21 for 2021

Every year, I’ve reworked the previous list of goals for the new year after reporting on how I fared in trying to keep with what I had written for the one just ended. 2021 will be very different if only because 2020 changed so much in the way we did things due to Covid. So with the restrictions that we are now faced with and the adjustments we must make in our new reality, I must tweak this year’s list drastically to adapt.

Just another one of the many ways that we all must live differently now. One thing that I know I will not change is try to work through a list of goals for the coming year, and yes, 21 for the year 2021 — no more, no less.

1. Read six books. Believe me, I am trying. I started several books in 2020 but never finished one. I think I’ll go back to the old school way of reading one book and not beginning another until I finish it.

2. Learn something new via an actual class. With everything going virtual now, this shouldn’t be difficult. I’m still working on my language classes but those are more of self study and not really a class. I might have something new to report before the month is out and cross this off my list.

3. Continue exercising and dieting to take better care of myself and reach my original weight goal which is currently 10 lbs lower than my post holiday weight.

4. Visit Central Park all four seasons. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that I will be able to visit once after a snowfall this winter, and get to the other seasons finally. It’s a bit harder trying to get this particular task done, but despite the restrictions and the fact that I’m hardly in the city, it is actually one of those that I think I can finally accomplish this year.

Central Park Summer 2020

5. Crafting: Organize my supplies and try new methods in jewelry making and personal art. Continue my Art journal. Last year was very productive in this respect and I’ve found new inspiration to create different pieces for the shop. On a personal level, my success with the art journal has further inspired me to continue it on to 2021 with a totally new journal. I’ve immersed myself with inspiration from artists I’ve encountered and followed and continue to learn from in the process. As I have tried to get organized, I’ve discovered that I have my supplies all mixed up everywhere and it would really just be easier if I could sort them out.

2020 saw me documenting my year in an art journal, and what I have come up with has inspired me to continue with the journey in 2021.

6. Continue to find a new home for the items that I no longer have use for, but which can be of use to others. I learned some valuable lessons in being able to destash with more purpose in 2020, which I hope to continue to do in 2021. I’ve found two groups to share these things with — one in my neighborhood and the other across the boroughs of New York City. I’ve always hated throwing things out and it was a good feeling to get rid of some of the things i needed to dispose of, while at the same time helping others.

7. Work on the Gift of 55. Ever since I turned 50, I have tried to prepare gifts to give away to coincide with my birthday. It was a way of celebrating myself while giving to others. In connection with the lessons I learned in destashing items in 2020 as mentioned above, I think I will focus on something more meaningful in 2021 as I turn 55. That means 55 acts of kindness to celebrate. I will start working on this sooner rather than later, as April is just around the corner.

8. Keep writing. I think I’m off to a good start with three posts in three days. The problem is in keeping the momentum going. I am trying.. I have started some new writing projects and actually see myself making progress as the weeks go. There’s been a better focus on writing these days, what with everything that’s been happening around me in a social and personal level.

9. Keep writing those letters. I started writing people randomly during the last quarter of 2020. It has been a gratifying and heartwarming experience hearing from the people I’ve written. Beyond the Christmas cards, there were letters that actually made it out of my writing box. And I already have around a half dozen letters waiting to be written. I know that I will surpass my goal of writing one card or letter a month, so I am not going to put a minimum. I will just keep writing and sending those letters and cards out.

10. Get the podcast on the air. One of the projects that I got all excited about during the first months of the pandemic was getting a podcast on the air. I had the title, a friend so generously provided me with original music in different cuts to use, my niece rendered a graphic for the show and my first three shows were cast with guests that had so readily said yes. And then work and life got in the way, and I didn’t want to just broadcast haphazardly. I’m focusing on this anew if only because I have since thought of another half dozen topics to broadcast and people to feature. It’s a project halfway to done.

11. Buff up stocks in the Etsy Shop. One thing I found rather surprising was the traffic I was getting, and the actual sales made during the pandemic. I wish I had the time and the energy to post more actively, but a newfound interest in raw materials to use for my pieces has sparked new inspiration. Still not quitting the day job, but this is definitely getting a new focus from me.

12. Sew at least one coat / jacket before spring, and another before winter. I see my sewing machine and I sigh in frustration, regretting that I have yet to finish another coat since I did one for my sewing classes at Mood University way back when. I have the materials.. I have cut up fabric ready to be sewn into masks. There was a time I went (a bit) crazy buying fabric on sale — and they are all neatly stacked and stored in my bins. Waiting to be sewn into something I will wear. Two pieces, minimum!

13. Fix my attic. I have a huge storage space that has stacks of boxes of stuff that need to make it to the waste bin. I’m thinking the best way is to devote an hour every month at least — in increments of 15 or 30 minutes, just to move things around. I’ve managed to do some tidying as I pulled out the Christmas tree and decorations for this year — and there is a semblance of order in one corner, but there are other corners that need touching. And I will get to that this year.

14. Sort my postcard collection. Going through the things that had lain hidden in boxes and bins through the years has made me rediscover postcards in my collection. I’ve already started gathering the ones that really have no room in my collecting interests and have started giving them away. As I go through my boxes, I’ve started sorting postcards, photographs and greeting cards randomly, leaving the actual organizing of the three bins for another time. The postcard collection, though, needs particular attention, and I’ve already begun the work.

15. Catalogue and photograph my Starbucks Mug Collection. I haven’t really had any major additions to the collection in 2020 but I managed to add maybe a half dozen mugs. I used to have enough room above my pantry in the kitchen to display them in two rows, but the space has since run out. I also need to “rewrap” the mugs that are still there due to the soot from the stove. (Yes, I packed them well, so they are not grimy on the inside.). Most of the collection is now in boxes in the attic, waiting to be displayed. I’m working on figuring out the best way to display them maybe in the dining room, but I just thought they were better off in boxes until I can find a nice way to showcase what I have.

16. Put my family photos in an album. I know that with most photos now digitally stored, the hard copy photos I managed to bring to New York from my trips home are all the more priceless. I have them in a box and mom had brought me a nice archival photo album I have yet to use. This year, I will get those precious photographs into that album.

17. Create the wall art I’ve been meaning to do the last year or so. I actually have two items I am hoping to create but beyond the main board I was hoping to put these works on, I haven’t really done anything. Even just one for this year will be great. I am rather reluctant to share more details beyond this, but should I finally get it done (hopefully this year!), I will share the final work in this space.

18. Finish, frame and hang a cross stitch project featuring Our Lady of Perpetual Help that I started more than 16 years ago. Long story…first, I must find it to start work on it again.

19. Set my affairs in order. One thing that 2020 made most of us do is make us face our mortality and the uncertainty of the future. I keep saying I will write my will and do my living will — but beyond identifying my emergency contact and giving immediate instructions to that friend, I haven’t really been able to set this down properly. So on my 55th year on this earth, I will.

20.

21.

As you can see, I’m publishing this list with two still up in the air. This might take a bit longer for me to decide, so instead of waiting to complete the list, I’d rather publish now and get on with the year. (Another thing that 2020 has taught me — take care of what you can take care of now, instead of letting the task linger on undone.)

While some of the things I wrote above are more “guideposts” instead of actual goals, I’m actually optimistic I will get half of this list done. (Fearless forecast.). Wish me luck!

Saturday and the week that was

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The first week of the year is just ending and I think mine went pretty well. Busy at work, back to the grind, but in a steady kind of way that was not rushed or overly chaotic. It was not exactly just any other week with the events that unfolded in the Capitol during the middle of the week. That one was a very sad event for me.

Audible sigh.

As someone watching from the sidelines during that day, I felt troubled and worried for the people who were trapped in the building. I feared for those tasked with protecting them. I shuddered to think about the Covid superspreader unfolding with only one in maybe 15-20 people wearing a mask. And I was sad for what the world was seeing as they watched events play out. I prayed for peace.

Things have somehow simmered down but tempers are still flaring. We can only really hope for the best. It seems to have been a wake up call for many politicians — and the leaders who have been tasked to be our voice. Let’s hope they pick up the lessons to be learned from what happened instead of fanning the flames higher.

My screen grab from tv coverage of the Capitol Seige
Screen Grab while I watching events unfold on television

Beyond that, the week was fine. I started off rather slow as the boss took the first day off. I noticed there were a few people that had actually taken the week off instead of hitting the ground running after the holidays. That’s a thought.

My two week holiday (well, almost.. because I worked here and there — for a bit) was long enough to help me get ready for the start of the year. I rested, I did chores, slept in, and enjoyed the spirit of the season. It was not short to make me wish for a day or two more, and not long enough for me to want to wish it was Monday already. I had a good holiday.

Work has been normally busy, so no rest for the weary, but I am grateful to still be working.

I started off the year with a boatload of optimism. Cautious, though. I am well aware that the Covid surge is raging, and while life seems to have almost returned to a sense of normalcy, it is farthest from anything we did or felt this time last year.

So this morning, I gave myself the extra hour or so in bed like I usually do on weekends. I browse the news headlines, checked my emails, look at messages and just enjoy the warmth of my bed. I take it slow and relax. Sometimes I go back to sleep — although that is rare. I saunter off to the kitchen, weigh myself and begin my day.

Sunny but cold today. Breakfast was Egg and tomato hash — one of my weird food faves. My mom always used to ask why I wouldn’t add onions — the usual scrambled egg variation we grew up with. Simply because I like the taste of egg and tomatoes and banana ketchup which I had. Happiness.

I had a list of errands to run which I am ticking off in my head as I write this.

– Stop by the cleaners to drop off some coats for dry cleaning.

– Wash some of the large crochet projects I had done in 2020 which were used — but hardly — before I store them away.

– Maybe head off to the Michael’s around 5000 steps away to grab more storage bins to continue organizing my craft supplies.

– Disassemble the boxes that carried items that arrived over the week for disposal.

– Put away the christmas decor. (My son had actually taken off the tree decor, but I need to organize them into the storage boxes that are up in the attic, and then take out the lights.)

– I have postcards and letters to write.

– Begin my 2021 Art journal. (Excited about this!)

Looks like my weekend is spoken for. Between today and tomorrow, I have my work cut out for me.

Well, the chores are waiting, and I have to head out soon if I am to get out the stuff I need to drop off to the cleaners. The sun is shining high but I can hear the wind blowing fiercely. The temperatures are hovering between almost and below freezing. Here’s to a peaceful and productive weekend for everyone.

Closing out 20 for 2020

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Last year, I vowed that I will not wait as long as I did in January of 2020 (ended up publishing the original post on the 20th), and instead write my next list earlier in the month. But of course, before I can do that, I am obligated to give an update on how the previous list went. (Plus, I don’t have the avatar for 2021 yet.)

I started this list a couple of years ago and even gave it its own spot in the navigation bar above, where you will find the previous lists. As I had written before, this is a list that hasn’t changed much but which I like to keep to sort of give me some guideposts for the coming year. I don’t like making resolutions — I prefer to be specific and set goals. There’s a few staples and an addition or two- just tweaking the list a bit to adjust to the times. Rather than elaborate on each attempt or success, I’ll spare you the agony of reading through my excuses and simple focus on the things I actually did.

1. Read six books. – Epic fail, although I did begin reading maybe 3-4 books. Totally needs work.

2. Travel to one destination outside the tri-state area. – I was actually planning a day trip, if not an overnight at least, and then the pandemic hit. End of story.

3. Learn something new via an actual class. This one is a work in progress, although I have been taking lessons via Audible trying to learn another language. Marginally a success in terms of the effort, but nothing completed by the year’s end.

4. Take better care of myself by exercising, losing more weight. MAJOR SUCCESS WITH THIS ONE. (You can see how proud I am of being able to claim this!). I gained 15 lbs during the first half of the confinement of the pandemic in 2020, lost it and another 5 lbs below my prepandemic weight (another yay!).. and now, while I continue to be a work in progress, I am walking 10000 steps everyday and eating better. The weight loss has been thwarted by all the holidays the last couple of weeks, but I can confidently proclaim that I am taking better care of myself now. This is something which I hope to continue into 2021.

5. Visit Central Park all four seasons. Two out of the four seasons was better than last year’s, and I am on track to try for all four this year. The fact that there was a long period of time when I confined myself to my home impacted the spring. I made it there during the summer but totally missed out on fall. And Winter, well, one of these days.

Central Park Summer 2020

6. Crafting reboot. I think one of the things I am most grateful for during our home confinement was that it gave me time to hone my sewing skills in creating masks, and then I found new ways and materials to work on for the shop. Surprisingly, there has been traffic and sales despite the pandemic. I did shy away, though, from other crafts that entailed longer periods of time such as crocheting or knitting. My art journal has flourished and I am raring to start a new one. All in all, it has been a very productive year.

7. Destash more systematically. When I wrote about this originally, I was really thinking of smaller items to destash — like books and shoes, etc. During the last quarter of the year, I’ve actually parted with at least two boxes of clothing and other household items that were otherwise still useful but just gathering dust in bags or boxes. Or I had kept because I thought they might be of use some day — things like those left over pieces from glass sets and plates that were somehow forgotten when we switched to another design. They have found a new home somewhere. Even the coffee table that predated my arrival here in the US has found its way to the dumpster in our community, and who knows, someone might’ve found use for it and taken it home. I will write about this another time because it was not just more space that I got in return, but a sense of goodwill towards others. Happiness.

8. Work on the Gift of 54. This one totally got eclipsed by the pandemic. So there were no gifts to give away to celebrate my 54th birthday. Maybe for the 55th, I might go local after having found a facebook group that caters to New Yorkers in need. Fingers crossed.

9. Write more. I always think of this as being able to write more regularly — and I have to admit there were periods of silence again here in my corner. But on the whole, I think I wrote more this year and I’m not going to beat myself up for not having done more.

10. Keep snail mail alive by writing a letter or sending out a card at least once a month. I was able to send the letters out, but mostly during the end of the year, instead of at the frequency I had aimed for. One thing that the pandemic has made me realize is that we have forgotten how to communicate on a more personal level through the mail, and I will continue writing in 2021.

11. Rebind my art journal, begin a new one. I actually found another art journal I had completely forgotten about, predating the altered book that I had meant to rebind. This is something I hope to do the first quarter, including the art journal I began in 2020 which I will end soon to make way for another in 2021. This was a very fulfilling exercise for me, because I have always wanted to continue expressing myself in my personal art — with all the fold outs and the lettering and all my scribbling.

12. Sample something new or visit a new restaurant or place (i.e., museum, intallation, etc.) and write about it. Again, eclipsed by the pandemic and the restrictions it brought upon us. However, I did manage to continue to find new things to sample, but not quite in the same frequency I had hoped. I’m probably going to let this go this coming year given the restrictions and safety concerns about actually going out and about.

13. Publish a postcard set. One day soon.

14. Visit at least one lighthouse. This was actually part of the trip I was planning during the earlier part of the year. Maybe in 2022.

15. Encode my poetry. Totally forgot about this.. but again, a maybe.

16. Visit more blogs / IG accounts. The point was to read other people more. Epic fail. I did visit one or two but nowhere near the one a month I was hoping for. I need to be more methodical about this.

17. Do a fundraiser for Barangay San Vicente. My mother hails from a very poor community in Sorsogon in the province of Bicol and I was hoping to do a holiday if not a start of the school year fundraiser. Again, derailed by the pandemic, but in my heart and mind.

18. Watch a live show or concert once a quarter. Another time when Broadway reopens, and the concert halls let us in again.

19. Undertake some home improvement projects. Work in progress, but not totally sidelined by the pandemic. I am excited to continue with the work my son and I have started for a new look to our home.

20. Rework the Etsy shop. I have started creating pieces again even as I write this, and I am thinking of new designs to put in the store. It was most heartening that despite the pandemic, there was traffic and actual sales. Imagine how much more if I could just get into a rhythm about producing new items to sell.

So now that I have written my final update on last year’s list, I can work on writing 21 for 2021 — hopefully before this coming weekend. (That gives me 5 days.. plenty of time.)

A third on the “Yay!” Side wasn’t too bad, if you ask me. I will have to let another third (or even as much as half the list) go due to the expected restrictions that will continue to be with us in the light of our new Covid reality, despite the vaccine. So my 2021 list will probably have a totally different thrust — or focus, and I am hoping to put the ones I will take out back in 2022. Maybe.

Goodbye, 2020 !

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It’s the second day of 2021 and I am just now, saying goodbye to the very eventful and different year just ended. This is all about my 2020 — the year that marked such moving changes in the way we all lived, and continues to do the same in the new year. As a fitting goodbye that I can speak to, this is all about what the year was for me. It touched us in different ways, some good and some bad, but everyone was moved in one direction or another by all that transpired.

My son and I were thankfully untouched by Covid, and for that I am grateful. There were the brushes with positive tests from people my son had interacted with, but his own tests always returned negative. It has taught us to be mindful of our interaction with others — and although the anxiety it brought upon was unwelcome, it was enough to get us to be vigilant about protecting ourselves.

I have managed to make working from home actually work for me, and although my company has moved return to office plans from January to May, I am not raring to go back to the office anytime. We adapt. And so far, it has worked well, even when my boss had to return to work in October. I am lucky that she herself insisted I work from home, and that we will keep the arrangement as long as we can for my safety and my son’s.

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The pandemic that claimed so many lives has actually made me take a harder look into how I’ve been keeping myself healthy. I walk my steps everyday now, and while the holidays has thrown a curve ball into my diet, I know that I’m on the right track. As one of the people considered “at risk” for being over 50 years of age, and one who has pre-existing conditions like asthma, everything that has happened has given me pause. You have to stop and think what needs to be done to keep yourself safe and healthy. The masks can only do so much, and your body can only take so much as well. This is one of the positive things that 2020 has given me.

I regret that I was not able to go home in 2020, and I honestly don’t see myself crossing the seas anytime soon. It just feels like it’s too much of a risk to put myself and my son in, and there is so much that it entails on both ends of the journey. I can force it if I wanted to, but I don’t. An audible sigh just escaped my lips, and my thoughts were interrupted for a second or two there.

Not being able to travel this year to see my Mom is actually the biggest loss I have felt as a result of the Covid pandemic. I know that this is almost insignificant compared to the lives lost, and the loved ones they left behind. I consider myself fortunate that this is all that I have to sigh about. We will be able to travel again. While I am not counting on this being anytime in the near future, I know it will happen, and I will get to see my family again. I can wait. For all the excitement the thought brings me, I shudder to think that I might be the one bringing them more harm than them doing the same to me, so I will wait. I tell myself: in time.

One thing that I did more of was talk to my mom via video calls — even just to say goodnight or good morning, and have her see that we are well here.

So much has changed in the way we live. I have had the chance to go to the city occasionally the past couple of months, and nothing is the same. So many businesses have shuttered their space for good. Many have lost their jobs. While there is still a stream of people and the occasional tourists (yes, they are still there..), there is such a pronounced thinning of the usual crowds.

I find myself fortunate to be in a state that enforces mask wearing inside establishments. A sign by the door will always greet you saying you cannot enter without a mask. New Yorkers, for the most part, have taken to wearing masks as part of their daily attire. You will still come across people who sometimes wear it below their nose or on their chin or not at all — but rarely. People will usually put it up on their faces when they see someone approaching. That, to me, is a matter of respect for others. It’s not all about what you think, or the discomfort of it all — it’s about being mindful of your neighbor. After the thousands of lives lost in the earlier part of the year when we experienced the worst of it in the big apple, New Yorkers have learned that prevention is key.

It wasn’t an easy lesson to learn. We experienced grocery shortages — and just recently, a second wave of the disappearing toilet paper and other essentials hit us, but things have settled back to a semblance of normal. Back in March, I felt the panic when I saw the meat section practically empty. My grocery delivery had shortages even of the most basic items like diet soda. I succumbed to my own version of hoarding but quickly let it go. If I had rice, cereal, snacks for my son and some canned goods in my pantry, I felt a sense of security. In the beginning, I did not venture out of the house except to get essentials every 3-4 weeks. I relied heavily on contactless delivery. Then we relaxed. When the fear of the virus settled and numbers in New York went down, we let go of the gloves and just kept a bottle of sanitizer in our pockets handy.

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I went from season to season with most of my usual wardrobe unworn. I went through my closet and realized I had more items than it could hold so I started to weed things out. I didn’t quite go the Kondo way, but I went by the simple rule of asking myself if an item was something I’d wear again. There is a second round in the offing. I also stopped shopping for clothes, save for the activewear I needed to go on my walks, and only because I really never had any. For the holidays, I bought one dress to wear. This winter was the year I was retiring some of my winter coats which had served me well the last four to five years. I was planning on sewing coats and buying one more, but all that has been put on hold. My winter coats are still here, and I have really not worn them outside.

I discovered an entire world of New Yorkers who are down on their luck and asking for the most basic necessities. I joined a Facebook group focused on New Yorkers and there was just such an overwhelming sense of need. I did my part and helped a handful — something I will write about separately. I shared this with my son to show him the reality of an existing problem that was magnified and made worse by the pandemic. But while the local government tried their best to continue to help despite the pandemic, there is only so much that they can do.

Free food is available for all New Yorkers. I remember walking past the school in my area which is the main distribution hub for meals for kids from 7:30-11am or so, and from 11-1:30pm for anyone at all who was hungry. The lines were long — partly because of social distancing — but people needed to eat. That was a jarring reality for me because I live in a predominantly middle class neighborhood. But people’s circumstances have changed and have been affected by the closure of schools. So I no longer found it surprising when I saw the state delivery of a crate of food good for a few days to one of the doorsteps during one of my walks. You even have the option for Kosher, Latino, or regular food. (There might be more, but those are the only ones I had heard of.).

Hotels in the city were turned into homeless shelters to prevent them from cross-contaminating one another in some of the communal dormitory type dwellings. It was that bad that even the Lucerne, one of the more upscale hotels in Manhattan, was turned into a men’s homeless shelter. It created quite a stir among local residents — dividing them sharply between those who were tolerant, and those who wanted the men moved elsewhere. Only in New York.

I think I did pretty okay in 2020. My days were busy with work most of the time, and they were long days, too, but I am not complaining. I work full time — with full benefits. My son has been doing remote learning this whole time, and I think he’s adjusted to it and has actually been doing well.

There were times during the year when I felt the stress of all that was taking place around me take its toll on my peace of mind. I resorted to meditating and lulling myself to sleep using sleep casts, and I continue to have difficulty sleeping sometimes. “Okay” did not mean not being affected — I just coped better than most and I think I managed to adjust to the demands of this whole “new normal” that we find ourselves in. I managed to work around the restrictions we faced — and found my work around. I talked to family and friends. I wrote in my journals. I wrote here.

I am grateful for that.

I managed to continue crafting through it all, working on my art journal. I started sewing masks feverishly but have stopped the last 6-8 weeks to focus on my jewelry making. I am getting ready to start sewing again, though.

I cooked and baked.. gained and lost the weight. I’ve tried to put a semblance of order to my supplies and crafting in general. It kept me sane and distracted. It got me here.

As we begin a new year, I am full of hope for a better one after the challenges that 2020 brought our way. I am cautiously optimistic — and still taking lots of caution in going out into the world beyond my doorstep. Whatever it is that 2020 brought our way, it is far from over. I am praying for continued good health, peace and love. I think I had a good measure of all of that in 2020 — just asking for a bit more for all of us in 2021.

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Summer walk in Central Park

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AA note from Pinay New Yorker: There are times when I want to write a post in a very detailed manner that it ends up languishing in my drafts folder for ages. There are times when they end up like this one, forgotten. Many months after that walk in my Central Park, I found this and just realized I never published it. Now well into winter, I have finally decided that I will hit the publish button finished or not. It’s my own ode to the summer of the pandemic here in New York City. (12.30.20)

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A couple of weeks ago when I braved returning to the city, I had the chance to do my daily walk in Central Park. This is a much delayed post, but before the summer is totally over, I wanted to share my walk around this favorite part of New York.

One of the things I have always tried to aim to accomplish in any given year is to visit Central Park all four seasons. I’m starting a bit late this time, having skipped spring, but I had the chance to explore and visit some of my favorite spots a couple of Saturdays ago. This isn’t exactly this previous weekend, but for this summer, this is my Central Park trek.

Central Park is a big patch of green in Manhattan that spans acres of land. I have yet to reach the upper fringes of the park, but have gone enough times to have my personal favorites. One place I hope to visit with Angelo one of these days is The Gill where he used to play among the rocks. Maybe one day one he is up for a picnic lunch and things are not as different as they are now.

For this particular day in the park, I had my goals set modestly to walk towards the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain. It’s deep enough into the park to be not that easily accessible from the outer perimeter, but close enough that you can go back the same way you came in from 59th street.

I chose it not only for its beauty and serenity, because it’s one of the more iconic spots here. I have beheld it several times before, and I knew from which vantage point to best take the pictures. In all honesty, the best time to visit the park is in the early fall when the leaves change colors, but the trees have not shed its leaves to prepare for winter.

I was ready with my mask, my disposable gloves in the pocket of my leggings, and a small pocket sanitizer tucked in the other pocket. The things you have to bring now that we are all social distancing and trying to be careful.

There were a lot of people in the park, but not quite as many as there used to be on a weekend. Even with the open space, I still try to avoid areas where there is just too big a mass of people breathing into the air that I might eventually breathe. So I walk in the opposite lane or detour six feet away from people.

Central Park Summer 2020
Gapstow Bridge

I always prefer to enter the park from the 59th streets perimeter where the Gapstow Bridge of Home Alone fame can be found. (The pond was dry as the setting was winter in the movie.). If you are ever in New York City and can only spare a few hours in Central Park, this is one of the best places to go to for pictures and to get a taste of our backyard here in the city. The pond itself offers several photo opportunities around it, and there are ducks and sometimes unusual birds that take a dip in the water, or who fly around the lush flora and fauna. The bridge itself is not very long but provides a view of the skyscrapers surrounding this side of the park, and sunsets and the evening lights provide a gorgeous reflection off the water if you are lucky enough to catch it.

Central Park Summer 2020

Looking Up

One thing I like about this part of the park is that it provides such a picture perfect view of the concrete jungle that Manhattan is, with the greenery of Central Park in the foreground. Depending on where you’re standing and what time of the day it is, sometimes you can get lucky and see a mirror reflection of the buildings around in the water in this pond. Not today for me.

If you are ever pressed for time and don’t have the leisure to go in deeper into the park, this iconic spot is representative of the beauty of Manhattan’s backyard.

This wasn’t a random walk. I knew where I wanted to head to. While I have another part of the park that is special to Angelo and I a little further on, my personal favorite part of this expanse is actually the Bethesda Terrace and Fountain seen below.

Central Park Summer 2020

It entails a bit of a walk from 59th street, but is a focal point of the lake that borders it, and will take you through another favorite portion here called The Mall. It is a stretch of walk bordered by elms on both sides, fenced in to help preserve its beauty. The benches that line the entire stretch of this wide walkway are an interesting bunch of names and dedications. One time, I actually found Jim Henson’s bench.

Central Park Summer 2020

When dusk sets in, the lamp posts on both sides are lit and a soft glow descends upon the corridor. You will find musicians and artists dotting the whole area. A staple of this particular patch is Jazz musician Ralph U. Williams, who has been there forever since I first walked this part of the park two decades ago. He is a fixture in the park through all four seasons, filling the air with his music . You can catch him on any given day, and enjoy his park concerts from the benches lining both sides of the mall. If you hear the smooth notes of a sax, it’s him. (I am trying to upload a 3-minute video of his performance which I shot while seated across the way from where he was playing. Rather than wait for that, though, I would like to see this post finally published.)

I found myself walking in circles the day I decided to do my 10,000 steps in Central Park. I actually ended up doing almost double that, but for all the extra steps and exhaustion, it was well worth exploring one of my favorite parts of New York City.

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It’s the penultimate day to the New Year, and I have double these pictures to share of that one day that I was able to roam Central Park freely — even if donning the required mask. I haven’t gone in the fall nor yet, this winter. I have always tried to make one year where I can visit all four seasons. Maybe 2021 is the magic year. For now, I write with the memories of this day I took to explore and just bask in the beauty of this huge patch of green in the concrete jungle that is Manhattan. In two days, it will be 2021, and if I can visit in the next couple of weeks, that makes for the first of the four seasons. Central Park will be there, waiting.

Chocolate and memories of holidays back home

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4APreface: The post below was created a week or so ago while trying to dictate my thoughts to my phone as I walked. I know I should’ve edited it sooner to retain the flow of thought, but it was Christmas week which was busy for everyone. I tried not to edit the actual content too much because I also wanted to see how I composed the post in this fashion.

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I always found myself composing blog posts in my head as I walked, forming sentences in my head. At least one blog post idea pops up, and then when I get home, I forget or I sometimes lose the motivation to write. I simply get overwhelmed by all the other things I need to do.

The last couple of days, I found myself inspired to write again. There are times I find myself unable to write for long periods of time which can get very frustrating when I look at what I have and have not written down. There is a sense of loss for the thoughts that didn’t find their way here.

So I’m trying to write more, even just short blurbs that I can expand later on. When I walk, I usually have music blasting in my ears from my phone. Lately, it’s been the music from the Netflix show Emily in Paris that has kept me company. I usually walk from an hour and 15 minutes to as long as two hours- depending on the combination of walking and jogging that I do.

Much to my surprise, I have managed to walk every single day for the last six months, and always at least 10,000 steps for the last 133 days as of December 26. That’s really a big accomplishment for someone like me who has never really exerted effort to exercise or do any physical activity in my entire life.

It’s really all about taking better care of myself given my age and my health history. Both my parents are diabetics. I remember when I used to be too lazy to even use my gym membership at work. These days, I can’t believe that there are days when I fear that the weather outside would prevent me from going on my walk. So yes, I have walked in the rain and not so much in the snow, but after a snow storm.

I have taken to walking in the evenings lately because work has been rather hectic the last couple of weeks. I actually like it better at night. I don’t have to worry about having to put on the sunblock. Vanity, I know. Secondly, there’s less people walking around or driving around. It doesn’t mean that there’s totally no one around, but there’s just less people traffic.

It’s the weekend before Christmas and I’m trying to get all my Christmas cards written, stamped and sent. I’ve done a whole lot better compared to last year. I was actually sending out Christmas cards on Christmas Day. This time, I had all my Christmas cards ready weeks ahead, but of course life and work took precedence. I had wanted to prepare some packages to send out to friends, but ended up postponing that.

I’ve always been very big on Christmas. It’s actually my favorite holiday. It’s not so much the giving of presents or the traditions that have embodied the holiday for me, but more because it signifies a new beginning. Christmas is the birth of Christ and like all births, symbolizes a fresh start. Personally, I find it a very joyous occasion. No matter what challenges I may be facing or may have faced in the months preceding it, Christmas is always a happy time.

It’s also one of the times that I miss home the most where it is twice as Christmasy than it is here in New York City.

Tsokolate

The other day, I made some hot chocolate from cocoa I had brought home from my last trip to Manila in 2019. Cooking the Christmas chocolate has always been a task my father used to be responsible for. I remember him requiring certain special butter to add to the mix, and he had a wooden mixer to make the tsokolate frothy and thicker. He would put the handle between his palms and shake it while submerged in the hot concoction. The chocolate always had to be a certain consistency with just the right amount of butter and evaporated milk added to it. This was a staple for the Christmas Eve feast, and in the Christmas morning breakfast we serve our guests the next day.

We’d usually have it with some sweet ham, sliced from a whole leg and that sharp Edam cheese. I close my eyes and I am there again. It was sweet and rich and just such a decadent drink of merry and joy.

I miss Papa. He has been gone years now, but every time I have some of this local cocoa, I am back with him again. It makes me pine for holidays in Manila with the rest of the family.

And those snapshots of christmases past run like a montage in my head as I walk, or when I catch a whiff of the tsokolate as I hold the cup up to my lips to take a sip.

“Me” Day on a Covid holiday

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI don’t get to go around much anymore, and everything has changed so much that things just don’t feel like they used to. Manhattan is still there but with a different “flavor”. Although I work there and used to be there five days a week, I only really got to explore and enjoy the city during those days I got to go around leisurely. Those would be the days I went in specifically to go around and do errands or take visiting friends or family to see the sights. Thursday was an errand: a doctor’s appointment.

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Like most others, I try to get the usual annual appointments done before the end of the year. I should really do better than that and try for earlier, but insurance will usually not take the appointment until after 12 months from the previous one. (It is supposed to be “annual”.). It went rather quickly with an hour’s wait only– I guess the ladies held their babies in and no one went into labor, so my gynecologist sauntered in pretty much on time. Hooray!

I wanted to get the steps in so I walked from 34th and Madison towards Bryant Park on Fifth and 42nd. It was a cold but beautiful day but I dressed for the weather and had my mask on. I was all set.

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The steps to the New York Public Library are usually full of people seated on them enjoying the sunshine. Famous for movies like “Sex In the City” (venue of Carrie Bradshaw’s non-wedding) and “The Day After” (where Toby McGuire and company holed up until they could be rescued). To me it was an early discovery way back when I had just arrived in New York in 2000. I would pass the time here between exploring the city and heading home. One day when they let us back in, I will write a post taking me back to that time. For now, no visit to this corner of Manhattan is complete without stopping by to take a picture.

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The rows upon rows of park tables and benches were mostly empty. Used to be abuzz with locals and tourists, any time of day. One would usually have to walk the length and breadth of the park to find an empty table, or wait for those seemingly about to finish their meal and scoot on over when they stood up to leave. Not this day. Or the previous or coming days.

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I am hoping they will put up a bigger Christmas tree like in previous years. This clump of regular sized Christmas trees are usually replaced at a later date with a beautiful Christmas tree, a mini version of the one in Rockefeller Center, although it’s not exactly a small tree. I wouldn’t be surprised, though, if this is all we get this year.

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To make way for social distancing, only a third of the shops were allowed to sell in this year’s winter village. My favorite cheese house wasn’t there, so I went for my other favorite: the Crepe Cafe. This is one of the original food outlets that has been here every year.

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I always order the Banana Nutella Almond crepe here, and this was lunch for the day. I found my space on the periphery by the 40th street side, sat down and took off my mask. There were only a handful of food outlets allowed to open, and the pop up indoor restaurant was not put up this time around.

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Sitting down and looking around, Bryant Park felt more like a Sunday than the Thursday it usually was. People were walking around and there was a smattering of others trying to enjoy lunch like I was doing, but a very thin crowd it was. But I enjoyed the quiet.. and just taking in a beautiful day enjoying a favorite treat.

So much has changed in our lives since the pandemic began. Any semblance of normalcy is a breath of fresh air in our now masked existence. Literally. I have actually gotten used to going around with a mask, being that I actually do my usual hour and a half walk/jog with a mask on.

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The children’s carousel was still there. At least the kids still get to have their fun, even if at half capacity. When the weather gets too cold, this beauty will be shrouded and covered until things warm up again.

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The rink is alive with a six foot barrier to keep those watching on the sidelines safely distanced from the railing that some of the skaters hang on to. There are still tables and chairs around the rink, but socially distanced.

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The temperatures have held to decent “cold” and we really haven’t had snow yet, so my favorite Josephine Shaw Lowell Memorial Fountain is staying pretty without a load of ice just yet. Truth is, it’s quite a sight when you see it laden with ice and still flowing. They cannot shut the pipes or it might burst, so they keep it flowing even in the cold of winter.

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We’re all trying our best to cope. The Bryant Park Cafe run by Bryant Park Grill has put up these dining huts and the park has a few available for groups like the one on the right. (not sure that’s the proper term). For the ones provided by the park, a notice is put up after the space has been sanitized. It’s just sad that the Governor has just shut down indoor dining and outdoor dining might follow next. At the very least, it is good to know that there is this option.

I walked uptown to view the Rockefeller Center but I will save that post for a possible part II of this post.. before I headed back to my bus stop, I had to decide which treat I would go home with. The line to Angelina Paris NYC was too long and I just didn’t feel like taking the chance even when social distancing. So I opted to grab some of my other happy food over at Magnolia Bakery.

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I miss those days when I could just walk down from my perch at work and grab a cup from the branch in the Grand Central food court. I went to the one on Sixth Avenue. These days, the lines that used to snake around the corner are no longer there, but they are still making their special cupcakes, cakes, cookies and yes, their heavenly banana pudding. I walked in before leaving the Rockefeller Center and found that they now have the banana pudding by the cashier. I was lucky to grab some red velvet banana pudding (a specialty flavor), and a second tub of their old time original. (Calories be damned! Lol)

I did the rest of my errands — stopped by Whole Foods near 42nd Street to grab some steaks and ground beef for my big guy, and headed home. Like always, it was nice to be able to spend an afternoon in a leisurely fashion for some “me” time. It’s a different kind of Manhattan now– and a different way of going about the things we had gotten used to before the pandemic broke out. While things have improved from the second quarter when everything shut down, we are far from normal.

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The threat of things going from bad to worse is hanging over our heads at the moment. It makes it all the more imperative to enjoy life while we can– without forgetting the new limitations and requirements of being socially responsible while we do it. (Masks on, please..). Life goes on, indeed. Even if not in the same way we used to go about it.

A different kind of holiday season

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4ADecember has always been my favorite time of the year — no matter where I am, and even if memories of Christmases in Manila make me miss home all the more. Christmas in New York is a little less festive because we don’t all do Christmas– depending on one’s faith, it might be a Hanukkah .. or Kwanza..

Last Thursday, I was in the city for a doctor’s appointment and I decided I would go around and visit the usual places which were the festive manifestations of the holiday. This year, the lions adorning the front of the New York Public Library, Patience and Fortitude, have their customary Christmas wreaths, but are now masked.

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I wanted to check out the shops at the winter village in Bryant Park behind the library and found out that only a third of the usual number of stores and food outlets have been given space to allow for social distancing.

This side of the park right behind the library used to have two rows of shops facing each other but now have been left empty.

No booths on this side of Bryant Park this year

The seasonal restaurant is not up this year, and the skating rink facilities are all outdoor so there is no longer any enclosed waiting/changing station. What few shops that set up still bring us the holiday spirit, but it isn’t quite as festive as years past.

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The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree is now cordoned off and the nearest you can get is at least 10 feet away through a directional path, where security personnel and denominated circles on the ground let you make your way closer to the tree.

The crowds were visibly thinner and there was a horde of security and police present.

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Even going through the main walkway where the angels with their trumpets blaring lead you towards the front view, allowing you to see the tree with the statue of a Prometheus under it as the skaters glide on the rink are now controlled and directed. Which is good given the current state we are in.

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The usual decorations have sprouted up again but the crowds aren’t there. Although that makes taking pictures a whole lot easier, a visibly thinner audience around all this display of the holidays makes it less festive than we have been used to. But that is life now as we know it.

In a state of siege

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AIt’s Sunday and I’ve done half my step quota for the day, walking/jogging on my way to pick up a 5lb tub of peanut butter. (That’s another post altogether..). I gave myself the luxury of sleeping in this morning, in large part due to waiting up for the 16 year old who went to a friend’s house to watch the boxing match last night. I thought I’d pick up brunch at the Paris Baguette along the way and sit and just enjoy a moment of quiet.

I needed a “me moment” because I know this coming week will be busy at work. I picked up my treats, went to sit at what appeared to be a safely distanced table in the dining area and picked up my phone to read. It was a choice between the New York Times app and my email prompts regarding new reads from fellow bloggers who are among a handful I follow. I chose the latter.

I’ve always enjoyed visiting other blogs when I get the chance — it’s like a silent and extended conversation in my mind. It’s a source of inspiration and helps me to ground my thinking in general. These are the thoughts of people who actually find the same release I do in putting my words down into a corner of the web. I know how it feels — I can relate. I only wish I could do it more often. Alas, there are not enough hours in a day.. and there are a dozen things I wish I could do more regularly but have no time.

I read Island Traveler’s post where he asks the question: What Happens if U.S. Run Out of Hospital Beds and Medical Staff by Christmas? For the first time in a long time, I read a blog post from start to finish, actually tried to leave a comment but somehow didn’t make it through, and was moved enough to write about it here in my corner of the web.

Island Traveler is a blog by a fellow Filipino who had stumbled into me and thus started one of those silent conversations. He is a health care worker on the other side of the country. He has enthralled me with his photography and very profound photo essays. This time, though, he moved me just as another denizen of this great United States of America which, like most of the world, is currently in crisis because of the pandemic.

I felt a need to reply in a longer fashion here because I feel what he is saying. Literally.

Earlier during the infancy of this crisis, New York was the epicenter of fear, panic and death. We froze with the realization that we were being overwhelmed by a force that we had to race against. We applauded our front liners who faced the crisis head on. We appealed for federal assistance and help from the medical professionals from other states and they came. We all came together as a community to grieve the dead who had to be kept in refrigerated vans, with funeral homes backed up.

I watched the news almost the whole time I was awake, as I saw families with medical professionals going into their houses through windows and the basement or garage, and sacrificing not hugging or kissing their children for days on end, afraid they would bring home the virus to them. There were lots of tears for the patients who were dying faster than they could be attended to, and tears of fear for the scarce personal protective equipment they needed. There was burnout and frustration. There still is.

While life is anything BUT normal these days, we managed to get a hold of the situation. The ambulances that came to our aid with their first responders have gone home. The nurses and doctors who volunteered their time and expertise have since returned to their states– and are now battling the virus there. The behemoth Javits Center which was converted into a hospital was hardly even used– but we braced for the surge. It came– just not in the magnitude we were warned it would, because people listened out of fear.

Work and school shifted to home. We learned to plan our resources to cope with disappearing items from the grocery shelves. And while the virus hasn’t totally disappeared from New York, we lived and continue to live with the shadow of the pandemic hanging over our heads. Which is why I find it sad and worrying that many parts of the country continue to be in denial of the dangers of the novel Corona virus.

There was a very striking news interview a couple of days ago of a hospital worker who was in tears, relaying that even in their deathbed, some of those afflicted didn’t believe the Corona virus was real.

There are many who are still raging against the restrictions imposed by states that are now buckling under the pressure of dealing with this crisis. They equate the mandate to wear a mask as an impingement on their personal freedom. I say you wear a mask out of a need for personal protection and as a manifestation of respect for others.

The numbers have not started going down for the country. We are already being warned as a nation that a second wave is coming. That warning is really for places like New York where there was an upsurge and then a decline– but not a total eradication of the problem. The truth of it is, many places continue to be in crisis– where patients are overwhelming the system. What second wave? They are still in the thick of the onslaught of this unseen killer. Even outside the United States, other countries are beginning to feel the effects of an echo of the crisis.

We are a world under siege. And despite the promise of a vaccine or improved cures in the horizon, thousands are continuing to be afflicted and are dying every day. As individuals, we have to come to terms with the reality that although we may be unaffected, many others are not. Whether or not we know someone who has died of the disease, there are many others who are affected by it in their day to day lives.

We’ve had some scares but have managed to steer clear of getting sick ourselves. Negative tests are not a guarantee of safety, and are not a reason to relax our guard. As a non-medical worker or other frontline participant, I feel it’s my responsibility to help ease the burden by doing my part in trying to stay healthy. As we all should.

I say do more than applaud them.. show your respect by doing your part. Even just wearing your mask will help, no matter how inconsequential you might think it to be.

Autumn In New York

Getting back into the swing of things

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AIt’s been ages since I was here.. I know. My bad. Life has totally taken me over (favorite excuse).. and yes, we are still far from normal.

While a very small percentage of people at work returned to the office, including my boss, I continue to work from home. I was fortunate that she insisted the commute to and from work was not worth the risk, plus there was the boy who I opted to do full remote learning for. I just gave her the option to call me in if the need ever arose. The numbers are rising again, and while we had hoped to inch our way towards “normal” in the weeks to come, there is a threat of another lockdown or shutdown or shelter in place hanging over our heads. So much for returning to normal.

The truth is, I had sort of resigned myself to the fact that this is now our new normal. Masks every time we go out. Social distancing. Washing hands the minute we get home. Having a container of hand sanitizer in our pockets all the time. No more shaking hands or hugging. Being careful what we touch and how we touch things.

I just wrote the second half of this post and it just disappeared on me with a stroke of my finger. When things like that happen, I attribute it to the simple conclusion that whatever I had written wasn’t meant to be published. I can try again, but it’s late.

New York City schools just announced that everyone will do remote learning beginning tomorrow due to the rising numbers in positive cases. I’m not really affected because my son has been fully remote from the start of the school year. The long commute and the transfer it would take was too much of a worry in terms of the possibility of exposure to the virus, so he has been learning remotely. I’m lucky that at 16, I can easily leave him at home if I were forced to return to work. But I am even luckier that I don’t have to and I continue to work from home. Working parents of younger kids are not as flexible because there would be the issue of childcare while they try to put food on the table.

Another day ended in the time of Corona..

Autumn in New York