how things are here and there

I know there are other things to write about than novel coronavirus status at the moment, but it’s hard for me to write about them without doing the update first. It’s top of mind for millions upon millions of people around the globe.

I live in New York State in the Northeastern United States. Our state is very hard-hit right now, although the majority of the cases are down near New York City, about 150 miles (240 km) from Broome County, where I live. As of this moment, there are 32 known cases in the county and three deaths. The health department is trying to quarantine contacts, but we are seeing community spread.

B is working from home and will continue to for the foreseeable future. We are staying at home, other than for walks in the neighborhood, during which we keep our distance if we happen to see someone else out, and for necessary food and supplies shopping, which is usually my job. I haven’t shopped for a few days, but the last time I tried to do weekly shopping I had to go to several stores. There aren’t real shortages of anything; it’s just that some people are still panic buying and the stores run out of categories of items until they can get their next shipment from the warehouse.

The biggest change in the last week is that we aren’t going to Paco’s everyday. Because my dad lives in a senior community – in other words, a collection of people who are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 complications – we are trying to restrict our visits to only the most necessary ones. Even though I had tried to set up things so that Paco can manage with just telephone reminders, it is difficult not to be able to be there. I’m afraid, though, that it will be many weeks before it is considered advisable to visit frequently.

Meanwhile, daughter E, her spouse L, their daughter ABC, and L’s parents live in one of the global hotspots, London, UK. They were all exposed to the virus the last Sunday that people were allowed to go to church. E and L have both been sick with something that, symptom-wise, could be COVID-19, but they don’t know because tests are only being run on people sick enough to be hospitalized, which, thankfully, they are not. Once this outbreak calms down, E, at least, will probably have an antibody test to confirm if she has had the virus, because she will be having a baby, most likely in August. (This is what is known as burying the lead.)

We are all very happy that there will be a new member in the family. ABC will be three by the time her new brother or sister arrives. We had hoped to visit this spring and then again after the baby’s birth, but all travel plans are on indefinite hold because of the virus and travel restrictions.

It will certainly be very different than having ABC living with us for her first two years, but at least E, L, ABC, and Baby will in the same country and under the same roof. I’m sure L’s parents will enjoy having so much time with the new baby, as we did having ABC on this side of the pond when she was little.

Wishing everyone good health and safety in these difficult times.

in uncertain times

I’m feeling increasingly unnerved.

I’m trying to be a good national and global citizen and keep up with the news, but things just seem more and more unmoored.

It’s not as though I haven’t felt this way, albeit to a lesser degree, before; it just feels now that there is no certainty left anywhere.

I heard someone say recently that people who are living with the stress of uncertainty just want to know what is going to happen.

Of course, this is impossible.

Because the international climate strike is coming in a few days, on September 20th, perhaps I can muster a little comfort in the energy and resilience of youth committed to positive change in the world. The world’s youth are proving that they are not only the planet’s future but also its present. They are rallying people of all ages to their cause.

I sincerely wish I could be an active participant in the events being held around the world that day, but there are no events in my immediate area. It would be great to travel a few hours to New York City, where the largest gathering is likely to be, in recognition of the UN climate summit which begins soon after the strike. However, an all-day event with hundreds of thousands of people is an impossibility for me. People who have a school or workplace can show solidarity by walking out, but I don’t have either of those.

I will try to do some advocacy work that day and follow the coverage of the NYC event. I can, at least, take a moment to recognize the work I have done both as an advocate and as a consumer over the last several years to bring attention to climate change and try to reduce my own environmental impact.

And re-commit to working in a positive way, moving forward through uncertainty.

Florence Foster Jenkins

A family friend when I was a child often said, “Well, bless her heart,” whenever someone did something well-meaning or wholeheartedly.

Meryl Streep discussing Florence Foster Jenkins, whom she portrays in the new film of the same name, says that people at the time had one of two reactions to hearing Florence sing, either “bless her” or laughter.

Both of these are shown in the film.

Florence was a piano prodigy as a child, who lost her ability to play due to a physical condition. She continued to love music and, in adulthood. became an important musical philanthropist in New York City.

Florence liked to sing with heart and emotion. What she didn’t realize was that her physical malady had adversely affected both her ability to sing on pitch and her recognition that she was not singing on pitch. In order not to hurt her, her husband and her friends protected her from finding out the truth.

I love Meryl Streep’s work. She always brings depth into her portrayals as she does here. As a singer myself, although a choral soprano rather than a coloratura who can toss off the “Queen of the Night” aria at the drop of a hat, I was amazed at Streep’s ability to sing as Florence did – almost, but not quite up to the pitch.

On Fandango, the movie is listed as both a comedy and a drama. While there are moments of laughter, I can’t think of the film as a comedy. I think it is better characterized as a reflection on the power of music, service, friendship, and love in the face of adversity.

Florence, bless your heart. Meryl, thank you for bringing this powerful story to us.

Francis at Ground Zero

I wanted to watch Pope Francis’s address to the United Nations General Assembly this morning, but, due to the sudden news of House Speaker John Boehner’s impending resignation, part of the coverage of the speech was pre-empted. The part of the speech that I was able to hear was totally in keeping with what Francis has been saying around the world about overcoming poverty, upholding the common good, about integral ecology, justice, and peace.

After leaving the United Nations, Francis traveled to the World Trade Center 9/11 memorial. After visiting the outdoor memorial and meeting with family members of those who lost their lives that day, there was a stunning multi-religious prayer service in the underground museum of the memorial.

Francis joined an arc of New York City religious leaders, reflecting in their persons and their traditional religious dress the huge diversity of the city and of the United States as a whole. There were prayers and chants on the theme of peace from the Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Buddhist, and Christian traditions in several languages, often with translations offered. After a stunning prayer for the dead sung in Hebrew, the Pope spoke in Spanish, ending with a plea for peace and a moment of silence for each to offer their own prayers or thoughts in accord with their own beliefs.

This was followed by the Young People’s Chorus of New York City singing “Let There Be Peace on Earth.” The sound of their young voices, coupled with the visual impact of their diversity, brought tears to my eyes, especially when the camera zoomed in on two of the singers holding hands.

It all made me believe that peace is possible.

Peace is essential.

SoCS: growing up in the sticks

I grew up in the sticks.

It’s an expression I don’t hear much anymore. OK – I don’t hear it at all anymore. I’m not sure how widespread its usage was but it means to grow up in an out-of-the-way place. I grew up in a town of 200 people, give or take, in western Massachusetts along the Vermont border. We had a little general store which had the post office in it. We had a paper mill where most of the people in town worked. We had a school that went up through eighth grade. We even had a little bar/restaurant called “The Club.”

Everything else – big grocery stores, clothing stores, the high school, doctors, banks, etc. – was twenty miles away.

So, to me, where I lived was the definition of  “the sticks.”

I was surprised after I moved to Broome County NY – aka Greater Binghamton – that the definition of “the sticks” was different. In New York State, it seems that everything gets compared to New York City. There is The City, its suburbs and Long Island – and everything else becomes “upstate,” mashing together large cities like Buffalo, Rochester, and Syracuse, with smaller cities, towns, villages, and very rural areas, such as the Adirondacks.

So even though I live on the southern border of the state, just a few miles from the state line with Pennsylvania, I am “upstate.” I live in a town that is a hundred times larger in population than my hometown, about the size of the twenty-mile-away city that we used to go to for shopping and services when I was growing up. My current town is a suburb of Binghamton, which is a city with its own opera company, symphony, minor league baseball and hockey teams, and all kinds of other amenities that were much further afield when I was growing up.

Yet, because we are small compared to NYC, we are considered to be “the sticks.”

Go figure.
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Linda’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday this week is: “stick.”  Come join in the fun! Find out how here: http://lindaghill.com/2015/05/15/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-may-1615/

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adge by Doobster @MindfulDigressions

 

Mother’s Day

Last year on Mother’s Day, I was with my husband B in Honolulu with both daughters E and T and son-in-law L.  You can read about it here and here.

This year, B and I will be having Mother’s Day brunch with both of our moms and my dad in the dining room at the senior community where they all live. I am especially grateful to be able to celebrate Mother’s Day with with my mom and mother-in-law this year because the past year has been rough for both of them health-wise but they are both much improved and able to enjoy the day, which is oddly summery for mid-May.

Meanwhile, E and T are on an adventure together in New York City. They converged there on Friday, E from Honolulu HI and T from Syracuse NY, and are staying with my sister. E is attending Japan Day in Central Park because six members from jpop phenomenon AKB48 will be performing. E’s master thesis is about the fandom, especially the online fans outside of Japan, so this is a great opportunity for her to make connections and conduct interviews for her research. T has just finished her semester in her master’s program and came down to help her sister for the weekend. It is also their only chance to get together this summer because T will be doing an internship assisting with botany studies in New York State parks. (Way to go, T!)

I’m so happy that they will have this special long weekend together. Their bond with each other is one of the true joys of being their mother.  While B and I won’t get to see them together, we will get time to see them separately. T will get a couple of weeks at home before her internship begins and we just made reservations to go to Hawai’i in June to see E while L is in London working on his dissertation research.

The generations of our family illustrate that being a mom is forever!