Dear Governor Cuomo


Dear Governor Cuomo,

I hope that this Tuesday finds you well. For some reason, this week seems particularly bad to me. Nothing has changed. Nothing at all. And perhaps that is the problem. I had a really difficult time focusing on work today. I really wanted to have something to do that was relatively mindless but I only had work that required thinking. And using judgement. And interpreting policy. And, well, I just couldn’t. 

Maybe it was the reporting that the WHO still is not saying that individuals who have antibodies are actually immune from the disease. Maybe it was my son’s high school reporting that the prom has been postponed (he is not even impacted by this). Maybe it was the news of the ER doctor that committed suicide after working in a facility in NY. Maybe I am just tired of cooking dinner for my son who is never sated.

I know that I am really a lucky person. I am still working. I am still getting paid. My mom is staying safe at home. My son is able to do online learning without difficulty (save for our small internet issues yesterday). The growth on the cat’s neck is a benign cyst. And the sun was actually shining today. I know that I am lucky. But maybe knowing it and feeling it are two different things entirely. 

The thing is, I’m not sure what I would want to do if I could do anything I wanted. Would I want to go for cocktails in Greenport? Or maybe sit outside with my mom and aunt when we meet for ladies who lunch. Be a complete sloth in my friend’s big room as we watch old Top Chef episodes and she quilts while we chat. Eat a big family dinner at my other friend’s house. All of us gathered around his dining room table for a meal. Go to the bootcamp class offered by the town that my mom (77) has been going to for close to 20 years. Grab a coffee in Starbucks. Or just sit at my mom’s kitchen table and eat a grilled cheese sandwich that she has made. She uses those questionable american cheese slices that may not even be actual cheese. And this vidalia onion dressing that she uses in everything. And then she always has chocolate chip cookies or brownies for dessert. Maybe that is all I want. Lunch with mom.

But it is hard to see that path. The path that gives me a timeframe for when I can go in my mom’s house. Where is that in the state’s opening plan Governor? I see the dial and the valves and the stages for reopening. But I know in my heart that I may not be eating a grilled cheese sandwich with my mom until there is a vaccine. And that may not be until next year. 

I don’t mean to kvetch. I am a rule adherent. I wear a mask if I have to go out to the store. And I social distance whenever possible. And I do not really go anywhere else aside from maybe picking up takeout. And I will continue to follow the rules. Because I know that will get me back to the grilled cheese. But right now, it just seems really, really far away. And I am not complaining but it just makes me sad. And some days, even when the sun is shining, the sad is just a really heavy burden. And today it is weighing me down.

But, as always, I have to thank you. Because you make me feel like someone is looking out for all of New York. For me. For all of us. And we really appreciate it.

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How Many Days?


The other day Governor Cuomo (it may have been today) put how many days it has been since NY has been on pause. And it is not a lot. Like 51 or 53. But it feels like forever. The days all bleed together. Although, for my work life, not much has changed except that my son is home now too. And I seem to be working more now. Now that there is no place to go. Nothing to do. My mom does not come over any more to pick up my sister. My sister is not working. Besides, I can’t let my mom in even if she did. I am potentially contaminated. I am the one who ventures out to do the shopping. I never get to the 14 days. I just start it again. Every week.

Our place is small so my son and I share a work area. I am at my desk and he is at the kitchen table for online schooling. Most of his classes function by posting some work that he is required to do. Some teachers just post it so that the kids just do all the work right away and then are done or don’t have to “go to” class. I would like some actual structure. My favorite class of his is his public speaking class. The teacher is also the one who puts on the school musical. She has forced them to participate in online meetings. She calls on them and makes them actually speak to her. She has such an easy way with them. I think she is great. I also love his criminal law class. The teacher always has them watching videos on famous cases. That prompts us to have debates over them. Things like the Oscar Pistorius case. He was convinced that it was an accidental shooting. I did not agree.

And as much as I am paying attention to his work, he pays attention to my work calls but more often, to my choice of background noise listening. I listen to the NY Times podcast, The Daily, well daily. If you have ever listened, the host Michael Barbaro has a very distinct tone and way of speaking. My son, who is a master imitator, kept asking why he spoke the way he does. And then, he was doing a spot on Barbaro imitation. It involved putting in a lunch order. It was hilarious. The other thing I have noticed is that I think exposing him to my constant stream of reputable news sources (NY Times, NPR) has provided him with information that he would likely have not heard elsewhere. I always question his internet sources.  And we live in a red part of the state. There are two Trump/Pence flags flying on my running route. He has been exposed to thinking and speech that he never had been exposed to in Hawaii. So I think being exposed to me and my liberal news sources has been good for him. 

The other odd development of the pandemic is that I have started cooking meat. Like all kinds of meat. I realized a few weeks ago that I was only cooking him what I like to call “trash” meat. The kind of meat that bears little to no resemblance to meat. Think spam. And sausage. Kielbasa. Don’t get me wrong, we moved from Hawaii, where spam is king. But I just felt like if I was going to cook him meat, I should cook him meat that was not full of preservatives and the like. It has been challenging for me to do this. I have yet to figure out a good plan. I usually just pick up some random things and then wing it. Last week I made beef stew (winner). This week was chicken with orzo, fennel and leeks, turkey chili and pork loin chops. None of these was particularly loved by the teen. But I will keep trying. 

He rarely leaves the house these days and I am consumed with trying to get him to do more things. The weather has not been cooperating. It is still chilly and windy. It actually hailed yesterday. He has not been getting dressed and spends his days in the shorts he sleeps in and his bathrobe (so grungy, we had taken to calling it the meatloaf robe). He is mostly in front of a screen. I don’t think that it is healthy for him physically or mentally. I keep trying to get him out of this rut of one screen to another. I am hopeful that nicer weather will help to facilitate that. 

And I have taken to jigsaw puzzling. It is little mental bandwidth and very satisfying. I do this. I read a small amount. I write letters to Governor Cuomo and am obsessive about watching his daily briefing. Everyone has their coping mechanisms and that is mine. And running. I’m a little obsessive about running. If only I felt like I was a real runner when I was running all the time. That is the goal. We’ll see how that plays out.

I try not to drink too much. My weekly goal is to not drink more days than I do drink. I have mostly been successful with that. I did manage to go a bit overboard on a Friday a couple of weeks ago and drunk FaceTimed a co-worker, who was at home (in Hawaii) of course. She was with her infant son so that was fun. She said that she really didn’t know that I was drunk. I suppose that is good.

Really, all I am trying to do is keep it together. I don’t know what is going to happen but I don’t think that things will be back to normal any time soon. But, I keep listening to the Love Gov and I know that taking our time is the best way to save lives. So I hate it but you won’t see me protesting. As much as I want things to be regular. To hug my mom. And sit at her kitchen table. And eat a grilled cheese. It will happen. I just don’t know when.

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Dear Governor Cuomo

Dear Governor Cuomo,

Well, first of all, Happy Easter. I hope that you got to enjoy part of your day with your family. 

It is funny. A close friend and I watch your daily briefings (I tend to see more of them because he is frequently on calls for work) and we text throughout. Once I know when you are going on for the day, I text him to let me know. I was puttering around the kitchen this morning, getting ready to put a lasagna together, when he texted me that you were on News 12 Long Island. I was alarmed and thrown off. But it turned out that you were returning ventilators to a nursing home which had, unprompted, lent them from upstate to downstate NY. My friend texted me that if you started crying (because, we could hear the emotion in your voice and it seemed as if that could happen), he was going to lose it. Honestly, this is one of the things that we truly appreciate in your briefings, what feels like true emotion when you talk about certain things. It is one, but not the only reason, why people feel better after listening to you. We want to hear the truth, no matter how bad it is. We appreciate being treated like adults.

My son is 15 years old. He can be teen-trying sometimes. Today was one of those days. I ended up having a good scream at him that involved some serious cursing. It brought to mind your cabin fever slide. That was me today. I was that slide. All of the points, especially “prone to irrational outbursts”.  We were fine afterwards. Took a drive to see my mom. I have her on isolation. We were going to sit in her yard and chat, at an appropriate distance but the sun had disappeared. It was gray and damp. I stayed for as long as I could stand being outside. Tomorrow is my birthday. And well, there are no plans, as one in a pandemic would expect. I had been hoping to go see Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway with my son but that will have to wait. My mom said she had a present for me. I interrogated her to make sure she had not left the house to buy something. She said that she didn’t. I have a sneaking suspicion that she has given me a box of homemade chocolate chip cookies. And to be honest, to know that she is healthy enough to do that for me, is the best present that I could receive. 

You have been talking a lot about the antibody testing that may need to be done for things to return to “normal.” I had a conversation with another friend today because a couple of weeks prior to the first case being officially diagnosed out by us, my son and her entire house had been sick. It was an odd illness. My son ran a fever. He had cold like symptoms. But it was also like a stomach flu. We wonder if that perhaps wasn’t the virus. Maybe my son had it. Maybe he infected me but I was asymptomatic. But we don’t know. Imagine how great it would be to know? I could indiscriminately hug people. I could grocery shop without fear. I could relax a little around my mom. But we just don’t know. Maybe it is just wishful thinking. Without testing it does not matter.  

Please continue to take care of yourself. Don’t forget to take to heart all the things you admonish us to keep doing. Because, we need you.

See you tomorrow. 

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Dear Governor Cuomo

Dear Governor Cuomo,

I just wanted to take a brief moment to once again thank you for all that you are doing for the people of New York. I suppose that there are as many coping mechanisms as there are people. For me, there are two things that work in tandem to help me get through the days. The first is ensuring that I see your briefing every day. It has gotten to be so commonplace in our house that my fifteen year old can recognize what he calls the “Cuomo hold music”. I have been an intermittent faster for a while and your presence every day typically hails the breaking of my fast. So in addition to being glad to hear what you have to say, I have begun to associate seeing you with having my morning coffee. Really, it is just an additional comfort.

The other mechanism is running. I have taken to running. Almost every day. Today, you said that you were taking it up again. That you were going to run with your daughter. And that you would be beating her one of these days. I wish you luck in that endeavor. 

I am out on Long Island and the percentage of our cases are increasing. I can tell you that a friend of mine told me today that a neighbor had a bunch of people over in their yard the night before. The kids were running all over. I can’t lie, it was disturbing to me. I can’t understand the thought process. It makes no sense.

There has also been a marked increase in those wearing masks when I am out. I worry that these people find a false sense of security while having these on. My 77 year old mother thinks she needs one. I ask her where she thinks she will go if she has one. She said that maybe she would want to do her own grocery shopping. I keep telling her that it only protects other people from getting infected from her. That if she were to go out now, it would make all of the homebound weeks for nothing. Still, she asks me every day. I worry that she will make bad choices. Let her guard down. I can only continue to stress the importance of remaining at home. 

I know that remaining home is not an option for you. Please continue to take care of yourself. There is only one of you . We at home, may actually feel better if you were wrapped in plastic every day. We yearn for the day when we look back at our cabin fever (prone to irrational outbursts) and laugh. A day when maybe we are all out running in the sunshine together, not because we have to, but because we want to be together. Thank you for keeping us informed, scaring us, making us cry, uniting us and reminding us to rejoice in being in this together as New Yorkers. 

See you tomorrow

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Digital Canyon

Since the lockdown of NY state was put into place, I have forced my mom to shrink her world down. Basically she is staying in her house, her yard, on the beach or walking around (alone, with dogs or with others social distancing). I picked up groceries for her the other day after much arm twisting. She is used to doing nearly daily runs to the IGA to just “pick up a few things”. Her task on Friday was to think about what she and my sister would eat all week and what she needed (wine). She asked for meat (that was not available), onions, garlic, potatoes and carrots (all a no) and mayo, peanut butter and jelly (yes).

She has been really good about it. I lent her some books to read. 

The thing that has made it exceedingly hard with her causing most of the problems revolve around her inability to perform basic online functions. I talked about this with my friend Joe (her other tech support person) and we both think that if she just came at it with a different mindset she  might have a different outcome. She seems to always think that she can’t do it and if any little thing does not go exactly right, she is ready to throw in the towel. I wanted to show her how to access our church’s sermon on Sunday from Facebook. I knew that it was right at the top because I posted it and called her immediately. All she had to do was open FB and it would be right at the top. She was telling me that she was seeing dogs and other stuff. It was asking if she wanted to post something. She was ready to give up. I looked on my FB and realized she was on the home page and all she had to do was scroll down. She found the post, opened it and managed to unmute it. Ah. Success. We’ll see what happens this Sunday. 

Another problem is that she physically goes to her bank. She does not use her ATM card to access cash from the ATM or to pay for anything. She is wholly cash based. This is problematic. There is no way she would be able to set up her online banking on her own. So I decided that I would do it. And I did. I told her that I can move her money around however she needs.  

I wish she would be more adventurous online. Even just to read books or listen to podcasts. She is the only person I know who watches actual TV with commercials and all. She asked me for a book with workouts because our bootcamp class is canceled. But it is too late because I can’t get too close to her. I am her grocery shopper and do not want to be bringing her the virus as well. 

This has made me realize how we, me, society, have failed to bring a significant part of our population along into the joy that the digital world can bring. Luckily my mom has my sister and her dogs and the weather (until today) has been kissing spring so she can spend a lot of time outside. I worry about others in my congregation. In the community. I struggle with being home all the time. My son offers much humor and distraction but seeing other friends or participating in a dance party with three thousand people makes a difference. Taking on an online yoga class. Facetiming. She has none of these  things. These things. These things that bring me joy. I hope that she is able to fill her days without too much loneliness. And maybe when we can sit closely, I will give her Kindle lessons even if she has no patience. I will make sure to bring mine.

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So. Coronavirus. You would think that living out in the sticks, we would potentially experience less impact when it comes to the disease. That would be wrong. In Suffolk County, we are now the town with the largest number of confirmed cases. And, while I knew in my heart that things were really going to turn south (see panic buying post from two weeks ago), I don’t really think that I knew what that meant. And, that no matter what I bought, I was not, am not ready. 

We got close to the first confirmed diagnosis. A worker at the brewery. We had been there for a crawfish boil. It did not seem that anyone was sickened from that. Thank goodness. Then there was the guy’s friend. And someone from the fish market. Three people who work at the retirement community by my mom. Like dominoes. 

Then there was the talk of school closures. Sure enough we found out that my son’s school would be shut, in an abundance of caution (no confirmed cases), for just today, Friday and Monday. But today, we got the word that it will actually be shut for the entirety of next week. And that distance learning will start on Friday. The kids have been told what to do. Log in during a prescribed time to google classroom. They are supposed to show proof that they did something for PE class (that could be fun). 

Today I got an email that a volunteer at the Episcopal church by my mom’s who worked at a cooking class was confirmed. Both that church and ours (we share a pastor) will be closed from now until at least March 26th. I worry for our congregation. There are no spring chickens. One of our congregants just celebrated his 90th birthday.

Mom and I were supposed to go up island and get our hair cut tomorrow. Every time I pictured us there, with all those people (although, it could potentially be empty), it made me nervous. My mom, she is pretty healthy, but she is in the age range of people who are more apt to have a serious case of the virus. I just felt like I could not, in good faith, take her there. So I canceled. Today. They were very nice. I felt badly. 

And it is finally Friday. The weekend yawning in front of me but there is nothing to do. Nowhere to go. We are going to run and do some more grocery shopping since the teen will need to be fed lunch every day and I am already constantly hearing the “we have nothing to eat” refrain on the weekend. I don’t think that I could take it every day. I have heard rumors that aside from toilet paper, there is no meat to be had. I heard that all of the giant meat bins in Costco were empty. If that is not disturbing, I don’t know what is. But after shopping. There is nothing. Nothing to do. Really. Maybe I will make sauce. Or pick up my book club book. Or write. Nothing to do. Nowhere to go. 

And there is an underlying buzz of fear. Everywhere. I went for a walk late in the afternoon. And passed a couple who were walking in the opposite direction. I kind of cut a wider berth around them then I would have ordinarily. And we warily said hello. And although I did not know them. I knew what was on their minds. Because it is the only thing on anyone’s mind. The only thing.

I look at Hawaii in friend’s posts on Instagram. My former home. And it all looks the same. Sunshine and happiness. And I wish that I had that here. Although I do know that at any moment, the same things that are happening here, could be happening there. That there is no place to go. No place to feel safe. And that is scary.

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I realized the other day that the reason I never write any more, or even feel like writing (seasonal affective disorder aside), is that little to nothing ever happens to me anymore. I am a wholly mobile worker which differs from the situation I had when I was in Hawaii. There, I was mostly at home but still managed to come into the office a couple of times a week. I would chat and see people. Get work done too, but there is something to be said for that interaction. I didn’t really take much stock in it until I moved to rural NY. Here I am alone, in the house, every day of the week. Thankfully, we do have a cat. And as crazy as it sounds, I don’t know what I would do without her. She is a sweet, little high maintenance thing.

My son comes home from school and he is happy to be home because he has been out all day. I am the opposite. I would like to maybe go somewhere and do something. Unfortunately, in the winter, it seems to always be dark. And cold. Which makes me just want to crawl into bed. And again, we are rural. There is not much open in the evenings. If you need a gallon of milk past eight, you are going to 7-11.

So, as much as I totally and kind of ashamedly engaged in panic buying two weeks ago due to the coronavirus, I do have a story to tell. Something actually happened. Well, sort of. Everyone and their dog (unless you watch Fox News) is tracking the numbers of infections. Where it has popped up. And, ironically, the first case positively identified out here in the sticks was in a guy who worked at one of the local breweries. Apparently his last day at work was 2/24. And do you know where I was on 2/23. With two friends? And my son? Yes, it’s true. At the brewery, at a crawfish boil. The kind where they dump the pot of boiled crawfish, potatoes and corn on the table and everyone eats with their hands. So while I don’t go out so much, there I was, somehow interacting with Suffolk County’s patient zero. Of course, he really wasn’t, he caught it from someone else in the community.

The good thing is that it’s been a while and no one I know has contracted the virus, including myself. I am happy that legions of people did not get sick after the boil, that is the kind of thing that will kill a business (think Genki). The brewery is closed for a deep cleaning and I would like to visit it once it opens. So that was something.

And then yesterday, I was working. I heard sirens. They sounded close. But then my ten second attention span forgot. Until I went back to the bedroom and saw fire trucks. On the edge of the property. My son and I went out. A woman who rides horses where we live works for the dispatcher and told us that there was fire in the woods and that the fire department was having a problem getting water to the site. It turns out they were on the road on the opposite side of the woods as well. The giant tanker truck that they had parked on the road off property was too large to make it to where it needed to be. Apparently they brought in a special truck to power its way through the woods and bring water. The guys who were riding in the open back were wearing yellow jumpsuits and red motorcycle helmets. It felt like they could jump off the back at any moment and perform a song. Maybe something by Brittney Spears. But they didn’t.

My son, being the teen that he is, kept telling me to stay close to the house. Asking me why I was taking pictures. Telling me to stay back. Because, it’s all about him. And what people think about him. I did take a picture. The woods busting tanker truck seemed to do the trick and put the fire out. We heard a rumor that a couple of kids had started the fire. And while it is easy to be super judgey, being the mom of a teenaged boy, I know how things can go off the rails. It is a delicate dance between reining them in and letting them fail. So, I withhold the judgment.

These are the things that happened. Just yesterday. All of it. It is the most that has happened in a very long time. And here I am, writing about it. And I don’t know what to say about that.

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