Pandemic Employment

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I am a retired elementary teacher. I substituted in my neighborhood school, up until COVID, and then, since I don’t catch curve balls, I decided I was done with that part of my life, even though I loved it, and felt I was effective and competent.

In January, after becoming totally stir-crazy, I decided to “get a job.” Hoo-boy.

My Australian friend would say, “WHHHYYY?”

To get out of the house, would be my answer, and this job was described as part-part-part time. Perfect.

I work one morning a week. Tuesdays. Nothing happens on Tuesdays, so…again…perfect.

This is what I do: deliver produce. Of course, I couldn’t be called a “delivery person.” Too mundane. My official title is Neighborhood Ambassador, but you can call me Madam Ambassador.

Anyway, as it happens, I really like this gig! On Mondays, I get the orders. On Tuesday morning, I get my delivery schedule (the route order), and then I go to the Truck Stop. The driver shoves my boxes to the end of the truck, and along with the rest of the “Ambassadors,” I move the boxes to the back of my car, check for correctness and quality, load refrigerated and freezer items, and then load my car from last-to-be-delivered to first. I push my delivery app, and I’m on my way.

I usually finish between 9:30 and 10 AM. I unload my car, organize and stack the boxes inside my Wendy House out back, and…viola’!, I have earned more than a day of substitute teaching! That’s just wrong, but it’s the way of our society.

With this little side hustle, I am helping local farmers, bringing families good food, getting myself out of the house, and earning some pocket change. As I said, just call me Madam Ambassador.

Post-Pandemic Travel

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Well, we are not really, fully post-pandemic, but we are close. And after two solo long and lonesome 1600 mile-round-trip-drives to Wisconsin in pandemic days, I flew north.

It was interesting. First, I had very few choices in scheduling my out-bound and return trips. Second, I had long layovers. Third, I walked right through Security, being THE ONLY PERSON in the queue. I fly out of our local airport, which is not a hub. I always have to change planes. Both my local airport AND the hub airport were empty, by pre-pandemic standards.

Everyone was masked. Everyone left plenty of distance between seats at the Gates. There was, however, no distance on the planes, themselves, and the service on the plane was awkward.

I’m grateful to be able to travel by air once again. I felt comfortable enough, and frankly, except for the long wait between flights, post-pandemic air travel is pretty much a gift, as I keep trying to live the life. And so, Amen.

Karma, the good kind…

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One of my earliest memories is of my dad feeding me green peas. I’d take a bite of peas, and then ask Dad to give my rag doll, Messy Bessie, a bite. And he did! He’d let the peas roll off the fork onto Bessie’s flat face, onto the floor.

As I grew up, l learned this was so like my dad. I would recall Dad’s patience. Bite for me. Bite for Bessie. Peas on floor. No complaints. Floor cleaned up after I finished eating.

And then recently, I had the privilege to feed Dad. With dementia, and after a stroke, my father couldn’t consistently feed himself anymore. So, as I forked fried eggs into Dad’s sweet mouth, I remembered Messy Bessie, peas rolling onto the floor, and I was so happy to experience this kind of karma.

An Ash Wednesday God Moment…

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Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. It is a time of sacrifice and a time to remind us of the sacrifice of Our Lord. This year, Lent began on February 17.

My Dad had a stroke in early January. This COVID-time is no time for medical emergencies. Mom and my sisters had to leave Dad in the ER, and that was a heartbreak. He was in the hospital for 10 days, and was given up on by the hospital staff. This is no disrespect for that staff. God knows, they have been overburdened, under-respected, and under-supported. He came home on Hospice, and has been cared for by my sisters and Mom.

Meanwhile, I was counting time, until I could be COVID-vaccinated and go up to Wisconsin to help out. Once I received my second jab, I packed dog, cat, all the heavy clothing I owned, food from the fridge, and leapt in my car to get ahead of bad weather. I was driving north from North Carolina to Wisconsin. Who does that in the dead of winter, with record low temperatures?

And I did get ahead of bad weather, though I had snow flurries all the way through Virginia and West Virginia. I was only frightened once, and that was when I looked at the temperature on my gauges. It was 5 degrees F.

My second day of driving, intended to be only six hours, began at 6 AM. The ETA for a second hotel was 12:30 PM. Wow. That was way too early to stop for the night, with only 5 more hours until my destination. So, I drove on. Gratefully, I was definitely ahead of the weather. It was Ash Wednesday. I was on road. I was not going to receive ashes or the blessing that went with them.

Out of Rockford, Illinois, I made my last stop for gas, enough to get me “home.” I wish I had a picture, but I will try to paint a word one. So imagine cars that are salt spattered and a Road Ranger gas stop, right off the Illinois Toll Road. I pull into the pumps. I pull the gas lever, and get out of the car. I do all that’s involved to begin pumping gasoline into my car, and look up. There at the pump before me, I see a tall person in a long, ankle-length black skirt, rather large black shoes, black beanie, and puffer jacket. On this person’s forehead, I see the cross of ashes. I think. Then, I say, “Father?”

The person looks up. I say, “Father, I’m traveling. Can you give me an Ash Wednesday blessing?” He looks at me, and he blesses me, with no words.

I finished my transaction, parked and went inside for the restroom. I pottied my little dog, Hattie, and went on my way.

What are the odds? How many times have you seen a cassock-ed priest at a gas pump? On a holy day? Or even in public, for that matter?

It was out of character for me to even speak, much less ask for a blessing. But I wanted that blessing. I needed that blessing. I treasure that blessing. It was, for sure, a God moment.

That’s What Friends Are For…

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This morning my friend and I, over the phone, found ourselves bemoaning our aching bodies. I guess that’s what old ladies do. And we laughed like crazy. Then we talked about how watching TV can be too hard, what with having to pay attention and all. And we laughed like crazy. Then we talked about how empty we felt without kids in our daily lives, what with being lifelong teachers. And we laughed like crazy, and I made her promise not to go hang out at a local high school at dismissal time, what with her missing teen-agers. And she promised not to, and we laughed like crazy at her missing teen-agers.

Lorraine and I taught together for twenty-nine years, and carpooled for thirteen years, raising her daughter in the backseat of one car or another, as we commuted 45 minutes each way to our mutual school district. Then I retired. Then I moved across country. And we missed each other. So we said, “Let’s talk on Fridays, and tell each other about our weeks.” For ten years, we have talked every Friday, not missing many.

We don’t talk about the same stuff every week. We do hit the high spots, and the low spots, as well. Except for the crazy laughing, which can’t be counted for nothing, we are not at our best physically or emotionally this week. After all, it’s STILL a pandemic! I wonder how it will be different when it ends. Meanwhile, I’m staying away from school yards. And, I’ll look forward to next Friday, as always.

The Dudette Abides…

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Here it is the last of January, and I am just getting around to writing about my Year Word for 2021. With a tip of the hat to The Great Lebowitz, I have picked my Word.

Just a recap…instead of making New Year’s Resolutions, I choose a word on which to focus. After a year of hard grief for my baby sister in 2019, I chose the word “Replenish” for 2020, little knowing I would really, really, really replenish myself with pandemic pastimes for months and months and months, but you’ve been there, doing the same thing, so no use dwelling.

Since a pandemic knows not the calendar, I decided I would abide in 2021. Interestingly, being nearly 30 days into this year, I. Have. Actually. Abided.

I’ve stood fast with my commitment to walking daily, so far. I’ve remained at home, when I want to be with my Wisconsin family. I await my vaccine appointment (if I didn’t get the real thing when I participated in the clinical study trials). I endure, along with the rest of the world, this pandemic. I abide.

You do, too, though you may have another word for this year. Belatedly, Happy New Year!

And just an aside…maybe next year I will choose a word that addresses my procrastination problem.

Who Saved Whom?

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Hoo-boy. Now, hasn’t this been an interesting year? An understatement, for sure.

Usually, I go to Wisconsin for Christmas. I love being welcomed by my sisters, brothers, sisters-in-law, nieces, nephew, and the greats. But most of all, I love spending time with my folks. I’m so fortunate, at my stage in life, to have living parents. They are fun, funny, and simply the best, especially together. They celebrate their anniversary on Christmas Day, and seemed to have cherished each year more than the last.

This year I am not going to be there. Because, COVID.

I shouldn’t complain, and I’m not, really. I’m just grateful we are all healthy. Still…

When my Friend-Ginger-From-Lake-Waccamaw threw me the lifeline of an invitation to spend Christmas at one of my top three places in the world, I grabbed the ring. I arrived on Sunday, and received the first hugs I’d experienced in months.

As I have said before, every household during this strange time, is experiencing its own set of challenges, we Singles, living alone, have struggled for…well, human contact.

So imagine my surprise when Geege said that I. Had. Saved. Christmas for her!!!!

What???

God answers prayers. Sometimes, YOU are that answer. Sometimes you’re fortunate enough to discover that. Sometimes you never find it out.

Whose prayer have you answered? Asking for a friend.

Pandemic Positives…

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I really love alliterations, and who knew there were so many “P” words that would go with Pandemic? There’s the first positive for you, but that’s not what motivated me to write.

I was thinking today about all the good things I have seen result of the ramifications of this pandemic world…of course, there have been many scary, sad, anxiety-ridden events. I, for one, found myself sobbing to my primary care physician last June, as I answered the questions about feeling “down, low, hopeless,” in the midst of social unrest, economic upheaval, and social and physical isolation. But that was months ago.

Now, some of my activities have returned, and adjustments in life have been made by me, and society in general, and I am finding some pretty good outcomes. Let me share a few that I have experienced, in no apparent order…

I have been able to use the rope winding skills learned when sailing with my former spouse, an activity I less than enjoyed because of seasickness. Keeping my yard up with electric tools, I use a very long extension cord, and I did indeed, keep my yard up.

I became a fifth grader again, and grew plants from garbage. Celery, carrots, and avocado seeds are good sources and diversions when a person can’t get to the nursery. (Desperate times call for desperate measures.)

I took a lot of walks, and saw very clever people trying to lift each other up.

I learned to Zoom, which kept me in touch with friends near and far.

I had plenty of time to meditate, pray, and self-reflect. Working on becoming the “best version of yourself” is always a plus.

I had time for very, very long phone conversations with a former student who is now older than I was when I taught him, and with BFFs from elementary school.

I got better acquainted with Alexa and Siri, who I have come to believe are roommates who share the same set of Encyclopedias.

I wrote some letters, not as many as I should have. I sent some packages, and still have more I should send.

I read, read, read. And I worked jigsaw after jigsaw, and am still working on one even as I type. I journaled. I cut funnies out of the paper and taped them in my journal.

I’ve saved money. I don’t need make up (my face is half covered, anyway). I don’t wear my contacts much. There’s a big savings! I don’t need any new clothes, though I have succumbed to a few cute new tops. (See Zoom, above.)

It’s not MY worst year, though it is for many, yet the vaccine clinical trial I played Guinea Pig for is a forerunner. That’s a huge positive.

And for blogging purposes, a lot of words that go with pandemic begin with the letter “P”, as already mentioned, which is great for alliteration lovers everywhere.

Pandemic Power Outage…

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In a week with a Blue Moon (second full moon of the month), Halloween, and a Time Change, we, here in Piedmont North Carolina received a Hurricane as well…in the MIDDLE of a Pandemic! Dear Lord.

I, for one, have completely stopped listening to or watching any news coverage at all. I am wrapped to the back teeth with election sh*t, and therefore have stuck my head in the sand. SO, when my brother emailed me that his kids weren’t having school because of the weather, I asked Alexa for clarification.

“Right now in Winston-Salem, it’s 70 degrees Fahrenheit, with cloudy skies and rain. Stay dry today, Debra.” Did she mention Hurricane Zeta barreling into Piedmont North Carolina? No. She did not.

But barrel, Miss Zeta did. By 9 AM, the trees were bent over, and the wind was howling, yes actually howling, around my tiny house. I could hear knocks on the roof, and sounds like voices circling. Rain pelted. And, at precisely 10:22 AM, there was a loud POP, and no more power.

By 1:30 PM, the sun was shining, and the neighborhood was littered with debris. I, personally, drug several very large branches to the street for pick up in the distant future. Still no power.

By 7:30 PM, I was reading by flashlight, and Praise God, my elementary school BFF called me, and talked me through the worst of it, and I went to bed.

Do you remember what you can do with no power? Nothing. No microwave for dinner. No Netflix. No phone, if you have a land line, and no phone if you run out of juice. No electric kettle to heat water for coffee. No closet light to pick out a cute top to wear. No music. NO ALEXA! No Internet to distract you, no hot water shower, no hair dryer or curling iron. No light to see if you are tripping over the cat, and for me, no lawn mower to at least spend the day productively. Hoo-boy.

Do you know something? Daylight is GREAT! I walked. Worked some puzzle, read a whole entire book, cover-to-cover, and finally drove around to charge my phone. After 29 hours without power, with my refrigerator leaking from an ice melt, Voila’! Duke Energy, I praise and adore you!, power was restored.

Do you know something else? Eating ice cream for lunch is a sacrifice, but suffering is good for the soul.

Pandemic Participation…

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I used to raise Guinea Pigs for Show. I know. That’s a little weird, and I realize that now. And there’s a point to even leading with this information. The point is that I AM the Guinea Pig. I volunteered to participate in a clinical study for a COVID vaccine.

In my city of Winston-Salem, the health industry is number one! That’s a lot ironic, since the former number one industry was tobacco-growing and cigarette-making. Anyway, we have a robust teaching hospital, and the city abounds with clinical trial opportunities, so this is not my first rodeo as a trial participant. It’s actually my third. This is the most important one, though.

I applied, was called, an appointment was made. I phoned when I arrived, and a lovely person, let’s call her Jennifer, met me in the parking lot and escorted me into a sort of open door closet, where I read a very thick document which explained how double blind research projects worked. I read every word.

I was then asked to fill out an extensive medical history, answer many questions, and sign a few times, as well as initial a few times on some dotted lines. Next thing I knew, a doctor, let’s call him McDreamy, was checking out my knees. I know. In some ways, it was more thorough an exam than from my internist, but in all fairness, I’ve never talked to her about my knees.

Next thing I knew, 3 hours later, I was getting an injection in my upper left arm. Thirty minutes later, I was sent home with a “goody” bag of merch including lip balm, hand sanitizer, a thermometer, instructions if I got sick or got a reaction, and a follow up appointment for the next injection. I also received a debit card for incentive to come back.

I’ve since had my second appointment, including injection. I had no reactions, or even site soreness, so I’m probably the Placebo group, but I’ve done my part for humanity.

It feels good to help, when nothing really seems to help these days, and hey…somebody’s got to get the Placebo. Might as well be me!