Tasteless (#352)

Karma comes in many forms.

You might, for example, write a gloating glowing, envy-inducing post about what an amazing chef your husband is, complete with mouth-water photos of eggs Benedict and beef Wellington.

Only to find yourself unable to taste ANY food a few weeks later. Because after 3 years of dodging, COVID finally got you.

And you can’t even figure out how the motherfucker did it.

I wear a mask indoors EVERYWHERE and I hardly go anywhere. Just the store, and monthly soccer/ PTA meetings (with my KN95). Andy and I don’t do movies, concerts, or big sporting events. We only go to outdoor soccer games for Baby D and we don’t sit close to other parents. The only place we go out to eat is sushi once a month—right when they open, when no one else in there, the staff is masked, we only unmask to eat, etc. Our whole family is vaccinated, boosted, and bivalent boosted. We had a very small dinner with one (vaccinated, boosted) family at Christmas and another at New Year’s (with windows open and plenty of ventilation).

If I meet another mom for lunch, we eat outside. If I visit a friend who has a new kitten in her house, I wear a mask. Hair stylist? Mask.  Pedicure three times a year? Mask.

If COVID had nailed my husband, that wouldn’t be too surprising. He wears a mask everywhere indoors, just like I do, but spends over 40 hours a week in a windowless building with shit ventilation and no small number of coworkers without masks. He has an office with a door he keeps closed whenever he can, and a portable fan, but he has tons of meetings with people who don’t always mask and come in from all over the country.

If COVID had nailed Baby D, that would have been even less of a shock. I know that kid takes his mask off at school, where he also plays tuba, soccer, and runs around with hundreds of other disease vectors daily. The kid had a cold at Christmas and got another one about 15 days ago. We test him repeatedly for COVID.

Yet I’m the one COVID got. The post nasal drip started a week ago, and Wednesday I woke with snot and coughing. I thought it was just Baby D’s cold, since I had the same symptoms. I didn’t have even a low-grade fever—usually the big difference between a cold and COVID or flu. The kid had already given his cold to Andy a few days earlier, so I wasn’t surprised I was sick. All the COVID tests, including the one I gave Baby D the day I started sniffling, were negative. I took my Sudafed, wore my KN95, and went on with trips to stores and one meeting.

Friday I was eating a sandwich and thought, “I need more mustard.” I put on more Dijon mustard and finished lunch. Afterwards, I had a piece of a new craft chocolate candy bar Andy had gotten me and thought, “This is sweet, but not chocolately at ALL.”

The penny dropped.  I realized that our dog, who had been skunked a month ago, hadn’t reeked skunk when he breathed on me earlier. I ran to the dog’s favorite pillow (which had also begun to reek of skunk) and buried my face in it.

I smelled NOTHING.

Not even regular dog breath.

I broke out the COVID test. The “positive” line was bright red before the moisture even reached the “control” line on the test strip.

COVID snuck in under cover of Baby D and Andy’s cold. But how? 3 days prior to symptoms, the only thing I did was walk the dog three miles (early in the morning, we only saw maybe 2 people in the distance) and work in the garden. No one I saw within the previous week had COVID (or admitted having it). Could Andy or Baby D have COVID after all?

It took some maneuvering since I couldn’t actually go into the school, but I got the school to release Baby D so I could test him for COVID.

Negative.

Andy went to a testing site near work.

Negative.

Clearly, I was a Taylor Swift song:

I went into isolation in the bedroom. If I had to come out for the bathroom or wanted to hang outside on the patio, I wore a mask. Andy and Baby D would wear masks to crack open my door and shove in food:

My bean and cheese burrito from Chipotle. I could taste the warmth of spiciness, but that was all.

I was lucky to get that burrito. After I whined (on the phone) to Andy about how I couldn’t taste a damned thing, my husband decided not to waste his time or his culinary talents on his wife.

This was my lunch on Saturday:

A bowl of steamed broccoli next to plain spaghetti noodles

Andy texted later to ask if I wanted dinner.

I texted back, “No thank you.”

Andy tested positive on Sunday morning. Andy has asthma. Andy had his prescription of Paxlovid within the hour.

Andy can still taste food.

Baby D, who enjoys being confined in his room, doing no chores, having meals delivered, and playing all the computer games he wants, is still, amazingly, COVID-free. The triumphant little brat even waved his latest negative test in my masked face this morning and caroled, “Read it and weep, Mother!”

HOW?!

I can’t smell at all. I can only tell whether the food in my mouth is sweet, salty, or bitter. An orange tastes sweet, but has no orange flavor. Coffee is bitter, but it doesn’t taste like coffee.

Eating now is an exercise in disappointment. I only do it to refuel. After a breakfast of oatmeal and an orange, I might have a bagel and apple for lunch and then I’m done for the day.

Luckily for my still-tasting spouse and child, I’m a big planner. I’d gotten their favorite See’s Candies for Valentine’s Day weeks ago. Andy finished his peanut crunches before midday.

I got a lovely haul of chocolates as well. Am I eating them? Hahahaha why bother.

Most COVID-related anosmia clears up within 1-6 months. But I have one friend who got COVID in 2020 and has never recovered her sense of smell. She shrugged it off, saying, “Well, at least I don’t gag when I have to pick up dog poop anymore.”

What are the odds I open those boxes of candy by March?

Not great.

A table with heart-shaped boxes of chocolates and other candies

Summer Vacation or Summer Purgatory (#324)

I know parents who can’t wait for summer vacation.

“No more making lunches!” a mom of three rejoiced on the last day of school a few years ago.

“We’re totally sleeping in,” said the mom with twins.

Another mom chimed in with, “No nagging about homework for 2 whole months!”

There were moms who had vacations planned, or had already purchased season passes to Disneyland. They were as giddy as their kids about the end of school.

I was never one of those moms. I dreaded summer vacations. My only child NEVER slept past 6 AM. Baby D was a restless bundle of energy (and if you let it build up it would explode as destructively as possible). Continue reading Summer Vacation or Summer Purgatory (#324)

The Best of the Worst Year (#312)

I know of exactly three people who are loving the pandemic lockdown. One is my Genius Niece who taught herself to read at age 3 and did long division problems for fun on snow days. Genius Niece loves staying home with the cats. She  relishes having complete control of all social interactions via Discord. In October, as her parents and sister struggled with confinement, Genius Nice sighed contentedly at the dinner table and announced, “This is the greatest year ever!”

At least someone is happy.

The rest of us who’ve followed CDC guidelines and state stay-at-home orders are…less happy. We’ve turned to baking, crafting, walking, and the arts to survive. Yeah, THE ARTS: books, movies, and television. (So think about just who saved your ass the next time you denigrate liberal arts degrees.)

Here’s the list of the books, movies, and shows that made me laugh and cry. Best of all, they took me somewhere else when I couldn’t leave the house. Continue reading The Best of the Worst Year (#312)

Turkeys (#307)

Once upon a time, birthdays were a huge deal in my family. Being showered with cake and presents made it the best day of the year.

My Chinese-American husband’s family wasn’t like that. Birthdays were no big deal. In fact, Andy’s grandmother was very superstitious about celebrating, especially as she reached her 90s. “If you have a big celebration that makes a lot of noise,” she said, “you’re just reminding the evil spirits that you’re still alive. They might decide to rectify that situation.” Continue reading Turkeys (#307)

When You Need Some Aid in the Kitchen (#300)

For more than a decade, our Labor Day weekend has been marked by intense kitchen rivalry, thanks to the neighborhood cooking contest.

Andy trounced everyone for years—until he got tired of me micro-managing the presentation of his savory entries and told me to make my own dish. I did, and he was sorry after I crushed him and our whole neighborhood with my baked goods. Two years ago, Andy staged a comeback and walloped me. Last year, we tied.

Some of Andy’s doughnuts.

This year was looking to be a showdown. Andy spent quarantine mastering everything from French bread to homemade doughnuts, prepping for a possible assault on my baking territory.

There have been casualties:

My waistline.

An immolated dish towel. Continue reading When You Need Some Aid in the Kitchen (#300)

Burned (#291)

My Chinese-American husband is a fantastic cook. Andy can make any cuisine, from pulled pork barbecue to agedashi tofu.

Andy’s beef Wellington

His eggs Benedict are sublime. Pretty sure I joined Instagram just to make people envious over of his beef Wellington.

I am content to give Andy the cooking crown in our household. I focus on baking, which is my strength.

I stay in my lane.

Andy is NOT staying in his lane. Continue reading Burned (#291)

Hells Bells (#285)

I’m having a hard time working from home. That may seem odd, since I’m a writer used to working at home.

Let me clarify: I am used to working at home ALONE.

My husband is technically an essential worker because his company does top secret work for the government. I stopped asking what he does because there are polygraphs involved and we need our health insurance. Andy’s supposed to be going into work. Unfortunately, but not surprisingly, company employees kept testing positive for COVID-19, which meant the company closed down and sanitized every infected employees’ building(s). During this process, the company sent all the employees that normally work in the infected building to other buildings. Not surprisingly, employees in THOSE buildings then became infected and those buildings had to be shut down.

It was an endless, ludicrous game of Whack-a-mole until all the buildings wound up shut. The company had no choice but to attempt remote work. Continue reading Hells Bells (#285)

The Mask Avenger (#284)

Like a lot of Chinese-Americans, my husband isn’t into fanfare. He doesn’t make a big deal out of the delicious meals he cooks. He presents me with seedlings for my garden that I had no idea were germinating in his greenhouse.

I only found out about a huge bonus he got from work when I found it on our checking account.

Compared to all the mediocre white males who constantly tout their non-accomplishments (see the Trump Administration for hundreds of examples), Andy’s reticence seems like an excellent characteristic.

Alas. Information hoarding has a dark side. Continue reading The Mask Avenger (#284)

Quarantine Scenes (#282)

I dunno about everyone else, but I can’t write for shit these days.

There is no concentration in the time of coronavirus. Not with husband and child sharing less than 1200 square feet with me. If the kid isn’t demanding food, attention, or help with school work, the husband has a conference call on speaker phone. (I don’t understand three-fourths of the conversation, but I’ve learned that most engineers have social skills similar to toddlers. Both equate volume to getting their way.)

If the kid is playing an online game with friends (or without friends) there are shouts of anger and despair.

I haven’t been alone in a month. No, not even in the bathroom, because dog and cat know how to open the door. Continue reading Quarantine Scenes (#282)