Spread the love, not the virus.

By, Jayne Bonilla


Yesterday I sneezed into my elbow… then I did an elbow-bump to my friend. Oops, was that wise? Should I sneeze into my right elbow and use my left elbow to greet my family and friends? A natural-born hugger, restraining from human contact is the biggest challenge for me. Even back in high school, over forty years ago, my English teacher Mr. Reese always said “if Jayne Daniels ever gets Mononucleosis, we will need to evacuate the entire school.” A diehard embracer, some things never change. Until now. Like all of us, I have countless questions about the Corona Virus COVID-19 as we adapt to this “new normal.” Self-quarantined, and a natural research-fanatic, I’ve compiled some of my thoughts and ideas, quips and tips, questions and basic information. Written from my heart, my greatest intention is to add levity to lighten the gloom, share acts of kindness, use my voice through experiential, personal and shared stories, To write vulnerably and with candor about what I am learning. We are living in a fluid environment. With rapidly changing information and constant updates, we all must be diligent in staying up-to-date with accessible information. Knowledge is power. “In order to change, we must be sick and tired of being sick and tired.” Unknown  During these uncertain times, I am certain about this… it takes a village to raise a child, humanity is at its finest, generosity of spirit is courageous, and gratitude is magnanimous.

To help us prepare for the storm of this pandemic, we must navigate these temporary rough seas. While we’ve been forced to throw down our anchor and stay put, we hope to avoid the widespread hidden germs. But during this time in our lives, which calls for drastic measures, there are plenty of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Pearls of wisdom and life lessons to be learned and more importantly applied. From abundance to scarcity, we are learning to ration for the greater good.  But first things first, and worth repeating, knowledge is power. Know the symptoms of COVID-19: Visit Center for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov Fever, Fatigue and Cough. Muscle Pain and Shortness of Breath. Flu-like Symptoms. Any variety of these symptoms or if you just don’t feel good, call your doctor. If you think you have been exposed to COVID-19 and develop a fever and symptoms such as cough or difficulty breathing, call for medical advice. If in doubt, call your doctor. The best way to Prevent COVID-19 is to avoid being exposed to this virus. Stay compliant with the standards set forth by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov Stay informed and stay at home. Remain Prudent, Proactive and Positive. Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds (while singing the Alphabet Song.) Be vigilant. Take long walks, eat healthy, exercise and stay hydrated.

Respect your Elders…my ninety-year-old mom Adele, great-grandmother and a magnificent matriarch of our family, was recently hospitalized due to a barrage of severe medical issues. It was clear that her drastic decline in health and current diagnosis required an imminent move into an assisted living facility. Pre-pandemic, during my mom’s recovery, we spent six amazing weeks together. I was helping care for her along with an extraordinary group of nurses. Preparing her for what would soon become her new normal, it took some time for my mom to acclimate to her new environment. Remarkably mom’s health began to improve in response to a new regimen of medicine including insulin shots.  Turning a corner mentally and physically, my mom is slowly regaining her strength. My Stella got her groove back!  Enter COVID-19. Government imposed restrictions are immediately enforced in facilities that serve and care for our elder communities. I like to call it “rules of disengagement.”  This decisive and protective measure, one that is essential for the protection of my mom and our elder population, I applaud with fervor. As our parents, our children’s grandparents,  face greater risks for contracting the Coronavirus, it is crucial to keep everyone safe. Adele’s team of nurses, doctors and caregivers are exceptional. I am grateful, beyond words, for all the care she receives daily, especially in the absence of my visits. I admit to having separation anxiety, just like when my children went off to preschool, elementary school, and college. So, the child does become the parent. While on the phone with my mom last night, I decided to read her a variety of poems written by her grandchildren. As a children’s author, I was conducting story time with my mom; it was just what the proverbial doctor ordered. The poems jogged her long-term memory during a time of confusion and short-term memory loss. And we laughed until our sides hurt. Yes, laughter is the best medicine.

A stones throw away from my mom, my wonderful mother-in-law Patricia missed her first St. Patrick’s Day Parade in decades. Every year Nana marched proudly, come rain or come shine, surrounded by family, friends and bagpipes. But this year, her sun-filled terrace was quiet and somber. While beautiful Nana wore green inside her quarantined apartment, blue was how she truly felt. She chose not to make her famous Irish Soda Bread, since she could not share it with her large and loving family, which includes dozens of grandchildren only miles away.  While we hope to have the luck of the Irish,  I feel lucky that our children have their grandparents in their lives. I feel lucky to have so many  Medical Teams, Government Officials and Volunteers on the front lines who are working tirelessly for the health of our nation and the world-at-large. When it comes to staying healthy, I feel lucky for everyday that lifesaving supplies and resources become available and progress is being made to end this pandemic.

“Prevention is better than a cure.” Desiderius Erasmus “Social Distancing” is a public health practice and a set of infection control actions intended to stop or slow down the spread of a contagious disease. The CDC defines social distancing as it applies to COVID-19 as “remaining out of congregate settings, avoiding mass gatherings, and maintaining distance of 6 feet or 2 meters from others when possible.” “No hugs, no handshakes.”  Hands off. Do not touch your mouth, nose or eyes. Refrain from touching your face altogether. I originally thought social distancing meant getting off the internet. Or unfriending friends on social media. I am so relieved that it is neither. While on the internet, via your cellphone, laptop, or personal computer, the CDC recommends that we keep our electronics sterilized since our hands utilize them the most and have contact with countless germs that reside on their surfaces, including keyboards. Are you a germophobe under ordinary circumstances? If you answered with an emphatic “yes” then you are probably way ahead of the cleanliness game. Since our cellphones touch our faces, utilize your ear buds or headphones whenever possible. And sterilize your remote controls. Most importantly, keep these items sanitized by using 70% isopropyl rubbing alcohol on a dry cloth and wipe clean. A Clorox wipe is also effective. See cdc.gov for tips on cleaning specific areas.

There’s no place like home… last week I ran around in search of the almighty roll of toilet paper. Can you spare a square? Spending an exorbitant amount of money and stocking up on everything I deemed necessary should we be stuck like a duck in the muck. I impulsively bought frozen potatoes pancakes, Matzo Ball Soup mix, jelly beans, frozen pizzas and peanut butter chocolate ice cream pies. Plucking goodies and an obscene amount of junk food off the emptying shelves overwhelmed my shopping cart. I had two streams of reasoning: “better safe than sorry” and “at least I’ll be prepared for Passover, Easter and Hurricane Season in June.” Now a word to my fellow neighborhood shoppers: this is not supermarket sweep; there is no prize money awaiting you at check-out. Lord oh lord, please do not hoard. Let’s make a deal and agree to be mindful so there is enough to go around. Oh, and in a manner of speaking, kindly use your manners, “thank you.” Moving my cart aside, some customers raced (against time) down the aisles of my neighborhood store, popping wheelies on their grocery carts. I reminded them to be cognizant that we are all a part of this human race.

Beginning to feel fatigued and run-down myself, I finally self-quarantined this week, discovering that the act of stopping to smell the flowers is not only essential to oneself, but respectful and protective of others. Then there’s the magical gift of quality time. I’m not sure about you, but as a procrastinator, or the phrase I’ve affectionately coined, a “crastinator-pro” I always feel like my to-do list is long and my get-done list is short. I now realize how I’ve been chasing my tail, like an over-energized puppy, only to exhaust myself of physical and mental reserves. Many of us are wired to always be on the move; to believe that success and accomplishment are a direct result of racking up countless hours of hard work in a day, a week, a month, and a year. We even measure our worth by quantifying our efforts. Forced to shelter in place, we need to remember to engage in all that makes you and your family feel comfort and happiness. Watch old family videos, thumb through old photographs and play games. Pictionary, Charades and Scattergories are some of our family faves. Call family and friends, write letters to those in need, revisit projects or start new ones. Keep informed but break up the news with large doses of belly-laughing comedy. “A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures.” Irish Proverb Keep perspective by determining what matters most.  While working-from-home, with realistic distractions, it is recommended to practice periods of meditation, yoga, outdoor exercise and scheduled naps. On most days, dancing does the trick for me. Getting off the frenzy-go-round is challenging. Slowing down feels unnatural for many. You’re not alone. Inhale and exhale deeply. “Remain calm and self-quarantine.” There is beauty, health, physical and mental wellness in the act of slowing down, whether by choice or by chance.“The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” Stephen R. Covey

It’s not surprising that the emotional barometer reading in our lives is higher than normal. The pressure in the air and the virus that lurks who knows where, can make us scratch our heads (wash your hands before and after) and bring our nervous Nancy’s and help-me Harry’s out in droves. As an innate worry-wart, you’ll find me glued to the news and reading everything I can get my sanitized-hands around.  Breathing deeply, avoiding over-saturation, practicing meditation, dancing, doing what you love, and any form of positive distraction can promote feeling better. “Happiness is the highest form of health.” Dalai Lama Everyone reacts differently to stressful situations. How one responds to this pandemic depends on a plethora of reasons. It’s most crucial to acknowledge the presence of anxiety so it can be treated immediately. While stress and anxiety can affect anyone, it is often induced by fear, worrying and misinformation. Those who may respond more strongly to this pandemic are the elder population, people with chronic diseases and those at higher risk for contracting COVID-19. Those who have mental health conditions, children and teens and COVID-19 medical health provider teams may be at risk. Seek help by visiting cdc.gov Stress and Coping.

Kids should be kids…dust off the board games and “go fish” out the deck of cards. Playing games inspires quality family time, imagination, humor and conversation. Have children get fresh air and play in the yard. Being active is healthy. My favorite thing to do back in the day, when my children were young and when I was a child, was to lay on our backs on a blanket or on the bare blades of grass. We would then observe the ever-changing cloud patterns in the sky and describe the creative shapes they formed. You can then pose the question “What did you observe?” The follow-up activities include draw about it, write about it, make up stories and songs about it. Music plays an integral part in creating happiness and harmony so play music during this activity. Discuss how Every cloud has its silver lining. Discuss what good has come out of this unusual time. Read favorite books, decorate a favorite journal and encourage your children to write down their feelings, especially during this unique time. Journaling is a powerful tool and serves as a catharsis for children as well as adults. Since “children learn what they live,” our parental response to this pandemic will carry over to our children. Our children are watching us closely. Stay positive in their presence and make sure to meet your personal needs through self-love, self-care, psychological support services and the many resources available to support you. For our children, acknowledge every feeling they have. There is no right or wrong when it comes to emotions. Respond lovingly, supportively, empathetically, and patiently, as you decide what professional services are available to children and families.  During this prolonged pandemic, remain hopeful and united. “He who has health has hope; and he who has hope has everything.” Arabian Proverb

Looking through my binoculars to enforce social distancing, I’m finding hidden gems amongst the hidden germs…Everywhere I turn, I’m personally moved by what feels like a global movement.  A movement generated by so many extraordinary human beings who are rising to selfless heights. Acts of kindness are being performed that will have a positive ripple effect, creating a much-needed harmony during a period of unpredictability. Altruism is at an all-time high. Humanity at its best is breaking out, all in the name of this outbreak. I am immeasurably grateful to the medical teams that show up every day so we can stay home and stay safe. To the warriors that stand on the front lines and place the needs of others in front of their own, I am indebted. How about the couple celebrating their seventieth wedding anniversary, living in neighboring buildings in their nursing home? He in independent living. She in assisted living. Looking down from her second-floor window, her husband serenaded her from the garden below and held up flowers and a hand-made sign professing his devotion to his beloved! Immeasurable generosity that is echoed across the world during a time of crisis. Everyday ordinary people transforming into brave heroes. I ask myself “what can I contribute during this period of vulnerability?” I’m concocting some ideas and deepening my thoughts right here on these very pages. I thank you for spending your time here. A time of reflection and introspection. Please join the conversation by sharing your experiences, thoughts and insight. “The world we have been given is a masterpiece; in order for the world to survive, we must be the masters of peace.” Jayne Bonilla Additionally, we must be the ambassadors of health. I am most inspired. I am learning to replace my fears and worries with accuracy, vigilance and compliance. Having gratitude, patience and compassion keep me positive.  Let’s remind one another that “this too shall pass.” This is a time for courage, hope and to come together (but no more than 10 in a group,) as a neighborhood, a community, a country and a world. Spread the love, not the virus.

Worth Repeating: Stay abreast of the rapidly changing information at The Center for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov

Seek Medical Advice if you develop Signs and Symptoms including:

  • Fever, Cough, Shortness of Breath, Aches and Pains, Flu-like symptoms
  • Have been in close contact with a person known to have COVID-19 or have traveled  from an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19
  • Call Doctor before coming into office or emergency room
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth
  • Stay Home unless otherwise directed by medical personnel to go testing sight or to hospital