• Personal

    An Overworked Engineer Husband During Covid-19

    Software Engineer Desk, A Mom's Covid-19 Diary: An Overworked Engineer Husband, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/03/17/overworked-engineer-husband/ #Covid-19 #coronavirus #momlife #Seattle #diary #mom #outbreak #pandemic #softwareengineer #overworkedengineer #quarantine
    Sunday, Day 4

    Just as my daughter started to recover from the flu, my husband got slammed with work. He’s a software architect at a large networking company. They make team-connecting software called WebEx. Well, after several governors announced school closures because of the coronavirus outbreak, parents across the U.S. needed a way to work from home. WebEx software became enormously useful and so did my overworked engineer husband.

    In an effort of good will, the company made WebEx free for everyone. That led to an avalanche of new users and the system buckling under the traffic. Needless to say, the software engineers need to ensure the system stays operable for everyone. And so, my husband’s been working from the moment he wakes up until the moment he goes to bed.

    A Job In Demand During an Epidemic

    My husband considers us lucky. He works for a company that provides a service now more precious than ever: teleconferencing. Tech companies, educators, large corporations, banks, etc. all can keep business going if they switch to working from home. But that strains those modern tech solutions. While Zoom and other video conferencing software has collapsed under the pressure, WebEx has remained operational and available, thanks to people like my husband and his colleagues.

    Daddy’s Busy

    In the past, when my husband’s worked from home and we’ve needed the kids to stay quiet in their rooms, we’ve always simply said, “Daddy’s in a meeting.” They can hear his colleagues’ voices banging through his phone’s speaker in our office and know it’s a time to leave him be. Not ask questions, not show him school projects, not practice instruments or even have loud conversations. Just read or do homework, any quiet activity. Well, starting last Thursday, Daddy was in a meeting from about seven in the morning until eleven o’clock at night.

    It was strange to hear the meetings go on and on. They usually end at the top of the hour. And then there are silent intervals. But we heard the voices all day. Once in a while he’d emerge, grab a handful of nuts and an ice tea and disappear. At mealtimes, he dropped out of the meeting and ate quickly with us. In the evenings, he and I managed to watch an episode of Peaky Blinders as he scrolled through his messages every few minutes. On Friday, he went back to his desk for a ten o’clock meeting to roll out an expansion of a database. Thankfully that went smoothly. This last weekend, some relief came as system traffic was of course lighter on Saturday and Sunday.

    A Strange Blessing

    Let me be clear, I’m not complaining. While service workers are being laid off, he’s busier than ever, which means he’s still employed. That’s a good thing for me and our children. But I do worry about others who aren’t so unfortunate. Like my sister who’s an early interventions specialist, mostly for autistic kids, who doesn’t get paid unless she works. She’s been ill. Like the bartender at the brewery we have lunch at. Super sweet guy. I don’t want him to lose his job. Like the lady who owns the cute second-hand shop I often visit in my neighborhood. Or even our big beloved bookstore. They, as well thousands of others, are all in financial pain right now.

    The Future Is Tense and Unknown

    As I look to the future, I have the luxury of feeling our family will probably be fine. My husband still has a job; we have money saved. Our kids are teenagers now, which is much easier than having little kids right now. I feel for those young families cooped up together. Even more for those with special needs children. It’s an intense test of stress and patience for parents.

    I do worry about my mom, my husband’s mom, and all of the wonderful older people in my life. I hate that a senseless flu would abruptly end an otherwise extended time on earth. And I can’t help feel enraged when I think about the politics of it. How this administration ignored the signs: refused WHO tests, told the CDC to order scientists not to test for the virus, and all other mistakes. We could have been clamping down on this sooner and saving lives. But for now, I’ll take the cacophony of colleagues’ voices in our house as a good sign and search for a reputable organization to donate to. If you have ideas, let me know.

    Tomorrow I’ll talk about how I keep my special needs daughter engaged but independent during this sequestered time. Then it will be onto whether I should spend the money to take my ancient cat to the vet, yet again. And how I’m focusing on my next novel, or not, plus an update on my daughter’s illness.


    If you’d like more information on the Covid-19 illness, visit the Centers for Disease Control corona virus page here.

    If you’d like stories of inspiration, tips on gardening, book and music ideas, and more, subscribe to my monthly digest, a Vine of Ideas. In it, I send a list of short links to stuff I think is worth checking out. Also, the latest on my new books and offers. Oh and you get a free ebook featuring a special tree!

  • Personal

    A Fever and Bedroom Quarantine During Covid-19

    Thermometer, A Mom's Diary During Covid-19: A High Fever and Bedroom Quarantine, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/03/16/bedroom-quarantine #Covid-19 #coronavirus #quarantine #Seattle #mom #momlife #diary #teen #bedroomquarantine
    Saturday, Day 3

    As I wrote in my last post, my daughter came down with a flu late last week. She’d been getting the chills and couldn’t sleep after her band trip to Ireland had been cancelled. While I’d hoped the mild fever she’d had of a 100.5 would go down overnight, it didn’t. She only slept a few hours and so the fever shot up to 103. She felt ragged. Tired. Depressed. She coughed a lot. So I sent her upstairs for a bedroom quarantine, worrying about whether she had Covid-19.

    A Mother Investigating an Illness

    I jumped on the net and searched the Washington State Department of Health website, checking the symptoms. My daughter had some but not others. For instance, she had a solidly high fever, now slightly above the range from 100.5 to 102. But she had a runny nose, which had been reported among symptoms but not regularly. She did not have shortness of breath, a somewhat common symptom, but she had a consistent cough. Very consistent.

    I agonized over what to do. I could call her doctor but her symptoms had only lasted a day. And with masses of people sick in more serious ways, I didn’t want to clog the system. So I waited and I fretted. The one fact reassuring me was young people recovered with little trouble.

    A Bedroom Quarantine Inside a Quarantine

    At dinnertime, I dropped off a plate of tacos and vitamin C water at her bedroom. She spent the evening there. She texted me that she was bored. Wanted to know if her dad, a cancer survivor, was more susceptible to corona virus. I told her I didn’t think so. The truth was I didn’t know. Later, when I went upstairs to see if she wanted a cookie for desert, her light was out. So I let her be.

    The next morning, I decided to look into getting her tested. What if she was contagious and might spread it to my husband, or me? How long would she be contagious? What if she gave it to her brother or sister and they, perhaps without symptoms, gave it unknowingly to an elderly person? The questions spun constantly in my mind.

    Still, with the Trump administration skimping on tests for even the confirmed ill, I knew getting her tested would be difficult. I’d read medical professionals were frustrated by the federal government’s lack of assistance. Tests were few and far between, especially for a low-risk teenager. So I went to the Gates Foundation website. A week earlier, I’d read an announcement that the foundation would be offering corona virus home test kits. But I couldn’t find any more detailed information about how to obtain the tests. Frustrated, I closed my laptop.

    Time Passed, Worry Grew

    I kept checking the time. Ten o’clock came. I texted my daughter. “You awake yet, hon?” No answer. I read more about the virus on the King County website, the CDC, The Guardian, The Seattle Times, and on and on. Eleven o’clock came. Tried to distract myself with actual work. Then eleven-thirty. I texted her again. Finally, an answer came. She was awake. “How do you feel?” I texted.

    “A lot better.”

    It turns out she’d slept 14.5 hours. From nine o’clock the previous night to eleven-thirty the next morning. I was thrilled. She came into the kitchen hungry. She ate a decent breakfast. We took her temperature: 98 degrees. Thank goodness.

    In all of my obsessive reading about the virus, I learned that she needed to be free of the fever for 72 hours. At least that’s what one website said. Others said 24 hours, others said 5 days. So I knew we had to take her temperature every day for a few days, but that night at least, I slept well.

    A New Concern

    Unfortunately, my husband didn’t. He got slammed at work. He’s a software architect for an internet hardware company, the biggest, the one you probably know, the “human network.” But because so many people across the country were working from home, they were using the company’s teleconferencing software and it was creaking under the traffic’s weight. He and a vast network of team members spun into emergency mode.

    I’ll write more about that tense day in my next post.


    If you’d like more information on the Covid-19 illness, visit the Centers for Disease Control corona virus page here.

    If you’d like stories of inspiration, tips on gardening, book and music ideas, and more, subscribe to my monthly digest, a Vine of Ideas. In it, I send a list of short links to stuff I think is worth checking out. Also, the latest on my new books and offers. Oh and you get a free ebook featuring a special tree!

  • Personal

    My Daughter Has a Flu During Covid-19

    Teen Bedroom, A Mom's Diary During Covid-19: My Daughter Has a Flu, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/03/15/covid-19-daughter-has-a-flu/ #Covid-19 #coronavirus #Seattle #Washingtonstate #quarantine #outbreak #mom #diary #momlife #dealingwithcovid #home
    Friday: Day 2

    So just as we were coping with my kids’ cancelled band trip to Ireland, my daughter started feeling unwell. A few days earlier, she’d gone for a walk with a friend who’d recently recovered from a flu. Also, she was home because her high school had just recently closed for the day. A staff member had tested positive for Covid-19. While the staff member wasn’t named, my daughter suspected it might have been her teacher, who’d been out sick since the previous Thursday, the same number of days the staff member had been out.

    Exposure Can Be Anywhere

    So right there, she had two close contacts with people who may have had corona virus. Her friend hadn’t been tested because tests were unattainable at the time. At first, I didn’t worry too much about her feeling sick. She often is the first in our family to catch a cold and often has sinus stuffiness. But when she mentioned she’d had the chills the previous day and asked if I thought she had a fever, a bell rang in my head. Could the corona virus really be in our family? All five of us had felt fine these last few weeks.

    I got the thermometer and we checked. Her temperature was 100.5.

    We took the temp three times since we hadn’t used the family thermometer for a while. It came up 100.4 and 100.5. In a reassuring mom voice (even though inside I felt worried), I encouraged her to go upstairs and try to sleep. She hadn’t slept well during the last two nights. She’d been upset about her band trip being cancelled. We’d have to just make sure she rested and ate well, I told her.

    For Young People, It Can Be a Case of the Common Flu

    While I didn’t immediately panic, I did go straight to my laptop and check the fever temperature for Covid-19. It’s 100.5 to 102. (And I’m sure, higher.) She was right at the low end. And she’s young. Kids recover from COVID-19 fairly quickly. I was confident that my child would be fine but I didn’t want her to pass on the virus to anyone more at risk. Her dad and I are middle-aged Gen Xers. We’re in good health, but we, as well as the kids, could become carriers. Needless to say, I immediately cleaned all of the doorknobs and counters with bleachy cleaner (no more natural stuff now) and urged my daughter to wash her hands often.

    How Do You Know?

    Ultimately, we didn’t even know if she had Covid-19. She could have caught some other more regular flu. All five of us get flu shots every year and, outside of a rare cold, are seldom ill. So how would I know if there’s any need to take extra precautions? I didn’t. I was relying on her body to simply fight off whatever was going on inside.

    That night, she didn’t sleep well — again. The next morning, her fever rose and her condition worsened. I’ll right about that worrisome day in my next post.

    Photo by Photo by Jonathan Borba on Unsplash


    If you’d like more information on the Covid-19 illness, visit the Washington State Department of Health page here.

    If you’d like stories of inspiration, tips on gardening, book and music ideas, and more, subscribe to my monthly digest, a Vine of Ideas. In it, I send a list of short links to stuff I think is worth checking out. Also, the latest on my new books and offers. Oh and you get a free ebook featuring a special tree!

  • Personal

    A Mom’s Diary During Covid-19

    Highlander uniform, Diary of a Mom During COVID-19: 46 Days at Home, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/03/14/covid-19-diary/ #COVID-19 #coronavirus #Seattle #mom #diary
    First Day Home From School, Thursday

    The virus Covid-19 has turned our family life upside down, in more ways than one. Plans cancelled, illness, work surges. We live just north of Seattle, not far from Kirkland where the first cases in Washington state appeared. Our governor has closed all schools until April 27th so we are home as a five-person family with not much to do but so much to worry about. I’ve been distracted by the virus’s rapid spread, its related news, and caring for my family so I’ve decided to keep a Covid-19 diary that covers the obstacles we’ve encountered and how we’re dealing with them. As you know, it’s a crazy time!

    A Special Trip Planned for My Kids

    The corona virus first hammered our family last Tuesday. Not through illness, thank goodness, but through a travel cancellation, an enormous one. Our son and daughter were scheduled to travel from Seattle to Dublin on Thursday. The school marching band was to march in not only Dublin’s huge St. Patrick’s Day Parade but several others in Limerick and smaller cities. They would perform in multiple venues. They’d compete in competitions. They’d tour and sightsee Ireland and Northern Ireland. They would experience another culture half-way around the world and in general have a blast.

    During the winter, our kids practiced the line up of songs at home religiously. My seventeen-year-old son plays trumpet, my fifteen-year-old daughter, saxophone. In the band, they’d practiced their formations in the rain and cold and dark for almost three hours every Monday night. They’d prepared their uniforms and met all of the requirements. Meanwhile, their dad and I paid fee after fee, knowing this tri-yearly perk of being a “Highlander,” was well worth it.

    Excitement Buzzing

    As February progressed, the band trip solidified. The kids got their itineraries. They learned where they’d sightsee. They dreamed of ancient cities and mossy landscapes and friendly Irish people. Room assignments were handed out. It was happening! The directors shipped the uniforms, which are noble looking Scottish highlander uniforms complete with kilts. They shipped their instruments, including bagpipes, flags, etc. One of the assistant band directors even left early to retrieve the cargo. No one could wait for those planes to take off.

    Meanwhile, the corona virus was circulating in Seattle. But in small numbers — or so we thought. Then, the first community case was announced. That was okay, it didn’t really affect our community. Then the Kirkland nursing home outbreak happened. The trip looked iffy but still likely. I, as well as other parents, wrote the school superintendent, voicing we were ready to take the necessary risks. There were meetings. A lot of wait-and-see. And the band directors, who’d worked for years to make it all happen, were reluctant to cancel. Everyone was ready to wear masks and travel with bleach if they had to to get to Dublin.

    Sad Circumstances

    As the outbreak spread, more and more people got sick. Cases popped up in Ireland. Then the Irish government cancelled the St. Patrick’s Day parade. Still optimistic, the band directors thought perhaps the kids could simply perform in their other scheduled venues. But then the Irish government cancelled all parades in Ireland. And so, the final sad reality was with no parades to march in, the entire trip was scrapped. I felt gut punched.

    Not long after I heard the announcement, I went to my daughter’s room. She’d been feeling under the weather and had stayed home from school. I opened the door to a red-faced sobbing girl who’d heard the news from her boyfriend. The Ireland trip was off. And worse, it probably wouldn’t happen next year.

    Welcome to a Different Way of Life

    That night, we ate dinner with two morose teenagers. My son had said that at the band meeting, the directors choked up as they announced the cancellation. A devastating blow for everyone. 175 teens had worked their butts off to show the world what a kick ass marching band they were. Now, with football season long gone, they had nowhere to perform and no reason to even play again.

    After dinner, the kids went to their rooms, processing with friends by text and facetime. My husband and I wondered if we’d ever see the money we’d dedicated to not one but two children going. It could be a small financial disaster for us. Time would tell.

    But the next couple of days only brought us another, more concerning effect from the outbreak: my daughter’s illness. I’ll cover that unexpected turn of events in my next post.


    If you’d like stories of inspiration, tips on gardening, book and music ideas, and more, subscribe to my monthly digest, a Vine of Ideas. In it, I send a list of short links to stuff I think is worth checking out. Also, the latest on my new books and offers. Oh and you get a free ebook featuring a special tree!

  • Personal

    My Anxiety at Being on Camera

    Karen Hugg on TV, My Anxiety at Being on Camera, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/02/12/anxiety-at-being-on-camera/ #anxiety #author #books #TV #camera #authorsonTV #TVappearances #promotion #video #podcasts #MustReadFiction #publicity
    Karen Hugg on TV, My Anxiety at Being on Camera, Karen Hugg, https://karenhugg.com/2020/02/12/anxiety-at-being-on-camera/ #anxiety #author #books #TV #camera #authorsonTV #TVappearances #promotion #video #podcasts #MustReadFiction #publicity
    Me on TV at the Brewery

    Since I published The Forgetting Flower, I’ve done two video interviews, one for TV, one for a podcast. While I was thrilled to be invited to do the coveted publicity of video promotion, I was plagued by an emotion I felt for days before each interview. A feeling I hadn’t felt in many years and hoped to never feel again: pure anxiety.

    Certainly I’d felt anxiety in the past. And I’d actually felt worse than anxiety. I’d felt utterly terrified during my husband’s cancer treatment years ago (he’s doing great by the way, knock on wood). I’d felt super nervous when I’d taught my first horticulture class, literally jittery at my first public reading. My stomach had always knotted up when I’d met famous writers I respected. But nothing resembled the potently vulnerable anxiety I felt at being on camera.

    A Double Whammy Test

    I think what was uniquely trying for me was knowing that not only I had to speak well spontaneously but also had to look good while doing so. I mean hey, I’m middle-aged, I’m probably 15 pounds overweight, I have a Chicago accent that comes out when I’m nervous. I even have weird freckles on my face that I didn’t have five years ago. It all added up to me feeling extremely disappointed and critical of myself.

    That self-criticism fed my worry. If only I was younger, slimmer, prettier, etc. My brain went nuts during the days leading up to the interview. Especially for the TV spot. I vacillated from obsessing about little things like what to wear or how much make up to put on to big things like what the hell to say that made sense and was useful. It got to the point where, during the day, I consciously compartmentalized my worry, acting like it didn’t exist, so I could interact with my kids and husband and function like a normal person.

    Nighttime Was the Worst

    But at night, while lying in bed trying to fall asleep, the worry would return. Should I buy a new sweater? Should I talk about that one weird plant that was hard to find? Were people actually interested in my book at all? Who was I to be on television? The only solution was writing a long to-do list and taking a half-Advil p.m. Otherwise, I would have gotten no sleep during the weeks leading up to the interviews.

    Preparation Helped

    Still, knocking off the items on the to-do list every day helped. For the TV segment, I needed to repot several plants that I would talk about during the segment. I needed to buy a couple of new containers. I had to buy a new blouse to wear. I needed to get a haircut and a make up lesson from my hair stylist. In the podcast case, I had to clean the main floor of my house (where sometimes my old cat peed in odd places). The tasks went on and on.

    But every time I crossed off a task, I felt a bit better. More in control. I worked up to feeling fairly prepared. On the day before both interviews, I felt like I knew what I had to do to look good and knew, more or less, what I would say. On the night before each recording, I took a whole Advil and went to bed, knowing I’d done the best I could.

    Anxiety Haunts You

    But I couldn’t fall asleep. I breathed, I meditated, tried not to think, did everything I could to feel comfortable and relaxed. But sleep didn’t come. Like a cruel master, the drowsiness came on but then subsided. Thoughts returned. Worries about what might go wrong popped in my head one by one. What if I got tongue-tied? What if I forgot a botanical name? What if I got food in my teeth? Or just passed out? Unfortunately, I barely slept.

    Like It or Not, the Event Happens

    Well, both interviews were what they were. Thankfully, my dear friend (and amazing container designer) Angela cleared her schedule and came with me to the TV segment. I mean thank effing God. She helped me carry plants in and straightened my blouse and offered a reassuring pep talk. I couldn’t have done it without her. Also, I’d published a blog post about the featured plants and I reread that while I was waiting, so I didn’t have to reach too far for my thoughts during the segment.

    Before I knew it, I was standing behind a counter staring at two cameras and the whole thing flashed by in eight minutes. I looked like a goofy fool who talked with a hard Chicago accent, but whatever. It was done. Angela and I went to a brewpub afterward and, while coincidentally watching myself on TV (which was bizarre to say the least), I celebrated by eating french fries and drinking Coke.

    For the podcast (called Must Read Fiction), the interviewer, the lovely Erin Popelka, was energetic and so supportive. She warmly shared her gratitude at doing the interview in my house and didn’t seem to worry about the smelly cat. Thanks to her, I felt at ease and ready to go. During the interview, I did look old and overweight and babbled, losing my train of thought here and there. Erin didn’t mind any of that. She’s a gem. A gem who loves books and is a forthcoming author herself.

    An Unexpected Outcome

    So would I do video, this medium, that seems incredibly at odds with my introverted sensitive self, again? Yeah, I would. I felt good that I actually went through with it. I didn’t cancel. I didn’t hide under the bed like I could have — although that might have been a good place to actually fall asleep! I showed up and got it done. There’s value in that. And a lesson.

    What I learned is that video wasn’t that difficult. I didn’t die. Yes, there’s now a record of me looking silly and sounding silly. But surprisingly, it gave me more confidence. I could actually do it again. And do it better next time because I know what I’d do differently.

    This sounds strange, and probably not what you thought I’d say, but now I’ve proved I can do video. I feel stronger. In fact, I’ve been considering practicing video just for fun. Perhaps, on my own to get comfortable in front of a camera. If I do it enough, maybe I won’t feel so anxious and nervous, or see myself as goofy, and maybe I can even smooth over my Chicago accent!

    Have you ever dealt with anxiety before speaking or an interview? Let me know in the comments below! I’d love to hear your story.


    Karen Hugg, Author and Gardener, www.karenhugg.com, #books #author #Seattle #plants #gardening #crimefiction #Paris #vines #vineofideas #newsletter

    If you’d like stories of inspiration, ideas for new books, music, film, and gardening ideas, subscribe to my digest, a Vine of Ideas. Plus, you’ll get a free short novel about a young plant whisperer and her cat!