Friday, December 16, 2022

Holiday Letter 2022: From Seattle With Love

Cross Country Skiing, Snoqualmie Pass,
Dec 31, 2021
December 2022

Season’s Greetings from the Pacific Northwest!

As usual I’m always hoping for a white Christmas. And Seattle leading up to the weekend might just deliver. Fingers crossed because this place is magical when snowflakes fall. Cars stay parked, people cross-country ski on side streets, there is a sense of quiet and awe. The entire world changes.

RJ, Farrah & Me, my long-awaited tome
hits bookstores, June 2022
2022 has been a particularly special year for me. I found a publisher for my book and sold nearly 200 copies. I led a reading and discussion at a local art gallery and hope to do more. I sat for a signing at the end of the summer near the beach where I love to swim. Friends and acquaintances came to buy a copy and offer support. And others emailed to say they had been moved to laughter and tears, and encouraged me to keep writing, which really buoyed my spirits.

This year I dove into adventure and travel. In January I spent a week with my actor/director friend Shawn in Mexico City chilling in the Roma neighborhood and beyond, exploring a place I’d visited briefly in college and enjoyed just as much after a long hiatus. Chapultepec Castle and Frida Kahlo’s Casa Azul, her former home which doubles as an art museum, still hold magical memories for me.

Odie and me at tail end of our Camino
Spain, May 2022
In late April I traveled with another close friend, Odie, to Paris and then on to the foot of the French & Spanish Pyrenees to begin our trek along the 500-mile Camino de Santiago. On my last visit to Spain in 2015 I vowed to one day return and trod this path. We completed our journey on May 27th despite my contracting a mild case of COVID and Odie’s bout with “Disney Rash” (look it up!). We spent the first week of June in Madrid marking my birthday before heading back home. Our antique hotel overlooked El Retiro, the Central Park of Madrid, and each day we enjoyed the passerby and the small artificial lake on which row boats and sculls floated by. Each morning I either strolled or bicycled through the park and fell in love with its bounty—the statuary, trees, and landscape.
Seattle Orca Swimmers at IGLA,
Palm Springs, April 2022

Earlier in April Odie and I traveled to Palm Springs for the IGLA swim
competition, which brought together the international LBGBTQ+ swim community of which I’ve been a part since 1994 when I participated in the Gay Games in NYC. A dozen or so swimmers from our Seattle Orca team joined us, and we placed third in our competition category for teams of comparable size.

Jack & Mary Anne, Lake Michigan,
Chicago, Sept 2022
In late September I travelled back to the Midwest for a family wedding on my mom’s side. I arranged for a layover in Chicago to visit my high school friend Mary Anne, which meant a lot to both of us. Hard to believe 15 years had passed since we last saw each other. Gathering with my family in Indiana to celebrate the nuptials of my cousin Josh and his bride Fayth also made my heart happy. I am grateful I could stay with my cousins Michelle, Lori and Tim and have quiet time with each of them, as well as others, in between all the excitement.

Dare to Dance performance, Tap Dancing
into the Past, Nov 2022
I finished the year with a performance in Dare to Dance: Together Again, a community non-profit providing adults, regardless of ability,the opportunity to rehearse with a choreographer and perform on stage with other amateur and advanced dancers. I pulled an old pair of tap shoes out of my closet and rediscovered the old magic that stretches back a century. I come from family of tappers on my mom’s side. There was a special excitement in buying a new pair of tap shoes, which I hope to use in a future class in 2023.

Last Visit with Oscar Prior to
Bellingham move, July 2022
There were losses too. When I came home from Spain, I decided to rehome my little terrier Oscar with a kind couple who fell in love with and cared for him while I was away. I bicycled over to visit him once more in July before his new owners moved north to Bellingham and took Oscar with them. I know he’s in a good place and living his best life, but in these dark winter months I miss him more. I also lost a former neighbor and good friend, Kay, who passed away after a brief illness at the ripe old age of 94. We both enjoyed swimming and with her red hair, ramrod posture and good humor she was an inspiration for aging well. Our conversations on our back deck left me with a deep love for her. And then there were friends who lost fathers, brothers, a mother, and a partner. I know this time of year is difficult when the people you love start leaving this planet. I held those friends in my morning meditation.

I am hopeful for a more peaceful 2023. Peace begins with me and all of us, then radiates outward.

Season's Greetings, Garden Court Holiday Wreath,
Dec 15, 2022
Wishing you a most peaceful, joyous, and laugh-out-loud holiday season and a happy, healthy New Year.

Much love,


Friday, June 17, 2022

My Dream Came True--I'm a Published Author!

Dreams really do come true. In the winter of 2010, I sat down and began writing a coming-of-age story. I’d been reflecting on my adolescence following the death of Farrah Fawcett in the summer of 2009. Funny what inspires a person to write, but Farrah’s buoyance and beauty spoke to me as a young man wrestling with his sexuality. Maybe it was her unabashed embrace of being both sexy and wholesome, the girl next door. I bought her poster in the summer of 1976, before her iconic tv show Charlie’s Angels debuted that fall and plastered it on the back of my bedroom door. I was 13 years old.

Around the same time, I had begun attending theatre classes at The Beck Center for the Arts (formerly Lakewood Little Theatre) in suburban Cleveland where I grew up. I met the boy who would become my lifelong friend there in the fall of that year. We discovered we both had an obsession for that same pinup girl. We’d rush to the Rexall Drug store every week to buy the next magazine on which she graced the cover. We bought a lot of magazines since Farrah was the “it girl” of the late 1970’s. So many magazines that we decided to create scrapbooks, which we still have to this day. 

Fast forward 35 years and the idea for a book came alive. Her death led to a meditation on friendship and how my Beck Center friend, RJ, changed my life, perhaps even saved my life. When you are young and questioning your identity, feeling misunderstood, alone, it just takes one friend to make a difference. I luckily grew my friendship base as I entered my teen years but it was RJ who liberated me to start dreaming about possibilities and the future. We both came from Catholic families, but he went to public school and then on to New York to study art, fashion and design. I attended an all-boy’s Jesuit high school and remained in Cleveland to attend college before my escape to Seattle once I graduated. I say on the dedication page of my book that my Mom taught me to fly, my Dad grounded me and my best friend gave me my wings. 

This is our story in all its humor, poignancy and raw humanity. I hope you’ll buy a copy and allow yourself to dream about your own passions and obsessions growing up in whatever era you came of age. I was inspired by Deirdre O’Connell who won her first Tony Award for Best Actress in a Broadway Play last weekend. She said in her acceptance speech: “I am the face of a very large beast that made Dana H.” O’Connell said. “I would love this little prize to be a token for every person who is wondering, ‘Should I be trying to make something that could work on Broadway or that could win me a Tony Award? Or should I be making the weird art that is haunting me, that frightens me, that I don’t know how to make, that I don’t know if anyone in the whole world will understand?’ Please let me standing here be a little sign to you from the universe to make the weird art.” 

Weird, gay, whatever. This is a happy day. My weird inspiration resulted in something beautiful that I take great Pride in. 

Here is the link to purchase a copy of RJ, Farrah and Me:

Thanks for all your love and support!


Friday, December 24, 2021

Christmas in Seattle: Holiday Letter 2021

Jack & Oscar, Garden Court, Dec 2021
Season’s Greetings!

Earlier this month while walking Oscar we headed east and suddenly I noticed the Cascade Mountains covered in snow, their peaks glowing in the distance. I gasped in awe since several days earlier, before the storms of the past weekend, the peaks were bare.

That sense of wonder still delights me all these years later. I arrived in Seattle in 1986 and am in awe of all the changes, sometimes for better, sometimes for worse. The past 21 months have been tough on Seattle’s downtown and on our neighborhoods where homeless camps engulf parks and other public places. The CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest Zone) stood only 5 blocks from my home. And yet there is still a resilience, a beauty, that I discover on my walks with Oscar. 

Staying present to the small things, like the squirrels foraging nuts, who I swear egg Oscar into chasing them. Or the orange-red berries dangling from a bush on a grey November day. Or the person without shelter who smiles at me when I acknowledge them on an early December morning. Encountering poverty, the poor of spirit, on my street corner, has not been an easy thing to stomach or sweep under the rug.

And yet again I am grateful for the blessings that I have received in my own life. I continue to work my “day job” at a behavioral research center at the University of Washington’s Department of Psychiatry. While theatre was pretty much silent until the past few months, I was lucky to snag several well-paying commercial gigs this year that allowed me to continue to stay engaged in creative pursuits. The last month I have begun querying agents about the coming-of-age memoir I spent the past 12 years writing, shaping, revising, improving with the help of a supportive writer’s group. It’s a challenging endeavor to get published, but I gotta try! Promise me you’ll buy at least one copy if I “make it.”

Oscar the dog continues to make inroads into my heart, testing my patience and my sense of self. He is much barkier than I expected when I adopted him last February and when I say “calm” anticipating his lizard-like prelude will lead to an all-out Woooof, I am using “calm” not only for him but for me too. We live overlooking a courtyard where residents of my condo come and go with their dogs so certain canines set Oscar off. And when he starts to woof, it’s hard for his little body to stop. But we are making headway. We will be taking a yoga and meditation class together starting next month (just kidding😉)

I hope this finds you in good spirits, good health, good in all ways. Family or friend (they are often interchangeable) I am grateful for our connection and that we continue to keep it.

Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


Jack & Odie, Garden Court, Feb 2021

La Conner Tulip Fields, April 2021

Oscar the Grouch, Grounded, March 2021

Aidan, Addison, Jack & Oscar Get Ice Cream, May 2021
Jack & Odie, Provincetown, Sept 2021

Odie, Jack & Maria, 35th College Reunion, June 2021

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Doing the Work

“Happiness is when what you think, say, and do are in harmony”

--Mahatma Ghandi



On Labor Day, the beginning 
of my Swim for America swim-a-thon

As we approach Election Day many of my friends and family have been inundated with news of my Swim for America to benefit Joe Biden for President and my phone banking on behalf of the Biden campaign. I felt called to play a part, no matter how small, in this historic campaign season. 

    In my humble opinion, Joe Biden better represents my philosophy that government is here to help people and solve problems that some of us cannot solve on our own. In addition he embodies the character, temperament, and intelligence that I am seeking in my President.

    In recent days, I’ve spoken with many people who feel frustrated, hopeless, and helpless. I empathize with their anger and despair. And I also know that I don't want to fall into that trap. How could I make a difference, what could I do to channel my energy, my enthusiasm, my commitment? 

    Call me a dreamer. I’ve always found it easy to imagine possibilities rather than limitations. I think it is possible for one person to make a difference. And during the dark times of this pandemic and our coming to terms with America’s racist history, I’ve asked myself what can I do? So on the morning of my birthday this summer I marched in a rally from Harborview Medical Center with health care workers  committed to drawing attention to the racial disparities in our system of medicine, especially in light of the pandemic. It felt good to gather with people and still do my best to remain physically distant.  I attended another rally on Juneteenth in the Central District neighborhood close to where I live in Seattle. 

    And now I swim with a greater purpose.

    I love swimming so decided that I would make lemonade out of lemons. As the end of the lake swim season approached in late August, my open water swim friends lamented that due to COVID-19 many of the city pools would remain closed into the fall.  I decided that if I could keep swimming in Lake Washington until early November, i.e. Election Day, I could somehow use my love of the sport as a way to benefit the candidate I dream will be President in January 2021 and lead us to a better place as a country.

"The Emperor's New Clothes" at
Cleveland's Lakewood Little Theatre, 1976 
    The past seven years, as many of you know, I’ve pursued another dream that first materialized when I was a boy in Cleveland. I fell in love with a church production of “Hello Dolly” and confided in my mom that I wanted to be up there on the stage. My mother enrolled me in children’s theatre classes at Lakewood Little Theatre, where my first show happened to be “The Emperor’s New Clothes.” (I know, I laugh now thinking about the significance of that play to the current mess we find ourselves facing).

    I fell away from the theatre after college graduation until 2014 when I felt called to audition and then study acting at Freehold Theatre Actor’s Studio. 

    Due to the pandemic, theatres have closed until at least the New Year and maybe longer. Large crowds of people gathering in a close space just isn’t safe, unless you are willing to risk it all and attend a rally for the current occupant of the White House. I am okay with waiting until the stage curtain rises again. It is a small price to pay to ensure that we minimize exposure to people who may be vulnerable to this insidious virus.

    So I’ve employed my acting technique in fulfilling another kind of objective. A political one. The past three weeks I have volunteered every Saturday afternoon to phone bank on behalf of Joe Biden. My calls have taken me to Virginia, Texas, and Florida. I have to say that I didn’t receive a warm welcome contacting various voters of the Lone Star State. Out of 35 calls, 17 people hung up on me after barely saying  “Hello my name is Jack, and I’m calling with the Democratic Party.” On the positive side I did speak with 2 voters who confirmed they had renewed their registration and another one on the fence about whether to vote for Joe or the current President. I did my best to convince the fence sitter! I met much the same fate in The Sunshine State. 

    However, my acting experience gave me some practical tools to use while phoning for Joe. During scene work in my classes I learned how to stay present in the moment, craft a character and pursue an objective based on something real, yet imagined.  We are encouraged to practice, do the work. Employ the techniques we‘ve learned to get the job done. Discover authenticity and breathe life into a character.

    At the end of my shift I realized my theatre training had provided the best preparation for this political foray. I’ve learned at the ripe age of 57 how to handle rejection. Gracefully. Every time I make a call I make sure I’ve got a smile on my face. And if someone hangs up or says they’re not interested or are supporting someone other than my candidate, I smile again and say thank you, have a nice day. Not in a mean way, for I truly mean it. I’ve learned it’s always better to come from a place of love.

The Magnificent Seven, Labor Day 2020,
swimming from Denny Blaine
    I shall not let rejection deter me either in the theatre or at the phone bank nor in the crashing of waves while swimming on stormy days into November. I just tell myself “Keep doing the work.” And I am grateful that I live in a country where each of us can speak freely on behalf of the candidate of our choice.

And don't forget to vote and/or pledge:

Friday, July 10, 2020

To Wear A Mask, or Not? That is the Question.

"A mask tells us more than a face."

--Oscar Wilde

The debate over whether we all should wear a mask during the COVID-19 pandemic has come to a boil the past several weeks. There were confusing guidelines at the outset back in March, partly due to a shortage of protective equipment and fear that the general public would hoard precious masks needed by hospital personnel treating COVID patients. Then in April the Centers for Disease Control updated guidelines encouraging us to wear masks or facial coverings as an additional protection.

Halloween 1963, John-John, Caroline and President Kennedy,
why not look at masking up through a different lens?
My own attitude towards wearing a mask has evolved over time. Initially I thought it was an inconvenience I didn’t want to have to deal with. Besides, wasn’t keeping a 6-foot distance from people easy enough to maintain? I soon learned distancing in the grocery store while searching for a ripe melon or squeezing the Charmin was easier said than done. 

I also found it irritating. Whenever I wore glasses as soon as I donned a mask my lenses would fog. I couldn’t see where in the heck I was going.

Digging deeper into my attitudes, I’ve realized like many of us I have a strong, independent streak. That’s how we rugged Americans are accustomed to thinking of our country—the land of the free and the home of the brave.  I didn’t want anyone to tell me what to do or not to do.

A variety of impressions have collided within me the past several days. I recalled the first time I saw other people wearing facemasks. I was on the campus of the University of Washington one year ago last summer, just starting my new job at U.W. Medicine. Almost every person I saw with a facemask was Asian.  When approaching them, I remember thinking What’s their problem? Why in the heck are they wearing masks? They must be paranoid, or weak or something

Broadway Musical Avenue Q: "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist":
Now I realize my negative reaction had more to do with me and my own biases. On some level my judgment carried racial overtones. That Asian people were weak, thin-skinned, not assertive. They were wimps.  You may have heard the ditty from the Broadway musical Avenue Q called “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist.” Well, that’s me too. I’m not a wimp, therefore why should I wear a mask!

These thoughts then collided with another influence in my life. Inspired by John F. Kennedy, I chose political science as my major in college. I worked in Washington, D.C. for three years in a management training fellowship at the National Institutes of Health (yes, I met a young Tony Fauci in running shorts!) and considered running for office. But my experience in D.C. didn’t match up with my idealistic underpinnings, and I returned back to the West Coast. 

Despite all the years that have passed since his death, JFK’s call to service continues to ring in my ear. “Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” This week it hit me. Here is one small thing, besides doing my best to social distance and wash my hands, where I can make a huge difference.  Many of us still think Well, I’m healthy so why should I need to wear a mask? The fact is none of us, including me, know whether we are carrying the virus. During my physical in early June my doctor stuck up my nose (Ouch!) a pharyngeal swab, which came back non-reactive. 

So I knew I didn’t presently have the virus, but the results couldn’t tell me whether I may have had it in the past or might get it in the future. We still don’t know whether once we’ve been exposed we develop antibodies. So my wearing a mask protects my 93-year-old friend and fellow swimmer Kay who lives in my complex and is like a grandmother to me. I still keep my distance with Kay whenever we run into each other, but also wear a mask to ensure I’m doing my best to shield her. I couldn’t live with myself if I thought I’d made her ill without even knowing it.

Yes, it’s a sacrifice, an accommodation, but isn’t it the least we can do? Ensure that we care for our loved ones and neighbors, even people we may not know in the grocery? 

Choose your color:
lime, robin's eggs blue,
passionate purple, fire
engine red & yellow!
My father served our country in WWII, put his life on the line to ensure the freedoms and democracy we enjoy in this country. People planted victory gardens, women repurposed pantyhose into war materials, civilians made all sorts of sacrifices that affected daily life.  Isn’t that the least we can do, make sacrifices now—maintaining physical distance, staying closer to home as much as possible, wearing a face covering--to ensure a better tomorrow and flatten the curve to end this scourge? Heck, even Goldman Sachs says a national mask mandate could slash infections and save the U.S. economy from taking a 5% GDP hit in lieu of additional lockdowns.

On a lighter note, I’ve chosen to make something I might not relish (mask-wearing) more of a fashion statement. I’ve accumulated enough bandanas in various colors of the rainbow to complement any attire. Why not look at masking as simply knotting a scarf around your neck, except it’s now covering your nose and mouth too. 

Sacrifice or sartorial statement, without expert leadership from the top, we are all in this together. Let’s take care of each other and ourselves. Dare I call it the patriotic thing to do?

Saturday, June 6, 2020

All Men (People) Are Created Equal: A Reflection

“I look to a day when people will not be judged by the color of their skin, 
but by the content of their character”—Martin Luther King Jr.

“When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, 
when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your 
family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies...”
—Robert Kennedy

4th grade, watching the world
One of my earliest memories comes back to me often and especially this week. As a kindergartner at Coffinberry Middle School in Fairview Park, Ohio, I remember sitting quietly at my desk in the fall of 1968 and watching Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech. MLK had been assassinated in the spring of that year and the world was in upheaval. I felt safe and secure in my suburban Cleveland, middle-class family but I knew all was not right with the world. On the eve of my 5th birthday Robert Kennedy was shot in Los Angeles. Kent State would follow two years later. Violence was everywhere.

And yet somehow I always knew, at the time, that the answer was love and compassion. Perhaps it was my parents, who never really spoke of race in a direct or political way. 

I loved to sing and so my folks encouraged me to audition for a
The Singing Angels Reserve Chorus, 1972
You can find me in the 3rd row half way down with a circle
world-famous children’s choral ensemble. Founded in 1964, The Singing Angels engaged youth from all communities to come together to perform quality music, while building teamwork, confidence and a foundation for life. From first through third grade Mom and/or Dad would drive me to an early Saturday morning rehearsal on the lower East Side of Cleveland. In rehearsal I encountered kids from all backgrounds: White, Black, Indian, Asian, rich, poor, middle-class, all of us united in making beautiful music. It was a multi-cultural melange!

Other parts of American culture also began to influence my experience of the world. Marlo Thomas, who would go on to marry Cleveland’s proud son Phil Donahue, introduced the record “Free to Be, You and Me.” Around the same time Norman Lear’s television comedy “All in the Family” debuted, which would incorporate race, ethnicity, and gender in its plots. All of 8 years old, I would watch the show with my parents and marvel at how they laughed and scoffed at Archie and Edith and their dilemmas. I think they both could identify and feel troubled by those characters as they negotiated a new American landscape. 

I remember my dad saying at the dinner table there are both good Black people and bad Black people, just like there are both good White people and bad White people. This perhaps simplified the times but for a child it made sense.

For I grew up in a city that was very segregated, though I didn’t realize it until much later. There was a sense of caution about driving to the East side for my Singing Angels practices. After the Hough riots, White people avoided the area out of fear. As I searched the internet today to learn more about that time, I discovered that city officials at first blamed Black nationalist and communist organizations for the mayhem, but historians later dismissed those claims arguing the cause of the riots were primarily poverty and racism.

I attended a suburban Catholic grade school, where the only child of color was a Chinese boy by the name of Mike Chen. On the lower West Side, St. Ignatius, my high school, made it a priority to diversify the student body and encouraged families of color to send their sons to the school, offering scholarships and financial aid to families in need and of every socio-economic background. I never really befriended any of the young Black boys who attended my high school though I knew their names and respected them. I was beginning to struggle with my own sense of “differentness.”

Traveling to the East side of Cleveland to attend John Carroll University I passed through the burned out Hough neighborhood and remember the fear I felt driving down Carnegie Avenue, the most direct arterial to reach University Circle and tree-lined Fairmont Boulevard, which cut through affluent Shaker Heights. I continued to feel insulated by a very white neighborhood and student body, although there were several students of color with whom I came into contact.
Celebrating my 50th Birthday with Professor Locke
& grad school friends Chris, Ellen & Suzanne (l-r)
Ironically it took moving to Seattle, one of the most homogenous cities in the U.S. until recent times, for me to finally meet a more diverse community of friends. In my graduate program at the University of Washington, I befriended a number of students who were Jewish. And my first semester I sought out a Black professor to be my mentor and adviser.  Professor Hubert Locke taught race and public policy, ethics, and urban affairs. He advised me on my thesis and when I graduated and left for Washington D.C., I stayed in touch with him. When I returned to Seattle in the mid-90’s he welcomed me to live in his basement until I found more permanent housing. And he encouraged me to pursue my love of acting in early 2017, when I felt frustrated and lost. Professor Locke truly wasn’t just a friend and mentor, but a father figure, an elegant man with a deep understanding of history and politics, an expert on the Holocaust, a former policeman and ordained minister.  After a time, he was just Hubert to me.
This morning, June 6th,
marching with health care workers
from Harborview Medical Center
to City Hall

I wish he were here now to talk to. I’ve struggled the last week to come to terms with my own upbringing and how I have been complicit in our failure to achieve greater racial justice as a country.  I’d like to think I have been a friend to the cause of equal rights with my own experience as a gay man, but it’s more complicated than that. Unlike skin color, it might be assumed I can hide my “differentness.” Maybe, yes, and maybe no. 

But I have been able to glide through my life with a carefree spirit that doesn't worry about being stopped by police if I am driving in a neighborhood that isn't my own. I am able to linger in a park and listen to the birds and smell the roses without being perceived a threat. And I am protected by virtue of being able to work at home during this deadly pandemic. I never give it a thought. 

I haven’t figured out the answers. But this week I feel rocked out of my complacency. And I wish that we had some moral, visionary leaders to help guide our way to a better future. 

Maybe those leaders will need to be each and every one of us. It starts by taking one small step, and listening to a narrative that might not be my own.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Solitude and a Family History During the Great Pause

"To live well, we need to remember that whatever we lose, nothing is lost. 
Unless, of course, we lose humanity itself: the helping hand, the companionship of the other."

--Joan Chittister, "The Monastic Way"

Pink blossoms blooming along my street.
It's been a month since our stay-at-home order was issued by Washington State Governor Jay Inslee. Initially I dreaded the idea of remaining 24-7 in my 660 sq. ft condo. I've found ways to escape: walks around the block, short bike sprints to the park and back home, time in the backyard, and getting lost in the beautiful springtime weather Seattle is so lucky to have this year. I miss swimming with my Masters swim group at Seattle U. tho we keep in touch via email and text, egging each other on to stay in shape until we meet again. And while working remotely from home I'm grateful for Zoom and the ability to connect with my co-workers at the University of Washington, in addition to book club buddies and friends throughout the country.

So much has happened in the past month both here in the U.S. and around the globe that it's difficult for me to process all at once. At times it feels surreal, like I'm in a bad sci-fi film. But I try to limit my exposure to "breaking news" before I feel like I'm breaking. So far, I am not breaking, and here's why.

For this acknowledged people-lover, I've had more opportunity to go inward the last month. It hasn't been a pretty sight at times. I've faced some anger, petty jealousy, resentment, but also discovered patience, kindness, and resolve. I grew up with older parents now both deceased. My mother, born in 1919, and my father, born in 1913, survived their own challenges:  the Depression, World War II, and much more. And I have survived the AIDS crisis, 9/11, and the fiscal crisis of 10 years ago.

Ruth, my mother, 
16 years old, July 1935.
But more than ever I think back to my resilient Mom, who in 1941 at the age of 21 was infected with tuberculosis. She worked then as a secretary in an office where, unbeknownst to anyone, the cleaning woman was sick but continued coming to work. Tiny aerosol droplets circulating through the office's ventilation system likely led to my mother testing positive for TB and being quarantined in a sanatorium outside the city limits of Cleveland, Ohio, where she grew up.

 During my childhood, my mother shared stories about this time. About my grandmother Mayme weeping on the backporch when my mother was taken away. The TB patients were bundled up on sunny, crisp days and placed on chaise lounges on fresh-air patios. Sunlight and crisp air were thought to be antidotes to the infection. Mom's right lung was collapsed as another method of retarding the disease. It was a brutal procedure that left a permanent scar on her back and one healthy lung to breathe with.

And yet the love that came from that time was undeniable. My grandfather John, whom I never met, and Mom's cousin Rhea, who became a beloved figure to me, visited her everyday on their lunch hours. My mother never forgot their dedication to her. 

Mom persevered and returned home 28 months later, fully recovered. She was a lifelong tennis player, ice-skater, and had a better arm for baseball and football than I ever did, but practiced with me all the time and shared with me her love of sporting activities and the outdoors.

And of course she went on to marry my father and have me. I am forever grateful for the life she lived and gave to me.

The Garden Court where I live.
Now my parents have both been gone for nearly 20 years. I think often of them, especially during this perilous time in which we all find ourselves living. I think of my father heading off to WWII at the age of 31 to serve with the Army's Armored Signal Co. of the 20th Armored Division. He was a Morse Code operator, participated in the Central Europe campaign helping Holocaust survivors at the newly liberated Dachau concentration camp at the end of the war, a heroic action I knew little about until a Cleveland Plain Dealer writer uncovered it in his obituary in 2000. I think of Mom facing down TB and living with the fear she may never recover. 

All of this while sitting in my easy chair peering through the window into my fairytale courtyard where each day I find incredible solace. I am blessed with a home, an income for now, a job that allows me to work remotely, a wonderful community of neighbors who watch out for each other, and a spring that I cannot recall ever being so warm, sunny and beautiful.

Swimming in Lake Washington, 
April 24, 2020.
And I'm healthy, active and hopeful. I can complain about gaining 6 pounds and my insurgent love handles, which I detest and hope to rid myself of very soon. But does it really matter? I'm grateful for the company of a close friend that vowed we'd have each other's backs through the course of this crisis. We are lifting weights in the backyard, taking walks to the park and sharing dinners. And last week we put on our thermal wet suits and began swimming in 52 degree Lake Washington. Thanks to the booties, gloves and neoprene caps, it was survivable and with the warm sun on our backs, even pleasant.

I'm resilient, and I look back to my parents and their survival for inspiration. Staying at home might get on my nerves, but it's serving a larger purpose. And yes, I hope we can get back to a new normal very soon.

Wishing you and yours safety and warmth during this time.