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. 

90210MG! Or, everything I needed to know about life, I learned from Kelly Taylor

“I was always taught that if it looks like a duck and it sounds like a duck!”
~Brenda Walsh, Beverly Hills 90210

I don’t know about you, but of late, my evenings consist of a lot of TV.  And by TV, I do not mean the news, or anything news related.  It’s not that I am apathetic, or prefer to remain uninformed.

It’s that I would like to be actually informed.  Instead, I feel like I’m watching a Saturday Night Live skit…..

Lasers?

Clorox and Mean Green on the rocks with a Tide Pod chaser?

Armed hillbillies protesting lock down restrictions….while wearing masks and gloves?

The Lt. Governor of Texas every time he opens his mouth….“There are more important things than living.”  

Did I see something about UFO’s yesterday?

Kim Jong Un is….??

A dog and a tiger have tested positive for COVID-19?

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WT Actual F*%k is happening?  I cannot even…and so I won’t.  Fortunately, I’m good at finding silver linings, so if this had to happen, at least it happened in the age of streaming services and DVR and On-Demand.

Can you imagine if this were the 80’s?  I can.  At my house, we would have been fist-fighting over the last can of Chef-Boyardee….on lockdown day two.  And even if there had  been anything to binge-watch on TV back then, it wouldn’t have been happening at my house.  My  mother would have for sure put her foot, or someone’s head, through our TV over a math word problem while screaming, “Fuck it!  You can just redo the third grade next year!”   

So, in the spirit of counting your blessings, I say again, if it had to happen, I’m glad it happened now, when my entertainment choices are many and my risk of losing a tooth in a domestic dispute is zero.

At this point, I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve rewatched Downton Abbey and Victoria and all of the nature programs available through Disney+….when I’m in the mood for something that feels a bit more refined and educational.

The Office is a go-to favorite when I need something light that never fails to make me laugh.  And BTW….I blame Dwight Schrute….

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Also, to satisfy the beast that craves trashtacular TV, I’ve been watching the first few seasons of the various Real Housewives franchise.  Which, honestly, in its humbler beginnings….when the women weren’t obsessed with their D-list celebrity status and constantly screaming at each other during booze-fueled excursions….was actually a pretty interesting experiment that offered a glimpse into the lives of women living, working and managing families, in some of the countries wealthiest zip codes.

But there is one the program, above all others, that I hold most near and dear to my heart, the one I return to time and again.  The one that makes me feel like I’m wrapped up in the coziest blanket, nestled into the squashiest of cow-hide chairs….the OG….Beverly Hills, 90210.  

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The original show premiered in 1990, two days before my 11th birthday.  From the very first episode, I was hooked.

At various points in time, I wanted to be Kelly Taylor, Brenda Walsh and even Andrea Zuckerman.  But I only wanted to be Andrea in the earliest days of the show.

By the time the gang was in college, Andrea looked like she’d jumped from a just barely plausible teenager, to middle aged overnight.  I was like 13 by then, and so completely incapable/unwilling to be generous, or sympathetic, to the fact that she was a working actress fighting nature.

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And I never wanted to be Donna Martin.  Because honestly, WTF was up with her hair? I was no fashionista myself….I used to wear shorts with tan pantyhose and white scrunchy socks with glossy black shoes that had ribbons for laces….but hell, even I knew that whomever was managing hair and wardrobe for Donna, clearly hated her.

Anyway, over the years, whenever anyone from my past said something like, “You turned out all right….all things considered,” I joked that it was thanks to my parents; Television and Books.

But in fact, there’s a lot of truth in that statement.

When I was lost in the world of Beverly Cleary, Ann M. Martin, Francine Pascal, Judy Bloom and Harper Lee, I was learning valuable lessons about life and family and relationships and the real beauty of being a kid.  Lessons that weren’t always available to me at home.

The same was true of television.  The Tanners, Seavers, Mr. Belvedere, Alf and the Walsh family especially, helped me navigate through my childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.

I often emulated the characters I saw on TV.  I used their lines and facial expressions and mannerisms and I adopted some of their goals and achievements and hardships.

It wasn’t unusual for me to borrow scenes, or whole story lines I would attempt to pass off as real and belonging to me.  Like the time I told kids at school that I had 8 brothers and sisters named Marie, Cindy, Wendy, Connie, Sherry, Melissa, JR and Harvey and that my dad was a gym teacher named Graham.  (Just the Ten of Us)

And I was forever trying to replicate the stylish students of West Beverly High School.

In the early days of 90210, I bought a pair of round eyeglasses at a dollar store that looked like the pair Andrea Zuckerman wore.  I insisted they were prescription lenses and that I lived in an apartment with my grandmother, because my parents lived out of district.

Eventually, I stopped lying so blatantly, but I never gave up the fantasy that I could somehow morph into Kelly Taylor, but also be a Walsh.

On my first day of junior high, I wore a pair of red, plaid shorts that came with a matching blazer and enormous shoulder pads.  I paired the short suit combo with a black, sleeveless, turtleneck, and shiny black pumps I found at a thrift store.

I looked like a pee-wee football linebacker in high heels, but I thought the outfit looked like something either Kelly or Brenda would have definitely sported on a night out….and OK, I may have insinuated that the outfit came from Rodeo Drive and not the seven dollar clothing store.  But whatever, Rome wasn’t built in a day.

As I got older, I knew that from a fashion perspective, I would never come up to snuff with the likes of my idols. I lacked the acumen of a designer and the finances of someone who could afford a designer.  But, I could forever remain a mega-fan who, once a week, lived vicariously through the impossibly hip inhabitants of the Walsh House and the Beach Apartment.

For ten years, I was there for every romance and broken heart.  I watched as the cast morphed from high school students, to college students, to adults building careers.  I rooted for them through the hard times and I celebrated their successes.

I grew up right behind them and I watched closely as they dealt with topics like sex, drugs, alcohol, eating disorders and complicated relationships with parents, friends and significant others.

And through it’s various storylines that tackled all those really relevant subjects related to adolescence and young adulthood, I learned to make my way through my own; I honestly did….however theatrically and dramatically.

In case you aren’t, like me, a rabid, would totally dominate a 90210 themed Jeopardy episode with questions related to the most random factoids like:

Answer:  Karen Brown Mulligan.  Loving wife of David.

Question:  What was Steve Sanders biological mom’s name and what was written on her tombstone?

You might not know that 90210 got a reboot last year and briefly returned to television.  It was a moment I had been anxiously and excitedly, (overly and unnaturally), waiting for since the announcement the cast was “in talks,” began circulating many months before the official announcement.

Before the premier of the reboot, I rewatched the final episode of the original show, specifically for one of my all time favorite scenes; the very last one.  Many of the original cast members are dancing in a circle to Kool & The Gang’s Celebration at the wedding of Donna and David.

As the camera begins to pan back, Luke Perry raises his arms, with a huge smile on his face, and then pulls in Brian Austin Green and Ian Ziering for a hug.  Then the entire cast joins in the embrace.  It’s been nearly twenty years and the scene still makes me tear up.

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So, I would be lying if I said I hadn’t had my heart set on a reboot that picked up where the original left off, just twenty years down the road.  But alas, the show went in an entirely different direction.

Instead of finding out what happened in the lives of Donna, David, Kelly, Dylan, Brandon, Brenda, Andrea and Steve since we’d last seen them, the new concept was designed to be a show within the show, as the cast played exaggerated versions of their real life selves.

I wanted to love it, I really did.  But, I didn’t.  I get what they were trying to pull off, but for me, the approach lacked the nostalgic escapism my adolescent heart was hoping for.

I wanted to see the beach apartment again and the Walsh house and the Peach Pitt.  I wanted the show to take me back to a time that felt simple and sweet.  Back to a world before smart phones and social media and reality television and faux celebrity.

Fortunately though, thanks to syndication and streaming services, the show lives on in its natural state and right now, I need reliables.

I don’t know anymore what tomorrow is likely to bring, but I know that with 100% certainty that tonight and tomorrow night and the night after that, (at least so long as the shit doesn’t really hit the fan Walking Dead style) that there will be BBQ’s and parade float building at the Walsh house.  Someone will definitely order the Mega-Burger at the Peach Pitt and it’s just a matter of how long I can stay up before it’s time to celebrate another summer at the Beverly Hills Beach Club.

And you know what else?  It might have taken a global pandemic and twenty-years since the original show went off the air, but I think I might have become a 90210’er after all….

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Silver linings….

 

 

 

 

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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We Can Be Hero’s….

“I think a hero is any person really intent on making this a better place for all people.”
~Maya Angelou

I, like I imagine most of the rest of the world, have been watching closely as COVID-19 wreaks havoc on our world.  Over the last several weeks, I’ve been skeptical and scared and confused and frustrated and amused and hopeful and curious….all of the feelings.

My stomach has been in knots and my anxiety has been on full alert and I’ve imagined men in black and conspiracies and government “doctors” and secret quarantines and people disappearing without a trace and Putin as Voldemort….I don’t know, I feel like it’s totally plausible.

I’ve found myself diving down rabbit holes created by various media reports, social media posts (shamefully) and our current administration and the governments of other countries.

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And no, I don’t really believe in all the places my brain has taken me.  I think it’s just my minds way of trying to understand and explain this series of events for which we have no prior experience.

At times, I’ve felt as though this really can’t possibly be happening.  It seems so surreal; like a movie.  Only, it’s not exactly the way I imagined an apocalypse of sorts would go down.  Am I really being told to just, like, Netflix and chill for the foreseeable future?  I had always imagined there would be a lot less electricity and a lot more Spam.  Toilet paper and hand sanitizer weren’t the commodities I thought we’d all be hoarding….but alas, here we are.  To be clear, however, this is apocalypse enough for me.  I’m not complaining.

And while I may be losing my shit a bit, I am trying really hard not to be an asshole about it.  I am not among those with a six-year supply of toilet paper and a lifetime, plus twenty years worth, of hand sanitizer.

A few weeks ago, when things started to get weird, I took inventory of our supplies like dry goods, the food in our freezer and yes, of course, our TP situation, and then made my way to the store to purchase what I thought would be necessary to carry my family through the early days of a quarantine, assuming that, along the way, I would be able to continue to have some degree of access to these items; through online ordering, or perhaps, authority controlled trips to the grocery store.  I did not, however, bargain for the Matt and Noah Colvin’s of the world.

A few days ago, I was scrolling through the news and I came across an article published by the New York Times about a guy with 17,700 bottles of hand sanitizer and “nowhere to sell them.” 

The image accompanying the article was of Matt Colvin, an Amazon merchant, wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “Family Man, Family Business,” looking downtrodden as he stood among his hoard of hand sanitizer and antibacterial wipes.

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The New York Times

 

According to the article, the day after the first U.S. death connected with the COVID-19 virus was announced, Family Man, Matt and his brother, Noah, set off in an SUV and commenced clearing the shelves of hand sanitizer from Walmart, Dollar Tree, Home Depot and Staples in Chattanooga, TN.

Then, over the next three days, brother Noah Colvin embarked on a 1300 mile road trip throughout Tennessee and into Kentucky, filling up a U-Haul truck with thousands of bottles of hand sanitizer and antibacterial cleansing wipes he purchased from any retailer he could find with stock to sell.

Meanwhile, Family Man Matt stayed home, preparing for the arrival of pallets of even more sanitizer and wipes he’d ordered online, while also getting to work listing the bounty on Amazon.  According to Family Man, Matt, he listed 300 bottles of sanitizer that quickly sold for between $8 and $70 each; “crazy money.”    

But then, the next day, Amazon pulled his items, along with thousands of other listings from other Amazon merchants who were also selling sanitizer, antibacterial wipes and face masks at huge mark-ups’s leaving poor Family Man, Matt with a boat-load of much needed resources and seemingly no solution to be thunk up.

He was quoted as saying, “It’s been a huge amount of whiplash.  From being in a situation where what I’ve got coming and going could potentially put my family in a really good place financially to ‘What the heck am I going to do with all of this?’”

I read that and thought, Um, how about you and your douche-bag brother start returning it all to the stores you wiped out so that your neighbors, the parents of your children’s friends, their teachers, nursing home staff, your local medical providers and the emergency medical personnel within that 1300 mile radius you two morally bankrupt scumbags pillaged, can access those much needed supplies?

To be fair, Amazon and other retailers also increased their own prices on supplies in the wake of the pandemic….(REALLY Jeff Bezos….REALLY?)….though not to the same extent.

Still, according to the article, it wasn’t until consumers and regulators applied pressure that any of these companies chose to crack down on the way their merchants were capitalizing on the fear and desperation of people DURING A FUCKING INTERNATIONAL PANDEMIC.  In fact, until then, businesses like Amazon and Ebay profited from their merchants behavior via the percentages they took from those sales.

Moving forward, I will wipe my ass with my own hand before I order a thing from Amazon.

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Shortly after the article was published, Matt Colvin “donated” his stockpile of supplies as the attorney general’s office in Tennessee began investigating him for price gouging.  The  national backlash the Colvin’s apparently received from the public was swift and incredibly harsh.  While I don’t believe the death threats were appropriate, he’s otherwise getting what he deserves.

Sadly, Family Man, Matt isn’t the only one out there hoarding supplies and trying to profit off the suffering of others, he was just the only one dumb enough to be the spokesperson for the Scrooge McJerk-Off Union.

But, casting aside the trash, I believe that in the midst of all of this, there is an opportunity for greatness.  In gestures both large and small, we all have the chance to be a beacon of light in all this dark.

Lean into your communities.  Support your local small businesses as best you can.  These are often the businesses that sponsor your kids little league teams and donate to a wide variety of fundraisers benefiting your schools and the community as a whole.  If you can’t afford to spend any money at the moment, you can still show some love by promoting them across your social media.

Stay engaged in productive conversations with your neighbors on your community social media pages.  I know these groups often come with a few curmudgeons, trolls and self-righteous know-it-alls, BUT, if you can weed through the BS there is a lot of good to be found, including a wide range of opportunities to be of service to people and groups in need.

Start a donation pile.  That closet, garage, play room, etc., you keep saying you want to purge and organize, here’s your chance.  Toys and games that you no longer need, could be a welcomed gift for another family in your community right now.


If you have too much, give it back.  Take it back to the stores directly, or make care packages for your neighbors, in particular, the elderly and those with compromised immune systems.  Or, donate extra supplies to the agencies in your area that are in desperate need.  Especially medical supplies like masks and latex gloves.  We can’t afford to lose our health care professionals to this illness, but we will if they can’t do their jobs safely.

I recently read that many health care professionals are reusing personal protective equipment they would have discarded between patients, but at this point, it’s reuse it, or go in with nothing.  WTF, America, that can’t be the solution.

Unless you have a legitimate reason for needing a stockpile of masks and those 4,000 pairs of latex gloves in all the sizes (and BTW fear is not a legitimate reason) you have no business hoarding them….doing so is, quite literally, killing the team.


Be the good.  There are so many ways to do good things in this world that won’t cost you anything but a little bit of your time.  And right now, time is pretty much all we’ve got.

Do something that makes another human smile, or laugh, or leaves the earth a little bit better than you found it.

Write a letter to a grandparent, a friend….not an email, an actual letter.

Leave a book review for an author you love, or a local small business.

Go to a local park, or a hiking trail and pick up the trash.

Pray….to whoever, or whatever you believe in.  I happen to think it helps, but regardless,    it certainly can’t hurt.

Share your talents.  If you’re a writer, write.  If you’re a musician, play.  Sing, draw, paint.  You don’t have to be famous to create and share content.

Let your significant other breakdown.  Let your kids breakdown.  Let yourself breakdown.  Let it be and then let it pass.

Say thank you!  There are so many people working tirelessly to treat patients, gather supplies for those in need and keep our stores as stocked as possible.  They too have the well-being of themselves and their own loved ones to think about.

My dad works for a truck-stop chain as a shop manager.  His role is considered essential because of the fueling needs and tractor-trailer repairs that are necessary for truck drivers to keep goods moving throughout our county.  My dad’s in his 60’s now and he’s had a number of health complications over the years, including serious cardiac related issues.  He’s among those most at risk for developing serious/fatal complications should he contract COVID-19, but right now, he’s “healthy,” so off to work he goes.

Acknowledge these folks.  The work they are doing is very much holding our communities and country together at the moment.

And if nothing else, just simply do whatever is being asked of you by the authorities and experts who are desperately trying to get us back to some semblance of normalcy.


Find the Good.  Every day my 8yo sits down at the computer to doodle with Mo Willems.  If you’ve never heard of him, he is, among other things, an award winning and best-selling, children’s book author.

For 30 minutes each day, Mr. Willems talks and draws with the kids who are watching. He gently guides them through the days doodle, while sharing information about his characters and his career as a writer and illustrator.  At the end of each session, he reads and answers questions that kids send in via email.

For my son, this has been THE COOLEST.  For as long as he’s been able to articulate the desire, my son has talked of being a writer.  He has dozens of notebooks in which he’s written out short stories with illustrations.  He loves to read and for him, he is in awe of his favorite authors in the way other kids might be in awe of professional athletes, musicians, actors.

My son looks forward to his 30 minutes with Mo every day.  His face lights up and he carefully follows along and then proudly shows me his work and tells me all the things he learned during the session.  “Did you know that Mo worked on Sesame Street?”  “Did you know he made up stories when he was a little kid, just like I do?”

It’s an incredible gift Mo Willems is giving, really.  He certainly doesn’t have to, but he’s showing up.  He’s one of the lights.

And there are more!

Museums and Zoos are offering virtual tours of their exhibits.  Actors and teachers and writers and musicians are reading stories for kids online.  Chefs are hosting online cooking classes.  Trainers and gyms are offering online workouts.  Musicians are live streaming “concerts” from their homes.

And yes, I know, these things aren’t available to all.  They require the luxury of a computer, or a tablet or a cell phone.  You need internet, or a cellular connection and not everyone has the privilege of having those things.

So….


Share the Good.  If you are among those able to continue working from home, if you aren’t facing a disruption in your pay and if you have a little to give, then find an organization that is helping to ease the hardships others are facing and make a donation.    There is no such thing as too small a financial gift.

Show up in whatever way you can.

We belong to each other.

Let’s be hero’s.

Trick or Treat! Don’t be an A**Hole….

“Therefore, it stands to reason, does it not, sisters dear? That we must find the book, brew the potion, and suck the lives out of the children of Salem before sunrise.”
~Winifred Sanderson, Hocus Pocus

Last year, my step-daughter, who was 14 and an 8th grader at the time, told us that while she was out trick-or-treating with some of her friends, an adult had commented, “Aren’t you a bit too old for this?

For months before that Halloween night, my step-daughter had agonized over whether or not she would trick-or-treat that year.  It was as though she had one foot solidly planted in her childhood and another tentatively taking her first steps into young adulthood.

It was clear she was growing-up and embracing opportunities to enjoy and explore her independence.  And my husband and I were happy, albeit a bit wistful, to allow her the space to expand.

But there were still glimpses of the little girl she’d once been.  The one who had delighted in the elaborate Halloween parties her dad and I had thrown for her and her brother when they were younger.  The one who could still be cajoled into participating with our son, seven years her junior, in the Easter basket scavenger hunts we created every year.  Even the occasional game of make-believe wasn’t entirely out of the question.

So when she talked about trick-or-treating that year, it was with a nostalgic sort of sadness.  A part of her was saying that maybe it was time to hang it up, but her heart and her spirit were still drawn to the simple joy of walking the neighborhood on a crisp fall evening, shouting “Trick-or-Treat!” and then returning home to count and sort her haul.

Her friend group was split about 50/50 between those wanting to go and those wanting to do something a bit more grown-up, like a costume party at someone’s house.  And as the date got closer, it was beginning to seem as though most of the girls in the trick-or-treat camp, were gradually beginning to veer more toward the party.

When my step-daughter talked about it, tears welled in her eyes.  We told her, “You can always come trick-or-treating with us!”  Meaning her baby brother, her dad and I.  But we understood that wasn’t the point.  She wanted to cling to that experience with her friends.  She didn’t want to be left behind.  She wanted them to stay with her in that piece of childhood, just a little longer.  I could understand.

When I was a kid, Halloween was my absolute favorite time of the year.  I loved all the movies and neighborhood lawn decorations, the costumes and of course trick-or-treating.

As my brother and I got older, we were allowed to trick-or-treat with a group of other neighborhood children by ourselves.  We would tear through the streets, hitting as many houses as possible on foot, before returning home to dump out the pillowcases we carried, for maximum capacity candy collecting, and then we would hop on our bikes and branch out into other neighborhoods until the last porch light went out.

I loved the freedom of that night.  Cruising the streets, long after dark, with a gaggle of other kids.  And we were all quietly well aware of the responsibilities that came with that freedom.  We were always respectful of other trick-or-treaters, adults and the homeowners property.  So tenuous did we feel that privilege was, that we made sure to never even walk on someone’s lawn if it could be helped.

In those few hours on Halloween night, we were learning what it was like to be responsible for ourselves and to make good, safe choices, without a grown-up standing by.

And it was fun!  Even as we too began to find ourselves in that space between childhood and adolescence, we still reveled in the joy of dressing up and losing our angst for a while, consumed in the spirit of Halloween.

I don’t recall anyone ever saying that I was too old to trick-or-treat.  I made the decision to stop going when I started high school.  But that first year I stayed home and passed out candy, instead of collecting it, plenty of my classmates still came to my door.  I envied them a bit, but I didn’t feel sorry for myself.  The time had simply passed into a cherished memory for me and it had been allowed to happen in my own time.

Fortunately, my step-daughter has some great friends and a few were willing to indulge her desire to trick-or-treat that last year.  So they struck a compromise.  They agreed they would meet at a friends house, who was hosting a costume party for all the girls, trick-or-treat for a bit and then return to the party.  It seemed she would get the best of both worlds.

And by all accounts, the girls were having a great time.  They weren’t heckling the little one’s, or taking handfuls of candy from unattended candy bowls left to the honor system.  They were giggling their way from house to house, in full costume, saying trick-or-treat and thank you along the way.

When my step-daughter told us later about the woman who had chastised the girls for being too old to participate, it was clear she’d been hurt by it.  The woman had made them feel embarrassed, ashamed and self-conscious.  Feelings that, quite frankly, are all too common for teenagers, like, 99.9% of the time as it is, without some snotty middle-aged woman adding fuel to the fire because she thinks she’s the designated trick-or-treat police.

I can barely look at social media these days without seeing some meme, or editorial, bitching about “kids these days.”  How they can’t seem to be able to handle life’s ups and downs.  Well, maybe we should stop evicting them from childhood before they’re ready.

So, “old people these days” calm the fuck down.  Let them be kids.  Let them linger in innocence for as long as they can, because once it’s gone, it’s gone.  And I think for far too many, it’s gone long before they are even close to being ready for it.

And if you can’t do that, you should do what the generations of crabby old people who came before you have done.  Turn off your porch light and hide in the dark.

Happy Halloween!  Don’t be a jerk.

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Chicks Before….Well, You Know….

“Somebody asked me if I knew you….A million memories flashed through my mind, but I just smiled and said I used to.”
~Unknown

About a year ago, my best friend and I broke up.

It’s not the first time we’ve been angry with each other and it’s not the first time we’ve gone a long stretch without speaking; each of us too angry, stubborn and self-righteous to extend the olive branch that would bring us back to one another.

But in the past, it had never been a question of if we would reconcile.  It was just a matter of when.  We were drawn to each other in a way that made the idea of going through life without the other, inconceivable.

Ours was a friendship that was forged in our childhood.  We’re cousins, but our biology wasn’t what bonded us.  In our family, familial bonds are tenuous at best.  Not even a wedding, or a funeral are guaranteed reunions.

We chose our friendship and we worked to maintain it.  Even when the adults in our lives were falling apart and fighting and cared little for their collateral damage.

So in many ways, we were each others refuge.  Not just from the storms in our family, but through the storms of adolescence and all the ups and downs that come with being teenagers and then young adults.

We had our own language that consisted of facial expressions and single words that just between us, could convey an entire story.  And we had so many stories that made up a crazy, beautiful tapestry of life and love and loss and friendship and growth and adventures.

We were each others witness; keepers.

This break-up though, is different.  At least for me.  This time, it’s for good.

The title above would suggest it was a guy who came between us, but in truth, he was just a catalyst.  We are deeper and more complicated than that.

For a long time, we had been walking roads that seemed to run parallel to one another.  Our roads weren’t exactly the same, we each had our own goals and obstacles to overcome.  But we remained close enough to hold hands as we helped each other over and around and through.

But eventually, our roads began to diverge.  As we headed in fundamentally different directions, I tried to pull her onto my path.   Not because hers was no good, or because mine was so much better, but because I could clearly see that we were headed toward very different horizons.

We had grown up with one another and then we had grown out and away into very different people.  Our relationship lived solidly in the past.  It required that we constantly double back to the place where our roads still ran side by side in order for us to find one another again; back to the people we had been before we’d become wives and mother’s and had to make difficult decisions about careers and family and finances and all the other grown-up hard stuff of life.

But you can’t stay in the past.  You can visit it and reminisce and then you have to return to the present and keep pressing forward.  And I had to admit that the people we’d become, had stopped being the others keeper and witness a long time ago.

In these last several years, our friendship had begun to feel like something I was holding tight to so that it wouldn’t escape.  I was exhausted by it and as this last year has passed, I’ve wondered what to do next.

The idea that if you love something you should let it go, seemed too simple and easy, but then again, if it felt that way, I thought there was a reason for that.

And then, the other day, while driving, I heard a remix of the song 99 Red Balloons and I thought, “Yes, this makes sense,” as I sang along….

It’s all over and I’m standin’ pretty
In the dust that was a city, 
If I could find a souvenir
Just to prove the world was here
And here it is, a red balloon
I think of you and let it go….

A Funny Thing Happened While I Was Burying a Groundhog….

“Ashes to ashes – Dust to dust.” ~The Bible?

All spring, my family and I have delighted in watching a trio of baby groundhogs hanging out in our yard.

Sometimes, they are accompanied by a larger groundhog who we have been calling Homer P. Groundhog for the last couple of years.  Although, it’s more likely that we should be calling her Henrietta, since according to my research, male groundhogs are dead beat dads.

As the spring has progressed, we’ve watched as the trio has become increasingly more  independent and brave; venturing further into the yard and away from the comforts of one another and their various hiding places.

Today, while I was busy moving a large pile of mulch, I saw the trio peeping in and out of the wood-line at the back of our property and darting in and out from underneath our shed.  It was as though they were watching me work and hoping I might stop to play.

So, I started singing just like Princess Aurora from Sleeping Beauty and they ran into my arms for a cuddle, while a tiny bluebird perched on my shoulder and a baby bunny hoped excitedly around my feet waiting to be picked up.  I may or may not have made that last bit up.

Anyway,  as I continued my chores, I was oblivious to the predator lurking in the trees until it was too late.  As I was making my way through the lawn with a wheel-barrow full of mulch intended for a flower bed around our shed, I saw a huge hawk take flight from the ground near the doorway.

I was momentarily in awe of the bird.  I’ve seen them quite a bit, but never that close and I’ve never seen one land in the yard.  Wow, I thought.  I wish had been able to get a picture.  

Then, as I continued toward the shed, I saw him….one of the trio….lying motionless on the ground.

“Oh, no!”  I said, crouching to see if he might still be breathing.  There were no significant injuries that I could see at first, but upon closer inspection, I saw a small amount of blood on his chest near one of his little armpits.

“Really?”  I said, looking up into the trees where the hawk was perched.  “That is so fucked up.  He was a baby.  You should be ashamed of yourself.”  

“Get away from my kill, or I’ll scalp you.”  The hawk said in return.

“Just try it, assshole.”  I said, waving my shovel in his direction.

After shouting profanities at one another for a couple of minutes, I told him he should come and claim his meal.  But he just called me an overly sensitive bitch and asked me if I was on my period, before taking flight and fleeing the scene of his crime, leaving me to deal with the body.

As I stood there, I saw two tiny heads, what remained of the trio, now the duo, poke out from underneath the shed before quickly disappearing again.

I said nothing, just stood there.  Again, the duo poked their little heads out, but this time, they made a tiny, high pitched barking noise before hiding again.

I backed away and for the next hour, I watched as the duo peeked out from underneath the shed, calling for their sibling.  Ugh, it was heartbreaking.

I didn’t want them to have to continue to see their loved one like that; dead and waiting to be claimed by something, so I decided to bury him.

I was making the grave marker out of two sticks and some twine, when two men pulled into the driveway.  About a week ago, I had posted some old fencing material for the taking on Facebook Marketplace and the two were there to claim it.

“Hey,” I said, the makeshift cross in my hand, “I just buried something in the woods.”  

It wasn’t until the words had spilled from my mouth that I realized how creepy and odd they must have sounded.  And so of course, I decided to run with the theme.

“What did you bury?”  One of the men asked me.

“I can’t tell you that,” I said.  “You know where I live now.  Come along though.  The stuff you’re looking for is in the woods back here.”  

Then, I began to whistle a tune as I walked towards the woods with my little crucifix;  (One, two, Freddy’s coming for you)….”Just a little farther, we’re almost there.”

Just before we hit the path to the woods, I stopped and said, “I was just joking.  I buried a groundhog.”

They did not seem assuaged….but who could blame them, really?  I mean, what kind of a person buries a groundhog?

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Flashback Friday – That Time I Wore A Hair Piece….

Earlier this week, while trying to keep myself occupied….and my anxiety at bay….until an upcoming doctors appointment, I decided to clean out and reorganize a closet that has essentially served as a dumping ground for things that otherwise have no sensible place, or purpose.

The task was long overdue and a good distraction.  As I pulled out things like a taxidermy bull frog wearing a sombrero and playing a vihuela and a small jar containing a couple of baby teeth, my hand brushed across something hairy resting in the back of the closet on one of the shelves.

Instinctively, I jerked my hand back and bent to gaze, squinting into the dark recesses of the closet, trying to figure out what might be living back there.

Did we end up getting that cat?  I briefly wondered.  Oh man, when was the last time I saw the dog?  

Then it dawned on me.  My wig.

When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, I of course wanted to know if I was going to lose my hair.

“Yes.”  My doctor said.  “And when it falls out, it will fall out in chunks, which can be very distressing.  I always suggest that my patients just go ahead and shave it off.  Just get it over with all at once.”

At first, I thought the loss of my hair would be no big deal for me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love having hair, but I’ve never been one of those people who is deeply attached to it.

I’ve never cried after a bad haircut and over the years I’ve never been afraid to experiment with different lengths….including a super short pixie cut I sported throughout much of the late 90’s.

But, as the time grew nearer to when my doctor predicted it would begin to fall out, I found I couldn’t do it.  It seemed an outwardly visible symbol that I was “sick” and I didn’t want to see it.

So, my doctor’s advice to go all GI Jane was the only time throughout the entire ordeal that I did not do exactly as he advised.  It was a decision I regretted when it began coming out in large pieces and precisely when he said it would.

It was horrifying to find that by pulling, ever so slightly at my scalp, the hair strands would pull free as though they had never been attached at the roots.  I was surprised to find myself equally, if not more distressed, at the prospect of shaving my head as I’d been by the news of my diagnosis.

I delayed the inevitable for a few more days, but after a shower left me with sporadic, patchy bald spots….that made me look like I was on the verge of becoming that creepy doll from Toy Story….I gave in and headed off to have it shaved….a baseball hat clutched in my hand and my husband in tow.

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When the hairdresser asked, “What are we doing today?”  I told her it all had to go.

“Are you thinking a choppy bob or something even shorter?”  She asked, running her hands through my spotty hair that left strands between her fingers, with a somewhat confused expression.

“I have to shave it off.”  I said.  “I lost a bet with my husband and he’s being really mean about the whole thing.”

“OH!”  Was her shocked reply.  “Really!?”         

“No.”  I told her.  “I have cancer.  So, one way or the other, it’s gotta go!”

This was the way I preferred to tell everyone I had cancer.  When I was initially diagnosed, I  sent an email to family and friends that asked,“Hey!  Anyone know where I can get one of those yellow LiveStrong bracelets?”

As the responses came in, I responded with varying degrees of “Thanks, I have cancer now, so I figure, why not get the accessories!”

During the initial discussion about my impending hair loss with my doctor, he provided me with several resources for securing a respectable wig.  They were references his patients over the years had shared and he was happy to pass along the leads.

I wasn’t sure if I was a wig person, a scarf person, or a hat person, but I knew I wasn’t a bald is beautiful person.  My head looked lumpy, with strange lines that made me wonder if I might have been abducted and experimented on by aliens at some point in my life and I reasoned a wig might at least give me the appearance of a normal person.

I settled on a shop in New Hampshire that catered specifically to women undergoing cancer treatments.  I made an appointment for a wig fitting and my best friend flew in to be with me for the event.

When I arrived at the store, I was greeted by a very sweet woman who introduced herself as my personal stylist for the day.  She escorted us to a private room where I was free to try on as many wigs as I wanted in the comforts of my own space, while she bustled about pulling different styles and color options for me to try and offering styling tips and tricks along the way.

I shared with her that I was concerned it would look exactly like I was wearing a wig.  That everyone would know, and I would just end up looking….well, sad.

Kind of like Kim Zolciak in the first season of The Real Housewives of Atlanta….when her wigs looked like something scalped from the head of a Barbie doll.

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“All those women in Hollywood….they are all wearing some kind of hair piece.  No one has hair that glossy or full or perfect.”  She told me.  “We sell the best here and trust me, no one is going to know the difference.”   

For the next many hours, my friend and I laughed so hard I thought I might go into labor as I tried on everything from pin straight platinum blonde wigs with fringe bangs, to dark black curly wigs that looked like eighties Cher.

I tried on mullets, the Farrah Fawcett shag, the “Rachel,” the 90’s era style haircut made famous by Jennifer Aniston’s character on Friends.

I tried sleek bobs and spiral curls and every hair style ever seen on the Golden Girls.  It was hysterically funny and the laughter felt so refreshing that it alone was worth the trip.

Ultimately, I settled on a style called “The Posh” after Victoria Beckham.  My stylist gave me instructions on keeping it clean and preserving its shape and style.

She also cautioned me against wearing it close to open flames or bursts of heat….like those from an opened oven, or boiling water….which caused a whole new hysterical burst of giggles as my friend and I imagined various scenarios where I might find myself wearing it when it caught fire.

I left wearing the Posh, but it didn’t stay on my head for long.  It was itchy against my scalp and though it looked as real as it possibly could, I was terribly self-conscious about it.

Eventually, the wig made its way into its cardboard travel case, and was replaced with a pink stocking cap that said, “Cancer Sucks” in white embroidered letters across the front.

I told myself I just needed to get used to it….that I would practice wearing it at home first and then maybe test it out on short errands.  I could never shake the anxiety that having it on caused though.

What if I sneezed and the hairline of the wig ended up at my eyebrows?

What if a strong wind blew through, yanking it from my head and I had to chase after it while it rolled like a tumbleweed through the Whole Foods parking lot?

What if I had an itch and people could see the entire piece shift as I scratched?

What if it shifted throughout the day without my knowing it and it ended up sideways?

In the end, the only time I wore it for a prolonged period of time, was for a holiday party thrown by a college friend of my husbands.  The guest list for the party was long and included a wide range of close friends and acquaintances my husband had known for many years.

I didn’t feel like answering the myriad of questions that always came with seeing a bald, pregnant lady.  I just wanted to enjoy the food at the party and the rare evening out as a normal person, so I put the wig on for the night.

All evening, I made frequent trips to the bathroom to pull it off, scratch furiously at my scalp and replace it.  Or, to just double check that it hadn’t shifted in too noticeable a way.

As soon as we were back in the car, I pulled it off and hung my head out of the car window like a Xoloitzcuintle, enjoying the cool air on my scalp and deciding once and for all, I was just going to be a hat person.

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I kept the wig, but instead of wearing it, I used it as a tool to harass my family, our cleaning service and anyone else who might come through our house.

When it wasn’t perched on its metal rack on my bathroom sink in a variety of styles and with random hair accessories stuck to it, it was posed on a teddy bear in one of my step-children’s bedrooms waiting for them at bedtime.

Sometimes, I would leave it lying on a pillow in bed with socks stuffed into the cap to give it the look of someone sleeping under the covers.

Once, I affixed it over a remote control car and drove it through our living room scaring the piss out of the dog….literally.

After a while though, I ran out of ideas.  So, I gave it a good washing and stored it away in the closet deciding I would eventually donate it.

Yesterday, as I held it in my hands, running my fingers through the smooth synthetic hair, I knew it was time to find it a new home….preferably with someone who could really use it.

But first….and then I made my way to my sons bedroom, retrieved his remote control car, and went in search for the dog.