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Week Two draws to a close

27 Mar

27 March 2020.

Pity the journalists reporting today. By the time they write something the situation has changed. I feel the same way. I was going to blog about our Maui trip, but it seemed misplaced as we returned to the hockey-stick upswing in COVID-19. Now that trip seems like a distant memory and we just returned to Lincoln City two weeks ago today.

Green sea turtle on “our” beach.

We are lucky we were not forced to shelter-in-place in Hawaii. It may seem heavenly, but we all longed for our beds and at $299 plus taxes, fees per night for a condo, high food costs, and car rental, mannaggia! (Italian expletive you can decipher yourself) we could not afford to stay there longer!

Quarantine, self-isolation, social-distancing, whatever you call it (yes, I know there are differences but permit me), even those of us whose religion is Practicing Introvert are finding this challenging and I know it is not going to get easier. Following news from my friends in Europe tells me we ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Lincoln City is rather removed from the mainstream. We don’t have a rush hour, except when tourists flock here for spring break. Then we get traffic jams in the afternoon. Spring Break had a non-commital start and canceled lodging reservations were a top story on March 16. That changed when the housebound Valley People decided to take advantage of the good weather and escape to the beach and other rural areas. March 21st saw our county overwhelmed with claustrophobic city people thinking they could social-distance themselves here at the beach. Not good for the elderly population of our town that only has two industries: tourism and retirement. Our 24-bed hospital is not going to handle an onslaught. Weekends, where our <9,000 population surges to 40,000 people, are bad enough, and that usually brings cases of sunburn, sprains, and broken bones. Now the governor, our mayor, and the county commission have decreed no short-term rentals. All beach parking is closed as are the parks and open spaces. No hiking in State Parks.

Empty Outlet Mall, spring break under quarantine.

Speaking of the elderly, I do not identify with my age group. I am energetic, technologically savvy (mostly), in decent shape, and deplore talk about aches and pains and insurance plans. Yet here I am avoiding the gym, going to the grocery store at odd hours, standing 10 feet away from neighbors to chat. Thank God the weather has been (mostly) good so Ric and I can walk in the woods (mostly) alone.

Even the Chinook Winds Casino closed. Never before.

Some days I ask myself,” Coronavirus or Allergies?” I started with weepy eyes and stuffy head in February and after a few days reluctantly started self-medicating with Zyrtec and Flonase. In Hawaii even that combo could not overcome everything that assaulted my senses. Of course while we were there the COVID-19 was ramping up outside of China, Italy went on lockdown, and I started to wonder if I was Connie Corona. Happy to report that it is allergies and I will live this way until December, if 2019 is any indication.

While far from bored, I find myself reacting much as I would during a snow siege. Oregon doesn’t do snow well and we have been cooped up for as long as a week by weather. (Portlanders, remember Christmas 2008? My car was frozen to the driveway for 8 days.) On those occasions I obsessed about weather news, looked for any opportunity to safely leave the house, and focused entirely too much on what we were going to eat next.

This siege is not that different except my focus is on the overwhelmingly depressing news and I realize it is not going away as fast as snow and ice.

Homemade PPE available in Patriotic, Sterile White, and Rainbow Dots.

Like anywhere else, Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is in short supply in Lincoln County. The call went out for homemade masks to augment the various medical masks in use. I think these will be used in hospice, nursing homes, and so on to free up masks for hazardous use. My sewing machine at the ready, I sought out supplies so I could help. There is no suitable elastic available but scads of fabric. I scrounged up yards of trim to make ties for the masks and managed to turn out 18. This took waaayyyyy longer than I expected. A seamstress in a factory could probably turn one out in 60 seconds. Me? About an hour-per-mask what with measuring, cutting, pinning, sewing, turning, pleating, and top-stitching. With the cost of what I used for ties, even a government contract couldn’t pay the per unit price. Luckily, it’s a donation.

I will make more if they are needed. Maybe sew my own bias ties, which is an ugly chore.

We are trying not to stress eat. In the words of Private Benjamin: “I want to go out to lunch!” How remote that simple pleasure now seems!

I am overly watchful of our food supplies. I stuffed the freezer with homemade soups before we traveled but suddenly it was gone. We are not “stockpiling” but we had some challenges getting that two-week supply in the house instead of going to the store daily as was our habit.

The big gastronomic treats recently: homemade black bean breakfast burritos, a shared raspberry scone last week from our favorite coffee shop that has now closed, Alexa Sweet Potato Fries alongside our turkey meatloaf, and Papa Murphy’s Pizza with beer for Ric’s birthday. We have not started day-drinking (yet).

Yesterday we loaded up on some produce to freeze. My God, what a chore that is! Chopping, blanching, chilling, drying, freezing in pieces before you can finally put it in a storage bag. We have time but that is not how I expected to while away an afternoon.

My two post-Maui projects were to be ancestry research and actually studying Italian as my grammar is getting pretty lax. I dabbled in each until the mask project took me away this week.

My paternal genealogy is a bit of a mystery due to adoptions and divorces. Of course it is too late to ask anyone who might have been keeping a secret so I am starting down the path of researching public records. My father was adopted by his mother’s second husband when he was about 14. This is family knowledge. But I cannot get his actual birth certificate until 100 years after the date of the adoption which is still about 15 years in the future. I am using to try and determine some details. No doubt I will have stories of this journey to tell one day. Now that the masks are made, I might make some progress.

We are not binge-watching any more than usual. We usually have a series going and recently landed on the dark-but-funny “Fargo” TV series. How I love that Minnesota accent! We are always behind the curve on TV as so much was released while we were living in Italy and we had no idea about series streaming here. Catching up has left us with an endless list so as long as Internet service continues to be robust we won’t run out of entertainment.

Maybe my favorite meme so far. Working from the office vs. work-at-home. Have you seen the movie “The Two Popes?”

Studying Italian at the dining room table will take a lot more discipline than I seem to have at the moment. If the Internet fails, there’s always studying or more sewing.

How are things going for you? What activities are keeping you going?

Maui super moon from our lanai.

These clothes won’t see the light of day again for a few months.

Most popular post

2 Feb
I have to laugh every time I look at my blog’s stats and see that once again, “Naked in Italy” has been viewed. I published the post in May of 2014. It has been far the most widely read and seems to have endured in popularity. I can only imagine the sophomoric minds who are Googling “Naked Italy” and coming up with links to my blog as well as whatever perversions they were chasing. 
Venus After the Bath, a stunning nude by Giambologna, on display at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

Venus After the Bath, a stunning nude by Giambologna, on display at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

So just for giggles, I am republishing it in case some of you newer subscribers happened to have missed it. 
Naked in Italy from May, 2014.

Public Service Announcement

16 Oct

This is a PSA: Eye exams are not only for updating your prescription. Get an exam by an ophthalmologist each year to save your sight and sanity. End PSA.

Dear Readers,
Many of you know that Ric recently had a torn retina and consequently our long-planned trip to the U.S. was cancelled.  For those to whom this is news, read on for our status and latest encounter with the Italian medical system.
We were supposed to fly to the U.S. on October 11. Planning to buy new eyeglasses while there (costono un occhio della testa* in Rome), we made an appointment for a week before the trip with the doctor we have seen before. His office is a marvel of apparatuses for examination and treatment, and as with so many situations here the doctor does all the tests himself. There is no nurse nor technician in the practice: only two doctors, and a receptionist who sits at a small desk with a phone and an appointment book.  She is a model of efficiency in this thriving practice. It seems like barely controlled chaos, yet everything functions smoothly.
Not Ric's actual retina, but very similar to pictures taken by his doctor. Fascinating!

Not Ric’s actual retina, but very similar to pictures taken by his doctor. Fascinating!

My exam went swimmingly and then it was Ric’s turn. The doctor made dissatisfied noises as he reexamined Ric’s dilated left eye. There is a problem and it must be fixed here tonight: The retina has a tear. 
The good news was that he could do a laser treatment to cure it, and three hours after we arrived for routine exams we were out the door with a completed procedure. No making an appointment for the next day, no delays; it was immediately accomplished at a very reasonable price. The bad news was that we were unlikely to be able to travel and Ric was placed under house-arrest pending a recheck in 4 days. He could not read, use a computer, do housework, or even take a walk or go out to eat. All he could do was watch TV. He could not even carry his own backpack out of the office, so I became the packhorse. I am sure I looked very elegant in my pretty blue dress and heels walking down the street carrying my daypack as well as Ric’s. The doctor even said “I am sorry for you, because you will have to do everything.” And so Ric watched TV and I did everything else.
Watching TV all day seems like fun until you are told it is all you can do. Luckily we have a huge movie database, thanks to our movie-collector son who set us up when we left the U.S. Ric found movies he never knew existed including some that should remain buried and forgotten. We also have Netflix streaming, and supplemented that with PBS and CBS streaming. But still…he was very bored. Not being able to go for walks was a killer. Like any prisoner, he looked forward to meals. And for the second time in 30 years together, I had to do the daily cleaning of the cat litter boxes. Che una tragedia!
Tuesday we returned to the doctor full of hope that all was well and we could go the U.S., see our friends in Portland, visit my brother in Colorado, and then attend our nephew’s wedding in New Jersey. But the healing was not sufficient and the doctor wanted to see Ric again in a week as he possibly needed another procedure.
Cancelling a trip so long-planned is arduous and depressing, an emotional roller-coaster. However, we comforted ourselves that Ric’s eye problem was caught and remedied. We have since heard stories similar to his, and also tales of horror, such as people who had detached retinas who spent 3 months lying on their stomachs to heal, able to get up only for necessary bodily functions, otherwise entertained only aurally.  If that happened, one of us would have to be put in a medically induced coma.
So we carry on, grateful for good care, each other, and the long-distance supportive comments we received from so many dear people. My office was very understanding and I was able to take time to support Ric. We will escape to one of our favorite places in Italy for a few days next week as a consolation prize and work on plans for a trip to the States in 2015.


*This is too funny in Italian and perfect for the situation: Literally “they cost an eye of the head,” where in English we would say something costs “an arm and a leg.”

La festa dei nonni

26 Sep
Every country has invented holidays. You know, those days that are more about buying Hallmark cards than about celebration or tradition. Apparently Sunday September 7 was “Grandparents’ Day” in the U.S. It was introduced in 1978 by Jimmy Carter. Other countries have adopted this invented holiday, among them Italy. No slouches in making an invented holiday a marketing opportunity, one health care provider in Rome is using the opportunity to sweep all those little Italian grandmas in for the free check-up that they richly deserve. I guess the grandpas are welcome too (the word nonni is inclusive of both nonna e nonno), but notice no alluring photos of elderly Italian nonni.
Yup, all the Italian grandmas look like supermodels who have aged ever-so-gracefully. No word on the grandpas....

Yup, all the Italian grandmas look like supermodels who have aged ever-so-gracefully. No word on the grandpas….


Artemisia does a lot of marketing. I had blood tests done there and ever since I’ve received an interesting array of ads and offers. I see a future blog post coming with some samples for you. I don’t think we have anything quite like it in the U.S., do we? 
As a side note of importance, Artemisia advertises “Aperti tutto l’anno, anche il mese di agosto” (They are open all year, even the month of August). This is a big deal because so many medical practices completely shut down for two to four weeks in August so all the employees can go on summer vacation. No wonder the beaches are so mobbed!

Naked in Italy

27 May
That title should make the read-rate for this blog go through the roof.
The other day I was in the gym. Having finished my workout I went to the very small locker room, where my first act is usually to wash my hands since I’ve been touching all sorts of equipment. Right in front of the sink was a naked Italian woman, chit-chatting with a couple of other women while she donned her black lace panties. I was not going to ask permesso to go to into the very small area by the sink, squeezing past her naked self. As she went to put on her bra, her cell phone rang and – I kid you not – she took a 5 minute call with one boob in the bra and one boob out, still blocking the sink.  I changed my clothes and went on my way, shaking my head.
Venus After the Bath, a stunning nude by Giambologna, on display at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

Venus After the Bath, a stunning nude by Giambologna, on display at the U.S. Embassy in Rome.

Body image and nakedness in Italy is a culture shock for American women I have spoken to. The attitude towards the body is much more open in Italy than in North America. Whether in the locker room at the gym or at the doctor’s office, unabashed nakedness is taken for granted.
Most North American men – or men from anywhere for that matter and as far as I know – don’t give a rip about taking off their clothes in front of other men. Man boobs or not, they change and shower openly from what I am told. Not so women in North America, right?
I respect the openness with which Italians treat the body. There is little or no modesty or self-consciousness, which is somewhat refreshing, but frankly I don’t know where to put my eyes when confronted with the naked conversation.  
Another time I came into the locker room to get changed before working out and a young woman came out of the toilet stall, naked but for her shower flip-flops. (God- forbid she should get a fungus while walking around the locker room naked.)  I tried to suppress my surprise but I am certain my jaw dropped a bit. As a hung-up Americana I don’t even potty at home completely naked. Naked is for the shower and certain bed-time activities. “Buongiorno! Come vai?” she said.  Where do I put my eyes?  I think I chose a corner high and to the right.
Is this narcissism? “Look at me! I am in your way and I am naked!” She may or may not have a body one wants to see naked…. And regardless, where the heck am I supposed to put my eyes?
I have become somewhat used to doffing my clothes in a medical situation, although luckily I have been able to take care that my mammographer is not a man. (Yup, many of them are in Italy. See Things Are Different Here.) When I expressed a desire to NOT have a male mammographer the nurse said to me “What do you care? They’re only breasts.” Yes, but they are my breasts, and I like to be the one to select who touches them.  After last year’s experience I made a point of selecting a facility where the doctor herself does the mammogram and sonogram. Still, when one gets a mammogram here there are no little pink capes over your shoulders. You enter the x-ray room, strip to the waist and belly-up to the machine. This is followed by a walk to an adjacent room where you get a sonogram, sometimes involving two specialists if consultation is required. And no one explains what’s going happen. In the U.S. one would expect the doctor to say “I’d like to call in Dr. So-and-So to have a look. Do you mind?” and she would buzz someone to come in. Here, a door to a busy hallway will suddenly open and someone you’ve not met while clothed will walk in and start examining your breasts with no introduction.  Thorough, though: No one is taking chances that they will miss anything. After the exam you sit there bare-breasted while having a conversation about what was or was not found.
Perhaps Italy's most famous nude, David.

Perhaps Italy’s most famous nude, David.

Whether for skin cancer checks, a visit to the cardiologist for an ECG, or to the vascular surgeon, one just slips out of the appropriate garments while chatting up the doctor and perhaps while dressing after the exam has a conversation about vacation, or family, or life in an embassy. Very convivial. Actually I like the system a great deal in that one has the full attention of the physician. But it took some adjusting to not having privacy for undressing and dressing and occasionally having a door unexpectedly open and others arrive on the scene unexplained.
The lack of privacy also extends to the pharmacy. Hell, there isn’t even a word for privacy in Italian.  Everyone hears everyone else’s symptoms and problems. You do not walk into a pharmacy and peruse the shelves looking for your own solutions or symptoms. You have to ask the pharmacist for whatever you might need. Everyone in the store will know what you came to buy. Sort of a different form of exposure.
In the U.S. we are so concerned about privacy. God-forbid someone would overhear the pharmacist give instructions on how to take an antibiotic or how to apply that anti-fungal cream! Once I had to sign a privacy statement when they gave me instructions at the people pharmacy on how to administer a medication to my dog. In locker rooms we are shy and at the doctor’s we expect gowns and drapes, introductions and explanations before anything is looked at, probed, or handled.  
It’s certainly not that either approach is wrong. It just takes some getting used to flaunting your “stuff” in public. And I still don’t know where to look when chatting up naked women in the locker room. 
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