Straight Up, On The Rocks, Or With A Twist

Apr 16, 2020

To My Daughter During Quarantine

April 2020

Dearest Evelyn,

Whether you know it or not, you are a warrior, in a global pandemic against the coronavirus, popularity called COVID19. I wrote this letter because while you may not remember this at all, I want you to know how brave you are, and how brave you have made me.

You are 22 months old, (not even 2 years old yet), and your baby brother is 11 weeks old. It is the year 2020. Schools and daycares are closed. Streets, restaurants, shopping centers, even cities, are empty. People are “sheltering in place” at home. We must “gear up” to go to the grocery store. But we never go. We use a delivery service to get our food, and even then, I wear my hair up, rubber gloves, and an N95 mask (a reusable kind, not the ones for hospital workers) to wipe and spray everything down, before I bring it into our home. We don’t see our friends and family anymore. Not in person anyway. We have FaceTime and Zoom instead.

You miss your daycare, Ms. Anne’s House, but we Zoom conference with your friends there, and you like that. You had a scratch on your face the other morning when you woke up and you blamed Kevin from Ms. Anne’s, even though you haven’t seen him in weeks. So, I know you miss your crew.

It’s not recommended that we be within 6 feet of people we don’t live with. But we take walks outside with Aunt Pam, Tino and Mimi. We always stay at a safe distance. You don’t notice because you’re in your stroller, and we try to keep everything as normal as possible for you and your brother. So, we end up all shouting to each other to have a conversation. You just shout right along with us.

Sometimes we walk past Mimi’s house and Yaya sits out front in the driveway at a safe distance away from us. It’s nice to see everyone together, even if we can’t be close. But I always cry on those walks home, which is why instead of singing silly songs, I play “mommy’s music” on my phone. I never want you to see me crying, but life feels rough right now.

The Government tells us we should stay at home for our own safety. Some people complain that we’re “stuck” at home, but the truth is, we’re really only SAFE at home.

So, people are sewing, making their own masks, (it's recommended we wear them if we leave home). Hospitals are overwhelmed beyond capacity and they don’t have enough supplies or PPE to take care of all the people who are sick. World renowned hospitals: hospitals in the greatest cities in America, telling their nurses and doctors to use the same mask for up to three days.

We salute our hospital workers, delivery drivers, grocery store employees, and cleaners, the same way we do our military. Right now, they are on the front lines. Right now, they all have the scary jobs.

We’re thankful we have them, and we’re thankful we don’t have to be them.

It’s like we’re living in an alternate universe. Something from a movie, where just weeks ago, Daddy and I would sit on our big comfy couch and critique how “unrealistic” the story line is. But then you and Nicky go to bed, Disney Junior clicks off, the News clicks on...and that “unrealistic” movie is real again.

The scary thoughts and fear that dissipate for a couple hours, flood back. Reminding us, the virus is lurking around any corner, or Amazon box, or doorknob, or floating in the air from a rouge cough of a passerby. So, we Lysol everything. We stay 6 feet apart, and we distract you with songs and smiles, hoping you don’t see the fear in the eyes of the people driving by, adorned with a mask covering part of their face. I pray you don’t ask me “what’s that” shielding their faces... I don’t want to explain. I don’t want to have to acknowledge it. I just want to get lost in our walks outside, lost in the 10th time of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” and let the world fade into the background of our little lives.

Simultaneously, though, I worry that the person driving by with the mask on, will become your new normal. All the unknowns start flooding in. How long will it be like this? Are we close to a vaccine? Will we ever get back to normal? It seems dramatic to even write that, but it feels so scary and consuming.

Daddy knew it was coming...back in early January, right after we came home from the hospital after having Nikolai, he mentioned he read about it.

By the 3rd week of January Daddy seemed very worried. I was a little postpartum; actually, for about 3 weeks, I was more than a little postpartum, and I told Daddy I couldn’t hear about some virus in China. It’s “worlds away” and “won’t happen here.” I dismissed his worry until we watched a documentary of an Irishman who was living in Wuhan and was video logging his quarantined life.

That’s when we got really scared.

The man in the video wore goggles, a scarf, a mask and gloves just to go to the grocery store. He spoke about the virus and how serious it was. How he was trapped in China and couldn’t return home to Ireland. It was stark and eye opening.

And despite him taking his temperature every day, he said he wasn’t nervous about getting sick. “I don’t like to worry” he said. “If I worry, and then I get sick anyway, I will have suffered twice.”

I thought that was so profound. So instead of worry, we took action. (Although I still worry, and I just try to remind myself of that man.  And you should too. Hold onto that one. When life comes at you hard someday, it’s a good one to have in your arsenal).

So, we ordered the washable/reusable N95 masks on Amazon, carbon filters for the masks, goggles, cleaner, hand sanitizer, diapers and some canned goods. We started stocking up bit by bit.

We told our family and friends, most of them however, thought we were being “over the top.”

But by the time I went to the Doctor for my 6 week postpartum checkup after having Nikolai, the news was starting to cover the Cornonvirus a bit. The west coast, particularly Washington state, was getting hit hard. A nurse at the appointment told me she was scared too. She gave me some rubber gloves when I left.

2 weeks later, people were getting sick all over the country. Panic was setting in. Even toilet paper couldn’t stay stocked on the shelves. An odd but important staple.

People were getting sick everywhere; on the east coast, in our state, in our region, in our county, and soon in our town. Within a week, all the schools were closed, and the news was telling us to stay home under a quarantine. The virus lasted 14 days, so at first, we thought the lockdown would last only 2 weeks.

But by week 4 of the quarantine, 1.6 million Americans had been infected, 6.6 million people were filing for unemployment. The government was making a trillion dollar bailout out plan, some of which was aimed at helping small businesses, like Daddy’s, so he didn’t have to lay off his 12 employees.

In the afternoon, we would wait for the daily address from the President and Dr. Fauci, the head doctor in charge. At night we’d wait for the toll of infected people and deaths in our area.

Only essential businesses like Daddy, as well as, Pop and Uncle Phil, were allowed to stay open. It was a blessing and a curse. We were lucky they could keep working and worried sick when they couldn’t hide at home with us. Also, nurses like Aunt Stephy and Aunt Kelly, and grocery store workers like Yaya, were all in the front lines, battling this virus. So, a lot of our family was still “out there” in the world.

When Daddy would come home from work he came through the garage, stripped all his clothes, put them right in the wash. He Lysoled his coffee mug, water bottle and lunch box. Then he took a hot shower. Our best attempts to keep the virus away.

So much of the world was affected by COVID19. My beloved Italy was taking what seemed to be the worst hit, their death toll would rise everyday. I spoke to friends of mine who still lived there, they pleaded to me, “stay home, stay healthy, stay safe.” In Italy they couldn’t leave their homes even to take walks. Their police enforced that. So, they sang from their balconies together, played music, and prayed.

Thanks to computers, the whole world prayed together with Pope Francis in Vatican City. I watched it while you and your brother were napping. When I got you up from your nap you asked what I was doing. I told you, “I was praying with the Pope, do you know who he is?” And you told me you did. You said his name was “The Father.” And I don’t know how you knew that, but I thought it was very special.

So, we started praying twice a day. You were only 22months old, but we prayed so much you knew the sign of the cross and sometimes you lead me in prayer. Always with a shout of “AMEN” at the end. It always made me laugh, and I needed that.

What was really scary was that many people were asymptomatic. Meaning that they could walk around carrying the virus and spreading it, but never showing signs of sickness. We didn’t have enough tests to test everyone, and we certainly didn’t have enough to re-test formally infected people. The whole world was working on making testing available, but it just couldn’t seem to catch up to the demands of the virus.

Even scarier; so many people didn’t take the quarantine seriously. Some people made it political; blamed the president, Donald Trump. Other’s thought it was a conspiracy. Those people didn’t shelter in place at home, and they were part of the problem, as the virus spreading.

The sickness got worse and worse.

By Easter week New York city took the lead as the global epicenter of the COVID19 outbreak and the American Death Toll surpassed Italy. Soon we started knowing people who had it. A friend’s father, our family friend/lawyer Bob and his wife. Then we started knowing people who had succumb to it. It often felt like it was closing in on us.

I hung a red scarf over the door on Holy Thursday, something they did during the first Passover in the Bible so the plague would skip their home. Any feeble attempt to protect us and to control what felt so out of control.

It wasn’t all bad though. People said the earth was healing itself. Showing a decrease in smog, pollution and our carbon footprint. (The conspiracy theorists of course, said that data and the pictures were fake.) I believed it though. At night in our backyard, the stars seemed to shine brighter, as if we could see them more clearly. Everything seemed more still. Maybe because airline travel had been cut in more than half, and less planes flew overhead. But it felt different.

And during the days, when I turned the outside world off, and jumped into your world; I felt normal again. We distracted the buzz of the world with singing, building block, animated movies, reading books, chasing Gizmo, kissing Nicky, coloring, taking walks outside and swinging on the swing set. When I did any of those things with you, I forgot all the madness outside. You, and your brother, are my reprieve in this, my light in the darkness.

And Daddy is home more too.  That part is nice for all of us. He was supposed to be traveling more than ever for a big account…But, the world shut down, so the traveling got delayed and he got to play in your world too. And we treasured that time together. We ate dinner together every night, and played in your giant pink princess castle that we smacked right in the middle of the living room, because why not? We watched the “Pets” “The Grinch” and “Sing” so many times we would recite the lines and laugh. We cooked and played cards and we held onto each other so tight. Because even thought it was hard, we had each other, and our health, and right now, there wasn’t much more we could want for. (Except maybe snacks; you always want more snacks).

We FaceTime our family, (we talk to Mimi and Aunt Pam every day.) In fact, on Easter, we ate dinner, virtually, with them on Facetime to maintain our family tradition.

When we drive by to say hello from the car, you're confused why we can’t get out, or why they don’t come close enough for a hug and a kiss. “Out Mommy, I’ll try it.”  Is what you always say. It breaks my heart to tell you, “Soon Enough Evie,” while you cry, and we drive away. But to tell you the truth, I am not really sure how long “soon” will be.

I have been able to keep working online, so I do. You play in your playroom and make me pretend coffee in your kitchen. I do my best to kept you on your regular schedule and we try our best to maintain some semblance of normalcy. Because like Mimi says, “when bad things happen, you can sit in the corner and chew your arm, or you can get up and keep going.” So we kept going.
And we’re still going. And I’m not sure how long this will last. And I don’t think things will ever really go back to normal. After 9/11 (you’ll learn about it when you get older) but flying was never the same. Not for me anyway. I am always more worried and uneasy. I can’t help but look around at my fellow passengers and hope it will just be an ordinary, uneventful, flight.

I think life may be a little like flying after this. I think we’ll think twice about touching the buttons on an elevator, holding the door with our hand, or going to a crowded place. I think we’ll all wash our hands more, and clean more often too. I think we’ll stay home when we’re sick, cough into our elbow and call our Doctor right away if we don’t feel well. I hope so anyway. I hope this at least teaches us to slow down a bit.

People are funny; we slow down only to commemorate milestones; graduations, birthday’s, holidays, engagements, weddings, births, and even death; which is weird, but true. Yet, we rush and ignore the process of life. We call it monotony. It’s so backwards to think this way, but we do.

But, right now, baby girl, I think we’d kill for the monotony of a plain ole’ every day life. Of seeing friends at daycare in the morning, getting muchkins at Dunkin’, stopping at family’s house for a visit, and running into the grocery store to grab something.   

After this, I hope our whole society realizes we aren’t too important to stay home and take sick time to get well. Or that maybe a regular old Sunday dinner with family, even if it’s not a milestone per se, is something to celebrate. I know at our house we will. Heck, right now we’re baking cake and singing “Happy Monday to you,”  while you blow out a candle (always two or three times, because you request “again” as soon as it’s out.) Life is a celebration in your world, even during dark times like these, and that’s something you’ve taught me.   

So, I do hope that sooner, rather than later, I can finish this letter to you and say that the COVID19 pandemic is over.  I can’t wait to write about how we were survivors. I can’t wait to write about how long we hugged our family when it was safe again. About how happy we were to get back to the mundane things we took for granted.

But until then, we’ll have to settle for “soon.”
We have to hope for “soon.”
We have to believe it will be “soon.”
We have to keep living like it will be “soon.”

So, in the meantime, we do our best not to worry, and we pray, and we play, and we keep going. Thank you, baby doll, for keeping me going…

I love you more my Evalina,


Aug 11, 2018

Save the Tatas, Free the Nipple, and Shut Up About Breastfeeding!

How sad that breastfeeding is a controversial conversation in 2018 America. 

We live in a country where freedom of religion and freedom of speech are both woven into the fabric of our society. Recently peppered with the freedom to love anyone, with the legalization of gay marriage. We're so progressive in our thinking, but we are still so archaic in the mindset that women should cover up their bodies when feeding their babies.

We pride ourselves on being “the western world” we say. We claim to celebrate women and their bodies. We pride ourselves on not making women feel like they need to cover up, for religious reasons or any other reason. However, when it comes to nursing, we want to banish women to closets, bathrooms and the backseat of their car. Because when it’s convenient for society to say so, breasts are offensive? Because when it’s not benefiting adult aesthetics and instead it’s benefitting a babies nutrients, we can back-peddle, saying we’re offended, and shame women?

Funny though, no one's asking women to cover up on sexy advertisements. Even "bralettes" are a new fashion phenomenon, making the bra beautiful enough to hang out for everyone to see. No one shames women for getting tattoos on or around their breasts. No one shames women for wearing skimpy bikinis that accentuate their breasts, or wearing revealing dress’ or tops that focus on the ever popular “side boob” or “great cleavage.” Nope. These are all A-okay.

And do you know why? Because men and women benefit from the aesthetics of the female body or the sexual arousal associated with it. Because it's socially acceptable for women to be, sexualized, and being maternal isn't "sexy" so it's not supported.  

And that’s a shame.

What I have to say to that... grow up society.

You see, I'm a new mom. My daughter is 11 weeks old and I have kept her alive solely by breastfeeding. When I was pregnant, just a few months ago, people often asked me if I was going to breastfeed. "I'm going to try" I'd respond.

When she was born the hospital gave us the "miracle hour" where we were encouraged to do "skin-to-skin." During that hour, my little genius babe, scooted her way over to my breast and with little help, latched herself on and started eating. I always tell people, she knew what she was doing, I just cooperated.

Breastfeeding was something I always wanted to do, but also didn't want to pressure myself into. I knew people who had health issues and other  setbacks which prevented them from breastfeeding. So, I was just hoping for the best.

So many people felt comfortable talking about breastfeeding when I was pregnant, that I was mystified to see the adverse reaction when I performed the actual act of breastfeeding. It was totally different.

 I have encountered people, even my own family members, who leave the room when I nurse. Who feel compelled to look away, not just while she's latching, but during the entire feeding. Who pack up to go home when I have to pull my boob out to feed my daughter. Who straight-up avoid visiting, just because I'm breastfeeding.

And these are the obstacles I face before I take my baby and breastfeeding self out into public!  

It baffles me that in July of this year, we JUST made Breastfeeding in Public, legal in every state. While I am celebrating this milestone, I am also sadden, that in a country which has legalized guns (a deadly weapon), via the second amendment, since its inception, how pathetic that it’s taken all this time to legalize feeding our young in public?

In so many articles and posts about breastfeeding in public, the naysayers logic is often that  they, "don’t want to have to explain" to their children what’s going on.

Why? Don’t you explain to your child that they have to push their poppy out on the potty during potty training. Don’t you explain to them when they feel sick that sometimes their belly hurts and it’s okay, the pain won’t last forever? Don't you explain that when they’re tired they have to lay down to rest to feel better? These are all natural functions of our body. Yet we shame breasts because society has sexualized them.

Children are innocent. They are not influence by popular culture’s views on sexualizing women. They see adults and children. It’s black and white for them. Things are only “weird” for them, if we make them “weird” for them.

Since my own experience breastfeeding, my two nephews (9 and 5) and my niece (4) have been curious, asking questions about my nipple shield, why my daughter doesn’t have a baby bottle and what I’m doing under my Boppy nursing scarf in public. All of which I’ve met with one simple answer...

"This is how some Mommy’s feed their babies. It’s where the milk comes out.” And that’s it.

Children accept that for its face value. Because its honest and easy to understand. It’s cut and dry. It's logical. It's true.  

And after that answer;  feeding my 11 week old daughter is truly of no more interest to them. It’s back to the discussion of Minecaft, guitars, coloring, Disney and “watch me” as they tumble across the living room.

It’s the adults who overcomplicate things, and what’s infuriating is we’re using the kids as scapegoats... when truly, they don’t care.

They don’t turn their head in horror when they see a woman breastfeeding, ...the adults do.
They don’t “feel funny” or “feel compelled to look away”...adults do.

Adults make it weird. Adults create the shame. So stop blaming the kids for your own uncomfortable feelings about mixing sexualization and natural nurturing

Ironically, we live in a world that openly accepts breasts in the context of breast cancer awareness. "Save the Tatas” has been a popular bumper sticker, slogan, and movement; sparking a Mother’s Day walk that proudly paints my city of Philadelphia pink each May. In that context Tatas are something to be celebrated. No one's “offended” about explaining Tatas to their children when their waking for a cause. Yet when a Mommy is giving nutrients and life through those same Tatas, she is shamed.

In a society where neon lights advertising strip clubs is a norm and staple of every American city, why then are we so embarrassed of the nature purpose of these breasts?

Meanwhile, we openly accept feminine hygiene products, Viagara, lube, condoms, and Plan B all advertised on TV, magazines, pop up ads on social media and billboards across main stream America. But we’re shaming, “how Mommy’s feed their babies?”

We take our children to the Zoo or the Pet Store and marvel at the Mommy’s animals feeding the baby animals, but we scowl and shame women when we see them breastfeeding.

It all makes zero sense to me.

And while writing this blog and "calling out" the naysayers should feel vindicating, it's not.  Because the shaming of women breastfeeding, has life; and it’s bleed over onto how we women see ourselves.

While it’s true, many women can’t breastfeed, because of a health reasons, supply issues or because of their jobs or lifestyle (hell, it’s a full time job). Many women also don't do it because they themselves say, "it makes me feel weird" or "I don't like it."

And whenever I hear that, I feel like we’re letting society win. Letting them pollute our thoughts and how we view our own bodies. How we ourselves have viewed feeding our own children.

It’s not supposed to feel “weird.” Don’t let them win. Don’t let them change how you and your baby bond and how you give your baby nutrients.

In a world where awful things like terrorism and addiction, are epidemics that we will have to explain to our children, far sooner than we’d like...we need to stop acting like breastfeeding is something shameful we have to shield our children from too.

Get a Grip. It’s 2018. We live in a country where we can’t even agree on whether global warming is an issue or what do with the 2nd amendment. So, as far as I’m concerned, we’ve got bigger "fish to fry." Leave the Mammas and the little babies alone!

Judgment begets judgment. Negativity begets negativity. Shame begets shame. So change the way you think. Change the norm, and change the stigma. Save the Tatas, Free the Nipple, and shut up about breastfeeding.

Marie-Antoinette was rumored to have said, "let them eat cake." In this case, the “them” is the babies, and the "cake" is the breastmilk! So Let them drink  milk! Hey, it does a body good. ;)