Two years and counting

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I’ve basically stopped writing about Covid the last couple of months because I guess I was hoping that not mentioning it would make it go away. Well, that didn’t quite work. While most everyone is under the mistaken notion that things are returning to “normal,’ the truth is that “normal” has changed by definition. Everything we knew as “normal” pre pandemic is non-existent now.

I’ve been back to the office since April of last year, and the rest of the enterprise that was meant to return came back at the end of March 2022. I was profuse with my expression of joy at seeing more people in the office for a change, but we are nowhere near pre pandemic levels. Certain jobs were designated as fully remote, and those who returned mostly got designated hybrid, meaning they did not come back all 5 days of the week. There are still certain jobs that were denominated as “in Office,” meaning they were required to be in all 5 days. I’m hybrid.

UntitledWe dropped the mandatory masking on the premises a few weeks back, but the increase in the incidence of infections and hospitalizations in New York have caused me to wear the mask in most public spaces, even if masking is optional. Fortunately, most New Yorkers tend to prefer to err on the side of caution, as the memories of the start of Covid in 2020 and the ravages we suffered have caused us to be vigilant against the virus. Sure, more people are walking the streets unmasked, but there are also a significant number who keep their face coverings on.

I had set aside some masks I had cut up and marked to sew — which, I guess, I should get going on assembling in the next couple of weeks. The prediction is that the incidence of infection will continue to rise, and I have been fortunate not to have ever contracted it ever this whole time. (Knock on wood!) I only played hermit the first four months, and had braved venturing into the city soon as the lockdown was called off in July 2020. Like I said, by April 2021, I was back in the office 2-3x a week. I have religiously put on my mask, sanitized and washed my hands as required and more, and I’ve gotten vaccinated and once boosted.

Speaking of, I think I’m sticking with one booster for now. I don’t think my preexisting conditions merit a second booster jab at this point.

I take off my mask the minute I’m in my building where the high ceilings and air quality is much better than what I walk through as I cross the Grand concourse of Grand Central. Once in my space, I immediately either grab some hand sanitizer or wash my hands directly before I get there. I still carry my mask in my hand or in my pocket when I step out. And again, although I am met by a sea of people half of whom are unmasked, I am grateful for those who, like myself, are being careful and wearing one. When I enter an establishment that recommends but does not require masks, I put my mask on for as long as I can bear wearing it.

There are still one or two who wear gloves, afraid of touching something infected. Personally, I’m more afraid of actually inhaling infectious particles that might cause the virus to enter my body. So masking and generally avoiding prolonged exposure to air in enclosed spaces has been my rule of thumb. Will the rising incidence of infections and hospitalizations stop me from enjoying a concert or a play in the coming weeks? No. I’ve learned to take precautions and be cognizant of the symptoms. More importantly, I’ve learned not to let the threat of COVID stop me from doing what I want to do even if it means taking my chances swimming through a crowd.

More than the exposure, I think what counts is how we protect ourselves and practice personal precautions. There is a way to get ahead of the threat if we are careful.

So yes, I go out to restaurants and unmask at my table. I will watch that play and that concert. I ride the bus wearing my mask even if there are some passengers who actually board the bus without one, even if every bus flashes “MASK REQUIRED”. And while I do take it off occasionally to get a whiff of cool air during the ride, more so in the mornings when it can get warmer, I try to keep it on as long as I could.

I get all sorts of compliments for my “fashion-forward” masks — so I guess it’s time to make more. I usually try to match my outfit for the day, because masking is now part of my daily wear. I do a three layer mask of tightly woven cotton, usually cotton sateen to boot, and use a pattern that lets it land smug on my not so high of a bridge on my nose — but not too snug that I cannot breathe.

Meanwhile, I’m hoping the surge doesn’t get any worse. At least for the most part, it seems the vaccines and boosters and precautions are working, as people who have gotten afflicted have had much milder bouts of COVID. You hardly hear anyone getting intubated although there are instances when it is still necessary, so unlike the start when we were afraid we would run out of ventilators. We hope we will never go back to that kind of a desperate situation. We are, after all, continuing to learn to live with it and hopefully overtake it one day soon.

So I guess my Covid diary isn’t quite done yet.

Off to Austin and Back

I wrote this piece the first weekend of November as my son and I headed to Austin, while on the plane taking us there. As always, life took me over, and I’m at least three posts behind — all about this trip. It was a good way to go back to a semblance of normalcy after almost two years of being in the Covid bubble.

On our way to Austin

(November 6, Saturday) We’re two hours into our flight from New York to Austin, and while I am dying for some shut eye, I can’t sleep. I brought a magazine and a book to read, and a postcard swap list I need to work on over the weekend. I’ve so far read 2 articles in the magazine which is a feat — considering my magazines usually go unread. I read a couple of chapters of the book. I’ve checked the swap list and just need to send out the pairings. I will do that when I land or maybe when I return to New York.

We’re heading to Texas to attend a wedding on Monday. It’s a small party and I have known the groom since he was a baby. And the best part of it is, I have the 17 year old son with me. We are both sooooo excited!

It’s our first flight together since the pandemic began. The airport was abuzz with people and the lines were long but moving. American Airlines has a self check in system that is new to me, but I found it rather efficient. I have not flown domestically since 2012 when I went to a cousin’s wedding in Chicago. I was with the son then, as well.

Bag drop off was slow but it was tolerable. I maximized my one free bag and we carried the rest. We’re in Texas for only 4 days. One night will be in Austin the city, and the last two in Marble Falls where the reception will be held. I’m guessing it’s their version of Tagaytay or the Hamptons, so I’m looking forward to a bit of exploring. I had ordered a free copy of the Austin Visitor Guide which arrived in the nick of time. And I just remembered I left it at home, of course.

On our way to Austin

I thought I had my packing plan in place. Still, I ended up doing it the night before. I wanted to choose my outfits for the walk around town, but even that ended up being done last minute. The only thing that was predetermined was my outfit for the wedding. Dress, check. Shoes, check. Jacket for the Uber low temps of Austin nights, check. Sparkly gold bling platform peep toe slippers, check. Fancy satin scarf, check. Purse, check. The only thing I really bought for this wedding was the jacket and the purse. Everything else was already in my closet.

Just another one of the many things that made everything fall into place. I was meant to attend this wedding even if it was being held on a Monday, with the chapel and the reception an hour away from each other. How can I say no when the universe was screaming “Go!”

The flight was unbelievably reasonably priced. It was also relatively short so covid fears aside, I figured I’d survive wearing the mask for the three hours or so I’d be up in the air. Besides, I could always take a drink if I needed a break. (We were actually served snacks.). The hotel in the city was understandably pricey, but the hotel close to the reception (as recommended by the bride) was reasonable.. All systems go. It looks like the bigger chunk of the expense will be transportation between the city to the next town, and then to the chapel and the reception on the day of the wedding. I can take a local taxi for the reception back to the hotel, then one last big fare to the airport. See, I don’t drive. But figuring all that on Uber, car service, etc., vs. what I would’ve spent on a car rental, I’m not really off by much. (That’s me justifying to myself.).

On our way to Austin

The last plane ride I took was my Manila- Legazpi – Manila – Sydney Manila vacation in July of 2019. It feels like a lifetime away, more so as the homesickness creeps up on me, followed by a deep frustration over the quarantine requirements in Manila. I have stopped trying to look at what is possible in the near term. I am trying to assuage the pining for home by thinking of December 2022. That way, any opportunity to travel like this one, comes as a gift.

It seems that planning for a vacation to any other country or state is going to be easier, so trips like this one provide a welcome break from the cabin fever of covid.

The scene at the airport was almost normal in terms of the crowd, but most people were complying with fully wearing their masks— a mask was required everywhere. Some people took it off while waiting at the gate, and some had it over their mouth but not over third nose which I personally find so irritating. But on the plane itself, there was even an announcement to make sure to wear your mask even as you sleep so they wouldn’t have to wake you up. So far so good.. but then again, the flight is only half full. (I have situated myself in my own three seat row across from the son.)

——

(November 9, Tuesday) On the way home on a Tuesday evening flight from Austin to Néw York. The plane is barely half full. I tried to situate the son across the aisle in his own row, but he naughtily defied my seat plan. Yes, he’s next to me.

I am leaving Austin with happy memories of a vacation spent with my soon-to-be college boy. There was no ditching me to hang out with his friends this weekend. He was stuck with me. We tried some homegrown faves in the two places we visited, and the last meal we had in Marble Falls has changed the way he looks at barbecue ribs forever.

On our way to Austin

The wedding was heartwarming and touching. I am glad I decided to go and be there for the new Mr. and Mrs. Lim. I suddenly felt old as I realized how the baby now has a baby himself now, and was taking that big leap at his bit of forever.

As for me, I feel as though the universe just reminded me life goes on. And it did. And I’m glad I ventured out and took the chance to have a fun weekend with my boy. Happy memories aplenty!

A month’s silence

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Nothing irritates me more than finding myself absent from this space for long period like a month. What makes me even more upset is the fact that I keep drafting blogposts in my head, practically every day. Sad.

My weekend has ended and I’m getting ready to start the week off. Nothing much has changed.

Manhattan still seems to be on “holiday” mode. The crowd in Grand Central hasn’t grown appreciably, but there are people going to work like myself. Still sticking to the 2-3x a week in the office and working remotely for the rest. Many companies, like mine, have further pushed out their return to work initiatives for the regular workforce to January. (Some even later.)

While I do appreciate being able to have a semblance of normalcy in my work routine, I find myself envious of those still working from home 100% of the time. Many aren’t in a rush to get back to the regular commute and grind in the confines of the office.

The new skyscraper lording it over the Manhattan skyline, One Vanderbilt, has finally opened for occupancy. They’re actually boasting of yet another observation deck which I hope to visit when it opens, more so since it’s literally a hop, skip and a jump away. The nicest find was that Epicerie Boulud has opened at the corner nearest to me on 42nd Street.

Epicerie Boulud

Their almond croissant is a treat! Flaky and yet not crumbly, and the almond filling is not like any other.

Meanwhile, school has opened with 100% in person attendance in New York. My high school senior has promised to be vigilant with the mask. So far, so good. While I had pessimistically projected that school will probably return to hybrid learning soon after it opened, the system seems to be poised to go back to normal. Fingers crossed.

Saturday Brunch in Manhattan

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This previous weekend, I had made plans to have brunch in the city and I knew where I wanted to go. Fell in line to be seated, and this being the first time I’ve gone to dine in the city since the new vaccination requirement, I saw firsthand how it’s now a thing in Manhattan. Proof of vaccination, please. I flashed my excelsior app which I had just added to my apple wallet this month. Done. I was told to take my seat to wait for my table to be ready.

Saturday Brunch at Angelina Paris NYC

The group behind us chose to forego dining here because of that— it seems one or two of their party had yet to be vaccinated. There’s actually a move to reverse this mandate, with some restaurateurs alleging their business is being singled out to enforce this requirement, at the risk of losing potential customers who cannot meet it.

I personally feel that everyone has a right to know who is and who is not vaccinated, because not being vaccinated is a potential risk to those of us who are. While I respect this as a personal choice one is free to make, I think I have a right to know if I’m sitting next to or in the same space as someone who isn’t. To paraphrase French President Emmanuel Macron, it’s about time that those of you who are not vaccinated stay home, while those of us who are can move with more freedom. Of course, this is not to say that we move around without the mandated precautions of masking (now required in many establishments although optional in some), and maintaining social distancing.

We cannot let our guard down just because we have been vaccinated. We all must exercise caution and continue to safeguard ourselves and our family against the dangers of covid.

A 30 minute wait? I have had my mind set on brunch here for a while, more so since I’ve always only taken pastries to bring home. Today, I’m going to sit and have brunch.

Menu options give you two breakfast packages and a brunch option with choices, and of course there is always the alternative to go a la carte. I wanted to enjoy the Angelina Paris experience, so I went for the brunch.

Brunch Menu, August 2022

I’m not really a breakfast person. I used to skip eating breakfast, but I’ve come to realize that my body tends to binge when deprived, so smaller, more sensible meals made better sense for someone like me. When home, I am happy having avocado toast and coffee. I’ve developed a liking to simply mashed avocado seasoned ever so slightly with a dash of pepper and a sprinkling of sea salt.

Saturday Brunch at Angelina Paris NYC

Today, it’s Eggs Benedict with smoked salmon for me. The other options were spinach and feta, avocado or Canadian Bacon. I tend to gravitate towards salmon to go with poached eggs, which to me, is the better pairing for a flash of flavor. I’m glad I made that choice.

Saturday Brunch at Angelina Paris NYC

Can I just say I’ve never seen such perfectly poached eggs that look like they were shelled and boiled? They were so divine to slice into and the over easy yolk oozed out and melded so well with the Hollandaise sauce. The homemade smoked salmon sitting atop a crunchy toast was just heavenly..

Saturday Brunch at Angelina Paris NYC

My nutritionist is trying to make me rethink eating by making me stick to a set of foods that would be healthier rather than being calorie conscious. It’s worked for me mostly, except when I deliberately indulge in my devilish treats. Today’s brunch is half and half of that, and I’m not apologizing! It’s affirming when the one you dine with tends to order the same thing you order..

Brunch was capped by a White Chocolate Praline Crepe with pistachios, raspberries and Chantilly (whipped cream).

Saturday Brunch at Angelina Paris NYC

The flavors just melded together with a flavorful sauce that wasn’t overpoweringly tart nor sweet. Perfect to cleanse the palate of the hints of smoked salmon that lingered after. I must warn you that this might be too big a meal for people who prefer to eat light. If you ask me, it was just heavy enough to satisfy.

Saturday Brunch at Angelina Paris NYC

Besides, I tell myself, I’ve been pretty good for the most part. I saw French Toast on the a la carte menu which is what I will have next time I stop by for brunch. Looking forward to that in the coming weeks.

Meanwhile, I can’t really pass up on picking up a treat or two for the next day’s breakfast.

Take home

My Weekend be like..

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A Work during the week makes weekends a special treat, even if it means just staying home. And I usually prefer to do just that— just chill. Of course, there are always the many chores that need to be done over a period of time that weekdays cannot accommodate. There are weekends when I do make plans, but this wasn’t one of those weekends. For the most part, weekends are all about relaxing and recharging for me. Yes, even during these very challenging times.

As a divorced mom to a 17 year old, there are weekends and there are “me” weekends — those that are just about me, myself and I when the son is with his dad. This is one of those weekends.

I didn’t make any plans except where to insert the not-so-welcome task of schlepping to the corner laundromat to do my load. (The son has been tasked to do his laundry with his dad. So it’s MY clothes only.). The Co-op laundromat has been out of commission the last couple of weeks. Not worth ranting about here, so I won’t dwell on that.

Here I am trying to write about the weekend while sipping my iced green tea at the neighborhood Starbucks while waiting for the laundry cycle to complete. That I am actually sitting here inside the store, maskless as I am drinking, IS a big deal. Indoor seating was not allowed by Starbucks not so long ago, masks were ALWAYs required, and they promptly observed shortened hours and closed at 6pm. Not to say that I’ve relaxed with the masking. I’ve been wearing them everywhere— even outdoors— EXCEPT when eating or drinking.

At Starbucks this weekend

The best part of the weekend is sleeping in. Saturdays and Sundays are really the only days during the week when I have the luxury to do just that. That means waking up later than 8am — but sometimes, the body just can’t let go of the 6ish or thereabouts stirring. I think it’s age. No matter how late I turn in, I’m preprogrammed to actually wake up as the sun peaks into my heavy drapes. (I know, I don’t like blackout curtain, so I suffer through my sensitivity to sunlight.)

Postcards heading out

Saturday was mostly spent at home. I’ve had a pretty tense couple of days and a rocking weekend before that. I literally crashed when the previous weekend ended as things appeared to settle. Sometimes life totally takes me over even as the world is oblivious to what’s going on in my life.

So here’s my weekend — finally! I tried to avoid touching the postcards but I have some promised swaps that need to go out. I did a couple of masks and resisted the urge to cut more fabric. I made some mask necklaces so that I can wear the mask on my neck while at work. I browsed for the next project. It might be something to sew, if not crochet. I read, I listened and I finally finished the final season on Bosch on AmazonPrime.

And the oddest thing was, while I didn’t make up my mind about the next to do, I did decide I was going to create a rosary to post in the shop. Mind you, not a rosary bracelet— but an actual rosary. I will actually gather the materials Sunday night and tablet for my “down time” during the week. Perhaps it’s all the praying I’ve been doing of late. I had a shortlist of sick friends and family which somehow doubled over the last couple of days. I pray and seek an indulgence as I do my daily walk, after I pray with my favorite prayer app, The God Minute.

I do my grocery shopping throughout the week but wanted to get a few things in the fridge for the week ahead. My son has a pretty fixed repertoire so it’s a matter of (him) deciding what he wants for the evening. I miss ordering out which fiercely resists— saying he prefers my cooking. Forget that there are days when I can really use a break from the second job— but I delight watching him eat dinner and enjoy the food I prepare.

I told myself I’d finally make that cheesecake. I have bars of cream cheese in my fridge which were meant to be made into cakes weeks ago. (I promise I will not risk anybody’s gastric health by offering the cake to anyone else.). I had to wait to get the eggs and the cream, though. Made the cheesecake this afternoon and I defied the conventional wisdom to use my electric mixer and mixed by hand with a metal serving spoon. (The author of the recipe gave this as an option and says this was how it was done in Spain!). I whisked away the last 3-5 minutes to get rid of the clumps of cream cheese. I’m pretty good with following recipes and the byproduct looks promising. It needs chilling for a few hours. We shall see.

Postcards heading out

I did continue with the sorting of the vintage postcards. I am going to put myself on a moratorium for the next couple of weeks as I’ve acquired quite a hearty bunch that needs sorting and putting into the album. Until that is taken cared of, I am NOT buying any more to add to the collection, no matter how cheap they may be!

Just a small batch of postcards going out tomorrow to a special collector who puts so much effort into what she sends out. I figured that the least I could do was try to level up, even if I can’t quite approximate her artistry.

The day is ended and I’m winding down. I am hoping for a good week not just for me, but for everyone who means something to me. I pray for the special mentions on my prayer list— “from all the evil that surrounds (them), defend them..”

Here’s hoping everyone was able to enjoy a bit of quiet and peace this weekend to help us deal with the week ahead. I wish you well..

To those with afflictions, I wish you healing. In my heart of hearts, I pray that your burden be lifted or at least lightened.

New York, these days

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI have been back to work part of the week since April. I would go in 2-3 days during the week, going to and from work via express bus, which is practically a door to door trip each way for me. In that, I am lucky.

On the express bus

Every morning, I’d hail the bus with mask on as the buses flash a sign: “Mask Required”. Arriving in Manhattan, I’d do my usual stop, saying a prayer at the St. Agnes Church. Some weeks ago, I noticed that QR codes were now posted on the pews in place of the missals. Some pews were cordoned off to observe social distancing, and there were huge dispensers of sanitizers outside the inner doors of the church. The confessional has returned to the main church instead of at the basement were there was more ventilation. They were adapting.

New York Today

The usually bustling Graybar Passage I walk through to go to the Grand Central concourse has been sparse with commuters even these many weeks since I came back. We are nowhere near the usual crowds we saw pre-pandemic, both in the morning and what makes for the afternoon rush hour now. I think this is one of the best indicators of how different things are now. Graybar Passage

I sometimes walk in as a train is offloading passengers which mimics a rush of people into Grand Central, but it’s still not quite there. The main clock which is usually surrounded by people waiting for a rendezvous with friends or family is dotted with less than a dozen people now at any given time.

Grand central by the clock

The streets appear to be alive again with more tourists, but seemingly local, given the international restrictions in place. Kiosks and makeshift “outdoor” dining areas show which restaurants have survived and are trying their best to stay afloat. These, I think, will be here for a while longer as concerns continue to mount about the onslaught of the Delta variant. While we generally feel safer even in enclosed spaces, there is a preference for outdoor dining or seating where it is an option.

I think one of the indicators of change in the pandemic norm is the fact that Starbucks has expanded its hours to end at 9pm, when the select stores that stayed open were closing at 6pm many weeks back. Some of their stores have also allowed indoor seating again, whereas that wasn’t an option in the spring. Still, many of their branches remain shuttered, although it appears it is only temporarily.

On my way home

It’s not quite the same. The city that never sleeps seems to have taken a step back and slowed down. City traffic sometimes approximates the bottlenecks and crawl of days gone by, but you can still sense the eerie thinning of the usual vehicular stream. We are here that we are not. At least, not yet.

Back to Masking up

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I haven’t written about life in the time of Covid not because I had begun thinking we have gotten rid of it and slid back to “normal” as we knew it per-pandemic. I just felt I needed a break from writing about it. Plus, I fell into a lull again. But I had promised myself I will try to move forward and be more focused on the writing. So here I am.

This time, last year, we slowly started to emerge from our self imposed exile and uber vigilance against covid. New York City started to ease up as the numbers began to decline in July. This year, we see more people exercising their option not to wear masks, given that a huge chunk of the local populace has opted to be vaccinated. My son and I are both in that category, and I have the proof in my Excelsior app and vaccination card.

I volunteered to return to work beginning April, but the boss had returned weeks ahead. It was a mix of a sense of duty plus a need to ease myself into some semblance of normalcy that prompted me to go back. For months, everyone had been required to wear masks everywhere except in their own space. I was fortunate that by the time I returned, a workplace adjustment was made that made masks optional in our corporate campus if we were fully vaccinated. Of course, we still had to don the mask in common areas outside our space, as we shared the building with other tenants. (We did occupy floors 2-6 and basically had exclusive use of the elevators accessing our floors.)

In the commute, masks were required on the bus. There were days when I was the only passenger heading home. That was eerie but it felt safer for the most part, and I didn’t miss the sometimes almost full or full bus pre covid, which meant someone would sit next to me. I’m fortunate to have access to an express bus route that took me practically door to door, so I was with the same set of passengers after the last stop in Manhattan and the first stop on Main Street in my part of Queens.

Masking up again

I was making my own masks at the height of the pandemic and experimented with different patterns, shapes and fabrics. I gave some to family and friends, and despite the prodding of some to sell it, I never did get quite comfortable with the quality of my work to do that. Sometime at the start of the year, I ended up setting aside some cut fabric for another time. They lay untouched until recently when the Delta variant surge started to make waves and caused me to rethink the idea that masks would become truly optional.

I may be fully vaccinated but I’ve always been one to be more cautious than laxed when it comes to Covid. Even as I walk out in the open in my neighborhood these days, I carry a mask in one hand and quickly don it when I see people approaching — whether or not they are masked themselves. I have noticed, though, that more and more are wearing masks these days, even out in the open.

When we were deep into the panic and general fear of catching Covid, I had experimented with as many as 5 patterns. After wearing the different iterations in various types of fabric, I’ve picked a favorite pattern which I tweaked to extend the ends and revised how to sew the three layers of fabric together. Although I have not used a filter of any sort all this time, all the masks I’ve made have a filter pocket. To my mind, the three layers of fabric should be sufficient filtering, given that the masks I make are breathable from the top and the bottom. (Else how will you survive wearing them?!)

Once I figure out how to produce the pattern I have altered, I will write a post about it to share.

While I would like for the elastic to be anchored to the mask, I’ve found that providing a channel through which it can more freely be looped through works best and provides the best flexibility. I continue to use cord stoppers to control the tautness of the mask against my face.

Masking up again

So just when we thought that the availability of the vaccine would help us overtake Covid, the reticence of many and the outright refusal of more, added to the onslaught of the Delta variant, have caused us to slide back to putting our masks on.

Even at work, we are back to masking up. But with the way things have been going, it would’ve been a personal choice for me to put my mask back on even without the mandate, out of an abundance of caution. After more than a year of batting the scourge of Covid, not to mention the losses suffered globally, you’d think we would be more United and resolute about which way we would go. Unfortunately we are not.

So back to masking up, folks!

The Covid Vaccine: My Two Cents and then some

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4A When news of the vaccine approvals started floating last year, I was skeptical. I felt like this virus was something that was unknown and possibly evolving, and there was an obvious rush to get a vaccine developed to combat it. While other areas of research were focusing on how to get the pandemic under control and treat the illness more effectively, there was a parallel effort to come up with the vaccine that would, at the very least, minimize or eliminate hospitalization and death. While the cure was, by itself, quite a debacle, the vaccine to protect us from it was both a welcome and scary thought.

I will be honest and admit that my first thought was that I wasn’t too sure I would want to receive the vaccine. I was thinking about how the many years that were devoted to pharmaceutical development, testing and approval were being waived given our current situation. There’s also a paranoid side of me that goes back to the premise of the movie “I am Legend” which implies that the transformation of the infected to zombies was caused by a botched vaccine for cancer. (If my memory serves me right). Of course, that version took a lot of liberties converting the original movie “Omega Man” into a modern day post-pandemic scenario. What is heartening is that both movies end with a cure being discovered. Sadly, not without a huge casualty count in its wake.

But back to the modern day covid era where our lives in all parts of the world have been upended. Even the countries where they have successfully controlled the spread of the disease have chosen to close their borders— yet another drastic change in the normal that we all used to know.

New York started its vaccine rollout by prioritizing the elderly and front line workers. News of long lines and difficulty securing an appointment made me pessimistic about getting vaccinated. Being just weeks shy of 55 when the vaccinations began, I told myself that I’d be lucky to get vaccinated by the fall. Not that I was all excited about the prospect of being vaccinated, but I know any plans to travel home (Manila) would hinge on my getting past this hurdle.

By mid-February, a glimmer of hope came when it was announced that certain co-morbidities would qualify, even without meeting the age requirement. This was set to take effect on February 15. I had made plans to request for a letter certifying my asthma when I logged on to the patient portal of Columbia Doctors, and found the letter already in my inbox. The hospital had sent it on the 13th, in anticipation of me qualifying for vaccination. I must say I was impressed that they had made good on their promise to let their patients know when we qualify. My general practitioner, hematologist, orthopedist, nephrologist and dermatologist are all in their network — including my radiology center— so I must say I’m a happy patient.

But that was just the start. There was the debacle of finding an actual site that had an available appointment. The pharmacies were only taking on the elderly and the frontline workers. Even the vaccination center of Columbia Doctors at the Armory were focusing on the same and eventually on certain zip codes. I heard horror stories of people waiting for hours in the mass vaccination sites after the initial struggle to land a slot. I told myself that maybe I’m not meant to get it. It seemed that everywhere I went, there were no appointments available.

Until a friend sent me a link to another avenue of vaccinations in New York, and I immediately got an appointment when I registered. The appointments for March and April were gone in 48 hours.

Getting vaccinated

My reluctance and misgivings about being vaccinated was greatly dissipated by the fact that everything seemed to have fallen into place with little effort. It literally landed on my lap. I felt like the ease with which I secured a vaccination appointment was a gift I should not waste, given all the hurdles others were facing to secure their own.

On the appointed date, I showed up, and fell in line behind the one person ahead of me outside the entrance of the hospital. I had my paperwork ready – proper identification, the appointment email, and my letter certifying my comorbidity.  I chose Lenox Hill Hospital downtown as my vaccination site.  Upon arrival, I was asked to check in through my phone with a standard questionnaire common to covid screening and tracing. By the time I was done checking in, I was in line for the elevator taking me to the vaccination floor. I fell in line for actual registration with the same 5 people who went up on the elevator with me, giving my name, my ID, and my proof of residency since I didn’t have a state-issued ID. (Thank you, Spectrum, for the utility bill.) I also presented them with the letter certifying my qualification. All done in 10 minutes. I was then directed to the vaccination line, where I was ushered to the nurse who would administer my shot.

Another series of questions – and she entered my information, and finally, the jab. I was directed to another table to set my next appointment for the second shot within the approved window, and my appointment card was duly noted. Because of my abnormal bleeding — I am a “bleeder”, by medical standards — I was made to sit in the waiting area for observation for 30 minutes instead of the usual 15. All went well. Finally, one last check out in the system, a sticker (or two) to take home, and I was on my way.

Getting vaccinated

I walked out of the building feeling just fine. As I turned the corner and crossed to the other side, I saw this huge sign on the front of the hospital proudly declaring “Heroes work here.” Indeed.

Getting vaccinated

I only felt a tenderness in the arm that took the injection and a general sense of fatigue. I’m not too sure if the latter was caused by the medication, or if it was because I had walked my 10,000 steps and then some that same afternoon around the hospital. I had half jogged and walked on my way to Lenox Hill because I had been “stalled” by what was supposed to be a quick trip to Strand’s many blocks away but in the same area. (So much for a quick stop, which is not nearly that easy when you walk into that bookstore. I can literally spend the day there..)

The following day, I was fine. No side effects, and the tenderness, although still present, was barely noticeably except when I touched my arm. I felt okay. I was okay. Truth be told, I was relieved. The anxiety building up against the idea of being vaccinated, and then the subsequent dilemma of not being able to find an appointment and then getting that link, and then finally leaving the hospital knowing I had my first vaccination running through my veins was like a load off my back. I felt like I had more than just a card up my sleeve — that for the first time, beyond my masks and all the safety protocols that we now observed on a daily basis, I was actually armed with a shield. I just need the second shot — the sword — to actually have a real fighting chance.

The 21 days to my next appointment couldn’t have come sooner. The line was just a little longer (around 12 people deep) because second shot recipients were now overlapping with people who were getting their first shot. A staff member was now meeting people who were just joining the line to check their names off a masterlist. No more phone check in this time, we were ushered up again in groups of 5-6. Same deal with the registration/identification, with our names being checked against a masterlist and our information being verified with our appointment and vaccination cards. Then we fell in line for the actual vaccination.

Getting vaccinated

I was fortunate enough to have landed a kababayan (fellow Filipino) nurse who assisted me so ably. We did the run through of the questions, and even chatted about his own experience with the vaccination. As an ER nurse, he told me that he still saw a lot of people being brought in for Covid, and that it was alarming that more younger people between the ages of 20-40 were being admitted. He, too, felt relieved, when he was able to get vaccinated. Like my previous nurse, he made me feel at ease and even gamely posed for a selfie which I wanted to put on my feed to encourage my other friends to get vaccinated.

It’s ironic how my initial sense of anxiety over the thought of being adversely affected by the vaccine turned into anxiety about not getting it. It’s like running full circle on this rollercoaster ride over Covid 19 which has taken over our lives in sweeping strokes. A year after everything ground to a halt and “normal” as we knew it completely disappeared, there is still much to be done to help us go back to a sense of what we had before.

I have been fortunate to not have suffered any adverse side effects beyond the pain in my arm. I am now vaccinated, but I still wear my mask wherever I am in contact with others. I still carry and use a pocket hand sanitizer. I wash my hands when I get home or get near a sink after touching door handles and other surfaces that have been touched by others. I have even returned to work, even if only partly.

Getting vaccinated

As the pandemic continues to rage in all corners of the world and we are racing to keep in step with its onslaught, the vaccine has provided a much needed crutch to keep us steady as we try to outrace this killer. I am far from being optimistic about a return to normal any time soon. But I am hoping that the effort to vaccinate as many as possible will stop us from sliding into rising casualty figures. We aren’t quite there yet, but there is a better chance for us to get there.

I have friends who still refuse to be vaccinated. I respect their stand. But I try to goad as many as I can to get themselves innoculated against the covid virus before it gets to them. I have been fortunate enough to not have had anyone close enough to me, succumb to the ravages of the virus. My friends who have battled it have won— and successfully recovered. Still, we can’t let our guard down.

It is my hope that more people will see the wisdom in being vaccinated at the soonest opportunity. Many people envy us for the availability of choice here— whereas other countries have to contend with making do with less options for vaccines to take, and worse yet, scarcity of resources to get themselves the jab.

Let us not let that precious resource go to waste because of a fear magnified by misinformation and misplaced doubt. Despite its rushed approval, the vaccines that have been approved for distribution are based on existing studies and science. There will be casualties of side effects, true. But even the simplest of medication that we take everyday have the same dangers on any given day. To me, the most relevant point we must consider is would we rather risk getting sick with Covid, rather than take the chance on the vaccine that will help us fight it off.

I think about the millions of people still running scared in the shadow of possible contamination, and the millions of others being ravaged by the disease. It seems to be such arrogance to shirk away from the one things others are not as lucky to have access to. As of mid-May, vaccination numbers are beginning to slide and there is news of people missing their much needed second shot.

I am done with mine. My 17 year old is about to get his second shot. And yet even while I’m fully vaccinated, I’m not putting my masks away, nor letting go of the now ingrained habit of washing my hands and keeping the sanitizer close at hand. I know things are far from returning to normal. The news that finds its way to us from around the globe and even around us here continue to remind us of this. Many parts of the Philippines are on lockdown. That, in itself, is a stark reminder of how the pandemic is far from over. It hits so close to home for me.

This post has been churning in my head for over two months now. It started when my first vaccination was approaching.. and now I am almost a month into being fully vaccinated.

And the journey continues.

Sunday inspiration

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I made some vegetarian lasagna last night which might actually become a go-to recipe for me this season. Like previous years, I have opted to forego beef and pork for the Lenten season as my personal sacrifice. But the lasagna will have to wait another time. It’s not exactly from scratch and more of the semi-home made kind, and I’m pretty proud of how it came out to be. Now if only it didn’t add the pounds the night after. (And I have one more slice left.)

I’ve been taken by M. Night Shyamalan’s “Servant” which I’ve been watching since Friday. I can’t wait until next Friday when the next episode drops. I’ve always been a fan of M. Night’s work because of his story telling mastery. No matter how dark or fantastic a story he might be telling, I don’t mind watching his movies over and over again. So when I saw the series on Apple TV, I decided to give it a try. The first episode was classic M. Night. I paused. When I went back, I couldn’t stop. I’ve watched the entire Season 1 and all of the episodes of Season 2 that had been released so far. Like I said, waiting for the next episode.

I’ve tried to stay away from the postcards today, because it’s preoccupied a lot of my time the last few days. The sorting continues, (Yay!) and I’ve been weeding out the cards for destashing. I’ve also discovered some cards on Amazon to add to my New York and map cards. I’ll say it again, much as postcrossing has changed the world of postcard collecting, I still prefer direct swaps. The disappointments are not as jarring as the surprises that might come your way from some other place of the world.

I have letters to write. One has been popping in and out of my head to a long time penpal and fellow postcard collector I’ve corresponded with for many years. She is like a little sister to me — and we share various passions together. From personal art (although she is undoubtedly the more accomplished artist) to jewelry making and postcards, we have share a friendship via long distance for many years now. I am wondering how she’s doing, and hoping that she has gotten my last postcard. She and I are close enough that I send a small packet for her whenever I send something to Manila in a balikbayan box, I will start the letter tonight.

I am in the February section of my art journal. I have the layout in my head, but I’m trying to make up my mind about the way I will execute it beyond the heart pages that I’ve already cut. It’s a bit problematic with the thinner used Manila folders that make up most of my journal. I can probably use something thicker, or layered pages for the watercolor or acrylic heavy layouts.

So I thought I’d try my hand at maybe thickening the pages by doing collage. I had a color in mind — I’ve been cutting away, but after picking up some pieces decided it wasn’t the direction I wanted to go. Maybe I’ll change my mind later. But I’m keeping the magazine pages that called out to me. I started with this heap below.

Collage

The black and white pages are similar to layouts I had used in last year’s art journal. I like the black dresses which can be drawn over or written on. From this pile, I got to the cut outs below.

Collage

I use straight scissors to cut huge chunks, and a pointy smaller pair for detailed cutting. Lessons from my days with mixed media artist trading cards. While others would prefer to cut with blades or a cutting knife, I have acquired some skill in cutting finely near the border or just outside the border.

Collage

I have the hearts cut out. I had hoped to try to at least assemble the signature together tonight but some cassava got in the way. Given how the folder paper reacts to water, though, I’m thinking if I should paint them first before I pull the section together. Decisions, decision.

My Sunday has been relaxing and busy. I’m thinking of three other chores I can focus on but they can wait. I want to relax and recharge and get my personal projects going this weekend. It’s terribly cold outside but I need to do my walk in a bit. No evening walks when the temperature dips so low, and not on a day when I don’t have to worry about returning to my laptop to continue working.

Last week, I received the health certification from my primary care provider that now entitles me to be vaccinated with the next cohort of qualifiers. Even if I am below 65, the fact that I have a chronic condition that puts me at risk as an asthmatic pushes me up the line. But it isn’t quite that easy. I now have to wait for the vaccine providers to open their system to people of my situation, and then I need to get an appointment.

My letter was dated February 13, in anticipation of the opening of the next tier by the state on February 15, Still, my provider has indicated that they hope to start vaccinating this next set of qualifiers beginning February 23rd. My local pharmacy’s webpage hasn’t quite updated their website to help me qualify just yet. So like the thousands before me, we must play the cat and mouse game of trying to get an appointment. This Sunday, I’m not going to bother myself with that. It can wait another day. And that is altogether another post — soon.

I’m getting ready for Monday and the rest of the week. I think I’ve gotten into a better rhythm after almost of year of working the way we work now. The stress has abated although it has not gotten any less busier. I guess I’m just coping better. Positive thoughts about what the week will bring will hopefully bring me to dreamland with more ease later. Here’s to a better and warmer week for all.

Baking Banana Bread on a cold Friday night

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It’s minutes to 10pm and I just decided I wanted to bake some banana bread. I have three huge bananas that are overripe and ready to be mashed and mixed into some goodies. The recipe I am thinking of following says I only need 10 minutes and bake time of just over an hour. I have time. What I love best about this recipe is it doesn’t call for the mixer. Yay!

I have come to enjoy baking during the pandemic with all the time spent home, and the need to do something different. I do have a mixer but I loathe the washing that needs to be done after the bread has baked and has been sliced. So here’s one for a recipe that actually just needs a mixing bowl and a sturdy spatula or wooden spoon. I’ve done quite a few of these recipes, but I thought I’d try a local Filipino favorite, if only because I found the best pandesal recipe on this website, Panlasang Pinoy.

All done as promised within 10-15 minutes. Oven preheated as I mixed the ingredients and it’s well into its first 10 minutes of the hourlong bake time. I have baked enough banana breads to know which ingredients I could tweak, so I avoided the raisins, and then added walnuts on top, and a sprinkling of chocolate chips but only one side of the loaf. So I’m going to sit it out here watching Blue Bloods and trying to complete a blogpost before the oven timer rings. I don’t know if I was inspired to bake because I wanted to write, or if I got inspired to write because I decided to bake and there was the wait time until my bread came out. But I’m doing both.

It was a very cold week for New York and many parts of the country. We are luckier than others as we are used to this winter onslaught of snow. I didn’t even bother to go out yesterday and today because the temperatures were just freezing, and the weather unforgiving. I decided I would sit this one out, 10,000 steps out the window. I’m trying to be more forgiving of myself for breaking my streak last week when the first big storm hit. One thing living in New York has taught me is you can’t taunt the weather and be smug about the cold. There are days when you just have to concede to Mother Nature. We’re having quite a few of those these days.

Snow in New York

The lady at the checkout register at the neighborhood grocery put it succinctly, when she reminded me we need a good amount of snow to prepare for the dry summer. It’s a long ways away but she was right. And I guess we can’t really complain.

So I’m riding out the snow and the rain and the ice. Work has kept me busy most of the week. It’s been rather hectic but manageable. It was one of those weeks where you found yourself relieved that Friday finally came. I think that was one reason I wanted to write. And there goes an audible sigh of relief.

I can smell the sweet banana scent wafting through my home. It’s that kind of warm and fuzzy that just comforts you on a cold night like this.

I’ve taken a break from writing postcards tonight. It’s been a busy two weeks sending out cards, arranging swaps and posting to my postcard collecting account on Instagram, @ postcard_storyteller. The destashing and organizing continues. I even found a stash of older mint stamps I bought from eBay some years ago when I was doing various swaps. Not just postcards. There was a time I got into Artist Trading Cards or ATCs, journal exchanges and other mail art projects. A lot of people are not aware that older and usable stamps are available online, not only as collector’s items, but for use in regular mail. Most sellers will sell it in lots at a partial discount — say , a lot of $25 stamps for $22. For postcard collectors and stamp collectors, or those who are into mail art, using these unique stamps lent a certain flair to the postal journey of whatever we sent out. It was part of dressing up the envelope or the postcard that went through the postal system.

And although I haven’t been journaling, I’ve been working on the art journal by sprucing up the first signature of the new one. I still have odds and ends to work on with the 2020 book, but I feel so thrilled to see what I’ve accomplished with it last year. Valentine’s Day having come and gone, I have an idea for a love-filled signature I want to pull together this week.

My heart is full.

The line keeps flashing in my head — and ringing in my mind, like an echo waiting to find expression in a bundle of pages of hearts. I have a lot to write about in reflection of how I feel so lucky to be surrounded by so much love. Some people tend to be bitter or cyclical about the commercial aspects of celebrating Valentine’s Day — but it’s not all about lovers. It is, however, all about love. Like last year, I have a bit to say, even if my little guy and I had to forego our valentine date. There is next year.

My weekend has begun and my banana bread is done. It came out a little darker, and I think it’s the chocolate chips that somehow spread out. I tried one end — couldn’t resist — and I’m happy.

My banana bread this Friday