Christmas for Two

And we aren’t really traditional Christians. Still, I’ve always enjoyed the gatherings of family and friends each year. But it’s 2021. Not a year for fun, comfort and joy, or peace.

It’s okay to be sad this year. We’ve all lost a lot, one way or another. For me, I’ve been sitting with the sadness and allowing peace to replace it in my heart.

My husband loves me. My dogs, horses, and chickens love me in their animal ways. My family love me, from their respective holiday locations. My dear friends are full of love as well. I’m grateful for all the kind messages. Nothing cheers one up quite like newborn baby pictures, so I’m happy to have my unofficial grandchild.

Peace to baby Ruby!

So, since the damned COVID kept our intended guests from coming, I told them I’d send pictures of how I decorated for the meal and relaxing with snacks. I was making lasagna, and Anita was bringing the other stuff. Here’s my decorations:

I also spent an hour or two getting the back porch ready for guests. Everything was dusty and dirty from pool construction. I swept everything, which is so futile, since the wind deposits Alfred hair in every corner as soon as I sweep. And I arranged the newly cleaned cheap patio furniture in a way that gives us a shady sitting area and a sunny one.

I’ve enjoyed butterflies today, so here’s a gift for Anita, Declan, and Rollie to say I miss them but am glad they are being responsible.

And Kynan. I miss you.

Happy COVID Freedom Day to Me

Today’s a milestone that never could have happened before this year. It’s been two weeks since my second COVID vaccine, so my immunity has officially kicked in. I am free to move about the country now! I even gave myself a bouquet of wildflowers to celebrate.

Toadflax isn’t a beautiful name, but it’s in the snapdragon family, which is cool. This stuff is everywhere right now. Small but mighty.

Look, I know this doesn’t mean I’m immune, nor that I can’t transmit the virus if I somehow became infected (no idea how that could happen, since I haven’t been going anywhere). But it does mean I don’t need to have that fear hanging over my head if I need to go to the grocery store or want to do something fun. And I WILL wear a mask when going to crowded places, because I’d prefer to avoid getting even a mild case, seeing all the long-term effects those around me are experiencing.

Even a cute, little bug is a bug, right?

I look forward to being able to hang out with vaccinated friends and have a chat, with coffee or wine. I can sit on the porch with Mandi again! I will feel okay traveling and seeing my relatives who are vaccinated. To be honest, I simply feel lighter and freer than I have in over a year. And by gosh, I’m going to go HUG SOMEONE. How rash!

Small things CAN be beautiful, both hanging around with friends and a tiny blue-eyed grass blossom.

There’s still plenty to do right here at the ranch, though. I’m still reading all those books on bias, knitting away at my current project while waiting for the yarn for my supporter gifts to arrive, and hanging out with the animals. It’s a full life, right here on the ranch. That’s especially true at my favorite time of the year, when every day brings new flowers (also, the swallows have returned!).

Getting closer to 60 inches of entrelac, so I can start the lace border on this wrap.

I hope you and your circle are starting to become more fully vaccinated. I know we all want to see friends and family sooner rather than later!

Even the trees are blooming! This is black willow that’s grown up by the driveway.

Plans for Today Cancelled

I had so much confidence that I’d have few side effects from my second COVID vaccine. But, while it’s not as bad as last time, just a couple hour after I woke up I got the bone tiredness that’s common. So, Sara will ride my horse today and I will read knit, and nap.

But, at least I have a nice new bed set and valances for the dogs…I mean for me to sleep under.

I ordered these Western linens (on sale, too!) to see if they’d make me like my brown walls better. They do look good with the headboard Lee made, and the valance looks pretty good, though we plan to stretch it out a bit. We also have valances for the windows, but need something to hang them on.

The dogs always enjoy morning walks, even when it’s cloudy and breezy.

It’s a windy, gray day, anyway, so I’ll be okay inside. The clouds were really pretty, in a gloomy way, this morning, a nice start to the last day of Standard time.

Is it important for your clothing and dog to match your knitting? I think it’s classy.

I’ll get back to my knitting and resting at the Hermits’ Rest. I hope someone listens to the podcasts! Enjoy my lisping. You will also get to enjoy music from my son, Declan Murtagh, on the podcast. It’s just what I wanted!

Dreaming of Hugs

I’m in Austin this week, and my cul-de-sac neighbors held one of their happy hours to say belated happy birthday to me. We met in a driveway on a windy evening and had a nice time chatting and catching up.

I had a message for the neighbors.

One of our main conversation topics was how far along we are with our COVID-19 vaccinations. Since we are all “getting up there,” some are fully vaccinated, and others are getting close. Only a couple of us haven’t started, but they are slightly younger people who have been pretty isolated.

Hugs?
We could all use hugs, unless, well, we aren’t huggers.

By the end of the visit, as we were saying goodbye, we realized that by the next book club we might be able to hug each other. I must sheepishly admit that I got all extra full of anticipatory glee at the thought of being able to hug Angela, who’s a nurse, in two weeks.

Oh my gosh. Hugs will be possible soon. And we might even be able to meet indoors in April or May!

Hugs
Yes. Hugs. Someday.

And maybe we can have Sunday dinners with our friends again. It’s like a dream. A simple dream. To reconnect. Just talking to friends this evening felt so luxurious.

What simple luxury are YOU looking forward to in the coming months, if vaccinations go as planned? Please share!


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Bummed, and Not Alone

(If you want to hear me talk, I recorded this.)

All weekend I just didn’t feel like writing. It was a reasonable weekend, and I enjoyed being outdoors in the sunshine, but I felt bummed. Looking around, I saw a lot of bummed people. I realized that, oh my gosh, this week is the anniversary of when we all started to take the COVID precautions. And it was the week of the last “fun” out-of-state vacation Lee and I have had.

I love marshes so much. I miss them.

It’s the last time I saw my stepmother, my cousins, my stepsister, etc. And the ocean. I’m not alone, of course; people are just tired of being restricted, and all we hear is that things will still be bad. At least some of my friends and family are fully vaccinated, which lets them breathe a little easier.

My cousins!

But, some of my less resilient friends are struggling, and struggling HARD. I’m really worried about a few of my friends whose ability to cope with isolation and the other effects of the pandemic is growing weaker by the day. The worst part’s that I can’t think of anything really helpful to say or do to make things any easier.

I hope to see my stepmom, Flo, again! She’s well into her 80s!

I’m coping by finding the good in what I do have, getting outside a lot, and interacting with people online, as well as being patient (since there really isn’t any other option). But, telling folks to just hang in there and things will improve seems patently UNhelpful to me. When you are struggling, that sounds like a meaningless platitude.

I miss the ocean. Hope to see it again in May.

I happen to know that struggling friends in Texas are feeling worse now that the governor has opened up businesses and entertainment spots all over the state. Many people will have the opportunity to go back to work, but many are young and not eligible for vaccinations yet. And they KNOW they will be dealing with customers/patrons who interpret our fine governor’s declaration as meaning “go back to normal and forget those masks, the hand washing, the large gatherings of strangers, and the other precautions!”

I hate it here' trends on social media as Texans react to lifted mask  mandate - Laredo Morning Times
A meme. I don’t post memes unless I’m extra peeved.

Hmm, I would not blame anyone for hesitating to return to a job that literally puts their lives in danger for little above our currently disgusting minimum wage. Do I have any helpful suggestions? NOPE.

<rant on>

Well, at least the people for whom freedom to risk their lives and the lives of others is the most important thing in the world should be happier. Maybe they’ll all go run some traffic lights and shoot each other with their unconcealed weapons in joy. Freedom trumps safety. Freedom trumps the Golden Rule.

<rant off>

Uh, as you can see, I’m pissed off as well as bummed. But, it’s my blog, where I can express an opinion, right?

Breathe. Think about the beauty of the earth. Breathe.

If you are struggling right now, please accept as much love and support as I can muster, and know I’m here to listen and to try not to stay unhelpful things in response. And, please reach out to your therapist, psychiatrist, or other professional if things are really going badly.

COVID +1, Ice 0

Ice is zero, because that’s how cold it is in Celsius. COVID is +1, because I got my first Moderna vaccination today. I’m really relieved to get the process started, because it means I might be able to go back to my nice office in Cameron without being so paranoid about potential exposure from Hearts, Homes and Hands staff who work with so many clients (and we are glad they do). Anyway, that’s why I got to get the shot before turning 65 or 64 or whatever age it is.

This is a good thing.

The Vaccination

The County Health Department has the luxury of two closed hospitals to use in cases like this (thanks to all the rural hospitals closing down…moving on…). That meant there were lots of rooms for counseling and giving the shots. Everyone was SO nice. You could just see how happy they are to be doing this for our citizens.

Sad room, wishing it could be part of a hospital again.

The nurse who counseled me was especially nice, and we spent a lot of time praising the County Judge, who has been quite the stoic through this whole pandemic. Half the county says he’s the Devil and half says he’s a Saint. Whichever, the job certainly has been more than he thought it would be when he ran for office!

All fogged up. And I have on two masks.

The only part about the whole thing was that, because it’s truly cold and most of the people getting their vaccines are elderly, they had everyone wait inside rather than sitting in their cars and being called in. I truly understand why they did it, but GEEZ I felt claustrophobic waiting in a hallway filled with fragile people, where there was no way to get 6 feet away from anyone. I did double mask, though, and I’m sure most of those folks were like me and never leave their houses except for things like vaccinations!

They DID have chairs spaced out. The ones next to each other are for couples.

Now I just have to wait a month to get the other shot, then two more weeks and I’ll feel a bit better interacting with folks (with mask).

The Ice

One thing I realized when I was driving to Rockdale for the vaccination is that up here in Walker’s Creek/Silver City (or wherever I live), we got much more ice than only a few miles south of us did. Some of Rockdale’s trees looked perfectly normal. On the other hand, there are lots of trees down here (and my friends in northwest Austin really, really had lots of damage).

These poor trees just keep getting smaller and smaller every time there’s bad weather.

On the other hand, ice sure is pretty.

I love this ice-encapsulated beggar’s purse!

I’m glad the temperature is a balmy 32 F (0 C) today, since I need to load up on hay for Apache for the upcoming Polar Vortex. Sara and Ralph got blankets on all the horses, but Fiona is so fuzzy, she’s fine. Everyone has shelter and seemed just fine this morning, once I broke the ice in the water troughs, which I will have to do again this evening, I’m sure.

We are fine, and have hay. And all the cattle are munching away, happy as can be.

Enjoy some more photos of our icy time. By Sunday we should be getting snow or worse. It may get down to the OTHER 0 degrees! This is NOT normal Texas weather!

Your COVID Precautions Are Perfect for You

Hey, so we’re all living through this pandemic, right? We all listen to our preferred news outlets, discuss it with family and friends, have our own experiences, and then decide how we are going to cope.

Very few of us are hiding and ignoring what’s going on, unlike Cozy Carlton here.

I know a lot of people, in Cameron and Austin, but also around the world. They sure differ in how they decide to live their pandemic lives. Here in Cameron, I know people who haven’t changed their lives at all, except having to deal with store closures. I also know people whose underlying issues and financial means make them most comfortable not leaving their house at all.

Most people are somewhere in between. My children have to work. Many people are in that position, so they do what they can, wearing masks and washing hands a lot. Some people go grocery shopping and such, but limit their trips. Others figure out what shops or services are not crowded or taking precautions and use them.

Penney stays home.

Nearly all of us have our mask collections, since we can’t go places without them, but some are more careful with their technique than others.

Here are Lee’s masks drying.

Why are you telling us this?

The point is that, as with so many other things, there’s no one right way to deal with the COVID outbreak. People choose to make decisions based on information that matters to them and act accordingly. There are a LOT of factors involved, like personal philosophy, your risk factors, and your comfort level.

Harvey points out that his comfort level is high.

Because of all this, I’ve made the choice to not judge people on their choices, even when I disagree or am not comfortable with them. I don’t know their reasons much of the time, and when I do know them, I figure it’s their business.*

What’s the issue?

I was a little surprised that when I shared my recent hair update, most of the comments were from people who seemed uncomfortable with going to salons. I felt a bit judged, I have to say. Of course every single commenter had higher risk factors that me (age, illness, immune system stuff, etc.). If I was in that group, I might have made a different decision, myself.

I can sure see how people who can’t get their hair cut might wish they could! I don’t blame them. I wish I could travel as much as some of my friends have. And I know people weren’t thrilled when I did travel. Yep.

I completely respect those of you who haven’t cut your hair in a year. You are doing what works for you, having evaluated the risks. But, I also evaluated the risks. I chose a small salon that has made many modifications in the last year. They require masks at all times, don’t let clients near each other, and sanitize like crazy. I know the hairdresser. I took the risk based on my comfort level.

We are all under so much stress these days. Let’s consider giving others a break and assume they are making their decisions based on what works for them, even when it’s not what you’d do.

Anyway, now you know why I didn’t mention my previous two haircuts! And yes, if I was under one of the endless quarantines I’ve been in, from being exposed to someone who’s been exposed to someone, I’d have canceled.

I like you! Unretouched photo of morning face.

Note that I love you all and want you safe and healthy. If you think I’m talking about you, know that I understand where you’re coming from, which is from concern for my well being. I appreciate all you readers, wherever you land on the precautions continuum.


* I realize that people choosing to take few precautions do endanger others. I’ve seen the results in my community. I still can’t MAKE people who disagree with public health policy make different choices.

Do What You Can

I’m having a pity party about this damned pandemic. The germy people are everywhere and no matter how we try, there’s some random exposed person lurking around. I simply can’t hide in the house 24/7. It’s frustrating and scary.

That’s right, I’ve resorted to Snapchat filters to diffuse my ennui.

I complained on Facebook, and probably offended some super spreaders, but wow I see a lot of party photos and long trips being shared. But, everyone has to weigh pros and cons. I did, when I went to Utah.

Love this background.

The Good Stuff

Still, my heart is warmed by how people around me are doing what they can for others. I can’t share details, but our Hearts Homes and Hands team is making a real difference in someone’s life, and we’re seeing first hand how community support keeps people in need going. That’s holiday spirit.

Does this filter creep you out as much as it does me? Bye, Snapchat.

And my friends at MTOL have gotten together to help a woman and her dog. They will be safe now. No matter what our personal differences are, our board will stick together and work to help animals (and their people) in need. This kindness, creativity, and generosity is what gives me hope.

The fact that Big Red is still coming up for her daily ration also buoys my spirits.

So, though I know our business puts us at high risk and I get annoyed that people who could easily stay safe choose not to, I’ll do what I can and keep trying to be helpful. I will trust others to make decisions that are right for them and evaluate their own risks.

Fiona has decided she wants treats.

The Word “Weary” Seems to Fit

Since work has started up and since groups I’m in have started meeting, I’ve been having a lot of conversations with people I know. I’m seeing similar things in Facebook groups, chats, etc. It’s summed up by something my friend, Barbara, wrote this morning, which I quoted in the title of this post.

At night, when the snowflake lights are on, this peace tree manages to provide comfort to me.

We’re Weary

I can’t tell you how many conversations I’ve been in this week that either started or ended with someone looking into the camera, bewildered, and sharing that their parents are very sick, or that they lost a friend, or that they’ve been exposed and are worried. People tell of losing multiple loved ones or friends in a short time (I’m one of them). A neighbor at socially distanced book group got visibly shaken telling us that she won’t be able to see her frail and elderly mother this year, because she’d reluctantly canceled her flight to Texas.

At one point, the same neighbor looked at us all, and plaintively asked, “When can we hug?” Whew, we miss hugs.

At the end of the Friends of LLL Board meeting on Tuesday, we had some time left over, and people were talking about the challenges we all had been dealing with, a friend who lost her husband recently, etc. At one point, we all seemed to have our heads in our hands, or blank stares, as we just silently sat there. It felt like a virtual hug was really needed.

A work meeting yesterday was similar. It was hard to get started with the latest project’s progress after we’d been sharing about lockdowns in England, a mutual Swedish friend who got sick…all that. But, work is a thing I am lucky enough to have, because it lets me think about other things beside germs, the degrading environment, and the government.

Yes, we are weary. We know we have to keep up what we’ve been doing, and that it’s important. But people, at least in my circles, are feeling helpless to do anything for themselves or others. The separation we’re experiencing is important, but as it drags toward a year, it’s hard to keep our spirits and resolve up, isn’t it?

What Can We Do?

I’ve noticed that a lot of people are decorating the heck out of their houses. I’ve seen a lot of holiday extravaganzas out there! Anita and I have even made a winter wonderland out of our year-round tree and our mantel. Other people are crafting like crazy (my current knitting project is now too long to be even a maxi-skirt on me).

We always have nature to help out. At the book club meeting, the sun shining through these grass seed heads brought me comfort.

Mostly, though, let’s talk. Let’s listen to each other’s stories and hold those who are having a hard time in our hearts. We’re all having challenges, to one extent or another, right now. If we all send comfort out, we’ll all get some. I feel like by honoring the stories of my friends and colleagues, I’m sending good energy out. I’m appreciating theirs, too. I’d really like to see my husband and my animals.

Another Thanksgiving

Sure, weirdest Thanksgiving ever. But it’s an adventure. I’m making turkey and sides, but not dressing. I’m incapable of making small quantities of dressing. But it’s just me and Anita. Poor Declan can’t come, because there was an exposure at Rollie’s workplace. We will miss them.

Future cranberry sauce. Recipe.

Lee is at the ranch with his brother. My sister is alone at her house, but also cooking. And Kathleen and Chris are alone at the farm in Yorktown. Whee! But by gosh, we’re keeping our germs to ourselves!

Anita peels potatoes.

Hopefully after we eat we can visit neighbors in the cup-de-sac. That will be nice, even if it’s just us and Ruth next door. We have community!

And speaking of community, I’ve made a couple of calls to people I care about, as I said I’d do yesterday. And last night I went to a Zoom birthday party for my friend Mike’s mom. I laughed so hard at their Zoom confusion that my face hurt. But seeing the joy of the family getting together was worth it. Plus, I got to see the amazing cake her children got her.

All her passions are on the cake.

I hope you have things to keep you busy this holiday (or regular day if you’re outside the US). I’ve got that knitting.

It’s getting long!

And I have three new books. I’m so excited about the book about alphabetical order! But I’m reading the Obama book first. Wow, he is a good writer.

That’s it from me today. I’m grateful to have a blog and readers. And of course for having a healthy and safe family, which is quite extended. Virtual hugs to all of you.

Katie Zapfel

Children's book author. Mom blogger.

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