I find that I have some sort of oppositional obstinacy that makes it so that if there is a chorus of people accentuating the positive, I cannot eliminate the negative. I immediately pipe up with “But have you considered ____?” [Fill in this blank with some dire, rare possibility.]
This does not make me popular at work, but recently I discovered that when people are negative at work, I can’t help myself from being Rebecca of Sunnybrook, Inc., supporting the company line and saying all will be well.
This doesn’t just happen at work. At home, there’s no way for me to escape the news that I’m classified as having Secondary-Progressive MS (whispered in most circles as “you know, the bad kind”) and yet somehow that negative news just cheers me right up. As always, I think, “Sure, you say I have a fatal disease, but have you considered _____? [Fill in this blank with some convoluted logic about how future dire results are best predicted by past excellent performance.]
Evidently I’m not the only person in my family with this quality. My brother just spent a night in the hospital with liver failure, and it has cheered him right up. In fact, he’s very optimistic about his prospects. Of course I’m not saying anything to him, but I can’t find a way this is a good thing. Then again, how much of that is just my oppositional nature?
I found this container of wipes in the larder when the pandemic hit us in March. (Only three months ago. Seems like forever, but still not many days before my country embraces the “death” part of “Give me liberty or give me death.”)
I do know that I can make my own, and I do have the requisite strength alcohol, but the CDC now claims that it is hard to catch from surfaces.
So why am I holding on to it? It’s stupid, but I kind of feel like this little wipe is protecting our family in some supernatural way. (I SAID it was stupid.)
No doubt some time this month Gary will casually say, “Buy some more wipes. I used the last one.”
I am so delighted that we have a spaceship docked at the International Space Station. (I am also delighted that it is the newest, shiniest one, though I know that isn’t in keeping with the International Space Station mission of global cooperation.)
During the Dragon docking they mentioned that almost all the docks were filled up.
They were all filled up a few years ago.
Party at the space station! This really tickles me.
A friend posted that the latest virus plague is (deep breath) Rabbit hemorrhagic Disease Virus serotype 2 (RHDV-2).
At first I was relieved that this particular virus only strikes rabbits. I read a little further and thought, “Perhaps it’s just in Utah,” but then I saw this:
“How can you tell if a rabbit has the disease? Infected wild rabbits may be lethargic and not flee when approached.”
“Oh no,” I thought, “not the chunky bunny.”
I fear that the fearless, chunky rabbit of stone might not be long for the world. Or, potentially, people will creep up on these bold bunnies and capture them and eat them, and then we will have an even more novel coronavirus to deal with (or, in my country, ignore).
I was driving in the car with Gary, with my mask hanging around my neck (because Gary’s finally over his illness), but I suddenly found myself with the mask over my nose again when:
It seems if I am frightened I instinctively put the mask on, as if the mask will keep me safe from ALL things, not just the virus. How will I cope with fear after the vaccine is invented? What will comfort me when I drive with Gary? I might have to keep the mask around as a security blanket.
I thought Sunday was going to star Damian Lewis.
In the morning I finished the last two episodes of The Forsyte Saga. I started to watch that earlier this month because I conflated it with The Pallisers, am adaptation Mom and I obsessed over in the early seventies. I only realized my regrettable error when — sorry, I get stuck in that cadence after watching British costume dramas.
Let’s say instead that “I knew I had the wrong show” when I realized the lead was a dead ringer for Bobby Axelrod on Billions. I was still so convinced the “two” stars were related that I headed to IMDB to see if perhaps there was an uncanny 1970s father/2020s son family resemblance. Of course, The Forsyte Saga was in the early 2000s, and Mom never watched it because she said “that man makes my skin crawl.”
IMDB told me he also starred in Band of Brothers, which along with The Pallisers is on my summer Pandemic watch list. I watched the first episode of that in the afternoon. (I did a lot of gardening over the weekend. I am resting up.)
Then I was prepared to wrap up Damien Lewis Day with the most recent episode of Billions, but turns out that has been delayed by the virus.
Damn the virus. I could have had a Damien Lewis hat trick.
Gary, after decades of hating the cast iron pan, found a steak recipe that calls for cooking a thick steak in an oven then searing it in a cast iron pan. The pan has been brought up from the basement.
So now, he’s using it, and of course doesn’t know how to clean it (which, as we know, is to not clean it). He’s moved through the stages of cast iron ignorance: from scrubbing it with Brillo, to putting it in the dishwasher, to hand cleaning it with dishwasher soap. He’s not quite as far as my preferred method: scrubbing it with kosher salt.
So I had to spend a day reconditioning it. Shiny!
I got this pan at an antique store 30 years ago, and until I reconditioned it this last time I don’t think I had tried to date it. The classification of “antique” at this store seemed to be “thirty years old,” so I assumed it was from the 60s. The markings on the back suggest it’s from the 1920s or 30s.
I confess, Jessica and KC, this pan has been through only mild earthquakes, so it hasn’t been as abused as your cast iron plumbing.
Last year I grew some herbs in the backyard. Every time I crossed the 10x10 patio pad to pick fresh herbs I was annoyed they were ten feet away.
i’d been considering how I could have a garden of herbs right outside the patio door, so I could just lean out and snip off some herbs. On a table, perhaps, or hanging baskets.
Then, a friend got this fancy thing: four feet tall, composts and dispenses the compost out of a cunning little door, spins on casters. Then I saw it was $350, and I got creative.
I bought a Mr, Stacky planter on eBay, and because they mis-calculated the height I got that for free, then bought another less expensive one on Amazon. I took an old cutting board and screwed in some casters I bought, oh, 30 years ago. I found out that online PVC fittings cost one twentieth online compared to the hardware store.
So this cost about $50.
The two colors don’t match, but that’s fine. Then I did this with screws and pvc glue:
I ended up with multiple varieties of parsley, sage, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, and mint. There is one level of dianthus, which is not edible as far as I know, and some butterfly-attracting flowers.
I ended up with some extra mint, and some hyacinth bean and spinach that had to be distributed in other spots. I planted the spinach right by the rabbit warren. Perhaps that will satisfy him.
I heated up a sausage that had lived in the freezer entirely too many months, stabbed it with a fork, and I took a bite, and then I pulled it off the fork, and introduced it to its final resting place in the garbage disposal.
Gary saw this, and said, and I quote, “AAAAAAAAAUUUUUGGGGGHHH!”
”YOU JUST PUT THAT DOWN THE DISPOSER!”
”I’m not eating bad food!”
”YOU DON’T PUT FOOD DOWN THE DISPOSER!”
I just stared at him, and then slowly extracted the sausage from the garbage disposer. While staring at him.
”THROW THAT AWAY IN THE GARBAGE.”
I did, and then he calmed down enough to explain to me the rules for what goes in the garbage disposal.
Things that do not go in the garbage disposer:
Things that go in the garbage disposer:
I don’t know when the rules changed, be we are no longer to use the choppy/grindy blades of the garbage disposer to mince up food into particulate matter, because the water processing plant has had enough of sluicing stuff out of the sewage system.
He was able to find many citations on the Internet about how you shouldn’t put foods, rinds, shells, or anything down your disposer. I suppose kids today are all about the composting. I told him I would be happy to hurl our bad sausages out to the raccoons, and he didn’t like that idea. (“NO THEY’LL GET SICK.’) So I am now to put all food trash in the trash, and so that it doesn’t draw flies, you’ll love this, I need to put it in a ziplock bag.
And the awful thing is that I can’t sneakily do what I like on Saturday mornings when he’s asleep, which is to run a garbage disposer on the down-low. Too loud.
Is this crazy? This is crazy, right? Is this because I’m old? Do young folks only use their garbage disposers for sour milk and sugar that fell into the sink?
So here’s the next big project. Mainly grey with some hints of color. Three colors. How hard can that be?
Here’s the start:
I know the drawing below looks skimpy, but that’s all the book tells you to do.
Had I any outstanding debts I would gladly cop to them, but we have none. Still, a debt collection agency named Portfolio Recovery began calling me twice a day this past month. Of course, you can never call them back, because they call from a variety of numbers so that you can’t call them or block them.
I put up with the ringing phone for a month, then finally contacted a free service that TeddyJ provides, and they gave me an actual phone number I could use to speak to a person at Portfolio Recovery.
I did speak to a young woman there. I am afraid I had a tone. I was difficult. I didn’t like giving out the last four numbers of our social security numbers because the first three numbers are some algorithm of the state and year of your birth, and then you have half the number, but I reminded myself I got the phone number from TeddyJ, an esteemed establishment of the highest integrity, so these debt collection people must be somewhat trustworthy.
After I gave her the end of Gary’s SSN she determined that they had a wrong number.
Long-time readers know who the debt collection agency was looking for.
Gary X. S_____, the owner of a local furniture company. who never paid his debts and was not in the phone book, along with his lovely wife Elaine? We got calls about his debts, and then eventually the process server came to our house after he abandoned a fancy house in Ladue and skipped out of a home on the beach in Florida. He disappeared after that and I assumed he and his new wife Marla went to prison.
Now I feel sorry for Portfolio Recovery, because they are trying to recover DoppleGary’s debt, and they are doomed. All I could do was tell them the man they wanted is a debt-dodging folk hero here in these parts.
Of course, now that we’ve elected an equally shady character as President, I can’t say DoppleGary will ever get his comeuppance.
Following my miserable day in which I forgot how to play the low B note on my guitar, I seem to have leapt forward and found new challenges.
In the past, every once in a while, I’ll need to turn a page while I’m reading the music and I’ll know what the next note is and I’ll play it without having to read it or think about it. I think it’s the start of having an ear for music.
A few days ago I tried playing a song without reading the sheet music, just thinking what the next note should be, and if the notes were in two steps of each other I could do it, but if the jump was more than that I failed. I went back to reading the sheet music and found that after that little experiment I could clatter my way right through the piece almost without looking at the music, just thinking along with the tune and it came out through my fingers. It only works with songs I know, though.
So, looks like I’m taking another break to develop my musical ear. Maybe some music theory, too.
They are best visible on at the beginning of the video, but below you will see why Gary loves the skunks. Sometimes they’re babies.
We have yet to see the money shot: the Baby Glamour skunks (known to the rest of the world as Hooded Skunks, lately of Mexico. They shouldn’t be this far north, but they are probably following the armadillos to our backyard.
Speaking of babies, some raccoons want to drink directly from the mom spigot.
I don’t think I have ever ordered the annual Christmas ornament this early before.
Short of Christ’s return, I’m pretty sure nothing else in 2020 is going to be more significant than this.
(If Christ does return I promise I will buy another ornament. Or a set of Four.)
(If you want a pandemic ornament too, they’re at https://www.onceagainsam.com/)
So, you have to titrate your way onto this new drug. “Huh,” I thought, “I didn’t have to do that with my old drug. Then again, I had to spend a day at the hospital under observation.”
So I shrugged, and popped the first pill, which is one tenth what my final dose will be.
Then I forgot about it entirely because I had a day at work so stressful I developed a twitch in my upper lip. It wasn’t until six that it occurred to me to check if twitching is a side effect. (It is not.)
I woke up at three a.m. so hungry I had to go and raid the fridge. I ate a half cup of leftover rice and I wondered if hunger is a side effect. (It is not.)
Ten minutes later, I felt an overwhelming wave of nausea. I mean, falling-down-can’t-lift-your arms nausea. It stayed with me a hour. I checked to confirm: is nausea is the number one side effect? (It is.)
If I get this nauseated over half a cup of rice (rice!), imagine how sick I would have been if I started off with a full dose. Why the nausea didn’t hit me as I ate my lunch of popcorn and chicken strips (again, stressful day) I can’t guess.
I see many parallels between the “loose” cenote painting from yesterday and Jerry’s Novel.
In both cases, I’ve had trouble creating because I have too much freedom. With the cenote it became harder and harder because I didn’t want to be representational. But if I can paint what I like, then what is my goal? What am I aiming for?
Similarly, with Jerry’s novel, I have nothing to aim for. All I know is that I want it to be a certain way (better, looser), but I have no clue what the end result should look like. Some say I should just sit down and write, but I really can’t without having it a plan of where it will end up. I’ve been writing the juicier scenes that I know I want, but I really feel I need to craft the whole plot before I start. Otherwise - no end game.
So I’ve spent some time considering the plot. I want some percentage romance and some percentage criminal heist. I want a novel of manners married to The Sting. I want Jane Eyre minus Bertha Mason after she and Mr. Rochester have been married four years and then she meets Mr. Darcy.
At least that’s an endgame. It’s a very strange endgame but it’s where I’m headed.
This week the cenote was finally “finished.”
It was this...
... and then I took turpentine and “erased” the tree, and left reality behind entirely, and eventually it ended up like this:
... and really, I am calling it. It all looks kind of gaping and hairy now. Kind of ... evocative. I don’t know where that’s coming from. I forgot the combination of colors I used to mix the blue-green for the water, and that was my favorite part. Now it’s green. Bleh. I want to burn this one.
This where it started. Note there is no hairy gaping void in the original.
On the other hand, the project where I have an end game and a step-by-step guide of how to get there, went from this ...
.. to this:
I’m supposed to add more details to the bowl and get it really exact, but you know what? I like that bowl exactly how it is and I’m done. (Click to increase to see the glory of the bowl.) I’m not doing anything else to this. I really like two thirds of this and I’m stopping. It’s supposed to be as exact as the one below, but no. Not going there.
I don’t know what the next thing is from the book, but the next big project is a black and white version of the crypts in New Orleans that will be tinted like the original set of teacups. Enough with the loose. Back to the painstaking and layers upon layers.
Gary woke me up at two in the morning to come in my room and complain about a sudden hip and ribcage pain that was keeping him awake.
I grabbed the iPad. I knew enough about ribcage pain to look for shingles. I typed “hip pain in shingles.”
I told him, “Hip pain is an early harbinger of shingles.”
He said, “I don’t have shingles. I’ve had shingles. I’m immune.”
”You are wrong. You can’t catch the shingles.”
Back to the iPad. I let him know “a person can catch chickenpox from another person who has the shingles.”
”I didn’t catch chickenpox. I’ve had chickenpox.” He sighed. “That’s how you get the shingles —“
”I could catch chickenpox from your shingles. Me. I haven’t had either. I’m only done with half the vaccination. Get your hand off my doorknob.”
”I don’t have shingles!”
”Go away. I need to find someplace else to live.”
I don’t really think he has shingles, but, wake me up at two am, will you? I can play that game. I knew that just a little dose of escalation would make him back down, because often it seems he has no opinion but for those in opposition to me.
Twenty minutes later he came back in to tell me that he had done his own research and he was dehydrated, that was all, that was causing the hip and ribcage muscle pain. So don’t worry.
God, wouldn’t it be awful if he does have shingles? I really would have to move out. Well, the chances of that are slim.
I had to chastise the young people at work. They told me about the dictation feature for texts, but they did not tell me about Swipe to Type.
On the iPhone, instead of lifting your fingers when you type, just move your index finger to each letter. You can do it pretty quickly, and it is still very forgiving and guesses well. A scribbly trail shows up on the screen depending on the application.
On an iPad you do a two-finger pinch in a blank grey area, then the keyboard becomes iPhone-sized. Then you play connect the dots with the letters and it works.
But wait, there’s more. I have found how to get your cursor into the middle of a word. When I’ve been working on Jerry’s novel I’ve had to keep re-typing half a word if I want to change a letter in the middle. Turns out all you have to do is press and hold the space bar, and without letting up move around on the space bar, or then even above it, and the cursor will move with great precision.
These digital hints brought to your by Grandma’s Tech Support. (Slogan: “Did you know you can ‘cut’ text and then ‘paste’ it?”)
Gary is doing some magical thinking. He’s collecting face masks as amulets to protect him from the virus. The more face masks he has, the safer we are, though we can only wear one at a time, generally (see below for the exception).
I tried to make a face mask, but as we know the spirits of evil murdered my sewing machine after one seam.
Gary’s much happier stimulating the economy, so here is his face mask collection.
Our first masks were N-95s, because of course Gary did the research.
Turns out the N95 was a construction grade one, not a medical grade one, so he turned on it and picked up two KN95s.
I was quite happy with mine. It’s washable and it covers my wattle. I may permanently integrate it in my wardrobe for that reason. When I’m in my sunglasses and this wattle-cupping mask I look only forty-five years old.
Gary decided this mask by itself was insufficient and needed to be topped by another layer of mask, the sporty, fashionable overmask.
I might have gone with the layered look, but more masks arrived before I had a chance to leave the house: a very snug canvas Chinese mask that Gary couldn’t even fit over his German nose, and a cute one with clouds.
Mind you, Gary hasn’t left the house for weeks at this point. Then a box of 50 paper masks arrived that he bought a month before.
He started wearing those disposable masks whenever he passed me in the hall or heard my voice. When he left the house for his nose test, he wore the white mask (without the coordinating black overmask, mind you.)
I don’t know when he ordered the next mask that arrived, but this was the ideal, the ultimate, the one mask to rule them all: the blue Take Care mask. I liked this one so much I said, “Cut it out with the fucking masks, already.”
“So no more masks, right?”
“Well, I won’t buy any more.” He paused. “There might be some still in the pipeline.”
There were: these individually-wrapped wrapped K-95s:
When he went out to get his blood draw last week, he came in and gushed, “I found a mask in the car! They had it for me when I got the nose test, but I already had a mask on, so I stowed it in the glove compartment. It’s the best mask! It’s disposable, and it’s yellow.” Face it, from a practical point of view all these masks have been disposable.
Since then no new masks have arrived, but that’s not to say he’s stopped buying them. I wonder how long Gary will keep trying to keep us healthy by laying money on the mask altar.
Gary began feeling much better the other day - so much so that he surprised me with a kiss. There has been no kissing for these three months while he has potentially fought off the virus.
In the afterglow of The Kiss we sat in the same room and watched the same television, another thing we haven’t done in months. During his confinement he seems to have gotten out of the habit of interrupting the television every 20 seconds to share his opinion. God willing he won’t pick that up again.
Months ago we were in the midst of a session of Mansions of Madness when the whole of America heard what was up in the rest of the world (and then left the house to buy all the toilet paper). Of course we couldn’t get back to it until last night.
I rolled the dice one time, made one move, and Gary decided Rachel Maddow was more appealing than Cluthulu and his minions. It would seem that I have preserved this game, in situ, on the dining table for three months, for absolutely no reason.
A few days ago Amazon suggested I might want to buy more of the pods that go in my espresso machine. Click, click, done.
They arrived this morning and I realized that Amazon had pushed on me the full-caf version of the pods, though I have bought decaf for years.
I thought, “Well, Gary can drink those, but I can’t. I will just drink soda.”
That’s when I discovered the grocery delivery company couldn’t fill my request for diet orange soda and replaced it with the world’s only caffeinated diet orange soda.
”Well, I’ll just drink less. I’ll be fine.”
That was yesterday morning. It’s four a.m. now. I AM AWAKE AND BUILDING A PLANTER. I have had one soda and no sleep. Looks like I’m on milk and water if this doesn’t straighten out.
Gary must have separation anxiety, because he can’t abide a closed door.
We’ve worked out our issues with the closed door during work hours, with a few exceptions. The big issue now is the closed bathroom door.
Growing up, my family never talked through the closed bathroom door. After I was married I gradually adjusted to having chats with Gary if I was in the bathroom, waiting. You know, waiting, as opposed to doing. Not talking if I’m doing.
However, Gary’s now started to talk to me through the door while I am busy in the bathroom. He seems to want to talk when I am in the bathroom and I can’t hear, which happens when:
Gary uses the electric toothbrush too, so it will be easy to break him of habit 1. I just have to wait for him to starts brushing his teeth and start up a conversation. He’s very good at seeing another point of view when you force him into it.
However, habit 2 will be harder. He is a man, so his ears are over a yard from the deafening noise of the pee hitting the water, whereas I am right on top of it. The new Toto toilet is bigger, so there’s more of an echo chamber, and really it’s deafening.
All I could do is have him sit and pee while I talk to him outside the closed door. That is not happening. I suppose I can just start ignoring him if I can’t hear him.
This week the cenote went from this ...
I need to work on my trees and bushes, which look utterly stupid and lumpy now. Maybe a little Bob Ross on YouTube. Maybe more yellow in the background. Oh, The only part I like is the stripey ground on the bottom left. I need more of that. Maybe a yellow overhang that circles around the cenote and something to make the bushes look a little less ... intestinal.
Man, “loose” is a pain in the ass.
The copper bowl went from this ...
to this ...
So, we’re using Zoom at work now, and everyone else is is being all creative with their backgrounds.
I decided to choose the most boring, safe-for-work background I could, then I jazzed it up with a Hang In There Baby poster from my youth.
I need other poster ideas, preferably ones like the above that will describe my current mood. The Demotivation posters would be great, but I fear the writing on the snarky subtext would be too small.
My work moods are desperation, overwhelmed, on top of it, bored, put upon, and competent. Any ideas?
Well, this is exciting. I don’t have to wait months for the shingles booster shot before I start the new drug. I‘m going to start the new drug in the next few weeks. Here’s what’s going to happen:
That’s my plan.
I’m sad to say goodbye to the Gilenya, especially since it’s done well by me for so long. The really sad thing? I just had $6,300 worth of Gilenya delivered. I’m leaving it unopened, just so I can go back to it in case the new drug “disagrees” with me. Can’t forget the Copaxone Reaction.
I’m all encouraged about this new drug and the possible new disease path, because I just read a very encouraging article about secondary progressive MS.
It said this about the transition from relapsing-remitting to secondary progressive:
“If someone has mild disease you may not even notice the transition that much,” says Perumal — and, in fact, people with milder MS can be stable for years without relapses or significant worsening of symptoms.
Here I am with an absurdly mild case of MS — at least if you go by symptoms and not by MRIs. So, here is the final step of my plan (after my hair thickens up):
6. Continue to be oblivious to what goes on in my cranium.
I woke up this morning to this chaos on the sidewalk to the front porch. Lirope leaves and mulch were strewn across the sidewalk and pulled into a right-hand corner where nothing grows.
At first I blamed the deer. “Damn deer,” I said, “Last season they ate all the Ajuga and licked the shrubs to death. Now they’re after the Lirope.”
Then I wondered why some of the Lirope debris was on the right side of the sidewalk. I remembered that I had blocked off the rabbit warren there.
Here's how it looked last week when I blocked it off.
So, evidently the chunky rabbit did not like having his front door blocked, and decided to knock the block down and repay vandalism with vandalism.
Overnight, he grumbled, “These humans have infested my home. Pests. A nuisance.” He then checked Rabbit Wikipedia for “how to rid your home of humans.”
“I see. I need to destroy their nest. Well let’s wipe out the landscaping they built.”
Then he chewed off half a Lirope ...
... and dragged it across the sidewalk to cover the offending rock. (Obvious homage to The Godfather and the horse head.)
I complained to Gary, who OF COURSE TOOK THE RABBIT’S SIDE. He even said, “We are living in their field, you know. They have a right to be here.”
Two against one. I had no choice but to remove the rock and stuff some extra Lirope in the hole as an acknowledgement of who is in charge.