Tuesday, March 24 2020

balloons, breadvolution, happy hour, and creepy silence

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Dear Journal,

Good morning, everyone! Happy Tuesday. I'm feeling good this morning. I'm a little tired, but I'm still feeling healthy, and today I'm grateful that we were spared of most of the snowfall. Waking up yesterday, there was some frost on the ground, but after hearing about the several inches that accumulated in Illinois, I'm happy that was the end of it for us in Wisconsin.

I had a great work day yesterday. It was a busy day, but I was much more successful with time management. I remembered to take a break at least once an hour to stretch and walk around. Funny enough, switching back to my daintier flower patterned mug helped the cause. I have been using my Bears mug for the past few days, and I've noticed that the mug is so big, I don't need to get up as often for coffee refills. That might be ideal for the weekends, where I have time to sit on the couch and watch a late morning movie with Rodney, but for working hours, I benefit from a smaller mug and more trips to the coffee bar.

For lunch, I made a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for Rodney while Marissa napped on the couch. After heating up the last three slices of pizza and making a little bowl of fried rice, I joined Rodney at the table to eat. I added a drop of ghost pepper hot sauce to my rice, and Rodney watched in amusement as I wiped my runny nose with a napkin. I was hoping he'd say one of my favorite Rodney catch phrases - Careful dada, spicy. - but he just smiled.

After lunch, I returned upstairs to work. I had a busy afternoon. At this point in my project, now that I have drafted a proposal and outlined the basic technical roadmap, I had to split the work up for our team in the form of tickets. This is a hard thing to do, and it's often more challenging than the actual problem we're trying to solve. Not only do the tickets have to be well-documented, containing all the context needed to do the work, but the team needs to be able to work on multiple tickets at a time. So the work needs to be decoupled from other tickets, and parallelized.

At three, I headed downstairs to advance my ciabatta loaf to the next stage of its bread evolution - breadvolution, perhaps. Like the last time, it had spent all night and all morning transforming into a fragrant, gurgling pale sponge of dough. I gave it a few flips with a spatula, then turned it over onto some plastic wrap. I flattened and stretched the dough over the plastic, taking extra care to run my fingers underneath the dough to give it some length - a move I forgot last time, and re-remember after watching the video again. I set the bread aside to proof under a towel for a few hours and returned upstairs to work for another hour.

After work, I got Rodney out of his room. He was waiting by the door with his head peeking out into the hallway. I changed his diaper, and together we wandered into the basement to check on Marissa. She was trying to level a new work table for her gallery. We chatted for a bit, then Rodney, suddenly getting fixated on a box in the back room, beckoned me over to him. "C'mere dada," he said waiving his hand insistently. I obediently wandered over to him.

"We need the balloons," said Rodney. "Baloooooons. Where are you?" I joined Rodney, scanning over the piles of boxes in the back corner of the basement.

"Here they are!" I said, holding up a tupperware bin. "You can have..." I paused in deliberation. Rodney waited in anticipation.

"... three balloons." Rodney fist pumped, and I dug out the bag for him to choose. The bag of spare balloons in the basement is yet another miscellaneous item Marissa ingeniously conjured into Rodney's reward system. He has deep admiration and respect for the balloons. Isn't it funny how, if you commit, you can get kids excited about anything? I blew up the balloons for Rodney, and he flew off, chasing and bumping them around the basement.

Together, we headed upstairs to our room for a Zoom call with Alex and Cassie, taking drinks with us to enjoy a virtual happy hour. It was good to see them, and they seemed in good spirits. After letting Rodney ham it up on camera with his balloons, we caught up on their personal life. They told us how they were adapting to quarantine life, comparing and contrasting our new homebound daily routines.

"Things are going good," said Cassie. "I started a puzzle!" Her eyes got wide, and we all laughed at the implied maddening boredom. "How are you guys?" she asked.

"We're doing OK," said Marissa. "Just hanging around, trying to keep Rodney entertained. Oh and Alex is on a bread kick right now."

I chimed in, retelling how my first loaf turned out great, except for when I decided to slice it in long strips. "The sandwiches were way too skinny," I laughed.

"It looked like a biscotti!" added Marissa.

We thanked Alex and Cassie for the time, and after hanging up, I headed into the kitchen to make dinner. Marissa joined me, sitting on the counter. After a few minutes of chatting, Ziggy found her way to the kitchen. She began circling the floor beneath Marissa and whimpering.

"Do you want to go up by momma?" I said, kneeling down to pick her up. Ziggy wagged her tail in gratitude and curled up in Marissa's lap.

"Look at her," said Marissa. "You've got a plate of bacon like six inches from her, and she's being so good up here! Do you think she's just trying to set a good precedent so she can lay on the counter more often?"

I laughed at the thought. "She's definitely smart enough to think about the long con. She's showing us good behavior now, but maybe she's just waiting for something better."

"Just watch," replied Marissa. "She's going to talk us into this again, then managed to eat a whole chicken or something."

After eating sandwiches at the table, we took out Rodney's new domino set. Marissa and I built up long runs along the table, and Rodney, leaning on his belly and stretching out, greedily knocked them with over with his finger. "DominoooooooOOOO," he'd sing at they tumbled across the table.

We put Rodney to bed and spent the rest of the night catching up on chores and working. We caught up on TV, and before locking up for the night, Marissa and I stood on the deck to take in the evening.

"Hear that?" I asked. "It's completely quiet." There were no cars on East Washington. The Burger King lights were turned off.

"Our backyard feels so creepy and silent right now," said Marissa. A train could be heard in the distance. "Want to go inside now?" asked Marissa squeamishly.

We've grown used to the sounds of living by a busy road - cars whizzing by and rowdy high schoolers walking along the sidewalk. I wasn't prepared for the sounds to suddenly disappear. The silence was so ominous, it made the air feel stale and the night sky seem so much more crushing and sad. This quarantine is showing me how many comforts I really have in my life.

"I'm sad about the dogs," said Marissa. "Especially Ziggy. She seems sad today." I leaned forward in bed to pet her. She sat up in bed to cast her sad eyes in my direction.

"She definitely knows something's up," said Marissa. "She used to leave the house with me like five times a week. The dogs probably miss agility too."

I too feel sad for the dogs. It's clear they know something's different. I wish there was a way for us to tell them it wouldn't last forever.

"Let's drive somewhere tomorrow," I said.

"Want to get icecream? Or what if we just pick up Culver's for dinner and eat it somewhere in the car?"

"That sounds nice," I said. I gave Ziggy a long, warm hug, then went to sleep.

Thanks for stopping by this morning. Hope you have a great day today.