I hear a lot about nesting -- about staying home in front of the fire with a book. Ah, so cozy. Besides, it's cold out and there's a recession outside, and we'd better enjoy our houses before their value plummets like the mercury, right?

But involuntary nesting? That's different indeed, usually involving a high fever and a sudden aversion to all lemon-limey gingery fizzy drinks, possibly for years to come. Cozy? I don't think so.

Involuntary nesting goes by many a viral name. Mine was some kind of widespread flu bug, I suspect. I knew this wasn't just sick. You know, lower-case sick, when you gain a lot of sympathy and use up all your co-workers' Kleenex. This was call-off-work-because-I-feel-like-I've-been-hit-by-a-truck Sick. Then sleep and sleep and sleep and feel Sick some more.

It's an ugly business, this being stuck at home suddenly not so sweet home. But I've devised some guidelines to help you get through it:

• Do not leave the house, even though you live alone and haven't shopped for groceries since Rudy Giuliani was an actual contender. This is what friends are for. They buy you fruit and juice and tea, and they leave the sacks on your back steps, screaming "Unclean! Unclean!" as they run away from your germ-o-sphere.

• Study the patterns on your homemade quilts until they make you dizzy. Tell yourself that you love those quilts and will again someday, once they don't remind you of the fact that everything in you aches.

• Try to read your favorite authors. Give up. And give thanks that Jane Austen's apothecaries don't work at your corner drugstore. Otherwise, they would have drained you of all blood by now in an attempt to revive your "low spirits."

• Listen to the phone ring. Ignore it. Listen to co-worker leave message making sure you aren't dead.

• Pour some cranberry juice as your head throbs and ask yourself why you painted the kitchen such bright colors. Take an Aleve, and crawl back to bed.

• Ignore those fever dreams, you know the ones that accompany the shakes and the sweats. And if you do tell friends about them, swear them to secrecy. Otherwise, they'll keep reminding you that you were convinced someone stole your kidney as you slept back in '08.

• Stare guiltily at the laundry on the floor. Your arms and legs feel like lead, and those dirty towels might as well be 50-pound weights. Ignore them.

• Also ignore the dust. And spider webs. And tax forms. Everything can wait until you feel well enough to go back to work, or at least get dressed.

By then, you'll love your bright kitchen colors and your homespun quilts again. Novels won't make your head spin, and your friends won't run from the front door.

And then staying home will be sweet again. And maybe, eventually, ginger ale will be, too.

Holly Collier • 612-673-7947