The Lockdown Year into the VAX Year:

It is hard to believe that I last wrote on this site almost one year ago. At that point we were a month post “lockdown” and adapting to a new normal. I guess we are still adjusting to a new normal as we navigate the COVID vaccine era. How effective are the vaccines? How long will vaccines protect us? Are there vaccination deserts in various communities, vaccine haves and have nots? Will we reach herd immunity — worldwide? And, what about those VAX deniers?

There are a number of vax clinics scheduled each week now, some in churches, others in government buildings, vacant stores, colleges, and private pharmacies. Yet to be universally organized are vaccines being injected in individual homes for those not able to get out or to drive.

Total lockdown was not a possibility for my home. Bob and I are aging so medical appointments, grocery shopping, and trips to the pharmacies were necessary. We could have ordered grocery delivery, but that was not appealing, and besides, I don’t want someone else selecting my fruit and veggies. Old fashioned, I guess.

Our “headphoned” granddaughter, a senior in high school, has been a virtual student since March of 2020 and will finish her senior year in front of her Mac in her room on the second floor.

Our daughter, a process manager for a financial institution, has also worked remotely since March 2020, splitting her time between here and her partner’s apartment when the drain on our bandwidth grew too great. Her employer’s large building in Enon has been closed and currently there are no concrete plans for most workers to report to a physical facility.

Bob has been hospitalized twice, in fact is in the hospital now. Last July I could not visit him in person due to the COVID restrictions. Now he is allowed one visitor a day. Facetime was the only real connection last year, now it is merely a supplement to our updates to each other.

We both completed our Pfizer shots in February and our daughter has had her first shot. Still awaiting our granddaughter’s access to a vaccine. She is now 18 and we are hopeful it is available to her before she begins college in the fall.

The new normal:

Today begins another week of the new normal. It is sometimes hard to remember what day of the week it is. But I know this is Monday. Oddly, I have always liked Mondays. It has seemed like a weekly new beginning, like the school term beginning in September.

Last Thursday was my first day driving one of our cars out of the neighborhood in two weeks. The journey was to take a family member to an outpatient clinic at Retreat Doctor’s Hospital in Richmond. I hadn’t driven into Richmond since mid January when Bob had an appointment with Dr. Megan Lamay at VCU Health. The good news was that I remembered how to drive. I was less confident navigating through the Fan to get to Retreat. A lot has changed in Richmond since I practiced law there.

My next big adventure was the following day when I went to Kenner Army Clinic to pick up Bob’s prescriptions. That had changed also. Now one essentially must have an appointment to do a drive by pickup of meds. I have a drive by appointment this morning at 9 am.

There is still no toilet paper in the grocery stores. Restaurants, even in Prince George, are actually delivering meals, wine, beer, and mixed drinks. I even bought eggs from Luca Italian Restaurant. Luca also has bleach, commercial toilet paper, and various other sundries.

Neighbors are meeting each other, sometimes for the first time, as they walk their dogs on opposite sides of the road. School classes, doctors’ visits, and club meetings are all by ZOOM or some similar application. County government is essentially closed and no one seems to notice.

Oh, and we are under a tornado watch until noon (not part of the new normal).

Day 5 of Staying Home –

So how is my schedule different?

  • Not jumping into the car three to five times a day
  • Scheduling all of the Zoom, Facetime, and FreeConference meetings
  • Beginning the day with a bubble bath
  • Finally joining Audible
  • Culling and reorganizing the pantry-about half way finished
  • Taking time to cook what needs to be cooked so food stuffs don’t spoil

So how is Virginia different?

Well yesterday (maybe, days are running together), Governor Northam closed the K-12 schools for the academic year. Today he closed nonessential businesses for 30 days. Restaurants can still do take out and delivery. In addition, restaurants that serve beer and wine may also allow them to be sold for takeout or delivery. ABC stores are shortening their hours so they can do more cleaning.

How is my schedule the same?

  • Walking our dogs down my road, separately
  • Reading newspapers first thing, both hard copy and digital
  • Writing announcements, articles, and updates for my volunteer organizations
  • Checking on my friends and neighbors over the phone or social media
  • Taking a brief nap at midday

How is Virginia the same?

Some neighbors are target practicing with what sounds like a big caliber, high velocity weapon. Don’t know which neighbors. Sounds carry a long way, but it is close. My County is one of those “Gun Sanctuary” counties. A designation with no legal significance, but yahoos enjoy disturbing the peace and quiet of the countryside.

And the soup?

I use root vegetables and squash if I have them, plus peppers and usually some onion, but I am short on onions so didn’t use any. I normally look at what is in the pantry or the refrigerator and use what needs to be used. In today’s batch, jalepenos, baby bell peppers, yellow squash, turnips, carrots, and small red potatoes. I love olive oil for the fat and I am liberal with Kosher salt, black pepper, and dried Italian seasoning. I love fresh thyme in this soup added after the pureeing of the veggies. Unfortunately, I have no fresh thyme. After cooking for 45 minutes to an hour at 375, I let the veggies cool a bit. Then I add them and about 6 cups of vegetable broth to a soup pot, bring to a boil, then simmer for about 20 minutes. Oh, I do peel the peppers before throwing in the pot. After the simmer, I puree with an immersion blender. I like to add a sprinkle of cognac to my own bowl. My husband prefers a bit of heavy cream.

Veggies ready to go in the oven for roasted veg soup

Self-Quarantine Adventures

Today is day 2 of my self-imposed, self-quarantine. Actually the day is just beginning. It has already been productive.

One of the more interesting aspects of this COVID-19 experience has been watching all of the reporters and TV news guests calling in on Skype or some similar application. At some point yesterday I became aware of a nagging personal issue. I had not been able to do video calls on Skype.

I had tried many times to figure it out but, always short on time, I had never carefully worked through the process to give Skype access to my camera. I didn’t want to be left out of the Skype world. What if someone wanted to interview me? I would be voice only. That would have been embarrassing.

I arose this morning with resolve to join the video Skype world. So, sitting in front of reporters calling in via Skype, I actually followed instructions and successfully gave Skype access to my camera. I feel so accomplished. So techie. Now I have the confidence to tackle some other tasks …

  • watch CANVA tutorials
  • learn how to use the tablet feature of my Lenovo Yoga
  • troubleshoot the sound issues on my iphone video function
  • clean out the pantry
  • find my shoes with the cat’s faces
  • make a tamale pie
  • go back to work on the CERT website
  • and so on
  • get Grammarly to work on my WordPress blogs

I think I need a break from self-quarantine.

Breaking Self-Quarantine:

I am in the age group in Virginia which is supposed to self-quarantine. Yes, I am age 65 + and, no, I don’t plan to tell you how many plusses to add. I found out yesterday that I should self-quarantine, not only to protect me, but also to help” flatten the curve”.

The reality was that I needed to pick up a prescription refill for my husband at Kenner Army Health Clinic on Fort Lee, Virginia. The medication is absolutely necessary and he is unable to pick it up himself. Nonetheless, I felt guilty, like I was breaking curfew or something.

Well, maybe no-one would notice me, I thought. I am a young looking 65+, if I do say so myself. I styled my hair (I don’t bother most days), wore a slimming looking top, and the cutest little black booties with just a high enough heel to make me look at least 2 or 3 pounds slimmer. I just didn’t want to get busted, not for being too young to do something, but for being too old to do something. I would have been so ashamed if any of my friends and neighbors to were to learn that I was not enforcing my self-quarantine.

Not a 65+ looking bootie.

Needn’t have worried so. I was standing in the refill window line when a shadow from a person 6 feet away fell across my phone screen and the shadow spoke to me. Looking up I saw my neighbor, also in the 65+ demographic. She seemed to have no concern about being outed for breaking self-quarantine. Wasted guilt.

Good Neighbors:

We can help each other:

In this age of quarantine, isolation, and social distancing, it would be easy to forget that we are all in this together.

While it is important to keep ourselves as safe as possible from the Coronavirus, most of us can do that and help others. We can call folks we know who are alone, elderly, disabled, or whatever and offer to run an errand, without physical contact. We can leave foodstuffs on the porch or front step,. We can call friends and neighbors we think may be lonely. If fortunate enough to have restaurants that deliver (not in Prince George), we can call in an order for a needy friend, pay for it on the phone and have it delivered to our friend’s door.

There are posts in some of the private groups I belong to on Facebook and Next Door discussing such actions that some of my neighbors and friends are taking. Though I have a health sensitive family member, I am going to check on a widowed neighbor and assure that she has some necessities, maybe some candy, and a chat. I have other widowed neighbors, but I know some of their family members and know they are being assisted.

We can reach out and “touch” others with kindness.

I posted on Facebook Saturday about being touched by a gesture by the Fort Lee, Virginia, #Commissary as I checked out. The bagger handed me a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Every customer was given one. It brightened my day. It was a rare commodity, but a practical one. It has continued to touch my heart.

Thank You Fort Lee Commissary

COVID-19 in a Rural County:

Coronavirus comes to Virginia:

The weekend of March 7th, Virginia had one confirmed COVID-19 case, a military man assigned to Fort Belvoir. This last weekend Virginia had 31 confirmed cases. As of today, March 16, there are 41 confirmed cases and and two deaths.

During the past week Governor Northam has declared a State of Emergency and closed the public schools for two weeks.

So it is just in the past week that the realities of a viral pandemic have begun to emerge in our little rural county. We are not an isolated community as much as we are an insular one. Bad things happen in Chesterfield, Richmond, or in Northern Virginia (NOVA), not in Prince George.

The closing of the schools by the Governor was the first real decision about how things would work in Prince George that wasn’t made by local officials. It was a sign of more directive intrusions to come.

The County Government closed today and it appears no one knew. So much for how much a part of our daily lives the bureaucracy of government isn’t. Everyone seems to be at the grocery store. Yes, we have one.

Missing Jack

Who was Jack?

Jack was a stubborn, independent, faithful, feisty (in the human sense of the word) Australian Shepherd. He was my shadow for almost 10 years before dying on December 16, 2018.

He came into my life in October 2009. My English Shepherd, Buddy, had died on September 22nd and I was in mourning over the loss of this white and reddish- tan escape artist, whom I had kidnapped from some neglectful family or another in a Boone, North Carolina, neighborhood. He had roamed the neighborhood for weeks, accourding to our daughter, and she had already doctored one deep wound a few weeks before. She had worked in vet’s office during high school and college, so knew well how to identify an abandoned or neglected animal.

Who was Buddy?

Buddy, nervously endured the 5 hour trip from Boone to Prince George throwing up only once in the back of the station wagon. He was beautiful, even in his emaciated condition, but when we got home and tried to introduce him to the cats, we could tell we were in for a chaotic lifes during our relationship with this dog. Two of our cats would disappear for days at a time. Only our regal cat Jerry paid no mind to Buddy and Buddy paid no mind to Jerry.

When Buddy was accidentally let off lead, he was gone … totally off the reservation and our 6 acres were definitely not large enough for him. He chased cars, bicycles, scooters, horses, and especially, cats.

He and I walked at least twice a day with him on lead. I walked him before sunrise and after sundown to limit the distractions. When he got excited he could exit before my awareness of the coming excitement, pulling the lead out of my hands. Were I able to hold on to the lead, he would jump, literally jump, and being a long framed dog, when he jumped he was taller than I.

But he bonded with me, and our twelve years of exciting walks, embarassment (mine) in front of my neighbors, and moments of contentment, ended when he suddenly died as I arrived home after a day away at meetings.

Buddy, in his chair by my desk.

Enter Jack:

Bob took me to a farm in Nottoway County advertising somewhere that they had Aussies for sale. I don’t remember how it was that Bob was looking for an Aussie for me, but there you go. Memory can be fleeting. We got to the family farm founded in 1849. There were a grundle of dogs, Aussies, of all colors. Well groomed, obviously treasured, and probably high dollar. The owners allowed me to visit the caged dogs, as well as the dogs,freely milling around. Those milling around were not breeding stock for various reasons. High dollar buyers are always looking for certain breed characteristics. Me, I’m just looking for personality, character.

And there was this black and white Aussie, mudcaked, matted, and with deep old-soul eyes. I touched him in various parts of his body to check for fear, anxiety, sensitivity. He passsed, He was calm, alert, & engaging. I had found my dog. We asked the price and the owners looked at each other puzzled. Obviously, this was not considered one of the high dollar dogs for sale, He was just a low class farm dog. “A hundred dollars”, the woman said. Bob said “done” and pulled out the hundred bucks.

The fun came getting the muddy Aussie, who would be come Jack, into the car for the ride home. The owners helped gather him up to put in my back seat where I was already sitting. Unfortunately, my door was still open, and the soon to be Jack, launched over my lap and out the door. After the laughter died down, I got back into the back seat, closed my door, and the owners again put him into the car with me. As we drove away he was frantic, but resigned himself to whatever fate awaited, and settled down.

I spoke calmly to him on the 1 1/2 drive home. He was sedate and rode the entire way with his muzzle stuck in my armpit. That may be too much information, but from that time on, Jack was at my side. If he lost sight of me he was in a search mode for me. When I left for a few hours he would, after awhile, lie down on his mat under my desk, until I returned.

We walked anytime convenient for us. I didn’t need to walk him on lead, until he became befuddled in his later years. He was at my side or a few steps ahead. He was cute, but he was not friendly. He wasn’t aggessive, but strangers needed not to get too close to me. He would hop on the bed with me at night for a few minutes and we would commune. He would then jump down to his mat on the floor beside my bed and except short trips to lap up some water, that is where he would be in the mornings when I awoke. When my feet touched the floor, it was he that my feet touched first.

The malady.

All of us die of something. I am assuming that Jack died from heart failure related to seizures which he started having periodically about middle age or at least about half way between our time together. The night before he died he had a very hard seizure and never really recovered. He died in my arms the next moring on our kitchen floor.

Why write about Jack now?

I am thinking, beginning to think anyway, that I am ready for another sidekick. I’m not sure yet.