3 Weeks in Quarantine – Silver Linings

In everything there is beauty. In the worst moments in life there is space for the remarkable. It’s not like any of us would wish for a pandemic, but it’s forced us to slow down and to dig deep.

For me it’s forced me to find ways to connect with other people. This blog has been great, but it’s also made me reach out more. To people maybe I don’t connect with often enough. Checking in on a daily basis. Making sure they’re OK and to let them know that they’re not alone. Maybe I should have done this more often before. But this whole thing has made me appreciate those that I – perhaps – took for granted before. And it’s exposed friendships that I thought were strong but weren’t really. But that’s OK. Both of these things are good information to have going forward.

And if you have to work at remaining in contact, and you do the work – even if it’s just friends across the city – these relationships only get stronger over time. My meditation group started out virtual. I had only met one of the women before. We’re all spread out across the globe and meditating through this same WhatsApp group. But now, as we’ve shared our struggles, our dark days, our blocks, our bliss – we have gotten closer than I think we ever would have before. And this group has become a life line for me in their positivity, endless encouragement, vulnerability, and acceptance. It’s amazing how community can be created our of thin air with thousands of miles separating each of us.

Be Bold and powerful forces will come to your aid’

And I’ve gotten creative and looked for other ways to connect with Emilie. She, like all of us, is doing the best she can under the circumstances 8000 miles away. So daily, I’ve taken to making silly videos for her to make her laugh. The first one was me pretending to be Kylie Jenner giving a demonstration of ‘Balcony Makeup’ in my bathroom. Here in Spain we are far from our neighbors across the street. So we struggle to see expressions on their faces as we are all out clapping and waving at our 8pm nightly gratitude gathering. So I put on enough ‘clown make-up’ so that my neighbors could see if I was smiling or sad. Just recommendations for the newly initiated into quarantine. No botox for me, but I drew the lips only 200% bigger than my own. Did my hair BIG with lots and lots of eye shadow and smokey eye. And some serious contour bronzer.

Emilie loved it! Or she said she did. So yesterday I did ‘Fun with Hats!’. An exploration on my hat collection and how to chose the right hat for your day under lock down. Today will be another adventure in accessories – ‘The History of Scarves and How to Tie Them.’ Tomorrow? Don’t tell her but I’ll be pitching a tent in the living room and camping out. Complete with all the plants from the balcony as ‘forest’. Yes, I know what you’re thinking – ‘Kelli, how do you create such entertainment with skyrocketing production values?’ And to that I say, it’s not easy, my friend. But we do the best we can with what we have.

We are coming up on our 3 week quaraniversary. We are still here. I think it’s supposed to be getting harder but for me it’s actually easier. I find I have let go of all my inhibitions and expectations. I just do what makes me happy now. Right now. Today that might be 3 yoga sessions. Tomorrow it might be something else. But whatever it is – that’s what I will do.

Someone who discovered my blog recently messaged me and said – I can’t believe you guys just picked up and moved to Spain. And it made me think back to 2017 when we made this decision. I told her my motto has always been Be Bold and Powerful forces will come to your aid. And I’m grateful to that person for making me remember that. I hope that this virus has reminded us that our life is precious, every moment of it, and so are the people we spend it with – in person or virtually. So we shouldn’t waste one second of it. We can huddle afraid or be fearless. And after 3 weeks, my fearless self has finally returned. Just in time.

Be safe, stay sane and stay inside. Peace 🙏

Un-Doing

As this virus wages war against humanity, those of us who are in countries hardest hit are staying inside. And I have watched myself in this time. As though from a distance. There have been moments of panic – like 20 minutes after my Doctor’s office called. And moments of joy watching the community coming together and the kindness people are demonstrating daily.

But for me it’s made me listen to things. Myself and others. And taking time in the quiet to reflect. Something I don’t always take the time to do. I am a busy person – usually. I DO a lot. It’s the way I was raised. Doing is good. Doing mean you’re industrious and being industrious is virtuous. As my grandma used to say ‘Idleness is the devils playground.’ And when we were kids in our house you never laid about or you’d be given a task. Stacking wood or hauling bark or pulling weeds. And as far as a career goes, what you DO defines you. Whether its work or creative pursuits. Measuring what we’ve done, what we are doing, and what we are planning on doing.

And then this virus hit. And it confined me to a small space. I’ll be honest, I generally require larger spaces – I occupy too much of it. And this space in el Conparimento allows for limited doing. So a modification to my days were required. And modifications to how I get through my day. And to how I think about and value what I can do. Perhaps it took me more days than most people. I don’t really know. Although I do think I’m ahead of prison inmates I’ve been reading about on the adjustment and acceptance curve. Certainly on the socialization while in confinement curve. Although Jeff may dispute this. He’s lucky I didn’t follow the age-old advice that if you are ever sent to prison pick a fight with the biggest guy on your cell block and punch him in the face, to establish your place in the prison pecking order. I should remind him of my generosity there.

But I’m not alone. People around the world are in the same boat. And they’re all looking for ways to redefine normal. In the midst of this, some are battling illness or have lost family, or jobs. And some are living with fear day to day. Physical, mental, financial. The buffet of uncertainty. And we all cope in varying ways.

Emilie has been at my Mom’s for nearly a month now. The rug pulled out from under her end of Senior year activities and celebrations. 18 and 80 – that’s the gap in the house. Two women, 3 cats, and a small puppy learning to get along and make adjustments as they go. So I was happy to get these photos yesterday. Emile and my Mom have picked up a brush and the results are remarkable. But you can judge for yourself.

Emilie – The artist herself
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The Bright Side

I’m aware I went dark yesterday. It happens in a Pandemic such as this. You have days like that when trapped inside. I knew it was going to be a dark day when I started reading articles on how newly incarcerated inmates deal with the first few weeks of confinement. Lets just say its not bedtime reading.

Halfway through the day, I knew I had to do something desperate. And fashioning a shiv or making bathtub gin in the toilet wasn’t an option. I decided to go for a jog. I won’t say a ‘run’ because el Comaparimento isn’t set up for that. Like most Spanish dwellings it lacks that American open plan layout. After I entered the kitchen and made the turn at the doors to the utility porch for the 3rd time Jeff asked me ‘What are you doing?’ I couldn’t believe he didn’t understand I was blowing off steam.

On my jaunt I discovered something. We have a spare bedroom. This is Emilie’s room when she’s here, but when she’s not it’s filled with all kinds of things that we can’t be bothered to take down to Espacio Creativo. We were always going to do it the next time. I keep my fancy Food Stroller in there. So as I was jogging by I stopped and peeked inside. Hmmm.

Jeff has all his computers, servers and his hobby tables in the office. But I have no place other than my 1200 square feet of Espacio Creativo – and I can’t go there now. So after my extensive half marathon in the apartment, and a shower, I made my way down to the East Wing and decided to increase my personal space significantly. I tidied up a bit – organizing what had been tossed in there willy-nilly, and I discovered that it was kind of nice to have a place of my own in the apartment. Then Jeff made a run for it, hazmatted up, of course, encountering no one on the street, avoiding the patrolling police on motorcycles and on foot, and brought back the TV and my painting supplies from the space in two trips, 8 long blocks away. So now I have a quiet place to write, paint, read and watch a show of my choice – if I want to get away.

And just in time, too. Yesterday, our Prime Minister announced that restriction will get, well, even more strict starting tomorrow. Only essential workers will be allowed out. Yes, you can go to the grocery store or farmacia or walk your dog, but if you are not an essential worker (medical, police, grocery store, garbage man) you will not be allowed on the metro, bus or car or just sauntering down the street without the requisite grocery trolley as a magic shield from a police inquiry, and stop and frisk. Before this, apparently, some people still went to their jobs. I can’t imagine what that could be since there isn’t a business around us that is open. They expect traffic and mass transit ridership will go to near zero.

Now that I have this quiet space, I hear the sounds of confinement. Yes, there is the coughing, all around us. Outside on the balconies and through the walls. It seems all of Valencia is coughing day and night now. And crying, there is crying too. Not just babies – but adults. We don’t know why but we can guess. And there is also the sound of singing. Opera and the like – on a daily basis. Our neighbor sings on his balcony with abandon. The building across the way played children’s music at full tilt yesterday and small kids came out on their balconies with their parents to sing along, clap to the music and do the movements they learned in school. We went out and watched and it made us smile. But the best sound I heard came from within our apartment.

Jeff, being Jeff, has found more ways to learn something new, which helps us both stay positive. He spent last night playing a PS Pro online game in the living room virtually with a friend back in Portland in the US. And from what I could tell – all the way from my new indoor she-shed in the East Wing – Jeff had a great time. I heard him laugh – really belly laugh – for the first time in weeks. And it was such a wonderful sound it made me stop what I was doing just to listen. He was happy. We need more happy around here.

It’s not all darkness in Spain. There are moments of bright light. Yes, we do our clapping at 8 pm every night, that everyone around the world has seen on video. But it’s the small things. When notes are slipped under our door from neighbors telling us they are here for us and to tell them if we need anything. And drawings from their kids. Smiles and waves from people we have never met while we both hang our laundry on the line. The best moments are the small moments. Perhaps the ones that went unnoticed before but means so much now. Maybe that’s where the blessings of a pandemic lay. We needed this time to show us that they were there all along.

It’s OK, America – CNN Will Tell You Exactly What to Do

Am I angry? Damn Right, I’m angry. Now that Covid-19 has hit critical mass on US shores it’s becoming a meme and I’m fed up. This is not a Kardashian reality horror show. It’s a pandemic. But like everything else in the world, the US will turn it into an opportunity to sell something. And it’s oh so American to have The Best of… lists, or Everything you need to know click-bait. And it’s unsurprising because in the US we know everything.

This article about Everything you need to know to prepare for quarantine is absurd. But like we do so much in the US, we reduce it to stuff. What we can buy. Because the economy matters more than people’s lives – if you’ll remember. Business. And quarantine is big business – apparently. But what they don’t list is this:

  1. How does it feel to watch your husband leave the house in a deadly pandemic to get essentials? Knowing he’s going because you’ve got a cough. Watching him prepare as he suits up. Putting on his gloves and mask as the final step of protective gear. Going through the check list. Knowing he’s in danger.
  2. And what it’s like to go to a store for provisions for your family to be met at the door of the store by a hazmat team who will check your home preparations and do even more to you before directing your shopping?
  3. Or that one hour of him out of the apartment will feel like 5 waiting for him to get back, meeting him at the door with a plastic bag so he can strip down, put it all in the bag so you can take it to the laundry and wash it all – gloved and masked up, of course? As he takes a shower. Then you’ll get all the stuff out of the trolley and wash it off before putting it out on the utility porch for an hour or so – unless it’s frozen.
  4. CNN, can you tell me what’s it like to wake up to the grim news daily in my country, just waiting – hoping – that the number of deaths has slowed in Italy and Spain and around the world. Or the number of infections? Will you advise them what to do when day 10 brings uncontrollable crying? Not for yourself – you understand – but for the strangers outside your window who are sick and dying? And then the guilty relief you feel that for yet another day you’re well enough.
  5. How should they feel or what should they purchase when someone in the house/apartment spikes a fever or develops a cough? Is there something they should have hoarded for that? The fear you feel as you try to treat it with the old stand-bys and the waiting to see if it progresses or if you need to make the decision to go to the hospital. Is it safe to go?
  6. Will you tell readers/consumers there are days – even with all the food you advised them to buy – they will not be able to put food in their mouths? That there is too much death and bad news to allow food to cross your lips.
  7. And then other days when they won’t be able to stop eating.? As though there isn’t enough food in the world to sate the hunger.
  8. Then there’s watching CNN in the US from so far away. Listening to the government shit-show and knowing people you love are there, but you can’t get them to listen to you for weeks on end as you’re locked up. Will you tell them which Gwyneth Paltrow GOOP sensory deprivation chamber they should buy to combat those tough feelings? The sensation of being behind thick glass and no matter how much you scream, pound, and jump up and down you can’t get your US family’s attention. It’s like a horror movie and you’re yelling ‘RUN!!’ at the screen, for weeks on end – only to have them tell you ‘Not to worry so much. It’s not that bad here.’
  9. And what about the boredom? Will you tell them about that? Oh, the boredom. How you need to keep your mind occupied and away from the news. How to focus on staying healthy because you can’t really go anywhere or exercise in an apartment. Other than Yoga. Then the guilt for being bored when others are ill. And that meditation will become your best friend.
  10. @CNN can you sell them a exclusive quarantine face cream to prepare them for when a neighbor in their building is taken away by ambulance and then find out the person passed away? Sure, you just saw each other in the elevator, or on the bench outside every evening on your walk, and said a good day at the mailbox. But you will cry for her like you’ve known her all your life. Because she is you. And the virus is close.
  11. And finally, CNN – can you provide expert advice to them for when the government extends the quarantine another two weeks? Or for the realization that it could go on even longer? What should they buy from your sponsored ads then? Is there a magic pill you can sell them for that? Or a new body or bath gel I could buy that will soothe my frayed nerves with just one use? Yeah – thought not.

The way the US and the UK has handled this looming crisis is like watching a slow motion train wreck, yet the trains are speeding up now and people are sick and dying. Watching them reduce it to the same old sales consumption tropes is obscene and lethal. Can you tell I’m tired? Yes, I’m tired. And yet, CNN didn’t have that on their complete quarantine list, either.

I’ll stop now. Stay safe, Stay sane (good luck) and Stay inside.

Be Our Guest

To borrow a phrase (bald faced lie) from the Great Pumpkin – ‘People say to me all the time, Kelli, you should talk more about your life. We never get any insight into what you’re thinking, or your day to day.’ And I must apologize for my lack of detail and my over- exaggerated need for personal privacy. Thus the following.

So, we are trapped together in this apartment. And it will be going on for sometime yet to come. I’ve decided we need to treat it like we’re on a cruise ship – whose captain refuses to tell us when it will dock. So, last night I sent Jeff a WhatsApp message while he was in his office tinkering. I invited him to join me in the dining room. It’s officially ‘Puzzle Night!’ I made up a flyer and slid it under the door. I wanted to give him a heads up via text to keep an eye out for it.

Join Us for Fun and Frolic Tonight @ The Dining Room in Chez Field

We’re gonna get crazy finishing up The Amsterdam Bike Puzzle

Starts at 8pm – Shaving is Required (You not me) – Don’t be Late!!!

He sent me a message back. ‘Is this a date? Are you asking me out on a date?!’

This gave me pause.

‘Well. I don’t know if I would call it a date, exactly. And the ‘Out’ part would be illegal in any case. Its more of a community event. Hence the flyer you received – as did everyone in El Compartimento. Like – it’s a group of us getting together. We’ll have to see how it goes.’

Psst… He was late. He’s a dude. But not that late. And me and my emerging multiple personalities didn’t even get into an argument with him about the right methodology for puzzling. We all just worked on it together.

Jeff has suggested we move all the furniture around and pretend we’ve moved to a new location. I think it’s a great idea. This weekend we’ll take a little vacation – get dressed up in shorts and tank tops and I’ll whip up some frozen drinks with little umbrellas. I’ll say something like:

‘Wow – it’s so beautiful here this time of year.’ While donning my sunglasses to block out the glare of the intense Moroccan sun on the Saharan Desert.

And Jeff will say something like:

‘Yes. But it sure is hot!! Whew! Next time let’s vacation in Svalbard and see the polar bears.’ (That’s the northern-most island in Norway and where the global seed vault is located – This will surprise no one who knows us that we’d want to go there.)

Then I’ll energetically nod in agreement because they don’t have the Coronavirus in Svalbard – at all, cause we looked it up – and our next vacation will definitely involve virus-free locales.

Today I have a writer’s conference all day. I was supposed to be in London mixing with the literati – but it was not to be. I’m not a little disappointed. It’s always better to meet people in person. And I’m also a little bit of a fan of conference swag. Once, after a conference in Orlando I had to check an extra bag home for all the conference swag. On that front Jeff is relieved I’m locked in the apartment. All the conference content will be performed via Zoom with asking/answering questions on-line. And I’ll get to have some of my writing critiqued. Really looking forward to that.

But just wait until next week. Our packed cruise ship schedule includes B-I-N-G-O (1 euro per card – it’s a fundraiser), Hallway shuffle board with shower squeegees and cans of tuna, a Scavenger hunt for Jeff’s wallet. Always a hoot!And my favorite- the Living Room Talent Show I’ve been working on producing for quite some time -two very long days. The breadth of talent is unprecedented. Including never before heard arrangements of song stylings from Oscar and Hammerstein’s classic The Sound of Music – well, just the songs sung by Gretel, cause I played her in the 3rd Grade. The 1970’s hit YMCA performed by me simultaneously as the Indian Chief, Cop in the buttless chaps (don’t ask), and the Construction worker – with complete spelling. Then the grande finale; an emotional reading of ‘The Raven’ by Edgar Allen Poe. Sure, it’s eclectic, but I just know Jeff will love it!

Until then, so long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, goodbye! Stay sane, Stay safe and Staaaay in-siide. It kinda rhymes.