Finally updating with more Notes from a Pandemic. These are mini blog posts I posted on Instagram @essbeebe and Facebook throughout the pandemic.

Note: You made need to click on some photos to see them in their original format.

december 3 2020

QUESTIONS FROM A PANDEMIC 12/3/2020: What strategies, ideas, innovations are you finding to connect and collaborate with your coworkers while working remotely? I work with a very small tight-knit staff. We’re like a second family to one another. Our office space is open and communal—it’s easy to call across the room or pop our heads around the corner to ask each other questions, share ideas, tell stories. At work I’m a collaborator. I do my best work when ideas are being shared, looked at from different angles, when there is shared laughter, frustration, problem solving. Innovation comes from human interaction, for me. We have been working fully remotely since March. Now I sit in a room alone in my house in front of a screen. We have scheduled Zoom meetings with agendas, but there is little spontaneity. I have started holding weekly tea time where I open a Zoom for half an hour and people can pop in to catch up socially, which is amazing, but when people aren’t available for a few weeks in a row, I might go a month—or a few!—without having a conversation with some of the people I’m used to talking with nearly every day. I am lonely, and I am making decisions about my work in a vacuum—unless I have enough specific questions to warrant scheduling a Zoom or a phone call. What struggles are you finding in working remotely? What creative solutions are you implementing?



NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 2/27/2021: I have learned over time that it is not only possible, but sometimes necessary, to hold two or more feelings that may appear in opposition with one another, at once. I am smacking up against that on so many fronts right now, and it leaves me confused as to how to answer the question, “How are you?” I love that I can hear about details from Oscar’s day throughout the school day, that we can eat lunch together or take a break to read together or take a walk, but I am suffocating from having him in my orbit 24/7. I love the flexibility and comfort and ease of working from home, but I am starving for interaction and collaboration with my colleagues. I am grateful we order groceries, and only every two weeks, that with a high risk kiddo we have that option, that we can squeeze that into any day versus it being an event every weekend, but I miss running into people and the spontaneity of seeing something on the shelf to inspire a new idea in cooking. I love that I cannot fill my calendar up with events, that in theory there is more down time, but I miss the way the change of scenery and the energy of being in a room with other people experiencing something together shifts my being. I don’t know if it’s having felt stuck inside for the last few months, or the impending one-year anniversary of quarantine, or the possible (one never knows in upstate New York) change of seasons coming that provokes a certain restlessness every year, or if it’s just where I am, but these are just a few of the push/pull, dark/light feelings I seem to be bumping up against on a nearly daily basis. I took the entire month of January off social media, and didn’t feel especially compelled to return in February. I missed all of you, your news, your insights. But I miss the spontaneity of conversation, unexpected human interaction. The scroll is endless—I’ve been reading books instead. Genuine, real-time human connection (outside of my own bubble) is rare and fleeting in these times. I’ve gotten to the point where I often forget whom I have said what to because the location of nearly every conversation is the same. There is little context to spur memory. I see people’s hope as the vaccination process picks up steam, and I feel a little bit of that as well. But until Oscar can get vaccinated, there will be no letting up of our lock-down. And there is no telling when a vaccine might be available for kids. Warmer days are coming. Being outside will become more compelling, which will expand my own living environment, and will also start to reopen the social circle of gathering around a fire. Remembering to make space for all the feelings, no matter how contradictory they may seem, will definitely serve me well as we continue forward in the unknown.



NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 3/13/2021: One year. March 13, 2020 was the last time Oscar went into school, the last time David went into work for several months, the last day I went grocery shopping inside a store. The long wall where the toilet paper usually was, was bare. A single pallet on the floor had a small tower of TP that people were hungrily grabbing at, I skipped it, telling myself I was better than that (ha!). I “stocked up” on canned goods and other nonperishables, thinking I set us up well for a few weeks. I had no idea what instacart really was or when or where we might be getting our next groceries. I rationed our snack food carefully, which was a challenge with everyone home and anxious. News was changing by the hour. Thursday that week I knew things were pretty serious but couldn’t envision what kind of impact it might have on us. By later in the day Friday I knew we wouldn’t be sending Oscar to school on Monday, even if it was open. By Saturday schools had been declared closed. That Monday, the 16th, I called Oscar’s aqua therapy to make sure they weren’t expecting him, and when they were, I said, “Oh No, Oscar will not be going ANYWHERE for the next TWO WEEKS.” I have remembered voicing that line so many times over the last year, a year in which Oscar has still not been back to aqua therapy. Two weeks was as far into the future as we could think at that time, and even that far was a stretch. There was such a moment-to-moment intensity of uncertainty in those days and weeks. Early on we were given the advice that it was important to have something to look forward to, even something small. And so as I remember the “lasts” from a year ago (a meal out, going into work, gathering with loved ones indoors, an art gallery visit) I think of the early weeks when we watched episodes of Abstract, an art & design documentary, during or after dinner a couple nights a week; daily walks as a family when we were all home together (and then at one point we got scared that we might catch covid just by walking in our not-busy-at-all neighborhood). I think of how we have learned that video gatherings can fulfill a deep need to connect… I think of how, though I used to make it a couple times a month, I have made pizza every single Friday night in the last year (with very few exceptions when I have made it on Saturday instead), and how every single week all three of us have looked forward to that—it has become part of the rhythm of our week. These are but a very few details specific to our family amidst this pandemic that is shaping our lives, our histories, our country, our world in ways we can only begin to glimpse now, while we’re all still in the midst of it. Across the globe we all have details, stories, griefs, memories, delights, devastations, surprises, learnings from this time. Sending love out there to all of you as we pass through this milestone together.


april 21, 2021

NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 4/21/21: Second dose done. I was unexpectedly emotional driving to my first dose. And when I thanked the woman who gave me my second shot for her hard work and long hours, she said it’s an honor, and I teared up again. Hope we will keep gaining momentum, and that a vaccine will be approved for teens and kids before too long.







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NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 5/16/2021: Oscar got his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday!!!!!!!! Our pediatrician’s office called to schedule the appointment on Tuesday, before they announced the clinic to the full practice. They must have called all their high risk patients. I got choked up on the phone and could hardly speak to finish the call. When we arrived amid the hustle and bustle of a well-staffed, well-attended vaccine clinic, Oscar’s pediatrician noticed us and came right to the door to ask if we’d rather have her come to our van to give him the shot so he didn’t have to come inside where there was a waiting room full of (socially distanced, masked) people. We ultimately decided to go inside, and she walked us straight to the back and into a room to avoid any unnecessary exposure. And the nursing staff put us in a private waiting area after the vaccine. (We have the best pediatrician! We already knew that, but this reinforced it that much more). And yes I got choked up again at the appointment. We are doing our part in this historic moment to reduce the spread. This pandemic is far from over, and once Oscar has had his second vaccine and waited the 2 weeks, it will still not be over. But maybe we will be able to loosen just a bit the white-knuckled grasp of precautions we’ve been holding onto for over 14 months. Maybe there will be a few hugs… (The second photo is to show that we were having too much fun yesterday to take the time to post about Oscar’s vaccine…).




NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 6/18/2021: Our bubble. Tomorrow marks two weeks since Oscar got his second covid shot. For the first 8 months of the pandemic, it was just the three of us. At first, when it was still cold, one of my parents would come by and we’d take walks, us on one side of the street, them on the other. As we learned more and got used to pandemic life we’d gather in our yard, chairs spaced more than 6 feet apart with family or friends. Summer was okay because we could be outside so much. But as summer drew to a close I couldn’t bear the thought of my parents being alone—they each live alone, and had been completely isolated this whole time. For eight months neither of them had had a hug. We were all basically taking all the same precautions, meaning none of us was going anywhere, ever, except David going to work in an office that was diligent about precautions. We consulted many medical providers and we agonized over the decision. I didn’t post about it back in November when we first made the decision because the holidays were approaching and people were taking risks that scared me and I didn’t want to contribute to a narrative that could have supported risky decisions. I am filled with immense gratitude that we collectively decided to become a pandemic bubble. The quick visits, the long meals, the laughs, the holidays, the hugs. They mean so much. And as much has it has meant to me to be able to be with my parents these last 7 months, it means that much more to me that they didn’t have to be alone. One of my favorite memories from this time was Thanksgiving—the first time they had spent Thanksgiving together in over 40 years, they sat at our kitchen table as David and I finished preparing food, and they reminisced about their Vietnam war protest days in the 70’s, while Oscar listened with rapt attention. Over these many months, Oscar got special time with each of his grandparents in a way that may not have happened if we were not living through a pandemic. Tomorrow we will begin to open our bubble. We will hug some people we haven’t hugged in over 15 months. We will begin to welcome some loved ones into our home again. We don’t know exactly what all of this will look like because Oscar’s two doctors we trust the most gave almost opposite advice about what we can do now that he will be fully vaccinated—and both had very sound reasoning behind their suggestions. I do know that once tomorrow arrives, we will take this slowly. Today, I will focus on the gratitude I have for my two amazing parents Valerie McPherson and Bob Bonn, and the way we have been able to live through this time together.


july 12, 2021NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 7/12/21: This is my 16th summer welcoming kids and teens into Writers & Books’ SummerWrite literary camps. For fourteen of those years I stood at the door or sat at the sign-in table greeting new participants or catching up with families I hadn’t seen since the previous summer. Today, like last summer, I sat alone on my back porch as the Zoom sessions started. My first three years I worked only in the summers coordinating the day-to-day logistics, but since 2009/10 I have spent every winter planning these camps, every spring promoting and coordinating and preparing the camps, and every summer making sure they ran smoothly. I don’t think I ever imagined I’d work in one place for so long. Creating and holding and curating the space for kids to express themselves is one hell of an awesome job. My favorite part of today? Zooming into all the camps to say hello and seeing the faces of the incredible teaching artists, dedicated apprentices, and creative campers.


july 26, 2021july 26, 2021-2

NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 7/26/21: Hogwarts via Floom Network, version 2.0. Even remotely, it’s my favorite work week of the year. The magic is real.


july 29, 2021-1july 29, 2021-2

NOTES FROM A PANDEMIC 7/29/21: This morning I went to Wegmans for the first time since March 13, 2020. For the past 16 months we have been sharing Instacart with my dad, ordering once every two weeks, on weekdays when the store would be less busy. I figured if we were asking someone else to do our grocery shopping for us for health and safety reasons we shouldn’t be asking them to go in at the busiest—and therefore most dangerous—times. Every time I thanked the shoppers through notes and messages, in person when they delivered the groceries, and with generous tips. My dad would come to our garage, and then eventually into our house, to pick up his groceries. When Oscar was fully vaccinated I couldn’t wait to go to Trader Joe’s, and we’ve been doing the bulk of our shopping there since. A week or two ago my dad went into Wegmans for the first time, on a weekday morning. He sent me this selfie before he went in, which pretty much summed up my feelings about the possibility of going in. Today, at 6:45 am I sent him this selfie just before I went in. And yes I felt just as terrified as my face looks. It was so early, I’m sure it was safe, though I’m still double masking at places I deem to be higher risk. It was overwhelming. We live 2 miles from this store—THE Wegmans national flagship store. So that is where we had been used to shopping. I felt bombarded seeing the produce section that in and of itself is larger than some entire grocery stores. The massive aisles with vast varieties of tea, hand soap, pasta, sparkling water, countless brands and types of canned tomatoes all left me feeling unsettled. Here we have been living through a global pandemic, millions of people have died worldwide, we’ve been living sequestered, trying to stay alive. This store felt troublingly decadent, unnecessarily excessive. I’m sure I’ll get used to grocery shopping again, it will become that regular thing we just do, but today brought me a new perspective, left me contemplating…