Skill Deficit Unmasked

I want to help. I really like helping. It makes me feel good. That may be very selfish of me: helping because it makes ME feel good, but that’s the truth (I am still abiding by the “Stay At Home” mandate, so the truth is not setting me free). When the plea for homemade fabric medical masks went out, I thought “I have a sewing machine and I have fabric so this is an opportunity for me to help and to feel good.” I perused many DIY mask patterns before settling on one that would only require materials I had on hand. The pattern was simple, so I was very surprised when it challenged my skill set (and intellect).

I printed the pattern, read through it, folded the paper pattern to make sure I understood the concept, and made a mask. Initially I misinterpreted the folding instructions, but I did not let that deter me from my mission (I decided my “prototype mask could be used by me if an order to wear masks in public was implemented). I did, however, put everything away, deciding to wait until the next day to try again. I awoke the next morning, and after completing my morning chores, again tackled mask making. I began by watching numerous YouTube videos on DIY mask making, all of which proclaimed the ease of construction as well as the minimal time required. With a better understanding of the folding aspect, I set about cutting fabric, folding and sewing. A mere 14 hours later, I had completed ten masks. I felt so good. It was after midnight, so I decided to wait until morning for the required pre-donation wash and press.

As always, I favored function over form.

The next morning, I learned a valuable lesson when I opened the washing machine to move the masks to the dryer (using gloved hands which had been dunked in bleach water so as not to contaminate the newly-washed masks). I should have secured the ties on each individual mask before washing.

It took a very long time to untangle these masks using gloved hands.

Once the masks were dry, I again immersed my gloved hands in bleach water, removed the masks from the dryer and prepared to iron them (sandwiching them in freshly washed and dried dish towels so as not to contaminate them – the germ phobic DIY mask handling was not included in the instructions, but rather a contribution of my own mania). Once the masks were ironed, I contacted one of the people who had put out a request for DIY masks and she reluctantly agreed to accept mine. I feel so good!

Ten completed DIY medical masks.

Viral Introspection

Introspection is the way of the day (and the days to come) as we practice social distancing. I am fortunate in that I am an avid introspection practitioner; first as a retiree, and then more intensely as a widowed retiree. Solitude is the introspection work place. I spend a lot of time relishing how very fortunate I am. I have a wonderful family, amazing friends, a comfortable home and more stuff than I care to admit to that provides material to ward off boredom… and worry.

Still, I am worried about the possible health impact of the coronavirus on friends and family, the economic impact of measures being taken to contain the virus and the impact of fear and greed that seem to always accompany uncertainty. It’s easy to avoid the source of the worry by avoiding news broadcasts and the newspaper, but for me that’s cowardly. In the last week I have vacillated between cowardly information avoidance, and non-cowardly information overload. I would love to fall back on the old adage, “keep calm and carry on,” but the carry-on aspect has been removed from available options as schools and businesses close in the interest of public health. The emphasis now must be on keep calm. I have a familial tremor, so even when I try to keep calm, it appears that I’m a nervous wreck, which does nothing to encourage calm in those around me. Social distancing is working in my favor when it comes to encouraging calm in my loved ones.

Other things, non-viral in nature, are impacting the ability of individuals to keep calm. This is not nice to us, as keeping calm while keeping the coronavirus contained is a Herculean activity. There was an earthquake in Salt Lake City last Wednesday (happily pals Shari, Steve and Sochi are okay). The tectonic plates were moving and shaking, carrying on with no respect for the attempt to keep calm already underway by Salt Lake City area residents.

Further aggravating things, nature, and the part of nature that is viral, have no appreciation for the current societal dependence on immediate gratification. The stock market [over]correction that has occurred in response to the coronavirus has made it tough on retirees, prospective retirees, stock brokers, companies and pretty much everybody to procure with any immediacy. Immediate gratification is more difficult when restaurants and breweries are closed. Wiping one’s bottom (a completely legitimate immediate gratification need) is more difficult when there’s, inexplicably, no toilet paper available.

The threat, tragically, goes beyond immediate gratification when people lose their source of income and are unable to pay their rent/mortgage, utilities and purchase groceries (the groceries that are available to be purchased). I am comforted by stories, when I allow myself to watch the news, of people and organizations that are stepping in to support individuals who are negatively impacted by virus-containment-related activity.

So for now, I will be inspired by those who have chosen to “keep calm” and CARE on. Our economy is as shaky as the ground was in Salt Lake City last Wednesday. In both situations the impact varies from person to person and place to place. I’ve heard many a hero say, “I’m no hero.” I wish that were the case for me. I am NO hero; I never have been. I will still look for ways to help. They will be teeny-tiny non-heroic ways. I’ll let someone else have the last package of toilet paper on the shelf, and hopefully I’ll help in other ways too. I believe that what is going to have the greatest impact now is the combined efforts of the many and of the multitude of unseen, unacknowledged acts of caring.

Keep calm and CARE on!

Saint Jessica

Many are seeing red as panic grows in response to the Coronavirus. I rarely go to large events. I’ve never traveled overseas. I spend most of my time at home so I am much more likely to be impacted by the human response to the threat of the virus than to the virus itself. Like my Jessica did when she was a child, I’m going to choose to see things differently (I realize that I am fortunate to have that option and wish the best for those who don’t).

And so, my story, like so many before, will begin… Many, many pre-retirement years ago in a far-off place called Cedar Crest there was a small church where kind-hearted elderly women would gather to pray and share pot-luck meals. Jennie was the secretary for this small church and would take he daughter, Jessica, to work with her when Jessica did not have school. Jessica would happily interact with the elderly ladies and the pets that sometimes accompanied them. The elderly ladies would share their food with Jessica and all were happy.

On this particular day, the ladies were all dressed in green and their pot-of-luck consisted of dishes like corned beef and cabbage, and Irish soda bread. As always, the food was offered to Jessica. This was not the food that Jessica was used to sharing. The food, especially the cabbage, did not smell like the food Jessica was used to sharing. Where were the biscuits, the fried chicken and the mashed potatoes? Not only that, why had all the women chosen to wear the same color: green?

Jessica took these questions to her mother, who grumpily (while not a wicked step-mother, she could still be a wickedly grumpy mother) answered, “It’s St. Patrick’s Day. He’s a saint from the Emerald, which is green, Isle of Ireland, so on his day everyone wears green and eats Irish food.” Jessica’s mother went back to her typing, and Jessica was oddly quiet. Jessica was not typically a quiet child. A few minutes passed and Jessica interrupted her mother’s typing to ask another question: “When will it be St. Jessica’s Day and everyone will have to wear pink?”

That is not the end of the story, because we’re still awaiting the proclamation of St. Jessica’s Day. It will be a happy day, with all dressed in pink, eating food that does not stink and mothers will be forbidden to be grumpy. I can barely wait.

In the meantime, I will avoid grocery stores, where currently, not only mothers, but pretty much everyone is grumpy and behaving badly. Instead, I will prepare to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, but instead of corned beef and cabbage, we’ll eat Irish stew (it has cabbage in it so it’s still a little stinky) and beer bread. We will wear good strong shades of green (no wimpy pale greens allowed) and eat sugar cookies with green icing that are shaped like shamrocks. While it won’t be St. Jessica’s Day, we will make the best of it and will definitely forbid the mention of Coronavirus. We will, however, wash our hands for 20 seconds just to be on the safe side. Life will be as good as we make it.

Saint Jessica, dressed in pink.

Uh oh, now Cinnamon wants a Saint Cinnamon Day when everyone will have to dress in fake fur, chase toy catnip-filled mice and eat cat food.

Not-so-saintly Cinnamon

“I can barely wait…”

That was the theme of my pre-retirement life. Pre-school Jennie: “I can barely wait to start school.” School-age Jennie: “I can barely wait to be out of school and earning money.” Work-age Jennie: “I can barely wait to retire.”

Here I am now, a theme-less retiree. What comes after retirement? “I can barely wait to die.” I’m not there yet. I have no fear of death. I have some concerns as to what precipitates my death, but I know that death is inevitable so it would be a waste of my hard-earned retirement time to fear it.

There are specific events that continue to merit “I can barely wait” like seeing friends, going on a trip, receiving retirement pay; but, they don’t merit theme status. They’re too fleeting.

It may be that the real theme of my pre-retirement life was anticipation of what the future promised. I missed seeing a whole lot of the “here and now” because I was focusing on the “what’s to come.”

Retirement provides the opportunity for a more Zen-like existence; more “extant,” less “existential.” I can enjoy how good the sunshine feels on my neck NOW. Oh baby, it really feels good! It beats the heck out of, “I can barely wait to get those injections in my neck that lead me through a gateway of increased pain, and may or may not allow me to arrive at less pain than before the journey began.” Om… I don’t know if Zen practitioners say “Om” but I do know that the sunshine on my neck feels wonderful!

They couldn’t wait for Spring.

The injections were a bust. They “aborted” the procedure when my blood pressure decided to bid them farewell. That was after they took my “co-pay.” They get their money up front. That was yesterday. Sunshine is free and today it is shining on my sore neck. Life is good!