Sun 5/3/2020

April was the height of the Coronavirus Pandemic out here in Santa Fe (and throughout much of the USA, and the world), which made it a very stressful month in a variety of ways.

One of the first stressful things to happen was our chicken Penny went up into the coop and stayed there for about two days. This was similar to what Camilla did last month, right before she died, so I was very worried that we would lose Penny too. I also just began to despair that I was doing something very wrong in the way that I was caring for my chickens.

It turns out that Penny had simply gone "broody" which is when a chicken's hormones kick in, telling her to hatch a clutch of eggs. This behavior has been bred out of many types of chickens, but I guess it is still quite common in Black Australorps. Since we don't have a rooster (you're welcome, neighbors!) her eggs will never hatch, so every day we took them away and pushed her out of the coop. She would walk around the run for a few minutes, puffed up like crazy (trying to look intimidating, to protect her imaginary chicks), repeating this unusual cluck. Then she'd eat a bit, drink a little water and then go straight back up to sit in the coop.

It was like a tiny chicken-version of what we've all been going through -- cooped up in the house going crazy.

Anyway, this behavior lasted three weeks, during which Penny did not lay any eggs (she sat on Henny's eggs whenever there was a new one). Finally her hormones chilled out, she starting laying again and is now back to normal. Claire suggested we get a chicken book, which we did, to avoid any future stress of not knowing what's going on. The good news from all this is that someday if Penny goes broody again we could get some fertilized eggs and Penny could hatch them for us, without the need of any incubators or anything!

The next stressful thing that happened in April, was that CCS made the hard decision to bring all of its summer workshops entirely online (including my Introduction to Hand-Drawn Animation workshop). Given the uncertainty about how the pandemic restrictions will eventually be lifted, this was the only way to ensure the workshops would definitely happen.

We (the CCS administration, staff and faculty) were already swamped trying to get through the last few weeks of the spring semester (also online), so having to come up with a new plan for online summer workshops and roll it out very quickly was incredibly overwhelming. In my 15 years working for CCS in various capacities, this was easily the most stressful month I've ever experienced. Our team is working so hard to keep this tiny school going, no matter what the circumstances. It's an honor to play my small part in that effort.

At one point, I gave a lecture to the CCS seniors and during Q&A one of the students asked me what I was doing to help myself get through the pandemic. I gave a lame "keep my head down; draw comics every day" answer, but afterwards I thought, "What could I do to help myself get through this situation?" The answer I came up with is animation!

This month I started animating every Friday night after the girls go to sleep (2-4 hours, depending on how late I'm willing to stay up). It's been great, because animating is so complicated that while I'm doing it, I'm unable to focus on anything else. It's also super fun for me, and it's a great excuse to try out new techniques from the various animation books I have been reading, or to experiment with various kinds of animation software and hardware.

This lead me to create a new instagram account ( @AlecAnimation ) where I am posting some of my old animations, recommended resources (books, podcasts, etc), and my weekly progress on current projects. It has been a fun distraction, leaning into this hobby which I enjoy so much. It's also helping me prepare for my workshop in July!

Claire was very busy in April too, working on toy concepts for Meow Wolf, and providing extra childcare watching our girls while I've been sitting in a thousand different meetings. In her very limited spare time she has been cooking lots of different soups from scratch, as well as the pizza you see here! She's also been digging in the backyard, planting vegetables in her new raised bed and flowers all over our property. We've already had a few hot days, so some of the flowers have already bloomed and then wilted away, but here are some photos of them at their best:

For the most part, our girls have been great, grinding out the days playing in the backyard, reading books, drawing, painting, watching old VHS tapes, video chatting with friends and family, building with legos and blocks, playing dress up, etc. etc. etc.

Wendy seems blissfully unaware of the current situation - we are all home with her as we usually are, so she seems the most unaffected. As April wore on however, Suzanne began having a harder and harder time being cooped up at home. She doesn't really engage with the Zoom sessions her preschool is hosting so we've mostly stopped doing that. There is just a general feeling of her going stir-crazy, climbing the walls. She's been getting upset more frequently and more intensely over small things. Who can blame her? She should be at school running around with other kids her age, not trying to play make believe with her parents (we do our best, but never quite measure up) or fighting with her little sister over some random toy. Without a clear plan of when/how the current measures will be lifted, it's hard to know when things will mellow back out for her.

There was other stress on top of all this (being far away from my parents, whom I am worried about) but I'm certain if you added up all my stress from every day in April it was probably still less than millions of people experienced in one of those days. I'm very much looking forward to this all being over. I wish we had better leadership at the top.

Well that's all I've got for this month. Hang in there, everyone! Stay safe.

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