a march “socially-distanced” cocktail hour: how do we cope?

Here we are, in a place we never imagined we’d be. Well, maybe some of us imagined it. The whole world is together in this; individually, we’re separated – “socially distanced” – yet, we’re all paradoxically in the same situation, trying to defeat a pervasive and invisible enemy, COVID-19, otherwise known as the coronavirus. Meanwhile, as we hunker down and “stay at home,” we watch helplessly as the economy crumples all around us.

So, what to do, but STAY HOME and drink. 🙂  Drink plenty of water at the very least.  Or wine, or beer, or something harder.  Cheers! À votre santé!  乾杯/ Kanpai!  Saúde!  Salud! May we all remain healthy, safe, financially afloat, and hopeful.

I can’t travel right now, as none of us can, but I plan to keep writing my travel blog because I have a huge backlog of posts, and I can still dream for the day when, or if, we make it through this.

What the hell happened anyway? My daughter, always a worrier, said on Monday morning, March 23, that in some ways she felt relief.  Here it was, this unknown thing she had always feared, something catastrophic that we would have to face. Some dark thing we have all imagined in one way or the other.  We just might die.  Our lives may be irrevocably changed.  We may lose people we love. More collapses may come.  Or we may all pull through it together, those who are remaining, and make the world better.  Or worse.  Uncertainty is the only thing of which we’re certain.  All the predictions in the world can’t help us through this one.  Only hindsight will tell us what we wish we knew at this moment.

I already thought my year was starting off badly when our youngest son decided to quit his massage therapy course in late January. This after we allowed him to move back home last May and paid thousands of dollars in tuition. He’d completed all the coursework and passed the licensing test, but he still had to show up for 20 days and give no more than four massages a day.  He couldn’t muster up the wherewithal to do it, for reasons that weren’t made clear to us.  He said he just decided he didn’t want to be a massage therapist.  But he had been geared up for it since December, after returning from his first Vipassana retreat, and we thought he was determined to at least finish.  Besides, we had given him a huge list of incentives to finish the course, none of which would materialize if he didn’t.

I was furious, to say the least, and as he was allowed to live with us only as long as he was in school, we told him he’d have to move out by March 17, when he was scheduled to serve for 10 days at a Vipassana retreat in Massachusetts.  His only livelihood was a “gig job” of dog-walking, and he’d been at it full force, trying to save money for when he’d be expected to move out.  We were still getting along and he was working long hours walking dogs, walking up to 12-14 miles/day, and even doing yoga for a while.

My son has bouts of what I have often considered paranoia, but he believes he has a gift.  He believes he’s a shaman, plugged into knowledge about the universe that most of us aren’t privy to. He is a brilliant and gifted young man, but somehow he’s never been able to make that work for him in the real world.  I wish he’d seek professional help, but he refuses, as he believes the psychiatric profession is part of a “system” that seeks to control and exploit us.

At the end of February, I went to Baltimore and as I was walking down some steps at the Walters Art Museum, I was looking at my phone (oops!) and thought I was on the bottom step of the staircase.  Instead, I was one step up; I stepped out into thin air and collapsed full force with my  left ankle making a snap! as I toppled down on top of it.  I was able to stand and hobble out, but I knew something was seriously wrong.  I was determined to stick it out in Baltimore, and even the next day I foolishly hobbled around for eight miles in the city.  Only on Monday did I find that nothing was broken, but I’d sprained some ligaments around my ankle.  I was given a knee-high ankle boot to wear for two weeks, after which time I should revisit the doctor. (And to think that I thought this was a problem!)

We celebrated Mike’s 66th birthday the last week in February, and soon after, my oldest son celebrated his 29th birthday in Denver.  We had a fun night at home with Mike’s sister and my youngest son, sharing dinner and playing games.  I went to a pharmacy for my Singrix vaccine.  I voted for Joe Biden in the Virginia Democratic Primary.  I was disappointed that we’d come down to two old white men as our Democratic candidates, but I picked the one I thought MIGHT have the best chance to defeat Trump.


Celebrating Mike’s 66th birthday

On Thursday, March 5, I began to feel bad, like I had a chest cold coming on.  I was having some trouble breathing and a lot of congestion, but no cough and no fever.  I was depressed because our son was isolating himself, as he often does when he’s going into a dark place. I still felt bad on Friday the 6th and didn’t do anything.

We had started going to Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna, and we went to an evening service on Saturday followed by a wine social; there we reconnected with people we hadn’t seen in years. We had gotten married in that church in 1988, but had eventually fallen away from any church for about 10 years, for many reasons. So it was nice to start reconnecting again with a spiritual community.

On Sunday, March 8, our son talked to Mike about all signs pointing to an apocalypse, and how he wanted to find a like-minded community.  He mentioned Portugal and Bali. He also mentioned that the Vipassana retreat might be cancelled because of the coronavirus.   The next day, on edge because of what he’d told Mike, I got in a big fight with him because he was sleeping late and missing his regular dog walks.  I went that afternoon to a Contemplative Prayer meeting at 1:30, where our priest suggested we let a word find us, a word to keep coming back to in our prayer. The word “LOVE” found me, and we meditated 20 minutes; as my mind wandered, I kept bringing it back to that word.  I shared with some people in the group about my frustrations with my son and how I needed the word “LOVE.”  It had made me feel very peaceful.

I was able to take off the walking boot on Monday, March 9, and felt like finally I could get back to “normal” life, back to my 3-mile walks and going to Pilates.


Experimental meal on March 10

Two days later, on Wednesday, March 11, the stock market started its crash, dipping into bear market territory, because of worries about the coronavirus.  I spent the entire day out of the house: Spanish class, Takeshi Sushi, and seeing the movie The Assistant. I did a little shopping at Marshalls and Loft and then had dinner at P.F. Chang.  I was actually trying to avoid being around our son because of his dark mood and the awkward tension between us.

Mike said he would start working from home more; his company would have an all-day remote workday on Monday, March 16, to test the capabilities of working remotely.  He worked from home on Friday the 13th, and while I was at my first Pilates class, post-walking-boot, he was bugging our son to get up and get going on his dog walks.  It was very tense with our son all day and he wouldn’t speak to either of us.

We told our son if his Vipassana retreat was cancelled, he could stay at our house for a while longer, until we knew more about the coronavirus.  His aunt, my sister-in-law, also offered him a place to live under certain conditions.  He said he would think about it.  We were anxious for him to leave but felt we couldn’t throw him out with so much uncertainty about the situation.

On Friday, March 13, we heard Tom Hanks and Rita Wilson tested positive for coronavirus in Australia and were isolating themselves with mild symptoms.  I loved the bits of humor I saw here and there: Stephen Colbert dancing in his empty audience-less theater.  Our church sent a newsletter about how to make the most of this isolating and scary period.  I learned about tonglen practice through Poma Chodron.


a walk on March 13 around Lake Newport in Reston

On Saturday, March 14, our son informed us that he was going to Costa Rica to join a community and stay in a hostel for $8/night.  He wanted to get out of the U.S. because he thought all signs were in place for the apocalypse.  We said we’d been hearing predictions for the apocalypse for our entire lifetimes, and people have been predicting it since Revelations was written.  I felt it was another bad decision, basing his life decisions on paranoia.  Later that night he informed us he’d bought a ticket for Sunday night at 8:00 out of BWI.  I said I thought it was a terrible decision, but we loved him and hoped it would work out for him.  I said, “It’s a pandemic.  You won’t escape it there.”  He said he thought the whole U.S. was going to collapse.  He thought he could survive in Costa Rica on fruit alone, as he is vegan and nearly a fruitarian now anyway.  However, he doesn’t speak Spanish and would probably have a hard time generating income there; he also might have trouble getting back into the U.S.  I feared the hostel he was staying in would close and he’d be stuck there indefinitely with no place to stay and no money.

We went out on Saturday night to see the movie Hope Gap and ate a lovely dinner at the Italian restaurant Alta Strada.  We weren’t sure it was wise to go out, but we went out to support what we feared was a collapsing economy. There were only about 10 people in the theater, but the restaurant started to fill up as we were finishing our early bird dinner. Later, we realized it probably hadn’t been wise to go out, but the leadership in our country was failing us by not giving us clear directives.

Our son spent all day Sunday the 15th putting our house back the way he found it when he arrived last May and sorting through his stuff that he would leave behind.  Mike drove him to BWI on Sunday evening, and he took off and made it to Costa Rica by morning.

My daughter had been working three jobs in Richmond.  The market where she worked, Soul n’ Vinegar, had closed over the weekend.  She has worked as a bartender at Joe’s Inn for over 10 years; the restaurant has been an old Richmond establishment for over 50 years.  That closed on Monday.  Her only source of income remaining was her savings and any freelance articles she could pick up from Richmond Magazine, her third job.

On Monday, March 16, the DOW Jones Industrial Average dropped by over 3,000 points.  I started keeping a spreadsheet of the DOW and the Coronavirus cases in the U.S.  As of Monday, March 16, the U.S. had 3,599 cases (The New York Times Coronavirus Map). A little over one week later, as of 3/25/20, we had 55,225 cases (CSSE at Johns Hopkins University), and are now third in line behind China and Italy for numbers of cases.  As of today, we’ve had 728 deaths (The New York Times Coronavirus Map). Costa Rica today has 177 cases and 2 deaths.  Of course, this only takes into account those who have been tested.  Many more people are certainly walking around with the virus. Only people who need to be treated in hospitals are able to be tested now in the U.S.

I took a walk around Meadowlark Gardens because it was a warm and sunny day and I wanted some fresh air and exercise.  I kept a safe distance from the few people that were there.  I was still having a lot of congestion though, and it felt worse once I was back home.

On Tuesday, March 17, I felt a bit relieved that my youngest had made it to Costa Rica and wondered if all his apocalyptic predictions were right on.  Maybe he isn’t paranoid at all; maybe he does have some knowledge that we unenlightened are not privy to.  In the end, only time will tell.


March 17 headlines

I went to two grocery stores on Tuesday the 18th to stock up on food.  I couldn’t find many of the things I wanted at Harris Teeter; the clerk told me they usually got a shipment on Monday nights, but only produce and dairy had come in the Monday shipment.  They had hardly any meat, chicken or fish, and of course toilet paper and hand sanitizers and cleansers were gone.  I started to worry about the food chain.  What if food supplies were disrupted?

At Whole Foods, I almost started crying every time one of the grocery store workers helped me. A young man asked when I walked in with a cart if I wanted him to spray down the handlebar.  The young man in the fish department said he thought it was wise to buy gold.  He seemed very calm and friendly.  I felt such gratitude for these people who were putting themselves in danger every day by working on the front lines to provide food for citizens.

A woman customer standing nearby said she’d been in Florida and the beaches had been packed with college kids on spring break.  We both shook our heads at the stupidity of it.

I came home and organized all my cupboards and my refrigerator with the food I’d bought and hoped it would hold us for a while.

I was still walking outside every day, despite my congestion, because I felt okay otherwise.  On Wednesday, I went out for a walk at Riverbend Park with Poonam, from my now-cancelled Spanish class. We kept our 6-foot distance the whole time and enjoyed the blooming bluebells and the beautiful day.

On Thursday, March 19, I sent this message to my son in Costa Rica after I read it on NPR: The U.S. State Department “instructed U.S. citizens not to travel internationally. The Level 4 travel advisory also calls on U.S. citizens who live in the U.S. but are currently overseas to ‘arrange for immediate return to the United States, unless they are prepared to remain abroad for an indefinite period.'”

All he replied was “Wow thank you so much for sharing!  Thank you mom ❤ <3.”  By his response, I guessed he did not plan to come home.


Cherry blossoms on March 19

On Friday, March 20, my son texted to tell me the hostel had closed and he was planning to travel to Montezuma where he found he could rent a small cottage for $200 for a month.  He said it was mango season and he’ll have plenty of mangoes to eat. He let us know on Sunday he would be moving in by Monday, March 23.  He planned to hang at the beach and spend a lot of time meditating.  Maybe that will help us all.

After working from home, Mike took advantage of the beautiful day and went on a bikeride, which helped relieve his stress.


Mike’s bikeride in Vienna

Over the weekend, Mike went to Betty’s Azalea Ranch for mulch; he arranged and paid ahead by phone and did curbside pickup.  Now he’s set for yard work when the weather is nice. He made me a breakfast of eggs, brie and ham on garlic naan, and I made some cauliflower and spicy black bean tacos for dinner.


prepared to mulch

As of today, I still have a lot of congestion, but still no fever and no cough.  I can’t help but wonder if it is related to the virus.  It seems my sister, my sister-in-law, and some of my neighbors have the same kind of symptoms as I do.  I hope my symptoms are allergy-related as I only have congestion with no other symptoms and it seems to get worse when I go outside.  On Saturday night, I took some 24-hour allergy medication, and then I slept away much of the day on Sunday, in between reading Golden Child by Claire Adam.

My son’s job at Oliver’s Meat Market in Denver is still going, but I worry about him being exposed to the virus every day. His girlfriend who moved in with him before Christmas is only doing gig jobs for now, but those seem to be drying up. Of course, we told our kids that if they needed financial help, to please let us know, although our own retirement savings are taking a hit with each passing day.  Mike planned to retire by year end, but he is now wondering if he’ll have to rethink that.

I got an email from my Spanish teacher on Monday afternoon saying we would resume our class by Zoom starting Wednesday, April 1.

On Monday evening, March 23, Governor Ralph Northam of Virginia decided that all schools would remain closed at least through the end of the academic year. Restaurants may only provide curbside, takeout or delivery service. Recreation and entertainment facilities, like gyms, bowling alleys and theaters must close. Personal care services like spas, massage parlors and barber shops must close.  Essential businesses such as grocery stores, pharmacies and banks may remain open while maintaining social distancing guidelines; grocery stores must increase sanitizing procedures. Non-essential brick and mortar establishments can stay open if they can maintain the 10-person limit, otherwise, they must close. Gatherings of more than 10 people are banned across Virginia.

On Tuesday afternoon, we got a text from our son in Costa Rica: “Hey just wanted to say love you guys! Heading out to Cabuya cabaña in just a minute and won’t have WiFi for a bit except when I drop into other places. Love you and hope you’re staying safe out there <3.” He went on to say he’d secured the cabin in Cabuya for $190 for the month and “already moved my stuff there jus moving my body there now haha.”  He said he met a guy from Texas born one day before him who believes everything he does.  I guess he’s found his “like-minded community.”

Just this afternoon, we heard that susceptible people might be released from prisons into the general population.  I hope we won’t now descend into lawlessness.

I won’t even get into the complete and utter lack of leadership shown by our criminal president and his Republican cohorts.  Their inaction, their abhorrence of and dismantling of government, their total lack of compassion, their denial of science, their continued support for corporations at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society — these things are inexcusable. Every time our narcissistic leader gets in front of cameras to speak, he does so with more lies and disinformation, disdain for experts, and narcissistic self-praise. He is a disgrace. I’m convinced he is bent on destroying our country.  In my opinion, he is going about doing that very well.

I’ve decided I’m only listening to reputable medical specialists and to our state governors, like Governor Cuomo of New York and our state governor, Governor Northam.


So, in the midst of all this, what can we do to cope?

Here are a few ways I will try to cope:

  1. STAY HOME as much as possible.  Minimize trips to grocery stores or any other essential places.
  2. Enjoy a virtual cocktail hour either weekly or bi-weekly where everyone is invited to share experiences, hopes and fears.
  3. Call and text family and friends often.  Have Zoom gatherings.
  4. Get together with a few friends outdoors on a lawn, properly spaced. My daughter is getting together with friends on lawns periodically, just three or four people spread out far from each other, sitting on blankets, having a drink.  I like this idea, but it’s a little too chilly now.
  5. Try to get out and walk in the neighborhood when my congestion is cleared up.
  6. Listen to online sermons from church.
  7. Cook creative and healthy meals. Drink lots of water.
  8. Continue to meditate daily.
  9. Find humor where possible, and try to keep laughing.
  10. Keep working on my travel blog, and keep dreaming of future travel destinations.
  11. Read a lot!
  12. Watch shows and movies on Netflix, Hulu and Amazon Prime.
  13. Donate to restaurants or buy take-out.  I bought a gift card from Joe’s Inn in their drive to provide meals for medical workers at VCU Medical Center.
  14. Keep a diary of this challenging time, online or in a journal.  Make journal spreads.
  15. Paint.  Write stories.  Write poetry.  Dream.  Pray/Meditate.  Make collages.  LOVE. 🙂

I wish you all the best during this crisis.  I am hanging on to hope, because what else is there to do?


I’m going to write a cocktail hour/diary about this challenging time either weekly or bi-weekly on Wednesdays, depending on how much I have to share.  I invite you to share your own experiences with what we’re going through right now, either in the comments below, or in your own blog post, which I invite you to link below.  I’ll try to keep writing this as long as we are suffering through this together.  I hope that we will get through it unscathed, sooner rather than later.

Also, if you have any positive ways to get through this, I invite you to share: bits of humor, projects, what we can do to help others, how to keep our sanity, TV shows or movies to watch, books to read, exercises to do, etc.

Peace and love be with you all!