Return to school dilemma

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4ALabor day falls on the 7th of September this year. In years past, this would signal the beginning of the school year a few days after and came with a lot of excitement about school supplies, new schedules, outfits, etc. This year, there isn’t as much excitement as there is anxiety — more so on my part.

My soon-to-be junior in high school had picked a school which was quite a trek from where we live. It meant going into the city via Express Bus like I do, then a one stop subway ride and a 6 minute walk from the subway to school. All in all, if there was no traffic, he could make it to school in under an hour. He would take the subway and the local bus on the way home because the Express bus took longer, and meant catching his ride based on a schedule. We had gotten used to this the last two years.

When New York sheltered in place, we switched to remote learning. I gave the school some slack given the sudden adjustment from in-classroom learning to virtual, which, I can imagine, was quite the challenge to the faculty. It wasn’t a huge student population, but it also meant there was limited faculty presence. We made do with the system, and I tried to monitor his progress through the remainder of the school year. Although he did very well during this time, I couldn’t help but feel he was missing out on much of what should’ve been learned had there be in person instruction instead. But what can we do given the pandemic?

Over the summer, the school administration kept in touch and came up with a novel proposal regarding the return to school come fall. The Department of Education had given several models to follow and choose from, depending on the size of the school population and the physical space available that would accommodate social distancing. Add to that the optimum distribution of faculty between in-person and remote learning. We had two options essentially: one was to be fully remote, and the other, to do blended learning. The latter meant that he would spend part of the time in school, doing in person learning and part of the time, remotely.

The principal of my son’s school took great pains to explain what they thought was the best solution, given the above factors. “Blended learning” would have to be a half day in school every two weeks. That meant that for 9.5 days of the 10 day two week cycle, the students would be remote. This would enable the faculty to focus equally on the 7 students who would actually be physically present in the classroom at any given time, and the rest of the student body doing remote learning. That seemed like quite a lopsided proposition at first, but after it was explained that 10 of the 30 or so faculty would actually qualify to teach remote due to pre-existing conditions, etc., it didn’t make sense to force any of the other proposed models. If we were to follow the DOE directive, it looked like our school would fall into the twice a week weekly, with a third day in school every other week model. It was confusing for most parents — and there was an uproar and some really bewildered people on the ” virtual townhall” I participated in. There was just no way to make it simple enough for everyone to understand. But I found the school’s proposal acceptable.

It’s bad enough that I have to worry about his commute. Everyone knows that classrooms are breeding grounds for infectious diseases among the younger generation. – pandemic or not. Masks all day? I wouldn’t trust my boy to do that unless I was watching. Sanitizers? Okay, maybe that one, I can trust him to do. Even at home, he has always taken to washing his hands often.

So we signed a petition to the Department of Education, endorsing the proposal of the school. And then we were turned down.

Last week, the principal announced that we would do the 2 days one week and 3 days the next week model. It was also revealed that 55% of the students had opted for remote learning. The boy chimed in that most of his classmates who opted to return to school either lived close by or were coming in because of the free meals.

I didn’t need much convincing to switch sides and opt for fully remote learning. I called the boy’s father and had a discussion and we agreed.

As a parent, I have tried my best to protect him during this time of social distancing and COVID worries. I was rooting for the school’s proposal because I wouldn’t have had any problems spending for Uber both ways for that once-biweekly class. But to have him commuting in what is a usually tighter than tight route even just by one stop was a cause of anxiety.

He and I have been lucky to have been untouched (so far) by COVID. There was a false alarm earlier in the summer when his father got sick but tested negative, and then tested positive for antibodies. Thankfully, the boy tested negative.

I have been trying to limit his social interaction with his friends, while acknowledging that I cannot totally keep him locked up at home. He has a small group of friends he sees once a week, with a strict rule of staying outdoors and not going into anybody’s house. We are lucky to be surrounded by lots of open space courts and playgrounds, along with an abundance of parks and greenery. Most homes like ours have courtyards or backyards to practice social distancing in. But school would’ve been totally different matter.

I cannot say I was torn between prioritizing his education over his safety. This was a no-brainer for me. His safety was of primary concern. During this time when it seems like so much has changed and uncertainty continues to permeate our everyday lives, there is very little that we have retained control over. And this one, I could steer one way or the other.

It’s one of the big sacrifices that the pandemic has imposed upon us as parents — while I would want school to go back to normal, I know that even having him there physically doesn’t mean he will receive normal instruction. Teachers would also be wearing masks . Interaction would be limited. Half their time would be consumed by work geared towards the students who aren’t physically with them. It is a test of wills on both ends.

Just today, New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio announced that school opening will be delayed 10 days to September 21. Apparently, the teachers and principals are up in arms, threatening a strike as they are apprehensive about their safety and the ability of the government to help protect them in the current scenario. Many of our educators also feel that they aren’t prepared to head into the blended learning scenarios and fully remote learning option that many children and their families have taken. I can relate. Unlike the children they will teach, the opening of school will mean they will have to be in every day. The cadence of school attendance was offered to the students — but not to the teachers.

Many working parents have been thrown in a bind due to this postponement of the school opening, particularly those who were relying on a semblance of normalcy with the kids off to school. Some companies have actually slowly started going back to work, although many companies have declared they would return next year. Still, parents who don’t have the option to work from home or stay at home are now caught between a rock and a hard place.

I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to work from home all this time. I will not complain about the difficulty of doing what I had been used to doing in the office in my dining room. I am fully connected. Most importantly, I am continuing to work full time. We will eventually return to work, and while that is a source of mild anxiety, it is something I can prepare myself for both mentally and physically.

We all have to make adjustments. While I believe I am getting the short end of the stick with the option of keeping my boy home to learn remotely or sending him out into a Covid-ridden world on his own to go back to school, I will take the lesser of two evils. I have my own anxiety about the fall and all the things that go with it in this new normal. I had always lived by the tenet that although there is much that we cannot control, we must be firm about those that we have a handle on.

I am hopeful that there will come a time — hopefully soon — when our kids will be able to go back to school and actually learn in a classroom setting. I just know that we aren’t quite there yet, so for now, I choose to keep him at home. We will just have to make the most of it.

I have missed you, Manhattan

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI remember the last time I was in Manhattan after our company ordered everyone to work from home. Someone I considered a daughter was visiting from Manila, and although we couldn’t go around, we agreed to meet at the apartment where she was staying to spend time catching up. That was in Mid-March, and I braved the city choosing to ride Uber going in and out. The city that never sleeps was practically quiet, with only a smattering of people here and there. Traffic was light.. most stores were closed.

I finally returned to Manhattan last Friday, and although the vibe is nowhere near what it used to be, it was a better cadence and more people were out and about.
Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.Traffic wasn’t as light as the last time I was here, but it wasn’t as busy as I was used to. Most people going about their business were wearing a face covering. Masks, after all, have been mandated all over.

Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.

It felt different. It was almost like there was an eerie whisper in a place that was always buzzing with life. I passed my building and wonder how it is over there now — yet I wasn’t curious enough to venture that way. It can wait. We are, after all, still officially working from home, so much so that I have indicated that in my voicemail. We don’t know yet when we will return to the office, but I am not excited by that thought.

Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.

I feel grateful to be able to work from home, spared from having to deal with the anxiety and stress of commuting. Or of being in an enclosed space with others — and that was never even a thought before we were all overtaken by the virus. Not that I wish this to be permanent, but I know that I am not quite ready to go back yet.

Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.Even Times Square which would usually be teeming with people all hours of the day was somber and quiet. The lights were still on like they always have been, but the place seemed to have been sucked of life with the absence of the people of all races and colors walking its streets.

Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.

It’s so deceiving how the skies are blue and everything looks sunny and bright — and yet there is a pervading sense of gloom in the streets as many stores are shuttered, and there is a pronounced thinning of the usual street crowds. Restaurants are still not allowed to do indoor dining. Some stores have signs on their doors saying that they have decided to close their shop/restaurant indefinitely. And there are the boarded up windows on the storefronts that fell victim to the looting of several weeks ago.

It feels as though the city is in a state of limbo. As if everything is suspended.
Missed you, Manhattan! First time back in three moths.Even my beloved Bryant Park wasn’t the same. It felt like a weekend morning when it was actually late in the day and a Friday. There were paths specified in the park and various signs around.

I terribly miss how the city used to be. But I missed it plain and simple that even in the midst of all that is different now, I was grateful to be back even if only for a short while.

The Whole Foods across from the park was closed. There was a sign saying this branch serviced online orders only and it appeared that this was their distribution center. Most fast food stores were open only for take out or delivery. The offerings were limited. My favorite Maison Kayser had signs that they have decided to close their stores temporarily. The hours were severely shortened. Most stores that were usually open even on weekends were now closed on Saturdays and Sundays. Most of the stores screamed “We’re Open” in signs, both handmade and professionally produced, just to distinguish themselves from the other empty stores that were everywhere.

I could actually feel the city moaning in pain. But what could I do. Like the city that never sleeps that now seems to be bedridden and chained down with limited movement, I’m just riding the pandemic out.

I don’t want to hasten a guess as to which stores will be around when this is all over. The prognosis is not good. The business landscape of the rows and rows of stores here in the city will certainly change in big, bold strokes when we return.

It is a sobering reminder that nothing is permanent. Even the greatest city in the world can be cowed into submission. What I know is that no matter how bad things get, this city will overcome. We’ve done it countless times before. In the gloom and doom and the sense of loss of 9/11, or the pain that became manifest in many stores succumbing to bankruptcy in the economic downturn of 2008 — and even now, we have come back.

It may be a slow one, but we are getting back up on our feet again, come what may.

Wildflowers

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI’ve always taken pride in paying attention to the ordinary. From a very young age, I was trained to appreciate the simple things. I think it’s important for us to never lose our childlike sense of wonder. It keeps us hopeful and optimistic. It helps us see the light instead of the darkness. Much like the glass being half full rather than half empty.

The eternal optimist, that’s who I am.

During these walks I’ve taken the last 3 weeks, I’ve opened my eyes to the wonders around, tucked between the weeds that have crept upon the growth in the forest, or in the cracks in the concrete pavement. What colors — if we will only stop and pay attention to nature’s canvas.

I used to always think about doing this — just walking around to stretch my legs, or to try and get some exercise in. I never really got to until after weeks and weeks of being cooped up indoors. I can’t believe that I’ve been doing this for longer and longer stretches of time. And I’ve taken to paying more attention to the things I walk past each time.

Wildflowers
Sometimes they call out to us as a patch of color, but what strikes me more are the singular stems that stand out from the drab green, or the cracks in the sidewalk. Wildflowers here range in color from pastels like purple and the starker fuschia pink ones like this one I saw just this morning.

I just had to stop and take a shot. I’m sure the man walking around 200 paces behind me must’ve been baffled why I stopped in my tracks. It would’ve thrown off the distance we were trying to keep between us.

Wildflowers

And there are the usual blooms that we see everywhere, popping up from the ground in batches, just nonchalantly standing their ground and ignoring the rest of the world. If you look closely enough, you’ll see how nature has put them together in such an intricate fashion.

Wildflowers
More often than not, we gloss over their existence. To many, they are a nuisance ruining the monotony of the pavement where the earth gave in and a crack let them through. But such bright colors wave to us. Again, if you look closer, you’ll see how beautiful they are by themselves, or as a bunch on the ground we walk on.
Wildflowers

They’re springing up all over these days as we get deep into summer. I’m trying to catch them before they wilt away and the green gives in to the glorious colors of fall. I love fall for the tapestry of leaves and the changing colors of the season, but autumn signals the disappearance of these beauties, both wild and nurtured in the gardens around. We have to enjoy them while we can.

Wildflowers

See how intricate those spines around the berry-like center are? I cannot wait to see what springs forth from this bloom. I hope I see it tomorrow or the next day I walk past it again. I’ve made it a habit to look around with each pass, and stop the next time I go past it. It’s almost 400 steps around the entire quadrangle, and I usually try to keep pace with those who are ahead of me. Sometimes, I get lucky and I get to enjoy the space and have the place all to myself. I like walking here because there’s usually no more than 4 others who make sure we walk with ample space apart.

Wildflowers

This week has been such a visual delight. It seems that every day, there is a new bloom that pops up to surprise me. Even along the highway as I walk on the last leg of my morning ritual, visual delights like these little wonders abound.

I admire them from a distance and leave them be. I want to have them there, serving as a backdrop to my feeble attempts at exercising. They bring color to the toil of walking in the summer heat, and they bring a smile to my face.

There are so many things we should be grateful for. Little things that we should not take for granted. We should stop and take notice before they fade away and another season creeps up on us.

Tomorrow as I walk again, these little beauties give me something to look forward to. I will look at them with childlike wonder and hope they stay just a little bit longer. I can’t wait to see another surprise that will stand out from the rest. Some new wonder growing out of the ordinary, here in the wild.

I walk

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AMost mornings, the alarm on my phone wakes me up — but half those mornings see me waking up before the alarm rings. It’s the sun peeking into my darkened shades and which somehow triggers a switch in my brain that tells me it’s daylight and I need to get up. Still, I will usually look at the two morning news briefings I’ve subscribed to and read up on what happened around the world the six hours that I slept. Sometimes I just lay in bed for up to an hour before I convince my limbs to carry me off. Or sometimes my bladder wins and reminds the rest of my 54-year-old body that nature is calling. Such is my wake up routine.

I walk into the bathroom and wash my eyes.. I put on a special moisturizer, remembering age makes it imperative that I take better care of my skin. Then I weigh myself. A morning routine that can either be good news or bad news. Then I put on sunblock and change to my walking attire, brush my teeth and drink at a least a tall glass of water to hydrate. I put sunscreen on my face. Even before the pandemic, putting on a good facial sunscreen was part of my make up routine. You tend to take these things for granted in your youth, but hitting certain milestones remind you that taking care of one’s self takes more effort as the years go by.

I begin my exercise routine with a mini workout on the floor I picked up from Pinterest, of all places. I’m trying to work out my abdominal muscles with my pooch being a main problem area. That’s been a good warm up for me, too. After that, I fold my yoga mat and get ready to walk out.

Three weeks now, I’ve been walking every morning, or whenever I get the chance to, racking up not quite anything close to the 10,000 step goal, but still chalking up enough to make it back home sweating and feeling I did something good for myself. This is the first time in all my life that I have exerted effort for a healthier me out of my own efforts on a daily basis. I have even invested in a pair of running sneakers, although all I really do is walk.

I carry a pair of gloves — just in case I need to stop by the grocery or other store along the way, and a small container of hand sanitizer. I pick the mask of the day, put on my headphones (the airpods kept falling, so I have decided to go back to the wired ones), and I walk out.I walk

Often, I carry out something to throw in the garbage disposal. Bottles, cans and paper for recycling, or the trash when the bin is full. Then I choose a route to take. Going on three weeks now, I’ve sort of figured out the best routes to hit my minimum 5,000 steps.

I had taken to avoiding the park — being that I’ve encountered far too many like minded souls walking and jogging the paths, but without a mask. It was a lovely idea at the start, but I have come to realize that social distancing was more problematic because more people were there, and I really could do without the aggravation of walking past or after someone who felt that open air spaces meant a reprieve from the new normal of wearing a face covering. No thank you.

I walk I walk the streets around my neighborhood which are mostly empty. When I spy someone walking my way from afar, I calculate when to walk to the other side of the road or yield the sidewalk so that we can walk past each other with a minimum 6 feet apart. I also relish the empty sidewalks when I can lower my mask when no one is in sight. I pull it up when still a good distance from another who is walking towards me, not just as a precaution, but more as a sign of respect. Wearing a face covering these days is the new way to be courteous and kind.

I am aware how many steps approximately there are around the paths, so much so that I know 6-8 rounds of the field behind my son’s old elementary school will get me well past half my goal. I know when to start heading to the other side of the highway if I want to pick up a nitro cold brew from the neighborhood Starbucks, or if I need to pick up something in the grocery.

I like this new routine. Walking affords me a chance to be alone — and do something for myself. I usually listen to an audio book or a podcast. I listen to my breathing as I walk briskly — feeling the morning breeze on my face. I check my steps. I don’t just walk, I walk towards a goal. And yet it’s a means for me to unwind and relax, despite the exertion.I walk

I’ve explored my neighborhood like never before, going deep into a hiking trail in a mini-forest just blocks away from where I live. I’ve walked to places where I never would’ve gotten to without being driven there. The sense of adventure and exploration envigorates me. That’s something I really need after all this time that we’ve been cooped up because of the threat of the corona virus. Were it not for the prevailing scare, I’d be in the park walking with everyone else. But the virus has forced me to seek paths and trails where I can be alone.

Even as I walk my rounds around the field in my son’s former school, I worry that walking too closely behind someone might cause me to breathe in the air they expel. Paranoid of me, I know. But I take precautions.

I like walking. I like that I’ve somehow mustered the discipline to do it and keep on doing it this long. I’m already starting to worry about the winter months when this might be too difficult, or when we eventually find ourselves back at work when I wouldn’t have the luxury of doing this before logging on at 9am. I do have a gym membership at work — maybe I will find the time to do it.

I want to keep going and doing this — and hopefully, one day graduate to a jog. It might sound lame for a lot of people who are used to running or jogging as a form of exercise, but just getting myself out there is a feat at this point. More than anything else, I’m doing this for me, myself and I.

All the baking and cooking the last couple of months have caused me to gain 10 lbs above my weight pre-pandemic, and I’ve lost 6 of those 10. I’m hoping I can even lose more than what I gained, since I was overweight already even before the lockdown. The diet has helped a lot, but I know the walking has helped more.

I am one of those people who didn’t really give a care about exercising.. But the pandemic and the sheltering in place has forced me to look at ways and means to take care of myself, both physically and mentally. Now I know what it means to actually go out there and just let your feet take you where they will, and let your mind wander.

Here’s to more steps walked in the weeks to come.. as I work on getting to a better version of myself. Here’s to a healthier me.

No littering please

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AWhen the sheltering in place order first came down, I was fortunate to have been given N-95 masks for my son and I by a friend. I eventually lost it (my bad) — but I’ve made my own masks since.

That’s a project that’s still ongoing. From the choice of patterns, the appropriate fabric, the layers, and the elastic and nose wire, it’s an experiment that I’m still working on with each mask I try every day.

I have been using disposable gloves, though, making sure to tuck one or two into my purse or pocket, each time I leave the house. These days, I mostly leave the house to do my daily walk — taking me all around the neighborhood. I have tried very hard to limit my venturing out of the house to doing only what’s necessary. When I do, I grab my mask, a pocket sanitizer, and as little a purse as I can carry. I usually just walk out with my phone in my hand. My phone case has a back pocket where I can slip some cash and a card into. Plus, there’s Applepay anyway.

When I enter a store where I know I will need to touch something, I put on a disposable pair of gloves or just wear one on one hand, and then I throw away the glove upon leaving the establishment, but making sure I throw them in the trash.

With more and more people using these personal protection equipment or PPE, proper disposal is something we need to be mindful of.

I have been rather surprised and disappointed to see disposable masks and gloves littering the streets. It is disheartening.

No littering

With masks and gloves being part of the new normal, it’s alarming how these can eventually pile up and overwhelm us and become a problem. Not only are they unsightly, but these can clog drains and cause a host of environmental problems.

No litteringI realize that many people choose to discard them before entering their homes, or upon leaving establishments where they are required because of an increase of tactile incidence. You touch more, you expose yourself to higher chances of infection. If you know you will be wearing or carrying disposable gloves, I think it would be wise to consider their disposal once you are done using them.

What to do:

Carry a disposable trash receptacle like a used plastic bag. You can slip your used mask or gloves in them and dispose of them when you find a trash can.

Walk to the trash bin and take off your mask and/or gloves before you enter your car. Don’t throw them out the window.

Consider using reusable and washable masks. Most clothing brands and department stores now carry them. And in the long run, using something that you can wash and reuse later is more economical than using purely disposable ones.

Take off your gloves and invert them as you take them off and tuck them in your pocket until you can dispose of it. That way, that portion of the gloves that touched surfaces and items as you went about your day will not touch your hand again.

Let’s be careful about disposing of these items. They’re going to be part of a new habit, hopefully, to stem the spread of corona — so let’s start getting used to being responsible in using them.

Fourth of July in the time of Corona

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AThe Fourth of July holiday is one of the most celebrated holidays across religions and states and ethnic and moral persuasions in the US. We literally stop everyday life preparing for and celebrating freedom. It is an excuse to party and go on vacation and just have a good time. Not this year.

With most of the country seeing a surge in cases and deaths, there is not much to celebrate. Here in New York, I’d like to think we’ve been through the worst of it, but I say that with a bit of trepidation knowing the heavy hand of a resurgence can hit us anytime.

After months of working from home, I’ve learned to ease up and start working towards “normalizing”. But what exactly is that during this time when we are living life in such a different atmosphere?

For the first time in many years, the Macy’s Fourth of July Fireworks display was cancelled. Many New Yorkers, and many Americans in general, contented themselves with local fireworks displays from home or the neighborhood. Nothing quite like the fireworks show of New Year’s Eve back in the Philippines, but loud and celebratory in a different kind of way. It was like America was saying we will celebrate freedom, corona virus or no corona virus — but know we cannot celebrate like we used to.

The subject of Freedom itself is being stretched in all directions in recent months. It’s like a renewed consciousness among a very diverse people who are reacquainting themselves with the notions of race and authority — in very varied ways. I will not get into that here. It is still a very raw subject matter, and I don’t feel I am in a place where I can discuss this for now. In time.

We in New York still feel the threat of the virus very strongly. And I am grateful for that, because I know we’re moving towards getting back to a semblance of normalcy, but with an abundance of caution. I am grateful to be given the option to work from home. I am also grateful that wearing masks is now mandated by stores and other establishments. It has sunk into our consciousness as part of the social norm. If you don’t wear a mask, you risk the ire of other New Yorkers who do, and you will be denied entry into all establishments that require it. That makes it more acceptable to go out and live everyday with less fear, but not without it.

I think fear is a good thing. It makes us take that extra step to ensure that we do not unduly expose ourselves to the risk of infection. The virus is very real and still ravaging parts of the country and the world as a whole. It has penetrated our every day lives in such a pervasive way, that we are rethinking how we go about business and life, in general, with sweeping strokes.

On Friday, my sixteen year old son asked permission to join a group of friends for a Fourth of July gathering where they had fireworks. It was in the neighborhood, and he asked for a just a few hours. My first impulse was to say no. But we have had to be cooped up the last couple of weeks, and I know he wants to see his friends. I have allowed him to go biking or play hoops with a small group of 3 friends from way back. I have instructed him not to go into anyone’s house, and to be sure he wears his mask. All of this is on an honor system, and I’ve reinforced the fact that he has to abide by the rules.

My ex husband has even driven him to a park to meet with three classmates from high school, giving them a few hours to hang out and then driving him back home.

As summer has arrived, my ex and I have agreed to limit these social interactions to one a week. So back to the party.

I immediately communicated my reservations to the ex, but also told him I don’t really want to have my son feeling like he was being deprived of the opportunity to enjoy the summer. With reservations, I told his Dad that maybe we should consider it. My son had name-dropped one of his childhood friends who was going, and I thought I would speak with the mom, whom I knew, just to set parameters. But I didn’t know the host.

I woke up the next morning with a very heavy heart and a resolve to not allow the boy to go. How can you maintain social distancing in a Fourth of July party? It was in a home, not in the park. Parties and such gatherings have been known to become breeding grounds for super spreading, which has led to many infections in other places. I just wasn’t ready to take the chance.

Fortunately for me, the ex felt the same way. For all our differences, parenting is one of the things we still usually agreed upon. We decided not to let him go.

Breaking the news to the boy wasn’t as easy, as he immediately responded with an emotional “Why?”. I tried to explain my reservations, and told him his father and I had agreed with no argument. We felt strongly about it and it wasn’t a risk we were willing to take. These are unusual times. On anormal Fourth of July, we would not think twice about letting him go, but we are far from normal.

He made no pains to hide the fact that he was deeply disappointed. But that was that.

I don’t want to be part of the problem — many people have gathered and broken social distancing rules. It makes me feel frustrated about the fact that relaxing the social distancing norms seem to be so widespread among those who feel they can, because they are being careful. In my mind, no matter how careful you may think you are being, the fact that you are increasing your exposure to infection is diluting your caution.

I still feel uneasy when I encounter people who aren’t wearing a mask, as I walk past them wearing mine. I have resorted to finding alternative walking routes with less traffic, giving up the path in the park during popular times when many joggers and other visitors forego the required mask. I know it’s an open air environment, but that does not mean the absence of the possibility of infection.

The local grocery requires masks and gloves now, and I felt bad that I went in earlier after my walk without the gloves. (Reminder to self: shove a pair in my pockets tomorrow.). I do walk with a small bottle of sanitizer which I either tuck in my leggings pocket or hold with my phone during my usual walk about. Signs are plastered to maintain distancing. Even the neighborhood bagel shops had social distancing in the lines that formed outside. This is the new normal.

So even as we celebrated a different way, we celebrated. We celebrated freedom, even with the constraints of our new normal. Happy Fourth, America!

A walk in the park

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A

I have always been the laziest person when it comes to exercise. I used to joke that you’d have to pay me to get me to exert effort one way or the other. The thing is, I’ve been trying to find ways and means to stay fit — both mentally and physically — and staying in my safe corner and not doing anything beyond moving about in my small apartment was not going to cut it.

Panic hit me when I realized I was putting on weight with all the baking and cooking and inactivity. I used to clock a decent amount of steps even if it was short of the modest goal of 10,000. I have usually weighed this much only after coming back from a trip from Manila, because of all the delicious food that I couldn’t resist gobbling up.

The diet has always been in the plan, but I knew that if I were to make it work faster and more efficiently, I had to get off my butt and do something about it.

On Monday, I willed myself to don a decent attire to walk. Just walk. I grabbed my phone and tied my hair, put on my mask and off I went. I live in a relatively quiet residential neighborhood where the air is fresh and the streets and sidewalks are clean. There is even a stretch of green in a park just a block away from me.

My first outing saw me walking the long way to the neighborhood grocery. I gave myself a half hour as I did it before dinner, and the clouds were threatening up high. It was nice to actually find myself having the energy and the courage to walk out in public without a determined effort to accomplish any specific task. For the past few weeks, I would only venture out to do the groceries, the laundry, and last week, to get my hair cut.

It felt good. It was pleasantly cool, but by the time I made it to the grocery, my heartbeat was definitely elevated and I felt a light sweat forming on my back. That made me proud. I actually did it! I exercised! I made it to the grocery just in time as it started to drizzle. I picked up some ingredients for a diet soup I wanted to try out, then I walked briskly back before it rained hard.

The next day, I ended work at a decent hour and quickly changed again and walked out the door, this time determined to go to the park a block away.

Walking in the park
I found a starting point and counted how many steps it took me to go around the path surrounding the field in the middle. There was a decent crowd of others walking either leisurely or jogging / running around. There were some who were walking their dogs, or accompanying children who were biking or having their time in the playground.
Walking in the park
The path around the field was not level which made for some elevation at certain parts — I walked.. determined to keep going as far as I could — and I made it to three rounds. I had the Handmaid’s Tale on Audible keeping me company. I don’t know why I decided I wouldn’t listen to music — that I would instead listen to the book that was in my queue. It was me, myself and I, wrapped up with walking the path and listening to what was on my phone.

As I felt my legs starting to feel the strain, I left the park and I decided to walk further on to a grocery on the other side of the neighborhood to pick up some fruit and non fat milk, and then I walked back home.

Neighbors I met along the way thought I had gone to work since I was lugging a shopping bag. I proudly told them I had been to the park and had just stopped by the grocery on my way home.

I made it to my second day with an hour’s walk. I surprised myself with that accomplishment.

Today, I decided I would try to go in the morning, taking advantage of the fact that I’ve been waking up just after 6am of late because of the earlier sunrise. It took me a while to drag myself out of bed, but I changed and walked out with purpose and headed to the park again. My legs were still achy — but I figured the best way to get rid of the strain was to keep going. More pain! After one round, though, I decided I would combine the routes of the last two days and headed back the long way, looping through several blocks I had not walked previously.

I listened to some podcasts as I had finished the audio book, making a mental note to download my next “read”. I am not really a podcast person, but listening to two episodes of something I picked up from The New York Times, I think I’m going to start exploring more. I am quite late to the game, I know..

The park had a haze and smelled of crisp grass and morning dew. You could hear the birds in the stillness, with a few stragglers here and there making their way around the park like me. I was alone, but not alone.

I liked that.
Walking in the park
The park benches beckoned, but I couldn’t give in or I would end up sitting there until my time was up, and I wouldn’t have accomplished anything except stare at all that greenery with no steps clocked.

The mask, I have to admit, makes it a little harder to exert effort. But I couldn’t take it off. There were people huffing and puffing ahead of me or heading towards me, and I couldn’t risk it. Plus, the norm nowadays is to give those without masks “the look” — and I would be the last one to invite that air of disdain — so I comply. I actually managed to do it!

Almost an hour this time, as I had to be conscious of making it back home before 9am, so I can log in and begin the day’s work. I thought I deserved a treat and headed to the neighborhood Starbucks. Nitro Cold Brew in hand, I walked home. (All of 70 calories!)

My legs are a bit sore.. but I think I’m feeling better. And what’s more, I feel great. I actually did three days straight — and I’m hoping I keep this up in the next few days.

I like how I know that I’m doing something good for my body, but more so for my mental health. I am “opening up” to the world at my own pace, in my own way. We cope in different ways. This is how I do it — with a walk in the park.

Adobo Saturday

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A

I am an Amazon Associate and your clicking on the links in this post and subsequent purchase from Amazon might mean a commission for me.

Despite promising myself I would write this morning, it’s almost 6pm and now is the only time I finally did. No, I haven’t been slaving away doing chores, although I have a had a productive day. I actually have three posts drafted in the last couple of days, but I don’t think any of them are ready to be posted.

The last hour or so has been split between preparing tonight’s adobo dinner and reading up on the news. I am actually proud of myself for fixing my bedroom window and adding some additional buffer against the intense sunlight that peeks through it in the morning. I also went through my ribbon and notions stash and fixed them neatly. I plan to cut a swatch of the contents of each box and paste them outside so I don’t have to open each box to find out what’s in each of them. That will have to wait for later. I have done enough today.

I went over a heap of magazines that I had always intended to read, but they piled up without me fulfilling that promise to myself. So I sat down and set a quota of 5 that I would keep, and the rest are in a pile that I will tie up and bundle to throw in the recycling bin later. I think I have made much progress now that I am able to throw out bundles of magazines. They are way past their time — much like an expiration date in my head. I tell myself that I will never have the time to go through all of them, and they are piling up. I must destash!

It’s a rainy Saturday in my neck of the woods. Nice bedroom weather. I would’ve napped had I not gotten so into fixing that corner of my room. I turned my Audible on and listened to “The Handmaid’s Tale” as I went through my stuff. Later, I lay in bed and read.

No baking or sewing for me today. Maybe later. I’m still debating with myself about opening a bottle of Chardonnay. Should I? I remind myself I’m out of cheese, but the bottle chilling in the fridge might go well with the adobo later.

I have tried to muster the courage to start eating more purposely going forward, as the weighing scale has tipped upwards. (In short, I’m trying to start dieting again.). I’ve even started getting the supplies I need to actually begin the first phase of my usual Dukan Diet. Maybe I just have to stop baking and cooking — and yet, I grabbed some tripe and ox feet from the meat section yesterday in the hopes of cooking some Callos during the week.

I guess we shall see.

Meanwhile, the adobo is done and ready, but the boy isn’t ready to eat yet. I had long ago given up eating rice, but this is one meal you cannot have without. There goes the diet.. well, I haven’t really started mine yet, but I’m getting there.

Untitled

Hair, etc.

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A

New York City is abuzz with the much-anticipated move to Phase II of the reopening, meaning restaurants will now be allowed to do indoor dining, retail stores can now open for actual shopping, and salons and barbershops can open. Yay! I am relieved and almost giggly excited about this.

See, before the pandemic hit New York full steam, I was planning a trip home to Manila to celebrate my Mom’s 85th birthday. For the last two years or so, I have cut my hair once every 3-4 months only. When I’m in Manila, I actually get a haircut there, and I’ve found a hairstylist that I have gone to twice and had planned to get an appointment with this time around as well. Alas, the breakout of the virus in most Asia ports, and the threat of self-quarantining upon return, made me decide to cancel the trip.

So instead, I had made up my mind to have my hairstylist and friend Kelly Park, do my hair as she has the last 14 years or so. I was about to send her a message to make an appointment when the shelter in place order came down from the Governor. And that was that.

My hairstylist, Kelly ParkWhile I do have a couple of reliable hairstylists in different salons, Kelly has been a favorite, so much so that when she left the salon where we found her at, we looked high and low until I found her. She was a Korean and a Christian, and it so happened that the neighborhood nail salon I go to was owned by a nice Korean lady who decorated her salon with religious verses. From out of the blue, one time, I just thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask if she might perhaps know Kelly from Church. Kelly used to tell me that she would do the hair of her co-congregants for presentations, so I knew that her community knew her as a hairstylist. Well, what do you know… Grace from the nail salon knew her and gave me her phone number. She was also a customer and proudly showed me her bob. That was maybe 8 or so years ago, and two salons after, I have her on my contact list.

Today, I thought I’d get a foot in the door and ask for an appointment. I have always loved the way Kelly did my hair, whether or not it was the old short bob like before, or the way she trimmed my hair now that I wear it past my shoulders, and between her Korean English and my attempts at a clear explanation with visual aids, we have had a happy partnership all these years. She and Angelo have a history together as well — with pictures of the two of them when he was 4 or 5, and recently when we went to her to have Angelo’s hair processed. She was so shocked to see how the little boy was little no more.

She told me that the reopening wasn’t 100% sure but asked for my preferred times. I told her I would gladly take time off to go to her. And I will!

Something so routine is now something we long for. Planning for it like a special date and looking forward to it with anticipation. It’s not just seeing her, but actually being able to do something that we haven’t been able to the last 12 weeks. It gives new meaning to the saying that you really don’t know what you have until you lose it. Well, we got it back.. so time to enjoy it and use it!

I can easily have four inches cut off and I really wouldn’t look that much different from my usual style. After years of shunning the short hairstyle I wore for 14 years or so, I am actually seriously thinking of going back.. or not. Maybe I’ll do something halfway.. a little shorter than my usual hairstyle but longer than the one I sported way back when. Or maybe I will just leave it to Kelly to decide.

I am so looking forward to sitting in that chair, PPE and all — and without the customary hug like we used to share. It would be great to see her again. And yes, I will Uber with the windows open, mask on, hand sanitizer ready.

Baby steps to going back to what used to be, even if what we go back to isn’t going to be the same life we lived before the virus took us over.

Life goes on. Yes, even if the Mayor is threatening that we aren’t sure about Phase II happening on Monday. He sounds like the principal threatening the student population with sanctions if we don’t behave and earn the perks. I don’t want to taint this post with the negative — although I am aware of the things that are holding him back. We shall wait and see. And I can’t wait to see Kelly and get that much needed trim. Soon!

Banana Pancake Saturday

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A

It’s sunny and a cool 68F outside. I’m seriously debating doing the laundry today, but I prefer slow Saturdays — one of only two days when I can wake up whenever I want to. Still, I was roused at 7:30am. It must be the bright sun outside my window, peering through the almost black out but not quite black out curtains. I stayed in bed. Then a call from Manila came — I begged off. I wanted to enjoy more of the morning in bed, just staying under the sheets.

I eventually walked to the kitchen at around 10am or so. I suddenly remembered I had a new batch of bananas arrive with Monday’s grocery delivery. These days, I order them to make them overripe for the next loaf of banana bread. Bad news from the scales notwithstanding, I decided to make banana pancakes for breakfast. The banana bread can wait until later.

I do the complete mix like most everyone else, but I usually jazz it up with Parmesan cheese when I feel like making Pancake House-pretend cheese pancakes. Or I would sandwich slices of Kraft Caramel in between regular pancakes. For banana pancakes, I use the following ratio:

  • 2 portions pancake mix
  • 2 portions water
  • 1 portion banana

For this batch, since it was breakfast for one (the boy sticks to cereal and milk or pretzels when it’s too late in the day), my “portion” was 1/3 cup. So I did

  • 2/3 cup pancake mix
  • diluted with 2/3 cup water,
  • then added 1/3 cup mashed bananas (which is approximately 2/3rds of a good size banana or all of a small one)

Using 1/3 cup batter, I came up with 4 pancakes.

Banana pancakes Saturday

I don’t know about you, but I’m nuts about Banana Nutella Pancakes. I try to sneak in a sliver or two of butter between the first pair of pancakes, then dress up the top pancake with some delicious Nutella. Can’t do without the chopped almonds on top!

Banana pancakes Saturday

For some reason, I love pecans with my banana bread, but almonds for the pancakes. Maybe it’s the texture of the bread or medium the banana is mixed in with.. Others would add whipped cream, but I prefer my pancakes slathered with heavy cream. Sinfully delicious!

Banana pancakes Saturday

I didn’t even put any syrup anymore because the Nutella took care of that, and if you ate this with more banana as pictured, the ripe slices will add enough sweetness. But that’s just me.

Banana pancakes Saturday

Breakfasts like this are a weekend luxury. Back when I was commuting to work in the city, breakfast meant coffee — and an occasional treat of a slice of banana bread or a bread pudding muffin. (Hence, the quest to make both while sheltering in place.). But the fancy pancakes on weekends was a treat I looked forward to these days when I am allowed some “Me” time.

It’s almost noon and the boy is still asleep. No surprise there. And wonder of wonders, I’m about to publish my second post of the day.

I have two boxes to assemble heading home. Then there’s the sewing and hopefully some jewelry making. I am ready to take a stab at stringing this fancy labradorite necklace I had bought stones for a year ago. Not that I can wear them anywhere right now — but crafting has always been a very good form of relaxation for me.

Here’s to a quiet and relaxing weekend for everyone.. try some banana pancakes when you can.

Banana pancakes Saturday