The year we thought would never end has finally ended. It was, in equal shares, blessed and heartbreaking, but I think that everyone has come away from it with a new perspective on those things which matter most.
Happy New Year everyone.
The year we thought would never end has finally ended. It was, in equal shares, blessed and heartbreaking, but I think that everyone has come away from it with a new perspective on those things which matter most.
Happy New Year everyone.
My sister has a whole window sill full of poinsettias. It is the window right above her kitchen sink, and she's kept her poinsettias for at least 4 years now.
Then there's me.
I kept one once, and it was a gorgeous thing, Big and wild, regular little tree. It died during a move. In the intervening years, I've tried to grow another. It does not matter what I do, those things die. Over and over, year after year, I've tried.
I gave up. Last year I didn't even try to save one. I didn't buy one this year either. But then I went to pick up a few groceries for the week. They had a huge rack of poinsettias that they were trying to get rid of. They were marked down to 25 cents each. They were big ones too.
I stopped pushing the cart to look.
I said to myself, "Self, it's a very sad thing that you cannot save a poinsettia if your life depended on it."
My self nodded sadly in agreement.
Except there was a pink one.
I've always wanted a pink one.,,
And that is how I ended up coming home with three poinsettias. I have a call in to my sister to call me when she gets home from work. If the darn things don't die in the next hour, they've got a fighting chance.
I finished with The God of Small Things. It was beautifully heartbreaking, a reminder that we all contribute to the lives around us, and that it is not always a good thing.
I'm now reading Wintering. Such an interesting little book. You glide from abscission to hazel dormice to first sleeps and second sleeps. Katherine May makes the point that we all have winters in our lives and there is a real grace to knowing that they are simply a season. She suggested that we simply learn to endure that season knowing full well that after winter comes spring, and with spring, new growth.
I understood what she was saying right away. All my life, I have worked, and I have worked very hard. I can't be any other way. But I remember cancer, and how very suddenly, everything stopped. It had to. I had to avoid crowds. I was homebound. For the first time in years, my house was tidy and it stayed that way. I was able to sit down and watch a movie or read a book without feeling guilty. I took a nap in the afternoon and there was no shame.
That was nice.
(Don't get me wrong, cancer sucked but there was a nice lesson that came out of it.)
That lesson quickly fell to the wayside when cancer was done. I went back to work, Life once again was arranged around work. Afternoon naps were out of the question: like as not I was tramping through a swamp or the woods. It was a physically demanding job. I was also out of shape. I was a one woman show and it was my responsibility. Coming home from it, I was struggling to accomplish all the other things that I had to do. Once again, I found myself felling guilty if I sat down with a book. Or watch television.
Now, we've got a pandemic. This 'winter' feels something like that 'winter' 12 years ago. I mean, I'm not wondering whether I'm going to die, but there are similarities. My job ended in March. I'm pretty much living my life inside my four walls. I once again have a tidy house. I am reading books. Watching a netflix movie most Saturday nights. We don't go out much. The great ham hunt on Christmas eve was the longest amount of time we've spent in public in months, really.
Sunday, I was on the computer, and Tim became a little grumpy. He thinks that I spend too much time on the internet in the morning. I like my morning cup of coffee. It started out that I spend an hour roaming around on line, reading the news. Now that I'm homeschooling, I don't have time for that morning routine. The boys both have to be on line at 7:55, which means that I have to get up, get showered, and be ready to go. So on the weekends, I get up, wander to the kitchen, make my coffee and come back to drink it at the computer. I don't limit myself to an hour either.
So Tim began to do his angry sniff, like he does.
I said, "You know, I'm not going to feel badly about this. You're laid off. You don't feel a bit guilty about sitting down and watching football for an afternoon. Or Monday night. Or Thursday night (the Steelers are (were?) having a stellar year and will surely make the playoffs, so he's been keen on all the games, to scope out the competition).
He looked at me uncomfortably.
"I'm not saying you can't. In fact I'm not saying anything at all. I just think I deserve the same respect. I don't have time for anything during the week, and I think I'm due a little time to myself without feeling ashamed."
He's a good man who rarely responds emotionally. He thought this over and agreed.
It is winter, a season, and this pandemic makes it different from the days of cancer. It is not just my winter. It is not just my season. We're all struggling.
In the end, seasons change. Spring will come.
PS: Tell the others.
If I were a productive person, I'd be in my textbooks and using this break to thoroughly read my lessons, something that I have not done for the last couple classes. Another casualty of covid, I suppose, since very suddenly I was homeschooling again.
That class took the Tuesday between the holidays off, and I'm glad we did. I need a break. I'm at a very dry place. By the time that I'm done with this theology course, I may be an atheist.
In any case, we have our break, and I breathed a sigh of relief. I vowed to myself to use this time to really get back into the swing of things.
For the past few nights, I've been tucking myself into bed with 'The God of Small Things'. I love this book, the way that the focus is on one very small period of time, interspersed with glimpses back and glimpses forward, but continually pulling us back to a point in time that seems to be pivotal for every character in the book.
Like a Salman Rushdie book, the unfamiliar names initially slowed me down a lot. When I read books like this, I have to actually write the names down with a diagram of how they are related to Rahel and Estha, the focal characters, but once I got them straight in my head, the story flows beautifully, back and forth, present, future, past.
A quiet space in these crazy times. Yesterday, our little newspaper had two pages of obituaries. In a county of 39,100, our covid cases have more than quadrupled this month.
There is something very luxurious about laying in bed with a good book and reading myself to sleep every night. I read until I am drowsy, set the book on the nightstand, and then click off the reading lamp.
Tim had me busy sending a link for the orange stripper I used while doing the floors at our last renovation to someone who is doing the floors in HIS renovation.
Suddenly I heard a huge hue and cry from the kitchen where he was warming up his scalloped potatoes for lunch. I clearly made out "Get out here. I need help."
Tim's not a yeller, but when he is, we've got a bat in the house. I'm not sure why bats freak him out, but they do. It makes me laugh every time.
Our house is perfectly set up to rid ourselves of them. Every room has a door. You just back them out, room by room, until they are flying in circles in the foyer. and then you open the door and after a few circles, they veer outside. We've only had to actually kill one, and I am quite sure he was rabid, having seen that behavior before in a bat who tested positive. He was definitely ill, hanging upside down baring his tiny fangs, too weak to fly. We lifted him down gently with cowhide gloves and dispatched him humanely.
We don't get many these days because we've been mindful about figuring out where they get in and blocking those places up in our old house. It's also not exactly bat season, so I was a little curious as I headed for the kitchen. Much to my surprise there was a grackle circling around the kitchen, stopping to anxiously flutter at the window trying to get out.
I was a little amazed. "How'd HE get in?"
Tim said, "I don't know. I just came in the kitchen and there he was. He went nuts as soon as he saw me."
My first thought was that the bird wasn't the only thing that went nuts.
Our feathered friend attempted to fly past me into the hall and into the rest of the house. I held up my hands and he flew back, landing on a grapevine wreath before dropping down and fluttering at the window again.
I shut the kitchen door to the rest of the house and Tim shut the door to the basement. If he got down there it would take forever to find him, since there are lots of comforting dark nooks and crannies to hide in.
Tim slowly moved to open the door to the mudroom and then the door to the outside. The bird began to panic once again and fly wildly around the kitchen. After a couple of laps, he landed on top of the door, his beak opening and closing wildly.
We stood still and he ducked his head and glimpsed his direct path to freedom. In an instant, he was gone.
If we are superstitious, we would believe that a bird in the house foretells an important message we will be receiving. We still haven't got a clue how he got in. The most likely way would be the fireplace chimney. It seems as if the cheerful woodfire would have prevented that.
So who's got that important message for me? *waits expectantly*
I got a new big planter for the propagated dracaenas and the yucca plants. I got two new African violets because I love flowers in the winter. I got two new books, Wintering (which I can see needs to be read in small doses and thought upon) and The God of Small Things. Many pairs of earrings. A wonderful cast iron hook for the kitchen. A cozy throw for the sofa. Tee shirts. A bird sculpture. A box of British treats from Colin and Cara. A nice family photograph. A gift card.
So many things to open.
But the best gifts were these:
Watching people open up those gifts that we'd been putting so much thought into. All the time spent was worth it.
William hunkered over his steel tongue drum, teaching himself to play. He loved it. It had been one of those spur of the moment gifts, but he loved that a lot more than I ever thought he would.
Listening to Iris telling me about taking carrots into the yard to leave for the reindeer, and how Santa says "Ho ho," She's conversing in sentences now. and she was anxious to hold the phone and talk to me. That will never get old. She showed me her dollhouse and a music box.
The laughter in the living room as everyone visited together. I was in the kitchen getting dinner ready, and it was nice to hear.
The rave reviews on my gravy, which apparently has eclipsed all gravies that came before it.
Playing those new games with the grands.
When it was done, we were once again alone in a quiet house, surrounded by the detritus of Christmas.
It was merry.
Where ever you celebrated, whatever you celebrated, however you celebrated, whoever you celebrated with, I hope the day was merry for you as well.
I did such a stupid thing. Christmas eve, after a lovely skype with Colin and Cara, I headed out to the freezer to pull out the ham.
Now, I should have done this thing earlier, but it was going to be a bit of a job. There were now four vension (Tim's son gave us a big old doe he got for our 'hamburger deer'.) This was a last minute thing. Tim said, "We could do that ourselves..." and I said, "You need to take that out to be processed, Tim, because between home schooling and Christmas, I do not have the time to help you with another deer. (Let alone do the grinding required to turn it into hamburger)
After 23 years, he knows when not to push it. He took the deer out to be professionally cut up and ground.
But, as usual, I've gotten off topic.
We now have four deer in the freezer, which is not a problem, but it is a chest freezer, and Tim just sort of dropped the meat in there. It really would not have been a big deal. The venison from the previous year was gone, but he had buried the vegetables that I'd processed. At the end of every holiday season, I buy a couple turkeys and a couple hams when they are on sale. I put them away and use them through out the year. They, too, were buried under all that fresh venison.
I should have gotten that ham out early, but it was going to require some sorting out. I knew where it was. The freezer could use some organization. Long story short, when I got that reorganization done, I discovered that I had one turkey left, but NO HAM! 'Twas also the night before Christmas, and too late to thaw a turkey.
So we set off. We headed to our regular grocery store. They were sold out of ham. 'No problem,' we naively thought, and headed off to another grocery store. They were sold out of ham as well, although Tim did find stuffed wallet in a freezer of Jimmy Dean sausage on sale for $1.50 a pound. He pulled it out and was headed to customer service with it when he met up with the frantic owner who thanked him over and over and over again.
Buoyed with good wishes, we headed off to the third store, a high end grocery store that we rarely go to. They, too, were sold out of ham. Stores would be closing shortly, and we didn't have a lot of time to figure out what we were going to do. Tim said, cheerfully, "We'll just have turkey." I said, "Tim, we haven't got time to get one thawed." He looked a little gobsmacked. I wasn't exactly sure why he was just now figuring that out.
He began looking a beef roasts. I said, "Here's a nice one." He looked at the $140. price tag and nearly swallowed his tongue. He said, "Boy, I'm glad we have venison in the house."
There was one last store in our little town, a small operation, known for its meats, and we headed there with no real hope. Tim said, "If we don't find a ham, we'll just have to figure out something else."
We walked into the last store and what to our wondering eyes should appear but hams. Their pricing was higher than the other sold out stores, but the ham prices were a lot less jolting than the beef prices at the previous store, so Tim picked up that ham and we were mighty grateful.
We drove home in the rain, and I apologized again. That was a stupid mistake and if I had attempted to pull that ham out earlier, we would not have been in the time crunch. That procrastination had cost us money too.
We had a light supper while watching the news. We were especially interested in the weather, since a terrible storm was bearing down on us from the west. That heavy rain we'd been getting was supposed to change to snow about 8:00 and road conditions were supposed to get dicey. Depending on which weather report you subscribed to, we were supposed to get between 4 and 11 inches. The wind was supposed to pick up. The temperatures drop. The radio had talked of nothing but that all day. Now the television news was full of dire warnings.
At 8 PM, I found "It's a Wonderful Life" and settled in to watch it again. Tim was bored, because he doesn't get the attraction of watching a movie you've already seen, unless of course someone is being shot in it. He wandered off into the office.
I missed the part where George and Mary dance themselves off into the water. They interrupted to bring us a special report about the weather front moving in. It didn't arrive at 8, but it was on the way, and it was going to be bad. The movie resumed and was interrupted every 30 minutes thereafter to bring us an update about the weather moving in. I was getting grumpy. Tim was interested in the reports enough to come back out of the office and sit down on the couch. He didn't doze off this year because he wanted to catch those updates.
"THAT'S IT!" Nick yells. "Out you two pixies go! Through the door or out the window!" and Clarence and George land in the snow.
Tim said, "Have we seen this before?"
23 years, people.
By the time we got to George praying his prayers on the bridge, Tim was hooked.
At the end, I was wiping tears as if I'd never seen it before. Tim was saying, "This was a very nice movie," as if HE'D never seen it before.
We watched the 11 o'clock news. The lead story was that terrible storm moving in. It was slow moving, but it was going to be a baddy. They were now calling for it to move in about midnight.
When we woke up Christmas morning, the first thing we did was open the blinds to take a look at what had happened over night. It was shocking. The back yard and the vehicles were covered with a full half inch of snow.
Don't tell anyone. I love the holy hymns of Christmas, but a secret favorite is this one:
It just brings to mind childhood days and the anticipation. The reason we couldn't fall asleep at night, the reason we were up so bright and early in the mornings, whispering together, all crowded into the same bed, waiting for it to get late enough for us to dare to wake our parents to see if we could get up.
But I grew up and...
...when I had children of my own, I wanted them to have that time of anticipation and excitement before the day was given over to the gifts and the rush of unwrapping, and everything after that anticlimactic.
To that end, if they weren't up, I always kept a wrapping paper tube behind the bedroom door, and would crack my door to bellow "Ho Ho Ho" in my jolliest voice. I would then shut the door, leap back into bed and wait. The sound of footsteps as they congregated in one bedroom, and then after a time, gradually made their way down the hall and wait at the top of the stairs for the grandmother clock to chime 6. No one could go down stairs before that.
Now I am getting older and...
...it is no less exciting to me to see my grandchildren getting excited. Today they helped wrap a present, and they looked for their gifts under the tree. They fixed me with wistful stares: "Can we open just one of them wight now?"
We are lucky. I know this. There are three little boys whose single mothers have to work. Two of them need schooled. So they are in our bubble. We don't have a choice. Other grandparents are do not have grandchildren in their bubble. They are alone and struggling.
These are hard times, and everyone is doing the best that they can. But if you get a chance, through skype, or even just a phone call, try to tap into a child's excitement.
It will help.
If you don't know little children, you can always try to find a big kid.
So. We are doing fractions, William and I, and he's struggling. I try to go through the lesson ahead of time, so I know exactly what he's dealing with, because one thing that I know for a fact is that William will not learn a thing scrolling through 15 pages of discussion about how to make an equivalent fraction or how to simplify a fraction. I had made circles on poster board and cut them into halves, quarters, sixths and eighths to give him a visual of equivalent fractions, as in 1/2 is the same as 2/4 which is the same as 3/6, which is the same as 4/8. There were strips of paper to prove the same thing. The physical concept was understood. I went on to show him how he could do that mathematically without cutting a circle into fractions every time.
He was making equivalent fractions with very little problem.
Now if we would have stopped there, it would have been good, but lo...there was simplifying fractions to contend with.
We got the lesson summed up in two statements: The golden rule of fractions: 'thou shalt do unto the numerator what one does unto the denominator'. The other rule is when you see 'simplify' you are always dividing.
We got it and he had 4 worksheets to turn in.
I handed them to him and stepped back to see him go. He said, "I have to watch this lesson."
Me: "No. You don't. We've already done the lesson."
William: "I HAVE to watch the video. My teacher said if we didn't understand what she said, we had to watch the video."
Me: "No. You don't William. Did you understand what I said?"
William: "Yes. But you're not the teacher and so I have to watch the video. She can tell when we watched the videos."
Truth. In the other classes, part of the credit is gained from watching the videos and then answering the questions. I resolved the situation by e-mailing the teacher, explaining that like me, William learned by doing, and so the videos were not helpful. I asked her if teaching him the math concepts could be substituted for watching the videos in his math class.
Meanwhile, William was going through the video about fractions. By the time he was at the end of it, he was quite sure that I had taught him wrong. I handed him the worksheets and he could not solve them. It didn't really matter, because he had another zoom class.
He was upset at me, and let's be perfectly honest. I was more than a little frustrated with the boy and his focused 'but grandma, the teacher said...'
He doesn't want to be in trouble.
But we were both upset about math. He was going to have to stay later to get that done at the end of the day. It was the last day of school before the holiday. The last thing he wanted to do was to stay late. The last thing I wanted to do was teach that lesson over again.
The phone rang and it was his teacher. She assured me that I was absolutely right. What mattered to her was that he could do the work. He did not have to watch the videos if he understood those lessons.
I commented that I didn't know many kids who would be able to watch a video and walk away understanding the process, that really for William, they were a waste of time. I explained how we were doing the science videos.
She said, "Oh, you're such a good little teacher."
I stuttered a little.
Then she said it: "I hate those videos and most of the teachers do. William is very lucky to have someone who knows how to teach him. We have a lot of kids who have no one. They're on their own. We hate the videos, but for some kids, that's all they've got."
That afternoon, at the end of the day in a zoom meeting, the students were all restless and ready for the day to be done, for Christmas to begin. The teacher said, "Listen, you guys, almost all of you have assignments that have not been turned in." And she began listing them by name.
A little sick to my stomach, William and I listened for his name. Finally, it came up, and the teacher said, "William? You do not have anything past due. Good job." Both William and I did a fist bump in great relief.
She went on. "Zach? You have not turned in one assignment since this all started." I recognized the name. The kid is also almost always late for the zoom meetings. It is frustrating for teachers, I am sure. "Zach? What time is it? What time are you supposed to be here? This is just like class. I expect you to be here on time! I've already begun teaching the lesson and you've missed a big part of it."
Now the teacher was saying, "Do you understand this Zach? You've got to turn these assignments in!"
And a boy answered. He was nearly in tears. "I don't know how to do it. I don't even know how to find the gradebook." My heart broke watching this exchange, and I thought of what William's teacher had said earlier: "We have a lot of kids who have no one."
I was looking at one.
Some of our kids are paying a terrible price in these awful days.
I like a long narrow window above the bed that lets in light.
That's where these will be used when we build the retirement property.
Merry Christmas to me!
When I was a child, I loved to read. Adored reading. I would read whatever I could get my hands on. Sometimes it was not appropriate. I read it anyway.
My father worked long hours at the local steel mill, so he took the car. It didn't matter, because my mother did not drive. We were pretty much always at home. When the weather was bad, and we were cooped up, television was not often an option. We lived in a valley, and our aerial was up a mountain across the creek. That 750 feet of wire was often damaged, usually by squirrels nibbling on it. So...no television generally speaking. Books were my escape.
When I was in grade school, I was allowed to take one library book home a week. In the summer, the bookmobile came every two weeks and we walked into to our little town to wait in front of the post office with our returns. I remember the trip vividly because we had to cross a railroad trestle. I was afraid of heights and seeing the Brokenstraw Creek moving below me made me sick with fear. But...I liked to read and I gritted my teeth and crossed that trestle while my siblings waited for me impatiently.
Books were a precious commodity to me even then. We did not spend money on them because money was tight. If I was lucky, they were birthday or Christmas gifts. I had my books and I read them over and over and over. When my mother began to buy us the encyclopedias one volume at a time from points she earned buying groceries, I read those volumes as they came in the house every week. I even read the dictionary.
Now I am a grandma, and one of my biggest 'happies' is to buy books for my grandchildren. Iris received packages containing Christmas books this season, and whenever I go, I have books in my suitcase. William and I shop for books regularly. It is one of 'our' activities. We've been reading chapter books since he was in kindergarten, and he could always follow the story line. I don't ever want my grandchildren to wish they had something to read, and so I am their 'Book Fairy', scattering books with a free and generous hand.
Last week, William made a goal to read one hour and 15 minutes a day, up from his hour, and so to honor this request, Saturday we went to the store to take a quick look for books that he was interested to read. He picked out 'Dead Man in Indian Creek' and 'All The Lovely Bad Ones', Mary Downing Hahn is a new author for him, and the cover, combined with the description of the book on the back cover was tremendously exciting to him.
He got started on Dead Man right away and has been reading it steadily. Last night, he went to bed to read before lights out.
A half hour later, I passed by his door on the way to the bathroom to get myself ready for bed. I glanced in his door where he was sitting bolt upright in his bed holding his book. "Wait, wait!" he begged never taking his eyes from his page, "Don't turn off the light! I'm almost done!" It made me smile.
Shortly, he came to the bathroom door. "That was so exciting!" and he launched into an animated retelling.
From all appearances, the Book Fairy was just standing in front of the sink brushing her teeth in her flannel nightgown but inside she was leaping about, waving her magic wand, and shouting "ta-daaaaaaaaa!"
Division was the challenge yesterday. Today, the challenge is fractions. To be perfectly honest, I do not understand moving on from one new thing to another at that kind of speed. I remember spending days on division. I remember spending days on fractions. Whatever you were learning, you had ample time to digest it before moving on to the next thing.
Because William was anxious to go home, he simply sat there passively, biding his time. It was frustrating. It was supposed to be a short day, but it ended up being the regular length of time because he was being stubborn about his assignments. (He does have an appointment to begin the process of being tested for ADHD next week.)
Meanwhile, our first grader cheerfully did his work. When it was time to tune into his zoom meeting, he did so. Grandpa was supervising him. I walked out of the office to make sure that he was 'zoomed in' properly. Tim was standing next to me. I listened to the teacher speaking, to see if they were doing anything which required supervision.
Very suddenly, the man standing next to me made a very rude toot.
I looked at him shocked, He smiled sweetly, just like he always does.
"Um, Tim? You do realize that when he's in a zoom meeting, the teachers can hear that, right?"
Long pause as the smile slowly faded.
I went back out to the office to keep William focused.
Yesterday was a rough school day.
William was introduced to long division. Predictably, he got quite emotional about it, as he does when he is first confronted by something challenging. The mantra of the day was "William, no math problem has ever been solved by emotion. Math is solved by logic." (The second mantra is like unto it: 'William if you are guessing at a math answer, you're failing the test.') After a while, he settled down, and once he did so, we were able to sort through. He mastered it and got 100% on his test.
Still, he required more time than usual, and by the end of the day, I was a little more frazzled than usual.
We got a snow storm overnight.
I got up early to make my coffee and sit at the computer and map out the boys' school days only to discover that there is a two hour delay.
That means there is no zoom classes this morning for either one of them. They can work at their assignments at their leisure. The first grader will have three classes this afternoon. The fourth grader has two classes, and they are his 'easier classes'. Although you can bet your bippy that there will be long division in William's morning, what makes it different is that the younger boy does not have zoom classes that I need to monitor at the same time. I can give him his worksheets one at a time, and we can talk about them. He'll do them independently while I focus on William and division. A lot less stressful.
It's been a long time since I've been this excited about a snow day, let me tell you.
After my sleepless night, I must say, I nestled down into that bed last night, and slept like a rock. I woke up at five.
I got up and made my coffee. I sliced a thawed venison backstrap. I tossed them into a crockpot with a simmer sauce. I've never tried one before, but we'll see what happens. I added the carrots and celery and large wedges of onion (all the better for William to pick them out).
Then I carried my coffee into the office to look at the boys' school days. I printed off the material for the younger one's written assignments. I wrote William's schedule up on a white board. This is something that he will hopefully get to the point of being able to assemble himself, but for right now, the schedule is confusing and you need to draw it in from three different sources.
He's learning organization. I have five folders on his desk. His job today will be to fill the folders with the things he needs for each class. I have a rack for him to place them in. His work space will be uncluttered and he will have the space to work.
He's my challenge. I've walked this path before at a time when ADHD was not a 'thing'. I failed. Lacking the resources, I floundered around, trying one thing after another, and the inconsistencies probably made things worse. With William, I am surer. I've learned a lot in the intervening 30 years.
Schooling is a real responsibility. I take it pretty seriously. I'm starting to develop relationships with the teachers and some of the other parents during those zoom meetings. I know there are a lot of people struggling right now. As we waited for the kids to all log in during one class, a mother expressed some frustration with a link. "If it is any consolation, we had the same problem," I offered. She said, "ARGH! Can I rip out my hair now?" The teacher said, "I think we're all struggling." Someone offered up, "My child misses school so much." I said, "Shoot. I miss school so much." Everyone laughed when the teacher said, "So do I."
It's good to laugh.
"Is it too much for you?" I was asked at the end of the day. "Is this too hard?"
The question surprised me. It doesn't matter. We are living in strange times. We all can't bail because it's too hard. We all have to figure out how we're going to get it done.
I suppose in the end, we'll all be the better for it.
I sip my coffee and do the preparations for the day, and wait for the dawn to break.
I can't sleep.
Probably my just desserts since I was over at Yorkshire Pudding's blog having a good laugh at his insomnia.
It was a busy day, preparing for the boys' school week, getting groceries, getting some of the more involved house cleaning done, and trying hard to get my own study time in for my Tuesday night zoom class.
My daughter is showing some minor covid symptoms and they are still waiting on their results, so William is still here. I was trying to usher him to the showers before bed, and he was trying to delay because he knew he was headed to bed. Tim sprawled on the couch watching another football game while he waited for the football game he REALLY wanted to see.
I firmly told William, "It's time for a shower now, and I don't want to hear anymore about it." I got the water temperature to his liking.
I headed into the living room and firmly told Tim that I was going to need him to vacuum the living room and the office.
I headed back to the bathroom to make sure that William got his hair rinsed well, and then did a quick tidy up in the kitchen while I waited for William to finish his shower. The boy does love his showers. Long, hot, leisurely showers. When you are 9, anything is better than going to bed.
But the shower was finally done, teeth were brushed and one little boy was in bed reading. Tim vacuumed not only the two rooms I asked him to, but vacuumed the hall and the bedroom as well.
A firm voice is a handy thing to have, I've discovered.
We added slightly less than 100 cases to our count over the weekend, from 685 to 781. The lower numbers were cheering.
Now I am firmly telling myself to get back to bed.
School is a bit of a juggle, but what makes this different is that the teachers are doing the teaching. I am still involved, but it doesn't require me to sit with him for the full 7 hours. I think we're getting a decent schedule down.
I'm going to have to do my own studying on Sundays. A lot of work for one day.
Brianna and Don both quarantining. After tossing it back and forth for a while, the decision was made that William should probably just stay here until they get their test results back instead of popping back and forth between the two bubbles. It may be all moot, but all we can try to do is minimize transmission. It's a crap shoot really.
Tim got his second doe today. We will cut it up this weekend. With three deer in the freezer, he's done hunting for the season.
The case count is 685 today on December 10th. Astounding to me that it was 303 on December 1st. 71 on November 1st.
We have gone from 558 cases, to 630, up from 303 on December 1st. That's another 62 person increase in the last 24 hours.
They've opened a mobile test site up that can test up to 450 people a day. I think it runs for 5 days.
We continue our commonsense practices. I've noticed that a lot of the fussing about the 'fake virus' has quieted down online, which I find interesting.
Yesterday, it snowed where Iris was. She's only two and surely doesn't remember it from last winter. Her mother pointed out the snowflakes in her mittens and she spun slowly around gazing at the sky and the falling snow. Her mother tried to get her to look at the camera and to smile, but she could not be bothered. She was quite busy being amazed.
It was quite a moment to witness even with the entire state between us, a reminder that no matter how difficult the circumstances you find yourself in, there is always wonder.
I settled myself down and got over my mad.
This morning, Tim and I spent the morning cutting up deer meat. Steaks, chops, roasts, the smaller stuff got chopped up into stew meat. We got probably 25 packages of hamburger from the first deer so we did not need to grind any from this one.
We have it down to a fine art. We remove the table cloth, throw down a shower curtain we use for just this purpose. The deer is brought in: one front quarter, then the other. One back quarter, then the other. Finally the rib cage, for the backstraps, tenderloins, and a neck roast.
Tim cuts. My job is to wash the pieces and examine them closely to make they are clean and free of hair. I'm very good at that job because seeing hair in my food makes me gag. By the time that I'm done washing and inspecting that venison, it's good. Everyone has a special talent, I guess, and now you know mine.
We vacuum seal our meat without a vacuum sealer. One side of the sink is filled with clean cold water. The other side of the sink is the side where I'm washing the meat and cutting away any scraps of fat. Once the meat is ready to be packed, I drop it into a ziplock freezer bag, zip the package 90% shut and then carefully lower the package into the water right up to the unzipped section. The water pressure removes the air from the bag, I zip it up and pull the bag out of the water and set it on a towel to dry.
My sister taught me that little trick and I use it a lot. Vacuum sealer are expensive and so are the rolls of bags. This is a money saver and vacuum packed food stays fresher longer.
Tim hauled the fresh packaged venison to the chest freezer, to join the other venison already there. I gathered up the shower curtain and the old hand towels we use for butchering and took them down to the basement to toss in the washing machine, to be washed and bleached and packed away until the next time.
It's been a good season. The deer were small ones, and so Tim is hoping for one more, but if he doesn't get one, we'll be fine.
He got word today. His layoff has been extended until January.
He digested that news, marked the new information on his calendar, and then headed out the door to do a porch delivery of some piping hot soup. His son started showing some very familiar sounding symptoms yesterday. Tim asked him if he was running a fever. He didn't have a thermometer. Tim left a care package hanging on his door: an electronic thermometer and a bottle of aspirin. Yes. He has a fever.
Today, my daughter was exposed to the virus at work.
At the beginning of November, we had 71 cases. Dec 1st, 303. A week into the month, we stand at 568. The school is now closed until January 25th.
This is a mess and yet we still have the people insisting covid is not 'real', refusing to mask or to avoid crowds.
42% of our population is 65 or older. Risktakers and an at-risk population are not a good combination.
We have one hospital. That small 85 bed hospital has 4 ventilators to serve a population of 39,200
For the first time, I find myself getting apprehensive. Our cases increased by 53% in the first week of December. If this continues, we'll have 1200+ cases by Christmas.
I. Can't. Imagine.
I think that I'm a pretty patient person, really. I am not perfect, and like anybody else, I do from time to time lose my patience.
Today was an exasperating day.
I had to get groceries, and at the checkout line, my card rejected for insufficient funds. That's embarrassing enough. I knew exactly why though. I got scammed last spring, just before Easter. A fake ad for Legos. It was a Chinese company. The fact that they did not accept paypal should have been the tipoff for me. As a precaution, when we alerted the bank that we had been scammed, we paid for a new debit card.
The gentleman at the bank is, for lack of a better word, not technical. He fumbled around quite a bit, and it took quite a while, but I walked out of there with my new debit card. Unfortunately, he had attached it to our business account instead of our main account.
The business account is rarely used for business anymore. It was one of those things that if Tim needed to pay for something (or someone) he simply transferred the money to that account and wrote the check out from that account. It made it easier, in his mind to keep the business stuff separate from our personal stuff. As we became more adept at handling these things, the account was rarely used. Most of our banking is done on line and when we do write out checks, almost always they are business expenses. So...no need for a separate account, not really, but it had never occurred to either of us that it needed to be closed.
When my card declined the first time, I was a little shocked. I knew that it shouldn't have happened, Luckily, Tim was there with his card and took care of it. When we got home we went online. It was then that Tim realized what the man had done when he issued the new debit card.
We tried to straighten it out later, but the man couldn't even seem to understand what he'd done wrong. He believed that he'd done things exactly as they had been done before. Except that he hadn't, because our two cards were attached to the same account up to the day that he made me a new debit card.
Tired of trying to explain it to the man, Tim said, "Oh forget it. We'll just transfer what you need when you need it." That worked pretty well.
Over the months, we've had a few occasions to need to speak with someone at the bank. It's a small bank, and every single time we wound up speaking with him. At one point, I found myself explaining why he was having a problem with his computer. Let's be real. When I'M giving tech advice, we've got real problems.
Now it is Christmas. I'm doing a lot of shopping. I had transferred 'x-funds' and had spent 'x-amount' and had 'x' left over. Except that I forgot about a quick stop that I'd made to pick up something else, and I was standing at the front of a long line of people with a rejected bank card.
I said, "Don't put these groceries away. I'm going to the bank."
I headed straight to the bank. And dammit, wouldn't you know, there was that same friendly gentleman at the window. I took a deep breath and explained the problem. I told him that I wanted the problem resolved for once and for all. "My debit card needs to be attached to our main account," I said very firmly. "This is embarrassing."
And he said, "Oh, I can fix this," and it started once again. "Hmmm," he said. "Now...why won't this..."
After a few minutes, I said, "Listen, I've got a cart full of groceries at the store. Just go ahead and transfer the money from the main account to this account, but I really am going to need you to figure out what we need to do to get this straightened out." It seemed fair enough, since it was his mistake that set this series of unfortunate events into action, and I've dealing patiently with this for months.
He took down my name and number, we got a transfer done, and I headed for my groceries.
He called tonight and in a no-nonsense voice explained that he didn't understand why he couldn't attach the card to our 'virtual wallet.'
I gasped. The virtual wallet is not ours. It belongs to one of the kids and Tim's name is on that account just so that another person has access to it in case of emergency. I said, "That's not our joint account. I don't want my card connected to that. My name isn't even on that."
And he responded that I was incorrect.
I repeated myself.
He assured me that it was our account. I assured him that we did not have a 'virtual wallet'. I went online, and pulled up our account. I gave him our three accounts, to include balances.
He said, "Hmmmmmm..."
I said, "You cannot connect my debit card to that other account because my name is not on the account. I don't want it to be on that account, and we certainly don't want to be taking money from that account, because it belongs to one of our kids. We do not want it linked to our accounts." I was trying to be patient.
He said that account had to be linked to ours so that funds could be drawn from our accounts to cover any overdrafts on it. I started getting upset. "Listen, we don't WANT our accounts tied to that account. That's not our account! If the account is overdrawn, that's their responsibility, not ours. DO NOT LINK THESE ACCOUNTS!"
How hard can this be to understand? Honestly?! But he didn't. I gave him the names and numbers of our accounts, one by one and he saw those accounts. But he kept insisting that the Virtual Wallet account had to be linked to ours.
My patience was gone.
"Listen," I said, "Do not do anything at all to our accounts. I need an appointment with your supervisor. I want to sit down face to face with her. and I want to make sure that this is done correctly." By then, I was plain mad.
I've got an appointment tomorrow at three, it's NOT with him. Tim walked in from hunting. "What's up?" he asked cheerfully.
"DO WE NEED THAT STUPID EXTRA CHECKING ACCOUNT?" I was still mad.
He looked at me blankly. He had no idea why I was so fired up. "Nooooo," he finally said.
"I'm closing it tomorrow. It's just confusing things, and I'm tired of this," I slammed a cupboard door just for emphasis.
"Go ahead," he said mildly, and then said, "I saw two doe, but they were too far away..."
Today, I chopped up pineapple and onion and bell pepper and threw it in a crock pot with some chicken. I added the ginger, soy, garlic, molasses, brown sugar and vinegar. It's a new recipe. A healthy version of sweet and sour chicken.
I gave my stove a scrubbing and washed my dishes.
I cleaned the cutting board and set it back in its place.
I've always felt as if I had to be doing something. Working. Earning money. Doing projects with Tim. Studying, learning. Yet no matter what I was up to, I've always felt guilty, like I should being doing more, as if I weren't productive enough. Like a slacker.
I wonder why that is?
There's such a satisfaction in these small moments, and I am grateful to have discovered this.
One of the blessings of covid, I guess.
At 9, William is well past the stage of believing in Santa Claus, but he is loathe to give up the illusion. I don't get it really, but he's the same boy that wants to believe in UFOs and Sasquatch and Aliens. I try to approach things with him scientifically.
For the longest time, he was afraid of ghosts. He countered with 'science' gleaned from numerous You-tube videos. He talked about ectoplasm and about their electrical fields, and about how you could take pictures of them, or hear them in recordings.
At that time, he wore light up sneakers. (It was back in the day before he began to worry that his shoes might lead an active shooter to him if he was trying to hide from one at school. Sad story but true.) I showed him a video to demonstrate how electricity in the air can activate light up sneakers. "So, I pondered out loud "if ghosts generate electrical fields, your shoes should go nuts if there are ghosts in the area."
He decided that I was right.
So we jumped on our bikes one night and headed down the bike trail to an historical cemetery. We walked around looking for signs of ghosts. We stood still and watched his shoes. They did not light up. There was, much to his disappointment, no eerie phenomena to record.
So we headed home discussing the fact that based on the evidence, we had to draw the conclusion that ghosts do not exist.
(I know, I know. Every person has their story to tell. I do too, for that matter, but there was a six year old boy who was afraid of ghosts.)
Not long afterwards, the big thing was zombies.
Another walk through the cemetery across the road from the retirement property. We were looking for signs of disturbed earth. Did it look like anything had clawed its way out of a grave?
We walked through the whole thing, and once again, we found no evidence to support his fear that there was such creatures as zombies.
He has a sasquatch detection kit. He has looked and disappointingly found no evidence of sasquatch.
And so it goes.
But now it is Christmas. He is in 4th grade now. In the hierarchy of elementary school, I know that kids can be ruthless to those they perceive to be 'babies', so it's important to wean him from childish things. Last year, we broached the subject by not broaching it.
He was given $50 for his wallet, and he went Christmas shopping. He bought gifts for his mother and Don, for his grandpa, for his aunts and uncles. He stretched that money to the point that he was able to buy Christmas pencils for the kids in his classroom, and a gift for his teacher. As he was partaking of this joy, we discussed, casually, how much fun it was to BE Santa. "That's how it works, I explained, "we grow up and we become the magic!"
He digested this and didn't say much.
This year, we went Christmas shopping once again. He brought everything home and we wrapped it. He labeled them and put bows on everything. He hid the things here. He will take them home when they get their tree up.
I was washing dishes and he was at the table, painting some details on his cinnamon/applesauce ornaments we made a few weeks back. He said, "I still believe in Santa Claus."
He looked at me, to see what I would say.
"I do." A bit of defiance.
"I just like to."
I said, "Pretending is fine. Telling yourself stories is fine. But when you can't tell the difference between your pretending and real life, it becomes a problem."
He got a little quavery.
"Does it matter if your gifts come from your Mom and Don, or your grandparents or your aunts and uncles? Do you think you will receive more gifts if you insist that Santa is real?"
And he said, "No."
I said, "It doesn't sound like you're quite ready to set this aside, but the thing I want you to understand is that Christmas is no less exciting when you stop believing in Santa."
I talked again about how we step from believing in Santa to actually being Santa. "Wasn't shopping fun today?"
He kept painting his ornaments and said nothing.
"Want to be Santa right this very minute?" I asked.
He looked surprised. "It's dark outside."
"Santa comes at night. If you're going to play the game, you've got to play it right. Go get your boots on."
By the door, there is a basket of gifts and cards. I've spent extra time looking for quiet people doing kind things. I pulled out two packages.
He was well and truly curious by that point. "This is for the neighbors across the street, the people who have been so kind to the little stray cat. This is a treat for the cat, and this is a card and a gift for the nice people." He got a shopping bag as instructed and we deposited the gifts inside. We slipped out the side door and walked down the driveway.
We whispered even though there was no need to. Whispering makes everything far more exciting, don't you think? "Okay, duck across the street and run up on the porch. Don't clunk. Walk softly. We're on a secret mission. You sneak up on the porch and hang this on their doorknob and then scoot back here as quick as you can."
He whispered back: 'What if they open the door?"
"Well then we go to plan b. You call out Merry Christmas!"
And he sneaked off to do Santa's work.
He was not caught.
He streaked across the street and we both ran like the wind up the driveway and darted into the house.
He'll give up his childish beliefs. On some level, I think he already has, but he has to do it in his own time. My job is to make sure that he never feels as if something has been lost.
William had Monday off from school and he was quite excited to help me bring down the holiday decorations from the attic. We got the tree up, and we got the lights on, and the glass beads that look like bits of ice reflecting in the light.
We began to unpack the ornaments. Every year he hears the stories of them. 'This is an ornament that was on my parents very first Christmas tree, 5 months before I was born. They were your great-grandparents, William,' and 'These two ornaments are from the Christmas tree of Grandpa's mother and father.' There are three small baby shoes and they are from his mother, and his uncle, and his aunt. He can pick those out himself. The White House commemorative ornaments. An ornament from my very first Christmas with his mother. a hard time when I didn't even think about putting up a tree, but someone who cared a great deal brought one and decorated it for me. The little red heart. The ornaments from travels, ours and the kids. A lot of ornaments and a great many of them have stories.
Every year, William recites the ones he knows, and I fill in the gaps. Every year there are less gaps for me to be fill in. Those ornaments tell a story about his family.
He decorated his little tree that always sets in the front hall.
When we were done, we took the boxes upstairs and set them in a spare bedroom. He looked at all the wrapped presents. He said in a very helpful voice, "I could carry these down for you, Grandma. We could put them under the tree. That would be another job done."
I acted as if that had never occurred to me. "That's a great idea."
He began taking presents down and arranging them under the tree. He was very mindful of the name tags. It wasn't long before he got to a big gift. It has a tag on it, but there is no name on it. It's his gift, his main gift, and I didn't put a tag on it, because I don't want him to figure out what it is.
"Grandma! You forgot to put a name on this one!"
I said, "Hmmmmmmmm...."
He said, "Who's it for?"
Me: "I'll have to see if I can remember."
He drags it to the top of the stairs. "I will need help getting this one down the stairs."
I helped him, and he chattered all the way down, wondering whose gift it was. 'It's heavy." "Is it mine?"
I made noncommittal answers and his curiosity was well and truly piqued. He set that at the back of the tree against the wall, and continued to ask questions. I continued to be evasive.
He had his suspicions, but he's afraid to get his hopes up. He said, "It's probably for Grandpa, isn't it? The biggest boxes are always for him."
He shook the box gently a few more times, asked a few more questions. I got him involved in something else, but he kept coming back to look at the presents under the tree.
I'll write his name on the box that contains his hoverboard on Christmas Eve.
Yesterday, from far away, there came a message: "Iris got very sad and misses her 'Ama." Brittani asked if I could skype.
So yesterday, the world stopped for a moment. Iris showed me the snowmen on her window. Her mama had done some decorating while she was down for a nap, and Iris was thrilled with the changes.
Ironically, I also had snowmen on my window sill. They are ice skating. I took them down and made them do a little ice skating routine for Iris which she thought was very funny.
I showed her the bubbling bubble lights. She does love bubbles.
They have not had snow yet, so I pulled the sheer back to show her what was outside my window. She stared wide eyed at that. This is all new. She has heard about snow, but doesn't remember it from last winter.
Over at Weaver's blog, she asked a question: 'How magical can we make Christmas for our own children, for our own family?'
My children are grown and gone now. When they were young, every Christmas morning began with me standing by a cracked door in my pajamas yelling "Ho Ho Ho" through a cardboard tube and then shutting the door quietly to listen to the sound of scampering feet and excited whispers. I did that at least a half hour before they were allowed to go downstairs because I wanted them to have that anticipatory time whispering back and forth to each other in the dark, listening to hear the clock strike six so that they could 'wake up' their parents and head downstairs to the tree.
It was a cherished memory from my own childhood. I wanted them to have it too.
But Weaver's comment struck me, and it stayed with me all day. I changed it up a bit in my thinking: 'How magical can I make Christmas for children?' I decided that it didn't even matter whether they were my own or not...furthermore, maybe they didn't even need to be children.
The possibilities are endless.
And to that end, I began to take a close look around me.
A small gaggle of brothers and sisters were mesmerized by a ceramic Christmas village display. Their mom took them to look at the displays and they loved that. I thought of my Christmas village, packed away, with the buildings and the people and the snow covered trees. Tim dropped that box off on their porch.
Pictures were posted as they unwrapped the newspapers from those pieces. The amazed looks on their faces? That was magic.
I have two other magic tricks up my sleeve.
I encourage you all to get out there and make some magic. Sprinkle it everywhere. Spread it with a heavy hand. No matter how much of it you give away, you're going to discover that you're bringing plenty of it back home with you.