Corona Diaries: Episode 5

It’s been five weeks since my last confession/dissection of shelter-in-place-covid-hell taking place on this blog. We got an early spring here in Minnesota and that’s been a huge silver lining because we were able to be outside in the nice weather. And it’s been beautiful. We’ve had some hot humid days, but overall, it’s been in the high 60s/lower 80s for the most part.

In my last episode, I talked about the white supremacists COVID protestors that Trump beamed at and called “good people.” A different sort of protest took place this past month, only it was more important than the ability to get your hair cut in a salon and not have to wear a mask because it was your constitutional right. Oh, and Trump certainly wasn’t encouraging of these. In fact, these “thugs” as he called them were protesting the murder of George Floyd by the hands of the Minneapolis police and threatened to deploy active troops to police the streets. There have been some changes in the area of racial justice, but there’s a lot more to do. And there’s been a lot of ugliness on social media. I found out I have a lot of friends and family who want to see change and justice and some who don’t and it’s been a mixed bag of emotions. In fact, May as a whole was kind of just a shit month, for a lot of people.

But since this is corona-focused, let’s talk about that. We’re opening up more and more every day. Restaurants are now serving outdoors, and very recently, beginning to serve indoors with 25% capacity. Gyms are now open with restrictions in place. Hair salons and bars—same thing. I’m not comfortable yet doing any of those, since I’ve been seeing in other states who opened earlier the surges in COVID. Churches are starting to open, too, but honestly, I’m good worshipping from the safety of my couch on Sunday mornings. We’ll see how the public does first.

I’m wearing my mask out in public, Chris too. Olivia hasn’t been to a store, and I’m still hesitant to do that, but I’m sure we’ll be doing it soon. I’m getting used to the mask and it helps to see others wearing theirs. I went to return a romper to a store (a Trendsend purchase that was too big) and wore the mask without issues. Trader Joe’s was next door and 95% of people were in masks. I felt some normalcy. It was amazing even if it was a little bit weird.

As far as the day-to-day, the schedule that I had started out with a few weeks into SIP went out the window. Eventually, Olivia flat out refused to do any sort of learning/homework, even her coveted ABC Mouse. I had a cleaning schedule for myself and that petered out too.

It’s been one big free for all around here.

Corona Diaries: Episode 5

But I have gotten together with my mom every Friday like we used to. Olivia and I saw our friends at a park for a picnic—it was the first time she’s played with another kid in 2.5 months. I texted Chris that I hadn’t seen her this happy since the orders went in place. We’ve also walked to the park a lot of evenings and use sanitizer afterward. All these things we’ve all missed. Last Sunday we went to a beach as a family and while many of the other kids didn’t physically distance, it worked out pretty well. It made me realize we really need to get some normalcy back, and the best way to do that is getting out for picnics and beaches on the weekends for sure.

Corona Diaries: Episode 5

Olivia’s behavior has been steadily worsening over the last month. Her major tantrums which she used to have periodically were coming almost daily. Fierce, loud, destructive ones where I started thinking she may very well be possessed. The other times were reserved for the most outrageous rudeness and attitude. My sweet girl, feisty as she was, was becoming someone I didn’t recognize. She’s an extrovert, she loves her friends and thrives off the energy in the room. She always has. And this isolation has screwed her up. I know kids are resilient and it’s a good thing they are. She’ll get through this and be fine, but it’s taking a toll. It doesn’t help my patience level is at 25% at what it was. Starting out with very little patience every morning means by 10 0r 11:00 she’s already gotten me fed up with her. And that’s not fair to her. She needs a mom who can parent firmly, keep her cool, and manage the expectations. And I’m not that parent anymore. I don’t feel like a good mom and I don’t say that to be dramatic so people can come on here and say Nooooo Risa! You’re such a good mom, don’t beat yourself up!

I’m a mom that makes sure the kids are fed and bathed (for the most part) and don’t get sunburned or crash down the stairs. But the depression I haven’t dealt with since nursing school is back. Not creeping back like it was five weeks ago, but here. I know I should go on meds. It’s bad. Not like suicidal bad, but there are a lot more negative feelings and thoughts inside me than positives ones.

See, I figured it out. I was getting “breaks” here and there while Chris took the kids into his office for a while so I could work. I had time in the evening after they went to bed. But it wasn’t cutting it. I never had a chance to fully fill my cup in months and it’s showing. In fact, I remember during one of Olivia’s spectacular episodes of rudeness when we were outside and I had just yelled at her, Chris came out with the baby.

“I just want to get away from everyone,” I ranted, throwing my hands up, “I want a night to myself in a hotel and I don’t care if I have to bring the baby to nurse her, but I just want to be alone for one goddamn night.” But of course, the hotels are closed for this fucking virus and that’s not an option.

Corona Diaries: Episode 5

So Olivia started back at daycare this week. We had a lot of setbacks with it, with both Chris and I having the virus in the form of covid toes. I don’t actually have a photo of what our toes looked like, and mine didn’t get as visually bad as Chris’s, but mine went into my fingers and even up my calf with the itching and burning if I didn’t have those areas covered. It’s hard to see, but this was the day I called the doctor to get tested, as there was blotchiness on my calves. It started with me on Mother’s Day, and lasted… a week and a half I think? before my symptoms disappeared. I had a little heavier breathing, where my chest felt tighter, but that was it. Chris’s lasted longer, and his symptoms started about 7 weeks ago or so.

Corona Diaries: Episode 5

You can see the white blotches on the middle of my leg.


So of course we tested negative and I don’t put a lot of stock in these tests, but because of all it, daycare was delayed with when she could go back. Which I totally get and am on board for keeping everyone else safe. It just makes me mad because we were some of the most isolated people you’d ever meet and STILL, we got it. The kids didn’t show any symptoms at all which I’m grateful for.

But yeah, that anger, it was intense. Feeling myself spiral, watching my daughter mentally and emotionally suffer from the isolation and then seeing other people just resuming life as normal far earlier than us, or let’s be honest, never even bothered to change their lifestyle at all—yeah, there’s a lot of anger there. Misdirected, of course, because I did this to myself. I chose this. I chose to keep us isolated and following the orders and I spiraled and others are just fucking fine.

So then I thought, screw it. If everyone else isn’t caring anymore then why should I? It was a turning point where I realized my mental health was important too. Daycare is, of course, a risk. (Though honestly, my family has been exposed so really, we should all have some sort of immunity however long that lasts.) Playdates with a friend is a risk. I’m starting to balance my mental health with my physical health. I’m saying no to non-essential shopping trips, restaurants, playdates with multiple kids, but I’m saying yes to seeing my mom. Yes to daycare. Yes to playdates periodically. There’s a balance, but I’m already seeing the changes.

Corona Diaries: Episode 5

Olivia went back this week to daycare and while she was initially teary the night before (from basically never leaving our side in months), she did awesome and played with her friends. And I got a day to myself. With the baby of course, but the baby was nothing. I did some decluttering of Olivia’s toys that I hadn’t been able to do. I blogged. I did the laundry. There was nothing spectacular, but I feel it mentally. Because then the next day, when Olivia continued to back-talk and tantrum, I was able to power through it like a responsible parent. I kept my cool. I felt clearer. Daycare was the freaking best decision I made in a long time. So I think this will be OK.

Corona Diaries: Episode 5

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.