Saturday, August 29, 2020

covid notes 36

OK, here’s something. In the midst of getting some of these house projects done in June, I did my annual window washing/blind dusting, which longtime readers of Route 153 know is a BIG DEAL in this house of 30+ windows and doors. It’s a task that takes a few days, and sometimes those few days have many days between them. There’s a part of me that enjoys it, oddly, but this year I think I enjoyed it more than usual, and I suspect it was because it felt like something normal and ritualistic in the face of all the abnormal.


Given that I do this only once a year, I’m sure it’s impossible for anyone to ever tell that I’ve done it at all. But I know.

covid notes 35

I realize that some of these covid posts are tedious and whiny. These days everything has an odd shadow cast over it. Everything is harder, more complicated. Things aren’t working the way they should—or in some cases, maybe just not the way they used to, and there’s a learning curve. Medical issues are harder to deal with. Grocery shopping is more complicated. There are many things that simply seem too hard to acquire. The U.S. postal service isn’t working as well as it used to, and neither is FedEx or UPS. Things we order get delivered to people who are not us, and then we need to somehow prove that we did not receive them. Awhile back, for example, I ordered a dozen bottles of a salad dressing I used to buy through my now-likely-defunct buying club. They were shipped (from California, it turned out, which horrified me) and then stalled there. Eventually I got word that they had been delivered, but they hadn’t been. I went to the post office, and apparently the shipment had been signed for, but it wasn’t there. So where was it? It had been delivered to the elementary school, it would appear, because why wouldn’t it be? I can’t recall how they figured that out, but if it weren’t for a woman with a cell phone in line behind me who knew some custodial staff there and called them, and if I hadn’t driven to the school myself, I would never have gotten that case of salad dressing with—yes, you guessed it—four of the dozen bottles broken. Which led to more phone calls and refunds. See? I can’t even apologize for getting whiny without eventually going off on a rant.

covid notes 34

When I had my annual ob/gyn appointment last November, we needed to schedule a mammogram, but the year before, because I have dense breasts, my doctor scheduled both mammography and sonography as screens, but apparently no insurance company will pay for sonography as a screen, you have to see something suspicious on a mammogram, so I ended up paying for that out of pocket, and it was very expensive, so I wanted to figure out what I should do, because my doctor thinks mammography is not enough for me, but she said they were about to get a 3D machine, which is much better than 2D, so maybe I should just wait for the 3D machine, which would be there by the end of February, allegedly, but then, of course, with all the regular delays and then the covid delays, it wasn’t, and so when I went for my follow-up in June, I asked if I should just get a 2D or wait or what, because by now it had been 17 months since my last mammogram, and she said if I were her sister, she’d tell me to not wait, and she could send me to Dartmouth, which is a couple of hours away but is in their system, and I asked if there was anything closer, and I could in fact go to the hospital where I used to get my mammograms done, before I got in with this ob/gyn at long last, who wanted to keep all my records down by her, so we scheduled that, and the people there were lovely as always, and 3D felt just like 2D but with an extra D, and according to that screen, I’m good.

covid notes 33

An upside to unemployment is that when Thom (who helped us get our couch) came to barber the trees and clear out the brush from our backyard, Tim and I could work as the underlings, carting brush and limbs up the hill to dump into the truck, trip after trip, so he didn’t have to hire other help for that, and it saved us a little money. Similarly, when Paul came to touch up the paint job on the front of the garage, Tim could assist. Every little bit helps.

covid notes 32

June also brought with it Tim’s aching knee and more Friday telemedicine and a trip to the hospital where a clinic was set up to test for both covid and Lyme disease. He was, thank god, negative for covid, which we found out in a couple of days. By the next week’s end, the blood work revealed that he had anaplasmosis, another tickborne illness. It was what they’d suspected, and it was good that this was what he had, because they had started him immediately on the antibiotics for that—had it been Lyme, they would have had to switch his meds. Chances are he already had it at least a month. They’d suspected it or shingles when he’d called before (again on a Friday), but there was no visible sign of shingles, so they scheduled blood work. Over the weekend, the shingles broke out, so they quickly treated that and canceled the blood work, which, in retrospect, I’m pretty certain would have shown he had both things at once. The poor guy. He’s much better now.

covid notes 31

At March’s beginning, the dentist said that the hairline fracture we’d been watching on that back molar meant I should either replace the filling or get a crown and I decided on the crown because I had insurance and the procedure was scheduled for the 26th and then everything shut down, and the appointment was tentatively rescheduled once, maybe twice, and then they weren’t going to call again until the office was really open, and meanwhile Tim lost his job and I had to call the dentist and find out what happened if I lost my insurance, which was potentially complicated, but in the end I decided to pay for COBRA, which shockingly turned out to be my cheapest option, and the procedure happened on June 8, 13 weeks later, and he put the temporary crown on (with the help of his covid-terrified assistant), and the next day part of it broke off, and three days later the rest of it came off at my friend’s socially distant retirement party, so it may have been the most temporary crown of all time, and I went crownless for two more weeks, but then finally got the thing, some glittery gold in the back of my mouth.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

covid notes 30

In April, a friend texted a photo of a couch she was getting rid of to a bunch of us neighborly gal pals.


Tim and I had a sleeper sofa we bought in the late 1980s—our first big furniture purchase. I loved it. But after thirty-plus years, it was worn out, and so are we. We need a little more support for these aging bodies when we relax in front of the TV.


Ours was queen sized with a Sealy mattress and iron supports. It was a heavy motherfucker.


We had been wanting to replace our sofa, but I didn’t want to order anything without sitting in it first, and so nothing was happening. Shopping out here in the boonies had not produced good results.


So we asked to see our friends’ sofa. It’s not what we’d choose if we were out in the world, but it seemed like it would work really well, and it was a lot lighter and firmer than what we had. They were getting a new living room setup but had room in their garage to keep the old sofa until we figured out how to get rid of ours and how to get theirs moved to our house.


During a pandemic.


First, I checked with friends, one at a time. This took a few weeks, as people considered and one by one said no. My (former) housekeeper had a lead, who called me, but she hadn’t given him enough important information (it’s a sleeper! you have to move it yourself!), and he wasn’t interested after all.


Because of the pandemic, I had wanted to avoid online marketplace stuff, not really into the idea of letting strangers into my house. But time was passing, and I was feeling guilty about the time passing. So I posted our couch. Free, but it needed to be picked up. We couldn’t help.


I got a bite pretty quickly, but it was from someone who needed a lot of hand holding, asking where I lived and asking, when I told her, Where is that? I wasn’t sure that someone unable to find my town on her computer was my best bet. When I told her how far I was from another town, she dropped out of the running, living as far away as she did, but why she was on my local marketplace at all is a mystery.


More days went by. I was getting discouraged. I didn’t want to take my beloved, but worn, couch to the dump, where I would have to pay cash money for its immediate demise (by law they couldn’t let someone else have it, apparently).


Then, on Memorial Day, I get a message: Is this still available? Yes. I could come get it today. Really? Where are you? He was 10 minutes away, the next town over.


Within the half hour, a strapping young (to me) man and his two equally strapping friends were pulling their pickup truck into my driveway. They lifted that sofa like it was nothing, and it just fit the bed of the truck.


And just like that, it was gone.


My across-the-street friend Thom has a small box truck?/cube van? and was willing to help us. So at last, we called our friends, and we picked up the couch. More than five weeks after they offered it to us.


We have nice friends.

covid notes 29

Sometime in May, the bookstore opened its doors again: masking and social distancing required, number of customers limited, the one-way path through the store defined. You’d think I would want to get there for the books, but my desire was more spec-ific: readers. My presbyopic eyes have been getting worse and worse. The bookstore had better-looking readers to purchase than the ones in the grocery store. But truth be told, I was afraid to try them on in the grocery store. So many people touching them. So I waited.


By the time the bookstore opened, I was desperate.


Of course it was also risky for me to be trying on readers in the bookstore, and it was risky for those after me trying on the ones I did not purchase. (I do not claim to be logical or consistent. At the time, though, foot traffic had been much lighter at the closed-for-weeks bookstore.)


And what a relief for a couple more pairs! (I am wearing one right now.) I could use a pair for each room in the house, of course. I am becoming that person.

covid notes 28

What happened in May? That was years ago now. I see scrawled notes, that Tuesdays and Fridays seemed the hardest, for whatever reasons. May 1, a Friday, I note “rock bottom day.” Depression? Exhaustion? Too many negatives, not enough hope.


It snowed on May 9. Then by month’s end, it was summer hot, with a major thunderstorm and power outage.


Midmonth, Tim was diagnosed with what turned out to be a (very mild) case (thank god) of shingles. The nurse, via telemed set-up, asked whether he’d been under any unusual stress lately. Why, yes.


Some socially distanced happy houring began. All outside. The measure of distancing was likely inconsistent.


A teacher friend decided to retire after all, not teach one more year—the one thing she could control.


We sat in our backyard one Saturday and participated in a bird count. We went birding as much as we could, because May is when you see them, before they all go quiet and the trees leaf out. I added 45 species to my 2020 list.


On one jaunt, we met four interesting birders (one a herpetologist) and tagged along with them, which was an adventurous and wonderful decision.


I Zoomed meetings, yoga classes, and a blogger meet up, remeeting Dona (whose birthday is today—happy birthday, Cedar Waxwing!) and meeting Bridgett, Linda, and Maureen for the first time.


I have to look at my calendar to distinguish the months and the memories, to remember what happened when. It’s all running together.

Thursday, August 13, 2020

covid notes 27

The Moth event that was moved from May 8 to October 6 has been postponed to “sometime in 2021.” I’d been wondering when the concert that had been moved from April 19 to August 1 to September 10 was going to reschedule again, because surely, they would. But when I went to file the Moth paperwork, I looked at that last concert announcement again, and they had in fact scheduled it for September 10 in 2021, not 2020. Duh. That makes more sense. Of course, that’s the same weekend as my rescheduled high school reunion, so I will either be attending one or the other or—quite possibly—neither.

covid notes 26

In April one of my* favorite authors died, suddenly, it seemed (not covid), as he’d told me he was better and had five years left, and I was devastated, and I pushed his article and his obituary through so that we could get them in the summer issue, but I cried a lot, because damn, I liked him, and then my BFF’s other BFF died of stage 4 pancreatic cancer (not covid), and that had been coming, but it’s so hard, she was so young, they’d raised their daughters together, and whenever I do yoga in my living room I see the lantern that she gave me when the two visited once, and I somehow finished style school the week that Tim was laid off, and Tim was laid off, and the next week, on a stormy day, we met with friends, all of us in our own vehicles, and we did a drive-by caravan surprise birthday party for another friend, with our big homemade signs, and dropped presents at the door, and that got me all teary, in fact, April was a very teary month, I see, looking back, but we did get outside some, because the birds were arriving, and I added eighteen species to my 2020 list.


*By my, I mean one whom I edit and publish.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

covid notes 25

And now that $600/week is gone and terror is tougher to tame.

covid notes 24

I did not want Tim to look for a job right away. He had been working solidly for 35+ years, and there wasn’t work available even if he decided to look. That $600/week in unemployment made it possible for us to go on this summer. He’s teaching himself some website skills and taking a few online seminars. He is playing music and painting and getting the first regular exercise he’s had in ages. This has been a very, very hard summer, probably especially for me. But he’s able to say that in some ways, it’s been one of the best summers of his life. And I am happy for him.

covid notes 23

One cannot prove age discrimination, and one cannot accept even a small severance without signing away one’s rights on this score. However, people in their late fifties making age-appropriate salaries are regular targets. Just because one would never be able to prove discrimination or win a case doesn’t mean said discrimination is nonexistent.

covid notes 22

I have always worked from home, but not with Tim here. Tim liked working from home—he could, in fact, get more done. But on April 15, he got laid off. And no, he was not furloughed.

covid notes 21

Tim started working from home March 16, right after schools were closed and visitor access restricted at long-term care facilities. Over the course of that week, Vermont closed bars and restaurants, childcare facilities, and the Department of Motor Vehicles. Nonessential elective surgery and medical procedures were suspended. Nonessential gatherings had to be 10 people or fewer. By the end of the week, close-contact businesses were closed and telecommuting was ordered when possible. The Stay Home, Stay Safe order was in full effect March 25 (19 weeks, 4 days ago) through May 15. State-of-emergency orders have been extended every month, with slow, gradual, and restricted reopenings. The current order runs through August 15.

covid notes 20

Body work: I have note seen Carson for 25 weeks, 6 days. I have not seen Ellen for 24 weeks, 5 days. I yearn especially for Ellen. My body is a mess. When will it be safe to get a massage? When will I believe that it is? And will I ever have enough money again to consider such a thing?

covid notes 19

Body maintenance: I was taking a 13-week break from Jen that turned into 20 weeks, 5 days; my next appointment was 4 weeks later, and another 4 weeks after that. I didn’t see Shawnon for 13 weeks, 5 days, but had the next appointment 8 weeks later (no hair dryers!); she’s having surgery next week, so I won’t see her for 11 weeks. I didn’t see Roseanne for 12 weeks, 1 day; then 6 weeks, 2 days later when I had an emergency, with a follow-up of 1 week, 4 days after that (my original-appointment-turned-check-in).


We wear masks. Some take my temperature. Apparently these are the risks I am willing to take.

covid notes 18

The last time my once-a-month-for-four-hours housekeeper came to my house was the same day I last went to my when-I-go-to-the-office gym: 22 weeks, 4 days ago (March 4). I have money set aside for her to be here one more time. We canceled in April because of her travel and COVID and she’s a bit immunocompromised. I said I’d call when this thing had passed, thinking it might be May. Then Tim lost his job, and I haven’t even attempted contact. I’m getting used to not having the help, but it was nice to know there would be clean surfaces once a month. When will hiring a cleaning person be safe again for all parties? And will I ever have enough money again to consider such a thing?

covid notes 17

As best I can tell, I last went to my close-to-home gym 31 weeks, 2 days ago. I last went to my when-I-go-to-the-office gym 22 weeks, 4 days ago. I miss gyms. When will gyms be safe again? When will I believe that they are?

Monday, August 3, 2020

covid notes 16

Things about style school, in no particular order.


I had to learn how to take a selfie. When I began style school, there were just three photos on my photo that identified themselves as selfies. They were, but the phone was not in my hand when they were taken.


Luckily, Stasia recommended a cheap tripod and Bluetooth shutter remote control that I purchased so I could set my phone up on said tripod and take a photo from afar. That took a lot of practice on my part, because I (think I) look shitty in photos, so a LOT of photos have to be taken to get good ones. It was so so hard for me, but I did it. And I still haven’t taken a regular selfie with my phone in my hand.


When I signed up for style school I thought I would be doing all the work alone in the house. Thanks to COVID-19, Tim started working from home the day I started style school. I wouldn’t tell him what I was doing, and he left me alone, god love him. But it totally changed the energy of the whole thing and made me even more self-conscious than I already am, which I did not think was possible. (I seriously didn’t tell him what I was doing until it was over, five weeks later.)


The class calls, which happened via Zoom, were the best part for me. In the beginning, I didn’t do them live but watched them later at night. When I started doing them live, I was glad I did, because you could watch the questions come in as people texted them and could chat on the side. You didn’t see that on the taped call. Again, because of my self-consciousness, I didn’t turn on my video or mic until THE VERY LAST CALL I WAS ON (before the class started, people could chat). I’m telling you this not only because it’s true, but to let you know how even though I am this self-conscious and easily frustrated, I loved style school.


I have told maybe one or two other people that I did style school. I’m guessing I would have told more people after the fact if we weren’t all on lockdown, but we are, and I just haven’t mentioned it.


In part maybe this is because I don’t want people to think suddenly maybe I’ll be stylish or something. You know, people looking for evidence that I went to style school, whatever the hell that is. I don’t want people looking at me with that eye, like I need to prove something or something should be different.


And that’s why I didn’t tell people about it while I was doing it. That was a point of contention, because the first week (remember this?) Stasia asked us to gather words from others that describe us. I didn’t want to explain what I was doing to anyone. I don’t like people watching me while I’m trying to learn something. The only way I could master the stick shift was to be left alone with the car. Just give me a little time by myself to get comfortable. I’m slow this way. I asked to retake Algebra I in ninth grade and not be tracked high into Algebra II. They didn’t let me, and I nearly failed. I know when I’m slow, but slow doesn’t mean unable. Please respect that, world.


Our group was SSS-19, the 19th style school. And it was the first style school when most of us, all around the world, were in some sort of lockdown. It became SSS-COVID-19. None of us could go shopping. Our closets became the ONLY places we needed to go for creativity. In the strangest way, this was awesome. (I still haven’t purchased any clothes since style school, even though I have things I’d like to have, because I fear mail order. Oh, and because my closet is actually serving me pretty well, it turns out, if I think about it a little bit.)


There were people in school with me from Denmark, Italy, India, Canada, all over the U.S. I think Stasia says there have been students on five or six continents. Can’t find that statistic now. It’s amazing how differently some of us can be culturally and yet our issues are so damn similar.


Schools are broken into (usually) four smaller groups, and you get tight with your own. They are Maya (Angelou, my group), Rosie (the Riveter), Amelia (Earhart), and Frida (Kahlo—our school was slightly smaller so we didn’t have this last group).


I never did my real closet edit (although I have done some closet edits before style school). I want to go back and go over ALL the material again, but I haven’t yet. I love the alumni group, which you can join when you’ve finished style school. Sometimes, when I’m feeling sad, I go there and immediately feel connected and supported and real again.


Here’s the link to her website ( Registration for the next school opens August 28, which probably means it starts sometime in September. I can’t tell you that you will love it. But I can tell you that I loved it. It was the worst timing ever for me, as well as the best. It’s helped me think differently about myself and about others. It’s helped me be more compassionate toward just about everyone.


And Tim has told me multiple times, without prompting, how good I look. Tiny changes. But he’s noticed.

covid notes 15

I keep saying I’m going to write about style school and everything else. And I keep meaning to write…ANYTHING. I feel so busy and overwhelmed. So just in case I can’t get anything else out, here is something I wrote to the group during the last week (mid-April, the week Tim lost his job). And then maybe I’ll add a few notes in another post. If you’re thinking about style school, do it! I’m so glad I did.


Things I’ve learned in weeks 2, 3, and 4:


1. I was right. I don’t have time for style school. One of the things I’ve been working on in therapy is how overwhelmed I feel with tasks and how to move forward in dealing with that. Still, during a time in which I was desperately looking for more energized time to accomplish important things, I jumped into style school (on Leap Day!). Then my husband started working from home too. Then comes the stay-at-home order, fear, more stress. I was right. I don’t have time for this.


2. That’s OK. I’m glad I did it. So what if I can’t keep up? It’s totally against my nature to commit to something I can’t give my all to, and it’s uncomfortable. Maybe it’s OK to be uncomfortable sometimes.


3. The only person who seems to think I’m failing is me. Maybe that means I’m not really failing.


4. Even though I can’t keep up, I am absorbing so much. I am learning from each and every thing someone says or tries out or shows me. I may not be able to try the same thing now, but I am taking in this information, and it’s affecting the way I am able to see and think.


5. Every time I’m getting depressed about my process, I get on one of the class calls, which are always uplifting and inspiring. What a pep talk! Stasia says that we can’t do this wrong! So I guess I’m not doing it wrong. By the time the class is over, I’ve shot my style school time for the day…but the calls are some of the best part of this process for me.


6. In beginning to accept that I’m not going to get through style school assignments at the same pace as others, I think a little of the anxiety is disappearing. How did my outfits make me feel? Anxious, mostly, that I was so far behind in style school and didn’t have enough time to FEEL them after putting them together. I still am trying to do things as quickly as I can, and I may not know exactly what an outfit makes me feel, but I am having more fun playing—grabbing things, starting to see possibility where I didn’t before, even if I don’t have time to try that thing right that second. I can’t get where I would like to be in these 5 weeks, but it’s happening: my brain is changing. I’m seeing the world, my closet, myself a little differently. Slowly but surely.


7. I knew this before, but we’re always learning it: Other women are so inspirational! Women who seem like naturals to this, women who are struggling with this, women who are showing up no matter how they feel about this. Every single one of you affects me and teaches me things. Thank you.


8. I am learning to keep lists of items I need in my wardrobe, things I’ve been afraid to try/didn’t like/“couldn’t wear” because they never worked for me: belts, scarves, necklaces. Who knew some basic math could make accessories work for anyone? (Also shoe brands, jewelers. And I need a jean jacket, for cryin’ out loud!)


9. For the past few years, I’ve been trying to get rid of clothes, not buy them—or at least get rid of enough to legitimize buying more. One reason I’m here is to learn enough about myself to make good decisions. I want to learn enough to help me know what to let go of and what to bring in. This will no doubt be a slower process than I’d like (seems like a lot of things are), but I believe I’m gaining these tools to help me with these decisions. Thank you!