One year ago yesterday, we began our safer at home plan to keep from contracting the coronavirus that was and has devastated our state, country, and the world. That morning, March 13, 2020, we delivered our guests from Russia to the airport for their trip home, then went to breakfast with a couple of our Friendship Force friends. It was the last time we had a meal inside a restaurant. Little did we know at the time that one year later we would still be feeling the affects of the virus.
It was a year and a week ago when we welcomed the Open World delegation from Russia. They were in Madison to learn more about encouraging more girls and women in Russia to enter STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) occupations. My Traveling Partner and I hosted Julia, one of the delegates in our home. Julia is from St. Petersburg and is a teacher of the English language at a high school. She was quite proficient in English having studied for a time in England. She was a delightful guest and we enjoyed having her stay with us. She’s the one in the red coat in the photo below.
During their stay, the delegation learned about the U. S. and Wisconsin culture. They had meals in homes and attended a potluck. They toured the Wisconsin State Capitol and got acquainted with Bucky Badger at the University of Wisconsin.
Beginning on Monday, they began their learning experiences with visits to the Madison Children’s Museum, the UW Biotechnology Department, toured Madison College, and gave a presentation about their program to the public.
By Wednesday, many of the presenters and locations we scheduled began to cancel programs as the virus became more prevalent. On Thursday, the delegation was notified their program was being cut short. They would begin their trip home on Friday before an embargo on European travel was put in place. The delegates spent Thursday afternoon shopping for gifts to take back to Russia and had a last dinner with their hosts. It was sad to see them leave before their program was complete but the virus was the boss! We made a giant step forward with our new friends and wished them well on their journey.
After the lockdown was put in place, there were a lots of things we couldn’t do for fear of the virus. Things like; traveling, congregating in groups, shaking hands, hugging people, and eating in restaurants. Within short order, we had to cancel plans to travel to New York City with The Eldest and the Son-in-Law and unravel our reservations for our annual trip to the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Soon the biennial family reunion and every five-year high school reunion were postponed to 2021. I don’t want to focus on what we couldn’t or didn’t do in the past year but on what we did and what we learned.
- In quick order, we set-up an account to order groceries online and have them delivered to our door. On our first order, we had to get in the queue for delivery. We placed the order and it was delivered six days later. Needless to say, we really had to plan ahead! We still order online and have it delivered. If we order today, delivery is tomorrow morning. We think we’ll continue this service even after the pandemic is over. It saves us time and the hassle, someone else shops for you.
- By the recommendation of The Youngest, we signed up for a subscription to Imperfect Foods. Once a week, we receive an email asking us to put foods like lettuce, cucumbers, tomatoes, jalapeños, onions, peppers, onions, avocados, cheeses, a few meats, and granola in our box. Occasionally, we skip a week but it’s a great service. Some of the produce is “imperfect” but “perfectly” edible. This is another service we will continue.
- We, like millions of others, learned to use Zoom to connect with and see our families. Early on, The Eldest initiated a regular Saturday evening family dinner. It’s a chance to catch up on news, share recipes, and even play a few games. It’s fun and something to look forward to every week.
- I used Zoom to take a couple of writing classes and as a result hired a writing coach. We meet once a month when I share a piece of a memoir I’m working on and she offers suggestions and improvements. Keeps me motivated and on task. So far I’ve written seven chapters plus some shorter stories from my youth, with more to come.
- We’ve attended a funeral and a wedding reception by Zoom. Never in my wildest dreams would I’ve thought that would happen in my lifetime.
- As a corollary, my Traveling Partner regularly attends church on Zoom. Interestingly, she’s attended churches all over the U. S. Who would have imagined?
- We also meet with our Small Training Group twice a week via Zoom. And another day meet with a personal trainer. The rest of week, Jenny on Youtube is our trainer! The local YMCA is open but it will be a while before we are comfortable returning to indoor exercise. Our living room also serves as our gymnasium where we keep our weights, exercise bands, and mats. We do know that the carpet will need to be replaced once it’s safe for us to shop for carpet and allow workers inside our house.
- We watched some serials on Netflix like The Crown (all forty episodes), the Queen’s Gambit, and the final season of The Last Tango in Halifax. They are British shows, we loved them all. When I ordered a new MacBook last summer, I got a free subscription to Apple TV+. I watched the first season of Ted Lasso and a couple of movies. Enjoyed it a lot, I think I’ll keep that subscription too. We watched several PBS programs, neither of us are into any network tv shows, we must be getting old!
- Instead of figuring out how to purchase bedding plants to fill in our many flower beds, we converted them into vegetable gardens. Where there were zinnias and marigolds, there were cucumbers, zucchini, and green beans. The tomatoes and peppers were in their usual spot. We had a great crop this year, shared with the neighbors and sometimes total strangers that walked by our house!
- The pandemic brought people out of their houses and on to the sidewalks. When we were outside, people would stop to chat, socially distanced of course. We met a lot of new folks in our neighborhood this past year. We regularly had Drinks on the Driveway with our nearest neighbors well into October. Can’t wait until we can meet up again this spring.
- We did go camping in our travel trailer. In fact, we spent the month of September campground hosting at Point Beach State Forest near Two Rivers, Wisconsin. It was good to be away and commune with nature. It was safe, we were self contained and socially distanced.
A few days after we went into lockdown, I started keeping a “pandemic” journal. I write every few days about things going on, observations on our situation, and trying to figure out my place in this mess that we find ourselves. Here are a few quotes from my journal entries:
- March 18, 2020 – Day 6 – “Have to get organized and do something – I don’t seem to have a purpose. Used to rushing around, now I have a lot of time on my hands and don’t know what to do – a conundrum!”
- March 21, 2020 – Day 9 – “Today seemed kind of long. I think everyone is anxious about the unknown, over 300 cases in Wisconsin increasing by 30% per day.”
- April 2, 2020 – Day 20 – “Will run out of toilet paper next week. A first world problem!”
- April 3, 2020 – Day 21 – ” Today was a maker day. I went out, drove the car for the first time in three weeks! (Curbside pick up at Gordon Food Service) “It was the weirdest feeling being out and assuming everyone has the virus.”
- April 8, 2020 – Day 28 – “John Prine died last night. A sad day!” (A friend I never met)
- April 14, 2020 – Day 34 – “Filled gas in the car, $1.04 9/10 per gallon. $12 to fill.”
- April 29, 2020 – Day 49 – “We found out this morning our neighbor died…..We are so sad to hear the news.”
- May 8, 2020 – Day 57 – “There are days when I’m ready to bust out of here! I know I have to be patient!”
- May 30, 2020 – Day 79 – “It’s been a tough couple of days with the protests in Minneapolis and around the country. Feels like 1968 when a lot of things unraveled.”
- June 6, 2020 – Day 88 – “Mailed some packages at the Post Office and then went to Woodman’s Liquor for some beer, Spotted Cow and Totally Naked. My first time in a retail store.”
- June 23, 2020 – Day 103 – “We got our haircut, she came to our house – it feels good!” (First time since the pandemic started, she cut it on our porch)
- July 21, 2020 – Day 131 – “We did a curbside pick up of birdseed and a couple of other items at Farm and Fleet. The birds are a source of entertainment – filling the feeder and watching them crowd around squawking at each other. Have to find the joy wherever you can.”
- August 31, 2020 – Day 172 – “It’s been an interesting few days here at Point Beach. There’s people everywhere! Yesterday, boosted a car, helped a camper back into a site, he took out a sign post, and I answered a lot of questions – like where do I get firewood and where’s the water?”
- September 20, 2020 – Day 192 – “I accidentally set my phone down (in the chair cupholder) and it triggered a call to 911 – resulted in a visit from a Manitowoc County Deputy Sheriff. Very embarrassing!”
- October 30, 2020 – Day 233 – “Cases on the rise. Here we have buckled down to more staying at home.”
- November 10, 2020 – Day 243 – “Plan on starting to put up the Christmas lights this week, haven’t done it for three or four years. Hopefully, will bring some joy to the neighborhood.”
- November 27, 2020 – Day 260 – “Yesterday was Thanksgiving – so grateful for family connections. We are hanging in there – trying not to be overwhelmed or depressed about the place where we find ourselves. We are more fortunate than most. Can’t wait to get out1”
- December 26, 2020 – Day 288 – “Tom B. (an Army buddy) called me yesterday, we talked for nearly an hour. We both remarked it was most we’ve talked to anyone in months!”
- January 1, 2021 – Day 294 – “Yeah, we left 2020 behind, never to be forgotten! I’m looking forward to what the new year will bring.”
- January 6, 2021 – Day 299 – “What a day – the US Capitol was mobbed and desecrated. Unbelievable! I can’t adequately put my emotions into words!”
- January 12, 2021 – Day 305 – “Signed up for a photo workshop at Death Valley in November. Looking forward to it.”
- January 25, 2021 – Day 318 – “The Packers lost yesterday.”
- February 10, 2021 – Day 334 – It’s been really cold. Just stepped outside – fells like we are all alone in the world. Cold so no action outside, no cars driving around, no people walking. A weird feeling.”
- February 17, 2021 – Day 341 – “We had our first COVID-19 vaccination the other day, no issues. Second one scheduled for 3/13.”
- March 2, 2021 – Day 354 – “I haven’t written for a whole week. Like every week, time goes by so fast. When I look back I wonder what I accomplished.”
- March 5, 2021 – Day 357 – “Can’t wait to get out more although I’ve settled into this routine, might be hard to change back!
- March 13, 2021 – Day 365 – “Got my second COVID vaccine today. Two weeks and I’m good to go. Well maybe very cautiously.”
Well folks, “It’s been a year!” I’m thankful to you all for reading my blog posts and making comments here or on Facebook. It’s a good motivator even though I’m running low on material! Spring is on it’s way so looking forward to getting out more and maybe back to somewhat normal later this year.
Until next week, happy virtual travels!