Category: Uncategorized-A Bit of This-A Dab of That

Celebrating Life

Mom

A Celebrating Life event as a memorial to my Mom occurred this past weekend, approximately six months after her death. Celebrate is the proper term. She would have loved attending such a send-off. Much laughter, great food, music and dancing, with just a touch of solemnity and maybe a tear or two.

WOTM

Mom enjoyed being a member of the Women of the Moose (WOTM). She contributed regularly to Mooseheart, a very worthwhile program. And she travelled with my Dad to the annual conventions of Moose International. In her later years, as her dementia progressed, I joined her local chapter so I could attend the conventions also. This gave her a couple additional trips to enjoy. I am grateful they allowed us to do this since I live over a thousand miles away in an area without a chapter representing the organization.

The WOTM provided the ceremonious aspect of the day celebrating life. The dignified account of her involvement and their recognition was touching and brought a few tears to eyes. The opening ceremony gave way to a splendid afternoon.

A highlight was the wonderful spread spearheaded by the WOTM. Shrimp, salmon and snow crab were the stars for the seafood lovers. Fresh fruit and berries attracted the young children. Salads, breads, croissant sandwiches competed heavily with a variety of desserts for room on the dinner plates of the attendees.

Music

Our family loves music. All kinds of music. One of the things Mom and I had in common was our love of dancing. The duet hired for the occasion played lots of my Mom’s favorites. Songs from artists like Roy Orbison, Crystal Gayle and the Village People prompted dancers to fill the dance floor. Of course Mom’s favorite, Elvis, was showcased as well.

The performers were acquainted with my parents. This may have helped with the perfect song selection. I am so appreciative of their work. I needed closure and the afternoon provided! If you live in the Orlando area and desire live music, consider contracting Mark Good and/or Jody from Jody and The Trouble Brothers. I am thankful these two teamed up for our celebrating life event.

Celebrating Life with Family and Friends

Looking through old photos, it is common to find family photos at both weddings and funerals. Traditionally, the occasion could be determined by either smiles or somber faces. The Covid-19 pandemic did not allow a funeral to take place immediately following Mom’s death. So the photos taken are full of happy faces.

Identifying family members from old pictures is difficult. We were fortunate to have one of Mom’s cousins in attendance to fill in the gaps. Since one of the “greats” (great grandkids/grandnephews) is of college age maybe decades from now there will be the knowledge of the nature of the event. And someone to fill in future gaps.

Mom loved playing games with the youngsters. She also loved buying individual Christmas ornaments; Many Disney themed. I like to think she will watch over the little ones from the hereafter. Especially the one born shortly after her death. The little one that shares a name.

Six Months

Growing up, I celebrated half-birthdays with my mother’s side of the family. Born in the middle of winter and living half a country away did not lend itself to maternal grandparents celebrating the actual day. My cousins lived close to my grandparents. So they also participated in marking my half-birthday.

Ironically, Mom died the day before my birthday. And we held her celebrating life memorial close to six months later. Those same cousins honored their aunt by making the trip. They are spread across the country now so the journey is not easy. My aunt with whom I share a birthday also attended. I am so grateful for the family support.

Much Needed Closure

Everyone grieves differently. I tend to withdraw. My creativity is also affected. I actually stopped playing the piano after the death of one family member I was particularly close to. Something I regret now. So, I have struggled to continue writing. However, I plan to make every effort to fight the malaise.

Celebrating life in a non-traditional way was a perfect tribute for my mom. She would have loved the event. Surprisingly, I loved it too. Operating out of the comfort zone can be beneficial. I finally feel closure. We did indeed celebrate her life.

Four generations in a family photo

Summer Travel; Random Thoughts

A Few Rambling Remarks

The year 2021 is full of Summer Travel; Random Thoughts follow. Like many Americans, I am hitting the road after a year of little travel. In addition to conferences and work trips, newborn babies and wedding planning call for many trips. Of varying length. So I am throwing out some observations.

Masks

As the summer wears on, I see fewer and fewer masks. The exception is among children and young adults. The children make a lot of sense to me. Under 12 are not eligible for vaccines. Less so the young adults. But perhaps they are taking extra precautions. Now that I am thinking about it, some of the very elderly also have face wear.

Crowds

Groups are beginning to gather again. While I felt quite comfortable at a conference of two hundred, I am still a bit leery of inside gatherings. However, so far so good. Outdoor gatherings make me a little less apprehensive, but I have never been one to enjoy standing cheek to jowl. From the Ohio River Valley to the High Plains of Colorado, Kansas and Wyoming, people are getting out and about.

But some crowds cause concern. Especially in areas where the delta variant is present. Mesa County, Colorado is far, far, away from me. But, the county hosted a country music jam in late June. At the same time, the delta variant was rearing its’ ugly head in that locale. Repercussions are just now coming to light. Numbers are trending up.

Similarly, parts of the Southeast-next on my travel agenda-are experiencing huge upswings. I will be staying with family. All elderly, all vaccinated. So I will travel, but cautiously. Drive through eateries along the road will become the norm on this next journey.

Summer Travel Cross Country Style

Late May and early June trips went without any hiccups for my spouse and me.  The trip to Kansas was quite easy. Traffic is returning, but the roads were not clogged. The same for the Rocky Mountain highways of Colorado and Wyoming. And gas prices were reasonable.

Travelling in late June was another story. This was a much longer trip to the Ohio River Valley on a journey to Cincinnati with tours of Bluegrass Country wrapped around the conference destination. My travelling companion thought I was a tad bit weird, filling up the tank at each stop vs. when on empty. That is until we stopped in Columbia, MO and hit a gas station totally out.

I had been reading about shortages in various locations. Of course press coverage exacerbated the problem to the point small sized cities ran totally out. The explanation is not a shortage of fuel, but a shortage of labor. Not enough people to drive the fuel trucks. Thus, a labor shortage created a fuel supply shortage.

Labor Shortages

Long Haul drivers are not the only labor shortage. Restaurant staff is also in short supply. On the aforementioned Ohio Valley trip, a stop to get some lunch ended in a return to the Interstate. The two restaurants were closed. One had a help wanted sign. Many other places also had help wanted signs.

I think a combination of factors is driving this shortage. Many people are out and about making up for the year of isolation. Some Baby Boomers have decided to go ahead and retire. While the Federal unemployment has ended, some states have continued the unemployment payments. Thus no incentive to work.

Furthermore, the younger generation is looking at things differently. When talking to one of my offspring, I was asked why one would enter a career of long haul truck driving when autonomous trucks are already in the testing stage. What would be the upside?

Other conversations include a chance to move beyond entry level jobs sooner because Baby Boomers are leaving the work force. And a concern about the possible resurgence of the virus due to the inability to reach herd immunity.

Summer Travel Concerns

My summer travel plans are centered mostly on visits to family. A year apart was difficult. Other trips revolve around business interests. Maybe next year I will travel just to travel, in other words take a vacation. My bucket list of places to see hasn’t had much ticked off lately.

But there are some concerns. First and foremost when travelling by car is the availability of fuel. Next of course is the price levels. (Those of you participating in the inflation check challenge, this is the month to re-check.) Of course weather is a constant concern.

This next trip will be solo. Nothing new for me. But I will follow the precautions listed in this post on travelling alone. I am thankful last year’ riots have simmered down. My journey through the southern states is familiar territory. Stomping ground from my youth. I am looking forward to visiting family and driving some familiar roads. The United States of America has many, many beautiful places within.

Summertime Hail Storm

Zero Chance of Rain

A summertime hail storm struck this past weekend even though the chance of rain was nil. Thunder and lightning broke the quiet evening and lit up the skies to the north. I checked the forecast and the radar-zero chance of the storm coming south.  So, the bedtime ritual complete, I turned in for the night. Or so I thought.

An hour later pounding overhead woke me up. Immediately, I left the comfort of my bed and checked the backdoor to see if the racket was heavy rain or dreaded hail. At that point, it was hard to tell. So, I opened the front door. Tiny balls were bouncing off the driveway.

Next I checked the radar. A red cell was directly overhead. Not moving. And the pounding increased. Another peek outback and large peas were dotting the grass. Then the peas turned to small marbles. Perfectly round with the exception of one odd shaped ice cube. This hail stone was almost clear while the rest were opaque. Much like a perfectly formed snow balls. Just miniaturized.

The storm lasted thirty minutes.

Damage to the Big Garden

Naturally, my first thought upon awakening the next morning was the garden. The Big Garden was checked first. The lettuce row was shredded. The single potato in the middle of the root row was damaged as well. But the potatoes and sweet potatoes in the metal rings both inside and outside of the fencing fared better.

The tomatoes had whiplash, but most of the stems were intact and the flowers still open. However, the mallow was denuded of its beautiful purple blooms. Carrots and beets are still too small to show much damage.

Anything with a support was barely touched. This includes the peas which are bearing pods. Likewise, smaller leafed plants did ok. Unfortunately, the squash with its broad leaves show damage.

Raised Boxes

The raised boxes at the back of the property bore the most damage. The tomatoes there were not on supports. Now they resemble little trees sliced down by a tornado. The summertime hail storm showed no mercy.

The clusters on the Concord and Niagara grapes are so small and hard, I am hoping they escape the damage so readily seen on the leaves. On each side of the boxes are asparagus patches. One looked downtrodden and the other as if nothing but rain had occurred.  Such is the nature of hail.

Summertime Hail Storm and the Side Garden

The side garden should have sustained the most damage. But it didn’t and I am not sure why. I have the slicing tomatoes planted here. They have supports. The damage was greater than the Big Garden paste tomatoes but not nearly as devastating as the boxes.

The side garden is half produce and half flower.  (I plant flowers everywhere to entice the bees, but usually the ratio is much more lopsided.) The roses are budding out and show some damage. The peonies were protected-but still no flowers. This is year three since transplant. The peach trees shredded many leaves. The hail could not damage the fruit since the hard freeze took care of that first.

Container Plants

In hopes of a greenhouse, I increased the number of tropical plants in planters. While my potted flowers did well, the various tropicals did not. Severe damage was noted to the banana, turmeric, and artichoke. Minor damage to the avocado. The lime tree was somewhat sheltered by the house and showed no damage.

The zero chance of rain played into the mix here. All these planters could and would have been pulled onto one of the porches if I felt they were in danger.

High Plains Summertime Hail Storms

This part of the country experiences many hail storms. The last major storm was just four years ago. You can read about it by clicking here. The storms are hit and miss. Furthermore, they are unpredictable. This particular storm came from the north, but farmer friends less than five miles north of us had the rain without the hail.

Crop insurance plays a big part in farming operations. And Mother Nature still rules. Fields side-by-side can vary in how a storm affects them. Sometimes the change is within a field with corn stripped on one side but not the other.

Home owners also need coverage. Between the length of the storm and the tiny black specks under the roofline, there is a chance our roof sustained damage. An inspector will travel out from the Front Range next week.

My appointment is scheduled for first thing in the morning. I asked if he knew how far and he replied he hadn’t been out here in a long time. But he had used Google maps. He will either start out at 0’ Dark Thirty, or possibly come out the night before. Such is life out on the plains.

Summertime Hail Storm

Summer Hail Storm 5 Star Lettuce

Faith, Friends and Family

Faith, Friends and Family An Important Trio

Faith Friends and Family. Anyone over a certain age knows that life is full of challenges. Many different kinds of challenges. And those difficulties are met with varying success. I have discussed successes and failures before. But today, I am expressing my belief that the hardships we face as we travel through life are best met when enveloped with faith and surrounded by friends and family.

Faith

The definitions of faith are straightforward. The secular definition is: a complete trust in something. Many examples come to mind. A toddler’s trust in his parents. A patient’s trust in a doctor. Perhaps a lack of faith could explain a reluctance to get vaccinated against Covid-19.

The religious based definition of faith denotes a strong belief in God or another deity as well as the principles of a specified religion. This type of faith needs no proof. There are numerous religions on this planet of ours. Unfortunately some conflict greatly with others.

On a personal level, my faith is a combination of belief in both Christianity and science. I know I am not the only person that can accept seemingly conflicting dogma. Truly, there are things that cannot be explained by science. Miracles happen.

But, a belief in science is critical. A few years ago, I was not remembering short term things, like where I put my car keys. Since I had a family member with dementia, this was quite concerning. So I began researching brain health.

The science is a bit more complicated than use it or lose it. Nonetheless, studies indicated new brain connections form from new experiences and processes. Econogal is one. My new hobbies including the Big Garden, another. Finally, the not so simple concept of mindfulness is also helping with my short term memory.

Spiritual Faith

I have a difficult time discussing my religious ideas. Beliefs present on Earth run the gamut from atheist to the most devout. For those believing in a deity, prayers are a component of that belief. However, not everyone prays the same.

In my greatest times of crisis, my prayers are quite simple. I ask for help in accepting God’s Will. Twice I have had children near death. On both occasions, I prayed for the ability to accept whatever the future held. Did I want them to live? Of course! Did I seek the best medical help available? You bet I did! But life is finite for all of us.

As a child, I was a voracious reader. The fables of Aesop and of the Brothers Grimm were favorites. Perhaps these influences explain my inability to pray for specific outcomes for myself. Stories such as The Invisible Life of Addie Larue (click here for review) reinforce this belief. Yet, I have no trouble in praying for the healing of others. Both body and soul. And I always pray for the acceptance of what life holds for each.

Friends

The second component of Faith, Friends and Family centers on friendship. Relationships are complex. It is hard to differentiate between friends and acquaintances. Often we spend much more time with the latter. Yet, friendships are among the most important bonds available to us.

Early Friends

I can still remember the name of one of my first playmates even though I never saw him after the age of four. Perhaps the fact our parents exchanged Christmas cards for many years reinforced the memory. But I also remember a schoolmate from kindergarten, one not seen since we moved in second grade. This was not the child of a parental friend. Both must have impacted my life for the memories to hold.

Thus, I can understand the concern created by the pandemic forced isolation. Only children may face the biggest impact. Even the fact that parents were also isolated at home may not have helped.

Childhood friends may not stay friends as adults. But I think the interaction is key to developing relationships later in life.

Shared Experiences

Recently, an evening was shared with college friends not seen in almost ten years. We picked up right where we left off. The bonds formed long ago stay strong even through absence. Conversation flowed, memories shared and much catching up was done. Hopefully, the next gap in time will not be so long.

For many, social media bridges this gap. My problem with these online entities is the inability to share privately. As well as the time delay. There is much to be said for being in the present. Another problem I have with social media is the lack of honesty. Seldom is life presented with all the warts.

Creating new shared experiences is key to maintaining friendships. It is also key to defining generations. I have been alive for many decades. But the last twenty years contain the most shared experiences. From 9/11 to the Covid-19 pandemic, the pages of the history books will be full.

Friend for Life

Many people say they married their best friend. I can relate to that. Anyone married for a length of time understands the work that goes into a marriage. And the many stages of a life together. Crisis can strengthen a relationship or tear it apart… I am one of the fortunate ones.

Faith, Friends and Family

Last but certainly not least in the concept of Faith, Friends and Family is family. A strict definition confines family to blood relations created through marriage and births. I am sure many would disagree. Blended families are an integral part of society. Adoptees and foster families have replaced orphanages. Family units are a key part of the culture I live in.

It is quite difficult to put into words just how important family is to me. My immediate family is quite small. However my spouse was the youngest of five. Farm families are decreasing in size but still much bigger than those of most city dwellers.

Covid-19 and 2020 marked the first year of just two of us for the important holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas. The meals were low key. Even though the traditional festivities were gone, the days were meaningful.

Many of my family will gather for a celebration of life this summer. I am looking forward to seeing all of my offspring, my Dad, and many of my cousins. We will honor my Mom’s life in a way that she would approve. Finally having some closure will be good.

The other big family event of the year will be a Labor Day weekend wedding. The bride and groom picked this date so attendees could have a chance of vaccination prior to the ceremony. They are looking forward to a wedding and reception sans masks. We will attend with great joy.

Family gatherings need to be filled with joy and happiness, not stress. Communication is key to making this happen. Another secret to a pleasant gathering is pitching in without asking. My best tip is to use empathy. It is true that until you walk a mile in someone’s shoes, it is difficult to understand where they are coming from. If someone is obviously having a difficult time be part of the solution.

Family Dynamics

Each family has its own idiosyncrasies. As any parent can tell you, each child is unique. The differing personalities are the beginning. But it is the individual life experiences which really affect family dynamics. Siblings may share some things, but not everything.

One of my goals is to be able to agree to disagree within the immediate family. This task can be daunting, especially in an election year. And I will admit, agreement on a topic does make life easier. But the agreement should be independent, not coerced.

The ability to communicate differences is key, in my opinion, to keeping function in family relations. This takes work. But the reward is great. None of us will live forever. It is important to keep bridges strong and to always, always have a gate in the wall.

Life is short. Faith, Friends and Family make life noteworthy. Make time for all.

Springtime in the Garden: A 2021 Update

The Big Garden

A Raised Row Garden
The rows run North to South

Spring 2021

Springtime in the garden varies from year to year. Some springs are over in the blink of an eye. Freezing temperatures give way to triple digits in a fortnight. But Spring 2021 is more like a story tale. Cool evenings are followed by warm afternoons. Rains have been gentle and frequent. This is a delightful change.

Early Harvests

Green onions and lettuces lead the harvest production. But the asparagus crop is not far behind. I plant onion bulbs early and often. Two to three green onions are consumed per day in our household. To be honest, leaving enough in the ground to develop into winter storage bulbs is a challenge.

Early herbs include Italian Parsley, chives and oregano. The first pesto of the season is made from a combination of these three. In addition to adding these herbs to our evening dishes, they add color to the spring garden.

Early blooming herbs include chives, horehound and sage. Of these three, the sage is the showiest. The sage buds are full and I expect them to be in full bloom by Memorial Day. In contrast, the horehound has small white flowers that are easy to overlook. I include all in small flower arrangements.

Successes This Springtime in the Garden

For the first time, I have successfully transplanted strawberries. Instead of small pots, I bought some bare roots from a local greenhouse. They have rooted in well-perhaps because of the good moisture.

Other garden additions include a beautiful Pink Lady apple, a plum and an apricot. The apricot arrived just two week ago and has not leafed out yet. One of the new blueberry bushes is also thriving. Unfortunately, the other was mowed down. Accidents happen in the garden.

My seed starts from this winter are just recently transplanted. Most look good. The tomatoes have doubled in size and the peppers and eggplant have added new leaves. The peanuts are holding their own and probably will not take off until temperatures turn hot.

Plants from direct seeding include beets, cucumbers, beans and carrots. All but the latter have poked their heads out of the soil. The raised beds have kept the growing area from being mired in mud. I truly believe in the raised row concept posited by Jim and Mary Competti. Read a review of there book by clicking here or visit there website here.

A Failure or Two…at Least

Winter kill was expected after the negative 28 F temperature recorded during the Arctic Freeze this past winter. This extraordinary cold took a toll on my figs and my almond. Neither has leafed out. Another mixed result came from relocating a small cherry tree. Only half the tree flowered.

I also failed in my attempt to grow sweet potato starts. Early leaves and roots failed to thrive. So, I will research more and try again next winter.

Springtime in the Garden: Wonderful Rains

The High Plains of America can be dry and windy. Much of the area was part of the Dust Bowl of the thirties and indeed, the past decade has had at least three years with less than ten inches of moisture for the entire year. But so far 2021 is different.

A minimum of three inches of snow fell in both January and February. Then the moisture really kicked up in March. Mid-month a three day rain event dropped 2.65 inches from the sky. Just over a week later, five to six inches of heavy wet snow fell.

April brought wind and a few small showers. I was worried that the faucet in the sky might shut off. The night temperatures stayed above the freezing mark from mid-month. This is very unusual.

Fortunately, the rains picked up again in May. Less than three weeks in and 3.3 inches of rain have fallen. The end result of all this moisture is a good base for the 2021 Springtime in the Garden.

Significant Milestones

Spring Arrival

So far April has spotlighted a variety of significant milestones. Both sad and happy. Definitely a rollercoaster of emotions to open one of my favorite months of the year. Spring is a time of rebirth in nature as well as in the religion I adhere to.

Easter 2021 Brings Significant Milestones

This Easter was a bit more social than last. We celebrated with one of our offspring and my mother-in-law. So double the number from Easter 2020. Much of the family is reluctant to travel at this time.

But the four of us enjoyed the fellowship and the good food. We missed seeing the little ones. Easter egg hunts last for hours at a normal gathering with various kids taking their turn to hide the eggs. Hopefully, next year will be a return to normality.

The Easter season brings memories of those who have left this earthly world. I am still absorbing the loss of my Mom. Two significant milestones relating to her fell just after Easter. Her first birthday after her passing. This was difficult. Additionally, it would have been my parents’ sixtieth anniversary. So, sadness and a few tears marked the week.

Significant Milestones

Several significant milestones were joyful. Most centered on our oldest grandchild. The little one has embraced her newborn sister. Furthermore, she is grasping the difference between a newborn and herself. Just shy of two, she has decided to use her little potty. I am sure this will be beneficial for her parents as well.

The little miss is also increasing her vocabulary by leaps and bounds. She can tell you her own name. Plus she pleased her grandparents immensely by learning Grandpa and Grandma-in that order. It is amazing the joy a youngster can bring in life.

We are also pleased that after a few sputters, the U.S. is rolling out the vaccines. While we are not all clear yet, there is hope we can put this stubborn pandemic behind us. Historically, we should be near the end of the virus lifespan. But, many outbreaks remain from Covid-19. I hope those of you who wish to be vaccinated are able to.

Looking Forward

The last few weeks have been marked by both writer’s and reader’s block. I may need to put aside the lengthy book I am reading in favor of a shorter, lighter piece. Just writing this post has helped with respect to the writing. Spring marks a renewal of life and faith: A season I am so grateful for.

St. Patrick’s Day and other Mid-March Musings

St. Patrick’s Day anchors this jam packed middle week in March. March 14 or 3/14 or 3.14 is Pi(E) day. Many colleges have fundraisers celebrating this day. Before giving up sugar during Lent, I loved eating pie on Pi Day. Of course, the Ides of March immediately follows Pi day. So, two days in a row of significance. Then, both are easily surpassed 48 hours later by St. Patrick’s Day.

Perhaps the first two days only appeal to math geeks and historians. Or, maybe St. Patrick’s Day looms large because so many remember elementary school days of being pinched if you didn’t wear green. But the middle of March brings about other practices as well.

Mid-March in the Garden

Even though the last spring frost is over a month away, gardening is in high gear. Potatoes are traditionally planted on or before St. Patrick’s Day in my part of the world. Seedlings are started and happy under the grow lights. And two new fruit trees have been planted along with a raspberry bush.

Firsts for me include starting peppers. One type of sweet pepper was purchased, the other saved from a delicious giant yellow pepper bought last fall at the grocery store. So far only the seeds I saved have germinated. I am anxious to see if they stay true to type.

Another first is using grow lights. My Christmas present this year was a double stand of lights. This has made my life so much easier than the old days of juggling starts around a south window or atop stacked boxes on the kitchen island. I am very pleased so far.

Indoor Starts

Double grow lights with seedlings

St. Patrick’s Day Blood Draw and other Mid-March Medical Events

The hospital in our little town is proactive. For many years Health Fairs have been offered each spring. This year my turn fell on St. Patrick’s Day. Truthfully, Covid-19 has scaled back on the event. Today was a simple blood draw. I look forward to the future when a full schedule of screenings can once again take place. Although, I don’t miss the height measurement—I seem to be shrinking.

However, this week will be a bellwether one for me. I am finally eligible for a Covid-19 vaccine. There are two available in our town; the Janssen (J&J) and the Moderna. I researched both quite extensively. The former is old-school medicine. The latter new technology. I am not an early adopter. However, after much research and consulting with my physician, I am slated to receive the Moderna on Friday.

I am apprehensive. New things scare me. But, I know first-hand the dangers of the virus. For anyone looking for a good source of honest information I recommend this post from the University of Michigan: https://healthblog.uofmhealth.org/wellness-prevention/not-sure-about-covid-19-vaccine-get-facts-then-decide

Daylight Savings Time

The final sign of the spring season is the switch to Daylight Savings Time. I have written about this often. My body struggles with the change, much like a toddler without a concept of time. I am off kilter. I like to wake to the sun, and I like many hours of darkness before bedtime. But I am sure the adjustment will be made just like all previous years.

Spring brings many changes. Weather and hobbies as well as eating and sleeping habits are in a state of flux. Personally, embracing new technology within months instead of years is a change. I will keep you all posted on my vaccine experience.

World With Women

A world with women is a better place. Yesterday was International Women’s Day. It was also Rose Day for Zonta International, a wonderful world-wide organization advocating for females across the globe. The local group I belong to spends hours, many hours, preparing for the day.

Rose Day 2021 Celebrates a World With Woman

To be honest, there was a bit of debate on whether delivering roses during a pandemic was feasible. But the owner of the flower shop (a Zontian) had remained open during the shut-down. So, contactless delivery was doable if a Covid-19 outbreak was bad on March 8th. Fortunately, things were good. Positivity is way down. Many days of zero new cases lately in this corner of the world.

The rural county I live in has a population of 12,000 spread out over 1600 square miles. So, less than ten people per square mile. A handful of small towns are sprinkles across the county. Only the county seat has a need for stoplights. Thus, the club selling 1825 roses is remarkable. The money earned by the sales goes toward multiple scholarships. Some are for our high school graduates. Other scholarships are earmarked for older women either returning to school or continuing their education above the associate level.

Rose Distribution

Over the years, I have delivered roses to various parts of the county. When I was still an instructor at the community college, I would grab the bucket of roses ordered for my co-workers. In more recent years, my routes would include the various businesses downtown, or the long route to the other communities in the county.

But this year, I was the driver for a rural route through the heart of the farmland. The experience was an eye-opener. There are times when I think the American media misses the picture. At least the view of “flyover” country. And sometimes, I forget the wonders as well.

The year of isolation was not one of idleness. The farmsteads showed signs of recent improvements. New facades, fresh paint and preps for spring planting. Workers working everywhere. And the women front and center.

Women Wrapping Yellow Roses
Yellow Roses

A Better World With Women

Life on the High Plains is harsh. The weather is a significant part of that. The climate encompasses many extremes. Hurricane strength winds create dust storms and fuel fires. Blizzards are a hazard to humans and livestock. Drought has broken the back of many a farm family.

Through it all, women have played an integral part. This part of the globe is truly a world with women. The harshness of the land has been an equalizer.

Wyoming was the first to allow females to vote. Women began voting in 1870, half a century before the passage of the 19th Amendment. And twenty years before achieving statehood.

Even though Kansas failed to pass national voting rights for women on the first attempt in 1867, limited voting rights were granted. Thus the town of Syracuse, Kansas, elected the first all-female city council in 1887. If you pass through this town of 1800, a sign (much like the ones posted for famous athletes) celebrates this milestone. Truly a world with women moment.

Final Thoughts

My celebration of International Women’s Day was positive. Honoring women working in a wide variety of jobs as well as those who have forged lives after careers have ended is uplifting. Not all productivity is measured by GDP. But my experience yesterday yielded many examples of women leading fruitful lives. I am proud my Zonta club recognizes these women and their contributions to our corner of the world.

Cleaning Sucks Book Review

Rachel Hoffman delivers in her self-help book Cleaning Sucks.  This is a follow up to a previous guide which I probably missed due to the title, Unf*ck Your Habitat. Sometimes my late Baby Boomer attitude clashes with the younger generation. I am glad Hoffman toned down the colorful language for this most recent foray. Her advice is fantastic. As in don’t miss.

Psychological Roadblocks

A key difference in Cleaning Sucks is the author’s attention to mental health and wellness. Certain events in life lend themselves to periods of malaise. Hoffman addresses this factor. She also discusses the challenges faced by those with handicaps.

Furthermore, her approach to tackling housekeeping in small bites creates success. The outcome is immediate. As someone who would much rather spend time in the garden than indoors, I love this approach. No toiling all day long at drudgery.

Cleaning Sucks is a workbook. The author intends the reader to interact with the philosophy. The “homework” is not difficult. The tips and tasks are an important component. Best of all, there is a large amount of flexibility. So, even on busy days, Hoffman’s methods can contribute to both a cleaner home and greater mental wellness.

For households with multiple residents, Hoffman’s section on Sharing Space is outstanding. In this time of two incomes, the burden of keeping the home functioning should not fall entirely on one person. The author tackles this hot topic with psychological advice and multiple interactive guides.

Cleaning Sucks Techniques

Various small task goals are featured in Cleaning Sucks. A favorite is Sink Zero. Dirty dishes are never ending whether you are a household of six or just one. Hoffman’s advice on this topic is epic. She has you record the time you hit Sink Zero daily. This term applies to the point where all dishes are cleaned and put away-or at least stashed in a dishwasher.

Another worksheet involves the concept Do Something Every Day. This is very appealing to those with active lifestyles. She ends the recording page with the wisdom: You don’t have to do much; you just have to do something.

Noteable Quotables

Words of the wise are sprinkled throughout Cleaning Sucks. Hoffman shares quotes from some of my favorites. Ann Richards, famous for her quote about Ginger Rogers doing everything as well as Fred Astaire but “backwards and in high heels” lends the following:

I did not want my tombstone to read “She kept a really clean house.”

 

Perhaps even more fitting is Erma Bombeck:

My second-favorite household chore is ironing. My first being hitting my head on the top bunk bed until I faint.

 

Both quotes are reflective of my sentiments. However, I have been using Hoffman’s guide for over a week now and I am surprised by the ease and by the results. One could truly handle guests popping in following this wonderful book.

I highly recommend Cleaning Sucks. And I am not waiting until Christmas to buy copies for gifts. One caveat, I think Millennials and Gen Xers will appreciate the author more than older generations who will find the language too colorful.

 

Book Cover of Rachel Hoffman's Cleaning Sucks

Arctic Freeze, Ash Wednesday and Preparedness

Arctic Freeze

An arctic freeze has swept over the plains area of North America reaching all the way into the northernmost states of Mexico. Here on the High Plains of the United States, we recorded extreme cold temperatures. One overnight temperature registered a negative (-) 28 degrees Fahrenheit. For my Celsius readers not wanting to do the mental calculation, that is -33 C.

Prior to this week, the lowest temperature I ever experienced was a -22 one frigid January night when visiting Alamosa, Colorado. We were warm and toasty in our hotel. Unfortunately, the electrical system on the vehicle exposed to the temperature took a hit. Just one of many things to consider when travelling.

Preparing for Arctic Freeze

Thanks to modern forecasting, we knew a cold swath of air was headed our way. So even though the temperature dropped more than predicted, a plan of action was in place. Certain steps were taken.

First, a trip to the grocery store 48 hours in advance to top off the pantry. It is interesting to note that few were in the store-maybe due to the snow flurries and gray skies. Temperatures registering just above freezing.

Most of us were in our golden years. And we all had full baskets with lots of staples. I can only imagine later crowds.

The second step to prepare was a joint activity the following day. My husband and I wrapped the outside faucets and covered the vents to the crawl space. We were worried about high winds which never materialized, so sturdy covers enveloped the wrapped faucets.

The biggest anxiety centered on the water pipes coming through the crawl space. Once they reached the basement area we were less concerned. The extra precautions were worthwhile. The temperature in the space never dropped below 50 degrees F.

Last night the low hit -6 F. Hopefully the last negative temperatures until next fall. So far the preparations have helped.

Ash Wednesday

The beginning of Lent is upon us. Ash Wednesday is the start of forty days of self-denial in many Christian religions. These days symbolize the time Jesus spent in the desert preparing for his time of ministry. Biblical readers will remember he fasted during this time of temptation.

In the West, the fasting and self-denial of Lent is no longer closely adhered too. Recent years have even focused on doing positive or good deeds during this time. While this change is appealing, I tend to fail at meeting the daily good deed. However, I am able to complete forty days of self-denial.

So, once again I will test my self-control. In light of the long hard winter of loss, I plan to up my game. In addition to giving up sweets and sugar laden goods, I will also give up my dinner wine. In fact, a no alcohol period wouldn’t hurt. The Case Against Sugar factored heavily into the first Lent without sweets. The ensuing weight loss and good blood sugar levels inspires a repeat effort.

Self-discipline factors greatly into a period of self-denial.

Preparedness

A spiritual preparedness is as important as physical readiness. My biggest failure as a Christian will remain. Unlike my missionary ancestors, I do not believe all have to worship the same way. Yet, I choose to believe in the Holy Trinity. My faith is strong.

Furthermore, I continue to oppose those who believe there is only one right way to believe. This includes those extremists whether they are far right or far left. Maybe I am wrong in not spreading the Gospel. If so, there will be a day of reckoning.

Until then, I will continue along my path of mutual tolerance with regards to spiritual beliefs.

Inflation Check Challenge

The inflation check challenge is a direct response to the higher gas prices on the return trip from Florida. In just ten days, there was a notable increase at the pumps. This prompted me to pay closer attention on a trip to the grocery store where things also seemed a wee bit pricier. So, I decided to issue the inflation check challenge to my readers.

How the Inflation Check Challenge Works

The first step in the inflation check challenge is to create a basket of goods to keep track of price. Items should be products (or services) that are purchased on a year-round basis. Thus, seasonal goods such as Valentine Candy or Easter Baskets are eliminated. The ideal basket will include ten to twenty consumable items. Food, gas, and medicinal items make the bulk of the basket. A key is to make the list reflect your regular spending habits.

Next, either buy or price these goods before the end of the month. This will create the base price. However, price is not the only indication of inflation. In some cases, suppliers are holding the price steady but decreasing the amount provided. For example, I have included a can of cream style corn. The can looks to be the same size but now there are only 14.75 ounces. But in the past the container held 16 ounces. So , it is important to record both price and quantity. Finally, you may want to note the merchant providing the good or service.

Then save your list to an Xcel sheet or if writing out long-hand, place somewhere safe so it won’t get tossed. AND a place easily remembered! Because at the end of April, July, and October we re-visit the Inflation Check Challenge. Of course, those so inclined can record monthly changes as well.

2021 Inflation Monitoring

2021 will provide mixed signals about inflation. But, year over year comparisons will be especially troublesome due to the Covid-19 shut downs in 2020. Even though the United States did not have a complete lockdown similar to the Wuhan Province in the People’s Republic of China, productivity plummeted in March through June of 2020. So did spending. Perhaps a comparison to that same time period in 2019 would provide more insight.

Other concerns regarding inflation come from pent-up demand. This will be an uneven demand as some states are more open for business than others. However, even individuals in the “open” states have had travel curbed. So, late in 2021 I think we will see more than just a return to normal. However, I do not know how long excess spending will continue. If at all.

Families have not only pushed back memorial services, but many young couples have delayed their nuptials. Furthermore, our mobile society has been hampered by the uneven ability to travel to locales such as Hawaii or New Mexico. I think we will have a major boom next fall. So, how long will this return to consumption last?

In economics, a low level of inflation is preferable to disinflation or worse, deflation. But stagflation such as experienced by America in the 1970’s and hyperinflation, which both Venezuela and the South Sudan have been battling are two concerns. Thus a need for monitoring inflation on an individual as well as a national basis.

Inflation Check Challenge List

I have fifteen items on my list including one fast food treat. If I snagged a sale price, I also list the regular price. Your list will be different than mine. The list should be a reflection of normal purchases that are quickly consumed. Therefore, don't include durable goods such as a new car or dishwasher.

Item

Planet Oat Extra Creamy Original Oat Milk

Small Bag Signature Select Sugar

Signature Select Cream Style Corn

Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast

Bananas

Kraft Real Mayo

Meow Mix

Morton Salt

Crest Pro-Health Toothpaste

Align Probiotics

Tide Botanical Rain Detergent

Kerr Regular Mouth Canning Lids

3M Ad. Allergy Furnace Filter

Dunkin Donut-Boston Cream

Regular Unleaded Gas

Amount

52 Oz.

4 Lbs.

14.75 Oz.

4 Oz.

1 Lb.

30 Oz.

6.3 Lbs.

26 Oz.

4.6 Oz.

28 Caps.

92 Oz.

12

1

Single

1 Gal.

Purchase Price

$ 3.49

 2.99

 0.69

 6.99

 0.59

 3.79

 7.78

 0.94

 4.99

26.58

11.97

 3.18

15.88

 0.99

$ 2.36

Regular Price

$ 3.99

 

 

 

 

  4.99

 

  1.19

  5.99

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inflation Check Challenge-Share your Basket

For those that participated in a previous Econogal Challenge, I hope you will take this on as well. This is the basket of goods I will keep track of during 2021. The future is impossible to predict. But we can record the present. What is in your basket?

Life after the Loss of a Loved One

Death comes to all, but those left behind still struggle with life after the loss of a loved one. Individuals grieve in various ways. Some fall apart at once. Others are more stoic. Some need time and space to mourn alone while others can only function if surrounded with family and friends.

Grief

Grief itself can sneak up on a person. One can be operating on all cylinders and then suddenly all gears stop and one roams aimlessly around not completing even the simplest of tasks. The emotion can appear suddenly in physical form. Personally, I experience a tightness in my chest. And sometimes tears swim in eyes that were clear moments before. Others have headaches or lose their appetite.

Sudden loss is devastating. But grief is great even when hospice has been called in. Life after the loss of a loved one is never the same. Pictures help. Videos preserve voices as well. But the interaction cannot be replaced. No smiles when you walk into a room. No more hand-holding. There is a finality in the loss of a loved one.

Life after the Loss of a Loved One

Numbness best describes the first few days. Perhaps this allows the body to absorb the shock. Life is complex and intertwined. Death means a thread has been cut. And somehow those still living need to incorporate the end of that thread into the remainder of the fabric that reflects their own life. This can be difficult.

My memories are positive ones. Even though the pandemic kept me away these last months, I cherish the time prior. The dementia experienced by my mom never kept her from knowing me. The bond between mother and child is strong. The love continues after the loss.

Circle of Life

Each of my children have their “own” first name and then a family name in the middle. This tradition continues. My next grandchild will share my Mom’s middle name. She is due anytime now. Mom would be so delighted. And in this time of grief, life continues with hope for a bright future.

Rest in peace Mom.

 

 

 

New Year 2021

It is quite possible New Year’s Eve 2020 was one of the most anticipated eves in history as many were eager to start a new year in 2021. Econogal was no exception, until age crept in. As one gets older, limberness dissipates. To make a long story short, I managed to torque my knee just in time for the New Year. I am waiting for an MRI to confirm a suspected tear to my meniscus. Unfortunately, events went downhill from there.

Dementia and Coping with Covid-19

I have written many times of my Mom’s dementia. She has been in a nursing home for the last several years. Either my Dad or I would visit daily to make sure she would eat. Even though a nursing home is not the ideal situation, both my parents made the adjustment.

But then the pandemic struck. Last spring in the middle of a visit Dad was asked to leave. The nursing home was shutting down to all visitors. He had no idea it would be months before he could see my Mom again. Life for all of us permanently changed in 2020.

By the time monitored outside visits resumed in the fall, Mom had lost fifteen percent of her weight. I am sure she picked at her food, forgetting the basic concept of eating to live. She did recognize Dad. And she hated the wearing of the masks.

Unfortunately, Covid-19 made a sweeping appearance in the nursing home in early December. It was hard not to cry when Dad called to say she had tested positive. Then on Christmas Day she left the Covid-19 isolation wing. I was Zooming with family in Florida while they were on Facetime with my Mom. She couldn’t understand it all but she looked good. No physical signs of trauma from the virus.

Hidden Damage

The joy was short lived. Now she can’t swallow whole foods. Everything is pureed. More weight has been lost. She does not seem to have the will to live. Officially, she is receiving hospice care and so my Dad is allowed to visit indoors for a short amount of time. Words fail me.

A New Year

2021 is officially here and not off to a good start either personally or nationally. The New Year looks to be yet another rollercoaster ride with highs and lows. Perhaps the inauguration will begin to heal the nation. It will be hard to forget the events of January 6th. I am glad our system prevailed but saddened about the large gulf in our populace.

The United States of America has a unique history.  Divisiveness has existed throughout. With the exception of The Civil War, the inhabitants of this nation were able to reach compromise if not consensus. My hope is the ability to negotiate between factions and viewpoints will remain. Diversity is good, yet unity is also an essential for the continuation of this great nation I call home.

Econogal in New Year 2021

The New Year is certainly off to a shaky start. There may be gaps in the posting. But it will be important to grieve. I know there will be loss. And new life and new family. My goal for 2021 is to embrace life, and all it offers. I send wishes of peace to all.

 

December 2020 Wrap-Up

Today is the last of December 2020 and the end of a very long year. 2020 was unique and not necessarily in a good way. Yet the year will be long remembered, and that is historically positive. Therefore, this wrap-up will extend beyond a monthly account and provide glimpses of what the entire year felt like here on the High Plains.

Change can be difficult. Self-discipline even more difficult and 2020 required both. Our household is inching closer and closer to the Over-The-Hill category. One of us has multiple “co-morbidities” and we both have thyroid issues. A year ago I would have said we both had another fifteen to twenty years on our lifespan. Now, who knows? So we are and will continue to be cautious with respect to Covid-19.

December 2020

Our month started out with the dreaded news that multiple family members had contracted the virus. Not all at the same time. The earliest was an octogenarian uncle who contracted the disease just prior to Thanksgiving. He died in early December. He had many co-morbidities. So his death was not unexpected. We were able to watch the graveside service via a livestream video. It was hard not being there in person.

Norman was a special man. A farmer by trade, he could have easily been a minister. His Thanksgiving 2001 grace still registers with my offspring. The prayer was both spiritual and patriotic. Perfect for those trying times. I will never forget the support he gave me in the early 90s after one of our little ones was diagnosed with Cystic Fibrosis. The sporadic phone calls always seemed to occur when I most needed them. Rest in peace Uncle Norman.

A Low Key Christmas

A few days later, my spouse brought home a Norfolk Pine from the grocery store and we decided to use it as a Christmas tree. The live plant stands about three feet high and we placed lights upon the branches and packages underneath. Low key, yet the cheery tree greeted us each time we opened the front door.

Lights were hung on the front porch and the Christmas dishes were used throughout the month. Determined to keep with the spirit of the season, I made multiple batches of cookies to distribute to neighbors and family. We enjoyed our fair share as well.

I brined a turkey for the first time, and I will never roast one again without brining first. First of all, I really did not know what I was doing. However, I tossed some fresh garden herbs into the boiling salted water along with turmeric. The result was fantastic. I added little in the way of spices for the leftover dish Turkey Tetrazzini, yet it was one of the most flavorful dishes I have ever made. Brining the turkey is a new requirement in this household.

Peanut Butter Cookies
Chocolate Cship
Chocolate chocolate chip cookies
Pecan Pie Bars
Chocolate Fudge shortcake Pan cookies
Tumeric flavored brine

Celestial Delights for December 2020

Perhaps due to the brilliant clear skies we have in this part of the world, we are avid stargazers. December 2020 brought us several opportunities to embrace the cold nights by gazing at the above sky. The Geminid meteor shower is one of my favorites. One evening we spotted ten meteors in about thirty minutes.

But the highlight of the month was the appearance of the “Christmas Star.” The great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn is one I will remember. I place it with the Total Eclipse of 2017 as a treasured event. Truly, some things only occur once in a lifetime.

Other December 2020 Highlights

I continue to post my top list of books for the year. Click here for the 2020 list. My reading has fallen off a bit the last few weeks, but I am currently reading a Christmas gift, American Nations by Colin Woodard. Look for the review in January of 2021.

I also began another garden experiment. The remainder of my sweet potato crop was too small to cook. The root vegetables were less than an inch across and only numbered three. So two were tossed in the compost and the third was placed in a glass jar to hopefully spout. All through December 2020 I changed the water and watched roots slowly form. I was delighted to find sprouting stems and leaves on the 29th. I hope to grow slips from this plant as ordered slips often arrive in poor condition and weeks after the earliest planting time.

My quilting by hand continues. Christmas movies are great to have on while the tiny stitches are made. Many a cold December afternoon was spent in this way. However, I will need to begin cutting and piecing another baby quilt in January. My second grandchild is due late February.

Sweet Potato start in glass jar just beginning to sprout
Two quilts in hops for hand quilting

The Year of the Pandemic

It will be interesting to see how 2020 is treated by historians. While some countries have kept the numbers low, others have not. We are still in the middle of the pandemic and many countries are seen as having failed. My country is included among the failures. However as I wrote in my Successes and Failures post last January, we just need to keep trying. The Spanish Flu (which you can read a review of a good account by clicking here) came to an end and so will Covid-19.

My 2020 resolutions flew out the door rather quickly. In fact I had to look them up for this account. However, I was quite pleased that I managed to keep the third without trying. If there was ever a year for negativity, 2020 comes to mind. For the most part I stayed positive. A pandemic is something beyond my control. No need to be glum when something is out of your hands.

Gardening in 2020

Two items shine when I reflect on 2020. The first is my garden. I continue to advocate for the Raised Row technique first discussed in this March 2018 book review. The yields are great and the weeds are sparse. We are still enjoying the fruits (and vegetables) of my labor each time we open a jar of home produce.

Furthermore, I really enjoy the multiple experiments. I wrote numerous times about last spring’s peanut experiment which yielded a fair amount. I will use some of this year’s harvest to start next year’s plants. The legumes are great for the soil in addition to our eating enjoyment. As mentioned above, I am excited about my new sweet potato experiment. 2021 looks to be another good year in the garden.

Econogal 2020

Perhaps my greatest success has been my writing. Econogal readership is expanding, although not exponentially as viruses do. My favorite posts include Striking a Balance in May, Vail Valley Escape in July, Patience with a Side of Self-Discipline in November, Rainy Day Fund and Brave New World.

November was a key month with the number of hits on the blog almost tripling that of October. Perhaps people were just bored or stuck at home. However, I do appreciate the comments and the new followers. The community of bloggers is a solid one of support.

Superstitions

For the most part I am not a superstitious person. A key exception revolves around sports. Horse racing in particular evokes various superstitions. But I am a bit superstitious this New Year’s Eve. Last year I was full of expectations of 2020. This year I have absolutely NONE regarding 2021.

Furthermore, as you can see in the picture below, my planner for 2021 is not the artsy one of 2020 (that I had been so thrilled to find and purchase) but one much closer to the earlier years. I use planners extensively to keep track of my writing, the garden activities, and the weather. We have so little moisture on the High Plains, rain and snow measurements are key. Hopefully, a return to a plain, unexceptional planner will yield a less intense 2021. Happy New Year Everyone!

Planning calendars

Saturn, Jupiter, Faith and The Christmas Star

As yet another helicopter flies over head to transfer a Covid-19 patient out of my small town to a bigger city on the Front Range I am thinking of Saturn, Jupiter, Faith and the Christmas Star. The first two are actual matter albeit in the form of gasses. But the latter two have an internal existence. Each individual differs in their faith as well as in their acceptance of the existence in the Christmas Star.

Saturn and Jupiter

In a chart of our solar system, Jupiter is the fifth planet from the sun and Saturn the sixth. If measuring the distance from the Earth, Saturn is twice as far away as Jupiter. The distance between Jupiter and Saturn is 456 million miles. According to earthsky.org, this is the first visible Great Conjunction since the 1200s. The Great Conjunction of the 1600s occurred during the day and thus could not be seen.

The Great Plains of the United States of America is a vast amount of land with few people. Thus the open sky has little light pollution. Perfect for stargazing, and watching the Great Conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn. So, many evenings start with a check of how close Saturn and Jupiter are, followed a few hours later (on certain dates) of gazing skyward for meteors. November and December bring wonderful opportunities to see shooting stars.

Tonight, Saturn and Jupiter will be at their closest in hundreds of years. My understanding is this Great Conjunction will be so bright even residents of large cities will see the planetary alignment. But, a word to the wise, make sure to take a look just after sunset. Just a few hours later the planets move out of sight and you will need to look again tomorrow night. At that point the two will start moving apart.

Photo of The Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter taken December 18, 2020

Planets moving closer.

Faith and The Christmas Star

Since this year’s Great Conjunction occurs December 21st, many on social media as well as the main stream media have anointed the occurrence the Christmas Star. Through the years, people have searched for a scientific explanation for the original Christmas Star that guided the Three Wise Men to the East.

Theories abound including those of a super nova visible for a great length of time. A similar Great Conjunction is also a possibility. It is not surprising that people seek a concrete answer. But, I think the Christmas Star heralding the arrival of Baby Jesus can be taken on faith.

Proof versus Faith

The word proof makes me think of math. Untold hours were spent during my educational years working on proofs, mostly in geometry but also in calculus. In my mind, proofs were step-by-step calculations explaining the basics of math theory.

But I do not need proof to have faith. The concept of faith is the antithesis of proof. No calculations are needed. Faith is a belief. It may be a belief in a person or a theology or even an institution. The amount of faith each individual possesses varies.

Personally, I have a lot of faith. I believe good will overcome evil. Perhaps that is why I am drawn to novels featuring a struggle between good guys and bad guys.

Sayings such as “Things will work out for the best” and “It wasn’t meant to be” appeal to me. Faith allows me to accept outcomes contrary to my desires in the short term. Faith gives me the courage to make any changes I can in the long term. An occurrence such as death can never be changed and faith in my God’s will offers consolation.

Saturn, Jupiter, Faith and The Christmas Star

Tonight I will gaze at the Great Conjunction of Saturn and Jupiter. Individuals calling the bright light in the southwestern sky the Christmas Star will have no argument from me. It seems apropos in this madcap year of 2020 that a celestial body appear to remind us to have faith. We need faith in science, faith in our respective governments and faith in each other. Faith and the Christmas Star usher in 2021 and hope for a better year.

Elasticity of Demand and Supply in Regards to Covid-19

Elasticity of demand and supply can be difficult to understand. Perhaps it is the math. The formula for elasticity combines percentage changes as well as division. Furthermore, changes in both demand and price can differ by area. The approach to supply elasticity is similar to demand with the added piece of time. Both play a role in the shortages seen during the pandemic.

Elasticity of Demand

Remember when the news showed empty aisles of toilet paper? Or maybe you saw that first hand. Elasticity played a small part in this phenomena-the rest was irrational thought or fear. Toilet paper is an example of a good that is inelastic. There are few substitutes for toilet paper. Neither paper towels nor Kleenex are very good to use instead. American bathrooms are lacking bidets.

In normal markets, price acts as a stabilizer. But inelastic goods are impervious to price. Inelastic goods have few if any substitutes. Treatment of Covid-19 is complicated by government regulations. Prescription drugs are heavily regulated. A drug authorized to treat one disease or condition is not supposed to be used for the treatment of another without authorization. Since Covid-19 is new, no drugs were authorized early on. As time passes EUA (Emergency Use Authorization) of new or existing drugs occurs.

Treatment Options Impact Elasticity

Debate continues in the medical community about authorization of existing prescribed drugs to treat Covid-19. Remdesivir has EAU to treat Covid-19. This is one of the drugs given to President Trump. The drug is relatively new. Scientists developed Remdesivir to battle Ebola. The cost of the drug runs in the thousands of dollars.

Alternatives to Remdesivir include Ivermectin, a very cheap drug in comparison. Single doses of Ivermectin are less than ten dollars. This option has not received an EAU.  In recent weeks, medical authorities have testified in front of Congress on behalf of Ivermectin. If approved, a cheap substitute would impact the elasticity of Remdesivir.

In the U.S.A. non-prescription drugs are consumed to combat the symptoms of colds and flus. Many of these are also in demand for battling Covid-19. Products such as Theraflu, Tylenol Cold and Flu, Vicks, Mucinex-the list goes on and on-are easy to find. Since there are so many similar products the elasticity is great. A price change in one cues buyers to try another brand. Even at the height of the pandemic panic last spring OTC (Over the Counter) remedies were available.

Elasticity of Supply

Elasticity of demand and supply are calculated the same way. However, supply includes a time element. The three stages of supply are current, near future, and long term. Chances are you have experienced a need or want that was unable to be fulfilled that day. A restaurant runs out of the day’s special. Or your car broke down and the repair shop doesn’t have the needed replacement part. In both cases, current supply is inelastic.

Price is not a factor in these cases of on-hand supply. However, the elasticity changes in both the near future and the long term. The Covid-19 vaccine is a good example to show the elasticity of supply. Six months ago, there was no vaccine. Thus the supply was totally inelastic (and zero). Then testing began and a limited amount was supplied to test subjects. Now, the EAU for the first vaccine to hit the market means the supply is slightly more elastic. A year from now it is possible that anyone who wants a vaccine will be able to get one. Furthermore, as more vaccines hit the market, individuals may be able to pick which manufacturer to choose from. This means more elasticity.

So in a period of eighteen months or so, the supply of a Covid-19 vaccine will have gone from a totally inelastic product to one with elasticity. Although probably not as elastic as products with lots of substitutes.

Inputs Impact Elasticity of Demand and Supply

Natural aspects of the pandemic impact elasticity of demand and supply for non-Covid-19 related goods. Illness not only slows production, but also drives demand for particular items such as anti-bacterial wipes. Yet, due to the element of time, production capabilities can’t meet the new demand. Furthermore, with inelastic demand and supply, price is not able to work as an equilibrium and so we have shortages.

People are avoiding crowds and travel. Price changes are not influential enough to change either the demand or supply. Suppliers such as cruise lines and theme parks have few buyers for their product. The lack of revenue threatens their very existence. If the pandemic lasts long enough many companies will go under.

Elasticity of demand and supply is at work. But remember, this is subject to change with the passage of time. The biggest problem for companies both large and small is the time element. Households have a difficult time with Rainy Day Funds and businesses are not any different. We are closing in on a year of Covid-19. How many of you can withstand a year of greatly reduced income? Or no income at all?

Basic Economics in Understanding the Pandemic Fall-Out

Part One: The Basic Economics of Specialization

Basic economics is key to the understanding of pandemic fall-out. Conversations regarding testing delays, layoffs, manufacturing and shipping delays, as well as other supply chain difficulties benefit from a public possessing an understanding of key economic concepts. The cause of lay-offs and furloughs as well as the importance of direct aid and/or compensation are all functions of basic economics. However, this knowledge is not widespread.

Principles of Basic Economics

From the very beginning of 2020, I voiced concern regarding supply chain disruptions. Many components of basic economics are important to the distribution of goods and services. Key theories for better understanding the disruption include specialization, changes in demand and supply, elasticity, economies of scale and profit and loss. Additionally, both monetary and fiscal policy play a role this year. Finally, Covid-19 directly impacts poverty and income distribution.

My high school economics experience was a unit in social studies. Economics in college was an elective for non-business or finance majors. Times change. Today, financial literacy begins in kindergarten. Many states follow the Jump $tart national standards. One can view those standards by clicking here.

I sat on the state committee adopting financial literacy standards. My biggest regret stems from the absence of a required high school economics course. Instead, the emphasis is on personal finance (which I agree is much needed.) The various units are taught either in a math class or a social studies course. Perhaps, if more economic theories were taught there would be less angst surrounding the pandemic fall-out.

History of Specialization

Adam Smith, the philosopher and author of Wealth of Nations, in 1776, posited the theory of specialization. Using a pin factory as an example, he explained how productivity improves if individuals concentrate on one aspect of production. The existing method consisted of each person performing each step. This revolutionary concept remains a major factor of today’s labor input.

Specialization is important in understanding our current labor woes. First of all, we are dealing with a novel virus. Therefore, tests for the virus are also new.

A great demand for testing triggered a response by companies to create and then manufacture the test. This first response while difficult, did not strain the economic cycle. Scientists train just for this type of work. Note: In the U.S.A. early test kits failed and a deeper exploration of business theory is needed to explain how this is a normal part of the cycle.

However, the creation of tests is not causing current stress in the economy. Instead, the problem is with the manufacturing, distribution and analysis of Covid-19 tests. The latter two constraints are key. While medical testing is not a new industry, Covid-19 testing strains current capacity. The huge desire for this test translates into a demand for more manufacturing inputs, including labor.

Meanwhile, distribution is not uniform across the country. Rural areas in particular still lack the ability to test anyone for the disease. Priority for testing goes to those already exhibiting symptoms. Test results often take more than a week. Why?

Specialized Training

The inability to process the samples is the most likely reason. Completing the process requires many technicians. Individuals trained in collecting mucus swabs are in demand. In the United States, this means medical staff. But, there is a shortage since nurses, EMT’s and doctors prioritize the treatment of Covid-19 patients.

Additionally, ordinary cotton swabs cannot be used. The cotton as a plant has its’ own DNA. So, synthetic swabs are required. An increase in production translates to a need for more inputs in the manufacturing process. This includes labor.

Furthermore, after the collection, samples need analysis. People are also needed to perform this task. Remember, this specific task did not exist just one short year ago.

Unemployment Not Equal to Needed Workforce

Specialized training takes time. Years in some cases. And even when training is shorter, new employees are needed. The hiring process is in itself time consuming. So, the end result is delays and shortages in the workforce.

An easy way to look at this inability to quickly and easily switch the workforce from one task to another may be found in the world of professional sports. Let’s look at football and baseball. Perhaps a quarterback can retrain as a pitcher. Both positions require a strong skilled arm. Retraining might take some time but the skill set is similar.

Now consider a center and a centerfielder. Centers snap the football to the quarterback and then block opposing players  from reaching the ball handler. Brute strength and quickness are critical but foot speed not so much. Centers are not known for their 40 yard dash times. On the other hand, a centerfielder requires speed to cover the vast outfield. The player also needs catching ability and accurate throwing ability. Converting a center to a centerfielder is a tough task.

Retraining the Workforce

Workforce retraining  for pandemic work is similar to the above example.  Imagine a laid off sous chef retraining to swab noses. A further complication is that this increased demand for labor to battle the virus will be short lived either due to a vaccine or a natural (but longer) dissipation of the viral pandemic. At that point in time what happens? More retraining?

This is just the tip of the iceberg with respect to unemployment and retraining. Another issue is the availability of healthy workers. The Covid-19 associated illnesses also contribute to production and transportation delays due to absent workers. Thus the nature of a pandemic directly impacts the labor force.

In addition to specialization, elasticities of supply and demand, economies of scale and profit and loss impact the ability to “handle” the pandemic. Subsequent posts will explain the importance of basic economics in understanding the fall-out from the pandemic. No one topic nor one post covers all the factors in the current disruption of the supply chain.

Cog wheel graphic

Post-pandemic Travel

On this snowy December day, news of the United Kingdom giving the ok to distribute the first Covid-19 vaccine allows me to dream of post-pandemic travel. I am by nature a traveler. This year I have only stepped foot in four different states, two of which are within an hour of the one I live in. A far cry from 2017 when I traveled to twenty states. Since I do not fall into one of the early vaccination groups and because I may want to wait for one of the traditional vaccines, I doubt I will resume my travel habits until late in 2021. But I can dream. And compile a list of spots to visit.

Old Favorites

During this year of staying home, reminiscing about former trips has been a pleasant past-time. Many a summer and fall evening was spent talking on the back porch about favorite haunts. Concern was expressed as well, knowing how hard the lack of travelers would impact the destinations.

Santa Fe

We had hoped to visit Santa Fe in early October. The state opened travel just after Labor Day. But by the time our schedules opened up, New Mexico was closing down again. I know of at least one restaurant shutting down. Fortunately, one of my favorite art galleries on Canyon Road, the Wiford Gallery, has taken a pro-active approach. They have emailed and snail mailed updates on their artists and offered discounts on shipping. Additionally, I have received communications from Gruet Winery. I hope the many places highlighted in Wintertime Santa Fe will weather the storm. Santa Fe may very well be my first post-pandemic travel destination.

Nola

The best part of travel is trying the local cuisine. New Orleans, Louisiana is one of the top spots for Cajun cooking. One can order fried rabbit and fried gator. A tasty dish of shrimp and grits or a spicy shrimp poor boy are on many menus. Tasty beignets can follow a morning run along the Mississippi River. Trips to the Big Easy occur every few years. My last trip, which you can read about here, took place in March of 2018. So it is almost time to return.

Beaded Mardi Gras Mask
Mardi Gras Decorations
Paddle boat
View of Natchez from paddle side.

San Diego

San Diego is another favorite spot. If all goes well, I could see a possible return in November of 2021. Like New Orleans, San Diego has a wonderful place to run along the harbor. But the wide sidewalk gets crowded with tourists so it’s best to run early in the morning. Another great thing about San Diego is how bike friendly the town is. But don’t let this coastal town fool you. A ride to the top of Point Loma contains quite a bit of elevation.

Food again plays a large part of San Diego’s appeal. Both fresh seafood and spicy Mexican dishes are found in abundance. One of my favorite memories is of a catered event at the ball park. Great food and great views. During lulls in the ball park a simple glance to the west brought the harbor into view. A nice evening to cap off a conference.

New Destinations for Post-pandemic Travel

Of course my self-imposed stay close to home lockdown has generated a long list of new places to visit. This year’s reading has produced a diverse group of destinations. Domestic and international locales are on the list. I recently discovered a great website, Visit the USA.com which offers planned stops along multi-length trips. Since I like spontaneity, I tend to use travel articles, books and sites as starting points. Flexibility allows time to further explore and discover.

Book Inspired Travel

Last week’s review of One Last Lie, returned to mind a desire to visit upper Maine. Houlton, Maine looks like the perfect place to serve as a base for exploration. This international border town actually is West of New Brunswick, Canada. I so enjoyed my fall trip to Quebec in 2018, that I think a return to a nearby part of the world is likely.

Many of the books read during this pandemic were set in the Pacific Northwest. Although I vacationed in Oregon back in 2004, with a quick detour to climb Mt. Saint Helen’s, I have never been to Seattle nor to the Puget Sound. So this area is on my post-pandemic travel list.

Diana Giovinazzo, author of The Woman in Red, paints such wonderful descriptions of both South America and Italy, one wants to explore both regions. I have not experienced much intercontinental travel but maybe the opportunity exists in post-pandemic travel.

Most Likely Travel

The future is impossible to predict. But I hazard to guess that my first travel will be to see family in Central Florida. It has been over a year since I have seen two of my family members residing in the land of Mickey Mouse.

However, once that trip is made, I fear my pent up demand for travel will be further restricted by work constraints. The days of carefree travel are many years in the future for my travelling companion. So my list will grow longer.

What destinations are on your post-pandemic travel list?

Brave New World

It’s a Brave New World out there. For those looking for a review of the classic novel by Aldous Huxley, this isn’t a critique. But you might, just might, find my ramblings interesting. The technological revolution is profound, exciting and more than a little bit concerning. Quite the dichotomy, but not surprising in the year 2020.

Brave New World of Science

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought out the worst in some people. The Great Mask Debate and the Virus Hoaxers continue weeks after Election 2020 when the illness was magically scheduled to disappear. Unfortunately, in my part of the world the virus is spreading like wildfire.

On the bright side, across the world scientists are working to find both effective treatments as well as a vaccine. Perhaps with the passage of time the efforts will appear concerted. But at present, the work reminds me of the Race to the Moon.

Two of the vaccines closest to distribution are using a new technology. Instead of using the virus itself to develop immunity, the vaccines are taking a genetic approach. Ironically, I first wrote about CRISPR in my review of Robin Cook’s Pandemic back in February 2019. This cutting edge technology is currently treating genetic defects such as Cystic Fibrosis (CF).

Scientists responding to the Covid-19 crisis have taken two approaches. The tried and true use of either small amounts of live virus or the mRNA genetic approach linked to the CRISPR technology. Small groups such as individuals with CF have been treated with medicines based on this bioscience for about a year. There are known side effects. But the individual I personally know taking treatment based on this new science has so greatly benefitted by improved health, he has no qualms about a vaccine developed using similar techniques.

Ethical Questions

Genetics has elicited ethical questions throughout the years. Both those who lived through the era of World War II and those who studied the history are familiar with Hitler’s desire to create a master race. The Holocaust must never be forgotten.

Fortunately genetic sequencing was not possible in the 1930s. It is now. If a Covid-19 vaccine using mRNA is a success we will have embarked on a path for a brave new world. The possibilities for good may be endless. But the same is true for evil.

Key Questions for a Brave New World

Aside from moral questions, the biotech revolution raises a host of questions. How are new products tested and regulated? What is the cost of development? How are the costs recouped? Will drugs be affordable? Who makes sure only “good” or beneficial drugs are created?

Of course those are just the tip of the iceberg. In the case of Covid-19, millions, nay billions of individuals will benefit from a vaccine. So who is first in line? Again, who pays? Lots of old adages come to mind. Money doesn’t grow on trees. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Those apply. There is a cost to be born, yet obviously the ability to pay varies. Perhaps in the end all questions are truly moral in scope.

Science is truly not my strong suit. So I am sharing some of the many articles I have been reading. I am a late adopter. But I am related to many early adopters as well as trend setters. I hope Covid-19 is but the latest in a long line of once in a hundred year pandemics. Once in a lifetime is plenty!

https://www.brinknews.com/crispr-and-the-fight-against-covid-19/

https://www.wired.com/story/why-its-a-big-deal-if-the-first-covid-vaccine-is-genetic/

https://innovativegenomics.org/projects/crispr-based-dna-vaccine-enhancer-covid-19/

https://www.scmp.com/business/article/3088568/explainer-who-are-global-competition-develop-coronavirus-vaccine?src=covid_home_faq

https://www.scmp.com/presented/news/hong-kong/education/topics/research-excellence/article/3109497/cityu-develops-anti

Thanksgiving 2020

Thanksgiving 2020 will be a different kind of celebration for many. The fifty states are varied both in their Covid-19 outbreak data as well as their approach to the pandemic. As numbers increase, new guidelines as well as rules and regulations are issued. Not only do local, regional and state governments differ with enforcement, individuals also differ with compliance levels. Hopefully common sense will prevail.

 

These turkeys freely wander around Central Florida subdivisions.

Turkey with feathers spread for Thanksgiving 2020

Importance of Thanksgiving to Americans

Like the many Thanksgivings before it, Thanksgiving 2020 is one of the most important holidays in American culture rivaled only by the 4th of July. Perhaps this holiday is so special because of the long history.

Traditionally, the Thanksgiving observed by the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock is acknowledged as the first occurrence of the celebration. However, a few other “thanksgivings” predate the above mentioned gatherings. Click here to read about Florida’s claim to the first Thanksgiving.

Regardless of the date and location of the first feast, the tradition and November time frame was officially decreed by George Washington, the United States of America’s first president.

Thanksgiving Timing

Although the fourth Thursday in November was not settled on for many years, the day of the week has remained the same. I am unaware if there is a rhyme or reason for holding the celebration on a Thursday. But the changing to the fourth Thursday is directly related to commerce.

Abraham Lincoln choose the last Thursday and for the most part this was followed for decades (President Grant was one exception.) But in part to stimulate spending at the end of the Great Depression, President Roosevelt moved the official date to the fourth Thursday of the month. So Thanksgiving 2020 will be on the 26th which is both the last and the fourth Thursday.

This designation keeps the date from ever occurring on either the 29th or 30th of the month. And creates more opportunity to shop for Christmas. One wonders if FDR knew he was creating a monster in the form of Black Friday.

Thanksgiving 2020

Plenty of accounts exist reflecting on Thanksgiving 1918. The Spanish Flu pandemic coursed through the country much like our current Covid-19 pandemic. Researching and reviewing the outcomes in 1918 may make it easier to decide how to celebrate Thanksgiving 2020.

The federalist system of governing in the United States of America is reflected by the varied guidelines and mandates across the country. Enforcement will also differ. For example, fines and jail time have been decreed in the state of Oregon for violating the strict Thanksgiving dinner guidelines of no more than six people joining together. Contrast that with the state of Florida where there are no limitations on gatherings and nursing home residents are allowed to partake in family dinners off-grounds.

So, once again common sense is called for. Before finalizing any travel plans, look at positivity rates. Is there a surge or a cluster of cases at the destination? Or in the areas where individuals are traveling from?

What are the demographics of the celebrants? Sibling millennials should fare better than sibling baby boomers. Multi-generational gatherings in numbers greater than ten would make me uncomfortable. And not just for Thanksgiving 2020 because Christmas 2020 is just around the corner.

We are still undecided about our own plans. None of our millennial offspring are returning home. Our positivity rate is sky high. But we may take a meal to one of the octogenarians in the family. The key is to reduce the spread by keeping as isolated as possible while not ignoring the needs of others.

Happy Thanksgiving to All

Even though we are in the midst of the pandemic, we need to remember to share Thanksgiving Thankfulness. This may be difficult for those who have lost one or more loved ones this year. My suggestion for countering the gloominess is to look to nature.

The Leonid meteor shower is one such example. I spotted almost a dozen streaks of light in twenty minutes earlier this week. The experience was uplifting. And waking up at 4 A.M. was doable.

But there are others. For those of you living on the coast, consider a walk on the beach. Mountain hikes may be difficult in snowy areas, but there is little to compare to the beauty of fresh snow. We need to give thanks for our natural world.

The people in our life bring great joy as well as significant sorrow upon loss. Reflect upon your loved ones this week even as normal celebrations fall by the wayside. I plan to Zoom with my parents and my kids. Maybe next year we can all be together.

Group of turkeys Thanksgiving 2020

Saving Supper With Spices

Last night I attempted to modify an online recipe into another “Recipe for Two” and ended up saving supper with spices. I had produce to use. The acorn squash could sit on the counter for a while longer but the giant bell pepper was another matter. So I searched for recipes including both. Click here to see the recipe I chose to alter.

Acorn squash and Orange Bell Pepper
Roasted Vegetables Base of Soup

Acorn Squash Soup For Two

Since there are only two of us and I only wanted to use one large acorn squash I started to reduce the inputs. Excitement about the ability to throw a simple soup together so I could get ready for a Zoom meeting was my undoing. I overlooked the call for apple cider as the base liquid.

Of course by the time I realized my lack of the proper liquid, I was at the step where the roasted vegetables are blended with the cream cheese and sautéed onions. And the apple cider. So I searched the fridge for a suitable substitute.

I ruled out cranberry juice in favor of a dry white wine. The viognier, from McManis Family Vineyards was perfect. But only a half cup remained in the bottle. The only other open wine was a red blend. Quite a bit remained in the bottle as it was too sweet for our palates. So I added some of that as well, forgetting one of Emeril Lagasse’s main tenet’s-only use the best.

After blending, the consistency of the soup was fantastic. So, the mixture was poured back into the soup pot to heat. A test taste yielded a too sweet tone to the creation. The sweetness overpowered the root vegetables. A disaster was upon us.

Saving Supper With Spices

In our house, when all else fails, add heat. Spiced heat. Since I had already sprinkled the acorn squash with cumin before baking we chose complimentary spices. In addition to the Savory Spice line, we often use a Christmas gift, The Cook’s Pallete Chilli Collection. The chilli’s range from quite mild to very hot.

Cayenne and Chipotle are the spices we used last night when saving supper with spices. The heat of the spices countered the too sweet sweetness of the red wine blend. Our Acorn Squash Soup for Two was saved.

Obviously, I need to keep working on the recipe. Next time, I will either use only a dry white wine or some type of stock. Most likely vegetable stock. I intend to keep adding four ounces of cream cheese as well as adjust the amount of yogurt. The single acorn squash with the bell pepper and small onion create the perfect amount for the base. Hopefully, I can publish a tested Acorn Squash Soup For Two recipe later this winter.

In the meantime, if your thrown together recipe turns disastrous, remember saving supper with spices may allow you a meal that can be enjoyed.

Closed Tin holding saving supper with spices
Open Tin of Chilli Spices

Patience with a Side of Self-Discipline

Practicing patience with a side of self-discipline is much needed these days. For Americans, a double helping is called for due to the as yet uncalled Presidential election. But, across the globe, the pandemic still reigns and all of us need to exercise both.

Patience is a virtue. Our busy lives do not lend themselves to this particular quality. 24/7 news, cell phones, the Internet and even fast food restaurants provide instant gratification with no need for patience. Unfortunately a lack of patience can lead to non-virtuous behavior.

The loss of patience manifests in the inability to practice self-control or display self-discipline. Patience is difficult to teach. Just ask any mother of a young child. But patience and self-discipline are critical at this moment in time. The waning months of 2020 look to be a challenge on several fronts.

Election Results

Citizens of the United States as of this writing still are unsure of which candidate won the election. There may be recounts and challenges. Yet, there will be an inauguration in January. We just need to exhibit patience with a side of self-discipline while awaiting results.

In my corner of the country this is occurring. No riots or demonstrations have occurred. Neighbors supporting opposing parties are still neighborly. Indeed, a greater concern is Covid-19.

Pandemic Continues

Unfortunately my small town reflects much of rural America. We are currently experience a large outbreak of the coronavirus. And worse, patience with a side of self-discipline is not evident. Twelve fellow citizens out of 240 confirmed cases have died. Yet, I see less caution now than last spring. We have grown weary of the pandemic. But Covid-19 did not magically disappear after the election.

We really need to practice the ideal discussed in the May 2020 Wrap-Up. People, Place, Time and Space will get us through this one hundred year viral outbreak. Limit the number of individuals you meet with; meet either outside or in large indoor spaces; shorter time periods and greater amounts of space between individuals make it hard to transmit the virus.

Patience with a Side of Self-Discipline

Two major holidays are just around the corner. Thanksgiving and Christmas are both loved and revered in this household. But much like Easter, I think plans will need to alter. Spreading the virus in a large family gathering is a recipe for disaster.

We need to practice patience with regard to Covid-19. Time will allow for better treatments and hopefully a vaccine. But it will take a healthy side of self-discipline during the waiting period. Our current outbreak has been exacerbated by family gatherings. Holiday office parties are on the horizon. Maybe this is the year to take the money spent on these gatherings and distribute as a bonus. Quite possibly the extra income could come in handy.

We need to understand Covid-19 affects people in different ways. Many individuals will fight off the virus easily, but up to twenty percent will have a more difficult time and/or have long-lasting complications. I prefer to use the CFR (Case Fatality Rate) when looking at Covid-19. The November 2020 edition of the International Journal of Infectious Diseases has an excellent article covering Covid-19 CFR on pages 302-308. Click here for direct access. As the article points out, the CFR varies from country to country. Just as responses to the pandemic have varied. At this point in time it looks like the CFR is dropping worldwide. A good thing.

Unfortunately my little hamlet is well above the world average with respect to CFR. Our five percent rate is scary. Patience with a side of self-discipline is much needed here. Maybe now that the divisive campaigning is over, we can practice the self-control needed to bring down the CFR.

Breast Cancer Awareness

Breast Cancer Ribbon
Not for Women Only

Just one short year ago, I sat in a surgical waiting room waiting for the results from my Dad’s operation to determine if he had breast cancer. Now we are in the middle of a pandemic-what a difference a year can make! October is still Breast Cancer Awareness month but I have seen very little on the topic. Last year, everywhere I turned a media outlet was reporting on signs, symptoms and treatments. Breast Cancer is still a problem for many.

Symptoms of Breast Cancer

My Dad felt a lump on his breast while in the shower. Lumps are one of the key symptoms according to the CDC website. Unfortunately, men do not routinely have mammograms. These diagnostic tests can detect cancerous cells at an early stage. The survival rate for breast cancer, and indeed most if not all cancers, increases when caught early on.

Other symptoms include pain in the breast, unusual discharge from the nipple including a bloody discharge, and change to the size or shape of the breast. Irritation of the skin, including redness or flakiness is also a sign. In my opinion, the best websites to consult for symptoms to include the aforementioned CDC ,are the WebMD Breast Cancer Health Center and the MD Anderson Cancer Center.

Breast Cancer is a complex illness. I do not have the knowledge to be truly informative. If you or a loved one have any concerns about breast cancer, I urge you to click on the above websites. Then, if you have not sought out care from a medical provider-make an appointment TODAY.

Even though my Dad’s cancer had spread to a lymph node, his prognosis is positive, in part for not taking a wait and see approach. I am a firm believer that individuals need to be pro-active in regards to health concerns. Don’t wait to get examined and don’t wait too long for results. Especially during this pandemic.

 Organizations to Support

There are many organizations raising funds on behalf of breast cancer research as well as in support of individuals fighting this disease. The Susan G. Komen may be one of the best known. However, my favorites are the American Cancer Society and the Shantel Lanerie Foundation. Just click on the highlighted names to view their websites.

The year 2020 has been a difficult one. The CARES Act includes a provision to help non-profits. Charitable donations on both the corporate and individual levels now result in a greater tax benefit for the donor. Click here to read a brief report from AFP Global or consult your tax accountant.

Many families are struggling to make ends meet due to decreased income amidst the Covid-19 pandemic. Obviously, feeding the family and paying bills comes first. But those who can give should consider an increase in their donations.

2020 has been a difficult year. However, breast cancer does not take a break. Remember to perform your monthly self-checks. Don’t put off your annual mammogram and check-up. Last, but not least, if you are in a position to give, donate freely.

 

The Importance of Using Face to Face Communication Technology Amid a Pandemic

This week, I realized the importance of using face to face communication technology amid a pandemic. While many are ignoring the need to socially distance due to Covid-19, those that are self-isolating often face other consequences. But loneliness, sadness, and perhaps even early stages of depression can be combatted with the use of face to face communication technology.

Most weeks I stay busy, very busy, and the work keeps the negative feelings at bay. But every so often a down day occurs. Usually this helpless feeling is triggered by an event. This latest occurrence was triggered by an octogenarian in the family having a rough day as well.

I am limiting my travel because of the virus. This impacts those I usually travel to see. Even though I make numerous phone calls, the face to face aspect is missing. One of the older family members does not own a cell phone and the other has an Apple while I have an Android.

But in recent weeks I was able to use VoIP (Voice over Internet Protocol) with great success. In the first instance, a third family member, also an Android user, facilitated the conversation/video chat. But I am most excited about the second use of face to face communication technology.

Zoom

Earlier in the month I bought a license for Zoom so one of the organizations I am involved with could offer a hybrid meeting experience. We are (or possibly were since the caseload of Covid-19 has exploded in our county over the last week) meeting in person at a local restaurant. But some members choosing to self-isolate were missing out. Even though Zoom offers a limited amount of time for free, the purchased plan is ideal for longer connections.

Millennials may not relate to just how hard it is for someone in their eighties to download an app to a computer. But the process is indeed difficult for a brain not wired from a young age on today’s technologies. So, I was quite excited that my Dad succeeded in downloading Zoom this week.

Face to Face Communication Technology

I did have to coach him through the installation via phone. It took the better part of an hour. First, you have the download and then the install. But, the complexity does not end there. The next step is the interface. For a full ten minutes, I could see him but he couldn’t see me.

After talking him through the steps, he finally allowed the computer to use the audio and access the incoming video. The look on his face when he could finally see mine was priceless. The ensuing conversation via VoIP boosted both our spirits.

As big believers in practice makes perfect, we are going to connect via Zoom again this morning. Once he gets comfortable with the process, we will extend the invitation out to other family members. I realize many have been doing this for months. But not everyone is an early adaptor.

If you are self-isolating I urge you to consider face to face communication technology. Zoom is just one of many VoIP’s available. Disney showcased this technology in one of their “rides” back in the 20th Century. I am glad it is a household reality in 2020.

This photo was taken earlier in the year on our first excursion after lockdown. For more photos from the Vail Valley trip click here.

Fall is Finally Here

Fall is finally here on the high plains. Simple signs tell me without looking at the calendar. These signs are so clear, I understand how the inhabitants from long ago knew winter was nigh. Birds migrating, trees turning color, plants yielding less and less, and night approaching faster and growing cooler.

Fall Migration Path

The geese are honking as they fly overhead. Their flight path on a straight North-South directional, an internal compass to envy. Each group numbers in the dozens and they are a familiar sight. And a sign fall is finally here.

The blue jays are also flying south, although they sometimes stay a day or two. Starlings which overstay their welcome in the spring return briefly as well. We have also been a stopover to Bullock’s oriole and western kingbird and a variety of warblers and finches. Some are return visitors. But many are new. The expansive fires of the West Coast and newer fires in the Rocky Mountains are pushing many birds east.

Mysterious Visitors

Among the plethora of visiting birds in the past few days were this pair of talkers. I captured them on this video. Unfortunately, the wind masks the unique call. My guess is they belong to the woodpecker family. If anyone can identify them please share in the comment section.

The area we live in is along a river-although many would question that designation with the low water flow this time of year. Indeed just a hundred miles to the east the water dries out from time to time before resurrecting itself another hundred miles or so to the east of that location. We truly live in the Dust Bowl.

But the river is dammed just to the west and along with a handful of natural lakes that haven’t all dried up, the water provides a good stop along the migration route. In addition to that, this East Coast gal planted trees by the dozens a quarter of a century ago. Plus, pyracantha and Russian sage which also attract the wildlife.

The fruit trees; peaches and cherries and the non-bearing pear, along with the chokecherry bushes provide a splash of color. A squirrel has wandered up from the nearby town park to harvest the acorns from the oak tree. The evergreens will provide protection for the small birds who winter here-they have yet to arrive. Red buds and shademaster honeylocusts have dropped their pods and show signs of turning golden. Leaf raking is also in the future.

Fall Gardening Chores

Much of this week focused on fall chores in the garden. Peanuts were dug as were the second beds of potatoes and sweet potatoes. Yields from the big garden were satisfactory but just and the outside boxes a little less. The rains have been few and far between. The last recorded rain was two tenths of an inch on September 11. So over a month ago and no rain is in the forecast.

However, we have a chance of a frost on each of the next three nights. So, I was tasked with harvesting tomatoes. These plants are still flowering like crazy. Thus the added chore of gathering ripe, not so ripe, and green tomatoes commenced.

The smallest of the green tomatoes were gifted to my niece’s chickens. I will process the larger green tomatoes, both Romas and heirloom slicers into chow chow. Batches of salsa and spaghetti sauce continue on a regular basis but now that fall is finally here the days of fresh sauce are behind us. Fortunately we will have canned goods to enjoy this winter.

Only a few eggplant were ready to harvest. But the plants were full of purple blossoms. They are the tenderest plants, so they were removed from the garden into the compost. The cucumber vines and bush beans were also removed from their place in the garden. Several weeks have gone by since the cukes have bloomed. The pole beans remain for another day.

Carrots, beets, rutabagas and the brassicas remain. I did place a hoop covering over the artichoke. Perhaps it will overwinter with a blanket of straw underneath the canvas. A rosemary plant and some Swiss chard share space under the hoop.

The wires are from a bought covering from a season ago. But the material tore in the high winds of last spring. I am using canvas on one end and a synthetic tarp on the other end. The experiments never stop!

Fall is Finally Here

The most enjoyable part of the last few weeks have been the many evening meals indulged on the back porch. On the occasions without wind we even turned on the fireplace above the waterfall fountain. In these times of external strife it is important to balance life with small pleasures.

Fall is finally here. Fireplace at dusk