As we were sitting outside yesterday evening enjoying the feeling of the heat of the day slipping away, Bill said, “I spent a little bit of time this afternoon reading the news.”

Brave man. As for me, I have given up listening to or watching the news. I had been watching it a bit on occasion until I heard the story about how the coronavirus is going to potentially wipe out the Navaho Nation. The whole damn nation. That was it. I simply couldn’t listen to any more news. My daughter-in-law Lauren posted a video recently on Facebook of Willie Nelson and his sons singing a song called Turn Off the News and Plant a Garden.

That’s my new theme song. I can’t plant a garden here in AZ as the planting season has passed me by (summers are too hot to be the growing season). But I can — and do — turn off the news. I just can’t do it any more.

However, when I log on to my computer in the morning, the headlines loom. I can’t escape them. I just don’t click on the links. However, a story headline this weekend caught my eye: The Long Lost Hobbies People Around the World Are Revisiting During the Corona Pandemic. 

Finally, a story that I might be able to read without feeling like I want to slit my wrists afterwards. It seems that now that people are stuck in their homes with no distractions (well, except for home schooling the kids while trying to do the work for which they get paid), they are turning back to the hobbies they used to have as kids. Like putting together puzzles. Or dusting off the model train set that your mother refused to throw away and is up in your attic. Or watercolor painting like you used to do as a kid. Or writing letters. Or working on your old stamp collection.

My sister Bec’s neighbors include three young kids. The other day when she went to get her mail, she noticed that the neighbor’s driveway was covered with chalk art. No more room for creativity. When she spotted her neighbor, she told him that the kids were welcome to use her driveway for their art. The next time she looked out, her driveway was covered with the beginnings of art. In fact, there was a hopscotch game drawn out.

Remember hopscotch? And jump rope? And kick the can? All games you can play with your family and still maintain proper social distancing.

I’ve said it before: if any good comes out of this dang blasted pandemic, it’s that maybe families will slow down. Kids might find out that model trains are more fun than Nintendo. Learning dance steps from Mom and Dad is more fun than Fortnight.

But it didn’t help the day I wore a mask to Walmart when I went to pick up the paint I had ordered, and the man in the car next to ours stuck his head out the window and said, “Stick ’em up.”

My sides hurt from laughing.

By the way, my childhood hobbies were crocheting and reading, and I’ve never stopped either.


Saturday Smile: Baby Soft

When we heard word that the governor of Colorado was strongly recommending that anyone going out of doors wear a mask (after weeks of telling us that a mask wouldn’t help….just sayin’), Bill and I began talking about what we would do in the event that we needed to wear masks here in AZ. Bill had undertaken the task of making a mask, but found it too difficult for his taste. So, we had to go a different direction.

“I know,” he said. “Maybe we can buy a box of diapers and put our ears through the legs of the diaper.”

Not bad, I thought. Except what are the chances of finding diapers in this day of no paper products.

Still, it’s as close as I got this week to laughing.

Have a great — and healthy — weekend.

Friday Book Whimsy: Lady Clementine

We all know about British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. He, along with FDR and other world leaders, played a pivotal role in ending World War II. We also know he drank a lot, smoked I don’t know how many cigars every day, and was a difficult man to work for. Marriage to him would not have been easy.

With this in mind, I dove into Lady Clementine, a novel by Marie Benedict, who has written a number of other historical novels, including The Only Woman in the Room (which I reviewed here.) I admit to enjoying learning history from reliable novels.

Clementine married the politically determined Winston Churchill in 1909, and became a force behind the man. She helped write his speeches, she advised him on strategy as he made his way towards being one of the most powerful men in the world. She was loyal and strong-willed and incredibly smart. And she wasn’t afraid of telling her moody and ambitious husband when she thought he was taking the wrong path.

While we learn a lot about Mr. Churchill from Benedict’s novel, we learn even more about Lady Clementine, the woman behind the great man. It is part history lesson, part romance story, part war story (she was with him through two world wars). What it really is, however, is a look at how difficult it was to be a woman in the early part of the 20th century. If the story is to be believed, Churchill considered his beloved wife to be a trusted advisory and companion.

According to the novel, Clementine Churchill and Eleanor Roosevelt were never very close friends, but had a grudging admiration and respect for one another. I bet that’s true.

I’m not sure I was overly fond of Clementine Churchill, at least as she was presented in this novel. But I admire her strength and tenacity during a difficult time in our history.

I enjoyed the book very much.

Here is a link to the book.


Thursday Thoughts

The Lovliest of All Was the Unicorn
Yesterday morning, obeying all manner of social distancing rules, I went for a walk with my niece Maggie and her two kids. Austin and Lilly were never closer than six feet from me, as they flew like the wind ahead of us on their scooters. Lilly was proud to show me her Brand New Helmet, which I unfortunately forgot to memorialize via a photo. Needless to say (at least for anyone who knows Lilly), it is a unicorn. The park was quite busy, but everyone was very respectful of minding our distances. I saw a few families riding their bicycles around Red Mountain Park Lake. It was lovely to get out and move my body in the sunshine.

Social Media
I have never been more grateful for social media than I am now. Every day, for example, I talk to my sisters via Facetime. Feeling like a hotshot, Jen was even able to figure out how the three of us could talk together at one time. (I hope she can remember what buttons she poked to repeat the activity.) The kids all use something called Zoom, which I don’t quite understand, and don’t need to, apparently. I can still order things on Amazon. Door Dash bring me lunch when I don’t feel like eating another turkey pastrami sandwich. Netflix and Amazon Prime keep me entertained, and Kindle keeps feeding me books. 

Food For Thought
Bec told me yesterday that she did her grocery shopping, and is confident she won’t have to do another shop for two weeks. I think that is awesome, and I would like to follow her example. I’m afraid, however, that I am too disorganized to be successful. Prior to All Of This, I used to shop every day. I’m better than that now, but I still find myself doing a grocery shop every three or four days, I’m afraid. I need to sit down at some point and plan out 14 meals and shop for those 14 meals. I will admit, however, that it always feels nice to get out of the house, even for that little bit.

Golden Oldies
I have been pleased that there is a lot of reading activity on my blog as of late. I am not kidding myself; I’m sure it’s because people are bored silly and desperate to read ANYTHING. Still, it feels good. But I will also tell you that it has been hard as hell to come up with blog ideas given that most of my life is between the same four walls. I think that in the upcoming weeks, I’m going to be posting some oldies but goodies. Bec suggested reposting some of my travel blog posts so that we can all travel vicariously once again. Stay tuned.


Cigars Are Essential

My mood vacillates like the weather. Believe me, I’m not thinking I am the only one experiencing mood changes during this period. In my 66 years on this earth, I have never been through something like a quarantine that lasts weeks upon weeks. I think the longest I’d ever been quarantined prior to this was a week when I had the measles as a kid.

Monday night, Arizonans received the “joyful” news that we are joining much of the rest of the United States in an mandated quarantine. Upon hearing the news, I went into immediate panic mode. I was ready to go out and buy some toilet paper. Two things stopped me: 1) There still isn’t a square of toilet paper to be found in the grocery stores as of yet; and 2) I realized that absolutely nothing was really changing in my day-to-day life. The only place I ever go that is beyond these four walls is the grocery store. And I’m still allowed to go to the grocery store under the rules.

I’m also allowed to get my hair cut, have my toenails painted, play golf, and order food to be delivered to my house when I am sick of cooking. So the mandated order seems kind of silly, but what do I know? It’s all about flattening the curve.

I wasn’t particularly worried about having access to wine or beer, or even whiskey. In Arizona, all of these things are sold in grocery stores. But I thought Bill might have a hard time finding cigars, as I assumed his cigar store would be closed. So yesterday morning, we drove over to the cigar store, and he went into buy a handful of cigars. He came out with the news that the cigar store was going to continue to be open. They, my friends, apparently provide an essential service.

Now, Bill and my brother would both agree with that premise. I, however, am asking myself, did the governor call for a mandatory quarantine just to make himself feel better? Just sayin’.

I’m sick of talking about the coronavirus. I spent the last few days checking on almost everyone I know and love, and they are all doing fine. And they are all sick of talking about the coronavirus. So, I’m going to change the subject.

Our grandson Alastair will turn 15 on April 5. I don’t know how that happened. He was just born. Anyhoo, he is not shy about asking for what he wants. I got a text message from him a week or so ago. In it, he said that instead of a gift, he would like cold hard cashola, which he intends to put towards his Purchase-A-Car Fund. Boom. I love when boys have plans and things are easy.

So I found out at which bank he keeps his Purchase-A-Car funds, and used Zelle to send the money to him. Within a few minutes, I got a thank-you text from him. It even included not one, but TWO, hearts.

I will tell you that technology almost always surprises me. But Zelle is more than technology. It is magic. Because it turns out that I don’t even have to know WHERE he banks. I only have to know his telephone number. Hit SEND, and within minutes you get a thank-you text from your grandson with two hearts.

I don’t want to think too much about how that happens and what could seemingly go wrong, but it’s better than thinking about the coronavirus.

The Good Ol’ Days

I just got a newsletter from the Parkinson’s Association of the Rockies. During this time of social distancing, they are very kindly trying to stay in touch with the Parkinson’s community via semiweekly newsletters because they can’t offer their usual seminars, classes, etc. The newsletter I received yesterday was aimed at Care Partners. Caring for Care Partners, they called it. Some of their tips…

  • Enjoying a book or movie in a different room
  • Enjoying several 20 minute walks a day
  • Finding an online exercise class just for you to do
  • Finding a healthy recipe to follow and share with others

These are all good ideas, and I appreciate their concern about those of us who play an important role in the life of our PWP. However, I couldn’t help but notice that there was definitely a health-related slant. Two walks a day? Finding a HEALTHY recipe? This is supposed to make me feel better?

I know. I know. It’s good advice to try to stay as healthy as we can during this period of isolation. But the truth of the matter is that I don’t want healthy food. I want comfort food. I want pot roast and meatloaf and fried chicken.  Because they call that comfort food for a reason. I can’t even imagine being comforted by eating a quinoa salad with tofu. Nope. I want food my mommy made me when I was little.  Because nothing bad happened to me in those days.

Of course, that’s untrue. Lots of bad things happened in the so-called Good Ol’ Days. Our parents just didn’t tell us when the bank account was getting low and they were unsure how to pay the next month’s bills. My sister Bec remembers the Cuban Missile Crisis, but I don’t. It was late October, and I was probably more concerned about what I was going to wear for Halloween than the fact that our country might be annihilated at any moment. There was a polio epidemic in the 1950s, but all I remember is that I drank some red medicine out of a cup sometime in the early 1960s. Bec is the one who told me much later that she remembers that our parents would freak out every time one of their kids got a runny nose, fearing the worst.

Still, there were lots of good things about the Good Ol’ Days. And I came across one of them yesterday when I ran into Joann’s to find elastic for the hospital masks that Bill is now sewing. (Yes. You read that correctly. It’s Bill, so it can come as no surprise.)

Anyhoo, as I was standing in line, I glanced up and saw a display of gum. Now, I’m not a gum chewer. But this wasn’t just any old gum…..

Well, needless to say, I felt 7 years old again. In fact, I might have chewed some Black Jack gum after I drank my polio vaccine. I bought a package of Black Jack and a package of Clove, and took it out to the car, where Bill was waiting.

“Look what I found,” I said to him, showing him the gum.

“Give me the Black Jack,” he said excitedly. “I want to put it over my teeth to make it look like I’m missing teeth.”

Say what? Being a girl, I guess I missed this trick. Apparently the boys would chew the gum to soften it, and then put it over their teeth and open their mouths to show the girls. Mating rituals among 8-year-olds in 1959.

All I can tell you is that, like everything else, it wasn’t like it used to be. The Black Jack gum was not black at all, but a sickly color of gray that wouldn’t even come close to looking like lost teeth. Rotten teeth, maybe. The licorice flavor was substandard as well. As for the Clove gum, well, it was undoubtedly used to cover the smell of the three martinis you had for lunch.

I went home and made some comfort food for dinner!

Times, They Are A’Changing

It’s weird. Things that once felt and seemed completely abnormal now feel normal. Conversely, normal things seem ludicrous and unkind. When I see people on previously-recorded television programs doing things like, well, hugging, I cringe. Egads! I cry to my television. Haven’t you heard about social distancing? Can you please consider the six-foot rule?

Take church services. No, I mean really. They did take them away from us. Well, most church services anyway. I think there are a few Pentecostal churches that don’t care if their snakes are closer than six feet away from them. Amen. Praise the Lord.

But it’s been three weeks now since I’ve walked into my church to attend Mass. The first Sunday, I felt totally off-kilter. All day long, I couldn’t remember what day of the week it was. I missed the community — and the sacrament — that is Mass.

By the next week, Jen had steered me towards the online Sunday Mass provided by St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I cried through the whole first half of the Mass. It was so good to listen to those familiar words, especially now when things are so scary. I took advantage of the online Mass once again yesterday, and when it was finished, I realized that now watching a Mass on my iPad felt completely normal. I even said the responses out loud with the few brave souls who were assisting Cardinal Timothy Dolan at the altar. Amen. Praise the Lord.

I wonder if our old life will even feel familiar once we are released to live among, and actually touch, others.

I began pondering that a few days ago, when I turned on our television to watch Pope Francis give a special blessing to his flock. His homily — recited in (I think) Italian but translated for us into English — was mind-blowing in its simplicity. I seriously suggest that you tune into You Tube or wherever you can find a recording of his blessing and listen to the homily. It was amazing.

But back to my pondering. I have never believed that when bad things happen to people, it’s because they are being punished by God. Kids don’t get cancer because their parents are being punished. Tornados don’t destroy communities because the people who live there are bad. Pandemics aren’t punishment for misbehavior by God’s lowly humans.

But when things like tornados and diseases and pandemics happen, God wants — even expects — us to bring good out of the bad.

Coronavirus — for all the bad it’s doing — is causing the world to slow down. Families are spending time with each other. In an environment where many kids are rushing home from school, grabbing their homework to work on in the car while they eat a peanut butter sandwich on their way to tennis, or basketball, or swimming practice, they are welcoming a chance instead to sit around in their pajamas all day, playing Monopoly with their moms and dads. Instead of listening to podcasts while riding exercise bicycles in the gym, parents are listening to their kids laugh while riding bicycles with them around the neighborhood. We’re sitting around tables piled high with homemade food that our kids helped make. We’re learning to be kind to one another.

Or at least I hope we are being kind. And, though I know that real life will result in many of the same behaviors, I hope some of it lasts.