Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Losing My Other Mother

This morning at 3:30 a.m. Central Time, my mother-in-law passed away. It is nearly 2 months to the day when my father-in-law died. The incredible heartbreak of losing both parents so close together is indescribable. As I mentioned when Jerry died, they have been a part of my life since I was 19 years old. They treated me not as a daughter-in-law but as an additional daughter. I felt the same about them. They were not in-laws - just mom and dad. I was incredibly blessed to have two great sets of parents in my life.

COVID still runs rampant in our country, but the rules for indoor gatherings have loosened a bit. I believe we could have up to 50 people at her funeral, though we do not intend to do so. Unlike with dad two months ago, Jim and I are planning to drive to Iowa for the service, and then up to Minnesota for the graveside blessing. The fact that we were unable to do that for dad has been eating at Jim. So we will take every precaution that we can to try to be safe while at the same time honoring mom and bringing some closure to these two deaths.

As we were awake very early this morning, we noticed the beginning of the new day. The sky looked promising, so we walked the short distance to Sunflowers Point by our house. We believe this beautiful sunrise was mom and dad's way of letting us know that they were reunited, they were okay, and that they will be watching over us.

RIP, mom. Thank you for making me one of your own, and setting a great example of what a loving wife and mother is all about. You are forever imprinted on my heart.

sunrise on Mountain Island Lake

Saturday, June 20, 2020

On the Road Again

We took another short day trip on Thursday, this time to Greenwood, SC. The town is celebrating their 54th Festival of Flowers, minus the "Festival". Due to COVID, the festival itself was canceled, but the city went ahead with its signature topiary display. We decided to check it out. The drive should have taken 2 1/2 hours, but that turned into nearly 3 1/2 as there was an accident on I-85. The topiaries made the frazzled drive worth it though. There are more than 40 of them, and they are stunning! We really have to applaud the city horticulture crew and all the volunteers for their hard work. 

Because we arrived later in the morning than we planned, we had an early lunch at the Mill House, where we were the only ones in the outdoor dining area. We had read that the pizza was good, and it did not disappoint. The restaurant was also a good launching point to hunt for the topiaries. There were not many people around, so it was easy to keep our social distance as we walked the route to get our photos. The day was beautiful, and it was a treat to get some exercise in the cooler temperatures.

We found all the topiaries and were on our way home by 2:30 or so. We celebrate these baby steps out in public as we try to gain some semblance of our new normal.

Greenwood, SC

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

Safer at Home Day 26

This is the 26th day of Phase 2 - Safer at Home in North Carolina (and Day 82 of restrictions), and the resulting COVID-19 statistics are a bit dismal. In our state there have been over 44,000 confirmed cases, with more than 1,100 deaths. In the United States, 2.16 million cases have been confirmed, and over 118,000 people have died. Worldwide, there are 7.69 million confirmed cases, with 428,000 deaths reported. 

There is no question that the number of coronavirus is spiking, but is all of it due to the fact that our country, as well as many others, are slowly reopening their economies? It is difficult to tell for sure. More tests have become available, so part of the increase could be due to better testing and/or reporting. My personal observation is that fewer people seem to be taking the virus as seriously as they had in the past. I am seeing fewer and fewer folks wearing masks in public, and there is a lot less social distancing taking place.

Linville Falls, NC
Sunday we went to Linville Falls, NC with another couple. We each drove in our own cars, and met in the park parking lot to hike to the falls. It was much more crowded than I would have liked, and very few people had masks on. While passing on the path stairs, it was impossible to maintain 6' of distance from others. What it made us understand is that we simply cannot go to outdoor public venues on the weekend anymore. It is a shame because we know it is safer to be outside with other people than in, and we certainly are trying to remain as active as we can in light of the fact that our fitness facility and group exercise classes are closed for the time being. But it became clear to me that I am literally putting my life into other people's hands, which they don't seem to get. I wear a mask to protect THEM, not me, and they certainly are not returning the courtesy.

What is the answer? We are months if not years away from a vaccine for the coronavirus. The way we have been living for the past few months is not much of a life at all. As humans, we have the need to be with and touch other humans, particularly our close loved ones. Is there a way to open up the country while still being medically responsible? I believe they will have to make wearing a mask in public mandatory and not just a suggestion in order for us to have any chance of beating the odds of getting the virus.

In the end, we all have to decide for ourselves what our risk tolerance is going to be. For now we will continue to mostly self-isolate, taking baby steps into our old life of being around other people. I guess we will be like the turtle - slow and steady wins the race.

backyard turtle

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Day Trippin'

This week we were supposed to be at a photography clinic in the Outer Banks. Due to the coronavirus, we had to cancel the trip. As this was part of my Christmas gift, we are very disappointed. So we decided to go on a day trip yesterday. We thought about going to see the topiary exhibits in downtown Greenwood, SC but a rainy forecast put that idea on hold. Instead we headed north to Blowing Rock, NC. It was an excellent decision as it was at least 10 degree cooler there with half the humidity.

Flat Top Manor
We began our adventure at Moses H. Cone Memorial Park. Located on the Blue Ridge Parkway, the 3,500 acre park was once the country estate of textile entrepreneur Moses Cone. In 1901 he built a 14,000 square foot, 20 room home he named Flat Top Manor. The building is not open to the public right now because of the virus, but it was worth stopping to see it and walk a little bit of the trails.

From there we went to Blowing Rock, which is a charming town with a geological formation called The Blowing Rock. Entrance to The Blowing Rock offers panoramic views of the Blue Ridge Mountains and surrounding valleys. The trails were gentle and easy to navigate, and we enjoyed our time there. We had a late lunch in a restaurant called Foggy Rock Eatery and Pub. They did a great job being in compliance with the governor's Safer in Place guidelines, which requires restaurants to operate at 50% capacity to keep patrons 6' or more apart. And they did it with a sense of humor by placing cardboard faces on the booths that were to remain unoccupied. The food was good, and we would definitely eat there again.

Blowing Rock, NC
Our last adventure of the day was a hike on the Glen Burney Trail to see the Glen Burney and Glen Mary falls. No one told me it was 800' down! It was billed as an easy 1.5 mile hike, which is a total misrepresentation. I was a little concerned that I would not make it back up the steep hills. The waterfalls were just okay, so I doubt I will make that trip again. But I have to say, it was so good to get out of town for a bit and away from the heat, humidity, and constant reminders that the virus is out to get all of us.

Glen Burney Falls

Friday, June 5, 2020

Getting the Real ID

license bureau line
This morning we made our way to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get our drivers licenses. We are lucky in that our area accepts online reservations, so we picked the location that had the earliest openings. Jim secured the 9:30 slot, while I got the 9:50. It ended up that the office was probably the closest one to our house, so that was a plus.

Due to Covid-19 they are limiting the number of people allowed in the building at one time, but we were still surprised to see these kind of lines. Obviously they take multiple people for the same time slots. The unfortunate people up against the building did not have appointments, and theirs was going to be a long wait.

Our goal was to obtain the Real ID, a new license that complies with federal minimum security guidelines. While not legally required, without the Real ID you cannot board a plane or enter any federal buildings without showing your passport. That's not a huge deal as we have valid passports and don't expect to fly for a long time anyway due to the virus. But if we were going to stand in line, we might as well go for it. I had heard many horror stories from people who tried to get the new ID. Despite bringing what they felt were all the required documents, they were still rejected. In one case the husband used the paperwork and got his ID before passing them off to his wife. Her license agent rejected one of the documents that had been accepted in the husband's case. Everyone's advice was to take more papers than you need just in case.

I triple-checked everything we were bringing with the website, and the only sticking point I could see is that my social security card is laminated. That had been done by my employer 40 years ago, but apparently they don't consider your card valid if it is laminated. I was hoping it would fly through, but figured no big deal if I had to go with a regular drivers license.

When I was called to go inside the building, a man double-checked all my papers to make sure I had everything before he sent me to an agent's window. She looked it all over and said I was missing an insurance card. That was not listed as a requirement on the website, nor had the checkpoint man said I needed it. When you think about it, why must I own a car in order to get the Real ID anyway? At any rate, I wasn't concerned as I had brought our car insurance policy along as proof of my NC address. Unfortunately, it was the policy that had expired Aril 20th and not the new one. Crap! As luck would have it, Jim had just finished getting his license, and he was able to run out to the car for me and get the insurance card from the glove box. Whew! All the other papers were accepted with no problem, including the laminated card.

While we were not required to take a written test or a driving test since we both had valid licenses from another state, I was a little concerned about the sign test as people said it was a little tricky. I downloaded the signs from their website and we studied them. That turned out to be no big deal as most of the signs had the words printed on them. I was thinking, "Is this a stupid test or what?" The only ones without words were the no passing zone sign, stop sign, and upcoming railroad crossing sign (which is the one most people don't know or recognize, but I knew it from the website.) So, lots of worry for no reason, and I am now the proud owner of a NC Real ID, and am registered to vote as well.

JR Cash's Grill & Bar
We decided to go out to lunch to celebrate this little success. This is the first time we have eaten food that was not prepared by us since the lockdown began. We haven't even done carryout food. We went to JR Cash's in Mount Holly because I knew we could eat outside along the Catawba River. The waitresses were masked and gloved, and the tables were more than 6 feet apart. We were the only ones in the entire place for a bit, but it began to fill up. A lady at the next table over sneezed (no mask), and a young girl nearby sneezed twice (no mask). Is it asking too much for people to get up and move away from everyone if they have to sneeze? I don't think so, as you know when one is coming on. Thank goodness we were outside and that far apart, though I don't know if 6 feet is far enough. This is exactly why we haven't gone anywhere, because people can't be trusted. As much as I want to support local small businesses, it will be awhile before I want to eat out again.