a july cocktail hour: inching out into the world with caution

Here we are, slowly making our way out into the world on this last Saturday in July. Welcome to my 11th cocktail hour, during a time where we venture a bit further from home and enjoy a beverage. I offer you Cheers! À votre santé!  乾杯/ Kanpai!  Saúde!  Salud! May we all remain healthy, safe, financially afloat, and hopeful.


hydrangeas in bloom

Beginning July 1, according to Virginia’s governor, social gatherings of up to 250 people were permitted. The new guidelines also ended the cap on the number of customers allowed inside non-essential retail stores, restaurants and bars. Previously, these businesses were limited to 50% capacity under Phase Two. These establishments had to continue to follow physical distancing requirements, such as keeping tables six feet apart. Bar seating would still be prohibited in Phase Three.

The third phase also eased restrictions on other facilities:

  • Personal Care: Beauty salons, barbers, spas, massage centers, tanning salons and tattoo shops could reopen at their normal capacity — but customers were required to make appointments to come in. Both customers and employees were required to wear face coverings.
  • Exercise Facilities: Gyms, recreation centers and sports centers could open indoor areas at 75% of their lowest allowed occupancy. Customers had to be screened for COVID–19 symptoms before allowed inside, including whether they had a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher. Fitness equipment had be spaced 10 feet apart, and similarly, personal trainers or instructors and exercise class participants had to stay 10 feet apart from each other.
  • Pools: Indoor and outdoor pools could reopen at 75% capacity, and pools were open for free swim, instruction and exercise classes. Swimmers had to be screened for coronavirus symptoms before entering. Swimmers and divers were required to stay 10 feet apart.
  • Entertainment: Entertainment and amusement venues, such as movie theaters, concert venues, bowling alleys, arcades, amusement parks, museums, botanical gardens and zoos, were allowed to reopen at 50% capacity or a maximum of 1,000 people. Performers and audience members had to stay 10 feet away from each other, and cars had to be parked six feet from each other at drive-ins.
  • Religious Services: Churches, synagogues, mosques and other houses of worship were allowed to reopen at their normal capacity, but worshipers had to continue to be seated six feet apart except for families. Food or beverages had to be served using disposable containers.
  • Childcare: They would be able to reopen.

All businesses were required to continue to follow physical distancing, cleaning and disinfecting and enhanced workplace safety.


around Lake Newport in Reston

Though these were the guidelines beginning in July, the actual experience has been much different.  So far, I don’t know of any movie theaters in our area that have opened. Most of the museums in Washington, D.C. are still closed. On Friday, July 24, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, will reopen to the public. Free, timed-entry passes are required for entry. All other Smithsonian museums remain temporarily closed.


Lake Newport

Our church, Church of the Holy Comforter in Vienna, VA is only open for “pop-up” church, limited to 50 people on the 2nd, 4th, and 5th Saturday evenings outdoors on the front lawn of the church. We haven’t yet attended any of these services.

Our Fairfax County gym, Oak Marr, recently opened but people must sign up for a limited number of 1 1/2 hour slots.  I went to the gym Thursday for the first time since early March, and I was struck by how sad it all was, the markings on the floor and virus reminders on walls, the acrylic barriers between staff and patrons, the scant attendance, the weight machines spread out at 10 feet distance, people wearing masks to work out. The usual social vibe was utterly missing. It was a world I didn’t recognize any more, and I didn’t want to accept it, but I had to.

Outdoor pools seem to be only open for lap swimming, and people must sign up for limited slots.


hydrangeas around Lake Newport


I am still dealing with my laryngopharyngeal reflux (LPR).  Some days I feel slightly better, and some days worse.  I am never well, so I’ve set up an appointment with a gastroenterologist on July 30 (This was the soonest I could get an appointment, and only with the nurse practitioner.  I couldn’t get an appointment with the doctor until September 1.  I know it’s a pandemic, but doctors should be doing their jobs!)  After I got my diagnosis from the ENT on June 8, I began immediately to cut out tomatoes, alcohol, coffee, onions, and many other high acid foods. Soon after, I got the book, The Acid Watcher Diet: A 28-Day Reflux Prevention and Healing Program, by Dr. Jonathan Aviv. I started the diet in this book on Monday, July 6; it is much more restrictive than the list given to me by the ENT.  I’ve been on the diet for almost 21 days now.  Dr. Aviv says most people start feeling better after three weeks on the diet, so I’m discouraged that it doesn’t seem to be helping me. I hope the gastroenterologist can help me figure this out.  I’ve heard that LPR is a difficult problem to solve and that it can be chronic, but I’m not ready to give in yet.  My quality of life will be miserable if I have to keep suffering with this problem.


purple coneflowers

We have been out numerous times to dinner.  We started out doing outdoor-only dining, and we finally went out for indoor dining at Woodlands Pure Vegetarian Indian Cuisine, Enatye Ethiopian Restaurant, and Artie’s.  We know the people in these restaurants, so it was good to see them again. We got takeout at Yoko Sushi because they weren’t yet open for indoor dining. This week, we went indoors to Seasons 52.  On all of our indoor dining experiences, we went early so the restaurants were mostly deserted.  We wore our masks when not seated at the table and when we talked to the waiter. Otherwise, while sitting alone at our table, we didn’t wear the masks.

I even had a pedicure one day.  The salon was totally revamped with new pedicure chairs and hanging acrylic barriers between customer and pedicurist. I don’t have my fingernails done, but each manicure station had an acrylic barrier between customer and manicurist, with room for the hands to go through to the other side.  Both customers and workers had to wear masks the entire time.  I think it’s great how businesses are being creative in figuring out how to reopen.  I’m sure it cost them a pretty penny to revamp the space, but at least it allows the business to remain open.

We drove downtown to D.C. on July 5 and went on a mural walk, which I wrote about here: a mural walk in washington on a hot july day.


“The Torch” mural at Ben’s Chili Bowl

I started going to Club Pilates again, and so far have been three times.  It’s hard to wear a mask when working out, but I try to keep mine on the whole time. I’ve also been taking a bikeride at least once a week, usually around 10-11 miles.


my bicycle: along the Washington & Old Dominion bike trail

In national news, on July 9, the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed in a 5-4 ruling that much of eastern Oklahama is an Indian reservation. This was a great victory for Native Americans who have dealt with a long history of brutal removals and broken treaties with the U.S. government. During my daily walks, I’ve been listening to the excellent Crooked Media podcast called This Land, hosted by Rebecca Nagle, which tells all about events leading up to this decision. It is an excellent podcast that lays bare the mistreatment of Native Americans by the U.S. government over centuries.

On July 15, I walked around Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. This time the visitor center and bathrooms were open, again with social distancing requirements and acrylic partitions between staff and the public.

On Wednesday, July 1, Richmond, Virginia took down the Confederate statue of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson. There had been protests on Monument Avenue for weeks. Richmond was the capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War, and Monument Avenue had five high profile statues including Stonewall Jackson, Confederate General Robert E. Lee, president of the Confederacy Jefferson Davis, Confederate Gen. J.E.B. Stuart on horseback, and Matthew Fontaine Maury, American astronomer, naval officer, historian, oceanographer, meteorologist, cartographer, author, geologist, and educator. Apparently Maury was not a slaveholder and did not support slavery, but neither was he opposed to the institution. He was apparently ambivalent about it.

The Confederate monuments have dominated Richmond’s landscape for decades — some of them even longer — since they were first erected in the late 19th and early 20th centuries to bemoan the lost cause of the Confederacy in the Civil War. People demonstrating against racial injustice have torn down or defaced statues of these prominent Confederate leaders, as well as other historic figures with known racist pasts.

Last Saturday, July 18, Mike and I drove down to Richmond to visit our daughter, Sarah, who I hadn’t seen since January. Wearing masks, we went to Monument Avenue to see what was left of the four statues, and the Robert E. Lee statue, which is slated to be removed unless a case before the court decides it won’t be removed.  Since then, some of the other high profile statues have been removed after protesters defaced the statues.  The Robert E. Lee statue has not yet been removed, but Virginia’s governor has vowed its removal.

I believe there is no need to preserve these statues.  I have had people argue that we need to preserve our “heritage,” or that this is part of our history.  Actually, many statues honoring Confederate racists were installed during the Jim Crow era to remind black people of their subjugation under whites. They serve only as intimidation. It must be remembered that Confederates were traitors to the Union, and fought to secede from the United States in order to preserve slavery.  They should not be honored in any way, shape or form.  People who want to learn “history” should read history books, as monuments are meant to honor people.  These traitors deserve no honor.

While there, we got take-out and enjoyed a picnic outdoors at Maymont Park, and went to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts to see the exhibit: Treasures of Ancient Egypt: Sunken Cities.  We had timed-entry tickets, had to wear our masks the whole time, and were supposed to keep 6-foot social distance between other family groups, although that last part didn’t work out so well.

I failed miserably at my goal for July, which was to write a two-line poem for each day of my Camino.  Later, I hope to combine some of these two line poems into one poem.

My main goal for the remaining months of 2020 is to finish writing all blog posts through my travels so far.  I need to finish them by December 16, because my subscription with WordPress will expire on that date.  I plan to take at least a year off from blogging, maybe more, so I’d like to get caught up on my backlog before then.


hydrangeas’ last hurrah

Our leadership has certainly succeeded in  “Making America Great Again!” We have the highest number of COVID cases in the world, over 4,122,100 as of July 25, 2020, and the highest number of deaths at 145,376. Worldwide, there are 15,695,200 cases and 637,159 deaths.  The U.S. has 26% of worldwide cases and 23% of deaths, despite having only 4.2% of the population.

Here in Virginia, we are somewhat better off than much of the country, with 82,364 cases and 2,067 deaths.  Our governor has started easing restrictions and has made rules about mask-wearing inside public places, and for the most part, at least in Northern Virginia, people seem to be following the guidelines.  However, since the state has begun to reopen businesses, cases have increased, especially in southern Virginia.

As for the country as a whole, what murderous behavior is exhibited by our leadership! We are failing miserably as a country, and we’ve become the laughingstock of the world. Even the EU has banned American travelers and I don’t blame them at all.  I’m ashamed that we as a country have come to this, and I am pledging, come hell or high water, to get to the polls on November 3 to vote out our corrupt and vile criminals.

“Of all the hardships a person had to face, none was more punishing than the simple act of waiting.” Khaled Hosseini


In the midst of all this, what can we do as restrictions are relaxed and we make our way out into the world again?  I’ve created a page where I’ll share different ideas I’ve come across of ways to cope during the coronavirus.  It is here: how to make the most of a staycation... or how to cope during the coronavirus #Stayathome ordersIf you have any positive ways to get through this, I invite you to share: bits of humor, projects, what we can do to help others, how to keep our sanity, TV shows or movies to watch, books to read, exercises to do, etc.  Please feel free to express your emotions during this trying time as well.  I’m sure we can all relate to any and all emotions you are feeling.

I wish you all the best during this “new normal.”  Stay at home, or close to home, and stay safe, healthy and always hopeful.


I’m writing a monthly cocktail hour/diary about this challenging time; my next will be Saturday, August 22.  I invite you to share your own experiences with what we’re going through right now, either in the comments below, or in your own blog post, which I invite you to link below.  I’ll try to keep writing this as long as we are suffering through this together.  I hope that we will get through it unscathed, sooner rather than later.

Peace and love be with you all!