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It seems that melatonin doesn’t work particularly well for me. I had been having such trouble sleeping because of my personal-carelessness sunburn that I took a melatonin to help me fall asleep… and then woke up at 2:30 and couldn’t fall back to sleep. Obviously, 2:30 is when my brain does its best work. And by “best work” I mean cycling through all the things I could possibly worry about and over which I have no control at an increasingly frantic pace/tenor.

It strikes me that as we enter this new period of the pandemic – “re-opening” – that I am feeling the same kind of Fear of the Unknown and Abject Terror I was feeling in the early weeks of Coronavirus Has Reached My Country And Things Are Falling Apart.

Maybe it’s even worse, now? I’m not sure. Am I MORE stressed now than I was then? It’s hard to say. My stress levels have certainly been getting a workout over the past few months, though. So I decided to chart them. For posterity.

Pandemic Stress Level

This chart begins, for me, in the last week of February; the news was covering coronavirus all the time at that point, but we hadn’t yet discovered it/confirmed its presence here in the U.S. I was putting extra flour and ground beef in my grocery cart. I bought an extra package of toilet paper, even though we had a big package at home already. I felt a little silly, but the CDC was recommending setting aside enough supplies for two weeks of quarantine, so… Anyway, that’s where this starts for me. And now I have just completed Week 12 and I feel like I’m back where I was in early March, stress/panic-wise.

This chart has flaws; there are no call-outs for “distance learning is going to kill us all” or the sharp punches of Anger at People, Specific and General or the surprising spikes of happiness when I found myself spending a delightful day with my family. I think there should be an overlying chart that shows a steep rise in Comfort Eating that has since plateaued at the highest level; alas, my chart-making skills/desire have failed me. But overall, I think it represents the passage of time pretty well.

How are YOU? Are you feeling the anxiety ramp-up as the country starts to experiment with re-opening? Have you, too, experienced an Online Shopping phase?

Indignant Update: IT IS NOW SNOWING.

We had actual honest-to-goodness sunshine yesterday, and temperatures around 70 degrees, and Carla and I played outside for THREE HOURS and I got a horrific sunburn and now I’m really grouchy. The grouchiness has to do with my being so careless as to forget to wear appropriate sunscreen and also with my inability to sleep due to the fact that my chest, back, shoulders, and arms are so sunburned that I could NOT find a comfortable sleeping position. Plus, I am irritable that I am in such discomfort – and, not to mention, I look RIDICULOUS because the sunburn is all streaky and uneven and the same shade as my red T-shirt – purely because of MY OWN IDIOCY.

Anyway, I am in a very cranky and judgmental mood, so I thought you might join me in being extremely disapproving and critical this morning. Surely there is SOMETHING that fills you with disapprobation, no? Perhaps it is my overzealous use of capitalization, perhaps any of a million other things you could rightly judge me for.

  • Carla likes to go bike riding in a nearby school parking lot. It is just down the block and, obviously, there is no one at school these days. So it’s the perfect big, empty space for her to ride around in. But increasingly often, we are finding TEENS gathering there. Now, I expect that the Stay at Home Order is especially tough on teens. And that they should probably get props (are we still giving props? is that too 1900s a term?) for being creative about socializing. But zooming into a school parking lot and then setting up a sort of tailgating-esque situation that doesn’t appear to separate its participants by more than three feet MAX… well, that just makes me feel crabby. Some of the teens have been better than others about maintaining distance. But I definitely witnessed one person exit a car and enter another car and I can’t imagine that two people quarantining together would drive to a parking lot, separately, only to then get together in a single car. I am watching you, teens. Not in a creepy way. Just in a very impotently condemnatory way.
  • And SPEAKING OF the school parking lot, which I know we have no actual claim over: People have been using it as a cut-through. If you think of the school as being on a corner, with a busy road as the northern border and a busy road bordering the east, and our street lying on the school’s southern border, people are using the parking lot to cut off the corner intersection. There’s a stop sign between the school parking lot and my street, but people are ZOOMing through the parking lot and then ZOOMing straight through the stop sign and I am getting Very Peeved. People live here! And drive past! And ride their bikes! This is not your own personal shortcut!
  • When I went to pick up pizza for dinner last Friday, there was one customer inside the store already (two-customer limit, for the interior of the store), and two customers in line after me (outside). Of the four of us, I was the ONLY person wearing a mask. Then I had to go INTO Target to pick up an online order, due to some sort of oversight on my part (I was NOT PLEASED), and so! many! people! were just wandering around without masks! A man and his THREE tween/teenage daughters walked into Target without masks on! The staff inside had masks “on,” but not covering their noses, or hanging loosely around their chins. I am trying not to be TOO judgey about mask wearing; I ordered my mask online and it took a couple of weeks to arrive. My husband ordered a mask several weeks ago and it just now is “being prepared to ship,” whatever that means, website. So I get that not everyone has easy access to masks, and that even if you are trying to be a good mask-wearing member of society that you might not have one on hand. (I had to turn around halfway to Target — when I discovered that I had somehow not ordered the curbside pickup, but instead the inside pickup; what is going ON with my brain? — and go home for my mask; now I have my second mask in my car, waiting for just such an occasion.) But also you can make a mask out of ANYTHING; my husband made me a makeshift mask out of a dishrag and two hairties before I had my real masks in hand. So please. WEAR A MASK.
  • And ALSO, why are people SO OPPOSED to wearing masks? Listen, I acknowledge that there are probably cases where wearing a mask is not possible. But probably, for those people who CANNOT wear a mask for some reason, masks for the REST of us are extra important. I have seen horrifying news stories about mask-related violence and I don’t get it at all! If you don’t have a medical reason for not wearing a mask, JUST WEAR A MASK. Yes, they are uncomfortable. Yes, they look odd/ridiculous/scary. And yes, they make me feel claustrophobic and trapped and damp around the mouth area. But if they can help slow the spread of this disease or even just make people feel a teeny bit more comfortable, WEAR A FREAKING MASK.
  • Going back to being critical of people at the pizza place: I’d placed my order in advance online. You can specify a pickup time, and I’d said 6:00. I arrived at about 5:50, and waited until 6:00 on the button to go into the store. The very kind but harried staff person who took my name said, “Okay, just a second.” And maybe all of four minutes later, he handed me my pizza, and apologized for taking so long, they’d been so inundated with orders, and he appreciated my patience… And… It was probably 6:04 at the latest. Which makes me think that OTHER PEOPLE had been rude to him which makes me feel so angry I could cry. This poor guy, working in a hot restaurant for probably not very much money, providing a very helpful service to all of us in this time of need, putting himself and his family/roommates in potential danger, and having to keep up with what I imagine is a lot of business. And for someone to be RUDE to him? Obviously this is all conjecture and I have no idea what, if anything, happened at all. But I am ready to LEAP FORTH with indignation at the slightest non-provocation!
  • There was a centipede on our kitchen floor the other day. As I approached it, I informed my family – with solemnity and sorrow – that I was going to squish it and flush it down the toilet. They protested. Yes, yes, I am also of the mind that we should return a creepy crawly to the great outdoors if we can, if we can being the operative phrase and also containing multitudes of unspoken caveats, including but not limited to if we can without being crawled upon. I told my family that they were welcome to intervene, and transport the centipede to the outdoors themselves, but that I wasn’t going to risk it. They valiantly recommended ways that I could capture and transport the centipede. Again, I demurred. Again, they protested. Finally, my brave daughter leapt up and said she would extricate the centipede from certain-death-by-squishing and put it safely outside. But she took too long trying to find an appropriately stiff piece of paper and the centipede started to run away. I tried to waylay it and it crawled on my hand and then fell to the floor and made for the no-mans-land beneath the refrigerator so I squished it. I am very irritated indeed about the way the whole thing went.
  • In addition to the centipede, we had a silverfish sighting. READ THE ROOM, CRITTERS. Perhaps they are well aware that I can’t exactly call the exterminators at this moment, and so are taking advantage of the situation. To which I say, in a tone of utmost withering disdain, I expect opportunistic behavior of humans but not of YOU.

 

What or who’s behavior has you putting on your prissy pants these days?

There seem to be two kinds of people when it comes to work-from-home clothing: The kind who get up, shower, put on makeup, and dress as though they were going to the office (even a very casual jeans-every-day office)… and the kind who enrobe themselves in pajamas and activewear and who may or may not shower and probably don’t put on a stitch of makeup. You KNOW that I am the latter. I have been putting on mascara only to go the grocery store every couple of weeks, and it feels as though I am really dolling myself up and I get a little shock of WHOA THERE FANCY FACE every time I catch a glimpse of my reflection.

My wardrobe already reflects my work-from-home sartorial philosophy. And man, after having worked from home for 11 out of 15 years, I really thought I had mastered the art of Comfy Clothing. I have my three categories of leggings (workout, lounging, pajama) and a drawer full of sports bras. But I have discovered that there is a surprising difference between my previous routine of wearing leggings while at home, but then changing into jeans when I went out into the world… and wearing comfy clothes all day every day (except for the maybe 30-60 minutes a week when I squeeze myself into jeans to go to the grocery store or to pick up takeout). Clothing oneself in Comfywear 24/7 is just different.

One surprising discovery is that I hate bras with a passion. Why have I been subjecting my body to such discomfort and restriction for so many years????? I have been wearing traditional bras to go to the grocery store; if I go anywhere else, I am wearing a sports bra. But I wanted something in-between – less confining than a sports bra, but more comfortable than a regular bra. I have found two options that I LOVE and bought two of each:

ae sports bra

Photo from ae.com 

Aerie Real Me Twist Back Sports Bra

I now own this bra in white and black. It is very stretchy and comfortable.

Honeydew bra

Photo from nordstrom.com

Honeydew Intimates Keagan Crop Seamless Camilette

I thought I wanted something called a “bralette,” but upon examination, that category seems to be a little more fancy/frou-frou than what I’m looking for. This camilette is exactly the ticket. I bought one in white and one in darkish blue. Very soft and stretchy. There is a textured pattern on  it though — it’s subtle, but I think it might show up under a white or light-colored shirt; I haven’t tried it yet.

Another surprising discovery is that I find that I want some differentiation in my clothing. Workout clothes are fine for working out… but then I want to shower and put on different clothes. Lately, I have been choosing a pair of leggings with a dark bralette underneath this mesh hoodie I got at Loft a million years ago. It feels “cute” in a way that pajamas/activewear doesn’t. Not that my husband cares or has noticed. But I notice, and that’s enough. However, there’s only so many times I can wear the exact same outfit before I begin craving variety.

I have been swapping out the mesh hoodie with a leopard print Grayson Threads shirts I got at Target last fall.

Grayson Threads Leopard

Photo from bonanza.com

I bought this at Target but can no longer find it on their website.

Or with a flowy pink long-sleeved T-shirt from the Gap. I got it so long ago I can’t find anything remotely like it on the Gap website.

To have even more Options, I recently bought a “transitional” sweatshirt.

Caslon sweatshirt

Photo from nordstrom.com

Caslon Cozy Print Top

This top is lighter than a traditional sweatshirt and it’s very, very soft. I got the star print, but I really like the camouflage print as well.

Now that I have FOUR long-sleeved shirts, I am beginning to think about short-sleeved options. I have plenty of form fitting tank-tops and loose T-shirts, but I would like some flowy tank-tops. Maybe along the lines of this:

Madewell Slub tank

Photo from nordstromrack.com

Madewell V-Neck Knit Tank Top

Or this:

All in Favor Tank

Photo from nordstromrack.com

All in Favor Knotted Tunic Tank

I like the drapey detail and the fact that this isn’t too fitted. I think I may prefer it in black… but I already have so many black tops.

In addition to leggings, I have been branching out to soft shorts. I have two pairs of pajama shorts from Target – but they don’t seem to have a tag, so I don’t know what brand they are, and I can’t find anything similar on the Target website. I have been LIVING in these shorts now that it is getting warmer and I’d like to find a couple more pairs. Perhaps something like this?

PJ Salvage Lounge Shorts

Photo from nordstrom.com

PJ Salvage Peached Lounge Shorts

I don’t know what “peached” means but these are cute.

I’d really rather not spend $46 on shorts, though. The $10-$20 range seems more reasonable. Perhaps these?

Honeydew shorts

Photo from nordstrom.com

Honeydew Intimates Sneak Peek Sleep Shorts

These are still rather pricy and I balk at wearing something named “sneak peek.”

Nordstrom Rack has some cute options, including these:

Natori shorts

Photo from nordstromrack.com

Natori Feathers Essential Pajama Shorts

And these ones look like they have a sturdier fabric:

Socialite shorts

Photo from nordstromrack.com

Socialite Waffle Knit Shorts

Maybe I could even wear them out-of-doors. Ha! Like I ever leave my house.

These leopard print shorts from Target are cute, and more in my price range:

Target leopard shorts

Photo from target.com

Women’s Leopard Print Lounge Shorts – Colsie Gray

I also like these shorts from Loft:

Loft Lou & Grey Shorts

Photo from loft.com

Lou & Grey Signature Softblend Drawstring Shorts

I get a kick out of Loft’s idea of “work from home” outfits, which include a $100 polka dot smocked jumpsuit and linen blend wide leg pants. I mean, I GUESS there are people with office jobs who are expected to don actual work clothing for zoom meetings and news broadcasts and such, but it kind of makes me giggle. Well, and then I drop deeply into despair because I would LOVE to be shopping for cute sundresses and things… but I have literally nowhere to wear them. (And no inclination of dressing up For Myself.)

Although maybe I am talking myself into this dress – which looks cute AND comfy:

Loft ruffle swing dress

Photo from loft.com

Loft Ruffle Tiered Swing Dress

 

What are you wearing these days? Any pandemic purchases that have turned out to be top notch?

Our state is taking small steps toward “opening up.” And I have gone straight from Worrying About How Long the Shelter In Place Order Will Last to Worrying About What “The New Normal” Will Look Like and How Will I Possibly Participate In It. After being told, for weeks, that staying at home is the safest possible choice… how can we all of sudden just start… LEAVING THE HOUSE?

UGH.

If only I felt like there was A Reasonable Plan. A plan based on actual scientific evidence. Instead of all of our leaders feeling immense pressure to Do Something and so throwing a handful of re-opening spaghetti against the metaphorical wall of our society and seeing what sticks.

I am SURE I am not the only one fretting about this shift towards “normal.” You’re worrying about it too, right?

Here are some specific things my brain-hamster is running frantically toward without actually moving an inch:

When is it reasonable to ask my housecleaner to come back? We are fortunate to have been able to continue to pay her while we’ve all been staying at home. But how long is she going to hold our spot? Is she working for her other clients again? Is it safe for her to spend hours in our possibly-germ-filled house? Is it possible that she could be bringing in germs from her family/other clients that could make our family – or the people we are necessarily in contact with (grocery store workers, my husband’s patients) – sick? Could I reasonably ask her to wear a mask while in our house? And would I need to provide her one (this would be ideal, of course)? And would that make her uncomfortable? Obviously I can continue cleaning our house myself; a housecleaner is not a necessity, it is a luxury. But I don’t know if we can/should continue to pay our housecleaner to stay home. At some point, doing so becomes less “this is an interim solution” and more “I am paying someone I don’t intend to see again.” Not that I don’t intend to see her again! Most of all, I don’t want to let my wonderful, beloved housecleaner go because I am being overly cautious about coronavirus. But… IS there such a thing as being overly cautious?

How will I feel about sending Carla to camp, if that happens, and, eventually, school? The camps Carla is enrolled in have not yet made a ruling about whether they will happen this summer. It seems unlikely, but… I guess it’s possible? When I think about the possibility of Carla going to camp, and then going to school in the fall, I am ripped violently in two directions. The one direction is MASSIVE RELIEF, because distance learning is not going great and because I know Carla needs in-person interaction with people who aren’t her parents and because I have not had more a shower’s length of time alone in two months. The other direction is CRUSHING FEAR because I don’t want her to get sick. I don’t want her to bring home the virus and get us sick. I don’t want her to bring home the virus and give it to my husband and have him a) unable to work or b) INFECT HIS PATIENTS OMG. I don’t want to constantly be worrying about her counselors/teachers and her friends and checking to see if she has a fever and perking up instantly if she sneezes.

Are we just going to be able to… GO PLACES now? Seeing as going to the grocery store – or even the PROSPECT of going to Costco – is still a dreaded activity, I can’t really imagine going to less essential businesses on purpose. For instance, it has become clear that we need to get Carla a real desk (her little child-size folding table has been working for now, but it’s not a good long-term solution – and I sense more distance learning in our future), but I am not finding anything reasonable online (the Pottery Barn Kids desks seem to be around EIGHT HUNDRED AMERICAN DOLLARS) and it would be so nice to go to IKEA and see some options in person. But… The very thought fills me with horror.

What is work going to be like for my husband? This is a very big complicated snarl of Unknown and it is filling us both with extreme anxiety. I will not get into the details but OMG.

And then, of course, is The Big Worry. What happens if/when (it’s when, right?) there is another spike?

It feels like the very best thing I, personally, can do to help is to continue to stay home, to continue to keep Carla home, to continue – at least for now – to pay my housecleaner to stay away. But someday it will be okay to do other things, right?

Yesterday I wrote out a long whiny self-pitying post because I was having A Bad Day. But I didn’t finish it or post it you’re welcome  and today I am feeling MUCH better. So let’s try some randomosity.

  • It’s Friday, which used to mean something. For me, it used to mean the end to silence. My pre-pandemic days used to be filled with blissful silence and multiple, consecutive hours of time to myself. Now, I am with someone 24 hours a day. Well, unless you count the couple hours a night when my husband and I go to our separate corners of the house – he to the basement to play video games, me to the living room to watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. I have two episodes left in the series and I am DEVASTATED. Whatever will I watch next?!?! Anyway, I suppose I should count those two hours as alone time, but I DON’T. I guess what I am missing is productive alone time? Time where I could write or exercise without being interrupted? I don’t know. Anyway, NOW Fridays are meaningless because the weekend is just more of the same. Well, I suppose weekends are now two days of no school, which is FAR preferable to distance learning days… but it still feels the same. Just with less sobbing.
  • I harvested some lettuce yesterday. I probably should have taken a picture of what the lettuce looked like, all full and fluffy, before I cut off a bunch of leaves. But I did not. I don’t expect your disappointment, should you feel any at all, to last beyond this sentence. I added carrots and onion, as is my custom, and doused the whole thing in ranch dressing. It was fun to eat lettuce that I grew and harvested but it wasn’t as crunchy as grocery store lettuce. I read about that and knew to expect it, but the salad was still a little… limp.
  • Still on the topic of salad, somehow: I got a head of iceberg in my curbside grocery order yesterday. It was the smallest head of lettuce I have ever seen. Imagine that someone had chopped a slightly-below-normal sized head in half and then carefully wrapped the cut edge in the outer leaves of lettuce. I have not checked to see whether this is what actually happened — that I, in fact, am the proud owner of half a head of lettuce. Well. Nonetheless. We must not complain about these things. The grocery store gods taketh away, but lo, they also giveth! The last time I got curbside delivery, I ordered two 8-oz containers of sour cream, on sale for $1 apiece, and instead received two three-pound containers of sour cream, and was charged $1 apiece. That is SIX POUNDS of sour cream for $2. So what if I had to remove a bag of green peppers from my order yesterday and throw them directly in the trash (they were so wrinkled and softened and had large spreading bruises and I am so very sorry but I was not ever going to eat them) – I have a BOUNTY of sour cream. If there is a sour cream shortage in the near future, you know who to blame.
  • How long will it take to figure out the New Shopping Rules? I’m not talking about masks and one-way aisles etc. I am talking about PLANNING when a) you don’t know what a store will have and b) you don’t know when you’ll be able to go next and c) you are not quite able to predict what you will run out of/need? I am erring on the side of Buy All the Things, Just in Case, but even so I encounter deficits. When I went to the store a week ago (was it only a week ago??? time no longer makes sense), I did not realize that I needed to buy my husband the milk he likes. And then by the time he told me he needed more, I had already placed the curbside pickup order (you have to order five days in advance, and there is no way to update your cart once the order has been placed) and am not planning to go to the real grocery store for another week if I can help it. Well, and when I can go will depend entirely on my husband’s in-office schedule. Perhaps he could have let me know when his milk was half-gone, so that I could have put it on the list. But of course HE doesn’t think about things that way, because a) he has never been the primary grocery shopper and b) he has not adjusted AT ALL to the scarcity of both shopping frequency and available items. Well. Next time we will know. And I still haven’t gotten the hang of not being able to run to the store for odd things I forget, either. I am kicking myself for not anticipating how much I would be craving avocados. But we do have a good supply of tomatoes for those in my family who like them. And, of course, the aforementioned sour cream surplus.
  • I have been on a quest to find margaritas. For some reason, I have a serious hankering for a restaurant-style marg. I mean, I have tequila (for now), and I always buy limes when I go to the store, so I can make my own at home. But, while lime-juice-and-tequila is good, it is not quite as satisfying as a big ol’ properly mixed drink. Plus I am tired of squeezing limes. And it takes a LOT of lime juice to achieve my preferred level of sweetness. Fortunately, we have a few Mexican restaurants in the area that allow you to purchase margaritas. Unfortunately, takeout tacos are not very good. Nevertheless, I think we’ll try them out this weekend if ONLY so I can get a proper marg.
  • Last night, I had a very long in-depth dream about writing a memoir. This is ridiculous because I have a very un-book-worthy life. I think it might be my brain’s reaction to the very mediocre memoir I am reading right now. I like memoirs. But some of them can be SO DREADFUL. This one is particularly boring. And it seems AWARE that it is boring, because occasionally the writer will throw in some event that seems designed to counteract the tedium… but it ends up feeling forced. This one also seems very superficial, like the writer is declining to do any sort of introspection about his life. I don’t know if that’s because the writer is afraid of introspection, or incapable of it, or if the introspection itself is boring, or if there’s something deeper and more sinister beneath the surface that would get out of control if he examined it? I don’t know. But I’m disappointed and a little exasperated with the writer. He’s led an objectively interesting life and could at the VERY LEAST go into some interesting details about the behind-the-scenes world of radio programming. The little he does share is not enough. (For me.) I wonder if it’s harder to write a memoir when you are still a working celebrity. Maybe you have too many concerns about blowing up your life or ruining your relationships to be as forthcoming as you could be. Perhaps I have unrealistic expectations here, but I would think that the POINT of a memoir is to be as honest as possible. Okay, okay. I know the ACTUAL point is to make money. I’m not naïve. But if you are going to read a celebrity memoir, I recommend Jessica Simpson’s – in which she writes as though she is sharing her life story and intimate feelings with a friend – over this one, which feels like the writer is simply sharing sanitized-for-syndication stories with an audience of strangers. Which, of course, is exactly what he’s doing, why am I so hard to please?!?!
  • There are a couple of gift-giving occasions coming up, and I am struggling to figure out what to GIVE. First is Mother’s Day. My husband and I ordered gifts for our mothers yesterday after discovering just how extensive some shipping delays have become. Even so, the gifts aren’t due to arrive until the day AFTER Mother’s Day, which is a bummer. I am kicking myself for not planning ahead. Anyway, I would ALSO like to get something for my sister. She is a single mom who works full time AND of course cares for her daughter almost constantly. And now that her daughter is home with her 24/7, there aren’t even any thoughtful preschool teachers to help her daughter make her a card or anything. So I definitely want to celebrate her in some way. The hard thing is that we aren’t particularly close, so I don’t know, for instance, her favorite local takeout places. A gift certificate to an online store might be good – like Sephora or something – since she can use it to order exactly what she wants. But gift certificates are also so impersonal, even if they are useful. Maybe that’s what we’ll end up doing. But I am OPEN to any and all suggestions for great gifts that ANYONE would like.
  • Again, on the Mother’s Day topic: Can you think of any way I can get her daughter to make her a Mother’s Day card/gift/anything without her knowing or needing to be involved? I considered reaching out to my niece’s father, but he is in law enforcement and therefore kind of busy. I have the contact info for my niece’s father’s sister, but she is ALSO a single mother and I don’t want to make her life more difficult or rub the whole Mother’s Day THING in her face. Whereas I can give Carla a fairly wide berth when she is on FaceTime, and even leave the room to let her chat with her grandparents or whomever, my niece is four-almost-five and seems to need constant supervision. UGH. I don’t know what to do. Any brilliant ideas? At all?
  • Speaking of my niece: Her birthday is coming up in May as well. I am thinking of getting some sort of decorate-your-own-cookies kit to send her… and some sort of gift. Ideally I would get a her a gift that allows for lots of independent play and minimal setup/cleanup. But apparently now that my own daughter is nearly seven, I have completely forgotten what a newly-five-year-old is capable of and likes to do. HELP?
  • And now I am starting to feel pre-anxious/sad about Carla’s birthday. It is at the end of June and I had hoped hoped hoped that we would have achieved some sense of (new) normalcy by then… But it doesn’t look like that will happen, does it? I know people all over the world are dealing with shelter-in-place birthdays, and it’s not really a big deal, even in the — what’s the opposite of “grand scheme of things”? short-term scheme of things? But I am already sad and overwhelmed at the idea of making the day special for Carla. Okay. I am going to Not Think About It right now and allow Future Me to deal with it in a few weeks. Perhaps things will have changed.
  • My husband and I plan to embark on a Baking Project this weekend. We have already made a couple of fun things – including homemade naan (YUM) and homemade cinnamon rolls (ALSO YUM) – but this time we want to try a lemon olive-oil tart. The only thing holding us back is a lack of a tart pan. I think that we can get away with making the tart in a regular pie pan because it doesn’t matter what it looks like so much as what it tastes like. My husband disagrees because he is even more of a Stringent Rule Follower than I am. Neither one of us is willing to budge from our clearly superior position. So for now we are at an impasse. Maybe I will see if tart pans are part of Target’s curbside pickup offerings. (I won’t tell my husband unless they ARE; I don’t want to appear to have given up my perfectly reasonable alternative solution that easily.) Maybe I will make focaccia instead.
  • Surprisingly, most of all to me, I have been keeping up with my loose Housecleaning Schedule pretty well. The clutter still presents a constant threat, but we’ve been hacking away at it when it springs up and seem to have gotten into a rhythm. Yes, I know this is like talking about how your baby is finally sleeping through the night; I know how Putting It in Writing works. But SO FAR. My floors are free of debris, my appliances – but for one completely anonymous handprint on the fridge door – are shiny, the clean laundry has been folded and put away (ignore the dirty laundry in to-be-washed piles on my closet floor; I can only handle one load a day). It’s pretty neat and tidy around here. Except for one thing. Apparently I forgot to put “clean the microwave” on the to-do list. It looks like an episode of Law & Order: Cheese Dip Explosion Unit in there. But it has a door I can close so most of the day I feel like there is no problem at all. Isn’t that the very best kind of solution?
  • It feels like I am writing about the exact same things I’ve already written about. Am I the blog equivalent of your elderly Aunt Sylvie saying, “Stop me if you’ve heard this already” before launching into the same old story about that time she saw Bette Midler in the dog park that you can recite along by heart? If so, please forgive me. My brain is so very foggy and there is so very little going on in my life right now.
  • It seems that I have become A Person Who Cannot Get Rid of Jars. Sure, in The Time Before, I kept the occasional jar; I use them for homemade salad dressing and pizza sauce and lime juice (for margaritas). But I never had more than four jars at a time and was perfectly fine putting an empty (washed) jar into the recycling bin. But now I am INCAPABLE of getting rid of them! Just now, Carla finished another jar of pickles and I said to myself, “Self, you already HAVE a pickle jar. And ten other jars. You do NOT need this pickle jar. Just rinse and recycle. Rinse and recycle.” And I kept muttering, “rinse and recycle” to myself as I rinsed it and put it in the dishwasher because obviously I am going to keep it. Such a strange form in which my pandemic anxiety has chosen to manifest! It’s not like there’s a JAR SHORTAGE during this pandemic! I would feel much less perplexed by my choices if I were hoarding toilet paper. Or yeast. But JARS? This is going to be A Thing Carla talks about with her future spouse, isn’t it? “Oh, I know it’s weird. But as long as I can remember, she’s always had shelves full of jars!” “What do you MEAN you got Mother a collection of artisan jams for her birthday? You KNOW she has a jar problem!”
  • We just got an email about summer camp.  I opened the email with pounding heart and mounting dread. I mean, I know deep in my bones that camp isn’t happening this summer. And even if it IS an option, will I actually feel comfortable sending Carla? Would it be better to keep enrollment to people whose parents work full-time and really need childcare? But right now, in the first week since our governor confirmed there will be no more school this year, I feel like the prospect of No Camp — no, the prospect of being Carla’s Sole Source of Support and Entertainment… and also food and clean laundry and cuddles and discipline and education — is just too heavy and heartbreaking to face. But there is no ruling yet. The camp just wanted to let us know that they will decide in the next few weeks. THE SUSPENSE. IT IS WORSE THAN THE KNOWING.
  • In Other Things We Don’t Yet Know, I am torturing myself about school next fall. It is so far away that it really isn’t worth fretting over. So many things can and will change before August. But I keep turning over and over in my mind the question: what would have to happen to make me feel safe sending Carla to school? I know I am in a uniquely privileged position of even being able to think about this, of even being able to consider NOT sending her (if that is something I would consider, which… I don’t know!). My barre studio sent out an email survey this week, asking about measures we’d like to see before we returned to studio workouts. And I found myself asking something similar: what would have to happen to make me feel safe returning to small, enclosed room full of heavily-breathing women? I don’t know. Well. * Brisk brushing-off motion. * This sounds like another concern for Future Me.

 

That’s all I’ve got today, Internet. I am off to bathe myself in sour cream, probably.

If nothing else, being forced to stay at home and supervise my daughter’s distance learning has been excellent for my reading. I have already read ten books this year (which is a lot for me), and eight of them since self-isolation began in mid-March.

Since we last discussed books, I have read several more that I can recommend. Agatha Christie continues to be a perfect book type for me – I love mysteries, and Hercule Poirot and Miss Marple are just so charming and coy and the mysteries themselves are fun and not overly violent or dark. The very definition of cozy. And nothing distracts my brain like a good mystery. I just read The Murder of Roger Ackroyd and it was delightful. I wish my library had more copies of Christie books available via ebook, but I am apparently not the only person who finds them ideal pandemic reading.

Speaking of cozy mysteries: Allison R. mentioned Louise Penny in response to my previous post which reminded me that I had her first Inspector Gamache mystery – Still Life – on my bookshelf. I read it and enjoyed it. Perhaps not with the enthusiasm I feel about Christie books, but with enough pleasure that I will read more Penny books.

I did read the Liz Moore book my husband got me for my birthday. It was excellent. A well-crafted mystery. Good writing. Believable, relatable characters. But… it dealt with a lot of Heavy Topics, so I don’t know that it helped my mood any.

Open Book  – Jessica Simpson’s memoir – was a very satisfying read. I am predisposed toward Jessica Simpson – I was a teenager when she and Britney and Christina appeared on the music scene, and I watched Newlyweds  religiously and found Simpson’s ditzy act to be charming and refreshing. The book was also charming, in its way. And I loved learning all about her life before stardom and getting the juicy details about her breakup with Nick Lachey and the juicier details about her on-and-off relationship with John Mayer. This book also had some Heavy Topics – sexual abuse and alcoholism/substance abuse – but Simpson somehow managed to address the topics in a way that felt truthful but also optimistic. And her religious faith and sense of humor are threaded throughout the book in such a way that buoys you along. This book was nowhere near as light and fluffy as I’ll Be There for You: The One About Friends, but it was still light enough and definitely scratched my celebrity-curiosity itch in a very satisfactory way.

The BEST book I have read recently is Picture Us in the Light by Kelly Loy Gilbert. Kelly used to be a blogger, a million years ago, and I always enjoyed her posts. But man, her fiction is EXCELLENT. I read her first novel, Conviction, a couple of years ago and really liked it; it’s a book that has stayed with me, and I still find myself thinking about the protagonist and his motivations and choices. But Picture Us in the Light is just… it’s one of those books that I want you to read so badly I am having to restrain myself from grabbing you about the shoulders and shaking you until you buy it. First, it’s Young Adult fiction, which is not normally my thing… but the writing is so good that it feels relevant and worthwhile to read even so. (This feels reductive of YA fiction, which can be excellent. But there’s enough out there that’s not great that I feel I have to include a caveat.) Like some of the other books I’ve been reading, it’s got some Heavy Topics, although I don’t want to detail them for you because I don’t want to give anything away. But the care with which Kelly handled the heavy stuff and the beauty of the writing and the wonderful, wonderfully flawed characters made it a hypnotizing book that I read straight through in a couple of days. I’m not going to tell you that it won’t break your heart; I fell in love with the characters and wept several times over their pain. But there’s healing there, too.

I have been watching much less TV than I anticipated I would during a pandemic. Partly because I want to be providing A Good Example for my child, and partly because I am sitting in her room with her for hours every day as she does her schoolwork. But I have been watching a little bit, and I have some recommendations.

The second season of Songland  just started on NBC. I only watched the first season begrudgingly because my husband was interested… but fell in love with it almost immediately. The premise is that a singer/band is looking for a new song to round out an album. Four songwriters present songs they think would appeal to the singer/band. The singer/band picks three songs to work on, and a trio of music producers – Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, Ester Dean, and Shane McAnally – help the songwriters improve their songs, which they then re-present to the singer/band. The singer/band chooses one of the songs. It is really fun to watch the songs’ transformations from something beautiful and raw to something more produced and tailored to the specific singer/band. The producers are super talented and everyone treats the songs they are working on with such respect and care. It’s a feel-good show and I really love it.

Together with Carla, who wants to be a zookeeper someday, we are watching The Zoo on Animal Planet. It takes place in the Bronx zoo, and usually has three storylines, following three separate animals. Maybe an injured bird will be rehabilitated and the released into the wild. Or a red panda will get pregnant and have babies. Or a camel will be found down in the yard and the zoo staff have to figure out what’s wrong. It’s got cute animals and staff who are deeply enthusiastic about the creatures under their care. Sometimes animals die on the show, which is sad – but I suppose that’s what happens. What I love most – beside the cute fuzzy critters – is the staff. It makes me all teary to think that there are people in the world who love animals SO MUCH that they make it their life’s work to take care of them, to make sure they are loved and fed and comfortable, to help spread the word about conservation and what it’s like for these animals in the wild and why their habitats are disappearing. These are people who care so much about the mental and physical health of the animals that they will spend days or weeks training them to feel comfortable around and inside a crate, just so the creatures aren’t scared or worried during a very short trip to a new location or to a veterinary clinic for a checkup. It’s a very welcome difference from the money-hungry cruelty of Tiger King.

My husband and I finally got around to watching the final season of The Good Place. The last episode made me sob and sob, it was so well done. I really wish I could watch the whole series again for the first time.

After several years of hearing rave reviews about it, I just started watching The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Oh it is so good. I have been staying up much too late to watch multiple episodes back to back. My husband doesn’t love it – it has the same non-stop patter viewers will remember from Gilmore Girls, which drives him nuts. But I don’t mind that, terribly, and it’s hilarious. Raunchier and cruder than I anticipated, with a LOT of foul language. But it’s so funny and fun. If, like me, you are years behind the TV trends, I highly recommend it.

Next up: I am in the middle of Elvis Duran’s memoir, Where Do I Begin? Stories from a Life Lived Out Loud. On the recommendation of NGS, I have checked out Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street. On the suggestion of Kara, I have recommended As If: The Oral History of Clueless to my library, because I want to read it and they somehow do not own it. And, because of a recommendation from Lee and Angela, I have As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride on hold via my library – only six weeks until it’s my turn to read it!

 

Now it’s your turn. What have you been reading/watching since we last talked?