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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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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?

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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.

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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?

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Last week was a decent one, I’d say. I mean, one day I lay in bed most of the day. And one day I was filled with despair for most of my waking hours. But SEVERAL days, I felt pretty good. There were two or three days where I felt truly cheerful. Ugh. That should be a good thing, right? But it felt so WRONG. Or not wrong, exactly. But just… unsuited to our current situation.

It’s that gulf between perception and reality that’s getting to me lately, I think. I’ve done a pretty good job of reducing my News Intake, so I am not actively bombarded with horror all day long. But the disjunct between what life FEELS like and what is actually going on is… hard to compute.

Does that make sense? Have you had these instances, too, of feeling like things are one way and then being snapped back to reality?

Saturday, I went out to run some errands (no-contact dropping off of Girl Scout cookies, putting our housecleaner’s check in the mail, going through the drive-through at the pharmacy) and it felt so normal. The streets weren’t anywhere near as busy as they are of a typical Time Before Saturday, but there were plenty of cars out and about. The parking lots of pharmacies and gas stations and grocery stores were full. There were people on the sidewalks, walking their dogs and waiting for the bus. But those people had on masks and BAM the façade of normalcy shattered.

It’s been so nice – So. Nice. – to have my husband home. He has been splitting up the job of helping Carla with her distance learning, which has reduced my frustration DRAMATICALLY. It’s been nice to have him around, to kiss or hug or chat with whenever I feel like. And he and Carla have been having so much fun – their relationship is the biggest joy of my life and sometimes, while I’m supposed to be reading on the couch (which – utter luxury!!!!!), I will instead listen to them chat over a Kiwi crate they are building or smile as Carla shrieks with glee while they wrestle or play air hockey or close my eyes with happiness as they perform a duet in the basement – my husband on the piano, Carla on vocals (and sometimes drums). It is absolutely purely wonderful. But… the reason my husband is home so often is that he’s not working.

I wanted an apple the other day. It sounded so good – crisp and sweet and healthful. But I kept thinking to myself, “No, I shouldn’t.” Why not, self? We have a bunch of apples in the upstairs fridge and a whole other bag of apples in the downstairs fridge. Apples are perishable; they won’t last forever. But I keep feeling like I should SAVE things like that, because I don’t know how/when I’ll be able to get more. (I logicked myself into eating the apple, but it took some coaxing.)

Just in the past two weeks we have branched out into getting occasional takeout. It’s been nice to know that I have an alternative to cooking YET ANOTHER MEAL, plus I feel good about supporting local restaurants. The first time we got pizza, it was so easy: we ordered everything in advance, the pizza place was completely empty except for one worker (and I effusively thanked her for being there), and I was able to no-contact collect my pizza, put it in the car, and bring it home. My husband and I developed a Takeout Plan, wherein I touched all the boxes and containers and he helped me transfer them to our own dishes and then I wiped everything down. It worked great.

This weekend, I went to get barbecue. The place was HOPPING – so many cars, and so many people going in and out even though the restaurant offers curbside “delivery.” As I pulled up, I noticed a man and his tweenage daughter leaving the restaurant with a heavy plastic bag laden with takeout containers – it was notable because he had his daughter with him (although, listen, you have to do what you have to do; I don’t know his situation or whether she was capable of staying at home or in the car or anything about them; I just noted it). I tried calling the curbside delivery line, but it kept disconnecting. So I steeled myself and went inside. I’ve been in the restaurant a million times, and it looked the same – although nearly empty – and there were two dudes jawing away at a high-top table near the entrance. My food wasn’t ready yet, but the bartender said he’d bring it out to my car so I escaped – gladly – and waited. I’d arrived at 6:40 – that’s when I saw the man and his daughter emerge with their takeout and get into their car. At 7:00, they walked back into the restaurant with their takeout package. I immediately had a bad feeling. My husband has a common first name – along the lines of Chris or Steve. I guessed that the father had the same name. When they re-emerged a few minutes later, this time with a big brown paper bag, it was clear what had happened. I even heard the man telling his daughter something about “another Steve” as they trekked back across the parking lot. Then, the bartender came out seconds later with a now-familiar white plastic bag and tried to hand it to me through my window.

Listen, this kind of thing would have made me squicky even in The Time Before: The other Steve and his daughter had clearly LEFT with my food. I don’t know whether they opened it up in the car or at home, or whether they’d started to put the pulled pork on plates or if a three-year-old had had a chance to poke around the fries with his fingers before they realized the error. At the very LEAST upsetting of the Possibility Spectrum (in which they didn’t open the bag but simply looked at the receipt and noticed it didn’t list the food they’d ordered), my food was more than twenty minutes old at that point. In normal times, I would have calmly told the poor bartender that I’d seen the food leave the premises and return, and that I wasn’t comfortable taking it home with me, and could they please make me a new batch. Instead, I burst into tears and blubbered at him about how they had taken the food home and I was FREAKED OUT. He said he’d get me fresh food – which I wanted, but of course then I felt guilty because the restaurant is probably barely squeaking by and I don’t want to contribute to its hastened demise – and I kept sobbing in my car outside the restaurant until he returned AGAIN and assured me they were making me everything fresh (which they did; it was all steaming when he finally returned to my car for a third time). I was able then, at least, to calm down enough to smile at him and apologize for being so hysterical. I certainly wouldn’t have reacted that way in normal times.

But it’s NOT normal times. And I keep going along as though it IS and then being slapped across the face with the fact that it ISN’T.

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Hair

Are you doing your hair as you normally do? I have STOPPED. There is absolutely no point in spending 30 minutes drying my hair and straightening it. Well. I could see how it MIGHT have a point, at some time in the future – if I need to feel Normal, somehow. Or if I have a super-important Zoom meeting (unlikely). This is a time for the least possible exertion, hairwise. My hair is not cooperating, though – instead of settling into beautifully air-dried curls it is still doing what it did in The Time Before, which is drying into drab frizzes that are vaguely curl-adjacent on the right side of my head and straightish on the left side. Very disappointing, hair. We should all be Stepping Up in These Unprecedented Times.

What I have been doing is braiding my hair after I get out of the shower. Usually, I part my hair to the left, but when I separated it into two braids, I parted it down the middle. And immediately remembered that I part my hair left for a reason. Hoo boy do I already have a LOT of grey. Well. It can’t be helped and it isn’t so extreme that I am ready to try an at-home coloring process.

I also remembered why I normally do my hair very simply – braiding is probably one of the easiest hair styles on the planet and yet I can barely do it. I am not talking about French braiding or fishtail braiding or anything fancy. Just a simple three-strand braid. It does not look good, folks.

Clothes

I am not nor have I ever been one of those people who gets fully dressed to work from home. No. Comfort is king. But at least when I had to pick up Carla from school and go to Actual Places like the grocery or Target or Carla’s ballet studio, I would get dressed in real clothes every day. Now… Well, my wardrobe is divided into three primary sections: pajamas (leggings and one of my husband’s old t-shirts), exercise clothes (leggings, a sports bra, and a tank top), and inside clothes, for after I’ve showered (leggings and a sweatshirt or long-sleeved T-shirt). Yes, I have different leggings for each category, and, even though they are all black, I can tell them apart. (The pajama leggings are the softest and loosest.) There’s a seldom-worn forth category: outside clothes (jeans and a shirt which immediately go into the laundry upon returning home). I found A HOLE in one pair of leggings recently, so I may need to expand my attire options at some point. But not now.

Homeschooling

We are on Day 4 of homeschooling – or whatever it is when you are trying to cajole your child into following the lesson plans her teachers have given you – and I am already having to step away and take deep breaths every few minutes. HOW are people doing this with multiple children? And while WORKING? I am ready to walk into the sea.

Shopping

After stalking the online ordering app for four days, I was finally able to get a timeslot for curbside grocery pickup. I haven’t tried this before, and I am expecting that only part of my order will be fulfilled, but I am kind of anxious about it. Will something essential, like milk or taco sauce, be missing? If so, I’ll have to go to the store which I am obviously trying to avoid. Of course, ordering wine is not an option so I will have to go to a store EVENTUALLY anyway.

Passover

In an effort to keep Carla’s Jewish heritage alive and part of her life, I want to observe Passover. But… I feel so out of my element. I am NOT Jewish and a lot of the books we have don’t really explain things in depth. Plus, I don’t really know anything about how to hold a proper Seder and certainly don’t have the right food on hand. Well. I still have a couple of days left to figure things out.

Easter

I found an art supplies kit and a leftover rainbow leopardfrom Carla’s sixth birthday in the gift closet. Plus I have a very small amount of Easter candy I picked up from the grocery store. So I think I can make up a decent Easter basket for Carla. (We have actual baskets, fake grass, and plastic eggs in the basement, because I reuse them year to year.) But I am still FRETTINGabout it. Sure, I could explain that the Easter Bunny is practicing social distancing and so asked me to round up what I could… but on the other hand, I want Easter to be Extra Special because so little is special these days. I have filled my virtual Target cart with candy and books and toys that I can pick up curbside… but I am hesitating. Partly because my husband thinks we have plenty of Easter-y stuff. And partly because I feel really guilty about shopping for non-essentials.

Housecleaning

I think I have come up with a rough housecleaning schedule.

  • Daily: Making beds, unloading/loading the dishwasher, wiping off tables and counters, disinfecting high-tough areas, using the dustbuster to eradicate crumbs, tidying up main living spaces.
  • Near daily: Laundry
  • Monday: Toilets and counters
  • Tuesday: Showers and tubs
  • Wednesday: Break
  • Thursday: Windows and baseboards
  • Friday: Dusting
  • Saturday: Bedding
  • Sunday: Floors

Last week, I taught Carla how to clean the toilets. Yesterday, my husband vacuumed all our carpeted surfaces while I scrubbed the kitchen and bathroom floors. I hate cleaning but it does make me FEEL better. It also makes me feel better to think about my housekeeper returning someday.

Books

I finished all three books I mentioned in this postand have moved on to Jessica Simpson’s memoir. I wish my library had more Agatha Christie books available via ebook – they have a good number, but not all, and so many are already checked out. I want to read them in order and that is nearly impossible to do. I put MANY of your suggestions on hold through my library website, but none of them have come through yet.

Socializing

I have been very pleased by the amount of socializing I’ve been able to do even while quarantined. Two high school friends and I had a happy hour via Zoom the other day that was really enjoyable. And then my husband and I had a FaceTime date with family friends who were supposed to come over for dinner. I was surprised by how satisfying it was to chat with them – it was nearly as good as being with them in person. Not as enjoyable was the family meetup we did with my husband’s family that lasted for WELL OVER AN HOUR. That is too long.

Exercise

Getting “proper” exercise has been a real challenge. My preferred method is walking on the treadmill for an hour, but when I do that, our internet goes out. So no one in the house can do anything requiring an internet connection, which means I can’t even walk on the treadmill while Carla is “at school” because so many of her “assignments” require her to be connected to Google classroom. (This is completely ignoring the fact that, so far, I have to be IN THE ROOM with Carla the entire “school day” or she wanders completely off track ARRRRGGGHHHHHH.) I have done a few Barre3 videos via YouTube, but it’s not the sameas being in the studio with my favorite instructor. I suppose I should resume using exercise videos, but I am resisting for some reason. Carla’s daily schedule has two hour-long blocks set aside for exercise, which mainly consists of us walking over to a nearby school parking lot so she can ride her bike. I walk back and forth a million times across the parking lot, occasionally sprinting. It’s not FUN but it does a mediocre job.

Food

A lot of people seem to be making new and interesting things during this pandemic, especially bread. My own mother has made two types of bread in the past week and my father made a lemon cake. I have made… my typical rotation of dinners. Carla and I are going to make cupcakes for Easter – she wants chocolate cakewith these bunny decorations. We did a Sprinkle Inventory and do not have pink sprinkles – but we do have purple and gold, so I think we’ll be okay. I have flour and yeast, so I COULD make bread. But I am kind of waiting until we NEED to make bread, you know? Right now, we have a loaf of bread in the freezer and I ordered a loaf of bread to be picked up later this week. Maybe if bread doesn’t make it into my actual shopping bags, I will make some. I have been kind of waiting for an opportunity to make focaccia… maybe this is my chance.

Mood

Friday was pretty rough. Saturday, I wanted to drive my family into the woods and leave them there. And I have been waking up at 4:00 or 5:00 every morning, which is unpleasant. However, I had a pretty decent day yesterday, slept without waking all night last night, and am feeling fairly balanced today. I will take the good days as they come.

 

There you have it. Now give me the updates on how YOU are doing.

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When it comes to a big, multi-room tidy, I have a strategy, which I will pass on to you in hopes that it works just as well on your children (I have not tried it on my spouse, so no promises there). My strategy is setting up a Cleaning Challenge. Carla LOVES a challenge, especially if there’s the potential of besting me. And it makes cleaning into a game, and games are fun.

What I do is I get out a big colorful sheet of construction paper. At the top I write Cleaning Challenge! in big cheerful letters. Beneath, on one side, I write out a list of things I need Carla to do (make her bed, pick up stuffed animals, tidy the living room, put her socks and underpants away, etc.) and put little boxes for checkmarks next to them… and on the other side, I write out a list of things I need to do (unload dishwasher, clean toilets, vacuum stairs, etc.) and put boxes with checkmarks next to them. I have found that it helps if my list is longer than Carla’s, because she likes to have an obvious advantage. (To her, it is not obvious that “washing the floor” is much, much more time consuming than “picking up the crayons scattered all over the counter.”) Then I masking tape the Challenge to the kitchen wall, masking tape a marker to the wall as well, and set a one-hour timer. Then we RACE to complete as many of our tasks as possible in the allotted time, checking off each task as we complete it. This is Carla’s favorite part, I think – making a checkmark on the page, while loudly proclaiming, “Checking off another one!” – and taping the marker to the wall makes it extra fun for her for some reason.

Anyway, I haven’t tried a Cleaning Challenge! lately, but I will do so today because it desperately needs doing. (It’s my normal Day Before the Cleaner Arrives technique, and it’s worked well for many months.) (By the way, being surrounded by mess has been making me feel incredibly extra wistful and thankful for our housecleaner, and I am writing her “paid leave” checks with gratitude and hope that one day she will be able to clean for us again because I miss her SO VERY MUCH OMG.)

The Cleaning Challenge! is a good strategy for the type of clutter that accumulates over time, between housecleaning appointments for instance. But I am struggling more, lately, with the HUGE VOLUME of day-to-day messiness. Everything is so much more messy than it was prior to self-isolation. Don’t get me wrong — the tendency of a child to start one project, abandon it, and begin another project while the first is strewn about a different room is, shall we say, a familiar concept. As is the concept of piles gradually accruing on every possible surface. But it turns out that my little whirlwind can make SO MANY MORE messes when she is at home for an additional 35 hours a week. Plus, I am guessing I do a lot more of-the-moment tidying when I am not staring despondently at the news 400 hours a day.

I think the utter relentlessness of the mess is what has begun wearing on me. It was simple enough at the beginning, to breezily say things along the lines of, “Of course it’s going to be messier than usual around here! You have double the people at home all day and one of them is a tornado, so mess is inevitable! But you can live with a little mess!” And this is true. I never claimed to be The World’s Tidiest Person, not by a long shot. But it turns out that a little messiness, while endurable for the short term, over time begins to feel like NOTHING IS EVER CLEAN. And, after a few days of enduing “a little mess,” the mess balloons into a LOT of messiness and then it begins feeling like I am living in squalor and there is no point in anything anymore because we are drowning in a sea of clutter. I am already walking around in a constant state of irritation/distress/anxiety and the added mess is NOT HELPING.

So I am starting to lose it, messwise. I need a new system. Otherwise I may as well lie down on the living room floor and be layered over with magnatiles and board games and construction paper and stuffed animals and remnants of pillow forts and Barbie shoes.

I had to have The Talk with my husband last night that I need more help with the housework… But man, I feel guilty about that. He is working all day, and putting his health at risk to help other people, and he is exhausted and anxious all the time, so I WANT to be able to take the pressure off at home. But also I am here ALL DAY EVERY DAY, doing nearly all the childcare and housework and meal planning/preparation, with maybe five minutes to myself at a time and… it sucks.

For those of you who have multiple children in your care all day every day… for those of you who have multiple children AND spouses who are now ALL at home with you nonstop… for those of you who are working from home WHILE your children and/or spouses are at home with you… well, you have my deepest, most sincere sympathy and compassion. My one cheering thought is that we are ALL dealing with this right now, with our own varying levels of tolerance and manageability. Additional people in our spaces, additional maneuvering required, new levels of irritation and stress, new strategizing and planning and letting things go.

I asked a fellow parent what she was doing to keep the mess down, and she said she was trying to clean a bit every day. Well. Yes. As am I. This is a tried-and-true strategy. Every single day, I do the dishes and wipe the counters and straighten and try to get Carla to move things off Obvious Surfaces. Every single day, I try to do at least one Other Thing — a load of laundry, moving all the collected water glasses from my husband’s bedside table to the sink, moving a bundle of precious artwork from the overcrowded craft cupboard to the trash. But it’s NOT ENOUGH. The mess is a rising tide and our house is a leaky boat.

If you, too, are just trying to clean a bit every day, what does that MEAN? Do you have a checklist? Do you have a rotation of Big Items? How are you enlisting the other members of your household? If you have young children, how are you helping them get into the habit of cleaning up after themselves? I am TRYING, believe me, but a) I don’t have the energy/patience to supervise all the cleaning that needs to be done and b) it feels like just one more source of potential tension between me and Carla when we are already getting on each other’s nerves and c) sometimes the ONLY WAY I can get a few minutes to myself is to ignore what is certainly a HUGE mess in the making.

So. What are YOU doing to Keep the Clutter at Bay?

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