And in 2021- resolutions

As the new year looms, and 2020 has been a tough one for many people, it’s time to make resolutions. Early records suggest that the first to promise improvements in the new year were the Babylonians 4,000 years ago. When Julius Caesar in 46 BC altered the calendar, January 1st was designated the beginning of the New Year. The God Janus is associated with doorways and aches and has two faces, one looking back and one to the future. Early Christians held special services to consider past sins and make promises to do better in the new year. Clergy wanted to provide a spiritual alternative to raucous celebrations.

The roots of the New Year’s resolution are in religion but in modern times the tradition has become secular. It’s just a convenient time to mark one’s determined vow to do better. Success at making actual progress is spotty. Deciding to improve and stick with it, is harder than making the resolution and it’s easy to backslide. Ask the gyms (pre-COVID) why they have such great deals for annual memberships in January.

Most resolutions are made in good faith but new routines don’t “take.” Personally, I have thought of, and even made promises to myself for the new year. Like the majority of people, I’ve been an abject failure. My house is not cleaner, I haven’t written every day, I haven’t conquered my habit of procrastinating.

That isn’t to say one shouldn’t make resolutions. The one time that I kept mine, was New Year’s Eve 46 years ago. I quit smoking. Quit and haven’t looked back. It wasn’t easy and my dearest beloved, walked by as I was writhing in the throes of withdrawal and blew Cigarello smoke in my face. Fortunately, for me, once I became a non-smoker, I soon didn’t feel the craving. I know that’s not true for everyone but I haven’t thought of cigarettes for years. Now the smoke bothers me; my eyes itch and redden.

As luck would have it, smoking has made some people pariahs, relegated to dingy corners outside to indulge their habit. The health concerns associated with the tars, nicotine, and other chemicals are much better researched. I quit before my children were born. I am very grateful for that; retroactive guilt is a nasty thing.

New Year’s resolutions? Sometimes, they do invoke change. 2020 has taught us all a bit about hardship, induced odd behaviour in others. Here’s to 2021. Happy New Year, Everyone.

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.

Sheltering- Date Picnic

Picture the perfect picnic. You carry the picnic basket to the blanket spread under the old oak tree. A slight breeze ripples the lake. When the food is taken out of the basket, there is fried chicken, potato salad, and brown beans. Lemonade, freshly squeezed is the liquid refreshment. A pair of swans swims by. After the picnic, you stroll beside the lake, on a smoothly maintained path.

If this is what you imagined, instead picture this. There is a wind, no lake, and the bush and grass is dry and brown. On some of the hills leaves are starting to appear. The back fender on the truck “touched” a post on the way in. No blanket but two folding chairs. A lunch bucket holds two chicken sandwiches, two apples, and a dill pickle. There is water or beer to drink. Two small dogs ramble about. After the simple repast, it’s off for the walk.

This was the last walk to look for antlers. Through the bush, our path is rough with fallen trees, branches, and shrubs that tug at your clothes. Scruff only weighs 10 pounds but he was game to find a way through, under, and around. Our total walk was about a mile but it felt like more. At one point, Gary said, “I don’t think we’ll find anything today.” (meaning antlers.)

I said, “I’m pretty sure I won’t. I have to watch my feet so I don’t fall on my butt.”

No antlers were found but back at the truck, we sat on our chairs and enjoyed the sun. I think I even got a little colour in my face. Taz, the Jack Russell, played with sticks and sniffed around. Scruff sat under the truck in the shade.

Not what you pictured as an afternoon picnic. Even Gary said, “That’s pretty wild land.” It was a good getaway, none the less. The temperature felt like spring, the fresh air piqued an appetite, and the walk demanded enough that I experienced a pleasant relaxation. A darn good picnic, after all.

Sheltering – Adapting Activities

May the force be with you!

I’ve been retired for more than a few years now but that doesn’t mean that before the pandemic I puttered around cleaning my house or maybe cooking great meals. There were other things to do. I am on the local library board, a member of the local arts council, and our adult learning board.

I am part of a painting group that meets at the Anglican Church in town. Everyone who takes part is of a certain vintage and the sessions were in the afternoons on a Tuesday and Thursday. Obviously, this has suffered the fate of so many pastimes and there have been no meetings since the beginning of April. However, one member set up a group text and we have kept in touch that way. Covid 19 has been tough on creativity for some, and there hasn’t been a flurry of texts with new paintings, but there has been contact to keep up with everyone’s news OR lack of. Why not a Zoom Meeting, Google Hangouts, Houseparty? I did say we were of a certain vintage. Still the texts work and some days my phone pings often.

The one “project” since Covid.

My writing group meets once a month, usually on a Thursday that suits the 5 of us. We’ve missed a meeting and now, in May, we should be getting together. Despite the “loosening” of restrictions, it isn’t going to happen. Instead (with the deadline of May 14), we are going to email one another a new piece of writing- a poem, an essay, a reflection, a short story. With a little motivation, it’s easier to do some of the things you normally would, just in a different way.

So…even retired people of a certain vintage can find ways to continue with their interests. It isn’t the same but it’s better than not doing anything. When the pandemic calms down, we can go back to the meetings and gatherings. We’re not there yet so I will write something for my writing group and email it and I’ll try and produce a painting…stay safe. Find a way to do what you like.

Sheltering- and complaining

Cobble Hill Jigsaw Puzzles?? Hair products?? Coffee?? Nail technicians? Hair stylists. All things that are in short supply or who’s non-essential designations cause inconveniences. When will things be back to normal? The short answer is not for quite a while. Patience.

Cobble Hill makes good quality jigsaw puzzles and in these days of self-isolation, can’t keep up with demand. An old and simple pastime is popular again. Hair products fly off the shelves because people are reduced to, gasp, looking after their own grooming. It is a skill and if you were dependent on the professionals, you could be sporting a new look. It’s a similar situation with nails, manicures and pedicures. Coffee is in even more demand because people working at home can have it when they want, sip on it, even as they work.

I’m old so it made me reflect. When I was a kid on the farm, in winter we’d get snowed in for weeks at a time. The groceries were what Mum had canned or preserved. No one complained; we weren’t hungry and it was what we knew. There was no electricity, at first no central heating (there was the woodpile and the coal shed storing fuel for the heating my Dad kept going), no telephone. We may have had a battery operated radio. Mum cooked, cleaned, looked after us kids. Dad went out to feed and water the livestock. Any spare time in the evening might be spent reading or in Mum’s case knitting. Any of these activities were by the light of the coal oil (kerosene) lamp. It was cold in winter and cold in the poorly insulated houses. Water was carried in by the bucketful.

I am not reflecting on my childhood with any kind of regret. It was great and no one felt deprived. When we could get together, people visited, they got out the fiddle or accordion and created music, they cooked food for guests. Community gathering were events but they didn’t occur often. My brother (now deceased for a while) and I often reminisced about how good times were.

I confess. I have felt the isolation, too, and may not have handled it as well as I could. Sharp objects in the kitchen glint with a certain attraction when Gary and I are there together. He announces everything he is going to do. Everything. This is the man who couldn’t stand his freedom infringed upon when we first married.

Cobble Hill Puzzles? I confess. I’ve done some 100 piece on-line versions and they take me half an hour. Cross genius off my resume. Hair? Not a problem for me. Nails, nope. Coffee; oh, I do like coffee. Seeing friends and family; definitely miss that. If I think of the isolation for my mum and dad, I have to stop whining. Things could be worse and the pandemic will be over. Just not for a while.

Sheltering: the Quarantine Fifteen

Obese and alcoholic. If you don’t get the corona virus, “experts” warn you could come out of the pandemic with a few extra pounds and a big thirst. It shouldn’t be a surprise.

Many of us are working from home or are self-isolating with time on our hands. We aren’t used to staying inside, no matter how spacious and comfortable our residences are. We can go out for walks but that’s not the same as picking up a latte, meeting someone for lunch, or even following the routine of work.

So tempting!

We’re inside with all that food we stocked up on. With the best of intentions, we made sure the supplies of flour, yeast, and other non-perishables were topped up. Vegetables and fruits occupy fridge shelves and yet, the siren call of snacks is hard to resist. And I don’t mean the carrot and celery sticks that provide a satisfying crunch. I mean the Cheezies, the chips, the hickory sticks. They crunch and they are made with the optimum fat and salt for that flavour explosion. Suddenly, a person working from home can mosey out and munch away as he/she contemplates these new challenges. The self-isolators know they’d be having ‘something’ with friends.

If you have a sweet tooth, there are the chocolate bars, the Smarties, the cookies and doughnuts. You’re working, right? It is important to maintain energy and the brain runs on sugar. The self isolator needs a reward for cleaning that cupboard or just clearing the snack plates from the night before.

The whole pandemic thing is stressful. Some people have elderly parents, grandchildren in other places, or relatives and friends sick with the virus. Some are front-line workers, some are married to front-line workers, some have friends who are. There is the background level of concern as the media reports on one thing. The latest numbers- how many have died, how many new cases there are, how long this pandemic will last. A lot of the questions the news media raises don’t have answers and the absence of answers only adds to stress.

Be easy on yourself. Eating soothes you right now. Indulge a little and be kind to yourself if you succumb and as someone said on Twitter, “I just ate a whole apple pie.” Times right now are tough so don’t add to the stress by beating yourself up over a ho-ho or ding-dong. And when the sun shines, go for a walk.

Still Sheltering…

News reports are no less disturbing. The numbers of people affected or killed by the corona virus continues to rise. In New York City, unclaimed bodies have had to be buried in a mass grave. A bright spot suggests that the curve may be flattening.

The reports can be overwhelming and no one needs to hear my amateur recounting. This blog is to describe the minutiae of a retired woman and perhaps bring a little levity to readers.

In Alberta, hunting for deer, moose and antler sheds is a ‘thing.’ You get on your quad or you walk and look for antlers that have recently been dropped. There is even a market for them, though I doubt anyone has become an antler tycoon. Yesterday Gary was out for an early ‘hunt.’ He came home, quite chuffed, with some ‘nice’ white tail and mule deer horns.

Our Jack Russell loves chewing an antler and the one she had last year has been gnawed to a nub. If you don’t know, antlers are tough and it takes determination to get one to the point where some of it can be bitten off.

Taz, when she was a puppy.

Taz was beyond excited to get a fresh one, until Gary sat too close to her and her antler, catching a paw under it. For a Jack, she’s timid about weird things and suddenly she was terrified of her treat. She ran off and I had to hunt her down. She was quivering on the bed in the spare room.

I admit to anthropomorphism, especially with my dogs. I had to hug her tightly to calm down. All evening she eyed the antler with suspicion and when I tried to introduce it back to her, Gary accused me of adding to her trauma. I only brought it near and might have stroked her with it.

Another confession. The dogs sleep on the bed with me. Taz selects a ‘toy’ to take to bed but last night, her fears suddenly allayed, she chose the antler. I shared my bed with two dogs and an antler.

In some parts of Canada and the rest of the world, the pandemic is creating dire situations. I am lucky that here, if I continue to shelter in place, I can share my bed with the dogs and the antler. Does it get better? 😀