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What’s Next?

            There are so many trainings advertised on Facebook, for online teaching and social work, and I keep thinking I should sign up for all of them, but I don’t want to, and I feel guilty about it. I want to work on my own writing, but my brain can’t shift out of work mode, or job search mode, or Rachel-isn’t-trying-hard-enough mode. It doesn’t help that I’ve been hit by another wave of inflammation and exhaustion and can’t stay awake long enough to finish a thought.

I’m expecting stay-at-home rules to last longer in New York than elsewhere, especially in the areas closest to Manhattan, like Long Island, where I live. Even when we start to open up a little bit, schools will still be closed, and crowds will still be forbidden. I keep hearing that we’re supposed to get tested, but I don’t know if that includes me, or if I’d need a prescription from my doctor, or an appointment, or specific symptoms. I’ve been trying to figure out Governor Cuomo’s system of regions and parameters and how that relates to what’s happening in other states, but it’s not computing.

            I’m really not looking forward to wearing masks and gloves in the heat of the summer, or the inevitable power outages when everyone is at home on Zoom and using their air conditioners all day. And I’m afraid that my doctors will decide to reopen their offices soon. I don’t want to go to the dentist. I don’t want to go to the dermatologist. I don’t want to go to the cardiologist or the oral pathologist or the general practitioner for tests. Skipping non-essential doctor visits for the past two months has been one of the perks of the shutdown for me. Maybe I can hide under the couch with Cricket when they start to call.

“No room.”

            We finally ordered take out for the first time in two months (for Mother’s Day), and I had to put on my mask and gloves and walk around the corner to the Italian place, which has remained open all along. They were all set up for social distancing, with a table at the door to keep customers outside, and everyone on staff wearing gloves and masks. But there was a lot of staff, and I was preoccupied with details, like the hole in one man’s glove, and the workers brushing shoulders behind the counter. I forgot to get the receipt as I took the bag of food and ran away. It was such a relief to get back home and into my pajamas again.

            Usually, for Mother’s Day, we would have gone to a gardening store to pick out Mom’s new plants for the season, but with the cold spell, and the expected crowds of Mother’s Day shoppers, we delayed the trip. Mom threatened to race out to the gardening store as soon as the weather improved, but, Thank God, she didn’t do it. I keep picturing huge globs of coronavirus rolling down the street, like a bowling ball looking for pins to knock down, and I don’t want Mom knocked down.

            One bright spot is that my big Paw Paw tree (the lone survivor, at thirteen years of age) has started to blossom. We probably won’t have fruit this year, because you need two trees for cross pollination, and the gardener has been lackadaisical about replacing the tree he cut down. He ignored Mom’s suggestions for where to buy a sapling, maybe because he assumes all of his suppliers are awash in young Paw Paw trees. If he ever follows through on his promise to replace the tree he killed, chances are high that he will mistake a Papaya for a Paw Paw, or just fill the space with whatever fruit tree he can buy off the back of a truck. But in the meantime, my tree is leafing and flowering, and that makes me happy.

Paw Paw flowers

We’ve been having a lot of zoomed Ritual Committee meetings at my synagogue recently, to discuss what we’re going to do for the High Holidays, in mid-September. Even if we are allowed to go back to the synagogue building by then, will we really be ready to stuff hundreds of people into the sanctuary at one time? Will we go to services in protective equipment and sit six feet apart? Could we have services outdoors? In a tent? A really, really big tent?

            In the meantime, the choir is preparing to sing a few the songs from home, in case singing in person remains impossible. I did my first video this week, listening to the piano and the Cantor on earphones while singing to the computer screen. It took a lot of willpower not to look down at the music, but Mom insisted that I had to look up, and smile.

“Smile like this, Mommy!”

            I’m taking each next step, but I still don’t feel like I’m back on track, or managing my life very well. It’s not that I want to get a haircut, or go to the beach or the mall; I just want to go to a supermarket with full shelves. And I really want to stop feeling like I’m forgetting something important. Did I lock the car? Did I leave a sock in the dryer? Did I touch my face?!!!!!

            Actually, I think what needs to come next for me is rest, so that I can begin to approach the next set of challenges with some energy and motivation, instead of dragging myself along like an English bulldog forced to walk around the block. I really need a nap; or twelve.

“Bed’s taken. Too bad.”

If you haven’t had a chance yet, please check out my Young Adult novel, Yeshiva Girl, on Amazon. And if you feel called to write a review of the book, on Amazon, or anywhere else, I’d be honored.

            Yeshiva Girl is about a Jewish teenager on Long Island, named Isabel, though her father calls her Jezebel. Her father has been accused of inappropriate sexual behavior with one of his students, which he denies, but Izzy implicitly believes it’s true. As a result of his problems, her father sends her to a co-ed Orthodox yeshiva for tenth grade, out of the blue, and Izzy and her mother can’t figure out how to prevent it. At Yeshiva, though, Izzy finds that religious people are much more complicated than she had expected. Some, like her father, may use religion as a place to hide, but others search for and find comfort, and community, and even enlightenment. The question is, what will Izzy find?

The Heat

I’m dreading the summer. I don’t do well in hot weather. I start to wilt, and I get nauseous and dizzy, and then I get extra self-conscious about how I look, and smell. Cricket doesn’t mind the heat at all. She loves the extra vibrancy of smells during the summer, especially any rotting carcasses she can find, by the side of the road, or up in the woods behind our building.

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“I didn’t roll in anything, yet!”

Most of the summer I end up wearing a jacket outdoors, to keep my arms from going up in smoke, and I still have to put sun block on my arms in case my jacket is too weak to protect me. Every once in a while I forget what the sun can do to me, and end up with sun poisoning on the backs of my hands, because I washed off the sun block by mistake before getting into the car to drive.

And then there are my allergies, which seem to have super powers, and see my allergy medication as a puny little enemy to be ignored. For months at a time it feels like I swallowed fly paper, through my nose.

I really do love all of the colors of late spring, and all of the flowers and trees I can’t identify, like the pink one, and the red one, and the purple one, etc, but each blossom tries to fly up my nose, and every blade of grass, as soon as it meets the lawn mower, lands in my eye. My Mom, who has similar allergies to mine, has more fortitude, and manages to pretend that she can still see and breathe while she digs and plants and weeds to her heart’s content in the heat of the day; meanwhile I’m resting like an invalid in front of my air conditioner.

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Cricket stole my spot in front of the air-conditioner.

Summer is obviously not my season. I end up feeling like a steamed dumpling, even indoors, because of the humidity. Cricket still begs for long walks, and really, it makes sense; I can’t even imagine how much more fragrant the bird poop must be when it hits 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

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“Where’s the poop?”

Cricket has no wardrobe changes as the seasons change. Her coat seems to keep her cool enough in summer, and warm enough in winter, so that any attempt on my part to try to dress her up is met with a hardy “fnuh!” That’s Cricket’s favorite curse word. I can’t even begin to translate it from dog into human, because I don’t have enough of the right kind of words in my vocabulary to do it justice.

I tend to wear the same basic clothes in June as I wear in January, just with shorter sleeves. People seem to think I should be willing to wear shorts in public as the weather warms up, but I refuse. I stick with my jeans and trousers and if anyone has a problem with that, all I can say to that is, Fnuh!

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In the Heat

I hate the heat. It’s still only spring on Long Island, but the temperature went up to 80 degrees Fahrenheit the other day, and then it went down again, so that the heat in my building came on, until it felt like it was at least eighty degrees again. Just to piss me off. When I get too warm, by even a few degrees, I start to get double vision, bad headaches, dizziness, and sudden bouts of nausea that make me want to sit down on the floor for a few hours until the world stops spinning. It’s unpleasant.

At my synagogue, people are always telling me how chilly it is with the air conditioning on. Aren’t you cold? Four women ask me, one after the other. If it’s over 40 degrees Fahrenheit, then no, I’m not chilly, I’m fine.

I’m considering attaching a small fan to Cricket’s head so that when she, inevitably, jumps on my chest and tries to smother me awake, at least I’ll get a nice cool breeze for my trouble.

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“Where do you think you are going to put this fan, Mommy?”

Cricket is currently a big fluffball, because my mom prefers the fluff and always conspires with Cricket to put off grooming for as long as possible, until not only can’t we see Cricket’s eyes, but she can’t see us either, through the encroaching hair from her forehead above, and her cheeks and nose below. It’s possible that she’s staring at me with searing hatred; it’s also possible that she’s asleep. I’ll never know.

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“I don’t see a problem.”

If I were Cricket, I would go to the cabinet and take out the rounded-edge doggy scissors, and bring them to one of the nearby humans, as a hint. But Cricket is not me, so she hides under the couch and pretends it doesn’t bother her at all that she can’t see, and has started to smell of eye snot, and is probably sweating to death in that fluffy coat. Totally not a problem. Everything is cool here.

Butterfly likes to sit in the direct line of the fan, or the air conditioner, and feel the breeze in her hair, but she also likes to go out for walks in the heat of the day, so she’s an enigma to me.

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“I’m an enigma? What’s an enigma?”

I would like to complain about the current changeability of the weather, and how it goes from hot and humid, to rainy, to cold and windy, and then to mild and pleasant, so that I am forced to change from my winter jacket to my fall jacket to my rain coat al in one day. But by July, the heat and humidity in New York will be so unrelenting that I will be hugging my air conditioner for dear life. Even Cricket will be splayed out on the floor, looking for one last cool spot. Though she still won’t be begging for a haircut, or a bath. She could be dying of heat stroke and she’d still see the bathtub as a torture chamber. So, I’m trying to embrace the moments of nice weather when they come up and ignore the rest for now. Maybe, along with putting a fan on her head, I should get Cricket a book bag so she can carry all of my weather options with her: like a bottle of water, an extra sweater, and maybe a rain hat. Then all I’ll have to do is convince people that she’s my service dog and bring her with me everywhere I go. I mean, what could go wrong with that?

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“Help Me!!!!”

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The future service dog.

 

 

The Sounds of Spring

 

Allergy season has been blinding me. I go outside into a fog of loose green flying things, and the dogs take advantage and drag me where they will.

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Cricket is very proud of herself.

But it’s made me more sensitive to the noises all around me. For example, there is a woodpecker somewhere in the backyard who sounds like he’s using a jackhammer to knock down all of the trees, at seven o’clock in the morning! The woodpecker’s name seems small for the sound he makes. His job is to peck at the wood to find bugs to eat, but I wonder, sometimes, if he’s got a megaphone attached to the side of his beak, to make himself sound more impressive, or maybe woodpeckers really have started to use power tools, just to mess with our minds.

My nose hurts in sympathy whenever I hear that woodpecker, but I’ve never seen him. My idea of a woodpecker is probably distorted, though, because I’ve only ever seen one animated in cartoons, so I may have seen him without realizing it.

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I have not seen anyone looking like this.

Butterfly loves to stand still and listen to the noises all around her. She’s equally intrigued by a beautiful bird song, the sound of the wind through the trees, and an airplane flying way too low over our heads. The only sound she specifically dislikes is the bus that stops on our corner, and the mechanized female voice that announces each location.

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Butterfly in listening pose.

There are some odd creatures out in the woods. I don’t know which animal makes the strangled baby noise, but the first time I heard it, I thought it was actually a baby, being strangled, and I looked everywhere to try and find it. There’s also an animal out there with a smoker’s cough, though that could actually be one of my neighbors hiding in the woods, choking to death. I can’t be sure.

I like the swish of the wind and the traditional birdsong, a little tweet here, a little twitter there, but the variety certainly does keep things interesting.

And then there are the two feral cats, Hershey and Gimpy (named by the human residents, not by themselves) who take up zones at opposite ends of the yard and avoid each other religiously. Hershey likes to climb the retaining wall and look down on her fiefdom. Gimpy likes to hide in the manicured bushes and climb through hollowed out trees.

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Hershey, on guard.

One day I saw Gimpy leaning against my mom’s temporary green house (like a pup tent, but for plants) trying to steal some warmth on a chilly day.

The girls have been taking advantage of my frequent need to stop and sneeze. Cricket has been eating extra grass and sniffing extra smells, and Butterfly has been doing her sound meditations, letting the wind curve the sound around her ears in a new way each time.

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Butterfly listening from another direction.

But at least they don’t seem to mind that I use their poopie bags to collect my used tissues, so that I don’t have to stuff them back into my jacket pocket after use. Maybe they remember that day, early in the season, when I had forgotten to fill my pockets with fresh tissues and had to sneeze into my t-shirt. Cricket looked at me funny when that happened, which is rich, given that she actually eats tissues filled with snot. Harrumph.

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“I can hear you, Mommy.”