Random Thoughts

I hope you’re in the mood for a Random Thoughts post. Here are some of the things on my mind (lots of it related to Covid-19):

– The Coronavirus-related news can be so overwhelming — I’ve found I cope better if I take it in smaller doses. I try to keep it to a few minutes of Twitter and then a couple of articles from reputable sources, like the New York Times or the BBC. It’s remarkable how fast things are changing, with new cancellations being announced every day.

Ben Blair was supposed to travel to Utah later this month for the Mormon Transhumanism conference, but they just announced it would be virtual instead. (Which of course totally makes sense.) This trip was also going to be an opportunity to spend time with his mother, and take some work-related meetings. So now he’s looking at his options and talking to the airline to find out if postponing/rescheduling makes more sense, or if an outright cancellation would be better.

– Like everyone else, I’m trying to gauge the future. Will we be hunkered down for a month? Several months? I find myself watching Italy. They seem to be 10-14 days ahead of us. And I’m also watching news of Wuhan where the spread of the virus seems to have slowed.

– The newly announced European travel ban — that apparently doesn’t apply to expats like us (because Americans in Europe can’t get the virus? makes no sense!), is also on my mind. I’m thinking about my kids in the U.S. and how far away they feel. I’m thinking about the next school break and wondering what the world will look/feel like five weeks from now.

– I read this tweet about the “pandemic of human disappointment” and I keep thinking about it.

– I’m worried about our parents, and all of the over-60 people in our life. And I’m worried about our peers who are taking care of their own kids, and also taking care of their parents, while trying to stay healthy themselves.

– I appreciate the news that talks about flattening the curve. The idea is that while many people will test positive for Covid-19, if we can spread out the infection rates over a longer period of time, that will make all the difference, and prevent overwhelming the medical system. Stay calm. Wash your hands. Flatten the curve.

Some non-virus thoughts:

– When we moved back here, I had to keep reminding myself to get ready for harsh winters — especially coming from the Bay Area. But weirdly, I end up feeling warmer here than I did in Oakland. Probably because I dress properly for the winter here, and the houses are designed to be well-heated here. Whereas in Oakland, the heating systems seemed like an after-thought because the weather is considered so mild, and I ended up always feeling a bit chilly.

But it’s also been a relatively mild winter here. I remember some intense weeks with frozen pipes when we lived here before, but this winter never got that bad. I assume this is global warming related and not good news.

– Now that Alt Summit is over, I find my mind focusing on our house renovations. I’m especially thinking about our bathrooms and find myself adding pins to my bathroom board on Pinterest. I go back and forth among a French-industrial look, a traditional tiled look, and a fancy European look.

– Speaking of bathrooms, I drew a bunch of floorplans where we took a section of the future ensuite bathroom to create a closet. But talking through it with Ben, I realized I was just creating a mediocre closet, and forcing a less than ideal bathroom. So I decided to create a gorgeous bathroom and solve the closet issue in a totally different way.

– We’re about 50-60% done removing wallpaper! I know it sounds like a pain, but it’s actually quite satisfying work.

– Some things we have to wait for in order continue — like the new electric work needs to be done before we can do some of the plaster work or carpentry. But other things we can move ahead on. Like the windows! We want to keep the current windows — they are gorgeous — but they are old and need repairs and restoration. None of them open and close easily at the moment. All need to be mended, and painted both inside and out. But we have a bid and we’re meeting with our window guy tomorrow. I’m very excited about it and need to decide on paint colors for the interior and exterior.

– I used Alt Summit as an excuse to try some new makeup based on Sarah of Whoorl’s recommendations. We’re the same age, so I appreciate her thoughts on what works for skin like ours. She’s also focused on clean makeup. I’m loving this Olio E Osse cheek balm (I bought #9), Kosas lipstick in Rosewater, and Honest mascara (the most affordable thing I tried at $17). It had been a loooong time since I updated my makeup and I’ve enjoyed having new products to try.

– With all the hand washing talk going around, my thread about protecting your family is making the rounds again. It’s been interesting to see it pop up.

– Gosh darn my jet lag is still intense. I was hoping to be done with it by now, but no luck. They say it’s much easier to get on local time when you’re traveling west versus east, and I find that to be so true. I had almost no issues adjusting in Palm Springs, but I got back to France on Sunday morning and I’m still totally out of whack.

– I started watching the Hillary Clinton documentary on Hulu. Oh my. When they started talking about the nonstop email coverage, I found it so painful I had to pause. I admit, I’m still mad. What an amazing thing it would be to have someone as capable as HRC leading us through the current pandemic.

I think that’s it for now. Please feel free to respond to my random thoughts, or you can leave your own random thoughts in the comments. I always love to hear what’s on your mind.

P.S. — More random thoughts.

41 thoughts on “Random Thoughts”

  1. I feel like there’s an elephant in the room: that you chose to hold Alt Summit, a gathering place for countless people from around the country, if not the world, when there were already clear signs that this pandemic was getting started. I sincerely hope that no one brought or transmitted COVID-19 at Alt Summit, but did it feel at all selfish to hold what I’m sure is a big income generator for you personally in such a troubling and potentially unsafe environment? I feel let down, because I have always come here for your measured, thoughtful insights, but holding Alt Summit seems neither measured nor thoughtful. It feels reckless, and (while I hope not) potentially lethal to attendees and their communities.

    1. I feel like the decision to hold or cancel Alt Summit was made (and needed to be made) before the latest spikes and jumps over just the last few days. Sure, it would also have been reasonable to cancel or postpone until the fall. But thinking of the timing, what the official word was (even from CDC, not just our incompetent White House) at the time–I think it was less irresponsible that it seems now even just a few days later. Things are changing so fast, and we can only make decisions with the information we have on hand at that moment. I’m currently struggling about what to do for my 10-year-old birthday party. Just a few kids (6 or 7) at a painting place (low-contact), and it’s not until mid-April, but I need to make decisions in the next week or so about whether to book. And it’s hard. She understands the situation, she’s terrified for her grandparents, but she’s also crushed at the idea of not getting a party. It’s hard.

    2. Wow Hanna, that’s a lot of false assumptions in one comment. Not sure how best to respond. I think I’ll try line by line:

      H: I feel like there’s an elephant in the room: that you chose to hold Alt Summit, a gathering place for countless people from around the country, if not the world, when there were already clear signs that this pandemic was getting started.

      G: It’s not at all an “elephant in the room”. I talked about Alt Summit and Covid-19 openly and publicly up to and during the event. The event is not for “countless people” (that seems like an attempt to drum up fear?). At under 2000 people it’s considered a small boutique conference (for reference, there are 400,000 people at SXSW). There were signs that a pandemic was getting started since January. But it hasn’t been clear what that means until this week, and let’s be honest, it’s still quite fuzzy, with each country handling things very differently.

      H: I sincerely hope that no one brought or transmitted COVID-19 at Alt Summit, but did it feel at all selfish to hold what I’m sure is a big income generator for you personally in such a troubling and potentially unsafe environment?

      G: I sincerely hope the same thing. I’m not aware of anyone at the conference who has been personally affected by Covid-19 and the first diagnosis in Riverside County (which is where Palm Springs is) wasn’t announced until Alt Summit was over. Despite your assumption, Alt Summit is NOT a big income generator for me personally; it’s a labor of love more than anything else. And no it did not feel selfish to hold the conference because I followed every guideline from WHO and the CDC and local and state governments as well — none of which recommended cancelling events at the time of the conference.

      I was careful to communicate with Alt Summit attendees about Covid-19 both before and during the event and keep everyone up-to-date on the latest news and resources. The safety of the community was my first priority and I would definitely have cancelled had that been the recommendation. At the time it was not the recommendation.

      I think you may have already forgotten how quickly guidelines and recommendations have changed over the last two weeks. For example, on Wednesday March 4th, during Alt Summit, I read the news that SXSW was for sure NOT cancelling. The following day, Thursday, March 5th, was Alt Summit’s closing keynote and last official classes. On Friday, March 6th, SXSW announced they decided to cancel. It was the first major cancellation to hit the news. And again, it wasn’t announced until after Alt Summit had ended, and they went from definitely-not-cancelling on Wednesday to cancelling on Friday. Things were changing and are changing fast.

      Other examples: My flight from Paris was packed. One week later, on my flight back to Paris, it was only about half full. And the Houston Rodeo, which has over 2,600,000 attendees only announced that it was cancelling yesterday, a week after Alt Summit ended. Things have changed that fast.

      H: I feel let down, because I have always come here for your measured, thoughtful insights, but holding Alt Summit seems neither measured nor thoughtful. It feels reckless, and (while I hope not) potentially lethal to attendees and their communities.

      G: I don’t know you, so I can only guess you’re feeling fearful and want to lash out and place blame and you feel I’m a safe target to do so. Holding Alt Summit was indeed measured and thoughtful. You can not imagine how measured and thoughtful EVERY event organizer is attempting to be right now. As you know, many/most events taking place for the rest of March have cancelled. Events taking place in April and May are making alternate plans in case they need to cancel. Every event organizer I know, including myself, is taking this very seriously. No one wants to put their community at risk.

      Please remember, Alt Summit attendees include my own children, many of my relatives, and a whole lot of my dearest friends. I would never knowingly put them at risk. And based on what I know today, I did not put them at risk.

      I wish you (and every person) good health, a steady mind, and a calm heart as we all navigate the reality of a world experiencing a pandemic. Let’s continue to be mindful and supportive of those around us who are most vulnerable.

        1. …and because tone doesn’t translate in writing well, I mean that very sincerely. You demonstrate a lot of grace. Thank you for being an example.

        2. What Meg said!!
          Thanks Gabby for always communicating respectfully and clearly. You inspire me in many ways. 💕

          1. I really think it’s only been over the last week that virtually everyone in my “traveling moms” Facebook group went from “of COURSE you should go forward with your planned trip! Don’t be paranoid! Coronavirus is an overblown media event!” to “”of COURSE you should cancel your trip, don’t you care about the elderly and immunodeficient? How could your vacation be more important than THEIR LIVES?”

            I was beating the drum about this pandemic a month ago, and written off by many as a paranoid pessimist. I think it’s only when Donald Trump got on TV this week and botched the announcement of his travel ban, and didn’t mention the problem with lack of access to testing, that Americans really woke up to the unfolding crisis.

  2. Hanna, I totally hear you. I think there will be a lot of things where we will look back and wish we had acted sooner or pulled kids out of school sooner or…etc. etc. etc. It’s also important to remember that things are changing day by day (even hour by hour!) and I think Gabby probably did the best she could with what she knew at the time. (I hope no one got sick at Alt Summit as well.) I think we’re all now coming to grips with our own personal responsibility for staying informed and implementing social distancing. Hope you and your loved ones remain safe.

    On a totally unrelated note, Gabby, re: jet lag, I’ve heard that if you take off your shoes and stand on the earth/grass, it can help a lot. It’s free, so won’t cost you anything to give it a try!

    1. Thanks for the jet lag tip, Maggie. I have not yet found a patch of grass where I can try this, but I did fall asleep at a decent hour last night and that felt like great news.

  3. “The pandemic of human disappointment” – what a poetic way to put it that really rang true for me. It is so hard to keep up right now and I agree with the commenters above that things feel very different now than they did a couple weeks ago. This week many, many things are getting cancelled but a couple weeks ago they weren’t. The information and data and recommendations are changing all the time (and are often still really vague, hard to understand, and even contradictory). We are all swimming in what feel like uncharted waters, each with our own unique circumstances. I am reading more about how we need to support one another, not hoard supplies, and try to take a breath and not let fear completely overtake our decisions. Yesterday, I texted our next-door neighbors, both of whom work as nurses in our local hospital and also have two small children, just to let them know we are here if they need anything. This goes to food, supplies, help with childcare, whatever. Maybe we can all try to do a bit more of this in the coming days.

    1. “We are all swimming in what feel like uncharted waters”

      That’s so true. We’ve never experienced anything like this in our lifetimes. I feel like I’m over-reacting and under-reacting simultaneously.

      I read another tweet that if we look back and it wasn’t as bad as we thought, people will say we over-reacted, but really it means we made the sacrifices we needed to and curbed the damage.

  4. I live in a suburb of Seattle. Schools are now closed through the end of the month, though many people predict it will be longer. No sports or activities for my children. And we are in the midst of putting our house on the market to move. So needless to say, it is a stressful time for my family. But I am glad to be doing my part to help flatten the curve and protect the elderly and vulnerable in my community.

    1. President Macron just announced last night that all French schools, throughout the whole country, would be closed beginning on Monday until further notice. Immediately after that we received notices about other cancelled activities (like church and swim meets).

  5. I (German) was supposed to meet my fiancé (US citizen) on Saturday in Florida. We have a long-distance relationship and stuff like this just devastates me and makes me feel completely helpless and hopeless. But even more so, I feel for all the people who have lost their jobs or significant parts of their income, for who knows how long. I don’t understand what we’re trying to protect each other from at this point, and at what cost – it seems to me like the worst case scenario has already hit, just in a different way than we’ve expected, and we’re to blame.

    1. It’s the “for who knows how long” part that I find especially difficult. I’m pretty good at managing expectations — my own and my kids’ — but I have no idea how to do so with the current circumstances. I can’t even picture what to expect 2 weeks from now.

      I hope you get to meet up with your fiancé soon!

      1. I agree, it’s hard to stay positive and focussed when there’s no real end in sight and you don’t know what kind of news you might wake up to.

        Thank you so much for providing insightful and wise content, not just now, but always.

  6. Yes! The disappointment is real! My 14 year old just texted to say a Tech Challenge he’s been excited about, and working toward, for months has been cancelled. I’m guessing his school trip to DC will also eventually be cancelled.

    I’m also thinking about the huge economic impacts. Just one example is the cancellation of the NBA season. In addition to the jobs of everyone who words for those teams (marketing, IT, trainers etc) think of the lose of income for the folks who work at the arena and all the other people employed by basketball related activities including the vendors, the uber drivers, the folks making and selling t-shirts etc, the bartenders, cooks, and servers who work at sports bars etc. So much income lost and revenue not circulating in our economy.

    1. So many disappointing cancellations. Oscar’s grade has a trip to England on the schedule, and no one has mentioned it, but I can assume it will be cancelled. : (

      Twitter is all abuzz with people suggesting a minimum-basic-income for all Americans for the next couple of months. I have no idea if it’s even possible, but it seems like it will be desperately needed.

  7. I’m extremely disappointed for a variety of ways-my parents had scheduled a trip to visit us in CA and we were all taking a trip to a resort in AZ to celebrate their 80th/85th birthdays; my kids have a variety of cancelled activities, and our oldest is scheduled to graduate from college in May: who knows if that happens? And what will the job market look like for her? How will the economic repercussions affect my husband’s job down the road? But honestly, right now I’m so focused on everyone’s health those are all secondary concerns.

    1. Heidi, I’m sorry about the cancelled birthday trip. I’m sure your whole family is disappointed, and I hear you on graduation. It’s so hard to imagine what the next weeks and months will look like.

  8. RebeccaNYC (mybackstageopera)

    I have two takeaways from your post today:

    “a pandemic of human disappointment”

    Oh my goodness does that ring true. I read this after I was sent home in the middle of a rehearsal at the Met Opera…they are wisely closing down the house for at least 2 weeks, probably more. We’re not sure exactly what that means financially….we are full time unionized employees, but our contract has a “Force Majoure” clause and in this case the administration is within their rights to stop paying us. Uncertain times.

    Your blog always entertains and informs me, and today I became absorbed by something I had no idea even existed… of course I am referring to “Mormon Transhumanism” THANK YOU!! I did a quick search, bookmarked a few things to read and watch, and with all this time off, I now have a little project to educate myself about this belief system.

  9. I have a sister in London, who lives in the Kensington Chelsea borough, which currently has the highest case numbers for this virus. She and her husband have been trying to stay home for the past three weeks due to news they receive from Britain. My sister is currently ill and experiencing coughing and other signs, but so far both she and her husband have tested as negative. She tells me that the hospitals and emergency rooms have asked the public to stay at home with any signs of colds, flu, and especially with a fever -*and they can call a dedicated line, and a health professional with come to your home for testing*-.

    Reread that last line.

    The deal is, *London* is the main entry point for the EU and the USA to enter Britain. London has 6 -SIX- airports. LONDON. London currently, as of March 12, has 92 confirmed cases of Covid-19 – with other neighborhoods in London tallying up to 157 confirmed cases, and the UK total as of today is a confirmed 590, with 8 deaths, so far.

    The idea of our president saying he is shutting the borders down to avoid the virus entering is moot as it is *already* here. Thinking the UK is “safe” or “safer” than the rest of the EU is idiocy. Presuming that US citizens can travel to the UK and then come home without risk is just asking for the virus to come home with a scone or a souvenir from Fordham and Mason.

    I try not to be an alarmist, however I am not privileged as much as others. I have a son with zero immunities, a daughter who works in the health field, a d-i-l with lung issues, another d-i-l who works with pediatric cancer patients, and elderly parents – all of these are high risks, and all of them have been on their toes, doing their own research, because our leaders read somewhere that we’ll be safe because science cannot be trusted and the EU didn’t discuss other issues with our president, so he doesn’t want to discuss this worldwide issue with them.

    “neener neerner pppppfth!” -President Trump to Covid19

    1. My husband is a germaphobe and runs a hospitalist group (made up of doctors who only provide care for patients in hospital). He saw this coming in January when the first reports were coming out of Wuhan. He submitted a proposal for his group to run in-home testing 2 weeks ago but is still waiting to get approval from the Department of Health and Human Services. No cases in our area yet but I know they are coming and wish we could keep our hospitals and clinics from being overwhelmed.

    2. “The idea of our president saying he is shutting the borders down to avoid the virus entering is moot as it is *already* here. Thinking the UK is “safe” or “safer” than the rest of the EU is idiocy.”

      I 100% agree. A travel ban doesn’t even make sense.

  10. When I moved to New Zealand from Sydney everyone warned me how extremely cold the winters were going to be to be but, like you, I have never felt warmer than in my winters there. Cold countries do heating so well – in the flick of a switch we were warm as toast. But in Sydney there is always this cold edge in the winter that we can’t shake. Funny how these things work…

    1. I hear you, but am also feeling like I want to avoid people engaging in hardship-olympics. Everyone is going to experience disappointment and discouragement in relation to Covid-19, and it’s all valid.

      1. Speaking of Olympics! I feel for those athletes who trained for 4 years! I know Tokyo is insisting it will go forward, but I don’t see how that will happen.

      2. Hmm, I guess what I meant is all those things mentioned in the tweet (human disappointment) are on a different level of Maslow’s hierarchy of basic needs than the actual pandemic (human health).

  11. I’m far more freaked out than I have ever been about any previous outbreaks of *any* disease, because, and only because, I have no faith whatsoever in the current maladministration. Past ones have made serious errors, but not since 1918 has a government endangered it’s population for its own ends.
    I’m also afraid for myself. I’m 64, I have asthma, and a long history of bronchitis and pneumonia, and I’m a CNA in a long-term care facility, working with a vulnerable population. And it’s not like I can work from home.

    1. Margaret, I too have no faith in our current administration. And I’m not sure what to do about it. I’m very worried for you and your health and your job. I’ll be thinking of you and praying that you’ll remain strong and healthy.

  12. Although there is much of serious note in your post I am choosing to zoom in on the one design issue you raised! Your bathrooms in the St Martin house have the proportions, tall windows and ceiling height that would respond well to a modern take on the Victorian/Edwardian English encaustic-style patterned floor tile, or a good wooden floor with a large, patterned rug; an upholstered chair, long window curtains, house plants and framed wall art. Have I just described what you mean by ‘fancy European’? I’m British, living in England but have lived in Paris. I’d love to see your version of this look, I especially look forward to seeing your use of colour, which I always enjoy.

  13. I also want to focus on the design links. Visiting my favorite blogs such as yours is a relief from the news that floods in from elsewhere. I would LOVE to see pictures, mess of half peeled wallpaper and all that shows the progress on your new home. It would be such a nice distraction. Though it was not typically my taste, I was very drawn to the first industrial link. I think the strong but cool and calm is the mantra of our time. Keep us posted.

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