It’s not dark yet

“There’s not even room enough to be anywhere

Not dark yet,

But it’s gettin’ there…

Well my sense of humanity is going down the drain,

Behind every beautiful thing, there’s been some kind of pain…”  —-Bob Dylan

God, I love that song.  Don’t look up Bob’s version, either.  Look up “Not Dark Yet,” on Youtube, with Alison Moorer and her sister Shelby Lynn.  They are INCREDIBLE.

So, warning: this post is probably not a feel-good one, but if you follow along with me you may recognize many of my blog entries are not always mood-lifters.  I process through my writing, and this is what’s in my hot-flash-addled brain these days.  By the way, menopause and masks are not a good combo, in case you were wondering.

Good morning, friends. Today’s post is brought to you not by beer but by coffee.  It’s happened before, believe it or not.  Although I am now reminded of a bottle of coffee porter our friends dropped off the other day that I won’t hesitate to break open.  I never in my wildest dreams would have thought beer and coffee flavors would go together…but trust me, they do.  Porters are roasty and so is good coffee.  Enough said.  There’s also a dark chocolate bar those same friends gave me that would compliment this menu.  A breakfast of champions, right?  Let me just roll my over-caloried  and alcohol soaked self right out of April, where it’s been Groundhog day every day.  Here’s what I’ve become: Get up.  Coffee and toast.  Maybe shower, maybe not.  Maybe change clothes, maybe not.  Check email, Facebook, and current rants about corona. Deal with animals and check for evidence of poop, puke, and pee throughout the house.  Decide what will be for dinner.  Maybe write.   Think about doing zoom yoga and decide not to.  Walk.  Clean, then bake and eat hordes of butter-laden items.  Walk dog.  Check for pee again.  Make dinner and take pictures of dinner.  Dishes.  Drink.  Watch latest shelter-in-place- show, in between checking social media rants again.  Go to bed.

Sound familiar? Many of you are homeschooling and working, in addition to all of this. It’s hard, and so is the relentless monotony.  Also, I’m not joking about the animal excretions part.  Having two geriatric pets guarantees this clean-up is part of my routine now; as is nature’s miracle, Skout’s honor laundry additive, smelly kidney-helpful cat food, homeopathic drops, an extra litter box, pee pads, and arthritis meds.  Scarily,  this is possibly my future, too.  The other day I looked at the dog’s gray hair and bowlegged gait, and I announced to my husband, “Everyone’s old in this house!”  He didn’t disagree.

Most of you have seen those posts, “Take advantage of this new time!  Be at one with your spouse and your cadre of ever-growing children! Play board games and cook eight course meals! Re-evaluate your life, your inner glow, your neglected goals! Be grateful for family!”  I try, I really do.  I’ll bet you’re trying, too.  And I’m already over it, sorry to say.

Having an “empath” personality, which I do, sounds like hippy guru type stuff.  Very in touch with the universe and all that. Which I guess might be true, but it also means it’s extremely difficult to turn the thoughts off:  “I hate what this virus is doing to divide our country even more”, “I hate not seeing my family and friends, and my live music,” “I hate what’s happening to our small businesses,” “I hate that people are in nursing homes all alone,” “I hate that everyone is paralyzed with fear at the idea of touching another person,””I hate that kids are glued to computers more than ever, can’t see their friends, and might be cooped up with maniacal family members…” It goes on and on in a loop.

Sorry.  I did warn you.

It occurred to me that part of the virus-fueled fear I mentioned above, is closely related to our relationship with death. Maybe that sounds too obvious, but what isn’t obvious to many is how unskilled we are at grasping the reality of death happening.  Everything in our culture is geared toward how to stall and prevent it.  I believe the majority of us get a big fat zero at “being comfortable” at the inevitability.  Of course, with good reason.  We’re wired to fight for survival.  The older you get, though, (theoretically), the more at peace with the afterlife one becomes.

I learned so much about death when I took a hospice volunteer training years ago.  This was before I began losing family members in what felt like a three year plague.  When that plague hit I remembered what Hospice taught about dying.  I remembered that it’s natural, that we should take control of the process as much as we can, to see that it happens peacefully and with minimal suffering.  For ourselves, and our loved ones.  I think that’s what’s so terrifying for the world at this point.  A disease like Covid-19 attacks our choices, our say in how to carry on, and how we might die.  My preferred method sure as hell isn’t laying with a ventilator behind a partition, petrified that I might be infecting the nurses taking care of me.  My personal mini-pandemic a few years back resulted in me clarifying what I DIDN’T want for myself when that time came, and to make sure others were aware too.  So when I think about my end I’m not really afraid, unless it’s that above hospital scenario.  If I knew tomorrow would be my last day on earth, there are two things I would regret: missing out on grandparent-hood, and not finishing my #@$damned book.  No pressure on the kiddos, but I hereby put my writer friend Kris in charge of finishing the manuscript if I don’t.  She’d make a fine author.  I might have to will her a lifetime of coffee porters to see it to the finish.

Here’s the eternal, painful, predicament: the deeper the connection, the harder the loss.  But what else would we do?  Not have the experience?  It’s certainly tempting to take a pass after a pet dies.  Who can stand the thought of going through that over and over?  My son and daughter-in-law are in this anguish as I speak.  Yesterday, their kitty of seven years named Beatrice passed away quite traumatically.  Black and white, docile, chubby, and agreeable Bea, with her rotund belly and disproportionately tiny head.  She enjoyed sitting in boxes too small and lounging on the windowsill, but most of all she liked laps with blankets.  Unlike most cats, she was decidedly ungraceful, making us all laugh with her failed attempts to land jumps.  But also unlike a lot of finicky felines, she was cuddly and loving as could be.  As fate would cruelly have it, one minute she was there, the next she was not, and we are all heartbroken.  I can’t stop crying as I think of her, and my daughter-in-law trying to help her.  Although it’s on another level, this kind of jarring loss is comparable to that of a violent crash.  The unexpected shock, vs. the long, downward decline everyone dreads.  And always, always, the question that haunts: was there something else that could’ve been done?  The answer for people who wonder this is almost always no, but asking it means you loved, and you cared.

It hurts.  Living hurts, I guess, if you do it right.

It all stings deeply, whether its the old, young, animal, human, and if the demise is fast or slow.  I feel the effect is magnified during a time when we’re forbidden from having contact except through a screen.  I’m sad in a myriad of ways due to the last couple of months, and although I may want to drink through it, I won’t make the mistake of clamping down or denying it, and you shouldn’t either.  Why are the tears we shed from an onion chemically different than ones shed from grief?  There’s a reason why God made us in this fashion.  Not to be overly dramatic, but this limbo we are in is like a mourning, and we should treat it as such.  It’s when we wallow endlessly and obsess in our despair that we need a change to take place.

Ready for my one paragraph of positive prose?  I think I detect a pattern in my blog writing.

There is light coming, like shards of sun peeking through the blinds.  Logically, we know this.  Spring is here, and so are the blooms that give us joy.  Babies will be born, kittens and puppies will frolic and be adopted and help heal aching holes, and there are bluebirds nesting in my twenty-something year old box.  Orioles will come to feast on the fruit and grape jelly, dazzling in their orange and black glory.  I have to tell you how much I cherish those birds.  In elementary school, my son Danny brought home a mother’s day card with the word mother in an acronym. The other words for the letters were typical adjectives describing me, clearly suggested by a teacher.  With one exception.  For the E in mother, he wrote, “E is for eager to see oreal birds.”  I was so glad his teacher never corrected his spelling, making it that much dearer.  And never have I been more eager to hear their lovely warbling than I am right now.

Along with nature, in the coming months some shops and pubs will emerge unscathed, while delicious beer will be made, and concerts will be held again.  We will get to kiss and hug without personal protection equipment, and even if so and so says we shouldn’t yet, I will do it anyway.

I’ll be okay.  I’m even going camping this weekend, where 6 feet away friends and a campfire await.  It’s not dark yet.  And that was more than one paragraph of good news.

Cheers, friends. Until we can meet in person, send a little love or good vibes toward the famed rainbow bridge that just welcomed another furbaby, and the two humans who loved her the most.  Rest in peace, sweet Bea.







The End Times have arrived

Wow, ya’ll.  (I can say ya’ll legitimately, because my son and daughter in law live in Nashville, and so will I.  Sooner rather than later).  It’s been a long time since my last post, so let it be a warning I’ve got something important to say.  Just kidding.  I don’t, not really, but I wanted to pontificate longer than a facebook forum would allow me.  I should be working on my novel, but lately I can’t seem to string more than a paragraph together in one sitting.  So, here we are.

Tonight’s consumption is fueled by local brewery Haymarket: an IPA named Aleister.  Crisp, with just a hint of hops.  Not too grape-fruity, which is the standard by which I rate all but black IPA’s. And a couple days ago I made hubby go out and buy it, because they were featuring a six pack for six dollar special. That, my friend, is cheap in the craft beer world, but like every single brewery and restaurant in the United States right this minute, they are scrambling.  Scrambling to figure out what in the hell they need to do to balance the bills, their employees’ needs, and the safety of the public.  And still make the good stuff in there somewhere.  All in the meager and unforgiving timespan of a week.  The Michigan beer industry generates MILLIONS of dollars into our state.  Am I selfishly wishing to preserve it?  Yes, but not just for me.  There’s all the infrastructure affected, of course, from the suppliers, to the brewers, servers, kids to feed, mortgages..I could go on and on.  It’s the same story all over.  I’m aware we need healthy people to drink the beer.  We also need an economy in which to live.  Can’t have one without the other.

What is causing this unprecedented state of affairs?  Well, unless you just woke up from a coma or crawled out from under a rock, the world is in the grip of a pandemic caused by a dangerous disease called coronavirus. What we don’t know about it far outweights what we do, which is that it’s highly infectious, kills old people, people with deficient lungs, people with underlying and immune-compromised conditions, and…then there’s this.  We are also told it doesn’t kill most people, but that it will cause utter chaos in hospitals.  And you could carry it unbeknownst to you, and kill your grandma and grandpa or somebody else’s, because there’s a horrifically long incubation period.  There.  That’s my thumbnail sketch, if I ever look back.  Kindly do not message me with whatever aspect I left out.  I’m already aware my memory is precarious, and within twelve-ish days, everyone is already on operation covid overload.

Basically everywhere on the developed planet, schools and colleges are closed, businesses shuttered, people are to avoid contact with anyone not in their household, and nobody is to go anywhere unless they have to.  All in an attempt to slow the progression and not overwhelm medical facilities.  This makes sense to me in theory.  It doesn’t mean I like the new rules, but then again, only the weirdos claiming they’ve waited all their lives for this moment do.  Make no mistake, they’re out there.  I’ve seen their memes and posts celebrating “permission” to hibernate.

Here’s some of what I hate about the current situation.  I might add there’s nothing particularly unique about my rantings, nor is it a comprehensive list.

Then, later, if I’m feeling charitable, I might give a plug for the positives.

I’ve bitched before about kids and teens being chained to their phones and technology.  They substitute and over-use media platforms instead of face-to-face contact, and have been doing so long before this outbreak.  Now, it’s all they’ve got.  God knows how much sexting is happening now, how many genital pictures exchanged.  At least, I think to myself, they can’t get pregnant.  There is a chance, however minute, that after this nightmare is over they will be so lonely for a friend’s physical presence, that the almighty screens could diminish in appeal.  Phone sex has to be a poor substitute.  I’m guessing.

How about the complete disappearance of all live music?  I feel like in this house, we’ve been cut off at the knees.  This isn’t an exaggeration.  For a myriad of reasons live music is our lifeblood, and after awhile you-tube gets old.  So with all concerts and gigs cancelled, musicians are trying to keep their livelihood going with livestream appearances.  For a minute there seemed to be a glimmer of hope.  Alas, it was quickly snuffed out, as our experiences thus far have been fraught with technical difficulties.  Due to all the buffering it was like watching those Asian Godzilla b-movies, when the actor’s mouth wasn’t moving the same time as the dialogue. Whose mouth WAS moving was my husband’s, bellowing profanity at the computer and tv screens.  Not only that, but the performers looked and acted disappointingly like…us.  Wearing pajamas, un-showered, no make-up, half drunk in their messy living areas or bedrooms.  One female singer literally smoked a joint in between songs and sat cross legged and made no sense from that point on.  Another guy I am fairly sure was recording from his mom’s badly lit basement.  It wasn’t pretty.

I will say, the one upside to the gigs playing to an unseen audience, is that you don’t have the annoying side-talkers there, ruining the show.  Oh, and I could watch in MY sweats.  So, I guess that’s two upsides.  I joined Patreon to help support one particularly favorite musician, but it’s a mere raindrop compared to the hordes left out to dry.  As if hoofing around the country trying to make a buck with your guitar and heartfelt lyrics wasn’t hard enough in the first place.  Not to mention, trying to get young people off the couch and out of their bubbles. They’ll be so neck deep in their snapchat and Instagram after this I wonder if they’ll ever resurface.  They did make it to Florida for spring break, though, which I found mildly amusing, as well as feeling a tinge of envy.  People clucked and fussed, but are we that surprised?  People in their twenties think they’re invincible and as a general rule, aren’t exactly known for their selflessness.  And, they want to party.  Hell, I want to party.  Now apparently some of them have tested covid positive.  Possibly a lesson was learned.  Possibly not.

The we have the politics.  Before and during this unsettling time, Pete Buttigieg and Tulsi Gabbard were thrown under the bus, (the only two Dems I would’ve voted for), and this was a bummer.  Meanwhile, Trump is digging his own grave every time he opens his mouth (which you may or may not be rooting for), and Senators have been outed for insider trading as the rest of us watch our own stocks wither and die.  Is it any wonder Americans have been so frustrated with those in office?  Accusations as to how the virus coulda shoulda been or be handled fly faster than an intern trying to get away from Joe Biden’s massaging fingers.  Don’t even get me started on him.  It’s sad, actually, to see the clips of him looking confused and inept.  I don’t get it.  Is his family really on board with him as President?

If we thought party lines might be softened now in an effort to achieve solidarity, we are sorely mistaken.  With these new restrictions in place our freak flags are flying.  There’s the extreme ends of the spectrum, of course.  Marky Marxist is screaming about sheeple caving to a Communist regime, Socialist know-it-all Sally is shouting at shoppers to staythefuckhome, and Militant a-holes Mac and Morgan are stocking up and decimating store shelves of water, Gatorade, instant rice, and you-know-what.  Then there are the moderates (like me), in the middle somewhere, complaining about salons closing, trying to feed everyone and deliver toilet paper like an underground railroad.

When it comes down to it, most of us are probably a mix of all of these components.  We’re attempting to do the right thing in scary, unknown territory.  And stumbling.  I joined a couple of Facebook help/aid groups specific to our area. Unfortunately…even THAT turns into a shitshow of opinions.  The good soul moderators have a fulltime job just closing threads off to the mudslinging.  One of the sites showcases which restaurants are still offering curbside service, etcetera.  More than a few chimed in on this “Buy/support Local” group with wagging fingers at the ready.  “All these drive-through, take-out options don’t sound like social distancing to me.  All those hands touching the food!”  (As if being at the store is that different).  When an EMT driver commented he’d have a hard time if drive thru-s closed, he was told he should “make his own lunch.” Jesus, Mary and Joseph.  This is the kind of nitpicking nonsense we do not need right now.

Like many states, Michigan has the “essential businesses and services only” order in effect.  It took less than a day for the arguing and debating to begin about what/who is deemed “essential.”  One area laundromat posted they were open and following appropriate sanitation and protocols, and Joe Schmo had to skewer them to the wall.

“There should be ONE laundromat for our whole area!  This is why this virus is spreading!”

Says the guy as he loads his lovely, operable Whirlpool unit in his home, blissfully unaware that with 1,600 square miles in Berrien County to encase (yes, some of it is water, but still), one laundromat would be a mob scene.  And a throbbing petri-dish.  Let’s not forget to ask, who would decide WHICH lucky laundromat gets the grand prize?  It’s enough to un-join the groups, and I don’t want to do that, because I want to help.  I want to help as I read the posts of the frantic parents thrown into homeschooling with about one hour’s notice, where these situations carry the same ends of the behavior spectrum.  You’ve got over-the-top mom Annie, spending every free minute making color-coded schedule posters that would put Sherwin Williams’ paint chart to shame. There was a father I could only assume was near tears on one site.  He said, “I’ve organized everything I can think of.  I’ve asked my kids how they want to learn, what subjects they always wanted to know more about, and they just stare at me dead-eyed!”  A long-time homeschooling mom gently referred to this period as “unschooling,” where kids used to having every minute regimented are at a loss.  It takes time, she assured him.  Someone hand that well-meaning mama and dad some weed.  Soon.

Passed out at the other end is loosey-goosey Lori, chugging a bottle of wine while throwing pinterest-generated worksheets at her brood of house-destroying monsters.  She’s given up after a week and a half.  It’s enough for me to want to dive into my old Parents-as-Teachers bins, which are loaded with activities, and offer to come by and have fun again.  But, there’s that damned six feet mandate.  Don’t tell me to take to the internet with it, either.  Some things cannot be translated to the screen.

There are those parents in the middle, too, shuffling along and waiting for April 13th in vain.  All joking aside, though, it’s the ones dealing with true addiction, food scarcity and other dysfunctional lifestyles that are worrisome.  Trust me, I saw this firsthand.  It’s bad when the world is spinning as it should.  When it’s in turmoil, I can’t even think about what those kids’ lives might be like.  There were times when I knew my coming to visit a family was the only thing they looked forward to that week.  This isn’t a humblebrag.  I know it because they openly told me.  I’m sure it’s the same for the elderly, mentally ill, or fragile folks who might have certain services suspended now.  These are the populations who are desperate risk due to enforced isolation.

So, let’s get to the good, before I get too snarly or end up crying in my beer for real.

Isn’t it wonderful how we’re checking on our friends and neighbors?  And the fact there’s going to be a baby boom in November and December?  We’re also re-discovering nature, going to parks and preserves we didn’t make or have time for before.  We’ve created networks providing vital connections regarding unemployment and area resources, ones I believe will flourish long after corona has departed.  We are appreciating teachers, healthcare professionals, and our families more.  We’ve cast a grateful eye on convenience store clerks, janitors, child care workers, maintenance crews, fast-food workers.  Maybe you won’t dismiss the employee working in a grocery store so casually after this.  Or a truck driver, or a construction worker.  Where would Nashville and surrounding areas be without them right now, as many of their facilities lay in ruin?  Every sector I mentioned is truly the backbone of our country, and I wish to God this would be reflected permanently.  Not just in pay, but in status and lasting respect.  It’s sad it takes national hysteria to unearth the hidden gems right under our eyes.  We need to pay attention to those “essentials” every day.

It could be that this craziness will result in a major mind-shift not only in our nation, but in the world.  On many fronts.  We can only hope.

Be well, friends.  There’s gonna be so much celebrating when this is over.  Until then, check on your middle-aged female pals.  We are not coping well with our shaggy gray roots, our unkempt nails, and rapidly expanding waistlines.