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Chronicles of a Corona Captive – I’ve lost track of the number of days

This will be my last Chronicles of a Corona Captive post. Most of us are slowly starting to emerge back into the world again. Now, we are more like Corona Parolees. Thank you for helping me get through this quarantine. What I thought would be a 2 week writing project to keep my mind occupied, force me to focus on the funny and help alleviate my own anxiety has lasted more than 2 months. I can’t believe you stuck around to read it the whole time!  Maybe I do better maintaining readers when their other options for entertainment are extremely limited. You have made this quarantine bearable and, aside from the fear of contracting a potentially life-threatening illness, you’ve made it fun. I can’t thank you enough for that.

I’m going to take a short break from writing while I finish up the school year and sleep outside the hair salon waiting for an appointment. You helped me rediscover my joy of writing, so I promise I’ll be back during the summer with more misadventures. I hope you’ll come back to read and comment. Until then, stay safe and be well.

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Days 54-60

Can’t stop baking…can’t stop baking…can’t stop baking…I had to bake for Oregano’s birthday, but apparently those Thin Mint cupcakes unleashed the vanilla scented beast I had been fighting so hard to contain. In one week, I made the aforementioned cupcakes, dill pickle bread and a tropical banana bread with coconut and pineapple. Friends who knew the baking beast was running rampant in my kitchen volunteered to do drive-by pick-ups of my baked goods. I’m not sure if that speaks to the quality of my baking skills or the fact that they are desperate to get out of the house. Either way, I have found a solution to my craving for baking and my aversion to the calories that result from consumption of the finished product. I’m calling it the Paprika Furstenburg Calorie Distribution Program.

Our governor is talking about reopening beaches for Memorial Day weekend. I can only imagine the tan lines the masks will leave.

One of the good things about being stuck at home is that there is now time to stop and smell the roses. Well, the roses aren’t blooming here yet, but I have been able to watch birds. I’ve gotten a front row seat to watch blue buntings and woodpeckers feeding their babies.

Oregano needed another haircut. This is the third time. You’d think I’d be getting the hang of it by now, but I am actually getting worse. After this attempt, his hair is lumpy and uneven, or as I referred to it…wavy. It’s quite a look. Now the poor guy will have to wear a mask AND a hat when he leaves the house.

My hair, on the other hand, has not been cut. I put on my sunglasses the other day and noticed a striking resemblance to Cousin It from The Addams Family TV show from the 1960s.

All I am missing is the hat.

This pandemic has made me realize that we have been reduced to a more primitive version of ourselves: hunter gatherers. As is traditional, I have become the gatherer of our family spending an hour a day scouring the internet for hand sanitizer, wipes and any other products we need, but can’t find. Oregano hunts in the grocery store every week and comes home with his bounty.

My gathering skills might need some honing though. I finally found hand sanitizer spray online. The fine print said it was made with 70% alcohol and an essential oil blend called “dragon’s breath.” You’d think that a name like that would have scared me off, but hand sanitizer is hard to come by these days and even harder to have delivered to your door. I did my due diligence and looked up the components of dragon’s breath blend. It seemed harmless enough: lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus, peppermint, oregano and clove. The hand sanitizer arrived (all 5 bottles of it) and let me tell you, dragon’s breath blend is aptly named. I don’t know who got close enough to determine the exact chemical make-up of a dragon’s breath, but I dare say they nailed it with this combination! Yikes! I have no idea how effective the hand sanitizing properties of this mixture are, but I do know that spraying this on our hands will certainly make it easier for people to keep an appropriate amount of distance between us and them.

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Days 48-53

The governor of New Jersey has officially closed school buildings for the rest of the academic year. I didn’t realize when I submitted my retirement papers back in December, that I’d get a 90 day trial period to sample some of the finer aspects of retirement like sleeping past 5:30am, going to the bathroom at will and working in a room that has windows. That said, the thought of another 6 weeks of remote learning is daunting.

The Mystery of the Missing Thin Mints… I made an experimental batch of mint chocolate cupcakes for Oregano’s birthday. The sacrificial test cupcake was a slam dunk so I was cleared to proceed to phase 2 – frosting. I waited until Oregano was out at the grocery store then I prepared the frosting, removed a dozen Thin Mints from their top-secret location and decorated every cupcake with a cookie. If I hadn’t kept them safely hidden, he would have eaten them all and had none left for his birthday. I’m nothing if not a benevolent bitch.

After 2 months of being homebound, I finally left the house! We were out together for 2 whole hours. When we got home, the cats gave us a “Where the hell have you been?” look.

My big outing was to visit nurseries in search of plants for the garden. Since we were outdoors and wearing masks, we figured this was a relatively safe way for me to venture out. I don’t really mind the mask and after a few minutes I forgot I even had it on. As I walked through the aisles, I saw a lilac bush. I love the smell of lilacs, but despite my green thumb, I cannot grow them. Any chance I get, I try to steal a whiff of them.  When I bent down to sniff the blossoms, I was disappointed that they were not fragrant. His voice muffled by the mask, I heard Oregano suggest that I remove my mask and sniff again.

I realized that masks serve another purpose besides protecting us from the virus. Almost everyone’s hair is in the process of returning to its au natural state. Wearing a mask hides your identity until the salons reopen. Bonus, no need to wear make-up either.

When we got in the car to leave the nursery, Oregano noticed a woman in the parking lot loading plants into her trunk. He said, “Hey, she looks like she’s had a haircut! How did she do that?” I looked up startled at his outburst. I’m not sure what I found more surprising; the woman who had a very stylish, very short haircut or the fact that Oregano noticed she had her hair cut. He never notices when I get a haircut. We spent the 15 minute drive to the next nursery coming up with scenarios that would have explained how she was able to get a haircut. You wouldn’t think someone else’s hair could generate that much conversation, but it did. This is the world we live in now.

When we stopped at a light on our ride home from our excursion, Oregano looked lovingly at me and told me I looked adorable in my mask. It was very sweet. What was my appreciative reply to this compliment? “So, are you saying I look better with half my face covered?” Speechless by my response, Oregano chuckled, shook his head and pulled away when the light turned green. Tender marital moment over.

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Days 43-47

The weather is finally warming up and I can start working in the garden. At the beginning of April, I ordered several bags of soil from Miracle Gro, but, after 3 weeks, it still hadn’t arrived. I checked my confirmation email and shared my concerns with Oregano. That was the wrong thing to do. It unleashed a torrent of gardening and soil related puns. I will share them with you so that you can have a better understanding of what my quarantine experience has been like.

“It’s a dirty trick that they haven’t shipped that yet.”

“Don’t worry. I’m sure the soil has already left the plant.”

“I have growing concerns that your dirt won’t arrive.”

“Maybe the soil was delivered, but stolen. No one was guardin’ the door.”

“You’ll be so excited when it arrives, you’ll soil yourself.”

(I’ll wait and allow the sound of your groaning to subside before you begin reading again.)

Underwear with the days of the week on them is useless. Since we started the lockdown, I can’t remember what day of the week it is. If it was on my underwear, I’d have to pull down my pants to check. Wouldn’t it just be easier if they made socks with the days of the week on them? One sock could be the day and one sock could have the number of the date. Then, all I would have to do is look at my feet. This would be much easier to do on a video call.

After 8 weeks of experimenting, we have discovered that there is no amount of kisses that makes Linus walk away. Keebler won’t get close enough to our faces to kiss and Otis gives us a “Don’t even think about!” look.

That is close enough, human. Go kiss Linus.

The pandemic has given teenagers a legitimate excuse to walk so far behind their parents no one knows they’re with them. Instead of coming off as a surly adolescent, people think they are being cautious and caring by observing strict social distancing guidelines.

Have to bake…have to bake…have to bake!!! Oregano’s birthday is coming up. I can’t go to the store, so I will have to make the sacrifice and bake something at home. Since he did such a fantastic job for my birthday, I’m going to attempt an untested recipe for Thin Mint cupcakes. If the cupcakes wind up tasting terrible, I can always blindfold him and give him a few real Thin Mints from the still hidden stash.

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 24 & 25

Acorn collection continues. I had an evil idea while stooping to pick up more of these annoying tree droppings nestled into the leaves of the emerging plants. Easter is this weekend and Easter egg hunts are a fun pastime for children. All of the public Easter egg hunts have been canceled. Kids are bored. Parents are sick of their kids whining about being bored. What if I had an Easter egg hunt in my own garden? I could allow 1 or 2 neighborhood children at a time to come into my yard to hunt for small, brown odd shaped “eggs.” One of my friends pointed out that this might be construed as child labor.  I’d give them all prizes. I’m not a monster.

Began using our stash from the case of toilet paper we managed to procure. While I am grateful that we are well stocked for the duration, I am sad to report that this toilet paper is not nearly as soft and luxurious as our usual brand. I guess we must all make sacrifices during this unusual moment in history.

Passover started this week. Since I have already given up leaving my house, going to work, seeing my friends and soft toilet paper, I have decided I am not also giving up bread and baked goods.

The hole in the center of my bagel (see above for why I am eating a bagel on Passover) and the hole of my slice of Swiss cheese matched up perfectly. How serendipitous! The fact that I even noticed that shows me how small my world has become.

After the failure of Linus’s nail clipping experiment last weekend, I called the vet to see if I could bring the 2 scaredy cats to the office. They are only seeing patients with emergencies. We are on our own.  Maybe I need to rethink this process and give myself the tranquilizer instead of the cats.

Cleaned out my spam folder again. What a rich source of entertainment those emails are from the subject lines alone. In a single day I had the opportunity to have overstock wines or cannabis gummies delivered to my house. I could take a 6 question test to earn the right to carry a concealed weapon, buy life insurance and purchase glasses. This is wise marketing. If I am going to start shooting at things, I am definitely going to need better eyesight and life insurance, especially after drinking the wine and eating the cannabis gummies.

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