My first Covid Test

I have been feeling unwell for a few weeks.  Nothing serious, just an irritating cough, sore eyes (again) and fatigue.  I am thrice vaccinated – that sounds vaguely Shakespearian, nay?  It has been another strange Christmas with the Omicron variant and eventually I wondered if that’s what I had.  We have been venturing out a little more knowing that we are likely headed into an endemic from a pandemic but still wear masks most of the time.  There is also a sort of malaise about January with the anticlimactic sensation after the excitement of Christmas.  As you age, the excitement is tempered, but I still like the fairy lights and baubles (chocolate and booze, too).

The test was negative and I am torn.  Part of me would like to get it over and done with (if we are all going to get Covid eventually).  I worked at an international airport for a decade or more.  Travel took me to places with SARS and MERS.  My husband became ill in February 2020 and it was almost certainly Covid but I didn’t so I wonder if I might be lucky enough to be immune.  That aside, what ails me currently?  When looking for answers, I gravitate towards my mental illness despite how much that annoys me when doctors suggest that first.  I know that my anxiety can amplify even a physical ailment.

Last April we had a new air conditioning system installed – the old one was 17 years old and at the end of its life.  It worked perfectly all summer but in October we noticed a mildew smell coming from the vents when we switched it from hot to cold.  The installer was really quick to respond but after several visits (and treatments) the smell persists.  We put a lot of thought into choosing the best system for our house and then got quotes from various installers.  Teddy and I were both stressed at having any problems on such an expensive purchase, made worse by the Pandemic keeping us close to home and at the mercy of the HVAC.  Google has made me an expert in HVAC systems – similarly, I can now practice medicine…

It turns out that there is a fault with the coil and the manufacturer is sending a new one.  The installer thanked me for my patience despite how irritating it has been.  He implied that some of his customers would have flipped.  I am a fairly calm person but I realized that I am actually quite Zen right now.  There didn’t seem any point in taking my temper out on the installer.  We are all a little stressed right now and the last thing I want to be is one of those people who take their angst out on everybody.

There is a syndrome called HVAC sickness and it is possible that the dodgy coil is causing or exacerbating my cough and sore eyes.  The installer put in a free virus/mold killing system that may help the situation until it is fixed.  Or, it could also be one of those regular viruses that we used to get pre-Covid.  Remember those halcyon days when we didn’t recoil when someone coughed? If nothing else, our strange life right now has given me a little more perspective.

I went to a drive-through pharmacy for my Covid test and could sense the pharmacist was rolling her eyes at my incompetence.  Firstly, I couldn’t get the packet open because I had the wrong glasses on.  I dropped them and peered at the packet like Mr. Magoo.  Then I lost the lid to the reagent and couldn’t see where you were supposed to snap off the swap before putting in the container.  Finally, I made Teddy put it in the box for medical samples but had the sanitizer ready for him when he returned to the car.  Well, at least I will know how to do the next test!

Resolutions, meh…

I think I can say with confidence that generic resolutions in January should be banned.  We feel guilty for overindulging in the festive season and are determined to become a better, slimmer or more perfect person.  This period of time, between Christmas and New Year, is always difficult for me and I quickly get maudlin.  Regrets fill my head but what’s the point?  January is always a bit bleak even in the tropical south and it is not a good month to start a new regime.  Early humans always faced feast or famine so they didn’t need resolutions.  They were too busy trying to survive.

There is nothing wrong with choosing to be healthier, happier, more creative or whatever flicks your switch.  Most resolutions are a lifelong challenge so a typical resolution puts too much pressure on poor old January…  February is nice and short – why not try that month?  You can even coordinate it with Lent, if you are that way inclined.  Last summer I discovered that my cholesterol was crazy high, so my Summer Solstice resolution was to not die sooner than anticipated.

Inevitably and frustratingly, most people have commented that I am too thin.  I am not, but more importantly MY CHOLESTEROL IS LOWERED!  I have let things slip in December – not so much the squirrel diet but the exercise.  There has been too much imbibing and that makes me want to lie on the sofa watching the Hallmark Channel.  Teddy and I have been addicted to the Holiday Baking Show which hasn’t helped. “Let’s have a drink and imagine an espresso mousse encased in chocolate.”

Here are some of my unfinished or unattainable resolutions from last year –

  • Finish one of the drafts of my two unfinished books and myriad other embryonic ideas
  • Publish my fairy stories
  • Write a book about my cholesterol lowering diet
  • Not behave like a snapping turtle around my beloved Teddy
  • Cook more (I am not a squirrel)
  • Go out of the house every day
  • Look younger
  • Wear leggings less
  • Adapt to retirement
  • Grow my hair long and plait it
  • Read a book or even finish a magazine
  • Go dancing every week
  • Be consistent with blogging

Without plastic surgery, I cannot look younger.  Make-up and fashionable clothes can deceive me or you for a time but then I look in the mirror.  My cholesterol lowering diet was incredibly boring, not worthy of publishing, and that was part of its success for me.  I could, theoretically, go dancing every week but my bed calls out to me so alluringly…like a fluffy siren.  Do I need to be consistent with blogging or writing – who the heck cares except me?

These last two years have been hard enough for all of us without silly resolutions.  Take one little step at a time.  If you fail and drink a whole bottle of cheap red wine on January 7th – just say you are celebrating Orthodox Christmas.  If you are an atheist – just make up a new Winter Festivus.  I don’t want to discourage anyone from making good changes in their life just don’t set yourself up to fail.  That makes you feel twice as bad.  I started cooking BEFORE January 1st as illustrated above – gluten free mini cornbread loaves.  One has olives, one has sun dried tomatoes and the other is plain.  I intend to eat them with real butter and pray to the cholesterol Goddess, aka Olive Oil.

HAPPY NEW YEAR AND KEEP YOUR EXPECTATIONS LOW!!!

Down-Home Christmas

Keep it simple this holiday season. We are in year two of this pandemic and it is so wearying. Some of our visits to family or friends might have to be postponed. When I feel stressed about this, I remember that all four of my grandparents lived through the WWI, WWII and the Spanish Flu pandemic! I bet they had many years when they wondered if life would ever get back to normal and what would that look like? My father in law spent at least four Christmas’s in a POW camp in East Germany, working in a salt mine.

Our trip to our favorite town of Tomball snapped us back to reality. Christmas doesn’t have to be perfect to be good. We will be alone this year and it will be fun. Pajamas and Netflix are on the menu. A friend gifted me some fresh chestnuts last week. I haven’t seen any for a decade. After boiling them, Teddy and I stood laboriously taking the double skins off. The internet advice about how to make this task easier was POPPYCOCK!! I cut myself, broke my nail down to the quick and ate half of what I was peeling. They tasted amazing.

Teddy hates nutcrackers in the same way that others hate clowns. It was very kind of him to sit in front of them – nervous but tentatively smiling. It is an historic Texas German town so there has to be nutcrackers, eh? I was amazed by the ingenuity of the various store owners. The white painted bike below is my favorite. The simple town tree in the last photograph is accompanied by a decorative oil derrick because most of Texas is sitting on oil or gas. Very little is drilled in our area anymore but we still have capped oil wells in our peaceful forest.

We passed a church food pantry with a line of cars as we walked through the town center and that gave me pause to be grateful. I am making a simple vegetable stir fry with the aforementioned dratted chestnuts on the 25th. As long as it is made with love, it will taste amazing.

On a final funny note, I ‘allowed’ Teddy to come to the supermarket with me yesterday. He skipped to the car for this special treat. He can go alone to the store but MUST NOT call me on the cell phone like the other dimwit husbands. Teddy has two degrees – figure it out! I parked the car and as we were walking to the door I noticed he was futtering with the buttons of his fleece. Not once but twice had he buttoned them in the wrong order. I rolled my eyes and gave him the withering stare that says, ‘Euthanasia is not off the table’. (Is it Euthanasia if Teddy isn’t willing??) Then I burst out laughing and couldn’t stop. Remember to enjoy the little things.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HOLIDAYS, FELIZ NAVIDAD

Universal Music

Couldn’t you dance a Texas two step to this? Or an Irish jig? This is another little video of the Chanukah celebration in our township. When I was young, there was always someone who could play the fiddle or the accordion and a singer who could carry a tune (or not depending on the alcohol intake…). Holiday get togethers in Scotland usually incorporated a wee sing-song. Younger generations learned the old songs and you weren’t allowed to be shy!

Dance like no one is watching…

I went dancing recently with a girlfriend. It was a local bar with a Motown night – just our era. They were a really good band and most of the ladies got up to dance. The gentlemen, however, all just stood around hugging the wall/bar – it felt like being back at a Catholic school dance! Lots of leering but no action… Eventually one guy asked me if could swing. I am 99% certain he was talking about dancing but I said I was better at Salsa. He said he would ask me up for a slow dance after the group had their break. It was 10 pm, though, and time for Kerry’s bedtime, so we went home. If he had look like Brad Pitt, my bedtime could have waited!

Faith and dancing – nothing beats it!

The Hawk Conundrum

I walked into the living room and wondered why I was there.  As I tried to retrace my steps in my befuddled head, I could sense someone watching me intently.  Turning around to look out the window, I spotted a beautiful red-tailed hawk sitting on the fence.  This one was fully grown with a white and brown knitted vest – very fashionable this year.  She was communing with me, as follows.

HAWK – Hello Squirrel Lady.

KERRY – Hello Magnificent Hunter of squirrels.

HAWK – May I have one of your squirrels?

KERRY – They are not available on demand but you can hunt them when I am not looking.

HAWK – Thank you.

Then it flew off, leaving me laughing.  I have started feeding the squirrels again as winter beckons and it is bloody freezing.  They are getting nice and fat at Kerry’s organic squirrel farm.  The hawk has been screeching and I wonder if there is a late born baby.  The weather has been very mild until now.  Now I listen for screeching and feed the squirrels under the chairs or bushes.  It’s a win-win.

It has been a strange week.  Today I have my first in person appointment with my psychiatrist in two years.  I was offered a job through Linked In last week but it was in Austin.  On Friday I have my first contract job since the Pandemic started – unless they cancel the flight because of the Omicron variant.  On Sunday Teddy drove off with a friend’s fully packed car and trailer to Washington State – he is currently in New Mexico or Utah.  You should have seen us physically move the trailer down our sloped drive to the awaiting car – fitter than we thought!

This is a throw back photo to a fabulous trip to Abu Dhabi where I held my first falcon. Pala was boarding at the most luxurious falcon resort until her owner went hunting with her again. Pala was worth considerably more than me… As a child and young woman I had a phobia about birds and would run screaming from a pigeon in a square. Exposure therapy really works.

Holding Hands

Don’t we look adorable?  This is my ‘cousin’ Craig and I on the wall of our boarding house (B & B) in Portrush, Northern Ireland.  It was my first vacation since we traveled from San Francisco to Europe when I was a toddler.  My mum, dad and little Kerry traveled around Europe like hobos before landing in Glasgow at Nana’s house.  Dad disappeared back to the USA and that was that.  It was hard for my mum, as a separated yet married lady, to get a decent job.  She was well qualified but unable to work for a bank (because of her marital status) despite having been a foreign exchange teller in San Francisco.

Eventually she found a strange new career as a Private Investigator for a company that would ultimately be bought out by the Pinkerton Agency.  She specialized in corporate retail fraud and was particularly gifted as she could switch accents (from UK to US).  She was also as sharp as a whip. At the agency, Mum became life long friends with a lady in a very similar position.  She too was separated from her husband, had two young boys and was living with her parents.  They bonded immediately with each other and our families.  Marie, my mum’s friend, adored my Irish Nana and my mum adored Marie’s mother who was Greek. Ironically both of them found living with their own mothers difficult, which was understandable.

The salary at the agency was below par but they saved up enough money to go to Ireland in 1964.  I was 4 and Craig was 5 years old.  I think the older brother was 8 years old.  We stayed at this lovely three-story house.  My mum and I had one room; Marie and the boys had the one next to it.  I was at a perfect age; not yet old enough to be intimidated with school and full of exuberant zest.  One evening after Marie and my Mum were having a drink in the lounge downstairs, they came up to find me in the middle of the boys’ bed.  I am certain they did not invite me…they were well behaved, shy little boys.  On another occasion, at the beach, the boys were horrified or amused when I ripped off my swimsuit and rocketed into the waves stark naked.  I can remember my mum laughing and chasing me with a towel.  This was a regular habit in our house and the phrase my mum used to keep me in line was, “The Moon will catch your bottom!”

Recently I was clearing out boxes and found old birthday cards from my ‘cousins’ when I was 5, 6 and 7 years old.  Over the years we went on at least one more joint vacation in Dumfries.  My mum and Marie often went on two-week work projects, mostly to Aberdeen and Belfast.  They must have loved being alone and yet together.  After my mum died, Marie confided in me that Mum had already started drinking too much on their trips.  Marie would leave my mum alone with her whisky while she went to bed.  There was no alcohol allowed in our house except at New Year.

I don’t think I had come across the photo above until I opened an envelope of my mum’s.  It could have been sent after her death.  If you look closely at our hands, you can see that I am firmly grasping Craig’s hand in my little paws.  We were probably told to hold hands so they could get a cute photo.  I laughed out loud, looking at the image, vaguely remembering that I snuck into bed with them.  If I was young enough for Tinder, I could have tagged myself…warm, affectionate and dominant! That irrepressible Kerry did not reappear until my late teenage years.  Below is a photo of Marie and my mum (right) on an evening out in Glasgow.

Mum on right with faithful friend

The Glasgow Dress

OASIS dress, Target belt, Ralph Lauren denim jacket (all bought 10 years ago).  New Carlos Santana suede embroidered boots.

Teddy and I went on a short road trip last week when he took this photo – more posts to follow.  I have been battling my cholesterol levels successfully and have lost weight.  It was fun to wear clothes I haven’t worn in a while and the dress has a story.  Ten years ago, I went on dreary winter trip to Scotland to see the old folks.  On a free afternoon I went to a local shopping mall to check out the stores.  I walked into a dress store and the manager greeted me with an insincere smile and welcome.  Her thoughts were, “You are in the wrong store, turn around.  Why would an ancient crone/homeless person come into my fabulous shop?”  I looked in the mirror and saw a tired, jetlagged woman with so many layers of clothes to fight the cold.

In my head I thought, “Game on, Termagant…”  The real word I thought of rhymed with Witch.  The Termagant was a very pretty lady in her late 20s with long wavy blonde hair.  She had a great little figure – a pocket Venus.  Her dress was a gorgeous navy dress with taupe banding (look familiar)?  I said, “I love the dress you are wearing.”  She stared at me as though I had lost my mind.  Did I really think I could look good in HER dress? With a slight sneer, she said, “We only have one left on the mannequin and it is an EXTRA SMALL.” “I would love to try it on if you don’t mind taking it off the mannequin…”

Well, now the Termagant was annoyed.  She summoned her minion from the back to help with this hopeless task.  The minion was a lovely girl, full of smiles and clearly didn’t like the her boss.  The minion and the ancient crone went off the fitting rooms.  Underneath the many layers of clothing, I had/have a pretty cute figure and I was particularly slim on this trip.  I came from behind the curtain like Cinderella – transformed.  The minion’s eyes opened wide with surprise, delight and the inevitable Schadenfreude.  She called out to her Termagant boss, “Look how amazing the dress looks on her!!”

Termagant’s face was a picture, ‘How could that ancient crone have a rocking body?’  Her perplexment made my day and I still have the dress, as you can see.  Keep your old stuff; fashion comes in cycles.

Ducks watching Ducks

It’s been a while since I strolled around the containment pond with my pesky eye irritation. As I rounded the curve, I could hear the panicked high pitched peeps of the whistling ducks. The parents ran away from the grass where they were nesting with babies in tow and splashed into the water. The bombproof Muscovy ducks just sat and watched with perplexment. They live here year around and are domesticated – nothing to fear from humans who feed them (and keep them warm when it snows). The whistling ducks are migratory so are pretty feral and very skittish.

This year we have a bumper crop of whistling ducks to go back to Latin America. Dozens and dozens of lovely wee non-ducks, as we call them as they are neither ducks nor geese. The ducklings are just precious little ‘stripes’. I didn’t see any Muscovy ducklings this year but I think this lot are all the same family. It’s doubtful that would stop them getting frisky, though… Red faces not red necks?

On my trek back, I got a better photo of the six Muscovy Ducks. Don’t they look dapper in their evening wear? I like the touch of taupe in the middle duck and the silver one is my favorite. They look ready for the Oscars or whatever the Duck equivalent is.

American Robin

Mommy Robin: “Oh this is lovely!  There is nothing like a morning bath when it is already 80 degrees.”

Baby Robin “Mom!  What are you doing?  Can I get in?

Mommy Robin “Could I just get five minutes peace to enjoy my bath?”

Baby Robin “I’m bored…”

Mommy Robin “If I have to get out of this bath, you are in so much trouble!!”

Don’t you just feel for poor Mother Robin? I think she might have been using some bad words…  This video was taken one morning after the Raccoons had used the Pyrex bowl as a swimming pool.  To the US readers, the American in the title is redundant.  The Brits are more familiar with the iconic European Robin which is a much smaller, cheekier bird, part of the flycatcher family.  I imagine the early settlers were delighted to find their own red breasted bird in the New World.

The American Robin is really part of the Thrush family and they have the same gentle nature although they are not quite as shy.  Our Robins used to migrate but some decided to stay here all year.  I am delighted because they are such sweet birds.  Like the crazy lady that I am, I love to chat to them in the undergrowth when they are rooting about for worms.  One day I stopped my car to allow one to dip a worm in the savory puddle water at her own pace.

Mom and Dad Robin look very similar except the female has slightly lighter coloring.  The males have a more vivid red breast and the females a rusty color.  They look after their babies equally and have up to three clutches a year.  The juveniles have a speckled chest but don’t seem to leave the nest until almost full grown.

Robins are songbirds which is delightful… except they sing at daybreak.  Still, they cannot be as bad as the current cicadas which are so loud that Teddy ran through the house looking for a plumbing break.  Every night I think, ‘will one of our many night critters eat that bloody cicada?’.  In truth, the cicadas were the reason why we bought this house.  We were enchanted by their alien song when we moved here 17 years ago.  I have been wondering if these particular cicadas are on a 17-year cycle because they sound different from the summer cicadas.  If I wasn’t so creeped out by their appearance, I would research it…

Teddy’s Boo-Boo Et Cetera

The God of Health (Valkyre Eir perhaps?) has not been looking after this household.  I thought we had sufficient animal sacrifices; the skunk under the deck quickly followed by a lovely dead rat (“Is hamster?”) First it was my eyes – which are much better and thank you for all your good wishes – and now Teddy’s rather dashing blue stitches.

Teddy went for his annual dermatological inspection and our doctor honed in on this tiny wee mole (a millimeter in diameter) on his forehead.  Over his adult life he has had dozens of moles removed but all were benign.  It went to the lab and within two days the surgeon had removed the basal skin cancer and surrounding tissue.  That is the most common type of cancer and the least worrisome of the skin cancers unless you ignore it.  European immigrants who move to hot places have to be particularly cautious.  If I had a dollar for every time I said, “Have you put sunscreen on and where is your hat?”

His surgeon looked about 14 years old but this is just from our aged perspective…  It’s the same with firemen and police.  She said, “I am just wondering how to place the stitches to fit in with your forehead lines.”  Teddy laughed and responded, “You mean the wrinkles!” The surgeon gasped and said, “We don’t use the W word in here!”  They also perform plastic surgery along with dermatological procedures.  We were delighted at how quick the procedure was and Teddy can now relax (but wear a bloody hat).

Our neighbor’s father has just died of Covid despite being inoculated and our hospitals are full.  I have an appointment with my gastroenterologist tomorrow for a postponed colonoscopy.  I wanted to cancel the elective procedure again but he is not scheduling until 2022, so fingers crossed.  Our air quality in the Houston area has been bad.  Somewhat surprisingly because of Saharan dust and smoke from the western wildfires.  It really is a small world; even smaller for me because I have stayed inside to heal my scratched eyes.

Our floral coleus spikes are magnificent (future post), the raccoon kits are getting bigger and we are awaiting Tropical Storm Nicholas.  This year we don’t really need the rain so they have reduced Lake Houston and we sit praying to the God of Weather, Freyr. Actually, that’s a lie – we will just be watching the weather channel and Netflix in tandem.   My favorite program is Ice Road Truckers when it is hot and humid down here. Our electricity provider has already warned us about the storm and I hope that doesn’t mean they wish to be absolved from potential blackouts.

Hope your God or Gods are keeping you safe and healthy!