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Monday, April 6, 2020

Holy Week in the Time of Coronavirus

Yesterday we went to church for the 3rd or 4th week--I can't even remember but could look it up--via video from  We heard the welcome, confession, scripture, short sermon and a few hymns sung by the choir section leaders.   After "church,"  we went to church school and listened to Eric Barreto,  a Princeton Seminary professor, talk about the passage for the week--the one we discussed by Zoom in our Lenten small group and the one Dr. Davis used as a basis for his sermon.  We did not have palm branches for Palm Sunday although they were supposed to be available in an urn in front of church.  It is sad and church like this will be continuing for an indefinite period of time.

Yesterday afternoon we sat on Jeff and Susan's deck--at least six feet apart--and chatted.  Susan was kind enough to make me two face masks.  I borrowed a garden shovel and asked for some Benadryl for my itchy leg.  We learned that Katie made a big decision and will be doing her graduate work at Princeton which makes us all happy.  But how I feel for Katie ending her college career in this way and having her boyfriend as far away as possible in the continental USA--in Seattle. 

We went for a walk along the canal again from the Rocky Hill parking lot.  It was warm and quite lovely.   There were many little wildflowers along the path--tiny little white and yellow blooms carpeting the ground.

We thawed leftover spaghetti from the refrigerator.  It tasted great and I didn't have to cook anything new.

The evening wears on with no live sports on TV.  We both did some reading.  I had a few tears of frustration and loneliness and probably anger.  Not everything is blog material  And it is a hard time for everyone--for many it is more difficult than for us who do not have children to care for during this time of sheltering in place.  We have to cope with the threat of coronavirus like everyone else but also the presence of cancer and it scares me. 

So many post on Facebook about the great meals they are fixing or the projects they are doing.  I am trying to be content with far less ambitious projects--doing the laundry and fixing meals and reading.  It helps me to write in my journals or this blog. 

This morning I put the moonflower seeds that had been soaking for 24 hours into pots.  I had purchased soil on Saturday at Ace Hardware.   I have a load of wash started.   I plan to walk with my friend Peggy this afternoon and give her some of our great McCaffery's find of hand sanitizer made by Faber Distillery--a usual maker of gin and vodka.   I plan to make meat loaf and scalloped potatoes for supper--comfort food.  So those are my goals for the day. I downloaded another mystery for my Kindle app because the novels I am reading by Somerset Maugham are too depressing. 

Jim just had a telemedicine call for a three month follow up with Dr. Chattha.  I am not sure why he had such an appointment scheduled and I did not.  It's fine with me.  I have no desire to talk to her.  If my infected bite does not clear up, I'll have to call the office again and will ask for Dr DelaCruz who heped me last week.  The spot is no longer draining but the redness is extensive and it itches.  I have three more days of antibiotics to take and am trying to be optimistic.  It is definitely better than it was. 

So this is life under the Covid19 threat.   I need to be thankful for boredom because the disease and the threat of hospitalization is terrible.   No visitors are allowed.  Ventilators are in short supply.  Younger people might have priority which would be fine with me.    If you die, you die alone.   I'd rather die in my bedroom at home but I know if I can't breathe, I'd panic and go to the ER.  Lord God, spare us from that!
Abram VanEngen posted a piece on Facebook today based on a poem of Hopkins.  Abram wrote about entering the darkness of Holy Week and how the disciples didn't know how it would end.   Hopkins (and Abram) didn't come up with easy answers about God's teaching us a lesson but said that when we ask where God is, we are wrestling with God as Jacob did and that is a good thing.  He ended with these words:

Our hope and our comfort—far from the “carrion comfort” of despair—is that God enters the darkness himself.

I will take the wisdom of a young friend--a young man we knew as a boy--as try to let it come into my soul today.

Monday, March 30, 2020

Technology in a Time of Coronavirus

In the last few weeks I have been grateful to be able to connect with others through email, texts, instagram, Facebook, Facetime, and even Zoom.  I probably have spent more time on Facebook than ever before but it gives me some human contact and I need that!

 I have been happy to read books on my Kindle apps when the libraries are closed. I'd rather read books in print but am glad to escape with reading even if not in my prefered mode. I enjoyed one that I had started several times and just had not gotten into and it was a great and worthwhile read--A Well Read Woman, the life of Ruth Rappaport.  On the other hand, I have abandoned a Bernie Gunther set of novellas because they are too disturbing.  I can't figure out how to delete them from my iphone and I would like to see them gone!

  I have seen photos and videos of our newest grandchild now three months old.  I love his beautiful toothless grin.  I'd rather hold him and coo at him but his photos make me smile too.  I may have looked at one video a dozen times!

We've worshipped on Sunday mornings with videos from Nassau Prebyterian Church and a podcast from Church of the Savior in South Bend.  I look forward to another mid-week encouragement from Pastor Chris Rea again. But how good it will be to be sitting in a sanctuary with other worshippers again.

  Tomorrow we are going to do a Zoom meeting with our Lenten small group after two weeks of no meetings.   The Nassau Choir attempted a Zoom meeting two weeks ago with mixed results.  At least I had a few good laughs;  I tried to mute Jim laughing in the background.   I may or may not join in when they "zoom"  again this week.  It is a situation in which I do feel a stranger not knowing many folks in the choir--even by name.

We have chatted with Dan and Alex on Facetime and  also with Jeff and Susan.  We briefly chatted with Laura's children after they got the mail I sent them--old-fashioned addressed envelopes to all four of them.

But today was an important first--the first time to use telemedicine and one for which I am very grateful--a Facetime appointment with a doctor at Montgomery Internal Medicine.  Earlier this week I noticed an itchy bite on my leg.  A few days later I noticed the bite was oozing a discharge and was much redder.  My own doctor could not do Facetime so I was contacted  by another one in the practice which was really fine with me.   I was concerned that my own doctor might just refer me to a specialist as she has done several times but this doctor took care of me on the spot.  Jim focused the iphone on my leg moving it around according to the doctor's instructions.   He said the area did look infected and sent an antibiotic to CVS.  I have now taken two of the capsules and am hoping for improvement because the wound is nasty. 

There are no live sports on TV so Jim is watching old champtionship games. That way he always knows ahead of time who will win.  This means much less stress for him!

 So much has changed in our lives.   But we still have an income and many have lost theirs.   We have enough food in the house and Jeff brought over much needed toilet paper and paper towels.   For some reason, the shelves of paper products are empty in the stores.  We can walk around the neighborhood. We go grocery shopping and thoroughly wash our hands afterwards.  Jim has a letter from the radiation center saying that his treatments are medically necessary so he can travel to and from them in the unlikely case that he is stopped.

How long will this last?  How much worse can it get?  We don't know but we will continue to "shelter in place" as much as possible and be thankful for each day of no Covid19 in our personal lives.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Joy of Laundry, Supper, Facebook, Emails, Agatha Christie, etc.

I have not put makeup on for twelve days since I went to the Women's Bible Study at Kingston Prebyterian Church.   I have not seen anyone except Jim and my walking friend Peggy since then--except for Facetime with our kids and an attempt at Zoom with the church choir. 

Jim has his RH Charles biography project to work on with new material sent him from his Oxford contact Lizzy.  He also has a couple of other writing projects and then there is his daily trip to UCA for radiation.  I don't envy him his projects or his radiation but I could use some projects of my own.

So my days are one of little accomplishments but I need to be satisfied with that for now.   I do some laundry daily--and am thankful for a washer and dryer in our apartment.   I make simple meals--fruit salad and a sandwich for lunch, and tonight sausage, egg, and cheese on English muffins fo supper with roasted asparagus for a veggie.  .

We decided we didn't need any food or wine yet today so maybe tomorrow I will ride along with Jim to UCA and then stop at Trader Joe's on the way home.  Best to avoid any contact with others right now.  We are not stock-piling food.

After Jim leaves on his daily radiation trip, I put on the gas fire and read and close my eyes for a bit trying to do some mindfulness which mostly is breathing in a prayer for healing and breathing out my fears.  I could join the Grace Notes Choir for a Zoom session this afternoon but chose not to--feeling like I am letting our dear director Noel down but also that it is awkward for me when I know so few people in the choir. 

I rely on Facebook for social contact with old friends--and emails.   We have had long and lovely emails from at least three or four folks in the last 24 hours and that is much appreciated.  I send out emails also--and in some cases, instigated the correspondance. There are many folks who are anxious or sick or bereaved and all are isolated to a certain degree right now.

So now, it's back to my Agatha Christie book on my iphone--not an ideal way to read but the libraries are closed.   So it is a way of escape.  When Jim comes home, we will walk to get the mail and then have a glass of wine with our laptops open to the NYT crossword puzzle for which we make a good team of "solvers." 

Spring is coming and there are flowering trees (even one out our living room window) and daffodils (at our front door) and pansies (on our deck in a pot.)  Jim has under 20 radiation treatments left and the hormone shot he had this week should be for one month not three like last time.  April 16 is his last treatment.  So maybe by May we can celebrate the end of treatments and hope for healing and no reoccurence. 

Saturday, March 21, 2020

A Thankfulness List during a Time of Coronavirus

1.  A walk through the town of Rocky Hill today and then along part of the Delaware-Raritan Canal.  The sun was shining and it was good to be out and exploring new territory yet very close to home.

2.  Our happy hour with chips and queso and wine accompanied by doing the NYT crossword puzzle together on our separate laptops.

3.  We were able to buy food today at a time when some shelves are empty.   We could chat with Jackie,our neighbor who is a cashier at McCaffrey's. And she observed that we were not "binge buying."   We purposefully did not buy extra of anything but we did get to Trader Joe's and Shoprite earlier this week.

4.   Laura and family Face-timed us to say they had received the notes I wrote each of the kids (except baby Henry!). Using Facetime earlier in the week with Jeff and Susan and Dan and Alexandra.

5.  Getting texts and emails from several friends asking how we were doing including one from a young woman in our Lenten small group asking if she could doing anything for us.   I had emailed her last week quoting Jim's compliment of her. 

6.   Getting a response to my email to the Lenten small group--so that I knew it was well-received.

7.  Buying pansies and putting them in a larger pot on the deck.

8.  Walking and talking yesterday with my new friend Peggy--just being able to make a new friend at my age. 

9.  Seeing videos of little Henry with his toothless smile and happy sounds--a very bright spot when there is so much dismal and worrisome news.

10.  Refilling four prescriptions at CVS today--well before running out.

11.  "Sheltering in place" with Jim and not alone.

12.  After listening to our church's podcast, thinking about the memory of being able to worship with a congregation and the hope that we can do that again soon.

Friday, March 13, 2020

20 Down; 24 To Go

Those are the numbers for Jim's daily radiation therapy treatments.   Another way to look at it is four weeks done; five to go.   If all goes well, it is only about an hour out of his day with appointments from now until April 16 at 1:50 pm.  The traffic on Route One which can be awful at other times of day is not bad at that time. 

However, there is always some stress.  Jim starts drinking water about an hour before the appointment so that his bladder is full just the right amount--but not too much.   So if there is any reason to wait, it can be pretty uncomfortable.  If it is not enough to protect his bladder,  he would get sent out into the hall to drink more.  So far, he is happy to say he has done well in that regard!   But others have not, so that causes delays.  And this week there was a computer glitch which caused a two hour delay.  He was given a call enroute and came back home to wait. 

The staff at UCA (Urology Care Alliance) is very kind and we have appreciated their follow through after concerns and questions.   Jim has gotten to know the fellows who are there before him waiting.   One of the technicians has had  Bible questions for him most days.   He said he would save them up and just ask them one at a time.  These questions have been about the age of the earth, the historicity of the Jonah story, and whether Jesus' siblings have descendents on earth today.  That was an original question, I thought!   More seriously, Jim was asked if he considered himself a Christian and for that he answered "Yes."  Maybe his answers to the other questions were suspect! 

April 16 is supposed to be the last treatment although there are some buffer days after that if needed--I suppose in case of sickness or computer malfunction.  Let's hope this coronavirus doesn't delay anything from our perspective or theirs. 

Coronavirus and Us

Far too often at our age when something happens big or small, we have a story of something similiar taking place in the past.  But this is not really true this time.   Maybe just to a small extent when there were snowfall warnings in North Carolina and there would be a run on beer, milk, and bread at the local groceries.  But this Covid 19 threat is really unprecendented for us.

The first time it affected me personally was Tuesday when the Grace Notes Choir was cancelled for the month.  Grace Notes is composed of a vulnerable population of older folks like me and we sit next to each other so we don't have much "social distance"--a new phrase in our vocabulary that is becoming very familiar.

Then the next day it was the Nassau Presbyterian Church choir rehearsals cancelled with the hope that we could still do our Holy Week music.   Our director said we had made excellent progress on music thus far (including  The Messiah) and we could always substitute some easier anthems.

From there it snowballed.  All church functions were cancelled.   Our older grandchildren are home for spring break and not going back to their colleges.  Dan, Alexandra, and Susan are working from home.  Jeff is still going into the office but thinking about what unclassified material he could work on from home if needed.   Laura's children are home for two weeks at least and she is making plans to set up home schooling routines. Henry's baptism is postponed.

And all college and professional sports are being cancelled.  No sports on TV.  That made for a quiet evening of reading.   We will miss the entertainment but we are also thinking of the great economic impact this has for hotels, restaurants, stadium vendors, etc.

Jim is glad to be retired and not having to learn how to do online teaching.  He gets updates from Notre Dame with information on how to prepare for this big change. 

We did our Saturday shop this morning (Friday) in order to avoid a larger crowd and maybe emptier shelves.   It wasn't bad.  There were shortages of organic vegetables, frozen vegetables and Lysol--none of which I was buying.  People are hoarding toilet paper and sanitary wipes.   Earlier this week the Dollar Tree cashier told me that folks were buying 40-50 hand sanitizers  at a time and she had no authority to stop them.    I did not buy anything that we would not have bought regularly except a dozen eggs and a box of Cheerios both on sale--and they will last and could keep us from getting hungry.

I feel concerned about Jim's having to go to Urology Care Alliance daily for radiation.  I also feel concerned about grandson Michael who has occasional bouts of asthma.   And for little Henry--not even three months old.   And I guess Jim and I are vulnerable too being over 70. 

So we will stay home as much as possible.  We will wash our hands a lot.  And we will pray for an end to this pandemic soon.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Why We Moved to Princeton, Part III

It has not been an easy couple of weeks in some ways.   I am so discouraged about gaining weight so I tried fasting last week.After all it is Lent and time for prayer, almsgiving and fasting.    On Friday I fasted all day and then had a light supper of eggs, bacon and toast.  On Saturday, I ate breakfast and then fasted until we went to Olive Garden with Jeff and family.  I ate most of my Stuffed Chicken Marsala--probably too much cheese.  Sunday morning I felt bad--very bad.    I thought it might be the gall bladder acting up because that was where it hurt.  I know fasting is not good for gall bladder disease but I wanted to lose those pounds.  Well, I didn't lose more than one pound and I couldn't go to church or the AGO recital Sunday afternoon.

I still feel a little uneasy three days later but I have been thinking about the good things of last week and trying to be positive.   Wednesday we drove to Welsh Valley Middle School where we saw Once Upon a Mattress, Jasper's musical.  He was in the "castle crew" and we really could not find him on stage.  But we were responsible for bringing him home so we took him out to McDonald's for a milkshake and for our supper.   I thought what a privilege it was to be able to do that just with him.  He instigated a conversation with a query that I think it is best to record elsewhere but it was great fun! 

Then Saturday night Jeff, Susan and Michael joined us at Nassau Presbyterian Church for a jazz vesper service.  I loved joining my voice with Jeff's when the singer motioned us to sing along.   How nice to sing next to my son who had just turned 48 two days before.   It was a lovely service and a good way to enter into Lent.  The birthday dinner at Olive Garden was pleasant but left me with problems the next day. 

So let me remind myself to be thankful for the good things and tolerate the problems along the way.  I still need to lose those pounds but will have to do so in less dramatic ways.