Friday, April 03, 2020

The New Not Normal

Everyone okay? I mean, really. Things okay?

I'm fine so far, if you call wandering around the house several times a day with a Lysol wipe in my hand "fine." I swear to God, the smell of Lysol wipes will always remind me of this weird spring.

Anyone else here shocked at the number of items your family touches with their hands during the course of a day? Just me? Never mind then.

Spring continues apace 
I still have a job, and it's telework anyway, so my life is a weird combination of normal and oh, so NOT normal right now. It's a little hard to get work done with all these people home all day, plus my efficiency is definitely impaired by my compulsive need to reload the Johns Hopkins coronavirus map every 15 minutes or so.

A neighbor and I set up a neighborhood Facebook group so sick or elderly neighbors could ask for help shopping or just anyone could ask for a single item without having to make an extra trip to the store. I know! I'm practically the Mother Teresa of the COVID-19 era, right? But it was the only thing I could think of to do about any of this. And it seems akin to holding up a fan to try to blow away a tornado.

I've developed a little ritual of shoving a piece of still-warm homemade bread slathered with butter into my mouth once a day. It just feels like the right thing to do.

We're baking an awful lot of bread 
Anna's here! She had been hunkered down in Tunisia for about two weeks, teleworking from her cute little apartment, but suddenly the Embassy offered repatriation flights with a now-or-never warning, and she decided she couldn't go 3 or 4 (or 5!) months without talking to someone, anyone, in person.

She might be regretting that decision at this point, I don't know. It's hard to be an independent adult and suddenly find yourself living in your parents' basement. She's handling it pretty well, though, I'll give her that.

Theo is teleworking and isolating in his own apartment. But first he spent two weeks teaching people at his office how to use their laptops to telework from their homes, which means he was in close physical contact with well over 200 people just as we started being told to STAY AWAY FROM PEOPLE.

So we told him we'd see him at Easter. Maybe. It feels odd telling your own (grown) kid to stay away. This all still seems like a weird dream, doesn't it?

Also, he's apparently got the patience of a saint. These people he was helping were all my age or older and very confused about the teleworking thing. One guy took his laptop home and didn't understand why it didn't work the way it did at the office. It didn't work at all, actually. Because he didn't know he had to connect it to a wifi network in his house.

There were a lot of stories like that, and I loved them all, because these people made me look like an honest-to-goodness tech genius by comparison.

Cooking a lot of dinner, too

I've made 3 batches of chicken soup. I figure we need to have it on hand in case anyone gets sick, because that will be the cure.

Humor me, okay?

But no one we know around here is sick yet, so there's this eerie feeling of waiting that reminds me of when I was 4 years old and my friend and I ate the ENTIRE bottle of chewable vitamins, so her mother (after she recovered from the near heart attack we had just given her) dumped ipecac down both our throats and sat us on the edge of the tub, where we waited to throw up.

It feels like that.

We've gone biking to our favorite sandwich shop and bought sandwiches there, even if people did breathe on them as they put them together. We decided (maybe stupidly) that it was worth the risk. I mean, they are REALLY GOOD sandwiches. We walk miles every day, because we have to get out of the house and we definitely need exercise. To counteract that daily homemade bread and butter...

3 weeks ago, I thought I would go nuts not being able to go anywhere or see any of my friends, but it turns out I really don't care. It's just not fun going out anymore. Inside the house, I can pretend things are sort of normal. I mean, except for that Lysol wipes thing...

Going out, though, it really hits you - NOT normal. The masks (yes, I have one), the 6-foot distance rule, the uneasiness at the grocery store. It just feels better to stay home and chew on slabs of buttered, yeasty goodness, you know?

I feel guilty making jokes right now, because this virus is affecting people I know, as is probably true for anyone reading this. This all feels like an ugly, slow-motion roll of horror that you know is heading toward everyone you know, but the only way to stay somewhat sane is to keep living your life as if everything is normal (plus, uh, those Lysol wipes). Even though it's most emphatically NOT normal. Not at all.

Hence, homemade bread. Chicken soup. A few tepid jokes. That's all I've got right now, and it really isn't enough. It's all just a little tiny fan trying to blow away that tornado. I'm sorry.


Saturday, March 21, 2020

Is This Real Life? Or Is It Just Fantasy?

A lot can happen in a week, right? We went from not being able to imagine keeping our kids from being with their friends to OH HELL NO. Thank goodness for Google Hangouts is all I can say about that.

But, truly, anyone of my generation who grew up Jewish feels like we trained for this. We didn't read all those books about kids hiding from Nazis without picking up a few pro tips for being confined to close quarters for an extended period of time, right?

Also, being raised Jewish means having been trained to rate absolutely everything on a scale of hunky-dory (10) to hiding from the Gestapo (1), and this latest blip so far probably only lands at, oh, maybe a 7. I mean, we don't have to keep quiet all day, we can go outside for walks, we're not fighting over potatoes (yet). And washing my hands a thousand times a day beats the heck out of hiding under some floorboards so Nazis can't find me.

So we're good, right? Tell me we're good.

Here, have a picture of spring:



Remember spring? It's here, pandemic or no pandemic. What's more, a friend of mine went to NJ and brought me back something I didn't think I'd see again for months:

The taste of home
So that feels good, too. Even if New Jersey is, for all intents and purposes, now closed. You know, I didn't even know they could do that.

Susie and I have been baking (just like everyone else in the country, judging from the empty baking supplies aisle). Today was a cheddar-jalapeno version of our no-knead bread. It was excellent.

Seriously, you need to make this
I went back out to the store today in yet another attempt to stock up properly for the apocalypse, and I came back with dishwasher detergent, a baguette, and some bananas. I'm not good at this, people, you know that.

Oh, but Susie made sure we went through the ChikFilA drive-thru this evening to get what she considers to be absolutely necessary:



So I guess we're all set.

And Larry - having observed my total inability to provide the necessities for our family - came home the other night with these, mighty hunter that he is:

The equivalent of the Holy Grail, around here

Sigh. He's dreamy.

I've sneezed twice this evening. Am I dying?

Currently, Larry's working from home, and he has made himself very useful by also taking on the job of nagging Rachel to do her schoolwork. Come to think of it, though, maybe the school will just hand them all their diplomas, schoolwork done or not, because nothing makes sense anymore. And, hey, maybe they'll even cancel the graduation ceremony! Bonus!

As part of our isolation routine, I've instituted a morning event that consists of my playing my "Boppy" Spotify playlist very loudly, just to get everyone (well, every teen) out of bed and moving around. I call it "Pandemic Dance Party," but I'm the only one dancing. If this were a movie, there'd be a sort of time lapse montage, with me dancing by myself at the beginning, but after a couple of weeks maybe one teen would be dancing -- albeit reluctantly -- along with me, and then after a month or so we'd all be dancing together in our living room, even Larry, because being unofficially quarantined is such a family bonding experience.

This isn't a movie, though. This is most emphatically NOT a movie. Here, have some tulips:

That feels good, doesn't it?

Feel free to share survival tips, people. Baking, dance parties, and being grateful there's no Gestapo is all I've got.







Saturday, March 14, 2020

Yeah, I'm Talking About It

Hmmm, seems to me that the last time we chatted was several weeks ago, in that long ago time before civilization was teetering on the edge, before toilet paper became a valuable commodity, and before there was an inexplicable run on cold remedies.

WHY, PEOPLE, WHY?
Seriously, there's only so much ibuprofen you need to take. I know this, because I was sick for 2 weeks in February (you know, BEFORE it was newsworthy) with the most god-awful sore throat that had me pretty much pouring ibuprofen straight into my mouth from the bottle, and it still didn't run out.

Brian came home for spring break last Saturday, coughing. "It started as a cold," he said. "It's nothing." And then today - TODAY, 6 DAYS LATER - he says, "No, first I had a fever, come to think of it. A headache, then a fever."

So I guess we're all going to die now. I dunno. I just canceled on a friend's birthday outing for tomorrow, because I don't know whether or not I should be near people. I'm not even worried about getting this coronavirus myself, which is odd, considering my hypochondriacal tendencies. I mean, with that sore throat last month, I was waking up in the middle of the night, convinced I was dying of undiagnosed diphtheria. If I cut my finger and it gets at all infected, I assume gangrene. But a global pandemic? I'm good, no sweat.

I'm so sorry I'm talking about this - we're all so sick of this topic (no pun intended). And now schools are closed, homeschool classes canceled, I'm working full time from home, I can only assume Larry's work will close anytime now - I love my family, but that's a hell of a lot of togetherness, you know? I mean, we've got a good thing going here, but let's not push it.

I did try to stock up on food at the grocery store the other day. I came home with a lot of fresh produce and a few other items:

These looked useful, pandemically speaking

Apparently, I'm no better at preparing for a pandemic than I am at preparing for a blizzard. No surprise there, I guess.

But I've got plenty of yarn to see me through, so I'm set, right?

Sunday, February 02, 2020

A Very Happy Story

So, I'm back, because I realized I forgot to tell you the best thing that happened over Christmas. As has been documented in these pages several times, I have experienced a recurring dilemma over what to get for Larry for birthdays and holidays. I mean, I've only known this person for 30 years and shared my life with him for 29, so how the heck am I supposed to know what he would like to get?

I know, it makes no sense to me, either.

Oh, but this year? THIS YEAR was different. Larry has always been stating wistfully how he'd like somewhat current pictures of the kids to hang up at work (the last set I made for him were all from 2006) and I have mostly been ignoring him because, well, overwhelming - I'd have to get some pictures printed (how do you even do that anymore) and then I'd have to find frames and yikes, forget it, okay?

But this year I clicked on an ad for Mixtiles (NOT a sponsored post) and thought, "I can do that!" All I had to do was upload some pictures to their site and they'd send me 8x8 photo squares that had something sticky on the back that you could hang anywhere. Easy!

Or not...

Folks, I spent hours searching for recent pictures of the kids on my phone and on my computer, begging them for selfies from their own phones, etc. One kid, it turned out, I had ZERO pictures of, except one from prom night, and I only had that because her friend's dad is a professional photographer and took the time to snap some fancy pictures of the girls. Granted, it's harder to get pictures of older kids (especially if half of them don't even live here anymore), but OMG this was ridiculous.

Think he'd like a picture of a strange dog?
By the end, I was slightly nuts and begged Brian and Susie to help, because I could no longer figure out what would look good and how close to crop the photos. And when we did get the order? I was scared to look at it. What if all that work had been for nothing? What if everything looked awful once enlarged? Susie had to take the box up to her room and check it out for me.

PERFECT. They came out perfectly. I had each kid wrap a few, so Larry had a pile of presents. And this was the very first Christmas in almost THREE DECADES that I didn't feel like an absolute loser in the spousal gift department. I mean, GO, ME!

What's more, I now have an unlimited supply of gifts for him - Valentine's Day? Mixtile! Father's Day? Mixtile! Birthday? I bet you can guess!

No more discount Christmas mugs and lone eclairs for my long-suffering spouse, nope, nope, nope! I have attained my holy grail - an affordable gift for my spouse that he will actually like.

I told you - it's a happy story.



Saturday, January 18, 2020

Holidays? What Holidays?

We held our annual New Year's party 4 days early, because former neighbors were visiting and they wanted to see everyone. Which meant that, for the first time in 13 years, we didn't have to spend New Year's Eve getting our house ready for a party the next day. This felt weird. We ended up watching a (very bad) movie and then playing Monopoly. And then, New Year's Day? Nothing.

Do not watch this movie. Ever.
I mean, we must have done something, but I have no idea what it was. Maybe that was the day we went to the mall and I experienced the Miracle of the Jeans. You see, Susie convinced me to try on the jeans that all three of my daughters wear, and I agreed only because they are the only jeans that come in a short enough length for me to wear uncuffed.

I didn't expect much, because I am extremely apple-shaped and jeans that fit my hips and legs WILL NOT BUTTON around my belly, even with my truly excellent shapewear. Or, if they do button, the waistband digs into my stomach and makes me feel awful. Or they just look like crap. In other words, trying on jeans is a sure way to completely ruin my day, and really, should anyone be doing that on the first day of the new year? No, they should not.

But my beloved JAG jeans betrayed me this year by discontinuing the style that fits midgets like myself. The three pairs of jeans in my closet have holes in them, and NOT in stylish places, so there I was. Desperate. Forced to throw caution and good sense to the winds and risk dressing room humiliation.

Reader, they fit me. American Eagle, high-rise jeggings, extra short. I could weep with joy.

I'll never be at the level of tucked-in shirt, though
So this is the first time in years that I've been able to wear jeans that actually button (instead of my JAG pull-on ones). You know what this means? It means that I won't be walking around in public with my pants on backwards by mistake, that's what.

That link is much more amusing than today's drivel. You should read it.

Oh, what happened to December, you ask? Approximately 6,000 holidays happened. And there were house guests. And adult kids staying. And that early New Year's party I mentioned. All this. It felt like a blur. Because, yeah, there was the job thing, too.

I swear, you'd think I was the first blogger in the world who actually had to work full time outside the house. I am such a whiner.

At the beginning of the festivities-filled month, Rachel had just stopped coughing from the epic croup virus she picked up right before Thanksgiving. Everyone in the house was all Glory, hallelujah! because frankly? It was driving us nuts.

And then? She picked up a new virus, which resulted in her coughing THE REST OF THE MONTH.

We tried everything, including a zillion dollars' worth of my miracle cough drops. She kept coughing. Actually, I think she just stopped last week. Or maybe my wearing those earplugs at night did the trick. I don't know.

So! We started the month of December with house guests, finally managed to get a tree sometime in the week before Christmas (which essentially bore down on me with all the delicacy of a freight train), gifts showed up beneath the tree (thank you, Amazon, even if you ARE evil), and food miraculously appeared on our table Christmas Day. I have very few memories of any of this, and gee, wouldn't it help if I blogged more frequently than once a month?

Side note: Our tree looked pretty pathetic this year. It had some weird sort of duck tail effect with its bottom branches that bugged me every time I looked at it. I was going to show you, but apparently I forgot to take a picture of it. Or maybe I hated the duck tail so much, I chose not to? I can't remember.

Speaking of trees, check out the hat my friend knit:

It lights up!
We had friends over for Christmas dinner, the same friends as every year. Sometimes? Traditions are nice. Although, come to think of it, the tradition of cleaning up my entire house on Christmas morning because we're having guests later is one I could definitely do without.

Also, Uncle Matt and his girlfriend (who has been around since 2012, so maybe I should give her a name already?) showed up. And David flew in from Texas, where he helps build space rockets (that happen to be paid for by my evil Amazon purchases and yeah, I feel a little conflicted about that), and spent Christmas with us, which helped a lot, because he likes to bake. Also, it was nice to see him.

Brian was here, too, home from school for the holidays. He put up with us fairly well.

We had Chinese food for Christmas Eve, because we're an interfaith family. Also, because we like Chinese food. We all went to see the Star Wars movie for Chanukah, because the good guys are like the Maccabees, fighting the evil empire. But without any dreidels, of course...

We're really rocking the interfaith vibe here, I'd say
I worked at my job through all of this, and yes, I WOULD like a medal, thank you very much.

Speaking of my job, I celebrated my one-year workiversary this month, which was not quite as joyful as it should have been, because one of the other teams got laid off, so we're all just waiting for the ax to fall. I told Larry at one point, "Well, if I do get laid off for a bit, it will be great to get a break - I really need one!"

Because, you know, 12 whole months, right?

And then I realized I had said this to the man who has gotten up every single weekday (minus holidays) for, oh, 28 years and driven in to the office to support our family. Almost THREE DECADES. And has never griped about it.

But, yeah, let me complain to you about my 12 months of telecommuting, all right, Larry? It's been hell.