2020 Check-In: Vows, Virus and Vino Oh My

Written August 31st, 2020

It’s been a year, hasn’t it? It’s also been quite a while since I’ve shared any personal updates on here. I don’t really have the bandwidth or desire to really get into all of it, but let’s get some things straight for posterity’s sake. I broke it down month by month but be warned, this one’s a doozy.

January 

2020 started off on such a good note. I rang in the New Year with my fiancé and our families in Germany. Everyone had high hopes for this new decade and all the possibilities it could bring. What a nice, even year too, right? 2020? A few days later, I married said fiancé and had one of the best days of my life. Everything was on track.

The rest of January was a whole lot of work and school with some sprinklings of fun. Friends came up to Napa. I flew to Boston on January 24th for an engagement party, and some friends were nice enough to throw me a mini wedding party too. On the same Sunday Kobe Bryant dies in a freak accident, I am lucky enough to see old friends in Boston and my mom on a spontaneous layover at LAX. I count my blessings.

February 

February kicked off with more work, school, and the ever-fun Silver Oak Napa Valley Release Day. My commute from Napa to Santa Rosa continued, a cool 55 minutes in if I left at the right time and an hour and ten plus no matter which way I cut it coming home. I continued packing orders at our online warehouse where I worked alone most of the day, and we occasionally tasted through wines brought in by distributors. On February 19th, I flew back to Germany to meet up with my husband, sister and her boyfriend for the five-day banger they call Karneval. I had heard there was some new virus going around so I made sure to pack extra hand sanitizer.

We donned our festive outfits and made our way around the city. A parade here, a bar there, dinners with friends and the incessant celebratory music everywhere. There was one particularly large party in Cologne and a beyond crowded train ride home that made us a little uneasy. We figured in such large groups there was probably some risk of catching this new flu, but it couldn’t be that bad, right? We were young. Healthy.

It was a great time, but on the flight back home I was exhausted. We hadn’t slept well and the journey back with a layover in Vegas was brutal. My throat was sore, presumably from all the scream-singing. My body hurt. But I somehow made it through and woke up in my bed in Napa again Wednesday morning, February 26th.

Sure enough, I had a cold. Or what felt an awful lot like a cold. By mid-morning however, my whole body ached and I realize this is worse than a cold. By dinner I have no appetite, but still go to class. I finally take my temperature after 10pm. It’s 101.6.

The next day is no better, and I realize I should probably get tested for whatever this new virus is. I call my health insurance. They say there are no tests available in my area yet. The only way I would be eligible for one in the state is if I had knowingly had contact with someone who had COVID-19. I did not. So I drink lots of fluids and sleep it off.

Friday, Saturday and Sunday are better, but still nowhere near normal. It takes over a week to feel better, and even though I’m sure this was probably just a normal fever, the worry of what’s to come haunts me.

March 2020  

It looks like the US is starting to take this a little more seriously. In addition to China, Americans have been advised to avoid Italy and South Korea. More travel bans across Europe and the rest of the world quickly fall into place. Apparently I’ve gotten home just in time.

I’m recovered and back at work. It’s my two year anniversary at the weekend job, and I’m out hosting wine tastings on March 7th. Flight prices have crashed, and by March 10th I’m booking cheap flights for my friends’ summer weddings. The wedding I was planning on attending at the end of March has been cancelled, but things should be better by June, right? I join TikTok. I go to my last in-person class of grad school.

Meanwhile the stock market is crashing. In between work and school I make multiple shopping trips. The stores are already out of hand sanitizer, toilet paper, a number of other cleaning products and some canned and dry goods. I search for the ingredients to order to make my own sanitizer, and bulk up on pantry foods, flu medicine and soups should I get sick again. I realize it could be a while before things are back under control, and try to prepare for anything.

My friends come to Napa to celebrate a birthday the weekend of the 14th. We know it’s probably not the smartest idea, but we still make an appointment at a winery where we think we can “keep our distance”. We get lunch to-go, shop inside once but only stop by one more winery to sip wine outside. We do dinner at home and play board games. Everywhere we go people are bracing themselves for what’s to come.

I go to work on March 16th, planning on working from home the 17th. It’s St. Patrick’s Day, and although I won’t be going out to celebrate it’s at a point where I know I’m able to work from home and would just feel safer doing so. I pack up some things to prepare for a few weeks of WFH, just in case.

On March 18th at midnight, Sonoma County enters lockdown and our liquor store is shut down along with nearly every other kind of business deemed “non-essential”. My sister meanwhile did not return to the states after Karneval like I did. She continued her Euro trip and has ended up in Spain in the middle of rising cases and travel ban uncertainty. Next up on the list was supposed to be Paris, but it’s looking more and more unlikely. To be safe, she flies home from Spain through Dublin, Ireland on March 20th. Although it doesn’t seem like it, she is lucky. Others remain stuck all over the world.

On the 20th, California is the first state to enter full lockdown.

April 2020 

Lockdown continues. Grad school is at a crescendo. Work is as well, since 100% of business has transitioned online and that is my primary domain. At least I have a break from the weekend job since wineries were forced to close. It’s not great, but my sister coming to visit after her mandatory two week quarantine post-Spain makes it better.

It’s nice to have company. I live alone, and as nice and it is not to have to commute anymore or go to school it’s quiet. She forces me to go outside and see the sun (safely) every so often. We support local businesses by getting take-out and drinking wine.

One of my best friends sends me a 500-piece puzzle to keep me entertained, as if I could be bored right now. Zoom happy hours have become the norm. I go home to LA for Easter, since I might as well see family if I can work from wherever. Time passes back in Napa, and suddenly I’m in a routine of getting fresh bread delivered and picking up produce from a local restaurant. We experiment on cocktails for a summer 2021 wedding, and I stop by work to pick up a few last things before they close my warehouse.

May 2020 

By some miracle, I finish my MBA. Or at least I think so, since I haven’t seen any proof otherwise. After submitting my final assignment, I walk to the river to sip a gin lemonade and look out on the water. It’s all a little surreal. My mom sends flowers.

I drive back down to LA to celebrate with my family, since there won’t be any ceremony in Sonoma. Maybe in December. I don’t relish the extra time I now have because it all goes to work, where I continue working upwards of ten hours, seven days a week. It’s a stressful, but nice to see family.

Back in Napa, I have the audacity to go see a house for sale. I wear a mask, and sign a waiver agreeing to the risks. It’s a silly charade, since I have no idea what the future holds, but am optimistic nonetheless. Another wedding is cancelled.

June 2020 

The protests sparked by George Floyd’s death continue to grow, and America is forced to reckon with hundreds of years of oppression all at once. People take to the streets. “Mute” themselves on social media. Start to find ways to be actively anti-racist. Make an effort to shop at more black-owned businesses. Follow more voices of color. Sign petitions. Donate to appropriate organizations where they can. Others disavow the movement and insist that “all lives matter” and “blue lives matter”. They miss the point.

Another wedding is cancelled. Our store reopens on June 10th. I’ve taken up biking to reduce stress and get outside more. I get my hair done for the first time in eight months. It’s too short and after a month I regret not getting highlights.

On the 20th, I’m brave enough to go out with three friends to float on the Russian River. Floaties force us to keep distance, right? Being outside for recreation hasn’t been banned, but when we get to the end beach and walk back to our cars we realize it should be. A hundred people are packed onto a small bar of sand, and we quickly skirt our way through. I go to my first wine tasting post shutdown. It feels safe and the wine is great, but it’s still weird. We dine outside for lunch at a restaurant. It’s nice, but we probably won’t make a habit of it.

I do a photoshoot for two of the same friends on the 30th. My mask stays on the whole time. We get dinner after, and since the restaurant is closing early end up eating at their house. So much for masks, but the food is great.

We find out someone in my Dad’s office tested positive. He feels fine, but I still worry.

July 2020 

For the 4th of July, a friend and I drive up to Reno / Tahoe to see another two friends. She’s pretty much the only person I’ve seen besides the couple from the photoshoot, and we both work from home, but we know it’s a risk. I get tested just before to be safe. It’s not nearly as uncomfortable as everyone said. My results are negative.

It’s a stellar weekend. Everyone seems to be outside because parking in Tahoe is impossible Saturday, but we find a few spots far from others we’re pretty happy with. It feels good to be in the mountains. We soak in the feeling of being surrounded by others, realizing just how special and rare it is now.

We find a random sunflower field on the drive back. There are a million people in it, but we wear masks, keep our distance and go take pictures anyway. Another wedding is cancelled.

A few weeks later on the 18th, we rent a room at a local hotel with a pool. The hotel promises they’re doing everything they can to keep guests safe, and we try to keep our distance at the pool. It goes well, minus a few people who walked a little too close to our chairs, but we don’t mind. It’s good to get some sun.

I book a flight to London. Even being married to a citizen, Germany won’t let me in yet, but England will. It’s my last chance to see him before harvest, so I take it.

August 2020 

I haven’t seen my husband in 158 days. The plan was always to see him at the end of July or beginning of August, but the uncertainty of travel during these times did not make this easier. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about traveling for 10+ hours on a plane during all of this too, but have prepared as much as possible. I get tested a week before flying, just to be safe because of the result delays. All clear. I submit my online form of where the English government can find me quarantining for the next 13 days. My bags are packed. I’m so excited I forget my wedding rings.

My plane touches down in England. From the time I get off the plane to the time I’m through passport control, it’s clear no one gives a sh*t about keeping their distance. It’s physically impossible with the speed people are walking all around you. I scan my passport, and without further question am in.

He meets me inside the airport. It’s too good being back together. The English highway system gets us all turned around, but our Airbnb in the countryside is perfect. We make lots of meals, share wine and play games in between me working. I was paid out for the vacation days I had saved from the first half of the year, so I only have enough now to take three days of the two weeks off.  I try to make his birthday special. The dogs and ducks become our friends. The water gets shut off in the middle of a heatwave. We make plans for the winter.

I land back home, and a friend picks me up from the airport since the buses aren’t running. We keep our masks on. Being home alone now after being with my person for two weeks is brutal. I tell myself it’s going to be okay. The day after I get home, we are warned about potential rolling blackouts. I lose power overnight. The next morning, a freak lightning storm rolls in. I’m jet-lagged, so I watch the whole thing from bed. Turns out that storm started not one but over 300 wildfires, all over the state. I do laundry but never unpack. Between the threat of evacuation, smoke in the air and COVID I easily self quarantine for two weeks.

So here we are, at the end of August. September has not yet begun. What new curveballs will the fall hold? This year most certainly is not over yet, and try as I might to stay positive it certainly has me feeling uneasy. Are any of us truly okay?

While there are have been glimpses of normalcy, life since March has certainly not been normal.  I hope you and your loved ones are staying safe. Please take care walking the fine line between safety and sanity. May we all find a way to get through this together!

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