Pandemic Road: Week Six

For Starters! The Good News?

I was at Whole Foods Market yesterday morning for the Senior Shopping Hour. Yes, at 7:00 a.m. I was at the Whole Foods Market in my neighborhood. Can I remember the last time I was awake this early? Nope.

However, as I walked into the Whole Foods Market at 7:15 a.m., I was met by a security guard.

Mam, I need to see some ID.”

Really,” I replied. “Thank you so much for questioning that I am old enough for senior shopping!” I pulled out my drivers’ license and showed it to the young security officer.

Okay,” he replied. and let me pass into the grocery store. However, there was a young woman (obviously under the age of 60) who was stopped from entering. “You cannot enter until 8:00 a.m.”.

It’s been a long time since I have been carded entering any type of establishment. I am delighted to know that I don’t automatically look like a senior to everyone.

After that adventure, I was feeling so good, that I wanted to go outside for a walk. I called my Dear Friend who came right over. We decided that it had been too long since either of us had walked at the Houston Arboretum and off we went. It was a sunny day. It wasn’t too crowded. We walked and walked. There was a lot of greenery. There were butterflies and flowers. Spring had sprung and it was beautiful. There were others in the park, but we easily socially distanced ourselves. There were single individuals, parents with children, couples, etc. A good time appeared to be had by all.

A lot of work has been done on the trails at the arboretum and we enjoyed our outing.

I was going to suggest that everyone go out to the Houston Arboretum. However, I have heard something about parks being closed this weekend. Deep sigh. If they open up again next week, try to find the time to go there and soak in some sunshine and nature.

I found it to be good for my soul. I hope it helps you as well.

Until next week.….

I

Pandemic Road: Week Five

By Jove! I think I’ve got it! Covid Choreography!

Will someone please contact the Houston Ballet? By the time the dancers return to the stage in the fall, some brilliant choreographer will surely come up with a dance about Covid‐19.

I realized this the other day when I was walking around my neighborhood. Walking is something I have been doing a lot of lately. It is my major form of exercise now. I can walk alone or I can walk six feet apart from my nearest and dearest friends. Although, I notice that even while walking, I am not getting away from the global pandemic. Before Covid‐19 I never would have noticed this protective mask sitting on the grass. But now I noticed that it was not an N95 mask. It was used; I did not dare pick it up. I left it on the grass.

But, I noticed something else while walking. Many of my neighbors are also walking. We smile and nod. Good morning wishes are exchanged. During the pleasantries, we dance! One moves to the right and the other to the left. One stays on the sidewalk while the other moves over to walk on the street. “Social distdancing.” It’s our new dance.,

I am reminded of the movie Rocky Horror Picture Show when they perform The Time Warp dance. Again, I may be showing my age, but

.….It’s just a jump to the left

And then a step to the right

With your hands on your hips

You bring your knees in tight.….……

That’s a bit of the song from the movie. With so many out walking by themselves, with children, with baby strollers, and with spouses, the possibilities for dance moves are endless!

Then there are the long lines for groceries. The really nice stores have put up awnings so customers can stand protected from the sun and rain. Wouldn’t this be a great place for a line dance. Only instead of standing shoulder to shoulder on the dance floor, we could stand six feet apart in only two rows. I am envisioning the line dance for Achy Breaky Heart. Or maybe you would prefer a Harlem Shuffle?  Maybe the Macarena? Crowd consensus should set the tone and genre for the dance.

Of course once you get inside the store, you are once again dancing with others. Maybe you want to go after your toilet paper and cleaning supplies while moving Gangnam Style.  Then while standing in line to check out and being careful to maintain the six foot safety distance, enjoy dancing The Twist!

At home, you can free style your dance while you clean your groceries, wipe down the kitchen counters and apply hand sanitizer for the gazillionth time that day. Hannah, my cat, does not care how I dance as long as I stock up on her cat food. We all have our priorities in life.

I do try to keep a daily balance during this time of global pandemic. When not walking, I have been reading a good deal. Since I am a lover of all things Halloween, I celebrated Quarantine‐O‐Ween the other day. Ah, yes. We must all make concessions to these pandemic times.

What have you been doing to entertain yourself during this time of Covid‐19?

Until next week.….

When a Census Counts…and Doesn’t

Thank the U.S. Census for repeating itself last week.

Such are my days:

  • I received a pair of 2020 census forms: one at our house, another at my sister’s house;
  • Two flashbacks followed: one to 1980, my year as a census enumerator, another to five months ago

I wish my parents had snapped a photo of me as a census girl. We didn’t take many photos 40 years ago. Each print! It costs money! If I had a picture from those days, you’d see a Melanie‐circa‐1980‐Census photo:

**right here**

I prized the homemade outfit I assembled. Over‐coordinated in perfect reds, whites, and blues, I reminded myself, “I’m working for the U.S. government!” 

I also proudly toted the government‐issued shoulder bag, a cheap black vinyl thing that swamped my small frame. It arrived with a massive U.S. CENSUS! sticker slapped on the diagonal across the bag’s front.

If I had a photo — again — you’d see that bag:

*right here**

But I grew to hate the bag’s wide black straps. They bit into my shoulder, the gouges deepening each day I criss‐crossed the streets of my Pampa hometown.

Many of its roads I’d never driven, much less walked. At 23, I was frighteningly young, long sheltered from another side of life in a small Texas town.

When Derek opened his door, I recognized him as a high school classmate and former football star. He now lived alone with his mother in a unpainted shack south of the tracks.

He grimaced, remembering me. I smiled. It was my job.

A day later, I stood on Mrs. Wilson’s porch. Her youngest daughter had been my best friend in first grade. Mrs. Wilson complimented my outfit, validating my sense of style.

But her face remained blank. I didn’t know whether to feel hurt or gratitude.

Fast forward four decades:

My family received two census forms in, yes, two different mailboxes: my house, plus the same form at my recently deceased sister’s home.

I opened Mimi’s first. It read “To Resident at….”

I entered her census ID, expecting questions about her status.

Instead, a plethora of questions gushed forth like a wave, all focused on the structure at her address. I answered that no one was living in the house. The computer responded:

Swallowing the lump bulging in my throat, I asked the screen, “Empty doesn’t matter?”

On our census form, DH confirmed we still occupied the building as “residents of the address.” Up popped a question about our names. Answering led to gratitude from Uncle Sam: I know, I know. The census exists to count people for many reasons.

But we only matter if we’re living? 

Yes, I’m still grieving my sister’s sudden death. Last week marked five months.

Time does ease the loss. It won’t go away when reminders keep coming.

And 40 years later, I remain sad about those porch moments with Derek and Mrs. Wilson. 

Interesting, isn’t it, remembering what we’d like to forget.

Pandemic Road: Week Four, Part Two

Since I am spending extra time at home, I thought I would share a second weekly blog with you, my dear readers. You’re Welcome!

I had an exciting outing this morning. No, I didn’t break any of the rules for “staying home”. I took my cat, Hannah, to the vet. There’s nothing wrong with her. It was a routine visit and it got both her and I out of the house. I was much more excited about this than she was.

Of course, since we are in the middle of the pandemic, I can’t really say the visit was routine for me. Instead of walking into the lobby of the vet’s office, I parked my car in the parking lot. Then I called inside to the receptionist to let them know I was there. Minutes later a vet tech came out to my car, picked up the cat carrier and disappeared into a side door of the clinic. I waited outside while my little ball of fur was being treated. After a few minutes, the same vet tech brought Hannah in her carrier back out to my car. I called back in to the receptionist to make sure they had my credit card on file and drove away. During the drive home, Hannah kept looking at me as if I and all humans had lost our collective minds. Now that we are back home, Hannah is seeing her way to forgive me for disrupting her daily routine. A long nap in a sunny windowsill seems to be doing the trick.

I am reminded of a Facebook saying I saw this morning:

So You’re staying inside, practicing social distancing, and cleaning yourself? Congratulations my friend, you’ve become a house cat.

On the downside of the pandemic, I have received notice that two art exhibitions I had been selected to take part in this spring have been postponed, delayed, whatever until things return to normal. In the first instance I have a piece of collage art that was selected to display in an exhibition at Rice University. In the second instance I have an essay that was part of an art and literature exhibition at the Holocaust Museum Houston. Bummer, Bummer, Bummer.

Of course on the upside I am healthy and safe. All of my close friends and family are healthy and safe. I can still take long walks outside and I have started taking advantage of “Senior Shopping Hours”! Woo Hoo!

I hope all of you are staying safe, healthy and happy!

Until next week.……

Pandemic Road: Week Four

Now we have a “stay home” order from our Harris County Judge and City of Houston Mayor. We can still go to the grocery store and drug store. I can still take my cat to the vet (which, believe me, excites her no end). I can still go to a restaurant and get an order to go. I can still exercise outside. Parks are still open; you just can’t sit on a bench or touch the rail on the bridge that goes over the nice pond.

So I have been walking quite a bit around the neighborhood and noticing a few things. The first item was the lone cowboy boot. That seems even odder than finding a lone sneaker in the road. You would think that it would be harder to walk out of a boot than a sneaker. Even if you were carrying your boots and you dropped one.…..don’t you think you would notice? Since there was only one and it wasn’t in my size, I left it alone.

The other thing I noticed is that there are a gazillion lizards in Houston. I am not sure where they all come from, but I understand they are good for gardens and don’t bite humans. They like to sit in the sun, eat insects, and scamper across the sidewalk when they see me coming. You can see that this little guy is doing a great job of blending into the landscape. And he appears to be ready to bolt for the bushes as soon as I turn away. I have seen both green lizards and brown lizards in my walking adventures. Since they have no desire to bite humans, I like them. Also, since everyone is having to “socially distance” themselves whenever they are out in public, it can be easier to talk to a lizard on the sidewalk than it is to talk to your walking companion standing six feet away. No, no. I’m not lonely. I would just rather be seen talking to lizards than to myself. That’s the healthier option don’t you think?

Finally, I saw this post that is holding up a STOP sign. I was amazed that the greenery was growing on both the inside and outside of the post. This I took as a very hopeful sign. Life will grow even if it is a bit of greenery on a post during a pandemic. Spring is here and there is definitely hope for the future.

I’ve heard it said that the pandemic will pass. All things will pass. It may feel like a kidney stone passing, but pass it will.

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Week Three

Last week I wrote about going out to eat at a restaurant where all patrons were spaced out, food was cooked. Wasn’t that nice? I really enjoyed it. Today as I walk around the neighborhood, I see many signs like this one. Many shops are closed. The gym that I like to attend is closed. Movie theaters are closed. The Houston Theatre District has ground to a halt.

This provides me with a challenge. What to do with myself?

I accept this challenge. I am finding things to do every day. Today I went to a mid‐day mindfulness meditation group. There were six of us and we spaced ourselves out and used hand sanitizer and no one sneezed or coughed. We did not hug each other as we usually do, but it felt good to be in this group of people who are all working our way through these times that are like no other.

Tuesday was St. Patrick’s Day. By then bars were closed and restaurants were open on a take out/delivery option only. I even tried to ask that if I walked into a restaurant and placed an order to go, could I get a drink at the bar. NONONO! Okay, you only have to tell me once. Apparently the local pandemic police are really strict about that. However, I want to support local businesses that may be hurting right now. So, I am happy to order take out from my favorite restaurants.

Welcome to 100% Taquito and St. Patrick’s Day.

You may remember that I wrote about 100% Taquitos as my go to restaurant for El Dia De Los Muertos (Day of the Dead). Now they are my new favorite restaurant for St. Patrick’s Day. As you can see the taxi with the leprechaun on top and skeletons inside is surrounded by tables that have been stacked up so no one coming in for take out will be able to sit down. On top of the front of the taxi are two floor mats as further evidence of the seating area not being open. Also, all employees who prepared the food wore gloves. Again, I ordered food that required cooking.

As you can see, instead of the well known phrase, “Kiss Me, I’m Irish”, your only requirement at 100% Taquitos is to buy tacos. I did. My dear friend and I both bought vegetarian tacos. We took them home and ate them outside on the balcony. They were delicious.

As I left 100% Taquito with tacos in hand, I passed this cute doggie called “Lucky”. I didn’t pat him on the head, because I was respecting his social distance. But I did wave good‐bye. I will continue to go by my favorite local restaurants and support them with my take out orders.

What local businesses are you supporting during this unusual time?

Until next week.….

Cold Days & Corona Hands

When I lost my voice last week, I knew I was Bad sick.

Ten days after Round One. This demanded Doctor Time.

There were shots — steroids in the backside — bedrest orders and a trio of prescriptions, plus specific eating and drinking menus, too.

Sick counter loaded for healing. Face mask for good measure!

As I recovered, I read good and bad novels. Slept (ten hours one night — long time since that’s happened!). Took meds. Ate chicken noodle soup (yes, this vegetarian). Guzzled orange juice. Sucked on cough drops.

Repeated the cycle. Over and over and three days later playtime beckoned.

What else is a bored mind to do? Especially when it can’t leave the house?

I’d heard a coronavirus advisory about hand protection. I searched for rubber gloves. Found only an old pair of cotton gloves, used at bedtime for lotion‐slathered reptile hands (i.e., really cracked palms and fingers—like I once experienced). This time, I saw something new.

Overmedicated minds and too much nap time = Corona Hands!

Opportunity!

Not jazz hands! Too passé!

Then, let’s make…

Corona Hands!  

Those hipster sunglasses protect sensitive eyes. Like the face mask, they both protect nothing.

And the hand sanitizer? It’s making up for what cotton gloves don’t offer in a viral pandemic.

Zany humor only goes so far?

One vital element that matters in these times is the Truth, and it’s too hard to find.

In a previous life, I worked as a crisis communications consultant for companies all around the globe. We taught our clients to always tell the truth, even if—especially if—it’s bad.

In 2020, telling the truth @ #6 overrules #1 (show empathy) from 1991.

Our wallet card listed truth‐telling as Rule #6. This was the 1991 world when DH and I still carried a pager.

Eons before social media took over, outing everyone at nanospeed.

Interesting, isn’t it: the do’s and don’t’s of crisis communications haven’t changed in 31 years.

Same as humans getting sick and infecting each other. Think 102 years ago and the 1918 flu pandemic.

We can learn from this crisis road, can’t we?

The wise words from Clarissa Pinkola Estes offer us all a how:  “One of the most important steps you can take to help calm the storm is to not allow yourself to be taken in a flurry of overwrought emotion or despair – thereby accidentally contributing to the swale and the swirl. Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”

Coronavirus is an opportunity, folks.

Let’s use it.

Be kind. Be well.

NOTE: With this post, I am moving to an every‐other‐week publishing schedule. My abundant writing projects demand it! Thank you for understanding — xo

Pandemic Road: Week Two

As Melanie pointed out in her latest blog, we are knee deep in a week that began with a full moon and is ending with a Friday the 13th. We could’ve guessed that this is the time to plunge into a global pandemic.

This is where I spent my late afternoon today. In a very calm restaurant, RA Sushi, looking out the window. My Dear Friend and I had good food and polite conversation. Don’t the clouds look nice set back against the beautiful blue skies. It’s hard to imagine from looking at this picture that the grocery store across the street was doing a roaring business and selling out of water and toilet paper.

Why toilet paper? People are hoarding toilet paper. I don’t understand that and I don’t really even want to understand that. People are also hoarding water. Last I heard coronavirus does not flow through the water pipes.

Earlier this day, I spent a lot of time finding out how many of my weekend plans were being cancelled. Even the WiVLA (Women in the Visual and Literary Arts) events have been cancelled. Both the Houston Ballet and the Houston Symphony cancelled all their performances for the rest of the month.

Even the Houston Live Stock Show and Rodeo was called off in mid‐run. This is the first time this happened since it began back in the 1930’s. That seemed to be the cancellation that caught most people off guard. Of course, I only went to the Rodeo twice in the time I have lived here in Houston. But I always knew it was there. I would go way out of my way to avoid the traffic. Willie Nelson got in his performance this year, but Gwen Stefani and many other musicians were cancelled.

Back at the nice peaceful restaurant, we arrived around 3:00 p.m. We knew the place would not be crowded at that time during a week day. I don’t know if the staff planned this, but the patrons that were there were seated at least 3 to 6 feet apart. I eyed the wait staff closely and did not see anyone cough, sneeze, wheeze or any other signs of impending doom. By the time we left many other customers came in, yet we all remained safely separated for appropriate social isolation.

In one more attempt to remain safe and healthy restaurant customers; my Dear Friend and I ordered only food that involved cooking. Typically at RA, we order things like sushi, seaweed salads, etc. As you can see in this picture, we split an order of vegetable tempura. It included yummy broccoli, asparagus, carrots and a few onion rings. We also split an order of agedashi tofu and some zucchini.

In addition to eating out, we went for a walk. The weather is getting warmer and warmer. Spring has definitely sprung around here. However, it is not as hot as it gets in the middle of July and August. I hope this pandemic is over before the summer gets here. I prefer water aerobics to walking when it is hot enough outside to fry eggs on the sidewalk.

How are you doing with this pandemic? I think everyone is hibernating at least for the upcoming weekend and maybe next week.

Wash your hands and stay healthy!

Until next week.….

Springing Forward into a Wild Week

I’m baaaaack!

My blog sabbatical**  extended an extra week, thanks to a seasonal cold that kicked me flat and left me off the road.

Interesting, isn’t it, that every member of Team Mimi got sick?!

Is that Life’s commentary on the impact of stress and grief? But, if we all had to get sick, I can give thanks for the timing.

Look at this week: a return to Daylight Saving Time and International Women’s Day, Monday’s a Full Worm Supermoon, and a Friday the 13th. These four events lead to the biggie: next week’s Spring Equinox.

My garden celebrates a lonely rose and an early spring.

So much activity compressed into 12 short days? Normally, I don’t wig out on calendars. Curious, I found connections and learned new trivia:

  • It’s Daylight Saving Time, not Daylight Savings Time.

The worst part of this spring forward/fall back shenanigan? More car accidents and road deaths occur on the Monday after the spring time shift.

A Stanford University study analyzed 20+ years of highway accident figures and reported a 5.3% hike in the “spring forward” Monday accident rate. Blame sleep disruption.

Drive carefully tomorrow, friends!

  • It’s International Women’s Day this Sunday. For 43 years, we’ve been celebrated. Why don’t I feel better about this event?

First, it took until 1977 for such a day to be declared? Why not sometime in the previous 1,977 years?

When’s real change going to occur? This isn’t a political statement. It’s more like a truth‐check for Women.

We’re half the population. Why can’t a woman be America’s president? If not our generation, when? 

  • It’s a Full Worm Supermoon on Monday at precisely 12:48p Houston time. Thank Native Americans for the naming. It’s how they tracked the year’s seasons. Every March, the tribes noted that earthworms returned to the topsoil, encouraging birds to feed again.
Full Moon as shot through what looks like a forest: it’s only my backyard!

Supermoon” merely means the lunar orb appears bigger and brighter because its orbit that month involves “perigee” that swings it closer to earth.

Get ready: we’ve got full supermoons each month through May.

  • Friday the 13th looms large for those with paraskevidekatriaphobia. Yes, that’s fear of Friday the 13th. I’m looking forward to it. If you add up the numbers — as in 1+3 — it equals 4, my luckiest number. Bring it on, baby!

A week later, Spring arrives on March 20th. Then the calendar slides back into routine, day‐to‐day. Breathe… 

I’m so ready. It’s been a tough four months but I’ve turned a corner.

Self‐care matters. So does forward movement.

Let this week pass, then let spring begin!

** NOTE: A special shout‐out to Ellen: thank you for understanding and carrying forward with RoadBroads. I am grateful for you!

Pandemic Road

I don’t remember where I first heard of the “curse”. However, I do remember reading about it in several novels by Terry Pratchett. Here is the curse:

May you live in interesting times.

This is now the curse where we find ourselves. Last night I did something that may in a few short days be considered quite risky.

I went to the Theater District of Houston. My Dear Friend and I went to dinner at a restaurant called the Blue Fish. It was crowded. Lots of folks enjoying the sushi and other delectable items. My We shared the grilled salmon.

Then we went across the street to the Wortham Center and saw a work that had been commissioned by the Houston Grand Opera. It was called Marian’s Song.

This short opera told a part of the story about Marian Anderson. She was one of the most celebrated singers of the 20th century who broke racial barriers throughout her career. This was a fusion of opera, spoken word and multimedia projections. Deborah D.E.E.P. Mouton wrote the libretto. The performance was inspiring. I was moved. I hope this work grows and moves into the arena of operas around the world. I am looking forward to hearing Ms. Mouton speak at the March meeting of the Women in the Visual and Literary Arts (WiVLA).

What was so risky? I went out in public. I washed my hands frequently. I tried not to touch door knobs. I have been practicing punching elevator buttons with my knuckle. The coravirus or COVID‐19 could pop up anywhere.

This week I have gotten used to going to any grocery or drug store and seeing people with masks and/or gloves. There is no hand sanitizer, water, toilet paper, etc. available for purchase. I have my small supply. I wash my hands frequently. I am getting to know local pharmacists so they will tell me when the next shipment of supplies is due. Every time I get home, the first thing I do is wash my hands. I am amazed at how many people don’t know how to wash their hands. Isn’t this one of the activities of daily living that we all should have mastered by.….I don’t know.……age 5 or so?

The fear is palpable.

Is this the price I pay because I love living in a big city? I love the Theater District in downtown Houston. What if this all gets worse and performances are cancelled/delayed? Many of the arts were adversely affected by Hurricane Harvey. What could a pandemic do to them?

As I sit at here, having washed my hands twice since getting home this afternoon, I contemplate this. I plan as best I can and I contemplate.

Even my cat, Hannah, is showing an interest in how I keep the two of us safe.

Next weekend my Dear Friend and I have tickets for the Houston Ballet and Houston Symphony. I still plan on attending both. I will wash my hands, use hand sanitizer and whatever else I need to do. I still love life in a big international city. We have survived SARS, Y2K, and several hurricanes. When faced with a hurricane, all one can do is grab supplies and hunker down until the danger is passed. We have many more options to survive a pandemic. We will survive COVID‐19. We’re Texans by God. Remember the Alamo! I will keep you posted on how it goes.

Until next week.……