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Rain, Deer and 2 Jews: A 2020 Christmas Tale

T’was the morning of Christmas and two Jews were at home. 
A global pandemic meant they could not roam.

While doing a puzzle they heard a faint sound.
It must be the cats batting some toys around.

By the window they noticed something go past.
It didn't move slow, but it didn't move fast.

I asked, "Was that a deer we just saw trot by?"
It can't be, we thought, our fence is quite high.

Then out on the lawn there arose such a clatter.
"Holy shit! It's a deer." Our fence didn't matter.

The deer was trapped. She was stuck in our yard.
Getting her out safely was going to be hard.

The deer ran around; hurled herself at the fence.
The situation quickly became quite tense.

If spooked, through our glass door we feared she might burst.
A deer in our house. We imagined the worst.

The fix, we thought, was to get the gates open.
Maybe she'd let herself out. We were hopin'.

We had to get out there. We needed a clearing.
But how could we, without her seeing or hearing?

She cornered herself between the fence and some brush.
Our chance had arisen, but we now had to rush.

Me in boots and jammies; Hubby wearing his Crocs;
Splashed through immense puddles to open the locks.

Now dotted with mud and spattered by rain,
We dashed back to the house looking insane.

We closed the door quietly then stood still to wait.
Would our frantic deer notice the now open gate?

She missed the way out and in a corner got stuck.
Through the window we watched while both whispering, "fuck!"

Moments went past, while she turned round and round.
All of a sudden, toward the gate she was bound.

Once out through the gate, she ran down to the street.
Oregano and I were quick on our feet.

Back into the mud and the rain we both ran.
We each grabbed a gate which we closed with a slam.

Dash away. Dash away. Dash away, doe.
Behind our tall fence is no place to go.

Our clothes and the floor were now covered in dirt.
But we were just happy that no one got hurt.

Let's chalk this up to the year 2020.
A time that was filled with strange things aplenty.


Getting to the Root of the Problem

Fall is in full swing. Gone are the sauna-like bad hair days of summer. As a reward for enduring the heat and humidity of summer, we get to enjoy crisp, chilly mornings followed by warm afternoons. Instead of sweating through my daily walk where I count the steps until I reach the next patch of shade, now I stomp and crunch leaves underfoot while colorful leaves twirl down around me like Mother Nature’s confetti. The cooler weather also means it is time for seasonal treats like apple cider doughnuts and my favorite type of apple, Macouns. 

On a rainy day, I was out running an errand when I realized a 10 minute detour would take me to the farmstand that sells both my favorite doughnut and apple. Life is all about balance. The farm usually sells out of their doughnuts by late morning, but since it was mid-week, I figured I had a good chance of scoring some despite it being 11am. 

As soon as I got out of my car, I could see the cider doughnuts piled high on the table. Woohoo!! Thanks to Co-Vid, gone are the days of using a communal pair of tongs to select individual doughnuts. They are now packaged 6 to a container. Oh, the sacrifices we have all had to make because of the virus! Doughnuts acquired, I began wandering amongst the huge variety of apples looking for the Macouns. In my search, I came across a small green basket filled with knobby, dirt-speckled, brown roots. Ginger! I grabbed a piece the size of my thumb so I could use it to make some tea to go along with my doughnut. Right next to the ginger, I found a bushel full of Macouns. I selected a few apples and practically skipped to the counter with my bounty of fall treats. It was going to be a good afternoon despite the chilly rain!

When I arrived home, I called up to Oregano working in the office and told him that I had a surprise for him when he was ready for his snack break. A half hour later, a very long half hour during which I stared longingly at, but did not eat the cider doughnuts, Oregano came downstairs to claim his surprise.

I was sitting on the couch in the living room distracting myself from the doughnuts by writing an email when I heard him say, “This is quite a haul! Cider doughnuts and Macouns! But, why did you buy a single tiny potato?” 

“I didn’t buy a potato. That’s a piece of ginger,” I looked up to find him holding the ginger in his hand turning it around and examining it like it was a piece of evidence.

“No. I think this is one of those fingerling potatoes. It really looks like a potato,” he said.

“I’m pretty sure it is ginger. It was in a basket full of other small, brown knobby pieces just like that,” I replied. 

“You mean a basket of other small, brown potatoes,” he smirked, put the potato down and picked up a doughnut. 

With lips covered in cinnamon powdered sugar we debated the characteristics of potatoes versus ginger. 

Doughnut consumed, I said, “There is an easy way to get to the root of this problem. All we need to do is scratch the skin. Ginger is very aromatic. If it is ginger, it will be obvious.” 

Oregano grabbed the questionable root, scratched off a piece of skin, took a whiff and handed it to me, “It’s a potato,” he said matter of factly. 

I held it up to my nose and discerned that it was indeed a potato. I laughed so loud and so hard, I startled all three cats from their naps. 

“I guess, now that it is isolated from the other brown, knobby roots, it does look more potato-like,” I admitted sheepishly. 

“It is not potato-like,” said Oregano savoring his victory, “It IS a potato.” 

I started giggling uncontrollably again, “What do you think the farmer thought when I showed up at the counter with 6 doughnuts, 4 apples and 1 very small potato?” I mused aloud. “I wonder why he didn’t say anything.”

“What would he say? I’m sure he has seen crazier purchases. The better question is what are you going to do with that tiny potato? It’s not like we can share it,” he said.

“That’s easy. I’ll make myself the smallest batch of home fries ever for breakfast tomorrow morning!” 

Hash browns enlarged, not to show texture, but because it was a such a pitifully small pile.

A Walk in the Woods

I suck at hiking. I know what you’re thinking. Hiking is just walking in the woods. How much harder can it be than regular walking? For me, it is fraught with potential injury inducing opportunities and an assortment of insect bites. With a long standing record of injuring myself doing mundane household activities, doing a mundane activity in a natural setting only ups the ante on the risk factor. I’ve tried hiking in some spectacular locations: Glacier National Park in Montana, Waimea Canyon in Hawaii, The Alps in Switzerland. Hiking while surrounded by those stunning vistas was completely lost on me. I spent so much time concentrating on where I was putting my feet that I never looked up from the ground. I might as well have been hiking in an aisle in Target. 

Oregano knows of my dislike of hiking so he was a bit surprised when I suggested we go hiking at a park in Pennsylvania as a way to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. 

“Why would you want to spend our anniversary doing that?” he wondered.

“Desperate times call for desperate measures. We can’t go on the celebratory vacation we planned or to a show or even out to eat. It was time to think outside the box or just think outside.” I replied. 

“OK. If you are sure you want to hike, I’ll take the day off from work,” he agreed. 

“It’s supposed to be an easy hike, so I should be fine as long as I slather on the bug spray and walk carefully,” I said attempting to muster enthusiasm for the loathsome undertaking. 

The day before our anniversary outing, I took hammers out of the garage and put them by the front door. 

That evening Oregano noticed them, “Why are those hammers there?”  

“We’ll need them for our walk in the woods and I don’t want to forget them,” I said cheerfully. 

“Hmmm… hammers on a hike? That’s weird. I can’t imagine where we are going that we’ll need hammers in the woods,” he wondered as he headed up the stairs.

“I admire your confidence in our relationship,” I said. 

He stopped and turned to look at me. “What do you mean?” 

“Well, your wife, who hates to hike, invited you on a hike in the woods and is packing hammers and you aren’t the least bit suspicious. We’ve been trapped at home together for the past four months, a man less sure of his relationship might be concerned about being taken on a journey to an undisclosed, remote location with a bag full of potential weapons.” I said with a slightly evil smirk on my face. 

He shook his head, laughed and continued up the stairs. 

“Don’t try Googling hiking with hammers in Pennsylvania,” I warned as he hit the top step.

Thankfully, the day of our anniversary was not blazing hot so we grabbed our backpack loaded with bug spray, water bottles and what may or may not be key pieces of evidence in an upcoming murder trial and headed across the border to Pennsylvania. It was a beautiful ride through bucolic scenery. 

During the ride, Oregano’s curiosity reawakened and he mused about why we might need hammers. When we turned on to Ringing Rocks Road, he commented on the unusual street name and then a light bulb started to flicker above his head. “I wonder if that is a clue to where we are going.” 

“It might be,” I said as we turned into the parking lot for Ringing Rocks State Park. 

When we got out, I swung the backpack over my shoulder causing the hammers to clang against the can of bug spray. Oregano offered to carry the bag, but I said I could manage then made an ominous laugh. 

It was a blissfully flat trail. We passed a few other socially distant hikers, all carrying hammers. I’m not sure, but Oregano seemed slightly relieved to realize I wasn’t the only one with hammers. After a few minutes, a strange sound began emerging from the left side of the trail.  It wasn’t the buzz of insects or the chirps of birds. These were not sounds you’d expect to hear in the middle of the woods. It was either an oddly located blacksmith’s shop or some very large bells. 

We walked down the path towards the noise and found a huge field strewn with boulders. Carefully, we began to pick our way over and around the boulders nimbly avoiding the poison ivy growing between them. My first thought after scrambling up and over a few rows of rocks was that this would be a great place for an orthopedist to set up shop. I was envisioning an ice cream truck tricked out with a portable x-ray machine. The doctor could even play music to help the unfortunate people in need of medical assistance locate the mobile office in the woods. As I scrambled around ungracefully on all fours, I wondered which of my limbs I was going to break first. Always the optimist, I realized that at least we’d be able to use the hammer handles as a makeshift splint until we could get me back out across the boulders. 

This looks like an easy stroll, doesn’t it?

While I was navigating this natural obstacle course, I could hear the clanging cacophony created by the other hammer wielding hikers. These people clearly had better balance or were direct descendants of mountain goats because they had made it to the far side of the field of boulders. A wide-eyed Oregano took the hammer I managed to extract from the backpack and started banging out tunes on any rock he could reach. Some rocks had deep sounds like a bell,  others sounded like someone dropped change on a concrete floor and some were just duds. 

“How on Earth did you know about this?” he asked me while swinging his hammer. 

“During my pandemic purge, I came across an article I saved from 2007 about this park. I did some research and thought it would be a fun surprise for you. It only took 13 years and no other available options to move this attraction to the top of our places to see list.” 

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Days 19-21

Spring break is finally here! I can’t wait to turn off my alarm clock and sleep late. Oh, wait…nevermind.

As the weather has warmed and the sun is shining more brightly, I have learned some valuable lessons. For example, I now know the optimal TV viewing positions to avoid sun glare as I binge watch Netflix.

Must not bake…must not bake…REALLY must not bake. Passover begins this week. It is a religious obligation not to eat baked goods. We are already living through a plague; how much worse would things get if I baked?

On our walk Friday night, Oregano sneezed. He followed appropriate pandemic etiquette by covering his mouth and nose with his upper arm. No one was close to us, but Oregano is a loud sneezer. So loud, in fact, that before we were married, he sneezed in my parents’ house and set off the security alarm while everyone else was asleep. So when Oregano sneezed, heads all around the park turned. I felt compelled to yell, “It’s okay. It’s only allergies.”

The mystery of the missing Thin Mints continues. They are still safely hidden. I’ve noticed a flaw in my plan though. While hiding them will prevent Oregano from eating the cookies, I can’t eat them either. We’re both home ALL the time. What if he has me under surveillance?  If I get a cookie for myself, he may see where I got it from and the cookie’s hiding place would be revealed.

A package with 2 new pairs of yoga pants arrived. Oregano wondered why I had purchased more yoga pants. I told him I needed a new spring wardrobe for work.

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.

Chronicles of a Corona Captive – Day 8

Starting to lose track of the days. Without a routine, it’s hard enough to know what day of the week it is. We have no idea what the actual date is.

Attempting to muster the courage to lift the lid on the grill to clean it for the first time this season. In the past, I have found the remnants of homes small critters have made during the winter. On occasion, I have even found the critter itself. I’m not sure who scares who more. Nevertheless, it gives me pause every spring when I have to lift the lid. It is cold and rainy today, so I can put that task off.

Must not bake…must not bake…must not bake…OK, I baked corn muffins, but they were a side dish to go with bean soup so it doesn’t count.

Starting to feel like a kid who has been sent to her room and can’t come out.

Another box of Thin Mints is missing. There is only one more box. Is Oregano sneaking down in the middle of the night to eat them?

An RV appeared in my neighbor’s driveway. We thought maybe they were going to take their 3 kids to hide out in the woods, or use the RV as a quarantine zone, or as a way to socially distance themselves from their kids. Turns out my neighbor has to teach live classes online and needed a quiet place. Brilliant idea!

Running low on paper napkins. The store is completely out and they are scarce online as well. The ones we could find were for an outrageous cost. Are people using this in lieu of toilet paper or did everyone suddenly become very messy eaters?

Asked Oregano where my laptop was this morning. Immediately, Linus came running and jumped into my lap.

Linus thinks he is a laptop. I guess, tehcnically, he is.

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