My Quarantine Life: Week 27

Jude & Jolene spending time together.

It is now officially over 6 months that I have been in quarantine. I have to admit, when this all started back in March, I thought it was something that would just end in a few weeks and everything would go back to normal. I thought it was going to be like Y2K or the Mayan “End of the World” or something, where we all roll our eyes after and laugh about “those few weeks in quarantine.”

Unfortunately, this virus is the real thing. It is here, it is bad, and it is lethal.

Everyone talks about “the new normal.” After 6 months of living with this virus, I don’t think this is “the new normal” anymore. Things will never go back to how they were before. This is our normal. It has changed drastically, but here we are. We need to figure out how to live with this virus, as there seems to be no end in sight. 

From the beginning, I have said that I can survive the pandemic as long as I can get food and I am employed. I am very grateful to still be employed and pray that nothing happens to my job. I know that many people have lost their jobs and are hurting. I am very privileged to not only still have a job, but that I have a job that is able to accommodate my needs and keep me safe from exposure while still allowing me to work.

Onto the food issue … I’m not going to lie. The past 6 months have been the most difficult time I have had getting food since I grew up as a child and had to ration my weekly $1 food stamp to try to get food. I had explained this in The Toilet Paper Chronicles, Part 1. I never thought I would need survival skills I used as a child in the 1980s as an adult, but here we are.

Instacart is the best service ever. I have now had two Instacart deliveries, and am looking to schedule my third in the next week or so. Instacart is helping me to feel normal again. I am able to get allergy-friendly food when I need it so that I am not hungry. God bless Instacart. It is literally saving both my life and my sanity in this pandemic right now. 

Thanks to Instacart, I am now able to get food on a regular basis for the first time in 6 months. This is the first time in half a year that I am not worried over when I am going to be able to eat again or if I have enough food left in the house for tomorrow and how I am going to get food again.

Now that my need for food has been taken care of (again, God bless Instacart and the Instacart shoppers), I am able to better focus on the priority of work. I need to work to be able to pay my bills.

The fantasy of working from home for a few weeks is officially over. Working from home appears to be reality for the foreseeable future. I currently still have a box of “work things” near my front door. I had this idea that the pandemic would be over in April and that I would just put that box in my car and return to the office. That hasn’t happened, so time to face reality.

Working from home has been a struggle this entire time because the rural area in which I live does not have the infrastructure to best support work from home. Broadband internet service is not available where I live. I get internet from a work provided hotspot that received very spotty and very little reception. Even though I have the internet for basic searches and email, I lack the internet to be able to do anything strenuous such as video or any type of conference meetings. I can’t even watch a Youtube video.  I have also lacked hardware to be able to work from home. 

Maintaining adequate work-life separation has been hard. My work life has invaded my home, which is my “safe space.” Early in the pandemic, I tried changing my designated work area. This resulted in multiple challenges. I chose an area upstairs, but had no table or chair to work from, so I was sitting on the floor with the laptop on a box. The phone was downstairs and I cannot go up and down stairs all day (with my disability, I can typically do stairs once a day). This meant I could not get to the phone for phone calls. When the weather got warm, the upstairs is the hottest part of the house. I really needed to work downstairs to be close to my AC unit and to be able to reach the telephone.

Unfortunately, working downstairs means I work from my kitchen table and my work life invades my home life with negative consequences.

Working from home is less than ideal and has been a struggle on multiple levels. I would much rather work at work, but no job is worth my life.

After 6 months of enduring these challenges, I finally decided to make an investment on two items that will hopefully improve my work from home situation.

First, the ideal place to work from home is upstairs. This would create a more definitive work-home separation that I so desperately need. Now that the weather is finally cooler (we are getting frost tonight), working upstairs is more feasible temperature-wise.

I need to be next to the phone to work from home. My employer helped by providing me with an extra-long phone cord so that I can take the phone from where it is plugged into the phone receptacle downstairs and take it upstairs. This requires taking the phone through 4 different rooms, and creates a tripping hazard not only for me, but for the cats. They run and get caught on the cord, and then the phone goes flying and slams into the wall. After I personally had 3 falls due to this phone cord, resulting in bruises and other injury, I decided this extra long phone cord is a bad idea.

So I decided to spring $25 and ordered a cordless phone. It has yet to arrive, and I am not sure if it will even work. I don’t think I have a wall outlet to plug it in. This idea may be another dead end, and I may have wasted $25. I will find out when it arrives. If it works, it will solve my problem. I will be able to have the phone near my work space. If it doesn’t work, then I will just continue to suffer as I have been for the past 6 months. At least I am employed.

The second thing I have done to try to move my work space upstairs is that I ordered a table for $25 also. That has yet to arrive. If I have a table, and take one of my lawn chairs upstairs, then I can use the table and lawn chair to create a work from home space upstairs that is not my kitchen table. I am pretty sure the $25 table will work. I am just waiting for it to be delivered from the place I ordered it. 

The last thing I wanted to do was to spend that $50 in this pandemic. I do not have $50 to spend with all the money I am spending on groceries (3 times more than usual due to price increases). However, I have to do something different so that my work stops invading my home. 

Putting a table and chair upstairs will allow me to create a work from home space upstairs that is out of my living space. The only thing missing is the phone. Hopefully the cordless phone idea will work. I have to wait a few weeks to see. 

I was talking with one of my friends recently who is also working from home. She expressed similar sentiment about her work from home space. It is important to have distinct separation between work and home. She had said that she had been working in her garage this summer, as it was cooler in there. She just moved her work space back into the upstairs of her home for winter, now that it is getting cooler. It appears that other people are moving their home office spaces seasonally as well. 

If I can get my plan to work, I think I am going to be in a similar situation. In the winter, I will work upstairs and have a good work-home separation. In summer, I will have to work downstairs. This means that work will be invading my safe home space, but it is unavoidable due to temperatures. At least this winter, I will get some respite and have better work-home separation. 

I don’t want to even think about having to work from home next summer. I am trying to concentrate on right now. Right now, I need better boundaries between my work life and my home life. I am hoping that I can manage to make the transition to a new work from home space. We will see if the technology and the logistics cooperate to make that happen.

Right now, I am able to be self-sufficient. I can now get food with Instacart, I can cut my own hair,  I have plenty of things to do at home. I am definitely not bored. As long as I am able to continue to work from home, I am set up to ride out this pandemic safely. 

At the end of the day, I am so grateful for this time I have to be home with my cats. Even if I do catch COVID and die, or end up unemployed and lose the house, I hope that my cats remember this time we have together and know how much I love them.

This pandemic is still going to get worse before it gets better. Numbers in my county have been doubling daily. We have more COVID cases in my town right now than we did back in April. Many more people will die.

Right now I am grateful that we are together and that we are safe. It is a relief to be able to get food again. I am so happy to be employed. We will keep taking one day at a time until it all ends. 

 

Gen X Time

Jude & Jolene enjoying supervised outside time. Simon refused to come out. He watched from the screen door.

Perhaps one of the only positives about the current pandemic is that it is giving Generation X time to shine. As latchkey kids who spent a lot of time alone before the internet was even made public, Gen X is well-prepared to handle the isolation and quarantine that we are experiencing. Gen X is made to survive.

Generation X is the only generation in United States history to be worse off than our parents. We bought into the nightmare that is the American Dream. We went to college, got the degree, all while the cost of higher education ballooned to 300x more than what it cost our parents. We are buried in student debt while trying to buy and maintain homes, raise families, and take care of our parents who are the generation of excess. 

Although I have had challenges in the pandemic in obtaining basic necessities such as food, I have been perfectly happy and content in quarantine. Staying home and hanging out with my cats doesn’t bother me. Sure, I would really like to see the new James Bond movie. But they have delayed the movie release due to the pandemic, so nobody is seeing it right now. 

Gen X are the kids whose parents have the highest divorce rate in American history. Over 80% of us grew up in single parent homes. Often left home alone, we would spend hours amusing ourselves. We read books, played Atari, listened to the radio, rode our bikes, and talked on the phone when we were lucky enough to find the party line free.

For you young’uns, a party line was a type of landline telephone plan. Up to 10 houses on the street would share the same telephone number. So when the phone rang – it rang in all 10 homes. Everyone would pick up their line and try to figure out which person in which house the phone call was for. This also meant that you could listen to everyone else’s conversation. If you wanted to use the phone, you had to wait for people to get off the party line so you could make a call.  

This may sound annoying, and it was, but it was also a godsend for us latchkey kids. On our party line, everyone knew when I got home from school, I would call my grandmother to check in to let her know I was home alone ok. This meant that all of the other houses on our party line also knew I was home alone. While this could be a bad thing, in my time, it was a positive. In the off chance that any of our neighbors were home, they “kept an eye” on us latchkey kids. If you did something to get yourself into trouble, the whole neighborhood would know with just one phone call. 

In quarantine, I am living by my phone. Internet service here is unreliable. Cell service is only enough for text messages. The cell service is too weak to talk on the cell phone. Just like growing up, if I want to communicate with the world, I am dependent on my landline home phone.

People today are alarmed by this concept. They worry about me. I find you all to be funny. I’m Generation X. This is how I was raised. Gen X was made for this pandemic.

I have so many things I am doing in quarantine now that I have not done since I was a child growing up in the 1980s. My childhood prepared me for this. All those hours spent alone reading books, rocking out to the radio while swinging on the swing set. I have no problem with quarantine. I have books, radio, DVDs, podcasts. I have plenty of things to do. I am not bored. Gen X is used to playing by ourselves. We are used to being forgotten and ignored.

I honestly think that is why I am not having as much trouble in quarantine as other people older or younger than me. I know that my mom is a boomer. Boomers always have to be on the go. That describes my mother perfectly. They work themselves to the bone at the expense of their own bodies and their families. This is what Gen X has fought back against. We don’t want to be like our parents. We value work-life balance.

So while my mother has a hard time staying at home and constantly goes to the stores (I wish she wouldn’t), I am more content to stay home. I’m used to spending hours each day home alone from growing up. This pandemic is like my second childhood.

The generation that came after me is the Millennials. Those kids were so over scheduled growing up that they can’t sit still either. They don’t know what to do with themselves when the gym, the coffeehouse, and everything else is closed. Yes, they are better with all the technology than my generation, but they are used to always doing.

As a member of Gen X, I think we are the only generation that knows how to sit and just BE. We do not have to be constantly moving. We are able to amuse ourselves. We are the low maintenance, self-reliant independents that everyone seems to forget about, as we just sit in the corner quietly playing. People think we don’t play well with others because we are loners. I disagree. I think we play better with others because we work hard, pull our ow weight, and expect others to do the same. 

If anything, I think that my mental health has improved in quarantine because I am not constantly rushed. I can pay more attention to what is important in life. I know how to amuse myself, so I am not bored. I have a landline telephone and can reach out for socialization when I need it. At least now, I have a private telephone and do not have to wait for someone to get off the party line. 

This pandemic is time for Generation X to truly shine. This is how we grew up. We were made for this moment. We can stay home and flatten the curve. We can weather quarantine. It’s no different than being a latchkey kid. Except now we’re doing it in our 40s instead of at 6 years old. The world has changed and continues to do so. There is one thing I know – Gen X knows how to survive.

I saw a quote somewhere that said if all of life was an episode of Survivor, Gen X would win. Gen X knows how to survive. That includes this pandemic.

Once we turn the corner and the pandemic starts to end, Gen X is uniquely poised to guide us on how to recover from the pandemic. We survived our boomer divorced parents and made it to adulthood. We got this. We have survived many, many times, and can show the world how to survive this pandemic too.

In addition to Gen X being one of the smallest generations in American history, I would also argue that we are the most underestimated generation in all of history. Our boomer parents called us “slackers” and wrote us off. Unfortunately, that label has stuck. Yet it’s not true. We are the hardest working generation with the smallest return. We know how to work. More importantly, we know that work-life balance is imperative to survival.

This pandemic is Gen X time. This is our time to shine. We know how to survive this pandemic. When the pandemic is finally over, we know how to get beyond it too. Don’t write us off just because we are so adept at amusing ourselves. That doesn’t mean we’re not working on making this world better in our own small ways.

I have never been so proud to be a part of Gen X as I am right now. My childhood was a dress rehearsal for quarantine. 

Generation X for the win!

My Quarantine Life: Week 25

Simon is playing in the box.

Labor Day weekend this year is going to look like none other. For over 20 years, Labor Day weekend was a camping weekend for me. It has been a time to relax, recharge, and reset for the upcoming year. Two years ago, I spent Labor Day weekend moving into my house. Last year I ran a race on Labor Day weekend. That makes this year the very first Labor Day weekend I have nothing going on. 

It seems so surreal. 

Yes, I have plenty of things to do around the house. That list is never ending. With my disability, I struggle to complete basic tasks such as cooking and cleaning, so there is always something to do. 

But with the pandemic this year, I just do not feel like I have gotten a break from anything. I am very grateful to have a job, but it is less than ideal to work from home. 

Hopefully, without alarming anyone, I plan to completely unplug this 3-day weekend. I just mentally need the break.

I am looking to place my second Instacart order after the holiday weekend. I am so excited. It makes me feel normal. I can “do” my own grocery shopping again. I was grocery shopping twice a month prior to the pandemic. If I Instacart twice a month, that keeps me on the same schedule. 

I am now able to meal plan and have a wider variety of foods to eat other than just the same 3 things.

I am very grateful for all the people who have helped me with food these past few months, but it has been hard, especially with multiple food allergies. I never know if I have to wait one week or 3 weeks for food. Is the food people bringing me going to be safe to eat with my food allergies (not to mention, all the food I have paid for that I can’t eat due to the food allergies). People mean well and have been trying to help, but I have been hungry the past 5-6 months. 

Having someone else trying to buy food for you when you have 5 severe food allergies is very challenging.

I am hoping that my second Instacart experience goes as well as the first one. I can pick out exactly what foods are safe for me to eat so that I am not wasting my money. I can also control my spending better because I know exactly what is coming and how much it costs.

I am not sure what the future brings, but it does not look like Labor Day weekend is going to be the respite it usually is. We will see what happens. All we can do is take one day at a time. Hopefully, I am able to obtain food again next week. 

House-iversary 2

IMG_4636

Jude is playing in a box.

Baseball legend Ted Williams was born on August 30, 1918. As one of the longest tenured players in the sport, “the kid” wore number 9 for the Boston Red Sox. His number has since been retired by the team.

On what would have been Ted’s 100th birthday on August 30, 2018, I hit my own home run and purchased my first house. It is also coincidence that my house number is 9, the same as Ted’s baseball number. I say it was meant to be. 

There are other reasons why I think this house was meant to be mine. But today, the cats and I are celebrating our 2 year House-iversary. We have found our furever home.

Jolene has now been in this house longer than she spent in the shelter. I am unaware of her life before that. From what I do know about her, I think she was either an outdoor cat or genuinely homeless prior to her being dumped at the shelter in a box with her kittens. Jolene also celebrated her 6th birthday last week. To my knowledge, Jolene has lived in this house longer than she has lived in any other house.

Simon has definitely been in this house longer than he has been anywhere else. He has lived here longer than we were in the apartment. He has lived here longer than he was in the shelter. For Simon, this house is definitely home. You can tell too. Simon is the only cat who does not try to escape to either the basement or the outdoors. Simon stays in the first and second floor living spaces. He knows its home and where he is supposed to be. He has truly come into his own in this house.

As the oldest, Jude and I have quite a few more years to go before this house is the longest place we have ever lived and it truly feels like home. I was in the apartment for 14 years. 

Jude was in the apartment for 4 and a half years. So, Jude is halfway there for this house to be home for him. There are times when I can tell that Jude does miss the apartment. Jude used to go out on the porch at the apartment. He cannot do that safely here at the house without being in a cage. I can tell it irks him. He misses the apartment porch where he could roam more freely (with supervision, of course). Yet I know Jude is happy in this house. He plays more. 

Being a first time homeowner has certainly been a challenge. I am so grateful for all of the people who have helped me along the way and continue to help and support me. 

This morning, as I type this, the temperatures have finally cooled into the 60s. All of the windows are open. The cats are happily sitting in front of open windows bird watching. I am sitting in front of our beautiful kitchen windows that open to the backyard. 

It was the kitchen that made me fall in love with this house. As soon as I walked into the kitchen, I said “this is it.” The kitchen is the first room you walk into when you open the door. Viewing the rest of the house was simply a formality. With multiple food allergies, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. When I was in the apartment, my kitchen was also “command central” for all of my degrees. The kitchen is truly the heart of the home in my house. 

I had been told that the first year in a new house is an adjustment period and that you should not look to do any major changes or updates in that first year as you come to know the house. I followed this advice. It was easy to follow. I have been too overwhelmed as a new homeowner to do anything other than react to any issue that happened to arise. 

That said, I do have a home maintenance list, as I’m sure everyone does. It is a never ending list that is constantly changing and always updating. Last year, I painted the front of the garage, and an area of the house near the dryer vent. My goal for this year was to finish painting the garage. Since I am in quarantine and cannot get more paint right now, that is not happening. Not to mention, I learned that painting the garage is not as easy as it sounds. I will need help to reach the topmost areas and the detail work to make it look nice.

My goals for the house going forward is to save and complete one home project per year. I think that this is reasonable, and it is also advice I received from a friend who is also a single female and first time homeowner. I just have to prioritize the projects. 

This fall, I hope to do some outside painting with the can of white paint I had bought last year and never used. That is a small project that I do not consider to be on the list of “one home project per year.” I consider projects on the List to be large projects for which I have to hire and pay someone else to do or that require a significant amount of savings. I may not be good at painting, but I get it done. 

This year, the cats and I are very happy to be celebrating our House-iversary 2 together. This house has stood through World War One, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, World War Two, and everything that has come since. We will live through the coronavirus pandemic and the Great Depression 2 as well. 

I am so grateful that the cats and I have this house to be in safe together in the pandemic. Home is where the cats are. They seem happy here. This house is our home base.

My Quarantine Life: Week 24

IMG_4488

Jolene, my work from home supervisor.

Decision Fatigue. I am definitely feeling it. Prior to the pandemic, I had most of my life on a schedule designed to operate on cruise control. This made me more efficient so that I could focus on what matters most. 

For example, having a minimalist wardrobe reduces decision fatigue. When you only have 4 pairs of pants to throw around the room, you are less likely to feel frustrated with what you have to wear. Admit it. We all have times when we have been getting dressed in the morning, and some article of clothing gets removed and thrown around the room because it doesn’t fit right, feel right, look right, etc. When you have a minimalist wardrobe, you minimize decision fatigue. Every item you own is a favorite, so you are more likely to be happy with the first outfit you put on for the day.

In quarantine, I am running into decision fatigue with food. Yes, I do like to be creative. However, it is now downright absolutely exhausting having to be creative with food every single day. Due to the food shortages, many of my go-to items are unavailable. I have to get creative with what I do have. 

There is no longer the option to make something up quick in 30 minutes or less. I am often spending more than an hour cooking every single day. This is because all of my food allergy friendly convenience items are unavailable. I am being forced to cook every single meal from scratch every single day.

Take breakfast, for example. My special allergy-friendly cereal is either unavailable, or the choice that is available has a limit of 2. This is made even more challenging when I have people shopping for me by just adding items onto their own list. I have to just obtain food by where people are already going and what they can get for me. It is making living with food allergies that much harder.

For breakfast, I have been making muffins since cereal and milk are unavailable. Allergy-friendly milk, by the way, has been completely unavailable since the end of February.

Making muffins every 2-3 days is hard work. Yesterday, I had to shred the carrots by hand. Yes, they are made from scratch. I have no shortcuts available. Food in quarantine is hard. I am also going through more muffins because I am eating them for snacks. I get hungry a lot, and none of my allergy-friendly snack items are available due to factory closures. Food shortages are real. 

I have been trying to figure out how to get food without relying on my informal supports. As things have reopened and people go back to their routines, they don’t tend to check on me as much in quarantine. It is really challenging to order things online. I cannot get produce or anything fresh that way – only shelf stable items.

My fear throughout this entire pandemic is that I do not want to put anyone at risk to help me. Plus, if a person or people helping me get COVID, then they will no longer be able to help me because they will need help themselves.

That fear has come true. About half of the people helping me with food are now in quarantine awaiting COVID test results.

I have been hungry all the time throughout this pandemic. I don’t remember hunger like this since I was a child. This is primarily due to the fact that I have multiple food allergies and there are severe food shortages. I’m not going to eat something just to have it kill me. That defeats the point.

Decision fatigue over lack of food options combined with the fact that I have lost close to 15 pounds during the pandemic, has created a problem. I weigh less than 100 pounds to begin with. I have to figure out how to create some sense of normalcy with food even with food shortages.

Obtaining food is my biggest challenge right now.

Thankfully, one local non-profit is delivering food to houses for free – food pantry style. I requested a delivery last week to help. The challenge is that they were not able to accommodate my multiple food allergies. I am only able to eat about half of what they give me. It was also challenging trying to open the bags without touching something I am allergic to and causing a reaction. 

Money is tight right now since food prices have escalated to 3-4x more in the pandemic. That’s if you can find food. I hear many stories of bare shelves in grocery stores.

Instacart does deliver to my area. It is expensive. Many people have recommended that I not try it due to the expense. However, at this point, I am starving and desperate. 

I was so hungry the other day and the only thing I had to eat without spending an hour plus cooking was 2 hot dogs. Something needs to change. I need food.

I did sign up for a free 2-week trial of Instacart. Yes, I am fully aware I will be charged for it after the 2 weeks. However, I did the math, and it works out to be $8 per month for the service. Seeing that I will be in quarantine for close to a year if not longer, I decided to take the risk. At this point, I am so hungry, I just want food.

I placed my first order on Instacart. I was so impressed it arrived in less than 2 hours. Not only that, but I had the best “shopper” (yes, I tipped her well). 

For the first time in 6 months (since about February), I now have cereal, milk, bacon, allergy-friendly snacks and a few other items that make me feel more normal. What’s better is that Instacart is cheaper than the local delivery service I used previously. The other delivery service had a $100 minimum and a very limited selection of items. Instacart allows me to send someone to the stores where I know they have my allergy-friendly items. They also only have a $35 minimum, which is a lot easier on my wallet right now. 

While I still feel bad asking someone else to go to the store for me … well, this is their job. I’m sorry it’s their job, but thank you. Now I don’t have to worry about half the people helping me being quarantined for COVID tests. As long as Instacart can keep enough employees … Yes, I am tipping well. They deserve hazard pay for this. 

There are still food shortages. I had strawberries on my Instacart list, and the shopper had to substitute blueberries because there were no strawberries. That’s fine. I’m not picky. I was just happy to have fruit. There was also a substitution with my ground turkey … again, no problem. This is the first time since February I have been able to get ground turkey. I can’t wait to make turkey burgers and carrot fries this week. I communicated my food allergies to the shopper so they were able to make appropriate substitutions for me when needed.

I’m not sure if this Instacart thing is a good thing or a bad thing, but when I received my Instacart delivery this week, it was the first time in a long time I felt almost normal when it came to food. Everyone has been trying to discourage me from Instacart, so I am a little skeptical. 

However, I have what I need to make several of my normal meals and do not have to get creative with what I have. I feel very rich that I actually have food right now. I even have some things in my freezer so that I can go a while between needing groceries so I am not putting Instacart people at risk. I am happy that when I tip them, I am tipping a local person who needs the money right now.  

Food and work continue to be my two biggest challenges in the pandemic. I need food and I need to be able to do my job so I can continue to get paid. I am so thankful to be employed.

I am not sure if Instacart is going to solve my food issues or even if it will be more affordable than what I have been doing. Maybe I am throwing my money away. Who knows? All I know is that I am hungry, and I can’t live with being hungry anymore. The food shortages are one of the hardest things I have lived through.

Anyone else have any positive or negative experiences with Instacart?

Wardrobe By Number

IMG_4046

“Be Kind:” One of the new shirts I obtained to replace the threadbare ones.

Many minimalists have some sort of magic number for either their clothing or total items owned. You hear of people with 100 possessions, 37 clothing items, etc. I have always said that minimalism is not so much a numbers game as it is being content with only having what you need or have space to store. There are times when I do enjoy playing by numbers, but I had yet to apply a numbers concept to my clothing. 

For my wardrobe, instead of going by set numbers, I have always gone by space available. I use one closet for my clothing and I do not want the closet to be stuffed to capacity. I have a four drawer dresser, and as long as everything fits in the assigned drawer without being crowded, I do not count number of items.

I do laundry one day a week. As long as I have enough clothing to get through the week until laundry day, I do not count the number of clothes I have. When I was a child, laundry was a once a month thing and it was a huge production.

As a child, your clothes were always in garbage bags. There was no dresser and no closet to store clothes. You had a garbage bag of clean clothes and a garbage bag of dirty clothes. Laundry was not done until you were literally out of clothes and were not able to get dressed tomorrow without wearing something for the 5th time or just being naked. 

I remember being dropped off at the laundry mat with several garbage bags of laundry and a $20 bill to obtain quarters. Laundry could take an entire Saturday. It was a chore to be endured. Frequently, clothes were worn multiple times no matter how dirty they were because we just did not have the money for quarters to do laundry. 

As an adult, I do laundry once a week. I am currently very privileged and have both a washer and dryer in my house. Theoretically, I can do laundry whenever I want. I could do laundry every single day if I wanted. I do not want to spend my life doing laundry and I do not want to get in the habit of being dependent on the luxury of having a washer and dryer. Laundry once a week is reasonable and sufficient. 

Last year, I went through and updated all of my underclothes. For the first time in 5 or more years, I updated my bras, underwear and socks. I am very glad I did that before the pandemic hit. As every single item in life is either scarce, hard to get, or expensive, I am grateful that I have new and clean underclothes. That is one less item I have to worry about obtaining. 

This year, as we are quarantined and I am home more, I have noticed that many of my tee-shirts are becoming threadbare and see-through. They have deteriorated to the point where they cannot even be donated. They can be used as rags, but they are no longer suitable to be worn. Two tee-shirts in particular are surprising. I had bought them just last summer at a rather high-end store. The fact that they only lasted a year is very disappointing.

Normally, I would not notice the threadbare tee-shirt issue, as I only wear tee-shirts two days a week. Five days a week I would be in the office in my business casual wear. Since business casual attire is expensive, I have not been wearing it while working from home. I am “preserving” it for when we are able to return to the office and I have to wear business casual attire again.

So, I have been living in shorts and tee-shirts this summer. The threadbare tee-shirt situation is forcing me to take a new look at my wardrobe and it’s requirements. While I have previously focused my wardrobe on available space, I am now looking at my wardrobe by numbers. Maybe it is pandemic related, and I am trying to exert some sort of control by doing wardrobe by numbers. Who knows? There is some comfort in knowing exactly how much you have and that what you have is enough. 

Here is what I have determined is going to work for me for wardrobe by numbers. My formula is based on the premise that laundry is done once a week, on the same day each week. For me, laundry day is Monday right now. 

Given that every Monday is laundry day, that means I need at least 8 outfits to make it a week from one laundry day to the next. Yes, there are 7 days in a week. But you don’t really want to do laundry while naked, so you need an 8th outfit to wear on laundry day. If you want flexibility in your schedule, then you need more than 8 outfits. You may need 10. 

For example, if you are not able to stick to a strict schedule where every Monday is laundry day, then you need more than 8 outfits. Say one Monday you are really busy, and can’t do laundry until Tuesday or Wednesday. Well then, you better have more than 8 outfits or expect to wear things multiple times.

I am going to take advantage of the luxury of in-home washer and dryer and go with 8 outfits. If I had to use the laundry mat, then I may go with 10 or 12 outfits. For me, 8 will work.

Here is how my formula is going to be put in action:

For my business casual work clothes, I am actually not touching them right now. I am just letting them be until it is time to wear them again. The formula that I have devised for them when the time comes is as follows: 

8 tops

4 bottoms

2 sweaters / cardigans / extra warmth layer

For work clothes, this formula is actually a little excessive, as work clothes are not worn everyday. They are worn 5 days a week. As far as bottoms go, since I work in an office environment that is not overly messy, I am okay with wearing a pair of pants twice before washing.

Some people will suggest when minimizing your wardrobe that you should do away with the distinction between “work clothes” and “home clothes.” To do this, it is recommended to dress up your “home clothes” a little, and dress down your “work clothes” a little so that you have one wardrobe kind of in the middle and whatever you wear is fine for work or home. If this works for you, fine. It does not work for me.

I prefer to have two separate wardrobes. The reason why is that I find office attire to be extremely uncomfortable. If I had a job where I could choose the dress code or that did not have a dress code, I would not pick business casual. I do not want to wear “work clothes” any longer than I absolutely have to. As soon as I come home from work, I change because my office wear is so uncomfortable. 

Some people will argue that if that is the case, I should purchase more comfortable office wear. That is an oxymoron. Comfortable office wear does not exist. My preferred standard uniform is something like shorts and a tee-shirt or jeans and a hoodie. I digress.

For my “home clothes,” I have the following formula to see me through 7 days of working from home:

8 tops

4 bottoms

6 extra warmth layer

For summer, my 4 bottoms is 4 pairs of shorts. For cooler weather, my 4 bottoms is 2 pairs of jeans and 2 pairs of yoga pants. So, I do have seasonal elements to my wardrobe. I plan on wearing each “bottom” twice before washing. 

For tops, I do have tank tops for summer. I am pretty sure there are 4 of them. For the 6 extra warmth layers, I have 4 flannels shirts, and at least 2 hoodies. When the weather is cooler, I like to layer things on top of my tee-shirt. Tee-shirts are the first layer that is worn pretty much year round, so those get a lot of use. 

For tops, I prefer to wear them once and then wash them. Especially in summer, when weather is hot and we are sweaty, I do not like to wear a shirt twice. That just feels gross.

I am applying the same concept to my pajamas. Even though I am now wearing pajamas twice before washing and could get away with 4 nightshirts, I already have 8 nightshirts, so I will use what I have. I am not going to get rid of nightshirts just to get down to a certain number. However, this means that as nightshirts wear out, I will not replace them. If one night shirt wears out and leaves me with 7 nightshirts, I am not going to replace that night shirt. I will wait until I get down to 4 or 5 nightshirts before replacing one.

I currently have 4 bottoms for my night wear as well. That keeps with my current formula of 4 bottoms. There are other aspects of my wardrobe that are slightly “over number” right now as well. For example, I have one storage tote labelled “winter,” This storage tote holds all my sweatshirts, sweaters, and other “extra warmth layers” for winter. I am not sure how many extra layers are in there. The winter box may be another situation where, instead of getting rid of items, I simply do not replace things that wear out. 

My wardrobe formula is currently acting as a minimum threshold. My available space idea is a maximum threshold for clothing. The reason why I decided to come up with numbers for the minimum threshold is that I am looking at replacing at least 4 threadbare tee-shirts in my wardrobe. So I seriously began to question if I really need to replace them.

The answer is yes. Now that I am home in quarantine, I do need to replace those tee-shirts. Tee-shirts are my base layer year round. However, given that I spent $20-$30 apiece on two tee-shirts at a high end store last summer that barely lasted a year, I do not want to make another worthless investment in my wardrobe like that again.

This year, I opted to replace those tee-shirts with some more affordable options, each below $10. Time will tell if the tee-shirts I purchased for less than $10 each last longer than the ones I bought for $20-$30. If I have learned anything, it’s that just because something is expensive, does not mean it is good quality. 

The only aspect of my wardrobe this does not apply to is my running wardrobe. That has its own set of rules and is a post for another day. 

In general, my wardrobe goal is 8 tops, 4 bottoms, and 2-6 extra warmth layers to allow for seasonal fluctuations. This works for me with doing laundry once a week. While some categories may be above those numbers, I am not going to get rid of items just yet. I am simply not going to worry about replacing things that wear out. 

This gives me one less thing to worry about while giving me the illusion of being “in control” of something in the middle of the pandemic. 

How do you organize clothes? Do you use available space or wardrobe by numbers? 

 

My Quarantine Life: Week 22

IMG_3898

Simon is taking a nap.

Dear God, Thank You for hot dogs, pineapple and marshmallows. Thank you for the people who literally risked their lives in making my food and the ones who risked their lives in obtaining the food for me. Amen. It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? It sounds like something a child would say? In the midst of enduring, widespread and prolonged food shortages, this is my reality this week. Welcome to America, where we are going hungry. 

Someone dropped off hot dogs for me. It was the first time since May I have been able to obtain hot dogs. I almost cried. I received 5 packages of hot dogs. Some of them are in my freezer. We will see how long they last. I have been making my Depression-era “Poor man’s meal” of potatoes and hot dogs almost every day since I received the hot dogs. I am currently defrosting a second package of hot dogs.

I also received several cans of pineapple this week. If you remember from one of my early pandemic posts, I have not had pineapple since February. It has been 6 months since I have been able to obtain pineapple. The last time I was at a grocery store in person was the first week in March. I remember posting how (at the time) the only hole in the grocery store was pineapple. 

Of all the things to hoard, people are hoarding pineapple. I still do not understand why. But for the first time in 6 months, I now have about 4 cans of pineapple. I am going to enjoy them as much as I can. In fact, now that I have pineapple again, I am kind of saving them. I don’t know what I am saving them for. I just know that receiving pineapple right now feels so precious and rare. I have an entire list of ways I want to eat pineapple. 

I have a bag of marshmallows I am hiding. You could call it hoarding. But would you really call it hoarding if I only have one bag of marshmallows? Well, I have a bag of marshmallows that I am saving. I am saving the marshmallows for this fall when the weather finally cools down enough for me to use my fire pit. As soon as the temperatures drop from the current 100 degree weather into more manageable 50 degree weather, I am going to have a fire in my fire pit and roast marshmallows. It will be the closest thing to camping I get to experience this year. 

Depending on how the pandemic goes this fall, I could even theoretically invite a friend over and share the marshmallows. I have been, after all, approved for “outdoor socialization.” This would be as long as we are masked and distanced and no one goes in the house, of course. That “no indoors with people” is the hard part. Dear COVID: You are a buzzkill. This pandemic even makes it difficult for me to share my marshmallows.

I am still grateful I have a bag of marshmallows and cannot wait to toast them outside. I know that marshmallows are a luxury item and not a necessity. No person can survive on marshmallows. I wouldn’t want to. I just like roasting them a few times a year. 

I still say that when this is all over, I want pizza. Of course, the special pizza that accommodates my food allergies is not available right now. That’s because this is America, the land of food shortages. It’s ok. I can dream. I will wish for allergy-friendly pizza for Christmas. If the food factories are still closed by the pandemic, I will wish for allergy-friendly pizza for my birthday. If the food factories are still closed then, well, I just wish to be able to eat an allergy-friendly pizza once more before I die.

Have you obtained any hard to get foods among the food shortages that you have been so happy to have?

Return of the Coffee Can

IMG_3460

Planning a road trip back in the 1980s typically required a paper map to be able to plot your course from one location to another. This was the time to fish out the old, dog-eared Rand-McNally atlas from underneath the car seats. You could also call the local automobile club and request a trip ticket. This was basically a folding paper map that someone marks up with a marker or highlighter for you to show the way.

According to the paper maps of the 1980s, from my paternal grandparent’s house in Upstate NY to my father’s house in Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., was about a 6.5 – 7 hour car ride. When my father made the trip, it was always done in 5 hours. There was no stopping, and he made judicious use of a radar detector the entire way. Radar detectors were legal in Virginia; the speed limit in Virginia at the time was 75 mph. Radar detectors are illegal in New York; the speed limit in New York at the time was 55 mph. I am unsure of the laws regarding radar detectors of the other states that one passes through on the way from New York to Virginia.

Another key aspect in the speed of this trip is the no stopping rule. When my father was driving, there was no stopping. He left with a full tank of gas. There was no stopping at any point for gas or for a bathroom break. If you had to go to the bathroom, you had to hold it, wet yourself, or hope that you remembered to bring a coffee can.

Ah, the coffee can. 

The coffee can was used as a bathroom for car rides. It was also used as a bathroom for camping trips and when we were homeless and more transient. As one of my fellow Occupiers noted when I was protesting in the #Occupy camps in 2011 – “Don’t pee where you sleep.”

The coffee can comes in handy for so many things.

The coffee can has now made a comeback in the time of COVID. This is the first time as an adult that I now travel with a coffee can in my car at all times. 

You cannot take a road trip in the time of COVID and make a rest stop. It is too dangerous. First, you have to go into a gas station, restaurant (are they even open?), etc and risk exposure not only by coming into contact with other people but also by going indoors. Second, it is well documented that COVID is spread through bathroom use. 

Since you cannot stop anywhere to use the bathroom, the coffee can is back in style. If you need to use the bathroom, you pull over to the side of the road and use your coffee can just like back in the 1980s. As a child, there was no “pulling over the car.” You just used your coffee can while the car was in motion or suffered the consequences.

With inter-state travel not feasible in this time, we can still travel instate. If you are in the car for a bit, you will need your coffee can for a rest stop. Sometimes I need my coffee can even when driving the car around locally. I cannot stop anyplace.

I have been trying to think if my annual camping trip is even feasible this year. Unfortunately, it is not. I have evaluated every obstacle from every angle. This will be the first time in over 20 years I do not get to have my annual camping trip vacation.

This challenge is what precipitated the resurgence of the coffee can. One of the challenges I was trying to figure out was how to do the road trip to my camp site. I typically make several bathroom stops and at least one stop to put gas in the car. Putting gas in the car is a trying ordeal right now, as I have to wear a mask and gloves and try to get gas at a time when the station is not busy. 

There are other factors involved in trying to attempt a camping trip this year that is making that impossible. But I was also trying to overcome the whole “bathroom stop” challenge in general in case I could at least figure out how to have a beach day this year.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to have any beach days this year either. 

I am in quarantine at least until January, which makes a road trip impossible for me. While everyone else is taking irresponsible and unnecessary risks by traveling, I am stuck at home. However, I do need to drive the car around regularly to “keep it going.” I am now traveling with a coffee can for when I need a “rest stop” on those trips. 

Old habits die hard. This is one coping skill from my 1980s childhood that is making a comeback. I never thought I would see the return of the coffee can. As an adult, I have always said when I drive that I would make as many stops as I needed and go as fast or slow as I needed to enjoy the journey and arrive at my destination safely. I do not want to travel as my father traveled. 

However, that coffee can trick is now coming in handy. 

Have you seen a return of the coffee can as a permanent supply in your automobile?

Word of the Year

IMG_2538

Jude in a basket.

There are blank pages at the end of the dictionary so we can make up new words. This was my response to my 5th grade teacher when she took points off my paper for using the word “learnt.” In red pen, she wrote “learned” on my paper.

Not one to give up, I also pointed out to the teacher that the reason why I used the word “learnt” was because I had read it in a book and wanted to try it out. It was a new word for me. “Learnt is not a word,” the teacher insisted. I even showed her the book I was reading at the time that had the word “learnt” in it. If “learnt” is not a word, then why is it in a book? How did it get there? Why isn’t there red ink in the book crossing out “learnt” and replacing it with “learned.” 

I infuriated my 5th grade teacher. She refused to put points back on my paper. She proceeded to make an example out of me in front of the class. I think about this every time I read something that contains the word “learnt.” Learnt is a real word and it is in the dictionary. Go ahead, look it up. 

The challenge with dictionaries is that you have to know how to spell the word to look up the word. Well, if I knew how to spell the word, I wouldn’t need the dictionary, now would I? Of course, this was in the 1980s before things like computers, Microsoft Word, and spell check.

Not only were there blank pages at the end of the dictionary for adding new words, but the dictionary companies have made a big deal in recent years about the addition of new words to the “official” dictionary. The dictionary has even started a tradition of proclaiming a word of the year. 

I hear all of this on the news and don’t pay too much attention to it. The dictionary has yet to choose a word of the year that excites me. Some of the words that they have added to the dictionary are stupid, and hopefully, passing fads.

I heard a new word these past few weeks that excites me. It REALLY excites me. I have not been this excited about a new word since the “learnt” fiasco in the 5th grade. 

I do hereby petition that this new word not only be added to the dictionary, but that it should also be proclaimed Word of the Year for 2020.

The 2020 Word of the Year is … covidiot.

It is a portmanteau. A portmanteau is a word that is formed by combining two other words to form a brand new word. Covidiot combines the words “covid” and “idiot.” 

Covidiots refuse to take the pandemic seriously. They do not wear masks. They do not social distance. They hoard items. They are truly selfish and stupid people who knowingly put other people’s lives at risk and don’t care about it. They refuse to stay home. They are the ones running around holding coronavirus parties and screaming “Open it up, suckers! We want money, who cares who dies!” (One of my county legislators actually said that.)

Covidiot is a very accurate description of over 90% of the people who live in my county. Finally, a one-word term to accurately depict my frustration with the general public in my geographic area. 

I am surrounded by covidiots. 

I now have a hypothesis that the only way to cure a covidiot is if the covidiot actually gets COVID-19 so that they take it seriously. Or, maybe if the covidiot experiences the death of a loved one from COVID-19, then they will be cured from their covidiotism. We will see. Unfortunately, logic does not seem to work on a covidiot. It appears we will have a vaccine for COVID-19 before we figure out a way to cure the covidiots. 

Have you learnt any new words recently?

My Quarantine Life: Week 20

IMG_3045

My johnny jump ups I planted last year came back this year. I put some in a flower pot.

Reusable shopping bags, loyalty cards, quarters for Aldi carts … these are all items I do not currently need. I removed the bags from the car and brought them inside. I took the store loyalty tags off my keychain as well as the Aldi quarter holder. I will not be going to a store for the foreseeable future. I have not been to a store in almost 5 months.  I only get things if people bring them to me, or they can be delivered. I now have boxes to break down and put out with my recycling. The reusable bags are not needed.

This is the new normal in the pandemic.

I have a box of “work stuff” in my kitchen near the door. I was expecting to return to the office this summer and just load the box in the car. Now that my quarantine has been extended until January, that idea goes out the window. Yet I cannot bring myself to do anything about the box. I am using things inside of it as I work from home. I just don’t want to admit it myself that I still have to work from home, so I refuse to unpack the box. I strongly dislike working from home. 

Quarantine is not fun anymore. If I am honest, the fun factor wore off back in April when people I know started dying. However, this is the new way of life.

There is an article in the local newspaper today about how all of our local businesses are working remotely right now. I am very, very happy to know that this truly is the new normal and that I am not the only one in this situation. I am also very happy that working from home is a safe option. I am not ready to die yet. 

There has been little news out of Congress this week on how they are going to help all of us. All I know is that no one agrees on anything. They do seem to agree on giving us all another $1,200 payment. It would be nice if they could just approve the $1,200 payment all by itself and then go back to bickering over the other aspects of “relief.” Unfortunately, these things tend to come as packages, so they have to agree on the package before we get another $1,200. 

The ultimate answer to this situation would be to institute Universal Basic Income for all Americans. But of course, that is too “European” for the good ol’ USA. So we will all just suffer and die out. At least the United States is good for showing the rest of the world what NOT to do in a pandemic. 

The library is ending curbside service and is moving to traditional “you have to go to the library and go inside” service. I will not be able to get any more items from the library. I am actually okay with that. The past few books I got, I was not able to get through because they were just too depressing for the times we are living in now. 

I am back to reading through the books I already have in my house. I am completely fine with that. I have two bags full of books to read right now. Some of these books I have not read in years, so they are nice to revisit. 

On the plus side, I am very happy to be home safe with my cats. I do have people that check on me every once in a while. 

I am alive and well. I am so happy to be alive. I am also praying that Jesus comes very, very soon.

Life is very hard right now. But I am so happy to be with my cats.