Raining Lattes

Another transcript of a conversation with my husband on an unknown day. 

Husband: “Wow, what are you doing?”

Me: “What does it look like I’m doing?”

Husband: “I know, I just . . . I’ve never seen you do that before.”

Me: “You’ve never seen me clean a toilet before?”

Husband: (pauses for deep thoughts) “No, I don’t think I have.  I didn’t know you did that.”

Me: “Really, in 24 years of living here, you’ve never seen me clean a toilet?”

Husband: “I don’t think so.”

Me: (pauses for deep thoughts) “Maybe you’re right.”

Husband: (slowly walks away, mumbling to himself) “Wow, how about that.”

For the record, I’ve cleaned lots of toilets in my lifetime.  People who know me will be extremely surprised to learn that I actually did a stint as a housekeeper during high school.  However, for most of my adulthood, I’ve been fortunate enough to employ someone to clean my home.  Ana arrives every other week and I’m always grateful to see her.  She’s worked for us for 21 years and we are continuing to pay her throughout the shutdown.  This made me feel slightly better when I texted her last week to ask her how to clean my kitchen appliances.  When I clean the damn things, they look worse.  Her answer: “soap and water Mrs. Susan, soap and water”.  The simplest solution is almost always the best, so the theory goes.

These are not simple times though.  Armed men yelling at nurses (nurses!).  Women demanding “choice” over their bodies, holding “Trump 2020” signs, completely missing the irony in this.  A president battling his own science advisors and encouraging protesters with his inflammatory tweets: “Liberate!”.  Indeed, please someone liberate us from this madness.  I tell you, it’s enough to make this elitist-snowflake’s head explode.  And this was all before the President’s comments on disinfectant.

Fortunately for me, I get to live in a place saturated with like-minded thinkers.  A veritable bastion of liberal optimism. Raining oat-milk lattes and bleeding hearts in equal measure. I imagine it is frustrating to live here if you’re on the “other” side though.  I volunteered at our local polling station during the most recent election.  It wasn’t hard to notice how some people would avoid looking me in the eye while they whispered “republican” when asked which ballot they wanted.

Despite being raised by their parents, it seems my kids are better able to manage relationships across the partisan divide.  Visiting our daughter at college last year, we attended a party with a few of her friends and their parents.  The hosts were of a different political bent than us.  Before we entered the house, my daughter and her friend pulled us aside to lecture us: “We all hate Trump.  Say it, get it out of your system. We can’t talk about it tonight, ok?  Ok, we’re going in”.

While I’m not as mature as my daughters, I actually do have a few close friends who lean a bit more conservative.  People who feel differently than I do about abortion and guns and religion, though we tend to agree on our opinion of the President. Before I post something on social media, I try to view it through their eyes, and temper my message.  I rarely succeed though.  My posts are the typical panoply of left-wing angst meant to tap into the outrage felt by the majority of my friends.  I truly appreciate it when my conservative pals are brave enough to wade into these waters and question me on something I’ve said.  It doesn’t always feel great, but it forces me to own my words, which is a good thing.  The conversations that have turned really ugly?  Those people have mostly unfriended me – virtually and in real life.  As it should be, I guess.

It’s hard to know when to engage with some people though.  Is it worth responding to the acquaintance who seems to think that JFK is alive and secretly attending Trump’s rallies, and that 9/11 was an inside job?  Do I bother to debate the distant family member floating conspiracy theories by an anti-vaxxer “scientist” (yes, HIV is the virus that causes AIDS, pretty sure we’ve determined that)?  Do I attempt dispassionate discourse when these folks claim other alternative facts (no, abortions do not cause breast cancer)?   I don’t have it in me to debate these people just for sport.  They would make for fun anthropological case studies, however.

To end on a corny positive note.  My neighborhood feels like a living thing at the moment.  Different from how it usually feels.  Lots of young families, walking around en masse with toddler bikes and strollers.  People are sitting outside, chatting from a socially acceptable distance.  Basketball is being played in driveways. Lots of dogs are being walked that I hadn’t noticed before.  We’ve passed the same guy and his pup for the past few weeks and for the first time today, neither of our dogs barked at each other.

And, best of all, we now have a Little Free Library in our ‘hood, compliments of a really good neighbor.  This makes me ridiculously happy.  Bookstores were my happy place, my escape.  I miss them terribly.  I have a book fetish that I’m not ashamed of.  I read a lot of stuff online, but I refuse to read my books this way.  You will have to pry a book out of my cold dead hands before I cave and use a Kindle.  Not that the little book box makes up for a bookstore, but it will remain a permanent fixture long after the COVID crisis.  And, it gives me hope that actual physical books might just remain viable in the future.  As a sign of the times, there is also hand sanitizer in the book box.  No Clorox though.


Try Not to Breathe


My calendar today shows an appointment to have my hair colored.  Obviously, this will not be happening.  Worse, as if to taunt me further, the facial ID function on my iphone has mysteriously stopped working.  I’m certain it’s sheer coincidence that my own phone fails to recognize me on the very same day that my real hair color starts to make an appearance.  Still, I was a little taken aback.   I felt like saying, “hey, it’s me, I swear!”  My iphone can be forgiven for its confusion though.  As time goes on, and my motivation for self-beautification wanes, my eyebrows alone have me bearing a striking resemblance to my father – or any other elderly male with facial hair challenges.

This pandemic thing is mind-blowingly surreal.  Like most others, I’ve not lived through anything that has had an impact on such a grand scale.  I have exactly two feelings that I vacillate between throughout the day and there seems to be no middle ground.  At certain moments, I experience a heartfelt feeling of solidarity with my fellow humans.

I like this Facebook page called “View from My Window”.   People post just one picture of their view from wherever they happen to be while doing the #stayhome thing.  It’s comforting to be able to commiserate with people from Brazil and Alaska and Madagascar and Bulgaria and Mississippi and Zimbabwe and Moscow.   It’s that whole, “we’re in this together!” shtick that gives me the warm fuzzies.  I get the same feeling when I’m driving and hear sirens, and I observe everybody getting out of the way for the emergency responders.  This is embarrassing, but I always get a little choked up when I see that.  I guess it just feels good to know that when shit gets real, people instinctively do the right thing.

Well, not everyone.  Apparently, a bunch of Kansas lawmakers ignored their governor’s shut down orders so they could go to church on Easter Sunday.  I don’t even know what to say to this, so I’ll just leave here this quote by Charles Darwin: “Ignorance more frequently begets confidence than does knowledge: it is those who know little, and not those who know much, who so positively assert that this or that problem will never be solved by science.”

On the other side of my pandemic mood spectrum, is a ridiculously intense melancholy.  I say ridiculous because I don’t think I have any business being down, and frankly, I’m starting to get on my own nerves.  It’s less the fear of the virus itself though, than a specific feeling I get after listening to the president speak about it.  I feel hobbled.  That is the most apt word I can come up with.  That scene from the movie Misery?  The one where the Kathy Bates character takes her mallet and gives the James Caan character a hearty whack at the ankles?  It’s awful to watch.  That’s how I feel though.  Every time Trump speaks.  A little more hobbled.  The possibility that this guy could be foisted upon us for another four years because a large swath of the populace views him through a different lens makes me so sad for our country.  It would almost be easier to just throw in the towel, go with the “if you can’t beat them, join them” mentality, and start watching Fox news.  They certainly seem pretty joyful in denial land.

I won’t do that though, because a little painful reality is necessary sometimes.  Once a year, I get a breast MRI.  I do this strictly for early cancer detection purposes because I have a family history of this nasty disease.  I’m determined to get the fucker before it gets me.  Breast MRIs are not pleasant.  They’re like Disneyland rides – if Disneyland were created by a person who was bullied in high school, and is still really, really angry about it.  You lay face down, arms above your head, in a dark tunnel, with a very loud jackhammer like noise pounding in your ears for about six hours.

Actually, it’s only about a half hour, but it FEELS like six hours.  They give you a myriad of instructions before you enter this shaft of doom.  The most eye-roll inducing one being the “try not to breathe” mandate.   This always has the opposite effect on me.   I’m so anxiety ridden by the whole process itself (not to mention the reason I’m doing it and the potential outcome), that I end up with my heart pounding so scary fast and my breathing so rapid that I feel like I’m drowning.   This inevitably leads the young male technician (it’s always a male for some reason), to helpfully advise me mid-ride by saying “try not to breathe so heavily”.  Fuck you son.

I only bring this up, because since this whole Global Pandemic fun house started, I’ve been visited frequently by the hyperventilation thing.  In my more paranoid moments, my head goes to the bad place (shortness of breath?! what’s my temperature!).  The only thing that calms me down is when my rational side kicks in and I remind myself that I feel the same way during an MRI, so I’m likely not heading for the ventilator.  Not today, anyway.

I’ve inadvertently used this time as a weird kind of sick leave.  An excuse to wallow in my manufactured sadness and not do anything terribly productive.  I need to stop.  Because, this shut down is not ending anytime soon.  As if to remind me, I found this random vignette below set up on my kitchen counter.   I took it as a sign.  Gumby standing next to my water flask with my “end gun violence” bracelet.  Gumby basically telling me to snap out of it and get back to the stuff that I claimed to be so passionate about before this all started.  Stuff that will still matter when all this ends.  Gumby would probably also tell me to keep breathing.



True Stories

Actual transcript of a perfect conversation with my husband on an unknown day.

Husband:  I can’t believe it’s Friday already.

Me:  It’s not Friday, it’s Thursday.

Husband:  No, it’s Friday.

Me:  Are you sure?

Husband:  Pretty sure.

Me:  No, it’s Thursday because yesterday was garbage day.

Husband:  No, that was two days ago.

Me: Are you sure?

Husband: Well . . . I think so.  Maybe not.

I realize that this is not a particularly interesting story, but it is true, and it was Friday.   I’m long removed from the mental haze of new motherhood, and hopefully still far enough away from age-related dementia.  So, the fact that we were having a conversation like this, well, it begs to be documented.  Here are some other true things, or true for me anyway, in these surreal times  .  .  .

Last night I had assembled the makings for two flawless Lemon Drop cocktails:  Just the right amount of vodka.  Juice from a freshly squeezed lemon.  A dollop of homemade simple syrup.  A splash of triple sec.  My martini glasses were beautifully rimmed with lemon infused sugar.  I had all the ingredients in the silver shaker, liberally filled with ice.  It was beautiful.  I began to rigorously shake, pouring all of my frustrations into my efforts.  The top was not secure and flew off mid-shake.  Half of my cocktail ended up in a puddle on the counter.

While I was creating my perfect cocktail, my husband had the news on in the background.  It was yet another press conference.  At this one, before the president stopped the science guy from answering a question, he continued to push for the use of a drug – one not yet proven to work with the current virus.  So, really, a very typical type of press briefing: suppression of scary truths and promotion of false hope.  Just another day at the White House.   You’d think that after almost four years of this, I’d be immune to it.  But at that moment, in my still sober state, looking at my lemon drop puddle, knowing that the fate of myself and those I love is tied to the whims of this man for the conceivable future, I felt such utter hopelessness.

Yet, I picked myself up, dusted myself off, and poured the remaining paltry amount of cocktail into two glasses.  The news remained on.  I said to my husband he had a choice.  He could leave the news on, but he had to surrender his lemon drop over to me.  My husband is a wise man.  He immediately poured his drink into my glass and slowly backed away – to retrieve a replacement spirit for himself.

I’m not much of a crier.  It’s probably not healthy.  I tend to let the outrage build up inside of me and then I’ll be by myself and get caught off guard during one of those animal cruelty commercials, and then the tears will come.   Or, if I need the release and it just won’t happen naturally, I’ll turn to one of my “primal scream” movies.   That’s what I call them.  Those movies with scenes that feel so real, you can’t help but scream and cry with the protagonist.  It can be very effective (not to mention cheap) therapy.  My go-to is that scene in Steel Magnolias, with Sally Field screaming “why, Why, WHY” at the downright wrongness of what has happened to her.  Makes me cry every time.   I probably should watch it again soon.  Because lately, I find myself frequently on the verge of drunk texting certain people in my life asking “why, Why, WHY do you still support this president, are you paying attention?!”   Or something equally as productive.  I’m grateful to my like-minded friends who talk me down from my ledge of derangement.

Everything occurring now almost seems inevitable.  I may be an atheist, but part of me thinks that there is a god up there shaking his head and saying, “The only way to make you morons wake up was for me to throw down a global pandemic, you think I enjoy this?  Stop fucking up the environment, quit killing animals for sport, enough with the guns already, stop electing evil and/or stupid people, raise the minimum wage, healthcare is a right and not a privilege, don’t park in the handicap spot unless you’re actually disabled, vaccinate your damn kids, and for goodness sakes, stay home from the mega church this Sunday – you can’t pray this shit away!”   Yes, my god would freely curse.

I guess that’s it for now.  Except this . . . below is a picture of my niece Emily at my wedding many years ago.  She is now a real live married grown-up.  She is also a nurse in Seattle and is pregnant with her first kid.  So, please, for her and all the other health care professionals, first responders, service providers, essential business owners – everybody who does not have the luxury of sitting inside their house ranting online (like me), stay home.  #flattenthecurve