Pandemic Party Tips/41

37677B5D-56F3-40B2-8F0F-553409D55643I’ve had some strange birthdays in my life, many actually, but something tells me 41 might be the most bizarre yet.  Stranger than sitting through a five hour long Wagner opera with the flu while on a trip to Germany when I turned 18, weirder than turning 15 in London with my English pen pal, and more bizarre than my 31st, when I was yelled at by a not to be named First AD for “talking behind camera” and ended up crying in a porta potty (just so we are clear, the camera department was wishing me happy birthday and I was simply responding thank you, but anyway….)

So, as I sit in my house, pondering life, cake, and puzzles, I thought I would give not only my Aries cohorts some birthday party tips, but also, from the looks of it, my Taurus and Gemini friends as well.

*First, wash your hands.

1* wear something you haven’t worn in the past three weeks or preferably in the last year. I’m wearing a dress I’ve literally never worn and it goes perfect with my old purple slippers.

2*bake a cake with whatever weird ingredients are still in the pantry.

3*shamelessly tell everyone that it’s your birthday so that they call you, then act surprised when they do.

4*make a party hat.

5*listen to music, not the news.

6*dance in the kitchen.

7*wash your hands.

8*collapse on couch.

9*stare at wall.

10*stare at Pinterest and pin exotic trip locales to your post pandemic visionboard.

11*remember that it’s all going to be okay.

12*dump puzzle onto table.

13*alternate staring at puzzle pieces and at wall.

14*make cookies to go with cake.

15*laugh because if you don’t you’re going to cry.

16*breathe.

17*go for another walk. (I’m so sorry that some of you are unable to partake in this one, truly.)

18*buy yourself a present.

19*attend zoom birthday party hosted by your awesome sister.

20*cry.

21*remind yourself that it’s all going to be okay.

22*open champagne that’s been in your fridge since your boyfriend brought it over on New Year’s Eve, 2018.

23*turn up music.

24*dance some more.

25*remember that this too shall pass.

26*wash your hands.

27*don’t touch your face.

 

 

Back to the Basics

4F71E75C-F2FB-4963-B0A2-3F8B4ADC915DOh, how quickly things can change!

For the past five days I have, in equal measure, sat in catatonic shock staring at the wall while listening to the news, cooked, eaten, and cleaned. Repeat. Go for a walk. Repeat.

The project I thought I was coming home to shut down until further notice, like so many others, and instead of jumping into any number of creative endeavors I thought I would want to begin, I find myself mostly spinning in circles.

Recipes and cooking seem to be the only things grounding me at the moment, so… so be it. Because I want to limit grocery store deliveries, I currently have more food than my small house and cupboards know what to do with, which isn’t saying too much as I am famous for bare cupboards. But, now an overflow of grains, beans, and pasta sit on my counter waiting to inspire.

Yesterday, while outside raking the leaves I never raked in the fall, I noticed green chard sprouting in my raised bed garden. With absolutely zero attention from me for the past five months, these little leaves did what plants do; reseeded, went dormant, and waited until spring to begin to grow again. Just when my fresh produce is beginning to run low, a reminder of nature’s perfection! I proceeded to order several packets of organic vegetable seeds online. I hadn’t planned on planting a garden this year because of upcoming work and travel, but…looks like I’ll be home!

My boyfriend and I have been much better about checking in the fridge to see what needs to be used and being creative with what we have, knowing that just running out to the store is not an option. I am inspired daily by so many friends’ posts of creative ways to use canned goods, bake bread, and hold cooking contests within families self isolating together, everyone looking for a way to make something both fun and delicious and also to ease a bit of anxiety. It is truly amazing how quickly we come back to the basics.

Tonights menu-

zucchini fritters

yeast free bread   (I can’t find baker’s yeast, or toilet paper!)

Leftover lemon chicken

And, I have already made two batches of these almond flour chocolate chip cookies. Kinda chewy, a little bit salty, they are soooo good. And they’re healthy, so you won’t feel guilty eating an entire batch while listening to the news and staring at the wall, in shock.

Be well. Take care of yourselves and each other. Stay home. And remember that this too shall pass.

9AC4BF98-F250-4546-BBC9-B861857A3472

Image seen on my walk today.

 

 

 

Chaos

It’s a strange thing to turn your phone off for a sixteen hour flight and to wonder how many new catastrophes may have occurred by the time you turn it back on.

We arrived back in the United States this morning and were shocked at the ease with which we entered JFK airport. No temperature screenings, no questions about where we’d been, empty containers of hand sanitizer throughout the arrivals area; nothing like the preparation we saw throughout Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Before leaving for Africa, I wasn’t sure that I’d be able to overcome my anxiety enough to enjoy the trip. But, I did… There was a calmness there that I found reassuring. It seemed that everyone was informed, knew what was going on, but no one appeared to be panicking.

Yesterday morning, in Zimbabwe, I sat around the breakfast table listening to stories of fuel and water shortages while a contractor worked to install solar panels on the roof in hopes of combatting lengthy power outages. The country doesn’t have a functioning currency and people don’t know how much their money will or won’t be worth when they wake up in the morning. But, life goes on.

This crisis illustrates just how dependent we are upon each other and how interwoven our lives and communities are and have been for decades. This realization seems to have taken Western, developed nations by surprise whereas those less developed or developing have always known this to be true. As wealthy countries find themselves on the flip side of a virus run amok, our true colors are oozing out; toilet paper brawls, stock market crashes, mask hoarding. We are not responding well.

How to stay calm while taking the risk seriously, steer clear of panic, socially distance without isolating, and be of service to your loved ones and community as a whole?

Namaste, palms together in front of heart, instead of shaking hands.

Spiritual well-being leads to emotional and physical strength. Prioritize it.

Healthy food, lots of water, zinc, vitamin C, exercise… keep your immune system strong.

Compassion. For yourself and others. Check in.

Support your neighbors and local businesses as much as possible. This to shall pass and we need our communities to be there when we all emerge, which we will.

The sun will rise again tomorrow.

Animals

Hot Day/Drink of Water
Striped Nibblers
As he runs away, one tail feather falls in the grass.
Mud Bath

The animals of Addo National Park outside of Port Elizabeth, South Africa. I ride in the back of a Toyota Land Cruiser with three German tourists. Our guide plays reggae and tells us about the industrial outskirts of town as we make the 30 minute drive to Addo.

Pee now, once in the park you can’t leave your vehicle until you reach the lodge for lunch. Lions. Though there are only seven living on over 400,000 acres, they are not to be tempted.

An American tourist rolls down her window and asks our guide if we see the leg wound in the zebra over there? We do he says, I hope he makes it. She looks horrified by this lack of interference. We continue on. We see the lions, a couple, napping in the shade down below. Buffalo, zebra, and elephants, and so many more animals, living their life, ignoring us.

Oh, hi.

SA

It’s like California in the 1950’s, he told me. But, I didn’t quite get it until we landed. Stepping from the plane to the tarmac, a warm, slightly humid breeze blows. On Sunday afternoon, the city of Port Elizabeth looks deserted. As we head out of town, I reflexively jerk repeatedly, not yet used to driving on the left side of the road, right side of the car.

The city gives way to nearly empty highways, happy cows chomping on lush grass, and small tidy farms. Not exactly what I was expecting, but then, what was I expecting? The chaos, sounds, and colors of India perhaps? Different continent, different hemisphere, but I think that’s what I thought South Africa would be like. Instead, it feels like a lush, warm, surfer’s Europe, the vestiges of colonialism still evident.

I have a habit of traveling to places having done almost no research, becoming fascinated, and then reading anything I can about the place while there. I begin to read Trevor Noah’s memoir Born a Crime about growing up in South Africa in the 1980’s and 90’s, as apartheid was crumbling. The intricacies of this country are fascinating!

I am mistaken for Afrikaans repeatedly and stare blankly when people speak to me in that language. I learn a bit about the English and the Dutch legacies and how each changed the country. I read about the townships of Soweto and Alexandra and learn that there are eleven official national languages in South Africa. We are invited to a braai (a bbq) and served fresh calamari, caught that day. We stay at a house on the beach and listen to the waves at night. The sand is covered in shells.

Way down here, at the tippy tip of Africa, overlooking the Indian Ocean, everywhere and everything, from viruses to elections, seems very far away.

Masks and Mayhem

Once upon a time, I took an overnight train ride from Albuquerque to Los Angeles for spring break with my mom and my sister. It was sometime in the mid nineties, pre cell phones or internet and back when they played one nightly movie in the lounge car. On this particular journey, the movie that Amtrak chose was called Outbreak. Umm, whose brilliant idea was it to show a movie about a viral disease gone awry on a train filled with passengers and stale air? Half way through the movie, we got up and made our way back to our train car, wrapped ourselves in any available garment, and tried not to panic when someone sneezed. It didn’t work.

Cut to today. Corona virus.

A global viral outbreak that some are calling a pandemic and others are warning could become one. Either way, not great news for Mother Earth’s human tenants. In the space of one month, it went from a virus that seemed far away, to one that made cruise ships look like the worst places on earth, to one that is reminding us all of just how reliant we are on each other and how intertwined we have become. Surreal images of vacant cities, subway platforms filled with people wearing masks, stories of others paying hundreds of dollars for a box of masks that should cost no more than $20. In the span of a couple of days, panic and mayhem. Well, that was quick. Civilization really is a fragile thing built on the head of a pin. Or so it sometimes seems.

And…tonight I will board an international flight to Africa. We planned this trip five weeks ago, just before the first rumblings of a virus began to emerge from China. We watched as it spread and checked the CDC website’s travel warnings daily. And then, this week, all hell broke loose. To go or not to go? We decide to go.

A beach town at the tippy tip of South Africa awaits, as does a family in Zimbabwe, old friends of my boyfriend’s. During a recent acupuncture appointment, my doctor advises drinking whiskey on the plane, along with lots of water.

The CDC says masks aren’t needed unless you are already ill and trying to keep your germs to yourself or caring for someone who is ill. Nevertheless masks sell out everywhere when news that the virus is in Italy hits the news. I go to every drug store in town before finally giving up. My dad finds some at a lumber yard and gets them to me. I, along with everyone else, just want to do something to feel like we are doing something.

I pack a suitcase that is, no joke, half filled with hand sanitizer, teas, wet wipes, vitamins, and meds. I wear a hoodie with a scarf and douse the scarf in an immune boosting essential oil. My neuroses run wild.

And now we are in the airport, waiting for the first of three flights that will land us in Jeffrey’s Bay, South Africa, sometime on Sunday morning. I swing between excited and anxious but keep coming back to faith that it’s all going to be ok.

I am about to head south of the equator for the first time. To see elephants. To meet people I’ve heard much about. To play in the Indian Ocean. And fingers crossed, to return home to a country that isn’t unraveling in panic, healthy and happy.

Circus

A billboard on the Las Vegas strip counts the national debt as it ticks up every second, $70K+ per person in the US, and growing. I am wandering alone, unable to get into a hotel room booked in another’s name. Five hours to kill. Two showgirls pass, photos for tips. I hold the phone and snap one for a man who won’t remember this in the morning. I get a manicure and eat really good vegan food. My nails make my hands look like they’re someone else’s.

At the far end of the strip, Trump Tower looms. The king of vapid and grossest of all.

The city of sin, faux, isms, addiction, fun, the lost and the strange. I’ve been here twice before and always end up feeling hungover after having exactly zero drinks. The smells and sounds of fake.

We leave early the next morning. The smell of smoke from the Tropicana’s lobby permeates my clothes.

And now it’s one week later. Every news source has reporters there for the Nevada Caucuses. A debate in the Paris Casino. A castle in the background on the PBS Newshour. A perfect metaphor for the circus that is our current state of democracy.

And then today, Bernie wins again.

I repeatedly hear “he can’t win.” Though he keeps winning. “It will never work.” “It can’t happen”. Almost word for word what we said about Trump four years ago.