A sign showing a figure inside a house with the caption SHELTER IN PLACE

The COVID Chronicles

A Sheltering-in-Place Journal

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.

  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.

Day 6

First, an update on our whirlwind social scene:

Last night’s “virtual” dinner was lovely. We dined with six friends via Café Zoom and I have to say it was fun. Not stilted or awkward in the least. Jokes and deep thoughts flowed freely from table to table across the Internet. We didn’t make the same dinner or dress up as other friends have done for their virtual dinners, but we had a blast. We compared the books we’re reading and checked in about how distant loved ones are doing and coping. It’s a strange way to keep “close,” but so it goes in the Coronavirus Era.

Who wants to join us for the next Café Zoom dinner? I don’t want to sound “easy,” but we’re available most any night!

OK. I’m not that easy. My niece Leesa and I have a date Friday to Netflix Party. We haven’t picked the movie yet. Any suggestions?

Meanwhile, isn’t it odd how we, all once super busy people used to operating at maximum warp speed, are re-calibrating and trying to slow down? It’s hard. We’re not doing things “in a New York minute.” We’re not on Daylight Savings Time or Greenwich Mean Time. We’re on Coronavirus Time and it’s awful.

I’m already losing track of time and days of the week. Today is my late brother Mal’s birthday. I’m usually terrific about noting the special milestones in my family. Yet, without needing to look at a calendar (Why bother? I’m not going anywhere, right?), I almost missed acknowledging this important date.

The second way I know I’m getting a little unmoored: I took no joy in the Sunday New York Times. Growing up, the Times, especially the Sunday Times, was the family Bible. This Sunday, it wasn’t just the news that made me sad, it was the actual physical paper. Should I touch it? Is it germy? Ah, paranoia!

On a MUCH BRIGHTER NOTE, I just finished reading the draft of my friend Laura Shea’s latest novel. Since it’s a draft, there’s no point sharing the working title of this whip-smart mystery which involves a college drama department, drama and drama queens abounding, PLUS some deadly bees, but if you’re looking for an entertaining read right now, check out Laura’s two other mysteries, Murder at the People’s Theater and A Dying Fall. And for your serious theater geeks (i.e. people like me) consider Laura’s book, A Moon for the Misbegotten on the American Stage: A History of the Major Productions.

And so goes Day 6. Stay Healthy. Remember to wash your hands. Happy/safe/productive back-to-work-at-home Monday.

Day 5

Not much to report from Maison Galatz-Wellinghoff today.

I decided to take the day off from reading the news non-stop and banned Handsome Hubby from sharing the latest statistics. I’m not exactly hiding from the world but felt a mini-break was needed.

Here’s the best laugh of the day: Asked on the phone how he’s handling sheltering in place, HH’s best friend replied, “I’m an introvert. I’ve been preparing for this all my life.”
Saturday night we usually go out to dinner or have friends over. Of course, that’s not happening now. But adapting to the times, we’re participating in our first virtual — i.e. video — dinner party.

Yes, the world is different right now. At least for this dinner party, I don’t have to clean the house beforehand (or afterward, come to think of it).

So goes Day 5. Stay healthy. Be a little silly and smile.

Day 4

Good things come in small boxes or from the kindness of good neighbors …

Our sweet neighbor Kimberly texted mid-morning today to check how we’re doing and also offered to grocery shop, not just once but on an ongoing basis. Wow.

And about payment? I offered to run over and put some money her mail slot, but Kimberly declined, saying, in the short run, all she wants is lemons from our massive, blossoming tree.

Dilemma: Dare I ask for a few of her daughter’s delicious lemon bars or is that too greedy? I could lie and say I’m “just” asking for noted lemon-lover Handsome Hubby.

Of course, I instantly took Kimberly up on her kind offer. And yes, I asked for bananas. I asked for bananas today! (Please see prior journal entries. Bananas weirdly have become my sheltering-in-place comfort food!)

And on the subject of food … and men. Handsome Hubby and I have wildly different sheltering-in-place work/snack habits.

I work, check-in with friends and family, snack. He works and then takes a break by gorging on the latest statistical, medical, and political intel about the virus. If he actually emerges from his office to get a real snack, he munches and simultaneously disgorges updates on all the gloom and doom. I love the guy, but …
If I had a theme song today, it would be a rewrite of Helen Reddy’s 1972 hit “I am woman. Hear me roar.” My version: I am woman. Hear me munch.”

Handsome Hubby’s version? “I am he-man. Hear me virus numbers’ crunch.”

OK. That doesn’t quite have a ring to it. Sorry.

And so goes Day 4. Be kind. Stay calm. Be well.

Day 3

I’ve always been so proud to brag about “My niece, the doctor.” Now I’m hating that my niece and her husband are doctors. More specifically, they are hospital physicians who will serve on the frontlines as the coronavirus intensifies and hospitals swell with patients. My niece was born on my birthday when I was 12. So, I’ve always considered her my birthday “gift.”

Now I want this gifted child, alright this gifted, accomplished woman and her husband to abandon their professional responsibilities, grab their son, come out West, and be with the rest of the family. The virus is in all 50 states, but at least they wouldn’t be working among the desperately ill. They’d be with us, the pathetically anxious, absurd, and over-protective.

But this is wishful thinking. My niece and her husband won’t abandon their posts. They’re staying put, gearing up — with countless other physicians, nurses, lab technicians, and support staff — to take care of the people who will need their expertise and kindness in the weeks ahead. And for that, I am, of course, incredibly proud of them.

We’re going to see a lot of heroes in the days ahead. We are, in fact, already seeing them.
On a lighter note, here’s the funniest conversation today from the Galatz-Wellinghoff manse:
I put on a pair of yoga pants this morning. They were “aspirational” yoga pants, mind you. I don’t do yoga regularly, but I thought if I put them on maybe I’d be inspired.

I walked by Handsome Hubby who looked at my ample (OK. More than ample) (OK. OK. Too ample) derriere. He asked if I was “running low” on clothes and needed to do laundry. ccHuh? “I mean,” he rushed on. “If you are, I’d be happy to help do a load or two.”
Ah, romance in the time of the coronavirus!

And not that I’m obsessed, but yes, we have bananas! We have bananas today! Thank you, Amazon.

And so goes Day 3. Stay healthy. Stay six feet apart. Wash your hands thoroughly.