Thursday, December 31, 2020

Bring on 2021

With Covid dominating not only the news but our lives in 2020, I think we all are ready to bid the year a not-so-fond adieu. We are sticking close to home tonight (like most nights since March), playing games, watching movies and waiting to toast the New Year. Here's to 2021 delivering more than a toilet paper shortage!

Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

Christmas 2020 - One for the Record Books

Oh Christmas Tree
With Covid-19 running rampant around the country, Christmas 2020 - like Rudolph - will certainly go down in history. And not in a good way. In a normal year, we would have gathered with friends for parties and with family members to celebrate Christ's birth. This year has been anything but normal. We are still grieving our family members who died in 2020, so it was especially difficult not to be able to get together with even our immediate family this year. 

In the blessing category, our daughter has been staying with us since the middle of November as she has been working remotely since February anyway. But for the first time in his 35 years on this earth our son was not with us to open presents. He and his wife traveled to Indiana to be with her family, and we just didn't feel like it was safe for them to then come directly from there to our house. We are hoping that once they quarantine following their trip they will be able to come here for a weekend so we can exchange gifts. It is really hard not to be with them right now, but I have always said it's not about the date but that we are able to be together as a family. So it will happen when it can happen. 

We did not step foot in any stores, instead doing all of our shopping online. I know this was very bad for the small businesses, but it just is not safe inside the stores. There are still too many people who don't believe that they should have to wear a mask. I've also seen where they are continuing to go out in public even knowing that they are sick. It's ridiculous, so we are doing whatever we can to protect ourselves. Our own little community has had 13 Covid cases that I know of, and one death from the virus. It is scary!

We did some baking, including our first try at my mother-in-law's homemade cinnamon rolls. She sort of passed the recipe on to our daughter. I say sort of because, like those of many women of her generation, recipes were not written down. So the measurements of key ingredients are left to interpretation. We thought our rolls turned out well, but agreed that we would add more cinnamon in the future. Lorraine must have been smiling from heaven as all three of her kids made the rolls from their respective states this year in her honor.

cinnamon rolls

As we opened our presents this Christmas, while enjoying our signature Cranberry Cosmopolitan drink, we reflected on those who were missing from our gathering. But we also appreciated the fact that even the three of us were able to be together. I don't think we are alone in looking forward to bidding 2020 adieu. Cheers!

Cranberry Cosmopolitan

Monday, December 21, 2020

Some Semblance of Normalcy

tree in glass

Semblance is a great word for 2020. It is defined in the Oxford Dictionary as "the outward appearance or apparent form of something, especially when the reality is different." Christmas 2020 has some semblance of normalcy, doesn't it? You see the decorations, hear the Christmas Carols, shop for gifts and wrap presents, but you know that fundamentally something isn't quite right. Like the photo above, some things seem upside down.

For us the inability to celebrate with family and friends due to Covid-19 is compounded by huge holes in our basic family structure. Losing both of Jim's parents earlier this year and my sister in September makes it incredibly hard to get into the Christmas spirit. While we have so much to be thankful for, it's hard not to be bitter that three of the most important people in our lives are gone.

We will dig deep to remember that our loved ones are now with Jesus, and that He is the reason for the season. And we will pray for and remember those who are no longer here with us.

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Carpe Diem

When you are given 70 degree, sunny days in December, you seize the moment. We went to a newish seltzer bar to sample their wares as they have outdoor seating, and then took a walk on a downtown greenway. It was great to see some semblance of normalcy with the Christmas decorations.

Little Sugar Creek Greenway

The next day we took our kayaks out on Mountain Island Lake. The water was calm, and the blue herons were extremely cooperative in having their pictures taken. As an added bonus, a large herd of deer ambled through the woods while we were watching the blue heron. 

Mountain Island Lake

That evening we went to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden to see their Christmas light display. It was an outdoor walking tour, and while it was a little more crowded than we would have liked, everyone wore their masks and it was easy to step off the path to let a group pass. I've said before that we are so blessed to have relocated to an area where we can enjoy the great outdoors, particularly in light of Covid.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Sunday, December 13, 2020

Modified Stay at Home Order


Grinch mask
Last week Governor Cooper enacted a modified stay at home order in North Carolina. Effective December 11th and lasting at least through January 8th, the executive order states all individuals must “stay at home or the place they will remain for the night” from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. 

Certain businesses must close between those curfew hours, including bars, entertainment venues, parks, museums and aquariums. Exceptions include those going to and from work, while businesses selling groceries, medication, health care supplies and fuel may remain open. Restaurants, breweries, distilleries and wineries can operate with only take-out and delivery services after 10 p.m. All other Phase 3 limitations remain in place at this time.

The number of cases in the United States continues to explode. The residual fallout from folks traveling and/or getting together for Thanksgiving is becoming obvious, though it will be a while before the true impact of that holiday becomes clear. And Christmas gatherings are just around the corner. In our neighborhood the bubble has been burst. I know of at least 12 cases, and we only have 170 occupied homes here. 

The tone of the country is somber, as it should be. It is no joke when nearly 300,000 Americans have lost their lives to this deadly pandemic. While a vaccine seems to be imminent, the fact remains that it will be many months before all citizens can be vaccinated, and many more will die before it becomes a reality.

So we will continue to stay at home when possible, and mask up when we have to go out. It is the very least we can do. My photography has been such a blessing to me during this time, as I can be outside and alone if I choose. Nature brings me much solace during this time of uncertainty and fear.

Mountain Island Lake sunrise

Wednesday, November 25, 2020


As we head towards the first of two major holidays in the United States, the Covid numbers continue to climb at an alarming rate. Today marks day 188 of Safer at Home and day 245 of overall restrictions. To date, North Carolina has had 347,000 cases and 5,174 deaths. In the United States there have been 12.8 million cases and 261,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 60.1 million cases and 1.42 million deaths.

While North Carolina Governor Cooper’s latest restrictions were not set to expire until December 4th, he issued a new Executive Order effective November 25th which tightens the mask requirement that has been in effect since July. The new order, which also extends Phase 3 capacity limits and safety requirements, runs through Friday, December 11th.

Previously you were required to wear a mask when it was not possible to keep six feet apart from other people. The new guidelines say masks should be worn at all times when indoors in public places, and whenever you are with someone who doesn’t live with you. Additionally, gyms are being asked to enforce mask wearing, even while patrons are exercising. Before, masks could be removed while doing “strenuous” exercise.

Will this be enough to slow the spread of the virus as college students return home and people gather for Thanksgiving? In this case, truly only time will tell. In the meantime, I will be rocking my fall mask.

fall mask


Friday, November 20, 2020

Covidities - or My Covid Activities

 As we move through our 8th month of restrictions due to Covid, I have looked for additional ways to fill my time. I have made many jars of jam, sewn more than my fair share of masks, baked new types of bread, worked on my photography, pickleball and kayaking skills, and hiked many mountains in the area. But last week I tried something totally new and out of my comfort zone - a watercolor class.

fall leaves
We have many talented people in our community, many of them artists. While I do feel that I have an artistic side, it comes out in my photography, writing and quilting. I have never been confident with drawing or painting, and so I hesitated to sign up for the beginner watercolor class offered by one of the art teachers here. But Jim really wanted to take it so I thought, what the heck, this might be something we could enjoy together.

Due to Covid, the class size is small and it was only Jim and me at our table in the meeting room. We were to bring a leaf to class for our first project. Thankfully, we only had to trace it on the paper instead of drawing it freehand. But first we learned about wet versus dry painting, and how to blend our paints to get the color we want. It was fun, and I didn't think my leaf turned out too bad!

leaf watercolor

Eager to try something else while the class was fresh in my mind, I looked for inspiration online. I found a beautiful tree that I decided to use as a starting point. This one I had to create on my own as I had nothing to trace, so that was more of a challenge for me. I made a couple of mistakes, and found our how unforgiving watercolor paints can be. But overall, I am very happy with the end result. A cousin said that she sees the world's family tree in the painting. As a genealogist, no comment could have pleased me more.

I also created a painter's mark for myself, which appears on the bottom corner of the tree painting, as I didn't really think the KW I used on my leaf looked very cool. I absolutely love what I came up with, and will use it on all my future works. We have three more classes (one per month) so I know I'll have at least three more paintings - ha!

watercolor tree

Monday, November 16, 2020

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Phase 3 Extended - Again

highway signs remind travelers to be safe

Yesterday Governor Cooper announced that North Carolina will remain in Phase 3 for at least the next three weeks, but he tightened one thing. Going back to a restriction he imposed on May 22nd of this year, beginning this Friday there is a limit of 10 people for indoor social gatherings, while the limit of 50 people for outdoor get-togethers remains. Phase 2.5, effective September 4th, had allowed indoor gatherings of up to 25 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 50. It is no coincidence that this tightening of the numbers takes us through the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. There are huge concerns that returning college students, people traveling for the holiday, and large gatherings of family and friends will cause an additional spike in Covid-19 cases.

The numbers continue to be grim, not only in the United States but around the world. Here is where things stand: Today marks day 174 of Safer at Home and day 231 of overall restrictions. To date, North Carolina has had 298,000 cases and 4,685 deaths. In the United States there have been 10.3 million cases and 240,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 51.6 million cases and 1.27 million deaths. A faint glimmer of hope exists as a couple of the drug companies have reported a 90% effective rate in the trials of their Covid vaccine that they are conducting. Much more data and analysis is required, but it is nice to hear something positive for a change.

Speaking of change, the Presidential elections were held on November 3rd. It appears that Joe Biden will become number 46, and for the first time ever, the United States will have a female Vice President in Kamala Harris. It is an exciting time in American politics, and I wish them well as they try to deal with the effects of the coronavirus, a slumping economy, and a country that is far from being united. For many reasons, 2021 cannot get here soon enough.

Sunday, November 8, 2020

PIckleball Round Robin

Back in July we formed the Pickleball Imagery Club (PIC) in our community. Officers were selected and I am currently the club president. As it turns out, so far Jim and I are the most experienced players in the community so people thought it made sense for us to start the club. We currently have 64 members, which is pretty good considering the community only has about 172 closed homes and not all of those are occupied full time yet. Not all of the members are active, like most clubs I suppose, but the ladies play every Tuesday night and Thursday morning. The guys tend to play Monday and Wednesday nights, and every Friday one of the guys puts together mixed social play.

Saturday we held our first Blind Draw Round Robin social mixer. Our neighborhood has two dedicated pickleball courts, and the two tennis courts are striped for pickleball as well. It is not fun to play on those courts however, as the net is too high and if someone misses the ball, you have to run a long way to retrieve it. For the round robin we taped two pickleball courts on each of the tennis courts, and set up portable pickleball nets. This gave us six legitimate pickleball courts, which was great as 32 members signed up for our event.

Everyone brought their own food, drinks, chairs, paddles and balls. We had hand sanitizer and wipes available for safety, and we encouraged social distancing. The event ran from 2-5, and folks stayed from beginning to end. Part of that was due to the picture perfect weather on Saturday, and part because people are just starved for something to do in light of COVID. But I think it was mostly related to the fact that everyone here is just so darn nice and fun to be around. Our committee had rounded up some great door prizes, which added to the enjoyment of the day. 

Overall, I'd say the event was a success. It WAS our first rodeo, so we had a couple glitches that we will figure out before we host another one. But overall, everyone said they had a great time and would love to do it again.

Pickleball Imagery Club round robin

Monday, November 2, 2020

A Hiking We Will Go

We spent some time recently hiking at a couple of state parks in North Carolina. Deciding that day trips are our coronacation get-aways, we look for areas that are about a two hour drive from our house. We were in search of fall colors, but as that is a very popular thing to do this time of year, we stayed away from the large, more popular parks. Our experience has been that hardly anyone on hiking trails wears a mask even when passing close to others. And we always visit during the week - I can only imagine how bad it would be on the weekends.

We came upon the first park just by happenstance as we passed a sign for it while getting a carryout meal to eat before the hike. Elk Knob State Park was not one we had heard of, much less visited. Located near Todd, NC, the 4,423-acre park features one of the highest peaks (5,520 feet) in North Carolina's High Country. We drove for miles on a back country road before reaching the entrance to the park. It was blessedly uncrowded, and we quickly ate lunch. We elected to do the Summit Trail, which was listed as 1.9 miles long and moderate to strenuous in intensity. Little did we know that the distance was one way, and mostly at a pretty good incline. The views from the top were very pretty, however, and going back downhill to the car was not bad.

Elk Knob State Park

A few days later we drove to Morrow Mountain State Park. This 5,702-acre park is in the Uwharrie Mountains near the town of Albemarle, NC. The peaks of the Uwharrie Mountains average less than 1,000 feet in elevation due to erosion. You can drive to a scenic overlook at the top, but there are also several different hiking trails in the park. At the park ranger's suggestion, we chose the 4.1 mile Fall Mountain Trail as it meandered along the river before heading uphill. There were very few people in this park, which was great.

Morrow Mountain State Park

With the pandemic, any type of meaningful vacation is off the table for the foreseeable future. I am thankful that we live in an area where we can at least do these little day trips to take our minds off of politics and the virus.

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Three Score and Five Years Ago

Today is my 65th birthday. I am officially a card-carrying member of Medicare. It is hard to comprehend that I am of that age. I certainly don't feel it, and many people say I don't look it. Most years I don't give too much thought to the new number I become on October 28th, but somehow applying for Medicare changes all that.

For the last 5 or so years we have traveled for my birthday, normally on a cruise with our old (perhaps I should say long-time?) friends from high school and college. This year travel is off the table due to COVID. We do plan to go out to dinner but will go early. It is rainy so we will have to eat inside. Last year on my birthday the moving truck arrived with all of our St. Louis belongings. After the movers left, we found a Mexican restaurant to try for my birthday dinner. It was large, clean, and had great food and margaritas. We will go there and see if it seems "safe" to dine in.

This afternoon I composed the poem below and placed it on one of the photos I took in Hilton Head early this year before the coronavirus shut the country down.

Happy birthday to me

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Phase 3 and Holding

Last week Governor Cooper decided to keep North Carolina in Phase 3, which we entered on October 2nd. That was to expire on October 23rd, but with the increase (again) in cases, he decided to keep the mandates in place for an additional three weeks. 

Here is where things stand: Today marks day 159 of Safer at Home and day 216 of overall restrictions. The number of cases continues to be grim. To date, North Carolina has had 262,000 cases and 4,200 deaths. In the United States there have been 8.78 million cases and 226,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 43.6 million cases and 1.16 million deaths. 

Experts are predicting that here in the United States we are going into a two to three month period where the growth in cases will be exponential. Part of the increase in numbers will no doubt be the result of holiday gatherings. Whether it is college students heading home or families congregating to celebrate Thanksgiving, Christmas and other occasions, get togethers inside put everyone at a higher risk of exposure. But after eight long months of being separated from loved ones, it will be hard to convince Americans that they can't get together to participate in their normal holiday activities. After all, no one likes a Grinch.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Covid Voting

Today was our first time voting in our new state of North Carolina. In Missouri you had to have a stellar reason for not being able to vote in person before you could obtain an absentee ballot. Here, no reason is necessary. In light of Covid-19, we decided not to risk voting in person. We had submitted via email a request for absentee ballots, which arrived in the mail in a prompt manner. Then we studied the ballot and researched our various choices for the different offices or positions. We are quite unfamiliar with the various candidates for state and county offices since we haven't lived here that long.

After we completed the ballots and had them witnessed, we drove them to the Gaston County Board of Elections office so that we could drop them off in person. With the contentious nature of politics these days, I did not trust putting the ballots in the mail. When we arrived, the parking lot was a zoo! There were no spots, and cars were circling the lot waiting for others to leave. There was a long line of cars, and a sign that said "Curbside Voting". What the heck is that? We assumed it didn't mean us since we were just dropping off. 

On my second trip through the lot, I asked a man sitting in a chair behind his car if he knew where we were supposed to go. He was dressed head to toe in support of his presidential candidate, so I guess he was trying to influence the long line of folks waiting to vote in person. He was very kind in telling us which door to approach, and even offered to let me park next to him while we dropped the ballots off. "As long as we were voting the right way," he added with a smirk.

outside the Board of Elections office
We headed to the proper door, masks in place. We rang a bell, and a woman came out with a clipboard and a piece of paper we had to fill out, establishing who was dropping off the ballot(s). Once we completed that, we were on our way. Easy-peasy, once we knew where to go. The only thing I felt bad about was the fact that we didn't get an "I Voted" sticker. I like to wear mine with pride.

Saturday, October 17, 2020

Masks R Us

 We are two weeks into Phase 3 in North Carolina, and coronavirus case numbers continue to climb. Later next week Governor Cooper will announce whether the state will remain in this phase, or perhaps regress to one of the earlier phases. Regardless of what he does, I think mandatory mask wearing is here to stay for quite a while. That being the case, I decided to go ahead and make some seasonal masks for myself.

Recently I completed a Halloween, fall, two Christmas, and winter masks. I'm trying to maintain my sense of "glass half full" attitude, so I didn't go on to Valentine's Day or St. Patrick's Day, or beyond that to Easter. Hopefully those fabrics will only have to come out if I decide to make a holiday-themed quilt. I still don't enjoy wearing a mask for long periods of time, but at least I am giving others something fun to look at while I'm doing it!

holiday face masks

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Finding Fall


maples in St. Louis
One of the things I miss about living in the Midwest is the incredible fall foliage we experienced. Even walking around our neighborhood you could see a burst of colors from red, to orange to yellow. We moved during the fall last year, and the colors were poor to say the least. North Carolina had been in a drought, so that impacted the changing leaves. Even a drive to the higher elevations did not result in any pretty colors to photograph.

Tuesday we decided to see what colors were happening in the Beech Mountain area, which is about a two and a half hour drive from here. The colors were fairly vibrant, but mostly yellows. I guess that there are not too many maples in North Carolina. I want to research that a bit, as I would like to plant a couple in our yard if they can grow okay here.

At any rate, it was a pretty day for a drive. It looks like COVID will limit our travel for the foreseeable future. Our coronacations will consist of local drives for the most part. Luckily, our location is great for making day trips to see the beauty of this state.

leaf peepers

One year ago today we signed the closing papers on our new home on Mountain Island Lake. I have not regretted for one moment our decision to make the momentous move from the city that had been our home for our entire 41 years of married life to a place where we knew no one. It has been an incredible journey!

signing the papers

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Waves of Grief

sunrise on Mountain Island Lake
For the most part, I think I am still in denial about the fact that my only sister is dead. But for some reason, last Tuesday reality hit me like a tsunami. My husband was out of town, and I woke up very early in the morning. Sensing that additional sleep was out of the question, I made some hot tea, got dressed, and then grabbed my camera to catch the sunrise on the lake. 

I felt my sister's presence as I watched the night turn into day. It was comforting but sad at the same time. I wish that she had gotten the opportunity to come here for a visit as she would have loved sitting and looking at the lake with me. Thanks to COVID, she was not able to do any traveling as she was afraid of contracting the virus.

All day I felt very weepy, though a call from my niece helped as we could talk about the way we are both trying to deal with Kathy's untimely passing. Planting some fall flowers made me feel better, but playing pickleball with my ladies group here in the community was just a bit too overwhelming for me. I left after a few games. Maybe I just felt guilty for living when my sister had her life cut short. 

After I got home, my phone buzzed with a message from one of the sweetest women in my neighborhood. She said she had left something on the porch for me. Opening the door, I found a lovely card and a beautiful plant. She wanted to tell me that she and her husband were thinking about me. I texted her to let her know her timing could not have been more perfect as I had been feeling so down. It was a gentle reminder to me that I should be appreciative and enjoy my time with the living before it is too late.

sympathy greetings from friends

Friday, October 2, 2020

North Carolina Phase 3

Mount Holly Farmers Market
Governor Cooper has moved North Carolina into Phase 3 of easing restrictions imposed due to COVID19. Beginning today at 5:00 p.m., we will remain in this phase until at least October 23rd. Essentially Phase 3 enables meeting spaces to host functions (subject to restrictions), large outdoor venues of 10,000 or more capacity to open at 3% capacity, bars can only open for outside beverage consumption at 30% capacity or 100 people (whichever is less), movie theaters may open at 30% capacity, and amusement parks may open at 30% capacity, but only for outdoor attractions. All other restrictions in Phase 2.5 remain in effect during this phase.

Today marks day 134 of Safer at Home and day 191 of overall restrictions. The number of cases continues to be grim. To date, North Carolina has had 215,000 cases and 3,625 deaths. In the United States there have been 7.35 million cases and 208,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 34.4 million cases and 1.03 million deaths. 

Today also marks the day that President Trump and his wife Melania announced that they have tested positive for the virus. It is an unfortunate turn of events, but perhaps just the thing that Americans need to hear to take a more proactive stance on keeping themselves and others safe from COVID. Too many people think this is either fake news or just a virus that is no worse than the flu. Apparently over a million deaths worldwide does not do the trick.

Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Lemons to Lemonade

 While we could never had anticipated that our first visit back to St. Louis following our move to North Carolina 11 months earlier would be to attend my sister's funeral, we decided to make the most out of a horrific situation. While the kids and my niece were still with us we ate our favorite local foods and on Friday the 18th visited the St. Louis Zoo as well as Forest Park. It was a beautiful day, and most people were socially responsible and wore masks even though we were outside. The masks were required by the zoo, but of course there was one family of four who didn't think the mandate applied to them. It took everything I had not to call them out on it. If they have health concerns that prohibit them from wearing a mask, then they sure as heck should not be out in a public place where they might catch something! Other than that, our visit was fun and uneventful.

St. Louis Zoo

Saturday morning we made a nice breakfast for everyone before Andy and Megan needed to leave for the airport. Then we took Katie and Sara downtown to see City Garden and the new museum under the Arch. We had a late lunch at Ballpark Village before we needed to take Sara to the airport.

downtown St. Louis

Sunday morning we had our last breakfast at the AirBNB, and then headed to the Missouri Botanical Garden. Advanced ticket purchases were required as they are limiting the number of people who can go in the garden. Katie, Jim and I had a wonderful time getting some exercise and admiring all the flowers. I have to say that one thing we miss in our part of North Carolina is all the flowering shrubs and flowers that were in abundance in St. Louis. We followed that with a late lunch before heading over to my friend Diane's house to unload the car as we were spending the next few days with her. We had a couple of hours to pass before Katie needed to be taken to the airport.

Missouri Botanical Garden
The remainder of our stay in St. Louis was spent visiting old friends. I was especially excited to be able to play pickleball with the two different groups of ladies I had played with for years. Jim was able to play with his friends as well, and even squeezed in a short motorcycle ride with his best friend.

The trip was bittersweet, and proved you can indeed go home again. But it's not the same, and helped to confirm that moving to our community in North Carolina was a great decision for us.

September sunset at home

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Saying Goodbye to My Sister

 My only sister Kathy died very unexpectedly of a massive heart attack on September 11th. She was only 76 - much too young to die. While I deeply regret that she was taken from us at such an early age, I will be forever grateful that as far as we know she did not suffer. 

There was no question regarding whether or not we would attend the funeral, COVID or no COVID. Jim and I drove from Mount Holly as far as Paducah, KY on September 15th. There we spent the night at my request. Kathy and I had always talked about going there to see the National Quilt Museum as quilting was a hobby we both shared. On the morning of September 16th, Jim and I went through the museum in Kathy's memory. How she would have loved to see the vast variety of quilting styles! While totally different from the way that she and I quilted, they were works of art to behold.

National Quilt Museum

The next morning we drove the last four hours to St. Louis. Of course we had to drive by our old house and check it out. It looks like the new owners are taking good care of it, though the large oak tree on the north side of the house has died of old age. That will be expensive to remove, and we were thankful that it wasn't an expense we would have to undertake. Then we went to our old grocery store to pick up provisions for a few days. I rented a two flat house in the south city area for our family of six adults. Our kids were coming into town that night, and my niece Sara flew in from Texas in the afternoon. I wanted all of us in the same spot so we could spend time together. It ended up working out very well as each flat had two bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen and living room.

Thursday the funeral home held a viewing for the family from 9-10 and then for friends from 10-12:30, with the funeral following at Immaculate Conception Catholic Church at 1:00. Up to that point, Kathy's death had seemed surreal. All that changed when faced with seeing her in a coffin. It was so hard to experience the grief of her husband and children while at the same time trying to get a handle on my own. I know our kids struggled as well since Kathy had been way more than an aunt to her. Our own mother died when Andy was only 4, so Kathy became a surrogate grandmother to him and later on to Katie as well.

The funeral was very personal as the priest knew Kathy well due to her attendance at Mass (even virtually when COVID hit) as well as her participation in the Daughters of Isabella (D of I) at the parish. Nearly everyone wore a mask in church, as they had in the funeral home, and we were spaced out in every other pew. Following the service the D of I ladies held a luncheon for the family in the Knights of Columbus hall. My sister was to be buried at Jefferson Barracks Cemetery since her husband had served in the Navy. But cemetery regulations right now are not allowing any graveside services, so we went back to the AirBNB after the luncheon. Several family members came over later, and we played a rousing game of Yahtzee in Kathy's memory. It was her favorite game, and she nearly always was the winner. It seemed a fitting end to a day filled with grief, tears, laughter and shared memories.

Kathy & me

Monday, September 14, 2020

Never Forget

 How ironic that I posted on September 11th about 9/11 and how we should never forget that date and it's importance to not only the United States but also the world. I now have an additional reason I will never forget. Friday afternoon my only sister died very unexpectedly. At 11 years older than me she was often a second mother to me as well as my big sister. Coming so close on the heels of losing both my beloved father-in-law and mother-in-law, this is such a heavy burden to bear. It really has not sunk in yet. As I do best in such times putting my feelings into a poem, below sums up my current state of mind.

Kathy Lane memorial

Saturday, September 5, 2020

North Carolina Phase 2.5

social distance
In an interesting turn of events, Governor Cooper of North Carolina made an announcement regarding Safer at Home a week earlier than the planned September 11th date. Effective at 5:00p.m. on Friday, September 4th, he moved the state from Phase 2 into Phase 2.5. The change allows indoor gatherings of up to 25 people and outdoor gatherings of up to 50. Playgrounds can reopen, museums and aquariums can open at 50% capacity, and fitness centers can open at 30% capacity. The other restrictions from Phase 2 remain in place, and wearing a mask in public is still required - mandatory in indoor spaces as well as outdoors when the 6' of social distancing cannot be maintained. Despite the grim COVID-19 statistics in North Carolina, it is felt that the numbers have stabilized enough to take another baby step forward. Time will tell...

Monday, August 31, 2020

COVID-19 by the Numbers

My last update on COVID was for statistics as of August 5th. Today marks day 102 of Safer at Home and day 159 of overall restrictions. The number of cases continues to be grim. To date, North Carolina has had 167,000 cases and 2,721 deaths. In the United States there have been 6.1 million cases and 183,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 25.1 million cases and 844,000 deaths. The heat certainly does not seem to be a deterrent to the virus.

We personally do not know of any friends or family members who have contracted the virus. We know of people, of course, but no one in our close circles. Knock on wood, there have been no reported cases of anyone living in our Imagery community either. We continue to live in a bubble here, and know that it can burst at any point in time. A local sister community of ours recently held a golf tournament and post-party, and they now have quite a few cases of the virus.

As schools and universities have resumed classes, hotspots of cases have been reported. It is expected that many schools will close and go back to virtual learning. We have a number of college-aged kids living in our community right now due to COVID. As this is a 55+ development, we can only hope these kids remain diligent about wearing masks and social distancing so as not to compromise our higher risk population. It is a tough situation for everyone.

In other news, today I did something that makes me feel like an old person. I registered for Medicare, which I will be eligible for soon. While the online registration process was quite easy, going through the materials to determine which plan is best for me is confusing - even for someone who is reasonably intelligent and worked in insurance for 15 years. It pretty much comes down to your risk tolerance level. Do you want to pay more each month so that you pay less out of pocket in the event of a claim or claims? Or do you want to pay less each month and gamble that you won't need any procedures? And by the way, option number 2 allows you to receive dental, vision and hearing benefits as well as a free gym membership in many areas. I am working with a Medicare specialist to help me understand the best route for me in light of my health history, anticipated procedures (none) and medications (none). 

To keep me grounded, our long-awaited community pool finally opened for the first time this weekend, and that seemed somewhat normal. And the ever-changing clouds over the lake behind our house is a constant source of wonder to me.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

In Summation

 Current life, in a nutshell...

theater in North Davidson neighborhood of Charlotte, NC

Sunday, August 23, 2020


anniversary flowers
How do you celebrate a wedding anniversary during a pandemic? Our 42nd wedding anniversary was August 19th. We had decided we were going to go away for a few days someplace within easy driving distance of where we live. I found a really great place where we would have our own cabin with a full kitchen, but it was full for the time period we wanted. That rather surprised me, but whatever. Reservations were available next month, so that is when we will go.

In the meantime, we discussed whether or not we felt comfortable going to a nice restaurant for indoor dining. The place we elected to go does not open until 5:00, so we figured if we made a 5:00 reservation on a Wednesday night, the place should not be crowded. We arrived at Chillfire Grill a few minutes before 5:00, and the sign on the door indicated we needed to have a mask on to enter. That was a GOOD sign. We wore the masks to our table, and all of the wait staff and bartenders were also masked. We were seated at a table far away from the bar, and in fact there were few diners at that time though there were people at the bar.

We had a wonderful meal, and felt very safe being in the restaurant that night. It was so nice to feel a bit normal, if only for one evening.     

anniversary dinner
                                                                                                                                          My anniversary morning began with beautiful flowers and the gorgeous sunrise pictured below. I'm grateful for another year with the man I chose to love, honor and cherish 42 years ago. During this tough time of Covid-19, it helps me to keep my perspective on what is really important in life.

Mountain Island Lake sunrise

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Filling Time

 Some day I will look back on this pandemic period and wonder, "What did I do with my time?" Certainly many of the activities we had partaken in since moving to North Carolina have been curtailed since March. But I am doing a few things besides shopping for groceries, making masks, kayaking and taking photos. I volunteered to serve on the Communications Committee for our development. Because the community is barely a year old, our HOA is still under the control of the developer, Lennar. However, Lennar put together communications, landscape, and facilities committees that are comprised of homeowners. The communications committee has met several times. There are only three of us, so it is easy to meet and be socially distanced. It is too early to tell what kind of an impact we can have, but a board meeting takes place later this month. That should give us a good feel as to whether we are just a committee on paper, or if we can really facilitate good communication between the developer and the homeowners.

The Hiking Club, which has been inactive during COVID, organized a hike throughout the Phase 2 & 3 portions of our community, which are undeveloped for the most part. Though 23 people showed up, it was not hard to keep your distance from others while still being able to take part in conversation.

Imagery hike

Jim and I just attended the first meeting of the Photography Club last night. We are allowed to use the Meeting Room now as long as there are ten people or less attending. Masks are mandatory inside the building, and social distancing is required. They only let one group per day use the building, and it is deep cleaned each night so it feels safe. Only four of us came, so we were able to keep our distance. Our small group decided we will go on a photo shoot to the NoDa area of Charlotte later this month, and at our meeting in September we will review our best pictures. It should be a fun group.

Imagery pickleball courts
The thing that has been taking most of my time, though, is the Pickleball Imagery Club that I started. We had 72 people interested, which is impressive considering around 150 homes have closed and not all those people even live here in the summer. I developed a committee of ten to help out, and we have decided to structure as a 501(c)(7) since we are collecting membership dues. I've spent a lot of time talking to the local Pickleball Ambassadors as well as other like clubs in the area. The committee has met twice, and we are making great progress. There are 48 people so far who have signed up and paid their dues. Ladies play has been established on Tuesday evenings and Thursday mornings, and every Friday night is mixed social play. The guys play regularly, but they have not yet locked into set times.

So, little by little, we take baby steps into our not-so-brave, new world. We will continue to find the things that work for us while avoiding the things we think are too risky. It's all we can do.

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Taking Care of Business During COVID


It was time for my six month skin cancer appointment, and I greatly debated whether or not I should go. After all, I wasn't seeing any new spots that I was concerned about. But with my history of basal and squamous cells - 14 of them to date! - I was justifiably concerned about putting it off. And frankly, as I mentioned in the last post, there is no end in sight for this pandemic. So I kept the appointment, keeping in mind that if I did not feel the waiting area was being handled safely, I would just leave.

Arriving at the office a few minutes early, I was immediately greeted by a masked nurse. She asked me a few pointed questions about whether I had tested positive for COVID, had I been around anyone who had the virus, was I feeling sick, etc. She then took my temperature before letting me further into the waiting room to sign in. Only four patients were allowed in the room at a time, and we were all more than 6 feet apart and appropriately masked.

Any additional patients who arrived were handled the same way by the nurse, but then were asked to remain outside until they were called. One older woman did answer affirmatively to the question about having COVID, so she had followup questions. How long ago did she test positive? Answer, July 2nd. Was she recovered? Answer, yes. Did she have a followup COVID test done? Yes, July 16th and it was negative. Whew, she was safe to be in the building!

The nurse who came to get me was masked, as was the doctor when she entered my exam room. She asked that I leave my mask on until she told me to remove it. The last thing she did was check my face, and I removed my mask and held my breath as requested while she did this exam. With my mask firmly back in place, I got the good news that she didn't see anything suspicious. Woo, hoo!

Another piece of business that has been hanging over us is getting North Carolina titles, registrations and plates for our vehicles. You must first get your drivers license before you can take care of the rest. We did that in June. The governor had issued five month extensions on all licenses and plates due to COVID, so we were not in a rush to get the plates. They do not issue appointments for plates, unlike for drivers licenses, and we had heard tales of the long lines at the DMV offices.

We first had to get the change of title forms notarized, which is tricky as banks are not allowing customers inside their buildings and that is where we normally would go. Luckily a UPS store near us offers that service for $5 per document signed. We did that last Monday, and then Tuesday headed to the closest DMV office, which is in Huntersville. We arrived at 2:25 to find about 20 people in line ahead of us. Everyone was masked and maintained 6 feet of distance from each other.

It was sunny and hot, but fortunately after 15 minutes we moved enough to be in the shade of the building. It took 30 minutes to get into the building, as they took about 6 people at a time. Once inside, a lady ran through the now-familiar questions. Are you feeling sick? Do you have a fever? Have you been around anyone with COVID that you know of? Then we were directed to the appropriate line as they separate regular plate renewals from those who need titles and registrations as well. 

We ended up with a kind, patient woman who didn't get annoyed at the fact that we had two cars and a motorcycle she needed to process. She did look relieved by the fact that we had our titles already notarized, however. That saved her a step with each vehicle. We had everything we needed to get the job done, and were back at our car, new plates in hand, by 3:30. Not too bad!

Jim put all the plates on right away, and I have to say we now feel like North Carolinians with our Real IDs and appropriate license plates. 

Saturday, August 8, 2020

Safer at Home Extended - Again

On Wednesday, August 5th (the 76th day of Safer at Home and the 133rd day of overall restrictions) Governor Cooper extended Safer at Home again, this time for an additional 5 weeks. The end coincides with 9/11, which is an interesting choice of dates. It does fall on a Friday, so perhaps it is coincidental. But I would have gone a week shorter or a week longer if I were him. Reportedly the extension is to give the state the opportunity to study data as schools reopen over the next several weeks.

As of yesterday, North Carolina has 133,000 confirmed cases of COVID with 2,160 deaths from the virus. Nationwide the statistics are 4.95 million cases and 161,000 deaths. Worldwide there are 19.3 million confirmed cases and 719,000 deaths. Of course we have no way of knowing if other countries are accurately reporting their numbers. But one thing is certain - this thing is nowhere near contained. Numbers continue to grow and while there is promising news on the vaccine front, we are months if not years away from having an effective preventive shot in place for COVID.

It is hard not to fall into a sense of despair. Every single person has been affected by the pandemic. It is difficult to remain positive when we are in this dark tunnel with no light shining to reassure us there is an end.  This is certainly not the life we envisioned when we retired, packed up our 41 years of life together, and moved to a new state where we didn't have family or friends. Thank goodness we had a good 6 months to enjoy our new neighbors and what this community has to offer all of us!

We know how fortunate we are to live in a beautiful new home with Mountain Island Lake literally in our backyard. Here we have trails to walk, the lake to kayak, and some activities to participate in where we can be outdoors and socially distance. We can play pickleball in small groups, bike the neighborhood, and catch up with neighbors while out walking. But that doesn't mean we don't long for visits with our kids, travel, dining out INSIDE restaurants, and participating in all the clubs and fitness programs we had enjoyed for six months.

To keep our spirits up we keep the news off, unfollow the negative folks on social media, stay away from the conspiracy theorists around us, and spend more time on the phone with family and friends. We carefully evaluate any activity we wish to take part in, understanding that our lives - literally - are in the hands of other people. And sadly, many of those people cannot be trusted to do the right thing. They don't stay home when they feel poorly, don't maintain social distancing, and refuse to wear a mask. They endanger others, claiming mask mandates violate their First Amendment rights. It's interesting that they will abide by the "no shoes, no shirt, no service" or "no smoking" rules, but somehow wearing a mask offends them. 

The end is not in sight, and unfortunately how we get to the end is mostly out of our hands. The only thing we can control is our own behavior and attitude. Like most people, we are doing the best we can. This photo that I took the other night reminds me that while things can look dark and ominous, there is beauty as well if we only look for it.