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.”

Monday Musing

Monday musing = It is Monday and I am musing. Sometimes things are simple and mean what they seem to mean. Let’s keep it that way.

In fact, I’ll muse about simplicity for a moment.

mountain view
Height of Land in Bethel, Maine

I prefer simple communication.
I prefer simple, straightforward communication to flowery flattery or free flowing expressions of affection. I’ve had too much experience with ridiculous euphemisms and vague hidden messages. I CAN handle the truth…and I prefer it.

I like simple solutions.
Often I find them by improving the process. The time, energy, thought, and effort put into planning and organization pay off over and over again by preventing convoluted outcomes. Process solutions free of secondary complications can be as layered and responsive as required. And they can keep me from spending all of my time fighting fires.

Simple solutions can also be found in the moment.
When I left the butter out overnight, I realized I automatically use less when it’s easy to spread. Now I keep some salted butter on the counter and some in the refrigerator.

When my brand new roof leaked and I discovered a tiny bit of mold, I learned I could kill it with vinegar. I didn’t need the hassle and expense of a hazmat-suited team armed with chemicals.

In the middle of an argument, I quickly remembered I can eliminate most food disagreements with a toddler by offering limited choices. When I give my grandson DJ a choice of oranges or grapes and hummus or cottage cheese, he happily chooses one from each category and eats them without fussing. (While this is more difficult to accomplish with my two-year-old granddaughter who has Down Syndrome and cannot talk, we are working on a choice between milk or water using sign language. She also needs to learn that she has options and can determine her path.)

Many simple solutions are obvious.
I can walk more by parking further away. I can drink more water by carrying it with me or drinking only water in restaurants. I will have more time to read if I turn off the TV. I will have more money to spend later when I save now.

Great food can be simple.
I ate a harvest vegetable risotto last week that was scrumptious. The flavor came primarily from the sweet potatoes, asparagus, mushrooms, spinach, and cherry tomatoes amidst the rice. No heavy seasoning or sauce was needed. In fact, making the flavor profile more complex would not have improved my enjoyment. I love dishes like that!

A workout can be simple.
One day I decided walking up and down my stairs would be an easy way to get some aerobic exercise. I figured 10 trips up and down would be fast and easy. There are 24 steps. I set out at a quick pace. Three flights later, I was huffing and puffing. Walking stairs is a simple workout, but it’s not necessarily easy.

Fun can be simple, too.
I don’t really need bright lights, loud music, and lots of people around to have a good time. Give me a gorgeous mountain view, an uncrowded swimming pool, a good book, a spirited discussion, an inspiring performance or exhibit, and the uninhibited giggles of a grandchild and I can have a wonderful time.

Difficult decisions can be made using a simple process.
Narrow your options to those that align with your intentions and values. Review each remaining option asking: Does this option solve a problem, accomplish a defined goal, benefit my finances, make life more pleasant or peaceful? Rarely will each option have an equal number of benefits.

If all options seem equal, review the options again asking: Does this option benefit my family as well as myself; does it put me in a vulnerable or questionable financial position for a period of time; which choice will benefit me more in one, five, or ten years? Again, it will be rare for every option to be equally weighted.

Break down the complicated.
If you still find yourself stuck or paralyzed and simply can’t make a decision, you are most likely caught in some issue other than the decision at hand. Recognizing this frees you up to move away from spinning your wheels trying to make a particular decision and put that energy toward examining the source of underlying paralysis. Once that’s addressed, the decision will become simple.

The simplest actions can mean the most.
Take the time to let your children know you see them. Look your friends, family, colleagues, and enemies in the eye. Actively listen. Say thank you. Stay home when you’re sick. Choose kindness. Apologize. Be dependable and reliable. Say no when you mean no. Give time.

Well, I mused so long it’s now Tuesday. Time to stop musing and go vote!


This is Where I Draw the Line

With boundaries, this is where I draw the line. In general, I am patient and willing to work with people to find a reasonable solution. While I can be accommodating, I am not a pushover. There is a point at which I draw the line.

That’s the definition of a boundary–the point at which you draw the line. Living a calm, peaceful life requires good boundaries. Making decisions becomes easier once boundaries are well-defined. Children behave better when authority figures maintain and reinforce consistent boundaries. I’ll go so far as to say strong boundaries are critical to thriving.

Knowing or believing this doesn’t mean it’s always easy to draw a line and stick with it. There are enormous social pressures that can erode our resolve. There’s the fear that our parents or children will no longer accept us when we require them to respect a new perimeter. There are concerns that we will be ostracized by co-workers or disparaged on social media. And those things can happen. But when you are true to yourself and set well-thought, well-reasoned boundaries designed to create a positive, healthy environment in order to take care of yourself, it will improve your life. Period.

That will remain true even if a particular family member abandons you. If that happens, it is likely that you do not have a healthy relationship with that person now. Having to face that reality brings an opportunity to redefine your interactions or move on without guilt.

If a group chooses to ostracize you when you intentionally take care of yourself, that group does not have your best interest at heart. It may be time to reflect on the quality of your work in such an environment. Are you able to do your best? If not, it may be time for a change.

Your life will be enhanced by limiting contact with negative forces on social media in favor of positive experiences in person.

On Gluten-Free Labeled Foods
If I have experienced more than one dermatitis herpetiformis rash from a specific food that is labeled gluten-free, I do not eat it again whether or not it is recalled.

The great thing is, you don’t have to begin with terrifying boundaries to improve your life. You can build courage and strength by being true to yourself in everyday situations. I practice such boundaries daily. In fact, this is where I draw the line…

I do not eat anything a company labels gluten-free if that company has frequent recalls or more than one gluten-free product that triggers an autoimmune response.

For Restaurants
I will try any restaurant. If I encounter repeated errors in my orders, an eye roll if I ask for a new salad instead of one off which the croutons were removed, resistance in accommodating my shrimp allergy, a language barrier so great I do not believe I can communicate my dietary limits, an adverse response from a seemingly accommodating kitchen, or a refusal to make any necessary substitutions, I no longer patronize that restaurant regularly and may choose to stay away altogether.

I also stay away if the food is not enjoyable or is both mediocre and expensive.

With Physicians
If a physician will not willingly release my records to me, I will end our relationship.

If the office staff is consistently difficult, rude, and/or incompetent, I will move to another clinic.

If the doctor consistently does not listen and/or is not willing to discuss possible treatment plans, I will move on to another physician who includes me as part of the team. While Patient and Family Centered Care is the goal of many healthcare providers, it is not uncommon for a doctor to fail to include the patient’s input when forming a treatment plan.

If I discover a physician has lied to me regarding test results, we are done.

If a doctor diagnoses the cause of recurring pneumonia as something all-in-my-head, I will find a doctor who is willing to test that theory with an actual regimen of diagnostic tests.

Unfortunately, I have had each experience listed here. I no longer trust that the doctor is always right so drawing a line to improve my health and safety is not difficult.

For Vendors
I will not use a vendor’s service more than once if he raises the price on a quoted job after the job is done even though no changes were made on my end (including deadline). If he honors the quote, but informs me that he erred and cannot do that or a similar job for the same price again, then I will happily send him additional business.

If a vendor misses a critical deadline without giving me a heads up, we are most likely done. I understand that problems arise, but rarely is it impossible to communicate that problem.

When a company deliberately or repeatedly misrepresents product quality, specifications, or safety, I will think and research carefully before choosing any item from its product line.

With Family and Friends
I hope for straightforward, genuine interactions. I am willing to give wide berth when I recognize someone is under duress. I will let temporary lapses or inadvertent mistakes and bad decisions slide unless and until a pattern emerges that is violent, destructive, toxic, or otherwise harmful to me or to children who cannot defend themselves. That is where I draw the line.

A Deal is a Deal
There are times when I cannot consciously explain in the moment why the line is where it is because it is not an intellectual decision. It is visceral.

I once sold a gas kitchen range because I was about to move to another state. The range worked the morning that the buyer unhooked it and hauled it away. The next day, the guy showed up at my door and told me I had sold him a broken stove.

I was in my early 20s and home with only my grandmother and infant son. I did not open my screen door, but I remember talking to him through it as though it were made of steel.

I calmly, but strongly assured him it had worked prior to him moving it. There was a prolonged conversation in which he argued the opposite and I did not budge. Finally, he left.

After he drove away, my grandmother looked at me and said, “I didn’t know you had that in you. I would never cross you after hearing that!”

I don’t remember feeling angry. I just stood there thinking I knew I had done nothing wrong and there was no way some stranger was going to convince me I had. I suppose you could call it the courage of conviction. I’m not sure. I just know there’s a point beyond which you cannot push me. Period.

And that is where I draw the line.