Freezers are the New Toilet Paper

First it was toilet paper. Then we went through stages of shortages: baking supplies, yeast, eventually canning lids, and even compost bins.

After a long wait and diligent searches, I now have a pretty good supply of canning lids. I canned chicken broth yesterday, and I didn’t even worry about having enough lids.

I found a compost bin, FREE, on curbside, last summer. Talk about luck! We’ve had to bungie the top down to keep the raccoons out, but heck, that’s a small price to pay to have found an actual replacement bin for the one that broke.

Last weekend, I saw a (cue the ominous music) small puddle under one of our chest freezers. After further review, Chuck and I concurred that the freezer was, in fact, dead. We moved as much as we could into the refrigerator/freezer in the kitchen and the smaller chest freezer. Then, we called Robin. She said yes, of course, we could bring over a few things to keep in her freezer for a little while.

In the meantime, we reflected. We decided an upright freezer might meet our needs better, so we did our homework the way we always did: online. We made notes of stores that claimed to have something we liked in our price range and in stock, and then we hit the road to make our purchase – or so we thought.

The web sites for Lowe’s and Home Depot did not correspond with the inventory. Two other stores had such convoluted and complicated web sites that we said nope, not going to even go there. With aching knees and sore feet and major disappointments, we were close to losing hope. And then the smart phone apps (search for: Upright Freezers Near Me) found a store name we didn’t recognize. Grand Appliance. Non-descript, but if they had the inventory, we were willing to buy. We followed my phone’s navigator to get there, rejoiced that they were still open, and to make a long story short, found what we needed and ordered it!!

We’re expecting a delivery within two weeks, as opposed to September and October as suggested elsewhere. They’ll take the old defunct appliance with them. After that, we’ll relieve Robin’s freezer and repack our new one! And that, my friends, is a relief.

Toilet paper. Yeast. Compost bins. Freezers. What’s next? I don’t really want to know. Readers, any predictions for the next shortage?

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One Year Later

All the major news outlets are going into retrospective mode, so I don’t need to share the details. You know how to find the details you need, readers.

What I can do is make it personal. One year ago, we were hearing about the coronavirus, the novel, or new, coronavirus that was trickling into the U.S. I remember reassuring my students (fifth grade) that the virus hadn’t reached Wisconsin yet. We were not at risk. Yet.

Within weeks that shrunk to days, my workplace had closed up and sent us all home. We kept teaching, and teaching online is what we do, but we moved out of our office. I left my big desktop with two monitors behind on its stand-up option desk and set up a Chromebook on a small vintage desk in the corner of my living room. A box of my teacher manuals and a stack of intervention reading books were tucked into a corner nearby, and my notebook and clipboard sat on the file cabinet beside a coaster for my coffee cup.

From the hints of the virus to the major shutdown seemed to come incredibly fast. I exchanged texts with La Petite, learning that none of her colleagues had been in China recently to visit the knitting plants because they didn’t usually travel during the Chinese New Year celebrations.

I messaged a cousin in Utah who had posted pictures of huge trucks loaded with bottled water and toilet paper. Little did I know that the TP shelves would empty in my neck of the woods, too! It became a joke, sort of – March Madness cancelled? They must have run out of toilet paper. Spring training came to a screeching halt? Toilet paper shortage! Our nervousness showed in our attempts at humor.

I remember the mood – the feeling of what’s next, what else can shut down, are we ready, are we ready, are we ready? Well, we didn’t know and certainly couldn’t predict how serious the pandemic would be in the U.S., in Wisconsin, and even in our own city. Tension, stress, and the feeling of simply living each day not knowing what was next on the list.

Now, one year later, we’re getting our vaccines. Chuck and Amigo and La Petite have all had their first shot and scheduled their second. I will get the one-dose vaccine on Saturday. We’re cautiously optimistic – quietly hopeful.

But I still might maintain my stockpile of toilet paper.

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Compost Bins are the new TP

My compost tumbler fell apart. It developed a bend and a hole alongside the handle and stabilizer for tumbling. We’ll temporarily combine the contents with the large stationery bin in the backyard, and I’ll look for a replacement.

I like to have a smaller compost bin nearer the house to use in winter. I can fill it all winter long, and then when summer comes I’ll just turn/tumble it now and then to help the contents decompose. When fall arrives and I’m putting the garden to bed, the compost from the tumbler will get layered on top of the raised beds.

Except – none of the usual stores have compost bins or tumblers in stock. Nobody. Nowhere. Not even online.

It seems (I’m guessing here, but just be patient and follow my logic for a bit) that the gardening craze spread like a virus (haha, not funny, I know) this season. One of my favorite seed stores announced on their FB page that they were running into shortages and advised gardeners to order sooner rather than later. Good thing I make a habit of ordering seeds in January.

Let’s see: people panic bought toilet paper, then panic bought baking ingredients like flour and yeast. Pasta shelves went through an empty phase, too. The interest in baking from scratch at home leads naturally to growing food in the backyard, doesn’t it? I thought so. And along with the garden comes the compost. Hence, compost bins are the new TP.

I’m going to hope I can find a small to medium bin or tumbler by September so I can ready it for Season 2: The School Year. I’ll keep monitoring Habitat ReStore, among other places. Readers, where else can I look? What do you recommend?

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(Farm) Market Day?

One loss I’m feeling deeply is the lack of local farm markets. My downtown farm market usually starts at the end of June on Saturdays. The main street of our fair city closes, and the vendors fill several blocks. It’s a wonderful atmosphere; live music, the smell of egg rolls cooking and corn roasting, and all the produce that’s in season. Not this year, thanks to Covid19.

Thanks to Covid19, our downtown farm market will start two weeks later than usual and support about one third of the usual vendors. Live music will not be allowed, and prepared foods will no longer be available. I’ll go, and I’ll buy veggies and fruits to freeze and to can for the winter, but it won’t be the same. Not by a long shot.

Today I drove past Festival Foods, the store that hosts my favorite midweek market in their parking lot on Wednesday mornings. As I got closer, I saw – could it be – a tent! A white canvas top with a point in the middle! Maybe the market was back! Maybe…maybe…nope. Just a fireworks stand. Sigh.

Fortunately, Chuck’s mother, Robin, called and told us of a farmer selling fresh strawberries from the back of his truck. She’d bought some herself, and said they were delicious. I didn’t drive there immediately (it was noon), but I may try tomorrow. Maybe the strawberries will be there again, ready for me. That may be the solution this year: without the usual market, I need to find the independent sellers. It’ll be a little more work, but I can still fill our freezer for the winter.

Readers, is your local farmers’ market still going on this year? If not, what are you doing to get fresh produce for your family?

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Writer’s Block?

Amigo keeps asking me if I’ve blogged recently. It’s not that there’s nothing going on; it’s more like there’s too much going on. Focusing in on one topic seems overwhelming.

George Floyd. The protests he inspired; the riots and vandals that tagged along.

Buttercup. Our sweet bunny, about 14 years old (ancient!), passed on last week. I still expect her to meet me at the bottom of the stairs every morning when I get up.

Covid19. Again. Still. Pandemic hasn’t let up, despite its being relegated to smaller status in the evening news stories.

School. Work from home. How it’s different, both better and not so good.

The ever present garden! Some of the peas haven’t come up; there are blank spots in the lettuce patch. I blame the chipmunk who has taken up residence under one of the boards in the raised bed. Dang pest.

Sports. Amigo and I really, really miss sports. Baseball now, football in the fall – we’re left at loose ends.

Local protests vs. nearby cities vs. larger cities – compare, contrast, consider.

Barbershop chorus! They keep rehearsing in Zoom, but their two biggest fundraisers for the year have been cancelled. What does the future hold?

Meanwhile, I’m watching the world spinning around me and wondering when it will slow down and maybe even stop.

Where to go next? Too many directions, too many important topics in our lives, here at the O.K. Chorale.

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Reopen? Already?

I’m hearing hints of major cabin fever in several states. People are tired of staying at home, tired of wearing masks in public, and tired of standing 6 feet apart. But is that enough to cancel the Safer at Home order?

I’m embarrassed by the protesters in my own state carrying signs saying “I want a haircut!” These signs just scream Privilege and Wealth. Frankly, Amigo and Chuck are both overdue for haircuts, but we’re not going to complain. I want our favorite stylists to stay safe at home, too.

And the people who marched into Michigan’s capitol with guns? They weren’t protesting; they were threatening. Would they really shoot? I don’t want to know. But in a case like this, the intimidation was out of line. Way, way out of line.

Call your lawmakers, state and federal. Write to your lawmakers, too. I send postcards with prepared address labels. It’s quick, it’s easy, and I can state my case in a paragraph. Guns? No, thank you. I have no need to threaten my lawmakers. After all, I vote.

The strongest argument against reopening venues for crowds and reopening businesses that require close proximity is this headline: Second Record Day of Covid-19 Cases in Wisconsin. This is the wrong time to put more people close to each other and more people at risk of becoming ill with the virus. Cabin fever? We can handle it until the corona virus caseload goes down. It’s Safer at Home, indeed.

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Pandemic TV: The Drinking Game

Dark humor it may be, but smiles are worthwhile sometimes. Chuck and I have been watching the news together and noticing the repetition in the writing. We used to watch Fixer Upper together and with every “Y’all” take a sip from the wine glass. Now it’s the news.

This time of crisis. These desperate times. These difficult times. These challenging times.

I’ve left out a few (you can add them in the comments), but you get the idea, I’m sure. What could the anchors say in place of these descriptors?

How about: Coronavirus Times; Covid World; 2020 Viral Era; The Pandemic Era (Era could replace Times in any one of the above). The Year With No Sports (sob); The Stay at Home Months; When Social Distancing was the Norm – I’m sure you could add a few.

In all seriousness, we don’t drink our way through the news broadcasts, mainly because we watch together at noon. Chuck goes to work shortly after the midday news, and I’m back at my desk in the corner of the living room teaching online. It does make us smile, however, to pretend to take a sip. And these days, smiles are all too hard to come by.

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BYOB in the Time of Corona

I’m one of the original Bring Your Own Bag shoppers. When the kids were young and we were struggling to make ends meet, I bought the family’s bread from a day-old Wonder Bread store. That was my first experience bringing my own cloth bag, and it prevented many plastic shopping bags from entering my home and my garbage.

Fast forward a few years to Earth Day, 2009, when our local Sears wouldn’t let me use my Chico bag when I bought a garden shears. Not cool, Sears, especially on Earth Day. Especially when I walked through the mall to Target and got a new, free cloth bag at the Target checkout! Not cool, Sears. Not cool at all.

A few years ago, a friendly young cashier at a department store noticed my own bag and commented, “Going green this year?” This year? I refrained from telling her I’d been bringing my own bags since before she was born. (O.K. Boomer wasn’t a thing yet, but I’m sure she would have thought it.)

But now we are in the age of Pandemic 2020. The novel Corona virus is new enough that people aren’t entirely sure how it might pass from person to person. Some shoppers come home and wipe down their entire purchase with disinfectant wipes. Grocers wipe down carts between every use. And bags? Because the cloth bags may harbor germs, especially Covid 19, stores around me have been reluctant to allow customers to bring their own bags.

Our favorite supermarkets have started asking customers to bag their own purchase if we bring our own bags. The gas station convenience store is doing the same. And really? I don’t mind a bit. Chuck has a few years of grocery store work in his past, and he can bag our groceries like a pro. I don’t mind bagging my muffins or eggs or milk from the Kwik Trip, either.

Knowing the risks inspired me to wash my reusable bags more often, and that can only be good. When the farmers’ markets come back (if they come back? don’t even suggest it), I’m sure I’ll be able to balance my need to reuse bags with the vendors’ needs to be safe.

Maybe I could start a new line of bags with matching face masks. Cool, huh?

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More Cancellations

The ax fell two nights ago; Amigo’s barbershop chorus fully cancelled their Spring Show. Initially they had hoped to postpone it to a date in June, and eventually they realized that wasn’t realistic. The board met, and they made the hard decision to cancel.

Amigo could have been beside himself. He didn’t fall to pieces, though. He could have, and we would have understood. In fact, I kept waking up at night, wondering if I should check on him, but…well, other mothers of young adults will understand.

In other current events, gas was $1.01 today. As usual, I glanced at the fuel gauge to see it reading firmly FULL. Amigo helped me fill up the tank a few weeks ago, and, well, I haven’t been going anywhere. Chuck goes to work, I work from home, and I’m not driving Amigo to rehearsals anymore, either. We’re hardly leaving the driveway, much less using up a tank of gas.

In the rare occurrence that I do get out of the neighborhood, I’ve noticed people taking precautions pretty seriously. Maybe it’s the fact that Wisconsin just crossed the threshold of its 100th death from the Coronavirus. Whatever the reason, the staff at Lowe’s kept their distance and wore gloves and masks as they looked for what we needed.

Walgreen’s, however, looked mobbed. I stayed in the car; Chuck went inside to pick up medication. Tomorrow, I’ll pick up Amigo’s.

Meanwhile, we’re expecting a snowstorm Sunday night. Never a dull moment, here in the time of Covid19. Never a dull moment.

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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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