Pandemic 2020 and TP

Starring my alter ego from the future, Grandma Daisy!

Oh, yes, children, it was more than just the flu. Not that the flu wasn’t serious – did I tell you about the year my brother had influenza? Oh, wait, the pandemic. It was called a novel (as in new) coronavirus (as in an illness that can cause severe upper respiratory symptoms). Eventually, a scientist named it Covid19, but many of us still called it the coronavirus.

The president tried to calm the masses, but it didn’t work. He’d created stories and twisted truths so many times we didn’t believe him when he said, “Don’t worry, be happy.” Oh, wait, that was Bobby McFerrin. The prevaricator in the White House just told the citizens that the new germ was “No Big Deal.” Uh-huh. Yeah, right. Sure, man. We didn’t buy it for a moment.

People who called themselves preppers, those who stocked up and prepared for long term emergencies, were all set. Prepper wannabes panicked. Massive warehouse stores had their parking lots full of unhappy hoarders with pallets full of bottled water and (you guessed it) toilet paper. Why toilet paper? Well, kiddos, in a crisis, everyone still needs to use the rest room. Maybe it felt good to carry those cases of TP out to the pickup truck and strap them down. Caring for the family, they were, with enough toilet paper to … choose your metaphor or idiom here, folks.

In the office where I worked, we started joking about toilet paper. A sense of humor came in handy, even though there truthfully wasn’t much to inspire laughter. The big college basketball tournament, March Madness, was cancelled. Maybe the arenas ran out of toilet paper! Universities told students to go home for spring break and stay home. Did the dorms run out of toilet paper? Public school districts cancelled events for more than 250 people. Oh, dear, I suppose that was too many people for the toilet paper supply.

You get the idea. All of these closings were a big, big deal. Cancelling face to face classes at the universities and moving to online or correspondence delivery of courses was huge. I heard from a bird (no, from a reliable source) that my school district had administration meetings daily with updates. We were quite tense, all of us. The implications were huge, despite our status as an online, not face to face, school.

Toilet paper. La Petite messaged us from the big city of Milwaukee that people were panicking and the store shelves were empty of – toilet paper. My cousin who lives out west posted pictures of shoppers loading huge quantities of the fine tissue into their big honkin’ trucks.

The only thing missing? A country song, of course! How’s this for a title? “The Crapstorm called Covid19”! I can just hear the refrain. Maybe. Oh, well, this one didn’t really happen. But folks did get scared, and they reacted by buying toilet paper. Really.

So, children, the story goes on. We referenced the Spanish flu of 1919, the influenza epidemic of 1957, and even H1N1, the new flu of 2009. But the novel coronavirus, Covid19, was a story of its own. More later, dearies.

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Apocalyptic Crazy?

My cousin posted a photo of a large pickup truck filled with case upon case of bottled water. She said that the parking lot at Costco was full of vehicles like it. Bottled water and toilet paper seemed to be the items everyone wanted – and in big quantities. She commented that the stock-up frenzy was “out of control” and that the likelihood of shortages might be due to idiocy, not illness. “Apocalyptic crazy” was her description.

While shopping with Petunia this morning, I saw a bin of masks – surgical, not costume – in the store. No limits, no frantic shoppers grabbing several boxes, essentially no one paying attention to this valuable item. Maybe all the Sunday morning shoppers had already stocked up.

I also found hand sanitizer at Walgreen’s just days ago. I bought 2 bottles. I could have bought eight, but I didn’t feel like we needed that many. And I really, really didn’t want to resell it at an outrageous price later.

The presences of masks and hand sanitizer at reasonable retail prices told me that either a) We’re not panicking in Happy Valley (yet) or b) everyone who needed to stock up on essentials already did.

Maybe Chuck won’t give me such a hard time about prepping a stockpile now.

Oh, I forgot to mention: chicken noodle soup was on special, too, and there was plenty on the shelves.

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Brewpub Culture

Amigo and Chuck and I have a tradition. It’s called Fun Day Friday. Fun Day Friday started many years ago when Amigo and I started going out to lunch on Fridays when I was free – mainly summertime, since I am a public school teacher. We included Chuck when he was available.

Now that Chuck works for a different employer and often has Fridays off, he and Amigo have taken the Fun Day Friday routine year-round. I find myself mildly envious at times.

When all three of us are available for a Fun Day Friday, it’s a big deal. Today was one of those Fridays. In fact, it was such a big deal, we decided to go out for supper instead of for lunch. We chose a nearby pub noted for their beer list and their burgers. Last time I was there I ordered mac and cheese from the kids’ menu and brought home the fruit snacks for Amigo, but that’s a different story. Or is it?

If you don’t live in Wisconsin, the whole idea of a bar or pub with a kids’ menu might seem surprising. Here, bringing the kids along is a normal everyday happening. On the positive side, most neighborhood pubs are very family friendly. They’re safe places, almost like a family restaurant but with a bar. The food is good, and if it’s Friday, there might be a fish fry special. Tonight, we had burgers and an appetizer of deep fried zesty dill pickles.

On the negative side, this culture makes alcohol the norm. A young person can learn that going out to eat also means drinking, and that norm can lead to drinking to excess. For an alcoholic trying to stay dry, this kind of social place can be very difficult. Not only are a multitude of forbidden drinks available, but the place might even smell like a beer.

My children are grown now. They’ve been legally able to order their own beers for many years. I have to hope that both of them, born and raised in Wisconsin’s alcohol culture, know how that drinking in moderation is best.

For what it’s worth, Amigo ordered soda tonight – Mt. Dew. I hope the caffeine doesn’t keep him awake too late!

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Winter with a Vengeance

I haven’t posted since…when? Oh, my. Anyway, it’s winter now. We had about 6 inches of snow yesterday. By the end of the week, we’re looking at below zero temperatures and the possibility of a Polar Vortex. Last time we had a major cold snap, Polar Vortex cold, we had a visitor – a Cooper’s hawk, on our deck, right next to the French doors. We were rather shocked that it settled in right next to the house like that. It must have been the closest, or the only, shelter it could find.

With another cold (Polar) snap ahead, I’m prepping to keep the family warm. By Friday, I hope to have the main family groceries purchased, including bunny food and the basic milk, bread, and eggs. You know the drill, I’m sure. That way, I can stay indoors when the thermometer dips.

Meanwhile, indoors, we’ll stay warm with a little help from our good Wisconsin logic.

All shades, blinds, and curtains will remain closed. Another layer, no matter how thin, helps keep the drafts out.

Warm clothes – layers, warm socks, slippers (from Muk-Luks, the best). I even have fingerless gloves on hand if I need them.

A humidifier in each room (well, the rooms where we spend the day) will help keep moisture in the air, which makes the air feel a few degrees warmer, even if the temperature doesn’t physically change.

Blankets! I’ve been washing blankets lately. It’s a spring cleaning in midwinter task. We’ll curl up with a book and a blanket or two and stay cozy. Amigo is good at that; he loves his audio books and a warm blanket.

Warm breakfast (oatmeal!) and lunch (soup!) and supper (whatever, just make it warm!) will warm the insides, too. I might even cook in the crock pot instead of on stovetop. The aroma will provide a little warmth of its own.

I could bake cookies, too – maybe. Or maybe I won’t want to use too much energy. The power company has come down on manufacturers for using too much heat energy to operate their plants. I haven’t heard them asking residential customers to turn it down by a couple of degrees, but it could happen. And if it did…

We’d put on another layer and grab another blanket. Coffee, hot cocoa, and we’ll be snug as bugs in a rug, despite the extreme Polar Vortex cold.

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Questions. I have questions.

Can I request more than 24 hours in a day? I can’t get everything done in 24.

Why does Amigo insist that I blog regularly?

I’m shopping online for the holidays – birthdays and Christmas. I’m shopping small businesses, not the Big Ones. Does that count?

Is the 2020 election cycle ever going to start for real?

Why do football players fight on the field? They’re all so padded, they can’t possibly hurt one another.

Is Houston really ahead of New England? Please, let it be true, if only for a few minutes.

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Oh, deer.

It hasn’t been the best garden season. Some of the pallet plants died from neglect, pure and simple – not enough watering on my part. Hanging flowers suffered the same fate. Herbs are okay. When I’ve watered, they’re on the top of my list.

Approximately one third of the raised bed actually grew. The rest is weeds, pure and simple. I’ve done a little weeding of the actual vegetable successes,

And then the beans – the replacement beans! – were attacked. This was obviously a critter much taller than a rabbit. It looks like it climbed or jumped over the chicken wire fencing and was not deterred by the layer of green onions around the edges. In fact, it may have knocked over a few monster onions (if the hail and hard rain last week didn’t).

Readers, I don’t know why the pictures rotated left on me. WordPress isn’t playing nice with me here. Anyway, you can see where something nibbled about five feet off the ground and then left its mark on what little lawn we have left. Grrr.

I’m pretty sure I know what kind of critter visited, but I welcome your input. Anyone? Smaller than a moose, bigger than a rabbit, not a dog or cat. What do you think?

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Stormy Weather – oh, my.

Amigo kept asking me, “Mom, have you blogged the storm yet?” I finally asked him to offer his point of view. The entire family had a tough time with the recent storm and the following power outage, but the situation was hardest on him.

Amigo’s Saturdays are usually quite relaxed. He sleeps in, listens to Public Radio, and around noon will make his way downstairs for lunch. On this particular Saturday, it was between 11:30 and 12:00 when the skies became very dark, the outdoor sirens began howling, and all of our phones honked their noisy weather alerts to tell all within earshot that a tornado had been sighted nearby. Chuck poked his head into Amigo’s bedroom where Amigo was getting dressed and told him to hurry. Both of them hustled. When they arrived on the main floor, I guided Amigo down the awkward stairs to the basement to take shelter.

Our basement is more of a cellar. It’s not the modern finished basement with playroom or place to hang out; it’s cellar, storage, pipes hanging from the ceiling. Amigo and Chuck have to duck going down the stairs and watch their heads while walking around. Amigo almost never goes downstairs – unless a serious storm is on the way.

We sat in a sheltered corner on extra kitchen chairs. All three of us had our smart phones, for what it was worth – wifi went out suddenly when the power did, and we weren’t getting much cell phone bandwidth in our thick-walled cellar. We watched the wind whipping through the one accessible window, and Chuck and I took turns poking our heads upstairs to monitor the storm. I brought Amigo’s shoes and socks to him on one of those treks. He wondered why; I told him it was because the basement floor was cold. The truth was that the storm was bad, very bad, and if we ended up with shattered windows, I didn’t want anyone in bare feet. Fortunately, that wasn’t a problem.

Well, our home and immediate neighborhood fared well. We had branches down, many of them, but mainly medium and small ones. Chuck put on a raincoat (we were still getting steady rain) and pulled the brush off the street. We noticed a lot more traffic than usual on our quiet block; we soon found out that ours was the only street in the area clear of wires and trees immediately after the storm. Two blocks away, the cul de sac would need four new utility poles and multiple tree crews.

But back to Amigo. He is blind and has a high functioning form of autism, Asperger’s Syndrome. His phone and his computer are his windows on the world. Without power and wifi, he was lost. No social media, no podcasts, his audio book app wasn’t accessible – and on top of all that, no television for the sports he loved to watch.

We did what we could. Both Chuck and I needed to check on our elderly mothers, and we needed lunch. Amigo doesn’t like cold food; peanut butter and jelly wasn’t a valid option. I couldn’t get a text message out to Petunia, so we decided to combine a trip. We piled into Chuck’s car and plugged in all of our phones to charge. We traveled to the far north side of town, where a Hardee’s had power and was open. Crowded, too. We watched the gas station next door through the window. There’s a guy filling three gas cans; he must have a generator. Oh, there’s someone buying multiple bags of ice; their power must be out, too. Wow, it’s busy in here. The staff is doing their best to get everyone served.

After lunch, we drove to the rehab nursing home where Petunia was staying post-surgery. Chuck and Amigo stayed in the car and charged all the phones while I ran inside and checked on her. The home had its emergency power generator on leaving the hallways darker than usual and a wee bit spooky . Her room was fine; a lot of natural light through a window, and an outlet that worked to keep her phone charged. In general, all was well in the rehab world. Chuck called his mother and found out that she also did not have power. She was going to stay with Chuck’s younger brother in Nearby City with its power grid intact.

The outage was hard on all of us. Chuck and I made a side trip to his mom’s condo to borrow her small generator, and we stopped on the way home to buy a few batteries for radios. Eventually, we made our way to Nearby City for supper at Culver’s. Ah, Culver’s – comfort food in (or after) a storm!!

It had been a rough week for Amigo all around. He’d gotten some bad news regarding a summer camp, lost contact with his friends due to the outages, and was just overall miserable. He couldn’t even turn on a fan to create white noise or keep cool. We helped where we could, taking him out to charge his phone and get a hot meal, picking up batteries for radios, finding a battery operated handheld fan (overpriced but totally worthwhile). He was the most relieved of all of us when the power came back in the wee hours of Monday morning.

Stormy weather isn’t unusual in our neck of the woods. We’re considering getting a generator slightly larger than the one we borrowed so we can keep the freezers and refrigerator cold and keep the wifi running for a least a few hours a day. In our home, it’s not just a luxury. With Amigo’s needs, a little power means a lot.

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Ah, Barbershop. Harmonizing all the time.

The holiday show in December was a tear-jerker – in a loving, tug-on-the-heartstrings way. Spring show was even bigger: 75th anniversary, Going Platinum, with short videos of members (including Amigo) talking about how and why they keep coming back to sing barbershop.

Being a barbershopper means listening, too. Amigo made friends with our local Sweet Adelines chorus last year when he won the Pie of the Month Club at their Sweetie Pie Social concert and fundraiser. We brought home a big hanging basket of geraniums (door prize) from their spring Barbershop in Bloom program. At the same time, Amigo made friends with two women who sing with Sweet Adelines choruses elsewhere and meet up to enjoy concerts. Amigo and his two new friends had a great talk comparing notes on concert venues and fun times with barbershop harmony.

And the music goes on. Yesterday, Memorial Day, Amigo joined his local chapter in singing patriotic songs for a local celebration. It was pouring rain, so the usual outdoor ceremony was moved into the town administration building. Nevertheless, they persisted, and contributed their harmony to the solemn occasion.

Summer will have many singing opportunities. They’ll sing at the local ballpark with the local symphony orchestra for (are you ready for this?) Brats, Beer, and Beethoven concert. It’s always an experience. They’ll perform a variation on the spring show at an outdoor venue, and that will be a good time, too.

Barbershop harmony started in our family with a Christmas holiday program. It has grown to be a year round adventure. There’s always a reason to sing, no matter what the season.

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In Which Daisy Continues to Worry Unnecessarily

Measles.

Measles is back in the country, and it’s back with a vengeance. I’m amazed and appalled at how fast the illness can spread and how it spreads before symptoms appear. I’m appalled, not amazed, at the number of people who think vaccines are more dangerous than measles itself.

Here we are, at the end of a school year, with huge gatherings ahead: our end of year amusement park celebration, complete with 8th grade certificates, and the high school graduation. Both of these events will include families who claim either religious or personal exemption from vaccines. How do I know that? Never mind.

And then I heard that baby boomers might be at risk because our vaccines were the early ones, the immunizations that weren’t fully effective yet. Add to that: I’d been taking a medication that both upset my stomach and weakened my immune system. If I encounter measles, it could be bad. If I need the vaccine, I may have to wait.

My doctor’s office came through this time. They ordered a measles titer to see if I had immunity or not. The results were positive: I do have immunity to measles. My vaccine, however early in development, apparently worked.

I can check this worry off my list.

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In Which Daisy Worries about all the Wrong Things

We heard scratching and bumping noises in the chimney. Oh, dear, something was living in there! We called an exterminator. He said nope, can’t help with that. We called the chimney cleaning crew. Nope, they didn’t deal with live animals. We investigated animal control and found out they would charge $150 to set a trap and hope the critter wandered into it.

Then the noises stopped for about a week. And then I noticed an odor in the room. Oh, dear, something had most likely died in there! So we called the chimney crew and got them scheduled. The earliest date on their schedule was two weeks out. In the meantime – I duct taped the door to the fireplace in the hopes that I could contain the odor and still watch my HGTV and Jeopardy without a clothespin on my nose or a full fledged gas mask. And I worried – what if we had a storm with a power outage and we needed a fire for heat and cooking?

We didn’t have any bad storms. And it turned out that there were no animal carcasses in the flue. Aw, heck. Maybe Amigo had BO that day. Heck, maybe I did! Maybe I didn’t change the litter box soon enough. And so on, and so on, and so on.

But all is not well in the O.K. Chorale’s fireplace. The crew couldn’t inspect the outer ring of the chimney, the opening for fresh air to get in. Our neighborhood electric lines are in the way. They have to come back another day with their full equipment so they can climb up the other side of the roof to get at the chimney.

Meanwhile, I hope we don’t have a major storm that would take out our power and make necessary a fire in the fireplace for heat and/or cooking. Oh, gee. What else could go wrong? Wait, no. I didn’t say that. Nope.

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