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Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Days 38-42

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Days 38-42

The Half Century Birthday “In”stravaganza Edition

Before I begin with what has turned into a lengthy update, I need to come clean about something. It has been weighing on me more heavily with each passing week of this lockdown. It’s not easy for me to say this, but it is the right thing to do. It is my fault we are all in this situation. Back in September, Oregano asked me what I wanted to do to celebrate my 50th birthday in April. I told him that I wanted to do something I’ve never done before. I meant spending my birthday with my toes in the sand on a warm beach. To be fair, I have also never been quarantined on my birthday so technically, what I am experiencing qualifies as a bucket list item. I should have been more specific about my birthday wish and now we are all suffering. For this I am deeply sorry.

Phew…. I feel so much better now that I got that off my chest.

The pandemic caused us to cancel all the plans we had made to celebrate my milestone birthday at the beach in the South Carolina Low Country. Because social distancing guidelines prohibit dining in restaurants or having gatherings with more than 5 people, coming up with an alternate local celebration was not an option, or so I thought.

This towel would have looked great on the beach. Instead, it adorned our couch.

Over the past few weeks, Oregano spent an inordinate amount of time holed up in our home office. I figured he was busy with work and when I finally asked him what he was doing, his response was, “I’m working on stuff. People whose birthdays are in the next few weeks shouldn’t ask too many questions.” Apparently, he and my close friends were all scheming to plan a way to make my quarantine birthday an unforgettable day. Boy, did they ever! On one hand I feel incredibly blessed to have a husband and friends who love me so much they went to extreme measures to make sure I felt special. On the other hand, I’m a little concerned about how good they all are at being sneaky.

Oregano started the festivities by telling me that there were a few surprises in store for me and suggested I might enjoy them more while wearing make-up and real clothes. I’m not going to lie. I had quite a bit of trepidation at the thought of wearing pants with a button and a zipper for the first time in 7 weeks. I’m very happy to report that they still fit. It was a birthday miracle!

The first surprise eveeryone had up their collective sleeves was a virtual birthday party and a Vid Hug video message montage.  We got to chat for quite awhile then they sang what was simultaneously the best and worst rendition of Happy Birthday ever.

After the virtual party and lunch, Oregano suggested we take advantage of the fact that it was sunny and warm for the first time all week and sit in the front garden. I managed to sit still for all of 5 minutes before the siren call of the weeds lured me from my relaxation. I popped up, grabbed my weeding fork, gloves and bucket. Oregano looked at me incredulously and asked, “You can’t let that go for one afternoon?” I told him I was still enjoying being outside with him and this would get rid of the weeds. I was killing 2 birds with 1 stone. (No birds were harmed. Don’t worry.)

As I worked my way around the garden, I noticed that I couldn’t see through the slats of our small picket fence. I didn’t know what was blocking my view and started poking a finger at the reflective obstruction. Oregano sat snickering behind me and told me to walk around to the front where a big banner was hanging notifying the entire neighborhood of my age. I laughed at how oblivious I was.

Dandelions eradicated, I sat down to read until my asthma flared up from all the pollen. I went into the house to use my inhaler and just as I stepped onto my front porch, I noticed a line of cars coming down the street while honking their horns. I didn’t pay much attention because this had happened earlier in the day because one of my neighbors was also celebrating a birthday. I figured these were more of her guests, but as the cars kept approaching our house, I realized it was a parade of my friends for a drive by birthday party!

A small smattering of the heaps of birthday love I received.

After 7 weeks of hearing my friends as disembodied voices on the other end of the phone or as talking heads during video calls it was amazing to see them in 3 dimensions.  

It was frustrating to not be able to spend more time with everyone or give them hugs. Then I realized the upside of quarantine birthday parties, I get to see everyone, but I don’t have to share my birthday cake! However, wearing a mask makes it really hard to blow out the birthday candles.

The pandemic has forced people to get creative and improvise with what they have on hand or can find in the few stores that are open. My friends were the embodiment of ingenuity in crisis. One friend decorated her car with a banner made of paper plates, others made signs from boxes supplies ordered online had been shipped in. One friend cranked up her car stereo, got of her car then sang and danced in the street. They managed to create birthday cards or modify whatever cards they could find. They even sanitized the cards and gifts for my protection.

At the end of the day, Oregano was exhausted. He told me that it is very difficult to plan a surprise party and even harder when the person you are surprising never leaves the house. He managed to pull it off though. I might have to toss the guy a few Thin Mints for his efforts.

Apparently, when you turn 50, even your cake starts to sag.

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Days 33-37

Left the house for the first time in weeks. As we passed a mechanic, I noticed that they were advertising a free roll of toilet paper with any service. While I applaud their timely marketing technique, they are giving away “a roll” of toilet paper. One measly roll of toilet paper is all I get for bringing my car in for a service which costs considerably more than a case of toilet paper? Come on, guys! I know toilet paper is scarce, but unless I am desperate, offering me a single roll of free toilet paper is not going to entice me to your service center.

Saw a story on the news that the cosmetic company L’Oreal has reported an increase in sales of beauty products and hair dye. I completely understand the uptick in sales of hair dye, but not the beauty products. I haven’t worn make-up since March 13th. During every video conference call I have had for work or with friends, none of us has make-up on. Some of us are brave enough to go au natural to a video call and others just turn off their cameras. Who’s buying all this make-up?

Decided to try to come up with a craft project to keep myself occupied. I spent hours on Etsy, Pintrest and Amazon searching for craft ideas or kits. Nothing was inspiring me. What did come up during my search for mosaic tile kits, stencils and cross-stitch was a penis pinata. I have no idea how that popped into my search on Etsy, but nevertheless there it was. I couldn’t keep an item this unique to myself so I shared the link with a friend. She suggested that a pinata might be a fun way to kill some time. Oregano was uncomfortable with the idea of whacking a stick at a papier-mache penis even if he was guaranteed to get candy afterwards.

We had put it off as long as possible, but we had to do something about Keebler’s claws. We knew we’d need to drug him with a tranquilizer even if we were just taking him to the emergency vet, so we decided that before we committed to a $200 feline pedicure, we’d attempt an at home salon treatment. Saturday morning, we spiked Keebler’s tuna and waited 90 minutes for the calming effects of the tranquilizer to begin to take hold. So much for that plan. Two hours later, Keebler was wide awake and chasing the chipmunks as they scurried past the sliding glass doors to the patio. Not only was he not sleeping, he wasn’t even groggy. Maybe next time we should consider one of those tranquilzer darts they use on tigers. We had no choice but to commence with wrangling procedures to get him into his carrier to go to the vet. After 10 minutes of high-spirited evasion tactics, Keebler relented, got into his carrier and cowered in the corner. As a last-ditch desperation attempt, I decided to try to cut his claws while he was confined. It was either going to work or be a steel cage death match. Oregano scruffed the poor frightened furball and I managed to maneuver the clippers and extract one paw at a time until all of his claws were cut. That is a big win for the humans and their opposable thumbs!

The Mystery of the Missing Thin Mints continues, but this time it is at Linus’s expense. When Linus heard me getting the carrier to take Keebler to the vet, he disappeared. We figured he’d come out eventually when things quieted down, but he didn’t. Oregano and I started hunting all through the house looking for him. As we searched in closets, under beds, behind furniture and in all manner of tight spots, Oregano said, “If I don’t find Linus, maybe I’ll at least come across the Thin Mints.” I am happy to report that Linus was found and the Thin Mints were not!

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Days 31 & 32

Spent an afternoon cleaning out my digital files for work. Organizing non-tangible files is not nearly as satisfying. There is no clean file cabinet or closet to stand back, look at and admire the results of your effort.

Otis is a small, thin cat despite eating more than our other 2 cats. Whenever I pick him up, I scratch his belly and say, “You are too skinny. Eat a cookie!” Last night, I put one of the delicious no bake cookies I made on a plate and began making a cup of tea. I heard a strange noise and turned around. There was Otis sampling my cookie! Once my brain processed the fact that a cat was eating a cookie, I yelled at him to stop. This drew Oregano’s attention who was probably surprised I wasn’t yelling at him for eating a cookie. With a smug grin, Oregano pointed out that this situation was all my fault since I have been telling Otis to eat a cookie for years. I can’t argue with his logic. What surprises me, though, is that I never thought Otis was actually listening or that he knew what a cookie was.

Otis is such a tiny guy. Linus is there for comparison purposes.

Saving lots of money on my grooming budget since I can’t go for a haircut, color or pedicure for the foreseeable future. After calling 5 different vets trying to find someone who would help us trim Keebler’s nails, the emergency vet agreed. The catch is that it will cost 20 times more than usual. After careful contemplation and debate we decided that the money was going to be spent one way or the other. If Keebler scratches himself with his talons, he could wind up needing medical attention. If the nails get too long and grow into his paw pads, he’ll need medical attention. If we attempt to muscle him into submission while trying to clip the nails on squirming, writhing paws, we’ll all wind up needing medical attention. I guess I’ll just divert my grooming funds to him. Easy come easy go.

Picking up our face masks today. A friend’s mom made them for us because I can’t sew and the ones we ordered online have still not arrived. When I took sewing class in middle school, my parents told me that sewing is a life skill. What I didn’t realize is that it would eventually become a life or death skill.

Learned an important lesson. Now that I am teaching remotely, I spend a lot more time with a screen in front of me than usual. My eyes are not happy with this new arrangement, so the eye doctor suggested using lubricating drops. In my desperation to get some relief, I put one drop in each eye then attempted to read the dosing on the bottle to find out if I needed to use a second drop. My vision was too blurry. Next time, I’ll remember to read the instructions before I use the drops.

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Days 29 & 30

Our governor is talking about prolonging the lockdown for another 30 days. I’ve already written about the hole of my Swiss cheese and the hole of my bagel matching up. Clearly that is a sign that I have hit the bottom of the blogging barrel. What the hell else am I going to write about for at least another 30 days?

Finding it distracting watching TV shows when the hosts are broadcasting from their homes. I’m so fixated on being nosey and checking out what is behind them that I don’t pay any attention to what they are actually saying.

For the first time in my life, I have completely worn out a pair of slippers. To be fair, they were a year old, but they were in great shape when we started this adventure a month ago. Because they have been on my feet so much, I have completely rubbed the fuzzy insides away.

Must not bake…must not bake…must not bake…I did make chocolate oatmeal peanut butter cookies this morning, but they were no bake cookies. It said so right in the title of the recipe. I think I may have found a loophole!

Bonus! These cookies didn’t have any flour in them so technically they were Passover permissible. Although, this would be a much more effective argument if I hadn’t eaten an English muffin right before I started making them.

Keebler has completed his training of Oregano. When Oregano is in the kitchen, Keebler comes in and makes a very specific and very long meow to get his attention. Exploiting the fact that he is adorable, he wiggles his tail and bats his big golden eyes. Oregano stops what he is doing. When Keebler has his full attention, he runs to his favorite chair while Oregano dutifully walks behind him. Once Keebler has lured him to the appropriate destination, Oregano begins scratching him between his ears. If Oregano stops before Keebler is satisfied, he turns, looks at him and meows again until Oregano resumes the scratching. Keebler was able to accomplish all of this training in 30 days. That is a talented kitty!

The Mystery of the Thin Mints remains a mystery. Oregano was on a 2 hour long phone call with the insurance company. I admired his patience and persistence and felt it should be rewarded so I brought him 3 Thin Mints from our hidden stash. He was thrilled to see the cookies, but that feeling was quickly replaced with a distressing realization. He hadn’t heard me get the cookies and had no idea if they were hidden upstairs or downstairs.

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Days 26-28

Woke up this morning to the sounds of spring: birds chirping in the blooming trees, the pitter patter of raindrops on the window and the tooth-jarring noise of the jackhammer breaking up the asphalt on our street. Ahhh, how I love this time of year.

Saving a lot of money on gas by not commuting to work or ever leaving the house, but some of that savings is being eaten up by the increased entertainment budget. I’ve added Hulu to the Amazon Prime and Netflix we already have. Seriously considering getting Brit Box next.

To balance out the TV watching and reading, I decided to sign up for an online Master Class with David Sedaris. I mentioned this to Oregano. He didn’t know what Master Class was so I explained what types of classes they offer and who teaches them. He said, “Those are some pretty impressive instructors.” I looked at him in disbelief. “It’s called Master Class because of the successful and talented people teaching the classes. If it was just anybody, it would be called Mediocre Class.” He replied, “Yes, but I bet those classes would be cheaper.”

Adventures in grooming have continued. I usually go for my first pedicure of the season in April. I can’t paint my own toes because my hands shake from my asthma medication. By the time I am done, my feet look like a Jackson Pollock painting. Oregano volunteered to do it for me. We sat on the patio with my feet in his lap while he painted my nails. He didn’t do a terrible job, but I wouldn’t have tipped him extra.  He gave himself a C+. He just needs more practice. The longer this stay at home order lasts, the more practice he is going to get.

Procuring even the most basic life necessities has become a challenge. It took Oregano 2 attempts and 3 hours to get our groceries. This included waiting in line, in the rain, to get into the store since they are limiting the number of customers. To spare him any more errands, I ordered garden soil online. That is a first; having dirt delivered.

The Mystery of the Missing Thin Mints continues. While he was at the grocery store, I checked on the cookies. They are still safe in their hiding spots. If Oregano has started hunting for them, he hasn’t left any evidence behind.

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Days 15 & 16

Several times a year at school, we have spirit week. I decided to bring some of that spirit to our work from home environment.

Monday will be pajama day.

Tuesday will be clash day.

Wednesday will be crazy hair day.

Thursday will be hat day.

Friday will be career day.

Hmmm… now that I look at the list, it would seem we’ve had spirit week going on for 3 weeks and we weren’t even trying.

Took extreme measures to protect the remaining Thin Mints.  Each sleeve has been moved to a secret location. I hoped splitting them up would help me preserve at least one sleeve. Once Oregano reads this, he’ll have hours of fun searching the house for them. Stay tuned to find out if the Mystery of the Missing Thin Mints is solved.

Singing Itsy Bitsy Spider while washing my hands has gotten boring so I jazz it up a bit by singing different renditions of the song. I sing a rap version, a Broadway version and a reggae version. I’m fairly certain Oregano is ready to gag me. I’ll have to start thinking of a new handwashing song.

Our development has started a road paving project. Great timing! The only thing better than being trapped inside my home during the pandemic is being trapped inside my home while they jackhammer outside.

Watched the show Fleabag on Amazon. It is a British show. We loved the show, but thankfully, there were only 12 episodes. Oregano has difficulty understanding anyone who speaks with an accent. There have been many times while we were traveling or watching television when I have had to translate for him. During one episode of the show, he rewound a scene 3 times before he finally asked me what it was the character said. Exasperated, I looked over at him and told him the word was “Pam” and that he should let one go once in a while.

I’ve noticed that people are on conference calls conducting business while they walk their dogs through the neighborhood. I guess they are doing business while the dog does its business. Let’s just hope they aren’t video conferencing.

Must not bake…must not bake…must not bake… Normally when I bake, I bring the treats into school spreading the calories over multiple bodies. I had a brilliant idea that would allow me to scratch my baking itch, share the calories and show my appreciation. I planned to bake cookies and leave them for all the delivery people as a thank you. When I mentioned this to a friend, she pointed out that during a pandemic, strangers might not want to eat my homemade baked goods.  

Garbage night has become our date night. Under a moonlit sky, we walk down the driveway pushing the garbage can to the curb. It rained on date night this week, so Oregano had to go on the date by himself.

Second week of laundry without a button, snap or zipper. It’s like I have opened a laundromat for Amish people.

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Days 12-14

Collected more acorns. Squirrels and chipmunks just sat idly by as I crawled around picking up the acorns. I could feel them mocking me with their eyes. I might be losing it a bit.

Had a new experience in my marriage. Oregano wanted his hair cut and requested I do this for him. I feared that this would not end well and explained my trepidations, but he insisted. After a quick tutorial on how to use his razor with the hair clipper attachment, we went outside into the garden and he set me to work. I didn’t leave any bald spots, but I think we’re both glad that we have nowhere to go for the next month.

Only one box of Thin Mints remains. In an effort to protect the last of these precious rations, I think I have developed superpower hearing. Oregano was out of sight and I heard cellophane opening, I yelled, “Drop ‘em!” Turns out he was opening a package of crackers.

Went for a walk. The kids in the neighborhood left positive messages and drawings on all the sidewalks. It was heartwarming to read them and it made the walk much more fun. Everyone was talking about them. As a teacher, I was impressed not only to see the children’s desire to bring cheer to a difficult time, but also to see so many words spelled correctly. However, on the last leg of the walk, we came across one message with the word awesome spelled incorrectly. One of the e’s was missing from the word. A few feet farther along the path, we came across a chalk nubbin left behind by the authors of the messages. Oregano suggested that I use the piece of chalk to go back and correct the spelling of awesome. I looked at him like he was crazy. I don’t know who touched that chalk. What if they were infected?  I spent my career teaching students how to spell and corrected their errors. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I picked up a potentially life-threatening virus from a discarded piece of chalk I used to correct a spelling error?

Must not bake…must not bake…must not bake… Why are comfort foods always foods that aren’t good for you? When I am anxious or in a bad mood, I want brownies or peanut butter squares. I never crave a carrot or piece of celery. It seems like a cruel trick of nature.

Cleaned out my spam folder. There was a very accommodating email with the subject line, “Where do you want to have f**k?” The offer did not intrigue me, but the grammatical mistake did. This led to a 10 minute conversation with Oregano about how the word f**k could be used as different parts of speech. Twelve days in and I think we have officially run out of topics of conversation.

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Day 11

Noticed a headline yesterday that Netflix was down. I won’t lie. My heart skipped a beat. That single fact made me panic more than the thought of being on indefinite lockdown. Thankfully, when I got back to tackling my 78 episode binging project, the site was fully operational. Crisis averted…well, at least one crisis averted.

Watched the news this morning and saw that there is a spike in gun purchases. The story indicated that the majority of people buying these guns have no experience and are new to gun ownership. What could possibly go wrong with that combination? People really have their priorities in order. We are in a worldwide pandemic. We need to be hoarding laughs, not toilet paper and weapons.

Saw an ad that The Cheesecake Factory is offering free delivery on orders of $15. Yeah, this is just what I need. I’m sitting around all day in pants with an elastic waist and someone is willing to bring cheesecake directly to me. This seems like dangerous information to have.

Occurred to me that for years I have been complaining that we run out of toilet paper almost every afternoon at school. I should be thankful. I never realized that was training for when the country went crazy and bought up all the toilet paper to prepare for a respiratory illness.

Must not bake…must not bake…must not bake…

Taunted by 3 of my readers today. They are trying to break the willpower I have fought so hard to maintain during this quarantine. They are attempting to lure me to the dark side of a non-stick cookie sheet. One reader sent me a mouthwatering picture of her confection and told me to bake because she had.  If she jumped off a bridge, I suppose she’d try to entice me to do that, too. Another reader tried to convince me to bake and store the items in the freezer. Cold does not stop Oregano from wolfing down cookies. It just means he has to plan ahead to let the cookies defrost before the wolfing commences. The third reader sent me a seemingly scientific article titled, “Psychologists Say Baking Can Actually Help Reduce Your Stress.” First of all, let me say I am suspect of an article boasting the psychological benefits of baking on a website called I think there might be a conflict of interest. Secondly, stress would be the only thing that is reduced by baking. My weight would certainly not be reduced.

Heard a woodpecker while we were working this morning so we went out with the binoculars to get a better look. Amazing creatures. How hard must their beaks and their determination be to poke a large hole in a tree? When I finally shifted my gaze from high in the trees to the ground, I noticed more acorns. At least I know what I’ll be doing for the rest of this afternoon.

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Day 10

Congratulations fellow captives, we have reached double digits! We are changing the world by not changing out of our pajamas.

Switched out the porch decorations. Spring is here so it is time to get rid of the sled and ice skates. Instead of hanging a floral wreath on the door, I seriously considered hanging a biohazard sign. I’m sure there must be a pattern for one somewhere on Pintrest.

This color scheme doesn’t go with my front door, but is now really the time for worrying about color coordination?

Using different foods and products than we normally do because of availability in the supermarket. Made a grilled cheese sandwich not knowing or seeing that there were slices of paper between the cheese. That was an unpleasant surprise to bite into.

Oregano ventured to the pet store. They only allowed 2 customers at a time in the store and the employees fetched what he needed. We are now well stocked on kitty litter. Can’t say as much for our toilet paper supply. Why are people still hoarding it?

Relocated my “office” from the dining room table to the family room couch. My feet don’t touch the floor when I sit in the dining room chairs and it makes my back hurt. (Take a minute to laugh. It’s ok. I know I’m short.)

Caved on the seasonal lifting of the grill lid and let Oregano handle it. Something had been living in there. An examination of the forensic evidence left behind still has us confused. We aren’t sure if it was a mouse or a bird. Really, I don’t want to know. (Oregano took a picture and thinks I should include it in the post. I do not.)

Must not bake…must not bake…must not bake…I will be strong!

Walking to the curb to get the mail has become the highlight of each day. I am disappointed if Oregano gets there before me. Since quarantine, my bar for what constitutes excitement has been drastically lowered.

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Day 9

Reading through the list of what qualifies as an essential and non-essential business. The governor and I have a difference of opinion when it comes to hair salons. I know my stylist can’t stay 6 feet away, but the governor will see just how essential that business is when we all emerge from our confinement. Yikes!!

Noticed that liquor stores and medical marijuana dispensaries are considered essential. Perhaps now is the time to revisit legalizing recreational marijuana in New Jersey, even if it is just temporary. It would seem to me that constituents who are permitted to consume marijuana recreationally would be more mellow and thus more likely to stay home following the mandated orders.

Sun is shining again today. Time to refill the bird feeders. I’ve been getting angry stares from birds sitting on branches just outside the window. I fear they will start amassing giving my yard an Alfred Hitchcock like appearance. They are just finches and sparrows. I can take them if I have to…right?

Must not bake…must not bake…must not bake…I can feel my resolve weakening. Apparently corn muffins are a gateway baked good luring me to bake more. Must resist the urge.

Started binging a series on Netflix called Reign. I figured the scheming and conniving of 16th century politics and French court would be a good distraction. What I didn’t realize is that there is a total of 78 episodes. Now I am curious to see if I will finish all 4 seasons of the series before we are given the all clear to leave our homes. It’s good to have a goal to work towards.

Still attempting to muster the courage to lift the lid of the grill. Fuck it! I don’t need to be a hero. Oregano is home. Let him check under the lid. He’s much better at vermin and insect removal of both the living and non-living variety.

Cats suspend social distancing when there is only one sunbeam.

Otis and Linus are not following social distancing protocol.
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