So Long 2020. Welcome 2021.

2020 is finally coming to an end. Even though in some ways it seems like a very long year, in others it was like time was flying by. I have been keeping a “pandemic calendar” since March when things started heating up. A friend gave it to me and on the outside it says “2020, A Year to Remember.” I’ll say. 

Even though the year is almost over, the reason it was such a bitch isn’t. In fact, just today I saw that they have a new variation of the virus in England and Scotland that is 70% more transmissible than what we have been dealing with. Combined with pandemic fatigue and people who don’t even believe in it, things should get interesting fast.

My cousin’s son is in Scotland on lockdown. He has been traveling through Europe for the past year and is allowed into other countries precisely because he hasn’t been in the USA. In fact, when he got to Scotland and required to quarantine, the Scottish Border Control called him and asked if he needed groceries or medications.  They had somebody deliver them to him so he wouldn’t have to break quarantine. He said it was refreshing to be in a country that was taking the virus seriously. Meanwhile, Trump has been promoting herd immunity and slowing down the vaccine delivery to states that are run by Democrats. January 20 can’t come soon enough. 

An author friend of mine in Virginia and his wife both caught the virus and he has been describing his symptoms on Facebook. It sounds full-body miserable. Another friend related that his older brother had it, then reported as he went into in critical condition and was put on a ventilator. Then he had a stroke and died. Yikes! 

We are planning a quiet Christmas with just the two of us, of course. On the menu? Smoked brisket, scalloped potatoes, Chef John’s green beans with lemon and pecans (they were really good on Thanksgiving) with my mom’s cheesecake for dessert. And Tequila Bloody Marys. We will count our blessings and be thankful for all we have and can do. My heart goes out to those who are suffering, have lost their jobs, their homes and loved ones. Can you imagine being quarantined with someone you don’t like very much? I bet a lot of people find themselves in that situation. 

We had a phone meeting with our financial advisor and she reported that we are doing fine. Even though we missed out on two international trips this year, hopefully we can travel next year. At the very least, we’re going out in the bus. We have a neon sign we bought from a friend in Denver that we need to pick up. When he tried to ship it they wouldn’t touch it because they said it would break. We hope to see our friends Marni and Eric in mid-Missouri. Last fall, Eric had a terrible accident and basically blinded himself in one eye. He has had several surgeries and his vision is expanding but still blurry. Our good friend Judy lost her husband Warren this year and several friends here have also passed away. 

We know we are blessed and BIG BIG lucky!
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We sincerely wish you all a very warm and  holiday season and the very best of 2021. 

The Turkey’s in the Brine!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, has been for a very long time. No presents, no gifts to buy, just good food and good company. Of course this year the good company part is suspended thanks to COVID-19, cases of which are rising daily. Over 220,000 new cases a day!

We are foregoing our normal large gathering and it will be just the two of us this year for dinner. Last year we had ten people and it was a rocking good time, a Friends Thanksgiving. Hope we can do that again next year. 

From last year’s feast…

Part of the Thanksgiving tradition is Bill Bridge’s Tequila Bloody Mary recipe. Perfect for sipping on all day long while cooking and preparing. Click here for the recipe. I have a big batch mixed up for my taste testers to try before the big day.

This year I changed up the turkey brine recipe. Here’s the update. I normally brine for 48 hours but this year I am going for 72 hours. It IS 2020, after all…

2020 Turkey Brine Recipe (15.5 pound fresh turkey)
Add to a cooking pot:
1 1/2 heads garlic, peeled and cloves crushed
2 cups Kosher salt
2 cups brown sugar
2 cups Orange Juice (not from concentrate)
2 cinnamon sticks
3 T. Thyme
3 T. Tarragon (I ran out of Rosemary)
6 Bay leaves, crushed
Zest, pulp and flesh of two navel oranges
15 Allspice, crushed
15 Cloves, crushed
2 T. Peppercorns, crushed
1/2 gallon Apple Cider

Stir well and bring to a boil.

Add 1/2 gallon apple cider and 2 gallons water to a clean 5 gallon bucket. Add the boiled stovetop mixture and mix well. Remove all the organs from the turkey, rinse and immerse in the bucket. Put the lid on and store in a cool place. We used to put the bucket in the garage in Kansas but it’s too warm here to leave out so we make room in the refrigerator, which is packed!

When ready to cook on Thursday, fill the sink with cold water and ice cubes. Rinse the turkey well in the cold water for about ten minutes to remove any excess salty flavor and pat dry. We don’t stuff a brined turkey, but add cut up lemons and oranges to the cavity. You could also add a cut up onion.

When it’s time to roast the turkey, melt a half stick of butter in a skillet. Add 10 cloves garlic, either cloves left whole or minced garlic. Add 1 T. Thyme, kosher salt and fresh ground pepper.

Pro tip: Before placing the turkey in the roasting pan, make a 5 inch wide “sling” of aluminum foil, folded over several times. Place the sling under the turkey in the middle with plenty of room on both ends to easily lift the turkey from the pan when done. I learned this from my dad.

Pour the butter and garlic over the turkey and sprinkle the bird with pepper and Hungarian paprika. Place in a 450 degree oven, uncovered, and roast 20 to thirty minutes until golden brown. This method guarantees a well browned turkey without having to turn up the oven and try to brown at the end.

Lower the temperature to 325 degrees. Either use a loose tent of foil over the turkey or replace the top of the roasting pan, slightly askew. Baste every 20 minutes or so with drippings from the pan. A sixteen pound turkey will be done in about 3-1/2 hours. When the internal temperature reaches about 175-180 degrees and the juices run clear, remove from the oven and let rest for at least twenty minutes while making the gravy.

The brine makes the gravy fabulous without having to add any extra spices or flavor. To avoid lumpy gravy, make a watery paste with flour and water and add slowly to the gravy stock. Works every time. I learned this from my mom.

The menu:

Billl Bridges Tequila Bloody Marys
Mashed potatoes made with heavy cream and lots of butter
Chef John’s Green Beans with pecans, lemon and parsley, simple and delicious
Homemade dinner rolls
Homemade cranberry sauce (a friend is making this and sharing)
And for dessert, my mom’s famous cheesecake recipe, which I may as well include here. It’s super easy and tasty.

Mix together:
1 pound cream cheese (we use lowfat)
2/3 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
Pour into 10 inch graham cracker crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes until middle is firm, not soupy. Cool at least one hour.

1 pint sour cream (lowfat)
3 T. sugar
1 t. vanilla extract
Pour over cooled mixture and spread evenly.
Bake 10 minutes at 350 degrees. Cool.
Top with graham cracker crumbs or fruit pie filling. Jim likes blueberry.

This can be made several days ahead and kept in the refrigerator. I would do that now but the refrigerator is filled up! I will figure something out.

Even though the holiday will be different this year, we are looking forward to celebrating the many things we have to be grateful for. This is the year to not think about what you are missing out on, but be thankful for what you have. We certainly are.

A Time to Heal…

Now that the election is over (sorta, kinda) it’s time to repair our country. The deep divisions championed and exploited by Donald Trump have done a lot of harm. I think alot of people resoundingly rejected those methods but the problem lies with the almost half of voters who still support Trump. Why? I’ll never know. I have always maintained that he is a horrible person, assaulting woman and bragging about it, calling his political enemies disgusting, insulting nicknames, inciting racial violence and white supremacy and of course, making EVERYTHING about him. He just doesn’t know how to operate any other way. His phrase “your favorite President, me!” is a bad joke.

As of this writing they have called the election for Biden and Trump should just accept the results of the election and go quietly into the night. It’s not in his nature to do that though. His own family said he will start breaking things and that if he has to cheat and steal to win, he still considers it a win. He will probably never concede and I’d bet good money that he won’t have the traditional sit-down photo op with Biden or attend the inauguration. I just hope he doesn’t do too much damage in the meantime. Like not allowing the smooth transition of power to occur.

While I am delighted to have a new President, I am troubled by many peoples’ reactions to the virus in this country, which is spreading by leaps and bounds. Over 220,000 cases A DAY and a quarter of a million Americans dead since April. I get that everybody has pandemic fatigue but this is one of those times when if everybody would just do the recommended things, we would all be through with it a lot sooner. Limit your trips to essential services, wear a mask and social distance in public, don’t gather in groups and wash your hands. Then wash your hands again.

Some people just aren’t doing those things. Well, some are, but many across the country continue to sit shoulder-to-shoulder in groups, attend large events, eat in restaurants and not maintain physical distance. And now, against all health experts recommendations, lots of people will be traveling for Thanksgiving, and probably Christmas too. It is discouraging and frustrating because we have been trying to do the recommended things since March. Yeah, I’m tired of it too. Very tired. But I would hate to blow our months of shelter in place now. I guess we choose to err on the side of caution.

We haven’t even had a dinner party. That is one of the things I miss the most. But we are pulling out all the stops for Thanksgiving. We practice yoga a couple of days a week in a large high ceiling room with a concrete floor where physical distancing is possible. That’s about the only activity we have done except I still swim laps. Some people are acting like the virus isn’t even a real thing, and as seen by the number of Trump flags all over before the election, I don’t wonder why. Most of them have come down now. Shouldn’t they at least be at half mast?

Several of our friends are not coming this season, including our Kansas Chiefs pals, Doc and J. And my bud Elsie with her husband and two cats are wintering in their home in Massachusetts. None of our Canadian friends are here since travel is banned to the USA. Meanwhile, on the cusp of winter, people are coming into the park from all over the country. And our county is one of the hotspots in Texas which has over a million cases, more than Mexico and Italy. Stay safe!

We are happy about the timing when we bought our little house and the garden is doing well. It’s something to do. We are very appreciative that we are where we are and can do what we can. We count our blessings daily. Pandemic fatigue is real, I know.

The hospitals are filling up all over the country. Health experts are warning of a horror show this winter. Cold weather will force people inside where community spread is more likely to occur. And now they are saying the spread is not Just from large events, but smaller ones in peoples’ homes as well. Who knows?

Winter is coming. It could be a long one. And as my friend, Jennie says “Wear your damn mask!”

Everything’s Coming Up Rainbows

Well, not really with the months of quarantine and the political landscape being what it is…

But we do remind ourselves on a regular basis that we are lucky and to count our blessings. Jim is putting in hours of practice on his ukulele, I’m still swimming laps and we are fortunate to have our little house and garden. The house and especially the porch have been an excellent respite. And as I mentioned in this post, cooking has assumed a new importance. I read the New York Times every day and have gotten lots of good recipe ideas there. Some examples:

Crockpot baby back ribs with tomato and olive salad
Pasta and beef
Bacon wrapped shrimp from the grill for Chiefs game day
Barbecued chicken with Cajun potato salad and tomato
Sourdough/whole wheat bread
Brats and tots for game day. We always watched the games with our friends Doc and J but they aren’t coming this year because they’re being careful about Covid. We miss them.
White chicken chili with Parmesan and avocado
Pork medallions and broccoli

My Kansas City yoga friend, Melody, is a weaver now and when she showed a picture of her tea towels on Facebook I asked her if she had an Etsy shop. She said no. But she made us these awesome pieces. They seemed too nice to use for tea (dish) towels but we have started using them and they are amazing. We saved the red and white one for a Chiefs game day coffee table placemat.

After Hurricane Hanna and the subsequent downpour we decided we should fix the garden shed which is attached to the back of the house and the only part of the house on ground level. Our friends Cher and Steve had a good solution; cut out the wood on the ground up to where it flooded and replace with concrete block. That way, even if it flooded no damage to the wood. Jim and Richie were going to do it but we hired somebody and are glad we did. Before and after:

We bought a pole saw and have been doing a lot of the tree trimming in the garden ourselves but one tree had really taken off and was out of control, the Flame Tree. When we moved in, this tree was just a stump and we weren’t sure it would grow back, but it did with a vengeance. Just two years later it was over 20 feet tall and quickly encroaching on the other trees, the house and our neighbor’s house. At that rate we wouldn’t even be able to reach the branches to cut them off. It’s too bad it never bloomed; the bright red blooms stay on for weeks in early summer. But it was moving in on the Crape Myrtle which looked like this for quite a while.

We tried to get the park’s tree guy to come by and give us an estimate and at one point he said he would be over in 15 minutes but he never showed. So we called the company we used before and they came out and did the job the same day. We got our tree guy now.



And after:

At the back of the house, the new castor beans are starting to get big. Finally some shade for the outdoor shower! The picture on the right is when they are about two months old. I never water them and they just keep growing.

The Flame Tree was also starting to interfere with our flagpole which blew down during the hurricane. Jim ordered another one and got to work.

People are starting to come back into the park from all over the country. Some people are being careful and social distancing but many aren’t. They have shoulder to shoulder happy hours and some indoor activities. We remain vigilant. I know people who have had the virus and they were very sick, even with a “moderate” case. And now they are learning that there can be long term effects like organ damage and decreased brain activity.

Just a few more days until the election. VOTE! Vote as if your life depends on it, because it might.

What a Difference a Year Makes!

Last year we arrived at our winter place in Texas on September 14. We knew we had garden cleanup ahead of us since the substitute gardener had gotten a little, let’s say, overzealous in the watering department and it was overgrown. With a little luck and alot of effort we got it back into shape.

We planned to stay the winter and booked a trip to Playa Sonrisa for March. We haven’t been back for several years so it was time! We also booked a month in Europe, biking and barging on the Danube. We were really looking forward to that.

One thing I love about traveling is all the different subject matter for photography. Needless to say, I was especially looking forward to Europe. And our beach vacation in Mexico. Both were cancelled, of course. Nobody wants Americans in their country. Who can blame them?

We have never spent the whole summer in Texas and with Texas’ high numbers of coronavirus cases and almost everything being closed, it was time to sit out traveling in the bus too. Since we started traveling six years ago, we have never stayed in one place for a full year. Now we have. And who knows what next year will be like.

Along with the virus, so far 2020 has brought us a hurricane and flooding, a chance to document the flood daily with iPad art. It rained six inches during the hurricane and the flooding wasn’t too bad in the park. Then a week later we got a sudden and freak rainstorm that dumped six inches of rain in an hour.

More iPad art around the garden.

We have considered taking the bus out a couple of times and so far decided against it. We have been quarantined for so long we hate to blow it. And the pandemic is not nearly over yet. We have a neon sign for our porch that we need to get from Denver since it can’t be shipped.

We are glad we bought our little house when we did! It’s nice to have the porch and a real kitchen, washer and dryer. The garden gives me something to do and is coming along after the flood. Jim has kept the trees trimmed with the polesaw. He practices yoga and ukulele every day and I am still swimming laps and starting to do some yoga again. More on that later. Maybe…

We have heard that life will not return to “normal” anytime soon and we haven’t even approached the second wave of the virus yet, we are still in the first wave with cases rising due to early re-opening.

We have plenty of food and booze. Life is good.

What Should We Have for Dinner Tonight?

The pandemic question of the day…

Having been in quarantine since early March this is the big question of the day. We have pretty much established our lockdown routine. We get up in the morning, read the paper with coffee and breakfast. I check Facebook, the Huffington Post, New York Times and we still subscribe to the Kansas City Star; I’m not sure why. Then we ask ourselves about dinner in case we have to get something out of the freezer or, God forbid, cook! We stock up about once a month on food and liquor and we are using a friend’s freezer here to store the overflow while they are gone for the summer. When we shop, it is a full day. Grocery, liquor store, Junior’s, the Mexican grocery store and maybe Lowe’s or the hardware store. We normally get carry-out on those shopping days and it’s usually Mexican. When dinner rolls around that day, we are happy we stopped for takeout.

In the mornings, Jim does yoga on the porch and I either do that or swim laps for an hour or so, then read my book and work on my tan up at the pool. When I come back he is practicing ukulele on the porch. Lunch is always the same for both of us, he makes a sandwich and I have a can of tuna. Something new and different. Ha!

Dinner is one of the high points of the day so we try to make it delicious and satisfying. A few examples…

Tacos are a frequent choice. Greens, meat, cheese, avocado and tomato with green and red salsa
Scallops, shrimp and bacon grilled as kebobs on the Big Green Egg.IMG_2628
Baked Panko Parmesan chicken with avocado and tomato salad.IMG_2531
Steak, mashed potatoes and broccoli. The steaks are huge; several leftover meals from this.
Smoked brisket, pasta, and broccoli with sourdough bread. The brisket was very large and we froze a bunch of it.
Baked chicken and au gratin potatoes.
Mississippi pot roast in the crock pot and mashed potatoes. The pot roast was super easy and delicious and yes, mashed potatoes are a comfort food even if it is 100 degrees outside.
Country ribs and broccoli Parmesan. We like broccoli.
Baby back ribs in the crock pot and salad.
Steak and more mashed potatoes on my birthday. Again, huge steak.
Cioppino and sourdough bread. Jim made a giant batch of this for the freezer too. It is very tasty.

And the bread baking phase of the pandemic has arrived. I made banana bread a couple of times with my mom’s super easy recipe. And with the sourdough starter I got from my friend in Kansas, I baked my first bread in many years. I wasn’t real hopeful but it turned out really well.  Gotta feed the starter and make some more this week. Then I want to try  pizza dough and make pizza on the grill.

What are you having for dinner tonight?

When It Rains, It Pours!

August 1 started out like this.
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I woke up and saw the pink sky and I thought “August is going to be better.” Took this picture and noticed that the field in front of the house still had a few water patches but the pumps were doing their job and the level was receding. Of course we still have the surge in coronavirus cases and our cancelled month in Europe but best to be optomistic.

I had planned to do more hurricane damage repair in the garden but because of all the water the mosquitoes were fierce. When it’s wet is a great time to pull weeds and stand stuff back up. Thankfully the house was OK. We had happy hour on the porch, glad we were protected from the mosquitoes. Then we had a nice dinner and went back out on the porch.

I had been checking the weather because we had already had round two of thunderstorms the day before but not enough to raise the level in the field. Sigh of relief all around.
IMG_2994Both of our weather apps said there was ZERO chance of precipitation and it was cooling off nicely. When I say cooling off, I mean to around 80 degrees. Better than 99 and the sun was going down.

Around 7:30 PM all that changed. The sky was getting darker and it started raining. Hard. We thought it wouldn’t last long but we were wrong. The storm dropped about six inches of rain in less than an hour. The ground was already thoroughly saturated from Hanna and the water level rose quickly. I’ve always said that weathermen (weatherpeople?) are the only ones who can be wrong most of the time and still keep their jobs.

IMG_3043.jpgIn no time flat, the field was covered by about eight inches of water and the road was covered. The garden is flooded front to back. We hadn’t moved our bikes off the porch and the car was still parked on higher ground. The bus is stored offsite in a place where they say it has never flooded. The water was rising so fast that we were worried that neighbors who had brought their cars back wouldn’t be able to see the road to move them.

This morning I put on my rain boots again and took a little slosh-around through the park. I had planned to go up and swim my laps but the mosquitoes were still around (of course they were!) and it was almost unbearably humid. And it was pushing 95 degrees by noon so I decided it was an indoor day. We are thankful that we have power and water.

They are pumping water out and at least the county isn’t pumping more into the park. For now, anyway. A friend just down the road from the park said they didn’t get much rain and the roads were clear. So maybe it will go down sooner rather than later. In 2018 it flooded with very deep water in the park that lasted a couple of weeks. People had to evacuate because you couldn’t get around. That was when friends unloaded our trailer for us. In the dark and pouring down rain. . We are high and dry in the house with no damage. We have lots of food. At this rate we’ll probably have to go to the liquor store before we need groceries.

A friend of mine recently posted a photo a day of artwork they have in their house. I liked the idea and decided to do it too. Then I realized that we may need photos for insurance purposes so that is an incentive too. Will start on that tomorrow.

Is it time to start drinking yet? Asking for a friend.


Hurricane Hanna Aftermath

It has been a week since Hanna hit us as a Category One hurricane. We weren’t sure what to expect but our park is on very low ground as is the entire surrounding area. We did all the preparation we could. Moved almost everything off the porch, packed a “Go” bag in case we needed to leave, moved the car to higher ground, brought our bikes up from the driveway. There wasn’t much we could do to prepare the garden, it would be on its own.

Saturday the 26th the theme song could have been “The Waiting is the Hardest Part.” Except it wasn’t, as it turned out. After dinner, we pulled our chairs to the back of the porch and waited. And waited. The rain started coming first and then the wind picked up. They said gusts up to 90 MPH. And my weather app showed that the eye was going to pass right over us. That happened about 10:45 PM.
IMG_0409The wind blew and blew and we were lucky that everything held tight at our place as far as the house was concerned. Friends were on Facebook reporting damage. Some friends right down the street posted “We just lost our carport!” When the carport blew, it took off some of the roof and they had a waterfall in their house. Another couple across the field also had their carport blown off and it was bouncing around on their roof. Not a good situation.

We watched the electrical explosions in the distance, lighting up the sky with blue lights. We lost power only briefly and our water mostly stayed on. We had filled containers for drinking and a bucket in the shower in case it was longer term. At one point we watched our flagpole come crashing down, taking out a couple of branches of the flame tree with it. In the morning we discovered that our martin house had come down. There are three in the field and two got taken out. There wasn’t much flying debris that we could see… Why do hurricanes and tornadoes always seem to hit at night? And in trailer parks, which we basically are.

As our self-appointed “Mayor” said, if this was just a Category One, and we ever hear that a Category Two, Three or Worse is on the way, we would definitely take off in the bus. We strongly considered it but the bus was pretty well stripped, stored offsite and the roads outside the park were flooded.

We went to bed but didn’t sleep much. The next morning we assessed the damage at our place and were lucky that the garden took the brunt of it. I did lose my spectacular castor beans in the back and the smaller red ones in front, the ground just got so saturated with 12 inches of rain that they couldn’t hold up. We also had to stand several small trees back up and stake them up. Not quite done with that project yet.

The castor beans. Before and after. On Monday we got out the pole saw and went to work. They had grown for two years with no frost and the trunks were thick. The stumps were even thicker. Good thing there were only six plants. We wanted to get them off the grass as soon as possible. That turned out to be a good thing and the tree guys started picking up the downed limbs on Friday. That turned out to be a very good thing…

It was still raining on Sunday so we put on our rain boots and took a swing around the park to view the damage. Two missing carports, sheds destroyed, lots of units missing skirting, tree limbs down. The pool was very full, the pool house roof was blown off and a smaller shed nearby lost its roof.

The water level wasn’t too bad, not up over the road. Until…

The areas outside the park were underwater and their houses aren’t built up like ours is. There is a reservoir right down the road from us and that is where the problems started to show up the following day. Cher, our friend who lost the carport posted a dire warning after we thought we were going to be in the all-clear. The county was running pumps outside our park and basically flooding us. The water level was rising and we were afraid that we would encounter water levels like 2018, when the water stood about a foot deep in parts of the park for a week!

Everybody got on the phone and called the county. They finally came out, took a look and left. The pumps started running in the park and the owner’s husband went out and bought another one. The water rose some more but that second pump seemed to make all the difference. A few houses had shingles blow off, causing water damage inside but we were lucky.

I started doing a quick iPad watercolor sketch of the view from the porch after the water started receding.

Notice that in the third one, the field is green again. Not just blue and green. And the road was dry and passable.

But stay tuned…

Batten Down the Hatches!

Hurricane Hanna is coming…

It hardly ever rains here in the Rio Grande Valley. We may get a quarter of an inch at a time. Not too long ago we got three inches! But we have seen the pattern; we want rain, just not the entire year’s rainfall at the same time. We are in a very low lying area and prone to flooding.

Now the hurricane is approaching and we are in its direct path. It has just  started raining. The main problem with this storm, they say, is that it is slow moving and will definitely cause flooding. The storm center has moved south from Corpus Christi with Edinburg in the eye of the storm. Haven’t we had enough excitement this year with the corona virus and all the related problems?

The park has been flooded before and the last time it did, the water stayed about six inches deep for a week or more. People who were here had to move to another park since they couldn’t drive in or out. I just did my monthly run to the grocery and liquor stores so we should be fine provision-wise. We replaced our air conditioner with a split system when we bought the house so nothing to damage underneath it. And we are abut three feet off the ground.

Since we’re not traveling this summer, we will experience it firsthand. We have done what we could to prepare, tied down anything outside, moved our car to higher ground and moved most things off the porch. It has just started raining and we could get as much as 15 or 18 inches! Yikes! I’ll take five or so, maybe we will get lucky. They have been working on the drainage ditches outside the park and they are empty since it has been so dry. Let’s hope they do their job. The park has the pumps in place to move the water; I just wish they were bigger.

I took some pictures of the garden in anticipation of the storm. We’ll see what the AFTER pictures look like. IMG_2933aThe castor beans in back of the house. They are fairly open so maybe the wind will blow through them. If not, even though they are so big, they are lightweight and fairly easy to handle. And I have lots more seeds.

Wish us luck and not too much rain.

It Ain’t Over Till It’s Over…

Yes, we’re all tired of being in quarantine. Those of us who are actually quarantining, that is. Our park is pretty much cleared out and understandably so; it has been 100 degrees and over for the last few weeks. We would love to be in the cool mountains of Colorado, visiting friends at the lake or just exploring the country in the bus. Our two international vacations have already been cancelled and refunded (mostly). We are staying put for the duration.

Now that the coronavirus has been successfully politicized it is getting worse. My blame is squarely placed on the government, which denied its existence or severity early on. Until today, over five months too late, the president wasn’t wearing a mask! If only he had paid attention to his own Center for Disease Control early on. Cases are rising. We haven’t even made it through the first wave and cases are surging upward. Florida had 15,300 new cases today. In one day… But they’re opening Disney World, beaches and other attractions. Once they opened the bars. cases began rising exponentially here in Texas, where we have some of the highest numbers. They quickly shut them back down but plenty of damage done.

Our county in the Rio Grande Valley has one in ten of the new cases per day. We have been really careful about going out or being around people here who are not taking it seriously. There aren’t many activities here in the summer which is a good thing. I have been swimming my hour of laps daily and it is actually amazing to have not just the entire pool, but the whole pool area to myself. We have limited our trips to town to about every three weeks and they are always taken with utmost precaution, masks, gloves,  glasses, wipes and limiting contact. Thankfully, most of the people in the grocery stores are wearing masks but social distancing? Not so much. I had to ask a person twice in the checkout line to stay six feet away from me. And forget those arrows in the aisles meant to be one-way and keep shoppers apart.

Our national response or lack of it has made us a disgrace around the world. Every country except 20 have banned Americans from entering and several of those have mandated quarantine for 14 days. New Zealand has absolutely no cases anymore and they are back to life as usual. What did they do? Mandated quarantine for four weeks, two Covid cycles. Mortgage and rent relief for three months with 80% salary guaranteed. They trusted their leaders and health officials and the leaders trusted the people to do the right thing… and they did. America isn’t recovering as quickly because we value individualism over collectivism. Nobody here wants to do anything that is a minor inconvenience to them in order to protect their neighbors. And don’t get me started on the conspiracy theory people who think that mandated masks are a goose step down the road to government taking away all our rights. Just wear the damn mask.

What did we do? A one-time payment of $1200, a letter from Trump, who wanted his signature on the checks but had to settle for a letter, and Small Business Loans, most of which went to rich corporations, churches (!) and otherwise spread around to Trump’s cronies and rich people. And churches don’t even pay taxes! Why are they getting anything? Just another chance to reward their rich friends and run for re-election. Any mask or quarantine mandates have not lasted long enough and are announced unenforceable. And now they are having Zoom meetings to see about opening the schools. If you can’t have the meeting in person, you shouldn’t open school. Another re-election tactic that will backfire terribly.

But in order for this to get under control, everybody has to take the precautions, not just some of us. Even though some in government say that 99% of the people who get it survive, there can be severe consequences, blood clots in every organ, kidney failure, stroke and heart issues. Who wants their health severely compromised like that? Not me.

I know two people personally who have had the virus, a friend from high school and her husband. He had what they called a mild case while hers was deemed Moderate. She made it clear that she was very sick with pneumonia and other complications and even after recovery tested positive after two months. And I’m sure you’ve seen the stories about the folks who brag about not wearing masks and going to bars, parties, restaurants and beaches and are now dead. Smart move. I guess they get a Darwin Award.

We are lucky though. We have our house, which is nice and clean,  and the garden to nurture and observe. Unlike some, we have food and money and liquor and we actually like each other and enjoy our company. Jim is getting in lots of ukulele practice although he is bummed that he can’t participate in the jam sessions. We have sheltered in place all this time; why blow it?

Batten down the hatches. The first “wave” isn’t over, death rates are up and cases are rising. We’re not even close to the second wave yet. As we added to our daily mantra after Jim broke his arm in 2015; “Be Smart, Pay Attention.” Words to the wise.

And the Crepe Myrtles are still blooming. The elephant ears are getting big and the cannas are over my head. There is still art, music and natural beauty in the world even if you have to look a little bit harder.
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