Category Archives: Uncategorized

Fifty weeks and counting

The first week of March 2021 is the 50th week of the pandemic, or 50 weeks since we went into shutdown, for what was then to be three weeks. Would it have been better if we had known then what we were in for? Would we have felt differently if we knew it would be a very long haul? I think some did expect it to be very bad. A company here in Fresno said they would shut down for the rest of the year. Rest of the year? We were only in the first quarter of 2020! Then the California University system said it would be shut down until the fall semester. Of course, now we know, that it would be a much longer time than either of those self-imposed deadlines.

Many people have started marking one year anniversaries since they last did a certain activity. In two weeks I can commemorate the last time I ate in a restaurant. The last time I saw a small group of friends. The last time I sat in a church pew. The last time I sat with a group of first graders at my feet to hear a story. In late February I marked the last funeral I attended. So many deaths since then, but no funeral service inside a church. No memorial luncheon afterwards.

I will not hazard a guess at what the next 50 weeks will bring. Nor will I try to conjure a picture of next March 1. The pandemic has taught me to hold everything very lightly. To not make plans but take each day as it presents itself. I have looked ahead to the stories I will read to the first graders in the next four weeks, but when I sent the titles to the teachers it was with the admonition that who knew what would occur in those weeks and it all might change. There is a slight chance, if the numbers go down, that schools may reopen. But I know visitors will not be allowed.

For the moment I am holding June in my hand and thinking about what might be possible by then. Until then I will continue to number the weeks of the pandemic and take note of how this period of time is changing me.

The last Monday in February

The last week of February. It will be busy. I have a list of errands, starting today with a hair appointment. Somehow I let six weeks slip by and my hair is shaggy and the roots are definitely showing. I need to keep better track of the weeks and get an appointment on the books before I get to looking too disreputable. No, I don’t have many places to go, but I do have four virtual storytelling sessions a week, and I really want to look good for those small children. I also have three Zoom sessions a month and I want to look good for those, too. It helps my whole frame of mind when I see my well coifed, made-up face looking back at me. Another pandemic lesson, think about how I look.

Speaking of virtual storytelling, I am planning the stories for the month of March, but holding those plans lightly as there may be a shift for students to return to the classroom. The virus numbers are dropping, but as of right now we are still in the highest level of risk, purple. There are predictions, though, it will change quickly as more vaccines are given, and fewer people are getting sick and spreading the virus. Small cohorts of students are heading back to the classrooms in our district today. These are the students who have unstable home life, are in need of special care, or cannot manage school work from home. About 20 students per school go back today and more in two weeks who want to return, along with about 400 teachers who have said they too would like to return. The school superintendent is working with the governor to get the school staffs vaccinated.

Terry and I do have vaccination appointments next month, and in looking at the calendar, we should be fully covered a week or so after Easter, if all goes accordingly. But, we aren’t counting our chickens just yet. Who knows what will happen between now and then. The deacons met on Sunday, via Zoom, and we discussed Easter plans. Many of the elderly members have been vaccinated and some have already returned to the sanctuary for Sunday services. There are those who continue to refuse to wear masks, though. I may return to the sanctuary once we get to the orange or, even better, the yellow tier.

For now, I’m quite content with continuing my pandemic lifestyle and watching the church service via YouTube. Our organist comes in on Saturday, when it’s safe, and plays all of the music for the following Sunday, recording it on the organ. On Sunday a member can just push a button on the organ and the music plays. The wonder of technology.

Gratitude for what I have

Our days have been blue skies and sunshine for which I am most grateful. Especially when I read and see what the rest of the country is going through with cold temperatures and snowstorms without power and water. Ever since the pandemic struck, that has niggled at the back of my mind: the thought of losing the power grid, water treatment plants going down, streets becoming inaccessible for transport, all on top of a medical crisis, would overwhelm me. As the months progressed, and vaccines came into sight, along with protocols being kept in place, I have felt a bit less stressed, until now when parts of the country have fallen into such disrepair. This could happen anywhere.

Every time I flip a switch or turn a faucet, I give thanks for the end product. Over the years here I have written about how I cannot stand cold weather. And by cold, I mean anything below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. I have always lived here where we have mild winters and where the heat always comes on and the water flows. I am so grateful for these conveniences. Food supplies are just a short drive away. Oh, and there are roads and my car to get me there. All of that could be gone. As we are seeing in this current winter storm.

My life has been easy. I know things can happen that could wipe it all away, and for now I will give thanks for where I am and for what I have. I cannot take it for granted.

Taking too much for granted

There were books and a DVD to be picked up at the library.

Have I mentioned how much I love our county library? It’s been a lifesaver during the pandemic. Sure, the libraries all closed in March, but by May they had figured out how to do curbside service. I ordered, the librarians did their magic and delivered. Now, almost a year later, they are figuring out how to be open a few days a week, twenty five percent capacity and all protocols in place. The library is a valuable resource and I’m glad they can reopen, even on those limited times, but I’m quite happy to give the man at one door my library number and pick up my books at the next door. Today, though, there was a man for whom this was not good enough.

A few library patrons had come after me and were waiting, along the sidewalk, for their name to be called to pick up books, when this older man came walking up and wanted to know “blankety blankety blank” why he couldn’t go inside. “We’re all just a bunch of old people,” waving his hand in our direction, “what can we hurt?” No one answered. I was so far down the sidewalk where I normally walk and wait that I wasn’t about to come barreling back up to the entrance and give him what for, but I considered it.

Privilege. Expectations. What was and is no more. All of this came to mind. It’s a pandemic. We have to adjust our thinking. We don’t get our way any more.

The librarian at the open door who takes our information explained to the man that this branch is open for limited capacity on Tuesdays and Fridays. I gather it wasn’t good enough for the old, white, privileged fellow. You know he’s retired. You know he can come out any time he wants. He just wants it all his way. He was stomping his way back to his big pickup when I was carrying my stack of books back to my car. I, too, felt very privileged. I can order online. I can pick up the books whenever I want because I’m also retired. But, I will never take the library for granted again. Along with lots of things in my life. The pandemic has changed all of that.

Is it just me?

Leaving home just before 8:30 a.m., and returning just about one hour later, I was out on a cold Tuesday morning to run my errands–dry cleaners, gas station, post office, grocery store. Six mile round trip, all in the same zip code.

Until I got to the grocery store, I had encountered three people–the dry cleaner owner, a lady getting gas at the pump across from me, and a man walking along the pathway in the shopping center near the mailboxes. All masked. The grocery clerks, customers, cashiers, all wearing masks and keeping their distance. It all had a safe feeling, and YET, I only relaxed after I returned home, unloaded the sacks of groceries for Terry to put away, changed my clothes, washed my hands and glasses, and used my own bathroom.

Then I breathed a sigh of relief, made a mocha, and sat down to read the newspaper, but decided, feeling relaxed, that I would write a blog post and ask all of you–does the errand running give you great anxiety? Are you happy to be back home and changed into clean clothes and in your own safe area?

It’s been like that for almost a year. Some errands create less anxiety. The library. A couple of cafes for takeout. Our church office. If that’s the only place I go, then I’m more relaxed, but I still come home and change my clothes, washing hands and glasses before feeling completely comfortable. Will the vaccine create a better feeling? Our health provider called last week and said it would be our turn in three weeks. It will be over a month before we are completely vaccinated. And that’s if the supply of vaccine holds.

Considering post-pandemic life

Are you pondering how you will carry on once the pandemic is pretty much behind us? Or will you just go back to what you were doing pre-pandemic?

I’m rethinking some things. Like my time. I’ve actually enjoyed being “forced” to stay at home and not participate in many activities that had been part and parcel of my existence. Do I want to take up all of those when I’m allowed? Like meeting via Zoom has been nice for some of those monthly meetings, especially when I don’t want to leave home and drive across town. Of course, if those in-person meetings come back and it’s the only way I can participate, then maybe I will have to rethink that, too.

When I left teaching I did not use the word RETIRE as I did not think that’s what I was doing. I wanted to continue working and I set a catchphrase for that: doing good work with good people for the good of the community. Even though I’ve been involved with those elements, it turned out that no one wanted to pay me for it. So, I have come to terms with that word RETIRED. And, since no one pays me to do what I do, I don’t feel so compelled to continue some of it. Especially since the pandemic.

I had already given up the historic home tours for the historical society because of a change in administration and a demand for me to do the work differently than I had ever agreed to. Also, the long drive out into the country no longer felt safe as traffic had increased on those country roads without stop signs. But, what will take the place of that work? Or should I even consider taking on something else.

Then there is the board I was asked to join about three years ago. It is for a good cause and the people are good, but I’m really not needed and was probably asked just so there would be another body onboard. I’m feeling more and more literally like a fifth wheel. June will probably be a good jumping-off point.

The virtual storytelling during the past few months has made me realize how much I miss seeing the staff and students at the school where I would go twice a week to tell stories in person. I may try to cut back to one day a week when we are again allowed on campus, but I will not drop that position as long as the teachers and students are so appreciative of what I am doing. They have been a lifeline for me during the pandemic.

My other church work, the board of deacons, will have a natural end in December when I will “age out,” having fulfilled a maximum six-year term. I will gladly offer to help with funeral luncheons and serve coffee fellowship, but I’m staying away from signing on for any more monthly meetings that carry obligations.

The pandemic has shown me just how much I value my time and how much I enjoy having few demands for it. I’m going to attempt to continue with the freedom of few obligations and demands.

Whirlwind days

The first week of February is wrapping up. It has gone in a whirlwind, seemed to just be blowing through the days. A teacher friend, whom I’ve not seen in person for over a year, and I arranged to meet at a takeout spot in town that has just reopened. The food is amazing and we thought it would be a good time to get our goodies and catch up a bit, masked and six feet apart. We talked for about 20 minutes, cramming as much as possible into our brief time together. She mentioned being bored, and I could only shake my head.

I know I’ve said it here so many times, but I am never bored. Overwhelmed, yes. There is often more to do than I have time for. Perhaps I am easily entertained. Like that brief conversation, it was pure pleasure. Seeing the owner and chef of this tiny cafe where we met was also a pleasure even though we only talked five minutes. Just those short interactions add so much to my life.

On Friday, after finishing my last virtual storytelling session for the week (this week’s book was Ada Twist, Scientist), I headed out to a locally owned bookstore that is just a few blocks from our house, in the same zip code. As with the cafe pick up, I had made the appointment to pick up an order made especially for me. Two picture books, one chapter book, and a skunk puppet. If you follow me on Instagram you can see the chapter book and the puppets I have to use with it. The badger puppet was purchased a few years ago, again from this very special bookseller, for another story I tell to first graders, The Bad Mood. I’m not sure how I will use the puppets and the book, but I’ll let that idea percolate in my brain. In my spare moments.

The weather is turning warmer, warm enough to work in the yards and go for a walk. The rain we got earlier has prompted all the spring grasses to burst out. The pear tree in the backyard has budded and will bloom next week. Farmer friends have been posting pictures of their apricot and early peach trees setting on buds. In two weeks this valley will be blooming and the famous Blossom Trail will open where we can stay in our cars and see all of the beautiful orchards in full bloom. It’s a short period of time so has to be enjoyed when it happens. So much of life right now is like that, enjoy the moment for it will be gone in a blink of the eye.

I have a stack of library books that keep giving me the stink eye. “When are you going to sit down and read us,” they scream. I know, I know. So many good stories. I gave up television watching Friday night to crawl into bed and read The Brilliant Life of Eudora Honeysett. By 8:15 my eyes were closing and I was fast asleep. Eudora is such a curmudgeon in the beginning, but I have a feeling she changes by the end of the book. I sure hope so. No one should be that grouchy.

There is another one of those lists of things to do taped to the shelf unit here at my desk. I look at it each morning and try to make plans as to when I will get some of the tasks accomplished. This week I crossed off four of the seven so I see that as progress in these whirlwind days which don’t allow time for boredom.

Apple does its best to keep me safe

As I’ve written here many times, Blogger blogs do not like me to come and make comments under my WordPress identity.

Each Blogger blog insists I use my google account to make my comments. I have no google account, nor do I want one. Terry has one because of some job he has that requires it, so every so often, his google address pops up when I’m trying to make a comment on a Blogger blog. I’m almost tempted to let it fly through and see what the writer thinks about that, but I feel it’s unfair to Terry to be using his identification in a somewhat fraudulent way.

If I come into the blogs on this old Mac, which still has OS 10, then I can get away with making comments, but lately the blogs require me to check all the boxes with crosswalks, fire hydrants, etc. My new Mac, on which I just updated the operating system to Big Sur, refuses to let me do anything with a site that does not have a secure connection, in other words, an address with https, or on my screen, has a small lock in front of the address.

So, maybe it’s not Blogger keeping me out, but rather Apple trying to keep me safe. Every morning when I log onto the new Mac I get a notice of how many trackers were attempting to profile me in the last seven days and how Safari prevented it. I guess technology is trying to keep me safe and keep me on my toes as I have to learn all the new things that each operating system brings.

Here’s to February

As usual, I turned the calendar to the new month a few days before the end of the old month. It’s just something I do, probably because I am DONE with a month before it’s finally out the door. That’s how I have always felt about January. Long and cold and dark. Let’s move on. So I turned the calendars here in the house to my favorite month of winter a few days before January left the building.

Although February is still winter, it offers a bright glimmer of what is to come. February is when we turn the corner, away from winter and head towards spring. The daffodils in the front yard have already popped up with great promise of showy beauty which will brighten my days even more. February is a short month, so it’s also got that going for it. Our anniversary, my half birthday, my sister’s birthday, and Valentine’s day all fall in this month. A month of love. The schools here take two holidays during February–Lincoln’s Birthday and President’s Day–on Mondays, making short weeks in a short month.

Somewhere in February I will do the taxes. Since retirement, this task has become pretty easy. So easy, that even I can do it. The person who hates any sort of accounting. I was a marketing major in college, and took the most basic of accounting and finance classes just to tweak by for my degree. In all those years of working, we paid a tax accountant to do the odious task of figuring out what we owed to the governments each year. My mother always shook her head and incredulously asked, “two college educated people and you can’t do your own taxes?” She would be pleased to know that I now, with the help of computerized tax preparation software, do our very simple taxes. It’s not too hard when you don’t make much money!

The month of red hearts. I put on my heart socks this morning when I dressed, and will probably wear a red jacket when I go out to the post office later this morning to drop a stack of Valentines in the mailbox. Just like I did with Christmas cards a couple of months ago, Valentines will go out almost every day. Happy February.

The atmospheric river continues to roll

It is a dark and stormy morning here in Central California. I am ever so grateful that I have no where to go today, nor do I have any virtual engagements, the first time this week. The cats weren’t in any mood to sleep in so we were up fairly early, listening to the rain come down. Because it’s been a busy week I’ve not done any laundry and that was where I began my day, after dressing in my raggedy at-home-when-no-one-will-see-me clothes.

The storytelling went well the past two days. With the addition of the easel. I was able to add the words from the book as well as the characters. And, just like in the story, it all comes tumbling down near the end. My poor husband comes running to my rescue when the easel falls, but it’s okay, I just go on with my “act.” When I’m actually in the classroom, with the students sitting right in front of me, the boat and its characters get thrown over and the children gasp. Now, with virtual storytelling, their mics are muted so I don’t get to hear that gasp. It’s kind of fun to get the reaction from Terry!

Still no word on vaccinations here. I know of some who have gotten theirs, and I was very pleased to hear that farm workers were being vaccinated earlier in the week. I hope that continues and will be glad to keep waiting for ours if I know those who are in more dangerous places are getting theirs. Terry and I are very grateful for the ease and comfort of our lives, with no complaints about staying home and staying safe.