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.

Your Mission, Should You Decide To Accept It…

I have a short trip planned in April. Five days in Denver, and I am flying there.

I am already panicked. My airline of choice allows two carry on bags of very specific size, plus a purse. I have not been faced with the necessity of packing light in years. We’ve done most of our traveling by car, or nonstop flights and The Husband and I don’t/won’t/can’t seem to agree when it comes to sharing a suitcase. So we always over-pack. And while I don’t consider myself to be high maintenance, I consider my age sufficient reason to pack anything I conceivably need in the way of personal care. Clothes are less of an issue, though I admit I don’t like to wear something more than once. But I can adapt to multi-use when it comes to pulling on a pair of jeans two days in a row, or hand-washing a few things.

But doing without my beauty routine? I’m like a well-loved and carefully conditioned vintage automobile. You don’t wash it with dish soap and shine her with cheap auto store polish, do you? No; you order a special soap that gently removes the dirt, expensive wax just for her color and fine cloths and polishers to preserve the finish. Then there’s the interior and exterior detail products, wheel cleaners, window and headlight cleaners…it’s no different for me. I’m not demanding, I’m just a high-end product in need of other high-end products. It’s the price you pay for trying to look this good as you get older.

This will be a challenge: meeting the airline security regulations while managing my personal glam squad looks as a party of one with limited resources. I’m thinking a lineup of small, smartly matched and neatly labeled bottles, making me look every inch the sophisticated traveler.

Or I will hit the “travel minis” bin at the drugstore and stock up. Not as thoughtful but at least I won’t be leaving my looks at home.

Life In A Bind(er)

It’s finally done.

Our wills, trusts and medical and healthcare directives, that is.

Three meetings with the attorney, a big chunk of money paid to said attorney and a blue binder with a lot of documents neatly hole-punched, sorted, divided and tidy. That is what our life looks like now.

It’s a very clean and clinical way to view life and what comes after it: death of one or both of you and what happens to your stuff when you’re no longer around to decide who gets what. Many people prefer to leave it to fate or their spouse or their kids to get it right. We don’t have kids who will fight over what happens to the dozens of cat toys in the cardboard box, or whether The Husband’s record collection is really worth anything (never mind that most of the singers are themselves deceased or unheard of in this age of digital superstars with single names) or why on earth any sane person would have three pasta machines, three coffee makers, three electric grinders and 20 wooden spoons in the kitchen. We each have family members who are either not interested in any of our business or should be removed from our business after we’re gone (and while we’re here, for that matter).

Putting it all in writing, from your bank accounts, passwords and insurance policies to who inherits the sparkly rings, necklaces and T-shirts, is something everyone needs. It keeps your business out of the probate court, prevents fighting among family and gives you a shot at some afterlife revenge: leaving relations you don’t relate to out of the will. Properly executed instructions mean your money and worldly goods can benefit others as cash or donations and live on after you’ve moved on to the next adventure, and not in a trash bin. This blog is about aging, but this subject shouldn’t be. We can be called away from this mortal world at any time, and those we love cannot honor our wishes if they don’t have directions. Take the time and spend the money to spell it out for those you presumably leave behind. Then work your ass off to outlive them.

Don’t Shout…I’m Not Listening

For some strange reason, younger people seem to think gray hair and diminishing hearing capacity go hand in hand. It never fails that at least once a day, someone speaks to me in at a decibel level that’s reminiscent of an airplane takeoff.

Mind you, the person never asks if I can hear them speak at a normal volume; they just assume I can’t. I have no idea why people assume this. For what it matters, I’ve had my hearing tested and it’s still perfect, despite the fact that I tend to listen to podcasted music in my car at a level loud enough for a warning to pop up on my smart phone. Like I need my smart phone to babysit my choices at this point. Then again, technology and our government are watching most of my other moves already, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that my phone wants in on the action, too.

I’m at the point in life where I can still enjoy face to face conversation, the sound of a waterfall, the challenge of intellectual debate or wind rushing through the trees just before the thunderstorm invades my backyard. I’m also at the point where selective hearing is the perfect excuse to “miss” the well-meant but unwelcome and unasked-for advice, opinions and directives of others. People who tell me what I couldn’t, wouldn’t or shouldn’t do, behave or believe deserve to be boxed up and booted off the proverbial island and back to the land of Findsomeonewhogivesacrap.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to prep my bike for a long practice ride tomorrow. I can hear what you’re saying about the weather and not riding in the cold and how it’s crazy to ride after a long run today…I’m just not listening.

Retire Is A Four-Letter Word

I know, I know…you’re thinking my math is a little fuzzy. It’s not the word itself that’s causing all this $!&* in my head. It’s the process of filling out forms and getting numbers and going to a notary to make it all legal.

It’s the 21st century. Shouldn’t it be easier to claim a pension after years of labor? I guess that’s not the point. The money was promised to me. Ease of obtaining the money, not so much.

The truth is I am surprisingly grateful. Pensions are a small hedge against the world’s expenses. They don’t generally add up to much; my soon-to-be state pension is basically grocery money for The Better Half and I, with a little left over for a coffee date, when he can make time between motorsports-watching on TV. And when you consider how many people don’t retire with anything to count on except Social Security and whatever savings they have, it’s a blessing. And direct deposit means the money arrives safely and on time at the bank, rather than in my spendy little hands (or lost at the hands of our postal carrier, AKA Bad Santa, who does not understand that two houses in a development with the same number, can be located on different streets and NOT be the same place).

I don’t plan to retire from work entirely in the near future. I think there’s a future in the writing world for me, and as long as people pay me for freelance, I plan to keep going. I have bad habits to support, like gourmet food, needy pets, needy pets who like gourmet food, the whole triathlon gear addiction and competition fees and travel costs. Living the game of life means having to pay to use its toll roads and doing the maintenance and repairs when needed. The price you pay is worth the ability to play on.