Friday, February 26, 2021

Covid-19 Update

Covid-19 vaccine

Today is a Covid big news day here. First of all, I got my second vaccination this morning through Atrium Health. Their drive through system is the best. You never have to leave your car, and they have it down to a fine science. While there were a few more cars in line than when I went for my first shot, it moved quickly. Again, the most time-consuming part is waiting the 15 minutes after the shot to make sure you don't have an adverse reaction. To say that I am relieved to receive both doses is an understatement! I realize I still have to take the usual precautions - wear a mask in public, socially distance, and wash my hands frequently - but I feel like I have given myself every chance to avoid getting Covid. Now I am eager for Jim to be protected. He turns 65 on Tuesday, and I am hopeful that we will be able to get him scheduled for his first shot quickly. 

The second big thing to happen is that Governor Cooper is removing the Modified Stay at Home order, which required people to stay at home and businesses to be closed between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m., effective as of 5:00 p.m. today. The number of people who can gather indoors increased from 10 to 25, while outdoor gatherings remain at 50 in attendance. Other attendance restrictions eased a bit as well, but these are the ones which affect most people. North Carolina's numbers for positive Covid tests and cases as well as hospitalizations due to Covid are trending downwards, so that is why he is easing restrictions.

Here are the current Covid statistics: North Carolina has had 858,000 cases and 11,162 deaths. In the United States there have been 28.4 million cases and 508,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 113 million cases and 2.5 million deaths.

It's great that the numbers are trending downwards, but we really need everyone to remain vigilant. Hopefully people won't go crazy just because they are vaccinated. It can't be stressed enough that we need to follow the same safety protocols as before we got the shots in order to have a chance at containing and hopefully defeating this beast.

Friday, February 19, 2021

For the Birds

Last spring I got my first bird feeder (with the exception of feeding the hummingbirds over the years). I purchased one specifically designed for finches as we have many goldfinches in the backyard. It has functioned very well, attracting other small birds too. Bird watching has become a favorite thing to do during Covid-19 and the safer at home mandates.

My next door neighbor has multiple feeders in her yard, and while I enjoy watching them, they are too far away for me to be able to capture good bird photos. So this week I ordered a new feeder that was advertised as being able to attract a large variety of birds. I put it on an existing hook that I had used for my second hummingbird feeder last year. But that hummingbird feeder attracted too many ants, despite my best efforts to dissuade them, so I threw it away the middle of last summer. The hook has remained empty since.

Though the information that came with my new feeder warned that it could take awhile for the birds to find and trust a new feeder, that did not prove to be the case. The afternoon that I hung it, birds were already munching away. I am thrilled with all the different birds it has brought to the yard. Now I can stand in my warm kitchen and photograph the birds through the windows. I'm particularly excited to see the cardinals up close as I always think of my father-in-law when I see them. He loved them!

I need to purchase a new hook, however, as a wily squirrel has already figured out how to hang on the side of the tree and reach out to grab the feeder. While it is billed as a squirrel-proof feeder, they do recommend you have 18" of clearance from all trees. I don't want him chewing on my new feeder, so I'll order up a longer bracket. I may be tempted to get a third feeder as well. My yard is definitely for the birds!

birds out back

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Happy Covidtine's Day

Halloween pumpkin hanging in there,
appropriately masked for Valentine's Day

Celebrating Valentine's Day during a pandemic necessitates creative thinking. Going into a restaurant was not an option in our minds. We decided to make a nice dinner at the house, including brookies (a combination of brownies and chocolate chip cookies) for dessert. But first I had to decide what to do about a card for my husband and daughter, who has been working remotely at our house since mid-November.

Putting my new watercolor supplies to work, I made both of them a card. There are so many cute ideas online that it was easy to find inspiration and adapt the cards to my particular use.

watercolor Valentines for my loves

Jim surprised us with flowers, donuts and chocolate covered strawberries, which were a nice start to a rainy Valentine's Day. We added to that a nice omelet, and then played some games during the afternoon. Dinner consisted of Italian Beef served on rolls, oven roasted potatoes, salad and brookies. We ended the day by watching a couple episodes of Anne with an E, which we are trying to get through before Katie heads back to LA.

Overall it was a very nice, if unusual, Valentine's Day.

Monday, February 8, 2021

Covid-19 Vaccine Update

sunrise on Mountain Island Lake

It has been three days since I received my first Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination. My injection site arm was a little sore Friday and Saturday, but by Sunday that had totally gone away. I experienced no other reactions from the shot. The most serious, of course, would be an anaphylactic reaction, which is why they have you wait 15 minutes following the injection as that is the time period during which such a reaction most likely will occur. 

Some people experience swelling at the site of the shot, which honestly normally happens to me. Other common side effects are fever, chills, tiredness and headaches. While I am feeling very fortunate that I didn't experience any of those things, I do know that it is more common for them to occur following the second shot. But I'll count my blessings that the first one went so smoothly.

Friday, February 5, 2021

Not Throwing Away My Shot

Atrium Health Covid-19 vaccination tent

This morning I was able to receive my first Covid-19 vaccination at the Atrium Healthcare facility in Concord, NC, which is about 45 minutes away from my home. Once we figured out where on the huge campus the shots were taking place, the process could not have been easier. We drove up and were immediately greeted by an attendant who verified how many in the car were being vaccinated. (I had Jim come with me in case I had an adverse reaction, but as he is not 65 yet he is ineligible to receive the shot in North Carolina at this point.) After I told the man it was just me, he asked if I had received a bar code from Atrium, which unfortunately I had not. He handed me paperwork that I had to fill out, as well a a vaccine report card on which they record your first and second shots.

first Pfizer Covid-19 vaccination

He then sent me up to the next attendant, and she made sure that I did indeed have an appointment, verified my date of birth and address, and waited while I completed the form. Next I drove straight ahead to a large tent, where a nurse asked me a couple of other questions, checked my paperwork, and then gave me the shot. It was the least painful injection I have ever received - way better than tetanus and shingle shots. From there I pulled behind a few cars where I was asked to wait 15 minutes before leaving. This is to make sure you don't have a severe reaction to the vaccine, which is rare but has occurred. From start to finish, we were there less than 25 minutes, and I never had to leave my car. Easy, peasy! 

It has been three hours since the injection, and while my arm is slightly sore everything else is fine so far. I know I may get some reaction, and I suspect I will as I have from other shots. And I have heard that reactions increase with the second shot. But that is good as your body is doing what it is supposed to do at that point.

I recognize that I am incredibly fortunate to have been able to schedule my vaccinations. I hope that when Jim turns 65 next month, we are able to get appointments for him as well. And I pray that the vast majority of Americans will agree to be vaccinated, as that is the only way we can kill off this deadly virus.

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Modified Stay at Home Order Extended Again

Governor Cooper has extended our stay at home order again, this time until February 28th. He said that while the numbers have stabilized a bit over the past few days, they are still too high. He added that too many residents are falling ill to Covid and there are still too many deaths from the virus. We are at day 250 of Safer at Home orders, and 307 of overall restrictions due to the pandemic. 

To date, North Carolina has had 731,000 cases and 8,839 deaths. In the United States there have been 25.5 million cases and 425,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 100 million cases and 2.16 million deaths.

While earlier it seemed clear that a covid vaccine would soon be available to all who wanted to get one, recent events have indicated a shortage of the shots. Whether that is because the states aren't getting the supply (which is what they say) or the states have the supply but don't have the manpower or funds to administer the shots (which is what the pharmaceutical companies are saying) is unclear. It is sad that there is so much finger pointing going on in what is literally a matter of life and death. There are all kinds of tales of people receiving the vaccine who do not qualify (due to their age or work situation) while other folks who clearly qualify due to age or health are being told there is no appointment available for them.

The fog that rolled in here last night is indicative of my current mood. 

foggy night

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

Number 46

God bless America

Today Joe Biden was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States. His job will not be an easy one in light of the divisiveness our country has experienced, particularly in the last four years. For the first time we have a female Vice President, Kamala Harris, who is African-American and Indian-American. A lot of history was made today.

Everything about the inauguration was upbeat while at the same time not sugar-coating the fact that we are an America divided. The message was clear that there is much work to do, and that it will take all of us to make a difference in our country. 

I pray that the President and Vice President, along with all the elected officials, will be able to do their jobs bravely and peacefully. It will be interesting to see how Biden will approach the pandemic as the country has now exceeded 400,000 deaths from the coronavirus. He canceled most of the normal inauguration events due to the virus. But I have to admit that it was surprising to see the number of people gathered together at the Capitol Building for the ceremony, even though they were wearing masks. Hopefully it will not become a super-spreader event.

The first National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman perhaps captured most the temperature of the United States in the poem that she read at the inauguration. Entitled "The Hill We Climb", she began with the following:

"When day comes we ask ourselves, where can we find light in this never-ending shade? The loss we carry, a sea we must wade. We’ve braved the belly of the beast, we’ve learned that quiet isn’t always peace and the norms and notions of what just is, isn’t always justice. And yet the dawn is ours before we knew it, somehow we do it, somehow we’ve weathered and witnessed a nation that isn’t broken but simply unfinished." The poem is powerful, and you can read it in its entirety here. Such wise words from a young woman of 22. It will be interesting to follow her career.

God bless our country's leaders, and God bless America!

Thursday, January 14, 2021

That's a Shot in the Arm!

seeing the light

The federal government a couple days ago announced that the Covid-19 vaccine can now be administered to anyone 65 and older. The states were still in group 1b, which was for folks age 75 and older. This is one of the few times when I am excited about my age as I turned 65 last fall.

Today I was able to register online with one of the major health care systems in the area, even though it is not the system my primary care doctor is in. The system crashed many times due to user overload, but once I got through the process I was able to go ahead and book my appointment. It took some trial and error because each time I picked an appointment, by the time I verified my information the time slot would no longer be available. I prevailed, though, and I will receive my first shot on February 5th.

I cannot begin to express how uplifting this development is to me and my friends who have secured a date to receive their first vaccination. For the first time we can actually see a little light at the end of the tunnel we have been stuck in since last March.

Jim is not eligible yet as he doesn't turn 65 for a couple months. By then I will have hopefully received both doses of the vaccine. It is only the second time that I have been happy about being older than him (the first becoming eligible for Medicare). I pray that soon everyone will have access to this life-saving vaccine, and we can wipe Covid-19 off the face of the earth.

Saturday, January 9, 2021

Peace in Nature

Between Covid-19 and the unrest in this country, it is hard to find peace. But this scene from my back yard yesterday morning came close to soothing my soul.

seagulls on Mountain Island Lake

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Proud to be an American?

One thing I have never done on my social media channels is discuss politics. I've always thought there were many good reasons for the old adage "don't discuss politics or religion." We are all entitled to our personal opinions on both. Most likely you won't change my mind, and I probably won't change yours.

But yesterday's storm on Capitol Hill by Trump protestors has really sickened me. Protest the election results all you want, it is your right. But to illegally enter and damage the Capitol building - a symbol of the American people and their government - is beyond belief. Our country is already so divided over many things, and this riot in Washington, D.C. really illustrates how wide-spread the division has become.

There are a lot of unanswered questions regarding who the protestors are and how they managed to breach the building on the very day that Congress was verifying the electoral college votes to determine who the next President of the United States will be. Hopefully those who broke the law will be aptly punished for what they did.

Despite the chaos around them, Congress stayed into the early morning hours to count the electoral college votes. Joe Biden has been officially declared the 46th President of the United States. I can only hope and pray that he can bring healing to a country that is being torn apart from within by its own citizens. I'm not looking for a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, but instead peace for the country of my birth.

rainbow over Mountain Island Lake

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Still Staying at Home

Another announcement was released by Governor Cooper today regarding Covid-19 restrictions in North Carolina. Current rules were set to expire this Friday, but basically due to the devastating statistics that are coming out, he extended the restrictions for at least another 3 weeks. We are at day 229 of Safer at Home orders, and 286 of overall restrictions due to the pandemic. 

To date, North Carolina has had 578,000 cases and 7,080 deaths. In the United States there have been 21.1 million cases and 357,000 deaths. Worldwide there have been 86.8 million cases and 1.88 million deaths. The statistics are daunting, and the fear is that we haven't seen the peak of cases resulting from the more than 80 million Americans who traveled over the Christmas and New Years holidays.

With the Covid vaccine being months away from having a significant impact on the spread of this deadly virus, it is difficult not to get discouraged at the situation we find ourselves in. I continue to be grateful that Mother Nature offers me an opportunity on a daily basis to stop and take a breath.

yesterday's sunset

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Take a Hike!

 While Covid-19 has kept us pretty close to home, we do try to get out and enjoy nature when we can. Saturday we drove to South Mountains State Park, which is about an hour and a half away from where we live. There is a beautiful waterfall there, and we have hiked the trail to get to it once before. I forgot that it is a pretty arduous hike, despite the fact that the hiking websites describe the trail as "Moderate". I have decided that it must be 20-30 year olds who are rating the trails. What is "Moderate" to them is definitely "Strenuous" to people in their 60s.

Rain on Thursday and Friday meant that the trail was wet and muddy. That was the bad news. But the good news was that the creek was full and flowing, and there was an abundance of water coming down from the falls. The park was quite crowded, which is a bad thing during Covid. The trail is quite narrow at many points, making it very hard to socially distance. While we were masked, I would guess only about 25% of the other hikers had masks on. It is so frustrating!

After the hike, we took the chairs and lunch we had packed and sat along the creek to eat. It was peaceful, and a good way to relax before making the drive back to Mount Holly. But we will definitely avoid going to any of the parks on the weekends again. 

South Mountains State Park