Quarantine Tips from the Front (of my house)

Welcome to my lair.  It is actually the Majlis (family room/office/meeting place) now converted into my bedroom.  Since my Dear Husband (DH), a physician, received a positive diagnosis for Covid19 early this week, it has also been to where I am exiled.

-Venus in a face mask?

No worries for his health though at this time.  He is asymptomatic.  While he usually does minor procedures (biopsies and similar under imaging guidance), he is trained as a Body Radiologist.  So ostensibly he could work from home, given a strong/fast enough internet connection.  At present, most radiology is cancelled and his staff is able to carry on without him so he has immersed himself in adminis-trivia while waiting the virus out.

Because we are so fortunate in our current quarantine at home situation without a sick person, I thought I might share a few ideas that we have happened upon as a family.  If, God/s forbid, you find yourself working on setting up a quarantine situation at home, here are some hopefully helpful ideas.

  1. It made most sense to give our master bedroom over to quarantine.  It is much easier to clean a bed than a couch or pull out sofa.  The sheets can we washed on hot, the hard surfaces wiped down with Clorox wipes, the mattress flipped.  Since time is the ultimate disinfectant, flipping our mattress when this is over will be the second best option (the first being buying a new bed and we are not interested in doing that).  Also, of all your rooms, the master is the most likely to have its own bathroom.  Which leads to #2.
  2. Our master bathroom was donated to the big Q effort.  Not everyone will have that luxury.  In our Muslim majority area, bathrooms are usually NOT shared and even maids room have their own.  Our majlis has its own bathroom so it wasn’t difficult to abandon ours to DH.
  3. Our master bath also became a make shift kitchen of sorts.  It turns our the infected still have to eat and the issue became what to do with the dishes.  For the moment, we are trying to use up our disposable delivery products.  But flatware is superior to plasticware by far.  So we distributed him a small jar of dish soap and a fresh scrubber and an extra hand towel to dry dishes on.
  4. Garbage bags.  While your instinct might be to stock up on toilet paper, I would also suggest getting an extra roll or two of garbage bags.  We had some black and some clear bags.  The clear bags are proving the most useful.  DH is using these for his laundry, which needs to be washed separate.  The clear of the bag helps us not to accidentally throw out his dirty clothes.  He uses the others for regular garbage which he double bags while wearing gloves and a mask and then leaves outside his door.  It isn’t great for the environment.  But it is pretty good for infection control.
  5. When DH was diagnosed, one of things we ended up doing is designating a place to leave him food and supplies.  We put a small table outside his door.  We knock and yell (or text) and he waits a solid 30seconds minimum before opening the door from his side and retrieving our offerings.  If he doesn’t take something, it is STILL considered his and infected.  He has a Kind Bar sitting there now that only he can eat.
  6. Exposure.  Even prisoners usually get daily outside time.  For all of our mental healths, we have worked out what seems to be a good method for checking in with each other.  Once a day, DH masks and gloves up and heads to our front patio.  He takes his designated chair – way over at one end of our patio.  Then the kids and I, masked, go sit at the other end of the patio.  We try to do it just before sunset so DH can get some Vitamin D and enjoy both  a bit of day and night.  It gives us a chance to chat and SEE each other and act like a family.  This works, admittedly, because we don’t have young children.  Our teenagers are compliant with staying away from Dad.

    It never lasts long though as it is warming up in Abu Dhabi and we can’t eat or drink in each others presence.  So thirst usually cuts these forays short.

  7. PPE.  Despite having a medical professional in the house, we did not have a big supply of masks at home.  We did as the government asked and did not buy any.  What we had were some leftover N95 from 9/11 days (18 years old now) and dust masks that we use to walk our dog during sandstorms.  When sending DH home to quarantine, the hospital gave him what they could – a handful of surgical masks, a single N95, a stack of gloves, a thermometer, and a bottle of hand sanitizer.  These are his.  HE must mask to open his door.  HE masks and gloves to do anything that will come in contact with US.  We use our flimsy masks as further deterrent not to touch our faces or rub our eyes.  But infection control is ON HIM.  When we see him, we orbit each other, staying 2 meters apart.  It can be funny to coordinate – “You going now?  Or are we?  We will stand over here?  And leave the door open for you?  And you go up the stairs and then we will close the door?”
  8. The exception to barriers being the Infected’s responsibility is laundry.  We do DH’s laundry in an otherwise empty laundry room, in full mask and gloves, last thing in the evening.  To give time the opportunity to inactive any stray virus, we do his laundry/towels at night, taking off our clothes and showering immediately after.  Given the joys of time and soap, the clothes are  put out in the sun to air dry in the morning.
  9. Speaking of pets, we do have a small dog who is kind of a jerk but loves the DH and my youngest son to bits.  It has been hard on him.  We have no idea if virus can be transmitted by his fur so we act as if it can.  He gets no petting from a gloved or not gloved  DH.  He doesn’t get the rules so cannot be allowed in the Master to see the Master.  He is dejected at this rejection but hopefully it will only be for a short while.
  10. Lastly, prepare a suitcase.  If you do end up at the hospital, you might not think you’d care about a fresh change of clothes.  In fact, you might be stuck in one of those backless sheet things for a while and be grateful for it.  Still many people are recovering from being ill but then are unable to leave the hospital because they are still testing positive and might be carriers.  If you are going to be isolating in a hospital but feeling well, you might care to have a spare change of clothing, a toothbrush, a book, phone/ipad and charger, and medicines you take regularly.  Be sure to pack your bag before you need it and label it clearly in case it gets separated from you.

It has been hard to imagine how an unwell quarantine patient would manage what I suggest above.  That said, your local hospitals and clinics will all have different capacity, open beds and thresholds for when symptoms need to be treated by them.  Follow those guidelines.  As a general rule, if you are ill and cannot manage these simple quarantine precautions, you are likely too ill to be home.  If the virus comes for you and you do seem able to manage these precautions, you might be okay to convalesce in place but I am not a Doctor!  We have talked this over with medical professionals frequently in these last few days.  If the virus is going to be bad for you, it seems to be a sudden onset of serious symptoms.  So the moment you cannot do something simple, call for an ambulance/get to the hospital.  But do everyone a favor, including the doctors who will treat you, and take infection control seriously and try to think of it as YOUR responsibility not to get your Caregivers sick.  Mask, even bandanas, will reduce the virus you shed into the atmosphere.

Obviously, we know we are super lucky to have someone on quarantine who is not actually sick.  The only bright spot in this is that DH MAY have acquired immunity when this is over and will be able to work in the Covid tent with less stress (to him and us) that he might contract it.  “Less” stress since immunity is not assured and relapses are always a possibility.  I feel for my Emergency, Medicine, and Specialty Medicine physician friends and their families who are so in the thick of this.  Many caregiving parents have moved from their self-imposed home isolation into specially designated (but still costly) hotel rooms to protect their young children and immune compromised spouses.

Some politicians have called this a war.  But it isn’t.  It is history in the making, though not the good kind.  With modern medicine, vaccines, and antibiotics, we had a brief respite in the 20th century from the pandemics that have ravaged the world through time.  Now we might be paying the piper or the world may be returning to a normal it knew though we did not.  From our family to yours, please be safe.  Be well.  Be careful.  Be happy.

Bonus :

Here is a little ditty from one of my favorite singers, Randy Newman, from his isolation.  https://safeYouTube.net/w/7Sr5

All the books I loved this winter … and totally failed to blog about.

First, an apology to these authors. While I have been haunting and at time commenting about my reads on the Tweets, I haven’t spent nearly enough time here… doing the book reviews. So let’s catchup!

Earlier, around the time I returned from ALA MW (the American Librarians big winter conference with an absolutely massive stack of books, I developed decision fatigue and could not for the life of me pick up any one book. So I did what any vaguely messed up human does and avoided all the goodness. And then I heard about this crazy sounding novel and broke my malaise by buying the Audible of Vita Nostra, a Russian novel released recently in translation. OH MY! I was totally entranced. Since the novel starts with Sasha(Sacha? – spelling is the one trouble with audio novels) as a Highschool student, the genre would be appropriate in Young Adult. There are limited but significant mentions of sex and drinking and smoking, so if that bums you out, take a pass here. But the complexity and intrigue means that it should cross over nicely into sci-fi and Realistic Adult Fiction.

This was a commute listen for me and yes, there were times I sat at my arrival spot and didn’t get out of the car immediately. The narration was superb, something special in that all the Russian names/words came through with all their cultural, symphonic glory while the translated English was completely immersive. The translation was IN-CRED-IBLE. The story made absolute sense while still preserving its geographic roots. It had a little magical realism and sci/fi and even a little philosophy (in the form of existential questioning of self) so I was sold. I was taken with how effectively I was unable to pin point the story’s place in our timeline. I just don’t know enough about today’s Russia to compare and that was a harsh realization in some ways. I loved Sacha/Sasha, our protagonist. I loved and wanted to be her, and to NOT be her. It was hard to decide. And I adored the slice of Russian life, time scrambled as it was. I left feeling like I had visited. So if you read only one Russian novel this year, forget Tolstoy, and read the more relevant, entertaining, and possibly modern Vita Nostra. Inquiring minds want to know… will there be more novels about the Institute?

#vitanostra @thedyachenkos @simonbooks @juliameihersey

Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare

Screenshot 2019-07-13 13.49.04

In this fantastical universe, our protagonist, Elsa, has the superpower EVERY bibliophile wants (whether they know it or not!)  And that is why I was compelled to read Ink, Iron and Glass…. ‘cuz I too really want to be able to write things into existence.

While set up as a YA book, the characters seemed younger than their years.  Perhaps Elsa’s isolation in growing up has given her an innocent bent or maybe I have just been reading more racy YA recently.  Aside from a few “damns” and a handful of passionate kisses, this story would almost be appropriate for competent Middle Grade readers.

One of my favorite parts of this novel though is when the characters pursue a plan of action, convinced that they understand their antagonist’s plan – only to discover that they are quite wrong.  This air of believability is refreshing in a genre where coincidence sometime plays a contrived replacement for plot.  It shows a willingness to grind on the part of the author and made up for the almost limitless power our Elsa was given in the form of a version of a literary Room of Requirement.  Mind you, I mean this with only a tiny bit of judgment.  I still would love to write myself One Million Dollars…..  nothing?  nothing? Bummer.


The Great Dictionary Caper by Judy Sierra & illustrated by Eric Comstock

Screenshot 2019-01-21 20.16.57.pngNoah Webster is back in the spotlight in this brightly colored picture book intended for older elementary students. The story is simple and loose.  Words were bored in the dictionary and decided to bunk off for a bit. On each spread (and sometimes each page) a particular type of word is showcased in multiples along with their label – synonyms, palindromes, action verbs and so on. Each word is given its own personality, usually suggestive of its meaning, through the use of cleverly added eyes, noses, and expressions.

screen shot 2019-01-21 at 8.38.01 pmTwo things stand out for me here. First, the art work is compelling. Though there is a limited (albeit BRIGHT) palette and simple line art throughout, the illustrations are not simplistic. Instead the book sets a very appropriate, fun-loving and zealous mood. Second, how brilliant is it that this book handles a subject that is usually so BORING? Who cares to memorize the definition of a conjunction? Instead, we are allowed to move on from telling children what words are to visually showing them what they are. When that happens, students get incredible insight along with a fun book to read.

This is a great book for about grades 2 and up. It might be difficult to do as a read aloud because the images of the words as a whole need to be seen to fully appreciate the meaning. Consider using a camera and projection device if you go that route. This would pair nicely with a low prep activity where students came up with their own escapee words to illustrate.

Lastly, I want to thank the Phoenix Public Library and the librarians there who keep up to date on new releases. I actually borrowed this book from my own library from over 8000miles away!  Thank you Phoenix Public eLibrary! I plan to put “The Great Dictionary Caper” on my “every library should have” list and I highly recommend its purchase for k-12 libraries.



Cretaceous by Tad Galusha

It is unusual to find a wordless book that aims for middle grades and higher.

Cretaceous is a vibrant and wordless graphic novel that tells the story of dinosaur life in all its gory glory. And there is Darwinian gore – so clearly this wasn’t meant for a young audience. The story is remarkably clear considering the wordless nature of the book. Our graphic narrator follows one dinosaur for a time, when after some encounter, we split off to follow another. The story can be read at multiple levels – the interconnected nature of life, the story of a species, or the story of a single dinosaur T Rex who appears both as our first and last narrator. With a helpful endnote Field Guide to dinosaurs (the only worded part of the book), this graphic novel will appeal to all of those dinosaur hunters who have exhausted the Nat Geo books and who might be interested in branching out. If a reader likes this, they may be willing to try one of the many dinosaur themed fiction series. The anthropomorphism of the dinosaurs is likely wildly fantastic but may be a good bridge from fact to fiction for some of our readers who naturally lean toward being strongly grounded.

I recommend this book for school and youth libraries where a librarian can use it to engage both purely fact readers, readers of graphic novels, and those struggling to read (such as English Language Learners) in middle and upper grades as the content and style are mature enough to engage older readers while still allowing non or struggling readers to understand and appreciate the story.

My only concern is that the audience that would benefit and enjoy this the most might not find it. This would be a great series to use with students on the autism spectrum as many are very drawn to dinosaur and similar factual books but could use that angle to start to understand and appreciate story and fiction.

#NetGalley @Taddman @OniPress

Moon Mission by Sigmund Brouwer

4506A514-2748-4781-83B7-7BD013859B98This black and white tome is a history of the moon missions but written in a rare second-person narrative. Using accounts of the actual missions, this novel (reading like a choose you own adventure) amalgamates the experiences of several moon mission astronauts.


While the facts and images seem well researched, it takes a particular kind of reader to enjoy the second person perspective. Younger readers might be more open to this style. Indeed, I would consider this a High-Lo reading level – relatively high reading skill but rather low emotional age needed to appreciate.  Overall, the book is an interesting read and should be considered for any young space enthusiast. For the average collection, buy if you have space or history readers or are lacking in this topic area.

The Voice in My Head by Dana Davis

This is a ‘coming of age’ story about African-American twins who diverge in mind and heart when one decides to end her life with dignity after a severe, incurable lung illness and the other starts to hear the voice of “God” in her head.

I am not a big fan of grief reading. I enjoy the occasional Jodi Picoult novel but it isn’t my first choice. So I when I picked up The Voice, I did it to resolve the ‘problem’ I had in needing to find out what actually WAS the voice in Indigo’s head (spiritual, religious, insanity, alien?) While I won’t spoil this answer, I will say that this is definitely one of those books where the journey is the gift. While I went in just to find out this one answer, I left feeling like I had met and shared with Violet and Indigo and their complex and fierce family. The characters here are so realistic in their flaws, so true to their creation and so distinctly individual that I believe they could exist. It is rare that an author can hit the right combination of plot intrigue and character development and beautiful writing to support the story fully but Dana Davis has managed it in spades. I fully expect to see this novel on awards lists next year and frankly, I will question our industry if this book does not receive the accolades it deserves! #TheVoiceInMyHead #NetGalley

A Danger to Herself and Others by Alyssa Sheinmel

I read a lot of escapist books. I am definitely after that thousand lives they say readers get to live. More if at all possible. But there are characters who I am glad to not be. And Hannah Gold is one of them. I appreciate that she exists in a kind of abstract way but dang – is there anyway to keep her purely theoretical?

Hannah is the center of our story universe in A Danger to Herself and Others. She is our narrator and our point of view. So we learn, bit by bit, what has come before, what brought her to her small institutional cell, almost as she seems to learn it herself. Which means, that for the course of the book, we readers are living the life of a confused, disturbed, enigmatic teenage girl who is confined in an institution for some unknown but unjust reason. We are surrounded by odd personalities that flit in and out of the story, clearly marred by our character goggles.

The link between this novel and the books I usually pick up to read is the puzzle, the unknowing. I don’t often read thrillers or high drama or romance. I have a sense that I know how the story in these will resolve. I like speculative fiction, magical realism, YA, fantasy and sci-fi because the resolution is not just unknown but not guaranteed. Seriously. Who else had to stop reading after Ned Stark bit it? I had to pause because I was so shocked an author would do such a thing. And then I dived in, ravenous.

That is what ended up happening here. What brought me to this story was the complete uncertainty of what had already happened. Our narrator, who should be our omniscient leader in this, is anything but. Being brought into her world is unsettling and disquieting. This is not exactly the escapism I generally crave. But if YOU do, this is a worthwhile read. The story is well written with believable characters. Even a bit too believable for my taste. While I am usually avoid this genre because of my own bias of perceived predictable endings, I realized as I started to read that with such an unreliable and unfocused and un-remembering narrator, I had no idea where we would end up. But I went along for the dangerous ride because I just had to find out. #netgalley @AlyssaSheinmel #ADangertoHerselfandOthers

Romanov by Nadine Brandes

I am a sucker for Anastasia stories, I do admit. When I was a young girl, her remains had not yet been discovered so there was still significant mystery about what happened to her and I sucked up the Anna stories. I was looking forward to this read and it did deliver. Romanov is the tale of magic being stamped out under the Red Revolution of Lenin. Considering all the other policies, I suspect that if magic had existed, Lenin would have considered it anathema to the Soviet way. This is also a love tragedy, the tale of a princess and a pauper and their ill fated affection. There are brutal moments in this story. They aren’t made any easier by the magic that is supposed to exist. But overall the writing was so well done, the world and character building so lovely, that it is worth the tough moments, even for those of us who read to escape. I was left wondering though…. if the royal family were so lovely, why were they so hated? Was the Tsar really the dedicated humanist we read about? I supposed Romanov did it’s job – now I have to go find out. #netgalley #Romanov

TheBoy, the Boat, and the Beast by Samantha Clark

You don’t know from the get-go if this is an allegorical story or a literal one or something else. And I am not spoiling it for you here.  TBTB&TB was a deceptively simple book to read.  While a readers ability level need not be high to enjoy the book, the story does eventually give way to darker and very realistic elements.  This is about a young boy stranded both emotionally, physically, and metaphysically.  Dissecting these issues of loss and abandonment should be tackled with appropriate students.   If you are looking for a short but intense book that can appeal to a wide range of reading skills, this might be the book for you.