Renew & Restart -Coronavirus Diary Part 12

I’ve been reflecting on the dramatic changes to my life, pre-pandemic, to the life I’m living now. If you had told me in early March that by May, I would be a mask maker in a pandemic, I would’ve thought you were nuts. But here we are. Making masks. Writing blogs. Living history.

I feel like I am beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel, too. The stay at home order flattened the curve and now we’re able to start slowly venturing out again.

New York’s PAUSE expires Friday. I’m not sure how much life will really change for us for the foreseeable future. Restaurants are still take out only. Retail is still divided into essential/curb side pick up only/ or closed (Peter Harris, I miss you!). We can’t travel anywhere or do much of anything. But things are starting to open up finally.

Jumping Jacks opened (but then they closed again after issues with their phones), ice cream stands, drive in movies, and the dog park did too. These are all the seasonal markers Upstate New Yorkers look forward to every year — confirmation that winter is over and finally the best part of the year (for the warm weather lovers among us) has arrived. You can almost feel the deep, collective sigh of relief when this happens each year, but especially now, after the spring we’re had (capped off by a freak May snowstorm). I think I speak for all New Yorkers when I say we’re just screaming into the void at this point. We need these things in our lives right now. Bad.

It’s not surprising that with so much returning to normal, my quarantine appearance started to bug me. I needed to go to the salon in January. In the fall, I dyed my hair red, and most of it faded out except a stubborn stripe around my head. I kept putting it off because I didn’t have the money for a $100 fix. I wanted red hair, damnit, but not if it mostly washed out leaving weird red stripes in random spots.

Then, as news of Covid-19 spread, I decided to severely limit my non-essential trips out of the house. There was no way I setting foot in a salon. Then PAUSE happened. And as it stands, salons won’t be reopening for a while still.

My hair was starting to look tragic. A line of natural ash blond striped with grey, then that stubborn stripe of red, plus last year’s highlights. Jeremy, God love him, said it looked just fine. But it was sooo not fine.

Perhaps this is melodramatic, but we have a pandemic on, and I didn’t want to possibly die with this hair. If I have to go out, and I have a choice, it won’t be looking like this.

I considered Loreal Preference, but I have skin reactions to all kinds of things, had never used it before, and now is not the time for a bad reaction to anything. Plus, I am one of those people who can never rely on *anything* to go on and, on my face and hair, stay the color it was intended to.

Purple lipsticks turn pink. Pinks turn orange. Reds turn coral.

I once dyed my hair what was supposed to be blonde with a touch of copper and it went burgandy.

So no way was I picking a hair color based off a photoshopped model’s picture on a box. I wanted to fix my problem, not create a new one.

Henna seemed like a solid option though. I’d tried it once before, with my host sister when I was living in Hungary, and remembered liking the results. Being plant based, I wasn’t likely to have an allergic reaction, the color is permanent, it covers grey hair, and it’s cheap.

So I ordered some. While I waited for it to arrive, I read a bunch of henna hair dying tips. Then I ordered a bunch of disposable plastic caps and gloves because it is MESSY.

While I was attempting an in-home spring makeover, there was the issue of my eyebrows, which were a hot, hot mess. I have never had any success with in home waxing kits, but tweezers are the devil’s own torture device, and I was getting desperate. I ordered this kit.

I decided today would be beauty makeover day. After sewing masks feverishly all day in order to get to the post office before closing, I started with the eyebrows.

Y’all, I don’t know what magical elixer went into the wax, but it was the easiest, most pain-free eyebrow wax of my life. I’m never going to a salon for eyebrows again.

Bouyed by new optimism I tried the henna. Whatever I did once in Hungary, it was not this. You cannot begin to imagine how messy it is.

I started with a green powder of crushed up natural henna. Added boiling water. Stirred until it resembled the consistency of yogurt. Let it sit an hour.

The glop in the bowl turned brown with a vague greenish tint–like guacamole that’s been sitting out all day. After an hour, I coated all my hair in what looked like a baby’s diaper explosion, covered it in two plastic caps, and let it sit for 2.5 hours. It has a decidedly planty smell and felt like I had a wet mud pie sitting on my head. Not the best sensation, to be sure. But also kind of fun to guess what kind of redhead it was about to turn me into.

2.5 hours later, I hopped in the shower and starting rinsing the henna out. After I got the majority out, I used A LOT of conditioner to work out the last of the paste. Then I rinsed it again (no shampoo), brushed it out, and dried it with a hair dryer to set the color.

I am really happy with the end result. It’s not unlike a $100 salon job, but this won’t wash out EVER.

People keep talking about what people have learned/discovered from being in quarantine and how this newfound self reliance will translate to a post-pandemic world.

I know I’m going to do my own eyebrows and hair color from now on. This was so much cheaper AND so much easier that going to a salon. I will not, however, be attempting to give myself haircuts. That is just a bridge too far.

Coronavirus Diary Part 5

Isolation is the pits. I think that’s fairly obvious at this point. We’re going into our third week of house arrest, or whatever you want to call this. I actually love being home, with just my family and my pets, not having much to do, and all the time in the world to do it. But we’re looking at weeks and weeks of it, with no end in sight, and that’s the part that is starting to make me a little crazy. I can’t predict what the world will look like tomorrow. It’s an unsettling time and it’s hard to settle in and enjoy the experience when there’s so much uncertainty.

Fun fact about Brittany time: I’ve taken the Myers Briggs personality assessment and I’m an INFJ.

There’s no doubt at all whether I’m an introvert or an extrovert. I am a hardcore introvert. I feel about going out and socializing like most people feel about going to work. Even if you love the work you do, who wouldn’t rather have unstructured free time? For me, it’s a necessary evil. Don’t get me wrong, I like people and love my friends and always want to hang out one on one. But more people than that and it stops being fun for me.

I am also plainly an N (Intuition) and an F (Feeler). If you ask me what is going to happen with Susie and Fred next Thursday, I can gut feeling/imagine a pretty accurate outcome in my mind. Ask me to calculate something like the square footage of my living room, and honest to God, I’d rather set myself on fire. Am I curious why a microwave works? Not in the slightest. In my world, it could be powered by a magical pink squirrel on a treadmill. The world of imagination: great. The world of math and science and facts: not great.

*This is not to say that I don’t have a healthy respect for the Sensors and Perceivers of the world. I am in no way a science denyer and I also know there’s no pink squirrel powering my microwave. I just like the mathy sciencey people to do their thing and leave me to my not-mathy-sciencey-imagination.

Anyway, I say all of this to emphasize that I am strongly an INF.

But all of that pales in comparison to how strongly I am a J (Judger). Judgers are decisive. They make quick decisions. Bold moves. No diverging off the path to sniff tulips. They are point A to point B people. And the one thing that makes them absolutely bananas is a lack of closure. You know that conversation you had with your friend three weeks ago, where you were about to tell them that funny thing that happened to you at the grocery store with the grapefruits, but then you had to go help your kid with homework and never got to finish the story. I can guarantee a J is still stewing about it, unable to rest until you FINISH THE GODDAMN STORY, GODDAMNIT! It will be the very first thing they ask you about the next time you chat, and I can also guarantee that the fact that you have no recollection whatsoever anymore of this little grapefruit incident, and now, will NEVER TELL THEM THE ENDING is going to drive them absolutely insane for the next forty years.

This is my life in a nutshell. I am preturnaturally dispossessed to enjoying open ended anything.

Case in point: when I had my ultrasound and discovered my youngest was going to be a boy, I had to figure out his name him on the ride home from the doctor’s office. Could I wait a week or even a day to think about it? Mull it over in my mind? Take my time and think it over? I had about twenty more weeks to decide. Like hell. I absolutely could not. Just the thought of it had me climbing out of my skin with impatience.

So perhaps you can imagine my mental state right now, living in a world I could never have predicted, where uncertainty and inaction is the name of the game. I am not okay. I have so much pent up anxiety and nervous energy I could practically gnaw through the baseboards like a beaver. Readers, go check on your J friends. We are not okay.

I am trying to keep busy. I am trying to exert some control over my life.

My oldest, Sam, is starting high school in the fall. Before all this craziness began, I was really starting to feel that I didn’t have much time with him left. When our lives were so busy with work and school, it was easy to push those feelings into a wistful nothing-I-can-do-about corner. We planned a Disney trip – a kind of last hurrah to childhood, in preparation for the inevitable teen years that were coming, when a trip with the family would be anything but cool.

But the coronavirus derailed all of that.

Disney is closed for who knows how long (again–here’s me–not knowing if our trip in cancelled. Or not cancelled. What’s going to be happening in August? I don’t know! No one knows!) *insert hysterical weeping*

And now I have more time than I can imagine with the boys. One of the things that I really wanted to do with/for Sam was give him some intensive writing help. It’s something he really struggles with, and also something I am uniquely suited to help him with. Before the lock down began, in a moment of inexplicable prescience, I ordered a writing workbook in hopes that we could work through it together.

Now, along with all of his regular school assignments, we have been having a daily writing lesson. We started a unit on descriptive writing, and I discovered that Sam was really hesitant to use descriptive language because it felt too flowery and inaccurate to him. Realizing that that thinking was holding him back, we spent a long time discovering ways to incorporate descriptive writing for more accuracy. Sam is catching on and his writing is growing richer and more descriptive by the day. It’s actually lots of fun to write with him. Maybe some day he’ll look back on this time with me fondly.

We’re hardly a factory of industrial-sized joy here, though. That’s about as much activity as I can muster in a given day. This lock down, the stories on the news, my Facebook news feed, and general shock at our situation has laid me out emotionally. Most of the day it’s all I can do to drag myself off the couch, I’m so sapped energetically.

I’ve worked on a few small, insignificant projects that I can see the end of–giving me a little bit of the closure I crave. Organizing (some of) my crafts and organizing the books on our book shelf by color. There are so many other, more substantial projects I could attack, but I just don’t have the bandwidth I’d need to tackle them.

My brain and my body are stuck in gear, hopelessly mired, and unable to maintain any momentum. I would love to start a new writing project, but even that is going nowhere, because none of the stories my brain conjures have the slightest forward momentum to them.

Jeremy, god bless him, knows that after a day spent stuck in my head, the best thing for me is to get out of the house and go for a walk. We’ve had weather in the 50s, and Monday’s snow is mostly melted, so we decided to try Garnsey Park in Rexford. Neither of us had ever been there before, even though we’d driven past it thousands of times.

It was a nice walk–a bluebird trail through meadowland. It was also horrifically muddy. We tried to navigate the mud, and it ended up sucking our shoes right up to our ankles in the mud and did pull me out of my shoes. My shoes disappeared and had to be dug out, and I ended up taking off my shoes and walking through the mud barefoot. It was quite a sight, but more than anything, it reminded me that I’m human, and life is ridiculous, and messy, and sometimes we get a little dirty in the process of navigating the path we’re on. I laughed. I’ll admit it. Sometimes that’s all you can do. There are greater problems in the world than muddy feet.

Generally speaking, we’re all okay. So far we’re all healthy. Local cases haven’t exploded, so that’s a relief, especially when the situation in NYC deteriorates more and more by the day. We’re avoiding nearly all human contact with the exception of occasional takeout and drive through Starbucks. My sleep cycle is a mess. I’m up all night, sleepy all day. Sometimes I can nap, but most of the time I can’t. Lattes feel a lot like love and warm hugs right now.

Supplies in the area, to my knowledge, are fine. I haven’t set foot in a store since March 10th or 11th so I have no idea. We’ve been lucky to find home farm share delivery. We also got a personal shopping appointment at a local grocery store, so it’s just a matter of going and picking our groceries up tonight.

We are controlling what we can control, and that’s not much.

Coronavirus Diary Part 4

We may have gone out for the last time in a while. New York’s new laws took effect last night at 8pm. In a nutshell, we’re allowed to stay in our houses, only to leave for groceries, medications, emergencies, and walks, alone. The military has arrived. There are videos of their big trucks convoying at Crossgates Mall. Everything is closed–even businesses that can stay open.

We got takeout from one of our favorite Mexican restaurant yesterday. It has a foyer before you enter the actual restaurant. The door was barricaded by a table AND the hostess podium. One lone guy was working the takeout orders. He told us that even though their takeout business was okay, that they’d be closing that night and not reopening until this was all over. He said they were having supply issues, things were completely up in the air, and being a family-run business, if one of them got sick, they’d all be sick. We wished him well, and said we’d be back for celebratory drinks when they reopened.

We got back to Scotia and our favorite Chinese takeout place was closed until further notice too. You can still order things online, but there’s no telling when things will get delivered. Our next door neighbor is a truck driver, and he said that NY has suspended all regulations and they can now work a 120 hour week. He advised us to get some extra dog food–that he foresaw some uneven availability of things in the future. He said if we needed anything to leave a note on his door, and he’d try to find it for us.

All the little bright spots are fading out. The world is getting very dark. But I have to say, our little community is trying it’s hardest to keep it together.

Everywhere you look, people have posted rainbows in their windows. It reminds me of all the American flags that appeared after September 11th. Everyone is hungry to help each other. Social distancing is the pits. The rainbows are a great way to tell your neighbor I’m thinking of you. I care about how you’re feeling. I’m sending you love. We’re going to get through this. You can read more about it here: https://blog.timesunion.com/…/518-rainbow-hunt-grows-to-20…/.

I’m cheering myself up by going through my craft supplies and making rainbows too. I found these wooden cats in the attic–a Halloween project I attempted that never came to fruition. They’re being repurposed for some front porch cheer.

Yesterday I saw on Facebook that my friend is making cloth masks for healthcare workers. My sewing machine is broken at the moment, and in truth, I’m not much of a seamstress (I’ve always preferred hand sewing). She was looking for elastic. I had elastic. We drove over and put it in her mailbox so she could keep the masks coming. American ingenuity is a thing. As a nation, we don’t like the word “no”. The lack of testing and supplies for medical workers is completely unacceptable, so as a nation, we’re taking matters into our own hands. It’s great to see so many people stepping up and coming together.

I guess I’m doing my part by keeping my butt at home. Inaction isn’t very satisfying, but right now it’s necessary.

We’re supporting the community however we can. While the grocery stores are nearly filled to bursting with people, we’re trying home delivery farm share. I’ve got to say, Upstate New York has A LOT going for it. We are perfectly located to hop back and forth from urban/suburban/rural all the time. Our farm share supports local family farms. We don’t have to worry about national supply chain issues. Maybe we can’t get everything in the known universe, but we can get a good variety of things–without stepping foot outside the house.

While we’re stuck inside, I’ve been getting my Holly Homemaker on–dehydrating apple chips in the dehydrator and making banana bread, crafting up a storm. I should probably clean the house and organize the closets, but I haven’t gotten bored enough yet. I’m going to repaint the bathroom at some point too, but I’m not motivated enough to tackle that either.

Even when things are crazy, it’s nice to know some things will never change. 😉

Coronavirus Diary Part 3

I’m afraid this blog is going to start getting really boring. The days seem to blend together, with very little to break up the monotony of having to stay inside. Yesterday, two (semi) exciting things happened (and the fact that they were exciting shows how bored we are.) Jeremy and I went to deposit a check at the bank and then got coffee. When we got home, we got a delivery of fresh produce from Field Goods.

Because of my diet, I really enjoy fruits and vegetables now. Fruit, especially, is my fun food. They must’ve known that I have some corned beef in the freezer because they sent me a cabbage bigger than my head, a bunch of potatoes, and big, fat carrots.

We also got a bag full of apples, lots of bananas, some pears, and some mandarin oranges. We ordered a few other things too–cashews and the cheese of the week. I avoid dairy completely except for the rare latte and some hard cheese. It doesn’t seem to bother me, but I’m avoiding dairy right now because it makes me mucus-y and I have enough to worry about without wondering if every sniffle is Coronavirus. (I’m looking at you, seasonal allergies.)

Today we took the dogs up to Saratoga Spa State Park and had a nice walk. We’re having such a nice, warm spring and it’s so nice to get out, exercise, and get some fresh air. On the way home, we stopped at got some bagels at the local bagel shop, and then stopped in at a convenience store for some eggs (for the banana bread). We feel fortunate that food stores are all open and well stocked. We’re trying to avoid going out as much as possible and minimizing our contact with others (For example, I will not set foot in a grocery store. I’ll go foraging in the woods first.) But at the same time, we feel like we should support local businesses as much as possible. Everything is take out now, and according to the CDC we’re safe to get food that way. I guess it remains to be seen if that’s enough to prevent the spread.

New York has the most cases in the US, but cases locally aren’t quite as crazy (although, admittedly, no one is really getting tested). Part of me wants to barricade myself in the house and not come out til this is over, but they say this may last months and months, so that’s not really an option.

We went on another walk around the neighborhood looking for rainbows in people’s windows. That has really exploded in the last couple of days. The group has been on the news several times now and rainbows are everywhere. It’s cheerful and makes this all a little less hard.

I have to admit, I love being home and having nowhere I need to go, but with everything going on in the world, I feel deeply troubled and on edge. I am trying hard to keep my spirits up and I’m doing that through crafting.

I’ve done some embroidery.

I also brought home some pottery from the studio and spent all day painting. Tomorrow the studio is closing until further notice. This makes me incredibly sad. It feels a little like the world is ending in tiny increments. I had to apply for unemployment on Friday. It gives me a weird, un-tethered feeling.

I need to focus my energy on something else–maybe write a new novel. Unfortunately, I can’t get out of my head to write something happy, and all the other ideas I have are very sad. I don’t much want to marinate in sadness for a prolonged period of time. It won’t be good for my mental health.

Hopefully inspiration will strike soon. I’m looking for something new to do.

As I type this, I am dehydrating cinnamon apple chips in the dehydrator. Tomorrow I’ll make some loaves of banana bread to freeze. I’m going to get fancy and add some chocolate chips. That’s what passes for excitement around here these days.