Sunday This & That

We just returned from spending four nights in our travel trailer midway up Michigan’s Lower Peninsula over towards Lake Michigan. We didn’t go for any particular reason except to be away from home for a little bit in a place that we enjoy visiting. On our second day we decided we wanted to go over the Big Mac Bridge to St. Ignase to get a pastie (short ‘a’ as in past} from Bessie’s – they make the very best and we have been known to plan vacations so we go through St. Ignace at the right time to go to Bessie’s. It wasn’t a short drive – two & a half hours each way but we knew it was worth it. Problem: Bessie’s wasn’t open when we got there early afternoon. Maybe they weren’t open for the season yet, in the U.P. June can sometime feel like very early spring, or (Good-God-No) they were closed for good. But they weren’t making pasties and we didn’t have a plan B because we (or I) knew they would be open. We were hungry so we pulled into a restaurant back on the main road that had outside seating. They had pasties so our plan was for Jim to order one and I would order the white fish basket and we would share. The waiter said they didn’t have white fish (this is a restaurant just a couple of hours south of White Fish Point on Lake Superior – how could they not have white fish???) We both ordered pasties and had a fun meal even though their pasties weren’t very good. At that point it seemed a very long way to go for a pastie but we had the excitement of going over the Big Mac, something that never gets old for us.

I was sitting at the table one morning drinking my second cup of coffee, working sudoku puzzles and half watching the man camping next to us clean the roof of his big fifth-wheeler trailer. I think they have the site for the whole summer and Randy was up there scrubbing and patching and doing those things he felt he need to do to have a well-maintained summer home. I heard a noise-of-fright from Randy and then his wife started yelling up to him to “Rinse on your knees! Rinse on your knees, Randy!” He snapped back that she was “treating him like a very old man” (they appeared to be in their late 50’s).

I remember those exchanges in our marriage. I remember feeling offended when Jim became overprotective, just wanting too keep me safe when I was doing something I felt confident doing, something a young person would feel confident doing. I remember back a few years ago when I didn’t like it when people treated me as being old. I remember making sure I moved with confidence so people wouldn’t think my aches and pains were because of old age.

I don’t have that problem any more, probably because now I know that I’m old (but not really, really old). I’m old enough where I appreciate Jim’s help and how our children seem to be watching, ready to step in if needed – but I’m not so old that I want strangers to think of me as old. I want to be perceived as active and involved and healthy (for my age). But I did notice that we seemed to be the old couple over there on site #50. Old people seem to be easily ignored, is what I’m experiencing lately.

Wishing you times of joy and fun during the coming week. If you haven’t been vaccinated, please do so for yourself and the people who love you.

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.

Artist Reflecting on a Lily Pond

I was taking photos of water lilies from the boardwalk across the lily pond as two women were painting on the lawn to the south of where I was. The pond is perfect for taking photos of reflections, especially mornings before the breeze comes up. I moved around a lot trying to find the best perspective for a good reflection without too many lily pad or lilies to obscure the reflection. I also look for reflections that are bright enough to be distinguishable and not too busy.

Mostly I take lots of photos of reflections in differing conditions, learn from some, like some a lot, and delete some. As we are moving through our second year of the pandemic, it feels like this has been and continues to be my strategy. As we are making plans on moving to our northern home, we heard the news that Michigan is being hit with a large increase of new cases and hospitalizations, with our small home town being the epicenter – in fact for one or two weeks that small town was the epicenter of the country. That made me very uncomfortable, even as I was receiving my second vaccine dose.

I’ve been collecting information from social media and epidemiologists, learn from some, accept some for the basis of my decision making, and disregard some. In the bar graphs I studied in the New York Times this morning, I learned that Michigan isn’t much worst than Florida and that upward movement of infections seem to be caused by variant of the virus. We had already considered that in determining behaviors that we believe are safe post-vaccine.

I’m comfortable with the decision we have made. We are going home as planned and will continue to protect ourselves in the same way we have here in Florida. We have gone out to eat when we could eat outdoors or taken food home to eat. We have avoided shopping during high traffic times and if people aren’t wearing masks in the store. We spend time indoors with very small groups of friends and family who have also been vaccinated and we continue to practice safe behaviors when we go places. When we stop to visit with neighbors while walking around the block we will still stand apart, we won’t shake hands or give hugs except with our kids and grandkids (unless the virus spread continues to get worst – then no hugs).

I continue to find the virus exhausting and stressful – but in a slightly different way now that we know more about how the virus is transmitted and we are vaccinated. I’m no longer afraid of getting covid from my mail or groceries, nor am I as afraid to go out in public if safety measures (distancing and masks) are taken. I have a little more freedom to eat out and socialize but that still takes a lot of prior thought and being vigilant as to whether we feel safe or not. The virus is still impacting on how I think about my life and my relationships – I’m just not sure how I have changed and if the changes will be permanent.

How are you doing?

Lens-Artist Challenge: A Covid Christmas Holiday

Daughter, Granddaughter, Granddaughter, Daughter

Things are different this year, we decided some time back that we couldn’t do our Christmas celebration the way we have done it for more than 30 years. I have moments that I feel a little bit sad, maybe tear up a bit, but most of the time I feel joy and excitement about what we can do. And I am so proud of my adult children for how they are making the best of this very crazy season.

When we made the decision that we couldn’t risk having our normal Christmas Eve family gathering, our kids started making decision about how to spend their Christmas. Our oldest son and his wife have been working from home and they asked if they could use our Florida condo from the middle of December to sometime in January because they can work from there as easily as from Lansing and be able to spend more time outdoors exercising. They packed up the car with computers and work materials and are currently enjoying the nice weather there. Middle daughter decided in late June to come to Michigan to live with us for two months to escape the ramped spread of the virus where she lives and works south of Houston in Texas. She, too, decided she could work as well from Michigan and wouldn’t experience the isolation fatigue of living alone and being house bound because of the horrid heat of a Texas summer. She hasn’t found any reason to return to Texas so will be with us for Christmas and New Years. Our third daughter lives two hours away in Grand Rapids and we haven’t been able to visit them because her three adolescent daughters are socially more active than we feel safe with. This daughter told me the other day that she is planning on starting her own family tradition with elements of our extended family celebrations for over the past 50 years. Here at our home, the three of us are planning for our small celebration, and are excited. Yesterday, Jim asked how many more sleeps until Christmas – I had to think a minute, wondering if I should add afternoon naps.

Grandson, wife, and great-granddaughter

We are finding lots of small pleasures to be excited about. Yesterday our neighbors were out for a walk and came up to our door with a container of Christmas treats (including some really good fudge) as a gift to let us know they appreciate us as neighbors. Christmas cards that come in the mail are meaning so much more to me this year as I hold them and read what is written in them. I spend some time thinking about how much I miss seeing the senders and smile thinking about when we may be able to see them again. I have enjoyed having extra time to make gifts for others – quilted throw-sized blankets for each adult child and a 90 year old sister-in-law, Christmas table napkins and hot pads, and I’ve started knitting hats again. It seems like there has been ample time to pull inside and enjoy a quiet peace while listening to the blustery wind blow or watch snowflakes dance on an air current.

I underestimated the lasting joy I would have when I make plans with our daughter who lives in Grand Rapids and our grandson who lives just this side of there to have a Covid safe present drop-off. I really, really wanted to see our great-granddaughter who just turned two but made it clear that we wouldn’t be going into houses and it would be a short visit because of the cold. I smiled all the way home and woke up the next morning still smiling.

Now I am going to the kitchen to make something I have wanted to make for the past five years – I am going to mix the dough to make pecan cinnamon rolls with lots of gooey, sticky, buttery, nutty topping. This year I have lots of time to enjoy both the process of making them and sitting with a hot cup of tea enjoying them.

Joy to all of you no matter what your celebration this time of year. We just passed the winter solstice. Please stay safe and wear your masks. We have to take care of each other.

This post was written with inspiration from Anne-Christine, host of our last Lens-Artist Challenge of 2020.

We Have Friends Coming for Dinner

There was a lot of activity at the bird feeders on Sunday, as the snow fell gently all day. It was a beautiful day and each of us spent some time at the dining room table watching our guests squabble, flutter, and sometimes partake of the seeds provided for them. It was a buffet with sunflower seeds, mixed bird seed, and suet cake available for their feasting delight. But still they squabbled and fluttered their wings to keep others at a distance. Normally we have guest who are better behaved when at the table.

Indoor dining at our home for this year’s U.S. Thanksgiving celebration will be much smaller and hopefully with less territorial fighting. I jest because I am confident we will find joy in being together around our table, the three of us – Jim, our daughter who is living with us during the pandemic, and me. The three of us agreed not to have guests this year as the virus cases and deaths are increasing rapidly across our country and here in Michigan. In our brains and guts we felt that even a small risk of having another safety-conscious couple for dinner was too big a risk. It seems we have opted for safety over the joy of sharing the indoor space of our home and table with people we love and care about. Everyone is making this risk/benefit analysis.

My quiet moments of contemplation recently have centered around the question of whether I am being too cautious, letting the experts on TV increase my fear to an unnecessary level. I have always been a big-picture thinker, able to take multiple viewpoints and analyze them down to the bottom-line truth (at least for me). This has been a hard topic for me because it pits taking care of our household members against hurting family and friends by refusing their invitations or our traditional gatherings. The end thought of my contemplations was that each one of the more than 12.5 million people in the U.S. that have been confirmed to have the virus plus the possible millions who developed symptoms without getting tested happened because of contact with another human being. That is how this virus spreads. The best way to avoid being a part of that statistic is to not have unnecessary contact with people.

We are all feeling the impact of this pandemic year (stacked on top of political, environmental, racial, and economic stresses) as we grapple with isolation fatigue. However, when we think of the totality of a lifetime, all the gatherings we have experienced in the past and all the gatherings we can look forward to in the future (if we keep ourselves safe and alive) I think we can find the strength and courage to do what we need to do for the next few months.

I find I am drawing my strength from remembering those times when we were missing family members because of travel or illness. It was sad but we made the best of it. I am drawing my courage from remembering those wonderful gatherings, big gatherings, where there was laughter and joy, children giggling and running around (and parents yelling “slow down”) and people speaking different languages. I can hear the echoes of those gatherings within my home as I prepare for our small gathering that will be full of joy and thankfulness that no one in our family has died from the virus. I will also be holding all of you who have lost a loved one in my heart, knowing that my heartbeat can carry comfort to others.