Face Mask Memories


I already have face mask memories. Soon you will too. It seems my mother was ahead of her time. She wore a mask so often we called her “the woman with no face.” Of course, during ragweed season she also plugged her nose with silk panties so maybe she was just weird. Even though I was small during the silk-panty-nose-stuffing era, I remember it vividly. I wonder what children will remember from this time?

My grandson DJ is the same age I was when those visuals were burned into my brain. Yesterday, he and I made up songs about coronavirus because, well why not? I was explaining why he couldn’t take swimming lessons right now. It was about the 15th virus-related thing I’d had to explain yesterday. He’s sick of hearing about washing his hands, using a tissue, not touching his eyes, not running out to greet our neighbors, and why we need to take his temperature even though we’re pretty sure he just has allergies. At least putting the reason to a beat made it a bit less tiresome.

Soon, face masks will become part of his experience too as will bandanas over the face. I associate that look with farmers, but it probably makes most people my age think of bandits or bank robbers. This can cause some confusion when a car backfires, the police sensors pick it up, and a bandana masked policeman shows up at your door. Is this a bandit posing as a policeman or a policeman who wants to rob you?

Now I know that sounds like a far-fetched, made-up scenario. But that’s because you don’t own a 1978 International Scout and live in a neighborhood where gunfire is common. We had just such an event on my street last night. (That bandana part could be made up. I didn’t see the cops faces. But it makes for a better story, don’t you think?)

And the weirdness of that visual accurately reflects how things feel right now. Nothing that was true two weeks ago is true today. Thinking has to shift swiftly. In a pandemic, you only get one chance to prevent. You cannot go backward.

Financial thinking will have to shift quickly as well. Did I make a mistake putting that 2019 IRA contribution in my account last week? Should I have kept it as a reserve instead? I don’t know. None of us know. We are facing territory we aren’t familiar with.

Can some of the unemployed in Georgia shift their thinking quickly enough to harvest the currently ripening blueberries and squash that farmers lack migrant labor to harvest? If so, we can prevent holes in our food chain, save some farms, and get income in their hands. But it will require a shift from predominant thinking. And uncertainty often leads to one of the four F responses: Fight, Flee, Fawn, or Freeze.

This is another opportunity for face masks to help. Just think how many superheroes wear face masks: Batman, Spider-Man, Wolverine, and the Flash all wear masks. And so do our real-life superheroes: healthcare workers. If we follow the new CDC guideline, we can all be superheroes!

Superheroes are powerful. Viewing ourselves as powerful can help bolster us as we navigate our way through uncertainty. Perhaps the face mask will become a symbol of courage and community-mindedness.

Hopefully, that’s what our children will remember from this time, our courage and willingness to adapt quickly for the benefit of our entire world community. At least that’s my wish for new face mask memories!


It’s Good to be an Oddball!

If navigating the supply shortage puzzle has taught me anything, it’s that it’s good to be an oddball! When you like things no one else wants in a time of scarcity, you’re more likely to find available inventory. Now is a great time to celebrate your unique tastes!

I live in the state that’s home to 2019s top meat and poultry processor and the world’s largest retailer. I never considered that a time would come when there would be no fresh chicken or beef available. And yet, that time came this week. Even given my awareness of the great toilet paper fiasco of 2020, I felt a jolt to my system.


Not to worry, I won’t starve. I love raw nuts, Brussels sprouts, and asparagus. There seems to be an ample supply of those. Today, I can buy a dozen zucchini, a dozen broccoli crowns, a dozen heads of cauliflower, and a dozen bunches of asparagus. In contrast, fresh potato choices have dwindled, dried beans are unavailable, and rice choices are down to one.

The same is true of cleaning products. I’ve had to use disinfecting mop wipes on above the floor surfaces, but I can consistently buy Clorox® ToiletWand disinfecting refills. I’m good with that. I like being able to throw away the dirty cleaning head. (And before you judge me too harshly for not being green enough, please consider that I used cloth diapers when my children were babies. That’s totally cloth, not cloth with a disposable insert, and I have paid it forward in other ways.)

Through the years, I’ve frequently lamented the disappearance of my favorites from the marketplace. (I miss you Banana Fudgsicles!) Now I realize my time has come. It’s a great day to be slightly out of step.

Today, I feel sadness for so many families with sick members, my healthcare worker friends, and those who have no income. I feel bad for those who are afraid.

I also feel grateful. Every difficult, lonely, sad, and traumatic moment in my life has (sometimes in odd ways) prepared me for this uncertain time. That doesn’t make me happy about the experiences, but it makes me thankful for the skills and resilience I gained through them.

And my particular set of life events put me slightly out of step. That I can celebrate! It’s good to be an oddball!




Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Stay Calm and Carry On

This is an opportune time for embracing the upside of the downside, but first we have to stay calm and carry on. In this, another unprecedented week, it’s hard to know what content is appropriate. When I check my inbox, I hope for normalcy. But every email that promotes a product or service unrelated to the new coronavirus-limited life seems tone deaf. TV commercials are the same way. Party scenes in new episodes of TV shows feel odd.

Some people want information to feel calm. For others, information feels stressful. We are getting a large dose of reality every day. Our systems have many holes. In some areas, they are truly broken. And suddenly those breaks can’t be hidden. That feels frightening.


And there are very personal fears. One of my friends without a large bank account cannot work right now and is not near his family. He worries that his money won’t last until the relief packages are worked out. Another of my friends’ mothers is in a nursing home that has 13 cases of COVID-19. She fears she may have seen her for the last time a week ago when they closed to visitors. My family is facing both the fear of exposure from diagnostic procedures and the possibility of open-heart surgery for my 2-year-old granddaughter before the virus is under control. It doesn’t help knowing that the first positive case of COVID-19 in our state was in a healthcare worker who worked at the only hospital equipped to do the surgery.

I’m pretty good in a crisis, but I hit my limit of calm one night this week when a tornado flattened several houses near my hometown. While I was on the phone with a friend there, three rounds of gunfire rang out just outside my window. I suddenly felt afraid.

In the days since, I realize how easy it can be for fear to turn into panic. Intellectually, it’s easy to see that this is a great opportunity to learn and improve! We just have to treat it that way. But our emotions may get in the way until we find a way to stay calm and carry on.

We all have to find a path to calm that works for us. If you’re not sure how to do that, here are some tips that may help:

Follow a routine
Create a regular home routine if you do not have one. Get up and go to bed at a relatively consistent time each day. Create blocks of time for productivity, mindless entertainment, and physical activity. Experiment with the flow until it feels right then stick with it. If your timeline needs to be rigid, make it rigid. If you work well within loose guidelines, keep things loose.

Put one foot in front of the other. You don’t have to feel like it. Just start doing something. Cook. Do the dishes. Mop the floor. Organize the toys. Clean out your closet. Go for a walk (if allowed), work out, do yoga. Do your nails. Draw. Paint. Write. Repot the plants. Rearrange the furniture. Mow the lawn.

Performing normal everyday activities will make your life feel less upended.

Do something comforting
Take a long bath. Drink hot tea. Break out the weighted blanket and watch a lighthearted movie. Watch a comedy routine. Read. Meditate. Pray. Dance. Play or listen to music. Listen to a podcast. Watch sports reruns. Knit. Crochet. Sew. Play with your kids.

Rinse, repeat! Many of us are so focused on productivity that we feel like we’re wasting time when we comfort ourselves. It’s okay to spend time and energy producing comfort and calm.

Be present
This is a wonderful time to stay in the moment. Instead of thinking about what may happen, notice your current surroundings.

That’s easy to say, but We’ve all seen a distressed person pacing because they just can’t be still. Sometimes you have to calm the energy in your body before you can calm your mind.

Doing something that requires strength can help you focus. Planks, pushups, squats, weight lifting (if you don’t have weights at home, grab a cast iron skillet), and stair walking can help dispel nervous energy. Hoeing in the garden or working in the yard is a great way to channel energy, get fresh air, and enjoy the smell of the earth and the sounds of birds singing.

If you can do nothing else, plant your feet firmly on the floor and breathe! Look around the room. Count all of the red objects, all of the yellow objects, everything shaped like a square, everything that’s round, etc.

I’ve sung the praises of yoga for years, but now is a great time to get out that mat you bought and never used (yes, it’s possible without a mat). There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of yoga videos available free online. You do not have to be flexible or strong to begin. And at home no one is going to judge you.

You can combine yoga and weight lifting as well. That’s how I started. I used a short yoga-with-weights practice I found in a magazine.

Learn a dance routine. This requires a combination of mental focus and physical activity, plus there’s music! That’s a great combo to keep you in the moment! There are tutorials online or you can break down your favorite artist’s video on your own.

You may find it’s easier to connect in a real way right now. I’ve used phone calls rather than texts more often this week. It was easy to feel the impact of some of those calls.

Different social media outlets can have very different effects. Choose those that most often make you feel positive and post away. Use video call apps. Talk to your neighbors from your own porch, yard, or balcony.

If you feel afraid, it’s okay to say so. In fact, just saying it out loud to a trusted friend or family member will make you feel better. Unstated fears can easily spiral. Voicing them takes away much of their power. On the other hand, I’m not sure a social media video filled with fear is helpful.

It’s a good time to share some love! I sent a few emails this week to some outstanding doctors and nurses I know telling them how much I appreciate their courage and dedication. Perhaps I should do this when there’s not a crisis, but I never think about it. That’s a lesson I can learn.

This time will present many opportunities for evaluation and improvement, but for now it’s sufficient to stay calm and carry on.

Editor’s note: Since I began writing this post, my friend’s mom received a second negative test for Covid-19. I find it somewhat comforting that in a highly contagious environment, she has not been infected.


Alternative Songs for Hand Washing

This week, I’ve been exploring alternative songs for handwashing. I don’t know about you, but I’m getting really tired of singing Happy Birthday every time I wash my hands. I want to make sure I’m washing for the optimum time, but I want to jam to another tune.


If you have kids, here are some songs that meet the 20-second requirement according to the timer on my iPhone and the normal speed I’d sing them with my grandchildren:
One round of The Itsy Bitsy Spider
Two Verses of The Wheels on the Bus
Twinkle Twinkle Little Star
Two Verses of Head and Shoulders Knees and Toes
Two body parts in If You’re Happy and You Know It (Wash Your Hands!)
I’m a Little Teapot
Three Verses of Baby Shark
Two Verses of This Old Man
Two body parts in The Hokey Pokey
Two rounds of Pop Goes the Weasel

I used my timer to preview some other categories for you:

When the emerging situation leaves you leaning more on faith, try one verse of Amazing Grace, one verse (or one chorus) of To God Be the Glory, or We Shall Overcome.

When you want to remind your kids of the good ole days, you can sing two verses of She’ll Be Coming ‘Round the Mountain, one chorus of This Land is Your Land, or Home on the Range.

If you’re missing sports, you can honor them with Take Me Out to the Ballgame, a chorus of Eye of the Tiger, or your school’s fight song (most will be at least 20 seconds, but set your timer and sing a test to make sure).

Remember how Ally McBeal’s therapist suggested everyone should have a theme song? This could be a good time to grab one for yourself. I tend to like It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp. I cannot explain why. It just seems appropriate when something is difficult.

Not to mention, it highly annoys my son when my grandson starts singing that song in public. (He’s three. Don’t worry, he’s never heard the full song and he doesn’t know what a pimp is. He just knows, “It’s hard out here for a pimp. Trying to get the money for the rent. After which he adds: cha, cha, cha, cha.”) You cannot see this and not laugh. The reprimands I receive from my son are worth it.

Laughter is a good thing right now. Our lives have shifted drastically this past week. Finding humor wherever you can find it will ease some of the discomfort swift change brings.

The current situation offers a great opportunity to focus on good health habits. Choosing a handwashing song can add an element of frivolity to one of these habits. I like the association of fun and lightheartedness with health habits. Fun makes a good habit feel more palatable and appealing.

I wish you and your family safety, comfort, and wellness as we work through uncertainty and complications. And I hope we all manage to find some fun among the chaos!