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.

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Day Trip to South Mountain

We are always on the lookout for a place we can go visit that is close enough to do in a day, but hopefully without crowds due to pandemic concerns. On July 31st we picked South Mountain State Park. Located near Connelly Springs, NC (about an hour and a half away from us) it features 40 miles of trails and an 80' waterfall. It seemed like we could keep our distance in the park.

On the drive there I spied a field of sunflowers outside of Lincolnton. In keeping with our retirement mantra "Make the U-turn", I quickly turned around so we could go back and photograph the flowers. A side road provided a perfect place to park, and we had the area to ourselves. It was beautiful and peaceful, and made me miss the sunflower fields we used to visit outside of St. Louis.

We arrived at the park visitor center in late morning. It was open with masks required and a limited number of people allowed inside. No one else was in the building as we requested information on the best trail for viewing the waterfall. Perhaps I should have paid attention to the strange look the woman gave us as we told her what we wanted to see. After all, the hike was listed as "moderate" on the local hiking website. She advised us to keep an eye on the weather as "you don't want to get caught on that trail in the rain." She said it has 350 steps along the route. As it turns out, the state park system lists the trail as strenuous, and that was not an exaggeration.

It starts off wide, paved and flat, luring you into a false sense of security. It gets progressively steep, often with tree roots and rocks as the "steps". The path narrows a lot, and as this is the most popular hike in the park it was crowded. We saw very few people wearing mask, though we covered our faces each time we had to pass near anyone. We had hoped by going on a weekday that would not be an issue, but no such luck. By the time we reached the falls, I was exhausted. The view, however, more than made up for hassle getting to the falls.

When we left the park we searched for a place to have a late lunch. The park ranger had suggested Mitchem's Kitchen, which was on our way back home. Even though it was after 1:00, the parking lot was packed which did not bode well for COVID safe dining. There was no outside dining, and when we stuck our heads inside the door absolutely no one was wearing a mask. Including the waitress. That sealed our decision, and we went back to the car. We had passed Chuckwagon Grill Restaurant several times in the past, and decided to give them a try. A server comes to the car to take your order, and then it is brought out to you. You can take it to go, sit at one of the picnic tables, or eat in your car. Because we did not see anyone sanitizing the tables, we ate in the car. The food was mediocre at best, and we will not go back.

Despite that lackluster ending to the adventure, we had a really good time. It is always nice to get away, even if just for a half a day. It's looking like these will be the only "vacation" days we will have in the foreseeable future.