Pandemic Road: Week 9

Ah! Springtime in Houston. According to the meteorologists we are enjoying our last few days of low humidity and cool morning temperatures. As long as it is this perfect outside, I am walking in the park. This time my dear friend and I chose Hermann Park.

There were a few minor changes to the landscape due to our new friend, Covid‐19.

For starters there were many signs telling everyone to maintain social distancing. Then the hill at the Miller Outdoor Theater was blocked off with yellow tape. It is a popular spot for folks to gather in small groups, talk, picnic and such. I was glad to see that everyone was following all of the new rules in attempts to keep everyone safe. 

I took some more pictures of turtles. I notice that I take a lot of turtle pictures. They just look so relaxed sitting on rocks in the middle of ponds. This particular pair live in the Japanese Gardens section of Hermann Park.

I also tried to take some pictures of these two rabbits, but they were a bit camera shy and insisted on hopping away. I am guessing that many of the animals had quickly become used the lack of crowds in their habitat. So many have quarantined themselves during this pandemic. Yet, this was a beautiful day and many folks were out walking, jogging, cycling and enjoying the fresh air and sunshine. Except for a few crowded spots on the jogging trail, there were lots of places to walk and maintain distance.

Then there were some very interesting birds.

Are they herons or egrets? I’m not sure. Let me know if you know. All I can say is that the one on the right is glaring at me. Again, the animals are not all excited by nature paparazzi enthusiasts.

What was the best picture of all? Check out this duck with all of her baby ducklings. The little ones are adorable and the mom is making sure that I am only taking pictures and mean no harm to her waddling brood.

I’m going to miss these days when July gets here and we start experiencing triple digit temps. Actually, we may start seeing some of that next week. It was nice while it lasted.

Until next week.….

Does Climbing Ladders Equal a Road Trip?

I didn’t plan these 48 hours: climbing ladders and cleaning attics.

Blame two insurance companies and Covid‐19.

The latter led to what I call a Double D.C. with DH.

Translation:  DeCluttering & Deep Cleaning Project with Dear Husband.

OMG! We have to clean this? 

With time on our hands and remembering last fall’s house‐clearing experiences, we began The Project.

This weekend, it was the garage; today, the front closet and our attic. Of all the ancient goods we rediscovered, only two of each now remain: boxes of books and nearly‐new suitcases.

There’s an ancient stuffed reindeer bagged up there, too. A post for next year’s holiday blog?

I’m grateful for an unused bedroom. It’s now two feet high with donate‐ables, all Goodwill‐bound when ‘Rona bails and frees us to venture wide again.

When an attic ladder meets sisterly memories…

Post‐attic, I scaled a second ladder, this one at my sister’s house.

Standing at its highest rung, I looked down. Gulped. Hard. The ladder’s lowest step peeks right into her empty bedroom. 

Sniff, sniff. I’m still not used to her absence, six months ago last Thursday. 

A broken heart does what it must.

I climbed the ladder because we’re checking Mimi’s roof. Big Leaks, we fear. Total repairs are guess‐timated $26K+, funds none of us has. Hearing that number, I ouched louder than I’ve cried since this nightmare began.

But as I stood atop this ladder, my inner fight grew.

Get roof repairs fully funded, somehow! Either by the crotchety manager who just cancelled the existing homeowner’s policy because we don’t insure vacant houses or the new company which insists we’ve got to see the roof! 

Me climbing ladders, much less two within an hour, marked a first. In these days, it’s particularly curious as Uncle Sam considers me ‘high‐risk.’ I stepped up anyway, scaling rungs and standing higher than nine feet, nearly twice my height.

Boys will be Brave & Adventurous?

Before the afternoon ended, I rejected a third climbing opportunity. No go! to the roof, I nearly shouted. Instead, two young hunks, shod in Super Soles, shimmied up to play their high‐in‐the‐sky games. 

I played mine. I stood on terra firma and I spun around. My eyes spotted him.

A headless man, climbing a tree. Desperate to escape. Is that a stand‐in for me, today?

Play “name this scene!”

Take a peek: what do you see?

Your answer echoes the moral of my post: climb two ladders, save half your things, then go play.

Your life will be richer.

For each and every experience you name.

Pandemic Road: Week 8

Last week we experienced some terrific weather here in Houston. What one would typically call, “Chamber of Commerce Weather”. Temperatures were cool. The sun was shining. Where else to go, but to the Houston Arboretum. There has been a lot of nature development at the Arboretum. There are new trails and many of trails that I have walked for years have been resurfaced and improved. I love it there when it is cool and sunny. Imagine my surprise when I found this while walking on the Ravine trail. A pair of Owl eyes daring me to get too close. I can only imagine that someone affiliated with Rice University painted this beautiful scenery.

I was out in nature. I was calm and relaxed. What a great day. And then I found this on the Outer Loop trail:

Now, I have been a devoted visitor to this arboretum for many years. This is the first time I have seen a sign warning folks about coyotes! During this pandemic I have seen pictures of lions in South Africa and kangaroos in Australia taking over the streets of towns that have been shut down to prevent the spread of Covid‐19. However, I did not realize that coyotes were taking over Houston. Fortunately, the morning I was there, a variety of home‐schooling parents had brought their children out to visit with nature. I trusted that the sounds of children running and laughing sent all wild life into hiding. At least that was my hope. Since I did not see any coyotes, I am guessing it worked.

I am used to seeing a variety of wild life here. I have been known to journal about all of the different animals I saw during any of my visits to the arboretum. I am very used to butterflies and caterpillars. They are nice friendly animals that seem to enjoy having their picture taken.

 I am also used to seeing lots and lots of turtles. That was what I was expecting to see when I made my way to the pond and I was not disappointed. However, there were other signs as well.

I personally had never tried to feed the turtles. I don’t even know what turtles want for their daily fare.

What I didn’t expect were signs about gators.…..yes, you read that correctly.……gators!

Who knew I would actually see an alligator? No, I did not need to be told not to swim with them or try to feed them. Good grief. Suddenly my relaxing visit with nature was getting more dangerous by the second.

With all of this danger lurking around every bend in the trails, it’s no wonder the slopes are on the verge of a nervous breakdown! Believe me, I had learned my lesson. I stayed on the trail. I took nothing but pictures and left nothing but footprints. By the time this little visit was over, I was trying to remind myself what exactly was so relaxing about the Houston Arboretum. Then I looked at this picture:

It is green and it is alive. There are many spring flowers blooming. Yes, it is worth the danger of giant owl eyes, coyotes and gators. I can’t wait to go back.

Until next week.….

What’s your Essential Business?

Standard response to a pandemic health appointment?

First came the email from my doctor’s office. Then came a phone call, instructing me: “Wait in the parking lot with the security guard until the nurse calls you.”

The next day came a second request: “Enter through the side door, off Sweetwater Boulevard.”

Then the third call, command: “You must come alone.”

Rather high maintenance for a little female problem, I thought.

When the nurse called the fourth and final time, she said, “Come up to the 3rd floor and walk straight back in to Room 5.”

She didn’t warn me about what came before the doctor’s hands.

I call it the Full Corona Treatment.

Outside the hospital stood a lone sentry. He eyeballed me head to toe then keyed the sliding glass door.

Inside, a six‐person team stood, sat, and stared. Waiting. For. Me.

Amazed by this focus; my hands shook as I snapped the photo!

Hard to see here (I became too intimidated [yes, me] to snap a closer photo), but each person wore full coverage, a head‐to‐toe white hospital suit.

Faces stayed impassive, shielded behind masks, glasses, AND plastic sheeting that extended past their shoulders. Hands raised skyward, both gloved to the elbow.

Before I could step forward, the tallest responder barked, “Temperature, ma’am!”

He poked my forehead with a steel‐spiked thermometer gizmo. No assent/dissent allowed.

The woman sitting to my right—like a queen behind her table throne—fired away: “Are you having any breathing problems? Are your lungs clear? Have you had any fever in the past two weeks? Have you traveled overseas since March 1st? Have you been around anyone with confirmed coronavirus?”

A second woman, standing near the plate glass window, shook her head “yes” to my every “no.” Questions completed, she stepped forward and banded my wrist with a yellow bracelet.

My body responded “no” to every query. Why did I merit a coward’s color? Don’t ask here! 

Orange barricades block entry/exit for all.

Moments later, I turned the corner and saw massive orange barricades extending across the hospital’s main entrance.

I froze.

My mind raced back to 9/11, ruminating, assembling, connecting.

Full racks of weighted barriers. Six‐person checker teams.

A nasty bug we cannot see.

Coronavirus as terrorist? War? 

What else will I experience in my lifetime?

The doctor did what my body needed and I’m healing nicely.

What did I learn during my CoronaWorld Medical Adventure?

  1. Most people will rise up to your expectations if they understand your ‘why’, — and -
  2. Essential business” applies as much to individuals every day as it does nowadays to grocery stores and gas stations. 

Both involve a choice. 

What better time than a pandemic lockdown to identify what’s essential in your life?

As for me, I’m focusing on my health first, and writing a close second.

How about you?

Pandemic Road: Week Seven

OMG! Is it a witchy ninja or a ninja witch? Which witch? Bwahaha!

In case you haven’t guessed it by now, I use humor to deal with stress. I know the serious stuff is out there.…..especially now. There are many places where you can get all the serious news and information you want. I hope to make you smile.

Helping me to help you smile are two friends who sent me homemade face masks that I now use when I go out in public. Jan, from Colorado, sent me the ninja mask. Nora, from Texas, sent me the green and gold one that reminds me of spring and is shown below. Just in case you’re wondering, I haven’t (yet) worn the hat and cape with my ninja mask when I go outside. Maybe in October.

I also found the following story on social media. I don’t know who started it. I am just passing it along. Thanks to my friend, Constance from Texas, for helping me find this:

Just be careful because people are going crazy from being in lock down! Actually I’ve just been talking about this with the microwave and toaster while drinking coffee and we all agreed that things are getting bad. I didn’t mention anything to the washing machine as she puts a different spin on everything. Certainly not to the fridge as he is acting cold and distant. In the end the iron straightened me out as she said everything will be fine, no situation is too pressing. The vacuum was very unsympathetic…told me just to suck it up, but the fan was more optimistic and hoped it would all soon blow over! The toilet looked a bit flushed when I asked its opinion and didn’t say anything, but the door knob told me to get a grip. The front door said I was unhinged and the curtains told me to.….yes, you guessed it,.….pull myself together!

Jan, from Colorado, (who may have sewn a few too many face masks) responded with the following:

I am in constant conversation with this sewing machine, seems to be zigging rather than zagging. That, and I have been known to cuss out the fabric, in measured terms. As for the needles, I’ve been forced to speak rather sharply to them!

What can we learn from this bit of folly? (Other than some good hints as to the state of my mental health?) It’s good to have friends. You can stay in touch by text, Zoom, Skype, or just regular old phone calls. The important part is to stay in touch during these times of isolation. And try to laugh a little.

Until next week.….

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.….