Coronavirus Chronicles, Memoir, Memoir exercises

I am looking at…

^^^Outside my “office” window at home. The houses on this street are very close together. Often this space is a driveway that leads to the back yards, where most houses used to have a small garage or carriage house. Most of those have been torn down or converted into something else. We have a 1996 jet ski (not seen here, but just below the photograph) that hasn’t been moved in 12 years. It is a point of contention between my husband and I that has never been resolved. I finally gave up. Our neighbors are not currently at home. They are living in Thailand and Tanzania, and will be back soon. They have all kind of security and if I get up to go to the bathroom at night the motion detector on their house senses my movement within my house and turns on an outside light. Kind of creepy in a way, but it makes for a good night light. Pablocito has a box on a table beside this window where he often annoys me during Zoom meetings by scratching on the curtains and rubbing his head on my shoulder and sometimes biting me on the head. He is scratching on the curtain and purring right now.

^^^My messy table that I use for work. This used to be my studio table. I have a couple of folding tables set up for that stuff now. Lots of USB cords. I couldn’t figure out why I couldn’t transfer my phone camera files to the laptop for a while this morning. Turned out that I had one USB cord plugged into the laptop and a different one plugged into the phone. Duh. I have notes for work here but also a note about how much income I can expect if I retire at 62. Eyes on the prize. There is also a writing pad with a checklist of cleaning tasks that I thought would keep me on target for getting this house deep cleaned. That lasted for two days.

^^^I should have taken a “before” photo. How many times have I said that? Instead of weaving yesterday, I made soup and tackled purging and cleaning the linen closet. This was a major undertaking. I filled half of a large garbage bin, mostly with old sheets and pillowcases that no one would want. I kept a lot of them because we have different sizes of beds at the lake house, but lately my sister has been making up the beds for us before we visit. Besides, a queen sheet will fit anything smaller if you tuck it in right. I had some old sheets in there that I found or bought with the idea that I would dye them and weave rag rugs with them. Bye, sheets, hello room for the vacuum cleaner and accessories. Bye, years old lotions and ointments and cough drops and medications and nutritional supplements and samples from natural foods stores. This closet is so tall that it is impossible to do much with the top shelf, but I managed to put a box of heirloom stuff up there and some new curtains with which I intend to replace these curtains that Pablocito is shredding now. I’ll probably wait until we are ready to sell the house so that they don’t get ruined too.

Prompt from “Old Friend from Far Away: The Practice of Writing Memoir” by Natalie Goldberg.

agoraphobia, coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, depression/anxiety

Saturday morning coffee pot post

^^^First, birdies.

I have a collection of glass paperweights. At one time it was such a delight to search flea markets, yard sales, and antique/thrift stores for them. After a while I decided to stop collecting them because we have so many knick-knacks in our house that it is a dusting nightmare. I gave a lot of my paperweights away, but I kept the ones that had meaning to me. Here are a few birds from my windowsill in my office. The yellow one came from Florence, Italy. Sitting here at my work desk at home, I see the one that used to be in my mother’s living room for years, and the one that she bought for me when she went to Vienna. I will be giving away more paperweights before long, but those are keepers.

^^^I found this awesome blue jay feather on my walk home.

^^^I played a little with the Diana app on my phone and came up with this.

Bernie is doing okay, I think. He is chirping in there now. Sandy often plays a YouTube video with parakeets singing and squawking. He sings along. He pecks at himself in the mirror.

Today, I am going to concentrate on weaving tapestry, and a little bit of cleaning.

Now, the mental health stuff.

Another rough week. I got out my neti pot and remembered that my sinuses are always a wreck this time of year. It never used to be scary, though. I’m going to look for my humidifier in the linen closet, maybe reorganize and purge that space.

I had a panic attack at work when a well-meaning professor would NOT move away from me inside my little office. She hovered over me reading slowly from some instructions she had written down and kept losing her place and getting irritated if I clicked on something before she said to click it. After asking her to let me handle it several times (she was trying to help with a technical problem, and she is the least technically literate person that you could ever imagine), I finally yelped, “Please, I canNOT breathe in this mask!” and she moved out to the hallway, and at that point I lost the thread of the whole thing, but I know that I shut the door and she came back later and asked through the door if I had resolved it, and I basically told her yes. I hadn’t, but I had a work-around. It was not worth having someone peering over my shoulder in a small space for many minutes.

So, UGH, first panic attack in a long time, and I HATE having panic attacks at work the most. It wasn’t a major one, so I was able to get myself together and work the rest of the day, but DAMN. This does not bode well. I have way too much to do in the next two weeks.

Okay, </mental health stuff…

coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, critters, tapestry

Sunday afternoon coffee pot post

On the last dregs of the pot – I got caught up in Facebook.

Yesterday was a better day. Sandy called an old friend who worked for a bird breeder for years and she advised us that Bernie will be okay as a solo parakeet. He will probably bond with Sandy now that Liz is gone, which would be a very good thing since Sandy enjoys having him around. Bernie has bitten the crap out of him twice when he had to handle him. She offered to clip his wings so that he could have him out of the cage but both of us shudder at that idea. We won’t declaw our cats either. Bernie has a big roomy cage just so he has the ability to flutter about. That was one of our requirements if we were going to have a pet bird – he would be able to do birdie things as much as possible.

This friend had ninety birds at her house at one time. Can you imagine the noise?

Anyway, I spent most of the day out of my bedroom and took a walk around the block. Here’s proof:

^^^A long cropped shot of the back of our house from the other side of the block. You can see why we have a problem with water flowing downhill!

^^^The corner bar.

^^^What lies beneath. This is the red clay that our region is famous for. Less than an hour south is one of the oldest pottery communities in the nation – Seagrove, North Carolina.

^^^Tapestry progress. It’s just coincidence that this part looks like Liz.

^^^Robbie Rabbit is still alive and kicking. What a lucky bunny, because it spends a lot of time in the open and we have foxes and big hawks around here. I hope s/he’s still around when our young neighbor returns from Thailand. He will be delighted to see the baby bunny that he fed is all grown up.

^^^Rabbit yoga.

We made a quick run to Bestway Grocery to get a few items, mainly Smithwick’s ale for me since I ran out a while back, and a Smithwick’s after work is a good incentive to get through the day. I forgot that snow and ice was forecast for last night so the place was fairly crowded, although they enforce their masking rule and people were good about spacing. We double masked. Since we were there I ordered one of our favorite meals as take-out from Fishbones next door: popcorn shrimp burritos. It is such a small space and the patrons were fairly spaced out, not quite enough in my opinion, but all the unmasked people in that small indoor space gave me the willies. Thank God I only had to step inside for a few minutes. I feel sorry for the staff.

I will be so glad when we can sit at the bar in Fishbones and drink a pint of Smithwick’s there. It is one of our favorite places.

We had snow around 9 p.m. By the time I got up this morning and looked out the window, it was cold rain and the snow washed away. No ice that I can see. The temperature is just above freezing. I feel for my friends in the northeast who are about to get blasted again.

coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, critters, depression/anxiety

Saturday morning coffee pot post

Hello world. It is bright and shiny out here. I’ve been spending a lot of time curled up in a fetal position under my t-shirt blankie.

Yesterday I walked to work. Now I am putting on two masks for four layers. The ones that I make fit my face pretty well. The elastic goes around my head or neck, below my ears. I have very sensitive ears and there’s not enough room for my glasses and my mask on top of them.

I have to say that wearing two masks outside in winter is a comfortable thing, unless you huff and puff because of lack of exercise and get them moist. Plus I have to drink coffee from my favorite mug, the one that I bought at the sculpture museum outside of Jackson, Wyoming. Let’s not talk about my hair. It looked good the day before.

Speaking of sculpture, I liked this work of art by Nature.

Liz died yesterday. She is the white parakeet. We rescued her and her companion Bernie from a relative who was in the hospital and not really capable of taking care of any animals. We don’t know how old they are/were. They didn’t even have names – we named them. My brother-in-law said that he thought that the white one was a couple of years old when he bought the blue one to keep her company in a very small cage.

At least we gave her a roomy cage big enough to flutter about in for the last year and a half. I am really sorry for Bernie, though, because parakeets are social critters and we do not plan to get him a companion, since we were going to have to find homes for them when we move to Portugal in two and a half years anyway. Sandy plays a parakeet video for them with lots of chirping and squawking and so he played that for Bernie yesterday afternoon. Bernie was quiet most of the time but later he started chirping and singing and squawking with the video. This morning Sandy said that he was frantically looking for Liz. I hear him in there chirping now.

I am experiencing heavy empathy for Bernie right now. Lonely and confused, in a cage. I don’t like having birds in cages or fish in tanks, and I swore that I would never have a caged bird, but this was a rescue operation. We didn’t even know that he had these birds until he asked us to check on them after he’d been in the hospital for 10 days. I wish that Bernie was not so afraid of us, but I don’t see any possibility of taming him. I have been phobic of birds since I was attacked by a rooster when I was a toddler, but having these two have made me a bit less so.

Having spent most of my time working on my laptop, reading, or sleeping, I don’t really have a lot to say other than the news about Liz, but I decided to show up. Because showing up is half the battle, right?

I’m going to weave tapestry today. And maybe make a very brief grocery run. And take a walk around the block, at least. The weather is supposed to be nasty tomorrow. A nice pot of soup would be a good thing.

Coronavirus Chronicles

01-26-21

Here’s the photo I meant to post yesterday. A wider view of the tapestry since I worked more in the middle of it.

Today was a bit better as far as work. I checked my work email last night before I went to bed, and that was a definite mistake. I won’t do that again. It set my brain to spinning and I heard Amtrak go by for its 3:15 stop in downtown Greensboro before I fell asleep.

I didn’t lose my temper, I saw and acknowledged a few mistakes of my own, and I came up with some ideas to fix the problems, as well as explanations for why we could not do some of the things that were proposed. It was helpful to vent a little bit yesterday.

What was funny is that he mentioned that he didn’t know what they would do without me doing the class schedule, at which point I told him to start thinking about it because after this one I would be doing it only two more times before I retire at 62. He was surprised. Apparently I hadn’t said anything or he didn’t remember. But I appreciated that he said that.

My friends who were over-the-road truckers sold their big rig and bought a big RV. If for some reason we can’t move overseas, I will buy a smaller RV or camper van. I don’t want a huge vehicle.

I’m trying to decide whether it is worth it to buy N95 masks now or to double mask with the new variants of covid-19 popping up. We haven’t been going out, but tomorrow we might do a quick grocery trip, and so the plan is to take as many precautions as possible.

Tomorrow the NC Solar Now guys are supposed to replace the circuit panel on our solar panel system. We have been without solar energy generation for over three months now, which is a bit irritating since it was very expensive and we didn’t notice that it was down for over a month. They were supposed to monitor it. I’m trying to decide whether to be generous and not raise hell or to be assertive about some kind of compensation.

And, no 2019 tax refund yet, and again, no indication of whether it was received on their end or not.

“The Given Day” is a good novel that moves right along, so I’m going to forego the weaving tonight and read, then try to get to sleep early.

I was thinking last night about how Harold and Maude might really be my all-time favorite movie instead of Groundhog Day or The Big Lebowski, then this article popped up.

44. Harold and Maude

It’s not ridiculous to say that watching Harold and Maude can change your life. On paper, the film may seem like a dark romantic comedy based on the relationship between a 20-year-old boy infatuated with suicide and an 79-year-old woman who lives each day like it’s her last, but it digs so much deeper than that. Harold and Maude is a celebration of life. Director Hal Ashby wants to eliminate societal tropes like age and gender in order to fully cherish living and appreciate the freedom of it all. It feels like watching a dream that’s speaking directly to you, urging you to understand that life is worth living—not in any particular way, but in whatever way feels authentic. Cult movies are beloved for being weird or campy, and Harold and Maude is no exception, but the appeal goes beyond that. I could go on and on; instead I’ll leave you with the Cat Stevens lyrics that reverberate through the movie:

Well if you want to sing out, sing out
And if you want to be free, be free
‘Cause there’s a million things to be
You know that there are.

—Sean Yoo

coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, depression/anxiety, tapestry, weaving

Sunday morning coffee pot post

Yesterday ended up being a very good day. I felt some sense of normalcy coming back to my brain. Sandy was very caring, and encouraged me to go back to my tapestry loom. My back muscles aren’t in great shape right now, so when I took a break he gave me a massage. I’m going to set a timer today so that I have to get up every 10-15 minutes and turn it off. It is too easy to get wrapped up in the weaving and then say I’ll take a break after this, oh, maybe after this…next thing you know your back is locking up in the sitting forward position.

As far as the tapestry, “Cathedral,” goes, this is one that I’ve been working on for five years, with many breaks that have sometimes gone for months. The breaks started with my neck issues, which are now nearly non-existent, and then depression. The weaving is beautiful but what people don’t see is that the tension is terrible and there will be big problems in getting it blocked to lay flat when I cut it off. I haven’t done this before because I’m usually pretty good with even tension and straight edges, so thinking about it can make me really anxious and obsessive and shut me down. Will all this work be a waste of time? Anyway, the photo is a detail of the area I wove yesterday.

When I went back to it this time, I reminded myself that this is the section that is mostly in shadow, and I don’t need to worry over the details so much. I am using a very painterly approach to this tapestry, blending 2-3 colors of fine wool yarns to create depth of color. Some of the yarns are handspun naturally dyed samples that someone gave me long ago. I’m pretty much through with them. The round metal circles are rare earth magnets that hold the canvas with the cartoon to the back of the tapestry.

Sandy made blueberry pancakes for lunch and we got Wendy’s for dinner through the drive through window after picking up my prescription from the Walgreens drive through window. As much as I’d like to boycott Wendy’s, I guess it is just not happening right now. It’s the easiest choice we have for food when we are depressed and tired. I like their chicken pecan apple salad.

Last week’s installing of the pull out baskets in the lower cabinets went well. I didn’t screw them down to the bottom of the cabinets because once the weight of the cans and storage containers was in them they worked just fine without that. If I eventually use them for lighter weight storage I will have to attach them.

It had the further purpose of me pulling everything out, cleaning, reorganizing, and throwing the cardboard trays I had been attempting to use in the recycling bin. I can see what I need to reorder more easily. I’m putting things that I don’t use in boxes to either go to Goodwill, Reconsidered Goods, or the lake house. As I finish a book, it goes in the box to take to the used book store, the book bus, or I walk it around the block to the Little Free Library. (The problem with that is that I usually find something to replace it!) Little by little, room by room, I’m getting this place cleaner.

Pablocito is sneezing a lot so we are going to tackle the dust in the laundry room where he spends much of his time on a cushion on top of a cabinet, watching the birds and squirrels and napping. It is one of those rooms that you suddenly realize that there is a coating of thick dust on every door and window sill and lintel, and there are a lot of windows in that room. Surely he is not allergic to cat hair but it makes sense that the dryer lint could be the culprit.

Coronavirus Chronicles

01-14-21

When everybody is talking about the same thing, I don’t have much desire to write about it. Kind of like when I was blogging about local food and then suddenly it seemed like there were so many local food blogs out there doing it better. I’d just as soon step back and let the others talk as long as they speak my mind well. So I’m not writing about impeachment or the danger that we are all in here.

I said to Sandy today that I sometimes fear that we may not get out of the country in time – thinking of Germany or Russia in the 20th century – and by waiting for the best time, miss our chance. I feel like that happened somewhat by waiting until we were older. Canada doesn’t want retirees, unless you are rich. It is heartening to know that after my birthday in February I can draw my pension at a reduced rate if absolutely necessary. It won’t be enough until I can add my social security to it though, and that will be a little more than two years from now.

Prices on airfares from NC to Europe dropped and it’s worth checking it out on Google Flights if you are planning on traveling next year.

I’ve started looking at some Portuguese recipe websites and maybe that would get me excited about cooking again. I feel so flat and blah right now. It’s probably that psychological freeze response since I can’t take flight.

This is the beginning of my busy work season. I don’t mind. I just wish I didn’t have to go to the office tomorrow because cold rain is forecast. Today was my staff meeting on Zoom and the four of us mainly talked about politics and joked around. It was good. I miss my co-workers because we are all good friends.

North Carolina changed their vaccination priority schedule again and now Sandy and my sister and brother-in-law are in the group ahead of me. I am happy about that. I’m considered an essential worker because I am educational staff and will be in the next group, but this group that is up now is huge and it will probably take weeks for them anyway. There aren’t enough vaccines. However, I am perfectly capable of doing my job at home. I have digital files and I seldom need to look at the paper files any more. The only part we can’t do is answer the office phone from home, and let the mail delivery person into the mailroom.

Ho hum.

Coronavirus Chronicles

01-11-2021

Yesterday was another wasted day. I did dishes and laundry and put them away, but other than that and blogging, nothing of worth. We ordered a pizza from New York Pizza a couple of blocks away and got contactless delivery. It was not nearly as good as I remembered. I think that Slices by Tony has spoiled us. We watched an episode of Schitt’s Creek, which I am forcing Sandy to watch one episode at a time with me to spread it out. He’s a binger; I am not.

We both spent a lot of time on Facebook and reading the news and watching new videos of the coup attempt. I bet some people regret running for Congress and Senate. I worry.

NC Health Department is recommending everyone over 65 or with high risk health conditions to stay home and get delivery for essentials if possible. It’s that bad right now.

Sandy is still weak but much, much better.

——Lunch break——

Some more earliest memories, percolating with the news about vaccinations:

Terrified of doctor visits and needles – I had tonsillitis and ear infections in early childhood. I had to be held down for vaccinations. When I was five, I had a tonsillectomy and my adenoids removed. I would try to hide any injury or pain if I thought it might result in a doctor or dental visit.

What are adenoids anyway? Ah, thank you, Google: “The adenoids are glands that sit above the roof of the mouth and the tonsils. They are part of the immune system. These glands help trap germs that enter the nose or the mouth, in an effort to prevent infections. The size of the adenoids increases until a child is 6 years old, then they slowly shrink. The adenoids usually disappear by the time a person is 16.”

Also major dental problems. My teeth came in yellow and soft, and our dentist was my father’s cousin, and he was an asshole. When my permanent teeth came in, they were also yellow and soft, so I got a lot of fillings. I’ve been told this was because my mother took tetracycline when she was pregnant with me. It was new, then, and they didn’t know the risks. I’ve learned that a lot of people my age have yellow teeth. But my father also had terrible teeth. Who knows how much was genetic? The Army Air Force pulled his entire upper plate before he left for the Pacific in World War II.

On the other hand, I was perversely stubborn about not brushing my teeth. I have no idea why other than I was a very strong willed kid. I remember sometimes wetting my toothbrush to make it look like I had brushed my teeth. I also remember having an abscessed tooth and I chewed on a bedsheet and cried and waited as long as possible to tell my mother about because of my fear of the dentist. Yet, I resisted basic dental care. Maybe it was me.

Nowadays, I know that Novocaine has an unpredictable effect on me. Sometimes I have to have multiple shots to numb a tooth, and sometimes even then it would wear off before the dentist finished. My mother started giving me Valium to get me through a dentist visit, and Cousin P.C. made me sign a humiliating contract “not to cry,” which he showed me every year until my last visit at age 18, when I was finally able to get free of him. Then I found that that other dentists had methods that reduced pain that he never used.

I remember when I was a teenager that after he told me that a shot in the roof in my mouth was not going to hurt, his assistant stepped in and told me that it would but it would be over quickly. He was furious. She said that I should be told the truth and he said that she had no idea what he had to deal with with me.

I have a wonderful dentist now. I will hate to have to switch when I get to Portugal. She is so kind about my panic attacks and my hypersensitivity.

Zoom meetings have made me ultra aware of my yellow teeth. I read that is a common complaint these days – it seems to exaggerate every facial flaw. Other than that, I like Zoom.

coffee pot posts, Coronavirus Chronicles, Family, Reading

Sunday morning coffee pot post

The shelf next to my “work” table. The small bone is a vertebra that I found at the lake. I think that the lovely carved wooden container is bamboo, and probably came back from the Philippines with my father.

Yesterday I started blogging some of my earliest memories and I’m going to continue to do that from time to time. I think a lot about them when I am in that world between wakefulness and sleep. Plus, there is not really too much else to write about in my personal life, and I prefer to not write about politics, although occasionally I will have to put my opinions out into the world. I don’t want anybody assuming that because I am a white Boomer from North Carolina that I am right wing. I am a leftie all the way, and I have been since high school when I began to understand what humanity is doing to our environment. I can’t say that I understood racism then, although my heart was in the right place.

My mother and father always voted opposite parties, until my father started catching on to Reagin and voted against him in his second term in 1984. He still voted for Jesse Helms, though, bless his heart, because he said Jesse was head of the Senate Ag Committee and everything was about small farms for Daddy. After Jesse was re-elected, he moved to the Foreign Affairs committee so Daddy’s reason was moot.

I am a leftie to the point that Portugal not only calls me because of its affordability, beauty, and friendly people, but because it has a democratic socialist government. I am going to do my best to get there and get EU citizenship when I retire in 2023, and Sandy seems to be committed to this as well. What is going to be the big headache is downsizing our hoard and fixing the house and yard up to get our property sold. It will sell quickly, based on what I’ve seen on this street. We invested well.

Once we get Portuguese citizenship, I hope that will be my back door to moving to Ireland, which has always been my dream, but its income requirements are beyond what we make.

I keep saying that I will get back to artwork but I just can’t seem to do it. At least I have started exercising. I joined Sandy for his “one mile express” low impact exercise video yesterday and my feet were fine last night. Hopefully my tendinitis has healed enough that I can continue to exercise and sleep without pain.

Yesterday afternoon, I retreated here again and played games on my Kindle and read news articles and my current book and cuddled with Diego.

The bed frame is from my Aunt Lib’s bedroom from the Parham house. It traveled to my parents’ house, where it became my grandmother Jones’ bed while she lived with us. It is just the right size for this room, big enough for me, the cats, and my books.

Right now I am reading “House Made of Dawn,” a slim book with beautiful prose that takes place in New Mexico. Given my renewed interest in writing, I may read Natalie Goldberg’s book on memoir writing, “Old Friend from Far Away,” next.

Coronavirus Chronicles, Local food, Reading

01-08-2021

Sitting here in my office during my “lunch hour.” The snow either didn’t show or didn’t stick today. I walked to work in a light sleet that melted on the ground.

Yesterday I got out for the first walk I’ve taken in days, and puttered around the yard pulling up tomato plants and tidying a bit. My Achilles tendinitis only smarted a little bit, so the break I took helped a lot. However I can definitely feel the changes in my body from lack of exercise.

We are ordering delivery for our groceries again. Sandy was very bad and stopped in for cheesecake take-out at Cheesecakes by Alex, though. We get take-out a couple of times a week from different local restaurants. Although we try to limit our shopping to small local businesses, we got salads from Mellow Mushroom recently. I really love their Enlightened Asian salad. For pizza, we have fallen in love with a local joint called Slices by Tony. They also have incredible sandwiches and calzones and desserts. I haven’t tried their pastas yet.

Today we received the last packages that we have ordered since mid-December – yay! I have art supplies for all my classes now so there are no excuses left.

I spent a good bit of time transferring zipped folders of my Flickr albums to three different Google Drives this week, and I deleted about a thousand photos, which means that there are only 10,410 left up on Flickr – LOL. They haven’t deleted my photos yet. I imagine that they are waiting to see if I change my mind about paying up. One thing I have realized is that I have to edit my photos before uploading them to WordPress, else they will take up all my space. There is still plenty of space here, though.

I finished “This Must Be the Place” by Maggie O’Farrell, and I was pleasantly surprised. After the first two chapters I wasn’t sure that I wanted to read it all the way through, but I’m glad that I continued because I loved it. Novels that jump around in time don’t bother me, and I love books that give perspectives from the different characters’ points of view. These characters were very complex and the writing was great. I’m going to look for more by her – I know that her current bestseller is “Hamnet.”

The other reason that I almost returned it to the little free library was because of the perfume smell. I suppose that some books smell like this because of hand lotion. Sometimes I can take it, sometimes I can’t. It’s almost as bad as books that come from a heavy smoker’s house.

Which reminds me – I gave masks to a few of my co-workers for Christmas and one, who is a super-taster and thus has an excellent sense of smell, said that hers smelled like wood smoke. We’ve only had one fire in the wood stove one time this year, so that goes to show how much that permeates everything. Fortunately it’s not a bad smell. I’m glad that she didn’t say that it smelled like cat litter or mildew!

Next up is “House Made of Dawn” by Scott Momaday.

I have no idea what I will do this weekend. Lunch hour is over. Bye.