STATUS UPDATE

What is the “new normal,” anyway? I have never seen the movie Groundhog Day, but doesn’t it have something to do with a guy waking up every day and doing the same thing over and over?

I think that is what all of us are doing right now. Same old, same old, Staying home. Cooking. Some people bake. Lots of gardening and home projects. Cleaning out closets. Sewing masks. Binge watching things.

None of the above describes me, except for the binge watching. I live in a brand-new apartment. No scope for home improvement projects. I don’t have a garden. The closets are clean, due to the fact that we had a major clothing and belongings purge before we moved. Sewing? That’s a joke. I do binge, but don’t we all?

Here is a list of what I AM doing:

  • Showing up for a socially distanced dinner at our friends’ lovely yard on the wrong night. Three freaking days too soon. Thank goodness these are British friends, because they were actually dressed in street clothes, not pajamas like all of us born in the USA. They were so very gracious to implore us to stay anyway, and we had a lovely pizza dinner in their garden. I did hear the husband whisper to the wife “What shall we do with the dinner you have in the cooker?” To which she shook her head and whispered  back something like “Hush; we can have it tomorrow, go in and turn off the Aga.”
  • Exercising in the COVID way. This entails not leaving the apartment for fear of droplets. Thus, I wait until my husband leaves and walk purposely around the apartment to the beat of my Pandora playlist for 30 minutes every day. While pacing, I pray that the person who lives below us doesn’t wonder if I am being held against my will.
  • Podcasts. Some people listen to podcasts to learn about science, culture, or to keep up with current events, such as which law our POTUS shattered today. But I listen to the murder podcasts. The ones in which Joe Blow  disappeared without a trace twenty years ago and there is not one clue as to his whereabouts.
  • Napping. The Washington Post, or maybe it was The Guardian, said that people who nap during the pandemic have less stress. I am not sure that this is true, but taking a nap in the afternoon does kill an hour, so there’s that.
  • Dinner. My God, the pandemic certainly has dulled my will to live as far as dinner is concerned. What started out as new adventures in the kitchen has turned into tuna salad sandwiches and tomato soup. As a result, I have re-subscribed to Gobble, and those lovely food boxes have saved me. Tilapia with garlic and shallot confit, served over lime cilantro rice, all in 15 minutes. What on earth possessed me to cancel my food box subscription in the first place? It was probably a misplaced attempt at frugality.
  • Reading thrillers. There is nothing better than Harlan Coben and a glass of La Croix to set up for a nice late afternoon–you know, as a prelude to the food  box.
  • A kitten. Training my kitten not to get up on the kitchen counters. This is not going well.
  • Facetiming with my grandchildren. This is an exercise in chaos, with Birdie elbowing Charlie out of the way, Charlie howling at Birdie, Marion yelling at both of them to “CALM DOWN AND TALK TO YOUR GRANDMA,” and me, trying to get a word in edgewise.
  • Impulse shopping on Amazon. I now have an extensive wardrobe of masks in many fashionable configurations, which is pretty ridiculous, as I rarely go out of the house, except to
  • Go to the store in great fear and trepidation for fresh produce, especially watermelon. Online shopping for watermelon has not borne much fruit (see what I did there?).

Life is full. Not.

 

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GROWTH AND DEVELOPMENT

The pandemic has become my nemesis. No, I don’t have COVID. Thank God. The reason I don’t have COVID is that I am in this house nearly every minute of every day. I take no chances, because I am one of the old ones, as we all know.

Moving on, it has become more and more apparent that I need something to do. My next novel has stalled, probably because I am stressed. We are all stressed, for God’s sake. So writing is just not something I want to do. Hell, blogging isn’t even something I want to do.

I needed to broaden something other than my waist. I need to expand my mind. I like art. I do some sort of art. Heck, I have even SOLD some of my art. So, I thought to myself, why not learn more about art? Maybe become a bit more skilled at it? I looked around online for free courses, and I found this one: POSTWAR ABSTRACT PAINTING. It had to be excellent, because it is put on by MOMA, and I love MOMA. I go there whenever I am in New York. Since I am not good at representational drawing, have no idea how perspective works (therefore all my drawings are one dimensional), and I use my finger to draw, this looked like it would be right up my alley.

I have heard of Willem de Kooning. Who hasn’t? Right, and Mark Rothko, and Jackson Pollack. So this would be familiar territory. I thought.

The first lecture was a video about the New School that lasted one hour and forty minutes, I think it was. Not the school–the lecture.  I dutifully watched the whole thing. It was very detailed. Erudite. Boring. It covered things that I did not know, and actually, I was surprised at most of it. These artists, who many still think just threw paint all over the canvas or drew perfect red squares that somehow ended up in famous museums, actually had a deep philosophy and need to express their existential theories on canvas. They were dead serious, most of them tremendous intellects, and they all lived in Greenwich Village and went to one another’s houses to talk art. They also had a club where they met and talked art. I think they all drank a lot, and if drugs were involved, I wouldn’t be surprised.

My eyes and ears glazed over during the first “lecture,” but I remained aware enough to pass the first quiz with a 90%. I was proud of myself. However, at the onset of the second “lecture” and accompanying videos, I realized that this course was dead serious, and the other students commenting  on the art used to illustrate the points being made about the society at the time, the cultural shift that was occurring after the Second World War, and some other stuff–these comments were deep. The first slide asked how standing in front of  a work  of Barnett Newman affected one. The comments were wide and varied.

My comment was: “I have never stood in front of a work by Barnett Newman.”

Perhaps I was in the wrong class. I scrolled through a few more comments, and then moved on to the next lecture. It was about how to set up one’s studio, how to stretch a canvas, and the importance of semi-viscous media. Since I draw on my iPhone with my finger, I skipped that segment.

By the time I got to the third module, I skipped all of the lectures and went directly to the quiz. Hell, why not?  I failed the quiz, so I went back to the lecture. But Vir Heroics Sublimis just looked to me like a big rectangular canvas divided into three sections. They represent the void, I learned.  Yup. It looked like a void to me.  The more the lecturer talked, the less I listened. I knew how to draw a square using my app and the “ruler” feature. I could bisect it with straight lines using the “grid” feature. It would look just like this Newman work. How much roiling did Newman have to go through to paint this thing? So, my question: Was the emperor wearing clothes or really, was he naked?  I voted for naked and dropped the class.

What I really want, I now realize, is a class I can take online to learn how to draw better cats.

 

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DAY TO DAY

Life is so different. The new “normal.” Some of us have more courage than others; some see risk as just part of life. Others, those in the “vulnerable” category, see risk as life shortening. When the remainder of life is already short, risk is, well–riskier.

What is today’s life like? It is constrained, solitary, a little boring, and full of judgement. I can’t help getting angry with the people I see in stores not wearing masks. I have been to a few stores, and backed off from doing that very quickly. Too scary. Sometimes I feel like rolling down my car window to yell at maskless people. But I don’t.

Will this pandemic mean that many of us will remain leery of others for the long term? Will we become scared of human contact from now on? I don’t know. The situation with vaccines, not knowing if there will be one soon, if a vaccination will actually last for at least a year–all of that is uncertain. So in the meantime, those of us with a lot to lose by getting sick remain mostly at home, wistfully looking out of windows or thanking heaven for yard work. I am one of the window lookers, since a yard is no longer an option.

Is there a silver lining? I am searching for one. In the meantime, I miss my grandchildren so very much. I worry that I might become a shadowy memory to them, instead of a vital part of their lives. I miss sitting around with friends. Restaurants, our only outing in the past, are certainly not places we want to go to, although we see some of our friends risking it. Masks? A new wardrobe of flowery ones, ones with cats or artful blobs? Those are sort of fun. But the reality of all of this sinks in some days, and I feel both helpless and very sad.

One consolation is that many of us in the “vulnerable” category are in it together. We have solidarity. We can, at least this summer, sit outside at a safe distance and talk. Maybe even share a pizza. Thank heaven for FaceTime, Zoom, and all the other social media. One friend mentioned that our generation hasn’t had very much hardship, compared to the Great Wars, the Depression, the Holocaust. Perspective.

So today, I am making lasagne, looking forward to Netflix, and hoping for the best. And the kitten. There is the kitten.

Stay safe. Try to be cheerful.

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HEALING POWER

What is happening to us? This world is so full of frightening things. I don’t need to list them; you are well aware. Add to all of this the death of a much adored pet; and, well–it is almost too much to bear.

Enter the healer. One tiny kitten, so full of courage, enthusiasm, confidence, and love that I almost cannot believe my luck in finding her so very quickly after we lost McIntosh. She is full of energy until she drops. She purrs almost constantly. She cuddles. Hattie, also known as The Hat, is an answer to a prayer; except for the fact that I didn’t say any prayers. But you know what I mean.

So. Life goes on. I can’t say that I no longer wake up in the morning filled with anxiety and dread, because I do. Are we still “sheltering in place,” for the most part? Yes. Does it fill me with fear to have an unmasked person stand within a few feet of me in my mask? Yes. Do I worry every time my husband leaves the house, that he will somehow catch IT? Again, yes.

But one small being helps. She makes us laugh as she jumps into the little box we got from Amazon and put on the floor for her. She dashes around this place like a small demon. Then she jumps up into my lap for a nap.

Who knows when and if my life will ever go back to “normal?” At our age, it just may mean that my husband and I will live the rest of our lives in masks, staying distant from others. I hope not, because that is such a bleak prospect. But. We have a very small Hat to keep us company, and that is such a hopeful prospect.

Wear your mask. Keep your distance. Stay safe.

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GOODBYE AND HELLO

It was 14 years ago. My daughter Annie watched as a truck rolled over but didn’t hit a small animal running across the country road. She was directly behind the truck, and she wasn’t sure if what she saw was a baby squirrel, or a rat, or a little groundhog. But as she watched it run into the field of weeds, she realized it was a tiny kitten. She pulled over and walked into the field, calling. The kitten emerged from the underbrush, ran right up to her, meowing. She picked it up and put it in her shirt, got into the truck and headed straight for the veterinarian’s office. The kitten was basically a tiny skeleton–it had been out there for awhile, and the vet said it was about a day away from dying from starvation. Welcome, Macintosh. I adopted him that day, and he was the sweetest cat. He loved to peep at us. He would do anything (almost) for treats. He was the last in a long line of cats that we had at the “old house.”

When we moved to the apartment, he loved it. He got to go outside for the first time, and he and I sat on the deck at night (fifth floor; he couldn’t go anywhere) and look at the city lights.

Macintosh developed cancer, and we had to say goodbye last week. My heart broke. However, I thought I might possibly live without a pet. Other people seem to do it.

That lasted one day. One horrible, sob-like-a-baby day.

Then, I began to look up cat rescues. Annie, that same daughter who saved Macintosh, had very recently adopted from LiFeline Rescue in Dayton. So once again, Annie was responsible for saving another cat and her mother simultaneously. Well, I have to give credit to Annie’s husband, Josh, who is the one responsible for finding LiFeline Rescue.

So this happened: meet Hattie, the tiny kitten with a boop nose, beautiful markings, and a combination of confidence and snuggability that won me the minute I saw her push her littermates out of the way and stick her paw out of the cage to get my attention. She purred the moment I picked her up (the purr test; they must pass the purr test–invented by my sister). If a kitten doesn’t purr the moment you pick it up, you must not adopt that one. She passed the purr test with flying colors.

So. Hattie is home now, she is the boss of the place already, and my heart isn’t quite so heavy. I think Macintosh would approve.

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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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