Thursday, April 30, 2020

Toilet Paper Centerpiece and Other Bits of Life

And life goes on!

The other day I decided I should do at least one productive thing (which led to more than one), so I mopped the kitchen and bathroom floors. Doing the kitchen was mandatory as Rick finally finished painting and I didn't want to put the pie shelf back on a dirty floor! I went outside to dump the water and look what I found!

Yes, that's a roll of toilet paper with a small bottle stuck in the core, filled with daffs. "Stay Safe," it says. No name. But after a bit of deduction (because, after all, mysteries are my favorite genre and I would like to think I've learned something), I discovered they were from Cork Popper pal Barb who made very early morning deliveries to her Corkie friends!

It moved inside to a place of honor as a temporary centerpiece! How temporary depends on the status of the daffodils and the need for the toilet paper!

I am still on the hunt for my insurance and Medicare cards which I believe Rick never returned to me after taking in some lab work back in late March. I figured they were with him so I didn't worry over it. I should have worried sooner as we can't find them at either house. New ones are ordered. It's a bad time to be without insurance cards.

I've been painting a bit. More on that in another post!

Speaking of painting, I just finished a really quite fascinating book -- "Queen Victoria's Sketchbook."

Should you think this is just a series of illustrations (and there are plenty, all by Victoria), there is loads of text that puts her art and love of painting in context.  Divided into sections that highlight her various interests and people in her life, Victoria fans will recognize some old favorites, including her Prime Minister, Lord M....

And her servant, Abdul, who was featured in the recent film, "Victoria and Abdul."

You'll also learn of her love for theatre and the opera, of which she was an avid and detailed sketcher.

And, you will see how her family was often captured in paint, particularly the children. Of Albert, there were only two small sketches.

Harry is back at the Ditch. Finally. I'd heard of his return, but just only saw him for the first time!

 I leave you with this...

Be careful what you wish for.

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Stories -- and People -- Behind My Masks

I hope you are wearing your masks when you are outside. I hope you have masks -- they can be hard to come by. Ever since January 7, when Covid in China was first reported in the New York Times and on CBS, we've had time to prepare. But no one paid attention.

Now we need masks, and plenty of them, for both medical workers and people like us who need them for our personal protection and the protection of others. To the rescue came m wonderful men and women around the country who have been keeping their sewing machines on overdrive, negotiating for elastic and preparing masks for hospitals, Native American reservations, jails and prisons, nursing homes, veterans facilities and so much more.

Others, like me, who can't sew, did our best -- not very effectively! (Too baggy, not tight enough and so many layers of fabric I couldn't breathe!)

I want to highlight three people who have generously shared masks with Rick and me. Their kindness has been so appreciated. These are their stories.

The First Story

The other day I received a legal-sized envelope from my cousin Anne. It was a long envelope, slightly soft and squishy. I thought it might be a rather long letter. I was wrong. I opened it to find these masks and a note, telling me of their origin.

Anne said that one recent day, she found a FedEx package on her porch -- it was filled with face masks from her brother Jack, who said they were now available in China. He asked that she distribute them to a number of people and I was so grateful they thought of me. Grateful and touched.

Cousins Jack and Anne

Anne's brother, Jack, lives in China. And as you might expect, the past few months in his world have been as bad, if not worse at times, than ours. And yet, he has survived the virus, with some remarkable stories to tell. He says that in China, people are monitored wherever they go. He was given a card with three months of dates on it and received a check mark every time he went out. He had to wait two days before going out again and have his temperature checked every time he went out and came back to his building. It may seem constricting but it was for the greater good. And, most important, it was a system that seems to have worked.

"They installed an app on my cell phone so I simply scan the scan code and my phone records the time I left," he wrote. " Then when I get on the bus, I hit another scan code that tells them I got on the bus. The net result is that the germ bags walking around town were all taken off the streets. Everybody wears masks"

Jack said the Chinese have done an incredible job getting this situation in hand. As of April 17, China -- where the virus originated -- is now seventh on the list of most cases, after number one, the United States, along with Italy, Spain, the UK, France and Germany.  "It has been a massive dragnet and cleanup," Jack said. "If anybody asks if all this trouble is necessary, I feel the answer is definitely YES. There have been no new cases (reported) in Guiyang (the capital city of his province) for several days now."

Jack said the response in China was delayed because the true situation was hidden by the government for several months. (That could NEVER happen here, says Jeanie, said -- sarcastically.) He acknowledged that "the response was appropriately heavy handed" but that it was successful. There has been, as here, severe economic damage and we are hearing of recurrence in some areas. But things are getting back in place."

Of course, China, though first in reporting cases, now ranks seventh on the list of covid countries, with the U.S. being first and having more cases than the next five countries combined. Our recovery will most certainly take longer, particularly since so many seem to rampantly disregard Stay at Home orders and social distancing/mask rules. Untouched areas think it can't come to them. They are wrong.

An afternoon at the lake with Jack last summer.

The Second Story

Once upon a time in Michigan, a university theatre major was cast in a musical that would tour the state's Upper Peninsula (and places south) during spring break. That was me. My friends came back with tans from spring break. We came back with colds.

Some of my most long-lasting college friends came from that tour. Jim Fineman was one of them, serving as the manager of the tour, as well as a performer. He was a also a wonderful designer and in his senior year directed me in one of my favorite experiences, the play "Wait Until Dark."

Jim in the long-ago!

Some fifty years later, Jim and I have stayed in touch. He's now a successful potter living in North Carolina's Outer Banks. In some ways, he's in one of the safest places he could be -- an island in the Atlantic with a small population. The downside of that is that the area (and those in it, including artists like Jim) rely in large part on the tourist traffic that usually starts in March. That isn't happening this year. The island is currently closed off to all but current residents.

When Jim sent me a photo of himself in one of the masks he made, I asked if he sold them. About a week later, I was lucky enough to receive a package in the mail with masks for Rick and me! They are reversible and the nose is a perfect fit! We love them!

Ready to rob banks. And we resumed social distance immediately after this photo.

I am so grateful for those who take care of me! What a wonderful gesture from a friend.

 The Third Story 

Another mask-maker is a woman I've known forever. Or as long as I have memories. That's my friend, Nancy. It was our mothers who kept us together when she moved away from "next door" when I was five and she was four.

We stayed friends over the decades and in recent years have kept in touch with regular phone calls and irregular visits.

Nancy is another who has been busy sewing masks to donate. When she asked if we needed a mask, I certainly said yes. After all, we have to wash these after each wear -- it takes time to dry them. And eventually, the papery ones will wear out, elastic may break.

hey arrived and again -- I am so grateful!  I'm not sure I'll be in a pool this summer. That's a little too much shared water for me! But I know hope I'll be at the lake. Trust me. I will have very interesting tan lines this summer!

But I'll be color coordinated with my pink jacket and shirt!

No, that flower is NOT in my hair. Just bad selfie-framing!

I leave you with this, which Jack recounted in his Facebook post.

"In front of an almost vacant mall, with a Metro store where I bought my coffee, I saw a young couple nose to nose, trying to kiss with their masks on. I didn't know whether to yell at them to be careful of the virus, or just cry. I walked quickly by and to leave them to their privacy, nose to nose beside a vacant six lane street. If it sounds surreal, that's because it was."

Wear your masks, please!

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Song that Does Not End

So, how are you all doing? Please tell me in the comments -- good, bad, long, short. Vent if you like. I need to.

More than a month. And I don't have a whole lot to show for it. Sometimes I just need to vent. Do you? I hope you do because it's a load to keep inside.

This is one of "those" weeks. We just passed the anniversary of my mom's death. It's not like it was recent -- forty three years. But it just kind of sticks with me every year. Combine that with the lockdown and the weather and it feels bigger than it is.

The weather has been gloomy and cold. We've even had snow and the sunny days seem to be few and far between. When they come, it is windy, which makes it feel colder. I am so longing for the full force of spring.

I'm doing fine, really. So is Rick. We are healthy. We are financially OK. Some bumps that could have been big ones for him (losing a tenant from his largest duplex which is a good chunk of change) ended up well (new tenant moving in soon, and he looks like a good one).

And in all honesty, my days aren't all that different. I'm not sitting around being bored; there's plenty to do -- more than I'm doing, to be honest. There are more than a few jobs that should be getting done and aren't. No motivation. I'm too stuck to the computer. And the news. I try to wean myself from the news. I find if I watch BBC News, I get less stressed. Go figure.

I want to emigrate. Somewhere. Anywhere. But there's no place that's safe.

I'm frustrated that I'm not reading as much as I had hoped, or creating as much as I hoped (I will share a few of those things in another post; I haven't been totally idle).

It seems the only thing I want to do is cook. I will say, we've eaten well during this (once I finally pull an Instacart order together.) Curried chicken; parmesan, mushroom and shrimp risotto; chicken-artichoke casserole and lots of baking -- cookies, scones, lemon bread.

I have my routine. Get up, get dressed and feed Lizzie. Tidy up the kitchen. Computer and blog in the morning. I write to friends, check in on blogs. Clean Lizzie's box. Get on my breathing machine. Lunch. Take a walk (unless it's an ugly day out.) Get the mail, disinfect it and put it in the garage in its holding zone. 

On grocery delivery days, I disinfect the food and leave as much as possible in the holding zone. Wash the veggies and fruit in soap and water and fridge or freeze. Back to the computer. Write a letter, pay a bill. Maybe do something creative or read or poke about in the yard -- do some sort of task. Get on my breathing machine. Eventually start dinner if Rick is coming. Feed Lizzie. We eat, watch something or maybe a game. He leaves. (Or, I go to his house for dinner.) I disinfect the door handles, remotes and phone, grab a book and get back on the breathing machine. Lizzie gets her snack and I get ready for bed, where I proceed to have dreams that are clearly connected to the virus. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Mostly, I worry. I worry tremendously about the virus and about being "out there." I don't see myself going "there" till there's a good vaccine. And we all know that is a very long time. Things may lighten up and I might feel comfortable going some places where I can keep distance, but I have little desire to do so.

I worry about friends and family. I have heard of more cases of Covid among people I know directly or indirectly and the stories aren't pretty.

I worry about meat packing plants being so contaminated and reading conflicting reports as to whether or not the meat will actually be safe. I might become a vegetarian by the time this is done -- but are those safe either? At least you can wash down fruits and veggies. It's a lot harder with a pork chop.

I worry about the mail, both its safety and the safety of the postal workers who aren't being given protection by our government.

I get angry. I'm very angry at the protestors who came to my city and blocked hospital entrances and roads and who think only of themselves, while politicizing other issues with the safety of the virus. I get angry at the president for lying through his teeth every time he steps up to the podium and encourages insurrection or offers spurious medical advice. I get angry at the neighbors and others who seem to ignore social distancing rules. I get angry at those who are trying to force opening up cities that have yet to peak, much less come down. They seem to think "It's all about ME!"

And I get angry at those who are trying to tear down the scientists, the very people who are doing their best to work through this mess and keep us safe.

I'm angry that the people who are trying most to help us -- the medical workers -- have inadequate protective equipment to keep them safe.

I don't get angry often. This is a new experience for me.

And I'm sad. I'm sad that our lives have changed and that as a worldwide collective, life is different. I truly believe we will never know the normal we knew in early March or before. Maybe in your lifetime. Not, I think, in mine.

I'm sad that we don't (at least I don't) really have control. I truly don't miss my book club or shopping or board meetings or seeing most people. What I miss is knowing that I just can't go do any one of those things if I would want to. And hugs. I miss hugs.

I'm sad that my trip to England was canceled and who knows what will happen with being at the cottage this summer.

I'm sad that Rick and I can't touch. That I haven't physically touched a living thing apart from Lizzie in oh, so long.

I'm sad to not see the Toddler Twosome or the kids. And that any connection I have with a friend is yards apart and looks something like this.

I'm sad for friends who are dealing with this disease directly. And for strangers, too, who are either working in the medical field and who are walking through death corridors hour after hour, doing their very best for their patients who are ill and dying alone.

I am sad for those who are unemployed and not able to get on the unemployment rolls. And for those in states that are opening up, whether it is safe or not. Now these people may well be at great risk as they go back to work. It doesn't matter if they don't feel safe -- they cannot collect unemployment if their business is open, even if they don't work.

I'm sad for the businesses that won't survive. I know that none of them will be getting my business for many months, even old favorites. And I also know I'm not alone with that. And I'm sorry. But it's not worth it.

I'm slightly sad I look like this. And by the time this is over, I'll look a lot worse!

But I am grateful, too. Grateful for medical workers, grocery staff, food-deliverers, the postal service, kind friends who surprise me, the internet and ways to communicate or be entertained. Grateful for resources to buy food and pay my mortgage. Grateful for Rick and Lizzie and my docs and countless friends who talk me down when I get a little wired, even if they don't realize they are doing it. Grateful for the scientists and our governor and those working hard to fight this. So grateful.

It was yet another in a string of gloomy days when I wrote this and I was in quite the funk. Today the sun is out, it might be warming up. Should I hit publish? Yes, because we all need to vent. Maybe today I can pull off cheery. Because that's what I do.


Well, almost everything.

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Another Joy!

So, in my last post I was talking about three things that gave me joy. Blog buddy David reminded me in no uncertain terms that I was leaving out a big one!

And he was right!

So, here's to Rick, with all the joy I have for helping to keep me sane and content during lockdown. Trust me, his job isn't always an easy one!

But it does come with benefits!

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Three Things that Give Me Pure Joy

These days we grab at joy with more verve and need than ever before. These are a few things that have recently given me joy. And we will start with Lizzie who has her "why don't you come up and see me sometime?" look going on.

Honestly, it reminds me of a painting I saw in the Louvre and I sure wish I could remember what it was! Rubens, maybe? She definitely has a Rubenesque thing going on here!

Now, what is more joyful that jumping into mud puddles with total abandon? This is our Toddler Twosome in a photo their mom took and said I could share.

I've seen them happy before, giggling, playing, laughing. But nothing beats this! (I wish I could share the video of them doing the jumping in the puddles -- in, over, running through. I've never seen them more delighted.) I hope they had the hose out to hose down those clothes before they went in the washing machine. Maybe the boys, too!

For a few short moments you may forget you live in a world that has been turned upside down with illness and loss.

"Clytie" by Lord Frederick Leighton, Leighton House, London. (Wikimedia Commons)

Back to business, with my office assistant, sleeping on the job! Again.

What is giving YOU joy these days?

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