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.

In a state of siege

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Autumn In New York

Just another day

1D194D4D-0EE0-4B49-8BBD-46396D693D4AI attempted a blog post last night to no avail. After a third time where I hit the delete button for the entire post by mistake, I figured the post was just not meant to be. I’ve been trying the dictation feature in writing my past, and I’ve had mixed success. It takes some getting used to.

It’s not entirely all dictated, because the feature still requires actual editing. I’m trying to see if it can keep up with the speed at which I speak, but I am realizing that I am actually talking slower hoping that the phone keeps up with my accent and my words. Sometimes, I catch it thanking and probably wondering what it was that I said. Given that I speak with a slight accent but still with a twang, I figure I have to give allowances for the software or the technology to get used to me as well.

So it’s just another day.

7:30am. My alarm rings and I grab the phone to turn it off and I scan my inbox. Force of habit. On a regular day from not so long ago, my alarm is set almost 2 hours earlier at 5:45. I do my morning routines and get changed. I decide I will take a shower in the morning like I always did, instead of before bed which is now an option. I have a video call at 11:30am today with an external office as a test for a call with the boss. I actually need to put on a face.

8:45am I am ready to start my day and I log on. Soft token spews out the 8 digits that change on a cadence and I am in. This is my virtual office and my day begins.

10:15am. I am reminded I have a video fest call before noon. I put the lightest of make up to look presentable onscreen. I had to look for my lipstick and just put a hint on. Just a little eyeliner and then I dabbed some powder on. I am used to full make up at work — it has always been part of dressing up for me. Since the shelter in place order took effect, my skin and my hair have been given a major reprieve from the daily abuse I usually subject it to.

The call goes well but there might be issues. I need my IT tech.

12nn. I make a deliberate effort to “observe” my lunch hour, whether I actually grab a bite or not. It doesn’t matter that I stay in front of my laptop continuing to work, but I refrain from sending emails unless it’s the boss. I want to be respectful of other people’s lunch hour as well, and I postpone replying or writing until after 1pm. Even when I was in the office, I tried to keep that hour free of reaching out. I might be working at my desk or otherwise handling something, but I will not call or write anyone until after the hour is over.

I wake up the 16 year old and he grumbles a request to stay in bed a few minutes more. Yes, I know, they are on a modified schedule, and their online learning has been pretty much at their own pace, but I don’t want him to lose the structure of the day. He saunters into the living room half asleep. I have to remind him three times to eat breakfast, offering lunch. He grabs his bowl and milk and cereal. At this time I start asking him what he wants for dinner. (I like defrosting in the fridge and the sooner I bring whatever item I need from the freezer down, the less fuss it will be later). He wants a steak. Simple enough.

I’m making bread pudding today. I have researched several recipes and had hoped to do what my mom used to make based on Nora Daza’s recipe. I was ready to go until I saw that it meant double baking (baking in a pan of water). I wanted to make the simple version and landed on this recipe from the New York Times.

I’ve been setting aside the top and bottom slice of my bread loaves since I started eating bread again, and I’ve collected enough to make two batches. (I keep them refrigerated.). One batch down.. I must say I am happy with the way it came out and I will look to tweak the recipe later with raisins and flavoring.

Bread pudding

Mixed and baked within the lunch hour, I let it cool another half hour before I sliced a piece for lunch. Meanwhile..

1:00pm. I get back to work. Scheduling can be as easy as one email exchange or twenty. Sometimes technology doesn’t work like we expect it to and there are explanations and calls to be made.

I needed my white glove support for IT to report and hopefully resolve an issue. He is one of my closest friends at work and we say hi and catch up and have a few laughs. Even if (and all the more because) he is a friend, I requested for a call after 1pm. Matter settled, second test call scheduled.

The afternoon moves with more emails and scheduling maneuvers. When you manage a calendar as busy as the boss has, there’s a lot of wheeling and dealing to make it work. Sometimes it gets too tight and everyone is unhappy, but I think I do a pretty good job of managing her days well.

4:00pm. I have to remind myself the day is almost ended, and the emails that need sending must be sent within the next hour. I also start writing my daily wrap up to brief the boss on the following day’s schedule. If we were working like we used to, I would hand her the day’s calendar with all background information and prereads printed. Since this all started, the summary of the following day’s meetings and today’s meeting requests or scheduling progress have been an efficient alternative. I start my draft so I can hit “send” before 6pm.

5.49pm. Recap sent. Officially logging off and off to my second job: Morherhood.

6:45pm. Time to cook dinner. My son and I have taken to eating dinner together while watching one of our favorite comedies. These days, we’re going through the last few seasons of That 7″s Show. He wanted a steak tonight, and I had more of my callos, then pudding with white chocolate chips for dessert. (I microwaved if for two spurts of 30 seconds to soften the chips. Heavenly!)

9ish.. “Me” Time. I go and do the things that relax me. I press my masks and start top stitching a batch. I am still undecided about the ties, so none are technically ready to go. My cord locks finally arrived. I really shouldn’t complain because I got them cheapest at Walmart, even if it was sold by one of their consignees.

Midnight. I call my siblings who are with my mom and I say goodnight to all of them. It’s a quick call as they are having lunch and I want to go to bed. I like that info this daily now because they are all quarantined at home and can pick up on their smartphones. I drink my vitamin D, freshen up and sit on my bed in the dark finishing this post.

Soon, I will be choosing my sleepcast and drift away to lala land.

Another day ended.. another one beginning in a few. I bid you goodnight.

Making the Stay at home situation work

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It’s the 6th weekend since we started this shelter in place / stay at home / but not a lockdown (because the Governor doesn’t like to call it that) new normal for New York City. Again, I’m not complaining, but of course, I long for what we had before March.

I don’t even want to think of going back to that, because I know that the reality of it is, this whole situation will change how we move forward, even after we are allowed to go back to a semblance of normalcy. I don’t know how soon or how far off that is — except that it won’t happen before May 15. Our state authorities have said as much. The way that New York City has suffered through the pandemic, it will be harder and a longer journey for us to try and reopen the city as we knew it.

Not that I’ve gotten used to this new way of doing things — but I think I’ve managed to adapt myself to this new way of living. It’s not just about adjusting to the “home office” situation, but more importantly, I’ve had to make some adjustments as part of trying to stay healthy and avoiding getting exposed to germs.

I washed my hands as much as I could — and the first two weeks, I developed a rash on the back of my left hand. It wasn’t anything alarming or painful, but it was uncomfortable and started to itch. Fortunately, I had my ointments from previous dermatological conditions. In a week, my hand was back to normal.

You just have to be conscious of how you do things, more so when you’re outside.

I live in a second floor unit with a common doorway with my first floor neighbor. We are in a u-shaped courtyard. It’s a residential community with minimal foot traffic, and my laundry and garbage bins are just a stone’s throw away from my doorstep. Still, I’ve tried to avoid going out as much as I can by doing things at home differently.

(1) Entryway essentials

– A Box of disposable gloves: so that it’s within easy reach for when I have chores to do outside.

– A trash bin with a disposable trash bag for discarded gloves and mail.

– A pair of scissors to open the mail or deliveries with

When I go outside to pick up the mail or a delivery, I open everything just inside my door instead of bringing everything up. That way, I can dispose of the wrappers or fold away the boxes right there for disposal.

(2) Develop the habit of sorting even your regular trash. I normally threw all the garbage in my huge 13-gallon garbage bin in the kitchen, but I have now reserved this for “wet” garbage. Paper and other “dry” garbage goes into regular or smaller trash bins. I can consolidate these later into a bigger bag, or tie together. Even when I cook, I consciously put away the wrappers with the dry garbage, and I collect the vegetable and fruit peels and containers separately. This will prevent the garbage bin from filling up and minimizing the trips to the garbage bin.

Of course, this doesn’t apply to others who have regular garbage pick up, or who live in buildings where there is a garbage chute. But speaking from experience, consciously disposing of garbage at a time when you don’t want to be taking too many trips outside your door has helped me keep things in order.

(3) Set regular office hours. If you’re one of those who have had to start working from home like me, it’s very important that you delineate your office hours — and be disciplined enough to observe them.

Begin your work day as if you were working in the office. I think I’ve gotten down to a manageable level of “busy” by pacing myself better now. The office closure didn’t really mean a slow down for our office, so I have had to adapt to the work-from-home routine and make a lot of adjustments beyond the smaller laptop screen, and only one screen instead of the two I had back in the office. Some days have been truly exhausting.

– Observe a lunch hour. This is important whether or not you grab a bite. The thing is to observe an actual break, get up from your desk, and pause. Literally.

Aim to finish your tasks for the day and send out the last e-mail the same time you would normally be walking out of the office. One thing that working from home robs us of is the urge to stop and get up to leave when we were actually in the office. We have buses and trains to catch, actual travel time to hurdle before getting home, and we need to be mindful of this even when we are in the “comfort of our own home”. Otherwise, you will find yourself working longer hours and exhausting yourself needlessly.

If you use audio alerts for email and meetings reminders, turn them on and off according to your office hours. My phone emits a sound when I receive an email in my work mailbox — I turn that off. My boss has her own text ringtone and I figure that it was urgent enough for her to reach me after office hours, she will text. So to the rest of my colleagues, there’s tomorrow. This last habit has helped me to keep myself focused on family and home when my office hours end. It has given me the chance to breathe and recharge.

– Shut down or log off your work system at the end of your work day. My personal and work email are both on my phone, but I’ve tried to make it a habit not to look at work emails after I’ve logged out of the network and turned my laptop off. All it takes is the discipline to literally watch the clock.

(4) Find a hobby or passion that you can pursue/continue even within the confines of home. For the first part of my stay-at-home journey, I focused on my art journal. I paused for a week or so, and I’m ready to continue. I’ve started sewing again, but it’s been in stops and starts because I am often too tired to do this at the end of the workday.

Not surprisingly, a lot of my colleagues at work who know I do jewelry were presuming that I’ve had more time to pick up my beads and pliers. The truth of it is, save for that one attempt at crocheting a necklace of glass crystals, the only other time I picked up my tools was earlier this week to restring a favorite necklace of gorgeous pink agate. I am going to try to do something about that in the at least 4 weeks more of this.

It can work if you choose to make it work. It doesn’t have to drive you crazy. When it does, you should find a way to get over the stress of being in this new normal.

I’ve started to cook and even bake. But that’s another blog post. I hope that sharing these things that have made this current way of life easier or more livable will help someone out there. We will get through this — we just need to hang in there and do our part.

Picking up my tools again