Pandemic Road: When Negative Is Positive

This picture is so “Thanksgiving 2020”. I saw this poor turkey when I was out walking the other day. It was just laying there in the street surrounded by dead leaves and covered in dust. His poor face looks a little shell shocked. A little deer in the headlights. Don’t you agree? I think I can relate. How about you?

It was the Monday after Thanksgiving. I was behaving myself going to a routine medical appointment. Actually it was the last follow‐up appointment from a brief hospitalization I had last September. I am doing fine! Couldn’t feel better. That was on Monday. On Wednesday, I received an email from Baylor stating that I may or may not have been exposed to someone during my doctor visit who has tested “positive” for Covid 19. I was given a list of symptoms to look out for and a phone number if I had questions. I called immediately.

Now please keep in mind that I have been so good throughout this pandemic. I wear a mask whenever I am out in public. My hand washing skills are at an all time peak! I have not eaten in a restaurant since last March.….which seems like a hundred years ago at this point. Social distance is a must. Even when I dash into the grocery store I try to go during times that are least busy or during senior hours. I haven’t seen any of my friends during this time except for phone calls, texts and zoom conversations.

I immediately called the number and got on the schedule for a tele‐health visit with a doctor. During my video appointment, I explained that I wore a mask during my entire visit and used hand sanitizer three times while I was in the clinic. (Entering, during, and before exiting. Then again when I got into my car.) The doctor assured me I was at low risk, but that I should get tested just to be sure.

I had appointment for testing the next morning. I walked out of my home and out into my car by myself. I drove to the entrance of the parking garage. I had a number written on a big piece of paper on my dashboard. I pulled up to the security guard where I saw a sign to tune into a specific radio station. The security guard waved me into the garage and I listened to a soothing voice telling me to keep my mask on and my windows rolled up until I saw a nurse for testing.

As I approached the testing site a man signaled me to stop. He held up a sign that said, “Please stop your car while you are checked in.” The man looked at the number on my dash and walked over to a window. He came back and held up a sign that told me to put my identification on my dash. He looked at the driver’s license I presented and he returned to the window. Then he returned with a test kit in a plastic bag and placed it on my windshield. Then he held up a sign that said “C” which indicated the specific testing site where I would encounter a nurse in full PPE ready to administer the test.

The nurse motioned for me to roll down my car window. She looked at my test kit and verified my name and date of birth. She stuck a test stick up one nostril for five seconds. Then she stuck a stick up my other nostril. I swear I still have the marks where the sticks went through to the back of my head. Maybe I had a look on my face resembling the turkey in the picture.

It was all over in a matter of minutes. I drove back home. I realized that during that entire experience I had quasi interacted with three different people. I communicated with all three, but had only exchanged words with one and had touched no one. Now I play a game of seeing how many things I can do and how many places I can go without getting close or interacting with others. It’s a fun game to play and a way to creatively get through a global pandemic. And my test came back negative! My efforts are paying off in a very positive way.

Until next week.….

Pandemic Road: Resilience

Self‐isolation, Quarantine, Social Distancing and Global Pandemic. These words were not part of my daily vocabulary last February. By the end of March, they consumed my world. These are crazy difficult times. Have I ever survived difficult times before? You bet I have. That doesn’t mean this is not still difficult, but I know I have some survival skills that I can pull from. The most important for me is a sense of humor.

Can we talk about “handwashing”? Before February I always assumed that most people, at least most of the people I knew, were familiar with the concept of handwashing. I never would have guessed that Facebook, YouTube and television news programs would all feel the need to show tutorials about how to thoroughly wash your hands to keep from spreading disease. How did we keep from spreading disease before? Well, considering normal annual rates of colds and flu, maybe we didn’t.

I can remember seeing and sharing the post on Facebook that stated something to the effect of, “Now, if everyone has mastered handwashing, next week we will focus on turn signals!” Apparently, we are still working on handwashing and haven’t graduated to turn signals yet. Maybe that will be one of our New Year’s resolutions for 2021.

In addition to handwashing, I have become an expert on sanitizing everything I ever touch. I use bleach to clean counters, doors, door keys, light switches, you name it, if it is in my home, I have sanitized it with bleach. Except for my cat. My cat has assured me that she wants no part of this human drama and she will continue to keep herself clean as she has done for the last 15 years.

The most challenging word I have learned and incorporated this year: ZOOM. One of the many technological ways for people to stay connected. I’m learning it……slowly……really slowly. By the way, where did the word “zoom” come from. The definition means to move or travel quickly which is an oxymoron when it comes to me and zooming. But I do it, because I can stay in contact with some really wonderful people.

I am just willing to bet that when this pandemic is over and we start meeting together again in person, we will all complain about having to “actually travel” through “Houston traffic” to get somewhere. Yuk! We will think back and remember the “good old days” when we could just talk to people at home on our computers wearing sweat pants and pajamas. I mean people are wearing sweat pants and pajamas. Computers don’t generally feel required to put on clothes for zoom conversations.

Has any of this been easy? Heck no! Have there been times when I have become depressed, angry, sad, forlorn, and every other emotion I can name? Heck yes! What do I do? I look at history. Tough times do eventually come to an end. The Great Depression, The Pandemic of 1918, and World War II are just a few examples.

I love to read books about people who survived tough times. I have read historical fiction and many biographies by people who know what surviving hard times is all about.

Also, I keep in touch with friends even though this does involve a lot of zooming. A good social network goes far into helping me stay sane during these crazy times. That includes all of you who read this blog. Thanks for being there!

Until next week.….

Fast, Masked & Waaay Far Apart: Corona House Closings

Six months to clean, 73 days to sell, and ten minutes to close.

That’s a pandemic time stamp to wrap up the “house” part of my sister Mimi’s life.

This timing mimics, with numbing speed, the roller coaster of grief and estate matters that first hijacked my life last October.

Like clockwork, coronavirus hijacked our last biggie: the closing of my sister’s house last week. But this day brought the quick dealmaking I’ve ever experience with a house sale.

The red alerts began with the title company’s final email the day before: 

Email screams: “This is not your average house closing!” At least we were warned: nothing ‘ordinary’ here. But we’ve known that since last fall…

We gathered at the house of my other sister, Merrilynn Stockton. The thick wad of house‐closing papers arrived.

Thank the hand model (Merrilynn) for displaying the customary wad of dead trees, all “required” for a house closing.

We sisters signed. And signed. And signed. Even as our fingers and palms cramped and ached.

DH had paperwork, too: a silly affidavit with legalese about inherited versus community property.  

Merrilynn delivered the completed papers. I took the historic photos. Terri, the Title Lady, inspected our signatures.

Who’s missing from this party?

Yes, the buyer.

A young couple from outside Houston bought our sister’s house. From the documents we’d signed, we discovered they had sat in their own remote location the day before. They wrote their names a bazillion times, too. All we learned or saw of them was their signatures.

Closing on a house used to be fun. Now, it’s only memorable.

This one I’ll remember as the most creative. Which has taught me one thing.

When chaos reigns, you can do anything — even clean, sell, and close a house.

All you need is willpower.

By the way, have you updated yours—your will, I mean?

I promise that’s my last friendly reminder.

You don’t want to live this road trip.

Have Shields, Will Travel

Four months buried in the ‘burbs, this RoadBroad needed a break.

Off to The City — that’s Houston, by the way — I drove, my trunk bearing sack loads of face shields. Each was destined for other broads, all writers like me.

We Wednesday Writers “talk” weekly to share stories either written or read in the previous six days. Yes, it’s a Zoom chat — what else is there nowadays?

Each visit renews my life. Literally. And connection matters.

During last week’s screen visit, I casually mentioned a recent find: face shields, available by the table‐full at a local store.

What do they look like?”

The question landed in multiple. I tried to describe: It’s a sheet of clear plastic that hangs below your chin, almost to your chest, with a blue plastic band that goes around your head.

I modeled mine then volunteered to gather more for those interested. On Sunday, I delivered, realizing on the way that the drive marked only my second trip into The City since March. Another first in 30‐plus years living here.

How many more firsts will I live? How many in this pandemic alone?

The next surprise came with when I saw my writer friends for our carefully‐planned, all‐masked, mostly‐distanced reunion.

Happy.

No hugs.

Sad.

I learned it’s hard to stay physically away from people I care about. It’s triple‐hard when it’s several people.

I learned real human connection delivers a buzz that nothing else can. That buzz amplifies the more I connect with others in person as evidenced by another friend reunion later that day.

Maybe that’s my Big Learning from this entire coronoavirus pandemic: relationships really do matter to me, the self‐proclaimed, fiercely fiesty, independent creature.

Pandemic Road: Week 17

Last I wrote, I was on the cusp of beginning a 10‐day writing intensive retreat. I had planned on doing this in Boulder, Colorado and sharing the glories of a road trip with my faithful readers. However, thanks to Covid‐19, the road trip turned into a zoom fest. I imagined the flat irons every time I logged on for a meeting.

While it wasn’t as scenic as actually being there, I did get a lot of writing done. So much so I wore out my printer. No problem, you might think. I thought I could get a printer today via curb side pickup. Silly, silly me. My dear friend and I looked up both Office Depot, Microcenter and Best Buy.

Apparently too many people are working from home and ink jet printers are nowhere to be found within the city limits of Houston. We even checked with Amazon and could not get the printer delivered in under 10 days. Great big expensive laser printers.….no problem. Practical, compact, inexpensive ink jet printers.…..no luck. So I ordered one that should arrive before the middle of July. I will keep my fingers crossed that my old and cheap printer will last.

This wouldn’t be a problem, except that I’ve just been invited to join a new critique group. It meets via zoom once a week and I need to be able to print out submissions so I can give feedback. I will figure out a way. I am honored to be included in this group and many thanks to Fern Brady, author and publisher for inviting me.

All this reminded me of how things have changed during the global pandemic. Tuesdays used to be the day that DF and I would enjoy culture from any of the local museums followed by a quiet and relaxing dinner at one of our many favorite restaurants. Bollo Woodfired Pizza was one of those establishments that we would visit.

Today we dined again at Bollo’s…virtually. We ordered the pizza by phone, picked it up and took it home. It’s amazing how easy it was! Have credit card, will charge!

Printer ink will be delivered tomorrow, critique group begins later this week, and the printer will show up soon.….I hope.

Please send positive thoughts to my old printer so it won’t die in the next 7 working days. If it does, I will come up with “Pandemic Printer Plan B”.

Until next week.……

Pandemic Road: Week 11

Beginning a blog post with a picture of beautiful Texas wild flowers might give you the impression that I’m going to write about another visit to the Houston Arboretum. That is in fact where all the pictures here were taken. However, that is not my topic of choice for today. I just have these really nice photographs of flowers and wanted to share them with you. With all of the walking I have been doing since this pandemic began, I have taken the time to really look at all of the flowers blooming all around me.

What I have also noticed during the past few weeks is how different it is now to eat dinner. While many of my friends talk about how much cooking and baking they’ve been doing, I have been ordering take out. I used to say that the best thing I ever made for dinner was reservations. My take out skills have developed significantly. My Dear Friend and I eat food from our favorite local restaurants approximately three times a week. We set an intention early on to support locally owned restaurants. Initially, we could walk into a restaurant and look at a menu. We would place a take out order and wait while it was prepared. Then restaurants turned more and more to pickup or curbside business where you have to order your food and pay for it online.

I have lost count of how many restaurant “accounts” I have now. Each of them have their own passwords. It is quite the challenge for this aging boomer to keep track of all this, but I am making a good and valiant effort. Also, I went into a restaurant yesterday and saw signs announcing that they no longer accept cash. Credit cards only accepted. Anywhere there is an opportunity to reduce human contact keeps both staff and customers that much safer.

Whenever I walk into any type of establishment now I make quick mental notes about their safety measures. Who is wearing masks and who is wearing gloves. How many times is the food handled by different people before it is handed to me. DF and I have a rule about only ordering food that has to be cooked. Then when we get it home, we transfer the food to my own plates and bowls. The final step is to microwave all food for 20 seconds just for good measure.

Add to this process the washing of hands at least twice and cleaning off the counter where the take out containers were placed. Whew! This is almost enough work to give me the incentive to learn how to cook. But I’m trying to not go too crazy during this strange time.

Now that restaurants are beginning to reopen, I know I will return to dine in service at some point. Just not yet. I will wait another month or two before venturing out into public too much. In the meantime, I am becoming very accustomed to online restaurant accounts and keeping up with all the passwords.

What new skills have you developed during the past couple of months?

Until next week.….….

When Voodoo Beats ‘Rona

I smiled at the fence and whispered, Ah, Dorothy, we’re not in Portland…” 


Memories of this infamous shade of pink — and the tasty product it telegraphs — drew DH and I to burst our bubble of coronavirus quarantine.

The lure?

Newest location of Voodoo Doughnut. In Houston.

As it’s been eight weeks since we’ve driven into The City, this road trip felt like an excursion into a foreign land. A first after 40+ years of Big H living.

We expected a repeat of our first Voodoo experience.

Portland, Oregon. Summer, 2018.

The locals swore a Must‐Do was sampling Portland doughnuts. Not a normal food choice for either of us. But DH and I share a hard travel rule: wherever, whatever, indulge as the natives do. Within reason, of course.

A two mile walk from our hotel, we discovered the Voodoo crowd: 

The never‐ending line outside Voodoo Doughnuts, Portland, OR (Image copyright, DSC_0242.jpg.)
Whatever you can doughnut, plus more.

Their wall‐mounted menu elicited a “Holy moly!” shriek. What you see to the left is one section of a three‐paneled menu.

Hard to see the variety. I remember what we ordered: Viscous Hibiscus, Blueberry Cake, Raspberry Romeo, Voodoo Doll, and School Daze PB&J. 

Good!” understates the divinity. 

But, truth is, the ensuing sugar rush hijacked my blogger’s eye and writer’s brain. And I no longer remember what else was on the menu — doughnuts or drinks. I do remember The Pink. 

The same Portland pink dominates the Houston store, too.

I smacked on these local bites of heaven but my eyes rebelled at all the Pepto‐Bismol pink.

Maybe that’s the point? 

A second point: after you eat your box of doughnuts (because who buys or eats only two or three Voodoos?), you need yummy tummy medicine! 

So, why not sell PB in your stores, Voodoo Doughnuts? A commission later?

Oh dear reader, I beg your forgiveness for my doughnut‐brain. This post does stink like a commercial. I promise the only green exchanged came from my own pocket. And it was a pricey grab: $2.80 per doughnut on average.

The second ouch! came two days later when I stepped on the scale. 

Alas. Must we always pay in both pennies and pounds?

Can’t we catch a break in these pandemic days?

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 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 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.….