I just got through watching A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, which is a movie that isn’t so much about Fred Rogers as it is about how he gently and subtly influenced the life of someone else by example. I highly recommend this movie. Tom Hanks really channeled Mr. Rogers.
I have written before about how Fred Rogers was the closest thing I ever had to a father, and about how I watched Mr. Rogers Neighborhood to an embarrassingly old age. Heck, I still watch it once in a blue moon. It grounds me. It makes me feel better that somewhere, at some time, a place of such goodness existed, even if it was only on television. It reminds me that there are, in fact, reasonable, decent and kind people in the world. I’ve also written about a documentary that came out recently about him entitled, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
So I guess you might say that Fred Rogers is a recurring theme in my blog. That makes perfect sense, because he made a huge impact on my life. He’s probably the only reason I survived the insanity of my childhood.
When I’m feeling particularly vulnerable, I sometimes wonder what my mother would think of how my life turned out. Would she be proud of me? I desperately need to hear that, but of course I can’t, as she passed away 29 years ago. Are you proud of me, Ma? Are you there?
But suddenly I’m wondering what Mr. Rogers would think of me. Sometimes in this blog, and in life in general, I say things that aren’t very nice about people. Sometimes I am not as generous as I could be. Sometimes I use bad words or get impatient or have mean thoughts. I’m judgmental.
I didn’t learn any of this from him.
It wouldn’t be at all unfair if Mr. Rogers were disappointed in my behavior, but it wouldn’t really be like him. He was all about love and acceptance. He liked all of us just the way we are. So, yeah, Mr. Rogers would be proud of me, despite my many flaws, which he wouldn’t have focused on.
Out of curiosity, I just Googled “Mr. Rogers Pride” and came up with this video, where he sings, “I’m proud of you.” Ironically, it was at the very end of the very last episode of his show.
Mr. Rogers just told me he was proud of me, and I burst into tears. I had one of those ugly, chest-heaving cries that, once over, leaves you feeling cleansed. I needed that.
Thanks, Mr. Rogers. For everything. I sure wish you were here to comfort us during this pandemic.
By now, everyone in America will have received a letter in the mail from the Census Bureau urging you to stand up and be counted, and giving you several very easy ways to do so. I filled out mine on line. It’s about 10 questions. It only took about 5 minutes.
Come on, now. You’re stuck at home. What else do you have to do?
And here’s some very good news: there is NO question regarding your immigration status. Nor can any information be shared with law enforcement. It’s mainly about who lives in your household, how you are related to one another, whether you rent or own, your race, your age, and your gender. It doesn’t ask sensitive information such as your income, your political affiliation, your social security number, or your bank accounts.
Your answers will remain confidential for 72 years. Then it is available for people researching genealogy. I know I’d have been lost without that information when I was researching my family tree.
For family tree purposes, I was kind of disappointed that the long form questionnaire isn’t available as it was in decades past. They used to give a small percentage of households that form to complete, and it gave a lot more details about your life. I could always imagine my relatives, a hundred years from now, looking over that data and being fascinated. But I never got the long form, and this time around they don’t even have it. Pity.
It’s really important for you to participate in the census, because it helps determine your congressional representation, and how federal funding gets allocated. Many politicians would prefer that you do not participate, because they feel that an accurate representation of what this country truly looks like will not be in their best interests. Don’t let them draw an inaccurate picture of this nation! The 99 percent should show that it’s a force to be reckoned with! Represent!
Your participation will indicate which areas of the country need new schools, libraries, clinics and roads. It will determine funding for hospitals, fire departments, and school lunch programs. It helps entrepreneurs decide where to open new restaurants, stores, and factories.
Your participation in the census will positively impact your community for the next decade. And it will keep some poor census taker from having to knock on your door to get the information that you didn’t already provide. Let’s keep each other safe from COVID-19 by saving these folks the trip.
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Normally, I plan to visit an art gallery. I’m therefore anticipating a feeling of delight and awe, and even a bit of envy, when presented with such talent. I’m emotionally prepared for those exquisite feelings.
But on this particular, pre-pandemic day, I wasn’t expecting to be treated to dozens of stunning works of art. I didn’t have the opportunity to look forward to it. I wasn’t braced for an influx of emotion.
The Women Painters of Washington Gallery snuck up on me. I had other business in the Columbia Center Building, Seattle’s tallest skyscraper. I planned to do that. I didn’t plan to do this. But there it was, on the third floor, beckoning to me, splashes of vibrant color peeking through the windows, an antidote to the evergrey of a Pacific Northwest winter.
“Hello,” I thought. “I wasn’t expecting to meet you. I didn’t even know you existed.”
This encounter happened at an opportune time. The gallery is only open Monday through Friday from 11am to 4pm. Otherwise I’d have had to content myself with pressing my nose against the glass. And admission to this treat for your senses is absolutely free.
I not only enjoyed the art in this gallery, but also the very premise of it. According to their exquisitely designed website, the Women Painters of Washington has a wonderful mission statement:
Women Painters of Washington empowers professional women artists to create, exhibit, and market their work while fostering art appreciation within their communities and beyond.
This group was founded in 1930 because, as I’m sure will come as no surprise to you, women artists face certain limitations when attempting to realize their artistic potential. What a fantastic idea. Three cheers for strength in numbers!
I encourage you to check out their website, where you can see dozens of works of art from the comfort of your own home. But if, like me, you think the website is of fabulous design, you really need to visit the gallery when this virus burns itself out. Its walls each contain a giant metal wheel which can roll along a metal track so that the placement and design of an exhibit can change with each passing display. I’ve never seen such a brilliant use of limited space.
What follows are pictures my husband took during our visit. Let me know what you think. And if you get a chance, stop by and visit one of Seattle’s best kept secrets!
Are you scared? I’m scared. There’s no shame in that. Anyone with any sense right now is scared. And during times of heightened fear, it is natural for us to want to seek out some sort of magic bullet that will save us all from invisible evils such as COVID-19. But I’m asking you to use your head.
In the past few weeks, several friends have forwarded a variety of voice recordings to me. There are many things these voice recordings have in common.
The person on the recording never identifies him or herself by name.
The person claims to be in the medical field, or claims to have gotten this information from a reliable source in the medical field.
The person then goes on to give all sorts of medical advice that has been “proven” to help you avoid getting COVID-19, or perhaps help you recover quickly if you test positive.
Some of the things they have suggested are:
Taking large amounts of Vitamin C.
Avoiding Ibuprofen, or, specifically (for some unknown reason), Advil.
Avoiding cold liquids.
Drinking hot liquids, because this washes the virus into your stomach where the acid then takes care of it.
Drinking nothing but lemon.
I can’t stress this enough:
⇒ ALL OF THESE THEORIES HAVE BEEN DEBUNKED. ⇐
Ask yourself these things:
If any of these magical cures actually worked, don’t you think that Dr. Fauci, and the rest of the doctors from the Centers for Disease Control, would be broadcasting it every 5 minutes on TV?
Don’t you think that they’d be shouting it from the rooftops?
And why would these unidentified, supposed doctors in all these recordings be passing this information on in an unsophisticated way, as if they’re giving you some sort of privileged, insider scoop?
Here are some more myths that need to be busted:
The mistaken belief that you can get the virus by eating Chinese food.
The insanity that opening a package from China is more dangerous than opening any other package at this time.
The outrageous belief that all Asians are somehow to blame for this and deserve to be punished.
The dream that this will all be over by Easter.
The erroneous idea that most masks will protect you from the virus, when in fact they’re much more effective in preventing you from spreading the virus to others.
The conspiracy theory that this virus was intentionally created in a lab.
The fantasy that this virus is no worse than the common flu.
I am begging you, pleading with you:
Do not pass on unsubstantiated information.
Do your research.
Don’t simply share things about this pandemic because it sounds plausible and makes you feel better. It’s only causing more confusion.
Next thing you know, they’ll be telling you to sacrifice chickens, while naked, during the light of the full moon. While this might prove to be an amusing break from the monotony, the chickens sure wouldn’t appreciate it. Not even a little bit.
I know it would be nice to have a get out of jail free card during these trying times, but I urge you to listen to the easily identified infectious disease experts, not other people (who shall remain nameless) with an agenda.
Wash your hands.
Remain socially distant.
Stay at home whenever possible.
We can get through this. The vast, vast majority of us will. That’s a fact.
I don’t think I realized how isolated I was feeling until I saw videos of the Italians singing from their balconies. It brought tears to my eyes. But I don’t have a balcony, and my nearest neighbor isn’t even within shouting distance.
Social distancing sucks. While the concept is important, and absolutely must be adhered to, the term sounds like a punishment. At a time when we all need each other more than ever, it sounds like we’re in jail. Solitary confinement.
But this is 2020, y’all, and we don’t have to take it lying down. We have technology! Instead of being socially distant, we can be distantly social. Because we truly are all in this together.
For example, last Sunday I attended virtual Unitarian Universalist Church via an app called Zoom. The sermon was in one living room. The music came from another. A story was read from a third. We all watched and participated on our computers. We were able to express our cares and concerns on camera or via text. One gentleman even attended from his hospital bed.
It was all unexpectedly comforting. We were all alone, and yet together, doing the same thing at the same time. Fellowship. For a brief shining moment, I found it impossible to feel sorry for myself. And it was also fun. I wasn’t bored. Those moments are few and far between these days.
I’ve heard of all sorts of creative ways that people are getting together virtually. A local librarian is doing virtual storytime for the kiddies live on Facebook. A friend of mine had a virtual talent show where people performed from their various living rooms. Neighborhoods are hosting teddy bear hunts. They’re putting teddy bears in their windows for kids to be able to walk around and see from the sidewalk. Virtual book clubs are cropping up, and people are watching movies together while sitting on Skype so they can still make snarky comments about the movie together. And if you’re not so technically inclined, of course, there’s still the good old fashioned telephone.
And now more than ever, it’s important to check in (distantly) with your elderly or disabled friends, neighbors, and loved ones. They feel isolated at the best of times. This must be a special form of torture for them.
Yes, I know that virtual socializing isn’t exactly like the real thing, but it’s what we’ve got right now. If you’d like to (virtually) interact with people face to face, I highly recommend Second Life. I’ve written more about it here, but in essence, you get an avatar, and move through the world with other people.
It’s not a game or a competition, and you don’t have to spend any money in there. You can go to church, go dancing, listen to live music, explore, or just sit in a virtual coffee shop and talk to people. It’s the closest thing to real life that you may be able to find these days.
I’ve made amazing friends in Second Life for more than a decade, and I’ve done a lot of exciting things there. So if you’re feeling cooped up, check it out! There’s no COVID in cyberspace!
This was supposed to be a triumphant blog post. I had been writing it in my head all day. After my really scary near-death experience where I plunged down a steep hillside in my snowmobile (read more about that here), I decided to get back up on that horse, so to speak, and face my fear. (As a matter of fact, I planned to title the post, “I Got Back on the Horse!”)
Long story short, we went snowmobiling again.
It was a really beautiful day. The sun was shining, so the snow was sparkling like diamonds. I don’t know if my shoulder was aching because I was tense from the PTSD of the previous week’s scare, or if I was tense because my shoulder was aching, but I was really worried about my ability to control this 450 pound machine that had already proven to me that things can go very quickly south when it decides to have a mind of its own. So I was being extra careful.
But I was going to face my fear and emerge triumphant, by God! Even if it killed me. Hubris strikes again.
I actually did conquer that ridge. I rode up the other side of it and then down the 400 vertical feet of incline behind me. It was scary. My heart was pounding. But I did it. I did it! Afterward, my husband took this picture of me below. I was feeling all triumphant. That would have been the perfect end note for that planned blog post.
Sadly, that wasn’t the end of our day.
I was feeling all cocky, so when my husband offered to show me other parts of the Sno-Park that I had never seen, but that he’d been to about 50 times, I was all for it.
It was beautiful. Pristine, powdery snow. Mountain views. I was feeling so happy and alive.
I was following my husband up a track through some trees, and I lost sight of him as he went around a curve. I wasn’t more than a few seconds behind, but when I went around the curve, I still didn’t see him. And then I realized he was way off to the side, and he was on all fours in the snow, coughing. And his snowmobile was further on, wedged in the trees.
I stopped my snowmobile so abruptly that it stalled. I jumped off and started running toward him (if you can call stumbling through a foot of snow running). My mind was in a state of confusion.
“My God, are you okay?”
“It knocked the wind out of me.”
It seems that in that brief period when he was out of my sight, he hit a bump, and just as I did the previous week, he gripped the handlebars tightly, thus squeezing the throttle. The next thing he knew, he was airborne.
The snowmobile flew more than 25 feet and hit the trees. I know this for certain because I saw where the tracks disappeared from the snow. Fortunately, he was thrown (or he threw himself. He can’t remember.) off the snowmobile before it hit. But that also means that his 25 foot flight was abruptly terminated by hitting a tree himself. Thank God he was wearing a rigid safety vest.
So now, here we were, in the middle of nowhere, in the silent, snowy wilderness, in the late afternoon. Beautiful nature suddenly seemed a lot more deadly. This was bad.
Right, then. Time to get his snowmobile out of the trees.
It wouldn’t back out on its own. That would have been too easy. But every attempt to reverse dug the snowmobile deeper into the soft powdery snow that had been accumulating under the trees for weeks. And we had no rope, so we couldn’t tow it out. So we began to shovel the snow from around the smoking machine.
After an hour, we had only been able to drag it about 4 feet, but it still had to go another 8 before it would hit solid snow. I’m not very strong, and my husband seemed less super-heroic than usual. And the sun kept getting lower on the horizon. I was getting kind of nervous.
We had tried contacting people on the emergency radio, but we appeared to have the entire park to ourselves. That seemed like a good thing earlier in the day. Now it seemed like a very, very bad thing. Even if we had been able to get a cell phone signal, it would have been awfully hard to describe where we were, as we were off the established trail.
There was nothing for it. We were both going to have to ride out on my snowmobile, even though it wasn’t made for two people. I climbed on behind my husband, and had to hang on for dear life, leaning back at a severe angle. We hadn’t gone very far at all before I realized I was going to be in a lot of pain quite soon. This was going to be a long 10-mile slog.
I had been thinking about all the ways this could have been worse. He could have died or been impaled by a tree branch. He could have been knocked out. I’m not strong enough to pull the ripcord to start my snowmobile, so I couldn’t have gotten help. I had no idea where we were. I wouldn’t have been able to save him or contact anyone or walk out. We’d have frozen to death. I began to realize that I wasn’t a help in this instance. I was more of a liability. And that made me feel horrible. How could I have been that stupid?
While I was having all those awful thoughts, we came around yet another curve, and there were two beautiful, young, strong guys, sitting on their snowmobiles, having their lunch. I wanted to cry with relief.
They were able to dig Cris’ snowmobile out, and we were ready to go. But it was becoming increasingly apparent to me that my husband was a lot more hurt than he was letting on. He had been calm and collected the whole time, but I think he did that so that I wouldn’t freak out. He could no longer pull the cords to start our engines. Our heroes had to do that.
We were able to drive out of there, but I could tell that my husband was feeling every single bump of that 10 mile trek.
As soon as we got to the truck and manhandled the snowmobiles onto the trailer, we headed straight toward civilization, and finally, gratefully, to an emergency room, where I was promptly kicked out because of a fear of spreading COVID-19.
He was there for hours, and I couldn’t even hold his hand. We found out he had broken two ribs but had no internal injuries or bleeding. By the next day, he looked like I had beaten him with a baseball bat.
He has a 6-8 week recovery ahead of him, but he’s alive. No more snowmobiling for us. We have too much to live for.
A special thank you to Mike and Josh from North Bend, Washington, for saving our lives. I wish I had gotten their last names. Things would have been much worse if they hadn’t been there.
If you’re like me, you’re starting to understand why pets try to run out of the house every time the door opens. (I wish I could take credit for that. It’s a meme going around Facebook.) In other words, I’m going stir crazy. Even this introvert is starting to miss community interaction, so recently I posted the following on my blog’s Facebook group:
Write a story with me! Everyone contribute a few sentences at a time. Please keep it relatively PG, and expand and read all comments before contributing. If it works out, I’ll post it on my blog.
I contributed the first sentence and chimed in to keep the story on track here and there, but special thanks to Chuck Christison, Cris LeCompte, Jennifer Dropkin, and Florita Robinson for contributing. This was fun! I may have to do it again!
Without further ado, here’s the story we came up with:
In spite of the quarantine, Serenity was able to entertain herself by eavesdropping on her neighbors from the balcony of her crowded tenement.
And then a sound came to her that she had never heard during her daily, and now hourly observation, of the sights and sounds of her very small corner of the place she called home.
This particular conversation seemed to be rather one-sided until a response came in a guttural voice that sounded like the dog replying.
Could it be Mrs. Polliver’s poodle from across the way? Surely not.
Or maybe it was Mr. Pratt, that old guy who always smelled of cheap booze and cigarettes. They say he used to be a Negro league baseball player of some import. He even knew Jackie Robinson when he was a kid.
He did have a guttural voice, there’s no denying it. But he was a man of few words, once you got past all the Jackie Robinson stories.
Serenity didn’t think it was him though. He is only happy when his small social security check comes in and he can stock up at the bodega. Otherwise he doesn’t say much as he is slumped on the front stoop. It’s god awful hot and humid and people in these parts don’t have any cool air.
People were getting restless from the heat and the fact that they couldn’t leave their homes. Arguments were breaking out throughout the building. But this particular conversation didn’t sound like an argument. It sounded much more sinister.
It was the funniest thing to watch Ms. Shuller and Ms. Lopez argue while leaning out their windows. Serenity was not sure what it was about, but all that “red in the face” , hand waving and yelling must have been about something. She was really afraid they were going to fall out of their 3rd floor windows and splatt on that concrete.
Serenity wished those old biddies would shut up, so she could hear the machinations going on below.
She loved that word “machinations”. She heard it on TV, Jeopardy, she thought. Always lot of big words on that show. There is that sound again. It didn’t sound natural.
It sounded like a cross between a bagpipe and Mr. Tolliver’s typical after dinner belch, but sound tended to echo in this alley in unpredictable ways.
But then Serenity heard Ms. Lopez say to Ms. Shuller, “You shouldn’t have taken that package off of his stoop after he went back in to get more cigarettes.”
Ms. Shuller replied, “Nonsense. He’ll never miss it! Let’s see what’s inside!” Intrigued, Serenity peeked over her balcony railing. Could the package be where the strange sound was coming from?
The package was wrapped in brown paper with a ton of tape. Covered with a colorful mass of different size stamps all in symbols I didn’t recognize. Sure wasn’t English.
Ms. Shuller noticed some holes punched into the side of the package.
As Ms Shuller peered closely at the holes, she realized she heard a scratching sound from within the package. What could it possibly be?
And then the stench hit her.
It smelled like a combination of curdled milk and rotting asparagus. “Ugh!” Ms. Shuller screamed, and she tossed the package as far away from her as she possibly could. It landed squarely on Serenity’s balcony.
And then it moved.
I’ll repeat that in case you didn’t hear it the first time. It. Moved.
Suddenly the quarantine felt like the least of Serenity’s worries.
So Serenity thinks to herself? “Self? How bad could it be?” Summoning her inner explorer, she took out her trusty well-worn pocketknife, a gift from her grandmother, and started in.
But then she had second thoughts.
Serenity shrieked and jumped to the corner of her balcony. Now what?! She did not dare open the package. There is a 2 meter social distance, remember?!
So she grabbed a broom, and holding the knife in front of her for protection, she flipped the package over her railing. It landed squarely on the lap of Mr. Pratt, who had been passed out on the front stoop. He said…
“What did you get from Borneo?” He slipped into a chatty high pitched language as he rattled off the price paid, where it came from, and a story of being marooned with pretty local girls during that Typhoon in ‘46. He was just getting furloughed from the merchant marines and he was flush with Yankee dollars.
“Beats me,” Serenity shouted down. “It’s your package. Ms. Shuller stole it off you when you went in for cigarettes.”
“Did not!” Ms. Shuller shouted.
As his cloudy eyes focused, a sense of knowing came over him. He straightened up with an air of long lost tenderness. “Oh , Suni my dear?” His gnarled hands traced the exterior of the box gingerly that were splashed with his tears. “How could you ?”
Suni had been a surprise when Mr Pratt returned to Borneo eighteen years after his visit in ’46. It was quite something to discover he’d been a father without knowing all those years.
He had loved her instantly like any father would have. Alas, he could not obtain the visa to stick around. As a parting gift, he had gone to the local market and gotten her a Spectacled Flowerpecker. She had loved that bird and named it Phinnius, after her father.
When Mr. Pratt finally managed to cut the tape on one corner, he could see a single black eye looking back at him, Staring right into his psyche.
“Oh, Suni,” he said. “How could you?” Because gazing up at him was the very bird he’d given his daughter so long ago. In the package were its favorite foods, milk and asparagus, both long since spoiled. The creature was ravenous.
Then Mr. Pratt took a closer look and realized that it wasn’t his namesake, Phinneas the Spectacled Flowerpecker, after all. It was a Magpie Robin, and it needed a veterinarian who would not tell the authorities that it had made it from Borneo to the States without detection. And it needed some insects to eat. Whatever that stinky mush was in the bottom of the box, it wasn’t asparagus or milk….
Mr. Pratt was relieved that it wasn’t Phinneas after all, as he couldn’t imagine what he could have done to Suni to make her reject that gift. Then he noticed that there was a card inside a plastic bag at the bottom of the box. He had to wipe the stinky mush away to get to it, but he’d done worse in his time. He carefully opened the card. It said…
“Dear Dad, I know that you blame yourself for being absent in my life but I wanted you to know I forgive you. You did the best with what you had”. I hope this gift makes it to you and ……”
…and the rest of the sentence was blurred out by the stinky mush that had gotten through the plastic! Mr. Pratt whipped out his cell phone and called Suni in Borneo. “Suni,” he said,…
But Serenity couldn’t understand the rest as it was in another language.
While the words in the note were trashed, his eyes were drawn to the picture. The childish drawing of a stick figure tall man and a smaller stick figure child with a heart and a sun
And as the cheap booze-addled brain began to clear, he recognized that picture as being similar to the ones that Suni used to draw with worn crayons and scrap paper to leave in his lunchbox before he went to work. Many days of toil were broken by her sweet pictures. The emotions came flooding back as tears filled his eyes and poured down his weather worn cheeks.
“I love you, Suni,” he said. “Stay safe during this quarantine. Wash your hands.” His tears flowed as he hung up the phone.
Seeing this, Serenity wanted to hug the old derelict, but in these times of quarantine and social distance, she knew she couldn’t do so. So instead, she lowered a bag of birdseed down on a string. “For your new friend,” She said.
She then stuck her tongue out at Ms. Shuller, the package thief. Ms. Shuller went inside and slammed the window shut. But everyone knew she wouldn’t sulk for long. It was too hot to sit inside.
Mr. Pratt took the seeds and poured them into his cupped hand as the Magpie Robin began to peck at the seeds. After several minutes of frantic feeding it stopped. The bird looked up at Mr. Pratt and made eye contact. At the very moment he felt as if he had been transported to Suni’s side. He felt that wave of contentment flood over him and he closed his eyes to take it all in as it washed over him.
Even in this time of social distancing, there are ways to reach out.
Serenity looked at all the people on the various balconies and realized that each one had a story. And somehow that brought her comfort. We are each unique, and yet we are all in this together. As the bird began to sing, she felt as though she might survive this quarantine with her sanity intact after all.