I must admit, it's tough to believe a single word that comes out of U.S. President Donald Trump's mouth. So, even when he said that he's fully prepared to give American expats $1,200, their fair share of the now signed bipartisan $2 trillion economic relief plan, I just take note of today's date of April 1st and think, are we fools to think this is true?
The American Expat Financial News Journal responded immediately to the promise, considering the U.S. is citizenship-based taxation, rather than residence-based. Meaning, that the $1,200 will be due to each and every one of us — even if we're living outside the U.S. — who reports less than $75,000 income in the U.S.! (They're calling it a “Recovery Rebate.")
The way it's supposed to work is this: $1,200 for an individual who made $75,000 or less, $1,200 for a head of household who made $112,500 or less, $2,400 for a couple who filed jointly and made $150,000 or less plus $500 per child. The payment decreases by $0.05 for every dollar over $112,500 that a head of household made or for every dollar over $150,000 that couples who filed jointly made. Individuals who made $99,000 or more and couples who made $198,000 or more would not receive a payment.
Right now, there's no proof of this happening — but, we do have the government's word. Again, am I the fool to believe them? One thing for sure, this is a good reason the U.S. should consider letting go of us citizens who are non-resident and who don't earn money in the U.S. We're going to suddenly cost the U.S. government a whole lot of money. And, since it costs us expats a whole lot of money to pay U.S. accountants to file our taxes every year, even if the bottom line is "0," I have no guilt accepting this little windfall.
I've taken to feeling like weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) in the 1993 comedy "Groundhog Day." Just like being in the time loop in which Phil found himself, every day is exactly the same, except with slight variations and I'm the only one who can make a difference. Each day, I am enlightened a bit more than the day before and eventually may live happily ever after in this little world I've created for myself...at least the mental one, if not the physical one.
The daily routine goes something like this:
Unlike Phil, who awoke on Groundhog Day to a clock radio blasting Sonny & Cher's "I Got You Babe," I awaken now only to the light of the day. If I want to sleep late, I don an eye mask. No alarm means I wake up when my body and mind is ready instead of to some obligation I have. That's already a big improvement over my previous life outside of confinement. Now, I'm thinking this habit will stay for good, or at least only not when impossible.
Morning exercise is first on the list of to-dos. For someone who used to profess a serious dislike for yoga, it's the first thing I do now. The mat comes out of the closet and onto the floor in front of the TV and I spend as long as I want stretching while watching the day's repetitive news. Some people like to follow an online class, but I'm too much of a rebel to follow anyone else's routine, so I do what I want, when and how I want and if it's not perfect, it doesn't matter, since it just by me and for me.
(My daughter, Erica Simone, happens to manufacture and sell the best and most stylish yoga mats ever — at her online "Sacred Yoga Shop." For a limited time, she is offering $20 OFF THE PRO LINE & $10 OFF THE CORE LINE. Use code "PRO" or "CORE" at checkout to redeem your discount. Visit sacredyogashop.com/ for details and to order your mat!)
The news on the TV continues to be the same...just more coronavirus cases, more deaths, more government legislation to try to fix the health issues and the economic woes, with more reports on how to ward it off, wash your hands a million times, etc., etc., etc. You see...it's Groundhog Day on TV, too. So, while the drivel drivels on, I roll up the mat and go for the hula hoop that is stored under my bed. I recommend a Powerhoop® for the ultimate work out. It doesn't matter what I'm wearing...there is no one around to impress. If the neighbors are watching me from their windows, who cares? I'm sure it gives them a giggle and maybe that brightens their day.
As I hoop it, I watch even more of the drivel on TV with way too much of Donald Trump's voice on the airwaves, moving my hips to circle that hoop for at least five minutes in one direction, then five minutes in the other direction. I know it's not a lot — I could do more, but as the rebel, I am listening to the beat of my own drum (or the whir of my own hooping). Meanwhile, the steam inhaler is heating up. I sit on a stool in the kitchen and I can tell you, a good 50 breaths of hot eucalyptus feels really good — I may never give this up — it's like being in a warm wet spa every day of the week. (Be sure to have a wad of tissues for when you're done to really clear your nasal passages.)
Behind me, at the same time, the hot water is boiling to make a hot tea with fresh lemon. You only need one slice in a cup or mug. It serves the purpose of warming your throat with extra Vitamin C and it's a lovely treat. Drink it all day long.
I take a ton of pills, all vitamins and herbal concoctions meant to boost my immune system. I've written about this before — that it doesn't matter if they really work or not, as long as I believe they do. It's mind over matter and this damned Covid-19 is not going to get me, period.
By this time I'm ready for a bath — a bubbly one. I have a choice of four different flavors of bath bubbles and more than that of different body washes to match. Lavender scent ranks way up there among my favorites, but sometimes I feel like something energizing — like the revitalizing scents made for men, or something really sweet like rose. For those who share my passion for aromas, here are a few good recommendations:
* Bath bubbles ("mousse pour le bain") are hard to find in the market, but can be purchased very inexpensively on Notino.fr, which is shipped directly to you, so you don't have to leave your bathtub to get it! (The jasmine is heavenly.) Notino.fr is great for all sorts of beauty products at much less the cost, so make note...Notino, that is.
* Amazingly delightful shower gels for half the cost of all the others can be found at the Super U markets. Lait de Douche Relaxant — Lavande Miel is the best lavender-scented shower gel ever! I've never found another as robust. I also like the Tiaré Monoï and the Fleur d'Oranger flavors. (If you don't have a Super U near you, you can find them online.) After the bath, I match the scents with one of Fragonard's body lotions and cream down! Rose, fleur d'oranger, verveine, etc. (See fragonard.com/en/search/bodylotion for the full range.) Every inch of my body gets some kind of moisturizing lotion, including shea butter on my feet. (I could write a book about just this.)
Now that I'm clean and smelly — the good kind of smelly — choosing what to wear has gotten very, very simple. All those new clothes I bought in Madrid not long ago at Desigual still have their tags on them, and I bet they'll stay that way for quite a while. In the meantime, during Groundhog Day, I've resorted to an old stack of leggings and long-sleeve T-shirts that have been gathering dust at the bottom of the closet. The choice of leggings is black, black, black, white, print, print, black...pretty easy. The top? The choice is black, black, black, red, red, black...pretty easy. I could close my eyes and say eenie, meenie, minie, moe, catch an outfit by the toe...but I don't even have to. And you know what? I'm loving the freedom of not having to choose at all. Who would have guessed?
Hair and make-up? Forget it. As long as I don't have to get on Skype or FaceTime with a client, it's "au naturel pour moi." And isn't that refreshing? My skin is breathing, my hair isn't getting singed with the curling iron and what you see is what you get. You might never recognize me, except for the glasses (berets are off inside the apartment)!
Work starts at the desk about 9 a.m. or later. Now that our clocks were set forward for Daylight Savings Time this past Sunday, the sun rises later (about 7:30 a.m.), so that's wake-up time. There is no traffic on the street to wake me up, either. But, there's no rush to get to the desk. No one is getting to their desks any earlier than I am. It seems to be a joint Groundhog Day for all of us.
At noon, instead of heading to Café Charlot for lunch like before the lockdown, I head a few feet away to the kitchen to make a big salad with everything in it except the kitchen sink. I forgot what it was like to buy fresh produce until now, so it's a reawakening of my visual and olfactory systems. Lettuce comes washed and ready to eat (although I've actually bought a head of lettuce and washed it myself); mushrooms come sliced taking the labor out of preparing them; cucumbers come wrapped in plastic so they stay fresh a lot longer; cooked beets come in vacuum packed plastic with their juice; avocados are plentiful and thankfully not overripe; tomatoes are available in every sort of size, shape and color; the red peppers are absolutely picture perfect and all I have to do is assemble it all in a big bowl, dress it and dish it out.
Now, you must think this is totally lame, that at the ripe old age of...ahem...that I'm discovering fresh produce! Every day, this is basically the routine, except that each day, the salad is just a little bit different, each time improving it. Sometimes I add sardines or canned mackerel, fry up an egg, or peeled boiled shrimp...adding some sort of protein. Then I sit at the table with my plate of greens and a book to read a bit while having lunch...something I never had time for! What a treat.
After lunch (and dinner, too), I savor two squares of chocolate, no less than 70 percent. For less than 2€, the Lindt Excellence Noir 85% Doux 100g is really amazing, considering it's just the "store-bought" variety. I've tried them all and so far, this one wins...especially at this price. With the chocolate melting on the roof of my mouth I then head out for a ritualistic walk.
This happens about 1:30 p.m. give or take and this is not so simple anymore. I have to prepare an updated "Attestation de Déplacement Dérogatoire" to take with me to prove I am out for a purpose in case I get stopped and don't want to be fined (375€). In my sack are all the necessary accoutrements: disposable disinfectant wipes, gloves, a spray bottle of alcohol and hand sanitizer, my passport for ID, tissues and shopping bag. The gloves go on before I leave the apartment and I only touch the handles of the doors with a tissue or disinfectant wipe. I don't need my agenda anymore — there's nothing written in it — just events scratched out.
I take the garbage out if it needs to be emptied...that's already an exciting trip for the day, but if the sun is out, which it has been for the last 10 days, I will follow it. Wherever it is, is where I am. The purpose is exercise and fresh air (pollution is a thing of the past) or I'll stop at the market or pharmacy, but only if I have to. These errands have become big adventures.
Back home, work starts up again. Work has changed dramatically. As you can see by this lengthy nouvellettre®, I am writing even more, now that I have time. Emails are getting answered faster and social media calls to me. The phone/Skype/FaceTime/WhatsApp don't let up. But, best of all, I have a team working on a new website that is 4.5 years in the making and grossly overdue...it's finally getting done! This thrills me beyond belief.
About 7 p.m. I head back to the kitchen to prepare dinner. I'm actually cooking for myself. How crazy is that!? Baking chicken, sautéing fish, grilling porc chops, steaming broccoli, Brussel sprouts or green beans, baking a potato in the microwave...I'm actually doing it, dirtying up the kitchen, and then cleaning it up. My dishwasher is getting more action than it's seen in a decade.
I like to have dinner sitting up in bed while watching TV on a TV tray table...with a stop at 8 p.m. to go to the window, open it and clap for about a minute along with all my neighbors. Everyone comes out to thank the health care workers and show their solidarity. There's something very heartwarming about this ritual and we're getting to know one another. Let's face it — we're all in the same Covid-19 boat and we're all having our own Groundhog Days.
Joachim Prinz - I Shall Not Be Silent
Thank goodness for Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu and the others. There's plenty of video to binge watch. I'm doing my part. If you want four hours to get to know Hilary Clinton and why she isn't our president right now (this might upset you, too), be sure to watch "Hillary," a Hulu Original Documentary. For another interesting documentary, watch the one about Rabbi Joachim Prinz (who just happens to be a friend's grandfather), "I Shall Not Be Silent," (just one hour and worth it). Every Monday night, there's a new episode of "Outlander" on Netflix (I'm in love with Jamie Fraser). If you want something really weird to watch, try "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness" on Netflix, too.
All through the day, I've connected with friends and family. My daughter and I speak every day on FaceTime while she's having her own Groundhog Day — she's walking along the beach in Marina del Rey at 9 a.m. while I'm about to fix dinner. But, by midnight, I'm down for the count.
That's my Groundhog Day.
The next morning, it all starts over again...each time the same; each time a little bit different and a little bit better. Life is stress free, relaxing, reflective. I can't worry about the economic ramifications, because I can't control it. So, it just has to wait until I can do something about it. We're all experiencing the same sort of revelations as we live through a phenomenon we never dreamed would happen...not like this...not worldwide with no real end in immediate sight. And we're trying to make sense of it.
Just like Phil Connors, by the time he's had enough Groundhog Days for a lifetime, he realizes he's doomed to wake up every morning to the same routine, only to discover he is a changed man and is finally really happy. That's when news producer Rita Hanson falls in love with him and they end up living happily ever after in Punxsutawney...the podunk town he started out despising.
So, is that what's going to happen to us when all this is over? I am certain our lives will be changed...forever and for the better.
P.S. For those of you sheltering-at-home (by order or not) and dreaming of a move to France, or even a property purchase, this can be a good time to prepare for and work toward that dream. I'm at home, too, and happy to connect with you on Skype or by phone. As a special offering during this time of self-quarantining and anxiety over our futures, economic or otherwise I am offering special one-hour consultations at the reduced price of 150€ (normally a two-hour minimum for 350€) during our mandatory lockdown. We can talk about a strategy to change and enrich your life by living or investing here. To schedule your time, email me now!
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