Then he gave me a sticker

Six Word Saturday

Are you excited?

…he asked as he swabbed my upper left arm round and round with an alcohol wipe…hypodermic needle poised above my exposed skin in the cold winter air.

I was sitting in the driver’s seat of my car in the parking lot at our local high school. Cars & pickup trucks were lined up behind the lot until directed to park in every other space to wait. The scene was similar to 3 weeks earlier when I received my first shot. New Hampshire National Guard personnel were in charge and the process was smooth and professional.

This past Wednesday I received my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. Scheduling had been an anxiety filled website challenge, but my online persistence paid off. Despite all of that, I was filled with an overwhelming gratitude to finally be able to take my turn.

However…excited? Not really. I am just too exhausted – and perhaps numb – from the past year for that quite yet.

As he plunged the needle into my arm, injecting hope for the future, I answered him…

More like relieved.

Excitement will come with time.

Watch and Wait and Water…But Not Too Much

Do you think I killed it?

No you didn’t kill it.

Are you sure? Maybe I overwatered it.

No you didn’t.

I feel so bad. It only lasted a few weeks.

You didn’t kill it. Flowers die.

Right.

But of course I know that…

My husband and I received an early Christmas gift at the end of November: a pot holding an amaryllis bulb. I think the last one we ever had was in 1980. Needless to say, the memory of it and its life span has faded.

Directions were thankfully simple – just water when the soil feels dry. Of course then I had to remember to CHECK the soil & make that determination, but in my overwhelmed mind I managed to call up enough neurons to handle the task.

I have had flowering plants before – with varying degrees of success, but never paid such close attention before.

Not to sound melodramatic…but when faced with a pot of dirt and a bulb…meh?…one can forget the potential. As in…what happens next.

No big deal, nothing special, except…it is.

As I felt myself closing in and closing up during these past 8 months, I was drawn to that pot of potential (should I call it magical? maybe so). Glanced its way when I walked through the living room. Curiosity got the better of me – as it often does.

And then nature began to do what nature does. Up close on a shelf under our picture window…safe from the cold wintery scene a glass width away.

And…because it’s what I do…I documented. Cheered it on. Rotated it in the sun. Fashioned a coat hanger as a stake. Moved it back and forth from its spot by the window to keep me company where I sat at my desk in the next room. As the sunlight moved from window to window, so did the pot. I didn’t name this Amaryllis as I did my Coleus plant in college (Calvin Coleus), but I should have. I felt an unusual affinity for Ms. A (as I will now call it/her – after all it gave forth life)….

My own Breaking Happy News.

Watch and wait. A theme for 2020. Through the loneliness of holidays in isolation. Swirling uncertainty about the direction my country was headed. The uneasy realization that I took way too much for granted for too many years.

The over-riding questions were my last thoughts before sleep and my first thoughts upon waking…Would goodness prevail? Would those in charge do the right thing?

Meanwhile goodness was happening in front of my eyes…

The unimaginable kept happening in 2020. And then again six days into 2021. This time it wasn’t stacks of bodies in refrigerated trucks or lines of cars with desperate people needing food. It wasn’t only the virus anymore. The shock of January 6th played out repeatedly on every news cycle for days.

Meanwhile goodness continued in front of my eyes…


Grandma, why do you watch the news?
Because I want to know what is happening.
But why?
Because it’s important.

What I didn’t say was that the news has been scary and upsetting, but that’s what happens sometimes and even more so now. But better to know…than not to know. Except when you’re 4 1/2.

Goodness kept happening in front of my eyes.

Eventually breaking news seemed less…broken. I’d like to think goodness prevailed – as order was restored. Maybe, just maybe, a return to kindness and empathy and hope?

The virus rages on but perhaps with a tiny vaccine light brightening our way to a return to whatever used to be “normal.”

Watch and wait.

Nature did what nature does…in front of my eyes.

From beginning to end.

No reason to be sad, but I was. I did, however, read up on how – maybe – I can somehow take care of it so it will bloom again.

Life goes on, until it doesn’t. No startling realization there. Often we have no choice in when and where and how. But remembering how so much beauty and joy can happen along the way?

That’s the choice we do have. Lately it’s been hard to recognize. Thank you Ms. A.

I’m happy to report…I got my first vaccine shot on Wednesday. There’s something to be said for being a “senior” (notice I put that in quotes) and getting to be next in line. ✔︎

~~~

I am happy to slip back into my blogging world after these weeks offline and check out what everyone has been up to. I have missed your stories (adventures! exploits!), your photographs, your poems. Here’s to a better 2021!

~~~

SoCS: Stream of Consciousness Saturday – This week’s prompt is “the beginning, the end.” Write about the beginning of something and the end of something. 

Cee’s Flower of the Day

Monday Musings

When you get into a tight place and it seems you can’t go on, hold on, for that’s just the place and the time that the tide will turn.

Harriet Beecher Stowe

Powering through these last weeks of 2020 is proving to be more than I can handle very well. Even though powering through adversity is an often used tool in my skill set drawer, it’s not working right now. Apparently it has gotten rusty.

Writing…amidst the exhausting news of rising pandemic horror, political uncertainties, isolation and various personal conflicts…is just not happening. Life has become more of a free-fall overwhelm into Twilight Zone territory. Last week’s Snow Day post made me realize where I was headed. I know I have plenty of company, but still. So my point today is that I will be taking a break from my presence here, but hope to be back with all my blogging buddies soon. You are all very important to me.

Take care, stay safe and I hope you can enjoy your holidays…whatever they may be.

Warrior

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #123: warrior

~~~

It’s just awful. I worry every night I could bring something home to my husband.

Her dark brown eyes wide above the blue face mask, she looked straight at me. I don’t think I’ll ever forget it. Her fear was palpable. I know her husband has health issues and is most likely over 60. They say masks cover the mouth and with it all facial expression, but I disagree. Not always the case.

I had asked her what it was like working in health care now. How she was doing with it all. She knew I was familiar with hospital work from years ago.

Have you seen your kids? I asked after we discussed the reason for my office visit.

My son is 29 and he got married this summer over Zoom from California. She then described the experience of watching from across the country an event she had never envisioned happening as it did.

The pain in her voice. The look in her eyes. This woman has been one of my doctors for probably 15 years and I had never seen her like this. Always a handshake and a smile when entering the exam room. No handshake this time of course, although I suspect there was a smile behind the mask.

But nevertheless she was as professional and empathetic as always. She listened to me and took notes by hand. No computer screen diverted her attention. We are partners in my treatment plan. It’s no mystery why she has earned Patients’ Choice and Compassionate Doctor awards. Doctor of the Year as well.

We also briefly discussed the pandemic situation in New Hampshire and the ignorance (her words) of people who won’t wear masks. Her voice tight she added…I am just holding on for the vaccine. We need the vaccine.

After my appointment was over, she left for the hospital to begin her afternoon surgery schedule. A hospital with Covid patients.

I couldn’t help but think she deserves one more award.

She is a Warrior.

Cee’s Black and White Photo Challenge: Any Kind of Seating

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Any Kind of Seating

~~~

A few months ago, in that sliver of time between the pandemic’s summer lull and the current surge, I took care of a few neglected health care appointments. I had not been to these two facilities in at least a year.

What a difference a year…and a pandemic…can make.

The waiting areas were stark and impersonal. I totally understand why, but it was still a shock to see the rooms stripped bare of anything welcoming. No magazines. No brochures. Just warning signs everywhere.

Even though I did appreciate the vases of fake flowers attempting to add a sense of normalcy, I couldn’t shake the surreal vibe in the air.

However, I did avoid the time-out chair in the corner. It felt too much like we were all being punished. A tad bit too creepy for me.

Kindred Kind

BeckyB’s October Squares: Kind

~~~

Cincinnati, Ohio – circa 1914

I really love this photo of (as my Grammy from Tennessee would say) my kinfolk. I discovered it in a musty box full of envelopes and files labeled “old family photos” – which might as well say Treasure Chest! I was kinda excited, to say the least.

The photo was taken when my grandfather Opa was about 8 years old. There he stands front and center, squinting and smiling at the camera. His grandparents stand behind him. The others most likely include his parents (in the back), uncles and aunts, but I am not entirely sure.

I was thinking of Opa and my other grandparents when I was writing yesterday’s post about life during the COVID-19 pandemic (and wondering how they would have dealt with the same crazy issues I was). I realized that he and Oma were 12 years old when the 1918 pandemic hit. My other grandparents were 26 and 32 years old. None of them ever mentioned it, even though I imagine it must have been a traumatic time. When I was growing up, Opa was full of stories about the “old days” but surprisingly (I think now) what happened during the 1918 pandemic was not among them. I wonder why.

I recently asked my cousin if our grandmother Grammy had ever mentioned the 1918 flu epidemic. She said no, Grammy never talked about it…except for one fact…my aunt (my cousin’s mom) was born in 1918 and was infected by the virus as a baby. As a result my aunt (Grammy’s firstborn) developed lifelong cardiac problems.

My cousin also told me she has read that once the 1918 epidemic was over, nobody ever talked about it. Nobody wanted to. Perhaps it was easier that way.

Still…I wish I had asked more questions.

Except this time

Inspired by V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #117: except

Does anything ever go the way we expect? Notice that expect and except have the same letters, with a slight twist. Look forward to seeing where this prompt takes you.

~~~

Before March 2020, I would have answered V.J.’s question quite differently. Life was plodding along…as expected…for the most part. And I must admit I took it for granted and sometimes whined (mostly privately, but not always) about how monotonous everyday activities and plans sometimes were.

Not to say that I wasn’t enjoying my retirement and new adventures in writing, photography and blogging – because I was – very much so. But, you know, same old same old.

Now it’s a different story. Exception defines most days…right down to the minutia.

I will share one example.

Driver’s license renewal time came and went in the Spring – put off due to the state wide shut down. Okay, I was fine with that. I applied for and was mailed a temporary license that expired in October. I was fine with that too.

Since I needed to convert to the Real ID license format, I would eventually have to appear in person. Again, that was okay with me.

Renewing a driver’s license (every 4 years) has always been easy.

Except this time.

In August I called the NH Division of Motor Vehicles (DMV) to make the required appointment – online not allowed – and after a 30 minute hold (totally expected), connected with a nice lady who set up a date and time. Her advice: Don’t come too early. Mmm..that’s different.

I arrived at one of the (only) four open DMV locations at exactly 12:50PM (for a 1PM appointment) on a sunny Wednesday in September. Clutching my passport, temporary license, social security card and mortgage statement, I had proof of who I was…although these days I’m sometimes not sure who that is anymore. Mask in place. So far so good. I walked across the parking lot and followed the one-way arrows up the ramp to the entrance.

The door was locked.

That’s when confusion set in. Not what I expected. What the? A few other masked citizens were milling around – staying away from each other – muffled voices asking the obvious. What’s going on? Why are the doors locked? Nobody had an answer.

So we all stood patiently. Waiting. Reading the yellowing signs on the doors about Covid-19 transmission and using hand sanitizer and masks and distancing. Nothing about why the doors were locked.

At exactly 1PM, the door opened and a woman with a DMV badge stepped outside holding a clipboard. She began shouting names from a printed list. Ostensibly those with an appointment around 1:00. I marched over after hearing my name called. A small group of us obediently lined up – spaced about 6 feet apart. I’m thinking to myself this is so weird…

And then Weird jumped to a whole new level when the woman with the clipboard started shouting again…

Does anyone have these symptoms? Fever? Shortness of Breath? Loss of taste or smell? Cough? Runny Nose? Sore Throat? Vomiting? Diarrhea?

Diarrhea? I am standing outside under a bright blue sky with a group of strangers – all here for a driver’s license or to register a car – and we are disclosing whether or not we have diarrhea. I know it could be a symptom of Covid, but seriously? And who is really going to answer any of those questions – in public – in the affirmative? It was one monotone No after another.

Even after six months experiencing the pandemic, this was NOT going the way I expected. After we all declared ourselves free of digestive and respiratory difficulties, we entered the inner sanctum of the DMV.

First the eye test.
Check-in Lady: Look in the machine. You don’t have to touch your face to it now.
Me: But it’s a bit wavy standing back.
Lady: It’s okay – what can you read?
Me: Um..the middle row has JRDL I think.
Lady: Great! You passed.

I was given a number and took a seat in the waiting area for the next step in the process.

It did not take long…

First the Review of Paperwork. I held my breath, hoping it all passed inspection and matched as I thought it should. It did.

And then…The New Photograph.

Lady at the desk behind the plexiglass: Stand over there and remove your mask. Look at the lower red light.
I attempted a smile. She let me review the photo on the screen. Oh my. I looked positively manic. Eyes popped wide open. Mouth stretched into what could be mistaken for the prelude to a scream. And I thought I was smiling.
Me: Well, I look a little tense.
L.A.T.D.: I’ll take another one.
I attempted to smile less tensely.
L.A.T.D.: Well what do you think of that one? Do you want another try?

I experienced a remarkable cosmic shift moment as I stared at my reflection. Even though the paperwork all proved I was who I said I was, this photo did not. Or did it?
It was then I decided that the face staring back at me from the screen was a perfect illustration of all that had gone on since March.

Me: No, that one is fine, thanks.

For decades I have always held out for a more flattering photo at the DMV.

Except this time.

I will own my authentic Pandemic Photo until 2024 when license renewal happens again.

A 2020 memorable “Portrait In Time” when exceptions ruled.

It will also most likely match my expression the next time I pass through the TSA checkpoint at the airport.

An All Too Brief Pandemic Pause

 

on the road

What a sight it was a week ago Friday.

Six hours of driving (almost) nonstop. Highways to city streets to country roads. Following the GPS lady’s directions – every minute bringing us closer to our CovidCation. The weather was beautiful – almost too good to be true.

Faster and faster we drove (well I did…my husband’s foot is not as leaden as mine).

We were out-running a virus after all.

Get my lunch out of the backseat please! The car was packed with 2 coolers, 2 suitcases and laundry baskets full of necessities. My gluten free toaster in one of them. As we learned bringing our kids to college, laundry baskets work out well for car trips…as they can nest when they’re empty for the trip home.

It occurred to me that travel by car meant I could bring Full Size Bottles of whatever I wanted. So I did.

My laptop and our cameras…carefully packed. We remembered the tripod for a group photo. Paw Patrol bubbles (but of course). Decks of cards. Guitar.

We arrived at the lake house in the Pocono Mountains around 6:30 pm.

Within a minute a short blonde 4 year old came running out…Grandma! And somehow he was up in my arms with his arms wrapped around my neck, legs encircling my waist. I don’t know how I picked him up but I must have. The first full on leap into my arms hug since February. Far too long.

After that, my daughter and I shared a good long hug. Face to face for the first time in 6 months. Then hugs for my son-in-law, my son and his girlfriend. We had tested and quarantined and stayed safe. Carefully planned and orchestrated.

All those hugs felt so good.

Of course we were joined by the two family dogs: Lutra and Taco (who have been featured in this blog before). They enjoyed themselves immensely as well.

We were in our own little bubble.

bubbles

A four day pause from virus fears.

firepit

What a sight to see.

No masks.

No social distancing…except from the family swimming across the lake.
(Grandma which one is the dada and which one is the mama? Grandma I think the bigger one is the dada….)

ducks

It was glorious.

~~~

V.J.’s Weekly Challenge #109: What a Sight
Ragtag Daily Prompt: Pause
SixWordSaturday

Never mind…

 

park bench kids copy 2
June 2019

~~~

Never mind that my husband and I spent our 42nd(!) wedding anniversary Wednesday in our condo garage…wearing our finest face masks & work clothes. Emptying out our 2 storage units for hours. Yeah, we still have too much stuff, but oh well.

The Mold Remediation Company was scheduled for Thursday to clean all 32 units plus the entire garage.

It took hours to move all of our crap stuff into our parking spaces. We were joined by our fellow masked condo dwellers…many initially embarrassed by the exposure of hidden “treasures.” I can’t believe I still have so much stuff. The thing is, there used to be SO much more before we downsized. So, don’t worry about it.

Talk about lousy timing. But that’s 2020 for you.

garage

[Never mind that I alerted the Condo Board to this issue 3 years ago and they didn’t listen to me. I told you so.]

Never mind that even after 4 repair attempts, the refrigerator’s lights still don’t work…and is limping towards its last days.

Never mind all of that.

Why?

On Tuesday we braved the local hospital’s outpatient lab to get Covid-19 tests, so we could be sure we weren’t infected (we aren’t). Even though we have no symptoms.

waiting room

Why?

Because we are going on a CovidCation.

Today we are driving to the middle of nowhere in the mountains of Pennsylvania to a house by a lake. We will enter a Covid tested bubble of love…to spend a quarantined 4 days with our “kids,” their spouse/partners, grandson and 2 dogs…most of whom we haven’t seen in 6 months or more.

My 4 year old grandson has been asking me on facetime…

Grandma are you excited to go to the lake house?

facetime

I sure am!

Never mind that we spent the better part of yesterday (Thursday, right?) moving our crap stuff back into the cleaned storage units. Followed by packing up clothing, supplies (so many supplies when you are older), and food. Hoping we made enough lists and remembered everything. The option of “we can buy it when we get there” is no longer okay…to stay safe.

If the stars align and health prevails, we will soon be on the road today: Friday. Six hour car trips are a huge challenge physically – and I haven’t attempted one in 3 years, but…

I’m excited to go to the lake house!

My daughter made a spreadsheet of the menu and I am also excited about that. We might even make s’mores – and I’ve been told they will be GF (Gluten Free aka Grandma Friendly).

So I may be absent from my blog until next week.

CovidCation here I come.