“Molly is the best thing to come out of Ohio since…um…the best thing to come out of Ohio since things started to come out of Ohio!”
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A NEW NORMAL

This is a time that is new to us. Very few of us remember the Depression or WWII. Living with a siege mentality, with nowhere to go, nothing to do. We are frightened, stressed, and for many of us, it results in symptoms: headaches, stress eating, mood swings. We go from acceptance to “how could this be real?” The thought of not being able to go anywhere except for a walk or to get essential goods for many more weeks creates even more anxiety.

I appreciate all of the things on social media that are helpful. News updates. Streaming concerts. I love seeing the inside of Ellen’s house, while Portia cooks her subscription box meals. I love watching William Brangham reporting on the PBS Newshour from his living room, with his two kitties asleep on the sofa behind him. We are all in this together. Zoom and FaceTime are burgeoning, and thank goodness we can at least see one another and have a group chat!

I wish I had a message that I could send to all of you that would make you feel better. I wish I had the right words. I don’t. Just like everyone else, I am having my own struggles with the pandemic:  too much news, too much Facebook, not enough self-sufficiency. My husband and I struggle with being supportive while simultaneously annoying one another. Being the only other person in your spouse’s life, day in and day out, puts a lot of strain on a relationship. We try to hang together but also give each other a wide berth. It’s not an easy thing.

Meals are important, and I find myself in an entirely new mindset. I don’t want to waste anything, just in case. I am recycling green beans–tonight, the vegetable. Tomorrow, the accent to a salad. This is a challenge that I should have risen to a long time ago. I threw away so much usable food. I am ashamed of that.

We are drinking more wine than previously. We watch shows that we would have never wanted to see before, although I am not sure we will be able to finish Tiger King. It is way too strange. But TV has become a real lifeline.

Here’s to all of you out there, wrestling with a new normal. What will we all be like when this is over? How will it change our lives? Will it ever be over, really? What kind of individuals will we be afterward? Better or worse–saner or crazier?

Take care, all of you. When the quarantines lift, let’s all get together for a pizza.

 

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THE TWENTY MINUTE TUTORIAL

 

First of all, the dress code at our house, as I am sure it has at yours, been relaxed. My husband, now dubbed FLANNEL MAN, gets dressed later and later each day. The above is an actual representation of his new “look.”

However, this is not about that. This is about men and the coronavirus. Women, most of whom have either raised children, babysat for children, taken care of pets, or just taken care of a household, know about CLEAN. We live clean. We practice clean. Men, on the other hand, have relied on their immune systems and women to keep them in a state of health and vigor their whole lives. I am excluding nurses and doctors from this equation, for logical reasons. Those men know clean.

Flannel man, however, has not been vigilant since the onset of COVID-19. Despite my browbeating, filling his pockets with little bottles of hand sanitizer, and yelling at him to wash his hands, I actually witnessed him touching the elevator button with his bare hands! Something had to be done.

So. We had a pandemic tutorial, that lasted twenty minutes, including many pauses to answer his questions. It went a little like this. For expedience, from now on, Flannel Man will be abbreviated to FM:

ME: I have here a bottle of bleach spray which I have prepared for you to carry with you at all times. It is narrow enough to fit in the cup holder of your car.

FM:  I have to put in in the cup holder? But my cup holder has my sack of parking meter change in it, along with the keys to my workshop, and the instructions that you gave me for using the hand sanitizer spray!

ME: For one thing, I know you are not using the sanitizer sprays, because I gave them to you three weeks ago, and not one of them is empty. Put the change in your glove compartment, because you will not be PARKING anywhere for the foreseeable future. And the bleach spray is for the keys to your workshop, among other things.

FM: I have to spray my keys?

ME: Think of it like this. Every single thing that you touch, I want you to think of as contaminated. Every single thing.

FM: My underpants?

ME: Don’t be a smartass. Your underpants are clean. I am talking about anything outside our apartment. To continue, this is a roll of paper towels. Carry it with you everywhere. Rip off a sheet, spray it well with the bleach solution, and use that to push elevator buttons. Spray door handles, and use the sheet to open the doors.

FM: I have to juggle my car keys, the spray bottle, and a roll of paper towels? I have to rip off a sheet, spray it, and touch things with it?  I won’t be able to carry all that stuff. I will drop something.

ME: *sighing, as I have been successfully doing this for weeks* Ok. How about this idea? Here are three pairs of gloves from the box that I ordered before I realized there would be a shortage in hospitals. I am ashamed I did this. But since we have them, do this. Take the three pairs of gloves. Put on a pair. Go down to your car, touching the buttons and doors as normal. As soon as you leave the building, throw the gloves in the trash receptacle outside the door. Do not touch the outside of the gloves. Insert your finger inside the glove as I am demonstrating, and pull it off your hand. Let it fall in the receptacle. Do the same with the other. Get in your car and drive to your workshop. Then, when you get to the parking lot at the workshop, put on the second pair of gloves, and do the same. Deposit those in the trash can in your workshop. Then when you leave, use the third pair as instructed, throwing those away before you re-enter your car. And don’t forget–DON’T TOUCH YOUR FACE AT ANY TIME WHEN OUTSIDE OF THIS APARTMENT.

FM: Looks confused

ME: WAIT. You would need a fourth pair.  You would have to put those on to come back into the apartment building. When you get to our door, don’t knock. Kick the door. I will open it, holding a trash bag, You will then remove the gloves as instructed, and I will leave the trash bag outside for 48 hours before removing it.

FM: *face falls* Back to the bleach spray. Could I just rip off about twenty five sheets of paper towels and stuff them in my pants pockets? That way, I wouldn’t need to carry the roll of towels, just my keys and the bleach spray? And hey, anybody that saw me would think I am a stud? *gestures towards the general area of his crotch* You know, like Arnold Schwarzenegger?

ME: *taking a moment to imagine Schwarzenegger below the waist* I guess. But you must not even consider getting close enough for anyone to see the wad in your pocket, do you understand? No showing off. Social distancing. If you see any other person entering your building, do not go up to them. Do you understand?

FM: Can we do a practice run? I need a practice run.

ME: A practice run will waste materials. We can do a pantomime practice run here in the apartment. Take the spray bottle and here is a paper towel. Just pretend.

FM: *after three failed attempts, in which he touched one door handle without “spraying,” scratched his nose, and dropped the spray bottle on the floor* I may just stay home today.

ME: Good idea.

We are going to try again tomorrow.

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STAY HOME

Yesterday I sanitized the house. I made an egg dish that I have never tried. I changed the bed, did some floor exercises, and binge listened to a podcast. I got bored, and this was just day one.

Today, I am getting my first grocery delivery from Whole Foods via Amazon. I have my Clorox solution ready to hose everything down with before it comes into the apartment. I am doing some Netflix research for movies to watch. I will rummage through the freezer to decide which of my stockpile to make for dinner tonight.

I take great comfort in the fact that just about every sane person in America is staying home, too. I love going on Facebook and comparing notes with all my social media contacts to see what they are doing, cooking, reading, and planning.

This may go on for a long, long, time. I wonder how we will all fare, keeping our distance. Will we go crazy and forget the WHO and run riot into the streets out of sheer desperation to connect with another human? Will we say “The hell with it, if I die, I die,” and go out to eat? Or will we be good, moral citizens and hunker down, perhaps saving a life or two by isolating ourselves. This is a new world we are living in.

Right now, it is novel and exciting, like an extended snow day. I have a book to write. A cat. A very nice husband. But I wonder how I will be after two weeks at home. What it will be like to be a recluse.  Oh, wait-there is a BOOK ABOUT THAT!

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OUT OF STYLE

 

I came across an article in my news feed that wasn’t about the coronavirus. It was about fading trends in home decor, and I felt obligated to share these things with you so you can rush right out and hire a contractor to change everything in your house, or at least, get a decorator on the line, FAST. Because you risk becoming one of those people who lives in a house that is, as they so often say on HGTV, “dated.”

I can write this with a very clear conscience, because I recently moved into a brand new apartment, where everything is current. This will last for about what? five years? at which point we may have to move to a more updated place. Nevertheless, here is a listicle of things you mustn’t have any more, if you wish to be de rigueur.

  1. Get rid of those granite countertops. The fact that absolutely EVERYBODY on House Hunters required them two years ago is no longer the rule. You must now have quartz, concrete, or some sort of composite of minerals that look nothing like stone. If you notice, all the countertops in public restrooms are granite. Enough said.
  2. Stainless steel. Ok, most of us have it, but apparently, it is on the cusp of being really unpopular. I am not sure what we are supposed to get to replace these refrigerators and stoves. White, maybe? Retro 1950’s? Maybe colors. Or black.
  3. Oh, my God. If you have wood paneling, get it out of there! I am going to go out on a limb, here, and say that shiplap is on its way to becoming passe as well. A pox on Joanna Gaines!
  4. Do not, under any circumstances, get curtains that match your bed covering. This immediately labels you as elderly.
  5. Wallpaper is coming back. However, if it looks like a lot of flowers, you are making a bad choice. Note: I had wallpaper in my front hall that was straight out of the 1950’s for the 27 years that I lived there. I had to get rid of it to sell the house. Millennials hate wallpaper that reminds them of their grandmas. I am a proud grandma. Sidebar: I have ordered some wallpaper already for my apartment. It has no flowers, though.
  6. Terrazzo. Who in God’s name besides shopping malls ever liked terrazzo? Ok, maybe people in Rome. But come ON. It is so awful.
  7. I hate to report this, but get rid of all of those throw pillows.
  8. Subway tile. Too ubiquitous. Go with something else. Or call it a “classic.”
  9. If you have a sink sitting on top of your bathroom counter, it is a fading trend. I always sort of wanted one of those, but I am relieved that I didn’t fall for it. The word is undermount, baby!
  10. Valances. Get rid of them. Especially those puffy ones that look like scallop shells. I have to admit, I love those. But I am a grandma, and you know how grandmas are. However, I have never liked doilies. Come ON.
  11. Tuscan kitchens are out. Except in Tuscany.
  12. Chandeliers are still in. I cannot understand why. People are putting them in every single room. That is sheer overkill. I think a chandelier in the dining room is over the top. Of course, no one HAS dining rooms any more, because open concept. So I guess then you have to put your chandelier somewhere, and why not in the bathroom? Or hanging from a tree out in the back yard?

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to depress you, You are probably depressed as hell right now, anyway, due to the hand sanitizer shortage. Oh, one more thing: wabi sabi is IN. I have no idea what that is.

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THE DOOMSDAY LIST

I did my Coronavirus shopping today. We are in the group considered “vulnerable,” so I had to get what we need to be able to stay inside for at least two weeks.

THE LIST

  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Kleenex
  • Food
  • Grappling hook
  • Lederhosen
  • Parachute
  • Snow shovel
  • Epsom salts
  • Margarita Mix
  • Pup tent
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Twizzlers

They were all out of shower shoes.

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A FOOL’S ERRAND, ETC.

Are they idioms? Figures of speech? Where did they come from? And yes, one can Google. But I prefer to speculate:

  • Were people just lazy in the old days? Too somnolent to get their stuff done? So they hired people with no sense to run their errands for them? Fools? And if you send a fool to run your errands, you will soon learn it is not a good idea, because instead of bread and milk, any fool will tell you that Coke and Doritos are better.
  • Come on. I have never seen a bum rush anywhere. They have no deadlines, thus no sense of urgency. So how this expression got so popular, I will never know.
  • Have you ever, in your entire life, seen a person with a stick, hitting the ground around a shrub? And if so, does this person never get to the point when telling a story? Are the two things related? How? This is a rhetorical question.
  • I have purchased a few horses in my day. And yes, we looked at their teeth. But if somebody gave me a horse, I would still look at his teeth. Good grief, it’s just common sense, people.
  • I know it is what it is. It is always what it is. Why even say that?
  • Our mustard is spreadable. Everybody’s mustard is spreadable, for God’s sake!
  • Both ends of the stick are probably about the same. And if you get the wrong end, just turn the stick around. It’s not rocket science.
  • Rocket science.
  • Wash the baby. Dry the baby. Drain the bathwater. Geez, it’s not rocket science.
  • I might touch it with a stick. Even the wrong end of a stick. It could be shorter than a ten-foot stick. I would say that if it is dead, I would touch it with a six foot stick. If it smells bad, maybe an eight foot stick. A stick is fine. A pole is just over thinking it.
  • I had no idea that thieves stick together. As a matter of fact, I would think one thief would stay as far away from another one as possible. Because that thief might RAT on you.
  • So if he rats on you, what is that? Does he throw a dead rodent in your direction?

I have to go now. I have a splitting headache.

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NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS

Things were getting way too depressing. Every ten minutes, someone in the government blew a whistle, quit a job, lied, called names, or committed an atrocious act. I checked Twitter and my news feed every ten or twenty minutes, and by God, something else had happened.

So. I took a bold step. I got off Twitter, despite the fact that I had amassed a very large following there. Ok–bragging: over 16,000 followers, I am sure none of whom actually cared one whit what I tweeted. So I deactivated my account.

It took me about a month to stop looking for the Twitter app to click on my phone. Old habits die hard. But I felt better, less anxious. Then I made another huge decision: I stopped watching Judy Woodruff on the PBS Newshour every night. I realized that our Commander in Chief will never change, and the things spewing forth from his lips only get worse. So I stopped listening.

I still check the news feed on my phone once a day, just to make sure that no one has bombed New York, or that we have purchased, Greenland, was it?

I sleep at night now. I think about what to make for dinner instead of who got shot in what city the night before. I am beginning to work on my next book again. I have decided that this is a blip. We will vote. Americans will come to their senses.

My head isn’t completely buried in sand. I can still hear the birds. But no tweets, thank you.

 

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NOT YET

How old do you have to be to say “the hell with it,” and just go to the grocery store without makeup? Despite the fact that without makeup, you look pasty faced and your eye bags command attention?

What about wardrobe? When can you run an errand in a shirt with a grease spot from last night’s spaghetti, and face the world unashamed?

Spanx. When are you just too old to worry about that pooch? Let it all hang out?

Speaking of Spanx, at what point in your life do you forget that there is even such a thing as a carb? Instead, you merrily order dessert, have donuts for breakfast, and just move up another clothing size?

Do people turn 60 and throw caution to the winds? Pass gas at will? Or is it 70? Do most seventy year olds give a damn about their appearance, their reputation, or how many days can go by without washing their hair?

I keep waiting for that magical moment. The day I wake up and take one look at my tube of concealer and throw it directly into the trash. The day I decide that white teeth aren’t  worth sitting with those vile-tasting strips on,  waiting for the kitchen timer to go off. The day I once and for all decide that no matter what, I will never even consider an underwire.

That day has not arrived.  I just ordered a jar of slug slime. It is supposed to do wonders for wrinkles.

 

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OLD AND NEW

On the left is the old. On the right is the new. City versus suburb. Historic house versus brand new apartment.

I was ready to move. I have harbored an urban fantasy for years.

Here is what I will miss forever:

  • History. The thought that lives were lived in a home that was filled with happiness and drama. The old “if walls had ears” phenomenon. I loved the butler’s pantry, for example. Who was the butler? Was there ever one? And there is a hole in the floor in the dining room where there once was a bell to summon the maid. There is also what looks like a doorbell mounted on the wall beside the fireplace. Also for summoning a servant.Wow. How Downton that was!
  • Crystal, egg shaped doorknobs on every door. Absolutely beautiful and hard to take for granted.
  • A sleeping porch. We never slept there, but it is so private, I spent many an evening up there in my pjs.
  • Huge rooms. High ceilings. Crown molding.
  • A fanlight over the front door. Sigh.
  • Sitting in front of the fire in the winter, writing a book. Cozy. Hygge.
  • A dining room with a table for 8-10 people. Sure, we used it only on holidays, but it was gracious.
  • Center hall that was wide enough for a wedding. Again, it manifested itself only in one of my novels, but it could happen. A bride may yet walk down that staircase to a waiting crowd below.
  • The neighborhood. The neighbors.

Here is what is new and exciting:

  • Views of the city. Lights at night. Sunsets right outside the living room windows.
  • Speaking of windows: light. Light everywhere from the huge windows in every room. Vistas for miles.
  • I have a kitchen island. I never knew why everyone got so excited about them. Now I do.
  • Walk in closet of my own, with room for more clothes than I will ever have.
  • And right off that closet, the laundry room. No more carrying laundry baskets down two and a half flights of stairs into the basement.
  • A wrap around balcony. Just enough for lots of flowers in the summer.
  • A view of the Dayton Dragons baseball field. I am not a baseball fan, but it will be fun watching the games from above. Maybe.
  • Fireworks. Sitting out on the balcony with a bird’s eye view. Can’t wait.
  • All the new furniture I got to buy. A once in a lifetime experience.

It has been more of an emotional wrench than I expected, but the pluses far outweigh the minuses. And it certainly helps that we are passing on the house to the right family who will love and respect it as we did.

If there is a wedding in that house, and if we are still alive, I hope we are invited.

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