Yet Another Journal

Nostalgia, DVDs, old movies, television, OTR, fandom, good news and bad, picks, pans,
cute budgie stories, cute terrier stories, and anything else I can think of.

 Contact me at theyoungfamily (at) earthlink (dot) net

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» Saturday, May 16, 2020
Tilting at Medical Windmills
On Sunday morning, James was showing signs that his UTI from April (see April 21 entry) had returned, and come back worse than ever. He drank as much as he could, and was doing quite well until Sunday evening, when he started running a fever. James shot off a note to his urologist after he finished with work.

Sunday night and into Monday we became even more worried: his urine output had halved despite the fact he was drinking more water, and he gained five pounds overnight. At noon we drove to Kaiser so he could take a urine test as the urologist had ordered. He worked the rest of the day, but was feeling worse every hour. At dinner time, we decided we had to fish or cut bait. So we had dinner, waffled a bit, then about 9:30 we took our nightly showers, got into fresh clothes, put Tucker and Snowy to bed, and drove to Urgent Care. Of course I packed snacks and things to do, and a good thing I separated the snacks into "his" and "hers" bags, because they took him back and left me to cool my heels in the car from eleven p.m. through 4:30 a.m. (I did expect this, but it was still annoying.) I tried to sleep, but Butch's seats are damn uncomfortable even with a back support and extra cushion; I still had the car blanket and that kept me warm, as it got down into the 40s, but Fred the traveling pillow has long been relegated to the spare room. Instead I used a crescent-shaped travel pillow, which would have worked if I wasn't so distracted: twice I had to pee, several times cars drove up with people dropped off at Urgent Care, I kept losing things in the front seat (like my glasses and my phone), James and I were texting each other, and at three a.m. a mockingbird started singing in the parking lot. Eventually I just pulled out my tablet and started to read.

James spent a miserable five and a half hours being prodded, stabbed, scanned, and other diagnostic miseries. They took blood and urine, scanned his bladder (they said he is emptying properly, so we worried about his kidneys seemingly needlessly), and also revealed he has a hernia. I wasn't in the treatment room with him to turn out the lights between pokes and prods, so he had to lie the whole time with the Nazi-interrogation-fluorescent lights in his eyes. In a way, even in Butch's non-ergonomic seat, I had a more comfortable place to perch. I was even almost warm enough, especially when I doubled up the blanket.

So, it turns out the UTI du jour is e.coli, and he's also anemic. They gave him two bags of antibiotic intravenously. When he emerged we were both so tired it needed all four of our eyes to get us home, but thankfully, since we'd showered before we left, we could just get undressed and go straight to bed. We slept till eleven and then James tried to work, but he was still feverish and after two hours could not read the teeny-tiny type on his computer screen. Then he gave up.

Of course the doctor put him on an antibiotic, but even that caused a problem. James made it clear to both the Urgent Care doctor and the nurse who was assigned to him that he could not take Ciproflaxin because of its interaction with hydrochloroquine. And guess what we came home with a prescription for! So we had to call them back and get something else that would not affect him. They finally decided on amoxicillin clavulanate, which, of course, we had to go pick up. What fun.

His fever didn't break until Wednesday, although it went off and on up and down to 99 point whatever for a few days. But between the fever and the anemia he's been feeling rotten and his temper has ebbed and flowed. All we did on Thursday was go to Publix and that wiped him out, and he was really upset about it. You see, even after two heart attacks he's still not used to being sick for any extended period of time. James' way of "being sick" used to be him coming home early from work or fading in the middle of an afternoon with "I'm cold" (even in 90 degree weather), going to bed early, calling in sick the next day and spending the morning in bed to drag downstairs about noon to eat soup and stare dully at the television. At night he'd feel better, go to bed, and go back to work the next day, all well.

It didn't help that his arthritis has been acting up and his back has been very painful. He finally had me put on the cream the rheumatologist prescribed, and that did help, thank goodness!

He did feel a little better on Friday, when we hosted a "socially distanced" picnic in the garage. I went out there in the morning, measured the garage, and marked safe distances out in chalk with a tape measure after backing the vehicles out. Aubrey had to work, and Juanita had something come up, and Mel and Phyllis had a medical appointment, but Alice and Ken were able to come and that was nice, to be able to chat in person! Of course I made sure the downstairs bath was nice and tidy, and stuck a sign on the toilet that said "Sanitized for your protection by the Sheldon Cooper Cleaning Co., Ltd" as a joke.

We ended up going to Dragon for our weekly eat-out meal out again; since they've been closed over a month I want to give them as much business as I can. I tried the barbecue ribs and they were excellent and meaty, but they have to be saved for a treat—much too rich.

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» Saturday, May 09, 2020
The Tweaks of Life

Well, Wednesday we had a definite pause. We had gone to Lidl and then to Publix, and James seemed a little "off." He seemed very drowsy. Well, when we came home, I checked out his meds and was horrified. I had sorted the day pills into the evening slots and vice versa. He probably hadn't noticed since Sunday! So he'd taken an Ambien this morning. Needless to say, the rest of the day was shot.

Thursday we were all much more awake, and did the trip to Patak's we had put off yesterday because the line was so long and we had perishables in the car. They were out of pastrami, to James' dismay, but we got Italian sausage, stew beef, breakfast sausage, and some mortadella. To our absolute surprise, three EMTs walked in, not one of them wearing masks! You would think health workers would know better! Before we came home, we bought gasoline at Costco before the price goes back up.

Friday it rained most of the day and nowhere to go anyway. We made the best of it: James got Mexico Lindo food for lunch, I got chicken chow mein and pork fried rice from Dragon 168, and we had an afternoon matinee: Apollo 13 and Twister (I guess I was in a Bill Paxton mood). Plus I finished reviewing the books I read in April.

Ah, Saturday, started when I took Tucker for a walk. We'd crossed the street and were walking past Timber Creek's property, and I was slightly woolgathering, musing on what to do that day. Perhaps I'd do "bothers"—go into a room, find something that bothers me, and fix it. And then I noticed the big plant Tucker was cozying up to and then peeing on had "leaflets three." (Not sure of today, but kids in New England in my day were brought up the rhyme on "leaflets three, let it be.") I kept him at a distance for the rest of the walk, then once home tied him on the front porch, stuck my head in the front door and yelled up the stairs to James, "Google what poison ivy looks like, willya?" So he did.

Unfortunately I couldn't positively identify the photos that were on the computer screen as the same plant Tucker had given the close encounter to, but I couldn't swear it wasn't poison ivy, either, so, guess what: pulled on a pair of rubber gloves, dumped the dog in the bathtub, and gave him another bath, his second since Monday. Gah. Of course I had to wash his bedding and the towels, too. He wasn't happy, and neither was I.

Good thing I had nothing planned at all. I only ended up doing one "bother" after all.

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» Saturday, May 02, 2020
The Outside World

We actually did something amazing on this long, long weekend still in effect: we went places that weren't supermarkets, buying clubs, or a doctor's office. And we did it safely, too.

As usual, on Wednesday we went to Publix (there I am, going the wrong way up an aisle again) and Lidl, early enough that we found everything we needed. But we also stopped at Walmart; while James did get sugarless candy for himself, mainly we went there to get him more sleep shorts. We thought about ordering them, but wanted to look at what was available and what material they were made from. I don't know names of material from Adam; I just know I hate jersey. And even when I looked up men's sleep shorts on Walmart's site, I kept getting directed to items that were fleece. Fleece shorts? Seriously?

So we masked and I carried my trusty squirt bottle of isopropyl alcohol and some folded-up paper towels, and I liberally sprayed and/or wiped the cart and the self-checkout machine. The fabric department was completely out of cloth; lots of mask-makers have gone through here. Bet you can't find bandanas at JoAnn right now, either.

That was enough for a Wednesday; on Thursday, another novelty: James had his hair cut! (His hasn't been cut since February. I've been trimming it, and was told I did a good job, and James has his beard trimmer, but he was still looking like a sheepdog.) His stylist was taking one appointment at the time, cleaning and wiping down between cuts, which were scheduled at one an hour. We also got to see friends leaving there (within social distance, of course) and waved at friends arriving (we all use the same stylist, and this day had been arranged). On the way home we made a call and—calloo! callay!—our favorite Chinese restaurant, Dragon 168, had reopened! They're a real hole-in-the-wall place anyway, and you don't really go in there to sit inside and eat, although you can, there are tables and chairs, but they have fashioned a plywood pass-through structure that fits into their door. You call in your order with your credit card number, and they give you a number—we were number one on Thursday! number two showed up as James was waiting—and then you get your order through the pass-through.

Before we went home to eat, we gassed up the Kia at Costco because it was $1.299!

Friday we had a real treat: talking to live friends in an outdoor setting! Alice had scoped out Heritage Park, which had a pavilion with picnic tables. She and Ken and Aubrey had showed up early to wipe down a picnic table (they were still covered in pine pollen from the park having been closed for six weeks) with disinfectant, and we sat in chairs at one long end of the picnic table, and they sat in chairs on the other end, six feet apart and sitting so that neither group was downwind from the other. We had a nice lunch and a nice chat, and I think it only broke up because all of us needed to use the restroom (the park facilities were still closed though the park was open, and the trash cans had not been maintained).

Saturday we decided to go out and see if we could see the tribute flyover the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels were doing for the healthcare workers. The flight plan was published on Facebook, and it looked like it was going right down highway 41 or I-75. We picked up lunch, then went to a couple of places before settling in at Akers Mill shopping center. (Alice and Ken went to the parking lot near the closed AMC theatre and they got some nice shots, but it was too crowded; in retrospect, the way the flight came in, we should have stayed in Barnes & Noble's parking lot, as we could have seen from the top of the whole hill.) The planes came in from a totally unexpected angle so we were just able to gape as they zoomed over.

On the other hand, everyone we saw at Akers Mill was pretty cool about social distancing. Cars parked in every other parking space and many people wore masks. We were sitting in the shade in front of a closed restaurant and no one was near us. We saw footage on the news later on about people crowding together on overpasses to see the planes and were glad we didn't go there, although the overpass over I-75 near the Monstrosity (Truist Park) would have been the best viewing spot of all.

Best of all we discovered Hobby Lobby was back open, so we put on our masks and went in, mostly to use the restroom, but just to look at something different. We stayed away from other people and when we got home quarantined our few small purchases in the library until next weekend.

We also finished watching both seasons of Star Trek: Discovery (yes, second season was a big improvement; my favorite characters are still Sylvia Tilly, who manages to put her foot in her mouth more than I do, and Jett Reno, the engineer with attitude) and Star Trek: Picard, plus all the behind-the-scenes "Ready Room" shows on both series. I'm about Star Trek'd out for a while! To my surprise, I found the most recent animated Lassie cartoon with the kids' programs. I managed to download all 26 English-language episodes from You Tube, as apparently the series was never shown here in the US, just in Canada, Europe, and parts of the Middle East, and figured they were just repeated here, but was gobsmacked to discover a 26-episode second season on CBS All Access instead, labeled as season one. This left me in a quandary: our free subscription would end on May fifth.

So I sat down Saturday after we got home from the flyover and binge-watched for five hours. (Later: and then I watched more between chores on Sunday and four final episodes on Monday and got through them all. I canceled on Tuesday as scheduled, since I couldn't see any reason for keeping it any longer. If I want to watch other Star Trek, it's on Netflix, and the other shows on CBS All Access I might be interested in (Perry Mason, I Love Lucy, Caroline in the City) are not intact. Oh, the episodes are uncut, but they don't show all the episodes in each season. If there are thirty episodes in a season, for instance, CBS All Access carries only fifteen or twenty of them. In addition, with Perry Mason they don't show any season six or nine episodes. What kind of a deal is that? Why say you "carry __________ series" and then not have every single episode of every single season?

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» Saturday, April 25, 2020
Shortage Musings

I've read a couple of articles now about how, since stay-at-home orders and allowing those to telework who could has been in force, the environment has improved in one month. Yes, we're using more plastic bags because most of the grocery stores won't bag your stuff if you use your own bags, and of course there's tremendous medical waste, but CO2 emissions are way down (the graphic showing the NYC/Boston corridor is amazing). In some places like Los Angeles and Bejing and London there is actually clear sky again. There are fish swimming in the Thames River, and coyotes wandering through San Francisco.

Being in the suburbs we have the usual complement of wildlife: some rabbits, chipmunks, the occasional possum and raccoons, the less occasional coyote or fox, and lots of squirrels. This morning Tucker and I took one of our longer walks—amazingly, at one point he was the one wanting to go farther!—and I noticed how many more squirrels I was seeing this year. And I think I know the reason: fewer people driving to work. During the spring the young squirrels are often seen as squished bodies at the side of the road, having misjudged their sprint on an early morning or late afternoon dash across the asphalt. This year I've seen almost no squirrel bodies, but lots of live squirrels.

One of the things I've learned during all these shortages is that you really can get by on less. Back when I was nervous about getting another big package of toilet paper—back when you weren't seeing any in the store, and a poor friend of mine in a major metro area was so worried about a dwindling supply that friends sent packages because this person is ill and housebound and the grocery delivery services never sent paper towels and toilet tissue—I was parceling out the squares carefully. I'm still keeping an eye on how much I use and admonish myself to use only what I need, not a leisurely swath of squares. I've also found that judicious use of the Swiffer wet sweeper cloths means I can mop the kitchen floor just as clean with two as with three, and that I can use fewer Lysol disinfecting wipes cleaning the bathroom and get it just as sanitary.

Plus I realized with amazement that we are still working with the same package of one half-dozen XL Brawny paper towels we bought at Publix back on March 13 merely due to more judicious use of them. I washed my hands a lot even before COVID-19 and would always manage to spatter water on the bathroom counters, and I would think nothing of taking one sheet of paper towel (we get the Pick-a-Size, so it's a small sheet), wiping the sink, then throwing it away. Now, unless the spatter on the counters is dirty (like the other day when I washed the covers of the two books I bought on e-Bay), I will just leave one or two of the small pick-a-size sheets on the bathroom sink counter and wipe up with them over and over until the square starts to disintegrate, which takes about five days to a week. So...using fewer rolls of paper towels—and of course the ultimate thing to do would be to replace these squares with microfiber cloths and just toss them in the washer once a week.

Maybe after this is over we'll remember all the little conservation tricks we learned and buy less and toss fewer things into the trash and thus the landfills.

And hopefully supervisors will do their jobs and check the metrics on their teleworking workers and realize they can trust most of them to telework more and still get their jobs done. Face it, some people aren't "made" to telework; they need supervision or they goof off or they need constant guidance. Some find it hard to get into the discipline, but finally "get it" and do their work. And there are others for whom it just "works." I always thought I did more work while teleworking because there was no one walking by who just wanted to talk, no delays because the printer didn't work (about half the time) and no delays for the long distance walked to the printer, no delays because of environmental issues (like it was just so damn hot in the place you had to keep running to the bathroom to splash cold water on yourself). At home I just reached to my right to grab my printouts instead of walking 75 steps to the printer and 75 back. The bathroom at home was 10 steps away rather than more than 100 (and the refrigerator water dispenser was also 10 steps away, rather than 100+ for the bubbler). For James the rest room and the water fountain are even farther away, so when teleworking he's back at his desk in a trice and always available for a call.

So maybe when we can go out again, and quit wasting plastic bags and protective gear again, maybe we'll remember the lessons of using less and teleworking more. Maybe in the future coyotes will still be spied in San Francisco and more squirrels will chatter in our yards, and the skies will be blue over LA and London and Beijing because people learned by staying home they could get by with so much less.

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» Friday, April 24, 2020
Grocery Shopping in the Time of Coronavirus

Now that James has been cut down to thirty hours a week, our weekend now starts on Wednesday. As I so irritatedly indicated in the previous entry, James was required to go to a podiatrist appointment Wednesday, but it was a good thing, because it turned out he had two ingrown toenails that he couldn't feel at all due to diminished feeling in his feet because of diabetes. So I am now playing nurse again for a week, anointing one toe with generic betadyne (I didn't realize that was just an iodine solution) and bandaging it after he has his shower.

Thursday I couldn't stand not having any bread in the house anymore and went to Lidl. They don't allow you to buy "by the each" at the bakery right now so I had to buy four dinner rolls (they haven't had them for two weeks, so I'm happy about that) instead of two, so will have to eat them promptly. (Oh, twist my arm. Make me eat bread. I'm Italian. It's a main food group.) Also got a baguette because we were having the rest of the chicken cacciatore for dinner and what use is cacciatore without bread to "zoop" in the sauce? Picked up cheese rolls, shredded cheese, and ground turkey for James, grabbed another gallon of purified water for the C-PAP machine, and also bought another gallon of milk, onions, and potatoes.

On the way home I stopped at the City Farmer's Market in a fruitless search for wipes or alcohol. They didn't have any of the former, and they don't carry drugstore products; like Nam Dae Mun, it's simply a grocery store. It's also the only place I know in town where you can get unfrosted brown-sugar cinnamon Pop-Tarts. (My opinion of icing/frosting ranks almost up with child molesters.) Couldn't find sesame oil, did find "stellini" pasta to go into chicken soup.

(During the afternoon I finished the taxes and paid them off with my credit card. It cost me an extra fee, but then I'll get points on my Amazon credit card for next month. Also paid the exterminator, TruGreen, the water bill, and this month's car insurance bill. And James finally got the unemployment payment his boss put in for. This meant we had grocery money for Thursday. And of course I played "The Tech Guy" for Snowy.)

Today we did one of my favorite things: getting in and out of grocery stores in a minimum amount of time. We did three stores in two hours and ten minutes, but to get out that quickly and that early, we had to forego breakfast for a single Belvita oats and chocolate chip breakfast bar. (Needless to say, we were starving when we got home.) We started at Costco, which was remarkably un-crowded for a Friday morning. Unlike our last visit, they just had pallets keeping the outgoing crowd and the incoming crowd apart, no Disneyland-like winding line to get inside. Alas, still no wipes or alcohol, but we were surprised to see pallets and pallets of two different kinds of toilet paper and big 12-packs of Bounty paper towels in the middle of the main aisle. We needed neither; we were there for "plastic cheese," what James calls single slice American cheese. And while we were there, we finally found mandarin orange cups, which James uses in his morning juice slushie. For the last two weeks he's had to make due with pineapple (which he loves) and mixed fruit (which he said was "okay"). We also picked up cranberry juice, cashews, another bag of Skinny Pop, the cheese of course, and Erik Larson's new book. (I may have to go back for the Native American book—a state-to-state and province-to-province guide of each of the tribes; I was quite taken with it.)

Then we turned back toward home and the stop at Publix. James went to the deli for more low-sodium ham and no-sodium-added turkey while I picked up yogurt, and I finally found, after a month, the Publix-brand 100-percent whole wheat bread which is the lowest sodium and carb bread there. I was afraid they had stopped making it! Also picked up eggs (they had none at Lidl), low-sodium Pringles, some herbal tea.

Finally we hit Nam Dae Mun for sugar-free cookies, the TVP James uses to stretch out his ground meat (it's called "soya" there), and sesame oil.

After that we could finally get home and get some lunch! I had a nice drippy leftover turkey sandwich, did some computer junk, and took Tucker out for his delayed long walk. We met one of the folks that live around the corner from the development entry, a house surrounded by a little bit of land that has been here for a while; they have a big gear wheel or some kind of tractor wheel on either side of their driveway, and about a half-dozen cars, including what looks like an old 1930s job. It was an older gentleman wearing a farmer's cap, long-sleeved shirt, and overalls, just like he came out of "Country" magazine, walking their dog, a black-and-tan "Chiweenie" (chihuahua/dachshund). The dogs got to sniff each other while we social distanced at the ends of both extendable leashes. He said she (the dog) sees us go by every day taking a walk and sits on the back of the sofa barking at us!

Also listened to a "Travel With Rick Steves" podcast and two episodes of "A Way With Words."

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» Tuesday, April 21, 2020
The Simple Woman's Daybook


Outside my window...'s midafternoon, the sky has clouded over a bit, and there's a wonderful breeze. You wouldn't believe that it's in the 70s out there; it feels really good instead of being too hot in the sun. And, wait, now the sun is back out. It always does turn up again like a bad penny.

I am thinking...'s ten days since I did a blog entry. There's really nothing to write about. When we go out, we are either at the pharmacy picking up some meds, or we're at the grocery store. If I hated going to the grocery store before this, I despise it more now: you have to wear masks, go one way up aisles (and I am forever going the wrong way or what I need is at the other end of an aisle I can't go up), and not find what you need (Lysol, disinfecting cleaning or hand wipes, and alcohol. And American cheese! With all the kids out of school, the moms must be stuffing what James calls "plastic cheese" down them every day for lunch! It's a wonder they're not all constipated.)

And all those wonderful, optimistic messages from advertisers on TV, promising "it will be okay soon" and "we'll be back"? They depress the hell out of me.

I am thankful...
...that we seem to have missed a bullet. James has been told since he was a little boy and suffered an insect sting that he is also allergic to penicillin. When he went into the Navy they performed a test, and gave him a red dog-tag that signified a penicillin allergy. So he's always had to have alternative antibiotic treatment. Well, a week or so ago he presented with symptoms of a mild UTI. We called the doctor and talked to the nurse practitioner, who was automatically going to prescribe ciproflaxin until he found out James was on the generic form of Plaquinel. Cipro and Plaq do not play together properly. So he prescribed two other antibiotics, only one of which the Kaiser pharmacist let us have because one of them also interacted with the Plaquinel. So James took the other antibiotic, and in the meantime the doctor had him take another urine test.

Unhappily all those happy little germs were still racketing around in there. The doctor then actually called us, on a Saturday of all things, and said that James needed all the germs gone ASAP, and he could either take the Cipro, which might mess with his heart, or try amoxicillin and risk the allergic reaction. (Jolly nice choice, eh, chaps?) So Saturday morning we went up to Kaiser's TownPark office (where Urgent Care is) to pick up the amoxicillin, and we were "loaded for bear." Instead of taking the truck, I drove, and we brought our tablets, and I even brought one of the phone charge cords. I did not want to have to deal with the truck if James had to go to Urgent Care with an allergic reaction. I remembered that when I used to have allergy shots, Dr. Friedman and then Dr. Sturam would have me stay in the office for twenty minutes in case I had an allergic reaction to the shot. So James got the scrip and took the first pill, and down we sat, and I timed us for a half hour. Of course Kaiser didn't want anyone in the building unless they were picking up scrips or seeing a doctor, so the nurse came up to ask us why we were hanging around, and we gave her this very bad explanation, but I guess we finally got the message across because she sat us down where she too could keep an eye on James.

We waited the half hour. Nothing happened. So we left.

We appreciate that, God!
In the kitchen...
...we had midday dinner, so there are leftovers to put up. I got up for senior shopping this morning—fat lot of good that did me; even after "restocking" they have no Lysol, no disinfecting cleaning or hand wipes, no alcohol (at least I found yogurt!)—and bagged some turkey thighs, so we had that with Rice-a-Roni on the side.

I am wearing...
...a cadet-blue "Owly" t-shirt (look up "Owly" and "Andy Runton" and you'll find this delightful little guy) and blue-silver-and-white buffalo check pajama pants. And white Hanes socks.

I am creating...
...does this blog entry count? I did a little shopping this morning, washed two loads of clothes, made dinner, shelved a dozen or more books in the library, cleaned off two books I received last Tuesday and had in "quarantine," and started a project.

I am going... finish the project this time, or get it to a more manageable state, at least. We have four boxes in the garage with old APAzines in them. Is everyone familiar with APAzines? One of my friends once referred to it as a very slow cocktail party. An APAzine was run by a coordinator. He or she set the date of the next zine, and arranged for collation of the zine, added covers, and kept up with who was contributing and who was not. APAzines usually ran 20 to 25 members. Some APAzines had themes: science fiction, or maybe more specifically Doctor Who or Star Trek, or sports (perhaps basketball or baseball specifically), book reviews, collecting of some sort, auto racing, stamps, etc. The two APAs we belonged to, "Myriad" and "500 Year Diary," were general interest APAs. You wrote about what interested you, others wrote what interested them, and then in every issue, you commented on the other zines in the issue and the other participants commented back to you. Every month, or bimonthly, or whatever the interval was, you went to Kinko's or Office Depot and copied off your zine, usually five more zines than how many members were in the zine, so that "spec copies" could be given to people interested in participating and getting on a waiting list. Then you delivered (if you lived close) or mailed the copies to the editor, who would collate all the zines together, and then send every member a copy of the APA, and it was read, and comments made, and a new zine printed next time.

Anyway, I think I'm the only one who still has my copies. They've sat in the garage for fourteen years, and they're taking up the space where the rollator should go. But I find that, although I don't have the time nor the inclination to re-read them, I find myself reluctant to throw them out. It's like throwing away pieces of my friends. But I did start today. I got all the "500 Year Diary" issues in one box, and then cleaned out one of the three boxes of "Myriad," keeping only the volume ("Myriad" used to run to three to four stapled 8 1/2x11 volumes) with our zine, "Flying Dreams," in it. (Ideally then I want to remove our zine from the volume and just keep that, but it involves staple pulling and will take a while.) I quit after the first box because the remaining volumes are so heavy I can only do so many at the time and still be able to lift the garbage bag into the trash can and then wheel the trash can out to the curb. I will only be able to do one box at the time. It's still sad to do.

I am wondering...
...if we can ever go back to a normal life again. Even if the COVID-19 mutates into a less infectious or less lethal form, or if they develop a vaccine, aren't we now always going to think "What if another one is waiting around the corner?" Can we ever go into crowds again—science fiction conventions, ARTC performances, Christmas markets, museums—without worrying even the tiniest bit? I'm hoping this at least makes people cleaner. A month ago I was discussing with the waitress at Tin Drum the utter absurdity of having to tell adults to wash their hands. Yet I used to work at CDC and would be aghast at the women who walked out of the bathroom without washing their hands!

I am reading...
...Tristan Gooley's The Nature Instinct.

I am hoping... go to a bookstore soon. I'm having withdrawal symptoms. And with doctors' appointments, bad weather, changed plans, and health hiccups, we never got up to McKay's in Chattanooga to trade in the books in four full Xerox-paper boxes that are turning into five Xerox-paper boxes. And it would be nice to go down to Warner Robins and see my sister-in-law, who's been laid up with a bum foot, and my mother-in-law. They still don't have their Christmas gifts.

I am looking forward to...
...more freedom when it's safe to do so. You know, it's been easier on we introverts during this quarantine than other people. We literally wish sometimes to stay home and be left alone to read, work on art projects and hobbies, have a quiet walk or go on a run, listen to podcasts, binge-watch television, blog...and, again, just read! We aren't suffering like the folks who like to go clubbing, or go to bars, or just hang out in noisy restaurants on weekends (why is why you'll never see us in Chili's). But we still like to venture out to do the quiet things we like: meet with friends, go to bookstores and museums, have lunch out together. And we miss it.

I am learning...
...well, read weather signs from Tristan Gooley. There is so much our instinctive selves have forgotten due to technology. I love technology, but sometimes it's as much as a trap as a help.

Around the house...
...James is teleworking. Tucker is on the deck being a wild puppy. Snowy is singing along to Leo Laporte "The Tech Guy." Occasionally the curtains billow as the breeze.

And I need to go fetch the clothes out of the dryer.

I am pondering...
...if I should order Madeleine L'Engle's new book. These are short stories her granddaughter found in her files after she died, ones that she considered good enough to publish (most of the others were not good, or only fragments). I miss getting a new Madeleine L'Engle, and the reviews say that although the stories aren't anything special, they do show her growth as an author.

A favorite quote for today...
...not a favorite, but I found this for my journal (it seems appropriate):
“Patience is not the ability to wait, but the ability to keep a good attitude while waiting.”
                                                                                                                . . . Anonymous

One of my favorite things...
...chocolate. Alas, I've had mine for the day.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
Well, since every single one of both our doctors cancelled all our appointments, but apparently James' nurse visit with the podiatrist was too important to cancel without the dang nurse reading us the riot act, we have to drive all the way to Glenlake tomorrow and go in a building full of potentially sick people to get his toenails examined! But he arranged to pick up a prescription there, and I guess we can go by Tin Drum, since it's two weeks and time for my extra protein again.

A peek into my day...
Here's a pic of me from last week reading a bound version of the old "St. Nicholas" magazine.

If you'd like to participate, check out The Simple Woman's Daybook.



» Saturday, April 11, 2020
"My Quarantine Diary"
There are Facebook posts everywhere about how one should keep a quarantine diary, to remember this time—especially kids, as a memory for their future, and even an exercise for homeschooling. I daresay anyone would be bored reading mine, since I'm not doing anything much different than I did just being retired. The biggest difference is on James' non-work days, since we really can't do anything except duck into a grocery store, which I hated originally and hate even more now, because it involves masking and prep and dragging along the power chair, since I don't want James riding on the supermarket carts. It's gotten so bad that when we were flabbergasted that James' podiatry appointment on the 17th hadn't been cancelled, and the nurse was very disapproving when we said it could be cancelled, so we just caved, I shrugged and said, "Well, at least it will get us out of the house."

Sunday is as always my chore day. James is working, so I might as well, too. I charge the electrical things in the bathroom (water flosser, James' razor trimmer, the auto light over the toilet), clean the master and hall baths (including disinfecting the toilets and washing the floor), mop the kitchen floor, wash towels, sort all our medications for the week, and usually end up cooking midday dinner and unloading/loading the dishwasher to boot.

Monday and Tuesday is odds and ends. I usually make a grocery store run either day. This week it was on Tuesday and I ran into the nice lady at Kroger noted in a previous entry. Tuesday I also mailed a birthday gift to Emma. Everyone in the post office is behind hanging clear plastic walls. Sometimes I go to Lidl for bread and veg and chocolate.

This week was James' first week on reduced hours—they cut him down from forty hours to thirty last week, which means he only works Sunday through Tuesday. So Wednesday we went to Publix; our jaws nearly dropped when we saw they had toilet paper! Just bought BOGOs and yogurt and left. Wednesday is my laundry day anyway.

Thursday we did senior hours at Costco and lucked out: found ScotTissue! Yay! Were almost on the verge of running out of it; with my wonky digestive troubles I always want a few extra rolls of toilet tissue in the house. The Costco people had the entrance set up like Disney World using barriers of pallets; you had to wind through a sinuous line to get inside and they handed you a sanitizing wipe at the door. Bought enough stuff that we won't have to come back for a month. Alas, they had no American cheese.

After Costco we had to stop by Kaiser to pick up the Lyrica they didn't have next week. James had a very sobering call at the beginning of the week from his rheumatologist because the drug he is taking for his arthritis, hydroxychloroquine, is in short supply because it looks like it might be a treatment for some COVID-19 patients. The doctor is strongly suggesting to Kaiser that James must be kept on it because of his kidney and heart problems, but he asked if James would cut down his dosage to one pill a day to see if it was still controlling the pain and mobility. This way the medication could be saved for the lupus patients, who will die without their dosage, and hopefully production will pick up on the hydroxychloroquine and it won't be in short supply too long. If there continues to be a shortage, it's possible they will put James on a low daily dosage of steroids, which isn't the best option, but might work without too many side effects.

While James was there he did some labs. He has some minor signs he might have a urinary tract infection.

On the way home we came by a different Publix to get the Sweet'n'Low James had forgotten on Wednesday, and, finding Dragon 168 was closed "for the duration," went by the BBQ Place for lunch. They were twenty minutes from opening, so we sat in the truck outside while I phoned in our order—the weather was glorious on Thursday, breezy and cool.

Friday and Saturday we did something fun! I walked outside on Friday morning to take Tucker on his walk and it was so sunny and gorgeous and breezy that I turned tail and stuck my head in the front door and yelled up the stairs "Put on something warm! I'll back out the truck and you can come with us in the power chair! It's too nice out to stay stuck inside all day!" And that's what we did, both days: Tucker and I walked in front absorbing all that nice fresh air and James trundled behind, just enjoying the sun and the wind, and saying hi to joggers and bikers.

Friday was Good Friday, so I did my usual "Quiet Hours" between noon and three when Jesus was on the cross and the Bible states that "a great darkness came over the land." My mom always used to do this as much as she could, and would say a Rosary then. I listen to the accumulated Lent Talks that the BBC does every year. Every year there is a theme; this year's was "Identity." "Trans-Identity" and "Identity and Grief" made me cry, and "Identity and Aging" was food for thought, why we demonize aging so much. "Race," "Parenthood," and "Community" were the other three. I also listened to "Good Friday Meditation," where the reverend linked the loneliness of Christ on the cross to social distancing (this interspersed with lovely choir performances) and a five-part series called "The Passion of Plants," about British plants associated with Lent and Eastertide. One of them was the speedwell, which I wrote about seeing in Helen.

On Saturday I discovered that the Tin Drum closest to us was temporarily closed, and, in order to use my "extra protein" reward, drove all the way over to Perimeter Mall to get lunch for James and myself as a treat. James then went downstairs to work on a model for the model club challenge, and I got to vacuum the living area.

We also picked up the "freebie" month-long preview of CBS All Access to watch Picard. I am enjoying it, and like all the characters (I simply love Riker and Troi's daughter! I think she's my favorite kid character since Addie Mills!), but I find the whole a bit depressing. (I am not the only one; have run into multiple reviews of the series that say the same thing.) Star Trek used to be about exploration and wonder, and now it's the same old stuff as the drama films and thrillers: conspiracy theories, hidden agendas, X-Files "trust no one" philosophy, reflecting our modern society. Gene Roddenberry saw the future as better, new Star Trek just paints the future the same as the past: disappointing.

I am still reading the books The Journals of Beatrix Potter and The Moor, and also a bound volume of "St. Nicholas" (November 1929-May 1930) (because when things are really depressing there is nothing like reading an old "St. Nicholas" and traveling into the past). As an introvert, this whole social distancing thing isn't a burden on me as much as it would be on an extrovert who is used to going to work and socializing with co-workers, or someone who likes going clubbing or to big gatherings. But I do miss Friday lunch with Alice and everyone. And going to Barnes & Noble...and that we've had to put off our trip to McKay's in Chattanooga and going down to Warner Robins to see James' sister who has been sick and taking down hers and Mom's Christmas gifts.

And meanwhile life goes on. Prayers for all those who are sick, and so grateful to all the "essential workers," whether you are medical, in the trucking industry, or working at the grocery store. You guys don't get paid anywhere near enough. God bless! Stay well!

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» Tuesday, April 07, 2020
A Happy Surprise
I wanted desperately to get up early this morning and attend the seniors' shopping hours at Kroger, since I was almost out of milk. (Have you seen the stories on the news about the dairy farmers? With schools and restaurants closed, they are having to dump their milk! It breaks my heart. Buy milk, people, instead of that stupid colored sweetened bubbly junk and liquor!) But I slept badly because of body aches, and didn't get dressed and out until 8:30. Originally I was just going to the post office to mail Emma's birthday gift, but instead, fearfully, I did go by Kroger, which had been open to regular customers since eight. They were talking about long lines outside the grocery stores now that they have to maintain more space between shoppers.

But there was no line. I was able to get milk, some emergency toilet paper (I don't usually get that 2-ply junk, but that's all they had), some non-disinfecting wipes for bathroom cleanups, pineapple cups so James can have his morning slushie, and a box of Kleenex. Alas, only salted canned mushrooms. And then I started chatting with the lady in front of me, who was picking up stuff for her disabled daughter. When she got to the cashier, the cashier told her she was only allowed to buy one container of Lysol disinfecting wipes. I haven't seen Lysol wipes in three weeks and didn't even think of looking for them! So I asked if I could have her second container and she handed them over.

Such a simple thing to make me so happy that I went home to announce it!

Happy Easter, ma'am, and I hope your daughter is okay. God bless you.



» Saturday, April 04, 2020
Weekend Musings

So this is the new normal: we spend Thursday and Friday hustling for groceries and Saturday at home because there's nowhere to go.

Thursday morning wasn't a happy place anyway. April 1 was very chilly in the early morning and I was out there enjoying every minute of it, taking in nice deep breaths of air that won't be cold for long. Fresh cold air is good for you when there's sickness around. However, even though the pollen count wasn't 8918 like it was on Monday, it was still a nice respectable figure in four digits. So I woke up in the middle of the night coughing and terrified. Taking a drink wouldn't help it, so I bundled up in my robe and went to sit fearfully in the spare room in the dark, sucking on a cough drop. I finally fell asleep and when I woke up, the cough was gone. Relief. Still terrifying.

Thursday we went to Kaiser to pick up James' prescriptions and were offered masks on the way in and glopped our hands with hand sanitizer. We were already carrying masks. A couple of Christmases ago I had a bad cold and still wanted to go to Christmas dinner. I wore a surgical mask, didn't hug anyone, and sat in a corner during dinner. And we still had masks left over, so we used them. They were out of Lyrica, so we now need to go back.

Of course Publix was out of everything paper and everything disinfectant; and they were out of a lot of meat, but we did manage to snag some turkey thighs. I nearly fainted.

We didn't have to worry about meat; on Friday we went to Patak's and they had lots. We had to stand on pink X's taped on the floor and ground set six feet apart, but it worked fine. James got pastrami and I got mortadella, and we got stew beef and stew pork, chicken wings, and Italian sausage. We also stopped at Lidl so we'd have bread to eat the lunchmeat in; got more oranges and apples and cucumbers and the riced veg. (James made beef stir fry with the stew beef, the riced veg, and diced celery. It was wonderful and we had enough left for a second meal.)

James spent all day Saturday making burritos, even if he teleworking and doesn't need them to eat on the run going to work, so I pulled out the hose and washed the pine pollen off the porch and the front steps and the driveway. I thought the bulk of the pine pollen drifts had quit falling, but there was fresh pine pollen on the garbage can the next day. Sigh.

The one bright spot in the weekend was the series finale of Hawaii Five-0. It wasn't anything spectacular (except that Danny did a Steve and extricated himself from a dangerous situation in a highly athletic manner), and I knew the moment Lincoln mentioned Catherine that she would show up at the end, but it was kind of fitting: Steve wanted to find peace, and Catherine was his.

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» Wednesday, March 25, 2020
The Simple Woman's Daybook


Outside my window... is dark now, but, watching the news, it's been dark for the past few days, even when the sun was out.

I am thinking...
...or trying not to think, while being mindful of our health, and washing hands. Since we really must go out to the grocery store, the paranoia is kind of hard to hold off. I went to Lidl today and sprayed the handle of the cart with alcohol, and the checkout screen, and used wipes. You hardly want to pick anything up.

I am thankful...
...for family and friends who are well.

In the kitchen...
...dirty dishes again. We had roast chicken and air-fried onion rings for dinner this afternoon. The latter was quite good! We think it needs nine minutes to cook instead of ten, but they were still luscious, and the onions used were very sweet. We were surprised because this was the cheap Publix brand.

I am wearing... Andy Runton "Owly" blue t-shirt, blue-grey-and-white buffalo check pajama bottoms, and white socks.

I am creating...
...nothing right now. I did cook chicken this afternoon. Not feeling like creating much now, although I should be.

I am going...
...right now, no one's going anywhere, unless they're six feet apart! But remember, folks, you don't have to stay inside! Fresh air is the best thing for you to beat off illness. Just don't be close to other people!

I am wondering... long all this can keep up. Small businesses are already suffering. Today Georgia government shut down hair salons and nail shops. I don't use either, but I know many paychecks are acquired through them. Restaurants? Hotels? Indie bookstores? What will happen?

I am reading...
..."dead tree": the second volume of the letters of Dorothy L. Sayers. Magazine: "Reminisce." E-book: The Journals of Beatrix Potter (but my loan ends on that today).

I am hoping... everyone else, that they find something to treat COVID-19. The stories of people's deaths are so heartbreaking: the 47-year-old, the 17-year-old boy, the elderly priest in Italy who gave up his ventilator to a younger patient...

I am looking forward to...
...freedom (and toilet paper not being a rare commodity!)

I am learning...
...impatience with stupid or callous people, like the jerk who spit on someone. Unmannerly brutes!

Around the house...
...James is gaming, Tucker is trying to find food (we had to put him on a diet; the vet says he's two pounds overweight), Snowy's been singing but is quiet now except for an occasional kiss, and the television is chattering with more closedown messages.

I am pondering...

A favorite quote for today...
"It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult; that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it." . . . Rainer Maria Rilke

One of my favorite things...
...having a mandarin orange at night. James and I started doing this over a year ago, and it's such a homely [in the British sense] little habit that makes us feel as if everything is okay.

A few plans for the rest of the week:
Picking up my prescription refills, a trip to Publix, and then it's back to social distancing for us.

A peek into my day...
How about a peek into quite a few days ago? This is my friend Juanita with her new Sheltie puppy Riley! Yes, he's as adorable as he looks!

If you'd like to participate, check out The Simple Woman's Daybook.



» Sunday, March 22, 2020
Farewells in the Rain (Atomicon, Part 4)

Alas, neither of us slept as well last night. I guess the crickets/air conditioner ambient sounds from the phone didn't work on us well enough this time. This always seems to happen on the Sunday morning of Atomicon. (Other things always happen to me, too. Despite being careful, I had the usual case of "traveler's complaint," although it was largely gone by the time we left.)

We got our little breakfast bags and had our last breakfast in the conference room; slowly people started trailing in and eventually the room was full. I'd talked the front desk into giving us an extra hour to checkout, so we had good time to pack and visit with everyone, and then about 11:45 I closed everything up, and towed it all one by one into the conference room.

Just as I finished, the staff came filing into the conference room. Charles had had an idea last week: knowing that the coronavirus was going to completely shut down most of the hotel's business, he suggested we have a tip jar in the room and put extra money in it besides any tip we left in the room for the chambermaids. He also bought two "thank you" cards, one for the cleaning staff and one for the hotel management staff, and we all signed them. He did the honors of presenting them with the jar. Moneywise, considering what they are going to face in the coming weeks, it was pretty much a widow's mite, but it was something.

After that, we sat around for about another hour talking.

Ken was sweet and got us a cart, and he and Aubrey helped us load up the truck a little after one o'clock. It had clouded up, so we swaddled the power chair in its tarpaulin and put the suitcases and other things in heavy plastic bags, and then off we went. We bought gasoline at the Ingles supermarket, and then had to stop just before we reached Dawsonville so I could use the bathroom, and by the time we reached the vet's office it was (1) pouring down rain and (2) we were both full to bursting.

And then...snellfrocky! The vet had signs up saying they were doing curbside pickup! And when we got there part of the glass windows were papered over and an outdoor area was taped off! I called inside frantically. "You can spray us with anything you like, we'll wipe down anything you like, but we need the bathroom." (It's tough when you have that over 60s disease, Gottapee.) So they let us in and we tried to touch as little as we could; the secretary even took my credit card number from a distance. They had Snowy all prepped in his carry box, but I still had to empty the water dishes, and I knew the seed was toast; after the ride it would go all over the cage. The young technician who took Snowy back on Thursday was in scrubs and mask, and helped me put a bag over the cage. And then finally we piled ourselves and the fids back in the truck and drove home, where we would end up doing nothing more than dragging stuff into the house and putting up what we needed to put up (James' C-PAP machine, the phones and tablets on their chargers, etc.) and leaving the rest.

Something amazing happened when I had Snowy's cage wiped out, re-seeded and re-watered, and I opened the carry box to transfer him: he not only did not bite me, but he sat in my left hand and let me scratch him behind the ears with both fingers! Wow, maybe he did miss me! [Later: this didn't last long. He was back to biting me by Tuesday.]

We had prudently stored leftover turkey and leftover au gratin potatoes in the refrigerator, and so we had a nice supper of dark meat and cheesy potatoes, and split one of the zepolle we bought on Thursday for dessert.

I love Atomicon, really I do. I am so glad we got to go this year. But it's increasingly hard to travel when we have to drag so much stuff with us, and there is nothing like coming home to our bed, our fans, and my feather pillows!

And now back to "social distancing."

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» Saturday, March 21, 2020
I'm Game (Atomicon, Part 3)

We woke (having slept a bit better with some minor noise in the room provided by the Relax and Sleep app) to another lovely day. Again, most folks went out to breakfast, but we had ours in the conference room again joined by Jerry and later by Charles.

We had done our usual things yesterday (the bookstore and walking downtown and popping in and out of the shops, even if the latter was severely curtailed), and, because of the virus, did not feel like venturing other places we had gone previously (the art store in Clarkesville or even Hiawassee), so we figured we would stay close to the hotel this afternoon, but have a nice grand walk this morning, and we did. It was going to be a bit cooler today, but still in the 70s, so, like yesterday, we headed out after breakfast.

We walked the same route as yesterday, through the back road, emerging at the main road at Wendy's, walking by small, closed restaurants, and then along the truss bridge that spans the Chattahoochee River. Down in Atlanta the "Hootch" is muddy and brown and mostly torpid unless it's storming, but here it is clear and rushing among rocks. Anglers in hip boots dotted the stream. We passed the "castle" building with The Olive Tree, the glassblowers' shop, the T-shirt shops, the L-shaped shopping center where the old (better) Christmas shop used to be until it caught fire, and then kept going, down to the little waterfall overlooked by a gazebo, "Helen Falls."

Here scattered among the grass at the foot of the hill were tiny blue flowers with four petals. I have seen these growing in the neighbors' lawns and used Google Lens to look them up. This is "speedwell." (The photo makes it look huge. The blossoms are tiny, maybe an eight of an inch in diameter.)

We walked all the way down the hill, past Hofer's restaurant and bakery, past the big windmill, past the wooden toy store and Charlemagne's Kingdom (a big model train layout), all the way to Betty's Supermarket. We crossed the street to reach Betty's, then headed back up the hill past rental homes and old houses repurposed as restaurants and shops, and then past the row of shops we explored yesterday (Hansel & Gretel, etc.). There we stopped for a few minutes so I could take photographs of the beautiful flowers in the raised beds dotting the shopping area: tulips, daffodils, ornamental cabbage.

Behind the restrooms that are set across the street from these shops, there is a path that slopes downward so that you are mere feet from the river. I wanted some photos, so I went down the rather steep slope to take a couple of shots, and James in the power chair managed to navigate it, so I set the camera to "movie" and took a nice little video of the river and our walk under the bridge, the anglers in their hip boots, and just the pretty day. The path came out at the parking lots in back of the Helen shops, so we wound our way over the gravel surfaces and came out at the very back, to the back road that would lead us back to our hotel.

There is a just a small bridge here over the river, and since there was little traffic, we crossed the road to check out all the fisherman. There was a man just at the edge of the river right under the bridge and we were talking with him; he had just tossed his line in and caught a fine trout! He was sorry they had to cancel their trout tournament next weekend. As we walked back, bicycle riders sped past, calling a good morning to us.

We spent the rest of the afternoon at the hotel, talking with whomever was there (a lot of people took walks today and came back bouncy and happy as well), messing around on the computer, watching Riley the puppy, and just having a grand time. At lunch time I still had the Zaxby's chicken wings from last night. James nipped over to Wendy's for a hamburger and brought me a milk. At suppertime we decided to go to Bigg Daddy's, which was in walking distance. As we were going back into our room to change, Aubrey was in the hallway asking if we by any chance had a blood pressure monitor. Well, yes, we did. Ken had been taking a nap and then felt a bit odd when he got up, and he did have a hospital stay for low blood pressure a couple of weeks ago, but that had been straightened out by his doctors. His BP was normal, so we went off to dinner.

Well, Bigg Daddy's wasn't seating anyone inside (understandable) but the way it is set up you have to go inside and then outside to the patio again, and there is a very small step up to get inside. Juanita almost tripped over the step, and then when Ken came in he missed it completely, tripped, and took a header right in front of me! Several men in the store helped him get up; thank goodness he did not look, at least, like he was hurt at all! (The only time I ever fell like that I landed on my face and broke my nose!) So we were able to have a nice supper, even if they followed instructions and broke us up into two groups and left empty tables in between. Bigg Daddy's food is very good. I had a bowl of chicken and dumplings and five delicious chicken wings. (Yes, wings again. I could eat wings until they came out of my ears.) James had soft tacos.
Just chatting (Juanita, Jerry, Pat, and the blur that is Riley.)

The final night is always a little bittersweet in the background, but the most fun. Some folks had a Dungeons and Dragons game going. There was a coloring group, and Clair was working a minute crocheted chain. James and a few others watched the DVD of Ford vs. Ferrari that the Butlers brought. Juanita, Alice, Aubrey, Kristine and I played Big Bang Theory Uno (there is a "soft kitty" card; if you draw it, you are required to draw cards from the deck until you get a Sheldon or a Penny card—they are both on two different cards, but you'd be surprised how many cards you had to draw sometimes)!

After that, we played Qwixx, which is a fun dice strategy game, and by then the film was over and it was time for bed.

Fisherman on the Chattahoochee during our walk.

Beautiful tulip in downtown Helen flower display.

Ron and Lin in a blur of chat.

Charles and Alex.

Jerry with Riley.

Damien, Kristine, Aubrey, and, at back, Ron.

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» Friday, March 20, 2020
What's Closed and What's Not (Atomicon, Part 2)

In the middle of the night, James grumbled "It's too quiet." And not enough air circulating, either. Needless to say, we didn't sleep very well. Sadly, this is normal when we go away. The one perfect bed and sleep situation we had was in 2013 on vacation, and we were both so sick with headcolds we couldn't enjoy it.

So about 8:30 we sleepily shuffled to the new breakfast arrangement they had. Usually it's a breakfast bar, where you can take eggs and sausage, make a waffle, get juice and milk, pick out a fruit or cereal, make oatmeal or grits and toast, get butter, jelly, sugar, coffee, and tea. Today they had the back of the bar blocked off and a hotel employee handed you a pre-wrapped biscuit or sausage biscuit, the cereal, fruit bars, and milk. You got juice yourself out of the dispenser, and there were packets of oatmeal and grits out front with jelly and butter and disposable eatingware. We took it back into the common room to eat, although most of the others had gone out to breakfast (a little family-run place down the road, Wendell's, is a favorite; I think some others went to Hofer's, which is a bakery and restaurant).

Overlooking the Chattahoochee River.
The temps were going to hike up into the 80s today, so we decided to take our walk into Helen right after breakfast. Initially it was cool, with a nice breeze, but we were soon warmed up with moving. There is a back way on a small service road parallel to the main road, and we strolled along that, watching the birds (lots of robins, the occasional azure flash of a bluebird) and the leafing trees, including a lovely willow in the back parking lot of the hotel. The wind was in our face on the walk in, but as soon as we crossed the river, it was at our backs.

Even for a Friday it was very quiet. Cars were going by only in ones and twos. I had called to make sure The Olive Tree was open, so our first stop was the pseudo-castle building with the olive oil/vinegar store, the Christmas shop, etc. to refill our bottle of peach-flavored white balsamic vinegar. We couldn't get our own samples as is usual, and I sprayed the door handle with straight rubbing alcohol, but otherwise we had a nice chat with the proprietor. James also got a smaller bottle of chipolte-infused oil to use when making burritos and other spicy dishes. We also peeked in the quilt shop (O-so-pretty, but I can't even justify a hand-made king-size quilt for only $95), but the Christmas shop wasn't open, so we went on, briefly stopping at the glassblower's shop to see if they had any autumn leaf suncatchers (ours are dreadfully faded from the western sun), but they had only Christmas and Hallowe'en.

We strolled past the rest of the shops and then turned around and walked the remainder of the stores on the other side. The T-shirt shop was closed, but Hansel and Gretel chocolates were open. James made it up the steep ramp into the store, and I bought my yearly treat of dark chocolate almond bark. Again, I was feeling bad for these folks; there was no one else in the shop but us—how are they going to survive with no tourists to visit?—so I also bought some dark-chocolate enrobed orange creams, quite missing the orange creams from Sweenor's Chocolates in Garden City. They let us go out the side door instead of going down that steep ramp, which was much appreciated!

Daisy the bookstore cat.
We took our time coming back, then decided we would go "down the road apiece" to Cleveland. James wanted some cash, then we would stop at the bookstore (the Mt. Yonah Book Exchange) and finally have lunch at Wendell's, which we understood would be take-out from the reports of those who'd gone to breakfast. So we trucked (literally) back to Cleveland and did a withdrawal at the Regions bank, then did the bookstore. The owner was sitting outside, with a black-and-white cat mooching around near the door. He came inside, which did not please Daisy, the resident bookstore cat. (Many people say their cats have green eyes, but they are usually a yellowy-green. Daisy has real green eyes, a pale leaf green, and she's gorgeous and knows it; she even posed for me.) Oddly, this year I could not find a book I liked, but James got three, including the big picture book about the first World War that he didn't buy last year. (This was published in 1916 and has been so well-loved the binding is broken.)

When we got down to Wendell's it was 12:30, but they were already closed. So we went back by Wendy's to get James a drink, me a milk, and a medium French fry. The fries were a side to my leftover pad Thai, and James had a real fusion meal: his leftover Thai, a burrito, and the other half of the fries!

Spent the rest of the afternoon talking and paging through Facebook where the virtual convention "Concellation" topped 21,000 members. Tried to read, but it's hard to do that when so many interesting conversations are going on around you. Of course we talked about coronavirus reports a lot.

A group of people were going to Bodensee (one of the two big German restaurants in the area), but they are expensive, so we chose instead to go with the gang that went to Glenda's, a small country restaurant in Cleveland. To keep the table sizes down, we went in two shifts. Again, very sobering going to Glenda's, as there's usually a line out the door, but only three or four other people were there when we arrived just before six.

I was disappointed in my meal. The chicken there is only fried; if I wanted it grilled it would have taken almost a half hour. So I got popcorn shrimp, which I'd had on a previous visit. It was awful, with no shrimp taste at all, and the corn on the cob was tasteless. When the best thing in the dish is the mashed potatoes and the roll, you have a problem. Ken also had the popcorn shrimp and liked them, but I think he got a fresh batch and I got the end of the run. Should have had the pork chop, or the chopped steak like James did.

(Aubrey went with the Bodensee group and she reported to us that they sprayed everyone's hands when they walked into the restaurant, and then sat everyone one table apart, no more than ten to a table.)

Stormclouds over Helen.
Because I was still a little hungry, James stopped at the Zaxby's across the street and got me five wings, but they ended up in the fridge in our room while we snacked on cookies and grapes and tangerines and Fritos in the common room. Before we settled down there, though, I had to run outside and get some photographs of the clouds, which were building up and spoiling for some rain (it rained very little). The wind had picked up, too, and it was really quite pretty, although everyone kept telling me I should go inside!

We played Timeline for a while, and then I really wanted to play Uno or another card game, but got persuaded to play a strategy game instead, Forbidden Island, with Oreta, James, Pat, Alex, and Melinda. You are archaeologists trying to find four artifacts on an island that is starting to sink. Cooperating with each other, you have to get the artifacts off by helicopter before you are swamped with water and drown. Well, we made it down to the last step and then were drowned. It bothered Oreta because we had done everything right and still hadn't won. It wasn't until we were packing the game away that I noticed the side of the box: the game is for one to four players and we'd had two players too many, so I guess we did really well (and I did okay only because everyone strategized wayyyyyyyy better than I did).

Tonight we did a little better sleeping. I downloaded the app "Relax and Sleep" again (I'd deleted it from my phone because I never used it) and I set it to make the noise of an air conditioner running and also some crickets chirping in the rain. This was low enough for both James and I to hear it, but not so loud to keep us awake. And it actually did help, especially after I set out the little fan that stays in the suitcase.

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» Thursday, March 19, 2020
The Weekend That Almost Wasn't (Atomicon, Part 1)

The news was bad enough about sickness and death in other places, but then came local school closings, runs on supermarkets (the difference between Thursday and Friday was astounding), and doctor's appointment cancellations (we had three in one day). But our weekend in Helen was approaching, what should we do?

There was discussion online. The hotel had cancellations right and left and asked us not to cancel if possible; they said they would be taking extra sanitary protections, would not serve breakfast via buffet, and the pool and hot tub would be closed. There was no coronavirus in White County, where Helen is located.

Some folks dropped out. A few weren't feeling well already. One had to take care of her parents after a car accident. One just wanted some alone time after returning from a visit to her son's college. Some were still working. Another could not fly. Once the dust settled, we were under the 50 person limit for groups requested by the governor. So we all kept an eye on our health—James and I have been taking our temperature every day for about two weeks now—and one by one this smaller group came together, with bulletins flying fast the last couple of days of which restaurants were still open and if groceries could be had there.

Tucker arrives at "camp."
Our Thursday morning was the usual combination of remembering everything, including James' blood pressure cuff, the thermometer, etc. I discovered nearly at the last moment I had not packed Snowy's food! More flurry there. So instead of leaving the house at noon, we left...a bit late. Tucker allowed himself to be carried to the back and, after giving me a rather smart bite, Snowy went off with the extremely young-looking vet tech a few minutes later.

Before we headed up to Helen, we stopped at the East 48th Street Market across the street from the vet's office, which sells Italian food, sandwiches, and baked goods. It was St. Joseph's Day and they had zepolli, the traditional pastry for that holiday: a puff pastry filled with cream, with a little sqiggle of cream on top and a maraschino cherry as an accent. I got two, one with custard and one with cream, although I couldn't tell the difference once they were in the box! I felt bad that they were losing business because of coronavirus, so I also got a cannoli and two chocolate walnut biscotti, and a package of our favorite fusilli pasta. Everyone was very nice as we did the social distancing thing.

Then we headed up to Helen, the traffic very light on GA400 and therefore from Dahlonega through the country road that heads to Helen. It was all so normal compared to the "new normal" that I wanted to cry: horses calmly grazing in newly-green pasture where they give trail rides, the cattle (beef and dairy) scattered across great swaths of green grass, the trees blooming in whites and purples and pinks and the azaleas in pink and red, the little farm stands both still open and crumbling away. We used the new bypass and arrived at the Country Inn and Suites only an hour later than we wanted, at four p.m. The Spiveys had arrived just before us, and the Butlers pulled in soon afterwards, and we started setting up the common room with snacks.

Dinner du jour tonight was at Spice55, the wonderful Thai place we ate at last year. They would only take ten to a table, and we were just under the limit with us, the Spiveys, Aubrey, Juanita, and the Butlers, with the Boulers showing up later. It looks like we got there just in time, because they are going to take-out only starting tomorrow. Dinner (pad thai) was fabulous, and I had enough to make a lunch tomorrow. James had only a tiny portion leftover, so when we stopped at Dollar General—the person who was to bring disposable eating products was nursing her mother after a car accident—I not only picked up some plastic plates, but a couple of low-sodium burritos as well for a supplement.

After dinner is always gameplay, but we spent time talking instead. We don't see a lot of these folks often. John and Oreta live on the other side of town, as do Kristine and her husband, and Naaman Taylor as well, along with Nancy and Jake. Nancy's son Tony is a trucker and usually on the road, and we don't visit with his wife. There were two little ones with us this year, in fact, Max, a little over two, and August "Gus," an adorable little blond girl about two. They had a playmate in Juanita's new little Shetland Sheepdog puppy, Riley, who is being trained as a certified therapy dog, and Juanita hopes one day to train him to alert to her occasional spells of ill-health. Riley, is, frankly, adorbs! All these people except for Aubrey and Alice and a few more are new to him and he regarded the whole common room of people reading, talking, gaming with wide-eyed enthusiastic wonder, trotting about playing fetch, puppy romping, and desperately seeking and sometimes finding the odd crumb.

Alas, the nights when we stayed up until one and two in the mornings playing Uno are gone. Most everyone drifted out about eleven, as did we, to try and get some sleep in a strange yet familiar place.

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