No littering please

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

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

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

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

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

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

No littering

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

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

What to do:

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

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

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

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

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

Fourth of July in the time of Corona

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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