COVID-19 and quarantine life have caused many unexpected delights. Penguins in museums. Long-distance zoom attendance of faraway friends at nearby events. Neighbors singing to one another on balconies.

One of these delights is my friendship with E&E. We got put on the same work schedule, commiserated and worried and laughed about the ridiculousness of working through a pandemic, and started a group chat (“Golden Gears” copyright pending) of epic proportions to continue to do more of the same.

Things I appreciate about the Golden Gears:

  • E&E consistently make me guffaw — whether it’s wry observations about coworkers or the aptly placed Office gif, these people are always making me crack up with stories I retell Mark and that make him fall in like with them, too. “Ayyy Marco!!”
  • Our hangouts are warm and loud and lingery, staying well beyond the confines of the mealtime we started with. I love that being in each other’s quarantine circles has made us open up our homes to each other a lot faster than we might have, as coworker-friends in the Before COVID times, when we probably would have started with those cramped happy hours that are sometimes more tiring than reinvigorating. House hangs ftw.
  • We’re good at being generous with each other. With our time during those long lingering hangouts, with the stories we intentionally ask one another to share, with encouragement and support from the other two when one of us is feeling short or uncertain of the tasks ahead of us. Alone, we’re doubters, but together, we’re each other’s biggest cheering squad and admirers, full of righteous confidence for the third in turns.
  • Even more than the randomly assigned work schedule in the midst of a pandemic, our lil coterie was born of a common desire to push each other to pursue our dreams and things. To not forget about the next Big Steps we’ve been thinking non-concretely about. To be there for each other in the midst of big adulting moments, as we purchased houses and dreamt of moving to Japan.

We had been watching and wanting to be friends with each other from afar, so I’m so thankful for these unexpected and pleasant repercussions of the global pandemic that slowed us down enough, made us pause enough, opened us up enough to become real live friends in this Young Professional era, where it feels like we’re too old for the instant heart and mind connections of ye olde college days and too young for the life-stage ones, where your kids or your dogs bring you new friends you secretly judge and begrudge on bad days.

Love yawl, E&E. Would marry the heck out of yawl if we were so inclined.


Writing challenge day 1.

Yesterday was one of the busiest quaran-socialization days I’ve had.

Rebecca is in town after a scheduling mishap with her hospital rotations for school and I’m off work for the week, so the FDFers got together for a morning stroll at the randomest little patch of green that is the Fairfax County government building grounds. It’s been six years since our college graduation, and one of us is mom to a human baby now, but our conversations hold a comforting, familiar cadence of longevity and trust. We wore masks and sat awkwardly not facing each other, glad for the breeze under those trees.

I had just gone through a phone photo purge, smiling at all those other, seemingly random times we had met in various spots around nova, eating great and mediocre foods and laughing at and with each other. Comforted by that reminder of the continuation of our friendship by repetition.

Apparently females have a higher threshold for how many times they must meet each other before considering a relationship a “friendship.” True to form, I have forgotten that number (seven?) and have also forgotten the comparison figure (as in, what the number of times is for male friendships, which is supposedly lower), but either way, our little trio’s number of post-college hangouts must have exceeded that number for me because I was feeling secure and cozy in the bubble of that familiar relationship. Be gone, friendship angst!!

Then I rushed home for virtual tutoring sesh with Izumi, after which Maddie arrived for a backyard hang under our awning. We ate so many chips and drank beers and talked about our anxieties and lack thereofs. Another college friendship that’s been kept alive by nothing but our mutual desire to see each other. After our first year of roommatehood, I feel like really everything was working against us in the continuation of our friendship — no mutual friends, no overlapping social activities, no classes in common, and after graduation, she moved to Guatemala (and then, “back” to a farm in like, way far Maryland). We kept communication alive by the poems we’d send to each other’s inboxes.

So a little different from the repetition of the FDF meetups, which are usually prompted by the return of Rebecca from school in North Carolina. But even though this means our meetups are less frequent (maybe?), they’re a little less dictated by a scholastic calendar than our pure desire to see each other again, even despite the 45 minutes of driving between us.

But there are commonalities in all different friendships that are special in my life. The being-able-to-talk-about-anything-ness. The comfort-in-sharing-ness. The of-course-I’m-there-for-you-ness. The explicitly-please-speak-into-my-life-permission…ness.

If I were good at Microsoft Excel, I would almost be tempted to make a visualization of some sort to chart the progress of my enduring friendships. Physical distance. Time known. Quality of friendship. Frequency of meetup. Perceived mutuality. What are the features of the enduring ones, and how do I encourage more, of higher quality? But alas, Excel is my special weakness.

2020, age 29, and still thinking about friendships.

Shoutout to Madpad for encouraging — reminding — me to think about writing again, to spark that brain alive.

covid diaries: the move edition

Things that made it feel like it would be impossible for us to move last week:

  • Marko’s covid scare last week, in which an unexplained fever prompted covid tests for us both (and the antibody test for me), and would’ve delayed our move and closing and prompted a last-minute rent-back sitch at sarly.
  • Marko’s mysterious pains, cont., following negative covid tests, which meant that he was barely walking on the day of our actual move. Thank goodness we had movers.
  • The weather forecast, which threatened a full day of rains/thunderstorms.
  • Verizon’s (un)fortunate timing of our internet installation, which coincided perfectly with the pick-up time of our u-haul truck AND the movers’ arrival.

How things worked out anyway, in the end.

  • Our covid tests came back negative — and so did the antibody tests.
  • Turns out Mark doesn’t have appendicitis, even though the doctor had warned that the weird stomach/back pains may be caused by that.
  • It never did pour on May 28th, although the skies certainly threatened to, with oppressive heat all day long and sprinkles that peeked out here and there.
  • I gained the experience of driving a 10 ft u-haul. And no persons were harmed (just some curbs).

It’s been a whirlwind of a week, but everything and everyone made it over here in one piece…except some bathroom tiles leftover from our old renovation. We survived the move, painted our 14 ft(?)-tall living room, unpacked, and cleaned every surface. My hands are red from the cleaning, my shoulders sore from the painting. Boo is finding his groove around here and had his first case of the zoomies yesterday, when he galloped up and down all three levels as we looked on, beaming. It feels so good to unfurl our crammed lives from the one-bedroom, four-closet condo — no more tetris life. And it’s also been sweet to see our families, friends come together to wish us well and help from afar, as we transitioned during these weird times. That’s it. No big thoughts. Just a couple of lists and a mental note of gratitude.

Goodbye, sarlington! Hello, ncammy ❤

coronavirus diaries, cool things edition

Weather: Rainy

Mood: Grateful to not be angry at EVERYONE all the time, at least for the moment. Feeling old and jaded just from looking back at posts from a month ago when apparently I thought covid emails from businesses and group chats were life-giving. Now we *mute* judiciously.

Cool and truly unique things because of covid:

  • Hayley can join us for small group now — from Wisconsin.
  • Relatedly, this past weekend we threw a baby shower over Zoom, which was super uncool in so many ways but also allowed lots of people to join in from all over the world. Seriously, David joined from 3 am Singapore time.
  • I am accelerating my baking skills at a speed I can only describe as covid-like.
  • The growth of work friendships with people I’ve always admired but perhaps from afar, from behind our respective mountains of work. Nothing like a crisis to bring people together, even as it also divides. There are those “unlikely friendships” with people where I feel like the monkey petting the head of a confused bird, but also these other ones where I feel like we could’ve been — shoulda been — friends a long time ago but were too busy and stupid to stop being so to pause and chat for long enough. Now we discuss real estate and dreams of Hawaii, which is a much more substantial topic than you might think. #goldengears
  • Pets on the weather forecast.
  • Long-lost urge for documentation, rediscovered.
  • Boo, in his second year of life on Earth, seems to finally be becoming a domesticated cat. He now allows us to pet him for 30 seconds, much improved from the 5 before.

Even helps out with house chores! Finally pulling his weight around here. Though he naps too much in between.

quarantine relishing & gnashing of teeth

m: “We’re good! Honestly I am relishing quarantine way too much and going back to normal socializing is gonna be rough.”

other m: “Haha wait tell me more about your qtine relishing.”

m: “Because I have Mark (and Booey) here with me, I’m sorta relishing not having to drive anywhere or see anyone. It’s so funny because before, I used to get so excited about socializing and Mark would be like *braces self* alright let’s go. And now that’s me, going to the few zoom hangouts we do. Lol.”

“I dunno what it is. Just laziness and homebodyness, I suppose.”

It’s true, but it’s not complete, this bit of pithy self-analysis. Laziness and feeling home at home and having the luxury of living with a housemate I love are, I know, luxuries to be grateful for during These Difficult Times. I’m relishing the fact that the only ways my life has been altered are 1. less driving and 2. less socializing 3. more me time — these are non-complaints. I know that.

And yet, life has been a confusing mix of anxious uncertainty and boredom and unending guilt, the last of which makes me want to retreat from people, even though — thanks to a global pandemic — I physically cannot retreat any further. I guess I could throw my phone away and give the office Mark’s phone number to contact me through. But that seems a dramatic waste.

Still going into the office as part of a few ~eSsEnTiaL~ staff added to this confusion and guilt. I recounted so many times to everyone who asked all the many ways in which it still felt good and healthy to have a routine, to get up and go somewhere, to have an excuse to see people and help where I could. But I am not a good person. After a week’s reprieve from going in (and looking forward to some more time still at home), I’m finally breathing out a sigh of relief from all the resentment I was holding onto from “having to go in while so-and-so-and-so-and-so weren’t.” Plus all the immediate, reflexive guilt that pounded me in response to the aforementioned resentment. Because, like I said, my life is full of relative non-complaints at the moment. Why was I so full of anger about having to go to a job that I still have, making money I’m still able to make, begrudging others who’d had no real say in whether they’d be chosen to go into work? Because I am not a good person.

These past few weeks, in response to the extra time to myself I’ve been given — along with the reminder of the security of my job and lucky, lucky life we have — all I’ve gained in terms of human growth is more gray hairs and a heart that feels wrinkled and old from all the squeezing. From the resentment and guilt, yes, but also the general alarm and sadness and worry, too. Covid and all, you know.

No matter how amazing the traffic and how gloriously empty the parking lot, I wasn’t able to take those little gifts in the midst of the general gloom but only see the darkness yawning around those bright bits. “Wow, driving in nova is great when…only 20% of the workforce is out and about… Too bad the pandemic will eventually end…and everyone will come back…” I am not a good person.

It’s been seven days of detox from the resentment-guilt cycle, and I’m finding myself feeling normalish again about group chats with work people and fulfilling my usual social obligations. (Go to small group on Tuesdays. Call mom at least once a week.)

I think, at the end of it all, I’ll just say that this time sorta sucked. And leave it at that. All the gnashing of teeth will be left here, in this post.

Happy almost weekend, whatever that means these days —

new normals


  • Madison cries at the drop of a hat. At any minutely sad news regarding or not regarding Covid. mid-March
  • People are FaceTiming ALL the TIME. For which Madison is surprised and grateful. But also unreasonably lazy. mid-March
  • Madison tries to Make the Most. 3/17
  • Madison gets burned out. 3/22
  • We buy a home. 3/26
  • We Doordash for the first time ever. Burgers. Tasty, but also slightly a letdown, cause… “oh, it’s just like eating out. Except it’s at home.” 3/28
  • Madison cleans out all the closets. 3/30
  • Boo gets used to us being home all the time and doesn’t stay awake for our mere presence. early April
  • Mark starts playing LoL (League of Legends, for all ya n00bs). – early April
  • We sell a home. 4/8
  • Madison picks back up with Japanese. 4/13
  • Madison picks up…German? Or tries. 4/13
  • Week 3 of being home: Madison apparently finds her groove. 4/13
  • Madison has no alcoholic drink for the entire day for the first time in a long time. 4/14
  • Madison goes for walks. 4/16
  • News about Covid-19 is getting old. The bad…and the good. mid-April
  • Madison fashions some bandana masks (4/11), and then we get some real cloth masks, courtesy of Minsu’s mom (4/15).
  • Madison makes a life pact with a couple of Dreamers. 4/15
  • Everyone gets free money from the government. Except us, cause we’ve had to PAY money on our last two tax returns so they didn’t have our direct deposit information. We remedy this. 4/16

to be continued


In Japanese, there’s a word among the vocab list for “Occupations” that translates to “office worker.”

会社員 – “office worker” per my Japanese book. Also translated as “employee” per Google, which isn’t quite the same.

It’s just fascinating to think about, how, in my vocab list counting “doctor,” “lawyer,” “teacher,” there also lies “office worker.” This is a thing that people say to describe their occupations. “I am an office worker.”

There is — as there so often is — a pretty good equivalent for it in Korean, which is how I know the actual feeling and flavor of this word, not quite conveyed by the translation into English.

In English, “office worker” sounds like a genericized thing you’d choose to accomplish a drop-down selection of your job title for some distant government form, when your specific position isn’t quite listed. It’s not “office administrator,” or “office manager” — those you can imagine, put tasks to.

But in Japanese, this is a viable option to use in response to the ubiquitous question: “What do you do?” (This assumption, yes, is based on the fact that I know that the translation would be used as such in Korean. And also the fact that the word appears in the vocab list for chapter 1 of my Genki book. It must be a Basic Useful Word. You know?)

It’s just a fascinating little peek into a huge cultural difference. While the Japanese assign this all-encompassing job title to the majority of its modern-day working population — those not working as doctors or teachers or fishmongers or firefighters — Americans are constantly scrambling to create unique titles — project manager, project strategist, senior analyst, and, my favorite from when we were graduating college and everyone wanted to be one: consultant. But, equally fascinating is the realization that both methods result in a certain homogenization and meaninglessness of the titles. Does it matter much whether you’re just an “office worker” or a… “business analyst”? Without additional details, both are pretty nondescript.

Nondescript isn’t bad. It’s just interesting, this very stark difference of mentality that resulted in the same overall effect for two populations on opposite sides of the globe and ends of the individualism spectrum.

Like the good American I am, I’ve always relished being able to give a specific and non-nondescript answer to describe my job. “I’m an editor!”

But these days’ #coviddiaries thoughts have make me wonder if the specificity of my job title has played a role in holding me back from imagining a more generic future — one where I live…not in Northern Virginia and am doing something…not editing-related. Certainly, there is a security and a comfort in digging a lil niche for yourself and continuing to dig further in. Getting promoted higher. Stuck deeper. Before you know it, talking shop about the finicky ways of grammar and the finicky ways of Microsoft Word.

But I’ve always been great at being a generalist. Noncommittedly learning bits of languages. Floating, making friends with different groups of people. When did that spirit get replaced by fear of the unknown? More importantly, what do I do to get it back?

Just call me an office worker.


Remember when we used to meet people and high-five them with our elbows?


We were so stewpid back then.


People are connecting to tangible and earthy things during this time of upside-down-ness, though. Gardening. Fostering puppies. Building furniture. Baking bread. I love this return to the immediate and tangible.

As much as I’ve been bitter and confused about having to go into work—versus others, who haven’t been called to—I have to say I’m gonna miss this special time of bonding we’ve had, our mini-team, spilling all the tea and cackling loud as anything about semi-private things in the middle of all the cubes. Our own private-public office. Everyone’s having their own kind of hard time, and all I can do is take responsibility for mine and be grateful for its particular ups and the downs. And all in all, it’s also kind of special to know that the whole entire world is in it together, in some kind of way. Guess a pandemic will do that to ya.

Let’s take the geedunk fund and buy ourselves a cake for our next workweek. And mimosas. In honor of DannyB.

Reminding you to keep supporting our local businesses. Monday 4/6
Going boldly where no me has gone before. Tuesday 4/7
STAY HOME. We’re trying to… Tuesday 4/7
Empty glass o wine and some Popeyes coupons lurking in the background. #coviddiaries Thursday 4/9