Road trip firsts on the MetroNorth

I don’t really ride the train — except the subway, which really is a local train ride as far as I’m concerned. The few times (as in 2-3 times) that I had ventured to take the Long Island Rail Road to visit my friend in Lindenhurst, Long Island, were still, technically, very local.

Thursday, July 1st, saw me actually doing my first interstate train ride, as I jumped on a Metro North train at Grand Central heading to New Haven to join my friends for the Fourth of July weekend.

Road trip: on the metro north

While I have avoided riding much of public transportation during the pandemic, I thought this was different being that it was not a regular commute to just anywhere. I was heading to Maine for the Fourth of July weekend and had to join friends who were based in Connecticut, hence the ride. Two hours and something to New Haven, we then drove a few hours to Augusta, Maine where we spent the night. We wanted to do the remaining 3-4 hours to Greenville before noon so we could make it to our destination without killing too much of the day on the road.

This was a trip of firsts for me. It’s literally my first road trip on my own without family. It came together rather spontaneously over lunch two weeks before, and things took a while to arrange until everything fell into place. So when all was said and done, I hied off not knowing what to expect.

I just wanted to spend the long weekend doing something different. Beyond the road trip, being away on a planned hike was something totally new for me as well. I had my apprehensions about the whole thing but decided that it was a good opportunity to step out of my comfort zone. I did my research on what I needed to bring, bought the minimal gear needed (hiking sneakers with good traction), borrowed a Swiss Army knife, and assembled my weekend wardrobe. I researched and pulled together my own hiking essentials, skipping the head lamp for light flashlights and worked out an elementary first aid kit. Since there was no electricity except in the main lodge, I also bought a solar charging power bank. (More on all of this later.). I had a light backpack already and at least one water bottle. My friends had promised to bring me towels, an extra pillow and more water bottles. They were the seasoned outdoors people— so I listened and just did some extra research about where we were headed.

I hurdled the first task of packing my gear after two attempts, reminding myself that it had to be done in such a way that I could lug everything in and out of the train, both ways. I didn’t really want to take an Uber to the city, and even if I did, I had to make sure I’d be able to make it from the car to the train platform. News flash: there are no trolleys at the station. From the initial 4 pieces, I trimmed it down to three. I had a roller luggage, a full back pack and a casual tote. I decided I would not bring my laptop even if I meant to work part of the first and last day on the road. I also chose my most battered tote so that I wouldn’t feel bad about setting it down on the floor if I had to. This was roughing it out for me.

I had ordered postcards to bring and send back on the day we confirmed I could be added to the reservation, so I packed my return address labels, stamps and airmail stickers along with the right pens to use. I have always made it a habit to send postcards back home from my travels, either addressed to me or my son. I would also send to a select few fellow postcard collectors or friends— sent straight from where the postcards were coming from or were about.

Postcards for the road trip

While I would normally be more conservative with the shoe allocation, I had to keep in mind that this was a hiking trip. I was told to bring shoes I was already comfortable in, plus the optional water shoes and slippers for the shower and the cabin. All check. My hike sneakers arrived a few days before the end of the month, so I “broke the pair in” by using it during my 10,000 step walks at least 2 days before. I could’ve traveled with the hike shoes from the get go, but wearing comfortable shoes while traveling (by air or land) meant slip ons. I went with my leather TOMS which would’ve been lighter in the luggage if I packed them, but I walked in them instead. The sneakers — both pairs —went in the suitcase with the water shoes and the slippers. 5 pairs of footwear, on any given trip, was actually a lot for me..

I looked up the schedules way ahead of time, and coordinated with my friends in Connecticut. We finalized schedules the day of, and I hopped on the train that would get me there just in time for my friend, Gedd, to pick me up at Union Station closer to 5pm. On the way to Connecticut, I purchased my off peak ticket from one of the many kiosks in Grand Central, then looked up the track information from the boards.

On the train, most people observed social distancing so it wasn’t terribly packed. Besides, I slid into a 2-seater and put the roller in front of the second seat beside me so nobody could take it. Unlike the express MTA buses I was used to riding which had USB ports for charging, the train had actual electric outlets to plug any hardware you might want to charge. My first ride was uneventful, and it helped that I got on the train at the originating station and got off at the last stop. You can’t go wrong with that.

Upon disembarking from the train, I followed the crowd as they exited into a modern tube that then led to the more classic Union Station. Road trip: on the metro north As it happened, Gedd was running late and that gave me time to stop by the lone convenience store which had a postcard rack. (Happiness!) I picked up some (more) postcards and a snack and sat until Gedd showed up. How lucky could I get? Postcards of Connecticut right there at the station.

Road trip: on the metro north

Our ultimate destination was Gorman Chairback Lodge in Greenville, Maine. They had plotted the trip so that we broke it up in two by spending the evening in Augusta. This meant driving from Connecticut to Maine through most of the evening, and then heading out the next morning in time to reach Greenville just around lunch time.

As we made our way back to Connecticut, I bought my return ticket via the Metro North app, activating it as we approached the front driveway. Once on board, I just flashed the QR code to the conductor and I was off.

The train ride to and from Hew Haven and New York was pretty uneventful but memorable for the first it was. That might seem like such a shallow thrill for people who commute on the MetroNorth or LIRR on a regular basis, but not for me— more so in the time of Covid restrictions. Strange, though, it may be for someone who has been in the US for almost 21 years now — and stranger still that I have been in New York all that time. Like I always say, I learn something new everyday. It’s really a convenient way to travel for shorter distances, or when you want to take the so-called scenic route. I’m already planning my next trip which might be a longer ride, but definitely to a destination close by.

Grand Central the night I came back on July 6, 2021

Monday Musings on a Wednesday: Pre-Fourth of July

Monday musings in paper and ink

The good news, its been only two weeks since I last hit “publish”. The truth is, I started drafting posts and just didn’t get the chance to actually finish writing any of them. I’m hoping to rectify that this week, but allow me to begin with my favorite way to round up the thoughts racing through my head via my Monday Musings. (This post got stuck in my drafts so I am publishing belatedly.)

Summer blooms

I’m not even going to whine about the fact that the last post was under the same banner. I’ve always meant this to be a bunch of short blurbs of what’s going on in my life on the day I write it. Recently, this seemed to be the easiest way to get around writing a post.

Early start of the day. I found myself getting out of bed at 5am today, and that’s really early for me. I’m actually heading into Manhattan today to work on-site, so I figured I have around a half hour or so to chill and try to write a post. I’m not really a morning person but I find myself waking up earlier than my alarm on the phone. Excited much? I think not. My body has always had this way of waking up just before the alarm rings — one thing I’m glad she hasn’t thrown out of whack! I still thrive in the evenings better than these early hours.

Getting ready for the Fourth of July. I’ve never really been big on this holiday except when I have guests to bring to the fireworks display or what not. This year is different, though, as I’ve been invited by some friends to go on a holiday weekend road trip. I’m pretty excited because we’re doing something I’ve never really done before. It was a rather spontaneous invitation and acceptance that just saw everything falling into place, and I am “in the zone” and all stoked about this adventure. Finally hitting one of my 21 for 2021 goals of taking a trip outside of the Tri-State area. More about this later.

So I’m getting my gear ready and researching the things I can do where I’m going. That’s 5 days of “me”..

All these birthdays. The last couple of days saw some very important birthdays coming to pass which seems to tell me that I have an affinity with folks born during this month. Best friends in Sydney and Hong Kong and some new friends make for a very busy month of greetings. I am blessed to have you all in my life, whether as the friends who warm my heart or being one of the rare people who give me the warm and fuzzies. The latter still makes me smile impishly at the thought, but these days, any reason to smile is something to be grateful for.

I’m off to an exciting week with promises of many new firsts I am looking forward to. More to come..

Postcards and the Storyteller

Postcard Storyteller logo

I started collecting postcards back in my late teens when I joined the International Youth Service (IYS). That was in the age of actual snail mail, well before email and the internet. Yes, back in the day when people knew how to use rotary dial phones, and we had this thing called a rolodex instead of the contact list on your phone or email account.

IYS was a student penpal service, matching young people with their preference of country, gender and age. For a minimal fee which you paid in international money order, you sent a form to Finland and waited to get an address to write to. I found some friends with whom I corresponded with for many years. One in particular, Clara from Hong Kong, has been a friend even to this day. Although there was a long lull in our correspondence, we managed to find each other again a few years back, reuniting in Hong Kong in 2018. We started writing when she was about to end high school, and I was about to go into college. She was able to visit the Philippines several times as a tour escort for outbound groups from Hong Kong to Manila, which is how we managed to make so many memories together through the years. I would’ve attended her wedding if I could, but that was not meant to be. Years passed, she was widowed and now with a grown daughter, and thanks to Facebook, we found each other again.

I learned a lot about other cultures through the many friends I found via snail mail, and one of the favorite ways by which we introduced each other to our respective countries was through postcards. Even back then, I considered them my window to the world. I really couldn’t travel out of the country then but found myself visiting all these foreign lands through these postcards.

When I started collecting, I collected all the postcards that I was sent, sending back postcards printed by the likes of National Bookstore, Bookmark, Goodwill, etc. Back then, at least half a row of shelves, and not just a rack, was devoted to different types of postcards, alongside 4-5x as many greeting cards. This was when people found a greeting card indispensable to send greetings and messages to friends and loved ones for any and all occasions.

Vintage postcards in my collection

I have to admit that at the start, I bought the Philippine postcards purely to exchange and send out. It took me a few years before I realized I should be keeping a copy of each card I sent, even before I made a decision to leave for New York.

When that time came in my mid-30s, my postcards made it to New York with my then fiancée, in one heavy shoebox. Another shoebox travelled with my balikbayan box when I finally moved in 2000. That, along with my pencils, were the only collectibles I took. I gave away my hardbound books and coffee mugs. (The mug collection would later make a return as I got into Starbucks mugs, a passion to this day.)

As I started my new life in New York, the postcard collection grew. I joined Yahoogroups and billboard lists which published postcard collector’s names and mailing addresses and collecting interests. We had roundrobins and swaps and swaplists. I can’t remember when it was that I started drifting towards maps and lighthouses. As I learned about different collecting categories and meeting people who collected them, I found myself just fascinated by these two. There were specific group swaps organized with these cards in mind. My collection grew. During local travels and vacations overseas, I looked for the maps and lighthouses. We even incorporated visits to lighthouses during our road trips when we could. When I suffered two miscarriages as we were trying to have a baby, we retreated to Montauk to visit the Montauk lighthouse and spend the weekend to heal. But I will not get into my fascination with these two categories today. That’s for another time.

Vintage lighthouse postcards

I somehow ended up drifting away from postcards as life got busier when I eventually had my son in 2004. There’s a definite demand on time and resources when you get into actively trading postcards, and although I never stopped collecting, I slowly lost interest in direct or group swaps. It was also around this time that I started sending postcards home every time we travelled, this time addressed to my son. I would pick up postcards wherever we went, and chronicle our trip and I would send them from the places we visited. Even when we were visiting family in the Philippines, I tried to send back postcards to give him something to go back to when he was older. All this time, I made sure to keep one postcard in mint condition for my collection.

Then around 2012, I discovered Postcrossing.com which seemed to be an interesting way to get back into the hobby. There I met other Filipino collectors, most notable of whom was Raine, a much younger then student of Architecture in the same University where I took my prelaw degree. She and I shared not just a passion for postcards, but a love for personal art and art exchanges. Because of Raine, I got into Artist Trading Cards and found Swapbot and ATC trading groups. I went back into postcards with a newfound interest in Philippine postcards to help me reconnect with everything I left behind. Swapbot also got me back into active swaps with other like minded collectors of postcards and other items. By this time, I had refined my collecting interests to include Vintage and Modern Philippines, New York and Paris. The first two were the places I called home, and the third, my favorite city after two visits many years before.

Vintage Philippine postcards

I got back into postcard swaps and trades with the same gusto as I did before and continued to add to my collection.   I joined a postcrossing group of Filipinos on Facebook under the banner of Postcrossing Philippines.   I  even got to attend two “unofficial” meetups in Manila while continuing to meet with Raine whenever I came home through a period of 4 years or so.. until some personal challenges made me stop once again.

In the beginning of 2020, I had tried to make a more determined effort to destash and shed the things that I no longer needed or didn’t have a use for.  The Pandemic and the lockdown that began in March 2020 made me look at my collection and I decided eventually, that the best way to trim it down to what I really wanted, was to go back to trading or swapping in postcard groups.

I started again in September, but the global slowdown of mail hampered my effort.  I picked up in November and December and have been back since.  I started an instagram account dedicated to postcards and my growing collection, under the handle “postcard_storyteller”.  I believe that every postcard is a way to tell a story, and I have a lot of those stories to tell.  Beginning with this one, and then some.

To date, I have also created a Youtube channel under the same handle and plan to produce more videos about the hobby.  I have joined a few other groups to widen my swapping circle.  All of those are stories for another time.  For now, it’s just me announcing to the world that I’m back, once again.  I don’t think my “return” will be complete without dedicating a portion of the blog to this newfound return to postcards, so let’s start off with this.  Here’s to more postcards heading my way, and heading out into the world to the homes of like minded souls who look through the same window to the world.

Monday Musings: Of Busy Weekends and Rainy Mondays

Monday musings in paper and ink

It’s been a while, I know.

I have a blog post on postcards ready to see the light of day, but I’m trying to get some graphics in. I keep telling myself on Fridays and Mondays that I will start writing more purposefully again, and not waste this space I have here. My Monday Musings and Friday Five sections are, after all, supposed to be the blogposts that require the least effort, but it’s been a struggle. Well, today I write.

It was a busy weekend. Since returning to work (part of the week) in Manhattan in April, I’ve also returned to my pre pandemic routines. Certain people do my grooming best — and eyebrows are a tricky matter. So I hied off to the city to visit my nail technician. While there are nearby salons within walking distance from my home, I felt a sense of loyalty to Helen and wanted to help her out as she was still not working the full week at the salon. Little things like that can mean a lot to certain people in our lives, more so during very trying times like the ones we are currently in. The best part of the trip to Manhattan on a Saturday, though, was walking into a concert of the New York Philharmonic in Bryant Park ad I headed to the bus stop. I couldn’t stay longer than the time it took for me to get a quick bite, but I sat and I listened and it was just heavenly. This is one of the things I love about this city I live in.

Saturday with the NY philharmonic in Bryant Park

Sunday at the Postcard Club and show. After their regular monthly meeting had to stop because of COVID last year, the Metropolitan Postcard Club of New York has resumed their meeting and I finally made it! I made it a point to try to catch the afternoon hours as I was afraid I’d get carried away with the postcards for sale, but I think I did good. Caught the last two hours of the very light crowd, but it was nice to see how things worked. I’ll write more about that in a full blog post another time.

Sunday at the postcard show

Reading with intention. I tucked my latest issue of TIME magazine in my purse and I browsed, coming upon the recommended summer reads. I was actually tempted to stop by Barnes and Noble on 47th to check out some of the recommended titles, but MUJI got in the way. (I am actually glad I didn’t go further than 42nd or else I would’ve totally missed out on the NY Philharmonic.). I’ve been reading more deliberately these days and I think it’s help to relax me and keep my brain alert. Still in the thick of a second pass at “Without Remorse” on Audible and the English translation of “El Filibusterismo,” I think I will be able to do better than the goal of chalking up 6 reads by the end of the year.

Reading El Fili

“Sew” happy to be sewing again. I started sewing again early last week, working on cut up fabric that were meant to be masks for the return to work. I actually have enough in my “arsenal” and NY is relaxing mask restrictions in most open space situations, but I’m not taking my masks off anytime soon out of an abundance of precaution. I‘ve decided to tweak my patterns and can’t wait to wear them in the coming days. More importantly, I want to go back to sewing garments — since that was the original plan of getting into the sewing classes and getting my own sewing machine. Plus, there’s the fabric stash waiting to be worked on. Baby steps, as I always say.

Paint my world. I have been doing an online watercolor class. I was not surprised to learn that everything I’ve been doing so far is wrong. Well, that’s the point of taking the class, after all. Thank you, Nikki Traikos, for setting me right. It’s been an enjoyable journey so far and I am grateful for being able to take the lessons virtually. At the start of the year, I had set the goal of being able to do at least one class. This certainly gets that off my to do. I’ll share more later.

Back to almost normal. I’m writing this as my express bus is crawling into the midtown tunnel. Every morning I go to work, one to two times a week, I try to take pictures of Grand Central to show how light the crowd is. It is still very far from what it used to be. The traffic that has us stopping and going through the crawl this morning, though, is normal. So I’m hoping this means that there will be more people in today. Perhaps. New York is hoping to go to 100% capacity by the Fourth of July. and while I don’t think the usual crowds of workers and commuters will be back by then, we are slowly but surely easing back in to as close to normal as we can get.

The bus is making its way to the first stop on 36th and 3rd, and I must head up to my perch. The pavement is wet from the morning showers. I’m hoping it spares me a wet commute later tonight, but I’m ready. The lady in the fuschia pink trench coat came with some plastic slides to walk in, if needed, and there are my short galloshes. Almost forgot to check in with my morning health app before I badge in! Off to start my week right in pink, indeed.

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

All that snow

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AWe had quite the nor’easter Monday which saw New York City buried in over 12 inches of snow. I stopped counting at 12 inches. When I went out Tuesday afternoon to pick up a prescription from the local pharmacy, it was still windy and snowing. The walkways had been plowed but the whole area was still blanketed with thick snow. I cannot imagine how it was in Central Park.

My thoughts about winter haven’t quite changed. I am a warm weather person. Humid, hot, warm.. bring me back home.

It is very pretty when the snow is freshly fallen — when everything is a pure white.. then it melts and turns to slush and then we have to deal with it as we go about our daily business. Then it’s no longer cute.

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The sad news is that after a streak of 169 days of walking over 10,000 steps a day, I got stuck at home and there was no getting around to even attempting any portion of my daily walk. Today was a struggle with thick snow even on the plowed walkways, and it had started to snow again, so I had to head home after just under 4,000 steps. I feel like I need to recalibrate and restart.

I was initially disappointed but I’ve tried not to be too hard on myself. Covid has taught me to be more flexible and to be more forgiving. And forgiveness should really start with ourselves. So I forgive me.. and yes, I will get started on my next streak of 10,000 steps minimum a day soon enough.

I woke up to a cool and grey morning, and I finally got to make my tsamporado or cocoa porridge. Yes, we Filipinos like our sticky rice porridge with cocoa. I tried to do a smaller portion, but still ended up with two servings. Gone in one sitting. LOL. It was one of those mornings when I weighed myself but refused to stick to my calorie limits for breakfast.. just this once.. so I indulged. (I am almost fearful to see how much I ended up gaining tomorrow.). It brings me back to memories of home — even if the last time I had this, I actually made it even I was supposed to be the visiting daughter waiting on Mom’s home cooking! I didn’t mind.. it was all part of the full experience of being home with family. I remembered to use a ratio of 1 portion sticky rice to 5 portions water, and 1/2 portion cocoa. I would normally have put sugar but I opted for sweeteners so I completely omitted that.

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January just bid us goodbye and we are on the second month of the year already. Things seem to be moving faster somehow. And here I am looking at a stack of magazines that came in last month which I need to skim through and make a quick decision to keep or toss. I plead guilty to letting my subscriptions get the better of me — I don’t get to open to read and scan them when they get here, and they end up in a phantom pile which remains untouched for weeks on end. This year, I promised myself I will set aside time to scan, read, and discard what I don’t need. January magazines, you will be scanned this weekend.

I have been busy sorting my beads — again. I’ve made a concerted effort to eliminate the mini-bins I have all over the place containing pieces I had used to work on previous projects. Metal findings, crystals and glass, and gemstones. It’s been slow but I’m proud to have consolidated more than 12 mini containers. I’ve already washed them for use later. (I use dishwashing liquid but don’t use the sponge I used with the dishes and pots and pans. The oil residue tends to be left on plastic surfaces, so I use a half sheet paper towel to apply detergent to the plastic cups.)

The excess Christmas cards are all in one bag, ready to be put away in a special closet where I keep it for the following year. I was fortunate to have caught the after-holiday sale of Papyrus last year, and the subsequent clearance that followed before they closed for good just before Valentine’s Day. I am actually all good for next Christmas, but I’m thinking I might work on making my holiday cards again. Maybe.

It was a very different Christmas this year. I am hopeful that we will have an even more different Christmas come the end of the year — something closer to what we were used to. I’m trying to keep my expectations reasonable, though. We all thought the lockdown would end sooner, and that we would be going back to something akin to normal like back to the office by this time.. We were thinking that in October, but now, it looks like the projected return in May is still up in the air.

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I am patiently waiting my turn to be eligible to be vaccinated. At almost 55 and not being a frontliner, I think mid year or the fall is pretty optimistic given how the rollout has gone. So I’m taking care of the other vaccinations a golden girl like myself needs — like the shingles vaccine. I almost got it this weekend but the pharmacist told me I needed a prescription because I was under 60. (Something they could’ve told me when I called to inquire… they said, come on over and so I did.)

I will confess that my initial reaction to the vaccine was one of skepticism. I kept telling myself I don’t know what the side effects are — and is it worth the risk? Since the rollout started, the waiting has given me time to reflect and think. I’ve seen friends who are qualified to be with the initial batch of recipients get theirs, and I have to admit that I am green with envy. I wish I could get mine.. and shortly after, I wish my boy could get his. But the way they are going by age and risk factor, there are millions ahead of us.

I used to jokingly remind friends about the premise of “I am Legend” — the remake of “Omega Man” — and how a vaccine gone wrong started a mutation in humans that led to catastrophic results. And that was something that was supposedly vetted — even in the realm of cinematic fiction — and science failed miserably to foresee the consequences. What more this vaccine which was rushed through the usual years of trials and tests — not without reason, but still, it makes one wonder if we are taking a bigger risk putting our faith on the vaccine.

I don’t want to dwell too much on it lest it change my willingness to be vaccinated before I actually qualify to get my shot. That’s for another post altogether.

Speaking of other posts, I’ve actually started to trade postcards again — in baby steps, primarily because so much has changed about collecting. And of course there’s the usual burden of postage costs, and the added delays thanks to travel and cargo restrictions across international lines. I paused there and suddenly thought about whether or not it would be better to sit things out in the meantime. But I have the postcards to trade. Again, a product of my efforts to get organized. I’ve actually been going through my spares and have identified the postcards that need a new home. One postcard at a time. It’s given me ideas about writing a post on things I have learned about collecting postcards which the younger postcard collectors might want to read about. I’ve been drafting that post in my head. Next one in all likelihood.

We’re still looking at colder days ahead. And then rain. (Never good when it snows a ton and then it rains. That can only mean ice which no one likes.). I am just grateful the week is halfway done. Work has been busy but an okay kind of busy. I’m dealing with it. No fires to put out just yet. (Fingers crossed.)

I’m trying to wind down now so I can get to dreamland faster. The weekend was a struggle, and I am trying to be optimistic about tonight being easier. There’s the sleep cast.. and a little help.

Goodnight, world. I’m hoping the universe carries me through to a restful sleep tonight.

Crafting, Work and Life in general

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I realized that January was creeping away from me when I started looking at February for scheduling things at work. That first month sure went by so fast that I didn’t realize my last post here was in the first half of the month. And we are off..

I’ve been busy at work, busy with life, and trying to get the craft projects going. For the most part, I’ve been trying to get myself better organized — a project I began before the year ended. As always —- be it in organizing my closet, my make up or my craft supplies —- it is just so hard to let go. But I’m trying.

As we all await our turn to get vaccinated, I have come to terms with the fact that at 54 and not being a front liner, I will have to wait a little while longer. So my life in the midst of this pandemic has remained pretty much the same: still working from home, being vigilant about wearing masks, and practicing social distancing as best as I can. I have also adjusted a bit more by being pragmatic about my pining for travel — I have sort of resigned myself to the fact that none of that is happening this year. If I’m lucky, maybe towards the end of the year. Otherwise, realistically, I really cannot picture myself going on any long journeys until at least 2022. So be it.

My days continue to be spent at home. I think I’m doing better with defining my work hours. I try to log off at 5:30pm, then I get ready for my evening walk and brave the cold. And yes, even the snow. My streak remains unbroken since I vowed never to go under 10,000 steps. 165 days. I am amazed at my own determination not to falter, even when I feel exhausted at the end of the day and all I can do is walk briskly. This might not mean anything to those who hit the gym religiously at a given cadence during the week, or who fiercely jog and sprint through the air without a sweat. For someone who has always been at odds with the concept of physical exertion, the mere fact that I have kept my daily walks a ritual this whole time is a personal accomplishment.

I have to admit, though, that the weight loss has been a seesaw the last couple of weeks. I know — the excuse of holiday binging is no longer applicable, but I’ve managed to gain back 5 lbs below my prepandemic weight that I had so valiantly lost in the third quarter. I’m trying to get back on track — and not add any more weight. Somehow, my resolve has not been as firm as it used to be, and for that I am not making any excuses. I am not content with being happy that I had managed to lose the over 15 lbs I gained with all the baking and the cooking I experimented after the lockdown. I have to keep at it to reach my desired goal. So I plod on.

I am trying not to put too much pressure on myself. The last couple of weeks have seen me being restless for hours in bed before I finally find sleep. There are days, though, when I do manage to plop my head on the pillow and drift off without a care. I keep reminding myself that I should try to end the day earlier instead of waiting for the stroke of midnight to get on with my evening routines. It doesn’t help that the 16-year-old has to be chased to bed! And yet when I think about these little “problems”, I have to pause and remind myself I am fortunate that this is all I have to deal with.

One of these days, I will write about the things this pandemic has taught me. I have learned a lot — even beyond my space here. Sometimes a lightning bolt hits me in the mind or in the heart, and I find myself in the midst of a realization — and it sticks.

Sometimes the thought snowballs in my head and I say to myself, I knew that all along but just refused to admit it to myself. And I pause again and let it sink in.

I am busy these days working during the day like always. Then at night, I sit with my boy and we have dinner while watching a favorite show. After everything has been put away and the dishes have been washed and I have freshened up, I fiddle with my craft projects. Sometimes, I write a postcard or a card or letter to send out.

I’m getting into crystals and trying to study more about their properties as sources of energy. Very interesting considering they have always just been gemstones to me. Pretty little things to work with. I have found some new suppliers from mainland China which has encouraged me to research more about crystals and their properties, while at the same time goading me to explore new ways to work with undrilled stones. Lots of avenue to experiment on doing just that — and I am all excited!

Crystals and my creations

I’ve been thinking about picking up the crochet needle to make another beanie or two, but I have enough in rotation right now — all made by me in the last 24 months, so I don’t really need any. It’s just that I keep seeing my yarn stash and I know those can be put to better use. The good news is, even with yarn sale after yarn sale at my beloved Michael’s, I have strongly resisted the urge to grab any more given my untouched spools.

The art journal for 2021 has been languishing in the prep stage — but I am not worried about that. I have at least two signatures left over from what I prepared for the 2020 journal, so once that gets started, I will keep going. That was such a gratifying journey, memorializing my year in pictures and words and what have you. I want 2021 to even be more creative and different — there is just so much to write about.

Time to pause and hit publish on this one, before it ends up staying in my draft folder again. Words wasted are thoughts lost.

21 for 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

Central Park Summer 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

20.

21.

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

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