Monday, April 06, 2020

Figuring out the distance

I recently wrote in correspondence about feeling disconnected from reality, and a friend asked me to expand on the thought. For many, it’s a heightened sensitivity to the despair and grief in the world today. For me, it’s almost the opposite.

A much younger friend wrote about missing her life even as she expressed gratitude for blessings—she misses dinner dates with her husband, getting together with friends, travel, freedom. She bemoaned that people let themselves go (so glad we were not doing Facetime) and mentioned my “sunny-side-of-the-street thing.”

Daughter Jordan found a “coping calendar,” and she’s been using it to push us into family discussion in the hour before supper. The other night, my grandson said he was grateful for my positivity, and my son-in-law said he admired my resilience in isolation when he knows I’m a social being. They overestimate me, but I do try to be a positive person.

If I look back over my long life, I will tell you that I’ve been lucky and had few real traumas. But if I take a closer look, there was divorce, single parenthood (four wonderful teenagers), cancer, the loss of my parents, hip surgery that resulted in my needing assistance to walk, eye surgery that may have been the worst thing yet. It hasn’t all been easy, but always I knew I would come out on the other end. And I know that I and my family, friends, neighbors will come out on the end of this too. We will survive with grace.

So what’s the disconnect? I sit here in my cottage, going about my life much as usual—writing, reading, cooking. Thanks to Jordan, I am safe from the outside world. I feel like I’m in a cocoon, albeit one constructed of Lysol and Clorox. And yet I know there is, as one friend puts it, a world of hurt out there—disease, death, fear, grief. Am I Pollyanna because I feel disconnected from that? Insensitive? I know full well that we have to recognize and acknowledge fear and grief when they visit, but I’m not going to let them dominate my life.

I am doing what I can from where I am. I cook for my family, and I’ve stepped up my internet presence, checking on friends and family, especially those who are alone. Commenting on things I might normally pass, sharing recipes with those I know cook. In short trying to be more chatty than usual because I think in these times, we need warmth and comfort and friends.

I was tempted to tell my young friend what she doesn’t want to hear: have patience. Life will return to normal. Except I’m not of that “let’s get back to normal” school of thought. Obviously, normal wasn’t working for us. We all have to work together to create a new normal. Bill Gates perhaps said it best: “Whereas many see the Corona/ Covid-19 virus as a great disaster, I prefer to see it as a ‘great corrector.’
It is sent to remind us of the important lessons that we seem to have forgotten and it is up to us if we will learn them or not.

Some good things happened today:

I wrote 500 words (my goal) on what may or may not be a new novel

I thought I lost a bunch of copy on my computer but found I had inadvertently copied a lot of unrelated stuff into it; I was able to delete and save the original.

Our grass was mowed, just before it got knee-high.

I started reading a new novel that shows promise.

Sunday, April 05, 2020

The days run one into the other

Sophie protecting her food
For her, eating is a competitive sport, and one of the 
Cavaliers always tries to share her dinner
Sophie is having none of that
Jordan lost her driver’s license and a credit card today, and in the process of searching for it we all tried to reconstruct what had happened yesterday. She knew she had them when she ran errands in the early afternoon, but after that the day was a blur. In the process of trying to remember yesterday, we realized how much the days now run not each other with a sameness. What did we do yesterday that made it stand out from the day before—or from today? We couldn’t solve it. A great commentary on the way we are living our lives in this pandemic.

Today stood out because it was Palm Sunday, and we went to church online, whereas we would normally be dressed in our fines, sitting in the pews to watch the church children and youth parade into the sanctuary waving palms. The church had called for pictures of us waving our palms, and that was among the many things on my to-do list that didn’t get done. But it was fun to see pictures both contemporary and from previous Palm Sundays—we spotted Jacob in one, apparently from the year he was baptized.

The rest of the day was, as I said before, like any other day. I wrote the blog I should have written last night—I really think keeping to my ideal schedule of a blog every night helps keep me alert and in some kind of discipline. I hope it doesn’t bore you.

I finished the mystery I was reading and began to explore what to read next. But I also went back to the last notes I had made for my Kelly O’Connell Mysteries and found an idea I thought might work. At first, I thought of checking in on Kelly and Mike to see how they were handling the pandemic, but all advice on the writerly lists I read is against pandemic novels now. No one wants to read about them when that is our reality. I may have found myself a new project, after floundering for over three weeks with a possible non-fiction project and a compilation of blogs. A new mystery might give me just the thing I need, though I’m hesitant to say that out loud.

We had sausages, northern-style beans, and a lemon potato salad for supper. Making the potato salad took a bit of my time. It calls for making the dressing and boiling the potatoes and peeling immediately so you can pour the dressing over warm potatoes—always hurts my thumb that takes the peel off, but I know that warm potatoes absorb dressing much better. When I was young the hospital where my dad worked had an older Italian cook. She taught my mom to peel and dress warm potatoes with a bit of vinaigrette, even  if you were making mayonnaise/mustard potato salad. Said it gave them more flavor and over the years I have always followed her advice. But I dislike peeling hot potatoes.

Jordan in my TCU mask
Before supper tonight Jordan came out and made me a mask out of a TCU bandana—then she promptly modeled it. Good thing we are related and are not practicing social distancing within the family. A good neighbor also gave us four masks, and I am indebted. We are all set—if I ever get to leave the cottage again.

Be safe, my friends. This too shall passl

A Bookish Day

This is the blog I was too tired to write last night. Honestly, how can I be tired after a day of doing not much? The truth is I was reading a mystery I didn’t want to put down, and that sort of speaks for my day yesterday. It was bookish. So as you read, pretend it is last night.

After the heavy go of reading about Churchill and WWII I really longed for a good cozy (not cute!) in whose pages I could get lost. Thanks to Susan Van Kirk for A Death at Tippitt Pond. I did indeed get lost in the world of this novel and was reluctant to stop turning digital pages. The plot is not new: a young woman (in this case, forty-seven, not so young) finds out she was adopted as an infant and has now inherited a fortune from her biological family. The story opens with her having traveled from NYC to the mansion in the small, Illinois town where, apparently, she was born. And, no surprise—she is attracted to the single-again chief of police. Before you yawn and say, “Been there, read that,” let me tell you that Van Kirk takes these familiar elements and creates a compelling mystery. Did Beth Russell’s biological father really kill her mother that summer day at Tippitt Pond all those years ago? Why does someone keep breaking into the house, and how do they get in? Why is a stranger watching her house from the woods across the street?

Beth Russell, an independent researcher, is just insecure enough that you like her. Yet she’s bright and holds her own in a town where most people want her to go back to NYC. Other characters are equally believable, from Kyle the police chief, to the senator who looks to me like the bad guy. I haven’t finished this book yet, but I did stay up way too late last night reading it.

And I’m on the trail of a mysterious cookbook that a friend told me about. Catherine Morro, daughter of a TCU prof, herself a student until eye strain forced her to quit, apparently was known for chicken sandwiches which she sold from a now-disappeared local pharmacy. Here’s the strange part: in 1980, University Christian Church published a collection of her recipes. That’s my church, but so far, I haven’t found anyone who knows anything about it. And a church publishing an individual’s cookbook? I can imagine a collection of recipes from women in the congregation, but not one cook. I’m partly curious because Morro apparently made congealed salads, so popular in the day, by cooking in a water bath instead of using gelatin as I do. Thanks to Anne Kane for putting me on this trail.

And, finally, a nice find yesterday—a woman I knew several years ago as an administrator at TCU has retired from academic life and is writing a private investigator series of mysteries set in Harlem. I wrote her a note, she wrote back, and we exchanged a few emails, friended each other on Facebook. I hope to keep in touch with Delia Pitts. Check out her Ross Agency Mysteries. Brand new title is The Prince and the Pauper in Harlem.

Discovering Delia (does that sound like a book  title?) gave me a stray thought for these quarantine days. Maybe I should check in on Kelly O’Connell and see how she and Mike, Keisha and the girls are handling the pandemic. (That’s for you, Elaine Williams Gray!)

A blessed Palm Sunday to everyone.

Friday, April 03, 2020

A productive day, sort of

In spite of a dismal morning with predictions of a cold front, I managed a slightly productive day. After checking email and other online sources, I set myself to making tuna pasties. I really like them, but the making is a bit of a challenge, because you have to roll out the dough. I use tube biscuits, separate each biscuit into two, and roll out thin. I’ve been putting it off because the rolling out is tedious, but this morning I decided I was just going to do it. Of course, in spite of my determination, I almost burned four of them—they are what, with generosity, I would call well-done. The may not be pretty, with neatly crimped edges, but they are delicious.

I finished reading Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile, about Churchill and the devastating German bombing of England. I’ve been dawdling too long over that book, because though it’s fascinating history, with lots of personal glimpses, it was hard for me to wrap my mind around the devastation. I forget the numbers, but I think almost fifty thousand Brits were killed and almost an equal number injured to various degrees. With the pandemic we’re currently living through I can understand that the death and destruction are impersonal (unless you want to fault government handling of the crisis), but it appalls me to think that the bombing of England was deliberately ordered by other human beings. They cared nothing for the lives of their victims. It makes today’s rise of Nazism all the more appalling.

But I learned an invaluable lesson from reading Larson, particularly his notes to the book. He made the distinction between biography and history, saying that for him the tiniest details are important to biography—the things that historians generally sweep by in their quest to capture the larger picture. I’ve realized that the project I’m working on—a biography—depends on the many anecdotes available. Now I will pay close attention to details, even lists of them.

With social distancing these days, I keep hearing a lot about Zoom. People use it for everything from business meetings and classroom lessons to family reunions. Had my first experience with it tonight, and I mark it was a clear fail. Jordan and I were trying to respond to Megan’s invitation on my computer, and it kept telling us to click to join (which I didn’t want to do), click here to download (which didn’t work). Jordan’s frustration level kept sinking, and I felt she was blaming me for me computer, though she denied it.

We finally ended up talking to Megan on Facebook and getting a tour of the house under construction. It’s going to be smashing, and I was enthralled and happy for my daughter. I still don’t like Facebook, because if I don’t want to look like an ancient hag from Macbeth, I have to hold the phone at a high angle over my head—and my arm gets tired. Of course, whichever of my kids I’m talking to looks charming and adorable. There is no justice in this world.

Tomorrow is another new day. Ho, hum! I think I’ll start a new project. I have a feeling that we’re in this isolation business for the long haul.

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Who let the dogs out?

One of the lost dogs
He does look a bit arrogant
Remember that song and video? Jacob was so entranced by it that we watched it a thousand times when he was still small enough to sit on my lap. I thought of it today because Jordan had a “dogs out” adventure, and I shared in it vicariously.

Our neighborhood, Berkeley Place, has an active email list, and one of its functions is to deal with lost and loose dogs. Did your dog escape? Put it on the Berkeley Buzz. Spot a loose dog? Put it on the Buzz. It works most all the time. Except today.

It’s a convoluted story, but Jordan got word that two dogs were loose in the 1900 block of Warner Road this afternoon, and they were aggressive, according to Jacob, who had been walking a neighbor’s dogs. So she jumped in my car—yippee! My car needed to be driven—and rushed to the spot.

There they were, lying in the sun—a medium-large black dog and a medium gray/brown/brindle with white markings. She called me, and I posted not one but three messages—one about the dogs, a second warning that they were aggressive, and a third with pictures. Jordan meanwhile was driving from one end of the block to the other, warning pedestrians to avoid the dogs. Her great fear was for a parent with young children. Eventually, though, with no response on the Buzz, she came home. I was reluctant to call Animal Welfare and consign the dogs to who-knows-what fate, on the off chance their owners were away for the day and would return and claim them. As far as I know, the dogs are still there. Someone else has posted a new notice that there are dogs loose on Warner Road, but no one has claimed the dogs.

Other than that, it was kind of a food day. I spent part of the late morning reading Helen Corbitt recipes and discovered some gems of ideas for appetizers. My warning: don’t read such when you’re already hungry for lunch. Today is a leftovers day: I had tuna salad, bean salad, and cottage cheese for lunch, and will have leftover casserole for supper, along with some of those fresh green beans I have discovered no one else in my family will eat.
My kind of lunch

Sunny most of the day, which can’t help but improve one’s disposition, but the temperature never quite got to what I consider comfortable. We had wine on the patio, with Jay behind his screen, but I was wrapped in a sweater. Supposed to be a bit better tomorrow and then rain for three days. It’s only been a week since our grass was mowed, and it’s already knee-high—well, not really, but it sure is long.

And so the days roll on. Thanks to Jordan for adding a bit of spice to this day. Seems like some one thing distinguishes each day (barely) from the last and the next. Wonder what it will be tomorrow?

Monday, March 30, 2020

Of Books and passing time

I can survive well enough on my own—if given the proper reading material.” – Sarah J. Maas—American fantasy author

Predictions for authors and the book industry varied from gloomy to wildly optimistic as this period of social distancing set in. It seemed only logical to me that people, robbed of other pastimes, would read more. But bookstores are closed, Amazon is making medical supplies a priority over books, and the outlook is grim. Authors report lagging to nonexistent sales.

I truly though I would read all the time, but for the first two weeks I read only sporadically. I was glued to the internet, reading every credible source I could find on pandemic news. Maybe it’s that now I am inured to predictions of death and destruction, but today I got back to serious reading.

I finished Something from the Oven, by Laura Shapiro, a study of the changing eating habits of America in the 1950s. Actually the story of change begins earlier and carries on to a climax in the ‘60s with the revolution jointly inspired by Julia Child and Betty Freidan, two seemingly opposed women who had much in common and together changed forever the American housewife’s role. I was particularly interested, however, in the ‘50s, the rise of packaged and prepared foods, and the attempts to “glamorize” them. There were some awful dishes served in those days. Just think pineapple Jello with miniature marshmallows and you’ve got the essence.

The book which really has captivated me though is Erik Larson’s The Splendid and the Vile, about Winston Churchill and the early bombings of London in WWII. Larson is the extremely talented and thorough author of books about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the 1892 Columbian Exposition in Chicago, and the sinking of the Lusitania, among others. Churchill is, of course, a fascinating character—idiosyncratic but canny, a strong and determined leader, bound to save his country at all costs.

I see many parallels between those 1940 days in London and our situation today in the pandemic. People were, as we are, living with anticipatory dread (isn’t that a wonderful and descriptive phrase), fearing an unknown and unpredictable enemy that loomed large. They were, as Governor Cuomo said today, surrounded by death. But for many Londoners, this crisis brought out the best in them—and so it is for many in America today. The only difference is that the Brits had a strong leader and, today, we do not.

One of Larson’s skills is the ability—based on his deep and thorough research—to reveal character. So we see Churchill in his elaborate gold dressing gown, embossed with dragons, cigar clamped in his teeth, pacing in the gardens at 10 Downing Street during a night bombing. Or we see him touring London after the first devastating raid, crying with the people as he saw the destruction. We get a glimpse of his family—the daughter who wanted so badly to be part of the war effort and her parents’ determined efforts to keep her safe. Or his wife, Clemmie, who tried to keep a normal household. People make history, and the people of England are revealed here.

The narrative occasionally jumps to Germany where we get glimpses into the thinking of Goring and Goebbels and, by reflection, Hitler. These passages were harder for me to read, but I pushed through.

My dad, a Canadian who fought Germany in WWI, hero-worshipped Churchill, so reading this not only fascinates me but serves as a tribute to that wonderful, strong, honorable man who raised me. I’m still only half-way through, but I will finish this book and be the better for having read it.

Sunday, March 29, 2020

Notes from the world to me, in seclusion

Hard to make the bed around a dog but she wouldn't budge
I have been trying to reach out, via email, to friends distant and near. Today I got a long email from an old and dear friend in the D.C. area. She reports that she and her husband are up at 5:00 a.m. every morning; they go for a two-mile walk, then have breakfast and dress for work, each going to their separate home offices. She fixes soup for lunch and they meet, walk another mile if he can take time from his remote meetings. And then at four they reconvene to watch Nicole Wallace, the only commentator they trust. And in the evening, they walk another mile.

Okay, they tired me out. Here I sit in the tights and T-shirt I’ve worn for two days. I sleep until at least eight each morning and am lucky to comb my hair. Some days I even wash it, but not daily like I used to. I fiddle at the computer, reading every credible news report I can find, and then it’s almost lunch time, but I squeeze in a little work. Lunch is leftovers if, praise be, I have them. I often get some serious reading done between lunch and about two o’clock—notice that narrow window—when I am compelled to take a nap.

After I nap, I either cook dinner or explore the day’s happenings online, and suddenly it’s evening, I have a glass of wine, and I’m tired. At the end of the day, I am often disappointed in the amount of work I have—or haven’t--done. Me, who used to be such an organized compulsive who prided herself on accomplishing so much each day. I am uncertain what to attribute it to—that old thing about those who have the most to do get the most done? Or I read a phrase the other day that struck home with me—anticipatory dread. Even though I feel safe and content, fear is a constant in the back of my mind. We are all afraid of a threatening but uncertain future.

A bright note today: my oldest son’s best buddy of almost thirty years ago—they waited tables and bartended together at Uncle Julio’s—sent me eggs Benedict, sausage gravy and biscuits, and a hamburger from a local restaurant. Out of the blue. Completely unexpected. Alirio does this from time to time—when my kids and I were in Chicago, he sent a gift certificate to a pub right across from our hotel. He lives in the Valley, so I’m not sure how he ferrets these places out. But it was a real day-brightener to get his gift today.

When Jordan came out to announce it, I called the restaurant and said I was sure this was a mistake. They said no, but the name was difficult, and they would spell it for me—and I knew instantly. Alirio (pronounced Alidio), a native of Columbia, went on from their bartending days to join the Border Patrol and had a good career there until his retirement last year. He and his Rosie have two almost-grown sons. I last saw them, probably within the year, when we all landed at Colin’s house at the same time. The two boys, now men, and I spent two hours reminiscing and laughing and sharing—a wonderful time, and a lesson for me in the value of keeping up with friendships. That’s something that’s always been important to me. Alirio is the icing on the cake that proves my theory. What’s the saying? “Old friendships are gold….”

So tonight I’m going to sleep resolved to be more productive tomorrow, to stick to business. But, ah, there are three food magazines calling for my attention. That’s sort of work, isn’t it?

Saturday, March 28, 2020

That alternate reality

Words and phrases that seem bandied about a lot in these critical times are “alternate reality” and “distanced.” I was acutely aware of the alternate realities in my world today. Woke to yet another thunderstorm, though it did “fair off” nicely and was sunny and warming up by noon.

But what got me was the distance between my reality and our world. I am isolated here in my cottage, reminding myself uncomfortably of that young boy who lived in a bubble back—when was it?—the ‘70s? I am quite comfortable, feel safe, have the company of my family, and am fairly content. My fear is that complacency will overcome me, though when Jordan brought in ground meat from the grocery tonight, I did chastise her for not separating touching the wrapping and touching the meat. But in general, I feel safe. She is inordinately careful and takes good care of me—and I am blessed.

Still, there’s always a bit of guilt with the feeling of being so comfortable when others are suffering. That feeling spurred me to make my annual contribution to my church last night, even though this is a difficult time for all of us financially.

On the other hand, I turn to my computer and realize the horror in the world around us. The number of cases of COVID-19 rises exponentially, as do the deaths. People are in desperate circumstances, hospitals are stressed beyond endurance, and the world is in a general mess. Suffering and loss and heartbreak that I cannot wrap my mind around. And here I sit, like a little princess. I am acutely aware of that distance.

I am also acutely aware of my temporary inability to concentrate on my work. There is a lot I could be doing, but in this time when the ordinary world is suspended, I don’t feel the urgency that I usually do. I can fiddle away the day, listening to videos that as Jordan points out only tell me what I already know about the disease. But the idea of doing research, picking up the threads of my professional life sometimes seems daunting. Shoot! I had to make myself clean off my desk-top greenhouse and clean my desk. Ulterior motive: we will go to church—or at least I will—in my cottage tomorrow. Jordan last week took a picture of my computer with the service, and I realized what a mess my desk was. So I have resolved to clean it before tomorrow’s remote service. And tonight I did do a bit of research reading.

Back to reality: Jordan and I made grocery lists tonight. In an uncharacteristic burst of planning, we listed meals for the coming week and then planned what we needed. Then, with computers at the ready, we crafted orders for Central Market (mine) and Tom Thumb (hers). But it was a discouraging experience—ordinary things were not offered, like Monterrey Jack cheese or a Boston butt pork roast. How can we make carnitas?

And when I went to submit my Central Market order, I got the message that no time slots are available. I’m a big CM fan, and I have sensed that HEB was doing a better job than most, but Central Market really disappointed me.

Besides, Jordan and I had anticipated a holiday dinner all week. We ordered a turkey breast and were going to make turkey and gravy, dressing, green bean casserole—the whole nine yards. When we picked up groceries today—ordered ten days ago—there was no turkey breast, no substitution.  Hard times for all of us.

And yet I hate to whine. See where I’m coming from? I am so much more comfortable and safer than most, that I have no right to complain. Something that came into the conversation last night as we enjoyed happy hour led Jordan to say, “Those are such first world problems.” And that’s where my conscience is. With a lot of prayers.

And no, I don’t believe the pastor who says this is God’s wrathful vengeance. My God is not that harsh and unloving.

Friday, March 27, 2020

A dull day and some nice moments

Today was another basically cloudy day, and I felt it in my mood—no enthusiasm for anything on my desk, just a desire to get through the day and a longing to go back to my bed. But the day did get better as it went along. And there were nice moments, starting last night.

I made smothered chicken and fresh green beans, which, yes, I had to trim and snap. Jordan was my sous chef and a huge help. But having a sous chef in my tiny kitchen area means we trip over each other. Nonetheless we created a credible meal—chicken thighs in gravy. Jordan and Christian liked it, but I thought the gravy had a raw flour taste—I didn’t cook it long enough. Of course, cooking was accompanied by a bit of wine and some time on the patio.

Tonight we sat on the patio again. Our neighbor, Jay, is quarantined in his guest house, having just come home from Florida. So he sits in his window, and we sit on the patio, and we talk. More neighborly than we’ve been in months. We got to reminiscing about Jacob’s childhood—he was in the driveway shooting baskets. Sparked by a Facebook memory picture of him at five in his baseball uniform, we recalled the time he hid in the house. I called and called and couldn’t find him. So I called Jay next door. He came and called and called and finally said, “Call 911. He’s not here.”

I was standing at the kitchen phone—still had a wall phone, no cell phone—and noticed Jacob under the dining room table. He didn’t come out because he was afraid that he was in trouble. There was a mixed chorus of “We love you” and “Do you know how worried we were?” It embarrasses him when we tell stories like that.

The dogs got in for their share of attention, and June Bug was particularly cute under the basil. I’ve been a nag about wanting to get the basil off my desk, out of the tiny greenhouse container and into a real pot. Finally tonight Christian put the basil plants in a chair to remember to take to the front porch to plant. Juney hid under the chair. Must have known she made a good photo op.

I did some good reading today, getting background on my next, food-related project, reading about the food landscape in the 1950s and the rise of packaged food and the idea of “glamorizing” prepared food. Interesting stuff. Tonight I’m reading more of The Splendid and the Vile, by Erik Larson—an in-depth look at Churchill and the early, bombing-dominated years of WWII in England. Fascinating stuff.

So my mood is better, and I hope to carry it on to tomorrow. I think this isolation is hard on all of us, and an occasional blue spell is neither unusual nor a reason for guilt. I am blessed to have Jordan, who guards me so carefully, and Christian and Jacob, my cottage, my dog, my writing. So many people are facing such hardship during this crisis, that I feel almost self-indulgent. I worry, for instance, about my niece who is an R.N. in a COVIC-19 hospital unit in New York City.

May God smile on you and yours and keep you safe and healthy.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Another sunny day

happy hour, 
Jacob's new activity center
Kind of hard to see the basketball hoop, but it's there
That’s the weather, not my disposition. Sunny and gorgeous all day, even venturing toward hot. I had the a/c on in the afternoon, and it was comfortable. Discovered last night the a/c in the bedroom is not working. I called today, and the repairman I’ve known for twenty years called back. Missed him so will call tomorrow, but I hope it’s something he can talk me through over the phone. Otherwise, it will have to wait. Much as I like and trust him, I am not ready to have a repairman in the house. Yesterday, we should have had Zenaida, who we are all crazy about, but as Jordan says, she’s been cleaning other houses and who knows what she’s been exposed to. I expect to pay her though for days missed.

The big news here today is that Jordan created an activities space in the driveway—moved the cars out and pulled Jacob’s basketball hoop and tetherball into the space left. Much consternation about weighting the basketball hoop down so it would be stable, but a trip to the hardware for sandbags was averted by using various pots and a couple of concrete blocks we had. Jacob has been out there several times today—I hear the “Thump, thump, thump,” and it makes me happy because I know he’s moving around and keeping busy. He’s strictly limited in activities away from the house and must observe the six-foot guideline, which most of his buddies are ignoring.

We had happy hour tonight on the patio, with our neighbor who is quarantined in his guest house just opposite the patio. He’s been traveling, and I guess he has to wait out fifteen days since his arrival back home. Nice to visit with Jay again, though it’s sometimes hard for me to hear him.

Otherwise, days are falling into a pattern. I remember years ago I knew a doctor’s wife who bred Cairn terriers—we had a couple of her dogs—and had a busy life. So I was astounded one day when she announced she was covering the switchboard at her husband’s hospital in a small town from three to eleven. When I asked why, she said, “I just find the more you have to do, the more you get done.”  I am now finding the reverse of that—with no deadlines and not much pressing me, I get very little done. I have lots of reading to do—some for pleasure, some for research—but every day I manage to fritter away the day without much reading.

Part of it is I am glued to news—on the TV and the computer both—keeping up with both politics and the pandemic. It becomes like an addiction. I am dismayed that the local news interrupts the daily White House press briefings—not because I want to hear trump but because I want to hear Fauci and even Pence. These days Dr. Fauci and Governor Cuomo are my heroes (I love the latter’s line, “My mother is not expendable, and neither is your mother.”) I also have increasing respect for Secretary Mnuchin because it sounds as if he really tried hard to reach a workable, negotiated settlement in Congress. Pooh on the Republicans who are now quibbling over minor details.

We have relatives in New York—the Bronx to be specific, though one daughter lives in Manhattan—and I am worried about them. Emailed with them today, and they are well, pretty much quarantined. But the Manhattan daughter, who has had to rethink her wedding plans, is an R.N. and her orthopedic unit has been converted to care for COVID-19 patients. That worries me a lot. My nephew, a physical therapist in Baltimore, has been cut back to half time with a corresponding cut in pay—and they have three young children. Hard times all around, and I am hiding away here in my cottage, grateful for my many blessings and especially for my Jordan.

Stay safe and well, my friends.