Learning to celebrate the loss of celebrations

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Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

I saw my family for a socially-distanced barbecue yesterday. It was the first time I’ve seen them since February.

The barbecue had moments that I would guess many of us are navigating as we try to gain our footing. How do we stay safe and also maintain relationships? …

Before COVID-19, partners were able to attend prenatal appointments with pregnant patients. Now, patients are left to navigate prenatal care solo.

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//Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

The science of comfort foods, through a lens of This Moment In Time.

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Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash

In 2004, I lived in Orlando, FL, where I worked as a Disney World cast member as part of Disney’s college program, a semester-long internship-style experience where you work at the resort and live in an apartment with peers. Though we had unfettered access to (and indulged in plenty of) theme park food, which, in Disney World, includes global cuisine at EPCOT, my best friend Heather and I had an unlikely secret weapon to combat bouts of homesickness that would befall us: Golden Corral.

If you don’t know it, Golden Corral is a buffet chain. It’s the definition of no frills — it’s cheap, standardized, and blandly American. Its dinner offerings include things like pot roast, sirloin, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes and gravy. Things that, if you were a hungry kid working a ton of hours at Disney World, you might find satisfying in their ease and ability to fill you up for around $10 (I checked; their dinner buffet is now $12 — this was in 2004, I’m assuming my memory of $8-$10 is somewhat accurate). …

In the age of COVID-19, rumors and misinformation about baby formula have circulated online, some of them potentially harmful.

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Photo by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

In recent weeks, as reports of pandemic-induced hoarding and empty shelves have emerged, so too have fears about baby formula being unavailable. The former has led to a rash of misinformation on the internet, including recipes for how to make baby formula — which health experts say is not safe — and rumors that if your store is out of formula, you can call the number on the back of the can and the company will send you a case for free. The latter is a myth that major manufacturers of formula have issued statements to debunk.

Last week, my local WIC chapter released several statements on the topic of baby formula, prompting me, a local newspaper reporter, to investigate the matter further and talk with health experts. Here’s what I found. …

Soulful tips for the self-haircut newbie

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Photo by Morgan Harris on Unsplash

I live in Vermont, where, two weekends ago, our governor closed all “close contact” businesses, including hair salons and tattoo parlors. As someone who sports, and relishes, short hair, I didn’t waste time ordering some haircutting scissors.

I’m not that new to cutting my own hair. After college, I had no money and was working crazy long hours (an interesting combination, eh?), so I had neither the means nor the time to maintain the pixie I wanted. So I went into the bathroom with a dull pair of kitchen scissors and got to chopping. It worked out fine (great, even).

These days, I have a hairdresser I love, and I see paying her for her professional artistry to be an investment worth making. …

Ehhhh, debatable.

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Photo by Scott Umstattd on Unsplash

The TLDR version of this post is that homemade English muffins are good, but probably not worth the time/ingredients.

Tis I, the author of Middle Well, coming to you live from deep inside a quarantine in my home in Vermont. In some ways, quarantine is not terribly different than my normal life, as my home is kind of isolated and I’ve always worked from home. But, of course, there is the whole, ya know, society is closed thing. And the constant emotional processing and grief that comes with What’s Happening Right Now.

If you’ve been online at all lately (anyone else’s iPhone just looking away in horror as it reports to you, weekly, that your screen time has gone up again?) you may have noticed that a lot of people are baking. Many of them (me included) are baking bread. For me, baking (or cooking in general) is a form of escape. And when I’ve got flour all over my hands, I can’t check my phone. I’ve been baking tried and true recipes — chocolate cake, cinnamon bread, biscuits — and also trying out new recipes that I’ve been meaning to try out for a while. …

For Pete’s sake, get dressed.

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Photo by Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash

As you have probably noticed, the logistics of our practical world are rapidly changing in the wake of an outbreak of COVID-19 (coronavirus), which the World Health Organization today deemed a global pandemic.

Yesterday, numerous universities announced that students would be sent home from campus indefinitely, and that instruction would occur online. Meanwhile, as it’s revealed that the virus spread in recent days at multiple professional conferences, including NICAR, many people are being quarantined due to exposure. Many more are being told to work from home proactively.

I’ve been working from home for the better part of ten years, as a freelance writer, virtual teacher, and reporter (reporting, despite my desire to be a complete hermit, does require me to actually go out in the field — but I still do much of my writing from home). Though it’s obvious that transitioning to work-from-home setups will pose specific challenges for different industries, professions, and regions, there are some things I’ve picked up in my decade of work-from-homing that may be helpful universally, so I thought I’d share them here. …

Waiting for quarantine in a time of uncertainty.

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Photo by Tijana Drndarski on Unsplash

I cleaned out the cabinet where I’ve been stashing the wood plates we don’t use but I’m not willing to get rid of. They were a wedding gift from back when I thought wooden dinner plates were a good idea. I use them as serving trays sometimes now and, anyway, they’re in a closet now. The cabinet has become a pantry.

We filled it with what we could think of: dried things — rice, beans, pasta — , cereal, canned tomatoes, coconut milk. Modern design didn’t envision bomb shelters, so shelf space is limited. The freezer’s getting full, too.

What are we trying to do? Are we trying to ensure that we’ll have enough nutrition to survive two weeks in our house? And why do we keep saying two weeks? That’s how long you’re told to self isolate so you don’t pass the illness onto others if you’ve been exposed. But if the virus runs rampant, will two weeks cut it? Or are we all going to be in our houses for much longer? …

Frozen avocados are bad.

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Photo by Ryan Quintal on Unsplash

Hi, hello, hi. I made a mistake today.

I had a loaf of two-day-old homemade sourdough bread (yes! I have finally started making sourdough which does indeed make me my own hero!). A relative was coming over for lunch and I decided I’d make her the “millennial special,” which is what I pejoratively refer to avocado toast as.

I didn’t have any avocados.

But I said, “Hey! I have that bag of frozen avocados in the freezer. I’ll use that.”

I told you, I made a mistake today.

I bought a bag of frozen avocados because I saw it at the grocery store several times and thought that surely their sudden appearance must mean that the Grocery Scientists had had some breakthrough and had discovered the Next Best Thing. …

What I’ve learned from separating faith from God

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Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

It’s been a long time since I had a relationship with religion.

I grew up fearing God, because of a few unique circumstances.

First, my great aunt was a nun.

Second, my father was raised very Catholic and god-fearing, and it trickled into my bloodstream at an early age.

Third, once, when I was seven, I said, “God, I’d give absolutely anything if I could have an American Girl Doll bed like the the one Maribeth’s dad made for her.” I didn’t tell her, or her dad, I was hoping for one. One night, the phone rang in the middle of the night and my grandmother told my father his dad had died suddenly. The next morning, unannounced, Maribeth’s father showed up with a bed he’d made me. “I knew Lauren had American Girls, and I thought she might like this. …


Lauren Harkawik

Essayist, fiction writer + local reporter in VT. She/her.

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