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Archive for March, 2020

Yesterday, Bob was outside the front door doing some weeding. Our raised bed of vegetables is on the south side of the house, not within the confines of our fenced-in garden. I was stringing a few pearls together in my first pandemic necklace when I heard him yell, “Honey, come here, quick.”

He told me all about the fat and healthy red fox that had just strolled around the front corner of the house under a holly bush. They were an arm’s length away from each other. Of course Bob saw him (or her) the very second his hand was pulling up a weed – as they locked eyes I’m sure they were both shocked! The fox immediately took off across our not/so/busy street and around an apartment building.

Imagine that, in a city of a million and a half people, nature can still find a way.

This is day #13 of quarantine. I’ve stopped watching the White House Pressers about the Coronavirus, they only serve to bolster Mr T’s fragile ego. He is selling us a fool’s paradise, and I for one am not buying his lies.

But I am crossing off the days on my old-fashioned paper calendar, eager to put each day behind me. Luckily Ms Bean requires a slow-walk each and every day, sometimes three! And now that the sun has returned and Spring has arrived, these meditative walks are a kind of salvation.

They are a way to still the noises in my head, all the “what ifs” and “if onlys.” A stroll around the neighborhood tethered to Ms Bean keeps me here, grounded in the Present. This morning, the sun has come up and the temperature will climb to 80 degrees. The rain has stopped for now. And while drinking coffee and reading my online papers, I noticed a tiny headline: “Yale Happiness Course Takes Off.”

It seems that since December, this online course titled “The Science of Well Being” has enrolled 1.3 million people worldwide. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-52055242

Now, when over half a million people around the world are infected with the Coronavirus, and everyone is isolating themselves to flatten the curve, and the Bride is donning her PPE and caring for patients in her ER, and the Groom is planning to make ICU beds appear all over his hospital, and we can’t visit Great Grandma Ada and Hudson, and we can’t hug the Love Bug or tickle L’il Pumpkin…

Now more than ever, I have to keep hope alive.

“People in these situations tend to either look backwards for solutions or ruminate about possible futures: Will I go back to work? Will I be able to afford getting sick? Can I support my family if they get sick?

“While both those abilities are very adaptive in solving immediate problems or challenges or an immediate threat, they’re very harmful in situations like the one we’re in the middle of where the threat is ambiguous, the duration is unknown.”

It’s important to mention that only here, in the US, are people worried about hospital bills. Only here, in our great country, would someone not seek emergency medical treatment because they are afraid it would bankrupt them.

While waiting for the spike of this curve, we have to keep hope alive. And one way to do it is to stay in the PRESENT. Mindfulness isn’t easy during a pandemic. I notice every little flower on my walks, every flowering vine that threatens to engulf a mailbox. I would usually bring my phone with me, to take pictures, but it’s better if I leave it at home and stay present.

CONNECTING WITH OTHERS is another way to support our sanity. We’ve been Facetiming with the Rocker and Aunt KiKi. They have dueling desks set up in their California home and have had Zoom conferences with colleagues. The Bride turned me onto Marco Polo, an APP that’s like video texting, and we’ve been having fun with friends just capturing a snippet of time each day. Steve sent us video of a huge hawk in his yard yesterday! And of course, we talk on the phone too.

Yesterday we walked around the Bride’s neighborhood looking for teddy bears in windows. It was so hard to stay ten feet apart, to not touch the children.

The third linchpin of well being is a daily PRACTICE of GRATITUDE. Bob and I have been doing this on a pretty regular basis before bed. I can’t watch the news at night these days, but I can recall small pleasures during the day, things that bring me joy. Sometimes it’s just the sound of Ms Bean snoring, or a tulip that popped up under the cherry tree. Sometimes it’s the young man who delivers a restaurant meal. We can always name three things we’re grateful for.

Like the red fox foraging under the holly.

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Passing time isn’t quite like passing the salt. It’s a phrase that invokes prison, “doing time,” except in this case the whole world is on “house arrest.” We’ve all felt this way at one time or another. For Bob it was a prolonged period of treatment with interferon. For me, it was a year of trying to get pregnant again when the Bride was 3 years old, having 3 miscarriages back to back.

It’s the uncertainty, the randomness, the sheer terror of knowing we are actually NOT in control.

If you are one of those people with a strong faith, lucky you. I’ve been reading a lot on social media about God’s plan, the joy of this pandemic, and I honestly don’t get it. I mean did God really want to take out that whole young family with a tornado, then a week later come back and say: “Guess what everybody else, you need to stay right where you are because a plague is coming?” It can make even the devout have questions.

We’ve weathered our first week in isolation, and I’ve found that I’m built for something like this. I encouraged Bob to help me bake muffins. One night a friend dropped off a warm loaf of cinnamon raisin bread, it was like getting a hug! I swapped books with a friend on my porch. We listen to classical radio and play Scrabble. We walk Ms Bean when it’s not raining and wave to all the exceedingly happy dogs in the neighborhood. There will come a day, mark my words, when our fur babies will be giving us all the side-eye, as if to say;

“Aren’t you guys ever going somewhere so I can take a rest from guarding you?”

Techno-wise we’ve signed up with Marco Polo and can now send video texts. We’ve Facetimed with the Rocker and Aunt KiKi AND the Bride’s family split-screen, all at the same time. We call and Facetime Great Grandma Ada who is taking this whole thing better than any of us! Bob can visit with them through a vestibule window.

Cooking-wise, I’m sticking with comfort food. I can order from Whole Foods online and they deliver via Amazon Prime… it’s a 2 day wait but that’s fine. We order take-out from a local restaurant – 3 meals a week – and they deliver. We feel like it’s a small way to help their staff stay afloat. And I was running out of my Charlottesville granola, so Hudson Henry delivered in no time! https://www.hudsonhenrybakingco.com/

I keep having to remind Bob, “We’re in no rush.” We are all being asked to slow down – He is out there weeding, and I’m putting some pearls together to start stringing again. One of our local boutiques started carrying my necklaces; it was open for a few days after the tornado. But I feel no obligation to produce something during the quarantine, to knit a sweater say, or write a sonnet. “A Sonnet of Isolation.” Maybe next week I’ll clean out a closet? Be kind to yourself first, and the kindness is conveyed to others.

I’m the original slow-walker, slow-cooker. Bob is the original let’s jump right in and get this done NOW kinda guy.

That’s why he’s volunteered to help Vanderbilt when the tsunami hits us; he is being credentialed by the hospital to help with emergency medical care by telemedicine. This actually scares me, not because of possible exposure – he may do this from home – but because he might have to confront, serious life-and-death, ethical decisions. That’s what wartime triage is all about, who lives and who dies, and that’s a heavy burden.

I feel bad for hourly wage earners with rent checks coming due – if you know someone, why not Venmo them some cash? Every little bit helps. Know any musicians whose tours are cancelled? Pre-order Nicole Atkin’s next album “Italian Ice.” She’s an amazing singer and old friend of the Rocker and the Parlor Mob. https://www.nicoleatkins.com/  I just ordered the vinyl bundle with a tee shirt!

We were never binge TV watchers, but I’m seeing lots of requests from friends about “what to watch.” With streaming, the sky’s the limit but this is our list, and believe me we only occasionally watch ONE episode before heading to bed! Mrs. Maisel, Little Fires Everywhere, and Valhalla Murders. The whole Love is Blind thing is beyond ridiculous to me!

The other day I read a story to the Grands on Facetime….”Before They Were Authors, Famous Writers as Kids,” by Elizabeth Haidle. It was about Dr Seuss, did you know he wanted to become a professor? Here are our banana bran muffins!

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Good morning study, good morning sun.

Good morning robins on the lawn having fun 

In a great grey room sits my laptop on a desk,

With daffodils winking and blinking in jest.

Plants of all sizes, cactus and palm

Strain toward the windows, hermetic calm

And pictures of birds that I once knew well

And two Great Blue Herons stepping on shells

And two Guinea Hens with their feathers all fluffy

Look down on my lamp while I get comfy

Surrounded by books, on shelves and the floor

And an old brown dog who loves to snore

I hear the train whistle, strangely forlorn

Whispering wait, there is nothing to mourn

 Bob and I bake, we talk and play Scrabble

We walk ole Ms Bean until our knees wobble

We slow ourselves down, we mute the TV

We know life goes on, very soon we’ll be free

Good Morning old lady typing away

Good Morning desk and lamp

Good Morning daffodils and plants 

Good Morning herons and hens

And robins singing, flying unaware 

Good Morning to Spring Everywhere

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When I wrote an essay about Prepping, it was almost tongue in cheek. We did order more dog food and got ahead on prescriptions. We picked up some things at the grocery store, including Spam, and my freezer was soooo full. Then the tornado hit – my freezer is now empty.

Oh, and I didn’t buy toilet paper!

Now this tsunami of a pandemic is about to hit us all, and since Bob and I are 71 we’re at risk. We’re both pretty healthy but a virus will not discriminate. We figure it’s best to stay home for the most part, and keep a distance of 6′ if we need to venture out to a store or when walking Ms Bean. In fact, this morning we went to our local Kroger and it was pretty empty of people. Lo and behold, their shelves were stocked, except for toilet paper.

Everyone must think they are still closed because of the tornado!

So, what to do with ourselves while we are stuck at home? I’ve been seeing lots of posts online about parents wondering what to do with their children now that schools have closed for the foreseeable future. Most teachers have sent workbooks home, and there are plenty of online learning opportunities, like this free Scholastic site: https://www.cnn.com/2020/03/15/us/scholastic-coronavirus-students-trnd/

But let’s not forget FUN! My suggestions are: 1) Subscribe to Disney Plus, at least you’ll know you can still take a shower; 2) Plan a scavenger hunt around the house; 3) Play games, our favorite card game right now is “Taco Cat Goat Cheese Pizza!” you can find it on Amazon Prime for $9.99; 4) Recycle all the cardboard boxes you get by turning them into art projects; 5) I love the book “Stitch + String Lab for Kids, 40 creative projects to sew…” by Cassie Stephens. The L’il Pumpkin made an excellent pizza pillow; 6) Involve the kiddos in cooking and baking and they will reward you by actually eating; and finally check out Pinterest!

Now what about us? How are we supposed to stay sane while everybody is avoiding us cause we’re over 60? Since I was raised an only child, I feel as if I have an advantage; after all I love stringing necklaces, reading and writing and cooking – all mostly solitary activities. So I plan on digging out my almost finished novel and maybe actually finishing it! Bob bought a small lawn mower, and planted our raised bed – it may not be 14 acres, but he’s happier with his hands in the dirt.

We’ve got a few streaming sites we need to catch up with – we just started the 3rd season of Mrs Maisel, and I’m loving The Hunters on Amazon Prime. Can’t wait to watch Hillary on Hulu too! And don’t forget The Crown! There’s almost too much content out there now. Some nights we play Scrabble, or just talk and listen to music. I feel sorry for people living alone, so check up on your neighbors.

IN NYC, a woman in my sister Kay’s building called to say her daughter was home from college and could go grocery shopping for her. It’s those random acts of kindness that will keep our society whole, like Italians singing on their balconies.

Here ‘s how I see it. We raised our family in the Berkshires where a good Nor’easter could take out power for a long time – we had a wood stove and snow to play and ski in….We lived on the Jersey Shore where a flood took our cars and old kitchen appliances right out of the garage – we got a generator and moved right back in… With a little common sense and social distancing (and maybe some toilet paper and hand sanitizer which I CANNOT find anywhere) we will all be just fine.

Remember to breathe and try to stay in the present. And limit your news consumption, your mind will thank you. Lotsa love and virtual hugs from Nashville, where the Broadway bars have closed and we have 17  cases of confirmed Coronavirus so far. Here are the Grands shipping themselves back to Hawaii!

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I’m exhausted. And I’m experiencing a pretty high state of anxiety; I don’t want anyone else out there, reading this, to think that you are the only one. I tell my children, “I survived a tornado, so what’s a little virus gonna do?” Plenty, as it turns out:

My brother and sister were going to visit us this week, they cancelled; My son and his wife, plus our NY cousins were coming for the Bride’s seder, they cancelled; Dinner party, cancelled; This morning I’ll meet up with the Groom at the hospital after my PT to pick up the Love Bug because school was cancelled. The L’il Pumpkin’s school is in the hospital, should I be afraid?

It honestly terrifies me that the Bride sits at the front door to this pandemic. And she starts her early morning shift in the ER soon. She’s talked to Bob and the Groom about taking precautions because we all know the big wave is about to hit our country, flooding ill-equipped hospitals with seriously ill patients.

We don’t have enough tests, we don’t have enough ICU beds, we don’t have enough Ecmo machines to carry on the work of the heart and lungs.

And the Groom will have the most immuno-compromised, the most critically ill patients in his Medical ICU. Will he need a Hazmat suit? Vanderbilt is planning to screen people in their underground garage, at least they have a plan. Is my fear realistic?

Thousands of new cases across the world are being reported each day, and the true scale could be 10 times higher.

There are 1,323 confirmed cases in the US, 117 in Canada.

Thirty-eight people have died in the US due to the virus and one person has died in Canada.

Officials say risk remains low for the general US public, but is growing.

Mr T’s speech on Wednesday night only served to accelerate my anxiety, given on the same day the WHO called the Coronavirus, aka COVID-19, a pandemic. Europe has porous borders, banning everyone except British people makes NO damn sense. This disease is already here and it strikes randomly and with precision, like a tornado. Only 20% will become seriously ill, most of us will feel like we have the flu. Will they take my temperature when I visit the Great Grands?

Our country could have started preparing for this in November, but Mr T demands loyalty and supplication from his civil servants, and so he has gone about decimating the very structure that should have been in place. We elected him to disrupt the government, and look what we got! A reporter with the Rolling Stone says,

“…we lost both the top White House official in charge of pandemic response and his global health security team last May, and none of them were replaced. This is what it looks like once a government that was built ostensibly to serve the public is deconstructed and reformed to serve an autocrat in training wheels. It looks like a chief of staff claiming the press is only covering a pandemic that has spread to at least 56 nations because “they think this will bring down the president.” 

A virus is not political – COVID-19 will strike anyone at will. This bears repeating – it is not the media’s fault, the Coronavirus is not a hoax! When I get over this generalized feeling of doom and gloom, I’ll remember to be mad at the clown in the White House. Bob told me yesterday, “The problem in this country is lack of testing. In South Korea, for instance, almost 4000 people per million population have been tested. In the Netherlands, it is 350 per million population. In the United States it is five per million.” 

5 people per million.

I’m not sleeping, and if you’re having trouble sleeping, let’s make a hot steaming cup of Ginger Vanilla tea together and breathe.

My hands are sweating. Don’t worry if you have clammy hands too, because we don’t need to shake hands anymore anyway. We need to stay 6′ away from everyone.

I kept my appointment with my hair stylist yesterday, I missed it last Tuesday because, you remember, the tornado on Monday night. Bob told me if the hair stylist was sick to come home, and he meant it. But he was fine and we had a small dose of fun. He fixed my pale pink hair, now it’s a bright fuchsia!

To be perfectly honest, right after the tornado I had a bad headache and was congested. I thought my headache was because we had no power – so I had no coffee. Caffeine withdrawal can be brutal. I thought my congestion was because I’d been sweeping and cleaning up city sidewalks. Nothing like a disaster to mask the symptoms of a common cold.

The L’il Pumpkin had croup, and the Love Bug had a cough. I stayed away from Great Grandma Ada and Hudson.

And now I wonder, did we all have this virus? I didn’t run a fever and never even had a sore throat. Last week, being tested for Coronavirus didn’t cross my mind. But if I did, how long is it communicable? It would have been nice to know, but without a fever I probably wouldn’t have been tested even if I wanted one. Even if my doctor could get her hands on one.  I’ve been to the gym once, a few days ago, and I usually have to wait for Bob to finish after my workout. A guy sat across from me coughing, without covering his mouth in any way.

I wanted to smack him.

And I’m really not a violent person, I went to Catholic school. So let’s give ourselves a break and realize that we are all feeling somewhat unmoored and adrift at the moment. In this social contract we have to each other, let’s practice “social distancing.” I’m not going to a really cool concert in East on Sunday. Nicole Atkins, a friend of the Rocker’s is singing, and Norah Jones will be there. And the Heartbreakers, but maybe the Bride and Groom want to go?

Nope, Nicole just DMed me, the show has been cancelled.

I just wanted you to know you’re not alone out there. We’re all scared and needing a little TLC right about now. If you’re working from home, or your kids have been sent home from college, you’re lucky. Your livelihood doesn’t depend on tips or touring. If you have small children at home, try to treat this time like an adventure. Stress can take its toll on all of us.

This president started his term with a lie. Let’s stay #NashvilleStrong and keep it real. I’m always available via social, text and email. Let’s stay connected. Here we are doing arts and crafts last weekend in the stairwell – our safe place during the tornado.

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Italy has quarantined 16 Million people. Meghan and Harry are finishing up their official royal duties. And Bob and I have moved back into our home after the tornado because we have our power back!

Women all over the world were marching yesterday for equal rights in support of International Women’s Day. Fighting for equality, and the right not to be raped. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-51791335

The NY Stock Market had to suspend trading this morning because of its torrential fall. It’s hard to watch for retirees like us. And it’s not just here, a sharp drop in oil prices has had a domino effect around the world. Today has a name, “Black Monday.”

But in our little world, the lights have come back on; and the outpouring of love and support for our community continues and is life affirming. Every single day, a restaurant or a church or a group of people show up with a barbeque grill in a parking lot dispensing hot meals and drinks to everyone. We share our stories, our extra bedrooms and bathrooms. We sweep and clean and pick insulation out of fences. We’ve moved back into our house.

Yesterday I tried getting back to “normal.”

I went to the Publix and was determined to cook dinner. It was jam-packed with young people probably moving back into apartment buildings since the tornado touched down, that is if their building wasn’t condemned. https://www.msn.com/en-us/money/realestate/vista-germantown-condemned/ar-BB10LG80 I asked the young Black girl packing my groceries if she was alright, she lives in North she said. We had quite a heart to heart right there.

It’s funny how I’d just been explaining what “small talk” is with the Grands. We don’t do much of it now, it’s all deep talk.

I had my first Pilates lesson with a friend of the Bride whose studio is right down the street. Her building, an arts cooperative, didn’t have power yet but it was 68 degrees and sunny. Rebekah helped me heal my arthritic parts, she dispensed her knowledge with love. She lives in East.

Bob walked me to her studio so he could stop by our favorite Japanese restaurant and talk with neighbors – they were serving chili on the patio. Then he planted his raised bed with winter vegetables. I kept thinking, spring is coming, it’s such a beautiful day and yet so many people are still suffering, what else can we do? I already mentioned Crossroad Pets, their employees are in hotels and their animals are in foster care now. But a donation their way would be incredible. https://interland3.donorperfect.net/weblink/weblink.aspx?name=E330162&id=1

Here are some  more organizations that are on the ground in Nashville if you’d like to help:

The Community Foundation of Middle TN – https://www.cfmt.org/

Middle TN Emergency Response Fund – https://www.cfmt.org/giving-and-investing/become-a-donor/give-to-a-fund/middle-tennessee-emergency-response-fund/

To find out what else you can do, visit https://www.nashvilledowntown.com/events/numnashvillestrong-tornado-relief

We’ve dropped off diapers and batteries, and now the big machines are coming in and clearing out. Picking phone poles out of trees. Our neighborhood is a patchwork quilt of blue tarp roofs. But the Farmer’s Market has reopened and last night I made comfort food.

The CDC is warning “old” people not to travel, to stay home. I’m happy cocooning in place; we have lights and heat and wifi! When we were prepping for the coronavirus, I never thought we’d be hit by a tornado. Normal, whatever that is, in Nashville will never be the same. Oh, and I dyed my hair pink.

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I heard the clickity-clack of Ms Bean’s toes pacing around the bedroom, followed by flashes of lightening and thunder. I had no idea what time it was when Bob’s cell started blaring like an Amber Alert. Then came the sirens. It was 12:45 am.

That night, Bob had gone out to a neighborhood association meeting. I was disgusted with politics – Amy had dropped out, then Pete – and I’d become habituated to the  non-stop storm weather coverage. Tornado watches were nothing new in Nashville. Following all the transplanted, tough northerners, I barely paid attention to the predicted path of what might become a twister.

Instead, I tuned into The Hunters, on Amazon Prime.

Bob usually wakes up fast, but he must have been in a deep sleep cycle because it took his screeching phone to get him up and out of bed and into his office. The TV anchor said, “A tornado has touched down in Nashville, get to your safe space immediately.” And just like that, the darkness enveloped us – lights, TV, street lights were all gone and all we could hear were the sirens. “Get Dressed,” he told me in a way that meant this is an emergency, do what I say, I’m the doctor (for Dr Who fans).

I pulled on a pair of pants under my nightgown, got my robe and went downstairs with Ms Bean nearly attached to my knees. Our only space without windows, since we don’t have a basement, is under the stairs at our game table. I could hear the wind rattling the windows, and the blinds upstairs went whooshing. Bob said he heard a freight train, but all I could hear were the sirens and the windows and the whistling in my ears. As I sat down like I was ready to play a game of backgammon I realized I only had my bedroom slippers on…

So I went to the front door in the dark to find a pair of boots. After all, if we were buried in this house I’d need to be able to walk out to whatever was left. I could hear hail pelting the windows and the doors. And then, just as fast as it started, it was over. Maybe it only lasted a minute or two, and I felt like we were tickled by the tail end of hell. I could hear the emergency alarm from the apartment complex across the street, and the sirens kept blaring for another half hour.

The Bride woke us at 6 am. Were we OK? She wanted to come to us but streets were blocked.

I put some Aussie Bites and iced tea out on our picnic table, people stopped by to tell me their stories. One girl was from Oklahoma and she slept through everything! When we walked Ms Bean that first morning, everyone on the street was in shock. Ms Berdelle’s son Scott was staying with her thank God, so many of her big tress were down. One crushed her friend’s car. All her clerestory dining room windows were broken. Another friend, the girl who loves my chicken soup, wondered if we had a tarp, one of her windows was gone.

Then I turned a corner and debris was everywhere, windows were blown out of fancy, three story condos. It felt like I’d entered a war zone.

Yesterday we were part of a cleanup crew. Pulling mangled pieces of steel off sidewalks, picking up roof tiles and chunks of insulation, sweeping sidewalks. My arthritic knees did about as much bending as they could do. Tears had been close for a long time, our house was fine, we had only lost power along with the rest of the city. But seeing neighbors come together, giving out water, setting up food and charging stations, rolling up their sleeves to help, that’s when it hit me. It’s the kindness that gets me every time.

I still cry now. For the horrible loss of life. For the people whose homes are condemned. For our neighborhood non-profit, Crossroad Pets, a pet store with a purpose. Their building was hit hard. https://crossroadscampus.org/

They take in stray animals for adoption and train local, disadvantaged youth in grooming and general animal care. Many of their employees have aged out of the foster care system, and y’all know I was once a foster child. If anyone is looking to help out with donations, Crossroads could sure use your help.

I want to thank so many of you for reaching out to check on me and the family. The Great Grandparents live 8 miles away and are doing fine. We’re camping with the Bride and Groom until the power comes back. The Bride saw a man with carbon monoxide poisoning, so remember to keep those generators outside if you’re lucky enough to have one. And always look for people helping people.

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