The World Health Organization declared an end to the COVID-19 pandemic on May 5th and I tested positive for the first time on April 26th.  I’m not sure what to make of the timing 😊.

Although it was a true travel nightmare to test positive for COVID-19 while traveling in Europe, I did OK.  We were staying in an apartment so I could isolate and I had time to recover and enjoy the remainder of my trip. 

Note: we are really fortunate to have had free access to vaccines and treatment in the U.S.  I am still waiting for a bill from the urgent care clinic in Italy.  I heard that Paxlovid alone costs $1000+ ☹.

I have also been LUCKY to have dodged COVID-19 for as long as I did. I am fully vaxxed and boosted. I think I took reasonable precautions and wore a mask indoors and while traveling, more than most.  But I did travel (this was our second trip to Europe during the pandemic), go to movies, and I ate out frequently.  I don’t go to the gym, but that is because I prefer exercising outdoors.  I hope I wasn’t smug about not getting COVID-19 because that is not OK! I think virtually everyone will get COVID at some point, regardless of their lifestyle and precautions.

This brings me to COVID-19 stigma.

What is stigma:

A set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something.

  • the stigma associated with mental illness = the stigma of mental illness
  • the stigma of being poor = the stigma of poverty
  • There’s a social stigma attached to receiving welfare.

The Britannica Dictionary

We often associate mental illness, drug use, HIV, etc. with stigma, but COVID-19 is on the list, as well. 

In my former role as the moderator of Hot Topics in Public Health, I moderated a session with the State Medical Epidemiologist for Washington State.  He did a great session on M-Pox (monkey pox).  Here is a link to more information about the session, along with his slides.  Slide 19 is a list of diseases that create the most stigma, such as M-Pox, HIV, TB, obesity, diabetes, lung cancer, and COVID-19.

A lot of people have had COVID-19 since the beginning of the pandemic. Nobody seems to be embarrassed or reluctant to say they got the flu, another respiratory virus. The same should be true for COVID-19, at least by now.

I’m not happy I had COVID-19, particularly in Italy.  But I am grateful to be fully vaxxed and boosted x1, which likely kept me from getting seriously ill, hospitalized, or dying (in a foreign country).




I am still recovering from jetlag from our recent trip to Italy and France -more on that later – but I wanted to do a quick recap of the books I read while traveling.

One of the joys of travel for me is uninterrupted time to read.  At home, there always seems to be chores to do or something to watch on TV.  When traveling internationally, there is NOT MUCH to watch on TV (this year it was the Coronation on a continuous loop) and ‘chores’ consist of deciding where to go for coffee/lunch each day and maybe a weekly trip to the lavanderia.  A new twist for me this trip was the need to isolate due to a COVID infection ☹, giving me even more reading time.

On our recent month long journey, I read 27 books (almost a book/day).  I continued to take a deep dive into Agatha Christie and read 13 of her books, primarily featuring Hercule Poirot or Miss Marple.  I also discovered the domestic noir books by Australian author, Sally Hepworth. 

Of all the books I read this time, here are the ones I most recommend (in order of favorites):

Lessons in Chemistry by Bonnie Garmus – it deserves all the weeks it spent on the best seller list.  My favorite character is probably Six Thirty, the dog (the best dog in a book, ever!).

Hello Beautiful by Ann Napolitano – this is an Oprah pick. I liked all the sisters and the somewhat modern take on Little Women.

The Trackers by Charles Frazier – this is the same author who wrote Cold Mountain.  I liked the depression setting, particularly the main character’s time in Seattle during that time.

The Villa by Rachel Hawkins – this one is set near Orvieto, Italy and features a villa that is the scene of 2 murders – one in the 1970’s and one now.  It depicts the dysfunctional relationships between women in an interesting and tragic way.

The Paris Apartment by Lucy Foley – I picked this one up at Costco and chose it because it was set in Paris.  It certainly kept me guessing until the end!  The author was inspired by the 1930’s novel, The Wheel Spins, by Ethel Lina White which I also read which was the basis for the Hitchcock movie, The Lady Vanishes.

Now onto jetlag☹, my least favorite part of traveling!

Jet lag frequently contributes to the physical burden of long flights. Jet lag refers to the misalignment of your body’s internal clock with the local time at your destination. This phenomenon often occurs when flying across three or more time zones.

Eric Suni, the Sleep Foundation

We arrived home on Wednesday night and I am still either wide awake at 3 AM or feel like I have been given a general anesthetic during the day. Yuk!

I have read that it is more difficult traveling from west to east.  I am sure that is true, but the east is where the vacation is so we tend to rise to the occasion more quickly. 

I read that for every hour of time difference=a day to recover.  There is a 9-hour time difference between Seattle and W. Europe, so it looks like it will take a little over a week to truly recover.  Being in post COVID mode probably adds insult to injury!

Here is an article on jetlag from the Sleep Foundation.  I found it fairly helpful.  On arrival at your destination or home, it is important to exercise outside, limit alcohol, caffeine and heavy meals, and keep naps to 30 minutes at least 8 hours before your bedtime.

Time for (another) nap, a big advantage to being retired and not needing to return to work 😊!



Mio marito and I have been quite successful at dodging COVID over the past 3 years.  We are vaxxed and boosted and are one of the few people who still mask up indoors and while traveling.

Our luck finally ran out!  And, wouldn’t you know it, in Italy☹

We think mio marito was exposed while transiting through Amsterdam.  The airport is huge and people are coming in from all over.  And no one is masked up these days.

He started to feel under the weather (fatigue and cold symptoms) shortly after we arrived in Italy.  We suspected COVID, but he had THREE negative antigen tests.  So maybe it was another bug?

I got sick a bit later and, to be safe, took an antigen test.  POSITIVE!

Oh boy!  My doctor advised me to get on Paxlovid right away if I tested positive.  So, our quest began to get a prescription and confirm mio marito’s COVID status. 

There is a hospital near by but it didn’t have any urgent care/walk in services.  The staff sent us up the road to another town that did have urgent care.  We found it without too much difficulty and the fun began.

Some of the staff spoke English, which helped us a lot.  We were ushered into an exam room for testing (both of us were positive), an EKG, and lab work.  Five hours later, I left with Paxlovid although mio marito did not because he had been sick too long. Despite the language barrier, we think we got excellent care!

Thank heavens for the ability to communicate with our usual providers electronically!  We got in touch with our primary care docs and shared our lab results.  Our docs were reassuring and my doc was glad that I started Paxlovid.

Note: Just a bit about Paxlovid.  I do think it is a miracle that a medication like that is available.  That being said, I’m one of the fairly small percent with side effects.  I have metallic mouth and stomach discomfort.  I am gritting my teeth to get through the next handful of doses ☹.

Mio marito is slowly recovering and able to get out and about a bit.  I hope that I will be joining him soon!

We still have some time left in our Italian vacation.  We are anxious to put this setback in our rear-view mirror!

Ciao and Salute,



I am writing this post from Italy!

We had a long night’s journey into day earlier in the week. We flew from Seattle to Amsterdam, leaving at 6 PM and arriving in Amsterdam early afternoon the following day. We spent the night there before continuing our journey to Italy.

After landing in Amsterdam, we were herded to the arrivals hall for our passport verification. We got into a ‘Disneyland’ line with tons of other people. It was a humid petri dish! I can’t imagine not wearing a mask in that environment, regardless of COVID. (And, of course, the FDA approved a second booster dose of vaccine AFTER we left. Grrrr!)

We then took a cab to our hotel, which turned out to just be across the street from the airport. 10 Euros later, we checked in.

The Sheraton Airport hotel is modern and high tech. It appears to be a meeting place for international business and we saw a lot of 40 somethings gathered (and dressed very well). It made us think about our daughter who traveled internationally for business.

Our room had all the amenities, as did the hotel overall. We didn’t leave the building until it was time for our flight the next day.

Rookie mistake! The best way to manage jet lag is to quickly get outside in natural light. I did not, and the jet lag seems to be worse this time (I’m also a year older).

Mio marito wondered how quickly I would have a mishap on this trip. It was very quick this time! I ran over my foot with my very heavy carryon bag at the airport the next morning and my toe is paying the price! Fortunately, it is resolving quickly.

We were also fortunate to have accidently booked business class for our short flight to Genoa. That allowed us to access the KLM lounge while we waited, which was a welcome respite from the horror of Schiphol!

From there, we were off to Genoa. Due to flight schedule changes, we spent the night there before picking up our rental car.

We stayed at the Grand Hotel Savoia (GHS); the complete opposite of our Amsterdam hotel experience. The GHS is among the oldest hotels in Genoa. It is beautifully maintained and our room was very comfortable. We had a fabulous view of the Stazione Principe (train station) from our room. Both hotels had wonderful breakfasts to boot!

One of my first stops in Italy was the farmacia. I tried (but failed) to pack light and I needed some toiletries and my trusty Voltaren gel for my joints. I didn’t do too well on the toiletries, but I scored on the Voltaren gel. The pharmacist gave me 4% strength!!! Wow!!!

For dinner, we had our first Italian pizza of the trip. We should have shared one, but I vetoed that. I wanted one of my very own (which I couldn’t finish).

After a decent night’s sleep, we took a cab back to the airport to pick up our rental car.

More on our adventures later.

Ciao for now,



‘Italy on our Mind’ continues….mio maurito posts are a tough act to follow😊

One of my favorite places in any Italian town is the pharmacy/farmacia. They vary in size and scope, but all have a pharmacist (at least one on staff speaks English).

It is my ‘go to’ for higher end products that aren’t fragranced and work for my sensitive skin. 

Note: It is difficult to impossible to find unscented toiletries in Italian supermarkets or other small toiletry stores. 

In addition to skin care, I have used the pharmacy to help me with a variety of ailments, ranging from:

  • Symptoms of a UTI
  • Upper respiratory symptoms
  • Constipation
  • Allergic reactions to zanzari (mosquito) bites. 

I go up to the counter, describe my problem in as simple of English as I can, and wait for the magic.  I always leave with a product I have never heard of along with clear directions on how to use it. 

If an antibiotic or prescription medication is needed, I would need to find an urgent care doctor/guardia medica

I have been fortunate so far during my travels and a stop at the pharmacy has done the trick! 

It is also where I can find insect repellent (very important) and I often stock up on higher strength Voltaren gel for my chronic knee pain.

Here is a great article that describes the Italian farmacia to a tee.

As noted in the article, you don’t just walk in and start grabbing the products you want😊, unless they are in public areas of the farmacia.  It is important to go to the counter, wait in line, and then be served.  The same is true in many shops in Italy, other than supermarkets.

Also as noted in the article, you can’t buy contact lens solution at the farmacia. You will need to find an optometrist (!) or bring enough from home to do the deed (my plan).

We have our favorite Italian bars and I also have my favorite pharmacy.  In the town where we stay, my favorite is near the train station.  I find that more of their pharmacists speak English and the merchandise is more varied.

One of the concerns we have for our upcoming trip is contracting COVID while we are gone.  To get vaccinated in Italy (that second booster I have my eye on), we must be part of the national Italian health system. And, of course, we aren’t.  But hopefully we could get Paxlovid (nirmatrelvir and ritonavir) at a farmacia with a prescription from a local urgent care doctor.  We would rely on the pharmacist, yet again, to point us in the right direction.

A helpful phrase to memorize:

Scusate, c’è una farmacia in zona?

Excuse me, where is the closest pharmacy?




I finally read Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout.  It was released in fall 2022 and, to me, it is the perfect pandemic novel!

I hadn’t been tracking this book and that is why I feel ‘late to the party’.

While it takes place during the early days of the pandemic, covers the murder of George Floyd, and the January 6th insurrection, it is really the story of a family and their relationships- all altered in some way by the pandemic.

One might find the pandemic topic depressing, but not me.  I got completely caught up in the characters and read it in a day😊.

Here is a summary of the novel that describes it far better than I can:

Rich with empathy and emotion, Lucy by the Sea vividly captures the fear and struggles that come with isolation, as well as the hope, peace, and possibilities that those long, quiet days can inspire. At the heart of this story are the deep human connections that unite us even when we’re apart—the pain of a beloved daughter’s suffering, the emptiness that comes from the death of a loved one, the promise of a new friendship, and the comfort of an old, enduring love.


On a related note, I am also including the FDA in the ‘late to the party’ category. 

Both Canada and the U.K. have approved a second bivalent COVID booster for certain populations (such as those over 65 or who are immunocompromised).  The FDA is ‘eyeing a second booster’ and is set to OK it within ‘weeks’.  

Why is this important? 

There are concerns about the durability of protection from the new bivalent booster for those most at risk.  I happen to be in that category.

Why is this important to me?

I am about to travel internationally and don’t have’weeks’ for the FDA to catch up with Canada (a second bivalent booster was approved over a month ago) and the U.K. (who has also approved a second ‘jab’ that is rolling out this month).

“I am deeply convinced that the COVID pandemic is not over in spite the fact that people are suffering from COVID fatigue as am I,” says McDaniel-Webster. “But people are still dying of COVID every day.”

Ellen McDaniel-Weissler, age 63

I’m with her and would feel more comfortable traveling with another bivalent booster ‘jab’.  Regardless, my mask will be on in the airport and on the plane. And I will pack some rapid antigen tests, just in case.



When ZOOM came on the scene back in 2020, who ever thought that ZOOM would become a verb?!

As workplaces closed, staff resorted to ZOOM (or a similar platform) to continue working.  I know that is still the case today as many people are still working remotely or going to an office periodically.  I can only imagine how sick they all are of ZOOMING, but that is their deal for now.

I used ZOOM for work when I was moderating monthly public health webinars.  The audience is remote and from all over the country, as are the speakers. ZOOM is the only game in town that will allow that level of remote participation.

My 2 Montana friends (who live in different cities) and I started a ZOOM mystery book club early in the pandemic; I don’t remember exactly when we launched it.  We usually meet every week to catch up and chat about our latest book.  We read 45+ books in 2022, so are not slackers😊!

Many of us have left the world of ZOOM behind and are back to IRL (in real life).  I read an article in the NYT earlier this week: Where Did All Your Zoom Friends Go?  Many were lamenting the loss of ZOOM happy hours and game nights.  Some were saying that they are not staying in touch with family and friends nearly as much as they did with their earlier ZOOM routines. It turns out that these were very satisfying connections that alleviated a lot of stress during challenging times.

While I just returned from a bricks and mortar shopping trip to a mall, I am still a ZOOMER.  I find I like the ‘hybrid model’.  I love seeing friends and family, traveling, going to movies, eating lunch out, hitting a happy hour, and doing a little shopping in the real world, etc.  But I also love being able to discuss mysteries and life with my long time Montana friends on a regular basis.  And I get to ‘see’ them, which is much more satisfying than a conference call (heaven forbid)!  I also have a good friend who splits her time between an island in WA and an island in England.  It is hard to schedule a ‘paths crossing’ but we can manage a regular ZOOM connection. My neighbor moved here from Idaho and is also happy to be able to stay engaged there via ZOOM, along with regular visits to see her friends there.

It can feel a little callous, or at the very least uncool, to admit to missing any part of those days.  While so many millions of people were sheltering at home, millions more were risking their lives just going to work, mourning lost loved ones or struggling to get internet access.  No one wants to go back to that.

But for all the talk of ZOOM fatigue, a lot of people miss all the creative ways people found to connect, which has since gone the way of grocery washing…

Issie Lapowksy and Gili Benita, NYT

ZOOM has slashed 15% of its workforce but is surviving. 

Here’s to the hybrid model😊!



Our daughter took the train up from Portland for the Carrie Underwood concert last week.

Carrie Underwood ends Denim & Rhinestones’ tour on a high note with exuberant Seattle stop

Owen R. Smith, Special to the Seattle Times

I think our daughter and her friend would completely agree😊.

We picked her up in Seattle on Saturday morning and had enough time for a stop at Pike Place Market for a walk through and lunch before her train departed.

The Market was packed! 

We haven’t been there on a Saturday for quite some time.  But it certainly felt like the Market of old. It definitely qualified as a crowded indoor environment and, as usual, we were the only ones masked.  I happened to spot a state public health leader in the crowd without a mask☹.

The vendors were out in force and daffodils and tulips were everywhere.  It is tough to beat a spring stroll through the Market.  There were throngs of people on the sidewalks and every establishment had a line out the door. 

We often always take a photo of the special Market floor tile my husband bought in honor of his parents back in the mid 80’s.  Here is a link with more information about that history.

We had lunch at a Tom Douglas’ spot, Seatown Rub Shack and Fishfry. We like their Alaskan cod and chips quite well.  Our daughter had a tasty salmon lunch and we all left happy.

After we dropped her off at the train station, we took a detour to Mutual Fish for crab and the first halibut of the season.  Thanks to Juanito, we will be feasting all week on our favorite seafood!

We didn’t venture into downtown Seattle.  My past visits have just been too depressing.  I don’t think the downtown Seattle of old will be back anytime soon, if ever, and reinvention is in order.  For that to happen, a handle needs to be gotten on crime and soon☹.

Back to a positive note, we had a great visit with our daughter.  Spending time with her is always high note for us!

Life is short. Time is fast. No replay. No rewind. So, enjoy every moment as it comes.




I just finished Enchantment: Awakening Wonder in an Anxious Age by Katherine May.  I loved her earlier book, Wintering: The Power of Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times, and was anxious to check out her latest.  Her writing is pretty magical.

As an adult, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome.  

The title had a lot of appeal to me😊.  Her ‘anxious age’ is primarily about the ongoing pandemic and recovering from a COVID infection.  My anxious age is the pandemic, plus the:

  • recent bank failures
  • stock market
  • Russian invasion of Ukraine
  • assaults on LGBTIQA+ and women’s rights
  • assaults PERIOD

So, I was ‘anxious’ to get started on the book. 

She takes us on a journey through earth, water, fire, and air to find enchantment in everything from the mundane (dandelions) to the sublime (a meteor shower).

Here are a few favorite passages from the book.

Regarding nostalgia:

A yearning for somewhere you no longer want to be, but which seems, in an instant, perfect? Or perhaps perfectible is a better word, a place you could restore to the glories you still see in it, if only it will let you.  

Katherine May

Being disconnected from meaning:

We sense it when we worry we cannot stem the flow of our materialism.  We sense it  when the pull of our smartphones feels a lot like an addiction.  We sense it when we realize that our lives are lived in the controlled climate of air conditioning, but we still don’t want to feel the weather outside.

Katherine May

And finally, enchantment:

More often than not, I find that I already hold all the ideas from which my enchantment is made.  The deliberate pursuit of attention, ritual, or reflection does not draw in anything external to me.  Instead, it creates experiences that rearrange what I know to find the insights I need today.

Katherine May

While I didn’t love this book as much as Wintering, her thoughts and insights on enchantment are keepers!


Happy birthday to my Dad (March 17, 1898 – October 30, 1982)


And for me they never left. I’m taking about MASKS!

We’ve been hearing about the ‘tripledemic’ this fall.  The term refers to a nasty trio of respiratory infections: RSV, influenza, and COVID 19. This is reported to be the worse flu season in a decade!

Influenza and COVID 19 both have vaccines that can prevent infection, mitigate impacts, and save lives.  And vaccines seem to be plentiful.  I just checked and I can make a same day appointment for a flu shot at my local pharmacy. 

While the vaccines are generally plentiful, the takers aren’t.  Only about 40% of eligible people have received their flu shot so far this year (CDC data). And just over 10% of the eligible population have received an updated COVID booster (CDC data).

These are grim statistics as our hospitals are quickly filling up with respiratory patients.

But this post isn’t about vaccines, although that is one of my favorite topics 😊.  It is about masks.

In addition to getting vaccinated, the CDC has recommended that people again mask up indoors to reduce the spread of these respiratory infections.  That recommendation was recently echoed by our public health and hospital leaders in Western Washington. 

Note: I don’t think a mask mandate is in the works right now. I imagine these smart people hope their recommendation will be taken seriously and more people will get back to mask wearing.

We had a really good reason to wear a mask with COVID, and now we have even more of a reason. It’s a three-fer — you get protection from flu, RSV and certainly from COVID.”

Eric Topol, professor of molecular medicine, Scripps Research

My husband and I never stopped wearing masks indoors.  He still wears one at the gym everyday and we both put one on at the grocery store, Post Office, when traveling, etc.  We were feeling pretty alone in the world as fewer and fewer people were masking up.  I did go to Nordstrom in Tacoma on Sunday and noticed that more people were getting back on the mask bandwagon.  Not everyone was masked, but more than I expected were.

We both recently had a non-COVID respiratory infection; our first since March 2020.  While we do wear masks indoors, we still eat unmasked in restaurants.  I think that is probably the most risky setting for us.  But still, we haven’t had COVID 19 (that we know of) and I think it is important to reduce our risks by masking up when we can.    

I think I have heard every reason why people don’t want to wear masks. 

It would be great if people just saw masks as an extra layer of protection, along with vaccines, handwashing, and staying home when sick.

A girl can dream!