Smile Politely

Dispatches from isolation: May 4-10

This  column offers a glimpse into how people in C-U are working and spending their time during this 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?


Hello from the staff of Uniting Pride! Even though our daily lives are pretty different, the thing that we share is a week heavily laden with Zoom meetings that we host to keep the Champaign County LGBTQ+ community connected.



7 a.m.

Gosh I really need to put up curtains. Where am I?

8 a.m.

I’m brewing coffee, feeding the baby chicks, and surveying the new place to assess what walls I’ll be painting today. I start setting up to paint and suddenly it’s… 

3 p.m.

Time to get presentable, open the laptop, and catch up on RSVPs to Uniting Pride’s support groups for pre-teens and teens. I send out a flurry of messages, emails, texts, and Instagram DMs with Zoom information and settle in for a few hours of queer kid silliness.



6:23 a.m.

“Ye-haw! Ye-haw! You’re a unicorn, mommy!” Ok cool, this is how we’re starting the day. 

7:45 a.m.

I get dressed, then I get Violet dressed: “No, you cannot have your toothpaste for breakfast. I know it’s strawberry flavored, but you cannot eat it”. 

8:16 a.m.

Ok, I guess I’m making strawberry pancakes for breakfast. Toddlers are surprisingly great negotiators. 

Oh shoot, it’s 8:55 a.m., gotta hop onto the Uniting Pride Coffee Hour. (I didn’t have time to make coffee, so I put orange juice in my mug and played along) 

10:05 a.m.

A coffee mug with orange juice inside is being held in the left hand of a person. In the background are indoor plants. Photo by Darya Shahgheibi.

Photo by Darya Shahgheibi.

Coffee Hour went great, and no one suspected my coffee was orange juice.




A pen with approximately ten baby chickens. The chicks are in an area that as sawdust on the floor and a heat lamp above them. There is a food dish and a water bowl. Photo by Zev Alexander.

Photo by Zev Alexander.

It’s hard enough to keep track of setting up a new house and keeping on top of work, but there are chores at every house. For one thing, these baby dinosaurs keep kicking bedding into their water.


11:20 a.m.

I’m a unicorn again, yay! The weather is nice today, so we’re having a picnic. We’ve been having picnics nearly everyday since the pandemic happened, and she and I both really enjoy it. Today is a “daddy day” (yay co-parenting), so we’re soaking up some mommy time before the switch.

A toddler girl wearing a black cat shirt and a black skirt is photographed from below. She is sitting down and looking off into the distance. In her hands is a container full of snacks. Photo by Darya Shahgheibi.

Photo by Darya Shahgheibi.

5:30 p.m.

Violet is with her dad. Now it’s just me, my laptop, and a two hour Uniting Pride grant meeting. We love Zoom!



5 p.m.

A mostly empty room with a colorful rug. On the floor is a plate with hald eaten slice of frozen pizza, a laptop and an open notebook with a pen on top of it. Photo by Zev Alexander.

Photo by Zev Alexander.

I know it would be more interesting if I was doing something other than painting, but maybe next week? For now, here’s the floor-office, Jack’s frozen pizza and all.

6 p.m.

It’s time for UParent, our support group for parents of LGBTQ+ folks. I think this is my second-to-last zoom call of the week?

8 p.m.

Three times a week I read a book out loud to a group of friends from near and far on a conference call. It’s screen-free, so everybody is making dinner, working on crafts, walking, or relaxing while I read. I’ve settled in at whichever house I’ll be falling asleep at today and I’ve got ice cream to nibble on as I go. Remember: If you can only go to the store once every two weeks, get a lot of ice cream.



6 p.m.

It’s a mommy day again! Gotta love that 2-2-3 co-parenting schedule, right? Tonight we’re making tofu, quinoa, and green beans for dinner. We’ve been cooking together a lot since the pandemic started, and Violet is a surprisingly good sous chef. 

6:05 p.m.

“I don’t like tofu anymore, mommy. It sounds funny.”

6:07 p.m

“Nevermind mommy, I love tofu! Tofu! Tofu! Tofu!”

6:30 p.m.

A child's drawing. On a white sheet of computer printer paper are three pink circles with arms, legs, and faces. Photo by Darya Shahgheibi.

Artwork by Violet. Photo by Darya Shahgheibi.

“Here’s a picture of me, and you, and my daddy as tofu.”

Saturday + Sunday


Poster for Uniting Pride support groups. A blue poster with white text indicates which groups meet on which days. Image courtesy of Uniting Pride.

Image courtesy of Uniting Pride.

Even during a pandemic, the weekends seem to go by faster. Maybe it’s because of Uniting Pride’s weekly Saturday Happy Hour or the weekly Sunday AgingUP group? Running those groups does make the day go by super fast. It’s a nice way to break up the day and talk to actual adults. (Although playing mommy/baby dinosaur is super fun, too.) This pandemic has been tough on everyone, and it’s always nice to connect with others.

Interested in participating in a Uniting Pride support group? Email Darya Shahgheibi at

Program Administrator Darya (she/they) is a queer parent, activist, advocate, and artist from Arizona. Her pre-pandemic life consisted of daily, in-person (!!) meetings at Espresso Royale, Saturday morning trips to the farmers’ market and the Idea Store, weekly trips to the Champaign Library with her kiddo (age three), and some painting when she got the chance. They’ve lived in shampoo-banana for around six years, and love it!

Youth Program Coordinator Zev (he/they) is a community organizer, activist, writer, and educator. His pre-pandemic life consisted of community organizing projects, farming and gardening, nannying, and a pretty packed and hectic schedule. They’ve lived in the Urbana Library House Co-Op, known for its iconic wallpaper and 2017 house shows, for about a year, but accidentally decided to move into a new, empty house in the middle of a global pandemic.

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