I’ve Got Thowback Hair In These Quarantine Times

Three months since my last trim, and my hair has officially gone back to the 1980s.

I had thick, curly, wavy hair that hit just above shoulder-length prior to lock down. It is now past shoulder length and big. Pouffy, large, teased-out and not happy about it. And by big, I mean big on its own accord. I have pick-style combs, but no need for them. My hair is just Valley Girl-sized without help.

It’s always been this way, though in years past, the color has been different. Once upon a time, the natural color was a dark brown shading to black. Gray strands set in early and I covered that with burgundy dye, which happened to look quite good. But pretty soon, the gray began to overtake the brown too fast to keep up. I did the overall dye job for years, until it became a pain to spend that much time and money in a professional colorist chair. And no, this is one job I am not doing on my own, despite the drugstore products and online offerings promising me the same results. This is one situation where I think the pros really know best.

At this point, the gray and brown are fairly evenly matched, and I’m fine with it. I’d like that haircut, but don’t think I need to risk my health and safety for it. I did trim my own bangs, and was surprised not to trim off anything else, like my eyelashes, eyebrows or ears when I completed the job. I think more people should consider the do-it-yourself quarantine ‘do, rather than protesting their state government with signs like “Give Me A Haircut Or Give Me Death!” and “I’ll Take My Chances, Free My Stylist!” as if not having a haircut for awhile signals a horrible event in their lives, on par with homelessness or starvation. Do the people complaining about not eating at a restaurant, going to a beach or a mall for two or three months understand that these are not rights, and the friends and families of the 100,000 lost to the pandemic in this country would gladly give up a haircut—and a lot more—to get those loved ones back?

My Post-Lock Down Shopping List

There are a few things I need once the lock down is lifted and shopping in regular malls and retail stores begins again. But the list is not what you think.

I really hate to shop for myself and only do so when something needs to be replaced, or if it’s for competition purposes, and even then, I’m likely to go the online route. But I’m all in when it comes to shopping the locally-owned stores and cannot wait to see those merchants again. I know many have been doing what they can to stay afloat these last two months. My cycle shop has been very creative, offering door-to-door bike repairs, service and delivery of parts, triathlon gear, and anything a starved competitor needs right now. Local restaurants have offered boxed brunches (coffee, quiche and pastry), “stud muffin specials” (assorted fruit and chocolate muffins by the half-dozen) and Mama’s Sunday Meals (salad, appetizer, entree, and dessert for families of four or more).

There’s a few things I need to find when allowed back to the retail stores, and yes, I could get them online. But this is where the control freak takes over and I just have to do this in person:

Socks: Most of mine (except for my running socks) have holes in them from being worn all day, every day to “work” in my home office sans shoes.

Cotton gloves: Because if your hands are anything like mine, they look like the Sahara Desert met a bad grade of sandpaper, thanks to all the hand washing.

Makeup: Not that I’ve been wearing much, other than foundation, a brush of bronzer and if I have to go out, a bit of mascara to eliminate that shut-in-all-day look as I gaze out over my designer face mask (quite fabulous, thanks to a neighbor who sews). But as most women know, nothing makes you feel better than a new eye shadow palette, especially when you combine it with a bag of good chocolates on sale.

Good soap: I have a couple of imported bars left, courtesy of my brother who got them from Harrods during a business trip to Europe. The scented soap from over the pond is better than ours—they use real flower oils, not chemical additives, to make their soap smell like rose or lavender or lily of the valley. I dislike perfume, body spray and scented lotion but a hot shower with fine soap is an indulgence after a workout, hours doing yard work or detailing the car or before bed.

So there’s my corona virus cravings list. It’s not overly indulgent or selfish. Just a few things I miss. Stay safe. We are getting through this. I am not sure if we are winning this fight though. We are still losing too many loved ones. And keep the scientists working towards treatments and a vaccine in your thoughts.

Just When You Want To Celebrate…You Can’t

I just had a birthday in lockdown. Not a big deal, or maybe it is.

I never was the whoop-it-up type. Never went out, caroused, stayed out too late and came home not recalling where I was.

I don’t come from particularly conservative people. My family could bring on a bash as well as the neighbors. Better actually, because we had a nice house, big patio and pool. My dad was in sales and was a volunteer firefighter, so he knew a lot of people and had the right personality for a good party host.

In college, I knew a lot of fake ID-carrying, grain alcohol-slugging types, but it was not my choice of pastime. I went to a few frat parties, but I worked part time in the campus dining rooms and carried a heavy credit load, so staying out late was not usually an option.

I keep thinking it would be nice to go out for lunch or dinner, to give a little business to a local place. I live in a closed county in a semi-open state, where the governor keeps teetering on the line between keeping some areas shut and opening others, doing what is in his political best interest before anyone else’s best interests.

And now, it seems strange to want to celebrate a birthday, even a milestone one. With 65,000+ lives lost to this pandemic, a special occasion in the time of COVID-19 is being alive, healthy and working. Those taken will never see another birthday, much less another milestone event. Their numbers create grim milestones of their own, sometimes obscuring any positives coming from this crisis. Keep listening to science, follow common sense and don’t give into the fear factor promoted by the miserable minority threatening to undo what good has been accomplished so far in the alleged name of freedom. Moving forward too fast because we have “rights” means our rights may include suffering and death. Stay safe and sane and we will all party again.

Coronavirus Commercials vs. Real Life Right Now

If you’re home as much as most people, you can’t get away from the TV. You’re listening to it even if you’re not watching it. The noise is the background sound to our indoor lives right now. Whether it’s the drone of the White House nightly press briefing or the ever-growing grim statistics of death and positive tests, we live for the numbers and news, and wait until it all stops.

Then there are the commercials. Most of them are virus-themed without saying so directly. “In these uncertain times”, “We’ll get through this together”, and “We’ve weathered the storm before” are typical lead-ins, before you see new cars on sunny highways, gorgeous furniture in perfect living rooms and happy families gathered around the cozy communal home office workspace, with mom and dad and the kids so diligently engaged on their digital devices.

I can tell you, that’s not real life. And you can probably tell me the same thing.

I know from Zoom meetings with colleagues that home offices are sometimes a messy kitchen table, dusty dining room space or crowded bedroom corner. Home schooled kids are sometimes bored, whiny, fearful, anxious, and often only too happy to interrupt the workday, because a parent is present and the assumption is there are no rules. And pets want playtime, petting, and treats because their human feeding machine is just sitting there doing what looks like nothing to them.

Many companies are doing great things for all of us: donating food, money and time. They are equipping their people to work safely, from home or on the job. They are forgiving payments, extending credit, packing supplies, delivering packages, opening early, staying late and filling in the untold gaps that no local, state or federal government can possibly handle. Those of us who depend on those who do all of this are grateful. And the attempt at uplifting commercials isn’t that bad. I just wish I knew which grocery store in my local chain is getting restocked with all that toilet paper in the commercial. I keep seeing the rolls and rolls going up on the shelves and wondering, “I’ve hit five different stores; who is getting all the damned TP?”

It’s Quiet As %$#! Out There

I try to work out twice a day, even without swimming right now, which I miss dearly. My brain was and remains water-wired, but is landlocked now, thanks to no open pools, lakes or beaches. I run or bike in the early morning, and walk at night, using ski poles. I also lift weights, garden, mow the lawn, wash and detail my car, weed the yard – anything to keep busy before and after eight hours at the computer.

It’s quiet outside now. All the time. No school buses, or people going to work, church or shop, or a lot of other people working out. Lots of folks walking dogs, which is good for them and the dogs. The police are enforcing the local noise ordinance, so no loud happy music playing anywhere. Few kids play outdoors. We’re not far from a commercial freight train line, and I never thought I’d say this, but I welcome the sound of the horn, especially at night. It reminds me humanity is still out there, taking care of essential business.

I hate going anywhere like the pharmacy or grocery store. It’s all masked face and gloved hands on deck and wipes in my car; thin armor against an unseen but better-fortified enemy. I’ve been a home-based freelance writer for almost a decade by choice, but being forced to also do my full time job from home is not fun. My home office is more of a privileged cage for those 40 hours. It’s not like jail; I can get up, move around, log out to do housework or fix lunch. But lesson learned from this: I didn’t like this job in an office setting, I don’t like this job from my home office setting, and it’s definitely time to do something different.

What I do enjoy is sharing thoughts with all of you. I hope you are all doing well, steering life down a relatively sane path, and a special thanks to the first responders, nurses, doctors, service delivery people, grocery workers, restaurant owners and everyone else who is showing up and showing us all how to survive in the pandemic age.

Big-Ass Dust Bunnies And Other Discoveries

When you’re mostly stuck at home, it’s amazing what you find when you have the chance.

All those times I said I didn’t have the time to deep-clean the place…well, that’s no longer an excuse in the isolation era. But in doing so, it’s scary when you realize there are corners and crevices of your dwelling best left unseen and untouched.

Just tonight, I swept the master closet. I moved shoes out of cubbyholes and got the broom and THERE WERE SOME SERIOUS DUST BUNNIES IN THERE!! Not to mention more than a few pairs of shoes I forgot I owned (and now that I’ve rediscovered them, wonder what I was thinking when I bought them). I did not sweep up any loose change, but I also found some wayward pills on the floor (no idea what they used to be; at this point, they’re mummified).

I swept under the bed, cursing the very idea that we keep our holiday decorations there and they probably attract their weight in dust.

And don’t get me started about cat hair. I have two cats, but they shed like five. They hate the sight of the broom and vacuum, but I regularly remind them that most of this is their fault; if they were bald, we’d have less sweeping. And how do dust bunnies and cat hair get from Point A to Point B, anyway? I never see any of this out in plain view; only when I have to get under and behind furniture do I find the little fuzzy culprits.

I hope your stay at home time is productive, pleasant, and filled with fun projects. As for me, I’ll make you a deal. Come get my dirty floor critters and I’ll reward you with some toilet paper and chocolate from my good stash.

Love Thy Neighbor…Do Laundry For Them

I know. It’s a dangerous thing to suggest any kind of social interaction in these terrifying times. But allow me to explain.

I was coming back from a run yesterday and noticed a strange car at my neighbor’s house. Their front door was open and the car’s doors were open. This was not the first odd thing I had seen at that house this week.

Three days ago, the father of the four boys who live there was packing his SUV with boxes in the early-morning hours, and doing it in a hurry, not saying anything. The day before that, I saw his wife and the mother of the boys, and even from a socially-safe distance, she did not look good. Normally bouncy and energetic, she looked exhausted, which I assumed was from two weeks of 24/7 under one roof with four kids.

Turns out I was wrong. She is sick and hospitalized, illness unknown.

The boys are with her parents, and the stranger I saw at the house was a great-grandmother, all 84 years of her. Tiny but energetic, she was there to clean and do laundry, since the illness and hospitalization had overwhelmed the family. Dad has a business and has to work, grandparents have charge of feeding and educating the kids and it’s up to great-grandma to get their house in order and do the laundry left behind by six people. I’ve never done laundry for little kids, but I’m told it can be an ugly job. So I volunteered to do a load.

Another neighbor heard me offer and gave us both the stink eye from his garage. (Note to that neighbor: those four boys really like you, but after this, I am snitching on you for that rude look). I disinfected everything before it came into contact with my house, did the load of towels and brought them back. Great-grandma was pretty happy with the help, since her little condo double-stack washer/dryer combo would have been working a lot harder than my machines. And yes, I offered to do more if the need arose.

Isolation and social distancing are not the equivalent of ignorance. Most of us know better, and reach out to those in need whether we have a lot or a little to give. I have always found that it in times of greatest need, the smallest gestures make the biggest difference.

Love and kindness through laundry. Or if you prefer, #lovethroughlaundry.

Viral Upside: Dogs, Walkers, Runners, Neighbors

Where did all these people come from?

And where did all the new dogs come from?

People and pets I’ve never seen are out at all hours (but in keeping with the social distancing norm, they are in small groups or solo) walking or jogging with their leashed pals, or even out just getting exercise.

My town has always been a good place for people who like to go outside. No industry, light traffic, safe and well-policed. But COVID-19 has brought a new reality to my nice neighborhood, just as it did to yours: no pools, parks, gyms, spin or yoga classes. For that matter, no schools, few non-essential businesses and government offices, no spring break activities, no beaches, boating or shopping malls. Not much else to do but be social and civilized while we stroll the sidewalks and run the streets.

And so many dogs I’ve never seen before the shutdown. Are people adopting pets to maintain some semblance of sanity in this isolation-enforced society? It’s a nice thought. Maybe they’re borrowing each other’s dogs and taking turns walking. The pups must be pleased at all the attention. And pets stores are considered essential, so not only are there more dogs getting more walks, they are (hopefully) getting more treats. Oh, and cats, birds, rabbits, snakes, turtles, guinea pigs, too. Just because you can’t walk them on a leash or train them to sit, stay and roll over doesn’t mean they have no benefit at a time like this. Furry, four-legged, feathered, slippery, slithering or crawling, we need our fellow creatures for comfort all the time, but now they remind us that #thisquaratinelife will not go on forever, nor are they sitting in judgment as to how well we are coping. Though if possible, they would like you to try a little harder and keep looking for their favorite (and perpetually out-of-stock) food.

Rage Against The Virus

OK, we’re all understandably a little scared. And anxious and nervous and needy. Not to mention concerned about having enough TP to last another week.

Stop a minute. COVID-19 is serious stuff. Whole newscasts consist of nothing but reporting on it, plus hour-long news specials filled with experts, numbers, data, statistics, and a daily dose “don’t worry, it will all blow over” from the orange-tinted mumbler-in-chief.

We’re racing from store to store, scouting out the chicken breasts, cheese snacks and sanitizing scrubs like no more will ever arrive. And don’t get me started on the paper towel police roaming the aisles.

Let’s be a little more rational about this. Stop listening to the Internet conspiracy kooks or the workplace wonks. I have two in my office; I call them the Doomsday Sisters. Their job seems to be convincing the rest of us we will be dead by either disease or lack of frozen vegetables by tomorrow.

I’m not suggesting we get over it. We may have a long way to go before the world is over this, and it will take science and compassion to get there. In the meantime, let’s find a little normal and do it every day:

Get outside and exercise (outdoor yoga while playing sitar music will annoy your neighbors stuck behind their miniblinded-windows). Ride a bike, walk, run, jump rope. Use weights, a medicine ball or stretch ropes inside.

Get outside and do all those projects you promised yourself: paint the garage, stain the deck, plant a garden, create a rock garden. If your elderly neighbors are housebound, offer to work in their yard.

Write real letters and read real books. In a digital world, we forget how much fun it is to be in touch with literature.

Read up on healthy living and eating and start doing it. If ever there was a need to keep the immune system at its peak, it’s now.

Write poetry, a novel or start a blog. Document your experiences at this time for later generations, so they know what to expect when the next pandemic arrives.

Mostly, don’t give up or give in to fear, especially if you’re older. A lot of people think that the corona virus is out to decimate the elders of the world because we are simply more vulnerable due to age and health issues. I say get mad, get even, and we will all get better.

Stuffed Into A Swimsuit

An older body packed into a bathing suit is sometimes not a pretty sight.

At worst, it’s environmentally unfriendly, depending on the size of the suit and what it (fails) to cover. Personally, I am fine with the idea of “let it all hang out” if what’s hanging out is yours. What’s mine, not so much.

I am a competitive swimmer, so the swimsuit situation is a little different. We have tech suits that offer varying degrees of compression. Of course, if you compress body parts, the compressed bits have to go somewhere. Usually, it means they crowd other bits or hang outside the back or side of the suit.

Tech suits are cool and they make you swim faster. But they come at a cost to your wallet (running up to $800 or more) and sometimes your breathing. I have seen swimmers unable to breathe normally after a race while wearing one of these suits.

And then there’s the issue of your excess protruding from various points. While it may look to the rest of the non-swimming world that the suit is too tight, we just tell them the tech suit is supposed to fit that way; it should be a size smaller than skin. Then we turn around and walk away with a waddle in our step, inching the material ever so delicately out of our butt.

I spent this weekend in just such a suit, competing with other (mostly) aging swimmers. We had a good meet, although it was cold. Nobody got hurt, everyone complained that their times could have been better (par for the course at every meet) and we’re all looking forward to the next one. Beats a weekend spent on the couch watching the latest political news or corona virus update.