And Yourself?

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

So how the heck are you, Gentle Readers? We are slightly bonkers here from the monotony of the days in the soybean field, yet we are grateful that we are well off in so many other ways.

We’re making an effort to stick to some kind of schedule. Meals and walks get served up at pretty much the same time daily as they were before the stay at home order went into effect back in March. The two changes: afternoon walks are later to avoid crowds at the parks, and we stop at 2:30 for tea, species-appropriate treats, and to watch the daily briefing from Governor Pritzker, Dr. Ngosi Ezike, the head of the Illinois Public Health Department, and other dignitaries with important information pertaining to this accursed modern-day plague.

Those, too, have patterns and rhythms. If Gov. Pritzker’s opening remarks include acknowledgements of people on the front line in one capacity or another,  or introducing additional speakers, the statistics will run low. If he hands it off to Dr. Ezike right after thanking everyone for tuning in, we know the numbers are even less pretty than usual.  It’s been interesting to listen to a National Guard commander detail what’s gone into transforming McCormick Place from a convention center into an alternative care facility for COVID-19 patients. I felt uplifted by the motivational speech by a young man who created a NFP to mentor teens in his tough neighborhood reminding them and others to use this time at home to set goals and work out game plans to achieve them. Next come the questions from reporters, and then everyone is thanked and that’s it for the day.

Sometimes we watch “Jeopardy” to cleanse our palates. Sometimes nothing short of time in the woods will shift gears. And sometimes as it’s been too many days this spring, it’s too cold and rainy, so we have another snack.

Luckily, the weather has shifted gears, finally. My plan, subject to change due to factors beyond my control, is to get the garden planted in the next week. One of my local organic farmers is selling plants with curbside delivery. I know that I can trust him to pick good ones for me. Usually, I would buy them form the ag store, but many shoppers there believe that masks  and distancing are but suggestions.

The tough parts for me have been keeping Oakley amused (day care starts again next week–it’s located in a county that will start opening nonessential services on Monday) and not being able to shop for food in person. Well, I could. I don’t because as with the ag store, a lot of people in these parts see social distancing and wearing masks as a government plot to strip civil liberties. We’ve been getting curbside from a mom-and-pop near Oakley’s day care and as much as it gags me, Wal-Mart.

Will we have markets this summer? I don’t know. Right now, I would love to have tea or lunch in person with a friend, but because so many are in risk groups, and Hubby is in a risk group because of his age, I can’t and won’t take that chance.

Even back in the days of the Black Plague, people understood that isolation and quarantine was the best way to shut it down. In fact, did you know that “quarantine” is derived from the Italian word for forty? Now you do. And if this was something new, you may go take a nap.

The plague passed. So will this, eventually.  Not unlike a kidney stone, but it will.

 

The Grace of the Grandmothers

 

 

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Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

It’s a cold but clear still early morning here in the soybean field. I took Oakley for a quick run around the house just now. A little earlier I did yoga for the morning. I’m on my second cup of tea.

While it might sound pretty normal, it shapes up to be another infamous day in my life’s timeline. In an attempt to stave off the spread of COVID-19, the state of Illinois will be under  a mandatory stay at home order (as in shelter in place) at 5 PM tonight. So far five people have died from it. I don’t recall the number of people who have it, but there is one reported case in my county. We’ll still be able to get out for walks as long as we observe social distancing (staying about six feet apart) and to the grocery store and medical appointments, but for the most part we’ll be working and staying home.

The announcement came during noon news yesterday. I watched the briefing later in the afternoon when Governor Pritzker announced his decision to sign the order. He’d consulted with epidemiologists, statisticians, and public health experts. After last weekend’s blatant disregard of the stay at home suggestions, he had to make it official. Not done lightly because he knew jobs were at stake, but because lives were and those are more important.

So came the news. Not with the collective shock of the assassinations of the Kennedys and Martin Luther King, Jr.; not with the gasp of Nixon’s resignation; not with the violent chaos of 9/11. It’s much quieter than that, except for the hoards spilling into the street to binge shop, even though we can do that at leisure over the next couple of weeks.

Well, so be it. My first question to myself was what would my grandmothers have done, what did they do in similar circumstances.

First thing would be make sure there was enough food for everyone. We’d done a big haul/stock up the week before, so Hubby and I are set. I picked my way through traffic  to the pet store where I get Oakley’s food and grabbed a few more bags in case of interruptions in the supply chain. His food is made by a Milwaukee-based company,  so I doubt it, but just for my own peace of mind I went. And found out that pet stores are considered a necessary business and will be open.

Second, touch base with relatives, blood and spirit. We talked to Gram at least once a week (she lived in Massachusetts) and Grandma (across town) daily.  Talked to my brother. He and Sister in Law and kids are fine. Will call my sister later today. Texted with one of my friends last night. All good so far.

Third, engage in spiritual practice. Grandma quietly prayed when she woke up, again at bed time, and as needed through the day. Gram would make coffee, then sit with her prayer book and slide the crystal blue rosary beads through her fingers as she laid her petitions at Mother Mary’s feet. I’ve meditated and done yoga. Spiritual practice doesn’t have to involve a deity of any kind; just engage in some activity that helps you feel connected to the whole.

Fourth, find something enjoyable to occupy your mind. Gram read and knitted bandages for the leper colonies that were still in existence in the post-WWII era. Grandma cooked, crocheted, and listened to the radio. I’ll find something to do. We can and will still get out for walks. And I have a stack of books to be read.

Gram and Grandma survived two world wars, the Spanish flu, and the Great Depression. They went through rationing, scrap collection, watching pennies during the Depression, and a myriad of other things with grace and strength.

I think I can stay home with the same.

 

 

 

Getting Hygge With It

 

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

(No polar bears in the field just yet, but I would not be surprised if one sauntered past us.)

Today Oakley and I experiment with the Danish art of hygge. There’s no direct translation of the word, but the gist of it means making things as nice as possible inside with candles, knickknacks, good music, books, DVDs, dog treats, and of course, chocolate and red wine along with having friends over. We have all of the above, and while I’d love to have friends over, not in this weather will I ask them to leave their homes, so I’ll make a couple of calls. It’s how Danes survive their winters without going totally mad.

Our winter chugged along in mild beauty and splendor until last week when weather turned into more typical January patterns of snow and co. This week, Mother Nature decided to send a cross-pole vortex our way. We’re going to make history for the next 48-72 hours out here in the soybean field. Tonight’s low will be -23F. Tomorrow’s high will be -15F. Thursday we’ll be hovering around zero, but all will be right again on Friday with a subtropical high of 20F. Right now it’s 4F above with the wind kicking up the top layer of the snow.

As much as it irritated both of us, I kept Oakley home from day care today. Usually he goes twice a week, but attendance this last month has been erratic due to weather. Today local weather people call for blowing and drifting later this afternoon, right about the time I usually pick him up. That’s the rub. The route I vastly prefer cuts through open farm fields. It gets blown in after snowstorms no matter how diligently they keep after it. I’ve been blinded by ground blizzards before and don’t wish to risk that, thank you. The other route involves a US highway that follows the railroad line stringing together the largest towns in the county. It’s better sheltered and the first road plowed after storms. However, accessing it involves doubling back to the east which jacks up drive time as well as negotiating a two mile stretch of  construction. As in 30 minutes to go two miles. Nope.

So we nibble a couple of extra treats, play some games, do some puzzles as we listen to the wind underscoring the current selection playing on WFMT. We only have to get through 48-72 hours of this, and we will.

I can’t speak for Oakley, but I intend to enjoy it as much as possible.

 

 

Awakening in the Nuclear Era

 

Image from Today

 

Yesterday morning, I went to yoga. Afterwards, I stopped at Wal-Mart to grab a couple of pairs of new jeans, then went home and had a bowl of clam chowder for lunch. Afterwards, Oakley and I went shopping for his food for the week or so, then we took a ride on the back roads winding through the currently bare farmland under the crystal blue sky. We tried to walk, but there was just enough wind to make the elements uncomfortable. On the way home, Oakley and I made a stop at a drive through for coffee (me) and an ice water (for him).

A gloriously ordinary Saturday.

As we drove around, I bounced back and forth between WCPT (progressive talk) running the highlights of the past week and a couple of music stations. Once home, we tuned into “America’s Test Kitchen” as we usually do on Saturday. I didn’t hear about this false alarm until fairly late in the day.

My stomach lurched in a way it hadn’t since I was in high school and college. I came of age during the Reagan years with the whisper of the siren lurking in the back ground, wondering daily if today would be the day that the final war started. The better part of those years were spent wondering if I was going to live long enough to graduate and why bother with school work if in the end we were going to to be vaporized into oblivion.

At the time, an insidious group called Young Life, one aimed at “saving” teenagers (it’s Campus Crusade for Christ Junior) began infiltrating my high school with messages about the end of days and the Rapture and Aramgeddon.

Between their interpretations of a book I had little use for and living with an alcoholic WWII veteran parent long steeped in USA right or wrong, my anxiety ratcheted up to a level where I was frozen in real time. I stopped doing anything of real substance, mostly spent as much time in my room as I could dreaming of better days, if possible.

Somehow I still pulled off a high enough GPA to get accepted into college and enough financial aid to do so.

Maybe I was supposed to live.

I started planning; I started dreaming of a future for myself. Granted it was the one that young women in the 1980s were supposed to have, but it was a dream, anyway. I wanted a stable home, a family, and all the rest of the things that I was brainwashed into thinking would make me happy.

Things between the US and the then USSR sort of relaxed until my junior year in college.  Events included a passenger airliner shot down for crossing into USSR air space. That was followed by a lot of saber rattling between Washington and Moscow.

Maybe not.

I shut down again. Would I not live to get out of college? What was the point?

In desperation I ended up engaged to an Air Force NCO who ended up being a dumpster fire of a partner.* He didn’t help at all by going into details on what would happen if we did get nuked ; he subscribe to end of the world cult thinking; he played head and heart games on a daily basis including the ever popular “if you loved me you would______” (insert soul destroying action here) while I searched for jobs near the bases he was likely to be transferred to for his last posting.

Suddenly, the tensions relaxed again between Ron and Yuri. Sergeant Dumpster Fire dumped me after demanding that I marry him within 48 hours  or our love was going to die (thanks to the Mystery that it did). Eventually the job, the home, et al  fell into place of their own accord.

For a long time, the threat of nuclear war was a non-issue, but now with the Dotard in Chief playing “mine is bigger than yours” with the not-the-most-stable-meal-on-the-shelf Dear Leader coupled with a vice president who subscribes to the zombie death cult interpretation of Christianity and would love to have himself and his fellows raptured away before the bombs drop, it’s been thrust to the forefront.

Again.

My prayer is that the “football,” the briefcase with the codes, gets kept very far away from the Oval Office until we can get someone more stable and wise in there. My hope is that Congress gets overturned this fall–if we live that long.

In the meantime in addition to letting Senators Duckworth and Durbin know my thoughts while working to get Rep. Hultgren out of office, I will get involved with peace groups as best I can from here in the hinterlands.

As all this shakes out, I will do yoga, enjoy my new jeans, and walk Oakley.

 

*To my family and friends who read this: I lack the words to convey the regret that I feel for the pain and grief I caused you by letting myself get manipulated into this relationship. “I’m sorry” doesn’t begin to cover the regret and remorse. I don’t know if I can ever really forgive myself, either, for the part of my life wasted on this person or for the damage done to other relationships.

The Week that I Wish Wasn’t

Well, it was a little more than a week.

9/3/16 was good. We went to Ren Faire. All good and magical things happened, except for getting separated from Hubby. I had to visit the nearby Flush House of Easement (ladies’ room). He managed to miss seeing me walk out. I didn’t see him and returned to the bookstore where we’d shopped before the pit stop. He’d left his phone in the car, so my call landed in the voice mail box. I did hang up before I said anything. We finally found each other and decided that we needed to go home if we were that tired.

9/4-9/7 Hubby’s back acted up on him. Not much to do except hot and cold packs and feed him Advil. He was supposed to be tending to some outdoors chores best done before the weather gets too unstable. Still not a bad few days. He learned a software program to help him design woodworking projects. Coupled with the Labor Day “Downton Abbey” marathon, it wasn’t bad at all.

9/7 my crown fell out. Luckily it stuck to a piece of hard candy that I spit out. At first I thought it was a big popcorn hull, but upon further inspection realized that a trip to the dentist was in order. X-rays, an exam, and the good Dr. S. and her assistant cementing it back into place with their combined body weight pushing down on the crown made for a rather interesting experience.

9/8 the upstairs air conditioner died. This is the third time in two years this unit has given us problems.  A rather rude tech came out, gave the unit a cursory glance, then told Hubby it was a bad coil and would cost $500 to be replaced. Without testing said coil. And not coming up with a good reason for the cost except to inform Hubby that someone had to pay his insurance. And charged $100 for the service call. We decided to 1. wait until next spring and 2. in the meantime find another heating and cooling company.

9/9 seemed like a good morning for scones. A misty rain fell; we didn’t have to be anyplace. I looked up recipes on my iPad. Suddenly a convincing-looking window popped up saying that there had been a firewall breach and my device would be immediately shut down if I didn’t call Apple with the codes right now. I took it to Hubby, whom you may retired last year after more than 35 years in telecommunication engineering. He called the number. They said that I could take it to the nearest Apple store to get fixed, or they could do it for us if they could have our IP address and a credit card number. Hubby hung up. He called Apple, verified that it was a scam, and downloaded a bunch of security software from them. It was harrowing and embarrassing. We debated calling the sheriff and the states’ attorney, but somehow that dissipated.

9/10 made it better. Another cool rainy morning. This time, however, I went to a non corrupted site and found a great scone recipe.

Hopefully, that energetic purge will be the last for a long time to come.

Retrograde: The Condensed Edition

Tomorrow, everyone’s favorite planetary trickster, Mercury, amps up the fun by appearing to go backwards. Mercury rules communication, electronics, and transportation. It makes for interesting times. No need to panic; just be extra careful signing contracts, driving, and protecting your devices.

Yesterday featured a thirty-minute period that felt like the whole three weeks in one shot. Many pleasant hours filled the day; don’t get me wrong. I took lunch to my friend who’s recovering from surgery and we watched “Outlander” for the afternoon’s entertainment. I’d slept well. The list of blessings goes on and on. But there was just that one half hour that I could have lived without.

En route to R’s house, I stopped to do a  bit of shopping. The customers in front of me at checkout time had been on an extended vacation. The cashier, likely a newbie herself, had to walk them through the use of the chip card that had arrived in their absence. Between the explanations of how the card worked and the customer taking the card out of the reader several times before the transaction had been processed, the cashier overlooked about a quarter of their merchandise. She rang it up, then had to explain the use of the reader again. OK. Finally finished that.

Next task: the procurement of lunch. We like the same Tex-Mex takeout place for the freshness and flexibility in customizing our selections. Usually.

Me: Two bowls, please. First one with half a serving of black beans…

Counter person: (puts a half-scoop of black beans in bowl, then almost puts half-scoop of pintos)

Me: NO! I’m sorry, just the half scoop of beans….

And so on down the line.

I escaped to the car with the bowls. Noticing that the gas gauge needle hovered uncomfortably close to the big red line, I decided to fill up at the nearest gas station. Not the best price, but cheaper than a blown fuel injector. As I put the gas pump into the tank, a jabbing pain and burning sensation spread through my right leg. I looked down to see a yellow jacket flying away. The stinger had fallen out of my leg of its own accord.

Luckily R had some essential oils that helped with the initial discomfort. We enjoyed the afternoon immensely, then parted ways.

The flakey energy leveled out by the time I arrived home. Oakley was happy to see me. We were able to get out for a walk. Plus there were tomatoes from a talented and generous neighbor. Home-grown tomatoes always make it better, whatever “it” is.

Some pretty intense storms missed us, causing flooding to our south, more of an annoyance that life threatening. A rainbow capped off the afternoon.

It was all good. It was all good, indeed.

The Point of Sweet Tension

Some years ago, I had a yoga teacher who called the place where you’d bent into the pose enough to get a good stretch, but not far enough to put yourself in pain “the point of sweet tension.” As August slides into its middle weeks, I find myself in that place. Not so much in a forward bend, but with life and time in hurry up and wait mode.

On one hand, I look forward to Labor Day and all that comes with it. We’ll be making a trip to Bristol Ren Faire (sigh) for closing weekend, the start the countdown to next July. Daytime highs will begin to creep to more acceptable levels, and the colors will turn to golds and crimsons. And in November, we will finally be through this election season that has been unparalleled in sheer bad behavior and insanity.

On the other, despite the highs being uncomfortable, in the face of political insanity, and despite the changes and challenges foisted on me this year, I don’t want to wish it away. This ride, even with the pain and the headaches, is just too short. There are days when the middle years feel like a war of attrition: life choices and genetics catch up with a person eventually, and sometimes a passage just happens for no apparent reason.

If some how I had been able to fast forward, I would have missed the hawk making lazy circles above me as I drank an iced coffee with a shot of caramel at a park. I would have missed an excellent lunch with a spirit sister last weekend, and the song of the crickets this morning as I woke up. Don’t forget the gifts of homegrown tomatoes, green beans, and cucumbers, either.

The sweet point among the salad is the need to stay in the moment, and knowing that eventually you can straighten up, but enjoy the stretch in the meantime.

 

The End of Eras

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Photo by Brian Hanna via freeimages.com

 

Garrison Keillor hosted his last “Prairie Home Companion”  yesterday. Of course I listened. Just as I have for the majority of Saturday evenings since–OK, you caught me–I was in junior high. There will be “best of” rebroadcasts, I’m sure, as NPR has done with “Car Talk.” It won’t be quite the same, but I’m sure that my fellow fans will still be able to count on two hours of respite from the lunacy that is the world these days.

Another end came up in my news feed yesterday, too, one much closer to home. The mom (no pop) shop where I’ve bought some of Oakley’s supplies since his first week home was sold.

The bittersweetness was mitigated by knowing that both transitions are likely for the best.  Garrison’s leaving the show in the capable hands of Chris Thile, a mandolin player I look forward to getting to know better. He is cut from the same cloth as Garrison, and will do well as he puts his stamp on the show. The new owner of the pet supply store is a local chain that has the same values and commitment to providing customers with high quality products made in the US as the mom does. They’re keeping all the staff, so that’s a good thing.

Both changes are for the better. Garrison is 73. In one of the many articles covering his retirement he quietly mentioned some health concerns as well as a desire to get back to writing. Under its new ownership, the store can expand and serve more people and pets now.

I still spent a lot of time sighing yesterday. Sighing for the passage of time. I took Orion to the mom store the last couple of years of his life, followed by a then-scrawny semi-feral Oakley.  Wondering how I arrived at the age I am now even though I still feel twenty most days. Sighing for yet another round of changes and letting go. Not exactly painful, not earth shattering, but just change.

Yet, there is consistency. Both Garrison and the mom ensured that the high-quality entertainment and pet supplies continue. We’ve been left in good hands by both. It will play out for the best and highest, I’m sure. In a mass produced world, it’s good to see the unique continue.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When in Doubt, Make a Casserole. When Confident, Make Two.

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(image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy)

Well, that was a hell of a week.

Let me try again.

One ill family member; one visit with out of town relatives who’d cancelled vacation plans to come to see her; one hearing for a special use permit for Oakley’s day care; and two drives up to see the family of said family member left me totally wrung out. Except for the visit (breakfast at a very comforting restaurant) the other events involved drives of upwards of an hour, plus trying to convince Oakley that the relatives’ dog was not a fruit bat-shark mix.

Good boy that he is, Oakley just walked away, then sat quietly by the door until we left. I made him a bison burger for dinner.

The ill family member is in progress. I’m not going into details to protect her privacy, but I will tell you that she fares better today. And that her condition scared a few years of growth off all of us. It’s going to take time, but things look a lot better this week than they did last Monday.

I couldn’t directly influence her recovery process, but I could support the ones in the immediate circle with food. Comforting. The type with plenty of carbs and that can be heated up in the microwave. In other words, a casserole.

Nothing fancy. I made stovetop lasagne. Been too hot to turn on the over here. I boiled the pasta (1 lb. fusilli), stirred in a jar of sauce, a carton of ricotta, and some pre- shredded provolone and mozzarella. They liked it.

I made a huge batch of turkey chili, too. They received it with favor. And a rotisserie chicken that I grabbed at the store. They will be well fed for a few days. My hope is that things will level out so they can do a little cooking. It’s therapeutic. I felt better as I saw the chili and pasta fall into place.

They felt better as they ate the chili, too.

Had it been cooler, I would have made a chicken-noodle casserole as well. It’s like tuna-noodle, but with chicken and cream of celery. Two people in that part of the family have fish and mushroom allergies, and they had enough problems without a reaction to the tuna. And the mushrooms.

But it worked out, and continues to do so. We just have to be patient. And eat some casserole.

 

Picnics and Remembrances

 Today’s temps are expected to land a fingertip from 90. Oakley and I finished our sweaty panting morning walk by 8:15. Neither of us do well in heat, so a picnic is out of the question. Perhaps an afternoon jaunt to one of the local dog-friendly stores will be in order this afternoon.  Otherwise, we will limit outdoors time to that required for canine hygienic purposes.

However, it’s Memorial Day. Remember the ones who lost their lives in service. Remember the ancestors and loved ones who went before. And celebrate their memory with a picnic or cookout.

We mostly did cookouts at our house. Dad (Army, medic, served in Operation Fairwing to help keep Adolph and friends from establishing a beachhead near Rio; later stationed at a rehab hospital for returning soldiers where he met my mom) presided over the grill. Fallen sticks from the hickory tree in the back yard  elevated the burgers or chicken from postwar chow to gourmet delights for the ages. He didn’t do anything really special otherwise, just a dash of salt, a touch of pepper. That was it. Mom and Grandma did the potato salad and Jell-O and some other sides with pie for dessert. Kind of like Thanksgiving, only with lighter foods and warmth, usually.

That usually happened on Monday. The weekend was filled with running Grandma to the cemetery where her parents and several siblings (she was second oldest of nine and the last one standing) were interred so she could pay her respects to them while tending their graves. Sometimes we went up to St. Louis, a small town an hour or so north of Lansing where my grandfather had grown up to decorate and pay respects there. A few flowers, a little clean-up work, and all was as it should be.

We also tended the grave of the stillborn  premature child who should have lived to be my other big sister. I poured the water over the storm cloud colored flat stone while Mom scrubbed the dirt accumulated over the past year from the outline of the lamb and the letters BABY GAY APRIL X 1957 as gently as she would have her child’s cheek. Why didn’t she make it, Mama?…She was just too little and too weak, honey. More water over there, please…The small pot of pink geraniums were centered just above the stone. Why did they just name her Baby?…She wasn’t alive when she was born and new babies were just listed as Baby with the parents’ last name….What did you want to name her?…long pause…Pauline….Mom picked up the empty milk carton and wad of used paper towels in one hand, then held the other out to me. I took it, and we walked back to the station wagon. That makes me kind of sad….Me too, honey, but now I have you…She ever so gently touched the tip of my nose with the tip of her finger…and you make me very happy.  

Mom, Dad, and (yes, I say her name) Pauline rest together now. Mom on one side, Dad the other, and Pauline in between them. I haven’t been up to visit the cemetery since my dad’s burial. I just don’t do graves myself; I prefer to remember my parents doing what they did best: Dad grilling or cooking, Mom at the piano playing Debussy. There is no way of knowing who or what Pauline would have been.

Except very much loved, and in the end, that’s all that matters.