Family Friday: Why It’s Always Time to Say Thank-You

Six months ago, we were masked into pandemic lockdown, locked in and fearful as the coronavirus stalked the world. I could not have imagined that a vaccine would reopen the world to our family this spring, but here we are, vaccinated and awaiting the visit of our vaccinated daughter and her vaccinated fiancé. Just yesterday, the CDC announced that we can move mask-free through the outside world.

Science should win all the prizes this year.

I’ve begun wondering how long it will take us to forget how grateful we must be for the rest of our lives. I’m going to try very, very hard to remember what it was like to be in quarantine as I move out into the populated landscape once again. And, as I do, I’m going to thank everyone that got us through the storm to safe harbor.

Musical (Thank-You) Notes

The enforced aloneness of the Coronavirus pandemic gave us a new appreciation for the people that make our lives possible. The apartment-dwelling residents in big cities applauded front-line workers from their balconies. Drive-by birthday parties became “a thing.” Musicians — like Yo Yo Ma, who kicked off #SongsOfComfort on Twitter — serenaded their neighbors.

Yo Yo Ma, playing Dvorak’s “Going Home”

Thank-You Notes and Holiday Cards

Last fall, we were not going anywhere, seeing anyone, doing anything. No parties. No visits. No people. And, yet, I sent out thank-you notes.

I had recently organized my stationery drawer, discovering a stash of note cards inherited from my mother’s treasure trove years ago. Thank-you notes, blank notes, Christmas cards, some with envelopes were so old that the adhesive had flaked off.

In between sewing masks and making phone calls for the Biden campaign (yes, thank you Georgia!!!!) I sent notes to some 50 aunts, uncles, cousins on the family mailing list maintained by our family scribe, Aunt Snooky.

I sent out holiday cards without a real holiday in sight and thank-you notes just because. It’s time to do it again, to the neighbor who delivered food from the grocery store, to my pool buddy who texts me when she’s going over for a swim, to the neighbors who have helped acclimate our rescue Lab Kumba to the dynamics of our community. To our daughter, whose genuine concern and interest in our lives shines through in her frequent calls, I sent an unbelievable New York Times Nutella banana bread.

Who do you know who could use a thank-you note?

Thanking Amsterdam

Two years ago this week, my husband and I were completing our two-week crossing of the Atlantic. We had no idea that my heart would stop on May 5 while we were in Amsterdam, or that a compassionate community of nurses, doctors would save my life and that the Turkish family of another ICU patient would adopt my husband into their fold.

Yesterday, finally able to safely stand in a long line at the post office, I mailed my Amsterdam doctor, nurse, and physiotherapist copies of Kaleidoscope WoJo’s anthology In My Shoes including my story, Surviving Amsterdam. And, to celebrate the new lives created since we left Holland, I also mailed my friend Julie Iribarren’s charming children’s book, Levi Journey: An Unlikely Therapy Dog, to my doctor’s baby girl and to the baby girl of our Turkish friend.

Pre-order from Amazon through Wednesday!

Random Acts of Kindness

So, as the world re-opens, let us not get so busy that we forget how much we treasure each other. I was touched by the words in a lovely obituary that ran in my newspaper in February, and will close with them.

Life is a song. Love is the music. Jayne was a blessing of light and love to all who knew her. In Jayne’s memory, please consider a random act of kindness today.

Obituary of Janice (Jayne) T. Balma, The Palm Beach Post

Wellness Wednesday: Feel the Liberation of Getting the Vaccine

Not only was there no longer like a light at the end of the tunnel, there was no longer any tunnel.

Kristen Whitson, 38, Oregon, Wisconsin, in Jordan Mendoza’s USA Today article.

We were in the dark

Yes, we were all in that dark nowhere for months, feeling terrified and lost and hopeless and unseeing.

I thought I’d never get sprung.

My friend Deb

The vaccine lights the way

And, then, the unimaginable happened. A light beamed from not too far away, revealing a short tunnel through which we only had to step to be delivered from the Coronavirus killing machine. Yes, it seemed like an eternal wait, complicated by lottery scrambling for access, but then I entered a grocery store for the first time in eleven months. Inhaling the heady scent of fresh bread, I got a needle in my arm and the world changed.

Gratitude washes over us

United States is the first country to administer 150 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, on track to meet the president’s goal of administering 200 million shots in his first 100 days in office. USA Today reporter Jordan Mendoza writes about Americans getting emotional when being vaccinated.

As soon as I got into the line, I saw an elderly person in a wheelchair getting their vaccine, and I think it was just like a really full-circle moment for me.

Michael Limus, 29, Sacramento, California

The magnitude of the moment just kept washing over me.

Kristen Whitson, 38, Oregon, Wisconsin

I had tears in my eyes, literally. But I also had just a tremendous amount of gratitude and hope in my heart that better days were ahead for all of us.

Tom Miner, 25, Charlotte, North Carolina 

I feel like it’s one step closer to a little bit more normalcy for my family.

Travel blogger Hather Montgome

It’s still miraculous that we’ve been able to come so far.

Mike DiBenedetto, 46, Phoenix

Zimbabwean-American Dr. Tererai Trent and her husband, Mark Trent, celebrated being vaccinated in the best possible way.

Compassion carries us forward

Everyone benefits if you’re a little bit more compassionate and open to being more flexible and more understanding of different challenges and needs. The pandemic is not the only time we should be thinking about these things.

Travis Chi Wing Lau, Assistant Professor, Kenyon College, Columbus, Ohio

Things I Am Thankful For

They say that gratitude is a year-round practice, and that we can be thankful on days other than Thanksgiving. Every time I stand up, I am grateful. Every stair I climb, every tangerine I peel, every egg I beat, every stroke I swim — grateful. When I roll over in bed, when I drive alone in my car, when I take another medicine off the list — thankful.

And here are some of the specific people, places, and things that have helped get me here, eight months after I almost missed the whole thing.

Our sweet lady guesthouse OLVG and every other doctor, nurse, physical therapist, and other helpers

Graduating from PT at FYZICAL on Halloween
The nurses of OLVG 7A wearing their palm tree socks
Dr. Emo and his “little American people”
Climbing the stairs to V’s apartment!
My OLVG physiotherapists in their palm tree socks!


To family in Norway, I’m so sorry that my illness caused us to miss our date at the Oslo Opera! To extended family in America, your electronic cards-and-letters have sustained me.

And here’s to my immediate folks:

Ray, me, Christian, Victoria
Me, sister Susan, brother-in-law Michael, Ray


To friends who sent prayers, support, and heartfelt messages across Facebook as our daughter let people know what had happened: thank you! You pulled this chatty, silly, warrior woman through.

To my former exercise students who cheered me on for all those months in Amsterdam and have treated me to breakfast and more cheers now that I’m back, thank you!

Boynton Beach friends

To our neighbors, who looked out for our house while we were away, lent support when we got home, and gave me thumbs up as I worked my way up from walker to cane to just me: thank you!

And to my writer friends, cheers for all our success!

LouAnn, Al, Marcie, me at Al’s MURDER AT THE BUTCHER’S

Dog Support & support dogs

To Pancho, V’s dog, who saw me go from pokey around the ‘hood to mile-charging along the beach: thank you! To Levi, who lifted my spirits with his story: thank you!



Renewal. Reflection. Recollection. This baby is now the amazing 27 year-old woman who rescued us in Amsterdam.

On Christmas Eve, Victoria and Christian will be here to enjoy the dinner I grew up with: tacos, my mother’s re-invention of Venezuelan hallacas.

In Amsterdam, they told me I had two guardian angels on my shoulder. My Muslim roommates told me that we each have five guardian angels: one to the right, one to the left, one behind, one in front, and one over our head. So, maybe there’s a reason the ladies in the Milan pensione gave me this little angel at Christmas in 1959.