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In the very back of our game closet, where the abandoned toys retreat, we have a toy that changes shape and colors with a twist of a joint. It’s a simple toy, with no set rules, no blinking lights, no buzzers announcing failure or success. The simplicity is both mesmerizing and irritating. I twist the tiles one by one, waiting for them to align, to create a pattern, to organize in some fashion of completion if not victory. My fingers smooth the top of the tiles, maneuvering them up and down, searching for a hierarchy or goal, but one tangled line simply turns into another. There is no end other than frustration.

Right now, as our world is transformed by COVID-19, my head is crowded with a similar sense of chaos. As I scour the news, watch the press conferences, listen to the doctors and count my rolls of toilet paper, the life-saving details of how to survive this worldwide pandemic, melt into a slurry of fear and worry. There are so many loose ends threatening to unravel, so many tangled lines unsecured by the comfort of a solid knot.

It does not surprise me that every time I try to write down some words of hope, humor, inspiration or even just camaraderie, I find my right pinkie reaching for the “Backspace” button, like a slow yawn. My words are not right. My ideas are not clear. There is more unknown than known.

I don’t know when the first case of COVID-19 will be reported in our community, but I do know it is coming.

I don’t know when our kids will go back to school, but I do know there will be WWF throw downs over e-learning. Leg-wrestle-for-Wi-Fi may become a morning ritual. I’ve added squats to my workouts.

I don’t know when the stores will re-stock toilet paper, but I do know hoarding supplies is selfish and dangerous in a time of scarcity. I also know the stack of McDonald’s napkins which previously found refuge in my glove compartment box will be a scratchy alternative for those who don’t use supplies with caution.

I don’t know why washing hands after using the bathroom has proven to be a novel experiment in hygiene, but I do know my kids re-discovered the joy of finger painting with a good foamy hand soap (on mirrors no less…).

I don’t know how many hours of television my children will watch, but I do know keeping their social circle contained is an act of love: for them and others. How damaging can a binge of Mr. Ed truly be anyhow?

I don’t know how many unicorn cakes we will bake, but I do know a box of sugar cones contains 10 potential horns, so I expect we will run out of counter space.

I don’t know why I have created a color-coded map of where to find HandSan in our home, but I do know I would be a hell of a pirate. X marks the spot. Arrrghhh.

I don’t know what I will do when a family member or friend is admitted to the hospital with respiratory complications, but I do know we are lucky to have a generous and courageous medical community preparing for their arrival.

I don’t know why I always want to cut bangs when I am stressed, but I do know my teenage daughter has purposely hidden the scissors. God bless her.

I don’t know how many packs of ramen noodles will be consumed over the next few weeks, but I do know my kitchen will have food. For my kids and yours if need be.

I don’t know how many more days until the restaurants will open, how many weeks until the school buses come back to the corner, how many months until a cough doesn’t illicit a look of scorn. But, I do know, we are in it together.

We may not be able to control the arrival of COVID-19, but we can decide what together will look like in this community. The trajectory is not clear and there is not a promised ending, but we can be the safety knot at the end of each other’s tangled line.

Stay home, but reach out when you need help and reach out when you can give help. We are strongest when we are bound together. Love well, neighbors.

Marny Stebbins lives in Stillwater with her husband and four children. She is a staunch believer in early bedtimes, caffeine enhancement and humor therapy.

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