The Cost of the Quarantine isn’t the Money

I believe that Covid-19 is real, that it is far more dangerous than the flu, and that we should flatten the curve. As a family, we are social distancing from everyone, including extended family. We’re trying to wear masks when we get take-out or get groceries. I believe that the quarantine is constitutional. I believe the protests, especially as mass gatherings, are reckless and ill-advised.


I am, however, worried about the quarantine fallout.


I am worried about the parents with colicky babies, and their babies. For these, the cost of social distancing is not foregoing a trip to the salon, or racking up hours of boredom and Netflix binges. Colicky babies don’t stop crying because of a global pandemic. Colicky babies can cry for hours a day. They can take short naps and they can wake through the night and they can refuse to nurse or take a bottle.

For a month when Jeffrey was newborn, starting a few weeks after he was born, nearly all he did was eat, sleep, and cry. Fortunately, it took him several hours to nurse throughout the day, during which he would sleep fitfully while I held him around me on the boppy. The rest of the time, he was at best antsy and clingy, at worse inconsolable. Our neighbors, who had a little girl themselves, heard him cry so much they came by to see if I had tried gas drops, or putting him in a swing, or turning on the vaccuum. I cried and held Jeffrey while he arched his back, taking in sharp breaths between squalling, piercing bursts, and the mom told me it wasn’t going to last forever, the constant crying. Jeffrey wouldn’t even remember it.

But I remember it, and I worry for those mothers and fathers and babies. Having a break is as important for these families as the ability to go to work is. These parents are at serious risk for self-harm, mental illness, and marital strife. Babies in that situation are at a much higher risk of being neglected or abused. Colicky babies are at a serious risk for Shaken Baby Syndrome, which can happen in an instant even by otherwise loving parents.

Many families with young babies may choose to completely socially distance to protect their family, but many others may have just lost the very supports that were allowing them to take care of their families, emotionally and physically.


I’m worried about single parents. I have never been a single parent. I have often felt an awe and respect for single parents. Right now, though, I can’t imagine how hard it is for a single parent of one or more children, without the help of school, without the help of friends or family, without the ability to blow off steam at a park or playground or store, all while needing to work. I don’t know what being a single parent looks like right now; I’m sure some are doing very well. But I am just as sure that some are suffering, and that some children are suffering terribly because their parent is stretched to the breaking point, and that child has lost all of their friends and supports.


I’m worried about those with disabilities and chronic health issues, as well as parents with children who have special needs–because of social distancing as well as the virus. My husband has spastic quadriplegic Cerebral Palsy, which means that his entire body is affected. He can’t drive, he has swallowing difficulties, and his body wears out throughout the day. We have two young children. I have my own real limitations and low stamina, and my body is still recovering from a taxing pregnancy. We have built our life around supports–preschool and cleaning help and childcare help.

We are surviving–Michael went from a three hour commute (at a job he loves) to no commute, and we’ve been able to manage. We also have a roomy space and great indoor activities. We have the ability to get take-out frequently and spend more on groceries. I don’t have any other responsibilities. Had this happened when we lived in a smaller space, when I was having more health issues, when Michael had more demands on his time and energy…we would not be okay.

You might think that people with health issues are being taken care of, because the people who support them are under “Essential Services.” Sometimes, that’s true–but here’s the thing. People with health issues and disabilities often do NOT get all of their supports through formal channels. People with disabilities are creative. They have goals that often don’t mesh with available disability-care systems. So they make their own support systems, for cooking or cleaning or self-care or transportation or communication or anything else. And I worry about the people who have lost the informal supports that they truly needed.


I’m worried about the unemployed and uninsured. I’m worried the mentally ill. I’m worried about those who are in abusive homes with no reprieve and the increase in domestic violence, and I’m worried about those who are in homes that used to be safe but have become unsafe.


Of course I don’t have all the answers. The virus is a real threat. I do not think we should abandon the quarantine.

But I hope we can mitigate it, even as we try to mitigate the pandemic. I hope we can come up with third solutions–with new jobs, with new ways of doing business, with better testing, with better tracking and the possibility of targeted flexibility. I hope we consider more options for childcare, or can come up with mostly safe recommendations for community support. Who knows how long this will last, or if it will relapse after a time.


I think we should look harder at what we’re up against with social distancing so that we can take care of more people even as we mitigate the spread of Covid-19. This virus attacks the already vulnerable members of our community, but so does social distancing. If we’re really “in this together,” that needs to mean more than sharing memes about toilet paper or quarantine haircuts that do not even touch the surface of what some people are going through right now. Getting through this together needs to mean more–and maybe even, in some situations, physically distancing a little less.




Trauma, Insomnia, and Circadian Rhythms

Lately I’ve been trying to figure out why my body has such a hard time going to sleep at a reasonable hour, and how to work towards an earlier bedtime–even if that means I’m falling asleep at one or two in the morning instead of three or four.

I’m familiar with the basics of sleep hygiene: go to bed and wake up at the same time each day; avoid naps if possible, or at least avoid late naps; keep your room dark and quiet; try to limit screen time and eating before bed.

The thing is, I’ve tried all of these in concert for extended periods of time, with little success, and I’ve had sleep difficulties since I was a little kid.

When I was a teenager, I could get by on just a few hours of sleep a night without too much difficulty. I saw a doctor who diagnosed me with idiopathic insomnia, stressing that I shouldn’t worry too much about it if I just couldn’t sleep but otherwise felt fine; some people just need less sleep. He was making the best diagnosis with the information he had at the time, but now I know better. I need sleep.

I also know, now, that often I can sleep enough, as long as I’m allowed to sleep in. The problem is that I just can’t fall asleep until well into the night–even when I’m waking up early in the morning each day.

I’m not a doctor, and I can’t diagnose myself. If I were to see a doctor, though, I’d suggest that I might have Delayed Sleep Phase Syndrome, perhaps with elements of Non-24-Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder (sometimes, it seems as though my body thinks there are too many or too few hours in a day, and cycles through sleep wake patterns out of sync with the clock).

Which brings us to bright light and melatonin.

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We know that we need light to help regulate our sleep cycles, so I won’t belabor the point. But yes, light–especially sunlight–helps us recognize day, and darkness helps our brain recognize night. Ideally, our brains recognize day and night at the right times, and then dispenses melatonin (the sleepy hormone) accordingly.


The connection between sunlight and melatonin, however, isn’t automatic. There are at least three working parts: the right environment, the right sensory processing, and the right neurological response. We need the sun, our eyes, and our brain.

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Any of these three parts can interfere with the connection.

In the case of having not enough sunlight or too much night time light, there is an environmental barrier. This can happen because of where you live (such as if there are two many or few daylight hours), night-time screen time, or work environment. It might even happen if you are stuck inside all day, such as if, say, you are in the middle of a global pandemic and there are limited safe outdoor opportunities available to you.

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Often, there are things you can do about environmental barriers, like:

  • Use a darkscreen app on your electronic devices at night (and reduce screen use at night if possible)
  • Go outside during the day OR open your windows and camp out in the natural light
  • Use bright screens during the day
  • In some cases, obtain artificial bright lights, such as those used to treat Seasonal Affective Disorder
  • Basically, leverage your environment to get more light in the day and less at night

However, it doesn’t matter what your environment is like if your eyes aren’t receiving the waves of light. In this case, you have a sensory barrier.

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Most people who have Non-24-Hour Sleep Wake Disorder are totally blind. If you are blind, you may be getting plenty of vitamin D from sun exposure, but your eyes are not registering sunlight, and as such they aren’t telling your brain when to make melatonin. In this case, taking artificial melatonin may help, though if not, most schools and workplaces are required to accommodate an alternative schedule for those with Non-24 Hour Sleep-Wake Disorder (as protected by the ADA).

But suppose you have a good environment and your eyes are able to detect day and night signals around you. Even if you get a lot of bright light in the morning, and even if your eyes are sending those signals to your brain, you STILL might not have a regular sleep-wake rhythm if your brain just doesn’t produce melatonin at the right time. In this case, you have a processing error.

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I certainly don’t know all of the reasons why brains are prone to short-circuiting this way, but a few vulnerable populations include those on the autism spectrum and those with depression or anxiety. I’m also partial to the idea that there are genetic night owls. I think I might be one (but then again, when it comes to delayed-sleep-phase people, don’t we all feel like this?).

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But of course, one REALLY BIG reason why our brains just don’t make melatonin is trauma.

Scientists way smarter than me have found that those with PTSD have fewer melatonin secretions than those without PTSD. And it’s a two-way street: PTSD and insomnia or other sleep disorders can perpetuate each other in a vicious cycle.

Right now, most if not all of us are experiencing at least a minor trauma. Some of us are experiencing a lot of trauma.

Likewise, most of us are experiencing a disruption to our routine. We’re being asked to stay home as much as possible, and for many, that equates to largely staying indoors. So we’re being hit with environmental changes and brain processing changes. Then, if our sleep is affected enough, we may be experiencing even more trauma than we otherwise would be, which then makes it harder to sleep again.

Hopefully there’s more then one take-away from all this, but the most important part, as I see it, is that taking care of your sleep is a basic but foundational need right now.

If you can manage healthy sleep with regular “sleep hygiene,” then prioritize that.

If you need more bright lights, a later (but consistent, if possible) wake up time, melatonin supplements, or even other sleep aids, then go for it. You may not be able to have a normal persons sleep schedule, but you *might* be able to improve what you would have otherwise had.

And if you are worried that you aren’t doing enough to get good sleep, try to cut yourself some slack. There’s only so much you can do, and there’s a lot out of your control.

I am still going to let myself sleep later (Michael is a hero, yes), but I’m at least a little bit hopeful that taking melatonin and using bright lights a half hour before I naturally get up will help me shift my schedule, even if just by a little bit. If I can get myself to fall asleep an hour or two in the morning most nights, I’ll take that improvement gladly.



Are You Going Back to Law School?

A week ago, we went on our family quarantine walk at BYU campus (a relatively good place to go, in some ways; there were more people than I expected, but not more than we could easily avoid, and there are extra wide sidewalks). Michael and I took turns pushing the stroller Sam rode while Jeffrey took turns running ahead and then back to us. We stopped in front of the law school building, which Jeffrey has been to many times, and he wanted to go inside–but we couldn’t, of course. Even if we had a compelling reason to enter, the building is only open to staff, students and faculty–which none of us are.

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Since our walk by the law school, Jeffrey often asks to play family, telling me that I’m his little girl and that he needs to go to the law school but he’ll be back soon.

The ABA lets students complete their law degrees within seven years of law school admission. BYU gives students five years.

I was admitted in fall of 2018–which means that I would have to start this fall if I didn’t want to reapply (though even that case, I would need to petition for re-entry and pay $500.

This year, starting up is not an option, whether or not it was an otherwise good idea. I withdrew from law school during my first semester because of severe pregnancy sickness, and now my baby is here and the sickness is gone–

But that doesn’t mean my stamina is back, or my ability to pull full-time hours and then come home to take care of my little family. My health is far better than it was during pregnancy, or even than it was three or six months postpartum. I am resurfacing. I just still have a ways to go.

If BYU had a part-time option, or even if there were ABA acreddited online law schools I could take part-time, I would restart. But those aren’t the facts.

Even without pregnancy recovery, I would have a strong preference for part-time law school. I love school. I love deadlines and assignments and classroom discussions. At least, I do until I am so strained that I feel like I can’t do a good job at anything, in or out of school. Full-time law school before Sam’s pregnancy danced right on that line–sometimes I loved what I was doing and other times I felt utterly drained and empty. Some days I finished my work at five in the evening and came home to have a wonderful time with Michael and Jeffrey; other days I had nothing to give my studies or my family and I felt helpless while I tried to read or spend time with Jeffrey, only to find my efforts slipping past without any traction like truck tires stuck in a ditch.

Under my current abilities and responsibilities, as long as my local school remains a full-time only program and the ABA refuses to allow for online schools to be accredited, law school is not a realistic option.

If any of those conditions changed in the future (including if my abilities increased), law school might come back on the table. But I can’t say with any certainty that I would go back then. There are two things I want from law school: 1) the ability to provide for my family in a way that I enjoy and think I’d be reasonably good at, and 2) the chance to be an advocate for causes I believe in. Whether or not it was my main job, I would want to be an advocate for victims of assault or trafficking. The other two areas of law that interest me are environmental law and intellectual property, both of which I view as types of advocacy.

But I am going to be an advocate, whatever I do. As a writer, I am an advocate, and there are many volunteer opportunities in advocacy that don’t require a law degree.

Financially, I have other options, too. In the years ahead, law school will probably often be on my mind, but I’ll be trying other ways to become a financial provider. (Michael, by the way, is a great provider–but I want the security of knowing I’d be able to take over in a pinch should the need ever arise.)

That said, I do think about the law school often. I miss my classmates and classes and professors. I watch law school vlogs on YouTube. I talk to Michael about what I remember from my classes, and was very happy that I correctly remembered that “In re Greene” was a consideration case (though I initially got it mixed up with Hamer v. Sidway and then the one about the theatre ticket lottery). There were some real challenges, and I want to remember those as I make important decisions for me and my family, but there was also a lot to love. Some days, I even miss my poorly lit, hard-chaired carrel.






Essential Jobs for Essential Times featuring Anne Marie Malbica

My brilliant sister has been working in Essential Services since she was sixteen, from being a chef to a nanny to a behavior specialist. Now she’s getting a PhD in special education. She knows a thing or two about Essential Jobs. So, we collaborated on this post! She wrote, and I made the picture. Take a look and what she has to say, and give this post a share on behalf of some Essential Workers in your life!

Essential Jobs for Essential Times

by Anne Marie Malbica

I sense a shift coming to our society and I hope that it is a good one. Faced with so much uncertainty, people are realizing how unprepared they are–hence the TP crisis on top of the earthquakeandvirusmeggedon. Hopefully people are also thinking about what means most to them in this life. For me that is family, friends, and helping others. For me these things are #essential.

It is interesting to me to see things unfold. Interesting that in the United States the biggest catalyst and cause for panic across the nation was not the WHO declaring a pandemic, but the fact that the NBA season was cancelled. That was when the panic set in. Against recommendation from the WHO, hoards of people flocked to grocery stores stocking up on #essential items.

Each day, more and more things shut down and the initial shock and panic grows and grows. Fear is abounding that soon the only things that will remain viable are #essential jobs.

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Let’s take a look at some of these essential jobs. Jobs that people rely on day in and day out without a second thought, like getting people food, shelter, and water. Jobs that hold other people’s very lives in their hands. These jobs are essential. These jobs #essentially save lives.

I have worked in human services for 16 years, and am now working on a PhD in Special Education with an emphasis in Behavior Analysis. My field depends on healthcare workers, cleaning and culinary services, behaviorists and direct care staff, among so many other workers who tirelessly provide the #essentials of life.

Essential carriers have not only become less desirable, but frowned on as a “stepping stone” for people to use while they pursue bigger better things.

For years I have watched these jobs dwindle in popularity as newer, more exciting careers are born. Why would anyone want to take out the trash, fix toilets, or support those less fortunate when they can make a six figure salary working on the next hot take or make millions being a star? Essential carriers have not only become less desirable, but frowned on as a “stepping stone” for people to use while they pursue bigger better things. We live in a very convoluted world when “It takes a special person” to want to do the careers that are #essential for survival.

Let us take this as a lesson. There are essential jobs! They are NOT the jobs that make millions. Essential job workers need to be able to make a living wage. Essential job workers deserve a pay raise because they save lives! This is my call to action to invite a rapidly changing workforce to consider these essential jobs, as well as to raise pay rates and appreciation of all of the undervalued jobs that are #essential for humanity.

#teachers #DSP’s #socialworkers #garbagemen #groceryclerks #nurses #electricians #plumbers #mechanics

*Please share, whether you know someone who works in an essential job or just want to say thank you!

Anne Marie Malbica is currently a PhD student in Special Education at University of Utah and has worked in direct support services for over a decade.

Since the Pandemic Started

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“Since the pandemic started…
More people are going camping.
More people are going to the mountains.
More people are gardening or raising chicks.
More people are opening their windows.
Tomorrow is promised to no one.
We are staying apart to protect each other. While we do, the earth and sky are still here for us.
This pandemic will not last forever.
A tomorrow will come when most of us will be able to work and travel and socialize more freely.
When that tomorrow comes, let us remember that tomorrow is promised to no one. Each day of our lives and each part of our earth is a gift worth protecting.”]

Doodle Detoxing

Whether you’re working from home, not able to work, stuck homeschooling your kids, working in essential services or something else, you’re probably feeling some chaos and disruption. One thing I started doing for my son, and then started doing for myself, is little doodles on my phone. The app I use changes color with each stroke, and has a black background. It’s helped me feel grounded when I don’t have the bandwidth for anything more useful. It doesn’t take much effort or thought, but has brought more peace and calm to me than, say, scrolling through social media or watching movies (though those have their place, too).

Here’s Jeffrey’s artwork, which is a mood of its own:


And a couple I made:


(No door on this house. Seems like an apt metaphor for the times.)


(Those were supposed to be houses on the bottom, if you’re feeling confused.)


(I don’t like being on boats, being prone to motion sickness, but I love watching them.)


(Flowers. Or attacking spaceships.)

I’m sure I’ve read lots of articles about how this kind of doodling does wonders for your brain, though I don’t have them on hand. Let’s just say that absent minded artwork is very likely to regenerate all good things in your life, from cancelled TV shows to aging cells. Maybe. But if not, doodling (or other forms of tinkering, such as on the piano or with a recipe) can hopefully at least bring some mental relief and distraction and beautiful little things.

Hope you are well. This time will pass.