What gets you moving in the morning?

I’ve written often about being a morning person. I spring out of bed, plans in my head, energy in my toes, ready to get the day started. Usually. But not today. The last Friday in September finds me feeling a bit low.

Although up at the usual time, just a few minutes beyond 6 a.m., the darkness and bad air do not give me a good feeling. I wish we could return to standard time RIGHT NOW. I need my sunshine at 6 a.m., not 7 p.m. Of course, with the forest fire smoke shifting in our direction right now, the days are all a hazy blur. Maybe that’s the problem with my motivation. It too is blurred.

I have not been well the past few days. Have no idea if it’s a bug I picked up or one of my food allergies. By Thursday evening I was so exhausted, having used every ounce of energy on the necessary tasks, right up to finally telling Terry he was on his own for dinner, I could not do one more thing. I sat on the couch and went to bed just past 7:30.

There are no obligations on today’s calendar except to pick up dinners from our neighborhood cafe/bakery. Thank goodness I had the forethought to order those earlier in the week. However, there are tasks on my list still undone. My car begs to go to the car wash. There are items I need from Target for a project I have next weekend. I should go grocery shopping as the produce has run out. I knew things were bad when Terry resorted to eating raw carrots with his dinner.

Because I often analyze my life by writing, I thought putting my lack of motivation into a blog post might just provide some insight into this malaise, but I’m not seeing it now. Maybe when I come back and read this at a later time it will be more evident. For now, though, I just want to sit and do nothing.

Bad air, bad air, bad air

The Sequoia National Forest is on fire. This national landmark is only 90 minutes from our home. Terry and I, when younger and braver, would spend our Saturdays hiking its trails. The Giant Redwood Forest is home to the largest and oldest living trees on the planet. When you stand underneath them, you are awed and inspired.

The small town where Terry and I honeymooned and returned many summers for vacations with our daughter is also close to this inferno. The town is closed right now except for the firefighters. Last night’s news highlighted a lodge owner who is feeding the fire crews with his best steaks, chops, and fish. We know they are eating well because we have stayed there and eaten many meals on the deck overlooking one of the rivers that flows through the area.

The fires all add to our bad air down here in this large bowl that we call home. Tuesday’s color was orange. The sun was an orange ball. The skies were an orange glow. All the shadows reflected the orange. Another apocalyptic day when I stayed indoors and ran the air purifier.

Although I have a list of errands sitting here beside me on the desk where I type this, I will stay home today. Wednesdays and Thursdays have become my virtual storytelling days. I have three sessions today and two on Thursday. I need my voice. Breathing bad air will not help it.

It’s been a week…

Lots going on here…baked brownies and made more caramel corn for a dear friend who just lost her 97 year old mother. The goodies were actually for her grandchildren who she cares for during the week except when she had to be gone to another part of the state to see to her parents. Hard times for the family and the best I could do was a few yummy treats.

Another retired teacher friend is in the hospital with a broken leg and visitors are not allowed due to the COVID disaster playing out in our community. The situation is beyond sad. This woman has only one family member, an older sister, and very few friends. Her cognitive skills have been dwindling over the past couple of years and the pandemic shut-down did not help. Please, dear Readers, keep moving. This friend did not, and her balance and ability to get up from a fall continued to deteriorate. Now, hospitalized, we hear that she is not taking well to physical therapy as it is too hard for her to move. None of us can go see her to help motivate her.

The California recall election came out well. What a harrowing few weeks we have had, though, leading up to the final vote count. Should the recall have passed, the frontrunner for replacing our governor, who has done an excellent job guiding the state through the pandemic, would have been a clone of that former president. Or should I say “clown.” His television ads were so abusive that I would run from the room any time his non-blinking face came on the screen. No more of that horrible man, for now, anyway.

I virtually visited three classrooms this past week and read two books to the first and second grade classes. They are delightful children. It looks like I will have four classes on next week’s agenda. Plus, I get to meet with all the other resiliency coaches on Monday and catch up on what has been happening with their storytelling.

Cooler temperatures are in the forecast. Triple digit days look to be a thing of the past for this summer. I was still out early this morning to do a bit of yard work, but not feeling quite as pressured to get much done before the heat sets in. We will still have some smoke blowing through from the various forest fires burning around us. Let’s see what next week brings.

Joyful, joyful morning

I know many of you live in areas where you keep your windows and doors open almost year-round. Many of you live in areas where you don’t need air conditioning or air purifiers. Such is not the case here in Central California. Our weather and air quality are such that we keep the windows closed most of the year and we run our air conditioners in the summer and our heaters in the winter. Unless we get storms through the valley, our winter air becomes stagnant since we sit in a giant bowl.

That said, Tuesday morning dawned cool, clear, and clean. So much so that I could open all of the windows when I got up at 6:30. Although 78 degrees in the house, the outside temperate was 64, but better than just the coolness is the cleanness. I stood under the trees when I went out to run the sprinklers, in both yards, just reveling in the cool, clear air. It felt so good. Not hot, not cold. Just right.

Is the hot weather behind us? No. Tuesday’s high will be around 95 degrees, but we are promised lower temperatures by the end of the week. Anything below 100, but higher that 78, will make me happy. I don’t want too hot or too cold, but just right. Having cool mornings sure invigorates me for the rest of the day.

A successful Sunday to start a new week

Rally Day at church, for which I had made those six batches of caramel corn, turned out well. Good attendance. The weather was nice, but I did get hot by the time I had circulated with baskets of the bagged corn and visited with numerous guests. I had an egg roll made by our Vietnamese congregation and a watermelon wedge offered at the evangelism & membership table. It was now close to noon, the bags of caramel corn had all been dispensed, and my face had begun to melt, so I went home.

Being a warm Sunday (the temperature rose to 99 degrees), I sat on the couch, with air conditioner and air purifier running, and vegged out all afternoon. Journal writing, social media, library book reading. I realized, late afternoon, that I had only eaten those Rally Day treats all day so I was getting hungry. However, I wasn’t in the mood to cook much. Fortunately there was a lasagna in the freezer, spinach in the fridge, and a baguette of fresh bread. It all turned into an easy, tasty dinner, with the emphasis on easy. Then a lime popsicle for dessert while we watched a Vera episode.

It was a pleasant, successful Sunday. Good start to a new week. Another busy week. More storytelling sessions. Grocery shopping is imperative. Writing an agenda for a deacon’s meeting next Sunday. Because, you know, next Sunday will be here in a blink of the eye.

As I was saying…

The week went by quickly. Very warmly, too. Until Friday, our days were all over 100 degrees. Fortunately, we had a slight shower one evening which cleared the air of smoke particles and we all breathed a bit easier.

I did three virtual storytelling sessions. One of the first grade teachers was absent so I will see her class next week. The other session with first graders on Wednesday was a lesson for me. I was used to doing these stories when the weather was cooler. On a 104 degree day I found my face melting as I used more energy than I usually do in the afternoon. The next day I set up fans that blowed directly on me and did just fine during those two sessions. Before it had only been lighting I had to be concerned about, now it’s also temperature!

I made four batches of caramel corn and will make two more today. I’ve only bagged the first two batches so have lots of work ahead of me today. I don’t know which is harder, making the corn or packaging it. I like it best when I can just deliver the corn in a big container and let the recipient eat it as they please, but that’s not possible with a large group activity.

The daughter of a deceased friend contacted me on Tuesday. The daughter lives in Michigan and I had not heard from her since her mother’s death three years ago, so my heart stopped for a moment when I saw her name on my phone. She was calling to tell me she is in town, at her parents’ home, cleaning it out as she and her brother have put their dad in a care facility as he is no longer able to live by himself.

The house is very large and very full of stuff. It’s a hard job for her to get it cleared so they can sell it. Her brother has taken care of other properties the parents owned as well as large amounts of equipment and even a boat. My friend, before she died, always admonished her husband to get rid of the properties, the buildings, the equipment, the stuff, but he refused, saying Scott, the son, would come and take care of it. Hah! Scott is selling everything for pennies on the dollar just to get rid of it even though his dad needs the funds to be able to live in a care facility. The task is monumental and overwhelming.

The daughter, Pam, wanted me to come to the house and take things I would like to have, mainly a giraffe. My friend had a huge collection of giraffes, many bought by me for gifts over the 40 years we knew each other. I chose one small one as well as two mixing bowls. I really need to write a post about bowls. That seems to be the item I have from many different people that I use on a regular basis.

We had one more inspection this week on the house retrofit, this time for the state energy commission. The company who did the work hires this company to make the final assessment and report to the state the percentage of improvement and how well the work matches state requirements. All of the ductwork and venting had to be tested so I went outside and worked in the yards while the fellow made his way through the testing, one room at a time.

The technician couldn’t give us the final report as he had to go back and put all the numbers into the computer program and send it to the state, but he did tell us that the company who did our work always gets very high marks and just from what he could see, it looked very good. The heating and cooling company had sent their own technician earlier for a followup assessment and he told us that there was a 30 percent improvement of energy conservation. All of this means the state will be sending up a nice rebate for having the work done.

So, here it is Saturday, again, and my day is filled with chores. Yardwork, laundry, caramel corn, the continuing cleanup of dust…


Hear that? It’s the sound of time going too fast! Seven days into September and I haven’t caught up with the fact that it IS September. Our temperatures are still over 100 (a record has been broken for the number of 100+ degree days in a year) so I’m having trouble thinking that summer is over.

I’ve not been able to return to the classroom with my bag of tricks, making it still seem like summer vacation. That may change this week as I will have two days of virtual storytelling. Three first grade classes, one second grade class, two different books. I’m hoping my throat will hold out for back-to-back storytelling. It may be the smoke from the forest fires, or pollen, or the dust from the house retrofit (which I’m still cleaning on a daily basis), but my throat is raw and scratchy almost every day, and even worse when I talk a lot.

That happened on Sunday. Our church administrator celebrated 25 years in her position so we threw her a party after the church service. I brought the food and another woman did the decorations. It was a lovely time had by all, but I had a coughing fit near the end of the reception. A cough drop seemed to take care of the problem, but it was annoying.

There will be another event at church next Sunday, what we call Rally Day, done outdoors. I’m not a big fan as it’s a lot of work, and people seem to expect those in charge (which is a dwindling group) to come up with a high peak performance. Each ministry group has a table to showcase its work and offer a treat. I’ve done caramel corn for a couple of years and will do so again this year. I suggested to the rest of the deacons that they could man the table and/or provide beverages if they so desired. No one jumped at that suggestion.

It’s already Tuesday and I have to plan out the rest of the week so I can get 50+ bags of caramel corn made. Along with my errands, storytelling sessions, and the continuing saga of house cleaning…there seems to be too little time for all that I want to accomplish. Whoosh. The sound of time going too fast.

We pivot, again

The plan was to return to Columbia on September 1 for in-class storytelling with first graders. It couldn’t happen due to the high numbers of COVID cases, higher than during the severe pre-vaccine days of this pandemic. Schools didn’t want another person on campus to be concerned about. The more I thought about it, I didn’t want to be on campus either, having to worry about being exposed even though vaccinated. I might spread it somewhere else.

Then, one of the second grade teachers emailed and asked if I could do virtual storytelling with her class, like I did last year. Yes I could. We had our first session on Thursday. I emailed the first grade teachers and asked if they would like to do likewise. Yes, they would. Next week I am scheduled for four sessions, over two days, with first and second graders.

It’s not the same as in-person, but it’s safe, and it’s still fun. I’ll channel Mr. Rogers and do my best to bring a story and a lesson. If nothing else, I hope I’m showing the students, and teachers, how to be resilient.

Sometimes you get more work than you bargained for

We have all had it happen–you start a task only to find a cog is broken, a piece is missing, something has gone awry. That was my Wednesday morning.

I was up early. The temperature was cool. The air was clean. My energy levels were high. “Today’s the day I finally clean the patio.” It had only been swept for the last five months, not washed off, scrubbed down. All the furniture has to be moved out onto the greenhouse pad. I’ve written about this so much that my long-time readers are thinking, “good grief, here she goes again.” I won’t bore you with the details, but everything was moved off by 7 a.m.

Years ago I looked at buying a power washer for this work, but found that the price and size was too much for me. Instead, I found a great hose nozzle that is called “firehose,” and it acts very much like its namesake. Lots of force for cleaning. I just remove the sprinkler from the hose and attach the nozzle. Only this morning there was a spray of water from the connection, not the actual nozzle. I reattached, I rejiggered, and still a spray of water where there shouldn’t be one. A close inspection of the hose caused me to think the hose connector was worn away.

Coming inside, I told Terry of my setback. In the meantime I was going to have my coffee which he had just finished brewing. Off he went to figure out my problem and fix it. He’s good at that. Awhile later he reenters the house with this proclamation, “Good news, you don’t have to water the backyard any more. The hose is worn out.”

Hah. If it was just that easy. So, I was right, the hose has worn out after about 10 years of use. Terry moved the 75 foot hose from the front yard to the back for me and attached the “firehose.” He tossed the old hose in the garbage. I don’t need 75 feet of hose in the back so he’s off to replace the worn out 50 foot hose.

In the meantime, I found that the cat food which I had moved to the far corner of the greenhouse pad had been attacked by the carnivorous ants we have here. More cleanup to do before I could do the actual cleaning.

https://www.instagram.com/p/CTSiKOlPPJq/After I finished cleaning, I took and posted a photo on Instagram so I have proof that it is clean for a moment.

A pandemic surge can create changes

The plan was to start back at Columbia on September 1. I met with the teachers in mid-August, the week before the students arrived, and we set the date and the times for storytelling. I told them I would check in before then with the list of books for September. The other RISE storytellers were making similar plans throughout the city at the various schools to which we are assigned. It all looked good.

Until…the COVID case numbers skyrocketed. The hospitals filled. When all the ICU rooms were full, patients were being transported to other cities in California and even other states. The situation had become dire. Younger people were falling ill this time. The protocols were changing on a daily basis, one being, from the State health department, that school volunteers were not allowed on campuses. That meant me, my stories, my bag of tricks.

Stay flexible. Be ready to pivot. Don’t take anything for granted. Hold your plans lightly. There’s a pandemic out there.