Bacon on the Bookshelf

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In the Twilight Zone: Tara Scarlett, Michael Peacock & Me

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I feel unmoored, I told my family, on day ten in the twilight zone.

On day eleven, I drove back to Nashville…

I spent most of those ten days in a half-darkened room with our older daughter as she recovered from a tonsillectomy. She and I watched episode after episode of Grey’s Anatomy, her in an Oxy-flavored haze of pain with a side dish of nausea. I existed in the miasma of worry specific (perhaps?) to parents watching their children suffer.

When I wasn’t in my daughter’s apartment, I stayed at a ghost town nearby – the Emory Conference Center Hotel, which closes to the public September 1st. As of August, the hotel is housing Covid-positive students and those in quarantine.

The room got smaller by the night; the walls began to close in on me.

At some point I crossed the mirror into an Alice in Wonderland existence. By day, I stood side by side with Meredith Grey as she performed surgeries, and I exulted and anguished with her colleagues as they fell in and out of love and lust. I survived a plane crash with them. I lost a leg. I cried when patients lost their babies and developed a grudging respect for Karev, whom I detested at first.

“Can I tell you a secret? About Karev?” Ruth whispered. “It’s a spoiler…”

“Yes,” I whispered back, and I was glad she did.

On day eleven, I got in the car and came back to Nashville. It was hard to leave my daughter. And yet – it seemed the right thing for both of us. She was becoming accustomed to the invalid life, and I was disappearing into a world that – is not real.

We’ve all been dislocated by the pandemic, some of us physically – all of us mentally and emotionally.

Today, I’m so thrilled for Tara Scarlett and Michael Peacock to stop in and share their stories.

Hi Tara and Michael! Thank you for spending some time in the Bacon Neighborhood today!

Tara ~ how is Michael doing?

Thanks for having us Jennifer.

Michael is resilient. Some days he’s addicted to the news and I’d say those are the more tense days. Other days, he’s more engaged with the kids and playing guitar and those are happier days.

Michael:  Yes, news is bad news for me. It seems like the more news I see, read, or hear, the more I ruminate and stress, and I’m not very present or pleasant. Helping the kids with their school stuff has helped me in a strange way, and playing music has always been my go to.

Michael ~ How is Tara doing?

Tara is strong and focused. Resilient would be an understatement. She has a way of immersing herself in her work and her interests that I wish I could better emulate. She likes being organized and having a plan of action – that’s what grounds her I think.

Tara:  I’d say he is right on. I need to remain focused to stay grounded.

Have you learned anything about your spouse in the Time of Corona?

Tara:  Michael and I work really well together during times of crisis and in planning mode. Being in seclusion has made us hyper aware when each needs space or when we each need a hug. Michael keeps steady with his focus on music and always being in learning mode. I’ve always known about his gravitation to music but didn’t know how much it grounded him nor did I realize how much he relished in taking classes and consistently advancing his knowledge.

Michael:  We definitely work together well, especially when addressing problems. We both are pretty good at stepping in when the other has had enough. And that goes both ways, because knowing when to “tap out” is important. Tara is very dedicated to her work, and it occupies her thoughts a lot. Whether she is actually talking about it or thinking about it, or whether she requires any kind of response from me, I am impressed with her level of commitment.

One thing that I’ve noticed is how engaged she gets when reading. Whether she is irritated by something she’s reading, or amused, or surprised, or whatever, it’s like watching someone who is watching a good movie. It’s written all over her face, and it’s adorable and awesome.

What have you learned about yourself?

Tara:  I tend to always be on the go and now I have nowhere to go. I find myself being a lot more present and in the moment. Slowing down has helped me reflect more on what’s important and where to truly focus. For years I’ve been meditating but something is different now – I’m more aware. A handshake or a hug or even dining out means so much more. I believe our world will go back to normal but for now… I miss being with my friends and their hugs so I take full advantage of snuggles with my children who are ages 4 and 6.

Michael:  I’ve become a lot more aware of how my mood or state of mind affects everyone around me. Before we were all locked down, when I was stressed or annoyed, I would sort of remove myself from a situation. That was mainly (I thought) to spare everyone else my bristly responses or one-word conversations. Not being able to go very far has shown me how much that impacts Tara and the kids and how important it is to actively reset by meditating or just stepping back, sucking it up, and reengaging in a positive way.

What does your daily life look like?

Tara:  Dawn is my favorite time of day and am always the first one up. My morning routine has not changed a ton – typically out of bed by 530, either virtual work-out or walking/running with the dogs or meditation, and then breakfast and playing with the kids for a while. I then slide off to Zoom calls or other work. Typically, we all eat lunch together then I slip back to work or we go for a bike ride or have a dance party with Alexa. We have all found a way to live and work together, play and Zoom, breathe and hug. And now the kids are going back to school so it will be an interesting transition for all of us.

Michael:  My daily routine has been anything but routine, especially compared to life before lockdown. Right before the world went nuts, I started a new business, and I often question my sense of timing. The search for a physical location has been fraught with frustration and delay, but I’ve been trying to stay busy working with a non-profit I’m involved with (check out www.CreatiVets.org), and that is always rewarding. I’m up early some days, but not always as I’m up late some nights.

I’ve gotten a lot better about practicing guitar every day, even for just a few minutes. I’ve been able to do a number of virtual songwriting sessions, and I’ve been trying my hand at pencil drawing. Learning more about recording and mixing music has always been on my list of things to get to, and I’ve been able to focus on that as well.

Most days consist of taking care of the dogs, helping the kids with their school work and activities (we’re trying to keep up with recommended academic exercises so they aren’t too far behind whenever school starts again), and keeping them active (not in front of the TV or tablet) and entertained. My evenings and nights are usually dedicated to music, etc.

How long is it going to look like that? (Who knows, right?) We’re all guessing. Best guess…

Tara:  I wonder how long it will take. CDC has clearly laid out how the US can slow the coronavirus yet our community is slow to adopt change. There is a level of comfort that cannot be dictated, only felt and each person will experience this differently. I found this venn diagram which defines how I’m experiencing COVID-19…

To answer your question on a timeline, I bet it will be another year or more before we get back to a normal way of life and that will be based on finding a new normal in how we experience and operate today.

For now, wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands. It’s really not that hard.

Michael:  Seems like we sort of blew it on the first round of reopening. A bunch of states pulled back and partially shut down, but now with schools reopening in various ways, who knows? We’re not going to beat this thing until we all get on the same page. I’d bet it will be at least a year, before things are close to normal, even with a vaccine.

How are your young children doing? Is there anything to be learned from them?

Tara:  Children are resilient and tend to bounce back but it’s been hard. They both miss their friends and can’t understand why they have not been able to spend a lot of time with others. Some days their sadness is heart-breaking and though we try to console them, it’s hard. We have been encouraging Zoom calls with friends… easier for a 6 yr old vs a 4 yr old. We have watched both our kids grow and support each other. Most days, they will play peacefully together… but not always.

The curiosity of children is fascinating. They can ask the simplest questions which can knock my knees out from under me. Like, why did all those people die? Will we get COVID-19? Why did George Floyd die? Aren’t the police supposed to be nice? Is President Trump a good guy or a bad guy? These make for the beginning of very entertaining conversations.

I try to learn something from both my kids every day and they never disappoint. I can learn something about them individually, the two playing together or learn something about myself in how I am with them. The blessing in all of this crisis is that we have spent a lot of quality time together – time we will always have with us.

Michael:  The kids really miss being with their friends, and they were really bummed when the school year just “ended” unceremoniously.

Since then, the summer was tough on us as a family.

We had some work done on our home, so we were staying at Tara’s folks house starting back in January. There were a number of delays on the house, and we went back and forth to South Carolina, and it’s a long story, but we’ve felt really displaced during all of this.

We’re finally back in our own house and that little bit of stability helps a lot.

School starts next week with all kinds of new protocols and rules, so there will be another bit of readjustment, but we’ll see.

True or false: “I love all the extra time at home!” (Explain.)

Tara:  Mixed. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I don’t. Every day is a little different.

Michael:  True. Buuuut, it can be hard. I feel closer to Tara and the kids, and I wouldn’t trade this experience of getting to know each other so much better. But, there’s only so much you can do individually when everything is on hold.

Where do you go when you need to hide? If you need to hide.

Tara:  I get outside. Either take a walk or find a perch..

Michael:  Playing guitar is my solace. Even a few minutes of noodling around can help me reset. Reading and sleeping are pretty good too!

Where have you been out? Restaurants, beach, kids’ birthday parties…

Tara:  We had a strange set of circumstances over the past six months. Starting at spring break, we left town and didn’t return for three months. We stayed at the beach (my happy play) due to some other home issues and family quarantine needs. Luckily we were able to homeschool and work remotely so it didn’t really matter where we were living as long as we were able to get online. We were at the beach daily, biked daily, and indulged at the ice cream store… not daily.

Since being back in Nashville, I have been able to attend a few socially distanced events. There is something to be said for in person, even if we are six feet apart. We have been out to eat a few times but typically, we eat in. Cooking or preparing meals and food delivery has become a new norm.

Michael:  I haven’t really been much of anywhere, except the grocery store, pharmacy, hardware store, dropping off recycling, and that sort of thing. My only real outings have been to check out potential locations for my business with the real estate broker and some other partners.

How has the last week been?

Tara:  It’s a bit chaotic right now. We are in the midst of moving back into our house after a renovation and simultaneously preparing the kids back to go back to school. I have not shielded our children from the conversation of COVID-19 but now so much of the news is about the effects on children and teachers in school. It’s scary. I try to teach my kids how to live in this new COVID era while I’m also learning to do so. Some days I wake with a smile and some days it takes all of me to smile. But I can look into my children’s eyes and get a sweet hug and know “every little thing is gonna be alright”.

Michael:  I think watching the news too much and reading Voldemort’s Tweets makes it all a lot worse, but it’s been alright.

What are you most worried about, now and going forward?

Tara:  My big concerns are the health and safety of my family, my friends and my community. Outside of those concerns, the great inequities that exist in education are now exacerbated by the pandemic. We have such an enormous opportunity as a city, a state and a country to have the best and most equitable education system in the world. But in contrast, we are leaving too many children and families behind.

When I look broader, we are living during an unrestful era with a health pandemic, high unemployment, an unpredictable market, poor international relations, and polarizing political sides exacerbated by 24×7 news and social media.

I do what I can to support health, safety and equitable education and I take it one day at a time.

Michael:  I worry most about my parents, Tara’s parents, the folks in our family who are compromised and more vulnerable. I wonder what I’ll say to my kids if one of them gets sick and dies from COVID-19. We’ve been doing the things we’re supposed to do, and we’ve been assuring them that everyone else has too. That we’re all in the same boat, and if we do the right things, wash hands, use masks, stay home, etc., we can prevent it from spreading and protect each other. But, I still worry because it seems like so many people are NOT cooperating and don’t seem to care about the impact it has. I guess you can’t make people care about others, but you can teach your kids to.

What gives you hope?

Tara:  This too shall pass. The sun and the moon still rise and the flowers still bloom. I also get to look into my children’s eyes and know I will do everything in my power to help make this a better world for them.

Michael:  All things, good or bad, will pass.

What are you reading/watching/listening to?

Tara:  I’ve been reading mostly historical novels, thrillers and some non-fiction. I just finished “The Splendid and the Vile” by Eric Larson and “Chop Wood, Carry Water” by Joshua Medcalf and started “The Hundred Year Marathon” by Michael Pilsbury.

I’ve been listening to vintage jazz on Alexa. It’s easy and calming to me.

Michael:  I’m not a great binge watcher because I tend to get up, wander around, and want to do other things at the same time. I did watch the whole Mandolorian series – to feed my Star Wars geek. I started the second season of Lost In Space, and it looked pretty good, but then I had about 5 minutes of trouble with the TV remotes and decided to do something else.

I’ve been reading some songwriting books, and I’m working through the updated edition of “Getting Things Done”. I read a few novels set in WWII, but I tend to limit my impulse purchases to Kindle Unlimited, so they weren’t all great.

On the music side, I’m loving Spotify and I got a free 3-month subscription to Apple Music, so I’ve been checking out a lot of new (to me) stuff. I like Whiskey Myers, Michigan Rattlers, Turnpike Troubadours, and Hayes Carll. Just started getting into Yola, and she’s great. Also liking Jason Isbell and the 400 Unit’s new one, Reunions.

And now for some speed dating questions to wrap up…

Favorite beverage in the Time of Corona?

Tara: Red Wine or Prosecco
Michael: Topo Chico or Coke Zero

Exercising?

Tara: Yes – almost every day.
Michael: Somewhat regularly…

Favorite place to be outside?

Tara: Beach, mountains, river.
Michael: On the beach, on the porch, or on a bike.

Guilty pleasure?

Tara:  Baskin Robbins Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream or Lindt sea salt dark chocolate
Michael:  Most Lindt’s Dark Chocolate, ice cream, Heath bars

Most proud of?

Tara:  My family and friends.
Michael:  How my family has improved as a team.

Least proud of?

Tara:  Not sticking to learning new things like guitar or piano…I will get back to it.
Michael:  Losing patience when it’s needed most.

Best advice for staying sane ~

Tara:  Listen to and sing along with your favorite happy music (dance if you care to).
Michael:  Write down the words you hear in your head, don’t read the words that clutter Twitter, and don’t listen to negativity.

Thank you so much for your honesty, Tara and Michael, and for sharing your ups and downs with us today. Xoxo

4 Comments

  1. Ha Ha – I loved this. I just stayed in the Emory CC “ghost town” about a week before you, as I moved my senior college student into her apartment in midtown. It was freaky! I have worn that place out since I moved from Atlanta 24 years ago and it’s been my home when visiting “home” many times. My niece graduated from Ben Franklin Academy, which rescued her very strong high school career her senior year, when she faced a serious health challenge. It’s fitting the roses there caught your eye and lifted your spirits. I think that whole area of Atlanta is about saving and helping people! Keep these spirit baring and spirit lifting posts coming. They are part of the provisions on my lifeboat.

    • Oh Patricia, I love being a provision in your lifeboat!! That makes me so happy!! When the pandemic has passed, perhaps you and I should go stay in the Emory CC Hotel and visit our girls? I love that place so much – as do you!! xoxo

  2. Another vote for the Emory CC, it was my refuge many times when visiting family. I hope Ruth is on the mend. 🙂

  3. I looove this post and these amazing people!!!

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