In 2012, David Quammen, a writer who currently lives in my old college town, wrote a book called Spillover. In Spillover, he predicts the current pandemic beginning with a human exposure to a coronavirus carried by a bat, an exposure that occurs in a “wet meat” market in China and spreads exponentially and with deadly results throughout the world. The book received a great deal of attention since at the time of its release in 2014, the Ebola virus was rampant in West Africa with fatal outcomes that sent shockwaves throughout the world. But after Ebola waned, interest in global pandemics waned too. In the digital age, we seem to have an attention span approaching a nanosecond. “Oh, look! A squirrel!” stopped being funny when it became the fabric of our inability to hold onto a thought for not long enough to do something meaningful with it.
Now, here we all are trying to muddle our way through shelter-in-place orders in most areas of the world though my home state of Wyoming stubbornly remains an outlier. Governments rely on computer models to predict the duration and severity of the health crisis. Yet the computers can’t fully account for human behavior. When people thought this experience might last two weeks, three max, some were cheerful, many were sanguine, most were resigned. But as the duration and severity of the pandemic worsens and business and school closures start to look interminable, people are questioning the government, demanding better answers, and worrying about more than their supplies of toilet paper.
Changes and Challenges
Even though this event would have never been on any of our lists of thirty new things to try, it does give us opportunity to try some things we haven’t before. One I keep reading about and hearing about from my friends with school-age children is homeschooling, not as a choice but as a necessity. It’s a challenge for everyone. Some positives to the experience are: it’s bringing some families closer together, it’s growing an appreciation for teachers and schools, and it’s highlighting the uselessness of mandatory state and federal testing that takes time away from the valuable work of teaching and learning. Since I was a teacher in my previous career, I find the current state of education intensely interesting. But maybe that’s just me.
Another change for many people is cooking at home rather than going out for meals. Perhaps you’re trying cooking at home for the first time—empty grocery store shelves suggest that’s the case. If you were already a cook, perhaps you’re giving some new recipes a try. I tried lazy chicken lasagna. It was one of the easiest dishes I’ve made in a while and so delicious, I’m adding it to my repertoire and sharing it with you.
Lazy Chicken Lasagna
2 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts, split
2 T olive oil
Salt and pepper for seasoning
1 jar of marinara sauce (whatever brand you like)
1 cup ricotta or cottage cheese
1 large egg
2 T shaved parmesan
½ C shredded mozzarella
Pre-heat oven at 400
Dredge the four halves of chicken breasts in olive oil and season with salt and pepper, place in an oven-safe baking dish with space between each breast.
Lightly beat the egg then mix in the ricotta and parmesan cheeses. Spread the mixture evenly over each chicken breast half.
Spread the marinara evenly over the chicken and cheese mixture.
Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the sauce and place in the oven.
Bake the lasagna for 30-35 minutes at 400
Just before serving, place fresh basil leaves on each serving.
If you want to dress it up more or extend it, serve over zucchini noodles or your favorite pasta. (We like zucchini noodles. They complement the lasagna perfectly.)
(Unless you’re sharing dinner with your adult son who is prepping for a body-building competition in October. Then it serves three, or maybe two, or probably one.)
A Book Launch
The other new thing I tried is launching a book during a pandemic. I’ll let you know the intelligence of this choice as the outcome becomes clear. I seriously questioned whether I should release Warrior during this time. But when I ran my concerns past my web designer, he said, “Now that I’m stuck at home, I’m reading more books than ever. This might be an excellent time to send a new book into the world.” So I did. Because social distancing means the book signings I’d scheduled were cancelled, I also went to work learning how to create book ads and figuring out the most visible places to post them. It’s a work in progress, but I’ve discovered that I like experimenting with ads. That was unexpected.
Even though I’m stuck at home, I’ve still managed to try three new things during the past twenty days since I last checked in with you. My Thirty New Things year ends on April 30, and I have one additional new thing I want to try before then. I’ll tell you all about it in my next post. Until then, what new experiences have you had during this crisis? How are they working out for you?
Let me know in the comments.
Yours in taking a risk (or thirty),
Tam DeRudder Jackson
Author of the Talisman Series.