Asking for a friend…

So, what do you do when a co-worker you really like, who is honestly a good person and always helpful and full of useful work information, out of the blue shares a link to some quack “doctor” (Narrator: Not actually a doctor.) who is promoting non-FDA approved medications for COVID-19?

My friend didn’t handle it well. My friend Googled, and said, “This guy doesn’t seem credible. It appears he’s an acupuncturist with “honorary” degrees. I can’t find a CV anywhere online, and if he’s a real doctor or researcher, it should be out there.” And, yeah, that got awkward.

My friend should have said, “Oh, that certainly is interesting!” And changed the subject. But my friend was asked, “What do you think about this?” And so my friend looked, and now my friend is seriously questioning how this otherwise intelligent-seeming person shared a link about a possible “secret treatment for COVID” which is – wait for it – a medication for worms usually prescribed for dogs.

Nope, not kidding. Apparently Republicans held a hearing with quacks like this promoting worm medication for a virus.

I just cannot even. My friend has learned, from now on I, I mean SHE, will say, “Oh, that’s interesting!” and change the subject fast.

And (still asking for a friend) why is it that my friend feels it’s very inappropriate to discuss anything even remotely controversial (like science, apparently) in the workplace? My friend got hit with this out of the blue, did her researcher thing, thought, “OMG!! DOG DEWORMER is being touted as a secret COVID treatment??!! OMFG!!”

My friend’s regular work day is full of enough stupid shit. She did not need this.

I have a balcony again!

There’s a second blue chair next to the other one now, this was taken mid-setup.

Getting here was not without Drama. The neighborhood contractor I hired sent two young men, we’ll call them Darryl and Darryl. (If you get that, you might be an Old.) They showed up early, tore out the nasty old carpet and made it disappear, and installed the new front door hardware, all before 11 a.m. Two thumbs UP!! They started cutting and laying the new indoor-outdoor carpet on the balcony, and had probably 2/3s of it in place around noon.

Then they went to lunch, and reappeared around, 2? I was on conference calls all freakin’ day, but did notice they were gone for quite a while longer than a standard lunch break. Then they returned and got back to work.

I started to get the feeling that laying carpet was not one of their skills. They were still out there after dark, and finally disappeared around 7 pm. Meanwhile, their boss was texting me to ask how it was going, and I sent him pictures of glue blobs and other distressing things. He assured me it would all be fixed to my satisfaction.

The rest of the week is a blur of texts between me and their boss, until finally on Friday one of the young men (maybe he’s actually the Larry) showed up and cleaned glue and caulk blobs for a couple of hours. He worked his ass off, was very nice, and I am now satisfied with the results.

The balcony had been out of commission for so long, I realized yesterday that Gidget had never set foot on it, and she wasn’t even sure it was okay. I sat out there as much as I could, encouraging her to join me. She was skeptical.

The old carpet was so nasty and moldy, there was no furniture and no access for the animals. The doors just stayed shut, all the time, and Gidget honestly had no idea that going through these doors was a possibility until yesterday. It took a bit for her to accept this unexpected discovery of a new room in Gidget’s House.

This weekend I spent as much time out there as I could. Ellie and Sophie joined me quickly, though, OMG, it’s so awful to see Sophie stumble over the sliding door track. Poor baby really is blind now, but she’s still smart and she does listen. I’ve been teaching her to do stairs by saying, “Step, step, step” with each step up and down, and now when she gets to the balcony, I say, “Sophie, careful! Step!” and she slows down and feels her way across the track. This is just so damn hard. And her liquid diarrhea is back, so we will be back to the vet again. And she’s sleeping a LOT. I mean, a LOT. Very deeply, with much snoring. She seems perfectly comfortable and doesn’t seem to be suffering, but she seems more like a 15+ year old dog than one who is 11 and a half.

Gidget is fine, and is getting over her fear of the balcony. She’s getting her hair done on Thursday, because she is exceedingly fluffy. She has filled out quite a bit since she was a head and a tail and bones in between, but there’s a lot of extra hair in this picture.

So, is it January 20th yet? How many more times must Biden be declared the winner before we can just get on with this? I did notice that the crazy old coot who drove around the neighborhood in a golf cart so festooned with Trump flags I was surprised it didn’t tip over has switched to Christmas ornaments. That’s a good sign.

Household Hints Time!

Yeah, because I’m all about that shit.

My daughter, whose furniture is old and beat up as my own, texted me the other day to rave about a furniture polish she read about on Buzzfeed.

If you know us at all, we are totally not women who rave about, or even think about, furniture polish. I mean, yeah, we’d like our houses to look nice, but as we have busy jobs and try to have lives, and Cinderella’s helpful mice and birds never drop by, we just muddle through.

So, yeah, she raved about furniture polish, and I of course had to try it, because any cleaning product that gets either of us excited is a rare thing indeed.

This Feed-N-Wax stuff is the bomb. I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned before that my end tables are a freaking disgrace, but as I’ve also mentioned before, if it isn’t shooting sparks, leaking, or covered in mold like the balcony carpet, it’s on the back burner. On her recommendation, I ordered it.

This is the before picture of my cheap old end table. None of that stuff on the surface brushes off; it’s all dings and finish damage.

This is the after. The lighting is different. The before was taken after I’d removed the lamps to start polishing, so the dings and stains were softened a bit. This is how it looks now, under bright light.

No, it’s not a miracle cure that restored the surface like new, you can still see damage, but damn, I’ve used a lot of stuff on these tables over the years, and this has actually minimized the damage to the point where I can live with them a while longer. I’m thinking a couple of more applications may restore them even more.

And this concludes my household hint for 2020.

Reclaiming My Balcony.

I never got around to replacing the utterly disgusting, ancient, moldy old carpet on my balconies (front and rear) because money. I’ve been a contractor for the last 5 years, so I don’t get paid time off or sick days or…much of anything…so yeah, anything that wasn’t actually leaking or shooting sparks around Ye Olde Condo was just going to have to wait for Someday, when I win the lottery or something.

But since the election (could I be feeling…hope??) I’ve been staring at the disgusting, ancient, moldy old carpet on the balconies and thinking this cannot wait any longer.

Even Ellie can’t believe how disgusting this is. She was only out there while I snapped the pictures for the handyman.

This is truly heinous. I can’t stand it any longer. I haven’t been using the balcony at all, obviously, and now we are at last coming into balcony weather – the heat of summer is finally over, and this balcony is another big chunk of living space that is just going to waste.

It has taken me a long time to decide what I wanted to do about this mess. A lot of the neighbors have opted to tile these spaces, but I’ve seen what their tile looks like after a few years of Florida weather, and yeah, I’d rather spend a lot less on indoor-outdoor carpet with a 5 year warranty. The stuff that is here now has been there for about 40 years, and the new carpet is much higher quality, made from recycled water bottles, and is a pretty dark charcoal color. If I get 5+ years out of it, that’ll be lovely.

So, I bit the bullet, pulled the trigger, took the plunge (why are all of these idioms so violent) and ordered carpet and found a handyman in the neighborhood to install it for me.

This isn’t something I could DIY, because I don’t have the tools, the time or the skills, plus, I have FOUR, count ’em FOUR project calls back to back on Monday, which is when my handyman neighbor will be here, installing the new carpet.

Next step will be ordering some practical, inexpensive folding furniture. I don’t want “real” outdoor furniture because:

1) did I mention my lack of funds; and

2) I’ve been through hurricanes and yeah, I’d like stuff I can just fold and bring inside, so it doesn’t go airborne and go through my sliding glass doors. I’m thinking a couple of decent quality lounge chairs and a small bistro set for morning coffee will do nicely.

I am indecently excited at the idea of getting additional living space and cooler weather to enjoy it. It’s the little things that keep us sane, you know?

OMG, Dare We Feel…Thankful??

So, yeah, life has been interesting, hasn’t it?

It struck me today when our President-Elect announced his cabinet picks, and I hadn’t heard of any of them. Nobody notorious, nobody known to be shady, just competent, respected people who have worked in government a long time and know what they’re doing. People who need to know who they are know them and are very happy, and man, that’s just so…nice.

Meanwhile, the head of the GSA, that Emily person, is now a household word. Before she decided to make a total ass of herself and decided she wanted to be a footnote of infamy in history books, had you ever heard of her? Had you even heard of the GSA? I did, because I grew up in the DC area with parents who were government workers, so I had heard of GSA. Think of it as a sort of property management company; they manage office space for government offices, so that’s their involvement in the presidential transition. They release funding so the new administration has a place to work and can do the mundane things like hire staff. It always happened pretty much automatically, because this is a ministerial function. It wasn’t her call.

So anyway, that’s over. The last, flailing tantrums are dying away, and while we still have to get through two more months of dangerously crazy shit, at least the Biden Administration can get some goddamn office space and desks and access to what they need.

And for that, I am thankful.

Things I Used to Do.

January 20th cannot come soon enough. I’ll happily give up “the holidays” this year if we can just jump ahead, because fuck, we’re not going to be able to do holidays anyway.

Exactly as the experts predicted, COVID-19 is running out of control in the U.S. Our lame (duck) “president” is playing golf, pouting, and losing court cases challenging the election results, because THERE IS NO VALID CHALLENGE to the results. It’s very, very clear that “Count every legal vote,” is Republican-speak for “Count the white people’s votes.” And it’s also very clear that nobody’s buying that shit.

It’s all so depressingly transparent. And I still keep coming back to the reality that 70 fucking million of my fellow white people voted for him.

While the votes were being counted a woman I see out walking, sometimes by herself, sometimes with her husband, passed me and we said hi, and she said something to the effect of, “We’re going to be in for some big changes, huh?” in a depressed tone. I honestly had no idea how to respond. Was she sad that Biden won? Was she hopeful that he’s going to be the next President, but worried about how ugly things would get? I couldn’t tell.

We are there, where I hesitate to engage in political conversations with neighbors, because the divide is SO deep, and so wide, and damn, I really didn’t want to know, because I have to live with these people and I want to keep it civil. So I nodded and said something noncommittal, “Yes, I guess so!” and kept walking.

We have bigger issues to worry about, like how many Americans are going to be DEAD or with permanent health issues because we’ve fucked up the COVID response so royally. And we’re back to the divide, because yes, whether we believe in science and medical experts is now political, and Republicans are on the anti-science side.

So, I’m grateful that I work in a place that takes this seriously, and now even return to work in January is up in the air, because cases are climbing so much. Now that people are indoors and “so bored” with taking precautions, yeah, it’s just as every public health expert predicted: We Are Fucked. I am not happy about the idea that will probably be working from home forever; for one thing, I wish I’d spent more money on my bargain desk chair.

So, good things, things I used to do, and why I’m still on Facebook:

A couple of weeks ago a woman posted on a neighborhood Facebook page: she and her husband own a bicycle shop, and they offered pickup and delivery on bike tune-ups. They’d stop by, get the bike, take it to their shop, give it a good going over, and return it. This was like an answer to a longstanding minor prayer.

My bike had been sitting in my garage for nearly two years, on two flat tires, with squeaky brakes, and probably spider eggs in the gears. I have neither the skills nor the tools to tune up a bike; I’m a casual rider at most. I messaged the woman, her husband came and got my sad, possibly spider-filled bike, and returned it a few days later with fresh tubes in the tires and everything in spiffy riding order.

During Tropical Storm Eta.

So I haven’t actually ridden it yet, but it’s on tomorrow morning’s plan. Just a quick, cautious trip around the nearby streets, because at this point it’s almost like learning to ride all over again, but it’s finally a bit cooler here, now that we’ve maybe had our last hurricane threat, maybe, and I want to ride again.

I want to knit again, maybe, but yeah, since we are now in permanent summer here, maybe that’s not practical. But there’s still photography and my bike. I will knit, as GAWD IS MAH WITNUSS, I shall KNIT AGAIN! but it may be like, hats for the NC fam.

Hoping to rebuild a normal life, maybe, if we make it through the winter.

Come on, January 20!

Stares at Blinking Cursor…. (swearing but also animals)

[I started writing this before the race was called for Biden-Harris. I went back and edited it a bit, to take out some of my disgusted musings on exactly why so many of my fellow Americans are garbage people. But, yeah, we have a lot of garbage people among us.]

I don’t know, y’all. It looks like our democracy will survive, Thank GOD, but we really have a lot of serious issues we need to face in this country. Like the fact that a lot of Americans are just fucking awful people.

I’m trying to work up the energy to discuss white women. What is wrong with white women? How on EARTH did so many of my fellow white women vote for that narcissistic sociopath? TWICE??

I know there’s a lot of, uh, “low information voters” in this country, and when Trump “won” the first time, I could sort of forgive the dim bulbs who saw him on their teevee and really did think he was some powerful, successful businessman. But after all the lies and incompetence and sheer wannabe fascist malevolence of his administration, MORE of them voted for him this time? What the FUCK???

So, yeah. I’m deeply, deeply relieved that the good guy (and gal) won, but damn, the last 4 years brought a lot of dark, ugly truths to light.

A lot of America is NOT “better than this.” A fair chunk of it is truly awful.

And on that cheery thought – I knew this week would be difficult, so I gave myself a mental health day on Wednesday, and took my fun new camera to Animal Kingdom. I didn’t ride the roller coaster, I just spent a few hours with the animals.

For the non-Disney-nuts: Animal Kingdom has a safari, which is by far the coolest thing in the park IMHO. You really do get close to the animals at times because much of it is open “savannah” with giraffes and zebras et al. wandering free.

I have to say that as many times as I’ve been on Kilimanjaro Safaris, I’ve never been THIS close to a rhino. This is an open vehicle, and I actually could have put a hand out and touched him. The rhinos had our truck surrounded for several minutes, and we had to wait patiently until they were ready to move on.

I could have reached out and touched him. I didn’t.
We had to wait until the roadblock cleared. Rhinos don’t care about your human schedule.

It was just so pleasant to be outdoors (wearing masks and social distancing) and feel the breeze and just sit and watch rhinos snacking on the grass, totally ignoring the large truck full of humans stopped behind them. I will admit that I did sneak peek at my phone a few times through the day, to see what was going on with the vote count, but mostly I just watched animals and enjoyed NOT being chained to my desk in my home office.

Just snacking, as you do.
Zen Tiger.
It was an absolutely gorgeous day.
I don’t know why, but this shot amused me.

Lunch at Yak and Yeti quick serve was delicious. I intentionally leaped off my plant based wagon to try the very intriguing Korean Fried Chicken sandwich . It was excellent – who knew kimchi and fried chicken were made for each other?

It was a delightful mid-week break, and I think I’m going to do something like this once a month. I also, I swear, will blog more than once a month!

How’s Your Stress Level?

Mine is pretty bad. I alternate between feeling optimistic about the truly astonishing early voting numbers among young voters, and the record-breaking early voting numbers in general, to feeling depressed and anxious about the truly astonishing daily new COVID-19 numbers. (BTW, the “readability analysis” of that sentence scolded me for using so many “big words,” which is now another thing I’m depressed about.) This country is a shitshow right now, and anyone who claims to know what will happen next is a liar.

My job is a major source of stress. I’m very grateful to still have a paycheck of course. I’m very happy that I can still work from home, and at this rate I probably will be working from home through the end of January. That’s good, but the job is a source of stress and ZERO pleasure. It’s all deadlines and spreadsheets and problems to solve, and none of that shit “sparks joy.” But I’m better off than a lot of people so I’m not complaining. Actually I am, but I’m trying to get my head into a better place.

I keep a journal. I write in bed, in the morning with my morning coffee and two small, snoring dogs. My morning scribbling has developed a recurring theme: I’m in a terrible rut. I’ve lost my creativity to deadlines and spreadsheets.

I used to be creative. I’ve never been a “real” artist, but I used to make things for fun. I used to write more (and better), experiment in the kitchen, knit, crochet, grow herbs, mess with beads and jewelry making, and generally DO FUN THINGS.

In an attempt to snap out of my rut, I saved my pennies for months and bought myself a nifty camera for my birthday. (I didn’t spend this much, so now I’m really glad I bought it.)

I’ve barely used it. I’ve barely used it though I freaking LOVE this camera. It’s easy and versatile and best of all, it’s like it’s made for my small hands.

I’ve stopped doing fun things. I wake up, drink coffee, scribble in my journal, move to my desk, stare at spreadsheets and GIS systems and calendars and emails all day. Then I take care of the animals, fix something to eat, pour the first of too many glasses of wine, and sit in front of the TV until it’s time for bed. That has been my day, day after day, for far too long.

Add in financial worries, 2020 anxiety in general, obsessively doom-scrolling social media and this is a very unhealthy situation, in an unhealthy situation, in an unhealthy situation. Basically, my life is a shit onion right now – peel back a layer and – look! MORE SHIT!!

I’ve been thinking about this for quite a while, wondering how I can fix this situation when everything is so very, very abnormal. Then I realized that the solution was already sitting on my bookshelf, and has been for years: The Artist’s Way.

Yes, it’s already sitting on my bookshelf because I bought it years ago. I started the program at one point, but in a half-assed way. I did (and still do) Morning Pages, but fell out of Artist Dates and the other exercises within a couple of weeks.

I was lazy and I didn’t really feel it then, but I need it now. I really need it now.

There’s a podcast called The Artist’s Way Podcast Weekly Check-in – I’m going to use it to stay on track. It actually covers several of Julia Cameron’s books, but I’ve gone back to Episode 1 to start from scratch.

If you feel like you need a creative kick in the ass, or just want to distract yourself from the insanity of the world a bit, feel free to join me.

Dispatch from FloriDUH

Holy shit. HOLEE SHIT! I am actually cautiously optimistic. The lines for early voting are like I haven’t seen since 2008, when Obama blew out all the averages.

I’m not talking about the people in line, because social distancing distorts the number of people in line, I’m talking about the number of cars lined up and down the street at the small library that hosts early voting. It was at least 5x the typical pace, and because I live nearby, I passed it more than once today. The pace didn’t slow, even in huge thunderstorms. The street was jammed. This is Day One.

I didn’t have to mess with that. I had requested a mail ballot way back in August, because who knew what we’d be dealing with now? But as early voting got closer, I realized dropping it off in person would be both easy and a way to see what was going on. I loved it.

I got to skip the line, and felt like (here comes a Disney connection) I had a FastPass! I got to get into the shorter line! I walked past the line that left the library, turned the corner, and went up the side street, and went to a shorter line that had only about 10 people in it. I slid my properly prepared mail ballot into the box and got my sticker, and was back at home at my desk in about 17 minutes.

I also signed up to track my ballot, so I can follow along to see when it’s counted.

So, unless something goes unexpectedly wrong, I think I’ll be an absentee/mail/ballot dropper henceforth. It’s a voting FastPass, and I still got the nice people at the box to hand me a sticker.

Apologies for the focus. It’s not your eyes, I was in too much of a hurry.