Saturday, July 24, 2021

Back to Masks?

While Los Angeles last week announced that masks will be mandatory when indoors regardless of vaccination status, other areas are beginning to follow suit. St. Louis County's new mandate goes into effect July 26th. All 50 states are experiencing a surge in Covid cases. We used to hear vax it OR mask it, but now it's vax it AND mask it.

The CDC has not publicly announced that they made a huge mistake in relaxing mask requirements back in May, but they really need to own up to the fact that they should not have stated that vaccinated people no longer needed to wear a mask while in crowds. Expecting the unvaccinated population to do the right thing and mask up was just ridiculous. And the increasing numbers of cases and hospitalizations is proving the point. 

I made the comment to my neighbor, who is a physician, that I can get the shot and not have too much impact on anyone else's life but my own. But a person who refuses to get the vaccine can have a huge impact on my life. We all may have to go back into full masking requirements, if not total lockdown, because of the people who will not get vaccinated. There are about 1,000 counties in the U.S. with vaccination rates of less than 30%. Less than half of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated.

Without the numbers needed to create herd immunity, we will continue to see variants of the virus as evidenced by the one called delta. And now the first case of a mutation called lambda has been discovered in Texas. At some point, the existing vaccines may not protect us from these new variants. We really need the vast majority of the population to get vaccinated before we all end up in full lockdown again. Or worse.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Surgery is a go!

Finally I received a mailed letter from my insurance company stating that my shoulder surgery and the anesthesia has been approved. They then went on to say that they might not pay for it, however. Huh? The correspondence went on to give a laundry list all the reasons why they might not pay. I don't think any of their conditions apply to me, but sheesh. Way to make me feel confident in this situation - not! It's a good thing all I have to do is walk out into my backyard to find my inner peace again!

Mountain Island Lake

Friday, July 16, 2021


mask up!
It's been two months since the CDC (followed by most states) lifted the mask mandate in the United States. I expressed my concerns about this decision in my May 15th blog post. So now that some time has elapsed, what has happened with Covid numbers in this country?

Fueled by the new Delta variant of the virus, which is more easily transmittable, U.S. cases as well as deaths are up significantly in the past couple months. Experts have been quoted as saying that this is now a pandemic of the unvaccinated as they account for 97% of the hospitalizations here. Cases are up in 49 states, despite the fact that 336 million doses of vaccines have been administered. Only 48.9% of our population has been fully vaccinated.

What has been the response to the rising case numbers? Los Angeles County in California is the first to take a step backwards and tighten restrictions. An indoor mask mandate has been put back in place, regardless of a person's vaccination status. Seven other California counties also issued mask mandates, despite the fact that California just lifted all restrictions on June 15th. Will other communities follow suit?

Here is an update on overall Covid statistics. North Carolina has had 1.02 million cases and 13,533 deaths. In the United States there have been 34 million cases and 608,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 189.2 million cases and over 4 million deaths.

My observation from being out and about is that people are acting as if there is no pandemic. They are crowding into restaurants, concerts, amusement parks, stores, etc. My husband and I are still wearing our masks when indoors, but we rarely see anyone else doing so. Can you imagine trying to get all these people to start wearing masks again? It will be like trying to stuff cats in a bag. Stay safe out there!

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

Who Needs Anesthesia?

After my last post about being grateful for having health insurance to cover my upcoming shoulder surgery, a bizarre thing happened. I got a call from the surgeon's office advising me that the anesthesia group used by the surgery center I will be going to is not in the network of my medicare supplemental plan. That means the insurance company will pay the anesthesiologist the in network rate and I will be responsible for the difference. The anesthesia group sent me a form to sign that states I understand they are out of network. So wait - the surgeon is in network and the surgery center is in network, but the anesthesia group they use is not? That doesn't make any sense to me. The woman who called me suggested I call my insurance company and double check on the anesthesia group.

When I talked to the representative at the insurance company, on a phone call that lasted a total of 1 hour and 25 minutes, she advised me that there are no anesthesiologists within 100 miles of where I live who are in network. I should mention that I am in one of the largest medicare supplemental plans in the U.S., and I live in a metropolitan area with a population of 2.6 million people. How is this even possible? I told her it makes it pretty difficult to have surgery when they don't have any anesthesia groups in the plan. She put me on and off hold listening to the same craptastic song over and over while she was checking with various supervisors. The end result was being told that my case was being taken under review, and I would hear in two weeks whether they would consider the anesthesia to be in network or not.

In the meantime I called the broker who sold me the plan to let her know what was going on. She has over 600 medicare clients, and she has never heard of such a thing. She told me she would go further up the ladder in the insurance company than I did, and would have an answer for me within a couple days. Sure enough, two days later she called to tell me what she learned. Apparently this insurance company has a contract with the surgery center where they cover everything that happens at the surgery center under one payment to the center. Since anesthesia falls under that, it will be covered as being in network. Because she knows what she is doing, she got this in writing.

A few days ago a different person from my insurance plan called me asking for the anesthesia code. I have no idea how they will code this procedure, and they probably don't either at this point. So obviously I am still "under review" by the insurance company. I'm sure I haven't heard the end of this yet.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021


Have you ever had a frozen shoulder? It is caused by a thickening or inflammation of the capsule containing tissue in the shoulder, which restricts movement and causes pain. Sometimes it comes on gradually and other times people wake up one morning unable to move their arm. 

Chair from Hell example
My right shoulder froze up over a few months in 2006, to the point where I could not raise my hand high enough to brush my teeth, among other things. I had a manipulation under anesthesia (MUA), where the orthopedic surgeon moved the should to break the capsule and scar tissue free while I was under anesthesia. The afternoon of surgery a Continuous Passive Motion Machine (AKA the Chair from Hell) was delivered to my house, and I spent hours each day putting my shoulder through all kinds of different motions aided by the mechanics of the chair. 

The day following surgery I began physical therapy, which lasted several weeks. There were also numerous exercises I performed at home each day as well. I felt like all I did each day was some sort of therapy. However, I had a pretty good outcome from all of that, gaining back about 90% range of motion in the shoulder.

In March of this year I began experiencing pain in my left shoulder. Even though it has been 15 years, I felt like I knew what was going on. The left shoulder was freezing up. My range of motion in the arm has continued to decrease, while the pain has increased. In reading through some articles and watching YouTube videos by physical therapists, I decided to see if I could do some exercises at home and at our gym here to try to break the shoulder free on my own. Unfortunately, the condition has worsened, so on June 23rd I went to see an orthopedist who specializes in shoulders. They took a few quick x-rays so he could rule out other causes for the pain/limited mobility, and he said everything looks really good there.

We discussed my prior experience, and my options for treatment. He advised that they rarely perform MUAs anymore as it is too easy to break the shoulder. Instead the preferred treatment is arthroscopic surgery, where he will go in and break the adhesions or scarring up. Again I would begin physical therapy the day after surgery, but they no longer prescribe the Chair from Hell, thank goodness. 

Because they are saying my recovery period will be 6-8 weeks, I scheduled the surgery for August 3rd after my pickleball women's league finishes up. There is no reason to rush the surgery as far as the doctor is concerned, so I figured I might as well complete something I really enjoy doing. Fortunately this is not my dominant arm, or I would not have been able to wait on having the procedure done. As for now, I'm having fun (not!) completing the pre-surgery forms and answering all the questions from the various people who will play a part in my care. I feel very fortunate to have the option of surgery due to good medical insurance, so I'm not complaining. Instead I'll work on getting all the things done that I won't be able to do for awhile following the procedure.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Imagery Shutterbugs Part 2

Last night our little photography group met to go over some of the photos we had taken on Saturday. We were short three people, so I'm not sure if they just couldn't make it or if they decided the workshop was not for them.

It was fun to see what captured the attention of the different photographers. In only one case did two of us have the exact same image. At the end of our session on Saturday I shot the blue sky and clouds through a window of the building we were meeting at. Another person saw me, looked up, and took the same shot. Unfortunately we both submitted them for review. But as they say, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, so no big deal.

After we went through all the photos we talked about places we would like to go as a group to take pictures. Several ideas were thrown out, and the workshop leader will now put together a calendar of events for the rest of the year.

Because these are not technical workshops, nor are the photo reviews meant to be critiques, I'll have to decide if I want to continue on with the group. There is a charge for each month, and if all we are going to do is take and look at pictures, I can certainly do that on my own for free. 

Here are a few of my favorites from Saturday morning.

photoshoot collage

Monday, June 28, 2021

Imagery Shutterbugs

A shutterbug is defined as an enthusiastic amateur photographer, so that seems an apt title for this post about a recent photography event in my community. While we had a small group of photographers here at Imagery who met a few times before Covid-19, it all sort of fell apart during the pandemic. 

Last month a representative of the Charlotte Art League came here to do a presentation, "Exploring Life Through Photography". He offered to work with our community through ongoing photography workshops. 

Saturday at 10:00 a.m. Jim and I attended the first meeting, entitled "Explore Your World Through Photography", with 11 residents in attendance. The goal is to keep the meeting to 15 or fewer people for the sake of field trips and photo review. We had a brief introduction, and then split up to go and photograph a defined area of our community. 

We met back up at noon to debrief, and we are each to send our workshop coordinator 10-15 of our favorite photos. He will put them together in a slide show, and we will meet again on the 30th at 6:30 p.m. to review the photos. The goal is not to critique the photos but rather to understand that while we all may be looking at pretty much the same things, we experience them in different ways.

I am very eager to see what everyone comes up with for this challenge. In looking at Jim's photos, while we both shot a few of the same items even though we weren't walking around together, what we focused on in each of the scenes was totally different. That is usually the case when we go out shooting together, so it didn't surprise me one bit. Will that prove to be the case with the rest of the group? It will be interesting to see!

Sunday, June 27, 2021

The City of Angels

Charlotte airport

Our daughter had a big birthday this year, and since she couldn't go on the adventure she had planned due to Covid-19, we decided to have a family vacation in the Los Angeles area to help her celebrate. It was the first time that I have flown in over two years. From the time we entered the airport in Charlotte until we got our bags in LA we were masked - so over eight hours straight. I have so much sympathy for people who routinely wear a mask for that amount of time (or more) due to their jobs. It's a challenge!

ocean view from the house
Our son and daughter-in-law arrived at LAX a little before us, so we met up and went to get the rental car before heading to pick up our daughter. The five of us shared an Airbnb in Malibu for a week. The house was perched on the side of a mountain, and offered mountain views as well as ocean views. It had a small outdoor gym, a hot tub, grill and outdoor tv on the deck, and a pool table inside as well as three bedrooms and two baths. It was perfect for our family.

While the temperatures were unseasonable hot (in the 90s) for a few of the days, we made the best of the situation by doing our sight-seeing in the morning to avoid the heat. We left the air conditioned spots for the afternoon, or just headed back to the house to play games or just hang out. Highlights of the trip included custom gin and tonics on a rooftop patio, the Getty Museum, Huntington Garden, Getty Villa, and a visit to a local wine shop. Face masks were required everywhere when indoors, and even outdoors if you hadn't been vaccinated or were walking to an outdoor table to eat and/or drink.

But of course the best part of the trip was being able to see all of our immediate family for an extended visit. Priceless!

Thursday, June 10, 2021

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

In December of 2019, Jim gave me a gift certificate to a workshop photographing the wild horses of the outer banks. Originally scheduled to meet the first week of June of 2020, it was canceled due to Covid-19. We rescheduled it for the same time this year. We have anticipated this trip for a year and a half, and on Tuesday, June 1st we took off for our Airbnb, located in Kill Devil Hills, NC.

Following a leisurely, if a little boring, drive from Mount Holly to the outer banks, we settled into our home away from home for the next six days. Located on Blount's Bay, the unit afforded nice sunrise photo ops - assuming the sun decided to show its pretty face. All along the forecast for the first few days we would be visiting called for rain, but we were hoping the forecasters would be wrong as they so often are. Unfortunately that did not end up to be the case.

While Wednesday morning dawned with a peek at the sun, the day grew more gloomy. We met up with our other two workshop attendees and the instructor at 3:30 that afternoon in Historic Corolla Park. He took us in his four wheel drive Land Rover Defender onto the beach to search for the horses. I was amazed by the number of cars, trucks, etc. that were traveling on the beach, and by the amount of commercial horse hunting vehicles that were in the area. In my mind, I expected this trip to be sparsely populated and not commercialized. This was a vastly different experience than our time shooting the wild horses of southern Missouri. Disappointing, really.

We were supposed to do sunset photography that evening, but of course there was too much cloud cover for that, and the rain started up again as well. Thursday morning we were to meet back in Corolla (about a 45 minute drive for us) at 5:00 AM to photograph the horses on the beach at sunrise. The instructor said he would text us at 3:45 AM to let us know if it was a go or not. The forecast called for a 90% chance of rain, and in fact the rain did not let up all night. But we diligently set out alarm for 3:30 and began to get ready just in case. At 3:45 the shoot was canceled. He said we would meet him back at the same park at 1:00 that afternoon instead. We were able to go back to sleep for a bit, and ended up doing a little exploring in the park until it was time to meet up with the group again.

By the time we got together it was raining pretty hard. He decided to take us out on the beach again anyway. While we did see two horses, it was not an enjoyable experience trying to photograph them. Not to mention the fact that none of us wanted to damage our camera equipment. Around 2:30 we decided to call it quits. The instructor suggested we meet up at a restaurant at 4:00 to maybe go over some photos and discuss them. While we did meet for dinner, no photos were brought out. And we canceled Friday mornings activities as the forecast was more of the same. So, our two and a half day workshop was condensed down to a handful of hours. As I said, very disappointing.

The rain continued all through the night and into the next morning. We had our place reserved until Monday morning, so we went out to have a nice breakfast and hopefully wait the storm out. When the weather broke we checked out the Wright Brothers Museum, the Outer Banks Arboretum, and the Monument to a Century of Flight.

Saturday and Sunday consisted of visiting the piers, lighthouses and preserves of the southern portion of the outer banks. That area is much less congested and way less touristy. While it was hot and humid, we at least had no more rain for the duration of our time there. Monday we headed for home, stopping at Lake Mattamuskee (the largest, natural fresh water lake in North Carolina), Bath (the oldest town in North Carolina), and Wilson (home of the largest whirligig collection in the US.

About 110 miles from home, an indicator light came on in the car that the drivetrain was experiencing a malfunction. We got off the highway and did a Google search on the problem. Everyone suggested that it was okay to carefully drive the car so we decided to limp home. Then we hit a huge rainstorm, and the transmission really struggled. But we made it back, took the car in the next day, and had it repaired. What an ending to what should have been a dream Christmas present! And I will add that although we wore our masks whenever we were inside (despite being double vaccinated), hardly anyone else including employees did so. Between that and the crowds, people seem to think there is no longer a pandemic. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Memorial Day 2021

Memorial Day Jefferson Barracks Cemetery
It's always interesting each year to see how many people truly understand the meaning of Memorial Day in the United States. I see many posts with people thanking those who are currently in the military (that is Armed Forces Day), or expressing appreciation to our veterans (that is Veterans Day). 

But Memorial Day was established to pay tribute to those who died while serving in the military. Originally known as Decoration Day, it originated in the years following the Civil War. It became an official federal holiday in 1971.

Cities and towns across the United States host Memorial Day parades each year, often incorporating military personnel and members of veterans’ organizations. Some of the largest parades take place in Chicago, New York and Washington, D.C. Americans also observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries and memorials. Some people wear a red poppy in remembrance of those fallen in war—a tradition that began with a World War I poem, In Flanders Field by John McCrae.

The National Moment of Remembrance, which asks that Americans pause in silence to honor those who have died serving the U.S., takes place at 3 p.m. on Memorial Day. Here in our community we have an opportunity to listen to Glenn Proctor, a former Marine, Pulitzer Prize winning author and motivational speaker. I suspect he will inspire us to be better Americans as we reflect on those who paid the ultimate price for our freedoms.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Current Covid Data

In the last post I stated my concerns that the country has moved too quickly with regards to the mask mandate. In allowing vaccinated people to partake in activities indoors and out without a mask while expecting non-vaccinated people to be honest and continue to wear masks, the CDC and states are taking a huge leap of faith, in my opinion. So I wanted to lay out the current statistics in case this backfires, causing the number of cases to soar again.

To date North Carolina has had 999,000 cases and 12,915 deaths. In the United States there have been 33 million cases and 586,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 164.6 million cases and 3.4 million deaths.

social distance sign
Having said that, I was suprised to see that, nearly a week following the relaxing of the mask mandate, a fast food restaurant we went to today still had this sign on the door. All of the employees had their masks on, as did all the customers who came in - including us. It appears I am not the only one who is concerned about the latest recommendations.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

Covid Update - From Zero to Sixty

face masks
On May 13th the US Center for Disease Control (CDC) did an about-face on their previous recommendations regarding Covid-19 and the wearing of masks. It announced that people fully vaccinated against Covid-19 do not need to wear masks or practice physical distancing in virtually all indoor and outdoor settings. The exception is that masks will still be required on buses, planes, and trains. The CDC suggests that unvaccinated people and those with a weakened immune system should still wear masks, however.

This announcement caught many people by surprise, considering that we had all been told that masks would be necessary until the country reached herd immunity through 70-85% of the population receiving vaccinations. The country as of May 14th stands at a 36.2% vaccination rate. So why the sudden turn around? There is no way to tell who has had a vaccine and who hasn't, and quite frankly the unvaccinated people were the ones less likely to wear masks in the first place. 

It did not take long for North Carolina Governor Cooper to follow suit. He has been more conservative than many of the other governors, so the fact that he immediately jumped on the CDC's bandwagon was surprising to me. On May 14th he announced that the state will remove its indoor mask mandate for most settings. Additionally, the state will lift all mass gathering limits and social distancing requirements. 

It is true that North Carolina's vaccination rate is better than the US average. To date, the state has administered over 7.7 million doses. 51% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 46% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated. That is still a far cry from the number needed for herd immunity.

Again, time will tell if this is the right decision at this particular point in time. For now I will continue to wear a mask when going into crowds, whether indoors or out. And the irony will be that while I am vaccinated, it will appear to everyone else that I am not since I will be masked. Better safe than sorry. I've avoided Covid for this long - I want to keep it that way.

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Out of Gas

Following a hack of the nation's largest fuel pipelines, right now 70% of the gas stations in the Charlotte area are out of gas. Fueled, if you'll pardon the pun, by the media making an even bigger deal of the situation, panicked drivers rushed to the stations whether they needed to fill up or not. The parallel to the run on toilet paper at the start of the pandemic cannot be ignored. 

I've no doubt that a number of people filled every available container (legal or otherwise) with gasoline while they could. Both of our cars are, of course, low on fuel. Jim was unsuccessful in finding gas today. Had we known yesterday, we were playing tourist in a couple of small towns somewhat close to us, and there was plenty of gas and no lines. We could have filled up then. A day late and a dollar short...We have nowhere we need to be, so we can sit tight for a bit. I feel sorry for people who do not have the option to wait it out.

I'm happy we were able to play tourist a bit yesterday before we knew there was going to be a fuel crisis. We went to Dallas, NC where they have the Gaston County Museum. We wanted to learn more about the county we now call home, and this was the perfect place. This whole area is heavily influenced by the mills that once operated here, and it was cool to see the equipment that was used. The museum also houses the largest collection of horse drawn carriages in North Carolina, and that was interesting as well. We had lunch in Dallas before heading to Rankin Lake Park in Gastonia. We took a nice hike around the lake to walk off some of our lunch. 

Dallas NC and Rankin Lake

We learned that there are 13 towns that make up Gaston County. We decided that it will be fun to explore each of them.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Motherless Mother's Day

Mountain Island Lake dawn
Mother's Day began bright and beautiful, which seemed a little wrong somehow. This was our first Mother's Day without Jim's mom, and my mom has been gone for 32 years now. It's hard not to be sad on a day that is meant to celebrate motherhood, especially when your own children are nowhere near.

Jim and I made the most of the weekend though. Saturday we went to the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Charlotte. Moms were admitted free this weekend. We had to get the tickets ahead of time due to Covid. The day was beautiful, and we enjoyed the beauty of the garden, along with the lunch we purchased at the on-site food truck. It was wonderful to be in nature and take photographs again.

Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden

Sunday Jim got me flowers and donuts, and he hand-painted a card for me. That was followed by a pickleball lesson taught by a local pro. That afternoon we intended to have one of our neighbors over for dinner, but she was not feeling well so we took the meal to her. 

Mother's Day 2021

As a followup to my previous post, we are very pleased with how our recent remodeling job turned out. The patio door is lovely, and has really opened up our view of the lake from the kitchen and dining areas.

new patio door

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

New Home Improvement

Our current house is the first brand new home we have ever lived in, and actually only the third home we've purchased in 42 years of wedded bliss. It's not perfect since we had very limited options offered by the developer. For us it was all about the lot location anyway. The photo to the left was taken from our back yard a couple of nights ago, so that is the view that sold us on moving here.  We have made a few minor modifications, such as improved shelving in the laundry room, pantry and master closet.

Today we are embarking on a bigger change though. We are removing the two back windows in the dining area and replacing them with a sliding door. This will give us direct access to the patio area. But more importantly it will allow us to have an improved view of Mountain Island Lake while also letting more light into the house. With just the little bit of work that has been done so far, I can already tell that we will love it.

dining area remodel

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Covid Changes in North Carolina


Governor Cooper just conducted a press conference yesterday outlining his latest mandates regarding Covid in the state of North Carolina. Current restrictions are set to expire on Friday, so the new ones go into effect on that day. He is removing the mask mandate for outdoor activities (though it is still suggested that a mask be worn in large gatherings or when social distancing is not possible), but masks will still be required when gathering indoors in public places. The limit on indoor gatherings has been increased from 50 to 100, and on outdoor gatherings from 100 to 200. The governor anticipates further reductions in restrictions beginning June 1.

North Carolina continues to focus on distributing vaccines quickly and equitably. To date, the state has administered over 7 million doses. 48.7% percent of those 18 and up are at least partially vaccinated, and 39.2% percent of those 18 and up have been fully vaccinated. Obviously we are nowhere near where we need to be with vaccinations in order for this pandemic to go away. People are still encouraged to practice the three Ws - wash your hands, wear a mask, and wait 6 feet away from others.

Here are the current Covid statistics: North Carolina has had 971,000 cases and 12,611 deaths. In the United States there have been 32.2 million cases and 573,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 149 million cases and 3.14 million deaths.

While I am relieved to see the numbers in North Carolina trending in an encouraging direction, I am concerned about not only the number of people who are refusing to be vaccinated but also those who seem to feel that if they have been vaccinated they can go back to life before the pandemic. There are still too many unknowns about this virus and its many mutations, as well as cases of people who have been vaccinated who are contracting Covid. The governor is right to encourage people to continue with the three Ws until most of the population is vaccinated.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Girls Just Want to Have Fun

Yesterday I asked the ladies who live on either side of us if they wanted to go to the UNC Charlotte Botanical Garden with me. One of the things I miss the most about St. Louis is the absolute beauty of the spring season there. North Carolina is pretty in a different way, but the abundance of dogwoods, redbuds, rhododendrons, azaleas, tulips, daffodils, etc. in Missouri are unparalleled, at least in my opinion.

I needed to go to UNC to fill my heart with flowers. Neither of my neighbors had been there, so I was excited to show them what this urban campus has to offer. It did not disappoint at all. The weather was perfect for a stroll along the blooming paths winding through the various gardens. We had a really nice time there, followed by lunch outside at a local restaurant. It almost felt a little normal, despite Covid.

UNC Charlotte

Saturday, April 24, 2021

Gone a Year

April 22nd marked the one year anniversary of the passing of my father-in-law. While much of the past twelve months have seemed to drag by due to Covid, it certainly does not feel like a year ago that we got the call in the middle of the night that he had died. At times like this, I find it easier to express myself through poetry and my photography. Here are my reflections on the anniversary of his death:

tribute to my father-in-law

Friday, April 16, 2021

Hawk vs Eagle

Yesterday we saw the most amazing thing out in the middle of Mountain Island Lake. I was looking out our back window when I saw a bird strike the water. I thought he was fishing at first, but then I noticed another bird circling over his head. Calling for my husband to grab his camera, I reached for mine and we hurried out into the back yard. 

I was stunned to see an eagle in the water, and a hawk diving at him from above. It appeared as though the eagle might be wounded as he did not try to take flight. Instead he used his wings like Michael Phelps doing the butterfly stroke across the lake. Periodically he had to flip back and ward off the hawk with his beak and talons. Eventually the hawk left, and the eagle drug himself out of the water onto the shore. But not before scaring two blue herons out of the water nearby. It was something to see for sure!

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Yo Ho Ho and a Bottle of Rum

Yesterday a small group of us from our neighborhood took a tour of Muddy River Distillery Belmont, NC. Located on the banks of the muddy Catawba River (thus the name Muddy River), the distillery offers hand-crafted rum. We first learned of Muddy River last April when Covid-19 struck and hand sanitizer was nowhere to be found. Muddy River converted one of their lines to making sanitizer, which they gave away to first responders. Then they started selling it to the public, so we went there to purchase some for ourselves. Coincidentally (wink, wink), they also had bottles of their rum for sale. We bought two bottles of that as well.

Muddy Rivers rum and hand sanitizer

We were impressed with both their rum and their community spirit, so when the opportunity arose to take a tour, we jumped on it. Co-founder Robbie Delaney conducted our tour, and he did a fantastic job. It was so interesting to learn about all the ins and outs of producing rum, and we got to sample several of their offerings as well. We both liked the rum with basil, so we purchased a bottle of that. Robbie suggested using it for mojitos, but admitted his favorite was to drink it was in lemonade. We tried that tonight, and he did not lie. It's tasty! We decided that the tour will be a great place to take guests in the future.

Muddy River Distillery

Monday, April 12, 2021

Kayak More, Worry Less

It has gotten warm enough here to take our kayaks out on Mountain Island Lake. I love that we can put our kayaks on their carts and roll them down the street to put into the water. It is one thing to sit in our back yard 100' above the lake, and another to actually be out on the water. We can cross the main channel to get into the back coves that are too shallow for anything motorized to enter. And there we can find the water birds and turtles. It is such a blessing to be retired in this little piece of paradise, especially during Covid-19. It is very easy to socially distance on the water!

kayaking on Mountain Island Lake

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Hoppy Easter

Hoppy Easter!
Today is Easter Sunday, and we are having a quiet celebration at home, just the two of us. Yesterday our community had an Easter Egg Hunt for the grandchildren of residents, including a visit from the Easter Bunny and a food truck serving pizza. We went to pick up our pizza at noon, and decided to say hello to the bunny. Why not? I admire that our lifestyle director is trying to make the most out of keeping us entertained during a pandemic.

Our pickleball club here has regularly scheduled mixed doubles play on Sunday afternoons, and I decided not to cancel it despite the holiday. We normally have 12 or more players on Sundays, but so far I only know of 7 who are coming today. The weather is perfect and it should be 72 degrees at 3:00, so we will have fun despite the low numbers.

Speaking of pickleball, the lifestyle director asked if I would be willing to put on a beginners clinic since we have so many new people moving to the community. I have already done two of these since our club formed in August of last year, and that doesn't take into account the people with whom I have done one on one instruction. It will take place next Saturday, and I limited registration to 12. The event filled in less than a day, and the wait list of 20 is maxed out. Wow! That number even surprised me, and I know how many people have been asking me about learning how to play.

We currently have 65 members in the Pickleball Imagery Club, and I expect that number to grow as we bring these new players onboard. I've been the President since the club formed, and it has become somewhat of an unpaid part-time job for me. I'll need to recruit more people to take over some of my tasks as the year progresses. We did come up with a club logo and offered merchandise earlier this year. The items were marked up slightly to raise money for the club. We anticipate needing to purchase things for pickleball down the road, such as windscreens for the courts. The sale was a success, and a second offering of shirts and hats will be coming online this month.

Pickleball Imagery Club shirts

So another Covid-19 holiday has arrived as we wait for this vicious virus to either be eradicated or enough people to get vaccinated that it won't impact our lives in such a huge way. Happy Easter to all who celebrate this blessed day.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Mini Vacay

Folly Field Beach sunrise
Last week we took off for a mini vacation. First we drove to Hilton Head for a few days, staying in a friend's timeshare unit. We were there at this time last year, before Covid-19 brought all travel to a halt. It is always great to be at the beach, and to be out in nature enjoying the wildlife. Unfortunately, just like last year, the no-see-ums bit the heck out of me. It's not too fun to have to wear long sleeves and pants to walk on the beach, but that's what I had to do. They still got my faces, scalp and hands though.

From Hilton Head we made our way towards Charleston, stopping to visit the Charleston Tea Plantation. This is the only tea plantation in North America, and since I love tea I was eager to see it. While they are not running their trolley tours due to Covid, we still were able to watch some videos on how the tea is grown and harvested, and to sample some tea.

Charleston Tea Plantation

A short distance from Charleston is the Isle of Palms, where we spent another two days visiting old friends from St. Louis. We have all been vaccinated, so we felt safe staying with them. They showed us around the island that they now pretty much call home, and took us on a tour of Charleston as well. What struck me in Charleston was the number of people who did not wear masks, despite posted signs stating that it was required in the city. It's a sad commentary on the people of the United States, I believe. If you don't want to wear a mask, stay home. It is no surprise to me that our Covid numbers are on the rise again in this country.

face mask required

At any rate, it was nice to get away for a short time and visit with friends. It felt a little like getting back to normal.

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

More on Covid-19

Governor Cooper passed a new Executive Order regarding Covid-19, which went into effect on March 25th. North Carolina has continued to show improvement in the number of covid cases, and vaccine distribution also increased with 31.7% of North Carolinians over 18 having received at least one dose of vaccine. Due to those facts, the governor decided to again ease some COVID-19 restrictions. The main changes include: the number of people who may gather indoors increased from 25 to 50 and the number of people who may gather outdoors increased from 50 to 100. This Order also fully lifted the restriction on the late-night sale and service of alcoholic beverages on bars, restaurants, and other establishments. The new Order is set to expire April 30 at 5 pm. The state’s general mask mandate remains in effect.

Here are the current Covid statistics: North Carolina has had 916,000 cases and 12,107 deaths. In the United States there have been 30.3 million cases and 549,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 127 million cases and 2.79 million deaths.

Spring break is taking place right now, and with many states easing restrictions it remains to be seen what will happen with the United States covid numbers after all these travelers return to their homes or schools. It will be a month or so before the numbers will come in and be traced. Then we'll see if restrictions will have to go back in place. It's all a guessing game at this point.

Saturday, March 20, 2021

On Squirrels and Birds

Despite purchasing an 18" hook as recommended by the seller of the new bird feeder I purchased, the squirrels out back have mastered the fine art of dining from the feeder without tripping the anti-squirrel mechanism it contains. This one went through all kinds of gymnastics to reach in and grab a handful of food. She is about to be outsmarted though, as I have purchased a shepherd's hook which will be placed away from any trees.

wily squirrel

The amazing array of birds out back continues to amaze and entertain us each day. It is exciting to see so many birds that I haven't been exposed to before. I am getting a lot of practice with my camera, and enjoying birding as a way to pass the time during the pandemic.

Eastern Phoebe, cardinal and bluebird

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Luck of the Irish

Goin' Green at Imagery
Our 55+ community has been very conservative with events in light of the pandemic. We were fortunate to have not one but two St. Patrick's Day celebrations here, and the weather cooperated so they could be held outside. For the first event we had a man playing a guitar and singing, along with a lady playing bagpipes. A local Irish dance school offered up traditional Irish dances, and a food truck kept us from going hungry. 

Yesterday's event had entertainment by our own local disc jockey. He played Irish songs, including sing-alongs, and asked some Irish trivia questions. The dance school sent a different group of girls to show off their skills. Another food truck was here for that event, though no corned beef and cabbage was to be found. That was okay with me, as I'm not a fan.

Today St. Patrick's Day 2021 closed in a big way with the appearance of a beautiful rainbow over the lake out back. I didn't see a pot of gold, but to be sure it was a glorious sight!

rainbow over Mountain Island Lake