Moving from December into 2022

We have had a mix of weather during our December stay in Michigan. We had a beautiful snow just after we arrived, but also had rain, ice, and slush. There were a few sunny days with comfortable temperatures. Unfortunately I had a multitude of excuses for not going out with my camera – most of them centered around my comfort and safety. I want to believe that I can trapes through snow on slippery, sloping ground with the agility I did when I was 40 years younger. My dream of the perfect composition of woodland, fields, snow and shadows doesn’t seem as compelling as the nightmare of falling again. I did venture out into our yard to capture the intersecting beauty of a coating of ice that foretells of hard winter to come, covering fall leaves hanging onto their branches in spite of strong winds, and buds that have formed as a sign of hope that spring will come once again.

This year Christmas was as wonderful for me as a sappy Hallmark movie – once I got my head screwed on straight, or more accurately, eliminated almost half of my healthcare appointments. I told my kids I couldn’t do our Christmas Eve family gathering this year after I realized that my daughter couldn’t be with us to help out with preparations and cleanup. As Christmas got closer I realized I didn’t have to sacrifice getting together with children & grandchildren, & one great-granddaughter. I would keep it simple. We got our usual spiral sliced, bone-in ham (left-overs for everyone and the bone for soups) and I bought frozen mac & cheese. My granddaughters love corn souffl√© so I told them I would buy the ingredients if they would make it. Emily got here first and she made two pans of it so there would be plenty for everyone to take some home. I opened a jar of my home-made applesauce, pickled beets, and made a cranberry-orange relish the day before. Jim bought rolls and a vegi tray. Daughter Carol brought Christmas cookies and an apple pie. It was so simple and instead of fussing about, I spent my energy having fun with these wonderful people who are dear to me. I don’t regret those years when there were twice as many people and I made multiple dishes from scratch. They were a lot of fun – but not any more. Now I find fun and joy in different ways.

The week between Christmas and New Years seems to be a time of reflection for me. We took the tree down a couple of days after Christmas in preparation for flying back to Florida on New Years Day. The next day I took down the wreaths and greens and packed away other Christmas decorations. It caused a small ache deep inside as I put Christmas “away.” Packing away the manger scene was a slow process as I thought about whether we could, or should, be putting Christmas behind us. It made me think about what my faith means for me, why I believe in the Christmas story, why I believe in Easter. For several reasons I have lost faith in the church (we do have a church in Florida that feeds us spiritually), but the stories of what Christ taught about peace, love, joy, kindness, gentleness, patience, goodness, faithfulness and self-control make for a good life. His teachings are sound, even though interpretations by humans are sometimes flawed. What we believe in is a choice, and this Christmas I reaffirmed that my belief in Christianity provides a strong foundation for facing an uncertain future. This eve of a new year finds me at peace.

Wishing you safety, comfort and joy as we navigate the coming year together.

Coping with…

A magical sunrise on our second morning in Michigan. What I couldn’t capture was the sparkle of the snow on the branches in the lower right. The rising sun was positioned perfectly to make this mundane deer run through a vacant, overgrown lot so very beautiful.

I have had this photo inserted in this “Edit Post” for several weeks now – believing it was perfect for several “challenges” that have come and gone. It has been a stressful December, until yesterday when I had an emotional meltdown. It wasn’t pretty and maybe I overreacted but I sure feel better today. I took control by cancelling four health-care appointment leaving only three for the rest of the month (there were 10 all together), I decided that we needed to become subs for our card club because I can’t handle the work of hosting once a year (tonight’s the night after two years of dodging), I cancelled the family Christmas Eve party at our house (I told you it wasn’t pretty), and I unplugged the phone land-line because I have been receiving about 12 robo calls a day (triggering murderous thoughts in my brain). Once I had completed this emotional housekeeping I felt less physical pain, stood straighter, no longer felt like I was 97 years old, was capable of smiling again, had energy to complete the tasks of the day, and dropped my caustic cynicism and snark. Life is good again.

Don’t distract a pushing 80 year old driver. Yesterday we stopped at a neighbor’s house down the street and as Jim was backing his truck out of their drive, I was commenting on Connie’s wreaths hanging out her up-stair’s windows. We both heard a soft crunch and he asked if he hit something. I looked in my side mirror and said no, but you are about 4 inches from their mailbox. He started forward and I saw he had pushed over the mailbox next to the standing one. He laid it flat on the ground. He took me home and went back to speak with the owner – telling her we would pay for repairs. He also saw that it was rotted so bad at the ground that it was ready to be replaced without Jim’s nudge. I think when we are in our late 70’s there is more personal meaning to something like this than just the trigger reaction, “Boy that was a stupid thing to do.” There is a meaning that we aren’t ready to talk about – yet.

I tried tatting a long time ago – when I was a teen but it didn’t catch with me. This year when I was hanging the two machine made, delicate lace snowflakes on our Christmas tree, bought in a gift shop up on Lake Superior, I though about tatting again and started the search for the shuttle, thread and book I bought a couple of years ago. At that time I couldn’t make sense of the written directions, in spite of the fact that I learn best by reading and they assured me (in print) that tatting was really quite simple to do (written by someone who had been doing it for 50 years). I decided to try YouTube and, walla, I understood what I was suppose to do to make the two parts of the one knot that is used. Until I tried it. I had forgotten how hard it is to learn a new skill, to create new muscle memory when there is none to begin with. Since I have retired I have continued to learn but it has basically been incremental learning, building on skills and knowledge I already had. After three weeks, two books, lots of throw-aways and restarts, and more stitches removed than I think I originally made, I am on my way to having a snowflake – about 1/3 of the way there. Yes, Virginia, you can teach this old dog new tricks.

We returned to Michigan at a time when covid cases are spiking to the point where we would be the worst country in the world – if we were a country unto itself. We are glad we received the booster in Florida before we returned and are wearing masks in all public buildings, restrict our shopping to times when stores are relatively empty, and use Amazon as much as I can even though I have serious reservations about their business model. We are balancing our risks of going out in public knowing that over 40% of people in Michigan are anti-vax, with our knowledge of how safe we are because we are fully vaccinated and wearing masks. It takes so much of my energy making these calculations but I continue because we know how important social contact is for our well-being. It seems impossible to understand how covid works, especially what causes it to spike with somewhat predictable timing but in unpredictable locations.

My topic for this post is “coping” but the one area that I’m not ready to write about is coping with our changing health status. I have so much to say – and maybe next week I’ll be in a better position to talk about how difficult I’m finding the aging process to be.

In the meantime, I’m wishing you safety and health, and hope you find joy in how you choose to spend the remaining weeks of December as we move towards another year.

The Covid Cookie Crumbles

Have you noticed that, at any given time, you and two or three people you follow on WordPress are on the same wavelength – thinking about the same topic. Probably not that mysterious or strange because I follow a lot of like-minded people and the topic that I was thinking about this week was covid. Laura Bruno Lilly wrote a post titled “What in Your Life did Covid-19 Interrupt.” I started to comment but didn’t because I was thinking about writing a post. Then Jan Wilbur posted “The Difference Between Now and Then is This.” Her post is about the heartache in families created by unvaccinated members. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about unvaccinated people lately. My vaccinated friend had a breakthrough case after contact with an unvaccinated friend who is a member of a conservative Christian community near us where many members don’t believe in Covid-19 vaccinations for whatever reason. My god, what would this community do if there was an outbreak of mumps or measles or tuberculosis among their members?

Yes, Laura, Covid-19 did interrupt my life, or more accurately, some unvaccinated people who became positive with Covid-19 interrupted my life. A little over a week ago I spent a delightful afternoon playing cards with two vaccinated friends. That evening the friend who hosted us called to say that the person she had been with the previous Friday just called to say she was covid positive and had symptoms. My friend had made an appointment to get tested the next day but wouldn’t get the results until Friday. Her granddaughter got her a rapid result test which was positive, and on Friday the other test result was positive. She has had flu-like symptoms for the past week.¬†

Back when I was in high school we would say, “That’s the way the cookie crumbles,” whenever something bad or inconvenient or annoying would happen. It was our way of coping, a way of living in a world that was generally annoying to a teenager. Well, I’m now 77, annoyed because my Covid-19 cookie has crumbled.

During the past week I have been somewhat anxious because I have had symptoms. But to paraphrase what my other vaccinated friend who was exposed, “Jez, I have those symptoms every day.” Yes I have a sore throat and headache that comes and goes with allergens and atmospheric pressure, and I am perpetually fatigued or about to be fatigued or am just over being fatigued because I’m old and have fibromyalgia. I have pain in some part of my body all the time because I’m old, and active, and have fm. All week I have been fearful, wondering whether I was developing symptoms. Because I was constantly thinking about my body, I wasn’t distracting myself as I normally do. My pain levels are higher when I think about what is painful and where by body is hurting. I also have been isolating because I didn’t want to spread the virus (to unvaccinated people?) if I was indeed carrying a load of virus within in my nose.

My response to being exposed and potentially infected surprised me. I felt shame. From the very beginning I had tried to do everything right. Remember how we wiped down everything that came in the door. I panicked when I got confused about what counter was safe and which one wasn’t as we were wiping down groceries. I got vaccinated and have worn masks when in unsafe territory. And I might be infected anyway. We have talked with friends about how we could keep each other safe. And I might be infected anyway. We stopped eating out until we could do it safely. And I might be infected anyway. Now we had new calculations about safety to make because I was exposed to the virus.

We had planned to leave for a month’s camping trip to Maine the day after Labor Day, a week after I had been exposed. We knew we could do it safely and could isolate as easily on the road as we could at home. We’ve done it before. But I didn’t want to leave if I had symptoms so I didn’t start packing. As the week-end approached I started to fear having to pack in just one day for an extended vacation where I was trying to take all the food we would need. Reservations had been made at 4 private campground so we couldn’t delay our departure by one or two days. I spoke with my friend and she was still feeling pretty sick and I began thinking about what would happen if we left as I was developing symptoms and then Jim also got sick. Neither one of us would be able to do the work necessary to hook up and drive us back home. We decided to cancel the trip until next year.

Maybe I better not write my next paragraph. My mother taught me to not say anything about someone unless I could say something nice. I’m too tired to find nice words to use when describing people who don’t know how to use science, have distorted political views, are self-centered, and maybe are just plain stupid. Damn it, if you aren’t vaccinated and have no medical condition making the vaccines unsafe for you, then get vaccinated this week. Do it before you crumble someone else’s cookie.

Post note: Three weeks after posting this my sister’s son 41 year old son Nathan died of Covid-19 and staf infection. He was a minister in a church denomination that doesn’t believe in the vaccine. His wife and two of his children also got sick with the virus. He left a young wife and four children under the age of 7. I am so angry I could chew and spit nails.

Life in Purple

I’m full of pent-up energy – so eager to do everything that I’m having a hard time focusing on getting anything done. I just had a month full of health care appointments (with each test/imaging leading to another possible problem resulting in multiplying appointments) and cold, mostly-cloudy weather. Weather forecasters are saying that tonight will be the last night with temperatures around freezing. Father Frost doesn’t seem to know that the last date for frost in my neighborhood is the end of April – he has visited nightly for close to a week.

As I sit in my purple reading room at 8:00 am, having just returned from a lung scan, I sit and enjoy the sun coming through the blinds and the framed spray of purple flowers made by twilling paper, by artists in Viet Nam. This was last year’s Mother’s Day card from my son and I have enjoyed it so much during the past year that I decided to get it framed to hang in this perfect spot for viewing.

As I sit in my warm room I keep glancing to my left, looking out two big windows onto the porch with my purple porch swing. Outdoors is calling me even though it is barely 40 degrees F. so I grab my second cup of coffee and…

I haven’t spent much time on my purple porch swing this spring because of the clouds covering the sun on most recent mornings – the sun that warms me when the air temperature is just above freezing. This morning is beautiful with a very warm sun and I spend time studying my garden down below the porch, thinking about where to put newly purchased perennials and reading the seed package of Zinnias yet again, for information it doesn’t provide – like is it warm enough to sow the seeds now.

I also look at the old and faded quilt I made when I started quilting again after finishing university and had more time. It is hanging over the back of the swing to dry from melted frost collected as it covered a new shrub clematis I planted too early. Jim normally uses it as a cover to protect the front fender as he leans over to fiddle with the engine. He mentioned that it is a beautiful quilt and I had to agree. I have always loved this quilt because the pattern has the same movement as the “storm at sea” pattern. I’ve been studying the contrasts of light and medium dark pieces that make straight lines look curved. This is going to be my next project after I finish two or three other projects I have in process. I will probably start picking fabrics for it and will want to find some purples to match the swing. I find it interesting that I have never purchased many purples so I think a trip to a quilting store will be a part of my future (says my private fortune telling cookie).

I am enjoying my purple pansies that I planted about a week ago. They do best in cooler weather and I usually buy them too late, just before hot weather hits so they don’t last long. This year when the pansies decide they have had enough heat of early summer, I think I will replace them with some of the beautiful new petunias. I planned on planting annuals in pots on the back deck on Wednesday, then Thursday, and then Friday, as the weather forecaster kept adding one more night of cold in the 30’s. I got impatient with this long cold snap in May and planted them yesterday – hoping that pulling them up close to the house at night would protect them from damage. This morning there was frost on the neighbor’s roof but my plants seem to be okay.

I bought three “heavenly blue” morning glory plants last week knowing full well that they should be planted at the end of May. I am enjoying watching them grow as they sit in the sun on my sewing table and just may plant them next week when the temps are suppose to get into the 70’s. Last year was a dismal failure without a single bloom but I read that morning glories do best in poor soil with minimal watering. So this year they are on their own. I also planted some marigolds in little pots but they haven’t sprouted. They are seeds I collected from last year’s plants and I have plenty to sow outside when I plant the zinnia seeds. All of this is to say that I am really into the working with the flowers in my flower garden this year after focusing on eradicating weeds last year. This spring I am still fighting weeds and rapid spreading perennials but last year’s work made a big difference in what I have to deal with this year.

I also also focused my writing of this post on Jude’s Life in Colour: Purple for the month of May. If your life doesn’t have enough purple in it, maybe you need to visit me and enter through my purple door – or, if more convenient check out other photographer’s samples of purple by visiting Jude. Tell her I said hi.

Will you join us?

Berea, Kentucky

Being vaccinated against the Covid-19 virus has opened up the world to us again, but I am finding that a whole new etiquette has emerged. We have really missed getting together with the other 5 couples for our monthly pinochle and potluck night – but not sure we are ready to meet with that many people indoors, yet. Jim and I did decide that we felt safe getting together with another couple indoors for cards, something we had started just before we left Florida.

Last week I was having an e-mail discussion with the male half of one of our pinochle club couples about birds and I asked if they would be comfortable getting together for a game of cards. We arranged for Monday night at our house. Sunday evening Jean called and said she needed to tell me what she had done over the weekend. She went to a family birthday party with all of the attendees either vaccinated or immune because they had caught the virus within the past year. Jean wanted to make sure that we still felt safe getting together with them. I was grateful that she asked – I quickly took my internal safety temperature and said I was but I would need to check with Jim. We had a great evening with each team winning half the games interspersed (or interrupted) by lots of laughter.

We also talked about whether we would be comfortable getting together with the whole club. Jean wondered if it would make it safer if we didn’t have the potluck dinner. Our discussion was more of the wondering kind than one that led to a decision or consensus. Yesterday I received an e-mail sent out by Terry, another of our pinochle club friends asking if we are vaccinated and if we would feel comfortable getting together with everyone. Jim and I will have talk that one over some more. My safety temperature is in the “caution, caution, caution” range. What is interesting is that every get-together with people we know involves asking if everyone feels safe doing it. Every time we talk, the discussion includes what we are feeling safe doing and what we are still avoiding.

Life is different now that we are vaccinated but we still spend a lot of energy calculating what we can do and what still feels too risky. We are doing more shopping in stores but that requires that we do the cost/benefit analysis of when is the best time to go into the store. We are getting together with one other couple again but not for indoor dining – although maybe we would mid-afternoon when restaurants are empty. After an outing one of us will usually ask the other if s/he felt safe. There seems to be a balance of calculating how safe an activity is and being more relaxed about the whole thing. We know we have relaxed because we frequently have to go back to car to get our mask before entering.

We are feeling an urgency to be with friends and family again, but our primary urgency is still to protect ourselves and others from taking the virus into our bodies where it can potentially mutate and become even more dangerous. I hope you are finding ways to take care of your emotional and social needs while keeping yourself and others safe.