THE WORST OF TIMES

This week has been historical. No one, to be sure, needs to hear from me.

I will be back. Peace.

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THE SMALL OUTDOORS

Pandemic advice: we all need to to go outside for our mental health. Walk. No, hike. Or if your knees aren’t blown, run like the wind. Nature is a balm for the spirit. Being locked down has taken its toll.

I agree with all of this. However, as a decidedly inside person, the nature thing has limitations. It has to be nice. I won’t walk in rain. The temperature is an important variable:  if it is 80 degrees or higher, that is way too hot. People. There are a lot of them out there now, and the more of them, the less I want to go out among them. I am in the elderly category, which by the way, came as a COMPLETE SURPRISE to me.

So. The solution is in the photo above. We have the most perfect terrace in the world. It is big enough to actually walk around on, and small enough not to be a gardening challenge for me. And if I go out there and it is ONE: way too hot, or TWO: looking like rain, I just come right back inside. In one second, I am back in the great indoors where I belong.

Gardening on this scale is also perfect for me. There is no hose needed, and I can water all the pots in five minutes or less. Deadheading? Just the one geranium. Enough to make me feel sort of like I have a green thumb.

Sitting out there in the evening is also terrific. I can watch the city and sip a drink. Light a candle and muse about things. Watch people below not social distancing and wonder how on earth they are so stupid.

We oldsters will be limited in activities for a long time, it seems. So I am thankful for the fact that on days when I can’t get motivated to hike around, I can still go outside and commune with the nature in my patio pots.

Stay safe, all of you. Wear your masks. Wash your hands.

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GOOD DAYS, BAD DAYS

What mood are you in today? Do you have a project to work on? A yard? The virus hit us particularly hard because we no longer have either, really. The apartment is brand new, so there is nothing to “fix.” I am not a hobbyist. Luckily for him, my husband has a studio rented where he can putter around, play the accordion, and get away from it all.

I have a book to write, but sometimes wish for our yard. The photo above is from our terrace looking in. It is a great place to sit, with wonderful views of downtown. I never thought I would say that I miss having grass, because when I had a beautiful yard for nearly 30 years, I didn’t go out there very much. I considered myself a total indoor person. So now I realize that one truly never misses the water until the well runs dry.

The good days are when I have a new recipe to make, a thousand words completed on my book, and a long walk to take. The not-so-good days are rainy, inspiration is missing, and all we have for dinner is grilled cheese.’

I bet you know exactly what I am talking about. Yes, things are opening up, but how many of us are ready to go out there? Meanwhile, we stay put. The world. It will never be the same. We must adapt and persevere. Some days are just a bit more challenging than others.

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THE OTHER MOTHER’S DAY

It’s a Hallmark holiday. Social media goes wild with folks posting nostalgic pictures of their perfect mommas. Tributes abound. Flowers. Breakfast in bed. Glory to moms everywhere.

Then there are the rest of us. We had mothers who didn’t measure up to the ideal. As a matter of fact, there are people whose mothers were so horrible that even to think of their parents is triggering. Traumatic.

I am not one of those people who have PTSD in regard to my own mother. It’s not that horrible. I had an icy mother. A selfish mother. A rude mother. My mother sent back the majority of gifts I gave her. No matter how I tried, none of my presents were nice enough, or thoughtful enough, or something. I could never figure it out.

As she got older, she became more hurtful.  I had to distance myself from her in order to hold myself together emotionally. I walled off all of that stuff.

As a result, I have my own paranoia as a mother. I live in constant anxiety that one of my daughters will come to view me the way I did my own mom. Any comparison to my mother has been forbidden: for one of them to say that I am like my mother in any respect is like a horrid condemnation–all in my head, perhaps, but that is my truth.

As a result, I understand. I get it if you dread Mother’s Day with all of the trimmings. I feel for you if you simply numb yourself and try not to think of your own past. And I really empathize with all of you out there who have spent your own motherhoods desperately trying to compensate for the failings of your own mothers.

Happy Day to you. To us. With love and compassion.

 

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IF ONLY

So, things are starting to open up. Here in Ohio, today it’s offices and manufacturing/distribution. May 12 it’s retail. No haircuts or gyms or golf or nail salons yet. Of course, no restaurants. But soon, they tell us. Soon.

But when they open, the world won’t be like it was. Ever. We think we can go back to “normal.” But despite all of the protestors brandishing guns and screaming for their right to go out and about, go back to work without masks (don’t force us to do anything), the world as it was just two and a half months ago will never return. Oh, yes, there may be a vaccine, but that is so far into the future that we can’t speculate when that will happen. Herd immunity? Good luck with that–I am not willing to risk getting sick or dying in order for that to happen.

So the anxious ones among us, the careful and measured ones, will wear masks when we go out. We’ll keep our distance, parch our hands with sanitizer, clean our doorknobs, and forego hobnobbing for months, maybe longer.

Zoom gives us the opportunity to see one another, to chat and play long distance games. Thank God for that. But something will be missing. We won’t have hugs. Smiles will be obscured by masks. Many of us will remain anxious, isolated, and lost. Was this the planet’s way to reset? Mother Nature punishing us for our rampant sins against our environment?

What will we learn? I am afraid the answer is nothing. I see the news of people, mask-less, crowding parks, stores, and walkways. I still hear versions of “it’s just the flu.” We are an ignorant bunch, we humans. We insist on continuing to act as conquerors, boldly asserting ourselves into every nook and cranny of the globe, arrogant and heedless of the damage we wreak. So many of us will die. Perhaps at some point, the coronavirus will creep away. But there will be other pandemics.

Have we crossed the line? Will there be no turning back?

The world has changed so fast that many of us still live in the reality of that old normal. It hasn’t sunk in yet. We cling desperately to the belief that soon, “this will all be behind us.” What will happen when we finally understand the fact that it won’t?

 

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STILL INSIDE

Things have deteriorated.

Hell, here’s a list

  • We have five dozen eggs
  • Oh, and all those Facebook friends posting pics of their blueberry pancakes
  • I am not supposed to have carbs
  • I hate puzzles
  • I cried when it came to me that I may have to teach my husband how to paint my toenails
  • Garnier Nutrisse hair color in a box
  • I have listened to all the podcasts
  • My husband’s Zoom meetings
  • Memes, so many f***ing memes
  • Game nights are a scam
  • There are exactly 100 steps to the elevator
  • People seem unable to grasp the concept of six feet
  • I am going to have to restrain myself from carrying a yardstick
  • OH MY GOD JUST GOOGLE SLIPSTREAM
  • My husband hates omelets
  • We have five dozen eggs
  • I have seen all the HGTV
  • The mask fogs my glasses
  • I never used to know what Door Dash was
  • We are out of peanuts
  • Even Judy Woodruff’s roots are showing
  • Droplets–we have to consider droplets
  • We have five dozen eggs
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PANDEMIC DIARY PART who knows what day this is?

At no time in our living history has this happened. The world is closed, and we are all shut-ins. Sidebar: I was absolutely prescient to write an entire novel about shut-ins. You should read it if you haven’t already. The World Came to Us is on Amazon).

Notes from my little spot on the planet

  • Plan. Spend at least 45 minutes getting ready to get dressed. Think about what I might wear. If I stay in pajamas, every time I see my husband completely attired in his jeans, flannel shirt, and for God’s sake, socks and shoes, I will feel like a sloth. But, deciding which pair of leggings to wear, and if a bra would somehow make me look more like a civilized human TAKES TIME. So. Lie on the bed and ponder.
  • Worry. Check the pantry multiple times a day. I don’t have any dried beans. All the pundits like Ina Garten mention dried beans at least twice in their interviews in the New York Times. Will farro do?
  • Make an online shopping list for curbside delivery. Forget to put down milk and peanut butter, so that my husband has to risk his life by going actually INSIDE the grocery to get those. And I know he won’t wear the mask. But I am way too scared to go. However, coffee without milk is unthinkable. So yes, risk his life for the coffee. And p b and j. Oh, and have him get some dried beans.
  • Turn even the smallest activity into a massive project. For instance, empty the dishwasher by taking every clean thing out, placing it on the countertop, grouping into categories (silverware in one pile,  a small plates stack, a big plates stack, and the spatulas in a separate pile) and THEN putting each thing away. This doubles the amount of time spent, and poof, before I know it, it’s time for either lunch or a nap.
  • Sigh at least seventy times each hour.
  • Worry. How obvious are my white roots? Why does my haircut look so awful these days? How much weight am I gaining? Will I remember how to put on eyeliner in two months?
  • Worry. What if my husband or I actually get this and die?
  • Exercise. But also worry about viral particles in the slipstream of others.
  • Stop reading articles about things like the slipstream of others.
  • Say a prayer of thanks for Mike DeWine.
  • Nap. They all say it is necessary to nap.
  • Forgive myself for my napping, slothful ways. They say we should go easy on ourselves.
  • Put Oreos on the next online shopping order.
  • Worry.
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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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