Image from https://pixabay.com/photos/shopping-cart-shopping-supermarket-1275480/
When I left off on Friday, I was fantasizing that I was on a Disney World ride and was about to enter my local supermarket, after patiently standing in a socially distanced line of senior citizens.
But the Disney World ride allusion quickly blew up.
Once inside the store, the ride abruptly morphed into a reality TV show called “Pandemic Pantry.” The premise is simple. A group of shoppers are set loose in a store to buy staples. The rules? 1) they must stay at least 6 feet away from one another; 2) they cannot touch any of the items unless they intend to buy them; 3) they cannot over-buy (in other words, they can’t hoard), and 4) choice of item and pricing will be limited. Your goal? Find what you need (or something vaguely resembling what you need) and get the heck out of there as quickly as possible.
Ready? Set? Let’s play!
Challenge #1: “The Social Distance Dash.” Here’s the challenge: Try to stay 6 feet away from other shoppers in narrow aisles. I quickly discovered that it was impossible – especially when another person stops to contemplate choices (such as they are). The trick is a strategy called, “hold your breath, duck, mutter ‘excuse me,’ and sprint past.” Long name for a really scary moment. You might have several of them during the course of the game.
Challenge #2: “Lovely To Look At. Would Be Delightful Hold. But Don’t You Dare Touch It, Sucker, Unless You’re Gonna Buy It.” Here the prudent shopper is asked to do the impossible: try to read a label without touching the item. If you need to check the item’s ingredients – which by the way are always on the back and in tiny print – you’ll need to possess moves that even a lifelong yogi would aspire to. Confession time: I slipped up once or twice and picked up an item I did not buy. The Game Masters subtracted points from my score. However, they did give me credit because I was wearing gloves.
Challenge #3: “Stock Up, But Don’t Hoard.” The goal is shop so you’ll have enough food and supplies to last 1-2 weeks, thereby limiting your social contact in places like… well, like supermarkets. Purchasing two of one item is permissible. However, purchasing three or more is hoarding, which will be noted at check out. At that time, the extra items either will be taken away or the cashier will glare at you. I stuck to the rules here, although the cashier did glare at me. I think she was just tired. I mean, the woman was working every day with people who potentially could give her a nasty virus. So, kudos to her for showing up. God bless her! And I mean that from the bottom of my heart. God bless all the cashiers and other workers in our supermarkets.
Challenge #4: “Read The Grand Total and Try Not to Weep.” This definitely presents a difficult choice: food or money? Usually I do not buy very much and am accustomed to making several quick shopping trips a week. I also like to look for the best buys. But the Pandemic Pantry Show makes it nearly impossible to do those things. So, my question became, “Do I really want or need this item? Can I go without it? Can I substitute something else for it?” Eventually I quit ruminating, and bought what was available, price be damned. I had a pretty hefty bill at the end and took an equally hefty breath. But I did manage to leave the game without shedding a tear.
I have had fun writing about the "Pandemic Pantry" reality TV game show. Now let’s take a moment to get serious.
Do try to wear a mask when you go out. This is not so much to protect you from others, but to protect them from anything you might have. Practice social distancing as much as possible while in the store. Thankfully, many stores have marked off spots where you can stand while waiting to pay or to look at items. Be considerate of others. This isn’t all about you.
Trying not to touch items, especially if you aren’t wearing gloves, is a good idea. Also, when you’re out of the store and have been wearing gloves, please dispose of them properly in the trash. Do NOT throw them on the ground. As my mother used to say, “you weren’t raised in a barn.”
Shop for what you need. Try not to panic. Try not to hoard out of fear.
Also, I am lucky because I was able to pay a larger than normal bill at the grocery store last week. But there had been a time when that would have been an unthinkable reach for me. Please remember this: the financial resources of many people were stretched even before the virus hit. The current situation has made things only worse for them. So, what was a mild “yikes” experience for me, might mean going completely without for them. If you can, find a way to donate to agencies that help feed people in need.
And please remember something that we hear so often these days: we’re all in this together. Let’s be helpful, considerate, and patient with one another.
Stay safe, my friends!
I had many good intentions of getting at least two blog posts done this week. Did I do it? No.
It’s not because I’ve been sick. I’m well, in case you’re wondering. And I’m washing my hands so much that they look like they belong to one of the zombies on The Walking Dead.
What happened was that I’ve been busy. Most of my time has been spent helping to get our church get functionally online. This has been a lot more involved than anticipated. However, we’re surfing the transition pretty well. These days I spend more of my time updating information on our website and Facebook page. I also lead an online Bible study and a morning prayer group, both weekly. If you want to see how the people of First United Methodist Church of Somerville, NJ are handling the situation, feel free to visit us at http://www.fumcsomervillenj.org/
Another thing taking up a lot of my time is cleaning. The old “I don’t have time to vacuum” excuse is hard to justify when you’re sitting in said house day and night. Suffice it to say, my dwelling no longer resembles a haunted house or something a tornado left behind.
The downside is that my vacuum cleaner decided to attack me. It says it was an accident, but I’m not sure I believe it. It’s an old upright model. I was pulling on the hose attachment to get under some piece of furniture that only Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson could move, and I guess the vacuum didn’t like it because it toppled over, crashing onto my left forearm. Now I’m sporting a giant, swollen bruise on it. I feel sooo pretty! It’s a good thing we’re social distancing. Also, I now know why I hate vacuums and vacuuming. My dogs were right.
I’m also cooking more these days. And surprise, surprise! I’m realizing that I’m a better cook than thought. Under normal circumstances, I visit Dan for a few days each week and we either go out to eat or he makes dinner. Of course, that will not happen for the duration, especially since I don’t want to give Dan anything I might have come in contact with.
Now I’m making three squares a day, seven days a week all on my own, with special attention to keeping within my WW points. That said, I’m eating well and not starving. And – get this – I am shedding pounds during our current period of social distancing. As for the dreaded COVID 15-pound gain - ha! I laugh at you.
Getting the food to do all that cooking is a requirement, so of course I visit my local supermarket. This week, I decided that, since I’m now an oldster, I’d shop with all the other old people from 7:00-8:00 a.m. And this certainly hits my list as my latest adventure. Grocery shopping as an adventure. Who knew?
When I arrived at the store, I found an organized line of people, all standing anywhere from 6-10 feet away from each other and waiting to get in. So I hopped in line, too. The whole thing was organized just like a ride at Disney World. Every time three or six people came out of the store, three or six people got to go in. As I stood there, a very weird thing happened: my brain started shouting, ‘Yay! I’m going on a ride!” I was as excited to go food shopping as I normally would be to get on Space Mountain.
And this made me unreasonably happy. (I swear I’m not right in the head.) In fact, as I drew closer to the guy guarding the door and to some amazingly good rock playing on the store’s PA system, I couldn’t help but bounce along to the tune a little.
However, once I got inside, my Disney World ride abruptly morphed into a semi-post-apocalyptic TV game show. And that will be the topic of Monday’s blog post. It will be up. I promise. It has been written and is in the queue.
Until then, I’ll stop the joshing. Here are some serious survival suggestions.
1) Stay safe.
2) Don’t be overwhelmed by fear.
3) Maintain a sense of humor.
4) Be kind, generous, and compassionate.
5) Remember all those who are on the “front lines” – the military, first responders, medical personnel, supermarket employees, delivery people, and many more.
Finally, as Bill and Ted would say, “Be excellent to each other.”
Image from https://www.freeimages.com/photo/solitary-photographer-1171571
It’s been over a week since I started serious social distancing. I am spending most of my time at home or walking the dog and getting up close and personal with online shopping – if that can be considered an “up close and personal” experience.
By the way, regarding my dog Vida, who if you read the previous blog will remember that she had managed to eat a pile of chocolate-covered Easter egg candies with the expected explosive results. I am happy to report that my doggie is fully recovered now and is doing what she does best: enjoying walks, tummy rubs, toys, treats, and naps.
Obviously, this pandemic is causing major disruptions for us all, whether we were early adopters of social distancing or not. That’s because in New Jersey the places where we used to gather are all closed. We have a curfew from 8:00 pm-5:30 am, “non-essential” businesses must close (only supermarkets, pharmacies, pet supply stores, hospitals, and so on may stay open), and we are not to leave our houses except to get groceries, visit the doctor or hospital, visit family, go to work if we are involved in an essential service to the community, or take a walk (but no outside activities in groups).
I’m adjusting to the current “new normal,” and I have to say it hasn’t been too hard. Even though years of working in ministry have taught me how to be social, deep inside I’m still an introvert deep inside.
That said, I do miss seeing my family members in person. I haven’t visited Dan, the love of my life, for almost two weeks. His daughter Kristina and I got together on Zoom last week while she was at Dan’s house delivering groceries and giving him appropriately distanced father-daughter time. So I was able to see and chat with both of them. (Note: I do call Dan every day!) Meanwhile, Kris promised me that she’d get her sons to Zoom with me next. She tells me to expect them to aim the camera so I can look up their noses. Pretty much what I’d expect at their age. Love those crazy guys! am going to take her up on the nasal-gazing.
I also am talking and texting with my sister regularly. If I can get Diane and her partner, Sarah, to do either Zoom or Facetime with me, I’ll be a happy self-isolated camper.
Don’t know about you, but I find I am appreciating my loved ones so much more right now. I think my biggest take away is the sudden change in the way people are relating to each other. We can’t get physically close, but we do talk. I’ve had a number of conversations – short and long – with people from my neighborhood as we talk our many daily walks outside.
I live in a what used to be called a “bedroom community.” In other words, people sleep here but go out to work and play elsewhere. Suddenly we’re all home at the same time. Now we’re seeing each other. We’re talking and laughing and sharing. We’re asking, “how are you” and saying, “Stay well.”
I now know the name of the neighbor whose backyard abuts my backyard. Her name is Joan. She and her husband are retired. They used to have a cat. She asked me what happened to my other dog and noted that Tippy had had three legs.
Today I met a woman named Linda. I’ve seen her walking around the park. We had a longish chat and she told me was going crazy from the solitude. She loves to read and used to go to the library, but it’s closed right now. She rents a house and can’t have a pet. She has a pile of books she had been saving to read in the summer, but thinks she’ll have to read them now.
I guess what I’m saying is I’ve learned a lot about the people I see but haven’t taken the time to get to know. Everyone has a story. Everyone has hopes and dreams and struggles. We all share that in common.
So, be kind to one another. Listen. Help. Love. Pray.
Stay safe and be well, friends.
Image: my dog, Vida, demanding my attention as I write this blog. I told her I'll take her for a walk when I'm done She bought it..
While we all have been re-learning how to live our lives, thanks to the COVID-19 crisis, I have had a mini-crisis of my own right in my home, one that required cleaning. I’m writing this rather silly blog because it’s light, we can all use a laugh, and the initiated are welcome to chuckle at life with a dog while those without dogs are free to cringe in horror.
So, I adopted my dog Vida (pictured above) in late September. As you can see from the photo, she’s a hound dog, part coonhound and (probably) beagle. She was picked up as a stray in Tennessee and sent to a shelter. That shelter then sent her to another shelter, one which is partners with SAVE Animal Shelter in Montgomery, NJ. SAVE is where I met her.
I feel fortunate to have Vida. She’s is the world’s friendliest dog. She seems to love everyone and has no aggression issues with other dogs when on the leash. She does not appear to have been traumatized by human beings and, we suspect, must have had a family once because she loves children.
Her biggest issue is that, having been a stray, she had experienced hunger and thirst. During her first few months with me, she would drink tons of water and then have little accidents because her bladder couldn’t handle it. Vida also most likely rooted through trash cans and bags for food. I know this because she rooted through trash cans at home and the church office.
For those of you who don’t know, I am an assistant pastor at a United Methodist church. Our office has a lovely position called “Church Dog.” Vida is the third pooch to hold that title.
Having experienced Vida’s predilection for rooting, all my open trash cans are now off the floor, except for the one in the kitchen. That one has a cover over it. We’ll see how long that lasts.
Sadly, I overlooked one little thing. Every year for Easter, our church makes chocolate-covered candy Easter eggs. The team had a bunch made before production stopped due to the coronavirus. Naturally, I bought some, brought them home, and put them on the dining table, which I thought was a safe place.
You can see where this is going.
I left the house on Wednesday to do some essential things. When I returned, I discovered that Vida had gotten into the bag of Easter eggs and eaten them all. I semi-panicked. Dogs and chocolate don’t mix. However, my terrier, Gremlin, had eaten some chocolate candies back in the day and we got through it. I knew that Vida had probably eaten far worse as a stray and would handle this situation in a predictable manner.
What followed that evening is what I like to call “The Great Dog Puke of 2020.”
Now, every dog has a different style of vomiting. My aforementioned terrier mix, Gremlin, did a series of silent yaks before she let go. Tippy, my miniature Australian shepherd, who passed away in May 2019, would produce an exaggerated smile and then “knock” (make noisier yaks) before spewing. Vida, on the other hand, is not prone to giving much warning, if any at all.
Some people may cry a river, but Vida barfs a river, especially when she has consumed a great deal of water. That river landed on the carpet in the TV room. As you can imagine, it was the color of milk chocolate with bits in it. Erghhh…
I hope you’re not eating while you read this.
So, after cleaning the mess up, I pulled out the sofa bed, anticipating that it would be a long night. I figured it would be more efficient to spend the night downstairs rather than make a useless race from the second floor to the back door. Turns out the sofa thing was a bad idea. Vida, the no-warning dog, barfed on the hide-a-bed's mattress.
The third time we made it out to the deck behind my parsonage. (In case you don't know, "parsonage" is a term for "place where the pastor lives.") The situation made for a much easier clean up. I threw pans of water on the mess until it washed off the edge of the deck.
The fourth and fifth times I actually managed to get her completely outside.
Another complication lay in the fact that, because she is a dog, Vida wanted to eat what she had just barfed up. This fact has been noted by folks living as early as biblical times: “Like a dog that returns to its vomit is a fool who reverts to his folly.” (Proverbs 26:11, New Revised Standard Version of the Bible) There. You’ve had a Bible lesson for the day. Go forth and use it on fools when they return to their folly.
Did I mention that I got next to no sleep that night and also did a lot of cleaning? The next time I go out, which will be for supplies on Monday, I’ll be sure to grab more pet spot and odor cleaner at the pet store. I think I’m running out. I just hope the pet store still will be open.
I believe Vida has purged her system. She’s acting like her old self. In fact, we’re going to take a walk once I’m done with this blog.
So that’s how my social-distancing-shelter-in-place life has been going. Hope yours is less eventful and way-less yucky.
Stay safe and healthy. Wash your hands. And hang in there.
Janet R. Stafford
Janet Stafford, Squeaking Pips Founder