Connections in dystopian times

Early in the pandemic people would talk of their vivid dreams that seem to have been brought on by the shut down. Although I wondered about that, I knew my dreams were their usual. Lots of dreaming, mostly un-remembered upon awakening, but nothing out of the ordinary. Now, almost a year into the pandemic, but only days away from the insurrection at the Capitol, my dreams not only have shifted, but are well remembered when I awake.

I will not go into the dreams themselves because I never could understand people talking about their dreams as if they are something that arrive from another place. It’s all in our head. It’s all in our imaginations. Something in our brain is triggered to come up with that particular scenario. That’s what has occurred recently with me. Conversations have triggered memories.

A lengthy conversation on Monday with the Ladies Who Zoom brought up friends who have passed away. We talked about how people can prepare for their final years and make things easier on those we leave behind. We talked about estate sales to clean out houses full of a life’s detritus. I wish I had done that with a friend’s home after she died without family and only two friends, one being me. I’m smarter, nine years later.

A usual topic these past few months, the pandemic, was again discussed on Monday with the Ladies Who Zoom. Although none of us have gotten the virus, family and friends have. All five of us who had gathered online can hardly wait until we can see each other in person. We will go to lunch at a favorite downtown spot. A new gallery has opened during the pandemic so we want to go there to see what the new owner has done with a hundred year old building. But until is safe, and we all have our vaccinations, we will continue to zoom.

There are two of the group who refuse to zoom. They are being left out, left behind, and we wonder if they will be able to rejoin us when we do meet in person. The five of us talked about how much we enjoy these gab sessions, and how technology has kept us all in touch. How terrible to lose precious time with friends. And that reminded me of the last five years of a friend who has died. Her husband demanded so much of her time as he had remains of shingles. He didn’t want her to leave the house and not be available for his every beck and call. She didn’t even have time for a phone call because the husband would call for her to do something for him. Now that she is gone, he is doing just fine. And I will never get those five years back.

Those friends who have died have been on my mind, and thus in my dreams. These are precious times, we have no idea how long any of us have. I would recommend you call your friends and do video chats. Check in with people who you haven’t seen in awhile. Stay in contact so that when we have some semblance of normalcy there will be people there for you. We all need people more than we need regrets.

Coping skills

If anyone wants me

I’ll be over here

looking at my Pinterest boards

printing out pretty pictures

making collages

with scissors and glue

putting the world back together

the only way I know how.

The day after

I could hardly get out of bed this morning, but the boy cats would not suffer my human depression and insisted.

After a few household tasks, I opened the front door to check on MK who didn’t come home last night, and I heard birds singing. On a cold winter morning, before sunrise, the birds were singing. I stood in the open door, letting a ton of cold air pour in, listening to those birds and my heart lightened.

Oh, and MK did finally come in and is curled up on Terry’s office chair.

New year, same old pandemic

It’s week 42 of the COVID pandemic. Nothing much has changed except the number of cases and deaths. Those are increasing exponentially because, even with stay-at-home orders and a 10 pm to 5 am curfew, people are just doing whatever they feel like. Here in Fresno we have had shootings at a regional mall, fatal car crashes, murders at parties, drive-by shootings, hit and run accidents, and the list goes on.

The big problem, there is no room in the hospitals for these victims as every space is filled with COVID patients, and the funeral homes have run out of room for bodies, bringing in cold storage trucks. I have been told by a former student that the largest crematorium in the area is running 24/7 to keep up.

The COVID virus has mutated to be more contagious but that seems to effect few people’s behavior. They just keep going and going. I stayed in during the Christmas and New Year’s holiday weeks, knowing that there would be so many of these people who are determined to do as they please, continuing to spread the virus. I am hearing from more and more people who have the virus or have someone in their family with the virus. A few have lost loved ones. And yet, people won’t stay put.

This first week of the new year is the last week of winter break for our local schools. I have no obligations again this week, and I am grateful. I am hunkered down, here at home, with some good books I picked up at the library before Christmas. I will make plans for the storytelling that will resume in the second week of the year. I’ve been playing with my watercolor pencils again, trying to recharge the creative juices. Picture-taking and writing will still be in the mix, because even though it is a new year, those old habits are some of the best.

Write into the new year

Write your life…

It’s the only way to save it. A life on paper proves timely, worthy, more concrete.

Without my words on paper, would I have known my life’s days?

The days are fleeting, catch them before they disappear, without a trace.

Write.

Let’s wrap up Pandemic 2020 with a list

A Facebook friend shared this today. In looking at the list, I realized that this is how I lived through 2020. I would change forgive to show grace, and I’m not sure I became the best me, but it has to be the best for 2020.

Undoing Christmas

Why do the items taken from the shelves not fit when being put back after Christmas? I cleared a number of shelves in the family room so as to put up festive Christmas displays as a backdrop for virtual storytelling that lead up to Christmas break. This morning, the day after Christmas, I was up early to take it all down, pack it away, and return the family room shelves to their usual configuration. Only when I started putting books back on one shelf, I found I could not fit some of the other items that had previously been there. New homes were found for various things.

As I put things back, both into drawers and cabinets, I started taking out what had been stashed away while the Christmas decor was on display. I realized some of the dolls that I keep in the family room did not appear to be put back where they normally live. It’s only been five weeks, how can I misplace these items? Since I was up early, while Terry slept in, to do this chore, I had not turned on lights in the guest room where I store many of my puppets, dolls, stuffed animals. When I went back, turned on the lights, and carefully looked in each drawer, I found the missing FridaKahlo and Monty Monkey. They are now back in their place.

All that is left to do is put the large containers with much of the decor in the back of the Subaru, take the wreath off the door and put it on top of those containers, and return it all to the storage unit a few miles away. Christmas is done for another year.

Addendum: Dropped off DVDs at the library (watched over Christmas week Olive Kittridge and Holiday Inn), put early January birthday cards in the post office mailbox, unloaded the Christmas containers into the storage unit, and home by 10. Saw 2 people while running those errands. I’m feeling pretty satisfied.

Christmas week in a pandemic

Because I have never been big on Christmas celebrations, this week really doesn’t look much different than previous ones. Perhaps it was the way I was raised, far from the city, on a large piece of land with few neighbors, and my dad working during the season, to make extra money, pruning grape vines. We seldom left our farm except for church or groceries during the cold, foggy days of winter.

Fast forward to 2020, and this week, like those when I was a child, has been very cold and very foggy. We have not seen the sun for days. I do have more Christmas decorations in the house than in the past few years because I wanted a festive backdrop for virtual storytelling with first and second graders. The mailbox has been full of Christmas cards this week. It does seem that more people have mailed cards than in the past few years. Some friends came by on Monday and dropped off a large tray of dried fruits, all products of the San Joaquin Valley. Our next door neighbor brought a large tray of cookies and fruit cake she had made. I delivered chicken pot pies to numerous friends who are under the weather and have been getting texts of gratitude. Food seems to be a big hit this year.

The cold foggy weather would keep me at home even if there wasn’t a pandemic raging out there. I have always tried to stay out of the retail environment during Christmas week, and this year that is even more the case. I shopped last week. I will pick up Christmas dinner from a local bakery on Thursday, and we will hunker down here in our snug, warm house until next week, closer to the new year.

The pandemic numbers here are so bad that we have the dubious honor of being the Number One metropolitan area for cases in the nation. I am not surprised, though, as we have such extreme poverty, with so many crowded homes with multiple generations living together just to be able to survive. Lots of essential workers, too, with low incomes, no medical insurance, and no sick leave. Then there are the privileged who insist on eating out, going to parties, going to the gym. Those three activities were not even on my radar growing up. Now people act like they are necessary for life. And yet, those activities are killing us.

We have been in a great black cave this year. I hear people say there is light at the end of the tunnel. No, not yet. The cave just got smaller, still dark and bleak; though we may have found the tunnel through which we might find our way out, what with the vaccine coming. Once I have the vaccine I will say there is light at the end of that tunnel. But it is still in the far future. Maybe next year Christmas will look different.

The last I knew it was Monday

…so how did it get to be Friday so quickly, and why is three quarters of December gone?

There has been a lot going on around here, nothing big and splashy, but every day has been packed with so much to do that evening comes before it’s all done. I’ve been thrown a few curve balls, those things you don’t plan to happen, but they do anyway…a former student announced that her whole household, three generations, had COVID, brought in by the husband who is an essential worker. They are young and healthy, except for granddad who is the same age as me and who had open heart surgery the same time Terry had his. I packed up a care package and delivered it on one of the days when I had no where else to go.

The Ladies Who Zoom met one day, minus two. The missing women had health issues to attend to. The husband of one has a doctor in Los Angeles who he is seeing for a long-term illness. That’s a four hour trip, each way, but they are back home, safe and sound. The other one is still sick so another care package to go out.

Midweek I learned that two families of friends, not the friends themselves, but still, all had COVID so that upset their apple carts. I’m making treats to drop off later at the friends’ homes, just because. Also, midweek I learned that the chaplaincy office had finally moved and I was invited to come get more books for storytelling, see the new digs, and pick up a Christmas gift. There was the offer to have the gift delivered, but I wanted to see the new building and to get more books. There are only 12 out of the 40 school chaplains doing virtual storytelling right now, and we still cannot have our monthly meetings where we would normally receive our books. I felt safe going to the new building as there are few there and they are all masked, air purifiers are running, plus they use sanitizer by the gallon. It was wonderful to see the fellow who is in charge of the school program, a retired principal who has to be one of the smartest people I know in education. Although he and I could talk for hours, I stayed a short time and headed home.

After I returned home, a man came to our door with a bag of what appeared to be trash. He had found it while walking near his home, a few blocks away. In the bag were the two greeting cards I had put in the mailbox before going out. The envelopes were ripped open and the cards torn up. I assume the thief thought the cards might have money in them. Nope, but gorgeous cards to friends who live right here in Fresno. I was heartsick for the rest of the day. Looks like I will be taking all future outgoing mail directly to the post office, just another activity almost every day as I send a lot of cards and letters. Funny thing, I never put bills in the mail.

Here it is Friday. How did the week go so fast, and the bigger question, how come the weeks of my youth, when working, NEVER went this fast? I was always busy. There was always lots to do, but the days often seemed eternal, and weeks took a long time. Now, poof. The time is gone. Like right now, I sat down here to write this at 7:01, and it feels like about five minutes have passed, but I see it’s 7:19. Gotta go.

Gratitude Monday in a pandemic

Yes, I know how fortunate I am during this horrendous time in world history. I know there are those who are suffering in more ways than we can count, losing loved ones, jobs, homes. There are those who are lonely, who feel abandoned due to the inability to connect with friends and family. Three days a week I look into the eyes of children who would really like to physically connect with me and my puppets instead of seeing me on a screen. The lines for food get longer and longer. There is, indeed, much grief and sadness in the world.

Again I say, I am fortunate. I have good health and a warm home. Plenty of good food. More books than I have time to read. I can still come and go from my home as all the businesses I use are open and protocols are in place, and we know I have enough masks to wear. I have all the technology that keeps me connected to so many. During this dark period in history I have maintained an upbeat attitude because I am grateful for so many blessings. I know there are others who cannot do that. Or, in some cases, won’t do that.

I see privilege all around me. Those with far more blessings than me, yet they complain about what we are going through. They are put out that they can’t travel on ships and planes. They cannot visit exotic locales. They cannot eat in fabulous restaurants or go to movies or plays in luxurious theaters. Churches are closed for the time being, and to hear some I know, you would think they will never open again. They act as if this is a personal affront to them. As an aside here, one person I know who has screamed bloody murder about the churches staying open didn’t go to church for decades.

I am grateful for all that I have and look forward to the COVID vaccines arriving around the country today. This will be a day that goes down in history. To think, the science that has gone into getting these vaccines developed and the technology in getting them delivered. It boggles my simple mind. It makes me glad that I’m not in charge. I’m just grateful.