No contest this month

September 1, 2020

Normally, I run a monthly contest offering several autographed thrillers for one lucky winner.

The International Thriller Writers organization has served a very important purpose and worked hard to help its members in a myriad of ways, including sponsoring this contest for almost 15 years. As an avid thriller reader, I have been a strong supporter of the ITW almost since its inception. I am proud of all the authors I have championed. It has been a privilege to work with this amazing group of writers and introduce them to thousands of readers.

Over the past few weeks, some things surfaced that have caused significant changes in the organization. It is my understanding that the ITW is working hard to resolve these issues and regain the support of its members. Unfortunately, until there is more clarification, I am temporarily suspending this contest. I am confident that a positive outcome is on the horizon.

I will update as soon as more information is available. Thanks for your patience.


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: August 28, 2020

August 27, 2020

Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, it’s back to work I go!

I am happy to report so far, so good. I am not back full time on campus, just three mornings a week. The rest of the time, I will continue to work remotely from home.

I must admit it felt very strange being back. It is also stressful. I haven’t left my home very often, so just driving, just being outside is sort of scary, but also sort of wonderful. I have always been a people person, and I’ve missed seeing other people for sure. But it is so hard not to hug my co-workers who I haven’t seen in person in six months!

I pretty much stay in my office most of my time there, but I do come out to help students or staff with whatever they need. The university installed big plexiglass shields at the desk. There were two of them, with about 8 inches between them. Don’t you know that everyone was sticking their face through the opening? We moved them, so they are much closer together now.

I have had students casually stroll into my office, or rather attempt to. I stop them before they get one foot through the doorway. My office is not large, and I guesstimate that it is about 6 feet or so from my desk to the door, so that is close enough.

I haven’t seen anyone not wearing a mask, thank goodness. Today I helped a student who was wearing a loosely fitted bandana. It was so loose she had to hold it in place. I wasn’t sure how much policing I am supposed to be doing, but my boss pointed out that she may not have known better. The university states implicitly that masks must be worn and further states no bandanas or gaiters are allowed. We do have disposable masks, so if I see her again, I will let her know the rules and offer her a mask.

I have missed the library so much! I missed my office and my two giant monitors – at home, I work on a small laptop. I open the library, so I get to come in during the morning quiet. I turn on all the lights, unlock the doors, and get ready to help whoever comes through. The first week was mostly directional help. There are classroom and/or building abbreviations that completely baffle students, with good reason! We have a handout with an explanation of all the abbreviations, which students really appreciate.

In early 2019, during the middle of our academic year, the American Psychological Association, APA, put out a new book with lots of changes in how papers are to be formatted. Most of the classes at the university use APA and it is the area librarians help with the most. Now that there is a new edition, all the students who were finally getting used to the 6th edition have to pivot to the 7th. We waited for the new school year to get started and now the fun begins! There is definitely going to be a learning curve, for me and the students.

 

Meanwhile, I really have to give Lynn University props for tackling the pandemic the way they have. They have bent over backward to make the campus as safe as possible. They installed HEPA air filtration systems. In addition to the excellent custodial staff, they contracted with a company to come through and disinfect the building multiple times a day. They changed the semester from 16 weeks to 4, 4-week block classes instead. And any class with more than 12 students is divided in half, with half going to class two days a week, and learning remotely the other two days, and vice versa. Most students take one or at most 2 classes per block, so that really limits the number of people they are coming in contact with.

They also contracted with CVS to set up a rapid testing site on campus. It may not be the most accurate test, but at least it is available quickly. We also have to do an online assessment every morning before coming to campus. Visitors pretty much have to jump through rings of fire to get on campus so we are not seeing anyone that doesn’t belong there.

Every department determined how best to utilize their staff on campus. A friend who works in one area of admissions is on campus one day a week. In the library, every librarian got to express their preferences and were scheduled as close to that as possible. We have a couple of librarians with young children who are starting school remotely, another with immune issues, a couple that are in the age bracket danger zone, and so forth. The end result is that there are only one or two librarians on campus at any time.

My chief responsibility is to hire and supervise student workers and run the circulation department. I had many students graduate in the spring, a few others who went home and are continuing class online, and so forth. So I had to hire a lot of new students, about 15 or so. That has been a process as we recently switched to new software that is not going as smoothly as one would have hoped. But we have an amazing IT department, and I know they will work it all out quickly. I have been training all my student workers on Zoom, another first for me, and that has not been without its hiccups. But I hired smart, engaging students and I have every confidence that they are going to be an asset to the library and the university.

I did a Zoom party last week so my new students could “meet” each other and some of the librarians. One of them told us while they hadn’t heard about any parties in the dorms, there had been parties, densely packed parties, off-campus with no masks. The university is being very tough about this and sent a “scary email,” as one of my students called it, to all the students on campus warning them off of partying and not wearing a mask.

All that said, as colleges around the country are starting back up, the news has been less than reassuring.

University Of Alabama Reports More Than 560 New COVID-19 Cases In 1st Week

University of Miami reports 141 tested positive for coronavirus

My college reopened. Now I’ve got COVID-19, along with nearly 500 other students. (University of Notre Dame)

Stop Campus Partying to Slow the Virus? Colleges Try but Often Fail

Tracking Coronavirus Cases at U.S. Colleges and Universities – 26,000+ Cases; 750+ Colleges

I am the first one to admit that were my 17-year-old self starting college today, I would be partying with the best of them. That age group thinks they are smarter than everyone else, especially their parents and teachers, and that they are untouchable, even immortal. “The rational part of a teen’s brain isn’t fully developed and won’t be until age 25 or so (University of Rochester Medical Center.)

I’m trying not to worry too much. My immediate concern is that I have gained the “Covid 19” and need to work on losing it! My husband has been really trying to get his blood sugar under control so to help him, I’ve cut back on the baking and the carbs, which is also good for me. I will not eat at work so I’m back to doing a modified fast at least three days a week! Let’s see if it works.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: August 6, 2020

August 6, 2020

It’s Ariel’s birthday!

Ariel is my baby girl who has the nerve to turn 28 today! I don’t know how these things happen. I swear it was only last week that she was skipping off to kindergarten. When I was a kid, I thought it took forever for a new year to come. I remember my mom saying that the older she got, the faster the years flew by. I didn’t understand that back then, but I sure do now.

I feel so fortunate that she lives at home with us, especially now. If you have to be quarantined, it’s wonderful to have company, especially company that you love. Ariel is smart and funny and has such a big heart. I feel like I’ve learned to be more empathetic because of her example. She is also creative, a gifted musician, photographer, and writer, and she is a contributor to an award-winning website.

Ariel was my miracle baby after seven years of trying, and I am grateful every single day for her. I wish her a joyous birthday and a lifetime of love and happiness!

Me and my girl…

I asked Ariel what she wanted to do for her birthday. Seeing how cases have skyrocketed in South Florida (except for the “declining numbers” over the weekend due to the state being shut down because of Hurricane Isaias so no testing or reporting was done!) we were limited. She requested that I make her breakfast burritos and chocolate chip cookies. Then she asked if we could get takeout from one of our favorite restaurants, Big Bear Brewing Company. I was relieved to see that they have survived the pandemic, and now we are all excited about getting some great food that I didn’t cook! Okay, so maybe I’m the only one excited about not cooking.

I am gearing up to go back to campus as classes are set to begin on August 24. I am in the process of hiring several new student workers and trying to figure out how to train them from a distance. Because I have the world’s best boss, we are going to be staffed by only 1 or 2 librarians on campus at any time. That means that my students are going to be on the front line alone. I will be there a few mornings a week, and working from home the rest of the time. At least that is the plan. I may have to be there considerably more to get them all up to speed. I’m just wondering after wearing flip flops for five months, how am I going to wear shoes again??

My dental woes continue. I had another broken tooth and after the x-ray found the tooth behind it had what appeared to have some sort of issue. Off to the endodontist who did two root canals. Lucky me. Then back to the dentist so he can prepare the teeth for two new crowns. That will happen in a couple of weeks. On the bright side, I had a follow-up visit with the oral surgeon who said my bone graft took and looks good. He is ready to put in the implant but I am out of $$$ so we are putting it off until 2021 when my insurance starts back up again. Fun times.

Finally, I am getting more frightened by all the insanity that has already begun around the general election in November. It’s still going to be in November despite what the murderer-in-chief wants. My family already has our absentee ballots for the August primary, and we will be voting absentee in the general. This article in the Atlantic just freaked me out though:

How the 2020 Election Could Go Wrong: Where the System May Break
A war-game exercise simulating the 2020 election unmasked some key vulnerabilities.
https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2020/07/how-2020-election-could-go-wrong/614842/?fbclid=IwAR2ItPgyauc8ZViuFY_BPqtqPSiiTABydwHjaKGG_NKmuPswFFwwErC-grk

The fact that we need war games to prepare for an election just sends chills down my spine. Please, please vote this November, however you can. If you’re not sure if you are registered or even if you are, double-check! People are mysteriously being removed from the voting rolls. You can find out for sure here: Vote Save America.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!


Cover Reveal! Lauren Willig’s BAND OF SISTERS

July 27, 2020

Click the cover to pre-order from Amazon

A group of young women from Smith College risk their lives in France at the height of World War I in this sweeping novel based on a true story—a skillful blend of Call the Midwife and The Alice Network—from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Willig.

A scholarship girl from Brooklyn, Kate Moran thought she found a place among Smith’s Mayflower descendants, only to have her illusions dashed the summer after graduation. When charismatic alumna Betsy Rutherford delivers a rousing speech at the Smith College Club in April of 1917, looking for volunteers to help French civilians decimated by the German war machine, Kate is too busy earning her living to even think of taking up the call. But when her former best friend Emmeline Van Alden reaches out and begs her to take the place of a girl who had to drop out, Kate reluctantly agrees to join the new Smith College Relief Unit.

Four months later, Kate and seventeen other Smithies, including two trailblazing female doctors, set sail for France. The volunteers are armed with money, supplies, and good intentions—all of which immediately go astray. The chateau that was to be their headquarters is a half-burnt ruin. The villagers they meet are in desperate straits: women and children huddling in damp cellars, their crops destroyed and their wells poisoned.

Despite constant shelling from the Germans, French bureaucracy, and the threat of being ousted by the British army, the Smith volunteers bring welcome aid—and hope—to the region. But can they survive their own differences? As they cope with the hardships and terrors of the war, Kate and her colleagues find themselves navigating old rivalries and new betrayals which threaten the very existence of the Unit.

With the Germans threatening to break through the lines, can the Smith Unit pull together and be truly a band of sisters?

Pre-order: https://www.harpercollins.com/products/band-of-sisters-lauren-willig


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: July15, 2020

July 15, 2020

Tax Day Edition!

I was so happy to have this extension as we owed Uncle Sam quite a bit this year. I am very lucky that one of the benefits of my job at Lynn University is free tuition, not just for me but for my family. My daughter has her Associates’s degree, but now she is moving towards her Bachelor’s degree. But slipped into the trump tax bill that benefited all his rich friends was that “free” tuition is now counted as income. So while she’s taking classes, my income jumps by thousands of dollars, which is then deducted to pay for tuition. But I get the tax bill. And it’s large, people. It might even be cheaper to send her to a state school. But she is so happy at Lynn, and wanted to go back to school because she feels so welcome and safe there. Best of all, she knows the professors and really all the staff are there to help her succeed. That is worth any bill.

So to cheer myself up as my bank account empties, I look at pictures of Loki. He is 11 years old now and still the sweetest boy ever. He has adjusted to everyone being home all the time. He still needs his 18 hours of sleep, but now he wanders in to see what’s going on now and then before going back to bed. My bed! Here are some pictures of how Loki spends his days.

 

He was the cutest kitten! With the bluest eyes – they still are amazing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loki is unbelievably smart; he is like Jack Reacher in that he always knows what the time is. If I’m not out of bed and on my way to feed him breakfast by 7:15, he sits in the hallway to my bedroom and meows, repeatedly, until I get up. We call him the Kitty Alarm Clock!

 

After he has breakfast, which he may or may not eat, it’s time for bed. He does prefer it when the bed is made.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But if he has to, he will sleep in an unmade bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some days he wanders in for lunch.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes he likes to hang out when there is a Zoom meeting. #colleagues

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After all that excitement, it’s time to nap again. He has other favorite spots for napping.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In case I forget, he yells to remind me that it is dinner time!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guess what happens after dinner? Naptime! But with us. He’s not much of a lap cat, but he cuddles in his own way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sometimes, we nap, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He also likes watching TV with us. Rachel Maddow is his favorite.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He never forgets a birthday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loki celebrates holidays

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And of course, he likes books.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Loki does tricks! Well, one trick. Still, he is the first cat we’ve ever had that could learn a trick.

 

I hope you found at least a tiny bit of happiness looking at cute cat pics. As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: July 4, 2020

July 4, 2020

Independence Day Edition

 

We are more than halfway through this year, and what a year it’s been. The video is of last year’s 4th of July fun in a neighboring town. This year, all of Palm Beach County, where I live, has canceled firework displays. Of course, my neighbors have been blowing up stuff since last weekend, but no big displays this year. It’s just as well. It hurts me to admit it, but I really haven’t been feeling all that patriotic lately. I may be a liberal, but I am the type of liberal who used to tear up when I heard “The Star-Spangled Banner” or “God Bless America” or “America the Beautiful.”

This? The way we are living now? This is not America to me. Huge unemployment numbers, the murders of Black men and women by police, Putin being given carte blanche to pay terrorists bounties on killing American soldiers, a president who thinks he can wish away a pandemic, it’s all too much. I will hang out my flag and hope for a better tomorrow. I will say that the Black Lives Matter movement is making me feel more hopeful than I have in a long time, so that would be worth celebrating – other than the fact that it is rising on the backs of Black people dying in the streets at the hands of police officers.

This 4th of July, I will mostly take the day off from cooking and let my husband grill burgers. Last time we had burgers, we had them on my homemade brioche buns, but now we have store-bought. I may make some potato salad though, it’s my husband’s favorite, but my potatoes are starting to sprout. I will have to check to see if they are still safe to eat! Maybe a peach cobbler with vanilla ice cream for dessert.

The number of Covid-19 cases in Florida, especially in South Florida, has been climbing. The Palm Beach Post reported, “The number of COVID-19 cases skyrocketed in Florida on Thursday with a record-shattering 10,109 new infections reported by the Florida Department of Health.”

Happy July, folks. Our idiot governor basically has said, “Drop dead, Floridians!” and refuses to do anything about it. Rather like his idol, the current occupant of the White House.

Luckily, the Palm Beach County Commissioners have done their bare minimum. They closed the bars after midnight or something, closed the beaches for the holiday weekend, and are requiring everyone to wear masks. Except if you don’t want to because of a medical condition or religious reason. I have been researching religious beliefs barring mask-wearing and have yet to find anything, but what do I know. On the other hand, Palm Beach Post writer Frank Cerabino wonders if this religion that forbids mask-wearing is “Hannitarian”?

Cerabino: Religious exemption in PBC mask order adds to virus prey

My friend works for the public library and had a family come into the library, a mom and three kids, none wearing masks, and the mom said they all have medical conditions. It’s hard to tell sometimes, I get that. But what are the odds that the entire family has hidden medical conditions that preclude them from wearing masks?

I have become such a cynic! This is so not like me, and I don’t especially like this version of myself. But this pandemic has really pushed all my buttons. Some people are just incredibly selfish and thoughtless. I am angry and frightened, and I’ve been frightened for months and all I want is to be safe and for my family to be safe.

More troubling Florida news: “DeSantis kills online learning program amid virus resurgence: With a stroke of his veto pen, Gov. Ron DeSantis wiped out the entire $29.4 million budget for a suite of online education services that have become critical to students and faculty during the Covid-19 outbreak…The cuts include a database of online courses and an online library service that provides 17 million books to 1.3 million students, faculty and staff.” https://www.politico.com/states/florida/story/2020/06/30/desantis-kills-online-learning-program-amid-virus-resurgence-1296178

Then this happened in Miami: Miami-Dade cop relieved of duty for hitting woman taunting him for ‘acting like you white’ And my first thought was, at least she lived. How insane is that???

On a happier note, let’s talk about baking! I finally was able to get my hands on the “4.2 Quart Artisan Bread Baking Crock and Dutch Oven” that has been out of stock with all the other bread baking stuff from King Arthur Flour. It arrived yesterday and is so pretty! It was definitely a splurge but worth it. Now I just have to hope that I don’t break it. And more exciting news: Larry went to Costco during senior hour and scored me a big bag – 25 pounds – of King Arthur flour!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Isn’t it amazing the things that make me so happy now?

We had a Zoom anniversary celebration for my son and daughter-in-law’s first wedding anniversary last weekend. We were joined by her parents, too, and it was so nice to be able to toast the happy couple, even remotely. What a first year they’ve had! I told them that spending all these months alone together just proves how right they are together. It may not have been the dream anniversary celebration, but I guarantee it is one they will never forget.

My beautiful Loki has been investigating this space under the TV for months. Every now and then he stands up and sticks his head in and looks around. Today, he took the plunge.

 

 

 

 

 

Finally, this was a proud moment for me. My son is now on the Games Team at the New York Times!

 

 

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!


No contest this month

July 1, 2020

Normally, I run a monthly contest offering several autographed thrillers for one lucky winner.

The International Thriller Writers organization has served a very important purpose and worked hard to help its members in a myriad of ways, including sponsoring this contest for almost 15 years. As an avid thriller reader, I have been a strong supporter of the ITW almost since its inception. I am proud of all the authors I have championed. It has been a privilege to work with this amazing group of writers and introduce them to thousands of readers.

Over the past few weeks, some things surfaced that have caused significant changes in the organization. This article by the AP, also in USA Today, gives a summary of what’s going on.  (Please note that “Liz Perry” is actually the former executive director of the ITW, Liz Berry.) 

It is my understanding that the ITW is working hard to resolve these issues and regain the support of its members. Unfortunately, until there is more clarification, I am temporarily suspending this contest. I am confident that a positive outcome is on the horizon.


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: June 18, 2020

June 18, 2020

Anniversary Edition

Today is my wedding anniversary. We are celebrating 39 years together, the last several months of which have been spent at home. It is a different way of celebrating an anniversary for sure. I don’t go out if I can help it, so no card. Sorry, Hallmark, this pandemic must be affecting the greeting card business. Gifts are easily bought online. But for many years we have been making what we consider to be a large purchase for the house or each other. A big screen TV. An alarm system. Apple watches. iPads. Tickets to a Broadway show. A trip. Things that felt like luxuries to us.

This year, we are not doing that. We are not really buying anything. For one thing, no one has job security and it feels foolish to squander money when we are not sure if or when our income will change. There will be no going out to a fancy restaurant. Covid numbers have been spiking in Florida, especially in my neck of the woods, since our idiot governor and greedy county commissioners have pushed businesses to re-open. People are happy to be out and are not socially distancing and many aren’t wearing masks. I won’t go anywhere. We did takeout once since this whole mess started, for Mother’s Day. I’ll be cooking for our anniversary. I like to cook, it is my happy place.

June has long been a month of celebrations for my family, and I’m happy to say there are more reasons than ever to celebrate. Larry’s birthday kicks off the month, followed by our anniversary, Father’s Day, my daughter-in-law’s birthday and her and my son’s anniversary. Their first (!) anniversary is this month, and they are not taking the trip they had planned. I’m hoping we can Facetime or Zoom or something at some point this month, and celebrate together the only safe way we can. I will be working on arranging that.

Teenagers!

Larry and I met in college. My roommates were friendly with his roommates, and we hung out a lot as a group. Within a few weeks, we started hanging out as a couple, and once we did, we became inseparable. We both fell pretty fast, and that was it for both of us. Within about six weeks, he told me he was falling in love with me. He was 19, I had just turned 17, and we’ve been together ever since. We’ve had our ups and downs over the years, of course, but honestly, it’s mostly been good. Sometimes, really great, like the birth of our children. Sometimes, really awful, like when Larry had some pain in his arm and a couple of days later had a quadruple bypass. He was 47 years old.

That was a big turning point for us. There’s nothing like a scare like that to make you rethink your priorities. To stop taking each other for granted. To appreciate every day you have together. Yes, every day isn’t like that but I like to think most days are. Larry’s always been a very easy going guy, rarely complains about anything, and it takes a lot to get him angry. On the other hand, I’m quick to anger (but also to forgive,) and I am definitely more, shall we say, a difficult personality. That said, he is always there for me no matter what, and I like to think I am always there for him as well. He probably wouldn’t disagree (no complaining, remember?)

I didn’t know how to cook when we first met. My mother was a single mom and worked and didn’t like cooking much. She made great chicken soup and chopped liver (from her mother-in-law’s recipes) but everyday dinners were either stew (I still hate any kind of potted meat to this day) or some sort of protein broiled until it was indistinguishable from any other kind of protein. Canned veggies. Instant mashed potatoes. You get the idea. I liked to bake, and she had a Good Housekeeping Cookbook that I would pore over. Once in a while, she would let me loose in the kitchen (she also hated messes and I am a very messy cook!)

When I met Larry, he didn’t really cook either but had grown up with a mom who was an amazing cook, and just by being around her, he picked up quite a bit. My mother-in-law gave me some simple recipes, and eventually, I learned how to cook. Larry was always supportive and somehow he always liked everything I made. It took me a long time to figure out that the only way to know if he really liked something was to ask him if I should make it again. Then, occasionally, he would say, “nah.”

Larry has made me laugh just about every day since we’ve been together. He can talk me down when I’m ready to jump. He has supported me and encouraged me in every way possible, no matter what. Want to stay home with the kids and live on one income? Sure! Want to work full time and go back to college, too? No problem! Need to drive 4 hours each way across the state to take a two-hour class? Why not! He has driven me to Tampa and Orlando for classes and conferences and has made it feel like we were taking a little vacation.

My favorite driving story is about when we were in college. I always wanted to go to school in Florida, but because I graduated high school early, my parents wanted me to stay in NY for a year, and that worked out because that is where I met Larry. He was going to transfer to a school in Florida, so he waited a semester for me to be able to transfer, too. He went to the Florida Institute of Technology and I went to the University of Miami. I didn’t have a car, but he had an old clunker. He drove down to Coral Gables every Thursday night to pick me up and brought me back to Jensen Beach to spend the weekend with him. Then on Sunday night, he drove me back to school. Once in a while, he stayed with me in Miami, but that was rare as he had a class on Friday. That was a five hour round trip drive twice a weekend. I always tease him that he wouldn’t do it today, but secretly I know he would.

During this pandemic, he has done all the shopping for stuff we couldn’t get delivered. He drove me to the oral surgeon and waited in the car (in 80+ degree weather!) while I had my surgery, just in case I wasn’t feeling well enough to drive home after. He calms me down when I see incredibly stupid people doing incredibly dangerous stuff on the news and I start yelling at the TV.

When we got married, I told him he would have one set of in-laws (my mom and her husband) and one set of “out-laws” (my father & his wife; turned out to be prophetic, we severed that relationship over 25 years ago.) Larry was a wonderful son-in-law, incredibly kind and patient with my mother (who was also a difficult personality,) and my step-father was his best friend. And I couldn’t have picked a better father for my children.

He’s not perfect, and God knows I’m certainly not, but he is perfect for me. To be honest, I don’t know how I got this lucky but I know that I am.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!

 

 

 

 


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: May 30, 2020

May 30, 2020

In early March, as the news that the pandemic was spreading like wildfire, I was first afraid for my son and daughter-in-law. They live in Brooklyn and commute to work via public transportation. Daniel was supposed to be in Miami for a week-long conference, along with several members of his team. He had planned to extend his trip through the weekend and spend some time at home with us. A few days before the trip, the conference was canceled.

Things started moving pretty quickly after that. He was told to start working from home and I was relieved to hear that. But my daughter-in-law, Miriam, is a speech pathologist in a New York City public elementary school, and Mayor DiBlasio was hesitant to shut down the schools. He waited and waited. I read online that the teachers’ union was planning a sickout but before that happened, DiBlasio finally shut it down. That was a big relief, but I still worried until a few weeks had passed and neither one of them got sick. Miriam started working with her students online, and Daniel continued working from home, and they were as safe as I could hope for.

Meanwhile, a woman from NY had flown to Florida, bringing the virus with her, and Miami was under the gun. I knew it was only a matter of time for it to reach Palm Beach County, where I live. My employer, a small private university, was struggling to figure out how to handle this pandemic like all colleges were. When I woke up with a sore throat and a headache one morning in mid-March, I felt compelled to stay home. There was so much uncertainty, no one really knew much other than how easily this virus was spreading. I worked from home that Thursday and Friday and on Monday, the university started shutting down. I have not been back there since.

One of the things I kept worrying about was having a dental emergency. Were dentists even working? My boss has a friend who’s a dentist and she had to shut down her practice. She got a job as a cashier in a supermarket. So I tried not to worry about it, and just worried about everything else.

A couple of weeks ago, my husband went to Costco in the morning during senior hour. He came home and basically slept for the rest of the day. By early that evening, he was running a low-grade fever, just under a 100. Needless to say, I was freaking out. I gave him Tylenol every four hours and he offered to sleep in the guest room. I refused, thinking if he had Covid-19 then I probably did too. I was pretty sure he had it. What else could it be?

Of course, this was a Friday. I was up all night. I kept touching him, trying to judge if he was still feverish. He felt cool to me but I still couldn’t sleep. I don’t know how he did, I was hovering over him all night. I was a nervous wreck. In the morning, his fever was gone and he said he felt fine. He decided he must have had the 24-hour flu, which I thought he was making up. Turns out there is such a thing but I still wasn’t sure. The next day, he realized his lower leg was all red. On Monday morning, I called the doctor and they asked him to come in. He had ascending cellulitis, which he has had several times in the past, most recently earlier this year after a hike. He was prescribed a strong antibiotic, and I was able to sleep again.

Meanwhile, I noticed one of my teeth seemed loose. Not really a tooth, a crown. I had a loose crown. I decided to live with it and see how it went. Maybe it would reattach itself somehow. Shockingly, that did not happen. If I’m not supposed to touch my face, how am I supposed to let someone else do it??? After a couple of weeks of rinsing with salt water and Listerine, I finally called the dentist. To my surprise, they were open. In fact, they had just reopened that day. I scheduled an appointment for a few days later.

My dentist’s office is in a strip shopping center. His building is a few steps up, with a long, wide wooden deck that runs the length of the building. They had moved several chairs outside, leaving them six feet apart. There was a nurse sitting at a table right outside the door, wearing all the protective gear. She took my temperature, asked me a dozen questions like had I lost my sense of smell or taste, had I traveled anywhere, etc. Finally, she said I could go inside or wait outside. Out I stayed.

When I went in, the tech took an x-ray of my tooth and my dentist came in. They all wore gloves and gowns and masks. He showed me the x-ray and the x-ray taken the year before. I didn’t just have a loose crown. The tooth under the crown was broken, and there was significant bone loss. He said I would need oral surgery to remove the tooth, need a bone graft, and eventually, when that healed, an implant and a new crown. They scheduled me an appointment with an oral surgeon who came to their office on Fridays. That doctor took a panoramic x-ray and a bunch of pictures of my mouth. He had me watch a video on how they do bone grafts and implants and was ready to pull the tooth. He said it could be an emergency. Or not. I chose not and told him I needed to think about all this.

Me & Judy

My BFF Judy also uses my dentist. Her son had an infection in a tooth, and our dentist sent him to an oral surgeon in a local orthodontist’s office. I knew that orthodontist, and it was a terrible practice. They had the lovely habit of sucking down all the child’s insurance money and then would start “phase 2” and then “phase 3” of braces. They did it to my daughter, and I didn’t go back there for phase 2. A friend was going to take her son there and I told her what happened. She took him anyway, and the same thing happened to her child. I was not surprised to learn that Judy’s son had a big problem with his mouth. After spending thousands of dollars. She made her way to the top oral surgeon in the area, and it took him months to fix what the other guy had wrought. So even though the oral surgeon I had seen wasn’t the same guy that messed up, I just wasn’t all that comfortable with him. I have dental insurance, but it’s not great and caps out at a $1000. I knew this process was going to cost at least twice that, and I talked it over with my husband. Off I went to the top guy who doesn’t take insurance.

That was a completely different experience. They required me to wear a mask, and to call from the car when I arrived. I never saw another patient while I was there. I was able to get my x-rays and pictures sent over to him. They did a complete medical history. What? The other guy didn’t ask me anything. The doctor told me because I take anti-inflammatories for arthritis, it could prevent the bone graft from working. I might be able to get an implant, or I might end up needing a bridge. I immediately switched my Aleve to Tylenol, and I’m hoping that will help. While I was there, he put some numbing stuff around the loose crown and pulled it. A little piece of broken tooth came with it. It actually felt better after he did that. He said the movement was irritating my gums. My appointment for the surgery was for the next week, but before that, they made me come in and have a test for Covid-19. The doctor did it right in the office. It was negative – yay!

I am going in today for the tooth to be pulled. I’m not sure exactly what else will happen, all I know is that I have a prescription for antibiotics and Tylenol with codeine. I am writing this about an hour before I go, but it won’t post until Saturday. If I feel up to it, I will update when I can.

Also, if I’m loopy on pain killers, I may not be able to update my blog on the first of June with the new contest. I will try, but it may be a day or two late. Stay tuned.

Happier times

Finally, I just want to talk a bit about privilege. I started this public diary as a way to document my experience during these unprecedented times. I know I am incredibly lucky that I have been able to work from home for all these months. My husband has been furloughed, but only for brief amounts of time. One week in May. One day a week for June. I don’t know anyone personally who has gotten the Covid-19 virus, much less died from it. I have excellent medical insurance and decent dental insurance. I can wear a mask and no one is going to bother me about it. I have good wifi and access to entertainment. I have literally thousands of books on my Kindle. I have an amazing husband and daughter to share my quarantine with, so I am not alone. I have a beautiful, sweet cat that I can cuddle. I have toilet paper and paper towels. I can have my food delivered if I choose, (and I know that I have gained weight during this quarantine – I am living in carb central!) I am running out of disinfectant wipes, but I have several gallons of bleach so I can make my own if I need to. I am privileged as f*** and extremely grateful, and guilty, about it.

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!

 

 

 

 


CORONAVIRUS DIARY: May 9, 2020

May 9, 2020

I’ve been home now for 7 weeks. I feel so fortunate I am able to work from home, and that I still have a job. The work keeps me chained to my computer from 7:30 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon, and it gives me a sense of purpose.

I set my alarm Monday through Friday mornings, I get up, I do my hair (haha,) I put makeup on, I get dressed. Not dressed like I’m going to work, I’ve been pretty much living in tank tops, jeans, and flip flops (Florida!), and once or twice a week, I wear a comfy dress. One that I could wear to the beach, for instance.

I do this not because I don’t like hanging out in my pajamas. I like that as much as the next person. But early in this pandemic, I had read this article from a journalist, I think from the Wall Street Journal – sorry I can’t find that article now so it could have been the Washington Post or the New York Times, I read them all every day. Anyway, he had quarantined himself for a few weeks just to see how it would work. And what I took away from that article was that I need routine, and I need to get dressed. Saturday, I can hang out in PJs all day if I want.

I get groceries delivered once a week or so, or send my husband to the store every other week, so I am cooking with what I have. When I say “send my husband,” please know that is entirely his choice. He’s got this slightly protective macho thing where he doesn’t want me going shopping. Or my daughter. Even though we are less at risk than he is. But it is not worth fighting about, so I try and keep it to a bare minimum, which for me is twice a month. Costco has “senior hour,” which he qualifies for, so he goes then. Our supermarket, Publix, has senior hours for 65+, so we can’t go then. But if he goes right after that hour, the store is empty. Now I understand Costco is limiting the amount of meat to three packages per person. I have no room in my freezer, so when we run out, vegetarian it is, or maybe they’ll be restocked by then.

Surprise Box of Veggies

Speaking of vegetables, there is a farm a few miles away that has started selling boxes of fresh produce for $10. It’s awesome! They have a horseshoe-shaped driveway, and people waiting alongside it. Then they just put the box in your car. You don’t get out or anything.

I’ve gone through more than 15 pounds of flour in these weeks that I’ve been home. Mostly because I am doing the sourdough starter. I feed it twice a day, that’s pretty much 2 cups of flour a day. Plus lots more if I actually bake with it. So far, I’ve made pretzels, rustic sourdough bread, and sourdough sandwich bread. But the best thing I’ve made is Sourdough Banana Pancakes. I found the recipe on Instagram (thanks, Chef Johanna Hellrigl – for the photo, too!) and they were the easiest and best pancakes I ever made. We are doing breakfast for dinner every week or two, which my family thinks is great, so lucky me, it’s about the easiest dinner to make, so we are all happy.

I’ve also found myself making food that lasts for at least two meals or more. Turkey. Brisket. My family’s favorite meatloaf from Old-School Comfort Food by Alex Guarnaschelli. It’s Alex’s mom’s recipe and their family favorite, too! I turned pork butt into “Pressure Cooker Garlicky Cuban Pork,” which is so good! But my delivery didn’t include tortillas, the store was out. So I made flour tortillas for the first time. I never quite got the round aspect down, but they tasted good. I also made “Big Bellied Argentinian Empanadas” one night from the fantastic Gran Cocina Latina cookbook by Maricel Presilla. I’ve made them many times, but always with frozen empanada dough. For the first time, I made the dough (all local stores sold out of the frozen!) but I chickened out at attempting the traditional rope edge. I was down to my last egg, so I didn’t do the pretty egg wash either. I especially love this recipe because they are baked instead of fried (so much easier!) and are so good!

We’ve made pizza a couple of times. I made a Chicago style pizza, or as I think of it, pizza casserole, that was awesome!

Chicago “pizza”

Then I spent two (or was it three?) days making Anthony Falco’s “Sourdough Pizza Dough,” and it was so bad I could have cried. The dough looked beautiful every step of the way until it came time to make the pizza. The dough didn’t stretch, it tore. Adding a ton of flour made it somewhat more malleable, but it tasted like crap. Looks good in the pictures though!

Then my boss told me she made pizza and the crust came out like crap. She thought maybe old yeast or something. We are calling it the “Quarantine Pizza Curse.” We’ve also been eating lots of pasta –  mac & cheese, homemade “beefaroni,” pasta with veggies, frozen ravioli when I really don’t feel like cooking. Fortunately, that doesn’t happen very often. I’m trying to balance all those carbs with fish and chicken and salads, but to be honest, I don’t always achieve that balance I’m seeking.

Because I am home, I have the luxury of time. There is no more rushing to get dinner ready. I have time to make things from scratch. Time to try new recipes. On my “lunch break” from work, I can throw a cake in the oven or start marinating something delicious for dinner.

Reading has always brought me comfort and escape. But it is not enough right now. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but I love to cook and to bake. That is my happy place and let’s face it, we all need something to bring us joy right now. I found mine, and I hope you have found yours!

As always, thanks for reading and stay safe!