Staying Sane in Isolation

Everyone likes a little alone-time, at least once in a while, but this is ridiculous. Even for those who are introverts, this command to stay home is a challenge.

If we’re going to stay sane while all this is happening to our country and the world, we have to find ways to break up the weeks, days, and hours. If we don’t, the minutes are going to drag by and misery will be a constant companion.

We may have projects we’ve been wanting to complete, but now that we have extra time, can’t find the motivation to actually do it. So, an answer might be to try something totally out of your normal experience. Are you a dancer? No? Then give it a try. Put some music on, (maybe start with something slow and soft so you don’t break anything, either furniture or bones), and let yourself go. You may create something totally new. If you feel inhibited, even better. Press on! Let your imagination be your partner. You might really surprise yourself.

Are you a builder? No? Then go out in the garage and find some scrap pieces of wood, and build something. Anything! Even if it’s just a frame with four pieces of wood nailed together so it’s square.

Are you a writer? No? Then get busy writing. “What should I write about?” you ask? Anything! Write about how your toothpaste tastes. Write about blades of grass and how you love seeing it beginning to grow in the spring but hate to mow it once it gets tall enough. Write about an ant named Bob. Bob is shorter than the other ants his age because he has a condition that hinders his growth. He also has hair on his head. No ants have hair.

Do you sew? No? Here’s a huge challenge. Find an old shirt or blouse that you’ll never wear again, and carefully cut it apart on the seams. Cut the sleeves off, the buttons, and the collar. Now, put it all back together. If you don’t have a sewing machine, all the better. Find a needle and thread and do it by hand.

Photo by Lum3n on Pexels.com

Do you draw? No? Get a piece of paper and a pencil and start drawing. The challenge is not to say, “That looks stupid.” Just do it. Keep your self-doubt voice quiet. You may discover you’re a natural.

Do you have boxes and boxes of photos? Sort them in some meaningful order. Put all vacation pictures together. Put family reunion pictures together. Or, put photos together by colors people are wearing.

Use your imagination. You can come up with something, a project, a plan, a design, a dream. You might come out of this isolation with a new way of thinking that could really change your life.

Covid Blues

Lyrics by Dale Parsons
As Covid tries to spread throughout the land
It’s time to rise and boldly take a stand
For quarantine and distance, and staying right at home
My wife is here, so I won’t be alone.

They tell us that it’s dangerous out there
There’s nasty germs and virus everywhere
The toilet paper’s missing, whatever shall we do
There’s not much on the shelf from which to choose.

I will make a difference, I won’t drive my car
It gets mighty boring, driving in my yard
I can’t go to Walmart whenever I choose,
It’s awful living with the Covid blues.

I’m doing things I’ve never done before
To keep from running, screaming out the door
I think I’m hearing voices, I’m seeing things not there
I’m pulling out what’s left of my hair.

I guess I’m gonna live, it’s not that bad
I have all the time I wished I had
To do the things I want to, projects near and far,
I just can’t remember what they are.

I will make a difference, I won’t drive my car
It gets mighty boring, driving in my yard
I can’t go to Walmart whenever I choose,
It’s awful living with the Covid blues.

Just for fun.

Be well everyone.

Anxiety and Model Railroading

I love model railroading. It’s been my hobby since I was fifteen, and I loved trains long before that. I’ve been working on my newest layout, which, at the present time is still quite a way from rolling stock moving along the rails, for about sixteen months.

I’ve seen posts of modelers who appear to be living the dream, spending tremendous amounts of time working on their railroad as a result of this unbelievable struggle with Corona Virus. This is NOT a criticism! I applaud their dedication to the hobby, and the pictures I’ve seen are amazing. We can all learn from each other. I also know that most of these modelers are working on their layout because they are not allowed to go to work. So it’s a battle to survive. No, my problem is me. Because of anxiety I struggle with almost constantly, it is very difficult for me to stay in my train room long enough to get a lot done. Oh, I know that’s okay. It’s not a project that has to be completed on a schedule. It’s mine, for me, by my plan, schedule, design, likes, dislikes, frustrations, disappointments, delights. I don’t need approval for completed projects, but I do crave it.

I’m retired, so you would think my days might look like morning coffee, a glance at the morning news, drinking more coffee, then heading to the layout, then coming back upstairs to get more coffee. Nope. I have this constant nag that I should be productive, I should be doing something. And model railroading, for some reason in my mind, doesn’t fall into the category of productivity. Sure, it’s productive as far as my layout is concerned, but not productive in the overall scheme of needs. There is always something that should be done.

Actually, even writing this blog is part of that nagging. need to be productive. It’s something that is considered, started, re-started, edited, almost published, re-written, edited again, and then published. After which it is taken down and edited again. And yet, even with that, it’s not really productive because it’s not necessary to life. Neither is model railroading. But, on the other hand, model railroading is absolutely necessary because it can definitely contribute to a sense of accomplishment. I did it! That looks great! And it only has to look good to me.

So, the daily struggle continues. Some days are better than others, I just have to keep working at it. In the process, I will find time to work on the Maple Valley Short Line and feel good about it. Eventually, there will be trains moving. The scenery will begin to take shape. With this layout, I am determined to be incredibly detailed down to the smallest weed by the side of a shack. The win over anxiety is in the details. Little by little.

You’re Lucky To Be Alive!

Some time ago, my wife and I were having dinner at a restaurant with my sister.  As often happens, we started talking about the old days.  Memories can be painful, selective, incorrect, and lots of other things, but the memories I prefer are funny.  The actual experiences might not have been funny at the time, but the craziness makes them funny to talk about now.

We sat down in a booth, which I prefer, as opposed to a table out in the middle of the room.  In booths you have your own little house with two doors which can be protected from intruders.  At tables people can move all around you, which can be unsettling.  I noticed an older couple (older than us) sitting in the next booth, but didn’t think anything of it.

What makes most of our stories even funnier is that the things we did, some of which could have burned the house down several times over, went totally unnoticed by our parents, especially our father.  He was a guy who couldn’t see things right under, or even on his nose, but had a sixth and seventh sense about what we were thinking.  So, the answer was not to think.

In 1961, my grandparents came for a visit from California.  At the time, they had a beautiful 1956 Ford Fairlane, a spotless two-tone green and white classic.  Probably not so much to protect it as to make it easy for my dad to go to work each day, the Ford was parked in our one-car garage.  My brother and I decided to be very helpful, and wash Grandpa’s car in the garage.  So, using Comet cleanser, we began scrubbing the hood of the car.  We didn’t understand why our white rags were turning green, but we must have thought we were doing a great job.  This one didn’t go unnoticed, and the lights must have really gone out, because I don’t remember anything that happened after that.

We talked about the time I made match-head rockets.  I wasn’t outside, in a field, or a parking lot.  I was in the basement.  The rocket worked perfectly, shooting across the string I had stretched between two chairs, the exhaust left a blue cloud that filled the basement.  Who can’t smell a single match lit anywhere in the house?  No one asked about the blue smoke in the basement.

For a while, I was fascinated with chemicals, test-tubes, and bunsen burners.  When I didn’t have a real alcohol burner, I tried to make one.  I had an empty shotgun shell, put a piece of cloth in it, then used a capillary tube to take alcohol from a bottle and drop on the cloth as it burned.  What I didn’t know is that alcohol flame is invisible.  I didn’t see the flicker on the end of the tube as I put it back in the bottle of alcohol.  “Phoooomp!!” Nope, the bottle didn’t explode and set my bedroom on fire, my hair didn’t burn, I still had my eyebrows.  I just didn’t do it again.

I talked my mother into taking me to a store where I could buy some chemistry equipment, including a real bunsen burner.  My sister and I set up a lab, IN MY CLOSET, behind the clothes on a shelf that ran the length of the closet.  We were mixing chemicals, cooking them, with fire, in my closet!  (The house is still standing.)

I loved firecrackers.  I heard someone at school talking about taking gunpowder out of shotgun shells, so I decided to try it.  Standing over the shell my dad never missed, which I had taken from his unlocked ammo cabinet, I used a screwdriver to dig into the crimp and open the shell.  (That almost takes my breath away.) I poured the tiny BBs into the toy box.  I took the open shell still containing gunpowder outside and held a burning match over it.  The powder burned in a flash instead of a bang I expected.  I decided real firecrackers were better, so one by one, I took firecrackers from my dad’s dresser drawer.  He never said a word, even after they were all gone.

We laughed about my memory of shooting a model car to pieces, with my BB gun…on my bedroom floor.  I carefully picked up all the pieces, discovering that each shot left a dimple in the hardwood of my bedroom floor.  Impossible to miss, yet everyone did.

Fire was a recurring fascination.  My brother found a heavy black rock we were sure fell from space.  Bugs made homes in the many small holes in the rock so we decided to burn them out.   In the grass beside the back porch, he lit a small flame on the rock.  I decided to pour gas on it to keep the fire going.  From a metal sand pail, I poured gasoline which immediately ignited, going up into the pail, which I dropped.  My brother was kneeling beside the rock yet he didn’t get spashed with gas, and the bucket landed upside down. We quickly put out the flames, but there was a circle of scorched grass about three feet across.  I was sure we would die as soon as dad got home.  No one ever said a word.

Our dad was a salesman and his work often included entertaining clients, which sometimes meant my parents were gone overnight.  It was great fun for my brother and I since our little sister spent the night with our grandparents.  We watched endless TV and cooked or baked whatever we wanted.  One time we each made our own cake, but since I was using the oven, my brother put his in a broiler, which only made a crust on the top.  He ate the crusty layer then returned it to the broiler again.  I called my grandparents in the middle of the night with a terrible stomach ache.

In the restaurant, we ate, drank coffee, told stories, and laughed a lot.  Probably laughed a little too loud (that was me), and what we didn’t know was that the elderly couple next to us was enjoying every minute of it.  When we stood to leave, with laughter the lady said to us, “We want you to know we really have been entertained by your stories!”  She looked at me and said, “And you’re lucky to be alive!”  We all laughed together again.

Speaking of coffee…