Smile Politely

Dispatches from isolation: June 2nd

This column offers a glimpse into how people in C-U are working and spending their time during the stay-at-home order. You can read previous installments here. Have questions, or want to suggest a person for this series? Email us at

How are you spending your days in isolation?


7:38 a.m.

I wake up, panicked, every day at the same time. My husband is a creature of habit and I hear him open the cereal bags at the same time every day, which wakes me from a dream EVERY. DAY.

Screenshot of a text exchange between a mother and her child. The most recent text message shows the mother asking the child if he wants breakfast. Screenshot by Elizabeth Hess.

Screenshot by Elizabeth Hess.

My son remains asleep, as he has since March 12th, when spring break began. If you have toddlers, and they never sleep, just wait until they are teenagers. They can sleep ALL. THE. TIME. I lay in bed until my son texts me from one room away that he is awake. I spend that time in bed, curled around the dog, checking work email, reading the national news, and getting sucked into my Twitter feed.

9:45 a.m.

My son and I rotate our breakfast choices: French toast, pancakes, waffles, cereal (for me), or Pop Tarts (for him). We are also creatures of habit, which always includes a carbs-only breakfast.

10:15 a.m.

I begin my day job, as a book editor. I work on a document until about 1 p.m., when my son texts me from upstairs that he is hungry.

1 p.m.

I make lunch for my son and me, and I usually eat it while I binge-watch one of my shows (Ozark, Fleabag, Homeland) and he either joins me in his pajamas (not going to lie — I am usually still in my pajamas, too) or he texts me again and asks if he can eat lunch in his room while he games with a friend.

1:30-3 p.m.

I edit more for work, then look around and decide what household item needs my attention. Laundry? Always. Scoop litter? Not often enough. Defrost something from dinner that I will ruin later? Check.

4 p.m.

An older, short haired, mixed breed dog lays in some grass. It looks into the camera and has its mouth open, likely panting. It is on a leash. Photo by Elizabeth Hess.

Photo by Elizabeth Hess.

Take the dog out for a stroll. We used to power-walk, but we are both older and we stroll now.

4:30 p.m.

Decide that our house doesn’t have enough cookies, so I make something. After eating so much raw batter, then more cookies, decide I need to exercise.

5 p.m.

Tell my child to get up and go exercise. Or mow the lawn. Or do something other than staring at a screen and shouting into a headset.

5:04 p.m.

Gray and yellow rollerblades are leaning on a column in a house. The floors are wood floors. Photo by Elizabeth Hess.

Photo by Elizabeth Hess.

Rollerblade around the local path near my house. I used to blade to and from work every day in Chicago, when I was younger and in better shape. Since the pandemic started, I have reignited my love of skating.

6 p.m.

Follow a recipe for dinner and have it taste and look nothing like it was supposed to taste/look. My husband eats it and my child nibbles at it, and I know he will be down for a bowl of cereal later that night. (He will text me around 10 p.m. to ask if he can come down for cereal.) Watch an old Saturday Night Live while we eat.

7 p.m.

Sanford Hess is wearing a red shirt and is leaning over a table with a mostly completed puzzle featuring an owl. Photo by Elizabeth Hess.

Photo by Elizabeth Hess.

Finish dishes and retreat to my office to watch another show, or call my parents or sister. My husband goes to his office and our child continues online gaming and proceeds to shout into a headset again.

8:30 p.m.

FaceTime with a friend. We both apologize for looking as badly as we do, then laugh and maintain a conversation that changes direction 862 times.

9:30 p.m.

Decide to shower. I have settled into a nice routine of wearing what I wore to bed the night before all day, even through a workout, until I shower the next night.

10 p.m.

My son texts me for cereal. When he comes downstairs, I ask him to move his clothes from the washer to the dryer. He asks if he can play longer with his friend online. I give in to my “he’s an only child” guilt and let him do it.

10:10 p.m.

Sit down with my husband and watch another episode of the The Last Dance on ESPN. We met during the Bulls run in the 90s and it’s fun to relive that time together.

11 p.m.

I take a small dose of Ambien, which is the only way I can sleep. One of the side effects is that you don’t remember what you do, say, or eat about 30 minutes after taking it. My husband goes to bed while my son and I settle onto the couch for the one show we both can tolerate: Impractical Jokers. It is a terrible show, but we laugh out loud and he wants to do something with me, so I take it.

11:30 p.m.

Eat a bowl of grape nuts or a sleeve of Club Crackers but have no recollection of it until the morning, when I find the bowl or wrappers and vaguely remember being in the kitchen.


Husband is asleep. Son goes to his room. I crawl into bed and check to see if anyone in the Trump family has been arrested since the morning.

Elizabeth Hess, her husband, Sanford, and her son, Eli, live in Champaign. She is an editor at a local publishing company and the host of a podcast, I Have to Ask…With Elizabeth Hess. She loves her dog, Levi, but is usually really pissed at her cat, Jack.

Top image by Elizabeth Hess.

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