Pandemic Journal

In Pandemic Files

Monday, March 9, 2020

College of Wooster

3 cases of COVID-19 confirmed in Ohio


Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Email from President Bolton, all classes have moved online for the remainder of the semester:

“With heavy hearts, and after conferring with faculty leadership as well as many of the staff on campus who support our students, we have decided that the College of Wooster must move to off-campus learning through the end of the spring semester.  We will start classes in that mode on March 25th.  Our faculty members are preparing course materials that will be accessible to students wherever they are, and will be in touch with students about how to participate in their courses.”

I’m not sure how I’ll manage online classes. I’ll need to plan and make a schedule. Writing everything out will help me prioritize and balance classes with the kids and responsibilities at home.

I also need to start planning this year’s garden. I think I’d like to expand it from last year’s untidy, unkempt garden. A well-planned garden might be just what I need during this pandemic.


 Thursday, March 12, 2020

Governor DeWine announces Pre-K-12 school closures starting March 16 until April 3, 2020. Super cool, I can throw my online class schedule in the trash. Canceling school is unprecedented and makes this whole pandemic very real.


Friday, March 13, 2020

This morning I took pictures of the kids on the front porch just in case it’s their last day of school.

Boone and I went to Aldi. I went to get a few things —  mostly for the weekend. The store was packed but the shelves weren’t full like usual. Other shoppers’ carts were full. I ended up spending $294.87. Our weekly budget for groceries is $130.

When I asked Boone to get his shoes on so we could pick up Myra and Jack from school, he came out of his room with a little more than I think he planned. He was now wearing Avenger’s swim trunks, a Spiderman mask, his sister’s pink earmuffs, and a pilot’s hat. I had flashbacks to the morning shoppers’ outfits. He was ready to face the virus.

At the school pick up line, every student’s backpack was full. Their arms were full of art boxes and projects. They, too, were leaving with more than they bargained for.


Saturday, March 14, 2020

I start to sift through all the information Myra and Jack’s teachers sent home. So much information! I sat down and planned a schedule after seeing a mom friend do the same. Her schedule was on a giant roll of paper she had taped to the wall. It looked serious, everything was blocked by the hour, color coded and in permanent marker. I didn’t have anything like that. I hadn’t even made a schedule because I had been so busy with school. 

Shifting my concern, I remembered all the garden planning websites require a pricey subscription– $50 or more. I was worried we would need that money for something else.

I finally decided to just use an Excel spreadsheet to plan our homeschool schedule. I’m most comfortable with that and it was simple. I’m really grateful that I still have Spring Break this week as the kids and I slide (crash?) into homeschool life. I really should use this week to get ahead. I need to read The Duchess of Malfi and Mansfield Park. I need to finish my Production Design project.

I also spent time outside and measured the garden bed. I plotted out some of the areas for various plants and raked some leaves out of the old soil.


Monday, March 16, 2020

Homeschool Day 1:

5a workout

6a shower and get dressed

6.30a coffee, Phil to work, kids up

7.15a make breakfast

7.45 kids brush teeth, get dressed, make beds

8.30a homeschool

9.30 brain breaks

10a snack, outside to play

11a school on computer

12p lunch and chores

1p quiet time, laundry, my chores

2p reading time with kids

230p game with kids

3p outside to play

4p Phil gets home from work, dinner, clean up, bath, reading

7p kids bed

8p Cait bed

I didn’t get any Mansfield Park or The Duchess of Malfi read today. But I did go buy two bags of rice and beans and three gallons of water to put in the pantry just in case.

My garden seeds arrived in the mail today so it’s time to “dig in” and get to the real work with the project.


Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Same schedule as yesterday, except homeschool wasn’t as “awesome.” Regardless, it’s actually really cool to work so closely with the kids on their school work. I have realized so much more about their specific needs, their strengths and weaknesses.

I spent some time before bed reading the packages and making some additional notes on my planning sheet. Each plant has different needs: planting depth, seed spacing, light, and time to reach maturity. I organized a little station in the garage to start seedlings tomorrow.


Friday, March 20, 2020

Today, I sent the kids out to play and didn’t go with them. I told them not to come in until I called for them. I read approximately 4 paragraphs in “Mansfield Park” before I was interrupted. The College has postponed classes until Wednesday.

  1. There will be no in-person classes between March 23rd and April 3rd.  We hope to resume in-person classes on April 6th, if health conditions permit.
    1. Classes of all kinds will be canceled on March 23rd and 24th, in order to allow faculty some time to move to alternative teaching approaches which do not require in-person meetings.  We will provide support for faculty between now and the 24th as they develop these approaches. Details on this support will be shared by the end of this week.
    2. From March 25th to April 3rd, teaching will take place remotely through various modes appropriate to each class.

The deadline for seniors to submit their Independent Study (IS) is extended to March 25th, and arrangements are being made for IS to be submitted remotely. The IS Monday parade will be postponed until after April 5th.

So, I went out and planted my seeds in starter trays. I followed the garden plot I made so I knew how many to plant of each and planted two extra of each.

3 cherry tomatoes, 3 Big Mama tomatoes, 3 Roma tomatoes, 6 green beans, 6 squash, 6 zucchini, 2 pumpkin, 6 turnips, 6 radishes, 6 carrots, 6 peas, 12 sweet corn, 6 sweet potatoes, 3 green peppers, 3 mini peppers, and 1 hot pepper.

The dirt was soft (I never used gloves) and obeyed my commands and I sprinkled it into the trays. The seeds were perfect, small forms of dormant life. They were each happy to find their new home. I was sure that each one would do their job and sprout up in their own time.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

I have only heard from 1.5 of my professors so far. Not sure what to expect. I know they’re probably going crazy trying to figure things out themselves. I still check my email every couple of hours.

I put all my starters under the growing lamp in our bathroom. I don’t know how often I should water them- I haven’t used these compostable containers before and I added new plants this year I’m not familiar with. The success of my garden feels extra important this year. What if they close certain grocery stores, or limit the number of trips we can make? So, I tucked them in extra tight, gave them a bit more water, and left the light on for an extra hour or so. They look so good all lined up together ready to do nature’s thing.


Sunday, March 22, 2020

I cleared out a cabinet and put all the canned goods in it. I started to feel like a hoarder for having an entire large cabinet for just canned goods. I went through it all and collected an assortment to take down to the little food cabinet by the coffee shop.


Monday, March 23, 2020

Homeschool again. Still good. College is starting soon. Gov. DeWine and Dr. Acton are killing it. Daily conferences covering lots of helpful information in a personable way. Watching those broadcasts is informing. Facebook is opinionated. One post says, “We’re overreacting! I just want to get my hair cut!” I quickly scroll to the next post which says, “everyone should be wearing masks and gloves if they choose to leave the house.” I donated our two N95 masks to the hospital yesterday.   

No sprouts in the garden yet. Sometimes, like today, I just sit in the bathroom staring at the soil. It’s always the same – water, sun, rest, water, sun, rest. They are changing underneath the soil but nothing unexpected. Yes, some of them may not sprout at all but everything is as it should be in the bathroom, staring at my garden.


Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Some professors have moved, postponed, or canceled assignments that were due this week. I’ll send them thank you notes later. It’s going to be fine. At least college will be.

In other good news, my broccoli, radishes and carrots sprouted today. The radishes have little, vibrant purple leaves but the stem is green. It’s stunning against the dark brown soil and wonderful to see something else after days of nothing but brown. The carrots are incredibly tiny. The broccoli has nothing special to mention. Sprouts confirm my inner knowledge that nature will work regardless of the rest of the world.

It’s Friday, that’s all I know.

College was busy, the honeymoon is over. Homeschool didn’t happen today because I’m also planning Easter Alive, a huge event for our church that I thought we could just casually move online. I had wine and chocolate after kids’ bedtime tonight.

The carrots aren’t doing well. Compared to the other seedlings, they are sad, they are thin, short, and drooping. I water them the same as every other baby plant, they get the same light but they’re still definitely struggling. I spent some extra time researching carrots and found they need extra care in the form of extra water. The time spent learning more about gardening reminded me that I didn’t need the wine and chocolate to wind down.

Saturday, maybe?

Gov. DeWine wore a College of Wooster tie today. He has started bringing attention to different colleges this way.

Sunday of March

It’s time to pull myself out of my pity party. I cleaned the house and did all the laundry. I made a to-do list for college and prepped all the kids’ schoolwork for tomorrow. Disclaimer: just because I prepped the work doesn’t mean the kiddos will happily do it. 

I replanted the carrots and watered them a bit extra. I spent time outside raking and tilling the garden a bit more to prepare it for transplant in a few weeks. Because transplant is coming, regardless of a virus, canceled school, online classes, or whatever else. I’ll plant my mature seedlings outside and they will grow into just what they were meant to and produce food. That is, if I take care of them. I can count on my plants to respond to proper care.


Monday, March 30, 2020

Homeschool looked a little more balanced today because Phil is now working from home. He took his time for work in the morning while I worked with the kids. They took a brain break, snack and played outside while I did a class meeting on Microsoft Teams. I only had to awkwardly remove myself from the camera one time. I’ll take it. I’m awkward socially IN PERSON, but now with everything online, I get extra weird. Someone should write a list of online etiquette using my experience today and bit last week. It would be hilarious.

Both the cherry tomatoes and giant tomatoes sprouted today. I think I have a watering schedule down.


Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Tony and his wife decided to send their two young daughters to live with their grandparents for the foreseeable future. Tony is the nurse practitioner at the County Jail and his wife is an RN who was called to work in the ER at Cleveland Clinic Main Campus.


Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Scrolling on Facebook; first post says, “Social distancing will cause more coronavirus deaths,” the next post says, “Dr. Acton and Governor DeWine have saved thousands of lives through the stay-at-home order.”


Tuesday, April 7, 2020

I saw a compelling post on Facebook. It said, “We are all in this together. We are all in the same boat, but we’re not all in the same storm.”

I was reminded of my little growing garden. Every seed needs the same thing: water, sun, and rest. They are all in the same boat. But, not every seed is the same. Some, like the carrots, need more water. While some need pruned or they need extra room to grow; some need more shallow planting or want to be planted all alone while others want to grow with each other. We’re all different but all in this together.

By Caitlin Olsen

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