What a difference two years makes

On March 27th, 2020 I published a post about shocking prices at the gas pump…as well as on the absurdity of life. It was the beginning of a pandemic. A new virus that nobody fully understood – which would fast become a political football and plunge the United States and the world into a chaotic mess. A tumble into the Twilight Zone where toilet paper became the Item To Hoard. And the chicken that kept disappearing from the meat department at Market Basket. Empty shelves in my corner of America.

Wash Your Hands became the new mantra (although it had always been my mantra since taking biochem in college). The shock at the gas pump in March 2020 should have been a positive sign. But everything was shut down. Nowhere to go with a full tank of cheap gas…

March 27, 2020

Fast forward to yesterday morning. I returned to the same gas station…the same gas pump. It was another WTH moment. The metal signs that hung over the pumps in 2020 were gone and I suspect it was because the prices were rising so fast. Who has time to keep changing the numbers or maybe they didn’t have enough 4s. Whatever.

I just peek at the news now, in print only. Televised Breaking News is unbearable and horrific…and the horror has nothing to do with covid anymore. But somehow I didn’t expect this when I went to buy gas…prices doubled in 2 years:

March 11, 2022

The surreal is amping up again…falling into another version of the Twilight Zone. Toilet paper is stacked high in the paper goods aisle at Market Basket, costing 50% more than in March 2020. Chicken has doubled in price, but is usually in stock now. Hand sanitizer collects dust on shelf after shelf. I shop as quickly as possible. Grab, pay and go. Sale prices no longer seem relevant.

Once more, something else in life feels out of control. However, even as I continue to wonder if “normal” will ever return, I am profoundly grateful for the life I have…unprecedented high prices and all.

SixWordSaturday

Ragtag Daily Prompt: March

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: December 17th

Fandango’s Flashback Friday: December 17th

Wouldn’t you like to expose your newer readers to some of your earlier posts that they might never have seen? Or remind your long term followers of posts that they might not remember? Each Friday I will publish a post I wrote on this exact date in a previous year. How about you? Why don’t you reach back into your own archives and highlight a post that you wrote on this very date in a previous year?

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This post was published on December 17, 2020. One year later…there is no snow outside my window. It is actually warm for this time of year (54 degrees F)…a welcome change from the cold. Unfortunately, some things do remain the same from one year ago. The pandemic unexpectedly rages on as not enough people have chosen to get vaccinated. So scary, stressful and deadly. The political craziness in DC continues – less surprising, though still discouraging. I continue to be overwhelmed by the challenges and political craziness in my own little condo board world; which has turned into a full time job trying to get things done and calm frazzled nerves. It is important to remember that this too will pass…eventually. I have really missed my blogging friends, but hope to be back on track here sooner than later. Maybe it will take a snow day to get started.

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Snow Day

 

I sit here at my desk in the room where I write…surrounded by white. White walls. White windows. And outside the windows…white crystals and flakes swirl past…settling on window sills and our tiny porch. The line of evergreen trees. The path to my woods. 

Gone are the vibrant reds and warm yellows of autumn. The colorful peaks of nature’s splendor. My world’s palette is – once again – on its way toward a rustic simplicity of browns plus green.

Snowstorms trigger time travel…

Circa 1990s…lying in bed at 6am listening to WTSN – a local AM radio station…waiting for the long-time morning show host to drone through the alphabetic list of school closings. My kids were living at home then and had gone to bed praying for mountains of snow to fall overnight. As they got older, sometimes they heard the radio announcement before I did…MOM NO SCHOOL WOO HOO…drifted down the hall from their rooms to mine. The sweet sense of excitement and gift of a DAY OFF never failed to fill those days with a magic all their own. Why is that I wonder…how snow gave us permission to play. To not consider other alternatives. Admittedly we were able to switch gears fairly easily as I worked part-time with a flexible schedule. My husband, a teacher at a private school, never got snow days off when our kids were…well…kids.

I don’t recall all that many snow days when I was growing up. I’m not sure why, unless in the 60s we were expected to power through. Safety issues were not all that prevalent back then. Those were the days before mandatory seatbelts and bike helmets after all. In my memory, school was cancelled when the snow was Two Feet High. Whether that was actually true is not verifiable. 

My kids built snowmen and slid on plastic discs down windswept or snow-shovel-swept piles of snow. Over and over. They climbed snow drifts as high as the mailbox atop a pole by the street. And made snow angels in the front yard.

My younger brother and I built snow forts – making snow bricks by (mittened) hand, one by one, carefully stacking them onto short walls until finger numbness began to set in. We would spend most of the day in the front yard, coming inside for lunch, hanging our wet wool coats and snow pants to dry in the hallway, the steam rising while we ate. Filling the kitchen with that distinctive wet wool smell. My mother never took photographs of our snow day exploits – just shooed us out the door after breakfast and then again after lunch. So I rely on memory. After the fort came snowball production & stacking – followed by one sided snowball “fights” with passers by…mostly my sister or the boy next door. We all got along, my siblings and I, during those times outside. Just us. There was something about all that snow and a shared sense of fun and purpose. 

Maybe it’s why – when I saw children in this over 55 community the other day – I got a little choked up. Looking out the window I spotted 2 little kids down the path…trudging up a small hill of leftover snow and then repeatedly sliding down. An adult stood nearby. Grandchildren…with their grandpa. Just a guess, but I bet I was right. Lucky them.

The only time I can usually sleep past sunrise is during a snowstorm. Today was one of those days. The highway grows relatively silent as only a few of the bravest drivers hit the road that early. 

More snow than we’ve gotten in 2 years announced the very excited meteorologist this morning on our local TV station. Meteorologists LOVE snow storms. They stand outside in the middle of this once-in-a-2-year-blizzard, shivering and freezing with hoods pulled up…announcing the obvious: It Is Snowing. 

Every channel is about the snow. Interviews with “plow guy” (always a guy) abound. Reporters on street corners with coats wrapped tight shoving yardsticks into snowbanks, directing videographers toward the view behind them. Look it’s snowing! Look there’s a car off the road! Remember to drive slow!

The fascination with extreme weather – one more onslaught we can’t control – continued for hours.

But you know what? There was no mention of the latest ridiculous political maneuvering in Washington DC. No discussion of who lied to who. I don’t think anyone even mentioned the pandemic. And all the relentless pain and suffering. The increasing numbers of the sick and dying. Hospitals strained to capacity. All in this surreal world that doesn’t make sense anymore. All that explains why my husband and I have to spend Christmas alone for the first time in 45 years. 

Mother Nature mercifully took over today and gave at least some of us a brief respite…from all that is so much worse than a simple historic few feet of snow. 

It almost felt like a regular snow day. 

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photo a day challenge: Windows
photo a day challenge: Colors and letters – White
Ragtag Daily Prompt: Rustic Simplicity

Melancholy Macro Monday

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Melancholy

Even though Monday brings to mind Macro Monday, today I was sidetracked by Heather’s most timely RDP prompt. Ah yes…melancholy.

Is that what this is? The dark clouds overhead when I reluctantly open my eyes in the early morning hours? Metaphorically speaking, but there they are. Hovering. Amorphous. Heavy. As I ponder the day ahead. Wondering what crisis may await. I run a household and a condo board.

The pandemic was supposed to be mostly “over” by now (think vaccines people). Hospitals were supposed to get a break from the insanity and constant threat of personal harm.

I thought my third journal about life in the pandemic would remain half full. Bizarrely there are towers of disinfectant wipes and toilet paper on sale. They can’t give those away now.

There’s more to say, but that’s all for now.

I am not unfamiliar with melancholy. But the older I get, the less energy I have to fight it.

It’s probably why it took all day to finish this post. I tell myself…at least I did.

Patience is on my side.

Fourteen months

Ragtag Daily Prompt: Curious

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Today’s RDP defined my day last week (was it only last week?) when I flew from Boston, MA to Washington DC to visit my kids and their families…including one adorable grandson (well, my kids are adorable too…but you know). I had not entered an airport or stepped on a plane since February 2020. Fourteen months ago. I had not been in a crowd of people of any size since then either. I don’t have to tell any of you why. But now I am fully vaccinated and as protected as I’m going to be, so it was time to take that leap.

As a lifelong curious person, I am known for asking questions – lots of questions – but this time there was nobody to answer them ahead of time as I planned this trip (I am also a rabid planner).

Such as…
What would it be like at the airport during a pandemic? Would people cooperate and wear masks? Could I check in at the kiosks? What would change about going through security? Would it be crowded on the plane? What if…

First positive sign: the kiosks were working (good news since my home printer was not). Checking in with security meant inserting my driver’s license into a machine where it disappeared for several seconds and then spit back out. The masked agent behind the plexiglass looked straight at me…would you pull down your mask please? The big reveal lasted only a few seconds, but felt bizarrely like I was being asked an intimate question.

My carryon and I made it through the screening process without incident. All the while I am breathing through a N95 super mask with rubber bands around my head trying not to hyperventilate. Which I had just pulled down for the agent. I wondered…what if?

As I walked to the gate I began to notice changes…

Except for passengers waiting at one gate, there was hardly anybody there. Most restaurants were closed. Coffee kiosks were gone. The bar was closed. This was mid afternoon.

So far it looked similar to the outside world as we know it now. It also sounded similar…muffled…as gate agents gave directions through masks into microphones. The directions for boarding were posted on the information screen as well. Perhaps that was why.

The flight was only about half full…allowing distancing…sort of. Drinks and snacks were handed out. Masks came off to eat and drink. That…I thought to myself…is one good reason why you wait to fly until you’re vaccinated. And then – as a friend of mine once said many years ago – you give it to God or whatever higher being you believe in – at times like these.

The plane arrived in DC on time. I knew my daughter would be arriving soon to pick me up. I figured I had a few minutes to linger in the gate area before leaving to find her in the line of cars outside the terminal.

I noticed how, in DC, passengers apparently don’t need roped off seats.

My daughter would usually text almost there! when she was about to arrive. When I hadn’t heard from her after a few minutes, I decided to make my way out past security anyway. By then most passengers from my flight had left. As I carefully rolled my suitcase past various security guards – paying close attention to where I was walking – a random thought hit me…I wonder if people still come inside to meet passengers anymore...

Which is why clueless me didn’t notice this masked little blonde almost 5 year old until he came close to alarming the security guard…

I will wonder no more…people still DO meet passengers inside the airport. Three of my favorite people in the world were there to surprise me. Daughter. Son. Grandson. I hadn’t hugged them since last August. Far too long.

Four days later I flew home and it was much the same experience. I am, however, already looking forward to returning in June to meet my newborn granddaughter.

I am very curious about her. ❤️

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.

Lens-Artists Challenge: Pastimes

Lens-Artists Challenge #97: Pastimes

With so much time being spent at home, many of us have been looking for new pastimes or taking up old ones in order stay occupied or even sane. So that is my theme for this challenge – Pastimes. It could be something that you are trying for the first time or a hobby or interest that you have enjoyed for many years. Feel free to dig into the archives or take a picture to illustrate a current pastime.

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Trying to stay sane…that can be a challenge all on its own.

However…

The days begin with one of my favorite pastimes since I’ve been retired and empty nested. Coffee and the local newspaper. The paper itself is getting thinner by the day. Less ads with businesses shut down. No current sports to cover.

“Letters to the Editor” are ramping up though. Almost as much as during the presidential primary. I find them entertaining but I am also intrigued at the drama people thrive on and perpetuate.

I also read the obituaries. I always have. Some may think that’s odd or morbid or depressing. However, the obits often tell the fascinating – and often inspiring – stories of lives well lived…details of places visited, accomplishments and family. My favorite discoveries are the glimpses into sweet memories or personal quirks that make me think…I would have enjoyed meeting this person…

Of course not everyone’s obituary is like that. Some (probably due to the expense of listing) are brief and sum up the life of a 90 year old citizen with no details whatsoever. I wonder about them.

My late mother-in-law used to claim she read the obits faithfully every day to make sure she wasn’t in there. Sounds like reason enough for me.

The paper may still take half the morning to read while I sip and enjoy. Who knows…maybe eventually I’ll find some positive news.

morning coffee

 

A new pastime due to the pandemic has been a work-in-progress jigsaw puzzle. It waits for completion on the end of the dining table near the window…helping take my mind off the latest crisis. Perhaps fueled by my return to watching the evening news…just in case there is a breakthrough in testing or research or something hopeful.

We just finished our second puzzle (this one full of dogs looking very relaxed). We will admire it for a few days and then plan to move on to the next one.

puzzle

There is a patch of woods behind our condo building, which I have mentioned before in this blog. Many of my macro shots originated there. It has a few paths as well as an unpaved access road for the utility company. It borders a state highway, so it is not as quiet as I would like.

However it’s still a place of refuge during these days.

woods path

When all else fails – go outside! Walk! Sometimes I plug my white earbuds into iTunes and listen to one of my many playlists. Perhaps “Energy Dance Mix” or “Motown Choices.” There’s nothing like Aretha belting out R E S P E C T or Diana’s soaring Ain’t No Mountain High Enough to lift your spirits or quicken your step.

With my camera close at hand, I keep an eye out for potential Eureka moments when the sun is at the perfect angle in the afternoon. The golden hour that photographers get excited about.

And then at the end of the day…

I find that I have returned to a pastime that originated a very long time ago. When writing was my default – especially in troubling times. During my childhood I wrote feverishly in diaries (I say “feverishly” because the handwriting often had that look to it) about everything I did…down to the most mundane listings of television shows I watched. Emotions and opinions jumped out every so often too. Much of it is boring as sin to read now, but it served its purpose back then.

When the pandemic hit, I started writing at night again. Usually in bed before turning out the light. Just summarizing the day…and eventually the statistics. At first I thought…this is silly…but then did it anyway as it felt like the most natural thing to do. Perhaps to make sense of what was going on…or something.

I feel like I sleep a little better too.

I dug out a diary from 1965 to show here with my current one.

I wonder what the children of today are writing in their diaries…about how they are passing the time.

Time will tell.