I’m not on Reddit much (my tween asked me to post her Animal Crossing art there, so I was just on the site). After stopping by just now, I’ve forgotten how much I appreciate the r/BenignExistence subreddit.

I remember making fun of it at first, but I grew to appreciate it for its somewhat soothing nature, especially compared to other pockets of the Internet. It ended up inspiring my own blog, and reminds me of the running commentary I often see on Micro.blog.

Benign, in my world, is fine.

The 12-year-old’s wardrobe mashup of “Animal Crossing: New Horizons” and Pokemon “eeveelutions” is complete. #AnimalCrossing #Pokemon #Eevee

First coronavirus sheltering in place, now strong storms and a tornado watch. I don’t have enough sugar and flour to stress-bake my way through this.

Giving up the ghost: Not easy to do

In this time of disconnection from the world, I’ve been taking inventory of my friendships over the years. Conclusion: I am a terrible friend.

Perhaps it’s a matter of having a lot of friends “for a season.” But in looking back, I have been lazy about maintaining ties with those who wanted to remain in touch. I’ve been blessed with friends who are diligent with things like birthday cards, Christmas cards, and email.

At one point or another, once it is clear that the gestures only flow in one direction – mine – the cards and emails stop.

Nowadays, this kind of thing is called “ghosting.” And I’ve been ghosting – that is, cutting off all communication with a friend or significant other and leaving that person wondering why – since before it became a thing.

My disappearance off the radar of others is usually unintentional on my part. I like the concept of snail mail and phone calls, but it’s easier to blog or post on social media before descending into my typical passive, inert state. Blame a critical mass of introversion, low energy, and laziness. My focus on my family probably exacerbates all that, but that critical mass existed long before I sprouted a kid.

On top of that, there’s anxiety. (I’m talking about pre-existing anxiety, not COVID-19 anxiety.) I used to love heading into the city to see friends. But the longer I lived in the suburbs, the less I wanted to travel outside my new comfort zone. Heading solo into the city unnerves me now; urban driving scares me, and then there’s the search for parking and concern about break-ins. Never mind that I lived there for 7 years; then again, in those years, I didn’t have a car, and I didn’t have to worry about parking or anything else related to driving.

So, the more city friends would beckon me repeatedly to see them, the more I felt pressured to do something I didn’t want to do – and when I feel pressured to do something I don’t want to do, I shut down. (This, I realize, is my modus operandi these days.) And then I make like a ghost.

This has happened with at least two or three friends. I’ve tried to make amends with one over the past week, but I’ve heard crickets; I’m not optimistic that I’ll hear back, and I would understand if I never heard from her again. (I’m still working on the others.)

(This behavior, I realize as I write this, probably extends to all the times I’ve traveled to California to see family and avoided telling friends who want to see me.)

The upshot: As a friend, I suck. And I’m sorry to the friends I have hurt by ducking their radar and damaging our friendship.

That said, I don’t apologize for my anxiety. My laziness, yes, but not my anxiety or low energy. It’s just that I could stand to find a better way to handle the latter without hurting those I care about.

Since the Pokemon Go event we planned to attend in St. Louis was postponed, the game’s creators allowed ticket holders to catch the same Pokemon planned for the event wherever we were in the world. So, we drove around on a rainy afternoon hunting Pokemon in today’s New Normal.

My colleague’s kids in Upstate New York are producing a weekly newspaper during their quarantine time. Frannie is their Illinois correspondent. Here she is interviewing her dog.

My kid’s middle school put out an Instagram video with virtual sticky notes from teachers and staff telling students what they miss about them and about school. F clearly enjoyed it when I showed it to her, even though she kept checking the length because it was taking a while.

Waffle Houses are closing. Ergo, we’re screwed.

Please stop telling me to make this time count

There’s plenty to be anxious about these days. Am I going to catch this virus? Do I have it already, and have I passed it on to anybody? With the aides at my 89-year-old mother’s home allowing visitors this week (despite the California governor’s order not to allow such things at nursing homes), will my mother catch it? What about the rest of my family? And what if Trump still manages to get re-elected, no matter how incompetent he has been during this crisis?

Now I’m starting to see more people online telling us to “use your isolation time wisely,” “make the most of your time inside” and “make that idle time count.”

I know the whole idea of cultivating a “memento mori” mentality, as I was starting to do this Lent before it became coronavirus season, is to develop a sense of urgency in this life. We are to live fully aware that life is too short to waste time. Yes, I get that, perhaps more than ever with this pandemic bearing down on us all.

And yet being told to be productive when I’m so tensed up and paralyzed with fear just leaves me wracked with pressure and guilt. I mean, I’d really like to be productive and make the best of things. But can I have please some time to somehow relax and figure out how to manage this anxiety first?

Watching the tail end of Mark Buehrle’s 2009 perfect game, now on YouTube, just in time for DeWayne Wise’s spectacular game-saving catch in the top of the 9th.

Couldn’t get myself out of bed this morning. No fever or anything. Just stomach discomfort, fatigue, a headache, and body aches.

Three ibuprofens helped. Still groggy. Watching last year’s Opening Day matchup between the Mariners and White Sox is this afternoon’s comfort media.

My midday off: Wrapping birthday gifts with Christmas paper because that’s all I could find around the house. Watching Game 4 of the 2005 World Series on YouTube. (#GoSox!) Pain free. NOT working from home.

I may have finally found a happy place for the first time in weeks.

It’s Tween Birthday Week here at the Shut-In House: McDonald’s hash browns for breakfast, scrambled eggs for lunch, time with her download of the new Animal Crossing game. Later: maybe a neighborhood walk, more gifts, pizza (us) and fries (her) from the neighborhood pizza joint, and cake with vanilla gelato.

Typically, we might have taken her to Dave & Buster’s for dinner tonight, perhaps with a couple of friends if they were in town for spring break. Obviously, that can’t happen right now. But it’s still a birthday, and we will still celebrate.

Nice to surface just long enough to get my kid a birthday cake and have the supermarket folks tell me to wish her a happy birthday.

From @millinerd in The New York Times (!) on this Feast of the Annunciation: “God became human once, for all, in the womb of Mary. Then, through the Eucharist, he enters human bodies over and over for as long as time endures.”

Keeping the 3 days off I requested for F’s 12th birthday tomorrow and a trip to St. Louis and downstate, even though we canceled the trip. I don’t think I’ve had a truly relaxing, demand- and anxiety-free moment in the past few weeks. Fingers crossed that one will come up soon.

Ah. It’s totally not just me. “The coronavirus has created the perfect environment for a surge in bread-baking.”

For the uninitiated and/or non-Chicagoans, Jeppson’s Malort is a wormwood liqueur that I’ve heard tastes somewhere between sweat-soaked pencil shavings and death. Now its makers are making Malort-branded hand sanitizer.

The Scottish Festival & Highland Games in suburban Chicago this summer has been canceled. Damn. Where am I going to get my annual Irn-Bru fix now?

Our first quarantine-era bread loaf! (Photo taken before I broke through the crust with my finger in the middle to check its softness.)

Margaret Sullivan in the Washington Post: The White House coronavirus briefings “have become a daily stage for Trump to play his greatest hits to captive audience members.”

Why yes, I’ve grouped my coronavirus-related posts in their own category: Check page 1, then page 2.

(Maybe now that I’m holed up for a while, I guess I should learn how to mess with the CSS/Hugo stuff necessary to customize this theme to include some decent page navigation. But as I’ve said elsewhere, life is too short.)

The stay-at-home order in Illinois doesn’t seem that much worse than what I’ve already been doing. If anything, it means it may have nudged my husband’s employer into ensuring he can work from home, so I’m happy about that.

I did whatever new grocery shopping I needed to do yesterday. And now that churches are even more shut down than before (not even confessions are allowed), my usual Saturday afternoon routine is definitely shot for a while. I was going to bake with the tween, but the husband has a roast in the oven all afternoon, so no go there.

Tomorrow? Mass online and prayers in the morning, then maybe some baking. I finally found some yeast at the supermarket yesterday, so bread may be in order.

On the Catholic blog: Confession in the age of coronavirus.

My Ten: Favorite things I can't live without

I’m a sucker for a light regular feature. The New York Times’ Sunday Routine is an example of this: a weekly feature that profiles New Yorkers and how they spend their Sundays. The Times also puts together an irregular feature, My Ten, that asks celebrities about the 10 favorite things they can’t live without. It’s not an original concept; I’ve seen it in other places, usually as an excuse to work in overpriced merchandise links.

(My Ten is so irregular that it doesn’t have its own page yet; examples include lists from Questlove, David Chang, and Emma Thompson.)

I’ve been wanting to write a Sunday Routine of my own for a while, but it takes time for me to figure out. (Besides, if I wrote one now, it’d be basically a whole lot of sitting around steeped in cabin fever and chronic anxiety.) Right now, a My Ten is easier to slap together.

PEPPERMINT GREEN AND “TURMERIC BLISS” TEAS. I can’t drink coffee as much as I used to, but I still need my caffeine fix. I’ve largely weaned myself off diet soda (except for the occasional diet root beer, which isn’t usually caffeinated, or diet Cheerwine, which is), and I wanted something relatively healthy. So, I found myself turning to tea. I started with peppermint tea, which is not caffeinated, but found several green tea blends with peppermint for my caffeine; Traditional Medicinals and local retailer Nuovo Tea produce my favorites.

I also get my favorite turmeric blend, Turmeric Bliss, from Nuovo (the blend is actually produced by Adagio Teas, not to be confused with a Tazo Tea product with the same name): turmeric combined with ginger, peppercorn, mango, apple, and other fruit and floral ingredients. I credit my daily two cups of this turmeric blend with helping me break my dependence on ibuprofen for pain management, and it’s become a tasty way to wind down my day after dinner.

PILOT G2 PENS, BLACK BOLD (1.0). Austin Kleon turned me onto these. I used the 0.7 fine point version of the G2 for a while, but I find the bold tips much smoother to write with.

INDEX CARDS. I carry around a small Field Notes-type notebook, but I rarely use it for reasons I can’t quite explain. I also carry around index cards (usually of the 4-by-6-inch variety), usually in a small plastic holder intended for photos, that I do use for lists, doodling, and notes; they especially come in handy when I need to give my tween something to draw on during Mass.

MAGNIFICAT and HANDBOOK OF PRAYERS. As I’ve been in Catholic re-entry mode over the past year and still haven’t fully memorized the order of the Mass (I still stumble over the “consubstantial” thing in the Nicene Creed), having the Magnificat to follow along with has been absolutely essential. Paired with my monthly Magnificat, the Handbook of Prayers – produced by Midwest Theological Forum – complements it perfectly with a robust set of prayers and practices, including Marian devotions, the Stations of the Cross, and a good confession guide.

WORKS BY ST. JOSEMARIA ESCRIVA. St. Josemaria’s three books of maxims – The Way, Furrow, and The Forge – provide me with inspiration and encouragement in my spiritual life.

ROSARY. I think the red glass-beaded rosary I carry around was a freebie from one of the numerous Catholic orders or charities that received donations from my mom when I was growing up. But for a freebie, it’s been pretty durable. More importantly, Bp. Joseph Perry kindly blessed it for me when I asked years ago after a Tridentine Mass at St. John Cantius parish in Chicago. It’s been a constant companion the past few years.

“WAIT WAIT … DON’T TELL ME.” I wake up early on Saturdays to listen to the first airings of this NPR news quiz program on the Internet, then download the podcast to listen to it during the week. Some shows are better than others; I’m a little weary of the new hit-or-miss (mostly miss in recent months) panelists that it’s been rotating into the show in recent years, and I miss original panelists like Charlie Pierce and Sue Ellicott. But “Wait Wait” is still a huge part of my weekends.

“LATE SHOW WITH STEPHEN COLBERT.” Colbert’s show is a tonic of sanity in the cultural and political hellscape of the past three years.

SPALDING BOOTLEG YOGA PANTS, BLACK. This $20 wardrobe essential of mine is no longer on Amazon, for some reason. (I just ordered a similar product, at the same price, and I’m crossing my fingers that it’s wearable.) I was smart enough to buy two pairs, but I wish I had ordered more when I had the chance. It’s the closest I get to a uniform item a la Steve Jobs’ turtleneck, especially now that I’m working from home full-time. Comfy and durable.

CROCHET BERETS. This item has become another essential part of my daily uniform. I started wearing these as a head covering for church (chapel veils don’t work on me), and ended up wearing them to work and anytime I had to go out. My hair has been thinning for years, to the point where no amount of gel, volumizer, or other “product” will make a difference in covering bare scalp. These are light enough to wear in warm weather, work in casual contexts, and can class up an otherwise blah outfit.