Midweek pandemic check-in

The rains (and snow) have come to the San Joaquin Valley. We are in desperate need for any kind of wet stuff, so we are grateful for the deluge. Unfortunately for the mountain communities, the heavy rains and snows will cause problems in those areas badly scarred by last fall’s forest fires. The trees are gone, with nothing to hold back the water, so flooding and mudslides are expected. Tornado-like winds blew through over the past week, causing trees to fall into the cabins and homes that were still standing. It’s been nonstop work in the local hills to get things cleaned up.

I was able to tell the story of Mr. Gumpy’s Outing to the second graders yesterday. We talked a lot about following directions, which the story is all about, even when we get tired of doing so. Like now, with the pandemic, and all the rules about staying home, wearing masks, washing hands…

Two more story times today, Wednesday, with the same story, only these will be first graders. Next week is a new month, and it’s also the 100th day of school which usually means a books specific to the time–Jake’s 100th Day of School. I’ve decided to skip the book this year since the kids aren’t in the school building, and I feel that the story would just make that even harder to take, what with all they are missing. I’m substituting Ada Twist, Scientist, about a little girl who is very curious and how her family adjusts their life to that curiosity. It’s written in rhyme which will make it more fun.

No idea when and where we will get the COVID vaccine. Nothing is moving smoothly here. I’m fine with that for the time being as I want all the frontline workers to get their shots first. We are safe and healthy here at home with no plans of any travels. I will continue my short trips to pick up essentials once a week or so. I have no problem with following directions.

Things change, be flexible

I’m glad I was ready, willing, and able to get the materials all set up for Monday’s story ahead of time. Even had time to do some practicing before heading into the virtual classroom just after twelve noon. There were four students there, with their cameras on, and another couple with cameras off, but no teacher. One of the students told me they were due back in class so the teacher should be coming.

I waited 20 minutes with no sight of the teacher. Told the students to let her know I had come and she could get in touch to let me know when to reschedule. Her email arrived about 20 minutes later, with apologies for not letting me know that the school schedule had changed and that the students only meet in person until 10 a.m. on Mondays and then work on their own for the rest of the day. It was very understandable as this is the first Monday that school has been in session since winter break. I was just happy to hear that she was alright as she is a very “with-it” teacher and I couldn’t imagine why she hadn’t returned to her class.

The new schedule seems odd to me, but I’m not a classroom teacher so I really can’t say. Having small children work on their own for most of the day doesn’t make sense, but I guess the teachers have the material set up for the kids. I’m thinking the extra time may be to help the teachers in all of the preparation they have to do for these virtual classes. I have a 30 minute allotment to read the weeks’ story. Today, just for that small time period, I spent over two hours getting the materials together, setting up, practicing, rearranging lighting and furniture. And, since I’ve read the story for the past six years in the classroom, I know the material really well so didn’t need to prepare that part. I cannot imagine the amount of work the teachers do to fill the day with virtual lessons.

I’ve left all of my setup in place and will use it the rest of the week for the four story times. Oh, and my new time with the second graders will be Tuesdays at 12:05. First grade classes are still on Wednesday and Friday, for now.

Mornings

High energy, good mood, active mind. Firing on all cylinders. Ready to take on the world.

That’s how I feel in the morning. I get out of bed with ideas and plans swirling in my brain. Of course, on cold winter mornings, it’s harder since it’s still dark when I awake. And, did I mention, COLD? I definitely operate better in the warm sunshine, but that’s not to be right now. My body is ready to seize the day, so turn on the lights, put on an extra sweater and warm socks.

As I write this, it is the last Monday morning of January. January has never been my favorite month, even as a child when I would be housebound for the month due to cold temperatures and thick fog. School was often cancelled because it was not safe for the busses to roll through fog-shrouded country roads. Then when I was in college, I would have to drive through the fog to get to the campus. Same when I started working. Back then, there was no holiday, beyond New Year’s Day, in January. The MLK holiday would come later. In retirement, though, I don’t find January as onerous as in my younger days. It’s still a long, cold, dark month, but I can arrange my days as I like. I don’t have to be out the door before 7 a.m.

This Monday, the last one for January 2021, I have plans scurrying around in my head. At noon:05 today I will meet with a class of second graders and read the story Mr. Gumpy’s Outing. If I was in the classroom with them, there would be stick puppets of each character (there are 10) for the students to use. I would have a small aluminum boat for the characters to float down the river. Directions are given, and all is well, until the directions are ignored, and then trouble comes to the outing. It’s fun to do it WITH the students, but today I must do it VIRTUALLY.

I bought an easel and large white board last week for the express purpose of telling this story with the 10 characters and the directions each is given. Don’t worry, the easel will come in handy for other stories, too. However, having never used the easel with this story, I have to practice. That’s where my mind and body are whirling around this morning. Setting up my props. Getting everything in the right place for the camera. Oh, and the lights. It’s dark here, remember, so I may have to rethink my lighting setup for the board on the easel. Don’t want any glare. Where do I stand? How do I move the book and the characters so everyone can see? And the words (directions) like squabble, hop, muck about…how to present those?

It’s good that early mornings are when my mind and body are in sync. Today there is much to do.

Joyful joyful joyful

Except for Tuesday, January 19, this week has flown by, as is the usual case around here. Tuesday was the day we all held our breath, just waiting for more shenanigans from the guy who had one more day in the White House. What terror might he rain down on our heads? Someone wrote on Twitter that the only time she wants to hear that former president’s name used is when he is being arrested, tried, and sent to prison or heavily fined. Otherwise, we are done.

Wednesday, January 20, could not come soon enough and oh, what a day of rejoicing it was. I don’t think I heard one complaint about the day and its activities. Everything was so perfect. Everyone looked marvelous. Sounded so good, too. Even the sun shined, which isn’t always the case on January 20 in Washington D.C. The day passed in a blur, a good blur, a happy blur.

Here we are, waking up to a new day in America, January 21, when the adults take charge of our country again. I read that Dr. Fauci had a 4 a.m. EST virtual meeting that will rejoin America with World Health Organization (WHO). He has a full day of work set up, and the article reminded us that he is 80 years old. Made me feel a bit guilty that I slept in until 6:30 a.m. PST. Dr. Fauci had gotten a whole day’s worth of work done before I lifted my head from my pillow.

Today does not have any heavy lifting in my world. I fed the cats, unloaded the dishwasher, cleaned the bathrooms and got the towels in to the washer, all just a bit before 7:30. Here I sit, typing, just before 8 a.m., drinking my morning mocha. Very leisurely living. I’m trusting the grownups, who I voted for, to take care of the hard work today and keep us safe and make the world a better place. The sun is shining. I am thankful and joyful.

The just and the unjust in a pandemic

The days streak by, and here we are, beginning the third week of the new year. It was an “online” week.

Last week went fast with three Zoom meetings and three virtual storytelling sessions. I ran errands on a couple of the days. Grocery shopping. Library. Dry cleaners. Because I went grocery shopping I was able to cook some wonderful meals. We ate well. I read every day. We watched DVDs from the library. Right now it’s the series Pie in the Sky every evening and on Saturday afternoon we went back in time to the movie “White Christmas” which was fun since we had watched “Holiday Inn” right before Christmas.

One of the Zoom meetings was with the church deacons. Although it’s a new calendar year, and we often change our job titles with the change of the year, no one seems interested in doing that so I continue as moderator. This particular meeting was a pleasure as we had a large sum of money to distribute to various food agencies. It’s fun to give away money. I wish I had a million dollars I could dispense. The needs are huge here in the San Joaquin Valley as I’m sure they are in many places in this nation. As we finished allocating the funds, we decided to keep back some of the money in our account as we see a problem with evictions coming down the pike in another month.

My anxiety levels are high due to the upcoming inauguration and the bunch of terrorists who want to disrupt life in the United States. For over four years I have said we haven’t seen the worst with the guy who was inaugurated in 2017, and I feel there is more worser and worser still to come. Yes, double, even triple negatives.

I’m also watching the madness with the COVID vaccines. Those who should be getting the vaccines, like frontline workers, school employees, mail carriers, bus drivers, farm workers, are being held back while those well-to-do 60 somethings push to the front of the line and get their vaccines, leaving none for those who are in the trenches, working every day. A friend who works for the county was asked to volunteer with distributing the vaccine at the county fairgrounds. He said there is a lack of manpower to handle all those who are coming and there won’t be enough vaccine, either. I’m missing something. Why isn’t this vaccine being given like the flu vaccine? Through pharmacies, doctor’s offices, medical centers? Even our local school district gives flu vaccinations, and does it well. Why are the well-heeled trampling the frontline workers to be first?

Today is a holiday to celebrate the life of a man who loved justice and put his entire life on the line for it. It’s a good day to stop and think about how we are being just in such unjust times. Are we helping or are we hindering those who have been trampled?

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.