This is me today as part of my 80th-birthday greeting to my beloved family friend, Kay.

Greetings to you, wherever you are. I hope you and yours are healthy, secure, and relatively comfortable.

(To those of you viewing this post sometime after March 2020, the novel coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic is going on, and we’re all stuck at home. Or at least we should be. Or are legally required to be. Things are changing day by day, place by place, so what I’m writing today may seem from an entirely different era not only by the time you read this, but by the time of next week’s entry.)

My previous nine days were supposed to include a visit to an elementary school here in Austin; a reading and signing of Fire Truck vs. Dragon at BookPeople, followed immediately by a presentation in the store at the monthly meeting of Austin’s chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI); and a trip to Raleigh for three days of school visits and a store appearance at Quail Ridge Books. And those were just my professional plans.

None of that came to pass.

Instead, I dropped by BookPeople to sign stacks of Fire Truck vs. Dragon (which you can order online from them here) and Shark vs. Train (likewise). Aside from popping into our neighborhood market to get a couple of half-gallons of ice cream while Jennifer and our dog, Ernie, waited outside mid-walk, that impromptu signing on Friday, March 13, was the last time I’ve been anywhere other than our house, yard, or neighborhood streets.

My SCBWI presentation and Q&A afterwards ended up taking place on Zoom. A big part of what I talked about — what I was already planning to talk about — was the benefit of being part of a community of children’s book creators, and while I can’t speak for anyone else, the extra lengths that the chapter went through to make the meeting happen served to underscore that point. Another bright side of doing the presentation online was that folks outside Austin, or who could not have attended the meeting at the store for some other reason, were able to participate as well. I’d love to be able to do the presentation again in person while I’m still in my 20th year of making books.

Jennifer and I and Ernie are joined for our hunkering-down by our 20-year-old daughter. Our three sons in our blended family are with their other parents nearby. Checking in with them, and with our own parents, our friends, and other loved ones, quickly became a routine part of the week for Jenny and me — much more so than was normally the case in the weeks before, and I’m grateful for all the means (phone, FaceTime, Zoom, text, Facebook, email, Twitter DMs, socially distant in-person hellos with neighbors) available for us to use for that.

Other routines — maintained, modified, or adopted anew — have helped, too. I’ve pushed my morning wakeup time an hour later, to 6 a.m., and we’re aiming at stopping our workdays at 5 p.m., rather than an hour (or more) later, as we’d grown accustomed to. That’s allowed Jennifer and me more time for checking in with each other while making and eating dinner, for walking the dog, watching Better Call Saul and/or Pride and Prejudice, and for reading for pleasure, both independently and as part of our longtime picture-book-and-glass-of-wine evening tradition that we call A Red and a Read.

My author work this past week consisted largely of creating “Ask me anything” pages for several of my books, and beginning to work on discussion guides for a few of those. I want to continue to support educators, and when they attain some stability in their own new routines, I hope they’ll know that I’m here for them.

I’d been looking forward, this summer, to taking an intensive Spanish course. I assume now that that will not happen, for financial reasons but also because of the potential disruption of regular life for months to come. That’s disappointing, but it’s prompted me to add half-hour Pimsleur audio language lessons to my daily diet of Spanish study via Duolingo. Keeping up with things like that can be a challenge when I’m traveling. Nothing like a pandemic to make it easier to keep up my 575-day streak in Duolingo.

There is something that I’d been looking forward to that actually did come to pass this week. Remember the Survivor Tree seedling that I brought home from last April’s Remembrance Ceremony at the Oklahoma City National Memorial and Museum? Ever since the last leaf fell a few months back, I’d been eager to see the return of some green on those tiny brown branches.

On Friday, the first full day of spring, it happened, and that’s made me so happy. In hopes that it will bring you some contentment, too, I’ll end this week’s taking-stock post by sharing a photo of how one of those buds looked this morning: