Dressed for Success

When our three boys were in elementary school, I had some level of control over what they wore. Off they’d go in their khaki pants, cute little striped polo shirts and dock-siders. Kid-prep, all the way. Dressed for Success. 

The oldest and the youngest complied nicely. They stuck to the rules and never made a fuss. Not so much with the middle child. He rebelled. (Why is it always the middles who rebel?)

He’d return later in the day “Dressed for Distress.”   Items that had been lost, found, and tossed into the school dumpster were now on his person.  All that cute, preppy, stuff had been “exchanged.”   We got used to it.  No use in struggling.  Time would, we hoped, provide a correction. (It did.)

As there is in almost everything, there was a silver lining in that dumpster.  It came home, on the middle child of course, in the form of a sweatshirt.  A Harvard sweatshirt, to be precise.  We lived in a well-educated community so even trash had a certain panache.

As soon as I saw it, I knew that sweatshirt was meant for me.  First, the size was “small.”  Second, it was a Harvard sweatshirt and the Mister had schooled there so my wearing it didn’t feel fraudulent.  And third, it was soft.  So very soft. 

That was 45 years ago.  That sweatshirt has never shrunk, stretched, faded, or frayed.  It’s never pilled or puckered.  It’s still warm, soft and most importantly, still mine.

At a wearing rate of 3x per week for 45 years, I can safely say it’s been worn 7020 times!   I can also extrapolate that it’s been washed 1800 times!  It looks as good and feels as comfortable as the day it came home from the dumpster, all those years ago.

Even the “care” label is still intact. Washing instructions are legible. And one little bit of information on that label tells the story of its longevity: “Made in America.”

They just don’t make ’em like that any more.

I Could Hardly Wait

It was a big day.  It was time for my trip to the bone/foot doctor who would, I hoped, remove the bulky cast from my foot/leg.  He would take away my scooter and set me free.

I could get back to life at a somewhat normal level.  I could roam around the house, go up and down stairs, put on shoes, maybe do a little shopping.

I would be free to go to the grocery store, do laundry, clean the litter box, feed the cats, furminate them in spite of their reluctance.  I could cook lunch and dinner again.  

I would no longer be forced to take daily, seemingly endless, two-hour siestas with the foot plugged into its electromagnetic bone-maker.  

I could get back to the business of changing sheets and making the making the beds.  I could run the sweeper.  Go outside in the rain to get the newspaper.  Wash dishes. Water plants. Recycle garbage.

I could hardly wait for the verdict.  The doctor looked at the X-rays and, with a sad look on his face, said that he really thought I would benefit from another 3 weeks with the cast/scooter.

I tried hard not to smile but I don’t think I succeeded.

Woke

First question to self:  Are you awake?

Answer:  Obviously.

Second question to self: Are you woke?

Answer: Hmmmmm….. I’ll have to think about that.  

And, so I have.

The word – woke –  gets used, a lot, in matters of racism and social justice.  We’ve heard it repeatedly in the recent reporting of George Floyd’s death and subsequent marches.  Sadly, the repetition risks making it sound trite and perhaps self righteous at this point in time.  

And it would feel even more so, if I chose to define myself as “woke.”  

Given the limitations of my background, I can’t possibly fully appreciate the Black Lives Matter movement.  I would not pretend to do so.  All I can do is try to understand.  That doesn’t make me “woke.”

So, short answer to the second question to self:  No, I am not woke.

But, with hope, I am awakening.

Inside Peek

Once upon a time, our venerable news anchors….Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley and others… ended their programs by thanking us, their viewers, for inviting them into our homes.  That doesn’t happen anymore, of course.   Now, in this new world, what with the virus and all, the cable news anchors and pundits are reporting from their homes and inviting us into them. 

That means that we get a peek inside their libraries, dens, and living rooms.  We’re privy to their home decorating styles, their reading preferences, their taste in art and their general approach to life at home.   Most of them speak in front of clearly staged bookshelves.  There is, of course, the occasional renegade.

One of those is Dr. Anthony Fauci.  Is he reporting from a library, office, family room?  It defies definition and so does he.  He’s become so much to so many.  No pretense in his space.  Just information, data, and boxes and boxes of materials that he needs to digest and present to us intelligently and knowledgeably.

Another renegade is a very opinionated, highly educated, lawyer whom we respect.  He delivers his reports in front of a painting I would really, really like to own.  I can’t have it of course.  It’s his and besides we don’t have a lot of wall space available and this is a big piece.  A great big piece.  It’s painting of a shed on a blue background.  That’s it. Simple, elegant, enchanting. 

This level of voyeurism is just plain fun.  Even though the in-home/on-air spaces have been sanitized and curated, I feel like I know all those experts a wee bit better. I just wish the books on those shelves hadn’t been quite so carefully placed so nosy people like me can’t read the titles and judge their owners by their books’ covers. 

Against The Grain

The Mister and I frequently find ourselves going against the grain, swimming against the tide.  We’re there again with the question of continued quarantine vs. a safe return to life as we knew it.

As states continue to open up for businesses and services, our world is following.  Lapping it up.  Enjoying life. We, on the other hand, find ourselves hesitant to take advantage of the opportunities.  Rather, we’ve decided to blame our age and my cast to continue our self-imposed quarantine.

It’s not always easy to say no to those things that others are eagerly embracing.  There’s a pressure to get on with it, to be willing to take a risk, to get back in the saddle.  To get a life, for goodness sakes.

Our friend and Island Packet editor, David Lauderdale, wrote a thoughtful virus-related essay last week.  In it, he said: ”I’ve learned this much about a pandemic: it’s less of a national issue than a personal one.”

Reading and digesting those words has made it easier for us to re-inforce our own decisions.  Now there’s no need to explain. No need to talk of age and casts.  Or even Michelangelo*.  It’s a personal decision and that’s that.

So, call us wimps, finks, scardy-cats and cowards.  We’ve been called worse.  We’ll get back out there. Just not this right this minute.

*Aside/explanation: One side effect of being inside for so long is that stuff pops up in my mind that I don’t go looking for. One is a line from T. S. Eliot’s “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” To quote: ”In the room/ The women come and go/ Talking of Michelangelo.”

I’ve always liked that phrase even though I don’t fully understand it.  But Michelangelo showed up as I was writing this, uninvited, though he was. It seemed like a good idea to acknowledge him. So I did.

The Mister Goes Shopping

And it’s a good thing he does.  Scooter-bound as I am, we’d have nothing to eat if he didn’t.  Or, perhaps more importantly, nothing to drink.

Normally, he comes home with bags of groceries and some essential hardware items in his arms.  Imagine my surprise when, just yesterday, he arrived home with a smart young thing on one of those very strong arms.   And a lithe, sleek, little number she was.

I could tell that he was quite pleased with himself.  There was a twinkle in his eyes and a smile on his lips.  He said that he thought that she would be good for our relationship.  Especially given our current situation.  I was unaware that we needed help but I certainly sat up right up when he mentioned the possibility.  If I could have, I would have stood right up.

He asked if I wanted her to perform for us.  Why not, I said.   We’re already in new territory here. Let’s see what she’s got.

After a bit of fumbling, he found her switch, turned her on and she got right down to business.

She squiggled under furniture, around corners, through the kitchen and on to the stairs.  She discovered mountains of cat hair and little bits and pieces of things I was embarrassed to admit I’d never seen.  And she gathered them all neatly up into a little bundle, put them in her dust bin so we could throw it out and sweetly went back to being just another pretty face in the closet.

Is it sexist of me to refer to our new Shark vacuum sweeper as a woman?   You bet it is.  And rightly so.  No man I know can clean like that.

A Dose of My Own Medicine

A week or so ago, I suggested to the Governor of Georgia that he might “Make Haste Slowly” so we can “Function in Disaster” but “Finish in Style” in the reopening of our communities.

Those words have boomeranged right back at me  and I am trying very hard to follow my own advice. As if I have any choice in the matter.

About ten days ago, when I was most definitely not making haste slowly, I tripped on a step I didn’t know existed and broke a bone in my foot.  It’s a common break.  It even has a name.  The Jones Fracture.   There are variations on that theme and I have the one they call the “Bad Boy.”

I thought I’d done my time in the trenches with the three “Bad Boys” I’d birthed, all those many years ago.  Surely, I’d paid my dues.  Apparently not.

That foot is now in a cast from toe to knee, can bear no weight and is reliant on its mother to steer its knee scooter in a proper manner so as not to ram it up against something hard, like a wall, which might, indeed, hurt it.  A lot.  And it will be thus for several weeks.

I’ve learned that as much fun as it is to go whizzing around the house on my jazzy little scooter, a soft breeze in my hair, feeling quite the catch-me-if-you-can roguette, I must indeed Make Haste a bit more Slowly.

Otherwise, I could very easily find myself “Functioning in Style” but “Finishing in Disaster.”

You’ve Got Mail…

Or maybe you don’t. It all depends.

Am I the only one who’s not surprised at the resurgence of the chain letter?  It seems an obvious way to reach out and touch someone.   Anyone.  Isolation and boredom are strong incentives to do just that.

A good friend sent me a chain letter just this last week.  It didn’t ask for money; it didn’t threaten to take my first child if I didn’t respond; it didn’t tell me that I was a bad person if I ignored it.  It was a simple request to share a poem or meditation.  

I declined the offer in spite of the possibility of receiving some hopeful and encouraging words from across the country.  We were a “little busy” on the homefront at the time. I just wasn’t up to responding in any meaningful way.  

But, the memories of chain letters live on.  And they are fond memories. Of course, that was back when chain letters were real letters.   Written on real paper, sealed in real envelopes, with real stamps on them.  Pens and pencils in evidence.  Usually written in not-so-legible cursive.  Return addresses on the envelope so you could write back.  I found all that to be comforting and fun.  Especially as an only child.

Now, it’s all on-line, so the aura has faded.  At least for me.  

However, I‘ve heard about one chain letter out there that I wish someone would send me. Reportedly, it would ask me to draw an orange and send it on to five people whom I know and adore.   If I DON’T send it on, I’ll be visited by a ghost!  This very evening!. At the stroke of midnight!

Now, some may see that at that as a threat. But if I understand this correctly, and I think I do, all I have to do is absolutely nothing and a ghost will visit.  I can hardly wait.

SINCE

The following poem, titled “SINCE,” was written by a dear friend in the aftermath of September 11, 2001. Since then, that poem’s seen a lot. Been around a few blocks. Written for one, it has adapted and spoken to many other significant events.

In its first iteration, a few years after 9/11, my friend, the poet, entered a new decade of her life and retitled the poem: OLD AGE. Same words, different take.

Still later, in 2014, as The Mister and I were moving, again, she sent it to me as food for thought, with its appropriate new title: MOVING.

As I read the poem last week, for the umpteenth time, I realized its power for our lives in a coronovirus world. I asked her permission to use it here today. In agreeing that I could, she has retitled it for the fourth time: PANDEMIC. I hope you’ll appreciate it as much as I do.

We have moved

to a new house

in a strange city.

The usual routes feel

out of place;

where do we journey

in this space?

The rooms in our psyches

are filled with new belongings –

Apprehension and Sadness

are pushed against the wall,

on top of each are set

Faith and Prayer,

but we cannot yet

walk around in the dark

without bumping into

their sharp corners.

Settling in will take time,

and, oh,

there is such deep

homesickness and longing for

Before.

Adele Droste Good

Bloggers note: Another good friend and poet taught me to read some poems by pausing at the end of each line, whether or not there’s a period. For some reason, it makes the poem just that much stronger and more personal. Don’t know why. Just try it and see what happens.

“Georgia On My Mind”

Love that song.  Love hearing Ray Charles belt it out.  Don’t love what Georgia’s doing right now by opening for business-as-usual when things aren’t. That Savannah, GA is quite often our go-to town for doctors, doses of southern charm, great food and boutique shops causes me angst.

All of that reminds me of my old high school mottoes which seem particularly timely. I’ve mentioned both of them before, in some blog or another, I’m sure.  

One reads: “Function in Disaster; Finish in Style.”   It pretty much speaks for itself. I’ve got a little sign with those words in my kitchen that warns guests that dinner could well be a disaster but it’ll be served with style.  Right now, that motto certainly has a much broader meaning than that silly little example.

The second motto’s a little more obscure.  It reads: “Festina Lente.” Translated from the Latin into our language, it means, simply:  Make Haste Slowly.

The complete definition of Festina Lente is “to do things the proper way instead of hurriedly and heedlessly; to see urgent things through in a thorough manner.”

If I had a direct line….or any line…to Georgia’s Governor, I would surely send that one along to him.  Those two, or three little words, depending on your choice of language, have a lot of power.  You just have to stop and think about them.  I wish, I hope, I pray that he might heed the thought without my intervention.  

Alas, my silent pleas for the Governor to “Festina Lente” have fallen on deaf ears.  But it’s certainly not too late for Georgia to “Function in Disaster; Finish in Style.”  I’ll think I’ll send that one to him.   Right this very second. There’s no time left to “Festina Lente.”

What’s In Your Pantry?

That strikes me as a slightly personal question but one that foodies seem happy, if not eager, to answer.  And apparently, the more obscure the items in their pantries, the happier they are to share.  Esoterica rules.

Last week, an Italian cook-book author was featured in the Saturday Wall Street Journal.  She freely told the world which staples she simply cannot live without.  Her absolute “must-haves.”  They include borlotti beans, chickpeas, farro, bulghur and freekah. 

Since I have absolutely no idea what some of those things are and even less of an idea why one would find them necessary, I determined that we could never be best buds.  Not that I was looking for a new friend but still.

But if she can spill the beans, so to speak, then so can I.  And it will come as no surprise to most that I depend heavily on Campbell’s Cream of Chicken Soup, Uncle Ben’s rice (quick-cook if you can find it), canned asparagus and lots of ketchup.  Also Cheezits and Diet Coke. And of course, a large box of Velveeta Cheese. 

My pantry feels paltry without those things.  Just today I cooked up a three-night supply of crock-potted Campbell’s soup, chicken breasts, rice and sherry.  Warm, satisfying, tasty. If that doesn’t do the trick, I don’t know what will.

Not that my pantry looks any different from year to year but I find it to be especially  comforting right now.  Many of those same items were on my parents’ shelves and they got us through some hard times.  I hope they’ll get us through this one just as well.

To Mask Or Not To Mask?

That is the question of the times.

And really, there’s only one good answer.  

Here’s a little history as to how I got there.

There was a time, not so terribly long ago, when our daughter-in-law was in the  super-sick ICU of the University of Michigan Hospitals.  To put even a toe in her room, we not only masked, we gowned and gloved. We even slippered some days.  Not to protect ourselves but to insure that we would not infect her from our outside germs.

She contracted H1N1 , or Swine Flu as it was known, shortly after visiting us a few years back.  Her very healthy body rebelled vigorously and every organ responded, resulting in a total body melt-down.  The next three months were dicey, to say the least.  She was on full life support much of that time.

Fortunately, H1N1 was not the world-wide pandemic that COVID 19 is and the general public was not asked to take preventive measures against it. 

All that’s changed with this monster, of course.

But, back to Michigan for a moment.   We knew exactly what we were dealing with back then and we understood the consequences of non-compliance.  We weren’t afraid for ourselves but we were deathly afraid for our daughter-in-law. We would have done anything to get her back to healthy.  If that all that not-so-pretty, or not-so convenient, weird, papery, one-size-fits-all gear would make one tiny bit of difference, we were all in.

For me, masking is a no-brainer.  We don’t have access to the heavy-duty protective masks that we were issued in Michigan, but we can sure make do with alternatives. So, there’s my answer.  Anything that might possibly help, even a little bit, makes my answer a yes to masks.  A resounding yes.   

Oh, and, by the way, our now healthy daughter-in-law fully agrees.

The Unheard Conversation

It’ll come to this, I imagine.  All this social-distancing will catch up with us. We’ll talk only to ourselves, muttering sweet nothings or not-so-sweet nothings.  It’ll just be our own id and ego….battling it out. 

Just yesterday, we…..myself and I..….had this little tete-a-tete:

Let’s wash our hair today.

But we just washed it yesterday.

Was it really just yesterday?  Seems like a week ago.

Time’s funny these days.

Anyway, let’s wash it again today because there’s really nothing else to do.

But remember yesterday when we washed it, and I know for sure that we did, we commented on the shampoo getting low.

How low?

Well, we said that it was quite low and that we wouldn’t be able to get to the store any time soon to get more.

We said that?

I’m certain that we did and we also discussed not having much of our favorite hair gel.

Well, I, for one, still think our hair looks nasty and I think we should wash it.  Today. 

Given all the issues that I have pointed out, I beg to differ.  Strongly.

Are we having a tiff?

It would seem so.

What shall we do?

How ‘bout a hug?

OK.

Wow, your hair smells really good.

So does yours.

(And no, we don’t have to practice social distancing in this instance since we are one and the same. So, hug yourself today. There aren’t a lot of other people who can.)

Life in the Time of Corona

(With heartfelt apologies to Gabriel Garcia Marquez, author of “Love in the Time of Cholera.)

Here are a few life-lines that keep us somewhat sane during this time:

Watching a great Rom-Com we missed first time around.

Knowing our temperatures are comfortably below normal.

Face-timing with family members, both far and near.

Finding, not one, not two, but three, little bottles of Purell in the back of a cupboard.

Maintaining an ample stash of Diet-Tonic water in the pantry.

Whoops.  Not so fast on that last one.  With a limit of two quarts of tonic water per grocery visit, there’s no such thing as an ample stash. And, since it’s a requisite staple for our 5:00 pm cocktail hour, we rely on an ample stash.

So, we ask why?   Why only two quarts?  Why, of all things, would diet tonic water be “limited?”   Not that we hoard, but we do go through a fair amount of it and it’s good to know it’s there.  So why? Why can’t we buy more?

The answer came quickly once we thought about it.  It’s the quinine, of course. And, yes, it would be wonderful if quinine could, indeed, be an antitoxin for the disease. We’d be the first in line to offer our dwindling support to the cause.

Right now tonic water’s scarce. It’s flying off the shelves. We grasp at straws. And bottles of quinine. Maybe, just maybe, quinine would help if we contracted the disease. It all sounded promising for a few days but, sadly, science tells us this rumor is just that.

During that short time, our stash went down and our hopes went up. I sure wish it had stayed that way.

I’m Puzzled

I’m puzzled as to why I turn, compulsively, to puzzles when I’m stressed.

I load up on volumes of old New York Times crossword puzzles.  They’re blank canvases, ready to be completed.

I order new jig-saw puzzles.  Those jagged little pieces are just begging to be put together.

I guess I do puzzles because they’re concrete.  The crossword puzzle answers and the jig-saw pieces fit together just so.  The satisfaction of making that happen is calming.  Rewarding.  What you see is what you get. No ambiguity.  No discussion.   No bias.  It is what it is.  There’s one solution and only one.

Then there’s the “Ah-Ha” factor of putting the pieces together successfully. It sure beats the “Oh-No” factor of watching the news.

Puzzles have edges, parameters. You know where they start and where they’ll end. Make a mistake in the crossword?  Erase it and put in a different letter.  A jig-saw piece didn’t fit quite right?  Slip it out and try another one. You’re in control.  It’s a small way to make order out of chaos.

It’s hard to get our heads and hands around what’s happening right now.   There certainly aren’t any quick solutions.   No easy answers. 

So give me my jig-saws and crosswords.  They bring a dollop of comfort and a small dose of distraction to my small, and increasingly isolated, world.