Category Archives: The world and my place in it

Cleaning the clothes worn during the pandemic

Clothing…we all have to wear something, but with the pandemic lifestyle, I’m not wearing anything too fancy. That means most of my clothes that have to dry cleaned are left hanging, month after month, in the closet. I’m wearing casual clothing when I go out, and now that it’s cold, knits around the house. All washable. Today I washed all the black tops I own and most of the black pants that are washable.

There is one pair of high quality wool pants that has hung in my closet for a few years now. The last time I wore them, they were too big and didn’t look right. Since I have a wide variety of black pants that can be washed and that fit well, I wear them instead. There is the old, raggedy pair, good for running errands if most of the day will be spent at home. There is the lightweight pair that has deep pockets, good for grocery shopping. Two pair are really nice, one short and the other long, but neither have pockets so I must wear them with a jacket or when I’m taking a purse. I did that this week, wore a jacket and took a purse. Very unusual in the pandemic for me to do so, but I needed my wallet to be with me and to do that I needed my purse.

About the jacket I wore with the nice black pants, it has to be dry cleaned. As does the scarf I wore with the outfit. Today I wore both one more time, with lightweight black pants that has pockets, to go to Office Depot. I needed supplies to put together a packet for each of the 52 first graders to whom I’ve been virtually reading each week. A box of 9×12 envelopes. Two boxes, 40 each, of glue sticks. Twenty six packages of scissors that have two per package. Into each envelope will go one glue stick, one pair of scissors, one popsicle stick, and two sheets of mouse pattern printout so that each student can make a Tillie the Mouse puppet from the Leo Lionni story, “Tillie and the Wall.”

Okay, you now know far more about my wardrobe choices for errands than you want to. But, getting back to the jacket and scarf, I dropped them off at the dry cleaner on my way home from the Office Depot trip. I hadn’t seen the man who owns the cleaner for six months or more since I’m not wearing all those dry cleanable clothes. I’ve missed wearing the clothes and I’ve missed seeing him.

More on the palm tree that is no longer there

About that palm tree…it was here when we moved into the house, 40 years ago. Yes, 40 years ago this weekend we moved into this house, never planning to stay so long. The front yard had been nicely landscaped by the original owner with lots of shrubs and Italian cypress. And the palm tree. We took out a few of the evergreen shrubs that were planted too close to the house and planted a mulberry tree in the middle of the lawn. The original sprinkler system is still in place and working.

Everything grew. We trimmed and cut back, except the palm tree. What started as a six foot tree in 1980 was the 70+ foot tree in 2020. The fronds would fly off in wind storms. They had sawtooth limbs which made picking them up a painful feat. The seed pods were large and heavy every year, dropping all of the seeds into the yard and onto the driveway, and bringing a new crop of palm seedlings every year. The squirrels carried those seeds all over the neighborhood, too. This tree did not have many defenders. Except me.

Every year Terry would talk about taking the palm tree down, and every year I would nay-say it. The tree provided some shade for the front yard, but its main job was to provide nesting space for the birds and critters. Being so tall, the cats couldn’t get to any of the critters. However, the bird poop on the driveway was not making me the hero. Also, there was the cost of taking out the tree. It’s always been one reason to hold off.

The birds have not come to nest in the tree for the past five years.  I wondered why. I can only guess they had found other nesting places. The squirrels have taken over the Italian cypress, as have the hummingbirds. The palm tree seemed to have passed its prime. I decided it was time for it to come down.

Terry called the tree service that pruned all the other trees a couple of years ago for an estimate, both to prune and to remove. It would take major equipment, manpower, and a huge disposal bin. It would be costly, either way. If we pruned it, that would need to be done on a yearly basis. It made sense to take it down.

Our grandson was not happy about the tree removal. He’s known it his entire life. I had to explain all of what I have just written here. The tree has lived its life, served its purpose, and has become too much of a burden for his elderly grandparents. Okay.

Finding sanity during the pandemic

DJan asked today on her blog what is keeping you sane through the pandemic. Although I made an attempt to answer, I’m typing on the 2020 Mac which refuses to allow my message to go through to Blogger. Terry says he thinks Safari has been set up to keep me safe from unsecured sites. Anyway, the reply would just disappear when I hit Reply.

So, here I am, again, writing a post that is in response to someone else’s blog post. Hey, it works for me. As for staying sane, I have come in from the patio and backyard doing just that. I cleaned the patio over the weekend. It’s a big job as I have written about before. Took me two days what with the dirt, the heat, and my laziness. Not only was there the soot from the wildfires, but a separate layer of dust from the palm tree that was taken down last week. If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook you’ve seen the pictures of the 70+ foot tree that has been in the front yard for over 40 years. Eight men and three major pieces of equipment brought it down, ground it up, and hauled it off. The dust was formidable.

So much commotion, noise, and dust that I baked brownies for the neighborhood and delivered them on Saturday with a note of apology from the Zodys, the neighbors who no longer have a palm tree. The majority of the neighbors didn’t mind the chaos at all. One neighbor handed me a loaf of bread, fresh from the oven. Another delivered chili sauce today. I sure love these food swaps. I guess they too are keeping me sane through the pandemic. Good neighbors can make life better.

But, back to the yards. That has been my place of refuge in these treacherous times. I can sit on the front porch and ponder the world from a safe place. I can sit under the trees in the backyard and breath in calmness. Although the palm tree has been disposed of, there are plenty of other trees and shrubs to provide a green space for me, the cats, the squirrels, and the birds to feel safe.

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.

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…

A pleasant venture in downtown

On Wednesday I again put on makeup, got out my red shoes and my red striped bag to offset the dark navy clothes I chose to wear, and headed downtown to the weekly farmer’s market. I had not been down there since early on in the season, and now, at the end of summer growing season, I knew there would only be a few more weeks to take advantage of this small market. Plus, I saw a notice that a new vendor would be in place, a sprouts grower.

Terry agreed to go along and to even drive as his car is getting fewer miles than mine. I would have driven surface streets, but he takes the freeway which gives the car even more exercise. Because of the pandemic and all of the closures, parking is no problem whatsoever. It’s kind of sad to see the empty streets and lots. I buy basil sprouts, grapes, flowers, and caramels.

After shopping, we stop in one of the oldest restaurants in Fresno, George’s shish kebob. It’s been around downtown, in Armenia town, for nearly a century. Moved a few times and is now in a lovely small shopping mall. This is a small place, and in pre-pandemic times, packed to the edges with the city’s movers and shakers, the noise level so high, one cannot hear the person next to them. On Wednesday, the restaurant is silent, still, empty, except for the staff in the open kitchen, working at a steady pace to fill takeout orders. We order two shish kebob sandwiches. I tip heavily. I really appreciate those who are working to stay afloat in this time of uncertainty. I hope you do also.

Back home, we change clothes and eat our lunches. Too much food for one meal so we will have leftovers. I realize, unlike many of my trips out into the public, this one has not made me anxious or frenzied. Everyone, in all of the places, wore masks. No one got too close. People were pleasant and conversations lighthearted. Gosh, I could do that again.

A new month, a new season, same old pandemic

I’m trying. I’m kind to those I meet in my short outings. I’m sending good things to my grandchildren and delivering tasty treats to those close by. Cards and letters are going out, even if the postman comes late and I decide to pull the outgoing envelopes from the street-side box and send them the next day from the local post office. I even put on makeup and dressed in lively colors for my Monday morning trip around town.

Tuesday morning, though, finds me a bit disgruntled. The air is so bad–smoky and stinky. It appears that our temperatures, which had been getting lower, are skyrocketing over Labor Day weekend. I’m hoping that 112 degree forecast is just the meteorologist’s wishful thinking as it would break some record. Tuesday is also the first day of September, which in my mind is the first day of autumn–September, October, November–fall months that are really okay, but the days are shorter and I know that winter will be coming by the end of November, bringing cold, gray days.

I haven’t figured out how to do winter in the pandemic. The sunny days, the warm temperatures, the long sunlight…mornings on the front porch, days spent under the trees in the backyard. Summer has been perfect for this pandemic. So much fresh produce. So many good things to eat. Or to turn into jam. I’ve kept very busy all spring and summer. What happens now? I really do need to think about how winter days will look as pandemic days.

Clothing, too, must be considered. I’ve worn my pedal pushers (there’s a term that ages me) and t-shirts with tennis shoes all summer. Easy to go out with deep pockets to store my cards and phone and keys. Maybe I’ll go through my purses to see what might work for pandemic shopping. I’m thinking sweatshirts that can be washed instead of coats and jackets that need to be dry cleaned.

My sweet library branch, only a couple of blocks away, keeps me in books so there will be more reading in those winter days. I’ve also discovered DVDs of some of our favorite long-running series, with early episodes we never saw. Just discovered Ann Cleeves and her Shetland series, both books and tv series. She also wrote Vera, the books and the series, so there’s that, too.

Raging battles

The fires in California continue to burn. Here in the San Joaquin Valley the air is smoky, sooty, smelly. All of which has come from the fires burning to the north and west of us. There is no wind here, the air is still, high pressure above us pushes the smoke down on us, wiping out the sun on some days. On Monday the sun can be seen, it doesn’t look like a winter’s day when the lamps are required as was the case on Sunday. The heat also continues. At noon on Monday the thermometer hovers at 90 degrees.

How are we coping with smoky air in a pandemic? Not well. Those with asthma and COPD are in a world of hurt. Literally. The hospitals and emergency services are seeing an increase in patients with these conditions. The ICUs have an increase of COVID patients as our numbers are not decreasing. Too many parties, family reunions, church events, even people working to bring in the crops.

At least the schools have said no to in-person attendance, both the public schools and the colleges. There are a few religious schools that are flaunting the rules and opening anyway with students in attendance. The public health officer has issued an injunction against one of the large schools in the south valley that has done this, but instead of closing, the school officers are requesting money from churches for a defense fund.

I am curious as to how this will play out. It appears that students nor staff have come down sick. However, the town in which this school sits has very high COVID rates. The students come from a variety of towns, not just the small town where the school resides. It’s a very popular school in this valley with a long history and a proven record of success. Will this be one more success story? Or will there be a tragic end? Just as the fires rage on, so do the people who rage against the pandemic.


Battle fatigue

Morose. That’s the feeling this morning. It was hard to bounce out of bed, even though the cats were doing their best to encourage us. The pandemic, the forest fires, the teetering economy, friends with illnesses…they all mean nothing to the cats who just want their breakfast and their freedom to run outside. I, too, would love the freedom to run outside but our air quality makes that impossible. It is cooler this morning, one bit of joy, 67 degrees. The air is so thick, the sun cannot shine through so it stays a bit cooler.

When I took food out to the squirrels, I stood under the trees in the backyard and enjoyed the cool air. Since I can hardly see the sky when under the trees, the air felt cleaner there. Perhaps the trees are working hard to filter the air. I, on the other hand, am not working hard at anything. Unless it’s anxiety. I’ve worked up a pretty good case of that.

As you’ve probably seen in the news, California is burning. There are not enough firefighters to battle all of the blazes. A helicopter pilot crashed two days ago, fighting a fire not too far from us, in the western hills. Fire is one of my biggest fears. I cannot watch the news or anything that shows fire up close. I cannot explain this fear of fire, but it is gripping. It is debilitating.

A friend of ours has been handed a terrible health diagnosis. One that will, should it prove true, debilitate his life. I am hoping that more tests will prove the diagnosis wrong. However, as we are all aging, I am aware that those kinds of diagnosis are coming for more and more of us.

With all that is happening in my world right now, I feel the need for great strength, great wherewithal, abundant resiliency. I cannot let down my guard as to my health regimen, and yet, with the air so bad, the news so bad, the continuing pounding of the pandemic, lethargy is setting in. Battle fatigue is hanging around. Terry offered to pick up donuts while running an errand today. I didn’t try to stop him.