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Day 16

Freedom Firsts

Each dinner we have at Café Zoom, I ask friends, “What’s the first thing you’re going to do when we get the ‘all clear’ signal and can go out unfettered and free?”

Most of my women friends — including me — say “manicures and pedicures” or “for a haircut and color.”

Yesterday my back was killing me. Of course, it was my own fault. I decided to re-arrange some gigantic flowerpots on our deck. Ouch and double ouch! Happily, today my back is OK. So, I can cross going-to-the-chiropractor off my growing “Once I get out of the house” to-do list.

Pool Shark Handsome Hubby is heading to the pool hall first chance he gets. For Valentine’s Day — which seems oh, so long ago — my own version of Paul Newman in The Hustler bought us slick pool cues and we haven’t had a chance to break them in yet.

But the best answer? That came from our sweet friend Howard, one of the kindest men I know. Howard is going to his mother’s house to give her a hug and a kiss.

Today the sun is shining here in Berkeley, CA. So, I’m reconsidering the mani/pedi/beauty shop answer. Those chores are definitely needed, but they hardly qualify as celebratory footloose and fancy-free “get out of jail” picks after all this time sequestered at home, after all this time worried and frightened.

So, I’ve got a new answer: For my first post-quarantine joy ride, I’m hotdogging it straight to Baskin Robbins for an ice cream cone — one with rocky road AND chocolate chip. Care to join me?

And so goes Day 16, daydreaming of better days.

Day 15

Hunting and Hoarding

The baseball season may be on hold, but America has a new pastime — hunting for and hoarding toilet paper!

Maybe also, select cleaning supplies plus flour and yeast. Yes, we’ve become a nation of clean freaks (count me among them) and bakers!

All this reminds me of another hoarding episode in my life. Let me take you back to that time and place:
The Time: 2012
The Place: Washington, D.C.

In the days leading up to monster Hurricane Sandy, people frantically rushed to stores, preparing for flooding, downed power lines, and the resultant days without electricity.

Along with candles, batteries, ice, and the other basics of living without power was one surprisingly popular item — Pop-Tarts. Yes, Pop-Tarts went flying off the shelves.

Now, why people suddenly craved a treat that required heating in a toaster when we faced days without electricity, I cannot explain but crave it they did in a big way.

After a few days, nary a Tart could be found in our nation’s Capitol. I believe the shortage/absence even made the 6:00 News. I for one won’t have been surprised if Congressional hearings hadn’t been held to investigate the source of this sugary shortage.

Now, Circa 2020, having written of the 2012 Pop-Tarts saga, I want one. I don’t even like them and I haven’t wanted one … well, you know … since Hurricane Sandy when everybody was talking non-stop about them and I couldn’t get one!

Oh, my. I really need to get out of the house more. Oh, dear. That’s the whole point of this Sheltering-in-Place Journal. We can’t get out. Oh, well.

And so goes Day 15. The start of the third week housebound. Treat yourself to some comfort food. Be well. Stay sweet.

Day 14

O.K. I admit it. I’m a little bored.

Believe me. I am grateful, 100% grateful, to be healthy, sheltered, and safe.

But all the same …

I have plenty of work to do, but I’m bored of this unchanging loop of getting up to the same daily routine of reading (but not too deeply) the latest statistics about the pandemic’s spread and death toll. Weary of staying in and watching the city bus go by with nobody on it.

Weary of “keeping busy.” Really, do I truly need to “swiffer” my floors every day? Twice a day?

I’m also tired of washing my hands … and my kitchen counters … and … of having the biggest thrill of my day be the arrival of deliveries from Amazon. Really a 100-oz jug of Woolite is now the highlight of my day? Don’t laugh.

Tomorrow I’m expecting refills for my Swiffer dry mop. I can hardly wait! And I don’t mean to brag, but it’s a 52-count box. I’m just saying there’s going to be a whole lot of “swiffering” gonna happen!

Most of all, I am weary of worrying about the health of my family, friends, mere acquaintances, and total strangers. It is a frightening time for us all.

Yet, I have nothing to complain about. Right now, countless thousands of medical professionals are working non-stop, putting their lives at risk to help those suffering from COVID-19.

To them, I wish safety and the hope they can look forward to days of relaxation and “boredom.” I know it won’t be soon, but I wish it for them just the same. Also, a massive ticker-tape parade, honoring their heroism and dedication.

And on the subject of cleaning: Here’s a household tip as the prospect of prolonged sheltering in place becomes a reality (The San Francisco Bay area sheltering order has been extended to at least May 1.): dust the shoulder tops of clothes in your closet. Dust is collecting there as sure as it does on surfaces everywhere. Besides, running a feather duster or rag over them is about as much action as your wardrobe is going to see for a while anyway. So, what the heck? What else have you got to do? Make your mother proud and clean, clean, clean!

And so goes Day 14. Hang in there.

Day 13

Come Together

I’m a family-oriented person. In a crisis, I was taught, you come together. You talk. You reminisce. You argue. You blame whoever isn’t in the room. You eat. You re-hash things ten times over. If the occasion warrants, you mourn. You forgive. The crisis passes.

The most important element of all this: the coming together.

Now, however, we are in a crisis where we cannot come together. We must practice social distancing and keep apart — six feet if you please! We practically jump to the other side of the road when walking. Sure we nod and smile, but there’s an underlying sense of unease, even fear as we pass people.

We can’t visit our children, our parents, our friends. My daughter lives 15 miles away. It could be 1,500 miles or 15 million or the planet Mars. I guess we could visit and keep our distance, but that just seems weird. Air kisses, anyone?

So, how do people stay “together” at this time? We’re all texting and Skyping and dining together at Café Zoom. We’re emailing and calling. And that’s all good.

But we need more.

Making donations is one way to stay connected to our communities. True, we’re all taking hits financially right now, but many people are in absolutely dire straits. So, if you can make a donation, why not do it today?

Need more connection? Here’s one in reverse: don’t stockpile supplies. Toilet paper, flour, yeast, whatever. Buy what you need. Don’t be a butt about tp!

Meanwhile, here at Maison G-W: We had pancakes for Sunday brunch, banana pancakes if you please! And now, do you know what that means? Yes, we have no bananas! We have no (more) bananas today! And I finished the last Oreos last night. These are desperate times indeed! Oh, Amazon deliveries do not fail me!

And so goes Day 13. Time for my Sunday walk with Handsome Hubby. Stay healthy.

Day 12

It’s Saturday. Time to slow down and relax. But how do you celebrate the weekend in these troubled days?

“Normally” the weekend means there’s no need to rush out the door. No need to get dressed up. Just hang out in your sweats or jammies.

Great, but we’re all doing that already. Here in Northern California, we’ve NOT been rushing around for 12 days – except to find toilet paper! We’ve NOT been getting dressed up. And we’ve NOT worn anything BUT our sweats and jammies.

Still, it’s Saturday and I’m going to do my best to enjoy the weekend. I’ve got a simple plan. All it requires is Handsome Hubby (and a little popcorn). In a few minutes, I’m going to hunker down on the couch with HH for a little extra cuddle (and popcorn) time.

Who knows? I’m so grateful for our good health, I may even agree to watch The Terminator for the 57th time!

And so goes Day 12. But even though it’s the weekend, please remember not to get lax about washing your hands.

If your paws aren’t chapped by now, you’re obviously not washing them enough! Mine look like I’ve wintered at the Arctic Circle sans gloves.

Day 11

Today, safely nestled in my home overlooking the San Francisco Bay, I’m pondering the question of “ethical” shopping.

I’m not talking about hoarding. At issue: how much can I ask kind Kimberly — actually, sainted Kimberly — our neighbor, to buy when she grocery shops for us.

Kimberly is already marketing for her own family of four and now she’s unselfishly schlepping for us as well.

My first rule of asking is: if I know I can get it on Amazon, I do so. But some things I need quicker and so, I ask Kimberly to pick them up. Some items Handsome Hubby “disapproves” of. Hush! You know, the non-vegan options. So, Kimberly is, first and foremost, my bootlegger’s link to the carnivore/dairy world. I’m talkin’ exotic delights such as salami, eggs, cottage cheese, and non-fat milk. Yes, Kimberly is the Al Capone of my world. Does that make HH the Elliot Ness in this sheltering-in-place crime/culinary scenario?

Anyway, I try limiting my “Kimberly List” to “must-haves” — items I’m not sure I can reliably get from Amazon. But now that the delivery service is overburdened and delivery times hard to come by, I’m turning more and more to my neighbor.

So, here’s the ethical dilemma: are M&M’s essential? Are cut flowers? What about Oreos? They feel essential. And man, oh, man. What about the salami? That feels life-affirming essential! I mean I’ve got enough tofu to stock a vegetarian restaurant! But I am a card-carrying carnivore. Give me meat. Hear me roar. Don’t give me meat. Hear me weep!

I’ve had deeper thoughts today. We all have. But I’m keeping this journal entry light — even if my dream grocery list is heavy on the calories!

And so goes Day 11. Wishing you all good health.

Day 10

Today’s Observation: If we don’t get sick, we’ll emerge from this ordeal healthier than ever!

Here at Maison Galatz-Wellinghoff, we’re religiously taking daily walks. Why even sea slugs me is — unprompted and uncomplainingly — stretching, lifting (little) weights, and doing squats!

And instead of eating high-caloric meals out with friends, we’re home, chopping up and chowing down on healthy organic veggies and “riced” cauliflower. Yes, gone — at least for now — are the high-living dessert days of “Let’s split the cheesecake and the chocolate soufflé.”

That said, nobody is living la Vida Loca these days. Last night instead of drooling over cookie recipes or planning a fancy dinner party for friends, I shared the CDC’s recommended “homebrew” recipe for disinfectant and the Nebraska Medical Center’s formula for hand sanitizer. Here’s the link for both formulas.

And for those of you not in the know (include me until I read the article with the “recipes”), the Nebraska Medical Center is famous for its treatment of Ebola patients. Yes, knowing this kind of stuff is proof I’m not living the life I want right now.

Meanwhile, while we all continue doing the Coronavirus Shuffle as Handsome Hubby calls our required time at home, here’s something that’s got my blood boiling. I’m running low on dishwasher detergent. The brand I use comes in large batches that last three-plus months. It normally sells for about $14. Today on Amazon, the price was $49. That’s wrong. That’s la Vida Loca!

Tidbit of the Day: “The Girl Scouts sell more than 200 million boxes of cookies, generating nearly $800 million — sales that surpass not only Oreos but also Milano cookies and Chips Ahoy combined.” This according to The Lily.

Day 9

Today’s topic: Toothpaste and toilet paper! An unusual pairing, I admit.

I told a friend I was going to write about the two and she immediately worried about a toothpaste shortage. No, I answered her — and now, a worried nation — there is no shortage of toothpaste!

Instead, I’m writing about these two “t’s” because today’s tp hoarding reminds me of a time long ago when I experienced a real toilet paper shortage and a “sorta” scarcity of toothpaste, at least of American toothpaste.

The shortages I faced were in the late ‘70s while studying in the former Soviet Union.
Back then, toilet paper was as elusive as freedom as speech. When it could be found, tp came in the form of tiny, tough one-ply squares or triangles. Often it was merely cut-up pieces of Pravda, the newspaper.

The word “pravda” means truth and, of course, Pravda the paper printed little of it, serving instead as a propaganda machine for the state and Communist Party. Most people agreed using Pravda for toilet paper was really as good a use for it as any. But that said, no comrade could declare that Pravda provided plush delight for one’s behind.

On the rare occasion, “real” toilet paper made an appearance in the bathroom stalls at Leningrad State University where I was studying, there was a rush for relief — necessary or not. And just like on American grocery store shelves today, faster than you can say hoarding, the stalls were stripped bare of those tiny triangles of tp. None were left for comrade students who might have actual needs later in the day.

And yes, when I went back to the USSR for the second term of study, along with the essentials of thermal underwear, sweaters, scarfs, gloves, and boots, I made room to pack multiple rolls of toilet paper. For several nights before I left, I sat in front of the TV unfurling rolls of the stuff, folding and flattening it, ensuring I could fit it in my suitcase. No, I did not cut it into tiny triangles, but the thought did cross my mind. And that’s the pravda.

About the toothpaste: You could buy toothpaste in the Soviet Union in the ‘70s, but, like life under Communism, it was not sweet. It was gritty and tasted terrible. So, on both study trips, I squeezed and squeezed my Crest tubes till nothing was left. It’s a habit I’ve retained to this day. Who knows? With all this sheltering-in-place, it’s a habit that may come in handy!

Meanwhile, attention, bakers, here’s a hot tip: I hear flour and yeast are in short supply!
And so goes Day 9 or, as my friend Rachelle observed, Groundhog Day. Stay healthy, my friends.

Day 8

Today — 108 years ago — my father was born. He was six during the 1918 flu epidemic in NYC. My mother was one. I wonder about the thoughts and lives of their families during that crisis. What information did they have to guide them? Were they scared or did life go on as usual? Did my family lose loved ones in New York or Europe? I don’t know. My parents never spoke of it. They were, of course, so young, but my grandmother never did either.

I also wonder about the 2020 coronavirus epidemic. What will my children and my sixteen-year-old great-nephew say about it in the years to come?

As I sit and think about these great unknowns, I also ponder a fair amount of minutiae.
Examples:

  1. How maddening it is that my favorite sweater is — at this moment — trapped at the dry cleaners.
  2. How retailers are going to have some mess on their hands when we consumers finally get to UPS to return all the online purchases that have been accumulating in our houses.

I also deliberated asking my kind neighbor Kimberly who is grocery shopping for us to add M&Ms to the list. It’s not exactly an essential item. It’s not exactly heavy. But is it the proverbial item that breaks the good neighbor’s grocery bag?

And from NYC, just before the order to stay inside was issued, a friend observed a woman stocking up on Cool Whip. She had five tubs of the white faux fluff in her cart, and when the person in front of her wasn’t looking, she swiped another tub from that person’s cart!

For some (me), it’s bananas. For others, it’s Cool Whip. Whatever gets you through a pandemic I guess. But swiping somebody’s Cool Whip? That’s just not cool!

But, wait, bananas with Cool Whip. Hum …

“Yoo-hoo, Kimberly, can I add just one more itsy-bitsy thing to the shopping list?”

And so goes Day 8. Stay healthy. Stay sane with a dash of silliness.

Oh, I’m sorry. One more item. Texas Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick wants the elderly to get out there and shop — i.e. risk their lives — for the sake of the economy. Speaking on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Patrick said, “Tucker, no one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that’s the exchange, I’m all in.”

My only reply: Oh, my.

Day 7

It’s Monday. The usual routine —

  • Tidy up the house: √
  • Work on this week’s Muddling through Middle Age blog: √
    (What a struggle — figuring out what’s funny in the Coronavirus Era. Please check out my blog Wednesday to see if I succeeded. Let me know what you think.)
  • Go for the daily walk with Handsome Hubby: √

Those were the “usual” parts of the day in these unusual times.

The unusual parts of Day 7:

  • Ordering prescription medication refills to be delivered instead of just picking them up.
  • Worrying about our health and that of relatives and friends in other cities. Did HH cough? OMG. I just coughed! Allergies or …? At a minimum, we’ll all turn into raging hypochondriacs by this end of this ordeal. (Wait. That’s a sickness too! Oh, no!)
  • Looking at my calendar for the week to get organized, I stared at a void! No appointments. No errands. No meetings. Good Lord! Well, at least, we’re all saving on gas and reducing auto emissions.

But, amid weirdness and worry, there is gratitude. Gratitude for those who show and share love. Gratitude also for the scientists and politicians (albeit precious few) who are listening to the scientists and showing leadership at this time.

Some of the answers to controlling this virus are known. You don’t need me to recite them, but for a thoughtful list of what’s needed in today’s New York Times.

So, again, gratitude for those fighting the good fight. May they stay healthy and be heard.
Best Line of the Day comes thanks to Mike Morris who posed this hilarious dating/etiquette question in Humor Outcasts – “First time with a new sex partner: Who pays for the face masks?” Check out Mike’s story.

Meanwhile, here at Maison Galatz-Wellinghoff, I’m happy to report — yes, we have some bananas. We still have bananas today!

And so goes Day 7. Thus ends a week of sheltering-in-place. May we all stay healthy, safe, and sane.