Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Coronavirus....What the Hell is Going On?

The world seems to be all over the map concerning this whole virus situation, and man is it hard to make any sense of it.

I am prone to anxiety, though I'm also quite logical and believe in facts and research. It's just that the "facts" out there are on such a broad spectrum, I can't seem to get the information I need to settle the anxious side of things.

There are some scary stories out there - as well as a lot of empty toilet paper shelves.

But then you get people saying, "No big deal, this isn't much worse than the flu, it's all good. But also... have enough stuff in your house to survive a 2-week quarantine in case stores close for a bit and also if you get sick yourself we don't want you exposing the community in your quest for gatorade and tissues so have that, too. And schools might close for a few weeks so line up childcare. And don't shake hands with anyone or hug the elderly. FOR SURE don't step foot on a cruise ship. And you should probably not eat at restaurants or use dirty gym equipment. And maybe totally rework your diet to plant based whole foods to beef up your immune system. But, no, it's cool, it's just the flu."

Are we homesteading or are we off for some Starbs and seasonal knick-knack hunting at Target? WHICH IS IT?

Somewhere in between, I suppose, but could we maybe try to meet a little closer to accurate information, people? Or I guess I should say, government? Because it's your damn job to be upfront and helpful in times like these, and instead it feels all hush-hush and eye-roll-y.

UntitledThe whispers of this virus have been going around for awhile, but my first real "oh damn" moment was last week. Matt was out of town for work (don't worry, not out of the country) and I was in full solo-parent mode. The first cases in NY state were made public right after he left, and I was alone here with my kids thinking - well, crap. Do I need to stock up on things? How fast is this shit going to spread? I for sure had an unreasonably scared day due to my husband being out of town and feeling like I was alone to deal with whatever the hell was coming our way.

To maintain a sense of control and purpose, I decided to put a list together of things we should have on hand just in case, as well as my regular groceries for the week, and I set out for Target.

We were out of surface cleaner for the kitchen counters, so I went down the cleaning aisle and found nearly empty shelves. I guess I knew that people were starting to stock up on things, but I was shocked to see that the store was already nearly cleaned out of Lysol & Clorox Wipes. And as I passed a surprising number of Target employees in these first few aisles, I noticed that they were all talking about the virus. One of them said to another, "everyone's so worried about people traveling but I hate to break it to you - it's already here."

(For the record, it wasn't, and still officially isn't. There are still zero confirmed cases in Erie County.)

I went on with my shopping, and was shocked to see SO many people in red shirts. It felt like my Target had every last one of their employees on duty - stocking shelves and pulling inventory from the back. There were pallets of things headed everywhere - huge moving stacks of diapers and motrin kept going by. The workers were saying things like, "I haven't had a break yet," and "I can't believe I'm going to be here all day," and they were everywhere. Every aisle had at least one employee - most had many more. They were whispering and seemed really on edge.

The strangest thing, though, was that despite how much activity and motion going on, the store was SO QUIET. Bizarrely quiet. As I went through the grocery aisles, most of the things on my list were already picked over - pastas and sauces, cereals, peanut butter, frozen waffles, fruit cups. It seemed like everyone was coming to Target to get the same things. And the employees were very quietly stewing about it.

I left there feeling like it was the strangest shopping experience I'd ever had. I couldn't shake this super weird vibe I had, and after seeing so many dwindling shelves I told my family and friends to make sure they stock up on some essentials sooner rather than later. One of my sisters went to a Target near her (she lives in a small area towards the finger lakes region), and she said her store had the same odd vibe. Target's corporate office must have said something to set off this weirdness.

The next day, I placed an Instacart pickup order to make sure I had some things in my freezer, too. Picking up those orders are usually a quick 5 minutes or less ordeal, and I ended up in a parking space for a half our while they searched for my order and scrambled around. The person who finally brought out my order said that the one before mine was MASSIVE and they'd had bigger and more complicated orders than usual.

The vibe around town was markedly different.

It wasn't panic or chaos. As I said, it was strangely quiet. Calm before the storm in nature. Like everyone is trying to play it cool - seem normal - not arouse suspicions - and yet still trying to prepare themselves for whatever the heck is coming (since no one can really say). It's like we're all squirrels...scrambling around to scoop up and hide as many acorns as we can before everyone else notices what we're doing.

The vibes in stores have since chilled out a little bit. I think that the whole area got the same kind of news on the same day and we all didn't really know where we stood. But that doesn't mean it's passed. We don't even have any confirmed cases of the virus in our area, and our morning radio stations are talking daily about schools closing and businesses telecommuting and how to make our own hand santizer. It's hard to know what's safe and what's not.

For our family, there's really only two main things so far.

The way we've been shopping has changed pretty drastically. We used to just grab whatever groceries and household things we needed for the week, and now we're adding in stock supply, bigger quantities, and choosing things with longer shelf lives. Most of our spending has been for the household and groceries, and a lot less on frivolous and material things.

And second, we're about 99% sure we're canceling our trip to Florida (which is less than two weeks away). We've been back and forth on the issue and basically settled on the fact that it's selfish of us to go have fun when it could risk others' health, and the restrictions we'd make to our vacation activities (because the virus IS present at our destination) wouldn't be worth the risk. Sure, the kids would be happy to just use their Grandparent's swimming pool all day for the entire trip, but why not just postpone it and get to do all the things at a safer time?

So, for now, we're just trying to figure out how to manufacture a bit of a "break from normal life" since we're not getting our usual vacation separation, and also prepping our house for the possibility of being stuck in it for a while. We've also had a talk with our kids about proper hygiene and germ courtesy, and we take a little extra effort in reminding them to cough and sneeze into their "chicken wing", to wash their hands more thoroughly, and checking to see that they're not eating with dirty fingers. Aside from those things, life is largely the same. I'm not sure how I'll feel or how things will change when the virus eventually makes it to Western New York, but that's where we stand for now. Taking precautions and making smart, safe decisions, but not panicking. And still not really knowing what the hell is going on.

Monday, March 9, 2020

What I Read In February

I didn't intend to, but like....I read a lot of mushy love stories in February. Mood reader to a fault, man. But really, life's been cold and confusing and harder than usual and I needed the fluff to sustain me. Thank you, authors of (especially YA) cheesy romance for providing us all with the sustenance needed to survive a Buffalo winter!

Here's what I read this February...

Books I read this February 2020 | Reading & Writing Rych www.jennrych.com

American Royals by Katharine McGee
This book was the most fun, and full of many shades of angst. It follows four female characters, two of which are royals in the fictional (alternative reality-style) American monarchy. For the majority of the book, no one is paired with who they really want to be with, creating all kinds of yummy longing and secrecy. The story continues with a book that's set to release this fall, and I can't wait for it!

Tweet Cute by Emma Lord
This was a super cute story about a multi-generational business feud that went viral in the hands of the current generation's millennial-aged kids. The characters feel real, multi-faceted and honest, and they stay with you long after the story ends. There's romance, there's puns, there's twitter fueds, meme wars, and angsty high school navigation that all added up to deliver the cutest Romeo & Juliet lite story.

My February Book Stack!Virtually Yours by Sarvenaz Tash
So, this is kind of a weird out-there, big-brother creepy premise with some thought provoking issues going in. Actually, if you were into Netflix's Love Is Blind last month, you may be into this one. In this book's reality, dating has taken the form of virtual reality - a place where you can go anywhere, with anyone, and look like anything you want to. A pair of teens that had already tried and failed at love rekindle their relationship - with one of them not realizing who the other is. How the main character's relationships evolve in real live vs her virtual experience is an interesting situation to witness. Despite the creepy vibes of the VR situation (and the intervening AI), I liked the characters and the time I spent with them, and this is certainly a little different from your typical high school drama.

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E Smith
I....really loved this. I'd gotten this from a used book group to bring me up to a free shipping threshold and I'm SO glad I did. This book follows a really busy and stressful 24 hours as a girl travels internationally to attend her Dad's wedding. She has to deal with her feelings about her Dad, his new wife, and the choice he made to leave her in the first place, when she meets an interesting guy who is more than willing to pass the time with her. Their chemistry and banter is so much fun, and they have you fully convinced that their face paced love story is 100% probable.

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli & Aisha Saeed
Ahh, love! So much to say - I don't know where to start! There isn't a whole lot of romance in this one - more like a really genuine relationship that slowly grows because of everything else they're going through. This book is highly political - not only in that the main characters spend their time canvassing and volunteering for a local campaign, but in it's messages of change, racism, prejudice, cultural misunderstandings, and even the negativity present in our actual political environment. I loved the messages and strength in this book above all, and I think everyone invested in our current and upcoming elections should pick this one up!

The Upside of Falling by Alex Light
Sigh. I really really wanted to love this book. It's got the whole fake relationship turned real trope (which is one of the greatest going, if you ask me), with the juicy drama of high school mixed in. My library didn't have this new release on order, so I actually requested that they order it for me.......and now I kind of feel bad. The first half of this book read like a huge Jenny Han rip off. There were so many similarities to the To All The Boys series that it was laughable. The writing wasn't bad, but it wasn't great. The characters had no depth to themselves or chemistry with each other. It was just....kind of a nothing book. I give this one a big 'ol don't waste your time.

March has been a slow start so far, but I'm kicking it off with a REAL doozy...can't wait to share my thoughts! So, whatcha reading?

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Monday, February 10, 2020

5:30 Wake Ups & Winter Blues (wk 4)

Winter Blues 2020It's Monday, and I'm here in my leggings, messy bun, and sherpa lined blanket to tell you that I'm over you, Winter.

I've been especially frustrated with this year's grey, gloomy, not-a-winter season because it's been gross and uneventful and I'd like to get back to sunshine and birds now, please.

So yeah, I've hit that winter wall - the one where you are too cold do anything but read books and drink unhealthy amounts of coffee. And for the next however long it takes Spring to show up, that mild apathy is going to slowly deteriorate into desperation and despair: the kind where I actually shed tears at the sight of flurries. I guess this is what one might call the winter blues (though I tend to not make that call until I actually want to rage at the forecast, and I'm not there....yet.)

Sometimes I wonder why on earth we tolerate doing this every year and then I remember - oh yeah - it's because I can't seem to get the entirety of my extended family to move to a warmer climate with me. So, I blame this on all of you. Kidding. (Sort of.)

Once upon a time, Matt and I moved to one such warmer climate for a handful of years - when we were young and answered only to ourselves. The cliffs notes version is that there were a lot of different feelings and reactions involved and we finally hit a point where we mutually agreed that we wanted our kids to know the families they came from and so here we are - all soggy boots and pale skin, once again.

I learned a few years back that our bodies have natural rhythms that coincide with the seasons, and despite the societal consensus that January is a time for setting goals and pushing yourself, hibernation is kind of ideal this time of year. I've since dropped a lot of guilt and expectations around winter, thankfully.

There are times, though, in this depth and grossness of winter, that I have no choice but to push through. Matt's job is based out of town and he has to travel a handful of times a year, which leaves me to solo parent for anywhere from 3-5 days (usually). I hate when it happens in the winter because it adds extra things to my plate like shoveling, clearing off cars, bundling up kids and making sure they have boots for recess, etc. And, wouldn't ya know it, we just had to do it last week.

So sick of being frozen!One of the things on my list of Intentional week ideas was to have early wake ups. I've never been this kind of person - I value my sleep and natural rhythms more than whatever can get accomplished in those dark, early hours. I guess because so many people swear by "winning the morning" and because I knew I was going to need a lot of extra built-in time this week, I thought it was worth giving a shot.

And I......am undecided.

I'm mostly leaning towards "that sucked", but I'm kind of curious if I'd have a different reaction in a warmer season. This time of year in general requires a lot of will-power - we're cold, tired, and cooped-up, our immune systems are in overdrive, the days are short, gloomy, and dark. Doing simple tasks can feel monumental. So basically, sticking to an early bed time and then peeling myself out of my warm bed an hour early used up some of that will power that I really didn't have to spare.

I did it successfully every day, and I did make it out of the house more on time than usual (with all my tasks taken care of early in the day), but I was beat. And frustrated. And feeling ripped off from my usual "me time" and rest. I'm just not really sure if that's worth it.

My rebel side is screaming, heck no it isn't.

And the fact that I've spent almost all of my days since it's ended doing A LOT of recovery activities (like sleeping in, reading for hours and hours, avoiding tasks like the plague), I'd say it really wasn't worth it. My indecision comes from the fact that it was kind of necessary to get through the week, and I'm not sure we would have made it everywhere on time if I hadn't done it.

I'll just say this: I'm not planning on doing it again any time soon. (And also - you suck, Winter.)

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Library Sale Book Haul

Recently, I attended a book sale at my favorite library and came home with another giant stack of books I didn't need and will potentially not read for many months to come.


Story of my life. There's a pun in there somewhere.

I won't get into the whole thing, but overall, the sale was really disappointing to me. It was swarming with re-sellers and their little scanny devices, trying to scoop up the most valuable pieces before, ya know, actual readers could get their hands on them. I might have (definitely) filed an official complaint with the library but heard absolutely nothing back - likely because they really don't care who is paying them for their used books or that the little old lady volunteers are completely overwhelmed by those sharks.

OH, look, there's me getting into the whole story. Let's move on...

I did find a few gems - some that I've been meaning to read, one in particular I've already read that I wanted a copy of, and a few that sounded intriguing. I ended up with most of my stack by going back to the sale on 1/2 price day, once the sharks had picked it clean and left us commoners some scraps. Oops, there I go again.

Here's what I somehow managed to score despite the greedy jerks.

Book Haul Stack | Reading & Writing RychMilk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
I actually read this one already - I guess they weren't all doomed to wait forever! You can see my thoughts on it here, if you're curious.

1984 by George Orwell
I've always wanted to read it...seems timely.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
Another "wow I haven't read this yet?" book.

Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
I'm kind of on a P&P kick, lately...I've read a couple different versions/retellings and wanted a copy of the original.

If I Stay by Gayle Forman
This one has always sounded intriguing to me.

Sometimes It Happens by Lauren Barnholdt
This one sounded like my cup of tea.

The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
I have no idea what this one is about. The day I grabbed it at the sale, I saw a booktuber mention it in a video of their favorite 2019 books and then saw it right after, so....grabbed it.

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
This is on my culturalization list...though I'm surprised to see that it's so short.

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
I want to read more Austen, so, here we are.

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
This is the one I've read before and just wanted a copy of - I read this on vacation a few years ago and it spoke to me like whoa. I love her ideas in this book.

Commonwealth by Ann Patchett
This is one of those covers I've seen 100 times so, figured it was worth a read.

When Life Gives you Lululemons by Lauren Weisberger
I thought this would be a fun one when I'm in the mood.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah
I was never drawn to this one but when I told someone I grabbed it at the sale they told me it was a real score and I HAVE TO read it because it was amazing. So, some day, haha.

The Casual Vacancy by JK Rowling
I know this has mixed reviews but man, I love her brain so I felt like I should try it, and Matt and I added it to our couple's book club list.

Time of My Life by Allison Winn Scotch
This is another "I've seen the cover a billion times" book with a mystical element of inexplicable time travel, so I grabbed it.

This post contains affiliate links at no cost to you. Which means if you click through or shop from one of them, I may make a teeny tiny commission to help support my blog. I promise with all my heart I am not in the business of ripping anyone off like those despicable library sale sharks. Don't buy their books on ebay, they don't deserve it. :) Thank you so much for supporting my blog (legitimately)! xo