It’s all about change

As I was reading a blog this morning about how the days seem all the same to that blogger during the pandemic, I thought of a comment I would leave, but, alas, being a Blogger blog, I’m unsure that my comment would ever be seen. I’m posting it here, on my own blog, as I realize how my thinking is changing as we go months into this new way of living.

I no longer think about “when we go back to normal,” as I don’t believe that will ever happen. There is a new horizon out there, especially here in the United States where life is drastically changing, and in a dangerous way. One of the categories I have for this blog is The world and my place in it. My place is really changing.

My comment posted elsewhere as well as here: Oh, we do get set in our ways, don’t we, as to what we do each day of the week? I’m thinking that the pandemic has some good points, and that being our schedules are being shook up. Some people really kick against this, but I’m trying to embrace all the changes going on, pivoting with them, and seeing how I can adapt or readjust and make a new way in the world. These past few months have given me a chance to really inspect my life and what I do that I love and what I do because I think I must do it.

On top of the pandemic, we have flu season

Yes, flu season is coming, and I just read a post by Dr. Fauci where he says this is a year he dreads the season more than any other time. Dr. Fauci is one of my heroes in this whole mess, so if he’s concerned, I am, too.

Terry and I always get a flu shot. Every. Single. Year. We get the vaccine usually in early October from our medical provider. Always done it that way. This year I started seeing signs for flu shots at our grocery store’s drug department. The county health department was also putting out notices for flu vaccine clinics. In September? I always thought we were early with our first week of October shots. So, I called our doctor’s office to find out when they would be having their clinic.

They told me what I expected, beginning the last week of September, we could come into the office to get the vaccine, or we could stop by one of four drive-through clinics offered at the various hospital satellite sites throughout the month of October. I mentioned seeing the signs for flu shots already. The nurse said they were surprised to hear that. The CDC had recommended October for the vaccination. We had always been told that if you get the flu shot too early, it might “run out” before flu season was over, especially a virulent strain that shows up in late winter. She told me the same thing. Because of our age, she also said that we needed the high-dose and she didn’t know if that had even been made available yet.

So why these early notices for the vaccine? It’s because the health people want everyone to get the shot this year, and they figure if they don’t start advertising now, and get people started in the pipeline, there might be a backlog to get the shots, and people may wait until it’s too late. Today’s San Francisco Chronicle said there are cases already in the Bay Area. I would recommend you call your doctor and ask them when and where is the best time and place to get your flu shot. Just be sure you get it.

Just a note at the end of the week

Those of you with Blogger blogs, if you see a comment from me know that I am coming to you from 2010, or rather my 2010 MacBook Pro. For some weird reason, the old, out-of-date, no-longer-able-to-update operating system works just fine with the Blogger blogs. Any comment I make with the 2020 version just disappears. Perhaps it’s reflective of this crazy year. Oh, and please don’t hold out any hope for anything better in 2021. We must gird our loins and persevere.

On a tiny brighter note, there is wind here on Friday morning and no smell of smoke. Still dark, no sun, though.

No problems with sleep in the pandemic

I keep seeing posts on all sorts of social media about sleep disturbances, many brought about by the pandemic and its stressors. I’ve slept fine all these many months. The pandemic hasn’t seemed to upset my sleep cycles. The smoke, though, from the forest fires, is causing some issues. I wake up with an irritated throat. Sucking on a cough drop, drinking water, even taking a tylenol, help some. But it takes awhile to get back to sleep. And then, when morning comes, I’m just not ready to start another day. I want to stay in bed and continue sleeping. I work very hard during my dreams and just don’t feel like I have the energy to get up and do more activity.

But I do get up. At six this morning as I wanted to be out the door before nine to grocery shop at Whole Foods. I’ve found getting there around nine is just right. I stopped at a friend’s home and dropped off beerocks and blackberry cobbler I made the past couple of days. She handed me jars of picked peppers and onions that her husband make. We will see each other later today in a Ladies Who Zoom meetup.

After getting the groceries home, I dashed back out to the library, expecting to be gone for a brief moment. The media director for the county library system  was having a meeting in the parking lot with the branch manager. As I exited my car I heard, “is that Mrs. Zody?” I approached the masked couple and she told me again who she was. “I recognized your hair!” Even with a mask, people know it’s me. She and I have been in talks about doing some book blurbs for the library’s website. She likes what she sees me post to Instagram.

While reading this afternoon, I dozed off. Guess I needed a nap after being out in the smoke-filled air. It seems that sleep does not elude me.

Creepy pandemic exercise

A phone call yesterday creeped me out. No, it wasn’t from some unknown person. It wasn’t from someone trying to get my vital information so as to dupe me out of my money. It wasn’t an obscene caller. It was from someone I know who was calling with belated (7 weeks’ belated) birthday greetings. We talked at length, much of it about what we and our families are doing during this time of pandemic and now heavy smoke from nearby forest fires.

She has a huge family so much of the conversation was on her part, catching me up with the various activities of her grandchildren, many of whom are in colleges in other towns and states. As we have all been reading, college kids don’t behave well, therefore, dorms are in shutdown mode, one granddaughter stuck on the 10th floor of her dorm unless she uses the stairs.

Stairs, hmmm, that would provide good exercise. Which brought up what we are doing, physically, during our shut-in days here in the smoke. Her husband had been playing golf until the smoke rolled in. She had been walking in her neighborhood and doing gardening. All that put to a halt, and then she gave me the creepy information–each day they have gone, together, to a different big box store and walked–perimeter and every aisle. Yikes. Not in their neighborhood. In some stores that I know where people are not masked. Some stores very crowded.  This couple is extremely conscientious, or so I thought, about the dangers of COVID. The husband had similar open-heart surgery to Terry’s. The wife has some health issues and is older than me.

I mentioned how I have pretty much stayed in my own zip code during these months. Also, that I change clothes as soon as I come home from each outing, and that I have just ordered a coat that is washable for my winter pandemic wardrobe. She didn’t see any need in those precautions. It’s all about the air you breath. Yes, I agree that air is a part of it, so her trips to these mega stores, walking for 30 minutes or so, creeps me out.

Pandemic week 26

Heading towards 7:30 on a Monday morning as I write this post, all the lamps and lights are on in the house, skies dark, smoke rolling down the street. I’ve been outside a couple of times already, to feed the outdoor cats, or as we call them and the squirrels, the backyardigans, change out the water dishes, water the front porch flower pots, and ring the wind chimes, a task I do each morning to wake up the yard. Each time I have dashed back into the house to do or procure, I find myself with chest or head pain. The smoke is that dense and thick.

A former student went to the ER last week, thinking she was having a heart attack. It was smoke inhalation. We are miles from the fires, but the smoke from all over the state settles here in the valley. We are often called the bread basket, or salad bowl, that feeds the world. It’s a big bowl. The winds seldom push through here. Rain right now would help, but none is in the forecast.

Our son-in-law and grandkids came on Saturday with new air filters. We had not seen them since late December, except via FaceTime, so this was a real treat. Terry had a pretty hard week due to the smoke, feeling tired and coughing, and when our daughter heard this she immediately said we should change the air filters. Yes, Terry already knew that, but he didn’t have any new ones. She immediately said that Chad and the kids would come with filters on Saturday if we felt comfortable with them being in the house. Yes, of course, please come. I had lots of ice cream in the freezer.

It was a short visit, but a real highlight to our week, and right now, we need some highlights. These dark, smoky days are very hard. I cannot sit on the front porch or work in the yards. I cannot stand and look up in the treetops. Just the brief forays I make throughout the day wear me down and make me hurt, physically and mentally. The fires make the pandemic look easy. Our son-in-law fought a terrible fire on the coast of San Mateo County a couple of weeks ago, surrounding the camp where he and our daughter have worked off and on for 17 years. Because our son-in-law is in charge of the water system, he was allowed into the fire zone, and he said once you crossed the line, the pandemic was just an afterthought. The raging inferno, coming down the hillsides, took over. Masks, social distancing, hand washing…didn’t matter a bit. Getting the water and building fire breaks were what mattered.

Two small towns in Oregon, along the I5 corridor that we traveled all those years our daughter was in college near Portland, are gone. Talent and Phoenix burned to the ground last week. I was shocked as they are not in the mountains, but the fires came rushing quickly, giving them only 20 minutes to evacuate. An artist who I follow on Instagram, and who lived in Phoenix, lost everything. He posted some photos of the devastation. It is ghastly. A couple of months back, he had offered a few of his sketches to his followers, and I asked for one. He sent four and I have them sitting in various spots in the house. When I awoke the other morning, after seeing his terrible news, there was one on the booktable next to my bed, and realized just how fortunate I was to have it. So much I am fortunate to have when so many have lost so much.

The catastrophe continues

If you have seen the news photos out of San Francisco, you have seen the air I have been breathing this week. We have not seen the sun in Fresno for days due to the heavy layer of smoke that is pouring down the valley from the burning hills that surround us. As of Thursday evening, there has been no containment of this monster fire. All these years of drought have made the hills filled with kindling just ready to ignite. And now it has.

Small towns, small schools, so many businesses, wiped out. A former school administrator with whom I taught is now the superintendent/principal/teacher of a small school of 50 students, way up in the hills. The parents all work for a large electric company that operates a power plant on the river there. It appears the school still stands, but his home and those of workers and teachers are gone. He has reached out to his education colleagues to help those who lost everything. Some of the large churches in the north part of the city have turned their buildings into shelters, their parking lots for equipment and vehicles. Rodeo grounds with barns are sheltering horses, goats, and other livestock. Because the schools are closed, gyms are used for small animals.

Pandemic. Fires. Distress of racial injustice. What will the winter bring? It feels like we are living in a dystopian novel. Speaking of which, I just finished reading “The Companions,” where the opening page had these words, “two years since the quarantine began.” A virus, fires, inability to travel without papers and credits. All sounded too familiar. The author lives in San Francisco, experiencing now what seems stranger than fiction, but isn’t.

Right before I began this post I read that the California State University system has said the spring semester will be virtual, just as the fall semester.

Tuesday after pandemic Labor Day

Although usually an early riser, I was not on this Tuesday after Labor Day. I don’t have to labor at a job, as such, so I don’t set an alarm to cause me to spring from bed at 5 a.m. like I did all those years that I taught at the inner city high school. I guess I could just lie in bed until noon if I really wanted to, but I don’t. Little would be accomplished around here.

This Tuesday I slumbered until 6:30. The cats wanted to eat so I had to get up for their sake. The yards needed water so there was that chore, too. We did not break that 112 degree record, but it has been around 109 degrees on the last few days. The yard must be kept damp and cool both for the sake of the plants and for the animals around here. The cats splay themselves out in the cool dirt as do the squirrels who also like to drink from the sprinklers.

After the cats and yards, I washed my hair, ate my breakfast, and even put on makeup. Exercise and swiffering didn’t get accomplished before I headed out the door just past nine to go grocery shopping. Last week’s provisions had been consumed. The larder (and fridge) were looking a bit bare. There was actually room to put a bowl of leftover pilaf from last night’s dinner.

We had eaten all the spare food from the freezer so there is actually room in there, too. I bought ice cream and frozen Amy’s dinners for Terry. Some days end and I have no desire to cook dinner.  Or even eat dinner, for that matter. But, Terry has to eat. Frozen ravioli and enchiladas make him happy.

Now I’m back home, clothes changed, hands and glasses washed. Terry always puts all of the food away while I dash down the hall to take care of the cleanup from my trip into the wilds to procure supplies. I can open my laptop and finish reading the San Francisco Chronicle, sashay through WordPress and read all the updated blogs, and even have time to update my own. I know you were all waiting to know what I’m doing on this day after Labor Day. A day that still holds no labor for the retired school teacher. Oh, almost forgot to mention that I don’t have to cook dinner this evening as we are getting dinner delivered, part of a 65th anniversary celebration for a local charity, The Evangel Home. Dinner, centerpiece, and masks will be delivered around 6 p.m. and at seven we can tune into a short online program. The organization usually has a gala (which I never attend), but, you know, the pandemic and all…

Labor Day shenanigans

The pandemic quarantine seems to be making little difference in most people’s life. This past weekend, fires raged in our local hills (still raging for all I know, over 75,000 acres), and people had to be evacuated. Not just the people who live in those hills, of which there are many, but also all of the travelers who decided that Labor Day weekend would be when they literally headed for the hills. One remote area, with only a narrow road in and out, was completely choked off by the fires and had to be evacuated by military helicopters. Again, not people who lived there, but tourists. Their cars, left behind, exploded.

These fires are tragic, no matter who is there, and the firefighters are exhausted, having worked so many of these. The fire season is far from over. If you are the praying sort, please ask God to forgive us of our sins and to send rains. We are desperate.

And, please, just stay home. Don’t clog the roadways. Don’t crowd the beaches. People are not wearing masks. If the doctors are correct, this Labor Day partying is going to cause a huge surge in COVID cases. Just what we don’t need on top of the fires, heat, and bad air.

Staying steadfast during a pandemic

Here we are, almost six months into this new way of doing (or not doing) business, and it seems like we are just getting started figuring it all out. God keeps taking care of us and guiding us along, and as I say to Terry, often, that I will wait upon the Lord, for He is good and He has brought us this far, He will not abandon us now.
On Labor Day weekend, for the past six years, I have been getting my bag of tricks ready to return to Columbia Elementary to read Bootsie Barker Bites to first graders. There is a pet salamander in the story, so I take rubber salamanders for the kids. We laugh and learn together about standing up for oneself. This year, no plans have been made for how the storytelling will happen in the schools. Gosh, doesn’t that sound like much of what we all face right now? No plans, just waiting, remembering what was and is no more.
I spent 2017 reading and studying the book of Daniel because I could hear God saying, prepare, it will get worse. I had no idea how worse, and maybe we’ve not seen the worst. I read how Daniel faced decades of captivity with grace, faithfulness, steadfastness. He learned, he made connections, he spoke up when lead by the Lord. He always knew, though, whose he was. He talked with God on a daily basis. A couple of years later I lived in the book of Nehemiah, learning again how to set one’s face towards a hard goal and remain faithful, knowing who was leading the charge. Last year, and part of this year, I have been with Ezekiel, who also had to face some hard times and remain connected to his God. God was at work in the catastrophe and the people could embrace God in the worst of times. I’m thinking this is our worst of times, but there may be more coming so I’m not calling it just yet.