The Isolation Age: Masked Ingenuity

There had to be a way to remove that drawer. I WOULD NOT GIVE UP.

My brother the scientist mailed me two high quality masks, one for me and one for Angelic Daughter, back in March. Two regular surgical style masks, and two sealed in plastic coverings, that supposedly block pathogens on the inhale, as well as the exhale. Their labels say they expired in 2015, but hey, under the circumstances, who cares?

At first I was afraid of the mask police. I didn’t want to wear those very recognizable blue/green surgical masks, because I was afraid of being berated in public by someone who thought I should have donated the mask to medical workers. I felt guilty. Why should I have a mask to wear when doctors and nurses are DYING because they don’t have them?

But these weren’t the N95 masks that are supposed to protect medical workers in addition to patients. They were just ordinary medical masks, and after a few weeks I noticed everyone was wearing them and no one was giving anyone crap about them.

I started with the regular surgical mask, with an added t-shirt made mask on top, tied with bows (adorable!) tightly around my head, sealing the underlying surgical mask closer to my face.

Those masks are supposed to be disposed of after one  use, but I hung mine up after each wearing, to air out and (I hoped) rid itself of any nasties it picked up while I was out grocery shopping. But that flimsy thing had reached its limit, so I was going to break into that allegedy anti-viral mask.

I had tossed the envelope into the big bottom file drawer of the desk with the hutch that I splurged on, knowing the moment I saw it online that the green of it would match the willow green of my Bulgarian built kitchen cabinets. I just crammed it in the back, behind the files, and left it there, for a rainy day, when the mask police might back off and the ordinary mask wore out.

And then that envelope slipped behind the back of the drawer, and I couldn’t reach it.

DAMMIT!

OK, there HAS to be a way to remove these drawers. I WILL NOT GIVE  UP. Rubbery thingees on the side of the rails that the drawers run in and out on – ok, that must be something. Press down. YES! That seems to get one side past the rail stop thingee that keeps the drawer from falling out of the desk.

But WTF? It didn’t work on the other side.

I jury-rigged a number of tools that I thought would help me drag that envelope back up out of the void behind the drawer, most involving coat hangers and duct tape, but none of them worked.

DAMMIT!

OK, think, Annie. There HAS to be a way to remove that drawer. Back to rubbery bendy things in the rails that support the drawers.

AHA! One goes up, but the other goes DOWN! Oh, you diabolical bastards! You WILL NOT DEFEAT ME! I figgered it out! Press down on one side, up on the other, and VOILA! The drawer lock stop thingee is defeated – the drawer pulls out far enough for me to see behind it and reach my tiny child-sized hands back in there to grab the envelope and retrieve those high quality masks. HA! DID IT! MOMMY WINS AGAIN!

I wanted those masks because I had to go to the garden center to get the plants my scientist brother, my sister-in-law, Angelic Daughter and I traditionally plant on my parent’s graves on Memorial Day Weekend, and the fuchsia basket for Mike’s grave. And I was damned if I was going to go to a garden center on the Friday before Memorial Day when there was a good chance of encountering someone without a mask, or wearing a mask that didn’t cover their noses.

I got the geraniums and the sweet alyssum and some kind of blue impatiens that aren’t the right kind of bluey-purpley flower we usually get, but it was crowded and Angelic Daughter was waiting patiently in the car, so I had to get out of there.  We headed out to plant on Friday afternoon, on behalf of ourselves and my brothers and me on my parent’s grave. Angelic Daughter carefully placed the flag for Dad,

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and on the way  home, we hung a fuchsia like this by Mike’s grave:

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gravestone

I didn’t cry this time, like I usually do. That came today, and I’ll inflict my writing about it on you tomorrow. Until then, I remain,

Your never-give-up, no-retreat-baby-no-surrender (hey I’ll add that to my bouncy playlist stat, how could I forget that one?), looking forward to mask free shopping someday,

Ridiculouswoman.

Image by DoomSlayer from Pixabay

Let Me Entertain You

I like the blogs I like because they give me something: good writing, a laugh, or a glimpse of an engaging personality.  I like some of them because they make me “feel the feels,” as some in the writing community seem fond of saying.

I’m getting that “what have I done for you lately” feeling about this blog again. Unless I’m sure the writing is good enough, and the feeling of the feels will be carthartic enough, I’m going to pause the whinging about loneliness and isolation. No one wants to hear that crap from a woman who is safely sheltered with a roof over her head, a job, a full fridge and the company of an Angelic Daughter. Instead I’m determined to try to give you something, at least one of those things I listed, with every post.

After my Cryin’ Songs, I promised you a more upbeat playlist. So here’s Ridiculouswoman’s Bungee Chair Bouncing Playlist intended to provide a boost of energy and even silliness when 2 p.m. rolls around and you just want to fall off your bouncy bungee cord desk chair and take a nap, but you still have two hours of work to do. If the link doesn’t work I think you can just search for it by name. The embed code doesn’t seem to be working or I’m just not a good enough coder to make it work, but whatever. You’ll find the playlist if you want it.

I also updated 27 Things with 27 observations about things that changed because of , well, because of all this, that I don’t expect to change back after. And I believe in an after – there was some very preliminary, but hopeful, news this week, and I’m choosing to stay on the “look for the silver lining” side of things.

Suggestions for additional songs for the playlist are welcome. I’d love to hear from you about the music that keeps you going.

Until then, I remain,

Your bungee-chair-bouncing, foxes-in-the-backyard-watching, gleefully-overhearing-Angelic-Daughter-reading (I knew if she got bored enough she’d finally realize that there is always a friend in a book!), and very, very grateful,

Ridiculouswoman

The Isolation Age: Jackpot Edition

There are days where things just go right.  Days of success and hope, little triumphs, unexpected discoveries, and gentle joy.

Saturday, charged the battery and assembled my new cordless electric mower (easy, just had to attach the handle), read the manual, and shaved the lawn. The battery made it all around my third of an acre, with power to spare. Good workout, too, pushing and pivoting the thing. Walked the machine back into the garage, and spent a good ten minutes deciding how I’d store the battery until next time. Then I retired to the deck to admire my work:

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Somewhere deep in the night of Mother’s Day morning, I woke up with the cold certainty that I couldn’t remember where I put the mower key. It’s a safety device, and I can’t start the mower without it.  In all my fussing over the battery, I forgot what I did with the key.

Between preparing the computer for online church Sunday morning and ransacking the garage, I confirmed that the key was no place I thought I had put it, or anywhere I might rationally have put it.

Gone.

DAAAAAAAMMMMIIIIIIIIIT! ONE MOWING AND YOU LOSE THE KEY? WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH YOU, ANNIE? HOW COULD YOU DO SOMETHING MONUMENTALLY STUUUUUPPPIIIIDDD!!!! (scream, stomp, howl, etc.)

After emptying my tool bag and rearranging my drill carrier bag and sorting through three plastic storage boxes of wrenches, screwdrivers and consolidated “random fastener crap,” I ended my tantrum and resolved to be an adult about it. I’d just call for a replacement.

Called the number in the manual early this morning. The recorded message asked for my patience due to the current situation and told me to call back in three business days. Then it hung up on me.

DAAAAAAAMMMMMMMIIIIIIT!

OK get a grip, Annie. I am stupid lucky enough to have a job, which requires clocking in and performing 8 hours of good honest work, which I am happy and grateful to do. But I knew I would never settle down until I found that key, and I was still SURE that it was in the garage somewhere.  So, during one of my two permitted 15 minute breaks, I backed the car out of the garage, took one more pass through my newly organized random fastener crap basket, and my plastic box of more wrenches than my child-sized hands will ever be strong enough to wield, to no avail.

Admitting defeat and humbly resolved to wait for three business days, I walked out to pull the car back into the garage. On the way, I glanced at the mower, sitting there, all cobalt blue and keyless.

And I saw a glimmer of yellow plastic on the floor underneath it.

I swear I rolled that mower back and forth twenty times on Sunday, but now, today, there it was, peeking out from under it – the KEY! FOUND IT!!

Gleeful and relieved, I put the key on my keychain and went back to the computer to participate in the morning video meetup.

Just as it was ending, a red fox trotted by the window, stopped, and looked right at me.  I turned the laptop to point the webcam at him to show my colleagues. He plunked himself down under the same tree the rabbits live (lived?) under, and took a long nap. When he emerged, he took some time for a good scratch, and with very little concern about my vocal “encouragement” to depart, trotted slowly off.

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I finished work, logged off on time, and headed downstairs for my low impact YouTube cardio exercise session, with the cheerful and oddly motivating English guy.  The routine includes a few rounds of uppercuts and straight punches that allow my imagination to supply a full-on catharsis. I get sweaty and happy and invigorated, and I feel good.

On a quick pre-workout stop to replenish the under-sink cabinet in the basement bathroom with the cheap TP that is so flimsy it actually stays stocked on the grocery shelf above the “no limit” sign, I find … DISINFECTANT WIPES. A new, unopened cylinder of disinfectant wipes.

JACKPOT!!!!! I had forgotten about them – had no idea they were there! They are now hidden where Angelic Daughter, who loves nothing more than to be helpful, won’t find them and use them all up in a day (I hope.)

What a bizarre but amazing age we live in, when a roll of chemical-soaked cloths could bring such a feeling of elation.

And a red fox can look you in right in the face, settle in for a nap, and take his own sweet, nonchalant time scratching, before skipping slowly away.

Hoping you’ll find your own forgotten stash of something once mundane but now precious, I remain,

Your lawn-mowing, aerobicizing, imaginary-punch-throwing and merrily-doorknob disinfecting,

Ridiculouswoman

 

 

The Isolation Age: Cryin’ Songs Playlist

We never socialized much, Mike and I, and when social opportunities arose they were almost always relevant to just one or the other of us, but not to both. Mike had his interests I and had mine, so when something came up, we went solo and the one not going stayed happily home with Angelic Daughter.

I enjoyed my own company just fine for all those years before I met Mike, but I had lots to do – I lived in the city and I could fall out the door and go take an improv workshop, or perform in an improv show or children’s theater, or sing in a chorus.  I met Mike when I wasn’t really looking, not desperately, anyway.

This present aloneness, even though I’m not all by myself, feels very different. Watching Angelic Daughter lean in toward the webcam with her arms outspread to give her Uncle a virtual hug during their first Zoom talk, and the sense that every trip to the grocery store is life-threatening, or when my responses to prompts in Teams chats, intended to boost WFH spirits, get no reaction – these things, silly or profound, make this isolation feel a lot more… isolated.

When, toward the end of the work day, the music on my classical music station turns too loud or atonal for my tastes, I turn to Spotify to find music that will get me through to clock-off time.

I wasn’t intentionally looking for a good cry when this change-the-music habit began – I was actually looking for something more upbeat. I found plenty of great oldies to bounce to in my bungie-cord office chair while I finished my last written piece for the day. But for some reason, a lot of the songs that turned up on the artist-based “radio” stations I chose were ballads that turned on the waterworks. Maybe they reminded me of long-lost youth, or the intense emotions of long-lost youth. Or they made me think of my Dad, or of Mike, or past, unrequited loves.

But mostly, something about these songs drills right through to the core of the isolation and I find myself staring at a future where going solo is a permanent condition. Because by the time the masks come off, if I’m still around, I’m pretty sure any chance I might have had to find love again will have passed, for good.

These songs remind me that a few years from now, when I sing along, I’ll still be singing alone.

The lantern in the photo above was one of the very few material things Mike brought with him into our marriage. Angelic Daughter and I light a candle within it during our evening “music time,” when we sit together in the dark, sometimes with music, but often without, until she has repeated “Dad can’t come back, it doesn’t work that way” enough times to bring herself to internalize that truth. She says it over and over again, until she feels sad, and until she has heard me reassure her many times that Dad’s love is always with her, and that while I’m not Dad, and I’m not as fun as Dad, and I don’t cook like Dad did, tonight, I’m still here.

Recently, when Angelic Daughter has sensed that I’m sad, or cabin fever has dented my patience and I have gotten upset with her, she somehow, from the mysterious place within her where her extraordinary emotional intelligence resides, knows how I hate myself for my lapse of emotional control, and she says, “don’t worry Mom. If you need anything, I’m right here for ya.”

Who needs a playlist to have a good cry when you have that? But I’ll share my playlist of cryin’ songs anyway. I think you click on my face there to play it, or open your Spotify app and search for the playlist by name, “Ridiculouswoman’s Cryin’ Songs.” I don’t know what will happen in this link if I revise the list, and I can’t do anything about ads that might play, but you get the idea, anyway. Hope you’ve got enough Kleenex in the house.

In the meantime, singing solo at home (because Angelic Daughter likes to sing solo, too) and looking for the tissues, I remain,

Your grateful-for-some-sun-this-morning-and-thinking-about-throwing-in-some-cookies-and-cannoli-with-our-Friday-pizza-and-wings-delivery order,

Ridiculouswoman

The Isolation Age: Cliché Edition

All things considered, I’d rather be a cliché than a meme. People tire of clichés – they know them when they see them, dismiss them, and move on. But memes keep getting reborn – right when you thought they have run their course, someone posts a new gif or tweet with a yet another take on the embarrassing typo or the spectacularly ignorant statement or the dance move that went horribly wrong, and the hapless victim suffers all over again.

By now I think we’re all pretty sick of references to Groundhog Day and how no one can remember what day of the week it is. But I’m not tired of stories of people organizing to help those in need, or of talented people using their creativity to entertain us online while we hunker down and pray this appalling affliction will abate.

I also appreciate binge-watching suggestions. Because after gratefully putting in my 8 hours at the laptop, then hauling my fat ass reluctantly to the basement to march and punch and squat and LIFT! in response to the coaching of the least-annoying trainer I can find on YouTube (“you’re moving! that’s a win!”), I’m not quite up to reading the “compleat” works of Shakespeare or writing my next book. Collapsing into my cheap plum-fake-velvet-mid-century-ish looking chair across from the TV in my “boudoir” is about all I can manage.

And that’s how I discovered that the story of my obsession with the Bulgarian has gone beyond “hey, turns out falling for your contractor is kind of a thing” through “hmm, maybe there’s something to that Jungian idea of synchronicity” to “oh, for Christ sake not again!” In my latest binge series, Sex Education, I find yet another example of a smart, professional, not-particularly-self-aware woman-of-a-certain-age getting all hot for handyman. In three of four instances of what I now have no choice but to refer to as this cliché (my case, along with Kate Reddy from the book How Hard Can It Be and Dr. Jean Milburn from Sex Education), the object of the lady’s desire is a kind, capable, patient man of quiet wisdom, who speaks English with an Eastern (Bulgarian, Polish) or Northern European (Swedish) accent. In two of these cases (me and Dr. Jean) the accented amour is able to seamlessly code-switch between his native language when addressing family or talking on the phone, and English, when addressing the lady signing the checks.

It gets worse (spoiler alert!) In Sex Education, the handy hunk Jakob, portrayed very fetchingly by a Swedish actor named Mikael Persbrandt, is copiously adorned with tattoos (the Bulgarian had one anyone could see, and reported he had several more elsewhere that I never saw, nor never will see). Jean, whose revolving bedroom door and casual cruelty to men she uses and throws away puts her in no position to judge, reads Jakob as a lothario who goes around seducing and then forgetting his clients.

And then it turns out Jakob is a widower who spent years taking care of his sick wife before she died.

As did Phil, the target of Grace Hanson’s lust on Grace and Frankie.

As did I, with Mike – although my 20 month’s time as Mike’s caregiver was shorter, I think, than either of those two fictional men’s time caring for their fictional wives.

Just what the hell is the universe trying to tell me, here, if anything? Does the universe really communicate in clichés? I suppose it’s possible, given the thickness of the skulls its messages have to penetrate, most of the time.

I believe in the power of stories, even those with clichéd plotlines. To me, clichés hint at aspects of shared human experience that our minds and our hearts need to hear, repeatedly, like affirmations. I’m not sure what all these hot handymen add up to, but so far, here’s what I get out of these stories: hope.

People survive hardship, heartbreak, betrayal and loss, and still have the guts and the strength to give love another go, if they’re lucky enough to have the opportunity. It will be a long time until anyone comes out from behind their mask to find a new love. In the meantime I’ll take what binge-watching offers me and try to stay focused on gratitude for waking up each morning, breathing without assistance, and for having a roof over my head and food in the pantry.

With additional gratitude for stories that present men with complex emotional lives who appreciate smart women with layers of their own, I remain,

Your hoping to survive long enough to settle Angelic Daughter in a happy independent life and experience the love of a few good men a few more times,

Ridiculouswoman

n.b. I’ve updated my 27 Things page with two new lists.

Image by Myriam Zilles from Pixabay