The Nine Days’ Quarantine

I’ve been in quarantined for nine days now.

Now that I’ve gotten your attention, I’m tempted to use twisted phrasing, bent facts, key omissions and other such dark marketing powers to paint you a harrowing picture of my circumstances. Instead, I’ll go ahead and tell you the less-than-pitiable truth of how I got here.

Nine days ago, I returned from a lovely five day vacation in the tropical waters of Grand Cayman with my boyfriend and his family. When we first arrived in Grand Cayman, things in the U.S. were just starting to get weird, but hadn’t yet gotten bad. Through sheer luck, we even managed to time our return plane trip so that we avoided the mass panic at DFW International Airport. Still, since we’d been “traveling internationally,” Boyfriend and I decided to quarantine ourselves for the requisite 14 days in an abundance of caution.

So, essentially, I was sheltering in place before it was cool.

My boyfriend and I have since spent most days working from home together – him holed up on one end of the room with headphones in, and me holed up on the other end of the room with headphones in. For the interest of the general public, here is a non-comprehensive list of items we have accomplished during this time, ranked in order of Most Useful to Most Useless. Items in italics were accomplished by Boyfriend.

  • Attended virtual church and virtual church community group – I’ll say it: quarantine ain’t what it used to be back in the good ol’ Medieval ages.
  • Finalized multiple work-related projects – not to go all sappy, but we’re both incredibly lucky to work for companies that give us remote work capabilities.
  • Applied a liberal dosage of WD-40 to Girlfriend’s squeaky bathroom door.
  • Called my Grandma – she’d left a voicemail while I was flying over the Gulf on Monday that didn’t actually show up on my phone until Friday. What strange corridors of the Verizon network it got lost in, we may never know.
  • Took a field trip to Boyfriend’s house (we’ve taken the stance that if one of us is infected, the other probably is too) and cleaned out his closets. Many dust bunnies were slain.
  • Discovered a 12 pack of toilet paper I’d bought a month ago and forgotten in the back of my car. Yes, I also hoarded toilet paper before it was cool.
  • Exercised almost every day – I’ve been exploring workout videos on fitnessblender.com and utilizing my stationary bike.
  • Persuaded girlfriend to join in daily exercise, mostly through the use of bribery via chocolate cake.
  • Wiped off my bathroom counter for the first time in none-of-your-business.
  • Successfully made spaghetti squash.
  • Learned there was more than one way to cook spaghetti squash.
  • Threw a shark themed birthday party for two – Boyfriend’s birthday was this week, and I’d managed to order some shark-themed decorations (streamers, balloons, tablecloth, etc.) from Amazon right before things went from weird to weirder. Why shark? Unclear; some scholars point to origins as a macabre joke surrounding scuba diving in Grand Cayman.
  • Played Small World with boyfriend, a board game that I’d had on my shelf for quite some time, but hadn’t actually gotten into yet.
  • Learned how to play Small World, subsequently beat girlfriend at Small World.
  • Played Villainous, a Disney villain-themed board game; ditto on the extended shelf life.
  • Learned how to play Villainous, subsequently beat girlfriend at Villainous.
  • Taught girlfriend how to play solitaire.
  • Learned how to play solitaire.
  • Played approximately 24 games of solitaire in 24 hours.
  • Accepted delivery of a large coffee cup full of gin, a six pack of rose cider, three rolls of toilet paper and a potato. No further elaboration will be given at this time.
  • Played approximately 54 games of Speed with Girlfriend.
  • Lost approximately 50 games of Speed.
  • Got Boyfriend to watch Frozen II.
  • Eventually got Boyfriend to stop pointing out plot holes in Frozen II and just enjoy the music.
  • Finished the TV show Firefly and watched its cinematic continuation, Serenity.
  • Yelled at Boyfriend because of certain [spoiler] in Serenity.
  • For some reason, spent approximately five minutes digging out my sticker collection so I could give Boyfriend a snail sticker and tell him it was the “snail of approval.”
  • Inundated Boyfriend with approximately 80,000 coronavirus memes.
  • Hid the chocolate cake while Boyfriend was in the bathroom.
  • Dropped ice down the back of Girlfriend’s shirt to extract information about whereabouts of chocolate cake.
  • Taped balloons to streamers so that the balloons hung from the ceiling.
  • Spent approximately ten minutes of work day “boop-ing” balloons on head.
  • Spent approximately ten minutes of work day “boop-ing” balloons on head.
  • Taped mass of balloons to girlfriend’s desk while she wasn’t looking.
  • Dropped roll of toilet paper in the toilet.
  • When asked what he was doing, Boyfriend said he was shuffling cards. When asked why, he said, “’Cause every day I’m shufflin.’”

Honorable, Non-Ranked Mention:

  • Made this blog post.

The Wedding Ballad of Lottie and Paul

A bizarre ballad in honor of Sarah, who must attend many weddings this year, and Katie, who set the fork on fire.

There was once was a lass named Lottie,
Who thought to marry a lad named Paul.
And though ‘twas not true, I’m sure they believed
That the other was the fairest of all.

So one spring day, as the allergens flew
O’er one’s head, like confetti Hell sent,
The lass named Lottie did marry the lad name Paul
In a modest, but pretty, small event.

The bride didn’t trip, and the groom didn’t stutter,
Nor dumb jokes did the minister make.
When the osculation was complete, they strode down the aisle
Their portraits immediately to take.

Then a fatal mistake did Paul and Lottie make,
As they wrangled their cousins and kin,
For though banishing their guests to a decorative hall,
No food nor drink did they give them.

Not a lick of liquid, nor a crumb of bread,
Could they find, their appetites to curb,
Save for the cake, that most sacred dessert,
And that they could not disturb.

So they stared at the plastic cutlery,
And gazed at the tea candles’ sparks
As the hour waned on, the guests had no choice
But to begin melting the forks.

This did amuse them for quite some time,
Holding forks to the flame to admire.
As the plastic did wither, their amusement did grow,
Until the tablecloth soon caught on fire.

Take thee then a warning from Lottie and Paul,
And give your guests food while they wait.
Or else forks will burn, and the venue too
And you’ll be out quite a deposit.

Outlook Obscurification

What I Wrote:

Hi Patrica!

Just checking on any markups you have/edits you want to make to the presentation ahead of tomorrow’s meeting? I have a commitment tonight at around 7, but can be available up until then. 

Thank you!
catdust19

What I Meant:

Pay attention to me, Patricia!

Please let me know if I should plan on working late again because of you; I have a date tonight, and I’d really rather not.

I am very polite and helpful,
Me

What I Wrote:

Hi Jamie!

Attached is the addendum that was issued last week.

Thank you!
catdust19

What I Meant:

Pay attention to me, Jamie!

Please note that I am replying to the email I already sent you last week that had the addendum attached.

I am very polite and helpful,
Me

What I Wrote:

Hi Jordan!

Per my last email, this isn’t really something that my team would handle; I’m thinking Mike or Stephan would?

Thank you!
catdust19

What I Meant:

Pay attention to me, Jordan!

Go back and read the email I already wrote you, but here’s some extra information to get you off my case.

I am very polite and helpful,
Me

What I Wrote:

Hi David!

Attached is something I threw together based on the info you gave me; let me know if this works, or what edits you’d like to make!

Thank you!
catdust19

What I Meant:

Pay attention to me, David!

Well, here’s a piece of word vomit that I think might be sort of what you’re looking for? Honestly, dude, do you even know what you want?

I am very polite and helpful,
Me

What I Wrote:

Hi David!

Awesome, glad that was what you were looking for; finalized pdf attached.

Thank you!
catdust19

What I Meant:

Pay attention to me, David!

I guess I really am that good.

I am very polite and helpful,
Me

An Introspective Analysis of My Relationship with Pens and Journals

I was on one of those mental rabbit trails where you suddenly look up and have no idea how you got here.  The track behind me veiled in the mist of forgetfulness, I found myself in a clearing contemplating why I don’t like using pens.  Uh-huh.  Pretty fascinating, right?

Believe it or not, I managed to turn this random thought process into an introspective analysis of myself.  But perhaps that isn’t too surprising to those who know me well.  As I started to inspect my dislike for pens, I noted that I don’t mind using them for things I plan to throw away, like sticky notes and to-do lists.  I also realized that I don’t like using beautiful notebooks or journals for anything permanent either.  I never feel anything I write is worthy of them.

One elegant red and gold journal exhibits faint signs of use on its first two pages where I wrote something down in pencil, deemed it unworthy, and erased it.  That’s about the closest I’ve ever gotten to using my favorites of the many notebooks people have given me over the years.  I can use most of the pretty (but not gorgeous) notebooks without qualms, but the special ones are just too special.  I don’t want to ruin them or fill them with something that I will want to throw away in five years.  Childhood experience in such matters has scarred me a little, I think.  And talk about a high bar, one pale blue journal with gold stars scattered on it says in gold letters on the cover “My Bright Ideas.”  Even someone without my authorly commitment issues would probably find that a bit intimidating.

Once I made the connection between pens and notebooks, I looked around the mental clearing and began to notice other patterns around me that all point to a hesitation to commit when writing.  I don’t want anyone else reading what I might write in these journals, and I can’t just delete or revise the content like I can in a computer document.  In fact, I’m even a bit scared of what my future self will think of what I write.  Have you ever read a childhood journal and thought, Why did I write this, or My handwriting was terrible (or worse, My handwriting was better when I was eight)?  Finally, if the content is on the border between awful and sentimentally valuable, you must decide if it’s really worth keeping that notebook as you try to downsize your stuff.  Why set myself up for hard decisions like that?

As we embark on a new year and a new decade, let me stop you right there.  I do not intend to set any grandiose personal goals.  While I’m fond of making lists and setting goals, New Year’s resolutions have never appealed to me, so don’t even think about it.*  I’m going to start small because, as I’ve just pointed out, I’m a bit scared of committing to something in writing that I can’t erase or edit.  But I also know the value of pushing my limits and learning from all the mistakes that come with simply trying, so I want to push my limits at least a little.  After all, isn’t that what Thousand Mile Walk is all about?  We didn’t call our blog Writing Epitome or make any claims that everything we post will be gold standard.  “Writing isn’t a destination; it’s a journey” is our motto, and I should remember that more.

As I headed out from that mist-veiled clearing to explore new rabbit trails, and as I return to the clearing to write this introspection, I have decided to write in pen at least some of the time for things that matter and consider using my beautiful journals if I can come up with a convincing plan for how I can create content that will be at least moderately timeless.

I resolve to be a braver, bolder writer.  At least a little bit. 🙂


*(Side note: Why wait till a new year to start your new project?  If it’s that worthwhile, why not start right now?)

Photo credit: by Jaymantri from Canva.com

Lilies in Water

“Good news!” called the Intern, as his boss, the museum’s director, finally emerged from her meeting. “The object labels for the Monet exhibit are finally here, and are being installed right this sec!”

“It is 4:00 p.m. the day before the exhibit opens!” the Director exclaimed. “How could they just now have gotten the object labels to us?”

The Intern shrugged his shoulders apologetically. “I wish I knew. I got them the info over a month ago, and I’ve been calling all week, and they just kept saying it was ‘taking longer than expected.’”

The Director sighed. “Well, at least they made it in time, if just barely. Let me know when they’re done installing them – this is an incredible exhibit for us, and we’re expecting almost a thousand people tomorrow at the opening. I’d like to take a look at the finalized display before I leave.”

“You’ve got it, Boss!” the Intern mock saluted.

An hour later, all the signs were installed, and the Director, followed by her intern, walked into the gallery and gazed around admiringly. There they were, over 50 of Monet’s famous water lilies and other assorted garden paintings, all together under one roof – her own museum’s roof. She smiled, and turned to the first painting’s placard.

Water Lilies with a Lot of Froggy Green Rather Than Blue in the Water (1917), it read. 

It took a moment for the Director to register what she was reading. “Um, Josh,” the Director called, with an unusual tremor in her voice. “What is this?” she pointed a slightly shaking finger at the title. The Intern trotted over, but without waiting for an answer, the Director turned hurriedly to the next painting.

This one said: Water Lilies Where the Water Looks Kind of Brown (1917). Water Lilies Where All the Flowers are Purple-ish (1918), said the next, and the one after that: Water Lilies Where the Flowers Are Purple-ish Again but There’s Also a Willow Tree (1918).

“Josh, you sent the label info over to the printer, what…” the Director struggled to find words that were calm and non-accusatory, but all that came out was: “What did you do?”

The Intern apparently failed to sense the displeasure in his boss’s inquiry. He beamed “Oh, well, Monet really wasn’t very inventive with his painting titles. They were literally all just Water Lilies or The Japanese Bridge and I thought, like, how are visitors going to talk about which ones were their favorite, you know? ‘Which one did you like’ ‘Oh, I liked Yellow Irises’ ‘But which one?’ So, I added some description to all the titles, some color commentary, if you’ll pardon the pun. Problem solved!”

“All the titles,” the Director repeated, numbly.

“All the titles!” the Intern repeated, enthusiastically.

Indeed, as the Director wandered blankly around the exhibit, every title had some alteration. Water Lilies that look like Monet was Experimenting with Finger Painting (1921), The Biggest Water Lily Painting (1920), Weeping Willow with a Whole Lot More Orange than the Others (1920). They’d never be able to reprint them all before the exhibit opened.

It was The Japanese Bridge that Doesn’t Look at All Like the Japanese Bridge (1923) that finally caused the Director to snap. Later in his life, Monet had developed cataracts in his eyes, and he’d painted that particular picture of the Japanese bridge that didn’t look very much like the Japanese bridge when he could barely see anything.

“Josh.” The Director turned to the Intern, and looked him dead in the eye. “You’re fired.”

Unfortunately, the satisfaction of saying that was nothing compared to the chagrin the Director felt the next morning, when she overheard a museum patron talk about how their favorite painting was definitely “Water Lilies with a Lot of Froggy Green Rather Than Blue in the Water.”

The Worst Thing I’ve Ever Done

This is the story of the worst thing I’ve ever done.

Okay, fine. This is not the story of the worst thing I’ve ever done; this is the story of one of the worst things I’ve ever done. And, obviously, it’s not even really all that terrible, because I have no qualms telling any of you about it, ye anonymous internet reader, ye not-so-anonymous internet reader, or ye rando I’m swapping anecdotes with at a party.

So here it goes. When I was a sophomore in college, I semi-routinely went two-steppin’ with a group of friends at the local dance hall. Not for any great love of country/western music, as I actually dislike the genre. I can claim no higher motives than that all my friends were doing it, I’m a bit of a social caterpillar, and dancing can be objectively fun, especially with people who are good at it. Also, the guy I was into at the time sometimes made an appearance, so I was always hoping to run into him.

This one time, though, this time I’m telling you about, it was just me and a friend. We’ve lost touch since then, this friend and I, for a few valid reasons, but I still think fondly of her. She was, well, the fun friend. Some of you will know what I mean by this very simple description; for others, you should know that she was charming, clever, cheeky and opinionated, extremely generous and also incredibly impulsive. Arguably flighty, and openly flirty, she was fun, and she persuaded me to accompany her and her alone to the dance hall one night, because no one else could go, but she still wanted to go dancing.

It was she who would be the victim of that very bad thing I did, which occurred between the hours of 10 and 11 p.m., on the left-hand side of the first dance floor in the building.

We, two unaccompanied girls, stood on the edge of the shuffling couples, thereby signalling that we were ready to jump in at a moment’s invitation. We didn’t want for partners (well, she especially didn’t). Like most country/western halls, I gather, the atmosphere was congenial, and you, a male, could ask unknown females to dance without being inherently creepy. Unless, of course, you yourself were creepy.

This is the juncture where I will introduce the third player in the upcoming scene: Fedora Guy. In the spirit of charity, I should state that “creepy” is perhaps too strong a word for him. In all of this that I am about to tell, I never felt threatened, and he was perfectly polite in every interaction. But, he was…weird.

First off, he was wearing a fedora, a buttoned vest, slacks, and a pair of dress shoes that had, I think I recall, slightly pointed toes. Not to belabor the point, but this was a country/western dance hall, meaning that jeans and cowboy boots were the unofficial dress code, and if a hat was worn, it was obviously also a cowboy one.

Secondly, it was the way he danced. He danced much as I imagine an oily octopus might. He oozed his way rhythmically across the floor, attempting to exude what he thought was pizzaz while draping his tentacles as best he could around his partner.

Being that partner dancing with him was exactly as awkward as it looked. I know this, because I danced with him when he asked me that one time. I attempted to make small talk with him as we slimed our way across the floor. I thanked him for his trouble when we were done, though it was really all mine. I was determined to never dance with him ever again.

So, on that night out dancing with my Fun Friend, it was with quite a bit of panic that I watched Fedora Guy seep his way over until he was in front of us, and faux-suavely hold out his hand between the two of us, mutely asking: “Do either of you want to dance with me?” And so at last we come to it: the moment of the kind of bad thing I did.

I picked up my friend’s hand, and placed it in his.

He sucked her into his eight-legged orbit, where she remained for the next three to four minutes, while I went and hid.

Afterwards, she was, honestly, pretty much fuming at me, and she did not appreciate my defense at the time: “You said you needed a wingwoman, and look at me! I think I’m being a pretty great wingwoman – I just got you a guy to dance with!”

Postscript: I actually met Fedora Guy a couple years later, outside of the dance hall, at a wedding. Turns out he was good friends with both the bride and groom, who were also friends of mine. He was not wearing a fedora at the time, and he seemed pretty, well, normal. Thus, I’m not really sure whether the moral of this story is “Know when it’s worth it to throw your friends under the bus,” or “don’t wear fedoras.”

Life Lessons From My First Snowboarding Trip

  1. At times, if you are like me, you will end up in a situation that you agreed to be in, but without fully understanding what you were signing up for and the risks involved. This is why a lot of wiser, older folks opine about experience being the best mentor; sometimes it’s good to listen!
  2. Lace your shoes securely.
  3. You will fall down a lot at first; the important thing is to not break any bones and to get back up and keep going. If you do this, eventually, one of the following will happen:
    1. you’ll break something and have to stop.
    2. your bum will go numb and you’ll stop minding the falls as much (preferable to option 1).
    3. you’ll gain experience and fall less (the most preferable option).
  4. Often, an inexperienced boarder (I have no idea who you might be thinking of!) will pick up speed, lose control, and wipe out. Learning to slow down takes practice but is 100% worth it.
  5. Be sure to pack the right equipment for the activity (snow pants, beanies, snowproof gloves, etc.).
  6. Learn from each mistake, and don’t get discouraged when you’re sore and it hurts.
  7. Try not to collide with other people during your journey; it’s less fun for everyone.
  8. We all make it to the bottom of the mountain eventually, just at different speeds and in different conditions; some arrive at the bottom on stretchers (not to be too macabre, but I did see it happen). Experienced boarders tend to arrive at the bottom quickly and with minimal injury.
  9. Regarding chair lifts – sitting and waiting is a big part of snowboarding, and of life! It helps to have a friend alongside you, to pass the time.
  10. While you’re sitting and waiting, remember to enjoy the scenery. Oooh! Ah!

IMG_20190322_144111

To those who may be curious: no, I didn’t collide with anybody (whew!). I did fall a lot, but I returned safely home with no major injuries, and with more skill as a boarder than when I arrived. Since I had no experience when I arrived, this is not remarkable. Whether snowboarding is something I would ever do again, well…that is another post.

Our Bitter Struggle

The day was cool and overcast—not exactly ideal Sunday weather, but good enough if the only ambitions of the day were to sleep. Trying to feel at least somewhat productive, I gathered my computer and a glass of sweet tea and sat down on the sofa to hammer out a few words on a topic as yet undetermined.

After a minute or two of watching the cursor slowly blink on an empty page, I began to feel as though a pair of eyes were upon me. Looking around the room, my gaze fell upon the house’s resident cat. Her body draped with languid dignity across the mantlepiece as cats are wont to do when they feel that they own the world (note: this dignity is present at all times other than when they want food or to be let outside—in which case this façade is quickly lost with hysteric abandon). She looked on me from her lofty throne, eyes quickly communicating her sense of feline superiority and control. Now I have been told, both by Jim Davis and others, that to look away from a cat after making eye contact is a sign of weakness and inferiority. As such, I immediately knew that my sworn duty was to make sure this cat understood her proper place in the universe, and with quick abandonment of my writing project I began to engage in a contest of mortal staring.

I’m not heavy into pet psychology, but assuming that animal psychiatrists are on to something has always made the games more fun. One such study found that if you blink at a cat while maintaining eye contact, a message of ‘friendly’ superiority is communicated as opposed to a hostile one. Now, as much as the fate of the world hung in the balance due to our great struggle, my streak of ‘benevolent-dictator’ had no desire to rub my obvious superiority in her face, and so frequent attempts to ‘blink’ at my opponent were made to little obvious effect.

Steely gaze met steely gaze as the cat and I maintained unbroken eye contact for quite a while, each waiting to see who would crack first. However, after much staring that quickly grew quite embarrassing due to its duration, she glanced away. VICTORY! Turning back the computer screen I realized that she had just given me something to put down on my empty page; but, before even pressing the first keystroke, I felt her gaze upon me again. Realizing that capitulation to her war of attrition at any point would mean ultimate defeat, I hardened my resolve to see this ongoing fight to the bitter end. After many reiterations of the war and victory cycle, hopes were high in the human camp that final victory was just around the corner. However, just as ultimate conquest seemed within reach, my opponent rose gracefully and moved to lie down in a less combative part of the room, leaving our epic struggle with such a carefree air as to say, “I am tired of your stupid antics human, and this game ceases to amuse me, so see you after my nap.”

Despite this small setback, the war is not over. Mankind must triumph! For now, however, I content myself to fill out this page and await the hour when her contented snoring ceases and her eyes open, and then we shall once again engage in bitter combat for the fate of the living room.

Jim Davis

Queen Spider: An Apocryphal Anecdote

‘Tis said that her majesty Queen Elizabeth I of England was taking a stroll in the garden, accompanied by her chief advisers. As they often did, these men were urging her majesty to wed. The Queen merely brushed off their concerns like flies. At length, one of the men demanded of her outright:

“But why will her majesty not marry?  Surely a husband would be of great use to her majesty.”

Elizabeth walked a few more paces, then stopped near the branches of a small tree. She gestured to two thin twigs. Woven between them was a large web, in the middle of which sat a huge spider.

“How many spiders do you see on this web?”  she asked.

“Only one,” replied the advisers, puzzled.

“I am like this spider,” said the Queen. “As she rests in the center of her kingdom, perfectly capable of snaring her own prey and feeding herself, so am I. See how she dexterously maneuvers herself from one thread to another; a mate would only get in her way.”

One of the advisers spoke up: “And yet, your majesty, the spider needs that mate to produce offspring.”

“True,” said Elizabeth, “and when he has fulfilled his part, the female spider will entrap and eat him, as if he were no more than the customary fly. I would not wish such a fate on any man.”  Then, smiling, she calmly took her leave of her councilmen, whom afterward never did press the issue of marriage quite so enthusiastically.

Peculiar Planet

Back in the day, and by that I mean less than a month ago, I was in a position where I had a fair amount of “dead” time on my hands. And, somehow, I honestly don’t recall how, I stumbled upon this zany little website that is now my official recommendation for a time killer: “Amusing Planet,” or www.amusingplanet.com.

Best described by its Twitter bio, “Amazing Places, Wonderful People, Weird Stuff,” this offbeat website is a collection of blog style posts, accompanied by plenty of full-color photographs, detailing the bizarre, extraordinary quirks of planet earth, both natural and manmade. From “rocks that give birth” to decorative Japanese manhole covers, it’s all here.

You can simply scroll down the list of articles, or you can browse by sections: Natural Wonders, Historical Oddities, and Art, and you can view posts by country too, if that floats your boat. As I might write in a work email, “please see below” for a list of just four of of my favorites, aka the ones I remembered without too much effort and could find easily without exerting a ton of patience:

Whether an internet tourist looking for something diverting, or an actual tourist looking for sightseeing inspiration, there’s sure to be an article for you. While today I am the former, perhaps, one day, I’ll visit the Museum of Bad Art myself.