Love, life, and death in the time of COVID-19 or anytime, really

How do you say goodbye to a friend who is dying?

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My dad as a little boy. Who knew he would get only 62 years and two months? Thanks, Agent Orange.

I just got off the phone with my friend Doc T. His wife, L, was my first friend when I moved to Milwaukee. I met her at the Y in body pump. I admired her haircut, got the name of her stylist, Carol (who became my stylist and remained my stylist and Mr T’s stylist until she retired last fall), and voila we were friends.

L is dying.

She has had cancer for a few years now.

They are done. There is no more treatment they can do.

L is direct. Last week, she had her daughter post for her on facebook that she had spent a week in the hospital and was coming home to go into home hospice. “Thanks to COVID there are not currently plans for a service.”

I asked Doc T if L was in any pain.

No, she’s not, he told me.

At least there’s that.

“It’s going to be a slow process,” he said.

What do you say to that?

He continued. “But that gives me more time with her.”

Why don’t the jerks get cancer? Why is it the nice people who suffer? I have a whole list of people we could do without in this world.

My friend is not one of them. She is a nice person. Doc T had finally retired and they were going to do retiree stuff – travel, see the world, enjoy their grandchildren.

And now that won’t happen.

I am working on a project for my city’s anti-racism group. I have an intern who is 19. Last week, on Thursday, I had asked if she could meet on Friday, July 3.

She hesitated. Her family was taking a short weekend vacation, leaving Friday morning.

“But I might have some downtime where I can work on the project the rest of the weekend!” she said.

Nonononono I told her. No. No.

You spend your time with your family while you can.

Work is never more important than your family. Never.

I didn’t want to tell her that I would give anything to spend time with my dad again. That I treasure my memories of our family vacations and time just hanging out on the porch with him. That I still think about the sound of his voice when he would tell us stories when I was a kid. That when he was in hospice, we prayed and prayed for a miracle but the only miracle we got was that the two-pound bag of peanut M&Ms in his room remained unopened and untouched for an entire week.

I didn’t want to warn her that the people you love can be taken from you. That you are not guaranteed a long time with anyone. That fathers can die at 62, an age I now really realize is absurdly young. That friends can die or go into hospice at 67, which is also – it’s way too young.

I just told her to enjoy her weekend – that the work would wait. Work will always be there. Your loved ones will not.

 

 

Grooming in the time of COVID-19

Did you know hair gets shorter as it dries? Mine does I know that now

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Last week, my friend Leigh messaged me.

Leigh: I just cut my own hair. First time ever. And it looks pretty good. I even got the “teen approval check” from S—–. I feel so liberated. I NEVER would have tried this if I were going to the office. But now I think I can do this regularly for quite a while!

Me: That’s wonderful! my stylist retired last Sept so I was kinda lost anyhow so I am just pulling it back into a ponytail and someday, I will go to Supercuts

Leigh: I just used a YouTube video on how to cut long layers. I watched two of them and picked out the one I felt most comfortable with. Then I went to Walgreens and got sharp hair cutting scissors. Then I watched the video a few more times as I did it myself. I figured if I erred on the side of leaving it longer then it could be fixed if I messed it up too much.

Then we stopped messaging and I can’t remember why. I went on my merry way.

With my hair that has not been cut since February.

Mr T got a haircut last month, when the hairdressers opened again.

He had complained repeatedly about his hair getting too long.

I had offered repeatedly to cut his hair.

I used to cut hair in college.

I wasn’t any good at it, but – college students don’t care. Or at least they didn’t care back then.

My attitude was, High school dropouts do it so how hard can it be?

May I say that is an ugly attitude that has come back to bite me in the butt many many times?

I offered to cut Mr T’s hair, but said that he would have to sign a contract first. Our bonus son in law, Brian, a lawyer, agreed to write the contract for us.

Mr T declined.

Mr T is a chicken.

Honestly, what’s the worst that can happen with a haircut?

You get a bad haircut and your hair either has to be cut some more or it has to grow out?

IT’S NOT LIKE ANYONE IS SEEING US THESE DAYS ANYHOW.

That is, nobody but the people at the grocery store or at the food bank where we volunteer (socially distanced, with masks and gloves) once a week.

We are not among civilized people these days.

Well. We are not among any people these days.

It’s the 4th of July and we are in our house, bored. We should be at Summerfest and fireworks but this year, there is neither.

The only good thing about all of this quarantining is that in addition to not having to spend money on cutting my hair, I have also not wasted money on highlighting my hair. Or on painting my toenails. Or on makeup.

(That’s an item that keeps coming into the food bank, where Mr T and I have been processing inbound donations. Lots of unsold makeup coming back in for processing.

Also, and totally off topic: M&M Mars insists on having their candy returned to them rather than donating it to the food pantries. So any unsold M&M Mars products do not get processed for donation but for return to M&M instead. Which is just mean. IT’S MEAN.)

I have not wasted money on makeup. I have not wasted money on new clothes. I have not wasted money on deodorant.

Basically, I am a pioneer woman except with all the comforts of elastic and electricity and with none of the work.

I am an unmake-uped, un-deodoranted (it does not get that hot here, OK? and it’s sure not like I do anything that requires physical exertion), gym clothes clad (for the elastic, not for actual exercise) very natural woman.

But as much joy as it brings me not to have to put any effort whatsoever into my appearance, having my hair hit my shoulders was really starting to bother me.

It’s annoying! I don’t like having long hair.

I could mostly solve the problem by just putting my hair in a ponytail, but then I realized it was actually taking me longer to wash my hair than usual.

Yes! It takes longer to wash long hair than it does to wash short hair!

Not that I have anything to do, being an unemployed person, but washing my hair is boring.

A few days after Leigh told me that she had cut her own hair, I was in the shower, getting more and more annoyed at how much extra time I was wasting washing those extra inches of hair.

I thought, “I am going to ask Leigh what brand of scissors she got. Then I’m going to walk to Walgreen’s and get a pair for myself and then I am going to cut my hair.”

Let me back up here and say that I have cut my own hair many many times.

Let me back up here and say not only have I cut my own hair many many times but also that IT HAS NEVER ENDED WELL.

Let me say here that apparently the only thing I learn from history is that I do not learn from history.

By the time I got out of the shower, my plan had changed from, “Go to Walgreen’s for the Good Scissors and then really think about how to cut hair properly” to, “Grab old scissors from the junk drawer and hack off chunks of wet hair in 2.5″ increments. Without using anything other than the main bathroom mirror. Or any other guide for length.”

Which is the plan I executed.

Which – well – is how I remembered that

  • my hair gets shorter as it dries
  • my hair gets a lot shorter as it dries
  • it’s really hard to cut the hair in the back
  • especially when you can’t see it
  • and if you are just doing it in clumps instead of carefully pinning hair up in sections the way professional stylists WHO TAKE SO LONG do
  • because I guess scissors slip on big chunks of hair?
  • and then you get really uneven sections
  • that you still can’t see
  • which means you can’t fix them yourself

But nobody sees me so – whatever. My too-short, uneven hair. What. Ever.

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Shades of privilege are still white privilege

Nobody asks me if I am looking for someone when I am in my own front yard

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Sort of on topic. When I was in South America, I didn’t see anyone who looked like me washing clothes by hand by the train tracks.

I live in a middle-class suburb of mostly white people. My neighbor a few houses up is black. He is an engineer. His mother is a professor. He grew up in not only more affluent but also more sophisticated surroundings than I did. You would probably say he has more privilege than I do, or that he had more privilege growing up than I did.

For instance. I did not know until I read the book, The Privileged Poor: How Elite Colleges Are Failing Disadvantaged Students, by Anthony Abraham Jack, that I didn’t really know what office hours were.

I read that book this year.

I finished college in 1985.

Mr T, whose father was a college professor, was flabbergasted. “Why didn’t you just ask?” he asked.

Because I didn’t know that I didn’t know.

I thought office hours were the hours that the professor worked. Yeah, I had no idea what a professor did. I didn’t know that office hours were when professors  were available for students to ask questions.

Why would I ask a professor for help? That wasn’t the professor’s job! It was my job to figure things out. The professor lectured. I took notes. I had the textbook. If I couldn’t figure it out, well, I guess I was too stupid to be there, then.

When I would see a professor in his or her office and it wasn’t office hours, I was always very confused. Why were they even there?

When I read The Privileged Poor, I discovered that not only were office hours time set aside for students but also that some students knew enough that they would use that time to just hang out with the professors.

Which is how you get to know your professors.

Which is how you get the good recommendations for grad school and internships.

Which – I had no idea.

  1. As I said, I didn’t even know what office hours were.
  2. I didn’t know I didn’t know.
  3. Even if I had known, I would never have just gone to hang out with a professor. NEVER. They were old. They were adults. How would I even dare impose on their time like that? What would I even have said? What would we have talked about?

This is something rich kids know how to do. This is something Anthony Abraham Jack talks about in his book: that kids raised in privilege know these things because their parents teach them. They know how to develop relationships with adults so they can gain the benefits that come from those relationships later.

I asked a professor for a recommendation a year after I was out of college. I had been very involved in my residential college (kind of like the Harry Potter house) and the professor who was in charge of our residential college knew me, I thought.

He refused to write me a recommendation, telling me he didn’t remember me.

My bad. I didn’t know how it worked. I thought that showing up and doing the job was enough. It’s not.

You find similar ideas in the book, Limbo: Blue-Collar Roots, White-Collar Dreams, by Alfred Lubrano. Lubrano talks about how white collar kids are taught to shake hands and talk to adults and how to negotiate professional office norms.

These things are a mystery to people who don’t grow up in white collar backgrounds. We don’t even know we don’t know. We just know that something always feels wrong – like there’s a game being played and we don’t know what the rules are.

Off-topic story

Lubrano also, in my favorite example, cites how professors’ kids work differently from blue-collar kids.

Mr T’s dad was a professor, mine was an aircraft mechanic. Both of our fathers went to college and were the first ones in their families to go, but my dad had more of a blue collar, practical view of life. His job was life or death, so he was focused and pragmatic. Mr T’s dad taught English, which, although worthy, doesn’t cause death if it’s not done properly.

Mr T and I each absorbed our respective father’s approach and I saw that in this example from the book.

Lubrano talks about an experiment where a group of professors’ kids and a group of blue-collar workers’ kids were each given a task.

The group of professors’ children argued about the best theoretical way to approach the task.

The group of blue-collar worker’ kids calmly defined the objective, chose a leader, figured out a plan, and completed the task. While the professors’ kids were still arguing.

This is how Mr T and I work. He wants to discuss in great detail the theory of everything and I just want to complete the task.

For example. We were on our way to the airport and traffic was backed up to get onto the highway.

He started complaining about the traffic and asking, “But how can there be traffic on a SATURDAY?”

I got onto my phone to find an alternative route. “Just go this way,” I told him.

He ignored me as he continued to question the presence of traffic ON A SATURDAY.

Back to the topic at hand, which is varying levels of privilege within whiteness

So those middle-class and rich kids learn how to negotiate this world. They know what office hours are. They are comfortable calling adults by their first names, something I had to be told to do in my first job out of college.

Yes. I was working for an insurance company and I was calling all the adults “Mister” and “Miz” whatever because THEY WERE OLD PEOPLE AND I KNEW THE RULES.

One day, a VP took me aside and said kindly, “We’re on a first-name basis here.” Even though he was my father’s age. Which meant he was old. At least 48.

Rich kids know this stuff. They know how to talk to people and they have the connections.

Here’s an interesting aside. Do you know what the key success factor is for entrepreneurs?

Guess.

Rich parents. Rich parents and/or connections to other rich people. (From inc.com)

What really sets entrepreneurs apart from everyone else? It’s not their resourcefulness, imagination, ability to foresee trends, or their belief in their own ideas, according to a recent piece on Quartz. It’s the mouthful of silver spoon they were born with. “The most common trait among entrepreneurs is access to financial capital,” the piece notes, citing a wide range of research.

Are you wondering, “Why is she telling me all this? Isn’t this kind of like saying, ‘Did you know the sun rises in the east?’ Doesn’t everyone know that rich kids have it easier?”

I am saying all this because I do have a point.

And the point is that even though my neighbor was raised in a sophisticated home, with a mother who was a college professor (I don’t know what his dad does), even though my neighbor grew up in an affluent suburb, even though my neighbor undoubtedly knew what office hours were before he went to college, even though my neighbor knew how to talk to adults comfortably and didn’t have to be told in his first job out of college to call his co-workers by their first name, even though my neighbor is an engineer who works at a respected employer, even though my neighbor is married with two little kids, even though he is a stable citizen,

his black skin is all some people see:

Our house was egged soon after we moved in. Standing in my front yard, I’ve been asked by “Helpersons” if I was looking for something. My family is ignored by parents we see almost daily at our kids’ schools. And I recognize the difference between genuine and forced smiles.

My house has not been egged.

Nobody has ever asked me if I was looking for something when I have been standing in my own yard.

And I, too, know what a forced smile looks like. And the only person who has given me one in the recent past is Mr T’s mother.

The only difference between my neighbor and me to strangers is that his skin is black and mine is white.

That is what white privilege is.

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Being bored but not bored enough in the time of COVID-19

I thought I was bored enough to watch stupid movies but I was wrong

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A beautiful woman in Spain who probably would not have fallen for the crap from some rich tech guy.

In the beginning, I couldn’t watch TV or movies or read books at all.

All I could do was watch the deathmeter on the Johns Hopkins site and read the news and try to convince my mom that no she should not go out not even to church not even to the grocery store.

Now I am getting numb to death. It’s Memorial Day weekend as I write this and we are about to hit 100,000 deaths in the US. The president of this country is playing the violin happily as we are about to hit 100,000 deaths.

And I?

I am numb.

I don’t watch the deathmeter anymore.

I stay inside.

I read the paper.

I apply for jobs when I see actual jobs posted.

Mr T is surprised that I continue to be disappointed that I am not asked to interview. That I actually expect something to happen when I apply for work.

Maybe he’s right.

Maybe I need to lower my expectations to nothing.

Maybe applying for a job during a pandemic is nothing more than a weird kind of performance art.

I could just tilt at windmills instead.

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I don’t have any windmill photos, but this is a photo of Spain so there you go.

And the library has started curbside pickup, so I have been getting movies to watch.

NO WE DO NOT HAVE NETFLIX. NO JOBS NO NETFLIX OK?

And – what we have learned is that I have become too lazy to look up IMDB ratings and now trust previews and DO NOT DO THAT.

PREVIEWS LIE.

I am cranky because I just wasted an hour on The Age of Adaline, which would have been an hour and a half, but if you click the fast forward button once, you can watch the movie a little bit fast and don’t have to put up with all the slow talking.

I am not even going to get into how Adaline got into her state of not aging. Mr T wanted me to explain it to him and I told him it was not relevant – that he needed to just accept it as the premise. But he insisted and I told him and he said, “But that’s STUPID!” and I said, “I told you so” and that was that.

Take it as given that she does not age.

And then think of all you could do with that premise: a woman who has lived more than 100 years but whose body is still 29?

Sadly, the writers didn’t do much with it except show that Adaline outlives all of her dogs, which actually did make me very sad, as Mr T and I regularly become quite sad thinking of the day when our cats will leave us.

But more than sad at the lost opportunity for exploring this great premise, I am ticked off at how badly – and yet how predictably – the writers handled The Cute Meet.

Which was so clearly written by men.

(Thank goodness though because if there’s one thing that’s missing in cinema it’s a man’s point of view, especially in a story about a woman.)

Adaline meets Ellis. He asks her out, asks for her phone number, etc, etc.

She tells him no.

End of story, right?

No means no.

Nonetheless he persisted.

He shows up at her work – the San Francisco library or archives or something – with a huge donation.

And says he will make this donation only if he can be photographed giving it to her.

She says no, it’s not her job and besides, she does not like to be photographed.

End of story, right?

No means no.

Nonetheless he persisted.

Then he says, OK, he will still make this huge tech millionaire donation if she will go out with him.

She says no.

End of story, right?

No means no.

Nonetheless he persisted.

Her co-workers are no help.

She says yes.

And I am yelling at the TV DO NOT GO OUT WITH HIM THIS IS EXTORTION.

This is when I pause the movie to look up the writers and of course they are men. They are men writing out the male fantasy of if they had a ton of money they too would force someone who looks like Blake Lively who is indeed stunningly beautiful to go out with them.

(Oh yeah – and later of course they write that she is a huge baseball fan who knows all the players and their stats – because this is a men’s movie written by men.)

And then some things happen and then they do go out and then he shows up at her apartment and she asks, “HOW DID YOU FIND OUT WHERE I LIVE?”

And he tells her that the library told him to which I am yelling, OH NO THEY DIDN’T! NOT IN REAL LIFE! HAVE THESE SCRIPTWRITERS NEVER HAD A REAL JOB WITH AN HR DEPARTMENT?

Adaline is freaking out because THIS GUY IS STALKING HER.

And he’s all, “But dude I’m a tech gajillionaire don’t I get to have whatever I want? I donated a ton of money to the library and now I own them!”

She tells him to leave her alone – she’s moving.

And I think FINALLY GIRLFRIEND YOU GOT A BACKBONE.

But. No.

Her daughter tells her she needs to be open to love blah blah blah and I’m thinking, “But he’s STALKING her!”

And Adaline is all, Well he was good in bed even though he played jazz music.

And so she goes to his work the next day and begs some guy to call him down so she can apologize and I just want to slap her silly through the screen because Adaline?

You could do better.

You could do better than a man who extorts you into going out with him and who uses his power to get your personal information that your employer never should have given out about you.

And I don’t even think he’s that good looking.

And she has her own money.

He’s shown a clear disregard for her wishes.

Why is she doing this?

She could have anyone.

But she picks the pushy jerk who thinks he should get what he wants because – because he’s rich?

I am telling you true life shows us that rich guys who think they should have what they want just because they are rich is not a good thing.

 

White privilege – it might not be what you think it is

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I didn’t even know until recently that the GI Bill, which is how my dad was able to go to college, was not available to black veterans. I did not know what a sundown town was. I did not know that in some places, including my own neighborhood, it was illegal to sell a home to a black person.

I used to get really bothered when people would talk about this so-called “white privilege.” I would huff to myself that being white had never brought any privilege to me, thankyouverymuch. That I was not the beneficiary of the internships and the connections and the jobs and all the things that I have heard about but have never experienced.

I even used to think these benefits were fiction until I started seeing them happening for my friends’ kids: The nice summer job at the cool company. The phone call to the admissions officer at the college. But I still took this as a rich people thing, not a white people thing.

Nobody had ever done that kind of thing for me, but then my parents did not have wealthy friends. I have never gotten a job through connections. I have never been admitted to a college because my parents are friends with the admissions officer. My whiteness has never benefited me in any way.

I thought.

And then I started thinking about things I have noticed that don’t seem quite right.

When I lived in Austin in the late ’80s and early ’90s, I saw white fraternity men get charged with crimes that would have put black and Mexican men from the east side of town in prison. There was at least one hazing incident that resulted in a death. The fraternity men who hazed the dead guy were charged but they did not go to prison. They went free.

Just last week, I read a story in Texas Monthly about a school shooting in 1978. A white kid shot and killed his teacher. The kid did not go to prison. He is free today. I am pretty sure that if he had been black or Mexican, he would still be in prison. (The question of what to do with juvenile offenders is not what I want to talk about here – just the disparity in how people of different colors are treated.)

And then I thought about when I traveled back from Chile to the US. After I finished my Peace Corps stint, I came home over land, traveling through Argentina, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Guatemala, and Mexico.

In every single one of those countries, I didn’t think twice about walking into a fancy hotel to use the bathroom.

Nobody questioned me.

Even when I was a raggedy Peace Corps volunteer, I was a white, blue-eyed, blonde raggedy person.

Nobody questions a white, blue-eyed, blonde woman, even when she is hauling a backpack and hasn’t had a haircut in a while.

Nobody.

We can walk into any fancy hotel and nobody will bat an eye.

And that’s when I realized that’s what white privilege is. It means that I don’t worry about someone being suspicious of me because of the color of my skin. It means that I have never once thought, “I wonder if I can walk into this hotel to use the bathroom without someone hassling me.”

Wait. I have thought about it and my answer to myself has always been, “Of course I can! Nobody is going to question me, especially in Latin America, where the color hierarchy is so clear!”

But this rule holds in the US and in Europe as well. Nobody challenges a blue-eyed blonde white woman. Nobody.

And that is privilege.

I know that’s a simple example, but you get the idea. Because of my skin color, I do not face challenges that other people face. It means I don’t worry that someone will follow me in a store because they think I am about to shoplift. It means I don’t worry that my resume will be overlooked because my name doesn’t sound “white.” It means I don’t worry every time my black child goes to the store for Skittles. It means I don’t keep a teddy bear in the back seat of my car so that if I do get pulled over, the cop will somehow associate me with “family man” instead of “criminal.”  It means I don’t ever get The Look – that people are not surprised when they see me doing something that requires intelligence, competence, and education. It means that I don’t, like my former boss, Herman, who is black, get shocked looks when people meet me in person after talking to me on the phone. It means I don’t have to teach my children special rules for how to interact with the police.

In the past 75 years, having white skin has meant I could join a union, buy a house in whatever neighborhood I wanted, get an FHA loan, get the GI Bill, attend whichever school I wanted, stay in any hotel, eat at any restaurant, get a lighter sentence for a crime, have a better chance of surviving childbirth (this one is still true), get more pain medication from physicians, be expelled from school less, and have fewer chances of being killed by the police.

Having white skin doesn’t mean my life is easy or that things are given to me or that I have never had a hard time finding a job. But it does mean that my skin color is not making things harder.

 

 

 

 

Justified anger and injustice in the time of COVID-19 and forever

George Floyd had a knee on his neck for probably three times as long as it will take you to read this

kneeling

I am in a sad, angry mood because I am writing this a few days after George Floyd was murdered and I can’t think about anything else except how this man did not deserve – no man – no human – deserves this – did not deserve to have an agent of the country of which he was a citizen kneel on his neck for nine minutes – NINE MINUTES – while he pleaded for his life.

How do you even do that? How do you kneel on someone’s neck while he tells you he cannot breathe?

How do you do that? How do you not move your knee? How do you continue with an action that you know is causing someone pain? And then refuse to render aid?

I am angry. I am furious. I am sad. I am lost. I am convinced that if we did not have the current president that George Floyd would be alive. The current president has given license to certain people to rip off the masks they had been hiding behind and show their horrible, hateful racist selves.

I cry for my country. I fear for our democracy – that this man is in the White House. And that despite the evidence of the past few years, there are people who continue to support him. Despite his ugliness and pettiness and meanness and lack of honor and integrity, people will vote for him.

I know not everyone who voted for the president is racist. I know not everyone who voted for him wants this. And they have a chance to adjust in November. I hope they do. I hope they look at what has been going on and say, “This cannot stand.” I hope enough people are horrified at this new information that they say, “ENOUGH.”

But this is where we have been going. This is where things have been.

This is what I came here to write, before Mr Floyd was murdered. Last week, we were discussing online something the president said – a quotation in a story in the Washington Post.

I don’t even remember which stupid thing it was – there are so, so many stupid things and they all run together and I can’t even keep track. If I tried to keep track of every single stupid thing that the president of the United States said, I would not have time to do anything else, including eating, sleeping, or even breathing. It’s a full time job for probably 4,000 people.

Yes, he is that stupid.

Anyhow, John B told me, “your a idiot if you believe everything you hear.”

I answered that I usually find the Washington Post to be a reliable source (especially when they are giving me a direct quotation).

That’s when John B posted this sizzling riposte to me (with a very cute little girl): “Texan – are you stupid or something?”

To which I answered (truthfully), “Nope. I’m not.”

And I thought that was going to be the end of it because – well, I’m not stupid.

I say that with the same assurance that I say I am not tall and I am not thin and I don’t have brown eyes and I am not a good tennis player. I know what I am and I know what I am not.

I am not stupid. I’m not.

Before I get to John B’s brilliant response, let me talk a little more about what’s been going on with facebook and me lately.

I usually don’t talk about politics online.

But in the past few months, I have come out.

This is where I have taken my stand. I have seen such idiocy that I have had to say something. I used to worry about making other people mad.

I. Don’t. Care. Anymore.

They should worry about making me mad.

I wrote about something in March and a former friend started to get obnoxious. When I challenged him, he said ugly things to me – insinuating that I have spent the past decades mocking him.

I was so confused. Honestly, I never even thought about him. He is the husband of a friend of mine.

Then he said something ugly to one of my friends.

Wait. I found the initial post.

Samantha

Ex friend: Such a hateful comment. What’s wrong with liberals?

Me:  Oh I am perfectly happy to call out a president who wants to prioritize the stock market over lives.

Kelly: THAT’s Hateful?! OMG! Have you listened to every damn thing that’s come out of the president’s mouth? “Nazis are nice people.”

Liz: Since when has Texan been a liberal? 😂

Ex friend: I was directing that to Samatha Bee. But you are an uber liberal. You have all the trappings – condescending, negative, … You own it:)

Me: Seriously? You’ve known me for decades and that’s your opinion of me?

Kelly: Unfriend and block. That is ridiculous to say about a friend!

Ex friend: you are changing the subject. Because I say Bee is hateful that’s an endorsement of the president? You’re reaction shows your colors. I’m not a fan of trump and do my share of cringing but I don’t wish his death.

Ex friend: Kelly, someone disagrees with you and you unfriend and block? Are you easily triggered? 

Me: You are calling me names. What’s going on? I do not mind calm discussion about issues on my page, but I do not expect name calling and ad-hominem attacks from my friends.

Kelly: Ex friend, I did not get personal with you, but you ask am I easily triggered, after you personally insult Texan? I’m not easily triggered, thank you for being so kind as to ask. Neither would I be willing to have friends who don’t apologize for being obnoxious. Also, it’s your not you’re reaction.

Ex friend: Texan, I don’t know what you are mad about? Liberal? I did not say socialist. Condescending? negative? i thought that’s what you were going for with the Bernice and Leopardo comments. And you witty posts about conversations with Mr T. You act like your from Wisconsin. You’re better than that. I’m surprised. But your friend Kelly needs to worry about herself. You’re a big, powerful, capable woman. You don’t need a defender.

That’s when I unfriended him.

I am done. I am done with shit from men. I am done with people who cannot be decent and civil and who cannot accept a different point of view.

And also – I am so confused. If I were going for condescending and negative, I would have copy edited his posts. And if he hated me so much, then why has he even been reading my posts? I have been a guest in his home. His wife was one of my best friends in high school. This is just weird.

But – I am done. Done. I am not insulted that he called me liberal. I am insulted that he doesn’t get my humor and that he attacked my friends.

(And for the record, I used to vote for conservative candidates until the current president. Now I am done. I couldn’t bring myself to vote for him. So I don’t know where that leaves me politically but for now, it’s anyone but him. ANYONE.)

Back to the current conversation with John B. He asked if I was stupid.

Dumber

I told him I was not.

He answered: yes. Your

And then, you will see in the image above, he gave himself a laughy face for the comment. Because he thought he was so funny.

Then he realized that oops – he had it wrong. So he corrected it.

To “youre.”

So. QED.

dumber2

Flour in the time of COVID-19

When your husband Gets You and brings you flours

Amish flour

I guess this is related to Sourdough in the Time of COVID-19. Yeast has been hard to find and so has flour. I had thought there was not a yeast problem in Milwaukee but I was wrong! It is not on the shelves! And flour is on the shelves, but purchases are limited.

This really wasn’t an issue for me, as I keep huge inventories of everything. I learned at the knee of my mother, who is prepared for the Apocalypse.

Actually, as she explains it, you never knew, living on military bases abroad, what might be available when at the commissary, so it was a good idea to stay stocked up with essentials.

I suppose also, living in western Europe during the Cold War and in the Panama Canal Zone during the treaty negotiations, there were also other supply chain disruption concerns, but I was a kid and we didn’t have the internet back then, so who knew about these things? My dad did, but I sure didn’t.

So I have a jar of yeast in the freezer, which meant that I was able to send my mom a few tablespoons of it for Mothers Day, because it is absolutely unavailable in Colorado right now.

And I have a bunch of flour in the basement, but

  • I had run out of my fun specialty flours
  • I am unemployed
  • I am stuck at home
  • I am bored
  • I have the sourdough starter that Bonus Daughter #1 sent to me
  • I finally got Tartine Book No. 3: Modern Ancient Classic Whole from the library

All of this means I have time and inclination to experiment with bread.

And here the stores either don’t have the flour I want or they have it and I can’t buy it.

Mr T and I came up with a solution.

He had to go up north to pick up injection molded frames from my cousin’s shop (for the face shields project where we are volunteering), which meant he was going into Amish country, which meant he would be going by the Amish shop where my grandmother always shopped.

And this is where it gets weird because I have just discovered that not everyone knows what the Amish store is.

I thought the Amish store was just part of the background.

And then I realized it’s just part of my background.

My mom and dad are from northern Wisconsin. My mom grew up on a dairy farm. My grandfather would drive his Amish friends places. When we lived in Spain, we came back to the States for a whole summer and stayed on the farm. My grandfather rented a pony from the Amish for my brother and sister and me to ride.

Kittens
The kittens were part of the farm. My grandfather did not have to import them.

There are highway signs warning of horse and buggies and in the parking lot at KMart, you see horses and buggies.

So – part of the background.

And the Amish store is – you know – the Amish store. They sell a lot of bulk items there, a lot of unbranded goods.

The prices are FABULOUS.

And you can get stuff, because being Amish, they don’t sell online.

Oh sure those Ohio Amish people sell online, or some of them do, but not the Wisconsin Amish people.

My #1 Bonus Daughter – let’s call her Kelly – sent me the sourdough starter. But she can’t find all the flours she wants, so I ordered some for her from a sort-of Amish store in Ohio. I wanted to send her some from Wisconsin but I couldn’t find any in Wisconsin that are online.

I saw a week ago Thursday that the box had been delivered but – I didn’t hear anything from her.

Kelly is lovely. She has wonderful manners. She is thoughtful and considerate and we had just spoken a few days before about baking bread. She had lamented (again) that she had no rye flour and I had smiled mysteriously.

So it was weird that UPS tracking showed the box had been delivered and yet there had been no word from Kelly.

On Sunday, I finally messaged her.

Me: Kelly, did you get the flour yet?

Kelly: Flour?

Me: I sent a bunch of different kinds of flours to you, including rye. I mean, I ordered it online and had it shipped to you 🙂

Kelly: Aww how sweet! I don’t see anything yet.

Me: Hmm. UPS said it was delivered on Thursday night. They say they left it at the front door 😞

Kelly: Oh no! Damn! That said there have been thefts but ups is the most reliable shipper because they always drop at my door

Me: They said they left it by the front door! SHIT!

Kelly: Argh not cool!

I go to the UPS site and pound out a very annoyed email.

Mr T says You don’t need to talk to UPS you need to email the vendor they’re the ones who matter.

I tell him to shut up I know what I’m doing Lord have mercy that man annoys me sometimes

But then I email the vendor anyhow. I am very very polite because I know everything is crazy and they are busy.

And actually, I was polite to UPS. But I was annoyed. Politely annoyed.

Ten minutes later, Kelly writes again.

Kelly: I DID get beef jerky from a mysterious person. The note said “Happy Birthday Kaley.” From Walnut Creek Cheese in Walnut Creek Ohio.

Me: WHAT? That’s the vendor, but that’s not what I ordered. When did it arrive?

Kelly: Ok we were scratching our heads wondering… whose this mysterious sender? I don’t like beef jerky thaaat much (2lbs). It DID arrive on Thursday.

Me: And somewhere, Kaley is wondering who Texan In Exile is and why I am sending her flour.

Kelly: Meanwhile we’re thinking, “who the Hell misspells my name Kaley when the shipping label has it right and thinks I’m a jerky connoisseur?!”

And we figure it out.

Someone had accidentally put the wrong mailing label on the box.

I email the vendor again, this time saying that yes, a box did arrive, but it was Kaley’s jerky, not Kelly’s flour.

They wrote back the next morning and said, Oh no!!!! We’ll get a new box out right away.

And they said to keep the jerky.

So now Kelly has flour.

And Mr T drove up north and he went to an Amish store in person (which, had we known this two weeks ago, we would have just bought flour there for Kelly but oh well) and bought from the list I made after I carefully read through Tartine.

Now I am stocked with buckwheat and dark rye and light rye and pumpernickel and whole wheat and bread flour. I have rye berries and oat berries and wheat berries.

However, in the interim, in my attempt to re-create the Latvian rye bread we got at the Latvian Lutheran Church bake sale in December, I have found a recipe for Lithuanian rye bread, which calls for red rye malt, which I do not have.

So now I have a new quest.

 

 

 

 

 

Birthdays in the time of COVID-19

Actually, this is Birthdays in the Time of Always but I am in a groove here

Birthday card

Even though I live in Wisconsin now only because I was tricked, my people are from here.

You know the story, right? Have I told you? My family is from here, but my dad was in the air force, so I grew up outside of Wisconsin, in Spain, Texas, and Panama. The only time I lived in Wisconsin as a kid was the year my dad was in Vietnam.

I was living in Memphis when I met Mr T. He was living in Milwaukee. Why was he in Milwaukee? Because he didn’t want to live in California anymore but also did not want to move back to Pittsburgh, where he grew up, because – well, if you’ve read the Old Blog, you know.

He had been to Milwaukee to see a baseball game in the old stadium before they tore it down. He liked it here and moved here.

We met at our 20 year college reunion in Houston.

And – in the battle over where to live, he won.

A lot of it was that he was living in an apartment at the time, an apartment where the heat was included with the rent, there was an attached, heated garage, and someone else did the shoveling.

As in – I got an absolutely unrealistic picture of winter.

When you live in your own house, you pay your own heating bills, which means you keep your house really really cold unless you are rich which we are not.

When you live in your own house, unless you are in deep suburbia, you have a detached garage, which means that to get to the car, you have to go Outside. Which means The Icy Driveway of Death and the Icicles of Damocles and all that that entails.

When you live in your own house, you have to shovel the driveway (well, you don’t have to, but if you want to use the car, it’s an important first step) and the sidewalk (this you have to do – it’s the law).

Anyhow.

I digress.

I now live here. My people are from here.

(But still – the second Mr T is dead, I am throwing away all of his crap in the basement, taking the cats, and going south. This place is gorgeous in the summer, but I hate winter. Also, I am getting really really tired of being in the national news all the time for stupid things.)

And My People Do Not Waste.

We have never wasted.

My grandmother almost never had anything to put in the trash.

She didn’t throw food away, ever. EVER. If there was food that humans couldn’t or wouldn’t eat, she gave it to the neighbor’s dog.

She saved her recycling and would carry it to the recycling center on her walk every morning. The walk she took when she woke up at 6 a.m. and walked to early Mass, then to the post office to get her mail, then to the senior center, where she would sometimes play a hand of Sheepshead or two.

Some plastic isn’t recyclable – the bags frozen vegetables come in, for instance. So she would carefully cut those bags open, then would save the bags for re-use. A person would think the bag of frozen corn in the downstairs freezer actually contained frozen corn but a person would be tricked if a person did not look carefully and see the label of “rhubarb, 1992.”

Cool Whip containers in the freezer also did not always contain Cool Whip.

My grandmother was sneaky that way.

This is my history.

These are my people.

So a few years ago, when I was visiting my mom and saw the birthday card in the photo above, I got it immediately.

My mom and her sisters have been sending each other the same card back and forth for a few years.

Which honestly?

IS A BRILLIANT IDEA.

I hate buying birthday (and other event) cards.

First, I hate wading through the stupid syrupy sentimental crap that’s out there.

Second, I hate paying $5 for a card. That’s a lot of money. I see that and I think, Sheesh for that much money, I should just call someone. A phone call is cheaper.

And then I think, But really what I am paying for is not to have to talk on the phone, which is one of my least favorite things in the world.

So – reusing a birthday card?

SOLVES ALL THE PROBLEMS.

So I was very impressed with my mom and my aunts.

And I went on facebook to say so.

And discovered that My People really are My People all the way back, because my Aunt Mary said, “That tradition started with our aunts on our Dad’s side. We come from good stock. 😄”

Oh man we sure do.

I suggested to my sister that we carry on the tradition.

Sister: Sounds good to me. Problem is, I’m terrible about getting the card into the mail. Can I steal the envelope from the store?

Me: You could just take a photo and email it.

Sister: Now THAT would be right up my alley.

I think we will carry on the spirit of the tradition just fine.

 

 

420 in the time of COVID-19

Why go low when you can get high?

E$
Almost ready for harvest.

Did you guys notice how I kind of buried the real story last week when I was talking about E$ and men vacuuming and how it’s hot even though it shouldn’t be? Men doing housework shouldn’t be noteworthy. It should just be.

Just as men do not babysit their own children, they don’t “help” with the housework any more than women “help” with the housework. It’s just something we all do as part of a civilized society and civilized households.

/rant over

So buried in last week’s post – did you even notice or did it sneak past you? – was a reference to E$’s new business.

The grow operation.

Which – yeah.

Totally typical of Women of a Certain Age, right? Kids leave home, sudden void, hard to maybe restart that legal career that was set aside when babies were born.

It’s the next logical move.

Start dealing.

Only – it’s legal.

OH E$ I HEART YOU YOU ARE THE COOLEST.

Little did I know when we met in college.

We didn’t hang out as undergrads. My strongest memory of E$ is from when I took her photo for the 1980s version of facebook, which was a black and white photo of every freshman or transfer taped to the window of the commons.

Very old school.

Literally, I guess.

And as in, to quote a former co-worker who spoke English (and Spanish and Italian and French as second, third, fourth, and fifth languages), “the school that is old.”

E$ posed, leaning against the wall, casually holding an apple in both hands and between her breasts. She was wearing a loose turtleneck sweater and 1980s jeans, which – were they loose then? Or tight? I think we were still in the tight years.

Anyhow, she had this slight smile and she was very Eve in the Garden of Eden and she was gorgeous.

Maybe I still have it somewhere. I have a box of old college photos in the attic. I should look.

But like I said, we didn’t hang out much and then I didn’t hear from her again until recently, when we connected on facebook. Our college classmates have a pretty strong group and we suck in anyone that we can in our online vortex.

We were chatting online and she wrote, “I’ve got a cannabis company here with a couple of partners. It’s fascinating and fun and the wild west. We have two retail stores and an indoor farm. We cut our first harvest tomorrow, which, with luck, will help us be operating in the black.”

Which.

What?

I knew she went to Rice.

I knew she went to law school.

I knew she lived in – well, I won’t be more specific. But it’s a state where this is legal.

But. Whoa!

But I’m cool.

I’m cool.

Me: That’s AWESOME!

Me: My former company had bought a software company from this guy in Montana. He stuck around for a year or two, but then left to start a grow operation. His software was all about managing maintenance and processes for institutions and factories, so he is all about process. He weighs the dirt and has all the processes down. The regulators love him.

E$: It’s scientific. Everyone thinks it’s going to be easy. Only the super scientific, business oriented people who have the processes down are successful.

Me: How did you even get into that?

[Thinking – I need a job. Is this something I could do? I can grow tulips. I can grow tomatoes. Or I can when it doesn’t snow in May. OH WAIT IT’S NOT LEGAL IN WISCONSIN.]

tulips
From my garden. That I had to cut. Because it was going to get down to 23 degrees.

And she tells me how she got into the grow business.

Which is just as you would expect.

She used to deal a little on the side when the kids were younger and decided to integrate vertically.

NO THAT’S NOT IT!

Ha!

No, it’s the OBVIOUS path, which is her manicurist recruited her.

E$: The woman who does my nails. Her son went to cannabis college, “oaksterdam,” in Oakland California. She asked if maybe I knew someone who could back him.

Because this is the kind of conversation I have ALL THE TIME with the guy who does my pedicures.

Wait.

I don’t even remember pedicures. I had one last year. Then I thought, Why am I even doing this when my feet are covered all the time? This is just dumb.

Even when I had pedicures at the beauty school and talked to the students, we talked about boring stuff

My. Life. Is. Boring.

E$: I thought it sounded interesting, and my friend K thought it was a good idea. K backed out of it, but I started looking at warehouse space to retrofit for an indoor grow.

I don’t even know how I would start to look for warehouse space.

My. Life. Is. Boring.

E$: I realized that it was going to cost $1 million, but then a friend said he knew a guy who wants to get into the business and already has warehouse space. He needed growers. I had growers.

And that, my friends, was that.

E$ was in business.

My. Life. Is. Boring.

Me: Had you ever run a business before?

E$: Nope. Never run a business. Honestly, I’m still not running it. I have a partner who came along with the warehouse owner guy.

Me: Are you having fun?

E$: I’m having a blast. It’s crazy. I am selling weed!

Me: I thought Hotel California was about caliche but it’s about marijuana – something that sounds like caliche but means bud in Spanish.

E$: Wait, what? Calichie means bud or something? What the hell? I’ve been singing that song to my kids at bedtime for years now.

Me: Colitas.

Me: Not caliche.

E$: The smell of colitas rising up through the air. Right? Except Siri wants to call it colitis.

Me: Yes. “Colitas” means “little buds” which is slang for pot,

E$: I have no idea. Now it makes perfect sense. The buds are called colas. DUH!!!

Me: But it also means little tail/ass, which is not proper. COLITAS!!!!! COLA is tail in Spanish but it’s literal tail and also – ass – tail. I just learned this two months ago when I discovered that Mr T, who is from Pittsburgh, had no idea what caliche was and I felt all superior. I told him it was in an Eagles song and then I was wrong about it.

E$: As in chinga me arriba in mi cola.

Me: ESO.

E$: Your mind is going to be exploding about this for the next 24 hours.

Me [super cas]: Nah. I’m cool.

EXCEPT I AM LYING.

MY MIND IS EXPLODING.

I am absolutely fascinated and impressed and in complete awe.

This might be one of the coolest things I have ever heard.

So I am impressed.

And here it is, days later, and I am still thinking about it.

So she was wrong.

My mind was not exploding about it for 24 hours.

It’s been exploding about it for days. And days.

I know the coolest people.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hot in the time of COVID-19

Really is there anything sexier than a man doing housework? Not to me

vacuum

I was messaging with a college friend, E$ (pronounced “E Money”). We knew each other in college but ran in different circles but now it’s corona time and I’m unemployed and I have time and we are on facebook and dang, it’s nice to talk to people who already sort of get you who aren’t the same people in the house with you with whom you have had the same conversation like a gakillion times.

Ooops. Typo.

I was going to correct that “gakillion” to “gajillion” but then I thought nah let the Freudian chips fall where they may.

I JOKE!

Anyhow. E$ and I were messaging and she’s hilarious and wonderful and we are both wondering why we didn’t hang out more in college and then we remembered that we were busy with other things back then but isn’t it nice that we can be friends now?

She asks if I knew her husband, whom we shall call Mr E$, when we were in college. She, too, married a guy from our college (which is Rice U, as should be obvious from the sweatshirt that Mr T is wearing in the photo above, although perhaps not everyone knows what a Rice Owl is, I guess), although she didn’t wait until our 20 year reunion to find a Used Husband.

Yes, I tell her. I did. I mean, I knew who her husband was because we had several mutual friends.

And then I think about what to say next because this is kind of delicate and possibly weird but then I think oh for pete’s sake it’s been over 30 years —

OMG we are old when did we get so old?

I remember bartending when I was in college. I was bartending at Homecoming at the 35 year reunion event. One of the attendees was asking me about my major and school and all kinds of stuff and all I could think of was, “YOU ARE SO OLD YOU ARE OLDER THAN MY DAD.”

He looked at me as if he knew what I was thinking, gave me a small smile, and said, “It all goes so fast.”

And he was right. It’s been over 30 years – 35! 35 years! – since that happened and I still remember every word he said. It. Goes. So. Fast.

So we are old. It’s been 35 years since we were in college and I would not recognize Mr E$ if he walked up my driveway, so I say, “Ummmm. How do I say this? He was hot. I thought.”

E$ laughs (I imagine) and agrees with me (I know, because she writes it).

Whew. Because I didn’t want her to think I was coming on to her husband, whom I have not seen in decades. It was more of, We are women we share intimacies as part of our conversation.

Is good.

Then we have a long conversation about the business E$ and some partners started a year ago, which, is the typical business for Women of a Certain Age – a grow operation. And it’s going well. So that’s cool.

And then I have to go because Mr T is vacuuming and he is about to vacuum by me and I do not want to stifle his muse ever.

I send E$ a photo to prove to her that I am not blowing her off – that Mr T is indeed vacuuming by my computer.

And she replies by noting that Mr E$, he does not vacuum.

To which I reply – well, there is the employment/housework tradeoff.

Mr E$ Is Still Hot

Two days later, she messages me again.

E$: So, remember when you said Mr E$ is hot? I just watched him vacuum bits of Cool Ranch Doritos off of his bare belly.

E$: Marital nadir achieved.

Me: You don’t think that’s hot? 🙂

E$: I guess I can’t complain anymore that Mr E$ doesn’t vacuum.

And Then Something Happens

And then two days after that, E$ scares me. I worry that there is something really wrong. It’s Saturday morning and I see a desperate message from her. “Everything I knew to be true is no longer true.”

Crap. I know she has three kids.

I know she has a new business.

I know she’s married.

What horrible thing could have happened to my friend?

I am so worried.

My phone buzzes with a facebook messenger call, but I can’t figure out how to answer it in time.

In a few minutes, there is another message.

“Trying to figure out how to use the video thing on this phone so I can show you what is shaking my foundations.”

Now I’m really scared.

And then

And then

And then I see this.

It’s a video.

Of Mr E$.

And

He

Is

Vacuuming.

It’s a COVID-19 Miracle.

A tear comes to my eye.

vacuum 2

It’s more than a tear for E$. 

It’s hot.

E$: This can be viewed only as foreplay. I’m sure of that.

Me: Seriously one of the hottest things I have ever seen.

Me: Also, the fifth horseman.

So my friends. Heed this warning. Husbands are vacuuming.

The end of the world is coming, one way or another.

But either way, we are going out with a bang.