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Archive for the ‘Chief Complaint’ Category

This post is half grousing/fretting, half meal planning, or maybe a little quite a bit less meal planning than grousing. I am just preparing you, so you can scroll down past the cranky part or click over to some other more cheerful blog. And also if you have grouses/frets, I am in a very empathetic mood, so please do share. 

Anyway, I woke up this morning in a grump. There’s nothing WRONG, per se. It’s just, you know – everything. Yesterday, I had two mildly irritating experiences that aren’t worth describing and really come down to Pandemic Life Adjustments and Everyone Is Doing the Best They Can.  (Okay, I will briefly describe one: I had to wait for nearly an hour, as in 50+ minutes, for my curbside Target order; normally the wait is like 5 minutes tops.) (Here is the brief run-down of the other: Carla’s school required me to buy a last-minute hole punch – I got the request yesterday, and the hole punch was needed yesterday and will be needed again today – and I cannot locate one; I even WENT IN to WalMart to find one and still couldn’t; so Carla just has to do without, which is fine, it’s not a big deal.) There’s nothing I can DO about these irritating experiences, and I really do think everyone is trying their utmost best, but they are still irritating. 

Plus, I am still having self-conscious feelings about our holiday cards. I know I mentioned this before, but I stuffed all of them into their envelopes yesterday so I was looking at them for a long time and I just feel like they are BAD and DUMB. I mean, my husband thinks they are cute, and I trust him, so hopefully I am just being overly precious about them? There is the possibility that he is Not Hurting My Feelings, but really thinks they are dumb… although… that doesn’t really sound like him. But the borders just seem SO uneven and the pictures are blurrier than I originally thought and I am a little uncomfortable that we are wearing Santa hats in our photos; but OF COURSE THAT IS STUPID. No one cares! Our Jewish friends do not care if we are representing Christmas in our cards! And our card is kind of light-hearted – it’s the three of us on Zoom, and it references social distancing. What if it’s too light-hearted for some people? Or feels like we are making light of the pandemic, which has been much harder on so many people than it has for us? And then, on the back, there’s a message that is a little more serious in tone, about hoping everyone is safe and healthy. And I’m worried that the tone shift is too severe? What if people think I’m being super over-serious about everything? And then on some cards I’ve written little messages like “Merry Christmas!” or whatever and that feels like adding to the mixed message-ness of it all? Plus, I look old and my nose looks weird. And OMG NOBODY CARES. But what it comes down to is that I am having to force myself to send them out, rather than feeling happy about them. 

Plus, this morning the kids in Carla’s class did an opening discussion about things they are grateful for. It was very sweet, but the things they listed (my siblings, because I can play with them even if I can’t play with my friends; being safe from corona; the world) kind of broke my heart. 

Pluscheery frivolous post material aside, I am increasingly anxious about The State of Things. The emails my husband gets from his hospital system are increasingly… upsetting. I mean, aside from the graphs they send out regularly, illustrating the steep upward climb of Covid cases and ICU patients, there have been some bland, semi-vague missives that to me seem like “covering the bases” types of emails. NOT THIS EXPRESSLY, but like, along the lines of, “Hey, you may be in a specialty totally removed from emergency or respiratory medicine but just kind of gird your loins for the possibility of maybe jumping in if we need you? Kthanx.” or “By the way, at some point we may need to shift hospital stuff to your clinics because we are running out of room. Byeeeee.” Again, this is not exactly what they are saying, and again, I think this is more like the hospital system making sure their doctors are prepared for any eventuality. But it is not a confidence-builder, you know? 

Okay. Grumping and worrying do nothing. NOTHING. Let’s go for some Cheering Thoughts:

First, I have SO MANY great cookie ideas to follow up on. This does not mean I have TOO MANY or even ENOUGH, so please let me know if you have a Must Make Holiday Cookie I need to consider.

Second, Remote Learning is going… okay, so far. I’m not going to say it’s good, because it isn’t. But it’s so much better than it went last spring. Carla is doing great and, now that the teachers have had time to prepare and some experience with online teaching, the school days are so much better organized. It still feels impossible to complete all the necessary work during the day, and neither of us is getting any exercise (where to fit it in???) (do not say wake up earlier), and we are both in Carla’s room/office for pretty much the ENTIRE DAY EVERY DAY but still, it is Much Better. And supposedly she will be back in school, in person, in early January… but even if not, we will at least have a two-week break in there. 

Third, I finally finished not one but TWO books I have been reading for literal months. One of them was really good, but had a slow start; the other was interesting but the author’s voice wasn’t my style. Anyway, I finished them, which is a good feeling. AND now I can start the three books that are next up on my to-read list: Mayflower: Voyage, Community, War by Nathaniel Philbrick, which I received as a surprise from a friend; The Searcher by Tana French, which my husband ordered for me on a whim; and Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, which I bought for myself. I am really excited about all three, and this anticipatory which-one-should-I read-next stage is delicious and fun. 

Fourth, back to food, this week includes both (the beginning of) Hanukkah and my wedding anniversary, which means some special meals. Perhaps I will make the special meal for Hanukkah and order takeout for our anniversary. Also I have some repeats from last week because I am lazy Super Flexible.

Dinners for the Week of December 8-14

I also have some extra cranberries leftover from Thanksgiving, so I may make these cranberry crumble bars and send some to work with my husband. 

What are you eating for dinner this week?

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My microwave broke, so I had to buy a new one.

That sentence right there conveys absolutely none of the dismay and panic I felt. Plus, it makes it sound like the microwave just up and expired, all by its lonesome, when really I BROKE IT. I BROKE MY MICROWAVE. DURING A PANDEMIC.

Yesterday, I opened the microwave to remove something I’d heated and THE DOOR BROKE. Right there in my hand. The bottommost panel of the microwave door, right beneath the handel, separated from the rest of the door. And the door would no longer close and also started to feel quite loose on its hinge.

Listen, I am already dealing with an Ongoing Refrigerator Saga, which I will probably tell you about at some point but which causes me TORRENTIAL FRUSTRATION, and I cannot – CANNOT – deal with fiddling around with another appliance. The fridge is too costly to replace (if I even could, during a pandemic, when appliances are in SHORT SUPPLY) and also, it – SO FAR – maintains the minimum functions required of a fridge, like “holding food” and “cooling things” and “producing ice.” This could change at any moment, I recognize, and I am fervently grateful for the second fridge we have downstairs. (Yes, yes, these are Not Problems type of problems, I am aware.)

(Side Vent: In the nine years we have occupied this house, we have bought a new fridge and oven/range, replaced the dishwasher, the washer and dryer, three faucets [kitchen, bathroom, laundry room], a shower head, the water heater, two trees, and a toilet. We should also possibly replace the windows. And now the microwave. And also the fridge sucks and if I had a spare $$$ lying around I would definitely replace that. I am grateful that a) this didn’t happen all at once and b) we had the means to do so without significant financial strain, but OMG is this normal??? I have never owned a house before so maybe gradually replacing everything is just what it means to be a homeowner but it seems like a lot!)

Anyway. Speaking of Not Problems problems. No one needs a microwave. I mean, I guess if you live in a house with no other means of heating your food, then a microwave is a necessity. So I will backtrack and say: I personally do not need a microwave. It is a nicety. A luxury appliance. But nonetheless, I have always been in possession of a microwave and therefore much of my cooking/eating life has been arranged around the fact of a working microwave. For instance, my daughter eats pancakes that I microwave for her almost every morning. (Yes, I could make pancakes from scratch every morning, as Carla and my inner Snarky Pinterest Mom so helpfully and logically pointed out, but I am not going to do that.) We can survive without a microwave. Laura Ingalls Wilder didn’t have a microwave, after all, and, in fact, would look askance – deeply askance – at me for my microwave dependency. 

And yet I went to my local appliance store this morning, ten minutes before it opened, for the express purpose of buying a new microwave. 

I have heard rumblings about the appliance shortages that have arisen during the pandemic. And let me tell you, this is REAL. Even though it is a random Monday, and even though I had arrived ten minutes early, I was only the fifth or so person inside the store, and the parking lot was filling up behind me. There were no available salespeople on the floor when I went in; they were all talking to customers. So I stood there stupidly, trying to project an air of I Should Be Helped Next as another customer entered the store and made her way to the part of the store where additional staff members were busily not looking at us. 

Near me was a customer looking at dishwashers. “I really recommend you get one of the machines we have in stock here in the store,” the salesperson was telling her apologetically. “Otherwise, it could be at least six to eight weeks before you get yours.” 

I looked toward the checkout area, a long desk at the far end of the showroom behind which are several offices with doorless doorways that open into the showroom itself. I was staring because not a single one of the six or seven people in those offices was wearing a mask. This included two people who were in the showroom, talking on the phone. I had a moment of panic – I should leave, right? How can they not be wearing masks? Have they not heard about the pandemic? But… there was a sign on the door saying masks were required, so… perhaps they don’t understand that staff should wear masks, too?

“… yep, already full and people staring at me,” said the unmasked salesman into the phone, making eye contact with me. Then, as the woman who’d come in behind me made a beeline for him, he hung up and pointed at me. “How can I help you?”

Staying where I was, in the middle of the store, while he put on a mask, I called to him that I needed a new microwave. He made some pretense of showing me the microwave floor models, mumbling all the while that he didn’t think they had any of these ones, or these ones… and then he kind of threw up his hands and said, “crazy, crazy times” and we quickly returned to his computer station where he looked up whether he actually had any microwaves in stock. 

This is where I told him that I’d looked on the store’s website, which had claimed to have a specific GE model in stock. We would take that one, I said. He typed on his keyboard. Then he went into the back to look at what was available.

He returned, shaking his head. “I don’t have any of that model in stock,” he said. “I can sell you one, and order it, but honestly, I have no earthly idea when it will arrive. We aren’t even getting estimates for timeframes anymore. I could do the same with a Whirlpool microwave, but honestly, they’re even worse than GE.”

Was I going to have to go somewhere else to buy a microwave? Would Best Buy or Home Depot have any better selection? I was starting to feel anxious about the possibility – this store is close to my house and has a relationship with a reputable installation service and we’ve used them for ALL our appliances, so I feel comfortable with them. Plus, I like supporting a local company. But now I pictured schlepping all over town trying to find a stupid microwave that wouldn’t take an indefinite amount of time to arrive, being turned away from store after store by harried staff members trying to fight against the desperate crush of appliance-hungry customers. 

“I mean, we probably do have a few options here in the store, but they start getting really expensive.”

Turns out, internet, I would rather go without a microwave than spend $800 on one. I kind of stared at the salesman, thinking about my new, austere, microwave-free lifestyle. Perhaps I would write a book about it. A how-to guide of sorts: MicroWAVE Your Old Food Heating Habits Goodbye. Maybe I would need to buy a toaster oven. Could I really see myself becoming a Toaster Oven Person?

He interpreted my reverie as pleading, and kept typing. I have no idea what he was doing. He could have been making a grocery list. Or writing his own tell-all about the Great Appliance Panic of 2020. Maybe he was journalling. “November 16, 2020: Dear Diary. Another day of people needing new refrigerators. Why have all the refrigerators in the country simultaneously failed? Another day of my colleagues pretending that there is a forcefield separating the air of the offices from the air of the showroom. Another day of customers looking at me as though they can manifest a non-existent appliance through the power of staring.”

Miraculously, through the magic of my unfocused stare, he discovered that he had, in the warehouse, a very basic GE that would work as a replacement for my microwave. “It doesn’t do much more than heat,” he said regretfully. “But there is a button to stop the turntable from turning if you want that.” (Why would I want that? Why would anyone want that? Isn’t giving your leftover soup a spin around the ol’ heat carousel the whole point of a microwave?)

“Great,” I told him, microwave relief flooding me. “I am fine with basic.” I need a microwave that can heat my food and maybe act as a timer, that’s it. What kind of functions are these $800 microwaves performing that are so much better? Setting the table? Complimenting your cooking? Chewing the food for you? Heat the food. Beep when it’s done. That’s all I need from a microwave. 

The salesman gestured to the floor model of the microwave he’d located so I could examine it, check the price, etc. “It’s fine,” I said, giving it a cursory glance to ensure it wasn’t $800 (turns out it was even less than the option I’d scouted online), and handing over my credit card with the barely controlled panic of someone finding the country’s very last Tickle Me Elmo on Christmas Eve during a year when Tickle Me Elmo is the Country’s Hottest Toy. 

“I’m just glad you had something to sell me,” I told him. 

“It’s been utter pandemonium,” he told me. “You should see it in here on Saturdays. It’s like we’re throwing a big party or having the year’s biggest sale. Every. Saturday.”

He shook his head. “And it’s getting even busier, even though the COVID numbers keep rising. And a lot of the people we see? Are real old folks.” Here he pointed over my shoulder at the woman who’d come in behind me. “She’s no spring chicken,” he said. “Well, I’m not either. But you have to wonder, what are they doing?”

He went on: “This pandemic has been so hard on everyone. Well,” he reconsidered. “Not on us. This is our best year ever.” The way he said it – coupled with the purple hollows under his eyes – didn’t really sell me on the “best” part of his sentence. I really hope he and his fellow salespeople get significant bonuses for dealing with all these people clambering over one another to get their grubby paws on the last available electric range, that’s for sure.

He was able to schedule the installation of my new microwave/removal of my old microwave (which means I will have another human in my house later this week, yikes) and took my payment. I didn’t get to take the microwave with me – the installation company will pick it up from the warehouse and bring it to me on Thursday. Frankly, it made me a little uncomfortable to leave without it in my room temperature hands. I kept waiting for someone – No Spring Chicken, perhaps – to swoop in and buy it out from under me. I guess we’ll see, come Thursday, whether I actually bought a microwave or some stainless steel air.

All in all, I was in and out of there in twenty minutes flat. Then I came home and reheated leftovers on the stove for lunch because that is a perfectly reasonable, if more time consuming, way to reheat things. 

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If you are up for feeling ranty about something completely inconsequential in The Grand Scheme, please join me for a VERY long and ranty rant. I am Super Peeved right now, so I am putting it all down here and releasing the peevedness into the universe so that it will leave me alone.

Our final payment for our car was due on Tuesday. We exchanged that car for a new car the previous Saturday, meaning that we did not need to make the final payment. But we forgot that our automatic online bill pay system was on top of things, and was ready to make the payment for us.

The instant we realized this – middle of the nightish Monday – we figured out how to stop the payment. I called the bank on Tuesday, first thing, and they stopped the payment. We could see in our account that the money briefly left… and was then returned.

Great. Easy peasy.

Wednesday, we received an email from the car company saying thank you for your payment. Sigh.

I called the bank and explained what happened. Nope, they said. We can see that you stopped the payment. See? Right there? In your account? It was stopped.

Okay, great.

Yesterday: An email from a Third Party Online Bill Pay Service, which pays bills for our bank. They had submitted the payment to the car company, but our bank would not release the money to pay them. Because we had, you know, STOPPED THE PAYMENT. So our online bill pay service is now suspended and we are on the hook for the money that they paid, even though we supposedly stopped the payment. (The bigger of the two issues is the suspended bill pay service. We have four automated bills coming up before the end of the month, and, okay, I guess if the solution is “just write four checks” it’s not THAT big of a deal. But it is ANNOYING.)

(I have not yet called the car company, to see if they can simply RETURN THE MONEY for the car we no longer own.)

I called the Third Party Service. I sat on hold for 17 minutes (yes I am counting because I am PEEVED) before someone answered. She was polite but not friendly. I explained my issue to her. She needed my social security number and email address and birth date and verified that she could not see any issues.

But… I got this email, I told her. An email that says our service has been suspended.

Nope. She can’t see that there is any issue with my bill pay service.

But… this email.

We went round and round for a bit. Finally, I asked her if the fact that the email went to my husband’s email address was significant. Aha. Yes. Apparently, even though the money with which we pay our bills comes from a joint account, my husband is the one who set up the bill paying system under his name and social security number. Therefore, I cannot make any sort of decisions for the online bill paying system. My husband needs to be the one who calls.

Sigh.

Me: Okay, what are your hours?

Third Party: 8:00 to 5:00. In fact, we are closed right now. [What? Why did they answer then?] [Also, it was past six, so they must have been operating out of a different time zone, which is kind of a relevant detail.]

Me: Well… My husband is not available during those hours. So what kind of information can I get you that would allow me to talk to someone about this issue?

Third Party: Sorry. Only your husband.

Me: But he isn’t available.

Third Party: He doesn’t have to “be available.” All he has to do is get on the phone at the same time, WITH YOU, and confirm that you can handle this without him. [I am paraphrasing.]

Me: I’m so sorry, I must not be being clear. My husband is at work during the hours you mentioned. He cannot make a phone call during that time.

Third Party: He doesn’t have to MAKE A PHONE CALL. He simply needs to be ON THE PHONE while you are on the phone so he can authorize you to take over.

At this point, my frustration boiled over. My voice got high pitched and shaky. I was near tears. I told her how I knew it wasn’t her fault, but I was really frustrated, we had stopped the payment in advance, this shouldn’t be an issue, and we have a JOINT ACCOUNT FOR PETE’S SAKE, I have as much say over the disbursal of the money in that account as he does, so WHY can’t I talk to someone about fixing this problem?

She repeated a) that they are now closed and b) that he doesn’t have to be AVAILABLE, he just has to be on the phone with me long enough to give them permission to talk to me.

So I thanked her, hung up, wrote a bunch of all-caps texts to my husband (who, at 6:37 pm was STILL AT WORK because that is how things are for some people, in fact, for LOTS OF PEOPLE, this can’t be the first time a human has needed to conduct routine business during non-business hours?!?!?!?!), and called the bank.

My thinking is: I called the bank on Tuesday and stopped the payment. Whatever happened next is THE BANK’S FAULT and they should fix it.

My call with the bank started well. The customer service rep was very friendly and nice.

I confirmed with him that we had stopped the payment. Yes, we had. Then I told him my whole sob story, including that Third Party wouldn’t let me untangle the mess and I hoped that he, Bank Guy, would be able to fix it, considering that it was something that happened AFTER I called the bank to stop this payment.

He was totally going to help me. He first did some sort of poking around in the background and then explained to me that only my husband had enrolled in the online bill pay service, which was therefore tied to his social security number. I was not enrolled in online bill pay at all, he informed me. So for obvious security purposes, Third Party couldn’t deal with someone who wasn’t my husband. He said it had nothing to do with our having a joint account. I found this information useful and thanked him.

Then he started… talking around the situation. Saying things like, “And they were saying that they needed to talk to your husband because it’s his information, and then he could easily tell them that it’s okay for you to handle the rest of the conversation.” And, “It’s totally frustrating that things like this happen, ma’am.” And, “You did everything right on your end and it seems like things got a little mixed up.” You know, being really empathetic and showing that he understood the situation. 

Finally, I figured out that he was no longer just trying to be nice. What he was saying was, HE couldn’t help me. (I literally had to ask him, “Are you saying that you cannot help me reinstate my suspended account?”) I still had to deal with Third Party. Which meant that I still had to somehow get my husband on the phone between 8:00 and 5:00. 

I lost it a little. Not angry – just, you know, high pitched voice, shaky, sweating, near tears. Delightful. And I told Bank Guy that my husband CANNOT MAKE THAT WORK. He is NOT AVAILABLE. And I also said, “I did the right thing, right? What happened after I stopped the payment? Why did it not actually STOP?” And he gave me some B.S. answer about how the Third Party system must have gotten confused. I tried to say, Well, since I STOPPED THE PAYMENT, then I think it is up to the bank and the Third Party Bill Paying Service to work it out.

That is when his tone shifted. Nice, patient, empathetic Bank Guy was done with me. He started speaking very slowly and loudly.

“Just to clarify, your husband doesn’t actually have to be on the phone,” he said over and over. (Which, what? YES HE DOES, that is exactly what you are saying.) “He can be on a three-way call with you, and tell Third Party, ‘you can talk to my wife.’” 

“He isn’t available during the hours they are open,” I said.

“I’m QUITE SURE HE GETS A LUNCH BREAK, MA’AM,” the guy said, very slowly and loudly.

At that point, I took a very deep breath, thanked him, and said goodbye. 

Listen. I am not saying that my husband deserves special treatment. He does not! But I AM SAYING that there are probably LOTS OF PEOPLE who are not available between those very specific hours, and that it is ridiculous that they cannot talk to me and YES I KNOW SECURITY CONCERNS BLAH BLAH BLAH I AM JUST MAD, OKAY? 

And I am not exaggerating about his availability! My husband has seventeen patients tomorrow. If he gets to eat lunch on any given day, and that is never certain because he is almost always running late, he scarfs it down between phone calls to patients, or while he is reviewing pathology reports, or while he is writing his patient notes and recommendations. Sometimes in a day he does not get to use the bathroom. He typically leaves the house at sixish and comes home around eightish. This is just how it is.

But, just to realllllly address the skepticism, let’s say he HAS a free five minutes. Is there a guarantee that we will get through to a customer service person in that small timeframe? NO. And do you REALLY think that they are going to let him bark, “Talk to my wife” into the phone and leave? NO. He will have to do all sorts of identification verification stuff before they let him go. So even if he could find a few minutes during his LUNCH BREAK – OMG I am apoplectic about that phrase for some reason – it’s not necessarily going to be enough time. 

PLUS – PLUS!!!! – there should be a SOLUTION other than “just make a three-way call.” What if he were out of the country? What if he were sequestered in jury duty? What if he were dead? (God forbid.) (I am being hyperbolic because I am PEEVED.)

I guess the moral of the story is that I need to be automatically ON EVERYTHING. But man is that frustrating! 

And also! Can we all agree that this is, in fact, THE FAULT OF THE BANK? That THE BANK should be working with the Third Party Bill Paying Service to figure out how to get them their money back? Because I STOPPED THE PAYMENT. I even called back the next day and confirmed it! And they verified it by looking at my account! 

I want THE BANK to call Third Party between the hours of 8:00 and 5:00 and DEAL WITH THIS. 

Man. This is why middle-aged white women get a bad rap, right? I am so worked up about this that I want to go nuclear. I want to call the bank and talk to A Manager. I want to immediately and forevermore remove all our money – checking and savings and money market account – from this bank to another bank. Maybe I am being entitled and unreasonable. But right now, my vision is so clouded by how INFURIATING this all is, that I can’t see that. 

My next call, as soon as they open, will be the car company which apparently got our STOPPED payment. Perhaps they can return it to the Third Party and everything will go away. 

Now I need to go take some calming breaths so I can talk to the car company without shrieking.

Edit: Now I have called the car company. The customer service person asked if my husband had authorized me to handle this — eternal screaming — and I said yes, and he said fine. Then he submitted my “request” to, you know, not accept money that we do not in fact owe them, to a “team” for “review” and told me that it should take 3-5 business days for us to get our check. He was by FAR the nicest customer service person I dealt with this entire time, but I could tell he was a little suspicious of my motives, even after I explained why I was so anxious to get the payment back.

Now I am going to go clean the bathrooms. There’s nothing like a little righteous anger for making it Very Satisfying to scrub toilets and shower pans.

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Do I write about anything besides food? Is this a thing where I have A Serious Problem and I am just breezily unaware of it? I’m hoping it’s just Keto, which forces me to think about food waaaayyyyy more than I want to, and way more than is probably healthy.

Right now is my food witching hour. Well. Witching Hour #1. (The second takes place after Carla goes to bed when I flop onto the couch and watch something ridiculous.) This is the period of time between when I am starting to get hungry for dinner (about 4:00/4:30) and when we actually EAT dinner (anywhere between 6:30 to 9:00, depending on my husband’s schedule and/or my ability to time the dinner correctly). 

(This is also some sort of mating witching hour for a local… chipmunk? bird of some sort? other creature that makes repetitive clock-ticking – but, like, a loud cuckoo-style clock-ticking sound, not a tiny click that a normal wall clock makes – noises every single day at right about this time?)

(Well, now whatever it is has finished his business and has moved on. Soon the neighbors will release their dog into their backyard where he will bark persistently until they let him in. Which takes MUCH longer than it reasonably should.) 

Anyway, I am typing this post right now to avoid snacking. I have already snacked on my Allotted Keto Snack, which is an ounce of cheddar cheese, and which was delicious. I have been doing Keto for one week and two days and it has been going fine – you know, as fine as it goes when you hate it and all food seems super sad and/or requires too much chewing. But today I have been smacked right in the face by Severe Cravings.

Maybe if I write them down here I will transfer some of the craving energy from my belly into the Internet. That’s a thing, right? Like how if you post about your baby sleeping through the night, she is guaranteed to wake up seven times the next night and for every night for the next three months? Maybe it’s like that with cravings: I tell you all about them, and then they disappear. Yes. That is going to happen.

At some point, I hope to have a relationship with Keto that is less restricted. Where I can take little breaks. Or even… eat regular amounts of carbs on the weekend or something. I don’t know. But right now, everything feels very fragile and precarious, and I’m worried that one rogue glass of wine is going to tip me right off the wagon and into a bag of tortilla chips.

(Here is where I note that this weekend, we have not one but TWO [outdoor, masked-except-while-eating] family get togethers [of the exactly three families we have gotten together with since March, these are two of them] and so I am already sure that I will be pretty lenient with myself. My husband is making these amazing cookies, for one thing, and for another, we will be watching football [outdoors, on their deck; I don’t understand how this will work either; do they have an outdoor TV?] and football goes so very well with beer. Maybe I will take some Michelob Ultra with me?)

(Also: TWO get togethers??? That seems so incredibly extravagant. But it is also coming at a good time; this is the anniversary of my friend’s death and I am feeling wan and tearful, so being with other friends should be a lovely and welcome distraction.)

I am slightly surprised by the things I am craving most fiercely; for one thing, “chips” is not up there. Not that I’d throw a plate of nachos out of bed, mind you. But I have other carbs on the brain.

  1. Bagel. This is my top food fantasy right now. A thick bagel, soft on the inside, crunchy on the outside, perfectly toasted. Coated in a slick layer of butter with salt and a nice gooey topping of honey. Oh my GOD. 
  2. Wheat thins. We have a box in the pantry and I ate one this past weekend and it was SO GOOD and I have been thinking about gobbling up its brethren ever since.
  3. Triscuits. We also have a box of these bad boys because I was eating cheese with Triscuits all summer when I needed a little pre-dinner snack. So now when I eat cheese, there’s a Pavlovian Triscuit bell that rings in my head.
  4. Apple anything. A nice, crisp, juicy apple. Apple cake. Apple crisp. Apple pie. ANYTHING WITH APPLE.
  5. Mango smoothie. I think this is a spite craving and will be therefore fleeting; I made a smoothie today with raspberries but before I did that, I looked up how many carbs mango would set me back and it was A LOT. My raspberry smoothie left a lot to be desired, so I have been really jonesing for the mango version I used to make for myself and Carla on nights she had ballet.
  6. Bruschetta. I would love a nice crusty baguette, sliced into pillowy rounds, and coated with wonderful things like spinach and artichoke dip or a mushroomy tapenade. YUM.
  7. Garlic bread. Droooooooool.

I thought for sure I would really want pizza, because I love pizza with all my heart. But I have been making a Keto version (with fathead dough) and I guess it is an adequate-enough stand-in that I am not missing pizza too much. (Yet.) (Adequate is the absolute highest praise I can give the fathead pizza dough. I think all the people who say it tastes just! like! regular! dough! have either been on Keto for too long or have never eaten really good pizza.)

I would also love a big glass of Sauvignon Blanc. And a Coke. 

I have thinking about Coke so intently today that I may temporarily suspend my “no artificial sweeteners” rule and drink a Coke Zero. We’ll see. 

What are you craving right now?

Thank you for joining me on this cravings journey. It is now time to put my dinner in the oven and feel resentful toward our neighbors and their dog who has, right on cue, begun to bark in their yard.

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I mentioned yesterday that I went to Costco over the weekend. AFTER I went to the grocery store. Let’s be clear: this is not my idea of fun. Even in The Before Times. But my husband is only home to stay with Carla on the weekends, AND he was on call the previous weekend, AND school doesn’t start for another week, AND this weekend is Labor Day and you can bet your sweet patoot I am not setting foot in a Costco on Labor Day Weekend, AND I was really in need of some things only Costco can provide.

I felt very panicky almost from the moment I pulled into the parking lot. My grocery store had been less crowded than normal on Saturday. Plus, my grocery store still claims to have a 100 person limit on customers (although I noticed that there was no staff member counting people as they entered), so even on crowded days it doesn’t feel crowded. But Costco seemed as busy as it ever was in The Before Times. They have stopped limiting the number of people who come in at a time. They have stopped wiping down the carts. Basically, it is January 2020 up in there and I am Not A Fan. I mean, they do require masks, so that’s SOMETHING.

The meat section was particularly hyperventilation-inducing. SO MANY PEOPLE, crowded around the meat. Seriously. I am very bad at estimating numbers of people in a group, but I BET it was at least 50 people, all right there, milling around between the street tacos case and the baked goods. I think they were waiting for the next batch of rotisserie chickens to be ready? I grabbed some ribs (three-rack-pack, baby) and got the hell out of there.

Still no sanitizing wipes, but I did buy paper towels and toilet paper for only the second time since the pandemic began, so at least we know their stuff LASTS.

I also stocked up on Mochi (for Carla) and chicken melts (for my husband) because I am totally incapable of visualizing the capacity of our overburdened freezers.

I tried to get out of Costco as quickly as possible. I mean, that’s always my goal, but now I feel like I’m in a video game where I’m darting in and around aisles while trying to stay at least six feet away from people who are a) stopped in the middle of the aisles or b) completely oblivious to the whole distancing part of social distancing. Next to the meat section, the worst part was the checkout. The staff was really churning people through, but there were huge lines of people, none of whom seemed aware of the tape on the floor marking out how far apart we should stand.

I was standing in line when a staff member approached and addressed the couple behind me.

“I just want to say again,” he said pleasantly but firmly, “that we need you to wear your masks over your noses.” The couple complied, the staff member left, I went about hauling my butter and seltzer water onto the conveyor belt, thinking, “Again?”

While the checkout person was scanning my items, I glanced at the couple behind me. BOTH PEOPLE were once again wearing their masks over their mouths only. Both were also wearing what I might describe as a smug, self-satisfied look on their faces. WTF?

I did not confront them, although I considered it. However, I have seen enough viral videos to know I do not want to appear on one. And that most viral videos seem to originate in Costco or Wal-Mart. And I know myself well enough to know that “cheerily noting that their masks have fallen off their noses” would come out not “breezy and helpful” but “shrill and judgmental.” So I simply stared at them. The male half of the couple made eye contact a couple of times, and eventually moved his mask up to cover his nose. Never underestimate the power of a steely stare, I guess.

Behind my steely stare, I was SO FURIOUS.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?????????? This is the motto of 2020, right? Like, I can, in some distant part of my brain, understand disagreeing with the mask mandate. But I cannot for the life of me understand how people cannot put themselves out for a few minutes out of respect for other people. I just don’t get it! If my daughter’s grandparents can wear stocking feet for a week while they visit us – even though they Do Not Understand Our No Shoes In The House Rule At All – then you can wear a mask during your Costco run.

Also, forgetting entirely the concept of respect, which so many many many people seem to have done, what about the fact that it is a LAW, currently, in our state, to WEAR A MASK? Maybe I can, again in some deep dark place in my brain, sympathize with the prospect of not caring about other people as much as you care about yourself. But the LAW? Purely for the sake of self-preservation, wouldn’t you want to COMPLY with the LAW?

Okay, okay, maybe a statewide mask order is not the same thing as an actual law. I don’t know what repercussions there are for violating the order. But I do know that in MY MIND there is No Difference. Just follow the mask mandate! It is NOT HARD! You look like an asshole when you purposefully, extravagantly, and smugly mis-wear your mask! After being asked repeatedly to wear it correctly!

Do people really care SO LITTLE about giving off I Am An Asshole vibes? (Yes.)

Deep, cleansing, steadying breath.

I cannot control other people. I can only control how I act. And I will be wearing my mask and my steely stare where applicable.

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How is it that every day – Every. Day. – I find myself tortured by a single hair that has affixed itself to my side? It’s always in the same place – on my left side, within reaching distance of my left elbow, but just out of eyeline, so that I can only catch tiny glimpses of the hair if I contort my body in just the right sunlight. It does not seem to matter which shirt I am wearing – the hair is always there. Always grasping for the delicate skin of my inner arm, yet darting nimbly out of the way when I start feeling around for it with the fingers on my right hand. It’s tricky, too, pretending to retreat when I brush at my side. Only to pop up again when I am doing things like unloading the dishwasher or trying to make pancakes. (Don’t get excited. I am merely putting pre-made – by Eggo – pancakes into the microwave and then flipping them once.) Eventually, I get so mad at the hair, I wage all-out war, plucking at my shirt, my arm, my head, until I FINALLY extract the offending strand. It is typically, somehow, through the mysterious magic of hair, lodged INSIDE my shirt, as though the fabric had developed hair follicles and sprouted its own lush if single-stranded mane.

Today, I was attacked from both sides: the ubiquitous hair on the left was joined by a rarely-but-not-never-seen hair on the right side. Why am I dancing in the kitchen before my first sip of tea, you ask. It’s not dancing but the writhing gyrations of a creature enduring ticklish agony from an unseen enemy.

Every day I struggle. Every day. I have long since given up asking how. And why. But, if there is a way to prevent this from happening (Ponytails: doesn’t work. Vigorous morning hair brushing: nada. Going nude: haven’t tried it, but I’m rapidly approaching it as an option.), I am all ears.

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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?

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Yesterday, I parted my hair on the opposite side. It felt and looked very weird and I do not think I will repeat that particular experiment.

 

One of the remarkable things about These Unprecedented Times is that going to the grocery store has now become such a major source of stress. I realize this is not a new topic nor a concern specific to me. But I am Right In It now and it’s so odd. I literally had stress dreams about the grocery store last night – where I discovered at the last minute that the store was open a whole hour before I thought it would be and I was able to dash in and grab some half-and-half. I mean, this is causing Major Anxiety these days which is absolutely ridiculous.

It’s been about twenty days since I last set foot in the grocery store, and a little less than two weeks since I picked up a curbside order (which did NOT contain half-and-half). I was supposed to go to the grocery store yesterday, a plan I’d been working toward for many days. Our store opens at eight and has seniors/immunocompromised shoppers hours until nine. My plan was to arrive right at nine and get in and get out quickly. But my husband actually had patients that morning (which is A Good Thing) and had to go into the office, so I couldn’t go. He has patients this morning, too (also A Good Thing). So yesterday we decided I would go later in the afternoon, once my husband got home.

I ordered a mask, which is supposed to arrive sometime later this week. So I fashioned a mask out of an old baby blanket and hair ties. And I got all dressed — in actual Real Clothes — put my hair in a bun, even put my contacts in, and drove to the grocery store. And then I chickened out. The parking lot was SO FULL. And there was a line of people outside stretching along the entire side of the building. Which I know is a good, smart innovation. And yet it made me feel all panicky and trembly so I turned around and came home.

But we obviously still need groceries. So I filled a virtual cart at the grocery store that offers curbside pickup. Curbside pickup is not ideal – for one thing, I worry that I am taking a spot from someone who has limited mobility or is immunocompromised or for whom going into an actual store is otherwise difficult/impossible. Plus, on a selfish level, it’s so much easier to be able to decide on the fly that the store doesn’t have fresh strawberries so I am going to get frozen berries or blueberries instead, rather than counting on the grocery store shopper to find an appropriate substitution. Curbside pickup is not something I am relying on, is what I’m saying. But it worked fairly well the first time I did it. And I figured it would be good to have a backup if I can’t get to the store myself, or if I do  get to the store but they are out of half-and-half.

The app for curbside pickup allows you to choose a date and time from a selection of five upcoming days. At least, that’s the idea. These days, all the spots are full. This means that the earliest possible date I could hope to pick up my order would be this coming Sunday. And that’s only if I happen to open the app at the exact right time and catch the new pickup times before they fill.

This happened last time, too. I stalked the app for three days at all hours of the day. The timeslots opened up one morning and I was able to grab one. So I tried it at midnight last night… and then woke up at five to try it… and then seven… and then kept checking all through the eight o’clock hour… At nine o’clock, the app added Sunday as an option… But all the timeslots were full.

This is not anything to be Truly Panicked about. We still have plenty of food. But we are down to our last package of ground beef. We have only one remaining can of chickpeas. We have no eggs. And we are going to run out of half-and-half ANY MINUTE NOW which makes me feel very anxious.

This is all SO RIDICULOUS. I know that I am in a very, very privileged situation. I think of the news footage of miles and miles of cars lined up at food banks across the country and I feel ashamed. We can OF COURSE survive just fine without ground beef and without half-and-half. We have PLENTY of food. Obviously, we are FINE. But it turns out that running out of half-and-half is my personal grocery store breaking point.

Can I also say that my husband and I are having… disagreements about grocery shopping? We have always been on opposite ends of the preparedness spectrum. Even in The Time Before, I have always been the type of person who prefers to have a backup ready to go before I even start to run out of something. For instance, Carla eats a lot of frozen pancakes, so I always have two boxes in the freezer. When we get down to the last two or three of the first box, I put pancakes on the list. That kind of thing. (I also grew up in a remote, cold place where it was prudent to never allow your gas tank to be under half full; even today when I have a gas station within walking distance of my house, I still get very nervous if the gas dips below the half-full point. Maybe the food thing is related.)

Yesterday when I went to mix the ingredients for chili powder, I discovered that we are nearly out of paprika (which I use A Lot), and that we are – for me – uncomfortably low on garlic powder, oregano, and cumin. My husband sees that the (admittedly giant) canisters are still about a third full and says we don’t need the spices urgently. But to ME, I don’t WANT to need them urgently. I want to have backups ready to go.

The same goes for tortillas and chickpeas and sour cream and cheddar cheese and pancakes and iceberg lettuce and carrots and ranch dressing and chicken breasts and black beans and taco shells and hot sauce and onions and all the other things that make me feel like I can put together a normal and/or comforting meal. Do we need  cheddar cheese to survive? Of course not. But does it make me feel better to have a backup in the fridge? Yes.

This is how I would feel in Normal Times, too. But I feel it even more acutely now, when a) who knows when I will be a store where I can purchase these things and b) who knows if the store will even HAVE these items when I do manage to get there.

So my husband and I are experiencing a little friction on the groceries/necessities front, I have to say.

Part of it is that he is frugal and doesn’t see the point of spending money on something that you don’t actually NEED. (To which I say, but we WILL need this thing. Or, if not need, WANT.) Part of it is that he is not the designated shopper, neither now nor in Normal Times, and so doesn’t really fully understand the current shopping situation. I would guess he hasn’t set foot in a grocery store since late February, so he just doesn’t get how different it is. And/or he is in denial about how quickly the situation is going to improve. (Possibly never, says my doomsday brain.) He was surprised when I said that our online options for ordering spices (Costco and Penzeys are the ones I checked) were experiencing delays. (Not to mention that Costco’s website reacted as though oregano is a concept I made up out of thin air.) And yet, even when I point these things out – shortages and delays – he still seems to believe that we can just get whatever we want whenever want it. When I told him I was going to order curbside pickup, he said, “Oh great. Are you going to have it ready to pick up tomorrow?” and I had to temper my incredulous tone when I responded, “Of COURSE NOT, it will be Sunday AT THE EARLIEST before I can hope to pick up the things we ordered, and even then it is HIGHLY LIKELY that we will not get all of what we wanted.”

I would think that he would defer to me in this case, WOULDN’T YOU AGREE?

Pant,  pant,  panic, panic!

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