In twenty-twenty, I: Went about my business oblivious to the calamities that would befall us in the year ahead. Was frustrated and angered by my youngest son’s refusal to finish a massage therapy course he’d committed to and we’d paid for. Suffered a sprained ankle in the Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore. Watched helplessly as COVID-19 descended upon us, causing my daughter to lose two of her jobs and my son to escape to Nicaragua. Got sick with a continually mis-diagnosed throat problem in early March. Later found out I had laryngopharyngeal reflux and had a STRETTA procedure to tighten my wide-open lower esophageal sphincter, with little relief. Watched as COVID ran rampant through America under an utter lack of leadership from our criminal-in-chief who continually called it a “hoax,” causing it to expand exponentially throughout society. Watched as racial inequities were exposed during the pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests. Was aghast at the white supremacy attitudes that were emboldened by our racist wanna-be-president. Took a lot of walks outdoors. Learned to wear a mask everywhere and keep the requisite “social distance.” Cancelled our planned trip to Chicago in May, but then went by car in late August, wearing a mask everywhere. Fell in love with Chicago and the amazing architecture and vibes there. Went on a month-long “Canyon & Cactus Road Trip” through southwest Utah and southern Arizona, again wearing masks everywhere. Wrapped up my blog as of December 14 for at least the next year.
In January, I: Had my annual chili dog at the Vienna Inn, Laotian noodles at Sen Khao, dragon rolls, and Beyond Burgers. Meditated 10 minutes a day. Walked, did Pilates and lifted weights regularly. Played Czech Games Codenames with the family when my daughter came for a late holiday visit. Woke up to snow one morning, and watched it melt away by afternoon. Visited my father in Yorktown, stopping for fresh oysters in Tappahannock. Saw the Wolf Moon, the first full moon of the year. Failed miserably at drinking 4 containers of water a day. Got reprimanded by my dental hygienist for not using a Waterpik. Researched Trinidad & Tobago and decided not to go this year. Saw the fabulous movie Just Mercy and another called Honeyland about Macedonian wild beekeepers in the Balkans. Read 5 books out of my goal of 60 for the year, with the best being Flight & Other Stories by José Skinner and the queen of water by Laura Resau. Did my first art journal spread. Found cute little birdhouses at a craft store. Went to Masala Art for lunch, walked around the waterfront, and saw the play A Thousand Splendid Suns at Arena Stage Theater. Felt angry and disgusted with Republicans for not voting to hear witnesses in the impeachment trial for Trump. Started a beginning level Spanish class, and realized quickly how little I remember from four years in high school.
In February, I: Was incensed when our son decided not to complete his Massage Therapy school, which would have required him only to show up for 20 days and give a maximum of four massages each day; this poor decision would leave him just as unprepared to go out into the world as he was when we allowed him to move back in last May. Felt utterly disrespected for our attempts to help him by spending thousands of dollars for the course and letting him live for free in our house. Met our friends Karen and Michael for dinner at Red Kimono and much-needed drinks at Jimmy’s. Went into a period of depression and got derailed on all my February plans and goals. Visited The Sackler and the Freer Galleries in Washington and had dinner at Circa at Clarendon after. Attended a series of talks at Church of the Holy Comforter on “Practical Spirituality” about different ways to approach prayer during Lent. Saw the movies Portrait of a Lady on Fire and And Then We Danced, both of which were good but too long. Went to Baltimore for the weekend and visited the Baltimore Museum of Art and The Walters Art Museum, where I toppled after missing the bottom step on a marble staircase, spraining my left ankle. Met my roommate from nursing school at Watertable in Baltimore, after 44 years of not seeing her, and found a lot in common. Foolishly walked 6 miles to the American Visionary Art Museum and around Federal Hill and the Inner Harbor with my sprained ankle. Visited the doctor when I returned home from the weekend away, and ended up having to wear a tall walking boot for at least two weeks. Attended my Spanish classes and studied regularly. Did Pilates, walked and lifted weights until I sprained my ankle. Read 6 books (bringing my total to 11) out of my goal of 60 for the year, with the best being Archipelago by Monique Roffey and The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction by Michael Noll. Started reading about Chicago and booked our plane tickets for May 13-18.
In March, I: Celebrated Mike’s 66th birthday at home with his sister and our youngest son, eating takeout Thai and playing Codenames. Got the first of a two-part series of the Shringrix vaccine. Voted for Joe Biden in the Democratic Primary. Continued going to Spanish classes until the coronavirus hit and all classes were cancelled. Felt a chest cold coming on, with some trouble breathing on March 5. Went to a Saturday evening service at Church of the Holy Comforter, with a wine social after. Reconnected with people at Holy Comforter who we hadn’t seen in over 15 years. Listened as our son told us he saw all signs pointing to the apocalypse; he wanted to find a like-minded community in Bali or Portugal. Found out our son’s Vipassana retreat, due to begin March 18, was cancelled because of the coronavirus. Got in a huge fight with our son. Went to a Contemplative Prayer meeting and meditated on the word “Love.” Was able to take off my walking boot after two weeks due to improvement in my sprained ankle. Called my older son in Denver to wish him a happy 29th birthday on the 10th. Saw the movies The Assistant and Hope Gap, both of which I enjoyed. Had our last dinner out, Italian, at Alta Strada. Helplessly watched as the coronavirus started closing down the economy and the stock market started crashing, entering Bear Market territory, on 3/11. Hunkered down in our home, and Mike started working from home on the 12th. Was informed by our son that he was going to Costa Rica on the 15th to join a community as he thought all signs were evident for a collapse of the U.S. Took our son to BWI and he flew out, arriving in Costa Rica at 8:00 a.m. the 16th. Was upset to find Soul n’ Vinegar shut down, leaving our daughter out of one of her jobs. Stocked up on groceries, toilet paper, wine, liquor and beer for the long haul on 3/17. Walked with Poonam from my Spanish class at Riverbend Park, keeping 6 feet of distance between us. Read 6 books (bringing my total to 17) out of my goal of 60 for the year, with the best being Golden Child by Claire Adam, Clock Dance by Anne Tyler, and In the Loyal Mountains by Rick Bass. Watched helplessly as coronavirus cases in the U.S. continued to skyrocket, surpassing China and Italy on 3/27 with 85,996 confirmed cases as of 3/27. Felt pleased yet sad that Governor Ralph Northam ordered Virginians to stay at home until June 10. Was shocked to find that the U.S. had 164,610 cases and 3,073 deaths by 3/31. Still felt congestion and some trouble breathing on 3/31, but my doctor said since I didn’t have a fever or cough, it was probably just allergies. Felt angry that our government hadn’t done more to prepare for this.
In April, I: Felt depressed that the coronavirus showed no signs of abating and we had no idea how long it would last. Hunkered down in our house under “stay-in-place” orders. Cancelled our trip to Chicago for mid-May. Did a challenge with my daughter to write a short story using six words: chaise lounge, nostalgia, grapefruit juice, yellow raincoat, monopoly, and fountain pen. Did 10 days of meditations with Davidj online. Heard from our son in Costa Rica who was regretting his decision to go there. Played “Hey Robot” using Alexa on an online Zoom call with two of my adult children. Learned in the meditations that the way to make uncertainty finite instead of infinite is to assign a start moment and an ending moment to the period of uncertainty; breathe it into your heart and breathe it out. Watched our church services for Palm Sunday and Easter on YouTube. Was depressed by news that jobless claims hit 6.6 million. Felt miserable for the second month with constant congestion and throat-clearing. Made cauliflower kuku, enjoyed cherry blossoms, and was inundated with rain. Got take-out dinners from Anita’s Mexican, Enatye Ethiopian, the Vienna Inn, and East Wind Vietnamese. Had a family Zoom meeting with everyone on Easter Sunday. Continued and finished taking Spanish level 100 classes on Zoom. Saw my doctor virtually; she prescribed an antibiotic that did nothing, and then Prednisone, which did nothing. Had a happy hour by FaceTime with my sister Steph and my brother Rob. Wished my daughter Sarah a happy 36th birthday by phone because she was busy all day with friends. Found out our son had moved to Nicaragua and planned to stay there indefinitely. Read 5 books (bringing my total to 22) out of my goal of 60 for the year, with the best being Night at the Fiestas by Kirsten Valdez Quade and The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré. Was shocked to see U.S. COVID-19 cases skyrocket to 1,040,488, and deaths rise to 60,945; Virginia cases were 14,961 and deaths 522.
In May, I: Continued our lockdown due to coronavirus. Did a project for 31 days of taking a different walk every day, drawing a map, and writing down some thoughts for each day. Took prednisone for my constant congestion, with no effect. Encountered families out flying kites, playing Frisbee, bicycling and decidedly NOT practicing social distancing on many of my walks. Tried to get Mexican take-out at Anita’s for Cinco de Mayo but they were totally overwhelmed and we never got our meal. Watched a little bird repeatedly hurl himself against our front storm door. Got take-out dinners at Adyar Ananda, Vienna Inn, East Wind Vietnamese, Anita’s, Enatye Ethiopian, and Cafesano. Marveled at the Flower Moon. Watched church services for Holy Comforter on Zoom. Was sick for the entire months of March (since 3/5), April, and May, with no diagnosis or relief in sight. Went to INOVA Medical Center for evaluation, where I tested negative for COVID-19, as well as a negative chest x-ray and EKG. Continued to be (mis)diagnosed with allergies and started taking XYZAL and Flonase. Took another round of antibiotics that did nothing. Listened to “On Being” podcast interviews with Ocean Vuong, Brother David Steindl-Rast, and, lastly, Devendra Banhart, with a discussion about the book When Things Fall Apart; I realized that things do fall apart, so this pandemic will fall apart too. Celebrated Mother’s day with a Zoom call with my daughter and oldest son, and later on FaceTime with my youngest son in Nicaragua. Continued taking my Spanish classes on Zoom: Buenos días! Walked the labyrinth at Holy Comforter serenaded by a cacophony of lawnmowers and weed whackers. Became increasingly outraged about police killing unarmed black men, Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, about our country’s criminal and idiotic lack of leadership, and about all the conspiracy theories swirling around. Listened to Marc Maron’s WTF podcast about the death of his girlfriend, filmmaker Lynn Shelton, then watched one of her movies: Your Sister’s Sister. Felt thrilled that Twitter is finally putting fact checks on the liar Trump’s tweets. Finished six books during the month (bringing my total for the year to 28/60), my favorites being My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout, The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright, and Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. Saw an allergist who tested 20 allergens and I found I have allergies to cat dander (I’ve always known this), grass and dust mites. Started a steroid nasal spray. Saw an ENT specialist by Zoom who didn’t agree allergies were the cause of my problems and told me not to take the nasal spray. Instead scheduled a nasal endoscopy for June 8, and told me to try Prilosec for acid reflux (!). Was shocked to see U.S. COVID-19 cases skyrocket to 1,770,384, and deaths rise to 103,775; Virginia cases were 43,611 and deaths 1,370. Worldwide cases at the end of May were 6,082,549, and 369,544 people had died so far.
In June, I: Got my hair straightened and cut, finally. Felt furious watching Trump’s political stunt where he unleashed unidentified “soldiers” to tear gas peaceful protesters in Lafayette Square so he could have a “photo op” holding up a Bible, which I would bet he’s never opened in his life. Celebrated the multi-racial make up of the protests, the statements of support from many businesses and even the NFL (although I’d say it’s too little too late), and the peaceful response of many police forces, who knelt with protestors or marched with them. Ventured out to our first outdoor restaurant since lockdown, the Lebanese Taverna, where sadly the menu was much reduced and was missing many of my favorite dishes. Imbibed in wine in the vineyards of Philip Carter Winery of Virginia. Had a nasal endoscopy where the ENT found liquid bubbling up from above my voice box, and handed over a diagnosis of laryngopharyngeal reflux. Worked on changing my diet, cutting out acidic or fatty foods like citrus and tomatoes, eliminating caffeine and alcohol. Celebrated my sister’s 62nd birthday with a happy hour by Zoom with my siblings. Returned to the allergist, who found I have allergies to mold, dust mites, grass, and only a moderate degree to tree pollen. Changed some of my bedding to allergen-impermeable covers, an expensive proposition. Bought fresh veggies at the farmer’s market for the first time; everyone was required to wear masks and keep socially distanced from vendors and other shoppers. Went to another outdoor dinner at Kalypso’s at Lake Anne. Continued my Spanish classes by Zoom through the month. Had a massage by a young man who told me all about his holistic coaching dreams. Drove into D.C. to see the new Black Lives Matter Plaza. Stood at the spot, in front of the historic St. John’s Church, where Trump posed with the Bible after attacking protestors with rubber bullets, batons and tear gas; we took turns holding the book by Doris Kearns Goodwin, Leadership in Turbulent Times, to express our belief that we need leadership during these turbulent times, and the leader we have is incapable of leading. Watched the movie 13th, about how race, justice and mass incarceration intersect in the U.S., as I attempted to educate myself on #blacklivesmatter and racism in America. Watched the 2014 movie Selma, which chronicles the tumultuous three-month period in 1965, when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. led a dangerous campaign to secure equal voting rights in the face of violent opposition. Listened to a 6-episode NPR podcast, White Lies, about the murder of Jim Reeb, a white Unitarian Minister who came to Selma after the attacks to join in the movement and was beaten and murdered by four white men who were angry over Civil Rights activists who were “invading” their town and supporting the cause of black people. Felt angry and appalled that Trump held a COVID rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma on Saturday, June 20; felt happy that though he’d touted over a million people requesting tickets, only over 6,000 showed up (still too many). Ate at East Wind Vietnamese restaurant, our first indoor restaurant experience since March 14. Got plants for our screened-in porch, so our outdoor space is now more inviting. Continued the Prilosec for 28 days, then started Nexium for 14 days, with slight improvement in my reflux symptoms. Took my first bike ride in over 10 years and made it to 9.12 miles; by the time I finished, my butt was killing me and I was stiff from being in that biking position for an hour! Heard from our son in Nicaragua, and he seemed to have fallen in love with surfing. Worked minimally on my project for the month of doing a watercolor a day. Finished 3 books during the month (bringing my total for the year to 31/60), my favorites being Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr and News of the World by Paulette Jiles. Was infuriated that our leadership has succeeded in “Making America Great Again,” as we have the highest number of COVID cases in the world, 2,483,463 as of June 28, 2020, and the highest number of deaths at 125,033; the U.S. has 25% of worldwide cases and deaths, despite having only 4.2% of the population. Felt slightly relieved that in Virginia, we are doing better than much of the country, with 60,570 cases and 1,700 deaths; our Democrat governor has imposed restrictions and has made rules about mask-wearing inside public places.
In July, I: Went to the gym for the first time since lockdown. Continued to deal with my laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR), feeling slightly better some days, and worse others. Began immediately to cut out tomatoes, alcohol, coffee, onions, and many other high acid foods. Finally went out for indoor dining at Woodlands Pure Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, Enatye Ethiopian Restaurant, and Artie’s. Got takeout at Yoko Sushi because they weren’t yet open for indoor dining. Went indoors for dinner to Seasons 52. Wore a mask every time I went indoors in a public place. Ventured out for my first pedicure. Went on a mural walk, which I wrote about here: a mural walk in washington on a hot july day. Started going to Club Pilates again and went on a bikeride at least once a week, usually around 10-11 miles. Listened to the excellent Crooked Media podcast called This Land, hosted by Rebecca Nagle, which told all about events leading up to the Supreme Court’s decision that much of eastern Oklahoma is an Indian reservation. Walked around Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. Went to Richmond with my husband to visit our daughter, Sarah, who I hadn’t seen since January. Went to Monument Avenue to see what was left of the four Confederate statues, and the Robert E. Lee statue, which is slated to be removed unless a case before the court decides against its removal. Got take-out and enjoyed a picnic outdoors at Maymont Park, and went to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to see the exhibit: Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities. Finished 4 books during the month (bringing my total for the year to 35/60), my favorite being Scorpionfish by Natalie Bakopoulos. Was infuriated that our leadership had succeeded in “Making America Great Again,” as we had the highest number of COVID cases in the world, 4,502,500 as of July 31, 2020, and the highest number of deaths at 152,431. Felt slightly relieved that in Virginia, we were doing better than much of the country, with 88,904 cases and 2,141 deaths.
In August, I: Continued the 28-day maintenance diet from the book The Acid Watcher Diet: A 28-Day Reflux Prevention and Healing Program, by Dr. Jonathan Aviv. Continued to try medications to help with my LPR, to no avail. Started dining in at restaurants, going early and on weeknights to avoid any crowding: P.F. Chang, Artie’s, Jaleo, and Istanbul Blue. Got drenched as Tropical Storm Isaias moved into the area. Lifted weights and rode the exercise bike at Oak Marr and continued Pilates and my 10-mile bike rides once a week. Went to the National Museum of Women in the Arts to see “Graciela Itrubide’s Mexico” and the regular collection. Had an Upper Endoscopy where I found that my lower esophageal sphincter is totally open, causing my reflux problem. Had an Upper GI x-ray with barium and found that my GI system is sluggish, that my esophagus is not working properly. Went to the dentist for a regular checkup and found that my #30 molar had cracked in half (probably exacerbated by the Upper Endoscopy where they put a hard mouth guard in during the procedure). Walked with my friend Poonam and had coffee afterward, socially distanced. Had my #30 molar extracted and was directed to return in three months to start the implant. Saw the GI doctor for a STRETTA consultation, and found that after I do that procedure, which should help toughen the muscle around my lower esophageal sphincter, I will likely have to have another treatment to help the function of my esophagus. Drove to Macedonia, Ohio, halfway to Chicago, where we hiked in Cuyahoga Valley National Park the next morning. Spent four days in Chicago, the Windy City. Went on a public art walk and an architecture walk in the Loop, seeing “The Bean” and Crown Fountain, which wasn’t operating because of coronavirus. Flipped off Trump Tower along the Chicago River. Enjoyed the Impressionist paintings at the Art Institute. Saw great views of Chicago at 360° Chicago. Took a bike ride along the Lakeshore. Strolled around the 9-sided Bahá’i Temple of Worship in Wilmette. Walked among the headless and armless iron sculptures, called Agora, at Grant Park. Learned all about company towns and labor strikes at Pullman National Monument. Was serenaded by bagpipes at University of Chicago’s Rockefeller Chapel as the university welcomed the Class of 2024. Saw a number of Frank Lloyd Wright’s houses, including Robie House and Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio. Enjoyed colorful street murals at Pilsen. Visited Ukrainian Village and had potato pancakes and vodka at Tryzub Ukrainian Kitchen. Went to Boystown and Wrigleyville, where we admired the classic Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs. Enjoyed the amazing Chicago River Boat Architecture Tour and learned all about the famous architecture along the Chicago River. Drove back the long haul of 12+ hours in one day to get back home again. Finished 3 books during the month (bringing my total for the year to 38/60), my favorite being Taft by Ann Patchett. Felt our leadership was hopeless as we had the highest number of COVID cases in the world, over 6,000,000 as of August 31, 2020, and the highest number of deaths at 183,474. Felt only marginally relieved that in Virginia, we were holding steady, with 120,594 cases and 2,580 deaths.
In September, I: Continued walking around the Reston Lakes and in my neighborhood and doing Pilates once a week. Dined outdoors at Kalypso at Lake Anne. Got my flu shot. Had a belated birthday celebration with Barbara, my sister-in-law by having a take-out Thai dinner on our screened porch. Dined in at Ariake Japanese restaurant. Had a COVID test in preparation for my STRETTA procedure, which came back negative. Had the procedure at Fair Oaks Hospital on the 17th, where the doctor applied heat to toughen up my lower esophagus. Went on a liquid diet for two days and a very soft diet for the next two weeks. Missed my father’s 90th birthday because I was recovering from my procedure and I didn’t want to gather with 24 people I didn’t know. Went to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington to pay our respects to Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died on the 18th. Stopped by the new Dwight D. Eisenhower Memorial, with its stainless steel tapestry depicting the Pointe du Hoc promontory of France’s Normandy Coastline during peacetime by Tomas Osinski; it is a symbol of the peace Eisenhower won during World War II and maintained as President. Stood in line at the Fairfax County Government Center for 1 hour and 40 minutes to cast my early vote for an all blue ticket, especially for Joe Biden for President. Found out our youngest son had an accident on a motorbike in Nicaragua and displaced his collarbone. Purposely avoided the first debate between Trump and Biden, which Jake Tapper called “a hot mess, inside a dumpster fire, inside a train wreck.” Finished 5 books during the month (bringing my total for the year to 43/60), my favorite being The Great Believers by Rebecca Makkai and Migratory Animals by Mary Helen Specht. Continued to be infuriated by Trump on his non-COVID response, as we had the highest number of cases in the world, over 7,219,800 as of September 30, 2020, and the highest number of deaths at 205,859. Felt slightly relieved that in Virginia, we were holding fairly steady, with 147,516 cases and 3,187 deaths.
In October, I: Graduated from a very soft diet to a “soft diet.” Doubted that Trump really got coronavirus when he “tested positive” and was later taken to Walter Reed Hospital. Watched in horror as he continued to call the virus a “hoax” after he “got it.” Visited my father for a belated 90th birthday with Mike and Sarah. Went to dinner at Artie’s and Seasons 52. Broke in stiff new hiking boots on local walks. Took a leisurely photo stroll around Meadowlark Gardens. Had a follow-up exam after my STRETTA procedure, but was disappointed I wasn’t seeing much improvement. Took off for a three-day drive across country to Denver, Colorado on what would be my month-long “Canyon & Cactus Road Trip.” Visited the Denver Botanic Gardens, where I wandered through a “Ghost Forest” and encountered skeletons on rafts and inner tubes. Went on a hike at Chautauqua Park and shopped in the cute, but deserted, town of Boulder. Was the oldest person by far at Happy Camper Pizza, a Denver eatery, where I went with my son and his girlfriend. Visited the Denver Art Museum, marveled over the gold dome of the Colorado State Capitol, and wandered through the Clyfford Still Museum. Encountered the Big Blue Bear and the Mayan Theatre. Visited with some bison at Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge and then, after picking Mike up at the airport, dragged him back there with me. Drove with Mike to Green River, Utah where we met up with Alex and Ariana. Hiked the narrow slot canyon, Little Wild Horse Canyon, in the San Rafael Swell. Wandered amidst goblin-shaped rock formations at Goblin Valley State Park after picnicking at a red picnic table. Hiked throughout Capitol Reef National Park and learned about the Mormon community and the orchards there. Stopped for astounding scenic overlooks at Grand Staircase Escalante National Monument. Strolled among towering sandstone chimneys at Kodachrome Basin State Park. Encountered more bulbous columns called hoodoos at Bryce Canyon National Park on the Queen’s Garden and Navajo Loop Trail. Turned 65, officially becoming a senior citizen in Bryce, Utah. Climbed ever upward in snow and 4°F temps to Cedar Breaks National Monument, where my fingers nearly froze off in just a few minutes of being outdoors. Hiked the Scout Lookout Trail at Zion National Park, where Ariana was the only one of us to make it to the top of Angel’s Landing. Hiked the Emerald Pool Trails at Zion. Decked myself out in neoprene socks, water shoes and waterproof pants to hike and wade up the Narrows at Zion. Enjoyed a fabulous bacon-wrapped meatloaf Napoleon at Switchback Grille in Springdale, UT, and said our goodbyes to Alex and Ariana as they headed back to Denver the next morning. Squeezed in a couple more hikes in Zion and then drove to Coral Pink Sand Dunes State Park. Learned about the Mormons and other parties vying for scarce water at Pipe Spring National Monument. Enjoyed an excellent belated birthday dinner in St. George at the Painted Pony Restaurant. Hiked the Petrified Dunes Trail at Snow Canyon State Park. Did the Fire Wave Hike at Valley of Fire State Park in Nevada. Stayed Halloween night in Las Vegas, Nevada so that Mike could catch an early flight back home the next morning. Finished 3 books during the month (bringing my total for the year to 46/60), my favorites being Saint Maybe by Anne Tyler and The Glovemaker by Ann Weisgarber.