Monthly Archives: December 2020

Good Things in a Pandemic World

Good Things in a Pandemic Word. New Mug, Coffee, and a Good Book!
Good Things in a Pandemic World. New Mug, Coffee, and a Good Book!

As 2021 approaches, I am spending some time looking back over 2020.

For the most part, I have considered 2020 as a year of putting my life on hold. I understand that for so many others, it was a year of illness, death, and financial hardship. I have fared better than many.

As the year comes to a close, I am more easily able to look back and see the big picture. A reason why so many start the New Year off with resolutions to change and make improvements. If I see 2020 as a year of my life being on hold, that is my choice. That means I can also make the choice to see it differently.

What if this year was a gift of solitude and introspection? If times were usual I no doubt would have kept on working in areas that I was familiar with after my retirement last year. It is easier to continue on with what you know than to make decisions and strike out on a new path. I would have kept searching for jobs in the water treatment industry. That was my career, and I was good at it. But I suspect that I can be good at many things. Do I want to stay on that path and wonder about the road not taken? Only time will tell.

There are many things I enjoy. Mostly, dogs, books, gardening, and writing. And I enjoy sharing them with others. I am free to pursue any or all of these. I have always thought that I am an “odd bird” because I have a technical, scientific mind, which was how I earned my living for many years. I also enjoy many right-brained pursuits. I am not just a left-brain or right brain kind of girl. Both sides of my brain fight it out for expression. (That may be why I sometimes get into trouble because of a busy mind!)The year of 2020 provided me an opportunity to look at my life as whole and make decisions about what I want to do with it.

I have also reflected on the fact that I have always been somewhat of a loner. The social meme “It’s too peopley out there” is one I understand. A year of isolation and separation forced by a pandemic, makes me rethink this too. It’s true that I enjoy my alone time and always will. But I now have more appreciation for social gatherings and hanging out with friends and acquaintances. (I never doubted my love and need to hang out with family.) I miss my friends with their smiles and hugs and conversations. Friends can also give us new insights and cause us to realize there are other opinions and reactions to situations. Friends make us think outside of ourselves. They help us to be whole, better rounded individuals.

Staying isolated is hard. But if we look at this over the span of an entire lifetime, it is a brief snapshot of time. How we will see this time when we look back on this period in our lives, will certainly be different that how we feel about it right now. And we get to choose how we will reflect on this time, when the years have passed.

Many have lost loved ones to this coronavirus and I am deeply sorry for them. What a terrible thing. Those losses will mark this as a dark time in history. That does not mean we cannot find a light in the darkness and use it to guide our way.

May peace be with you.

My Top 10 Ways to Deal With Isolation During the Covid Pandemic!

Journal to record ideas
Little Journal of Ideas for Post-Covid!

I think all of us have reached the point where we are thoroughly tired of Covid 19 and its effect on our lives. I know many have it worse than me, those who have suffered losses of loved ones, personal illnesses, and financial woes. But that doesn’t mean the rest of us don’t have valid feelings of sadness and emotional distress as we struggle to make it to the post-pandemic world. So I am sharing with you, some of my coping mechanisms.

  1. Keep a Journal

Mine is a journal of things that I want to do, but can’t right now for some reason as a result of the coronavirus. Here is a link to what is in my journal. Ways To Deal With a Pandemic That way I won’t miss out on things I wanted to do but couldn’t at the time. You could also keep a journal of your thoughts and feelings during isolation. Whatever suits you.

2. Get Outside and Enjoy Nature

Winter Landscape
The View Along One of our Walking Routes

Nature has a way of healing us that defies explanation, but it is proven to make you feel better. Surrounding yourself with plants, trees, and wildlife can bring a sense of peace. I find something magical about knowing that the greater world around me goes on, no matter what is happening in my life.

3. Exercise

Exercise can help relieve stress at any time so it’s no surprise that it will work during a pandemic too. I combine my exercise with #2 above and hike or walk in nature. We attempt to take our dogs for a hike at least five days a week. If we are running late, the dogs let us know that it is time. They look forward to the outings too. People may be missing their gym workouts these days, but you can always walk. Just find a secluded area and keep your mask handy.

4. Train Your Dog (or cat if you’re ambitious!)

These may be trying times for us but our four legged friends are enjoying that extra time we spend around the house. Give them some extra attention and brush up on their obedience skills or teach them a trick. It will strengthen your relationship and the two of you will come out of this closer than before.

5. Read

If you know me, you knew this was going to be on my list! Reading can take you away to other places and teach you something in the process. You can read non-fiction and learn about new things or places in our world. Or you can read fiction and get sucked into a good story. Either way, reading occupies your mind so that you escape for a bit from your current reality which can be a real treat in these trying times.

6. Take a Nap (Get extra Sleep)

The act of sleep rests your body and mind so that you are better able to deal with whatever comes your way. Also, if you are stuck on the “worry train” and distressing what ifs, or actual bad times, keep playing through your thoughts, sleep can break that cycle and reset your brain.

7. Work on a Hobby

Fun Breadsticks
Candy Cane Shaped Breadsticks for Christmas Dinner

Hobbies, especially artistic ones, occupy us so that it is hard to think about anything besides what you are currently doing. One of my hobbies is cooking. I especially like to bake and kneading bread dough is soothing to me. Working and shaping the dough is fun. I was working on breadsticks for Christmas. They got too long to fit on the baking sheet and as I was turning the end to make it fit, I thought that reminds me of a candy cane. So I made all the breadsticks in the shape of candy canes just to be festive.

8. Watch a Movie (especially comedy)

How often does anyone encourage you to spend more time watching television? In this case I think it is warranted. Letting yourself become absorbed into someone else’s life, especially in a positive scenario, may provide you with some mental benefits as you escape this Covid riddled world for a while.

9. Make a Phone Call to a Friend or Family Member

We can all feel a little lonely in these times of social isolation. Even me, and I don’t generally mind being by myself and am not a phone call kind of girl. I usually avoid the telephone and am often happy to spend time by myself. (For me, by myself means with dogs.) I have been making an attempt to keep in touch by phone with family members. And I make more effort to text and message friends. You may be helping other people when you reach out, because we are all in this together.

10. Don’t Give Yourself a Hard Time

We are all doing the best we can. You may find yourself being a little short tempered or down in the dumps, and not doing as well as you normally do. Cut yourself some slack. These are not normal times.

And in closing, be aware that there is light at the end of the tunnel! We still need to socially distance and wear our masks for a while longer. But the end is in sight. People are being vaccinated right this very minute. You have been strong enough to make it this far so you are up to the task of surviving what we need to do for the rest of this ride.

You are not alone!

At Least There Were Dogs!

Dogs at Family Christmas
Our dogs (+1, belonging to my MIL) on Christmas

This is what Christmas looks like in our family. And from our family to yours, Merry Christmas.

We wish for you, that everyone in your family survives this pandemic and is with you for your holiday celebrations next year. And if it is already too late for that, I hope the coming year brings you peace.

This year was unusual for us, as it was for so many. For the first time in my life, I was not able to see my brother for the holiday season. I also was not able to see my daughter. We are staying separate so everyone stays healthy. Doing our part to stop the corona spread. We did see my mother in law as she is like us and stays home nearly all the time.

I anticipate that next Christmas we will all be together again for the holidays. And what a joyous celebration it will be.

As for this year, at least there were dogs!

Magical Gems

Library Books
Books from the Library

There is a winter storm headed our way. It should hit sometime tomorrow and last through Christmas. I am all set. I placed holds on several books at the library and picked them up at the drive thru window. Fulfilling my need for library books while staying safe.

Books, and libraries, are magical things. They offer us the opportunity to experience other places and times from where we are.

Even if you aren’t able to enjoy the feel and smell of real books, there are always electronic options available. They aren’t quite the same experience but can still offer you an adventure!

Books Read November 2020

Zekie Dog and me
Hanging out with Zekie, which I often do while reading.

1. Game of Dog Bones-Laurien Berenson

Melanie Travis solves a murder with her canine friends. This time at the Westminster Dog Show while Aunt Peg judges at Madison Square Garden. This was a fun one.

2. Snowball’s Christmas-Kristen McKanagah

Tiny kitten Snowball plays her part in trying to bring Lukas and Emily together for a future at Weber Haus, a Victorian family bed and breakfast.

3. The Twelve Dogs of Christmas-Lizzie Shane

Ally Gilmore moves home to Pine Hollow to help her grandparents run the dog shelter. As she struggles to find homes for the dogs, things go awry.

4. The Finders-Jeffrey B. Burton

Mason Reid has 4 cadaver dogs that specialize in finding human remains. The youngest, Vira, turns out to have extra special abilities.

5. A Dog’s Perfect Christmas-W. Bruce Cameron

The Goss Family works their way through an emergency and trying times, accompanied by their puppy and senior wolfhound. A happy ending.

6. 500 Miles From You-Jenny Colgan

Lissa is a nurse in London and Cormac is a nurse in the Scottish countryside. Lissa needs quiet to recover from witnessing a crime and Cormac wants a training opportunity. They switch places and come to rely on each other for advice.

7. Pumpkin Spice Peril-Jenn McKinlay

From the cupcake shop murder mystery series. Melanie helps solve a crime to discover who killed her artist friend.

8. The Secret Ingredient-KD Fisher

I got a bit of a surprise with this book. It is a book about two chefs and their restaurants and lives. The surprise came when it was apparent that the main characters are homosexual. Not necessarily a bad thing but I did not pick that up from reading the back cover. I read the book because it was a good story and I wanted some insight into friends and others who live this lifestyle.

My favorite of these was The Finders. It was an excellent book. Beyond that, you really can’t go wrong with any of these books. I enjoyed them all. The Twelve Dogs of Christmas is an enjoyable holiday read.

A Little Christmas

Morty under the Christmas tree

The Christmas spirit has arrived at our house. It began to snow late this morning. It was a calm, light fluffy snow. The kind that invokes thoughts of good cheer and peace.

So I got out our little tree and decorated it. All of our animals love the tree, but especially the cats. They take up residence underneath and you can find one or the other of them there for the season. After a few squirts of Bitter Apple chew deterrent, they stop chewing it for the rest of the season.

Thumbprint cookies

After lunch, I made a couple batches of cookies we traditionally have around the holidays. First, I baked the thumbprint cookies and filled them.

Molasses crinkles

Then I made molasses crinkles from a recipe handed down from my mother’s Aunt Clara. Mine are never as good as Aunt Clara’s but they are delicious nonetheless. I suspect Aunt Clara used lard in her’s.

Now I am ready to relax for the evening with a couple of cookies and a good book.

First Pie in the New Oven

Our stove had been on its last legs for a while and finally died right before Thanksgiving. In this wonderful (sometimes!) age of being able to order things on-line, I was able to have another one here within a couple days without ever leaving the safety of home. And free delivery! I did have to adjust the temperature on the oven. It seemed to run a little low, but all is fine now.

Today I made the first pie in the new oven. I wanted to make a shoo fly pie and for some reason I got a recipe from Pinterest rather than using my usual one. In the mood for something different I guess. The recipe I went with is quite different. The crust has flour, butter, egg yolk, olive oil, and white wine. Yes, you read that right, white wine. And in addition to the molasses, the filling has black coffee.

While the pie is good, I think I prefer my old standby recipe, clipped from the newspaper years ago.

Zekie During the Age of Retirement

Zekie relaxing on his momma.

I have been retired for a year now. Thus began a different existence for Zekie with his momma home most of the time. I have spent even more time at home than I anticipated because of the Covid pandemic. I wondered how these changes would affect Zekie, a dog with severe separation anxiety. You can read about those thoughts in last year’s post here. Zekie’s New Adventures 

Zekie is not a miraculously changed boy as I had hoped. I did not really expect it. He is, however, a happier dog. He only spends about two hours alone once or twice a week. And when I come home, he is a nervous wreck. Leaving him with a special treat does help slightly now. I have two kongs that I save for when hubby and I both go away and Zekie must be crated. In one kong, I put peanut butter and add a couple small biscuits that become stuck in the peanut butter so it’s a job to get them out. The other kong is bone shaped with holes on each end and these I stuff tightly with baby carrots so it is a job to chew them out. I give Zekie the kongs only when he goes in his crate and we go away from home. He is still upset when we return but the level of hysteria is less than it was a year ago. It is improvement, just not what I had hoped.

Often, I feel so bad knowing how upset Zekie will be if I leave him that I end up taking him along and adjusting my errands. For instance, I needed to take a trip to the paint store. Rather than leaving Zekie at home, I took him with me. I made sure to park directly in front of the store so that Zekie could see me from the car through the large plate glass windows. He is ok if I am in his line of sight.

Zekie (left) playing with his brother Baxter.

I can’t know for sure what has caused the improvement, slight though it is, in Zekie’s behavior. Is it really the kongs that have helped? Probably not. I have worked with him a bit on obedience too. Being obedient was never really his problem. He is very good about following commands such as sit, down, and stay. Even from 20 feet away. The anxiety is what causes the problems. The drooling, leash reactivity, and obsession with licking. Licking every thing! He licks himself, the floor, the dog beds, our couches, pillows. He does it to displace stress so I try to direct him to lick a few select things like a rope bone, or chew a Nylabone. But, it is a constant battle of telling him all day long, “Zekie, don’t like the floor”, etc.

The thing that I suspect is the biggest help to Zekie’s stress level is something that is indirectly related to my retirement and being at home. Increased exercise. We spend much more time hiking now. We try to get a hike in four or five days a week at one of the local parks. We take five of the dogs for our outings, everyone but Nikki. She is 13 years old now and can’t keep up. All the dogs benefit but especially Zekie. In the past 30 days we have hiked over 46 miles and spent almost 20.5 hours doing it. Many days, the dogs get frisbeed too. Even days such as today when it is snowing, I will take the pups out for a frisbee session and walk around the pasture with them a few laps.

I did not have time for this much activity and exercise when I worked full time. The jury is still on whether what has helped Zekie is the fact that I am at home or that he is getting much more exercise. Probably some combination thereof. I am getting more exercise too so I guess either way, it is a win!

Zekie, jumping up as I finish this post.