It’s the little things…

Can you see me?

This year has been one where we have had to be introspective and appreciate the little things.  It’s a small silver lining given the tragedy of Covid-19 but perhaps it will give us new coping skills for the future.  Teddy and I used to go out to lunch at least once a week.  We knew all the wait staff and enjoyed the banter along with the food.  It was my only reason to get dressed up as I wore a uniform, of sorts, at work.  Like most of us I have cleared out the closets but the pretty dresses flutter sadly in the closet.  Recently I bought two new nightdresses because that’s what I wear most.  On the plus side, I found nightdresses with pockets – wow!

Teddy was pushed to his limit last week when Hurricane Laura blew through.  It missed the large centers of population but it tore down large parts of our electricity grid to our east.  The next day the power went out unexpectedly for about 8 hours.  That seems perfectly reasonable to me but it was 100 degrees outside and 84 degrees in the house.  Teddy had to stop work and paced the house like a tiger.  He tested the generator (it works), he hunted for batteries and torches (which are all in the hurricane box which Kerry packs each year) and generally drove me crazy.  After many hours, I shouted at him, gave him a beer and told him to sit his ass down.  To his horror I said, “Look at the flowers” which is a line from Walking Dead before one of the characters was dispatched.  I reassured him that it was a Freudian slip…  Then nature sent us a little precious moment to calm him down.  Two little squirrel siblings who had been running crazy along the fences and trees, suddenly stopped and started grooming each other.  They snuggled and licked each other and our hearts melted.

I’m coming down for the snacks. Muchas Gracias, Senora!!

Like everyone else, our vacation plans have disappeared.  We had planned something special for my 60th birthday/38th anniversary in July but instead I made Teddy his favorite meal.  He loves potato gratin – so simple but I rarely make it.  For dessert I made him something he had been hankering over for 30+ years.  Many years ago I made a very decadent Pashka (Russian Easter cake) for a dinner party that we were hosting.  I searched the internet for a slightly lighter version of my original recipe and then altered it a little.  The main ingredients are butter, sugar, toasted almonds, crystallized ginger and vanilla.  Teddy was so excited!!!  I think it might have been the nicest anniversary meal we have ever had.  Our expectations were low and I was not stressed.

Potato Gratin

Pashka

Then there are the lizards.  As you know, we have been without pets for over a year now.  We rarely sat out in our back yard because Toffee was sadly sitting inside but now we can happily sit in our rockers looking at nature.  We noticed that spotted Anoles would come running when we came out.  Perhaps it was coincidence but now we have them named. Lorenzo has a regrown tail and Leo likes to sit on the prow of the deck.  When we call them, they run out from under the deck and start displaying in front of us.  Sometimes it is little handstands or head nods but if we are lucky they show us their red dewlap.  They let us go within an inch of them to admire their chameleon coloring.  We have one sweet little green Anole, Gerry, who is a native Texan.  The spotted Anoles are invasive from Cuba and they are feisty.  I Googled “snacks for lizards’ and they like live crickets and meal worms. They will have to eat what’s in the backyard…

velvet ant

Covid-19 has made me less obsessive about the usual bugs and germs.  Teddy dispatched a giant tree roach in the house and I didn’t bat an eyelid or get out the bleach.  We are in semi-drought here so insects are coming in, looking for water.  In the middle of the night, I went sleepily to the bathroom.  Through drowsy eyes, I saw what looked like a scorpion walking in while I was trapped on the toilet.  It was big, brown and not a cockroach.  Ruthlessly, I took a magazine and squashed it.  Later, I discovered that it was a mole cricket and I have been grieving ever since.  It was a harmless wee thing and I wish I had taken it out to the garden.

Mole Cricket with a curious pup, courtesy of Pixabay

Another day the lizards were agitated and when we investigated, they were chasing a velvet ant away from their babies – beautiful creature but with a deadly sting.  Red throated hummingbirds have visited the Mexican Fire Bush en route back to Latin America.  Finally, there are the babies. We have two nests of red tailed hawks behind our house. The baby hawks screech, “Mom, I need a mouse!”, then the Blue Jays start squawking and lastly the squirrels bark.  What a racket!

Just before this capture of a blue jay, he had been screeching that the water was dirty… Just as well they are beautiful.

I think this is a mixed marriage…like Teddy and I.

Necropolis

It looks like such a peaceful scene, doesn’t it? Teddy and I have used our deck more often, since the pandemic, than we have in 16 years.  The trees in the reserve have grown so much that we get nice shade cover in the afternoon.  A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a ‘farmyard’ smell but we live many miles from farms in our forested idyll.  At first I wondered if someone had put down some stinky mulch or fertilizer but it is entirely the wrong time of year and it has been 100 degrees out there.

We had a few breezy days and Teddy agreed with me that he could smell a faint odor on the air but perhaps it was the communal garbage bins at the apartments beyond the reserve?  After another couple of days, I asked him if I should do a ‘Karen’ and complain to the apartment manager.  Teddy, very wisely, suggested that we just leave it since it was almost 100 degrees and maybe the bins needed emptied.  (We have never smelled their garbage bins in the last 16 years).

The next day, I started looking under the deck but could see nothing but dead leaves but there was still this strange odor that now Teddy (probably post Covid-19) could not smell at all.  Then he started saying things like, “You know what you are like when you get obsessed about stuff…”  To be fair, I agreed with him but we had paid hundreds of dollars two years ago to remove a huge dead skunk which had been ripped to pieces by another predator from under the same bloody deck.  This new odor was delicate by comparison.

One evening we put out the night camera to see if there was an obvious culprit with a smelly nest?  They were just the usual subjects – squirrels, possums, wood rats and two gorgeously marked little skunks (alive and well).  On a forensic note, we had spotted some very pretty little iridescent flies around the deck, glowing purple and green.  We never have flies in our yard…only endless mosquitoes that have tested positive for West Nile Disease in our forest this year.  At this stage, I should note that I am an aficionado of every Forensic program, real and fiction.  Decomp and adipose are terms that I am very familiar with.

With that thought in my head, I finally snapped and said to Teddy, “We need to call pest control out”.  He looked at me as though I hadn’t been taking my medication.  We compromised on him unscrewing some of the deck planks so that I could root around like Bones.  The drill had no battery power as it hadn’t been used for a while.  In desperation, I put a blanket on the ground and got my rake under the deck and started pulling stuff out.  When a cloud of these pretty iridescent flies flew out at me, I knew I had found the evidence.  Finally I brought out a little gray furry thing and even more of the dratted flies.  I stood up and ran off squealing but then put my big girl pants on and returned with gloves, bags and disinfectant.

It was a poor little squirrel, who had left this mortal coil and decided our deck would be a lovely resting place.  I shouted to Teddy that I had found the victim but he chose to carry on working since he didn’t want to confront his wife who said, “SEE, SEE, I told you it was a critter!”  The decomposition flies were now yukky, not pretty, and I had to shake the corpse to get the damned things off.  Another friend had just told me this lovely story of rescuing a dying baby bird from their pool, putting it in a leaf lined box and then burying it in their garden with a cairn for remembrance.  Our squirrel went in the wheelie bin.

After all that, in almost 100 degree weather, I went all OCD (that’s a clinical term).  Hose, disinfectant, bleach and then I did the same for me.  All my clothes went in the washer immediately.  It struck me as ironic that there is a virus out there that is so much more dangerous than any dead squirrel.  The garden is serene again, smelling verdant and I am so glad I didn’t speak to the apartment manager…

Our first date…

 

…since the Pandemic started.  We moved into our ‘new’ house 16 years ago when we moved to Texas from Cairo.  One of the reasons was that it was a 5 minute walk from our house to a local steakhouse and bar.  We don’t go that often as it is expensive but it is a lovely treat at happy hour.  Now you have to make reservations and observe restaurant social distancing.  It was a tad weird to see our usual servers in masks and gloves but lovely at the same time.  They welcomed us like old friends.  We both had to sit at the same side of the booth to be the requisite distance from the next booth which was very romantic.

It’s a fancy place but not pretentious and we dressed up.  Teddy has lost so much weight that his Tommy Bahama’s good shirt could have fitted both of us in it – time for the charity box.  I can fit into my old skinny clothes and I am wearing my favorite cream Max Studio dress worn with an ‘antique’ brown velvet jacket from Bandera, Texas.  I am pretty sure the previous owner has passed on but I love to think of the events she may have worn it to.  At the restaurant I ate my steak like a ravenous wolf and devoured the whipped potatoes.  Then we had a bottle of wine AND DESSERT.  It was all gluten free – just like my life now.

Like many of us, I have spent quite some time on introspective thought.  My mental health has been good given the circumstances and I realize that I enjoy social isolation (and the calm that comes with that).  Rather sadly, I went into the airport and handed back my badge and keys.  I have been volunteering for 11 years or so and it was the strangest sensation to see how quiet everything was.  The volunteering program has been suspended temporarily but I had already decided before the pandemic that it was time for me to do something new.  I doubt I will have any VIP work for the next year but that might pick up in the future.  It is a special birthday for me in July when I turn 60 – WHAT!!!!  We had vague plans of a short trip somewhere but who knows.  We could spend the rest of our lives just exploring Texas…

Is anyone else totally fed up with the Pandemic euphemisms?   These Challenging times, Unusual circumstances or The New Normal.  It’s a bloody Pandemic – just call it what it is.  The best new word I came across is Covidiot which means someone who doesn’t follow Pandemic Protocol.  On that note I was scolded at two separate grocery stores.  ME – compliant citizen exemplified!  The first time I waited patiently in the line to go in a smaller store, wore my mask and kept my distance.  At the checkout I stood behind the plexiglass but wasn’t standing in the taped yellow box.  The older gentleman, checking my groceries out, asked me to move back, and I apologized profusely.  I was mortified.  Today, I went through the 15 items only checkout at another store.  I guess I had about 20 items which has never been a problem in the past.  This time I had to pay for the first 15 items, and then the extra items separately.  This time I almost blushed.  I sheepishly left the store reminding myself to count the items next time.

Some very classy citizens have been behaving very badly during these ‘challenging times’ and I don’t want to be part of that mob.  One mother created a ruckus at Red Lobster (a seafood chain of restaurants) because she had to wait.  I guess nobody knew she was Mother of the Year??  It doesn’t sit well when so many of our population are food hungry right now.  Thank you once again to all the essential workers who have worked so hard to keep us safe.  The least we could do is to make their jobs easier.

Happy Memorial Day – E Pluribus Unum.

Mask Couture

Finally, our masks arrived from China!  I made Teddy dress up for the photograph – you may as well rock social distancing!  I put on eye makeup for the first time in months and had to take it off as soon as the photo was taken…  As I look at celebrity and other videos, I wonder if we will be less vain when the Pandemic is over?

I noticed a change at the store today – there was hand sanitizer and toilet tissue and paper towels!!  My gluten free shelf was all stocked up and I breathed a sigh of relief.  As soon as I did, waves of guilt washed over me for all the people who have no food.  I read Reuters World news to keep a real perspective of Covid-19’s effect on the world.

On a happier note, I saw Mama and Papa Bluebird on their nesting box today, along with a large but young Great Heron and a family who had adopted a rescue dog during the lock-down.  Bravo to them!

Keep safe, keep well and thank you to all our essential workers.

A Little Levity

It drives me crazy that of all the lovely shots I had taken of me in my wedding dress for our thirtieth wedding anniversary, this is the one blown up on my husband’s office wall.  I guess that is the Kerry that he really loves.  Right now at this crossroad in history we need some lightness.  The last time I felt panicked about going out was in 2003 in Cairo, Egypt.  The Second Gulf war had started and there was a perceived threat of weapons of mass destruction.  We were advised to stay home in case Westerners were a target.

Don’t you love the vista behind our balcony?

Since I looked like I did above, it was obvious that I wasn’t Middle Eastern but I couldn’t stand being in the house.  I strode out silently daring anyone to harass me.  Nobody did…I probably looked like a crazy lady.  Then I felt silly.  Now we have to socially distance.  I went to Trader Joe today (our Marks and Spencer sorta) and there were little yellow lines painted 6 ft. distance.  They were only allowing a limited amount of shoppers and it was the quietest I have ever seen the shop – bliss.  As you approached the shop, the Trader Joe artists (there are always some on staff to paint the signs) had put little encouraging words on the yellow stripes.

“Getting closer…”

“Almost there…”

When I got to the checkout desk, I had a little chat with the lady. “I look ridiculous with these black hair dye gloves,” I said.  “Oh, no, I have seen much worse…” she returned with a chuckle.  Then my imagination went into overdrive with WWII gas masks and Breaking Bad yellow boiler suits.  Then I went home and disinfected my purchases.  Earlier in the day, Teddy was convinced he had appendicitis.  I reassured him that it was probably gas and this wasn’t a good time to go to our doctor’s office.  It is right across the road from a retirement community that has been quarantined because of a significant outbreak of Covid 19.  I checked his temperature and poked the sore bit, made him bend over to check for sciatica.  Then I scolded him for being hypochondriacal at the wrong time in human history.  He seems to be fine now – usually Dr. Kerry can scare most illnesses away.  The gas came out eventually – so much so that I fell about laughing and sprayed air freshener in our house.

It hasn’t been long since I had a major bout of depression and anxiety.  I have good days and bad during this crisis but so does everyone.  For the first time, most of you can empathize with how a chronically mentally ill person feels ALL THE TIME.  It is so exhausting to be terrified and worried about everything.  Now there is a pandemic and I am doing okay.  After I reassured Teddy that he wasn’t dying, I went for a walk around the pond and up to the reservoir.  Many years ago, my friend Anne and I took our bikes many miles to our nearest reservoir in Glasgow at Cathkin Braes.  The sign said, “NO TRESPASSING!” but we were about 13 years old with that ‘who cares’ attitude.  We were having a lovely time when the warden found us.  Oh dear… we got a dreadful row about how dangerous reservoirs were and to go home immediately.

Boris and Natasha, the Muscovy Ducks

I REALLY wanted to ignore the NO TRESPASSING sign, at my reservoir today, but two Sheriffs had already passed me.  I just stood and enjoyed the ozonic breeze wafting down from the water.  A Great Heron was fishing for her lunch at the spillway.  She must have caught a dozen little silvery fish that sparkled before disappearing down her gullet.  She was pretty husky for a heron…  Back at the pond I almost stood on the fattest Muscovy duck – I think the neighbors feed her because she isn’t afraid of me.  Teddy usually lumbers after me on walks round the pond – he has a big actual footprint and frightens all the critters away.  This time I was able to see around 20 little turtles sitting on a mud bank with a single White Egret.

I saw a variety of neighbors and we all kept our 6ft distance, shouting the news at one another.  The great leveler is how awful we all look.  Grey roots, no makeup, stubbly beards, Walmart clothes and no one cares.  My Walmart tops are all from the thrift store so I have Eco Brownie points.  Our cul de sac is in a state of excitement right now because we have a new nest with a Black Crowned Night Heron.  They aren’t particularly common round here.  Teddy and I sat out on our deck on Sunday and a perfect little Downy Woodpecker came really close in the tree right above our head.  She had no red markings yet and seemed to be fascinated by the humans.  She tapped and tapped, entertaining us for a full hour.  Take comfort in small moments of joy and be as safe as you can be.

THE WORLD HAS GONE MAD  – POSTSCRIPT 

As I was writing this post, I heard an inordinate amount of sirens – police, fire engines and ambulance.  We live close to one of our major routes within the forest but we haven’t heard them for weeks since everything went pandemic crazy.  I was so bored that I considered going out to see what idiot had sped through our cross stop or ran over a pedestrian but decided to keep watching Animal Planet.  Then our neighbors sent a round robin to say that some desperate guy had robbed people at gunpoint in one of our furthest subdivisions and sped away.  He had gone into our sleepy little street to escape the police and then exited only to wreck his scooter in front of the pediatric hospital across the road.  He is now in critical condition – I guess God decided he deserved a Darwin award.  To give some perspective, this is a sleepy backwater with very little crime so this is unprecedented.  Today was a strange day for me, not just because of the weird robber, and I had already been considering opening a bottle of wine.  The wine is finished…  On a really sad note, two of the elderly residents of the retirement community have died – may they rest in peace.

 

Yellow Pollen or Pandemic?

 

I watered the garden yesterday and this is the pollen that washed off the drive.  It is everywhere and each year the residents in our little forest cough profusely.  The yellow pollen is from the Pine trees but Oak pollen is around at the same time to add to our misery.  Tree pollen is larger than other types and tends to get stuck up your nose (on your clothes, hair, car…)

I washed the deck yesterday…

Once the news of Covid 19 reached us my OCD habits kicked in and I stocked up on reasonable amounts of disinfectant and cleaning products.  Over the last month or so, I have been really depressed and anxious.  I stopped all my work and volunteering which was unnecessary as for the foreseeable future, I will have no work as it relies on people traveling.  I laugh wryly.  Then I increased my anti-depressant and feel much better.  But I am stuck in the house with Teddy…  He had flu a couple of weeks ago or at least we think it was.  I disinfected every part of the house and really wanted to spray him in a light bleach solution but I know that is unreasonable (but I really wanted to).

The PERP

This morning I went to Kroger at 8 am and the locusts had descended.  I considered asking one woman why she needed to fill her WHOLE trolley with toilet tissue but thought better of it despite a devilish thought about how big her butt was.  Three hurricanes gives you plenty of experience of mentally unstable residents in supermarkets.  During Hurricane Ike we had fully armed officers in supermarkets to keep control – where are you when we need toilet tissue??

So, during this low period I have been hunkered down in the house, square eyed from watching too much TV, unable to write blogs and now I want to PLAY!!!  Talk about timing.  I am ready to go back to work, go for lunch or go on vacation. After the stressful supermarket expedition, I looked in the mirror and saw my gray roots.  My hairdresser cut my hair really short in case I couldn’t see her for a while.  Think GI Jane, except older.

Sally Beauty won’t be busy, I thought.  It was wonderfully quiet until a lady (with the same gray root situation as me) needed to look at Clairol hair colors.  We were being terribly polite and trying to keep our distance.  Then I felt a yellow pollen tickle and coughed – loudly.  Both of us looked at each other in horror and I shouted, “ALLERGIES!” and we burst out laughing.  Then we started talking about realities of catching COVID 19 and agreed that we could catch it anywhere.  Even in a beauty shop, because nobody wants to be in isolation with your gray roots showing. 👩‍🦳