Then and Now…

Yesterday we drove 11/2 hours so my husband could get a COVID vaccination. Everything went well and we were on the way home about noon. With certain restrictions, restaurants and fast food outlets are open. Since we have been erring on the side of caution, Gary chose Subway and we ordered at the counter but took our food to the car.

Eating in the car is a challenge. The cup holder already held hand sanitizer and water so those items had to be moved to make room for the drinks. Then we unwrapped the subs, barked elbows against the doors, and lamented forgetting napkins.

I was about to complain about how much I disliked eating in the car when it occurred to me that in the sixties and seventies, it was an exciting thing. We lived in the sticks so there weren’t a lot of choices BUT even our pokey little town had carhops at the “Dairy Bar.” They brought your food right to the car on a tray they attached to the partially open window. Burgers, fries and drinks were distributed and it seemed so decadent. Normally honest people stole mugs from A and W. The one I took was a favourite of my Dad’s.

“We used to think it was a treat to eat in the car,” I said.

Hubbie looked at me and confessed, “On a Sunday after playing a Saturday fastball tournament, the ‘boys’ would be bored and wondering what to do. Someone would suggest driving an hour get A and W.” Good times.

Once we got home, it was time for the dog walk. Guilt at leaving them alone played on me so I took them on a more novel route. A few days earlier, the open field had been fine. It was good until we had to cross bare ground to access the sidewalk. The bare ground had turned to mud, and I sank in, loading each shoe with about 5 pounds of muck.

Ugh. I did manage to get most of it off by stamping in remaining snow and rubbing the sides of the sneakers against one another. I should know better. When my brother and I were kids growing up on the farm, the spring runoff used to divert into a ditch alongside the road. It would recede leaving the most inviting yellow, sticky clay. Yes, we’d test our rubber boots in it. After getting stuck once, we were warned sternly to “stay out of the mud.” Still we played along side the ditch and my brother went in, sank past his ankles and couldn’t move. He was the younger sibling so I should have been in charge. I tried to pull him out. Several times. He stepped out of the rubbers and I tried to pull them out. No luck. We had to leave his boots, sticking up out of the clay, and go and confess. Mud. Good times.

Then, an adventures. Now, an inconveniences. Even with the annoyances, it was a pretty good day. Old boy vaccinated and I didn’t have to call him to rescue me and the dogs from my own folly. Good times.

The Deep Freeze Ends; an Outdoor Coffee

It’s happened! The Polar Vortex lasted too long and the temperatures were in the minus thirties for daytime highs. People hunkered down and only those brave souls who had to leave the house for work, did. The pandemic added to the “hardship” because even though outdoor gatherings were allowed, no one wanted to freeze or die of hypothermia.

Then yesterday, the high was -4 Celsius or 25 F. My friend texted and our outdoor coffee was a go! Even though it was overcast and there was a bit of wind, we were deprived of laughs and conversation for too long. “Our table” at the park was available and when it started to snow big fluffy flakes, we just laughed. Now veterans of the outside meet-up, we had thick towels for the bench seat and just cleared snow away for our thermoses. It was as good as I anticipated. Laughs, stories, and settling world problems. In the bushes behind chickadees, chirped, English song sparrows called and a downy woodpecker went about “pecking”, oblivious to us. An hour and half that went by too quickly but added so much to the day. We are social beings and a little snow didn’t matter. When I got home, my husband asked ‘what the gossip was.’ I honestly drew a blank. That’s not what we do on our visits; the talk is wide ranging.

Haha- and here we are socially distanced and very representational. The poor woodpecker turned into a blob.

The other great thing about the break in the weather is that the dog walks are without boots and their “coats” are more to keep their bellies warm. Spring is around the corner and I honestly can’t wait.

Stay safe. The days are longer and warmer.

2021- More of the same and worse…

This morning I noticed that the 2020 calendar was still hanging on my wall. I am old, and old school. I still mark appointments, coffee dates, and meetings on the wall calendar. That way, I keep reminded of what’s coming up every time I glance at it.

I didn’t celebrate the debut of the New Year because my dogs got too tired to stay awake until midnight to ring it in. COVID rules meant no gatherings. Provincial members of Parliament, even one minister, thought a Hawaiian vacation, or a trip to Mexico was a fine idea. It is- except for the new COVID mutations which they could bring back. We, the little people, had been advised not to travel. Hell, we weren’t even to gather with family. Many of us followed the rules because we’d like to see the end of the pandemic.

All this means I have no “events” to mark on the calendar and I forgot to hang it. I wish I could say the same for the United States. Home grown terrorists stormed the Capitol and made it right into the Senate Chamber where they interrupted the vote to certify Joe Biden as the 46th president. To date, 5 people have died, two from gunshots and three from “medical events.”

I celebrated the advent of 2020 and it didn’t turn out so well. Here’s hoping this very rocky start to 2021 means we’ll end on a high note. Everyone will have been vaccinated and it’ll be safe to see family and friends, to gather, to have public entertainments. Time will tell. Hang in and stay safe.

Winter is the Time to

read. Outdoor activities notwithstanding, winter offers long evening hours and more time to read. This year there’s more opportunities than ever to seek out and enjoy books you haven’t had time for earlier. Perhaps because the media is inundated with stories of COVID hardship or maybe because I’ve been thinking about my mum and dad in World War 11, I have been watching documentaries and movies that feature Churchill.

The Splendid and the Vile recounts Churchill and his family’s experience during the Blitz. Larson has consulted many diary entries, official documents, and letters. Some of the sources haven’t been used in other accounts of Churchill’s first year in power. The story of the Blitz is well known but this book not only looks into the dramatic events, but as also explores the lives and feelings of the people directly involved, either in making decisions or as family supporting Churchill.

Diary entries of Goering, WW1 ace, and then Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe look at how the Blitz was conducted from the German viewpoint. Similarly, we are shown how Goebbels, Reich Minister of Propaganda, spun the story for the German public and how he attempted to mislead the British.

Churchill had to maintain a fine balance between revealing Britain’s desperate situation and gaining real help from the United States. During that first year (1940-41), American support in any form was unpredictable. Roosevelt did manage to have the Lend Lease Bill approved and some relief was afforded Great Britain which was nearing the limit of its resources. Churchill knew that although this aid was welcome, defeat was inevitable unless America joined the war.

Since it is nonfiction, The Splendid and the Vile is not a fast read but for me, it made the Blitz very real and carried me back to a time when the future of Europe and Great Britain was very much at stake. The People of Great Britain suffered huge casualties, saw cities destroyed, and yet they did not give in. The December 7th attack on Pearl Harbour forced American entry to the war. After that, victory was likely although it took four more years of “blood, toil, tears, and sweat.” Churchill inspired the British people to keep fighting when it seemed hopeless. He was an amazing personality, just the man for the time.

Winter Fun – Part Two

Cross-country skiing is a fine exercise and can be a lot of fun. At one time, we’d get together with friends for an afternoon of the great outdoors on skies. I confess to buying (and wearing because it was expensive) a blazing yellow outfit. Chances are I would never be lost; like a winter dandelion, I stood out.

The outfit isn’t quite bright enough.

Once at the “creek”, we started off with one of the gentlemen in the lead. After a bit of what I considered bossy competition, I decided to venture out on my own. How can you get lost in a small area where the choices of trails are limited? You can’t because you can see into the valley to your destination but there was no route down. Trees, shrubs, and bush blocked my descent. By the time I determined that I was going to have to make my way through this uncharted territory, the other skiers had already gathered by the bonfire.

I pushed off and sank into the snow past my knees. Still it had to be faster to continue on skis. Undergrowth tangled around my feet and interrupted my downward progress. A couple of times I fell but by this time I was committed and climbing back up the steep slope wasn’t an option. I more or less tumbled and stumbled my way back to the others. And I was right about my visibility. Everyone watched my awkward descent and on arrival at the bonfire, I was greeted by unsympathetic laughter.

I paid for my stubbornness but those who followed the leader encountered their own challenges. They skied along the top of the hills before heading into the valley. Then they skimmed along the smooth snow-covered surface of the frozen creek until their route was interrupted by fallen trees. Once they managed to navigate those obstacles, a beaver dam blocked their way. The creek continued 10 feet below the pond created and everyone had to clamour down.

By the time we gathered around the bonfire, the fresh air and exercise had stoked appetites. Anecdotes were exchanged while smokies and wieners cooked over the fire. That simple fare never tasted so good. Winter can be fun.

Winter Fun

It’s been too easy for me to denigrate our winter weather, finding fault, complaining, and dreading it. How fickle memory is. Some of our best times have been outdoors in winter. Not every day is good for sledding or skiing but it’s not every summer day that you want to dive into the lake or lie on the beach taking in the rays.

Not the creek but still the great outdoors.

Every Canadian kid can narrate a tale of misadventure sledding, tobogganing, or sliding headlong on some other device to the bottom of a snow-covered slope. Near-death experiences aren’t uncommon but it isn’t every time that a parent witnesses the close call.

Friends used to invite us out to the “creek” to sled and cross-country ski on the hills. The country is quite rugged and the route the kids were to slide down provided a long, fast ride. My son was 8 years old and his vehicle of choice was the “Sno Nut.” It was similar in shape to the tube from a tire but the material it was made from meant it was a racer.

I was standing on my skis, halfway down the hill on a natural plateau before the final run. C—- left from the top and gaining admirable speed hit a bump as he approached me and was airborne. He flew past at eye level and careened down the hill, at an incredible rate. All I could do (all anyone could do) was watch in horror. I thought I was going to see my son race to a horrible end. Just before he hit the willows at the edge of the creek, C—- bailed. The “Sno Nut” carried on into the bushes and my son wasn’t even bruised.

There was no more riding the “Sno Nut” from the crest of the hill. It was the only sled that went so fast so the other sliders were safer. The adults cross-country skied and at the end of the day of winter fun, there was the bonfire. Flames leaped into the darkness as we consumed the food we’d brought. When is was time to go, everyone pitched in. A great winter day.

A Better Christmas 2020

Hollywood winter which is depicted in movies as gentle snow with no need to wear gloves, toques, and winter boots is over. Even blizzards have bare-headed heroes in film and that’s the kind of weather we’ve had for the last couple of weeks. Today was different. Old Man Winter crept in with fog and painted the landscape with hoar frost. It was chillier and it’s going to get cold. Real winter is on the way.

Hoar frost today.

Alberta has entered a period of new COVID restrictions that coincide with the change in weather. No more indoor visitors; only the people you reside with. No outdoor visitors. Outdoor activities are permitted if you do them with the people of your household. You can skate, toboggan, sled, walk, skate. But you aren’t supposed to meet family or friends to do it. There are rules for retail outlets as well. Christmas gatherings are limited to, you guessed it, your household. this means me, Gary and the dogs. I guess it’ll be a little quieter. Am I happy about not seeing my grandkids and kids? NO. But I understand the reasons. Alberta has high infections levels and unless we isolate, they will continue to rise so Christmas is different.

A friend and I were bemoaning via text message the fact that we wouldn’t be seeing anyone this holiday. She said, “This year it will be just me and N___. But we’re going to have Christmas in July. We’ll meet our son and his girlfriend at a campsite and celebrate then.” What a revelation! The family part of Christmas can be postponed and the spiritual part can be observed by reading scriptures, meditating, praying by yourself or attending online services. Christmas get-togethers are postponed until summer. Retailers have been observing Christmas in July for a long time. Now we’ll be doing that, too. Barbecued steak, potato salad, and beverages around the campfire. I can hardly wait.

Sheltering… Masks? Hell, yes.

The mask protects the vulnerable and in settings where one can’t social distance, masks should be mandatory. They are a little uncomfortable. For me, it was a bit like hiding under the covers in bed and breathing in your own moist exhalations and sweat.

Me.

The advantages? Take a look at the picture. The mask hides so many ‘imperfections.’ Wrinkles?? A few by the eyes and on the forehead but hey, I could just be serious. Jowls? Surely you jest, none in sight. Don’t look at the neck. The glasses help disguise laugh lines (so much gentler than calling them crow’s feet.)

The masks don’t have to be plain, disposable surgical masks like the one I’m sporting. For the fashion maven, they are the new accessory. Companies and individuals have leapt into the void and you can order cloth masks in any colour and with a variety of prints, pictures, or personal cartoons. I believe some clothing companies have matching masks for popular outfits.

I haven’t been much of a clothes horse for quite a number of years. Too many structures, ‘go south.’ You have to pair age of face with outfits that aren’t too avant garde and comfort is more important than it once was. But if wearing a mask protects others and makes me look good, win-win. Stay safe, stay home, but if you’re out and about, wear a mask.

Sheltering- Now I’m Angry

The last thing I wanted to do in this blog was complain and whine. This isn’t that. I am worried because of my age….and because I know immunosuppressed people and people with co-morbidities. I am incensed that a lot of people have been designated as more or less expendable by the premier.

Sorry – this is a little rude.


Kenney said: “We cannot continue indefinitely to impair the social and economic as well as the mental health and physiological health of the broader population for potentially a year for an influenza that does not generally threaten life apart from the most elderly, the immunocompromised and those with co-morbidities.” This is a quote and there was more. I understand the need to get the economy back into some kind of balance but only when it’s safe.

This is callous and the diseases is not an influenza, COVID-19 is severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). It is a novel virus meaning this is its first time in humans. We don’t know about its effects (if any, in survivors), how it affects children with MIS-C, multi-system inflammatory syndrome. (There have been 3 deaths in the US and it is linked to corona virus.) We do know that young people can die from COVID-19. This is a partial list to be aware of when we think of who is at risk of severe outcomes from the virus- about 1 in 20 diabetic Albertans, about 12% of Albertans are asthmatic, about 20,000 new cases of cancer may be diagnosed this year, anyone receiving chemotherapy, anyone with a transplanted organ, arthritics who have to take drugs which are immunosupressants, kids who get MIS-C.

I will not rant on. My point it that corona virus infections are not just dangerous to the elderly. Alberta has been cautious and there hasn’t been a lot of community spread. A great deal has been in the meat packing plants and in seniors’ care homes. The virus is still here, though, and if there is increased community spread, we will see people of all ages with severe outcomes. Sorry to be Debbie Downer on such a beautiful day. Stay home, stay safe, and keep others safe, just a little longer.