Lowered expectations.

Remember that effort I made to look on the bright side? The list of 100 Good Things in the Time of Covid?

In the spirit of always keeping it real, I thought I’d paint a picture of how things are unfolding in our household. Do any of you remember those SNL skits, Lowered Expectations? Can you hear the annoying jingle in your head now? You’re welcome. Well, it’s been almost three full weeks of self isolation and our family has had a chance to stabilize into some degree of pattern. Calling it a routine would be a DEFINITE stretch, because mostly, we’re all over the map.

Typical Day in the Plavins Household

Alvi is usually up early, getting ready for his JOB. Somehow car sales are still considered ‘essential services’?? I remain grateful for his income but I do worry. [EDIT: at the time of reviewing this post, he has since been deemed ‘non-essential’ and thus will be out of work for God knows how long. I’m both grateful and worried. This too shall pass.] The smell of coffee lures me out of bed. Confession, Alvi’s been sleeping on the couch on account of some tectonic snoring — but make no mistake, I’ve been awake for quite awhile.

Let’s call it 7:45 am. What have I been doing? 

Scrolling on my phone, of course, previously set to airplane mode circa 1:00 am the night before, on account of binge-watching Ozark Season 3 into the wee hours of the morning. I begin with reading my WhatsAPP messages: a mixed bag of light-hearted toilet-paper memes, high-quality bonding with my friends from overseas or ongoing updates about the whereabouts and safe return status of my family (as of Tuesday, everyone is now back in Canada!). I then toggle over to any text messages, messengers from Facebook and eventually wander to the tracker I now have bookmarked in my safari app. How many cases are we at this morning, Dear Earth? Oh, excellent! Over 1M. I then do a quick google ‘coronavirus Thunder Bay’ to see about cases in my specific neck of the woods. Sweet, only 3. D’oh! Now there’s 9. Finally, I check out Instagram to load me up with accurate ammo, read: when did the kids ACTUALLY go to bed. (Piper’s last post was 2:00 am; so 2:00 am?) I ignore the hypocrisy in what will soon be inevitable lecturing on the importance of getting quality, early sleep. 

And then my phone tells me that screen time is up 30% this week. No shit, Sherlock. 

It’s now 8:20 am. Before flopping on my housecoat, I assess my appearance in the mirror: full-on hag status. My roots are nearing three inches and the hair on my legs resembles a patch of sprouted seedlings ready for some sort of harvest. Not too shabby, could be worse, I think. I vow to put on a pair of jeans today (but never end up doing this), and throw on my husband’s ripped long underwear to hide any evidence of lazy self-care underneath the tattered robe.  

Down I go to my perch on the couch. At this point, I’m hoping your as appalled as I am!

The bird is calling for Leica, our dog, and offering him a cookie. I swear to God he does this, and while it’s cute at first, it’s still too early for this level of circus. I tell him to shut up. He ignores me and starts whistling Don’t Worry Be Happy, which I have come to resent, given these uncertain times.

The TV is already on, usually tuned into CTV’s Your Morning where I prepare to catch up on Covid-related news stories that I had previously ingested on the CBC’s Evening National News the night prior. It’s important to be certain I didn’t miss anything. Nope — things are still gonna get ugly. Prepare for the worst. Wash your hands. Physically distance yourself. Yup — got it. 

Alvi leaves for work and I tell myself today is the day I will eat healthy. I then toast not one, but two bagels that I load up with pizza sauce, pepperoni and cheese, priding myself on how efficient I am with purging the fridge of its leftover food. Popping a bunch of Vitamin C’s and D’s, I then open up my email. Mostly I just stare at it, vowing to reply soon, then slamming the laptop shut. I head back to my perch on the couch where the bird’s shrieking has escalated to the point that I’m seriously considering cooking him. Cockatiel might taste really yummy on a bagel, perhaps with a side of guacamole.  

Oh good — Ryan and Kelly are on TV now. That seems normal, let’s check them out. In between sorting my feelings of bitterness over how Kelly keeps her hair looking so good without an at-home team to prep her, I write out my goals for the day. Generally, they are:

  1. Shower. 
  2. Attempt to prepare something nutritious for dinner.
  3. Tidy the house.
  4. Spend 2-4 hours working on new business.
  5. Work-out. Or walk. 
  6. Fold laundry. 
  7. Call parents. 

I tend to base success on crossing things off the list, but can tell you that most days, none of these things happen. NONE. Ok, #7 usually happens if they don’t beat me to it. Because, what am I doing with my time?

I tell you what I’m doing — a whole lot of trying to make sense of this THING that’s happening, to understand how long it will go on for, what the human and economic fallout will be and how it will potentially impact my family and friends’ worlds. I’m seeking answers that just don’t exist — a classic control freak’s M.O.

And in between all of this? I sprinkle in the following…

Around 11:00 am, I decide it’s my civic duty to hear from our Prime Minister, JT. What has he got to say to me today? I get sucked into half hour of “we will get through this, together, as Canadians always do” and then note that Federal Cabinet ministers will be addressing the nation. Rock on! I really like that Dr. Tam lady — she invokes the fear of God in me and I keep coming back for more. Though it speaks to my masochistic tendencies, who doesn’t love a healthy dose of statistics and science? That stuff is legit!

Observing there is other food in the fridge that shouldn’t go to waste, I make myself a mid-morning snack: nuked leftover chicken paired with a dollop of Frank’s Hot Sauce. For good measure, I throw a pickle on the plate, and some more cheese. I tell myself I will pay for this tomorrow. Our Health Minister, Patty Hajdu, informs us the National Stockpile was ill prepared. You don’t say? I glance at the time and note that it’s now 12:15 and the kids have not appeared from their bedrooms. 

From the safety of my perch on the couch, I text them both some expectations for the day. Again, in the theme of lowered expectations — the instruction for my little one is usually do your hygiene, take care of the pets, unload the dishwasher and get off your screen. I leave it at that and trust this will all get done. My near-17-year-old has announced that she’s fasting and demands to know where we keep the ice. Did you wanna maybe try the freezer? There are usually several text discussions on when we’re going to fix the fridge/freezer’s defunct ice machine, followed by ‘when can we redo her too-pink and ruffly bedroom’. I make a mental note of these dire requests and attempt to appease her dysregulated teenage hormones with promises of looking at Pottery Barn online. She seems satisfied.  

Both kids emerge and still, I make no effort to get off the couch. In fact, I’ve taken to a regular onslaught of bellowing out questions and thus the kids have taken to bellowing out their answers, egging the bird onto ear-deafening pitches for attention. 

By mid afternoon, I decide it’s time to do SOMETHING. I usually chip away at the mess in the house and begin a list of projects that require attention. I’ve made several of these lists and ignored them all, because Covid. Truth: it’s sucked me into a funkified vortex of information and uncertainty and honestly? Every damn day has been like one of those perplexing Twilight Zone episodes. My discombobulation is hard for me to admit, but I’m owning it. It’s also outside of any normal perspective when I recognize there are others that are LITERALLY struggling, trying to work from home while kids are underfoot and acting out… trying to not die while scrubbing up to assist surgeries… desperately seeking a place to eat a hot meal after 12 hours of long-haul driving fresh stock for our grocery stores. Uggg. I have no reason to be in this state of weirdness and yet I am.

I grab the dog and decide he’s the most sane being in our home and surely this is deserving of a stroll through the neighbourhood graveyard. 

During our walk, I wonder what it would be like if some other creature was yelling at me to ‘hurry up and pee!’ I decide it wouldn’t feel very good and ease up on the poor baby. It’s like he doesn’t have a care in the world. He’s just out there — in his canine glory — soaking up all the smells of the season, now cracked open on account of the spring thaw. I see joy in his wiggling walk. He picks up a stick and prances about with an air of pride. I wish things could be that simple for humans … a stick, some fresh air, alluring smells, is there anything better?

I head home and begin interrogating the kids. It usually goes like this:

What have you done to be productive today? Have you gotten any exercise?Piper, have you done any math? Saffy, did you feed your bird? Are your teeth brushed? Did you guys have lunch? Did you unload the dishwasher? Have you aired out your rooms? No? Well, they stink! Don’t glare at me! I’m productive in my own way. I’m gathering up intel. We’re having a family meeting tonight and everyone is participating!

(insert eye-rolling)

Alvi rolls in around 6:00 and by some miracle, I’ve managed to get meat thawed and prep some of that night’s dinner. I celebrate this level of productivity (lowered expectations). Understand the man’s greatest joy is cooking, and it’s also a huge source of tension between us, so I generally let him lead in this department. I immediately attack him on how much handwashing has been happening at the car dealership, whether or not he was able to make it to the liquor store in time and if he remembered to call his Mom. Guys, I literally POUNCE on him. He’s patient and congenial but doesn’t hide his exasperation. It usually starts with a, “F***, Sam! I just walked in the door!” 

We eat at 8:00 — in true Plavins’ style. These days, I’m proud to report we’re mostly convening around the dinner table, taking stock of our massively productive days (not). This is, in and of itself, a Covid victory. We are all home in the evenings! Last night, I initiated a FEELINGS check in. How IS everyone doing? Piper reports that she’s bored and our province sucks, and that if she doesn’t get to go to NWOASSA (student-led weekend-long retreat in May) she’s going to freak. I’m not sure what ‘freak’ means in this case, but her tone tells me it might not be safe to remain inside the home. Saffy announces she wants to buy online merch from some anime artist. She tells me I owe her fifty bucks. ????? Likely I do, and we move on from there despite my sense of having been hustled. She then makes it clear that she’s been trying to warn us about this virus since DAY ONE… bless, my little soothsaying worrier. Alvi tells us he’s frustrated with the lack of things happening around the house while he’s out doing his essential work for the country. We all pledge to aim higher. 

8:40 pm, dishes are abandoned at the dinner table, everyone scatters like cockroaches drawn to the light of their respective online viewing escapes. Mine is Netflix. Piper is trolling and creating new Tik Toks — one of her uploads has over 400K views, she proudly reports. Saffy’s is her gaming and Alvi is riveted by some show on knife forging. It looks seriously lame but he’s right into it and has cracked open a beer. This actually looks relatively normal, like from the days of pre-Covid. I contemplate what I could do to really make his day, and then commence with additional bellowing:

Girls! Online learning starts up next week! So things are gonna change around here, OK??!! Do you hear me? We’re all gonna level up around here? Capiche?

Radio silence. Rinse, repeat. 

It’s dawned on me that the writing of this blog today symbolizes productivity… perhaps I’m not as big a train wreck as I’d led you to believe. And so what if my expectations have lowered — dramatically? We all have to do what we have to do. Staying sane is a priority!

How have your Covid days been going? I want to hear from you!

Special thanks to our medical heros and workers who are front-line pharmacists, grocery-store clerks, bank tellers, anyone fighting the fight from the front lines. We are grateful, humbled, and recognize we owe our safety and survival to you. God Bless!


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