Signs of the Times

Gas station: regular unleaded, $1.18. I think: Wow. I think: I don’t need gas. I have a full tank – still. And I realize that not many need gas right now. No one is traveling, and even the daily commute isn’t happening for most of us. This low price is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thrift stores – my favorite places to shop! – are closed up tighter than a high pitched drum. I think: Darn. I think: Well, it makes sense. They’re germ-laden places. People touch everything. I realize: I’m still going to shop thrift when this is all over, and I’m still going to wash everything I buy – sometimes twice.

Bars are closed. The streets are rather dark at night. Not that I’m out at night – but I’ve heard it’s spooky.

I’ve noticed a trend on Facebook. People are posting so that when a post comes up in the future, say, a Facebook Memory five year memory, they’ll remember what was happening in 2020. Gas prices. What’s closed, what’s open. Major Leagues Sports shutting down. How people are handling Social Distance. I haven’t joined the trend yet. I’m thinking more along the lines of “I don’t think I want to remember this stretch of 2020, at least not the sad details.”

I just want to remember enough to help my family and friends learn from this disaster so we don’t repeat it.

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Corona Cooking – at home, of course

Our menus are looking more and more like midwinter comfort food or even dorm cafeteria food. Tonight it was baked macaroni and cheese – from scratch, of course. I have a sizable stockpile of various pastas, and we always have cheese. Throw in a cup of frozen peas, reach for the closest Italian season, and there it is. Comfort food, Wisconsin style.

Like a good pantry prepper, we have canned tuna. I’ve made tuna casserole recently (pasta, tuna, yada, yada, yada), and tuna salad would only work for Chuck and me. Amigo doesn’t go for cold. I got creative with the English muffins in the refrigerator, topped them with tuna and (or course) cheese, and ta-da! Tuna melts.

Last night I pulled together paninis. Sandwich ingredients, grilled with my cast iron press, and then – soup, of course. An ultimate comfort food, but instead of made from scratch, I’d picked it up at a local restaurant. Soup and sandwiches! Simple, but satisfying.

Then there was the shredded pork on a bun – with my own homemade rhubarb barbecue sauce. It makes a big batch; I put half away in the freezer for another day.

It’s not restaurant quality. It’s not even Master Chef style. But comfort is in short supply these days, and I can cook up darn good comfort in the form of lunch and supper.

Readers, what are you cooking these days?

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Dark Times, indeed.

“These are dark times, there is no denying. Our world has perhaps faced no greater threat than it does today. But I say this to our citizenry: ” Can you fill in the rest? Is it something you’ve heard recently, from a governor or, dare I suggest, a president? A world leader? None of the above.

Rufus Scrimgeour, Minister of Magic in the final book and final movies of the brilliant Harry Potter series, completes this quote by saying, “We, ever your servants, will continue to defend your liberty and repel the forces that seek to take it from you! Your ministry remains strong.”

The ending doesn’t fit our dark times quite as well, but Scrimgeour’s opening sure caught my attention. With the novel corona virus sweeping the nation and the world, our world faces a threat that certainly is greater than any we’ve faced in our lifetimes.

I can’t express hope that we’ll follow the path of Rufus the minister. After all, he was soon assassinated as the ministry fell to Lord Voldemort and his followers. We do not have the Order of the Phoenix and their magical skills on our side, but we do have science.

Science. Medical science, common sense science. As we shelter in place, let’s listen to the scientists.

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Shelter in Place continues

It was a dark and stormy morning. Rain, lots of rain. I did a rare out-of-home experience and brought Petunia her newspaper and her groceries. We unfortunately picked out the wrong kind of oranges, so I may (or Chuck) look for a time when few will be out and get the Clementines she needs from the grocery store. It’s not a hardship; it’s just a little less likely to happen right away.

I bought myself a treat for breakfast when I picked up the paper – a breakfast sandwich from the convenience store. They no longer have their coffee bar or roller grill, but still have a few hot sandwiches, individually wrapped. I gave myself a sausage, egg, and cheese croissant.

I was settled in on the couch for a Harry Potter movie marathon, with my breakfast sandwich and coffee (made at home), when the landline phone rang. It was Chuck’s mom. He’d replaced the batteries in her smoke detectors yesterday, and now one was beeping repeatedly. She couldn’t get it off the wall or get the battery out. What else could I do? I woke Chuck.

Eventually, all was well. We took care of our mothers and then ourselves. Life goes on. It’s not normal, but it’s life. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.

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And the Lockdown Continues

Yesterday we took chances. It was definitely in the category of Essential Activities, but it was still chancy.

We brought groceries to Petunia. Twice. I was bending the rules at her senior living apartment complex because all deliveries were supposed to be picked up in the lobby rather than having people walking in and out of the hallways. Petunia is still quite weak from a tough pain stretch last week, and I’m not going to make her walk the long walk to the lobby to meet me. I brought her a newspaper and picked up her credit card, and then I headed home.

Home, where the boys, Chuck and Amigo, were still asleep. Since I’m still on a schoolteacher’s timetable, I am awake in the mornings when they are, well, not. It gives me a quiet house in which to work, with few if any interruptions. Yesterday being Saturday, I didn’t even open up the school Chromebook. Mainly, I took care of Buttercup the bunny, cleaned up the kitchen, and then stretched out on the couch with a little HGTV and my own newspaper – and coffee.

Coffee. Coffee brewed in my own coffeemaker, on my own kitchen counter. When I picked up Petunia’s paper, I confirmed the news: Kwik Trip has closed their coffee bars. It makes sense, I guess. Pouring our own coffee, flipping through the lids that always seem to be stuck, touching one handle after another – and sharing space with others doing the same thing – all of those are risky in these Pandemic days. Good thing my Prepper Self always stocks up when coffee is on special!

Ah, my Prepper Self. Chuck is starting to bend my way in stocking up on necessities. With a few special trips to the pet store and the meat market, this trip to the store was short and still productive. We stocked up mainly on items that we couldn’t make or improvise on our own, like sodas. Mixers, to be honest. I have gin, I want my tonic. We have rum, now let’s make sure we have Coke. You get the picture.

Sunday, today, we stayed home. I ventured outside the house to empty kitchen compost and a bunny litter box, but other than that, I’ve stayed within the house. As the virus spreads in my community, I predict more days of staying in. We’ll see how that goes.

Readers, what kind of necessity makes you leave the house during the quarantine days? Leave a comment to share.

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Back into the (Sur)real World

Surreal. That word keeps coming up. A few days ago (was it really only two days ago?) Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers took the reins and declared a state of emergency. Covid19, the illness caused by the novel Coronavirus, was moving along and spreading quickly – much too quickly. He ordered schools closed, both public and private. Many universities and colleges had already extended their spring breaks indefinitely to minimize contact. And now, the same falls to Kindergarten through grade 12.

Amigo’s spring show was postponed and rehearsals cancelled until further notice. Many members of the chorus are in high risk groups for the new virus – elderly, heart conditions, weakened immune systems, and I’m sure more diagnoses than I know about. It was a heartbreak for Amigo, and I know others were devastated, too.

All these actions are for good reason. the novel Corona virus spreads through contact and droplet infection, and the strongest defense against that is to minimize contact with other people. If someone sneezes and I’m nearby, I could inhale the droplets from their sneeze. If someone coughs into their hand and then opens a door with that same hand, I could open the door and transfer that virus to my own system.

I go to school as scheduled tomorrow. I teach online already, so there might (knock on wood) be few changes in my own setting. We don’t need to create new structures or schedules. We did have to cancel field trips and testing dates. The standardized state tests haven’t been removed from our curriculum, but we had to cancel the “nonessential travel” for teachers who would have traveled to our testing sites. As an online school, our students are all over the state. To administer the state test, we look at a map and go to our students. We set up testing sites in hotels, libraries, and technical colleges so we can test the kids near their homes. All that, now, is cancelled. We don’t know when or if we’ll get it set up again.

So tomorrow I go to school as usual, but nothing will be typical. I might teach my classes, I might make my scheduled phone calls, and I know I’ll answer many emails, but I have a feeling this school day will feel anything but normal.

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ER Observations and Random Thoughts

I wasn’t totally coherent two weeks ago when we went to the ER, but I did notice a few things.

Doctor paused before coming in the room and asked if I’d had influenza yet this season. I answered no, and he grabbed a mask before he came in. One of the first tests they ran was the swab for Influenza A. Fortunately, it came back negative. I don’t hear well to begin with, and if I had to listen to doctors and nurses through masks, I might have given up trying.

Based on that, I’d gather that flu isn’t through in our fair city. If the ER folks are still concerned, I’m glad I finally got my flu shot.

Today, almost two weeks later, I’m dealing with major dehydration – so much it’s causing lower back pain. Kidneys? Maybe. Doc On Call also had me cut back my blood pressure medicine for a few days. It’s a medicine that can also be a diuretic – in other words, can dehydrate. See how much I’ve learned?

Yesterday Nurse On Call said, “Let’s keep you out of the ER this time.” I liked her attitude. The pain level today, along with the weakness and other garbage, came close to sending me right there again. The big difference this time was that Doc On Call saw me yesterday, and I now knew what to do to fight back. Doc On Call was quite thorough with her testing; I hope, hope, hope it’s all covered.

Meanwhile, a dear coworker is dealing with something much worse. Her sister had a rare and oft-fatal complication during labor. Both mother and baby have made it through the first twelve hours; it remains to be seen if they’ll survive, and if so, what the damages might be.

Back pain? That’s nothing. So why am I so near tears?

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Encore – Knowing My Limits, Again

How is it that the more things change, the more they stay the same?  This post aired in April of 2014. Obama was president, and Hillary Clinton was aiming to run in 2016. You all know the end of that story.

By 2014, I’d recovered from a stroke, had a retina reattached, uterus removed, stent placed in a major artery, and aneurysm detected in another major artery. I like to think I was wise enough not to ask the fates, “What else can go wrong?” 

Fast forward to 2018. A few days ago I was diagnosed with (another!) urinary tract infection. The following morning, I was in the ER as the infection had spread into my kidneys. I’m now resting, feeling nervous about getting behind at work, and taking strong, strong antibiotics. 

Four years ago, I set these goals. Today, I reaffirm those goals. I want to turn Wisconsin blue in the fall elections, but I won’t be any good to anyone if I’m too sick to help.

To maintain my physical and mental health, I will NOT:

  • sign online petitions. It’s too easy, and therefore often meaningless to those in power.
  • forward emails that call themselves Memes. It’s a chain letter, people, don’t kid yourselves.

To further maintain my physical and mental health, I WILL:

  • learn about the candidates and become an informed voter
  • vote and encourage my family members to vote, too
  • remind friends and coworkers to vote (even on FB)
  • donate small amounts of money to candidates I support
  • for good vibrations, wear my Team Obama t-shirt from fall 2012
  • blog!
  • keep calm, and garden on. It’s cheaper than therapy, and in the end I’ll have tomatoes.

 

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Flu memories – let’s not create any new ones

Yesterday Chuck came home from work feeling ill. I was fairly certain it wasn’t influenza, but can I ever be 100% sure? Sometimes. Not always. It wasn’t so long ago that I posted this.

I was searching and sorting and purging a pile of papers and I found this, a predecessor to Monday’s post. It’s on a scrap of yellow legal pad, so it probably rose from the ashes of a school staff meeting or staff development. This piece wasn’t for the CDC. In fact, I’m pretty sure I wrote it pre-blog. To make it current, it would need almost no changes.

You know the flu has taken over when:

  • Chicken soup and cinnamon toast make a meal.
  • The phone rings and the teenager doesn’t move.
  • The blind family member identifies people by their coughs rather than their voices.
  • The dishwasher is full of glasses and bowls because no one is eating real meals.
  • Each sick person carries around his/her own box of tissue.
  • Suddenly the supply of Tylenol and ibuprofen in the medicine cabinet looks woefully under stocked.

The above list was written with a sense of – well, something close to gallows humor, if I remember correctly. Since that year, all of us have stayed up to date on flu shots. Get your own flu vaccine, people. It’s not too late.

The entire family has been vaccinated. This year’s vaccine may only be 10% – 30% effective, but at least it’s something. As for Chuck, he felt much better today and went back to work. That’s a relief to all of us!

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Hawaii – Paradise, Innocence Lost

Influenza has reached epidemic levels in 49 of these United States. The lucky state without the dreaded flu (for now) is Hawaii. Hawaii, however, had its own scare Saturday.

First: Cell phones across Hawaii received an emergency alert telling them in all caps:

BALLISTIC MISSILE THREAT INBOUND TO HAWAII. SEEK IMMEDIATE SHELTER. THIS IS NOT A DRILL. 

Parents called their children. Young adults called their parents. Those who could, sought shelter. Those who had no way of getting out of harm’s way – well, all did what they could.

For 38 minutes, people prepared and panicked and told their loved ones – if we’re completely honest here, folks, people called their loved ones to say goodbye. They called to say love you, love you forever, I may not survive the day.

Then the announcement came: FALSE ALARM! Roadside signs announced NO THREAT! Word on social media spread that the cause of this outrageous scare was due to a “wrong button pushed” during a shift change. The governor came on (after a long wait – he’ll take flack for that) and assured the residents and visitors to his state that “steps have been taken to ensure that a situation of this type will never happen again.”

Mr. Governor has a tough road ahead of him. We in the continental U.S. join our island friends in asking questions, too.

  1. What took so long? In today’s techie world, 38 minutes? Did no one notice sooner?
  2. Why did social media hit the story ages before the mainstream media? Not even a crawl addressed this in cable news or on the major networks – even after the 38 minute long scare.
  3. Where was our president? Did no one inform him? Did he even care?
  4. On the other hand, maybe we should be glad he was heavily into a golf game and didn’t have a knee-jerk reaction that would send out an attack in response to a perceived threat.
  5. Think about it. One wrong button pushed? I have a hard time believing that a single click or press could result in an emergency announcement of this magnitude. Steps taken after the fact may be too little, too late.
  6. Think long run: how will this affect travelers’ willingness to visit the Aloha state?

Hawaiians and tourists, I feel for you. For once in my life, I’m grateful to be in the middle of the heartland, surrounded by the Great Lakes instead of the Pacific Ocean. I can’t say I mind the cold and the snow. I’ll deal with the below-zero wind chills; I’ll power through the snowdrifts. I’ll wrap myself in blankets and give thanks that my fair city is unlikely to be target for a missile attack, unless that missile is a football soaring over Clay Mathews’ head into an opponent’s arms.

Still, I have questions. I’m sure many thousands of others have questions, too.

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