Notes From the Pandemic

So, how’s your pandemic going? Here’s what’s been happening with mine.

1) No, I have not been making sourdough bread.

2) I think I had “Rita Wilson” Covid. Early on, when the world was sorting out what this virus was all about, it suddenly became all too real when Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson contracted the virus. When hearing about Rita’s days’ long malaise, fever, and body aches, all I thought was, “check, check, and check.” It was early days and I wasn’t important enough or sick enough to be tested, but I’m pretty sure there was some corona in my virus.

3) I was checking my email while hanging out with my teenagers one afternoon when I got a disturbing message. It caught my eye because the subject was a password that I frequently use. It said that this person had access to all my contacts and a pornographic video that I had made as well as knowledge of kinky porn websites that I had visited. Starting to panic because this person knew my password, I paused for just a nano-second and asked myself several questions:

“Had I made any porn videos?”

“Visited any porn sites?”

“I would have remembered that right?”

Confident I was in the clear, I showed my kids the email as my husband was on a call and unavailable for tech support.

“Mommmmm,” my 16-year-old daughter said.

To which I replied, “If I had done any of those things, do you think I would show you this email?”

I called my sister. I got two seconds into the story before she cut me off and said, “Porn? They have one of your old passwords? Yeah, I got it yesterday. I googled it and it’s a scam.”

It did make for amusing banter with my kids. Maybe there are some secrets about their parents they don’t know?? Or maybe I am just a doddering, middle-age, gullible woman.

4) I’m so happy that I don’t have little kids at home. Parents of younger children try to limit their screen time. I, on the other hand, have given up trying to monitor digital consumption. Instead I feigned interest and enthusiasm when my daughter told me she had finished all seven seasons of “Orange is the New Black” in an impressively short time. “Good for you,” I told her, “What an achievement. Aren’t the meth heads adorable?” Where do I collect my “Mother of the Year” award?

5) While we don’t see many people, it feels strange to see the handshake become a thing of the past. I’ve spent years teaching my kids how to give a proper handshake. Firm, don’t offer a wet fish. Handshakes are laden with meaning. My maternal grandmother was a strong, classy lady. After the funeral of a family member many years ago, we asked our grandmother if she had spoken with an estranged family member who showed up. She said, “I did not extend my hand.” Ouch, the ultimate dismissal.

6) While routine or “well” doctor visits were discouraged during the strict stay-at-home orders, I did make a scheduled follow-up visit with my oncologist. He and I had to forego our usual hug but we happily noted it had been 10 years since I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which felt like a big milestone. Am I cured? I hope so. I can just worry about Covid-19 like the rest of the world.

7) I learned about something I had only read about – yes, chocolate really is bad for dogs. My poor pooch got into a stash on the kitchen table, which I only found out about at 1:00 am when he started vomiting and I saw the undigested wrappers from the mini chocolate bars. One of my kids had picked up the spilled bowl and unopened candies earlier in the day without telling me, which was just as well. I didn’t have to anticipate the sickness. Just experienced it first hand. I was up all night with him. I googled “what happens when dogs eat chocolate” and was pretty sure he wouldn’t die but I did dial the pet poison hotline about 5:00 am. The initial recording said the consultation would be $59. I was mostly confident that he would live until 9:00 am when the vet opened so I saved my money for the vet visit. Fortunately my hunch was correct and I can report that my dog is happily recovered. My bedroom rug? Not so much.

8) My father lives in Israel where he is happily sequestered with his lovely wife. While I haven’t seen him since November, we speak regularly. I am relieved each week when he tells me he is, “Bumping along.” In his infinite wisdom, he tells me that this (the Pandemic) too shall pass. He’s my dad, so I believe him.

Like my dad, I’ll continue to bump along and look forward to the day when a mask no longer hangs from my rear view mirror. In the meantime, can anyone teach me how to use TikTok?




“It’s Appropriate”


Has this ever happened to you? One of your children is watching something on a screen that seems questionable to you. You ask if it is appropriate for them. They assure you that, yes, it is appropriate.

“Oh. Okay,” you say.

You know they say this because they want you to go away and leave them in peace. You want the same thing, so you choose to believe them because sometimes you don’t feel like taking the time to investigate if it’s truly appropriate. Sure – I can count on my child to know what’s appropriate and what’s not, can’t I? The kids and I would agree on certain things that are clearly not appropriate, such as highly sexual content or gory violence – they wouldn’t want to watch these things anyway (not yet, at least.) It’s all the other things (like bad language, mature themes, silly reality shows) where the line is not always so clear.

Sometimes things are inappropriate but in the opposite direction – not mature enough. Take for instance my 16-year-old son with special needs. He has a penchant for watching shows that some might say are too young for him. I used to tell him he is too old to watch these shows.

“But I like them,” he told me.

Sigh. He likes them. Who am I to force him to watch shows that he doesn’t really get or enjoy, just because they are more age appropriate? For me, there’s a fine line between expecting him to act his age and allowing him to be how God made him. Where is the perfect balance? I’m always looking for it.

My daughter recently reported that this brother was watching “Family Guy.” Oh good, my husband and I thought – that’s semi-appropriate for a teenage boy. Then she told us that it was really a cover for him to watch a children’s show on the computer – he too clearly understands the whole “It’s Appropriate” game. Too bad this cognitive ability doesn’t actually transfer to age-appropriate television for him, but oh well. He did participate in a recent “Simpsons”-fest with his cousins, keeping him somewhat in the adolescent TV loop.

My daughter chastised me for allowing her brother to watch “baby” shows.

“Really? Do I need a critique of my parenting from you?” I asked.

Let me just say that she loves “Dance Moms” and God-knows what other shows that some may say are inappropriate for an 11-year-old girl. It’s amusing to me that my youngest thinks she is the maven of appropriate material. When she was nine she picked the song “Mean” by Taylor Swift to sing in a recital. It’s a great song. We both thought the tune was catchy but neither of us paid much attention to the words. I just thought she was so adorable. As I sat there watching her, I realized the song is about an abusive relationship and my stomach dropped to my toes.

Maybe not my best call in this grey area we call parenting, but the world didn’t come to an end. The video of her singing still makes me smile to this day. Is that really so inappropriate?




Dietary Indiscretion


My dog had tummy troubles last week.  Judging by the quality and quantity of what he was producing, the poor guy’s system was clearly out of whack.

What to do? Should I use the model I apply to my children…wait a few days and hope the problem resolves or call the vet?

I called the vet, described the dog’s symptoms, and went in to get some pills.  When I asked the vet what was causing my pup’s poop problems she explained it was colitis.

” What causes that?” I asked.

“Stress,” she offered.

Nope, I thought, that’s not it – our pooch does not lead an especially stressful existence.

“Dietary indiscretion,” she suggested.

Bingo. That’s it, that’s the ticket right there.

It’s the puppy’s first spring in the world. He has so much to see, smell, and sample.  Twigs and mulch and yard clippings – oh my! That was clearly the cause of his problem. The pills quickly fixed him up.

Then it occurred to me that my dog and I have something in common. I too suffer frequently from dietary indiscretion.

Dietary indiscretion. Such a brilliant commentary on my eating habits. Beautiful in its simplicity. Thankfully, I have no symptoms of colitis. But any extra weight I carry around must be due to serious indiscretion in my diet.  If only a pill could help me. The happy pantry items, the refreshing alcoholic beverages, the comfort food I turn to in good times and bad all contribute to this problem. Sure, the dog-walking has increased my level of activity; not only the walking itself but the repeated bending over to pull those indiscriminate objects out of his mouth. But oh, to live the life of a dog, where I only ate once a day and someone would command me to “leave it” whenever I was about to throw discretion to the wind and put an ill-advised morsel into my mouth.

Unlike my dog, I am supposed to have free will.  Maybe I’ll use it to control my consumption this summer.  Or maybe not.




I Don’t Wanna


Several years back there was a scene on one of my favorite television shows, Will & Grace, where Grace asks Will, her best friend, to walk her down the aisle for her wedding.

“I don’t wanna,” he replied.

“You don’t wanna?” she asked, incredulously.

I have adopted this as one of my favorite mantras.

Most everybody has experienced this feeling of wanting to avoid something hard or painful, or just plain inconvenient.  Like most people, I’ve got lots of balls in the air that I’m juggling, and most days I keep those balls in the air. Occasionally they come crashing down.  When that happens, what I want to do most is simply stick my head in the sand.  Because of the excellent writers of a hit sitcom, I now have the words to apply to these feelings.

Sometimes it’s less serious situations when the “I Don’t Wanna” comes into play.  For instance, a social obligation, a work function, or a school activity…ring any bells?

Usually it’s the big matzah balls of life that trigger my I don’t wannas.  For instance, last summer the sleep-away camp doctor called about my daughter.

“Have you noticed a goiter on your daughter’s neck?” she asked.

Anyone who’s watched Seinfeld knows that I imagined a goiter the size of a second head. I hadn’t seen my child for three weeks, but I had never noticed a goiter before she left.  Time for a maternal gut-check—Did I not notice a goiter? What kind of mother could have missed a goiter?  Fortunately, her goiter was in reality very subtle and unnoticeable to the untrained eye.  It turned out she has Hashimoto’s Disease, an autoimmune disease that attacks the thyroid, is easily treatable and for which you see an endocrinologist. Seriously? This is my fourth kid and I have to deal with new and exotic illnesses? I really don’t wanna.

On a bigger scale, it seems that I have to begin contemplating how the rest of my disabled son’s high school career will play out.  I met with a “transition” counselor at his school recently.  She gave me a notebook with a lot of information and advice on applying for services with various agencies and scenarios of the different options available to my son.

First of all, the notebook made me chuckle. Through various projects and committees over the years, I have categorized people into “notebook” people or “folder” people.  Notebook people are extremely organized, with papers neatly arranged by tabs.  Folder people are those who have all of their papers shoved into a folder.  I fall into the latter category.  I think of myself as a relatively organized person and can put my hands on the papers I need – I’m just not motivated to put them into notebook form.

But I digress.

I don’t wanna think about the next few years of my son’s life. I want a typical fifteen-year-old with typical fifteen-year-old problems. The thought of applications, forms, evaluations, assessments, meetings and decision-making makes my chest tighten. I have put the notebook away for a while but I know I will open it one of these days and do the things I need to do.

I realize that “I Don’t Wanna” is essentially a manifestation of denial. I suspect it is a universal feeling that people use to cope with stressful situations. Denial often gets a bad rap, but I find it can be healthy in small doses.  A petulant child lives within me and sometimes pays me a visit in trying times.  Instead of crossing my arms and stomping my feet, I just enjoy a few quiet days of  “I don’t wanna” and my semi-ignorant bliss before doing what needs to be done.

You could try it sometime, if you wanna.