My brain on Zoom

Me in most Zoom meetings.

“I wonder if I have any snacks?”

“Use the serious, attentive face! Attentive face!”

“What is that person doing?”

“My hair. “ That’s all. It’s a problem.

“Someone should vacuum. “

“I know I muted, but can they hear me peeing?” Might have peed with 500+ attendees.

“I’m going to text half the people in this meeting.”

“CATS!”

“Where should I nap today?”

“Shit! They’re talking to me!”

“I’m gonna do what now?!”

I was going to do so many ridiculous things…

At first this whole school closing thing felt like an impending snow day. The storm was coming, we knew it was going to be serious, but there was still that slightly contained giddiness of “Holy shit! I’m gonna get to sleep in!” There was no way they were going shut us down, maybe we’d get an extra week tagged on to spring break. But shut down? No way.

Then within the space of about 45 minutes from the governor’s decision to the official district email, they shut us down on a Friday the 13th no less.

Briefly, unrealistically, time opened up and I was going to do so many ridiculous things. It was going to be hiking and new restaurants with Bloody Marys.

Unfortunately, it rained 3 inches overnight and created flash flooding, and restaurants are now only allowed to offer carry out or delivery. No sitting and enjoying.

A new tattoo sounded like a good use of time. Maybe some bees around some existing flowers. Nope. On the 18th they shut down all hair and nail salons, and tattoo parlors.

Ok. Cats. What about adopting another cat since I am now going to be home for an extended period? I mean I can’t really take a new cat to the vet because my vet is only doing virtual check ups or hand offs in the parking lot. However all of my favorite shelters have closed to visitors unless there was an adoption already in the works. Probably for the best.

Birdie says that there are more than enough cats on these sheets.

I also have an overwhelming urge to buy toilet paper, but clearly that’s not happening.

Back in the good old days of March 12 when Target still had paper towels at the end of the aisle.

The reality is that time hasn’t really opened up. When I wake up at 3 am to go pee, my brain starts making lists and running what-if scenarios. Which might be part of the explanation for why I-on total going to work auto pilot- backed my car into my garage door as enthusiastically as possible. I self-isolated by trapping myself and my vehicle in the garage.

We got out, but I’ve put in as many hours this week as normal setting up e-Learning and trying to wrap my head around how to move forward in an engaging way when none of my instructional cat videos will load to our online classroom! Our tech people are on it; they’ve had the lion’s share of organizing, building, and teaching the teachers.

I can’t complain that I get to keep working when that is not the case for so many. I’m not sick and I don’t know anyone who is…yet. But I did cancel my normal spring break time when I would have been hanging out with MomBert because I was increasingly paranoid about infecting her as well as the looming possibility of a state wide or national lockdown. These cats won’t feed themselves.

Meanwhile my students are looking at a blackhole for the end of their school year. Spring quarter at a high school is an unending shit show of state testing, awards ceremonies for every group in existence, Senior-itis at its peak, prom, and graduation. Very few of those things are projected to happen now. They may end up with a certificate in the mail and a gathering of 10 people or less to celebrate unless those get outlawed.

At least when the weather changes, I might be able to practice some social distancing with a hike.

******By the way this was supposed to be a light, jokey post about how all my trivial plans were systematically shut down by the government, but that went sideways about as quickly as a quarantine order. Sorry.

Seriously, can I just take it?!

For the first time in over a week, I don’t feel like immediately crawling back into bed as a response to everything life has to offer. I’m still stuffy and have a good hacking cough when provoked, but most brain function and physicality has returned. Having been very sedentary and just having read an article about the horrors of visceral fat-I gots some a that-I was up for a walk in actual sunlight. It was still cold, but there was bright blue sky and visible plant life to make an Ohio dweller believe in the possibility of spring. Plus it’s the end of the quarter and I have SOOOOO much grading and being sick didn’t help so I had to run…walk moderately quickly away for a bit.

I saw clusters of snowdrops in a small wooded area.

The native plants prairie area had been mowed and cleared for the winter, but small green things were peeking through. The vernal pools in this part of the park were muddy and overflowing from rain. However I’m a sucker for a mirrored tree line picture.

I call this one Ducks Digging in Trees.

In the rose garden portion of the park, I gawked at a tree, watching this very poised nuthatch, several chickadees and two different types of woodpeckers do their thing. Meanwhile the second wedding/ engagement party I’d seen that day tromped by in formal wear and giant winter coats, ready to freeze for photo shoots.

It was all very sunny and simple until I spotted a mound in the middle of the grass between walk ways and rose beds. Maybe everybody else wasn’t looking or maybe they saw dirt or a mound of leaves. However Brain saw fur and yelled, “ WE SHOULD LOOK AT IT NOW!”

Yep. Dead raccoon.

Intellectually, I knew it was dead. Wild animals do not typically curl up like house cats in a sunspot in the afternoon in the middle of a busy park for a little shut eye. Spring sunbeams or not. However I will admit to approaching with caution and staying a few feet away.

It was a lovely, smallish raccoon with reddish tones to its ringed tail and back, but blonde highlights around its ears and face. It did not smell, although it may have been bloating slightly. I couldn’t see any physical damage, and gazed around trying to come up with a likely death scenario. There was no immediate tree to have dropped from although being tossed out in recent high winds might have been a possibility. All roads were just too far away to drag a car broken body from. It did not appear chewed on so something bigger probably didn’t bring it here unless a vulture dropped his lunch. Old age? Poison? Heart attack?

While one part of Brain was sifting forensic scenarios, another part was hissing, “Someone is going to notice you hanging out with this raccoon, weirdo.” Yet another Brain denizen really had priorities straight and was like: “IMAGINE THE TAXIDERMY POSSIBILITIES! BUT WE’RE NOT VISITING HOME UNTIL LATER THIS MONTH. THERE’S NO ROOM IN THE FREEZER FOR THAT. GAH, EAT ALL THE FREEZER FOOD! CAN YOU JUST TAKE A RACCOON? WHAT DO WE HAVE IN THE CAR? TARP? THIS IS A PUBLIC PARK SHOULD I ALERT AUTHORITIES AND… SERIOUSLY, CAN I JUST TAKE IT? LIKE NO ONE ELSE SEEMS INTERESTED.”

At a loss for the next step, I took a really bad photo as if I wasn’t really taking a photo of a dead raccoon because the hissy part of Brain was all:”People will see you, you fucking psycho” and promptly texted my sister and MomBert. As per usual, they were not super helpful.

So I texted my dad the picture and basic message. Predictably, he immediately called because he and the company at his house found my predicament hilarious. He did not really have any good answers about legalities other than let it become some other creature’s dinner. The vultures are back after all.

This really isn’t about parking garages.

After high school graduation, I got the chance to go on one of those educational tours with a group of peers and my French teacher. We were in London for a few days and used our late afternoons to queue for tickets to shows. We saw Les Mis and got fantastic middle of the balcony seats to Phantom. ( I know. The two most typical shows ever, but we were high schoolers and band geeks so…there.) Seated behind us at Phantom was a group of twelve year old girls. We surmised from the cackling and tiaras that it was somebody’s birthday.

img_3744

1992 me.

Moments before the show started, the cackling escalated. The birthday girls had locked in on a celebrity sighting: The Pet Shop Boys. It was summer of 1992, I think my friends and I were familiar with exactly one Pet Shop Boys song, but that didn’t stop us from following the herd of 12-year-olds at intermission to demand autographs on our Phantom playbills. Because that’s what you do with famous people, right?

However, we were so epically clueless, that after the show we ran to Tower Records (also a big deal) to desperately root through cds in hopes of finding an album cover photo to confirm our star crossed interaction. (Remember, no cell phones, no internet, no instantly Googling it. Thought process! Detective work!) As I remember it, we weren’t super successful and the signatures were illegible -one might have said Neil- so the jury’s still out.

In other encounters, I can confirm that I’ve been 5 people away from a sweaty Bret Michaels. I was across a small brick street in Athens, Ohio, from Hilary Clinton. I’ve hugged Cory Michael Smith and made inappropriate Oedipus Rex Mom jokes with him. It was random. I might have seen Claire Danes in an airport, if the whisperers around me were to be believed. However never in the presence of such “famous” people have I felt like such an epic dork as I did on Saturday.

img_3746

Ah, college. Out campaigning for Bill.

About mid-week, I discovered at the bottom of one of her blog posts that Jenny Lawson The Bloggess was going to be two hours away at a free, non-ticketed event on a Saturday! Normally, when she tours for her books, she ends up at a book store about an hour away, but it’s always on a school night. The store wants you to buy the book from THEM (WHY! I already own it! That’s why I want to see her!) and stand in a long-ass line, and it suddenly seems too ridiculous and complicated. Trust me that I can make things ridiculous and complicated all on my very own.

I put out a whispered feeler on Facebook: “Does anyone want to go see The Bloggess on Saturday?” No bites.

Brain had to think about this. All the voices had to weigh in.

“You hate going places alone.”

“You’re always going places alone because your friends have families, and others, and football. Just go.”

“This is in downtown Cincinnati. This is strange. You don’t know this.”

“You have Siri! She’s a total cunt, but, ya know, she probably won’t get you killed.”

“You will die a fiery death because you hate driving in big cities. Even the city you live in freaks you out!”

“Alone. alone.alone.alone.alone.”

“Why would you miss this opportunity?”

“Because parking! You don’t know the parking. You hate parking in parking garages! They are chockfull of rapists!” (I hate parking garages. Dank stairwells, and tons of claustrophobic cement, a million hiding spots.)

The voice that finally won made this argument: “You love her writing. She makes you laugh. She makes you write things. Seriously? What are you going to do with your Saturday that you haven’t done five million Saturdays before: yard work, talk to cats, run pointless errands, have no human contact, and accumulate projects you won’t finish then wonder where your weekend went. Don’t be a weak-ass bitch.” Seriously, this voice reminded me that I screamed and scared the hell out of my cats the night The Bloggess commented on my blog, and again when she followed me on Twitter. That sometimes her topics and format give me something to springboard off of in my own writing.

Saturday morning, I hit the road to the Books by the Banks Festival at the Duke Energy Convention Center which assured me it had over 5000 parking spaces surrounding it in the forms of garages and open lots. Peachy.

The drive was fine until I hit the inner circle of Cincinnati and then things started merging and swerving, breaking off to the left, and unexpectedly arching over under. Cincinnati has hills! And tunnels! What the shit? The speed limit said 45 but everyone was going 60 and why can’t Siri clue me in to the next move a little sooner? We (Siri and I) took an exciting tour of some warehouses and then finally got back on track to the downtown that looked eerily like the intersections of downtown Columbus that I hate. I saw exactly one open lot twenty million lanes of traffic away from the left turn I was perpetually making. In a panic, I swerved in to the next visible, much dreaded, parking garage. Of course, there was no immediate parking near an immediate and safe exit. It was the third level for me. At least I could see the bridge into the convention center from my spot. Except… they weren’t actually connected. Yea!!

img_3723

I HATE IT!

I sprinted down three flights of gooey stairwell, and then outside and back up three flights to the bridge. I got eighteen flights on the FitBit that day. Aside from escaping the parking garage, part of the panic was the time. The website had said that The Bloggess would be away from her signing table from 12-1:30 for a break before her author spotlight talk. It was 11:00 already and I envisioned a long line that would at least give me time to calm down and get my head on straight. All of her events appear to be really crowded, and full of crazies waiting to chat and offer her dead things or knitted genitalia (true story.) I had no genitalia or deceased items to offer, just the crazy.

Sweaty, wild-eyed, heart pounding from stairs and driving, anxiety laden, I burst into the ballroom full of authors, and….holy shit snacks…there she was. Without a line. What the hell, people! Heathens!

A smarter person would have gone to the bathroom, calmed down, gotten a drink of water, pretty much anything else. However, I am often not the smarter person, so I stood behind the one other human chatting her up and desperately tried to find the footnote to English teachers that I wanted her to sign.

I don’t remember the conversation verbatim, just that I sounded like an idiot.

The Bloggess: “Hi, how are you?”

Sweaty Me: “I just white knuckled through traffic  so terrified!”

The Bloggess: “You’re like the fourth person to say that.”

Sweaty Me: “And I had to park in a garage which I hate. I’m pretty sure all the rapists are congregating by my car.”

The Bloggess: “Uh, huh. That’s the worst.”

Sweaty Me: “So I was looking for your footnote to English teachers for you to sign because that’s me.” (Holding out my copy of Let’s Pretend This Never Happened– kind of like this conversation.)

The Bloggess: “Oh, yea, found it!”

Then she signed it.

oct2016jlawson

LOVE THIS!

Sweaty Me: “Yes, I am magic for making it here.”

Sweaty Me: “Are you doing pictures?

The Bloggess: “Sure, come around here.”

img_3725

Please note, I’m wearing my Dia de los Muertos para los gatos tee by Squirrel Den Studio because it’s awesome.

Sweaty Me: “Thank you so much for being here.”

And then I walked purposefully away to text the friends who would understand that I was squealing and peeing inside.

And it was only 11:30. Her author talk wasn’t until 1:30. Now what?

Not being adventurous enough to explore the streets, I alternated between sitting in the lobby and doing what felt like very conspicuous laps around the author tables. I was aggressively accosted by an author who writes “cuddly mysteries without all the blood and gore.” Missed your mark, lady. She thought the cat on my t-shirt somehow was a link to the cats on her book cover. I promptly told her about Rita Mae Brown’s mystery novels and backed away. I chatted with Brett Harper, Charley Harper’s son-love Charley’s art, about cats. He dug my shirt as well.

Wandering the convention center, I finally settled in a spot adjacent to the room for the author spotlight talk and decided to use the time to start writing. About 45 minutes before the talk, the others began to arrive and queue up. The Bloggess’s tribe made it. Another fan and I talked about what epic dorks we were when we met Jenny. The other woman opined that Jenny was probably used to and understood such weirdness. She had only discovered the event at 2 a.m. that morning, and was delighted to have made it.

During her author spotlight, Jenny read two chapters from Furiously Happy after a disclaimer about being “very sweary.” It’s inspiring to hear an author read her own work especially when it’s a chapter about passing out in doctors’ offices including the gyno which is oddly convenient due to the stirrups. She then took questions from the audience. One question about writing about mental illness prompted the response, “How boring are not screwed up people who don’t exist anyway, they just hide it well?”

oct20161authorspotlight

Some quality shots of the woman in front of me.

She also talked about coming out of a bout of writer’s block while working on her next book (excited!). Sometimes to get things going or to just write a journal entry she starts with “This is what I want to tell you…”

So Jenny Lawson, oh great Bloggess, “This is what I want to tell you…”

img_3736

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Autopilot

I managed to change clothes on autopilot as part of my brain was like “Haul ass, fat girl!” I got as far as putting on yoga pants and a sports bra. 
You can’t exercise in Spanx. 
Well, you probably could, but mine were already rolling up the sausages that are my thighs, trying to cut off circulation to my hoo-haw. This does not jive with yoga pants. 

But then the autopilot that was really tired mysteriously landed me on the bed. That part of my brain recommended that I read a few Facebook items, maybe a blog post, and then nod off for a “20 minute nap” that always turns in to like 30 or 40 minutes. 
The cats are taking turns biting my toes that are dangling off the bed, jumping on the bed, and judging me because they are STARVING -they had first scoop only moments ago- and I’m the WORST! I can tell that they are starving from the dents they make every time they walk across my butt. Their sense of judgement makes it heavy. 
Meanwhile another part of my brain says that we can’t nap or exercise or because it’s too busy cataloging the “homework” that needs done tonight so everyone can survive my class tomorrow. And holy shit, it’s 6:00 so there are only about 3 1/2 hours left before everything in me just automatically shuts down like a bad robot. Somewhere in those 3 1/2 hours I need to make dinner, pack my lunch, brush the cats’ teeth, eat dinner, set up the morning coffee, maybe shower, scoop the litter box, pay the bills, and ultimately decide that sleep trumps homework. 
It seems too early in the school year to whine about exhaustion, procrastination, and disorganization, but all I hear is the high pitched, “eeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee.” It’s probably me. 
At least I’ve advanced to the yoga pants, sports bra AND tshirt stage. 
 

Judgement.