Monday, May 04, 2020

Looking At Life Through Red-Colored Glasses

That peaceful nap on the couch? Hasn't happened yet. One blessedly uneventful day continues to blur into the next, so I guess it's like being at sea for a month or so, right? Only with Netflix, of course...

So I thought, Hey, I'll just look at my camera roll on my phone and see what the photos tell me we've been doing! You know, all those photos I've been taking?

There were three since I last posted. THREE. Here's one:

Larry bought me flowers, cheeky devil that he is
That's on my desk. I spend 40 hours a week there. I don't mind, because I get paid and hey, what else am I going to do? Also, it gives me an excuse to go into a room by myself and shut the door, because OMG I was not made to interact with people 16 or more hours a day.

But I lose my office in another week, when Brian comes home. I also have to move a lot of the yarn out of there, since I assume he won't like having his nightstand drawers filled with my collection of fingering weight yarn, and I'm betting the bookshelf loaded with bags of unfinished knitting projects won't exactly be his idea of good interior design, either.

See that plastic tumbler up there? I wrote about buying 6 of those from the clearance shelf at Target 6 1/2 years ago. Last time Benjamin was home, he managed to get 3 of them stuck together and someone ended up throwing them out (not me, I was waiting to figure out how to get them apart). The other three have become oddly misshapen and the only thing we can figure is that our new dishwasher runs hotter than the two previous ones on the drying cycle and is melting them when we put them in the bottom rack.

Normally, I could count on finding some more on the clearance shelf during my regular trip to Target, but that's not how life works now. In fact, I can't remember the last time I was even inside a Target. So the fact that these tumblers have been ruined is all mixed up with the fact that EVERYTHING IS DIFFERENT from the time a younger, more carefree version of myself plucked them off the shelf 6 1/2 years ago.

Which explains how I can possibly feel weepy over 3 plastic tumblers that cost me 50 cents each...

Another picture:

Fancy lunch one day this week
Food is all we think about. Not because we're starving or anything, but because it's the only interesting part of the day. We talk about plans for lunch and plans for dinner. It reminds me of when all the kids were little and we couldn't afford activities for them, so cooking was our main source of amusement. Anna made a roasted eggplant and pepper salad for dinner tonight. I marinated steaks and chicken and Larry fussed over his new grill as if we were an old retired couple with nothing else to do. Susie made guacamole for appetizers.

It's weird, all right? Also, over the course of the past year or so, I finally weaned myself from having a month's supply of food at the ready, because, hey, the grocery store is right down the road and I can go there anytime and pick up anything I need, right?

Apparently, WRONG. That's not how life works now.

Larry's excited about the grill, because it is the first one we've owned that we actually bought new. The others were all old ones either left by the side of dumpsters or gifted to us by departing neighbors. So, yeah, new dishwasher, new grill - we're trying to help the faltering economy. I also almost got a new vacuum today, but unfortunately Larry managed to find the sock that got stuck in the one I have, so I missed out on that opportunity.

Vacuum cleaners sound really weird when there is a sock stuck in them.

I'm glad it's working, though, because otherwise I don't have anything to chase centipedes with. Usually I'll send Larry after them, but not if he's already asleep, so that's when I need the vacuum. We did have to wake Larry up this evening, however, because a wasp showed up in Rachel's room and we all immediately started yelling "Murder Hornet!" I mean, it's 2020 - what else could that thing be?

Maybe just a wasp, but he chased it around and it sounded like quite a ruckus in there, because the room was a little chaotic to begin with, and it didn't get any better as Larry tripped over stuff in an attempt to get at the wasp, and it reminded me of the scene in Annie Hall where she calls Alvie over at 3 AM to get a spider out of her bathroom:

Larry didn't manage to get the wasp/hornet/whatever, so now Rachel is sleeping in my office/yarn room, and I'm thinking maybe I'll just look up the prices of studio apartments in the area. A room of one's own is starting to sound pretty darn appealing to me right about now. I mean, as long as there are no bugs...

Third photo - can you guess? Of course you can:

Not tired of it yet

I wonder if we'll still like homemade bread after this whole pandemic/social distancing/shelter in place thing is over or if it will just remind us of this weird, weird time. Like the smell of Lysol, maybe...

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Still Hunkered Down - And You?

I don't even know where to start. One day blends into another, it's utterly insane. I'm working, which makes things seem semi-normal, but there are so many people around! Susie and I figured out the other day that it feels like we're on vacation (albeit a singularly boring one), because the whole family is together ALL THE TIME, and we're subconsciously waiting for the vacation to be over and for things to get back to normal.

But they never do.

All I want is for the house to be empty so I can nap on the couch. That's it - that's what I miss most.

Easter and Passover happened...

We've discussed in this space before how appliances know when you're under stress. I know they know, because that's when mine always break. Kids got stomach flu? Time for the washer to go on the blink! Sweaty, dirty Boy Scout Mulch Delivery weekend coming up? Whaddaya know, the water heater doesn't work! Houseguests on their way? Good-bye, dishwasher!

Let's see...the only time in our lives when it's become imperative to somewhat sterilize our eating utensils? That would be, uh, right now. So it wasn't even much of a shock when we came downstairs one morning last week to find our dishwasher full of water and out of power. That's just our fate, all right?

It was a little more of a shock when I called Best Buy and discovered that they had cancelled the appliance protection plan I had wisely bought along with that dishwasher 4 1/2 years ago. Turns out, once they've repaired it a bunch of times (THREE TIMES IN THREE YEARS), they cancel the plan.


So Larry Googled and YouTubed and lay on the kitchen floor and tinkered with that thing (which, let's be honest, is sort of sexy, right?), but it was all to no avail. And let's face it, I do know how to wash dishes by hand. We've done it before, a LOT. So I pulled my adored Michael Graves dish rack out of the laundry room (because I had known better than to get rid of it) and I switched all the silverware to plastic (because pandemic) and I hugged a half-sobbing Susie and told her we had to be brave.

Larry, however, was not going to go gentle into that dark night of listening to me nagging everyone to wash their plates and to stop using so many knives, gosh darn it, and WHO LEFT THIS POT IN THE SINK? So he ordered a dishwasher.

I told you - SEXY. Both him and the new dishwasher...

THREE RACKS - it's glorious

Google Photos is doing its level best to make me feel awful about our cloistered situation by showing me pictures every morning from three years ago, when Susie and I took our epic train trip across the country. And all I can do is marvel at the fact that we rode on a train with dozens of other people and we traipsed all over San Francisco and Seattle in the middle of crowds of people and we didn't even think twice about how dangerous all that social contact could be.

Tell me, how could 4 short weeks (well, long weeks, really) have warped my brain this much?

Sea lions aren't very good at social distancing
We're still baking bread almost every day, because why not? Luckily, my recipe only requires 1/2 a teaspoon of yeast, but I was starting to run low and was thinking I'd have to grow my own soon if I couldn't find some. Which, really, I didn't want to do, because I'm too busy spraying disinfectant on everything and yelling at people to wash their hands.

But a small pretzel bakery in my town - that isn't selling a heck of a lot of pretzels right now, I guess - decided to sell its extra yeast (for a handsome profit, but oh well, I'm supporting a small business). So Larry and I walked over with our masks on and they handed us a Ziploc baggie with 3 oz of yeast that I had paid for ahead of time on Venmo, and it felt for all the world like some very illicit sort of deal.

But now I can keep making bread, which somehow makes me feel as though I am accomplishing something. And then I can keep slathering it with butter and shoving it in my mouth, which tricks me into thinking that all is right with the world.

It's a pretty cool trick, right?

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.

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?