In mid-June, my dermatologist asked me how I was spending my summer. I replied that I was avoiding the heat and the sun as much as possible, knowing he’d approve the point about avoiding the sun. Low temperatures were already in the 80’s, and highs were in the mid to high 100’s accompanied by oppressive humidity. We had not yet made it into the 110’s, but they were threatening and did, of course, occur. Flash and I began walking indoors to avoid heat stroke.

It occurred to me that much of my spring and summer had been spent playing nursemaid to family members and self. I say “playing,” because I’m no nurse. I have worked for years in health care, but in non-clinical roles. I’ve worked closely with many wonderful nurses and greatly appreciate the crucial role they play in medicine.

Like many others, my family and I postponed non-urgent health and dental care during the pandemic emergency. We have also sufferred an unusual number of unexpected illnesses and injuries this year, but we are finally getting caught up, or so I hope. During the last few months, we have collectively undergone minor surgical procedures; physical therapy sessions; dental crowns and fillings; treatment for burns; various dermatologic cryosurgeries; a course of antibiotics for a facial scratch from an ill-mannered, over-exuberant big dog; food poisoning; and an emergency appendectomy. Thank goodness for health insurance and continued good health!

What with family nursing duties, I have assembled what I consider to be an impressive First Aid Kit. I can care for simple wounds without first making a trip to the store. I’ve learned to anticipate what kinds of minor cuts, scrapes and burns may occur and stock up accordingly. It cuts down on aggravation and single-purpose errands… a good thing.


Two weeks before the 2020 lockdown, I bought a stack of bake at home pizzas from Papa Murphy’s, halved and quartered them to satisfy different tastes, re-wrapped them and stored them in the freezer.

That night, we masked up and made a flying trip to Sam’s Club, jam-packing two carts with food, drink and supplies. Back home, we unloaded our goods, rolled up the sidewalk and locked the doors. With few exceptions, we stayed there until March 1, 2022, two years later.

I spent a lot of time shopping online for food and preparing meals. We did not eat out, order in or pick up curbside. We did not purchase convenience items as packaging wasted precious freezer space. Breakfast and lunch were on your own, but I cooked dinner virtually every night. Chocoholic cleaned up. My cook once – eat twice mantra, quickly expanded to eat thrice or more. It saved on handwashing.

Food is a big deal in our household. Before the lockdown, I joked with friends that if we ever had to shelter in place, we would shortly run out of food, and one of us would probably eat the others.

We stocked up on flour, yeast, baking powder, baking soda and sugar. I guess I thought I would be baking a batch of cookies and a loaf of bread every week, but that didn’t happen. I made one batch of cookies… healthy ones, not chocolate chip. They went largely uneaten.

I made whole wheat bread once a month, but that took too much time, even with a bread maker, and I packed on 10 pandemic pounds. I routinely made pizza. We parceled out the Papa Murphy’s pizza for when we were desperate for a real treat and quick cleanup.

I began making healthy blueberry muffins using 100% whole wheat pastry flour, olive oil and little sugar for Chocoholic. They sound terrible but are really quite good.

Everyone was baking, even Flash’s husband (Flash is my good friend, workout buddy and literary mentor.) Lynn, my sister, gave me telephone tutorials on the care and storage of baking supplies. She began canning in earnest. I dragged out long dormant canning supplies and left them sitting on a table. Fifteen months later, I put everything back in the cupboard, unused, after disposing of my long unused pressure canner. Lynn wisely warned me it was unsafe to use after being dormant for so long.

I tried to anticipate what might turn into big problems and how to avoid or resolve them. I feared appliance breakdown, in particular the dishwasher, clogged drains and dental emergency such as a chipped tooth. We did not want a repairman or plumber in the house, nor did I want to go to the dentist’s office and sit there for an hour unmasked with my mouth propped wide open.

We treated drains to prevent clogs.

I ate popcorn very slowly, one kernel at a time.

I babied the failing dishwasher along, using descaling aides to keep it running, but in spite of tender loving care, it gave up the ghost. After weeks of internet search and consideration, we installed a new one.

Unfortunately, I failed to take such good care of the automatic bread maker and the electric mixer. Lockdown proved too much for them. Unknown to the rest of us, they signed a secret suicide pact and hurled themselves off the kitchen counter, crashing to the tile floor. The bread maker was a total loss. The mixer recovered after minor repairs. I bought a new bread maker from Amazon. It worked okay but suffered separation anxiety upon leaving the mother ship, screaming constantly when used. Lynn explained that flours are inconsistent. Cook has to figure out if the recipe needs more or less liquid, oil and yeast to make it work properly. Who knew?

I finally shut the little beastie up with recipes that bear little resemblance to those that came with the machine and watching it carefully, since what works when humidity is 40% doesn’t necessarily work when it’s raining.

Meanwhile, my stores of TLC are sadly depleted. I keep looking, but Amazon is sold out.

UPDATE 7/3/22: My community is once again located in a HIGH Covid-19 Transmission Zone. And experts estimate that there are significant numbers of positive cases that go unreported due to home testing and the decreased need for hospitalization. Unlike many others, we will once again live like hermits, social distancing to the degree possible. While vast improvements have been realized in disease severity and death rates, Long Covid which affects about 20% or more of those who have suffered the disease and Paxlovid Bounce pose real threats that we choose not to risk. This is getting very old, and there is no end currently in sight. I urge everyone to stay safe.


As difficult as the pandemic lockdown was for us, I counted our blessings every day.

We signed up for the Covid-19 vaccine when it became available. Unlike friends and neighbors, I didn’t take the time to hunt down and make vaccine appointments in nearby towns. I spent too much time filling out online forms that collected way too much private information. We waited in long lines and even had to return the next day when vaccine supplies ran out. It was frustrating but worth it in the end.

Securing the second dose was easier. We waited another restless thirty days. When scientific research assured us we enjoyed 95% immunity, we celebrated with our first curbside pickup of prepared food. YUMMM!

The lockdown could have been so very much worse for us in so many different ways.

We did not get sick with Covid-19.

We enjoyed a steady income.

Adequate infection control supplies were available.

Family members weren’t forced by necessity to go to workplaces rife with viral outbreaks.

We didn’t struggle to hang onto a rapidly-failing business we had spent our lives building up from nothing or run through life savings in a matter of weeks or months.

Unlike many, we weren’t trapped at home without any company at all.

No elderly relatives were stuck 3,000 miles away without an adequate support system.

We had no small children to teach, amuse, discipline or care for day in and day out; no classroom to set up and equip; no complex curricula to develop and textbooks to secure and read. We had no lesson plans to make. There was no need to comfort young children when they were dying to go outside and play with their little friends and couldn’t understand why Mommy or Daddy or Granny or Grandpa was being so cruel and unfair.

And we didn’t have to agonize over what might happen to our babies or who would take care of them if we got sick and died.

Sure, like everyone else, we suffered from cabin fever, but for the most part, we enjoyed or at least tolerated each other’s company and support. Worthwhile work and entertainment were available via various electronic devices and reliable internet service. Personal privacy was available when needed.

Groceries and supplies were delivered. We rode the recumbent bike from Central Texas to Juneau, Alaska and back. Wildlife amused us. (The big squirrel that jumps out of bed and lands heavily on our rooftop every morning, rattling the house, has not yet shed his pandemic ten pounds!) We had nearby hike and bike trails when we needed to be separate or to walk in the woods.

We have an old family lake cabin in Central Texas, another escape when we need a change of pace. It holds lots of precious memories and is quiet, woodsy, teeming with wildlife and great views of the lake. Nature regularly delights us with unexpected wonders. Writing comes easier there. Productivity soars. We can fish, swim, walk in the woods or sit on the porch and contemplate the serenity of the lake. It’s my favorite place in the whole world.

I continued editing manuscripts for The Pig Parts Series.

I routinely said little prayers for others not so fortunate, especially single mothers and fathers worn down with childcare, unfamiliar educational responsibilities, lack of income and family resources, eviction, homelessness, loneliness and ill health. We stepped up charitable contributions and tips for services, hoping to help, knowing it was way too little.

Of course we suffered stresses and strains, but dreadful statistics show that for too many tragic souls, they proved to be unbearable.


At my urging, my family took the Covid-19 pandemic seriously from the get-go. I have long had an interest in public health, and the fact that this was a novel virus, one never seen before, called for drastic measures.

We took handwashing seriously, so much so that it didn’t take long before my poor hands were cracked and scaly. I started using disposable rubber gloves, but not wanting to waste them, washed my hands while wearing them, dried and reused them, marshalling my patience and taking seemingly forever to coax ornery little fingertips out where they belonged.

I found an olive oil soap on Amazon that came in giant green bars from Greece and a line of gentle hand and body wash products from a vendor in Austin. They worked well.

We canceled most appointments. Each time we left a store or office, we decontaminated in the parking lot before getting into the car, changing shoes and cleaning our things and selves with bleach wipes and hand sanitizer: bags, keys, door handles, steering wheels, gear shifts and armrests.

We drove home with windows open to blow the germs away. We shed outer layers of clothing in the garage, leaving them there along with shoes, hats and masks for three days, allowing viruses time to die. Masks were stored in paper bags. Showers were taken, mouthwash was gargled and hair was washed.

I cancelled a February 2020 cruise to Hawaii and learned I had not purchased travel insurance as intended. Instead I had purchased trip cancellation insurance, so we got almost all our money back. Those funds promptly got passed along to Amazon for Mr. Bezos’ outer space travel. Don’t get me wrong, I was and still am grateful for Amazon.

We stayed home virtually all the time, decreasing risk.

As of March, 2022, Covid-19 has now worked its way through Delta and Omicron variants. Most Americans are vaccinated and many are boosted. Case numbers are dropping rapidly, but deaths are still tragically high. The CDC Community Covid-19 Level for my county has finally slipped into the GREEN/LOW category. We are finally relaxing some infection control measures and social distancing at our house. Chocoholic and I even committed to a social engagement – Book Club of course. Finally.