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Posts Tagged ‘Psychology’

Have you ever heard strange sounds in the middle of the night? Not like squirrels in the chimney, or mice in the walls. And not like thunder and lightning followed by a deranged dog trying to crawl under your bed. More like footsteps out on your porch at 4 am?

Well, that’s how our weekend began. Someone was clomping around on our porch – but let’s start from the very beginning.

On Friday I really wanted to see the Groom. We’d called, texted and Zoomed and Facetimed, but he was finally out of the Tower and back in the bosom of his family. I had to make sure he was doing well and warn the Bride not to expect too much; he needed to rest after all. Covid can take a lot out of a person. I mean just walking to the mailbox could be exhausting.

But you can’t keep a good man down for long because on Friday he had already been teaching the Love Bug how to ride a bike, setting up their “tiny school” at home, and then he took the dogs on a 30 minute walk! So I rewarded my Son-in-Law’s enthusiasm with a big plate of chicken parmigiana that night. As we were leaving, the Bride began to take the Grands blood for a study at the university.

We have at-home kits to take blood, but not to test for this virus?

As we drove home from our socially distanced dinner on their front porch, we passed a long Catholic parade on the streets of Germantown. An official Bishop-type led dozens of priests and altar boys carrying a statue of the Virgin Mary adorned with flowers, there were at least a hundred people following the procession – the Assumption of Mary. Many of the women wore a lacey head covering, but virtually nobody wore a mask. Everyone was singing!

As I opened the car window and looked on adoringly, thinking about all those years at a Catholic camp singing with nuns in the woods on our way to a grotto, Bob yelled, “Wear a damn mask!” breaking the spell.

And that was the night, or actually early the next morning, we heard the intruder on our porch. Bob immediately went downstairs and I immediately thought to myself, “My phone is plugged in downstairs, what if I need to call 911…”

Then I heard Bob’s voice, he was talking to somebody. Prompting Ms Bean to leave her cozy bed, she led the way downstairs; so much for our little guard dog, she never uttered a peep, not a growl or a bark! Bob had already locked the door and sent a young man, who was surely a drunk tourist, on his way.

“What did you say?” I asked him.

“I asked him what he thought he was doing here,” Bob said. Sometimes the NJ vibe just cannot be contained. I was stunned. What if he had a gun? What if What if What if…..

Once before, in the Blue Ridge, a large van pulled up to our house at around midnight. Bob got up and looked out the window to see an elderly man standing there, putting on a jacket. We opened the front door and the man said, “We’re here for Mr Young.” Now Mr Young was actually an older gentleman farmer and former UVA professor who lived down our country road a piece, and he had died in his sleep. The van was from the Cremation Society of Virginia.

Would it be wrong to say how relieved we were – that the van wasn’t coming for us? We were living on 14 acres in the middle of a forest, still Bob wasn’t scared. And he had no fear in the wee hours before daybreak on Saturday, in fact, he went back to sleep! While I stayed up replaying all the different scenarios in my head. Maybe we should move out of the city? Should we start looking for a beach house, again?

When in doubt, cook! Yesterday I sent Bob to Whole Foods for tahini because the Insta people voted on Baba Ganoush as an appetizer. Although zucchini season was done, Bob’s elegant Japanese eggplants were just getting started. I haven’t made this yummy hummus-like spread since the 70s and it was a major hit at our party for two.

How many lives do we humans get? I survived a car accident in 1949, the Groom survived Covid in 2020. I wonder if our democracy will survive this political pandemic season.

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Is there some food you seem to be craving more during this pandemic lockdown? For me it’s bacon. I never used to buy bacon – even in the old days I’d buy turkey bacon, which wasn’t fooling my family at all. Now you will always find maple flavored or honey smoked bourbon bacon or just plain ole bacon bacon in my refrigerator.

In fact, we just had BLTs for lunch.

We celebrated the Rocker’s Leo birthday by sending him a Postmates gift card. Guess what he’s craving? Sushi! Then while he and Aunt Kiki were on a Left Coast dog beach, we Zoomed with the whole family, from Nashville to LA via a quarantined garage apartment. Remind me to buy the Groom a plant for his real Zoom background, or maybe he could find a good virtual background?

Celebrations can be strange in the Time of Coronavirus. Appropriately enough, I posted a picture to the Rocker’s Facebook timeline for his birthday that shows him sitting on top of Chicago. Literally. He and KiKi are seemingly floating on the Ledge of Willis Tower. I don’t know about you, but that’s exactly how I’m feeling… like I’m floating in time and space..

Like that time we went up over Charlottesville in a hot air ballon and I found out the pilot had no idea where we would land! Drifting up towards the treetops was exhilarating at first, then it quickly turned terrifying. No one had bothered to tell me that this was normal, that our landing was dependent on the wind and the nearest farmer’s field.

So I thought I would listen to another Martha Beck Insta-something this morning. She reeled me in with this topic: “The Secret to Feeling Better;” who doesn’t want to feel better??

Beck tells us that, “What we resist, persists.” Maybe this is why I can’t stop buying bacon? She is talking about emotional trauma, or the muscle pain of some new exercise. Go with the flow y’all. Now anybody who ever dropped into a yoga class has heard that one, but did you know the opposite is true?

When good things happen, and we try to grasp and hold onto them for dear life, they slip away. But more and more good things will happen if we can just detach from that overwhelming feeling of joy. We are supposed to simply meditate and find that calm center, between the extremes, because good and bad things happen all the time.

So when we resist the bad things they stay, and when we embrace the good things they leave? Beck is insisting that we get stuck when we hold on too tight. Well sorry Martha, but I’m holding onto the good things right now.

Tomorrow the Bride and the Grands will be tested for the virus, and I’m sure they will test negative. After all, they have excellent immune systems! I’m baking banana bread with chocolate chips, because I can’t let Bob win the bread-baking championship. And yesterday I did some online shopping for Great Grandma Ada, and I accept my addiction to Amazon.

While I’m grasping for good news, I’m proud to call myself a RESISTER. The Flapper always described herself as a REBEL, so it must be in my genes. I resist our plodding towards autocracy, and I resist the Trumpers who feel as if WE are the tyrants for wanting them to wear masks. The sheer audacity of their selfish, insipid belief system is staggering.

Yes, I’m supremely attached to my children and grandchildren, I admit it! Why try to detach or deny my overwhelming love for these people? I know they don’t really need me anymore; they are all tax-paying adults, who know how to order by InstaCart and cook. But do they put bacon on their turkey meatloaf?

This is me holding onto the Rocker’s Cleo for his work on Dunkirk a few years ago.

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“The fact still remains, I am not going to apologize for something I didn’t say.”

Okay, Lying about what you said is never a good way to start an apology. Tea Party member, veterinarian and righteously dishonest Republican from (where else) FLORIDA, Ted Yoho, has given us all a lesson on the non-apology apology. Unfortunately for him, he accosted AOC on the steps of Congress in front of a reporter.

Generalizing, or not saying the name of the person you offended, is cowardly. “I’m sorry if my words offended someone?!?!” Just like turning away from the person you are calling a “fucking bitch,” but saying it just loud enough for her to hear it.

Contingency – Don’t make your apology contingent by using a conjunction. Slightly different from the last non-apology because at least it is directed towards someone, but just as heinous. “I’m sorry IF my words offended you”

Deflecting, don’t even try to apply a reason for your hateful speech, our couch it with your better angel. Don’t couple an apology with something else, like your “passion.” That’s the old “I beat her because I love her so much.”

Making up an excuse. Offering an excuse is just plain pathetic. Never offer an excuse for your bad behavior: “I was having a bad day” or “I drank too much,” or especially, “You made me do it!” Children make up excuses for their bad behavior.

No quid pro quo – Hmm, where have we heard that before? This implies that the person you’ve just insulted or accosted, in some way deserved it. Well you were yelling at me! You think I’m deplorable, so I can call you whatever I want. Pretty sure Yoho can’t read minds though.

Don’t make your apology a bid for sympathy – so what if you have a mother, most of us do! OH, wait you’re a Christian? That’s great! I was taught to turn the other cheek in Catholic school, what kind of Tea Bag Christian are you?

Here is this morning’s view from my desk. I’d wager a bet that most women have heard some or all of the above during our lifetimes. Don’t forget to vote by mail if you can!

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“Dear Martha:

“I just listened to your Insta video, or podcast, whatever. I always loved your columns in Oprah magazine. Unlike Dr Phil, who can be off-putting, your brand of self-help-psycho-babble resonated with me. But dear Dr Beck, this time you lost me.

“You lost me at meditating for an hour (OR MORE) every day. “‘I meditate for an hour every day,’ you said… even though you were unbearably “itchy” at first.

 “I’ve tried meditating for 10 minutes at a time. That is if the mail person doesn’t come to the door to regurgitate lots of paper through the slot onto the living room floor which causes Ms Bean to bark herself silly. She hates the mail invasion almost as much as she hates squirrels.  

“But I enjoyed listening to you this morning, because Bob was in the shower and because after all it was The Martha Beck talking in her Gathering (virtual) Room about “How to Hang in There When You Feel Like Giving Up!” https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/v=720387682089216&ref=watch_permalink”     Thanks for listening!

In a nutshell, Martha Beck talks about how every atom in the universe is in a constant push for growth. There’s a “push/pull” happening all the time; which made me think of Bob making sourdough bread. Two gorgeous loaves have just popped out of the oven. But I digress – Beck was talking about feeling overwhelmed in the middle of a pandemic. She had two solutions for us:

1) Let Go when there are a lot of expectations and competing forces in our lives. You don’t have to be in charge of everything all the time. Problems will be solved if we can stop and breathe – expand and contract our lungs. Great Grandma Ada would say in Yiddish, it will all press out.

2) Let Go of Yourself! Obviously the world will not be the same when this virus has run its course, and neither will we. If you used to ride the subway to work, maybe you stay home. Or ride your bike. But we must accept that our identity is fluid, or as Ada tells me, “Everyone is in crisis mode!” The tide is either coming or going.

Now to me, this all sounds nice, but it also sounds like giving up! What if somebody stole your car, and you don’t know whether your kid’s school is going to reopen next month. Or maybe your husband is working in the Covid ICU, and your nanny gets sick? It’s easy to be Zen-like, but somebody has to deal with the insurance and the nanny agencies.

My semi-quarantine world isn’t quite so complicated. Sometimes I’m competing with Bob for space in the kitchen – my zucchini bread vs his sourdough. And why does every Zoom exercise class I want to take, happen on Tuesdays? Overall, we can’t complain. My Covid/travel fantasy life is happy watching the PBS show “Escape to the Chateau.” https://thechateau.tv/ A couple with two young children buy and restore an 18th Century Chateau de la Motte Husson in France. They put in an elevator, and build a geodesic dome on their moat.

They’re eccentric Brits and I adore them! Angel loves taxidermy and collects stuffed, dead, wild animals and Dick can cook or fix just about anything. Who doesn’t love a good mid-to-later life crisis? When we built our VA mountain house, I thought that was IT for me. I’d moved South, something I thought I’d never do, we built our dream home and didn’t get divorced; I expected to leave that house feet first!

But here I am, finding my way in a city I love. Hosting a socially distant, bring-your-own cocktail party on a 90+ degree night for friends in the garden, because we all have to give up one identity, in order to grow into a future one.

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Anyone else feel like you’re mutating? Like we’ve gone into the Matrix, and how the heck do we get back out?

When we drive around town, which is maybe once or twice a week, we are seeing people walking into restaurants, no masks, no problems. We saw a protest on the capitol lawn of American flag-waving, freedom-loving, red-hatted zealots who probably think this virus was a hoax. Clumps of young people sunbathe on blankets all over our local park; probably 10% have masks on.

The city’s Black funeral home is busy every single day, maybe 50% of mourners are wearing masks.

You’ve heard of the old saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” I’m almost tempted to go back to “normal,” throw caution to the wind, but the doctors in the family say it’s too soon. It’s as if the combination of spring weather mixed with partial re-opening has affected everyone’s short-term memory. But I urge you to take a look at this website, click on the arrow to the right of the United States to find your state, and look at the graphs for social distancing compared to newly confirmed cases of Covid.

https://covid19.healthdata.org/united-states-of-america

I once said you have to suspend your disbelief to function rationally under Mr T’s Twitter rule. And now he tells us he’s been taking a dangerous drug, hydroxychloroquine, ever since his “Valet” tested positive. And guess what, I don’t believe him.    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/05/18/us/politics/trump-hydroxychloroquine-covid-coronavirus.html

I don’t believe anything that vulgar person says. I do however believe my husband, who tells me that deaths will spike on those charts in just a few weeks. I dreamt about Great Grandma Ada last night – we were sitting too close to people at a table in a mess hall that looked like Camp St Joseph for Girls’ St Augustine’s Hall.

If my dream life is getting weird, why not try weird on for size? I enjoyed reading this article in the NYTimes Magazine on Sunday. The author decided to practice some radical behavioral changes while confined, like getting rid of chairs and sitting and working on the floor. It’s almost a Zen reaction, to give into the craziness, the loneliness of this time with the coronavirus.

“If you believe that identity is behavior — that you are how you act, not what you think or how you feel — then you understand that adjectives like ‘‘normal’’ or ‘‘functional’’ require constant tending. If you change your conduct, you can change your life: how simple, and how daunting! All it took for me to become unrecognizable was to start acting like a different person. In theory, this should work in reverse too. When this is all over, I can return to chairs and forks and sleep. It would probably be for the best.”    https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/05/11/magazine/quarantine-insanity.html                           

Stay in your PJs, throw out your bras, serve pancakes for dinner! I could actually exist on Bob’s sourdough bread with Irish butter. Submit to the “Evil Empire of Amazon!” My sister Kay just told me I hadn’t changed much over the years, but she was talking about my appearance. Thanks Kay, maybe that’s why I dyed my hair pink? And why I learned how to mend clothes with Shashiko embroidery. If you told me last year that I’d be taking a Pilates class on Zoom today, I wouldn’t believe it.

Change is just about all we can rely on; if we change our behavior, do we change our identity?  92588620-7413-4943-93BD-EC245C16467A

 

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Anyone else having pandemic dreams? We’ve reversed our dream life lately; Bob has been having Covid nightmares and I can’t seem to recall my dreams.

Normally, I have a vivid and colorful dream or two every night, while Bob wakes up empty handed in the morning. He’ll listen stoically over coffee while I regale him with my nightly scenario, only to tell me he’s got nothing. I insist he must have been dreaming, he just can’t remember.

My dreams are the usual anxiety type – “I’m about to take a test and realize I never went to the class,” or “I’m about to get on a plane and the pilot is someone I know who doesn’t know how to fly.” They are actually pretty straight forward, and sometimes my dreams are a reminder to do something I’ve been putting off, like make an appointment with a dentist.

Good luck with that one now, although I could drive to Georgia to get a tattoo!

This morning, for the first time in weeks, almost 6 weeks in fact, I remembered my dream. I was in charge of a theatrical production and I’d promised a script to someone… I was running around but I couldn’t find it. (This is me. Every. Damn. Day with my phone) so I had to go outside… to find the script or the person. And the outside was like the outside of my original high school in NJ, only the sidewalk was crowded with people. I had to yell at everyone to “Make Way!” It was like the parting of the sea, get out of my way, “Back Up!”

Obviously a quarantine dream. Bob, on the other hand, has been dreaming like crazy! He gets into a situation and realizes he’s too close to someone. Or he’s all of sudden surrounded by people and has to figure the safest, best way out.

In general, fear is the dominant emotion manifested by coronavirus dreams. When fear or anxiety becomes too intense during our waking lives, deep, REM sleep fails and we may experience repetitive nightmares. Psychologists say that sharing your dreams with others may help .

“During our dream states, stress sends the brain on a trip. The neurobiological signals and reactions that produce dreams are similar to those triggered by psychedelic drugs, according to McNamara. Psychedelics activate nerve receptors called serotonin 5-HT2A, which then turn off a part of the brain called the dorsal prefrontal cortex. The result is known as “emotional disinhibition,” a state in which emotions flood the consciousness, especially during the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, when we typically dream.”  https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/2020/04/coronavirus-pandemic-is-giving-people-vivid-unusual-dreams-here-is-why/

During the 60s, I didn’t really participate in the psychedelic drug scene, remember I went to Catholic school. The whole idea of walking around inside a hallucination never appealed to me, I’d rather be asleep on such a phantasmagorical journey. But this global pandemic is novel, it’s not confined by country or ideology. We are all experiencing a kind of PTSD, well most of us who aren’t driving around with Confederate flags on our pick-ups eager to open up commerce cause, ya know.

They’d rather sacrifice lives and die than have their liberty trampled! Who doesn’t need a good haircut about now?

I’m sick and tired of the vernacular of fear. Of a toddler/president who thinks everybody loves him. Of a government that can’t organize a simple supply chain for SWABS! I’m sleep and dream deprived but I’m not willing to give up now, not when my daughter has spent the last 3 days working in an ER.

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My kitchen looks like a sweatshop.

There’s the ironing board facing you across from the refrigerator, with its proud Rowenta iron sitting center stage. And a Singer sewing machine has replaced the French placemats at our dining table in this “open-concept” main living/eating room. Scraps of Bob’s Pati de St Barth old tee shirts are littering every available surface, waiting to be cut into straps for face masks… a relatively easy thing to make; like riding a bike for me.

In another life I used to quilt. I would make Log Cabin baby quilts and aprons with a Dresden plate pattern. I’d make Wedding Ring pillows in calico cotton. In another world on a mountain in New England, when my babies would nap I would sew.

But in this world, my daughter calls her Father to go over the protocol she will use for dressing in PPE for her upcoming shift. The Groom is On Call now, in the Covid ICU, following the same ritual of showering in their Red Zone before returning to his family, the same ritual that the Bride was using before Passover. She was just fitted today for her very own N95 mask, a month after our quarantine.

Weeks after a kind neighbor dropped off a few N95 masks for her – he had been in the construction industry.

But my daughter will still need cotton face masks, her colleagues will all need masks, to prolong the life of their surgical masks. Because in this great country, this administration has failed to provide the weapons for this war. In fact, we should all be wearing masks now if we must venture outside.

So instead of having a mental meltdown this past week, Bob and I are making masks!

There was one day that I didn’t bother to change out of my nightgown. One day when catastrophic thinking got the best of me. Nashville has been on lockdown for a month now; we’ve figured out how to use Shipt to get groceries delivered, we’ve mastered the art of Zooming, this “new normal” was almost becoming acceptable. Then, like many others lately, I hit a wall.

I could barely move.

This morning on Morning Joe, I listened to Norman Ornstein talk about his son Matthew, who struggled with mental illness for a decade before it claimed his life. Tonight on PBS, Ornstein’s documentary, “The Definition of Insanity,” will debut – it will tackle the stigma that still constricts our society around mental illness. The Catch 22 of trying to get our loved ones to take medication, only to have them stop and descend into psychosis, until they are hospitalized or jailed, and the cycle repeats itself.

“At age 24, Matthew had a sudden psychotic break, and that began a difficult decade-long journey for him and for his family and friends. … Matthew was particularly afflicted by one component of his illness: anosognosia, the inability of a person to recognize that he or she is ill. Since Matthew was over 18, neither family members nor professionals had any legal authority to get him treatment for the symptoms that kept him from living a stable life.”  https://www.nytimes.com/2015/11/17/opinion/how-to-help-save-the-mentally-ill-from-themselves.html

Whenever we do get back to “normal,” when we reopen the country, I’m sure we will see a spike in mental illness – it will have an inverse effect. As Corona admissions go down, the need for psychiatric beds will go up. Agoraphobia, “The abnormal fear of being in crowds, public places, or open areas, sometimes accompanied by anxiety attacks” will skyrocket. Maybe because my foster mother Nell never liked leaving the house, this is something I struggle with on a good day.

But not today. Today we will drive to see Great Grandma Ada and Hudson and Bob will sort their pills in a vestibule while I talk through the glass. Today we will drive-thru Krispy Kreme for donuts to deliver to the Grands. We will stand at the edge of their yard and talk for a little while. And we will continue to walk Ms Bean outside, carefully avoiding other people in the street.

Today we will make more face masks.

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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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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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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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