Cooking With Cats And Other Pandemic Pastimes

Four seasons deep into our pandemic journey, an accounting of all of the distracting and engaging activities birthed by this phenomenon may be in order. I’ll go first–From the early days of the confinement, I immersed myself in guilty pleasures. I rewatched every episode of Sex and the City, including the movies, which I justified with a coincident session on my elliptical. From the sheet music websites, I downloaded way too many Carpenters songs, printed them out, and made a commitment  to master every one of them. (I particularly applied myself to the tune, “Where Do I Go From Here?” since the question begs the reality of a one year removal from society.) Every weekday evening, from four to seven p.m., I take to my recliner to watch three back-to-back episodes of one of my favorite British shows, Escape to the Country, to calm my seething urge to travel. Yet, all of my distractions pale to my absolute favorite activity: my Wednesday afternoons with Cooking with Tina and the Cats.

The meeting of Tina and me was kismet. Both of us career Royalistas, we met at the early morning wedding of Harry and Meghan, or at least a televised version, at the Fairmont Park Plaza in Boston. That morning, I stood on the stairs of the Ballroom, drinking in the scene: tables set for a formal affair, the large screens strategically in place throughout for optimum viewing, women in their hats and feathers, and tuxedoed waiters peddling trays of champagne to the arriving guests. Our party of five, dressed in our wedding best, fascinators and all, floated to our seats on a royal cloud of excitement. 

We settled into our table, our pastries, and our tea. A party of one, who introduced herself as Christina, slipped into her assigned seat at our table. Instantly and effortlessly, we absorbed her into our group. She was engaging, funny, and as nuts as we were. Who else would go to a mock royal wedding at 6 a.m. but a bunch of crazies? 

Before long, we had consumed our share of morning champers and more than a few of the signature cocktails. Giddy and a bit tipsy, we dragged Christina into our “formal” pictures with the Queen, superimposed on a background of Buckingham Palace, forever memorializing her as part of our outing. When it was over, we exchanged cell numbers and Facebook info, promising to stay in touch. But seldom do those promises stick–except this one. In four hours, I had attended a Royal Wedding and made a new friend.

For two years, we slowly became acquainted, liking each other’s Facebook posts. We shared similar political views and crazy Italian roots. I soon realized that this was Tina’s world and we were just visitors swept into the swirl of her orbit. When the world closed down, Tina, in her inimitable style as an event planner, nanny, professional chef, and mixologist, seized the opportunity to turn coconuts into pina coladas.

Every Wednesday for the past year, a motley crew of kids, their respective adults, and I join Tina on her weekly Zoom show, Cooking With Tina and the Cats. Tina’s cats, Hodie and Bristow, occasionally make a cameo appearance on the second camera. Every week there is a theme (superhero, Chinese New Year, Mardi Gras) and appropriate attire is encouraged. As the token unaccompanied adult, I avoid the dress up but dive right into the hijinx, silliness, and cooking tips. It’s the best fun I’ve had in a year.

Every Saturday, Tina posts the menu and the shopping list on her CWTC Facebook page. After taking an inventory of what I have in house and what I need, I create my Amazon Fresh cart. In a year, my pantry has expanded with the likes of rice wine vinegar, chili paste, star anise, and Thai fish sauce (medium). I have no idea what to do with these things beyond my Tina recipes but I have pledged to myself to dig up a dish that will use some, or all of them, before they expire. It’s an unlikely prospect.

Under Tina’s tutelage, I have upped my cooking game. Tina is a virtual encyclopedia of substitutions for those of us who are lacking an ingredient, a wizard of meatless options for the vegetarians in the group, and a master of cooking tips and tricks. Under Tina’s direction, Wednesday night dinner is a done deal by six, a vast improvement from my frequent eight p.m. meal prep, which seldom guarantees as delicious an outcome. 

Entertaining, informative, educational, and occasionally ‘spicy,’ Cooking with Tina is good clean fun, that is, until the time a Zoom bomber attempted to infiltrate the room with a saucy request. Tina handled the assault with aplomb, ending the siege before the kids knew what was happening. Aside from that, a few references to ‘balls’ (meatballs) is about as racy as we get. We end every class with a mock-cocktail (mock for the kids, full-on cocktail for the adults). My shaker, martini glasses, and liquor supply have never seen so much action! After some “cheersin,’” we negotiate the next week’s theme, menu possibilities, and costumes.

A few times, I’ve had conflicts that have kept me from my weekly constitutional with Tina and the Cats and I am bereft. To the world, I refer to my ninety minutes with Tina, the Cats, and the kids as “my cooking class.” No one needs to know that I spend every Wednesday afternoon with a bunch of adorable little kids and their moms and nannies, and cats attired in lace tank tops. It’s my little secret (mine and Facebook’s). A chance meeting resulting in a friendship, which sprung from getting a little drunk at a pretend Royal Wedding at six in the morning, that turned into a standing date with my cooking guru proves that destiny is real. It also proves that, in a pandemic, with the right friends, you can turn lemons into lemonade, or lemon blueberry margaritas. Cheers!

My Giant Hoodie: Go Big or Go Bigger

Since leaving my job almost two years ago, I rarely watch television during the day. I reserve my viewing for the evening, when I take to my recliner and my fuzzy, red and white snowflake blanket, and dive into BritBox. Keeping busy with writing and other hobbies, I never felt the need for daytime tv. Likewise, I never ruled out starting my morning with Kelly and Ryan or embarking on an all-day decadent binge of Martha Stewart re-runs. My freedom to choose is a “my game-my rules” situation. Nevertheless, one mid-morning a few weeks ago, I broke with my own tradition, grabbed the remote, and surfed my way through my channel guide, ultimately landing on The View.

With limited knowledge of the show, I watched as the rhetoric of the somewhat diverse panel of women unfolded. In preparation for a commercial break, Whoopie Goldberg told me to hang in. Apparently, there is a shopping component embedded in the show, a bargain-filled array of items. I was intrigued. Always open to the idea of a deal, I sat through a few commercials, never expecting my efforts to be rewarded in such an enormously rewarding way.

After the break, the presenter, Adam, stood behind a table stacked with all sorts of items from skin creams to bath salts to kids’ books on social issues.  He drew the viewers attention to a stylized pyramid of multi-colored fabric. From behind the display, Adam held up a gold colored garment, a gigantic hooded sweatshirt, available in four colors, promising to be one-size-fits-all, at fifty percent off the original price of $60. I generally avoid hoodies, sweatpants, sneakers, or any article of clothing that connotes exercise or athleticism but this huge fleece sweatshirt appealed to me. After gaining more weight over the past year than I will admit, the Giant Hoodie offered a chance to “hide a multitude of sin,” a biblical reference used by mother to describe everything from paint color to a slipcover. With my sin more evident than ever, my excitement over a massive, fleecy, dress-like sweatshirt impelled me to grab my debit card and succumb to my chronic, barely suppressed urge to impulse buy. It is in shopping that I feel most alive, and I completed the purchase as quickly and impulsively as I have ever bought anything. 

The package arrived in a few days and my glee matched that of a six year old with a new bicycle on Christmas morning. Having chosen my hoodie in black, I hoped that the color and the enormity of the shirt would be the perfect combination to camouflage my ever-expanding, Covid-related physical girth and I am happy to report, the Giant Hoodie did not disappoint. I slid the garment over my head and ran to the mirror for confirmation. It was perfection–the most exciting and satisfying purchase I have made in a very long time. 

As I considered what to wear this morning, even though I had no plans to leave the house, I peered through my window at the frozen world outside. The temperature here in Boston was nine degrees and I instinctively grabbed my Giant Hoodie. Fresh from the laundry, it was an obvious choice. I knew, combined with Uggs and leggings, my hoodie would provide the perfect antidote, causing me to question why I didn’t buy one in every color. My only fear is, if I had, my “real” clothes, the ones that still fit, might never be worn again. The idea appealed to me more than I like to admit. 

So here I sit at my desk, moved to write about a ridiculously comfortable item of clothing. I should probably clarify–I am not a paid spokesperson for the company. In truth, I know nothing about Giant Hoodies except that the product is made in the USA. But in these dire times, when I find something that makes me happy, I sing its praises. I usually reserve those testimonials for things like a really good prosecco or a fabulous recipe. Giant Hoodies has elevated my self-isolation to a new, almost bearable level, earning my endorsement and my undying appreciation.

Warmth and comfort–a perfect combination. Given my lack of motivation to do anything but drink, eat, and shop, maybe a little too perfect. 

Disco Fridays and Stayin’ Alive in a Pandemic

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“On Fridays, Papa’s all about the boogie.”

It was a succinct statement, offered by my nine-year-old granddaughter, Molly, as she summarized an evolving tradition in our home. Back in the days when we left the house to go to work, Disco Friday began weekly, in the early evening, as Tim scrolled through the Sonos app on his iPhone. He’d stop on Studio 54 Radio and songs like Evelyn “Champagne” King’s “Shame” ushered in the official start of the weekend.

At first, I thought Tim’s Disco Friday thing was a stunt designed to make me laugh at the inherent irony. I first met him in the late 1970s, at the height of the disco era. I spent my weekends at clubs like the Flying Machine in downtown Boston or Faces in Cambridge, while Tim, a hardcore rock and roll fan, went to The Ark, on Boylston Street, or further down the road to MaryAnn’s, a notorious Boston College hangout. While I collected 33 rpm singles of songs like Chic’s Good Times, he tended toward full-length albums of Led Zeppelin, the Stones, and Kansas. He allegedly loathed disco so much that, in our early dating days, any suggestion that we might go to a club together met a frosty reception. Besides, Tim’s wardrobe of flannel shirts and jeans would never pass muster against the well-dressed disco crowd. I soon gave up, separating my disco life with my girlfriends from my dating life with Tim. I will loosely and inaccurately paraphrase Rudyard Kipling who said,  “Oh, disco is East, and rock is West, and never the twain shall meet.” Yet, despite our musical differences being miles apart, we married, setting our intolerance of each other’s musical tastes aside. 

In time, Tim softened to my passion of dance music. Perhaps my subtle musical ‘death by Shalimar’ caused the shift, but, eventually, he joined in on my disco adventures, even attempting to learn a few dance moves. But our joint love of the night life and the boogie was short lived. The era of the 1980s mantra, “disco is dead,” and the birth of our babies collided. We traded our “oogie oogie dancin’ shoes” for footie pajamas, and unbridled boogie nights for nights full of boogers, spit up, and inconsolable babies. 

Over the years, I often lamented my lost disco days, that is, until our purchase of Sonos speakers brought the boogie back from the dead. Now a lifetime later, every Friday brings me back to the dance floor as DJ Timmy C cues up the tunes. Before the pandemic, Disco Friday had even seeped into the ride to school with my grandchildren. Blasting “It’s Raining Men,” we kicked it up a notch by dangling a disco ball from the sunroof. Molly and Declan took turns pointing a cell-phone powered, multicolored disco light at the orb. I wondered what passing drivers thought as the glare of the sun-struck, mirror ball blinded them. It’s an unexpected thrill to be hit head on with the excitement of a disco-on-wheels, especially for a week-weary driver on a Friday commute.

Now, as the pandemic rages on, the mirror ball sits darkened in the trunk of my car. It’s been ten and a half months since the Mami’s Disco-on-Wheels went the way of the real Studio 54, the Flying Machine, and Faces, all now defunct, but luckily Disco Friday lives on. Now that we are home day and night, the Friday disco kicks in at 9 a.m. and sometimes continues until Tim switches the Sonos to Sunday morning jazz. In those forty-eight hours, the “four-on-the-floor” rhythms of non-stop Candi Staton, Gloria Gaynor, Rick James, and the Trammps fill the house with pulsating beats and catchy lyrics. It’s 1978, a less complicated time, all over again.

As the months wear on, more than ever, I look forward to being another week closer to the end of our isolation. “Stayin’ alive” and avoiding the virus wear on my nerves but Fridays always energize me. I never expected Disco Friday to be our lifeline in the pandemic. But maybe DJ Timmy C knows best: to get through these tough days, a little BeeGees, and a lot of boogie, might be just what we all need. 

Deliverance: How Junk Food and Wine Help Me Survive the Pandemic Despite My Best Intentions

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The box of Cheez-its stands at attention on the counter. In the cabinet below, bags of Fritos and Late July tortilla chips await the call. I have assembled the troops and they are at the ready for that moment, the one that occurs more frequently as the days pass in lockdown. But that’s not how it always was.

When I embarked on this adventure, the one with the two-week itinerary, I had the best of intentions. Braving an outing to an actual store for the last time on March 14, I stocked up on the essentials: fruits, vegetables, bread, a few canned goods (just in case),  some frozen items, a bit of meat, and milk. Two weeks, they said. I replied with certainty to the charge. “I can handle that! You want me to stay at home? No problem. I have Netflix and Hulu and the staples. I’m good to go!”

At first, my husband continued going into the office and food was plentiful. Once he shifted to WFH (Work from Home…who knew?), I noticed a simultaneous deterioration of the stockpile. We ate together-breakfast, lunch, and dinner- and I cooked. Our full-blown meals, eaten with great ceremony (I even used cloth napkins to conserve the stock of paper ones), celebrated our time together in quarantine. A novelty, we enjoyed our time together, working side-by-side in our dining room now converted into Mission Control. It was surreal and bearable.

With the first extension of the shutdown, I assessed the situation. Peace continued in the WFH kingdom but, food-wise, things were getting depleted. Even the shelves in the basement, formerly stacked high with pasta, canned soups, and beer, were emptying out quickly. Spurning a trip to the store, I needed to find alternatives. My daughter suggested the local Wegman’s, which offered curbside pickup. While that sounded like a viable option, my first attempt proved futile. Availability was non-existent. In any case, actually going to the store was not an option. I had heard the stories:  the close quarters in the narrow aisles, and the shoppers, cum banditos, with their masks. The images terrified me as much as the virus.

Despite being a veteran of Amazon Prime, I had never purchased food from the service but, at this point, anything was fair game in the cause of fending off starvation. I filled my “cart” with abandon, adding multiples of things like Half and Half for my coffee. By now, my coffee was about all I had to give me a reason to live and I could not sacrifice my morning joe. Aside from hoarding coffee creamer, I restricted my buying to bread (a lovely, squishy, Sara Lee wheat disguised as a white), cereal, peppers, romaine, and other healthy choices. Amazon divided my purchases into two carts, Whole Foods or Amazon Fresh. I had entered a new dimension of buying and I loved every minute since it offered a bright spot and a fun diversion in this bleak situation.

However, as quickly as I filled my cart and was assigned a delivery time, I realized that I had forgotten a few things. With no option to adjust my order once submitted, I began a new cart. Every few hours, I thought of something else I needed or might need, and I clicked the magic “Add to Cart” button. The cart filled from ten items to fourteen items to twenty items, in no time. I questioned whether it was time to ‘say uncle’ and contain my spending, I clicked on “Proceed to Checkout”, confident and empowered by my online buying prowess. 

“There are no delivery times available. Check back later as times are released throughout the day.” Delivery: denied! Shaken but not deterred, I followed the directive and relentlessly checked for delivery times, first every hour, then every half hour, then every fifteen minutes. Lulled into a repetitive clicking loop, I circled around until, unexpectedly, a time was conferred upon me like a reward for my hard work. My unbridled excitement caused me to pick the first thing I saw – Sunday night from 9-11 p.m. It could have been 2-4 a.m. I was at the mercy of Amazon and I succumbed to its power over me and my survival.

However,  the process was not that innocent. Within the delivery denial process, Amazon has embedded a ‘point of purchase’ trap, thinly veiled as helping, and I fell headlong into the crevasse. Framed as one of those “In Case You Missed It” things, I navigated past a page that dangled an array of Jolly Ranchers, Cheetos, Diet Pepsi, and other goodies that I had resisted in the early days of the siege. Over time, the images chiseled away at my resolve, corrupting the purity of my “essential goods” and tipping my buying into the danger zone.

The process repeated itself over the next few weeks. I clicked, my cart filled, I was denied, I tossed in a box of Cheez-it. As I played the delivery time game, the cart grew in size, and junk, until I was offered a coveted delivery time. Alternating between Whole Foods and Amazon Prime, I imagined a time when the delivery people would pass each other on my front stairs, backing off from each other and giving each other a virtual ‘high five,’ while maintaining good social distancing. 

I proudly posted my success story on Facebook and my celebrity as a seasoned pandemic buyer ignited. As friends and family followed my lead, I became the Guru of Amazon Pandemic Buying. I fielded all manner of questions on the fine points of manipulating the system. While I’m not sure how much manipulation was involved, I will credit sheer luck for most of my prowess. Nevertheless, I reveled in my power at a time when I felt so very powerless.

Yesterday, I faced a new emergency. As I took a bottle of pinot grigio from the wine rack, I realized that we had only four bottles in reserve. I’m not proud to admit that what was once a relatively decent back stock of booze had diminished rather quickly during the lockdown. I sounded the alarm, calling on the Facebook Gods to return the favor of my expertise with advice on how to handle this dilemma. Suggestions ranging from using Drizly to arranging curbside pickup at Total Wine, to braving Wegman’s for their vast range of libation flooded my feed. Thinking quickly, I downloaded the Drizly app and went into full purchasing mode. Within a few hours, two large boxes of wine and beer arrived at our doorstep. The process was seamless, and given the quantity of booze we secured, I hope, but won’t guarantee, that this will be the last Drizly mission of mercy for the duration.

In five short weeks, everything we knew about our society and everyday reality has changed. I wonder just how much about our daily lives will return to some version of normal and how much of it will go away forever. Speaking for myself, I have a newfound respect for delivery people and online grocery buying. I won’t even broach the subject of Lysol wipes, another of my passions. I’m making the best of being told to stay home to help the greater good. I do feel a little guilty that my needs have shifted from necessities to “less essential” items like junk food and alcohol. But, in survival mode, I think I’m doing my best for me. Once this is over, my habits, like maintaining social distance and incessantly washing my hands, may have changed forever. In the meantime, as I ponder what will be and revel in the simple pleasures, I’ll pour another cup of coffee and eat the Cheez-its.

Got Beer? Drizly Delivers! – Motif

Decision Making in the Pandemic

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Back when I had a schedule, I followed a routine. Most days by seven a.m., I had showered, dressed, made my bed, caught up on all my Words With Friends and Candy Crush games, done a load of laundry, and glanced at my agenda to plan the rest of my days.  By eight-thirty, I had driven my grandchildren to school, gone to Mass, stopped by the Walgreens across from church, grabbed a newspaper, and chatted with the cashier, who had become a casual acquaintance.  After that, I listened to writers’ podcasts, wrote, read, did more laundry, and planned dinner. My day had a rhythm and my life had deadlines. I had to get things done without delay or else there wouldn’t be time for all of the things I needed to accomplish.

In a little more than two weeks, nothing has a deadline, except for the application to a writing program that I completed last evening. Preparing the application was the last vestige of structure that remained. Now, with my days truly wide open and all the time in the world on my hands, I can waste time like it was a life mission. My schedule of limiting screentime was blown days ago, with Verizon warning me that my phone use was up thirty-six percent last week. Really? I hadn’t noticed although I will admit that, as soon as Candy Crush tells me that I have full lives, I am compelled to kill them. For entertainment, I register for remote classes to see other people and chat intelligently. And for everything else, there’s always tomorrow.

Clothes that were one step away from Goodwill are now my working wardrobe. My biggest decision of the day is choosing between leggings and yoga pants. I didn’t realize just how many pairs of stretch pants I own! I shock myself with the ensembles that I wear on my “sanity walks” in the cemetery across the street. Color combinations that would offend the artistic eye and a fashionista’s sensibilities are my means of self-expression.  As for skincare, I dip into the stock of free samples from Lancome and Sephora in an effort to ration my expensive skin cream. I forgot just how much I enjoy the feeling and scent of Sunday Riley. It’s a brave new world for someone who prides herself on good grooming and tasteful dressing.

A few minutes ago, I changed my earrings from my 60th birthday diamond studs to my Christmas 2017 pearls.  I usually would have saved either for “special” but now I say, “whatever!” Prompted by the realization that I hadn’t thought about earrings in days. the decision nearly crippled me. Clearly, I am out of practice.  A lifetime and a pandemic ago, I would have barely considered the options. Now, my choice, one of the few I will make today, had a monumental impact on my day. Every time I pass a mirror, I am drawn to the pearls gracing my ears and I am uplifted. Joys are so fleeting in the face of disaster. Finding one is a moment of grace.

So in the meantime, I think I’ll go clean the bathroom. Or not. I guess that can wait until tomorrow. In fact, everything can wait until tomorrow for the foreseeable future. I also see that realization as a moment of grace. We may never again find ourselves fully in control of our tiny personal destinies as the world and its wellbeing dictates our larger movements. So read a book, watch Mrs. Maisel for the tenth time, eat the potato chips. Give yourself permission to make dumb decisions, the ones that we resist in our daily grind.

We can only hope that before long, our lives will return to some version of normal and we can look back at this era as “the time when time didn’t matter.” Stay well.

20 Most Inspiring Quotes About Time - TimeCamp

Etiquette 101 and Coronavirus: A Primer

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I remember the old days when I worried that someone was standing too close to me in an elevator or at the checkout stand. Back then, it had nothing to do with contagion. Instead, I just obsessed with the need for common courtesy. A dirty look or a step forward usually cured the complaint unless the person was a real numb-nut and took a step forward, too. It was a simpler time and the rules were squishy. Ah, those were the days.

In a short ten days, life has become one long, painful Seinfeld episode where the world is teeming with close talkers and germophobes who wander amongst us. On the other hand, we need to be hyper-aware of the Poppy’s who are “a little sloppy,” failing to sing all of Bohemian Rhapsody twice in order to ensure that their hands harbor not a shard of the sloughed-off virus. My own family, living next door, avoids me, claiming that they do not want to infect us old people, just in case. I know better. They are afraid we are carriers as well. In our family, Coronavirus has pit mother against daughter, with an accidental passing touch of hands causing a stampede to the kitchen sink for a good scrubbing. 

Nothing is simple. In the day of COVID-19, we search our consciences to decide whether or not leaving the house is an essential act. Walking out the front door requires papal absolution, even if we pledge to not look into another person’s eyes and promise to cross the street whenever a stranger comes into sight. But sometimes, a girl just needs to get outside. 

This morning, I took a walk in the woods near our house but before embarking on my trek, I dipsticked the potential for effective social distancing. From my living room window, high above the access road in the forest, without the impediment of leaves on the trees, I saw that the path was clear. Although it was only twenty-nine degrees, I needed air, and it was only 9:15 a.m. I could see that it was going to be a long day of self-imposed exile. Slipping my camera strap over my neck, I set off. 

A beautiful walk in nature, undisturbed by humans wielding the Coronavirus, was just what I needed. Meandering up the hill, I searched the bare branches for owls and hawks. I photographed the streaming sunlight through the trees, ducks cutting the surface of a peaceful ebb-free pond, and my white whale, the great blue heron. Peaceful and chilly, I reveled in the calm.

Deeper into the woods, a dog approached. My first thought: if this dog bites me, I can’t go to the Emergency Room or I will certainly get infected. I greeted the dog calmly and realized in seconds that he was a good boy, friendly and calm. I searched the road ahead for the owner. As I spied the man who was oblivious to my presence since he was looking at his phone and smoking a cigarette, I chose to make a U-turn. The path was narrow and my now inbred need to keep my distance kicked in. As lovely as the dog was, I abandoned him to his owner’s questionable attention.

As I turned around, a group of three, well-bundled up, loud, chatty people worked their way up the hill. I assessed my options. About fifteen feet ahead, I saw the small road that would take me out of harm’s way. I hastened my step and took the right turn that would bring me to safety. It wasn’t long before I heard footsteps behind me. One of the group had broken off and approached me, far to close for comfort. I shot the glance I use at the supermarket when my personal space is invaded. She retreated. In a time of powerlessness, I was momentarily powerful.

After my close encounter, I thought about the need for an etiquette book for appropriate behavior in a crisis such as this one.  I would call my manual, Coroniquette: Distance Living for the Pandemic. With all of the confusion around the meaning of  “social distancing,” people need rules, and maybe even laws, to define limits. Whether they read my handbook or not is another thing.  It’s a time when nothing is simple and depending on your fellow humans is touch and go.

In the meantime, my best advice is to stay safe and hold your loved ones six feet away. The life you save might be theirs. 

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Writing in the Time of Exile

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When I retired from my career in education to embark on my writing adventure, I never imagined that, within the year, the world would shut down. Since I already embraced partial seclusion in my writer’s world, I needed to make only minor adjustments to my routine to adhere to the social distancing advisories. Still, there are pitfalls to the solitary life, especially when you live with someone. While I self-quarantine, my husband continues to go to work, defeating my best efforts.

Tim’s job, procurement for a hospital group, requires his contribution to the supply chain. By his own admission, he is buying “everything” from “everywhere” to keep the health care workers up to their elbows in nitrile gloves. His employer is working to set him up with Work From Home (WHF), but for some reason, it’s taking longer than expected. In the meantime, I scream “wash your hands” every time he walks in the door and warn him if I get sick and die, the blood is on his hands. No pressure there.

As I wait for him to join me in my exile, I adapt. Blessed with a seeming immunity to writer’s block, I write prolifically and am making great progress on my memoir. Without distractions, my ability to tap into memory and make meaning of the events in my history flows unfettered. I miss my writer connections but my classes at Grub Street have gone ‘high tech’ with Zoom so I check in with the writing community regularly.  A new skill for me, Zoom has kept me connected and I pride myself on my mastery of the platform. My writing group employs Zoom as well to stay in touch and to share our pieces. It’s a new way to workshop but, as it has been said, necessity is the mother of invention. For my writing life, this seclusion works and I await a time when I will want to rejoin society. For now, I’m good.

Yet the life of isolation is not all sweetness and light. The lack of a schedule messes with my head. Once I get up, shower, get dressed, put the dog out, and throw a load of laundry, it’s a crapshoot. Having hours to myself forces me to wrangle with my tendency to be a little distractible (I can hear you all chuckling). I plan for the day, making lists of chores and other pressing matters like tax preparation and plant watering. Without the list, I would be even more unfocused that I am already. Without the list, I would continue my quest to plow through another seventeen hundred levels of Candy Crush or an additional twenty-five hundred games of Words With Friends. I would read a book or two from the stack on the table by the sofa. The list helps but its completion requires the fortitude to resist the siren song of distraction. Monday’s list still sits on the dining room table, partially crossed out. I didn’t say it was a perfect system.

The safe harbor of writing puts me in the chair and provides a singular activity that forces me to be productive. As I damn the list for my seat at the computer, I feel no guilt. I have a goal, my memoir, and I see progress. Grateful that my life has taken this direction, my passion for writing distracts me in a good way from the sad news of the exponential growth of the Coronavirus. I know that, by staying home, I am doing my part to stem the contagion. 

Time in a quiet place provides an opportunity to think as well. Seclusion has taught me that I am more of an introvert than I ever thought. Socializing via remote conferencing is sufficient contact to fulfill my need to see people. I’m not sure that is particularly a good thing but I do think that being still and shutting down the chaos offer a chance to reset. Some of the things that are happening in our world are beyond our control. I worry about people who are ill and dying, those who have lost their jobs, the crashing stock market, and the burgeoning emergency rooms. In the meantime, I write and wait to see how we all come out on the other side. In the meantime, I write.

Men in exile Aeschylus