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Addy having a blast on her birthday!
Addy having a blast on her birthday!

To me, life is a great adventure and surviving the ups and downs is a journey I’m delighted to share in my column.

These days are like no others and we are all facing the challenges of a silent and hidden enemy during the pandemic day by day, hour by hour, and maybe minute by minute. 

Being quarantined presents its share of challenges, but for me, this week had great highs, as I was able to do what I love: seeing my grandchildren, children, friends and colleagues.

I got an email from Vida Sabbaghi, a wonderfully talented woman I met when I was on the board of the Queens Museum. Vida is the founder and executive director of COPE NYC, which provides an innovative approach to promoting social relationships through art and design.

For years she has been serving communities with creative programs and exhibits for people of all ages. She has worked with seniors, youth in the foster care system, as well as those on the autism spectrum and with disabilities.

For the past four years she’s been working as an adjunct professor at Pratt Institute and has her students enroll in the COPE NYC artists in residence program. Her students have used adaptive materials to make interactive installations for various communities. 

When the pandemic broke out, she instantly changed her focus and initiated a program to create masks. Her entrepreneurial spirit found fabric and sewing machines from the Materials for the Arts.

COPE NYC works at a unique space at 630 Flushing Ave. in Brooklyn. It’s a landmark building that was the former 121,000-square-foot Pfizer plant. It has now been re-purposed with hundreds of businesses and nonprofits, including Pratt Institute, the Silver Spoon Animation studio and Little Flower Children and Family Services of New York. The enormous building complex is less than one mile from the Williamsburg Bridge.

Vida set up her group with stands at the complex to help distribute masks of all sizes to meet the need for children and adults. Knowing the growing needs for masks, Vida’s team even provided some for the Visiting Nurse Service — one of the largest not-for-profit home and community-based healthcare organizations.

Recently, Vida made an open call for New York City students to present their ideas for mask designs. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is helping to bring publicity to the project and encourage young people to be involved. It’s remarkable how many people were engaged to make it possible for artists to use their talents and be relevant to today.

When I saw the beautiful masks that the artists created, I ordered some for my grandchildren. My favorite is the one with little daisys sewn into the corners. Those interested in purchasing masks and learning how to get involved with the mission can visit www.copenyc.org.

Hudson (l.) and Sloane wear their COPE NYC masks.

Stay tuned for a look at the winning designs, which will be published by our media outlets. 

Being isolated, I’ve become a “Zoomer,” using the Zoom platform to stay connected to my friends in a safe way to socialize.

While stuck at home, Netflix has become my favorite go-to source for entertainment. I decided I wanted to laugh and what a treat it was to see Jerry Seinfeld’s special “23 Hours to Kill,” a live performance filmed at the Beacon Theatre before the pandemic. Seinfeld said to a laughing, sold-out audience that “social contact is what we humans like to do.” How prophetic, as we are now mostly living a life of isolation.

My Zoom “parties” bring me together with family and friends, but it’s so hard to have a real conversation. I never realized how hard it is to know when each person is finished talking. 

It’s very frustrating, but the need to stay connected and keeping friendships alive is what the calls are all about.

It was a joyous week of birthdays, when 9-year-old Addy and 11-year-old Morgan celebrated with their own parades of honking cars driving by their front lawns. Drive-by parades have become the new norm as an alternative to having gatherings with people during the pandemic. 

Morgan (front) poses with Blake, Samantha and Spencer by her birthday sign!

Tears filled my eyes as I watched the long line of cars paying tribute to the girls and helping to bring an enormous smile to their faces and making them feel so special. This way of celebrating birthdays should survive the pandemic. I love how it brings the community together!

Hudson and Sloane celebrating during the drive-by car parade.

For me, Memorial Day weekend represented the perfect time to plant summer flowers in my garden. I had the local garden center nursery deliver my favorite impatiens and geraniums, but then they needed planting. I felt overwhelmed but the “Cavalry” came to rescue me in the form of my beautiful daughter Samantha and strong handsome grandson Blake!

Samantha is an organizer and began cleaning up the backyard where “stuff” has accumulated over the years like a baby wagon, a toy plastic car, and anything else baby-related. We left a note for the garbage men: HELP! 

Wearing a mask, I made sure to keep everyone 6 feet apart as we saw my backyard patio transformed. They helped me survive an overwhelming project!

Surviving during coronavirus is different for all of us, but getting through the days and setting aside time to laugh, to love, and to communicate has given me pleasure. I hope all of you are “surviving” and cherishing each day. The present is all we have — that’s why it’s a present!

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