of Passover (Pessach) and it was not only different all other nights (this is the first of the Four Questions), it was different from all other Passover nights. I did manage to find a box of kosher-for-Passover matzah and I said the blessing, and asked and answered the Four Questions and recounted the story of the suffering, the plagues, exodus and liberation. Those are two of the main three positive mitzvot (eat matzah on the first night; tell the story), so considering everything else that’s going on, I felt okay about that. I did not burn or sell our chametz (the third one) but I watched the rabbi at the shul in Tampa burn his on FB Live. Two outta three ain’t bad, right?

And I did not drink four glasses of wine. Our house is definitely not kosher l’pessach and there is that pesky thing about how eating chametz during Pessach cuts one off from Israel, but it was never going to happen this year. Dad needs to stick with our usual routine and he’s not a Jew. So last night I made him a meal with both kitniyot and non-kosher fish. That said, he had three helpings, so in any case it was good for him.

Other than that, we’ve been mostly home for three weeks and “safer at home” (how Wisconsin labeled its lockdown) for two of those. My job (“facilitating distance learning”) is classified essential so I can leave if I need to, but with the bars, cinemas and cafés closed, I don’t really have much of anywhere to go. I have access to an abandoned office space, but I mostly only leave when the senior helpers (both are still coming) are present, because the one time I did leave dad totally alone, when I came back, he was playing with a chain saw. This not being able to go anywhere is really hard on him — no breakfast with his buddies, no trips to Flower. HL goes to work every day in a facility where there have now been COVID-19 diagnoses so he really can’t come to see us. I don’t see how this ends for dad until there’s a vaccine: he will never not be in the highest risk group. I don’t know if he’s realized it yet.

I’ve been to the store once for a huge buy of non-perishables, we’ve been eating down the freezer, and about every four days I mask and glove with a bandana I found in a box, left over from Girl Scouts four decades ago, and my winter gloves, and run into a convenience store and buy bananas and doughnuts for dad while trying not to touch anything. We’re eating down the freezer methodically — in the morning I open the door, pick a frozen package off the top, put it on the counter to thaw, and figure out how to make that for dinner. I’ve also made four pies in the last two weeks and we are running out of sugar because I hadn’t fully factored the need to bake into my big grocery buy. We’re in good shape otherwise, and while we may run out of our preferences we will neither starve nor run out of toilet paper nor get especially dirty.

The police are not stopping people who are out to check their bona fides — the only people arrested so far have been either blatantly in violation (bars that refused to close) or people who are committing other crimes (like the guy just charged with trying to meet a fifteen-year-old for sex in an on-going undercover sting; he got three charges related to the actual crime and one related to violating a health order). The state parks have all been open until today, but since people apparently can’t follow rules meant to protect their and our health, most of them will close now. Normally this would have been a really unfortunate time for that to happen, but it doesn’t really feel much like spring — it has been a warm but not a sunny spring. And I just looked out the window and it’s snowing. (It won’t stick.) The people I have talked to around here are all giving off a slight aura of depression, probably because this is the time of year when people start flinging off their winter gear and opening their eyes to the sun, and it doesn’t seem to be happening. The spring tourism to see the sturgeon spawn will be absent this year.

If this all sounds a bit distanced, that reflects how I’m feeling, a bit as if I’m padded in cotton. This is interesting insofar as HL still believes I’m overreacting to everything because he feels I’m too glued to the news. I’m actually not any more attentive to the news that I normally am, though. And at the same time I feel like I’m underreacting to everything. Apart from COVID-19 (someone in the next town over died on Sunday), Wisconsin just had its spring election under hugely dubious circumstances, and there is a colossal leadership crisis going on at one of the campuses where I teach.

Something that’s been pretty constant in my RL FB feed lately.

I’m just spending most of my time trying to keep up with my four classes and rejigging presentations and discussions to be usable in the online format. (You can’t just give a 75 minute lecture on Zoom or QuickTime — or expect a normal F2F discussion to proceed that way.) Paradoxically, perhaps, I miss F2F classes, but I also miss being alone. I find 98% of the advice people have given for how to deal with this period either stupid or pointless or both — maybe because I have always done big pieces of my job from home or from near-solitude. In other words, for long periods of my life I have had to manage my own time and productivity, and the fact of not being able to leave is less troublesome than it is to try to keep dad out of the room while I’m zooming with my upper-level history seminar.

The only irritant, and it’s a minor one in the larger scope of things, is all the people in the media who think they know exactly how I should be spending my days and this is the opportunity to preach it. Like the constant drone of people insisting that it’s important to get dressed every day, and how much better and more productive it will make me feel. Honestly, the best way to add to my stress level is to make some prescription about what I should be fucking wearing on a day when I will spend all of my free time staring at a computer screen. I may not have everything under control, but I think, at the age of fifty, I’ve figured out how to dress for personal success.

And, really. Dad’s income is very secure, and mine is secure until the summer. We live on a large lot so we can easily go out for exercise when the weather’s fine. We have enough to eat and drink and wipe our *sses with. We are (as far as we know) virus-free. The vast, vast majority of people have it worse than we do. There are worse things to be doing than watching the days pass.

~ by Servetus on April 9, 2020.

32 Responses to “Why is this night different from all other nights? an update chez Servetus”

  1. It’s sounds like you have it all under control. May you, and all those you love be safe, and well.

    Did you go, and stand in line for hours at your polling place? Refusing the Governor in this situation really must have violated people’s rights to be safe at the very least.


    • Thanks — I hope you and yours are safe as well.

      I had kind of seen how things were going — being an inveterate watcher of the news, it was easy to see this coming — so I had ordered absentee ballots on the assumption that we would not want to be out in public by the time of the election. We got them quickly and voted immediately, so I have no concerns that our ballots were not counted. I won’t get into everything that happened here in the last 24 hours before the election and on election day, but the GOP has a lot to answer for (and thank heavens we at least have a Democratic governor, or things would have been much worse).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, that fiasco wasn’t for lack of your governor trying. I’m glad you, and your dad weren’t out in line all day.

        My family is doing well so far. I actually haven’t been anywhere since 2/29 when my sister and I went to The Bushnell in Hartford for Jesus Christ Superstar. It turned out to be a good thing for my last excursion. I mentioned on the way that we were going to be in a crowd. That was when it was just hitting the US. I’m just here by myself with my cat, but truly my life hasn’t changed much from what it is anytime. I’m usually home by myself anyway. Even though she is older, I am high risk so she’s been doing my errands, and shopping every week to two when she does hers. I’m blessed, both my sisters are very good to me. Hopefully both of our families will make it through this unscathed. Your poor nieces are probably going stir crazy, but that’s not fatal. Good luck to you all.


        • I’m glad your sisters are stepping up!

          The nieces are both “essential” — A is doing a coop program with her high school (she’s a CNA and if she sticks with the program she will be an LPN when she finishes school) and she is now working many more hours since the schools are closed. B has been milking for the last year or so.


  2. We have our first case of the virus up here, or really two cases. The second case I guess my husband said they can’t count here because go figure it came from the state to the west of us. Must be a child and the health care provider parents thought to have their child come to grandparents here and now the child is in the hospital. Our hospital is one big building with a nursing home, assisted living, clinic, and pharmacy. You enter each area though different doors but my husband thinks they all share the same duct work for heating and cooling. I had to go to the pharmacy yesterday for meds.

    The guy my husband had to talk to last week about doing business from his junk shop, did it again yesterday. My husband caught him doing business again. Told him and the person from Duluth this time (the big clinic up there is closed and only doing evisits for now), that he had to talk to the chief and see what he said about this, if it was up to my husband would have just gave the guy a ticket. The guys getting a ticket, and rightly so since the police had to shut down the business next door. We also had a shooting over the virus too. The home owner wanted his roommate to leave because they had gone out drinking. The roommate would not leave so the home owner shoot at the person and grazed the roommates head, they are still alive.

    Been just crazy up here. The snowbirds are coming back and are to quarantine for 14 days and that’s not happening, my husband talked to one who had friends where they came from with the virus( there shop had the alarm go off from the work that’s happening on our main street. People are coming unglued about the out of state people that are here. Don’t even want to talk about the election that you know that people just had to go vote, should have been postpone to a later date.

    I think we are going to see lats of people going stir crazy. We had snow last Friday, three inches, melted over the weekend. Today we had one inch on the ground, it melted by noon but kept snowing or the sun shinning, just crazy. For us it is an early spring but with crazy weather and cold on days and warm on others. We have a nice big lot and yard and there is plenty of yard work to do. We are as able to get outside without being close to anyone but us. I know that so many people don’t have this option .

    I hope you have a good Passover under what is happening this year. Have you found any surprises in the freezer? My husband was kind of doing that same thing when I was going to school and gone during the week. Not that I didn’t buy them food he was having fun finding stuff and some old meat and still cooking it. My youngest never said a thing about it.

    Take care and be safe! Sorry for the book.


    • Not finding too many surprises, because the month after the stroke dad got fixated that I was hiding ice cream from him (it’s always in the front freezer, never in the chest freezer), looked for it in the chest freezer, and left the door open and we had to throw away all of that stuff. So nothing in there right now is older than June of 2018. Who knows, maybe we will get another defrost again, although I’ve been buying a lot of dairy and putting in there (given the situation among the dairy farmers right now — not that the little bit I spend is going to save them).

      I hate to say it but I think you guys are in for it — unless there’s a way to close your county borders (I guess they did this in Florida — you can’t get onto the Florida Keys unless you can prove you are a resident). People just will not be told, and they don’t care that even if they are not the victims of it, innocent people who are trying to protect themselves might be. I hope that you and Mr. 70 are okay.

      I can’t talk about the election — I am LIVID. This is not my Wisconsin.


      • We are all fine here. My husband does hate going to work at this time for many reasons. I have been home since last May after graduation. Past all my exams just trying to find a job that not in Wausau, there seems to be new job postings there about every week. Something close to home or where I when to college ( a hour from home my oldest lives there) or where my middle son lives two hours away but a much larger area. Youngest son has no changes with college as he was all online this semester. Last semester he had one class with lecture that he was able to do from home on Bluejeans. Because the college does ITV classes they had a program set up for remote learning. When I started the program came from the state which was disbanded October 2018. My program was one of the first to use the Bluejean program, we also helped trouble shoot the program and there was many. This school year the college mad it so that a student could attend from home but also they are able to talk with the teacher and other students. It seems that them offering this option was in time. I only wonder what they are doing for my program and others that have face to face lab time. I am also glad to have done my fieldwork last year, I did spend about 1/4 of my last fieldwork wearing PPE to work with patients.


        • One of my employers has a really extensive adult online program, and a lot of the traditional faculty teach in it, so although the traditional students haven’t been thrilled by it at least the faculty mostly know what they’re doing. As you say, it’s the labs and practicals that are suffering and I really don’t know what they are doing.


          • I was told before I started college in 2012 that online learning was not for everyone. My first class was online and chemistry. I did just fine. One of the biggest things to make sure I set time aside to do my classes and not putting them off. As if I had a problem to email the teacher to get help. My middle son did tell me that his friends from high school are doing ok with online but did have to drop classes if they where not offered online.


            • It’s really true — and I would also say, at least potentially, not for every subject ( guessing for example that history is easier online than math). The biggest thing is, as you have noted, self-discipline.


  3. I am glad you are both OK, with plenty of provisions – and loo roll. Padded in cotton is pretty much how I feel and I’m appreciating not having to spend so much time in the company of many people (apart from immediate family). Keep well and save and have a good Passover.


    • You keep safe, too.

      It’s true that there are a lot of interactions I don’t have to have face to face now, and that can be an advantage!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. It’s a tough time, however much we may have been used to working on our own or at home. But knowing what is going on, really impacts on mental well-being. As much as we are all praising modern technology at the moment, I think you are making a fair point there re. switching classes online. It’s not as if you can just simply speak into a camera – when there is no two-way communication. In any case, hope you are having a good pessach , including some time for reflection that does not all centre on covid.


    • I think if I didn’t have to work, my mood might be worse (OTOH I might finally be using my Netflix and watching all the RA stuff that I haven’t caught up with yet).

      I had been intentionally not looking at the participation statistics (the course software measures that — Big Brother is watching your homework!) out of fear — but they seem to be coming along. Thank heavens. We’ll lose maybe 3-5% of students who would have finished normally, but both campuses are trying hard to keep people connected.


  5. I’m glad you are able to do some of the Pesach mitzvot and it sounds like you’re well set with this isolation thing. Yes, digital teaching is different, as is doing digital meetings, it takes adjustment.
    Yeah, most islolation advice is best ignored. I make sure I’m presentable enough for video meetings and as for suggestions on what to do in my spare time – ha! What spare time? I don’t think I’ve taken one bit of that advice for myself, apart maybe from the advice to minimize news intake a little because it can drive you crazy if you follow it all 24/7 like I did at the beginning. Anyway, yes it can be a bit demoralizing but it’s good to realize we are also lucky compared to many. Anyway, continue taking care and stay well. Chag sameach for the rest of Pesach!


    • Yeah, if my worst problem is managing the swings from anxiety / overwork to anxiety / boredom, I’m really in a first world situation. And I keep telling myself the first end of semester is only a month off now. We’ll finish somehow.

      Liked by 1 person

      • History in front of your eyes…


        • There’s been a lot of that since 2016.


          • Alors qu’en France nous entrons dans la quatrième semaine de confinement, que cette période sera sûrement encore prolongée d’au moins 15 jours, et que dans notre région nous sommes très loin d’avoir atteint le seuil des 50% immunisés, dans la vie de tous les jours nous sommes paradoxalement de moins en moins angoissés de tomber malade.
            Pourtant, de nouveaux malades apparaissent, d’autres sortent de 2 à 3 semaines de confinement complètement éreintés, ou pire quelques uns reviennent d’hospitalisation.
            Les rues sont vides, sur les autoroutes ne roulent que des camions mais les femmes tombent enceintes et les bébés naissent…
            Ce que nous vivons, sur presque la totalité du globe est inédit. La complexité de ce virus dévoilée au jour le jour est un défi pour notre civilisation.


  6. I’m glad to hear you both are doing okay, even if it means that alone time is hard to come by. At least you still have the senior helpers coming to help out. Hopefully your dad is more accepting of them now. And that he likes your cooking is certainly a good thing!

    It’s interesting… in my province, they have identified essential services, but other than schools, bars, sit-down restaurants, and personal services, they have not said that non-essential business have to close, provided they can maintain social distancing. But generally, people and businesses seem to be following the guidance to stay home if you can, and so far that seems to be flattening the curve here, luckily. https://newsinteractives.cbc.ca/coronavirustracker/. And of course if cases spike, they still have the option to enact more closure orders.

    In terms of feeling ready to work in the morning, for me (and I wouldn’t preach to anyone else), I always want to start my day with a shower, dressing at least in jeans and a t-shirt, and putting on make-up… otherwise I never quite feel awake. But people have to do what works for them. I wish I were a person who could get out of bed and go right to my desk in pyjamas! What a time saver!

    What’s amazing to me, not being someone who normally works at home, is how much less stressed I am. Even with my morning Zoom meeting and more phone calls than I’m used to, I think being more in control of my own time is making a difference. If/when things go back to “normal”, I have to figure out how to continue having this lower stress level. (And that’s even with feeling stressed about the possibility of COVID! And I don’t think you’re overreacting.)

    Hang in there with the online until the end of the term — and then catch up on the Armitage works you’ve missed!


    • Dad actually looks forward to them coming now. If the situation weren’t so serious I would find that hilarious.

      I think in general, Canadians are more public-minded than the average American.

      For me, due to water fear, I can’t get near a shower until I am already very awake and reasonably calm. So if left to my own devices I would never shower until at least four hours after getting up. Doesn’t always work that way, but for me showering when I don’t have an emotional shield up is usually destructive to productivity as I have to self-soothe afterwards. The crutch I am struggling without (still) is the morning coffee-related ritual(s).

      It’s interesting what you say about your stress level and staying home. I think my stress level is similar at the moment just because although I don’t have to do all the driving, the on-line educational setup takes a lot more energy. That said, I would not want to return to any kind of job where I was in an office all day unless I could spend a lot of time alone (as I do now).

      Liked by 1 person

      • Well, I hope that in both countries that our citizens and our governments do manage to get us through this somehow. I just found out that my adult niece in Toronto seems to have COVID, from someone at work. She is now self-isolating in the basement. My sister has a number of health conditions, but one good thing (if reoports are to be believed) is that she takes hydroxychloroquine for another condition. Anyway, my niece sounds to be doing better after a week of symptoms.

        Ah, I forgot about your water fear. I am a water baby. Love swimming and water.

        I think part of the stress reduction is that my boss doesn’t have me going out to all sorts of meetings and working on new projects. I can just get my core work (well and COVID work) done). Also, there aren’t people popping in at my office door all day long. They even do it when I’m working with the door closed. It really disrupts concentration.

        I can see how the move to online would take more energy. It’s really interesting… there have been a lot of free webinars lately — some are really great, with an engaging speaker who looks right at the camera lens; others are PowerPoint slides with just a few words like you would do live with the speaker’s voice droning on in the background. The latter just doesn’t work — unless napping is encouraged. And then to have any kind of discussion seems like it would be really hard.


        • I hope your family’s okay.

          re: online — I think I’m engaging speaker in person but don’t think I am online, so I’ve compromised. I find instructional vids or readings for the students to sub for lecture, and then I make a five minute presentation where I tell them what to focus on in the vids/ readings to set them up for a short discussion. (in the big classes). In the seminar we can talk as normal, just on Zoom — but it’s very fatiguing!

          it’s great that you can concentrate so well just now — and there must be some way of continuing that once you have to go back to a traditional work setting. I used to have the issue too of people always dropping into my office and interrupting me until I exploded once and put up a sign saying if the door was closed I was not available. That woke people up.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thanks. My niece is getting better and so far everyone else seems okay.

            Sounds like you’ve figured out the online stuff. Mixing it up with different types of activities makes sense. But I’m sure it is fatiguing!

            My boss is suggesting I work at home a day or two each week once this is over. A note on the door is a good idea. I suffer from wanting to be available for people, but at my own expense. There’s one guy at the office who has a sign that says do not disturb unless there’s a fire… or cake!

            Liked by 1 person

  7. ((Hugs)) about your dad. A chainsaw?! That would be so worrisome.

    We’ve been freezer-diving like crazy, too. Nice to get it all cleared out. We had been planning on a Chicago and Wisconsin road trip this summer. Since that’s not going to happen, I think I’ll take advantage of the new space by getting a 6-pack of Giordano’s pizzas shipped. Coolness about your baking.

    We were finding the tv so bleak right now that my hub finally cut cable. Getting lost in books when we’re done with the day has been so much more pleasant. Everything on the tv just felt like waiting, or worse, talking about waiting.

    F”@& the dress code lectures. Clothing can be little snippets of comfort.

    Hope you’re flooded with summer sunshine soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d really like to 86 our television but it would be really hard for dad — he’s never really learned to use the internet for entertainment. I agree — so hard to watch the daily up and down of the news.

      I bought a half hog.


  8. […] scheduled extended “times away” were canceled (the May fishing trip and deer camp). My workload increased drastically due to putting all my classes on line overnight, which on top of the stress angered dad even more […]


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