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.