from Susan S. in Washington, DC: dreams and birthdays …

“ This is one birthday I’m not likely to forget.”

I woke this morning after the first fitful night of sleep since the C-19 pandemic began affecting my community.  Normally I don’t remember dreams, but last night was one awful pandemic-related dream after another.  I was in impossible and dangerous situations I couldn’t escape from.  Different people and different circumstances in each dream, but all with the same theme.   I read an article in the Washington Post recently about people experiencing frightening dreams.  I’m no expert, but this seems perfectly understandable.  We are all coping as best we can, and then at night the demons of our fears grab us in a way that our normal defenses protect us from during the day – most of the time.   One more consequential cost of what we are all experiencing worldwide.  

Last week my mother turned 97.  She lives in a retirement community that has different levels of care. Thank goodness she is still able to live independently in her own comfortable apartment.  Two residents in the assisted living unit recently died and several members of staff tested positive.  As a result, all residents in independent living have been quarantined in their apartments.   Today is day 27 of that quarantine.   We were able to get permission from the staff at her community to let a few members of the family who live nearby sing happy birthday to her – us standing in the open courtyard and Mom on the 2nd floor balcony of her apartment.   Here’s a photo.  Her comment after we’d sung and congratulated her – “ This is one birthday I’m not likely to forget.”

a neighbor’s statement of the times

My neighbor decided to make a statement about C-19.  Please see the photo of the large boxwoods for which he fashioned wire glasses and masks.  It’s drawn a lot of attention from people in the neighborhood who have been out in the good weather. 

Meanwhile at the national level, President Trump is exploiting the C-19 crisis to accomplish his right-wing political agenda so he can tout his accomplishments to his base support in the presidential election process.   He has relaxed regulation of mercury in the air and water; he is appropriating private land by imminent domain along the southern border to build a wall; he has banned immigration for 60 days, and the list goes on and on.  Former VP Biden’s fundraising is $187 million below Trump’s and Biden’s staff is not in place – he has 25% of the number of people Trump has running social media end of his operation.   Still, there are more of us than there are of them, and with the recent unity in the Democratic party, I remain hopeful.  

Keep well  and remain resilient.  

from Susan S. in Washington DC: Physician feedback in the time of Covid-19

March 27. I hadn’t heard anything but crickets from my primary care physician about contacting his office in the case of needing medical attention.  (He has the unlikely name of Collin Cullen – father and all 4 brothers are MDs – the Dr Cullens. It must drive the insurance companies crazy.) So I wrote him today humbly suggesting that it might be useful if he were to send a note to all his patients providing some guidance about what to do if not feeling well, displaying symptoms, etc.   Within minute I received an auto reply stating that it seemed that many of his patients had not received the earlier ‘videoshot’ (whatever that is).   No I hadn’t.   The message went on to say that his office would stay open for as long as possible, and that no one should come to his office. Phone instead.  Now I understand why he’s taking these precautions, but the message wasn’t exactly comforting.  But then there’s little comfort in any of the messages coming through, especially from the politicians in Washington.  It’s just that I somehow expected more from a primary care physician.  

from Susan S. in Washington, DC. USA. April 1, 2020

April 1. Does anyone else feel as if you are living in two different realities at once?   I wake up in the morning and go outside to pick up the newspaper, which has been delivered faithfully by 0600  – the same as always.  On Thursdays the men in the large noisy garbage trucks rumble through the alleys collecting rubbish – as they have for years.   The Post Office is open, and the same clerks who have been there forever, are still as surly as ever.   The coffee machine in my kitchen continues to work. And the cat demands his breakfast as he always does.  I think about whether it is warm enough yet to put vegetable plants in my plot in the nearby community garden.   So, on one hand, the situation seems normal.  But when I turn on the radio for the news, the other reality begins to crowd out normalcy.    

Each morning the new numbers of infected and dead – locally, nationally, and internationally – dominate the news.  The latest usually erroneous  and always self-aggrandizing statements by Trump are repeated (why do news organizations continue to give him oxygen by covering every stupid statement he makes??).  Today I spent a couple of hours on the internet watching videos of how to make a no-sew face mask, because we now anticipate the recommendation will soon be that everyone should wear a mask when leaving the house.   A woman on our community listserv asked if anyone had a sewing machine they don’t use and would give it or lend it to her to sew face masks.  I responded, took my old sewing machine that I haven’t used for years, and dropped it on her front stoop.   A smart woman in our neighborhood put out a call for volunteers who would be willing to run errands from people in the neighborhood who are homebound.  30 of us signed up right away. I’ve only been called on once to pick up and deliver medication from the pharmacy to an elderly widower.  We spoke through the door when I got to his house. He was clearly relieved.  Parks are now being shut down, because young people continue to congregate, play basketball (contact sport!) or sit close together at picnic tables talking and laughing about whatever 15 year olds talk about.   They’ll find somewhere else to gather.  There hasn’t been any flour or yeast in any of the stores.  Is everyone baking bread? 

 Obviously, these are all quite unimportant matters compared to what is going on nationally.  Trump announced at a press conference the other day that he isn’t going to give much-needed medical equipment to certain states unless the governors ‘are nice to him.’  States like New York, which is now the center of the CV in the US.  I watch Gov Cuomo’s press briefing most days.  Today he announced that based on the modeling they’ve done and in one of the worst case scenarios, NY will need 117,000 beds and 37,000 ventilators.  Trump has sent NY 4,000 ventilators.  Florida, on the other hand, which has a Republican governor, got 100% of his request fulfilled.   These are lives at risk, folks.  Unconscionable.  

 So, as to helping to stay sane, I have been gathering web sites that provide some relief and distraction.  Here are a few of them.   Maybe collectively we can continue to add to the list.   Keep well and stay strong!

 The Saint Who Stopped an Epidemic Is on Lockdown at the Met

 Songs of Comfort,

 Virtual garden tours,

 Google arts and culture,

 Coursera – free course on The Science of Well-Being, taught by Yale U psychology professor, Laurie Santos,

 Globe Theater performances,

 10 virtual tours of the world’s most famous landmarks,