Yes. It’s has been a while.
I think we can now say it’s official; the world as we knew it no longer exists.
I last chimed in on the first day of the month and now as March comes to a close, I feel no closer to accessing the tools to understand the changing landscape around me or express my feelings toward it.
I likened it recently thusly: it’s like I go to bed every night with a snow globe on the table next to me and I awaken to look at it each morning. The only thing is that it appears that is has been shaken so vehemently that I no longer recognize the little landscape from the one the night before — largely because some of the new elements that were there before no longer exist and alarming new pieces now rest in their place.
Every day the world feels different from the day before.
Not only do I not recognize the changing world around me, the comforts of yesteryear no longer exist in the same form. A hug from a friend. A leisurely stroll through a vibrant, boisterous market.
Offered and accepted food comforts, be it a BBQ brisket taco from a beloved food cart
or the pleasure of offering up a plate of treats
are either no longer available, deemed ill-advised or something to be avoided. So they have been thrown by the wayside, too.
I used to strike up probably a dozen conversations with familiar faces and strangers daily and I loved the proximity of it all. For an introvert I love to talk, and most of all to listen. The melding of visual and aural senses along with the auditory. Now that this is largely gone (except with family members or done only sparingly and at a safe distance), I realize how much I miss that closeness.
And damn it, every conversation is a spin on the same old thing. How scary this is. How unbelievable. All this headshaking and quickly expressed sameness and then hasty goodbyes before the distances are broached or tears come to one’s eyes. It’s like a 24/7 loop of bad but incomprehensible news. And an endless talk of toilet paper dearth.
Yes, conversations on the phone and Zoom and Facetime help, but I miss the old fashioned encounters of true face to face and the tactile pleasures of friendly touch.
And friends, how about the breezy freedoms of the past? Ah to shop and bin!
To welcome someone at my door as a friend (and not a potential threat to be kept at arm’s distance).
To allow Porter to run up to other dogs and friends at the park and to strike up a conversation with the person at the checkout line.
It’s this tyrannical trifecta –fear, anxiety and looming catastrophe– that looms so large and weighs so heavily. For me it came to a head two weeks ago when I realized that I had unwittingly shared a treat and a face to face with a person then suspected of COVID.
What happened was a certain elderly neighbor (who I occasionally check in on and bring treats to) stopped me on the sidewalk on March 10th to engage me in conversation. I hadn’t seen her in a while so when she saw me in front of my house with Porter she stopped the car to jump out and offer me a bag of dog treats she’d had in her car apparently forever. We chatted for a while, we laughed, she was in good spirits, and only ten days after that did I realize she’d gotten quite sick two days after our encounter.
Turns out shortly after I saw her she came down with fevers, cough, sore throat, body aches, etc — so much so that she was given one of the few tests here in Oregon but had to wait 8 days to get the answer.
Damn! Had my friendly demeanor meant that I had possibly been infected by one of the first of the state’s confirmed cases and had I then transmitted along this virus to my family and others without knowing it?
She tested positive. I waited. I worried. I huddled with my family looking for a possible symptom until I made it to the two week period with none of the most worrisome symptoms of fever and cough.
Happily, she is one of the lucky ones. She is recovering at home and hasn’t needed doctor’s care — just lots of rest while she very very slowly makes incremental strides.
We, her neighbors, continue to check on her by phone and text and I’ve left her multiple treats on her porch over the last two weeks to bring comfort or cheer.
And this one interaction appears to be one bullet I was lucky to dodge.
Unhappily, however, Oregon’s case count is on the rise (as it is everywhere) and we all have to be so careful. We now know that it is airborne and those without symptoms can still infect others.
David is doubly at risk (he’ll be 70 in July and his cancer makes him extra vulnerable to a bad response to COVID) and so we are in near lockdown (friends are doing most of our marketing for us and we go out just for market essentials, D to his office occasionally and I to the dog park). I’m terrified what awaits us as a state, a country, as world citizens.
Thank God, for now, we all seem to be okay (except for minor sore throats and a little sniffles) and we’re all hanging together — mostly at home with the odd rare trip to a quiet beautiful space nearby for fresh air (like gorgeous Cathedral Park).
Okay, that’s the COVID and March update. Let’s move on to the good stuff and coping strategies, shall we?
Like so many parents, the good news is that we were able to welcome our college-aged child home.
I don’t think I’ve told you, but Oliver has lost a mind-bending forty-five pounds since he left for school in August (through six months of exercise and intermittent fasting) and he looks so healthy and happy.
George Washington University closed up shop mid-March so I got Oliver home the night before my birthday — and David’s one year cancer diagnosis.
As such, there was a lot to celebrate on his first full day back. Birthdays. Enduring. Reunions.
We spent the day scoring amazing takeout tacos at Matt’s BBQ Tacos
taking Pork Chop to the Sandy River for a little sunshine and water play
followed my more delicious treats at Sugarpine Drive-In
and then more takeout in the form of Scottie’s Pizza to tuck into at home.
Later, we all acknowledged how grateful we were that David had made it one year past diagnosis and then we watched one of my favorite old movies, Fever Pitch.
What are you watching/binging on?
We have been cycling through a number of British mysteries and I like to watch fun food videos, like David Leibowitz on Instagram.
We’ve been watching favorite old thrillers and comedies and new m like this one
and on the completely other end of the spectrum, this one, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Charlotte and I failed to get to the library before it closed (and she is adamant about reading actual books and not virtual ones), but I was reticent to order a slew of new books from Amazon (aren’t we giving enough business to it already?).
She and I pulled up a map of Little Free Libraries around our neighborhood
and after hitting ten or so stands
we found a handful that either she would enjoy or David’s or my Mom might appreciate; we then mailed a selection to both along with treats to brighten their days.
Speaking of keeping spirits up, how are you faring? What do you do to keep yours or your families spirits from being crushed/discouraged?
As always, we are pulling out favorite meals, many of them comfort foods that can be pulled together with ingredients from the freezer or pantry.
Penne with pork and fennel meatballs and a classic tomato sauce.
I love hearty soups
or ramen mashups.
I never tire of roast chicken, succulent with rubs and marinades and cooked until bronzed and juicy.
Tacos are also a big favorite around here
and when out of shells or tortillas, leftovers are made better when topped with a fried egg.
Paninis of all kinds are deeply appreciated at any hour
and avocado toasts have never been more necessary — or more delicious.
Further, I’ve yet to see a family member turn down a home-baked treat.
We added cheer in the form of St. Patrick’s Day
and I look forward to bringing out all my Easter stuff sometime this week.
(Look what was just sent to me by one of my sister’s friends. Thanks so much, Karen — I love them!).
I love Easter stuff and I can’t wait to see my house filled with little lambs and such.
Another pleasure we’ve found with Oliver home is enjoying a nightly cocktail together.
Oliver never was interested in alcohol in any form in high school but after six months of college life, he asked if it was okay to occasionally try his hand making and enjoying a daily libation. We agreed — one a night.
He and I went through my entire collection of spirits (I had a lot of bottles gifted me or purchased for parties that sat largely untouched), dumping old bottles and refreshing with newer varieties and brands (I ordered at liquor store and they brought out to my car).
I also organized my 150 plus cocktail glasses (behind all those bottles) and grouped them near their likely liquor.
Almost every night around 5 pm, Oliver asks me what we are having for dinner and he does some research as to what would be a tasty cocktail accompaniment.
In the past two weeks we sipped our ways through Slings and Sours and Sunrises (Gin, Whiskey and Tequila, respectively) as well as Cosmos and 7 & 7’s.
I guess we are part of a trend; I know multiple families with newly returned college students who are doing the exact same thing (allowing for careful experimentation, modeling moderation and adding a level of restaurant-like sophistication to at-home dining).
As always, I’m also trying to look for those who need a little extra TLC right now, like Irene, my senior who’s stuck in a tiny apartment with minimal access to fresh food or only infrequent shopping assistance).
I pull up my car in front of her building, waiting for others to have brief conversations with their people until Irene can safely roll her cart out and pick up my offered treats: fruit, various cheeses, frozen bread, leftovers packed in individual, freezable containers, wine, and other assorted items.
She was rationing her toilet paper and paper towels as she was running low on both. Who would have thought a month ago that a bag of paper products would be deemed so valuable and treasured?
I’m trying to thank my dear friend who is an ER doc for her courage and service with daily treats on her doorstep
as I cannot imagine the amount of stress and anxiety she must go through every day she suits up and confronts this pandemic head on. Literally. (BTW, she’s a single mom of two.)
I’ve left her salsa, flowers, small wrapped gifts to give her daughter after a long shift, beer and warm baked potato dinners.
(Have you found other ways to thank those in your community who are helping out on the front lines? I’d love to hear other suggestions.)
Recently I’ve found a few strangers who are willing to share some of the modest spoils from their gardens so that I can pass along mini bouquets to anyone else who could use some extra cheer.
Luckily, I’m seeing a lot of others doing good stuff, too — and I show my gratitude whenever I can.
My friend Elona asked if I have any elastic as she is sewing fabric masks for friends and family (not ideal for protection but better than nothing).
I guess there’s a national shortage of elastic but I was delighted when I found this large spool for Elona in my stashes;
I accompanied it with a chocolate bar and left both on my porch,
and she in return left me four of these homemade masks.
For the handyman (now partially unemployed) who grocery shops for me bi-weekly sometimes I leave out care packages
and to the intrepid pal who picked me up just a few things from Costco (thanks Lisa!), another small little treat, left on my porch.
(In a strange way it is fun to see what I might already have that a friend or family might appreciate; I’ve sent six care packages from what I have on hand!)
How are you faring, dear friends?
What diversions and deliciousness do you dabble in daily?
Is your neighborhood also a source of joy and encouragement?
Who are you nourishing — and who’s nourishing you?
Like so many around me, I too feel the noose of anxiety, the stranglehold of fear. But I’m also so profoundly grateful; my family and I are better off (yes, even with the possibility of a cancer return and other worries) than so many right now. The acknowledgment of my blessings enables me to crawl out from underneath the rock of depression and venture forth.
As Mr. Rogers used to say “Look for the helpers.” I am going to try to be more consistently helpful as I safely can be.
I hope and pray you are all healthy and hanging in there during this heartbreaking time.
Hold your dear ones close, hug yourself tight — and stay in touch here or on Instagram. I’d love to hear from you!
Most of all, stay healthy and keep up the good fight.
Hugs and bacon hearts to all of you.