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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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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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The first case of Coronavirus is in New York. It’s in Florida. More than 3,000 have died around the world so far because of some bat droppings. I guess it’s time to start Doomsday Prepping; what would you need if you had to spend 2 weeks in quarantine? In your house… with your spouse… would you cook?… read a book?

OK Boomer Dr Seuss, I would need BOOKS! But thanks to my Parnassus mail delivery and an infinite supply on the iPad – which the Love Bug has told me many times I must give to her when I upgrade – reading a book will not be a problem. I’m currently reading Gish Jen’s The Resisters. It’s about a split society in the future that is run by a benevolent AI – the POC live in swampy areas and the “angel fair” live above sea level. https://www.npr.org/2020/02/05/802683530/the-resisters-could-use-a-little-more-resistance

MEDICINE. Bob tells me that lots of our drugs, surprise surprise, are made in China! So as that supply chain is impacted by the virus, we may want to front-load on our prescriptions. Since I mostly take vitamins and supplements a trip to our new Whole Foods on Broadway is in order – milk thistle for my psoriasis, and more fish oil in a smaller capsule size please. And speaking of fish…

PROTEIN. Canned protein would be good to stock up on, like tuna fish. Tuna fish sandwiches were my go-to lunch in high school accompanied by a nice bag of chips, before chips came in flavors. What is it with seaweed or crab flavored chips? I actually thought salt and vinegar went a bit too far. And don’t forget Spam for protein! Made in Minnesota and loaded with who knows what! The Bride said it was all over Hawaii but I’ve never even tasted it. And canned BEANS!

LIQUIDS. Water of course you can get out of your refrigerator filtered, or the faucet even. We don’t need to go buying jugs of water, unless you live in Michigan. But if you like a certain beverage, like Snapple iced tea, Gatorade, beer or wine or vodka now’s the time to visit your local market. I think it’s hysterical that TN has GOT to card anyone buying alcohol, I mean I remember feeling good when NJ would card me in my 30s, now it’s just a pain in the keister. Cashiers wait patiently while I try to pry my license out of my wallet with arthritic fingers .

DOG FOOD. Luckily we order Ms Bean’s kibble online, but after her GI upset around the holidays she is also getting a very special canned meat additive. It’s so special in fact, we have to purchase it at our Vet’s office. Hmmm, I wonder where that is made? Maybe a trip to Target is on order for her treats, biscuits and twisty rawhide bones. She has plenty of stuffed toys she drags over to us at dinnertime, dropping them at our feet and looking longingly into our eyes, as if to say, “You see, I killed this tiny thing for you, now won’t you please FEED ME!!!”

OTHER STUFF. We have plenty of frozen veggies, rice and spaghetti! If Bob’s not in the mood to make ravioli, my pantry is full of DeCecco pasta. Long ago I stopped buying Barilla for a political reason I’ve forgotten but I’m clinging to that conviction. In fact, last night we had the Grands for dinner because the Bride was working and the Groom has the flu (NOT coronavirus). I combined a spinach fusilli #34 with penne rigate #31 and it was a huge success. The Love Bug at first mentioned not being sure about green pasta, but I’m prepping her for St Patrick’s Day. https://www.dececco.com/us_us/recipes/

Here’s what we don’t need. We don’t need to panic or buy masks; even ER docs don’t wear masks. If a patient is febrile a nurse may slap a mask on them as soon as they enter the waiting room, but we all do not need to walk around like it’s Mardi Gras. Also don’t forget your neighbors. I just sent Bob out the other night with some good old fashioned Jewish chicken soup for our young friend who was down and out with the flu. If you were thinking of getting on an airplane right about now, I probably wouldn’t. But that’s a risk we each have to take.

Meanwhile people, wash your hands and pray for the Democrats! This is my famous chicken soup in the making – the secret is fresh parsley.

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Coronavirus is the bug; and the boat, harbored in the Japanese port of Yokohoma, is the Diamond Princess. This would be my idea of a living hell.

I’ve already suffered from a mosquito bite that infected me with West Nile, another dainty little virus that blossomed into a severe case encephalitis. It was the worst headache I’d ever had, for a week, and it left me with a significant visual loss. Having to endure something similar, on a cruise ship, in a foreign country…

Also, Bob and I have never really wanted to set sail with thousands of strangers on one of those multi-level behemoths. Maybe it was that first outbreak of Legionnaire’s disease? I must admit I’ve become a bit hypochondriacal in my later years – if someone sneezes I will immediately turn and walk away, I’ll take the next elevator, I may even start wearing a mask!

Bob’s more about action and adventure, he told me that all you do on a cruise is “Eat,” but that was purely anecdotal. Maybe he’s afraid of gaining a pound or two? He’s certainly not afraid of a little virus, he loves to tell me how many teensy tiny organisms live on our bodies all the time! “It’s a cesspool!”

Yesterday, 99 new people have tested positive for the Coronavirus on the Diamond Princess, with nearly 400 Americans onboard. So far, only 46 Yanks have tested positive and they were promptly sent to a Tokyo hospital. I guess we should feel good that at least our government has started to evacuate its citizens back to the US, where they will have to be quarantined for another two weeks.

But what if your spouse tests positive? Would you return home without them?

There are now 542 sick patients on the boat because somehow or another their attempt at a quarantine failed miserably. Some blame it on the crew who ate together with their masks off. But really, no one knows. The Diamond Princess has the largest number of infected people outside of China.

Last week a pilot-friend of Bob’s called him from Colorado. He’d been at an IT conference in California with many Pan-Asian participants. After he returned home, he received a letter from the conference organizers saying an attendee traveling on his airline (though, luckily, not his flight) had tested positive, and if he exhibited any symptoms he should promptly go to the nearest ER. Since he didn’t want to be quarantined and wrapped up in a bubble, he thought he’d call my husband.

“Have you had any fever?” Bob said. Luckily the answer was no.

We are considering another river cruise. We really enjoyed our trip down the Danube on a Viking ship with slightly less than 200 passengers. The only bad thing that happened was a woman falling, she broke her leg on a slippery hill in a small town. Sadly, we had to leave her behind in an Austrian hospital.

Travel is risky. But now is the time to do it according to AARP, while we can still hike and change currency with the best of them. We need to keep expanding our minds, learning new things before the inevitable losses of old age. So we’re putting together another trip this year with our Italian chefs, Marco and Claudio for the Fall. This is my idea of heaven, laughing, trekking and cooking, absorbing a different culture, with a group of friends.

Next stop, Corsica!

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