STFU….Seriously

“Keep your attention focused entirely on what is truly your own concern, and be clear that what belongs to others is their business and none of yours.”
~Epictetus

A few days ago, I was at the grocery store pushing a cart full of mostly high fructose corn  syrup with a side of kale when a woman stopped in the tracks of her own shopping and with a wrinkled, crinkled look on her face said, “Wow, that’s a garbage cart of food.  If you can even call that food.  That’s disgusting.”

Prologue:  It’s been a long couple of months, right?  For everyone.  It’s like someone with explosive diarrhea has been bent over a fan and the shit just keeps on coming.

But in the grand scheme of things, I have to admit that my struggles have been more akin to inconveniences than anything else.

I am healthy, my family and friends are healthy, we remain employed and alive and the toilet paper situation in my area made a comeback before I had to resort to using a hose or something.  So, while I am most definitely weary and tired and frustrated and pissed….I am also grateful, thankful, hopeful and a bit fired up.  I am 32 flavors and then some.

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As it relates to the Coronavirus, my immediate family and I have taken the position that it’s best to listen to the experts.  And by “experts,” I don’t mean a politician, or the herd, or that guy I went to high school with who took a semester of immunobiology at community college before dropping out to pursue a career in sandwich art at Subway, who knows what’s up.

And I don’t mean that girl who sat next to me in “Human Genetics for Non-Science Majors” my freshman year of college, who thinks that the X-Files was a documentary and believes all will be well if we all just start taking some drug Donald Trump can barely pronounce.

By “experts,” I mean the thousands of medical doctors and PhD’s around the world who have devoted their lives and their careers to the study of infectious disease and SCIENCE.

I don’t expect them to have all the answers right now, because how can they?  But, I expect and believe, they are doing their best to shuttle us through this storm, unmotivated by anything other than the health and well-being of people.

Of late though, it’s beginning to feel as though many aren’t so like-minded.  It’s as if we did our quarantine time and then said, “Fuck-It, Facebook memes and a plastic surgeon from Miami said I can go whoop it up at the bar, so peace out sheeple, there’s a Miller Lite and Cheeseburger in Paradise calling my name!”

Or, those who have taken up shouting, “You got to protest and loot, so I get to cough and sneeze on whoever TF I want at Walmart.”

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Quite frankly, this is just more motivation for me to mostly remain at home.  I figure I’m going to go ahead and let the trash take itself out first, and then we’ll see where things stand.

But look, I get it, it’s not exactly that easy.  On a larger scale, we need to be able to regain some degree of normalcy.  Social interaction and the freedom to roam beyond our own homes and front yards is important.  And I am all for the phased approach to reopening that many states, including my own, have adopted; plans that align entirely with the medical communities recommendations for taking such steps.

For my kids, the lack of social interaction with their peers, especially for my teenaged step-children, has been really hard.  So when my step-daughter broached the subject of inviting her best-friend to spend two weeks with us at our lake house, where we’ve been living full time since March, (yeah, I hear every bit of the privilege oozing off that statement), we decided, after much back and forth between parents, that it would be OK. Like us, her family works from home and they have strictly adhered to all the rules.

“Give me a list of the snacks and foods you’d like from the store,” I told my excited step-daughter as the visit approached….which is how I ended up being shamed by a stranger for my cart full of high-fructose corn syrup.

I paused for a fraction of a second….after the word “disgusting” fell from the woman’s mouth.

And then, maybe it was because she was traveling the wrong way down the clearly marked supermarket aisle.  Maybe it was because she wasn’t wearing a mask.

Maybe it was because I’m just really sick and tired of people who wrap up their nastiness in packages dripping with self-righteousness and ignorance, and launch them at humanity….regardless of whether or not the receiver is interested in catching the gift of their opinion and/or their “right to free speech.”

Personally, I am about as interested in catching someone else’s BS, as I am trying to catch a handful of cat vomit….with my mouth.

Probably, it was those things and all the other things, because I looked her square in the eye and as clearly and succinctly as I could, I said, “Shut.  The.  Fuck.  Up.”

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Her eyes widened in shock and her face turned red as she clearly struggled to adjust to what I’d just said.  This wasn’t the script she’d planned.  She’d expected me to explain myself to her in some way, as though I were obligated to assuage her concerns over my dietary decisions.  Well, fuck that.

Epilogue: This has been the banner under which I’ve been marching of late, on a variety of topics.

Because, let’s be clear about something.  Your right to free speech was never meant to be the excuse you hide behind in order to be an asshole.  If your words and opinions are intended to hurt, humiliate, degrade, oppress, belittle, etc., another human being, you are among the poster people for all that is wrong with our country.  You should be ashamed that this is the way you choose to honor those who gave all.

If I stand up in a crowded movie theater and yell, “FIRE!”  And mass chaos ensues and people are injured as a result, I don’t get to simply shrug and say, “I have a right to say whatever I want, because, America.”

But, I can devalue another person.  I can set another persons soul and feelings on fire, for no other reason than it just happens to be what I think and believe….and that’s OK?  I think any good person would say, absolutely not.

So, STFU, is the sentiment that perfectly sums up the degree of respect I have for anyone who believes they have the right to inflict their own personal feelings and beliefs onto another person.  Especially when in doing so, they are attempting to wield some manner of control over someone else’s life and personal choices and beliefs.

“But what about the value of healthy debate?  It’s OK to disagree!”

Of course it is.  But a person who starts from a place of believing it’s OK to inflict cruelty in any form, isn’t interested in debate, or education, or the broadening of horizons.  They are interested in control.  They want only to force others to surrender and conform and for those who don’t, to be violated, or cast out.

We are all walking some kind of path in life.  Paths that will include all manner of beliefs and opinions and feelings and our paths will cross millions of times with others who are walking their own paths.  Sometimes, we’ll find people we want to walk beside and keep close by.

Other times, we’ll cross paths with people with whom we don’t see eye to eye.  And you know what, it’s really simple to just keep on walking…

Are We Seriously Quaran-Competing?

“There will be so many times you feel like you’ve failed.  But in the eyes, heart, and mind of your child you are super mom.”
~Stephanie Precourt

I read an online article a week or so ago, maybe longer, (is time even a thing anymore?) with the headline 37 Things to Do Before the Lock-Down Ends.

I’m not sure what I expected when I read through the list, but if I was looking for something, I didn’t find it.  I walked away feeling more disappointed than inspired.

There were a lot of cleaning and organizing projects recommended, which are all well and good, but I suppose I was hoping for more.  Like, ideas that fell somewhere between  See if You Can Sit Long Enough to Convince Your Fit-Bit That You Died and Write the Next Great American Novel.

To be honest, most of what was listed are things I spent my pre-coronapocalypse life doing.  I’m a bit, um, OCD’ish, so my house already looks like no one lives here, and the only thing I have left to donate are organs.

I can make my own bread and my eight-year-old commandeered my Spotify account a long time ago, so I’ve already got all twenty-seven (yeah, you read that right) of his carefully cultivated and labeled playlists downloaded on every one of my devices.

As for the rest of the suggestions, meh….I’m too busy learning how to do second grade math and trying to snag curbside grocery pick-up time slots online to start my own You Tube channel, or learn a new language.

Really though, I think the issue is that I can’t live in someone else’s list.  I’m desperate to find ways to make this time count for something that matters; in ways big and small.  I want to be able to look back on this time with some gratitude for the way its forced me to slow down.

I want to come out of this feeling like I’ve learned something from the experience and that I’m better for it.  I want to feel like I contributed to something.  

But, I also I think I’ve come to understand that while we are all in the same storm, we aren’t in the same boat.  How we are each spending this time, how we have the ability and the means to spend this time, has to be about feeding our own individual needs and deciding for ourselves what is purposeful, or, let’s be honest, just base level doable and tolerable and necessary some days.  And shouldn’t that be enough?

No.  The answer is no.  At least not if you’re a parent.

Because apparently, there are some people….and let’s be honest here, we women mostly….who can’t even let a pandemic happen without the need to turn it into a parenting competition with defined quarantine philosophies and systems.

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Listen, I have never understood the mommy wars.  Who-TF is winning?  Is there a score card somewhere to refer to?

Are the Helicopter moms trailing the Free Range moms because their kids don’t know how to hail a cab, or throat punch a stranger?  Are the helicoptered kids destined to become adults who are easily lured into curtained conversion vans with signs advertising free candy?

Are the breast feeding moms raising super human children?  The kind who only get into Ivy league colleges and are immune to every disease that has ever diseased, while the formula feeding moms have children who wear Velcro shoes into adulthood and suffer from eternal ear infections and adult diaper rash?

Side note:  Has anyone considered breast milk as a cure for COVID-19?  Can’t you use it for everything from sunburns and wrinkles, to bio-fuel?

Are the Working-Outside-The-Home moms lapping the Work-At-Home/Stay-AT-Home moms (I don’t even know what the acceptable PC term is anymore), because studies show their kids are more independent and can go with the flow and cook a four course meal by the time they are five, and balance the family checkbook, AND take the family car out to pick-up milk and cereal and wine by aged ten?

OR, are the WAH/SAH moms screaming, “Eat my dust” out of the moon-roofs of their mini-vans, because their kids know what it means to be really loved?

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And what’s the prize, assuming someone is declared the winner at some point?  Is there a trophy, or a cash prize?  Or, is turning out the winning breed of child the prize?  And when we will know who won?  When adults stop complaining about all the ways in which their parents failed them and how they swear to do better?  Will that EVER happen?  I think, no.

It wasn’t that long ago that smoking cigarettes and having the occasional glass of scotch was considered A-OK during pregnancy.

My parents brought me home from the hospital riding shot-gun, nestled in a dresser drawer.

My brother and I used to roll around in the cab of pickup trucks going highway speeds down rural roads, driven by our parents….and we weren’t the only ones.

I rode my bike without a helmet, swam unsupervised and my siblings and I were left alone in hot cars while our parents and grandparents casually walked every grocery store aisle while socializing and shopping for a full months worth of groceries….was that a big deal?  NO, because back then, you could roll down the windows without turning on the car.

When I was in elementary school, you could still get sent to the principals office for a spanking.  Hell, even elderly neighbors we pissed off were allowed to take a shot if they could catch us and the only thing parents ever had to say about it was, “Get your shoes on, you’re going over there to apologize.”

It seems to me, that parenting lends itself to evolution.  Each generation tweaks the process and tries to be a little bit better….and repeat, infinity times.  So why are we so desperate to force our kids and our parenting into specifically defined boxes, instead of just trusting our instincts?

I get the need to want to connect with other parents.  It’s a hard job, for everyone, and it’s nice to find like-minded moms and dads to compare notes with.  But the second a self-proclaimed parenting expert Mommy Blogger, whose only credentials are that she’s given birth more times than I have, starts in with all the directives about all the ways we should and should not be raising our children, based on literally nothing other than the  x-number of years of parenting she’s got under her belt, I’m out.

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I mean, can we agree that definitely NO ONE knows what the hell they are doing right now?  Unless you were raising kids during the Black Death, or the Spanish Influenza?

So, to anyone who might be reading this and feeling like all those other ladies have their shit together and you should too….Or, you’re feeling like you wish you could at least be as effortlessly cool as all those moms who have made not having their shit together a trend….for whatever it’s worth, because I don’t know shit from crap….I think you’re killing it.

If homeschooling makes you feel like you are on the verge of staring in your own episode of Snapped, so you’ve given up and now you’re kids are watching TV and playing video games all day.  Or, maybe you lock them outside in your own backyard for the full length of a school day….whatever.  You’re doing awesome.  Your kids will be fine.

If you love a schedule and so you’ve created elaborate, color coded daily itineraries….and by the second day of the lockdown you had built your own backyard schoolhouse out of yard debris with your barehands….and you are committed to seeing that your children complete every teacher assigned lesson, AND learn Mandarin, AND how to split an atom by the time school starts up again (God willing) in the fall….you are amazing.  Your kids will also be fine.

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If you have managed to cook gourmet, wholly organic meals from scratch using ingredients you harvested from your own windowsill gardens and by butchering your own livestock, you are awesome.  Your kids will be fine.

If you’re family has been eating a lot of canned goods and dehydrated meals you bought in bulk from Mountain House, because you prepped like you were going to be riding this out in a bomb shelter instead of your house with electricity and a full kitchen. OR, if you guys are eating whatever you can afford to eat right now….that’s great too.  You, my friend, are awesome and your kids will also be fine.

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If you get up and begin every day with a shower, followed by full hair and makeup and your kids are so pressed and perfect they look like they could start modeling face masks and hazmat suits as soon as they are allowed within six feet of a fashion photographer, you are incredible and your kids will be fine.

If your family has started cycling through seasonal, holiday themed pajamas and Halloween costumes, because laundry sucks and the only people you see anyway are the Amazon, UPS, Fed-EX and USPS delivery drivers through your front window, and you don’t care if they think you’re cute or not….you are incredible.  Your kids will be fine.

If you and your family have spent your free time sewing hospital gear for front line workers, delivering meals and supplies to the elderly and vulnerable in your community, coordinated drive-by birthday celebrations for every kid in your town and you’ve cleared every single piece of litter, including cigarette butts, from the highways and byways and national forests within a 50 mile radius of your home….you are rock star.  Your kids will totally be fine.

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If you got up this morning and that feels good today, you’re a rock star too.  Your kids will also be totally fine.

Because here’s what I think….as a mom who swears allegiance to no particular style of parenting and thus knows nothing beyond whatever my own instincts tell me to do on a day to day/hour to hour/minute to minute basis….Do your kids know they are loved?

Just loved?

Because if you’re that mom.  You win. 

Cancer, the Sequel….and a Non-Romantic’s Attempt at a Love Letter to the Healthcare Community….

“My fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”
~John F. Kennedy

This past October, I had my annual follow-up with my Oncologist.  “Everything looks great!”  He proclaimed after checking my vitals and lab work.  “Is there anything I should know about?  You feeling good?  No shortness of breath, any unexplained pain?  Any issues moving your bowels?”  He asked.

“Nope.”  I said with confidence, “I feel great!” and it was true, physically….mentally, I’m a shit show, but that’s to be expected.   It’s also true that I would probably die before I would ever talk about my pooping habits with him.

“Excellent!”  He said.  So, it’s time now that we add in a dermatologist for annual skin checks at your radiation site.  We have a doctor from Derm who works on our service.  I’m going to reach out to him.  His office will call you to schedule the appointment.”

“Sounds good” I said.

“It’s also time for a mammogram (joy) and we’re going to check your thyroid this year too. I’ll reach out to my colleagues and we’ll start working on getting those appointments scheduled as well,”  he said.

Me:  Has it ever occurred to you that I’m kind of like a body that has been donated to science, only I’m still alive so you get to work on a breathing corpse?

Dr. Most Amazing:  It hadn’t….

Me:  Well, you are welcome.

Less than a week later, I got a phone call from Dermatology to schedule my appointment and they were able to get me in within the month.  Before arriving for my exam, I made sure to thoroughly moisturize my radiation field, which extends from about the base of my collarbone down through my sternum.  (I could be making that up, because I’m not 100% sure where my sternum is, but I’m guessing I’m close).

Anyway, personally, I think that some maintenance/grooming effort is necessary whenever you see a doctor.  For example, before I see my gynecologist every year, I make sure I’ve shaved and moisturized my legs and armpits.  I give the old honey pot a good trim and I try not to poop before the appointment….just in case I miss a spot….could you imagine?

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Also, I ALWAYS wear socks.  Being barefoot is just too naked for me.

Before I go to the dentist, I dig out the floss I got from my last appointment, blow off the dust, do my best, and then hope that rinsing with mouth numbing/burning Listerine takes care of the rest.  Then, I tell the dentist….“Yes, of course.  I totally floss every day.  What kind of barbarian do you take me for?”  With a truthfull’ish face.

Turns out, I was NOT prepared for the dermatologist.  I hadn’t bargained on a full body examination.  Had I known I would be asked to strip down to my underwear, I would have for sure gotten a pedicure, thoroughly moisturized, shaved and most definitely, I would have worn different underwear and not the novelty joke pair that say, “Not Tonight” in big, red, block letters across the ass, that I used to think were HYSTERICAL when I assumed only my husband would ever see them.

So, as the doctor checked my scalp and in-between my toes and I tried not to die of embarrassment, I figured I would go ahead and ask about a dry patch of skin that had developed along my hairline on my left temple.  It was about the size of a dime and had been there at least a year.  At first, it was just a semi-flaky little spot that occasionally itched, but otherwise caused no real discomfort.

Then, this past summer, it began to get irritated.  The spot became itchier and then scabbed over.  Since I can’t ever resist picking a good scab, I struggled to leave it alone, which obviously made it angrier.

When I managed to resist temptation and put some effort into wound care, I would often end up accidentally brushing over it, causing the scab to break open and thus leading me to believe that I might as well just pick the rest of it off and let the scab start over.  I know, I’m gross.

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After the summer though, I resolved to really focus on healing it.  I began to properly clean and treat it.  I left it alone.  I kept anything other antibacterial ointments away from it.

After working out, I immediately cleaned it and I did my best to keep my hair pulled back and away from it.  But it wouldn’t go away.  It would sometimes take on the appearance of healing, but it never did.  It also never fully scabbed over.  Parts of it would, but other parts looked more oozy and crust-like.  Still, I wasn’t worried, not really.  There had never been a suspicious looking mole, or freckle in that area.

After everything I had been through as a cancer survivor, you’d think I would be jumping at the chance to point the spot out to a brilliant, highly sought after physician at one of the nations best hospitals and yet, even on the day of the appointment, I was on the fence about mentioning it.  I felt silly saying, “I have a scab that won’t go away, because I can’t stop picking at it.”  

Of course, it’s possible/probable that it was about more than that too.  There will always be a part of me that lives with the fear that cancer might come back and claim me.  That I’m living on borrowed time.  That the universe will eventually say, “Oh, crap, you’re still here.  We have to do something about that.”    

Sometimes, I think it’s made me crazy.  I over-exaggerate things I can reasonably explain (a minor headache must surely be a brain tumor) and over-simplify the things I can’t (that’s just dry skin).  It seems as though it’s my brains way of allowing me to run, while also caving into the underlying fear and anxiety that comes with being a cancer survivor.

But once I realized he was going to be investigating literally every square inch of my body, and I was already red-faced and ashamed at my scaly legs and chipped toenail polish and underwear choice, I figured I might as well go ahead and just speak up.

“Is there anything on your skin you’re concerned about?”  the doctor asked me politely.

(Besides the stubby beginnings of leg and armpit hair? I thought).  “Well, I’m not really concerned about it, more annoyed.  I just have this dry patch of skin I can’t seem to get to heal, even though I absolutely leave it alone (now) and have done my best to treat it with over the counter ointments (recently).”  I told him.

While the doctor took a look,  I was preparing myself for the fact that he would likely tell me it was psoriasis, or eczema.  That he would prescribe a cream and tell me to stop lying and LEAVE IT ALONE.  I was not expecting him to say, “Hmmmm….I think what we’re looking at is a basal cell carcinoma.”

Me:  I’m sorry….a what the fuck?

OK, so I didn’t really say that, but my face did.

Dr. Equally Awesome:  It’s no big deal, truly.  This is not something I want you to be worrying about.  It is the most common type of skin cancer.  Millions of people are diagnosed annually.

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Dr. Equally Awesome:  Really, you can stop scaling that wall.  Don’t worry!  This type of skin cancer doesn’t metastasize.  We’ll do a biopsy to confirm it’s a basal,, and assuming I’m right, which I’m pretty confident I am, we’ll get you in with Derm surgery and they’ll remove it and you’ll be done.

Me:
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Dr. Equally Awesome:  It’s ok, you can climb down from the top of that credenza now.   You’re going to be fine.  I wouldn’t tell you that if I wasn’t certain of it.

Here’s the thing though….to a cancer survivor, the words, CANCER and METASTASIZE and BIOPSY and mother-f’ing CARCINOMA are essentially synonymous with whatever word this would be:

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As he spoke they are the only words I heard….

So I took a deep breath and a hit of Cal–Stat and then I said.  “I hear you.  But to someone who has had the kind of cancer that can kill you, hearing that I have it, again, in any capacity, is just really, really scary.”

Dr. Equally Awesome:  I get it.  We’re going to take care of you though.

Me:  So….once it’s gone, can I call myself a two time champ?  (Because humor….always humor….)

Dr. Equally Awesome:  Hell yeah!

My streak of seeing wonderful physicians continued.  The surgeon who performed the procedure to cut out the cancer was incredible.  It took two passes to remove the spot that went from being the size of a dime, to almost the size of a silver dollar, before she was able to obtain “clear margins” (no more cancer).

Before she started to close the wound, she handed me a mirror so I could see it and when I saw how deep it was, my first reaction was to ask, “Is that my brain?”  It wasn’t, in case you’re wondering.

Then, before starting to suture, she stood there for a moment, studying the spot and pondering the exact right method for closing.  She was determined to close the wound in a way that would leave the least amount of visible scaring.

She was treating my face as though it were some kind of prized artwork she’d been commissioned to restore, instead of the face of a forty-year old who had spent her twenties shirking sun screen and, on some level, was getting what was coming to her.  It was clear I meant more to her than just another patient in a long one of patients.  Not because I was special, but because that’s the way she treats all who come to see her.

These folks who have taken care of me for the last nine years are my hero’s.  And since the Coronavirus outbreak, I’ve thought of them constantly; for all physicians and healthcare workers, really.  I am so thankful for them.

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In support of their efforts these past many weeks, I’ve been doing my best to listen to them and to hear them and to see them.  I feel like I owe it to them to read and watch everything they are doing for us right now.

I’ve seen the pictures of health care workers crouched, exhausted and grief stricken, in hospital hallways.

I’ve read news articles about healthcare workers isolating themselves away from their children and significant others; working long and emotionally draining hours and then going “home” to hotel rooms.  Alone.

And I’ve seen the photos of what many look like after a long shift.  Bruised, with deep marks from masks and face shields imbedded into their skin.

I’ve seen photos and read stories about healthcare workers holding tablets and smart phones in hospital rooms, so that loved one’s can be in touch with sick family members and in some cases, say final goodbyes.

They have no motivation beyond helping people and they are, in some cases, literally killing themselves to do it.

And to put it bluntly, I’m really fucking disgusted by the scum of humanity who are screaming in their faces at protest rallies.  Shame on you.

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You aren’t a patriot, or whatever is you’re claiming to be, no matter how many clothing items made out of an American flag you show up wearing.

This isn’t your moment to rise up against a tyrannical government because the Demolition Derby at your county fair was canceled this year.  So please, go back to making moonshine and squirrel hunting, or whatever it is you do, and let the real Americans do their jobs.

And guess what, we “snow-flakes” don’t want the economy to collapse either.  I certainly don’t want anyone to suffer financially, emotionally, physically, or mentally.

But at the same time, and I’m no genius, the inconveniences and the state of the economy  right now, are the bi-products of a global pandemic, not the result of sub-prime mortgages, or a crash in the stock market, or some other economic screw-up we need the Warren Buffets of the world to help us dig out of, at least not at the forefront leading the charge.

So while I recognize the need to reopen the economy for many important reasons, shouldn’t it be done in a way that fully aligns with the recommendations of medical experts?

And by medical experts, I don’t mean some random podiatrist from Boca Raton whose pissed his practice has taken a hit, since his elderly patients are staying home instead of having their corns removed.  Just because you took a semester of immuno-biology, or whatever, doesn’t make you an expert, so stay in your lane.

I am a privileged person.  I can stay home.  We can manage work from here and we have the resources and tools and skills (debatable) necessary to manage homeschooling.

Mentally, I’m, well, complicated, but I’m not suicidal, or depressed, or alone.  I’m not an alcoholic and no one in my home needs to be afraid of anyone else in my home.

I believe all that means I have the responsibility to not be a dick.  I can stay home and so I will.  Even if it’s annoying, or *gasp* boring.

I’m going to do it, so that those who don’t have my same privileges can go to their jobs, or seek out the help they might need, without having to worry about whether or not my ass picked up COVID-19 at a neighborhood Pampered Chef party and my sneeze isn’t just a regular sneeze.

We need to allow the time and space for our next level essential workers and their employers to develop strategies for returning to their jobs safely.

Most importantly though, we need to give our healthcare workers the time and space to breath and recoup.  Shouldn’t we be letting our scientists focus on, you know, science’ing our way out of this if possible and if not all the way out, at least into a more controlled new “normal?”

But hey, if you think it’s in your best interest to rally at what amounts to nothing more than a glorified Guns & Ammo Expo on the front steps of some government building, I guess that’s your right.

I personally think the medical community should have the right to tell you and yours to F-off should you come dragging ass through the doors of your local emergency room though.  That should be the price you pay for assuming that, just because you know how to load an assault rifle and fashion a tube top out of a confederate flag, you’re also an expert on infectious disease….but they won’t, because they are good people, the best of us.

I just hope that if nothing else, you manage to at least choke out a thank-you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Old Church Pew….

“You are my refuge and my shield; I have put my hope in your word.”
~Psalm 119:14

Directly across the street from Ground Zero in New York City is St. Paul’s church.  An Episcopal church that was built in 1764 and is the oldest surviving church in Manhattan.

On September 11, 2001, as the towers fell, the church stood its ground.  Not a single pane of glass in the sanctuary was broken.  Not a single headstone in the cemetery was damaged.  Only one tree fell; a giant sycamore almost a century old.

In the days and then months that followed, St. Paul’s served as a relief site for emergency workers.  It stayed open 24 hours a day, seven days a week for eight months, providing food and rest and a sanctuary for moments of silence and prayer for hundreds of firefighters, police officers, volunteers and other rescue workers.

In 2006, I visited New York City with a group of girlfriends.  We hadn’t specifically planned to visit the site where the Twin Towers had once stood.  It had been less than five years since the attack.  The New York City Medical Examiners office had only recently ceased their efforts to identify remains.  And we didn’t want to be tourists there.

But one afternoon, as we were walking around the city near Battery Park, we ended up close to the site.  Though, it really couldn’t be missed.  The size of the devastation was staggering.

Then, we saw St. Paul’s church, perfectly intact, stoic like, defiant, amidst so much destruction.

It was clear the church was open and so my friends and I made our way toward it.  We walked around the grounds for a while and then we entered the chapel.  Inside were dozens of displays and memorials honoring those lost in the attacks.

After walking the perimeter of the church, we took a seat in one of the pews and a woman approached.

“See all these markings?” she asked, pointing to the large scrapes that rang the length of each pew.  “Those were caused by the boots and belts worn by emergency personnel who came in to rest.”

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I ran my hand along the markings and was overwhelmed by the weight of what those pews had held.  They had served as a place for so many tired bodies to rest and refuel….and for tired souls to pray and hope and cry and rage.

Sitting in St. Paul’s that day, I thought about the hundreds of people from New York and all over the country and all over the world, even, who had come into the chapel in the wake of September 11.  Many religions and faiths were represented in that church, as well as non-believers.   And they sat alongside one another, united in grief and fear and disbelief and anger and hope and love.

It always seems that in the immediate wake of a tragedy, we see the best of humankind.  Strangers helping one another, consoling one another, praying together, making sacrifices for each other and so on and so on.  And we do it regardless of race, religion, gender, or political affiliation.

I think that when it matters most, when we are called, really called to be good humans, we answer the call.  We rush towards those places and people who need us to help in whatever way we can.  Some rush directly to the front lines to offer their skills, others rush to places of worship, or into groups/organizations that are lending their support from afar.  We rush to family and friends.  We organize and we pray together and we just be together and we embrace one another, strangers and family and friends alike.

I was in college on September 11,2001 and later that afternoon, as we students wandered through the day in a dazed fog, I remember being in the dining hall that was unusually quiet as we picked at our food, going through the motions.  Then, another student whose name I didn’t know and still don’t know, stood up and said,“Would anyone like to pray with me?  

And we did.  The dining hall full of students, believers and non, stood and we held hands in a large circle.  He led a very short prayer, followed by silence, in which we prayed across our own denominations and faiths and beliefs.  I wasn’t sure if I felt God in that circle, but I certainly felt a steadying and comforting energy as I shared that intimate moment with people who were otherwise just passerby’s in my life.

A year or so ago, I purchased an old church pew from a large, beautiful church in a small rural town in Maine.  The church had been sold and was being renovated into a mixed use space for the community.  I wandered the aisles of the church inspecting the pews, all of which were still affixed to the sanctuary floor, until I found the one that spoke to me.  Then, I brought it home.

The story about those pews in St. Paul’s church had stayed with me and I loved the idea of bringing something into my home that I think represents a part of what makes us great; the coming together for a shared purpose or passion.

For the last several weeks, we’ve been again watching as New York City, the current epicenter of the pandemic in the US, suffers.  This time though, we’ve been watching from our own communities that are also under siege and we can’t rush anywhere.  Not to one another, or to the places that feel familiar and safe.  We can’t congregate to hold one another up and together.

The comforting energy created when we are able to be together, that urge to connect with touch (a hug, a pat on the back, a handshake, a handhold) is palpable.  Our impulse to rush is as innate as breathing and in our most desperate moments we are, for each other, like those pews in St. Paul’s chapel; holding one another up, offering one another a place to rest.  Together, we help carry the weight of our collective grief and anger and we share our hope and joy.

This experience has left many, myself included, feeling disconnected and alone, even in homes where we aren’t technically alone.  I’m fortunate to be isolated with my husband and our son, for which, I am incredibly grateful.  But still, I miss the casual connections that tether us to community and the broader experience of being a human.  Right now, it feels as though my small family and I are an island of our own.  It feels tenuous, fragile.

In what was normal life, I am as introverted as a person can possibly be, but I have come to realize, in all this, how deeply connected to people I actually am.  How simple, natural, day to day interactions with strangers and friends and acquaintances and neighbors…. interactions I was never even fully cognizant were happening….have always been tiny little strings connecting me to an enormous community.  I’ve come to understand that although I have often said, I enjoy being alone, I need alone time….I have rarely been truly alone.

Of course, true to our nature, we are finding new and beautiful ways in all this to rush to one another, to hold one another up and together.  However, I don’t think anything can replace what happens when we are able to literally close the distance between us.

I hope that when this is over, we have a greater appreciation for one another in every way.  I hope we are softer and gentler and more patient.  I hope the slowing down of life gives us a fresh perspective about what it means to be alive and a part of something far greater than just ourselves.

I think it would be a shame if we simply fell right back into the exact same lives we lived before we were given this opportunity to stop and reflect.  Yes, opportunity.

Because I do think there is room, in all this madness, to consider that it includes a gift or two….

Is it just me, or is it starting to feel a little Hunger Games/Children of the Corn Out There?

Dr. Burt Stanton: I spy, with my little eye, something that starts with C.
Vicky Baxter: Corn.
~Children of the Corn

Not too long ago, like, last week, but I can’t be certain because time has ceased to be a tangible thing in my household….I was confusedly reading headlines that declared Trump wanted the country reopened and “raring to go” by Easter.

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I smell collusion….

Anyway, he seemed fixated on getting people back to work and church pews packed for Easter Sunday services, virus be damned, as he compared the Coronavirus to the seasonal flu and car accidents; “We lose thousands and thousands of people to the flu.”  He said.  “We don’t turn the country off.  We lose much more than that to automobile accidents.”

Of course, later, came the damage control.  “The President knew it was more wishful thinking than a realistic goal.”

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But the fact of the matter is that his words sends too confusing a message as we all struggle to make sense of what’s happening, what it all means for our families, our finances, our economy and how long it will last and even, how serious it is.

I’ll admit, we get tiny moments of what feels like real leadership from the man, but those moments are quickly followed by immature Tweets applauding his television ratings as though Covid-19, 2020 is the hot new show.

Would anyone like to bet that when this is over, he either Tweets, or says at a press conference: “Coronavirus.  You’re fired!”

Meanwhile, almost everyone else….medical experts, my state government, many other state governments and the leaders of other countries….are simultaneously directing people to PLEASE continue to stay home for the foreseeable future.  They are announcing extended school and non-essential business closures and stricter shelter in place/keep your ass at home, or so help me God, orders, etc.

Most everyone, that is, except for Lt. Governor of Texas, Dan Patrick, who more or less said that grandparents, himself included, would totally be willing to die to save the economy.

Specifically, he was quoted as saying:  “No one reached out to me and said, ‘As a senior citizen, are you willing to take a chance on your survival in exchange for keeping the America that all America loves for your children and grandchildren?’ And if that is the exchange, I’m all in. My message is that let’s get back to work, let’s get back to living.  Let’s be smart about it and those of us who are 70+, we’ll take care of ourselves. But don’t sacrifice the country.”

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I asked my in-laws who are self- quarantined in Florida who, pre-Coronavirus, were loving life as retirees after having worked and scrimped and saved their entire adult lives in order to be able to comfortably enjoy their golden years, if they were ready to be rounded up and dropped into a volcano or something….so that I can go back to experiencing Target the way God intended and not this, curbside pick-up, but only essentials, (none of which are fun) crap….to which they replied, more or less, “Fuck that.”  (I’m paraphrasing….they never say the F-word).

Personally, while I appreciate Dan Patrick’s willingness to take one for the team….I really do….I feel like he’s perhaps not thought this sacrifice all the way through.  By “take care of our ourselves” is he suggesting that all those who are elderly are planning to just go ahead and, like, die at home should they become ill?  Maybe, slink off like cats to die somewhere discreet and out of the way?

Because, I’m not sure it helps anyone for our elderly to take up that shitty death march if they are also going to want medical treatment as they go about the process of dying.  I mean, isn’t that one of the key points of social distancing at the moment?  To try and control/slow the spread of this disease so as not to completely topple our already overwhelmed healthcare system?  They need time to better understand this new disease, to create treatment protocols and, hopefully, a vaccine.

But as it stands, there isn’t enough PPE to go around, physicians and nurses and support staff are getting sick, some are also dying….and that’s with current social distancing guidelines in place and sort of being adhered to.  Imagine the crisis if we all just said, “Eh, I’m over this now.  Let’s go back to work!” 

And what about the millions who are not 70+, but who are undergoing cancer treatments, or people with underlying medical conditions, like my 8yo niece who has cystic fibrosis?  Are we saying, let’s go ahead and let nature takes its course?

I’m no economist, but a survival of the fittest, Hunger Games style approach to moving on doesn’t exactly seem like the best way to instill confidence among consumers.  Especially since it potentially means eliminating millions of them. Unless, our economy will now focus entirely on the production of Hazmat suits and face masks and THAT will be our new normal.

Instead of Lilly Pullitzer for Target shift dresses this summer, it’ll be Lily Pulitzer for Target full body bio suits and for the rich, Louis Vuitton face masks.

I feel like Kanye West already has a leg up on that idea with his Yeezy line, no?  Maybe he is some sort of profit after all?

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Vanity Fair

Fortunately though, it appears that our fearless, orange leader has walked back his Easter goal. His most recent statements and his recommendations regarding the extension of social distancing guidelines suggest he’s no longer got the date of the Biblical resurrection in mind for America’s economic resurrection.

I’ve read it’s because his advisors told him his statements weren’t doing him any favors toward re-election, but I bet it was really because someone thought about it for a second and said, “Oh shit Mr. President, you do realize that the majority of our political leaders, THE PATRIARCHY, are all old, white guys, right?  If we start to go, all that remains are surviving minorities and women and those damn, ambitious millennials.”

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 (Yes, millennials, all this rhetoric about them being the one’s hosting Coronavirus parties and drinking from communal beer bongs on Spring Break is misplaced….it’s Gen Z you want).

Maybe it’s not such a bad way to drain the swamp, actually….do a little reset?  Seems that Gen Z would be all in.

While the Boomers are busy yelling at the Millennials to stay home….and the Millennials are like, “Shut it Boomer, I’ve got four kids and a mountain of student loan debt and I’m always at home because I have no money and it’s all your fault,”….and the Gen-Xers, like myself, the OG latch-key kids, are currently reliving our childhoods; home, bored and forgotten….Gen Z are like the Children of the Corn, or maybe, Quarn….

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A large percentage don’t seem to give a crap about the rest of us, as they flaunt their possibly super-powered immune systems at Coronavirus themed parties with DJ’s and bartenders, while the rest of us are opening our mail with tweezers and sanitizing our groceries with black market Purell and trying to figure out how to build decontamination chambers in our garages.

They just shrug and say, “I’m not giving up a $10.50 flight to Toledo….gotta Spring Break somewhere!” 

It seems no matter how we implore them to please, for the sake of nana, STAY HOME.  They seem to be saying, “Screw nana, what’s she done for me, except destroy the planet?”  

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I’m afraid that if we don’t figure this out soon, our first female president may end up being Kylie Jenner and most of us won’t get to vote, because we don’t know how to use Snapchat.

I’m sure the parents of these little Isaacs and Malachis are doing their best. Quite frankly, it’s unfair that these “kids” are too old to ground, but not old enough to be kicked off parental provided health insurance, but I don’t know what the answer is.

However, I did read an article yesterday, an April Fools’ Day prank, but still….that suggested a possible solution.

The gist of the joke was that in Greece, the PM had turned over the power of enforcing quarantines and issuing permits for approved outings to the women of Greece….in response to the announcement, a “Petros Kakavas” from Peristeri, Athens was quoted as saying, “I don’t know if I will ever see the light of day.”

Because, ladies like this, mean business….

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I have a friend who is Italian.  His nonna is about the closest I’ve ever come to knowing a mob boss.  She isn’t literally a mob boss, but she seems to instill the same amount of fear.  One DOES NOT disobey nonna.

Perhaps this is what we need?  All those culturally stereotypically mean moms and grandma’s out there, slapping these little bastards around.  It could work…something has to give, right?

Stay sane and stay home, folks….or, at least, stay home.

 

Social Distancing for Dummies & Selfish People….

“We may have all come on different ships, but we’re in the same boat now.”
~Dr. Martin Luther King

Every couple of days, I have been reaching out to family and friends just to check-in, say hello, send something funny, make sure they haven’t resorted to eating a family member,  the usual.

Yesterday, I called a friend.

Side note:  I avoid talking on the phone like it’s COVID-19.  My introverted self could probably spend the rest of my life never talking to another living soul beyond those I live with.  So calling, means that I am trying, REALLY, REALLY, hard to show up for those I love.

Anyway, I called, because this particular friend doesn’t love to text.  She is the social butterfly to my hermit.  While I naturally flock to the darkest corner of the room, where I might blend in with the furnishings, carpet, wallpaper….she heads straight to the center and holds court.  People fill her up.  She possesses every social grace, says all the right things and never once has she held someone hostage talking about dry wall  (Me: 2003 at a company function while chatting with the Chief Operations Officer at my then company).

Side note:  I don’t even know that much about dry wall, but I apparently knew enough to fill sixty-minutes of conversation….only, I don’t think you can call it “conversation” if you are the only one doing the talking.  I think you’d call that, maybe, word assault.

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When my friend answered, I could tell right away that she was fuming about something, or maybe chewing on a femur.

“Hey, what’s going on?”  I asked.  “You know that cannibalism is still frowned upon, right?” 

She ignored me, like the true conversation artist that she is, and redirected our chat to saner waters.

“I’m watching my idiot neighbors have a block party,” she said.

“Wait, what?”  I responded.  “Are you serious?”

“Yep, they’ve got music going, red solo cups in hand, their kids are all wrestling and running around together….pretty sure someone is sparking up a grill.”

“Wow,” I said.  “I didn’t realize you moved to a place without televisions, or computers, or newspapers, or Facebook, or….humans….did you relocate to a new planet?” 

“Nope, I’m still here, in the burbs, wishing I had the materials to board up my house, because if Zombies are next, these people are for sure going to be among the first and I’m surrounded.”

“Well, I hope they’re the slow zombies, at least.”  I said.  “Like the one’s from Walking Dead.  Not like the one’s in Zombieland.  Those bastards are fast.”

“Hang on a second,” she said.  Then I could hear her yell, presumably out of a window, “You should Google social distancing!  You are all doing it wrong!”

“They are totally going to eat you first.”  I said.

Apparently, social distancing is a hard concept for people to grasp.  Nearly every day someone posts a photo to my community Facebook page of a packed local basketball court, playground playdates in progress (despite the fact that our town has made it clear, with public notices and signage that these spaces are closed) and a few days ago, a photo of dozens of people congregating and socializing in the parking lot and at the picnic tables of an ice cream stand that just recently reopened for the season.

I don’t blame the ice cream stand though.  They are a local, small business and I’m sure, like many, they are trying to stay afloat.  But with no ability to manage crowd control and customers who apparently refuse to police themselves, they have now been forced to close since our Governor, and rightfully so, has issued a shelter in place order, effectively closing all businesses that aren’t providing an essential service.

Way to go people!  You just tanked a beloved, local, small business.

This is why we can’t have nice things.

And it’s not just my town, or my friends neighborhood.   I’ve read that beaches are still packed with people.  Spring breakers are partying hard, people are forging ahead with vacation travel plans to popular tourist destinations and in Kentucky, several people apparently attended a Coronavirus themed party.

People.  PEOPLE, people.  

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I don’t know if the issue here is that some just aren’t taking this seriously enough….and/or they assume it’s not enough of a concern to bother with altering daily routines….or they just don’t care….or they truly don’t understand what it means to distance yourself socially and/or to shelter in place.

I would like to assume it’s a simple knowledge gap and not a sign that too many people could give a shit about their fellow humans.

Today, on our community page, an irate townsperson pissed about the expanding closures throughout the state said “So, what….I can’t go for a walk now?”

Yes!  You can go for a walk.  You can hike and ride your bike, go for a run, take a scenic car ride, but your only choice in company at the moment is yourself, or those you currently live with.   And I get it, those people are starting to get on your nerves.  But for now, you can’t escape them to be with your “Quads of Fury” walking club.

Socially distancing, means you don’t stop to shoot the shit with your neighbor about the tragedy that is the closing of Dunks and the loss of Touchdown Tommy to the Buccaneers.  (Life is wicked hard here in New England right now).

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You can go to the grocery store, but you should only go if you really need to.  Ideally, you should take advantage of online ordering with curbside pick-up, or home delivery.  But if you must go into a store, forego man-handling all the produce.  You’ll survive if you don’t get the perfect avocado, or you end up with an apple with a soft spot.

And I know that you might really, really, really want to escape your children, your spouse, your parents, your roommate…and go wander the aisles of a Target, or if you’re like me, a Target and then a Home Depot, or whatever remains open in your area just to catch a break and enjoy a change of scenery.  Trust me, I get it.  My kid has said, “Mommy” no less than eleventy-billion times today and it’s not even noon 1:00 2:00 3:00…. I have been trying to write this post for two days now, because I can only get about two-minutes of “free time” at a time.

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We are all bored and anxious and annoyed and going a bit stir-crazy.  We’re trying to manage jobs, or the loss of a job, while also home schooling and stressing over finances and whether or not we have enough stuff and if it’s time to start rationing TP one square at a time and who the hell we are supposed to be listening to at the moment….world renowned doctors, or the guy who keeps saying, “Fuck it, we’ll be back up and running by Easter.”  

I think many are just desperate to find something normal to cling to.  But folks, we exited normal a few weeks ago.  Life, as we knew it, is a thing of the past, at least for now.  We can still see and even have a little bit of the good old days, but we can’t have it all.  The longer we fight what we’re being asked to do, the longer it will take to “flatten” the curve and the more we stand to lose.

Come on, people….we can do hard things.

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