How Can Things Get Worse? (Plague, Day 85, May 30, 2020)

In the midst of a global pandemic with 100,000 dead in our country, with schools shutdown, 1 in 4 on unemployment, small businesses closing up every day, journalists laid off, what other horrors can God foist on us? Oh, how about racial tensions, riots, protests, police brutality, and looting?

I have no idea what to say about Minneapolis and the George Floyd murder that would be original or illuminating. I’m beyond sad. You guys go for it.

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So, I’m playing around with my diet lately. I’m eating a ton of fruits and veggies, so my hair and nails are looking fabulous. I cut out red meat, wine, bread, and cheese during weekdays, so I’m slightly hating life right now. I’ve been eating oatmeal every morning. While it does get things moving, heh, I feel like I’ve a brick in my stomach for half the day. So, I’m thinking about switching to a morning smoothie.

Here’s Reese Witherspoon’s smoothie recipe.

We are fans of the compact Cuisinart juicer with lots of little cups. The day before your weekly big supermarket trip, you can make a juice out of the end of the week’s fruits and vegetables.

I have not yet lost one stupid pound with six weeks of food logging and daily exercise. But I am still hopeful.

If you are looking for one more wacky inspiration for your workouts, check out Goldie Hawn’s Instagram feed.

Amazon purchase of the week — Cheap Sundresses: here, here, here, here. And floral face masks.

Okay, off to make edits on an article….

It’s All Unraveling (Plague, Day 84, May 28, 2020)

First some links. The post office is in deep shit trouble. Before schools open, they have to figure out hundreds of logistical issues. The states won’t have the cash to save schools or anything else. Private schools, many of which serve poor kids and disable kids, might not make it. What happens when unemployment benefits run out in July?

This has been been my reading list for the past couple of days. Cheerful stuff, right? Meh, it’s nothing compared to my conversations with school leaders, and people on the ground floor of all this.

I hand my packages of used books to the middle aged Asian lady behind the sheet of plastic, who puts my parcels on the scale. She’s there every Tuesday and Friday, when I do this chore. Actually, she’s there 60 hours per week, because she’s the only person working behind the counter at this branch now. She said everybody else left or was fired. We share sad smiles behind masks.

With Steve just a few feet from me in constant meetings with the business folks from Wall Street, there’s not much cheerful news from that corner of the office either. I’ve plugged in my headphones to block out his meetings this morning.

Jonah has been trying to find work. He’s looking for something better than a supermarket job, but so far, no luck. This week, he’ll help out my dad at the food pantry and take care of some loose ends at school. I just don’t think it’s healthy for young adults to spend too much time in a house, so if he can’t find something better, he’ll be at the checkout lane at Stop and Shop.

My job is to be the person who talks at every school board meeting about the needs of the kids, while we’re in the midst of a local tax revolt. I’ll write my write my articles. But mostly I’m keeping my own people here safe.

Back to Nature (Plague, Day 82, May 26, 2020)

What do people do when traditional weekend activities are still closed and after being shut up in little apartments and home offices for weeks? They head to the hills.

Early Sunday morning, we packed up the kids and drove about 40 minutes to a large local park, Bear Mountain. There are nice hiking trails there, lakes to kayak, and lots of picnic benches and grill spots.

Those tables are a favorite of large extended families from New York City — working class folks without access to second homes on Long Island. On a good day, those areas are packed. This weekend, we got stuck in a hour long traffic jam trying to get there and were unable to ever leave the car. There were no parking spaces.

So, we drove over the Bear Mountain bridge to other side of the Hudson River, and found a less well known hiking trail — Castle Rock Park. With views of West Point, this trail was perfect.

We just booked a shore house in North Carolina for a week in June. It’s down the block from my in-laws, so we can check in on them, too. Their beach is pretty quiet even in the summer, so we’re not worried about social distancing at all. We won’t been able to do the usual things that help break up the time at the beach, like mini-golf and restaurants with crab cakes, so we’ll probably do more outdoor activities, like kayaking and biking.

Sure, there are some pockets of people partying in close quarters in a pool in the Ozarks, but most are finding places outside their homes to enjoy life, while keeping to themselves. My twitterfeed is full of outrage at these people and all sorts of bad behavior this morning.

I’m tired of outrage at the moment. We’re just doing our own thing here in Apt. 11D. Retreating into the woods. Plugging away at articles and jobs. Watching the little tomato plants grow. Watching the stray momma cat who lives by our stream take her babies out for longer walks from her nest.

I haven’t spent this much time outside — away from computer, gyms, restaurants, museums, and stores — since my babies were little and needed daily trips to the playground. It’s lowering my blood pressure and putting life in perspective.

I’m too chilled out to let myself get upset by the latest tweet from Trump or a viral video of a dog walker in Central Park. I’m too chilled out to overthink my latest article – wrote it, sent it out, no drama. I’m too chilled out to bother myself with people who are wrong on the Internet. My kids are not getting the education that they deserve and face an uncertain economic future; this does bother me, but it’s a low key buzz of stress, not a wake-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night meltdown.

We are reshaping our lives right now in many ways. One change is that I’m finding that I don’t give a flying fuck about things that I thought were super important just three months ago. Right now, finding a clear field to frolic with my nearly grown children is all that matters.

More on the Great Shift (Plague, Day 77, May 21, 2020)

A couple of weeks ago, I started reading about the unusual way that COVID was affecting kids. Spots on the hands and feet. Blisters on the mouth and tongue. Decreased blood pressure. Fever. Today’s NYT’s Daily podcast discusses this topic.

In the beginning of March, Ian had spots on his hands and feet. The blisters on his mouth and throat that were so severe that he was hospitalized for three days. He was diagnosed with a mild form of Stevens-Johnson syndrome, a rare reaction to epilepsy medicine.

We stopped the medicine. He recovered.

But then the news about the COVID presentations in children made me wonder. Maybe he had COVID in the beginning of March. It was certainly spreading in our community at that time. So, I called the doctor, and she had him tested for antibodies.

He came back negative. No COVID antibodies. So, the epilepsy medicine was definitely the cause of his problems in early March.

Now, you would think this was good news, but it isn’t, really. It would be better for him to have COVID than to have an extreme and rare sensitivity to epilepsy medicine, which he’ll need to take for the rest of his life. Also, it means that probably none of us in the family had the disease yet.

Steve, who traveled into Manhattan on packed commuter trains every day, didn’t get it back then. Jonah, who was living in the toxic waste dump that was his off-campus college housing, didn’t have it. Ian and I, who spent are entire days in one of the nation’s hotspots for the virus, didn’t have it. Hell, we were all in the emergency room of a hospital without any PPE just a week before everything exploded in our area. None of us had it.

I suspect that outside of New York City very few people have actually been exposed and developed an immune system to combat this virus. Social distancing worked. But now that we’re lowering our guards and heading out into the world, we’re going to see some really bad shit soon.

Knowing this, my family is still lowering our guard. My college kid has to get out of the house and get a job. We have to rent a vacation house by the beach soon. Without school or college, family sanity demands some outlets.

I mean, we’re not going to start going mask-less and waving “Freedom” banners outside state capitals. Steve will be working from home until at least next January. I don’t expect that there will be any camps for Ian. But we’re making changes.

Which means that everybody is going to get really sick in September. Are we prepared for that?

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Great day here. Chugging through a nice writing project. Had a walk and a run already. Afterwards, I bought some cheap running t-shirts and semolina flour from Amazon.

I sent in a form for my local CSA. Sure, we could go to the farmer’s market, but picking up the veggies might be a fun activity for the boys this summer.

I’m kinda loving this list of shopping fun from BuzzFeed.

My friend Helaine Olen is not a fan of Suze Orman, but this profile is still interesting.

Speaking of interesting stories about dubious people, are you following the Matt Lauer-Ronan Farrow-Ben Smith saga? It’s fun.

Great pictures of Brooklyn.

And the Pendulum Swings to Open Now (Plague, Day 75, May 19, 2020)

This morning, I flipped on CNN before heading out to get some Dunkin Donuts for Ian who needs to gain a pound or two. CNN Anchor, Alisyn Camerota, grilled the Democratic Connecticut Governor about when he was going to open his state.

The Governor was on the defensive saying that hair salons and restaurants were going to open soon. Camerota said that her hair dresser is desperate to get back to work. Neither talked about the virus making people sick and dead.

If CNN anchors and Democratic politicians in the hard-hit Northeast are talking like this, the pendulum has swung. The country is going to open soon. Why?

Small business owners need to get back to work soon, before our economic situation worsens. People are sick of their children. And they are getting bored.

I was so bored this weekend that I created a list of 200 history books for people who need credibility bookshelves for the Zoom meetings. I’m selling the list as a “digital download” on my Etsy shop.

It was pretty fun to make the list. To be honest, that task, which took all Sunday afternoon, was more of a way of procrastinating, rather than boredom. I have to transcribe some interviews, which is about the most boring task possible. Having enough work is not a problem here.

Other boredom activities here include rearranging the office furniture, painting the area around the back patio, and doing a puzzle that is mostly the color blue.

We are loosening up our own protection standards here at home. Jonah is job hunting. We’re shopping at multiple stores looking for semolina flour. My extended family met up on folding chairs on the front lawn. Push up contest, anyone?

Ideally, we would all continue to stay at home until the vaccine is ready, but I don’t think people will wait that long. Teachers and college professors are holding out to their demands to stay home, but the push to get the kids out of the home will be too strong.

Predictions?