Slipping into the future: Days 19 & 20 of Extreme Social Distancing

Saturday slipped by like a zephyr rearranging tendrils of fog. Days are becoming just a bit less substantial; purpose drains like shower-water off my body, lost and unmourned. Nonetheless, we are persisting. Over a week ago, I thought it might be a good idea to have some flour and yeast on hand, just in case we were unable to get bread, so I added them to my Fred Meyer online order, formerly known as Clicklist. Yeah, no bread, no yeast and no whole wheat flour to be had. Guess I wasn’t the only one with that thought. We did get 5 lbs of all-purpose flour, and Terri found some unexpired yeast we’ve had for who knows how long. Then a friend on Facebook posted a super-easy bread recipe, so I had to try it. 

I guess like everyone else, I have my strong suits and weak spots. Sometimes when I’m cooking I get a bit hasty, and combine steps that should be separate, like mixing the dry flour, yeast and salt together before adding the water and mixing. After spending several minutes cleaning dough out of the whisk, which would have worked so much better with just the dry ingredients, I tried to salvage my project. Following the directions purposefully, I put the dough in a covered bowl on a warm spot, and let it sit overnight.

Our beautiful Skagit Valley
Just the way we like it nowadays
Just a pioneer bush in rocky soil with beautiful spring blossoms

Saturday around noon it was time to put the bread into the oven, and see if it was going to be edible, or maybe dried and used for breadcrumbs. Once baked, we let it set a spell, and took advantage of a break in the weather to head out and walk Burlington Hill. When we can’t go further afield, this is our go-to spot. We get about 600’ of elevation gain with a 15% grade with a couple of varied options on which way we go, plus we get some great views of beautiful Skagit Valley. The sky was overcast, and we could see a storm slashing against the Lookout Mountain range, but aside from being breezy and cool, we were just kept company by the weather. We’ve walked here dozens and dozens of times over the years, in every season, but each time we find something to marvel at. 

Well, back to the house, and time to try the bread. Years ago we were introduced to the joys of rustic bread dipped in great olive oil and balsamic vinegar, complemented by a glass of nice wine, so that is what we did. The bread was surprisingly good, and worked well with the EVOO and vinegar, and I splurged and opened a bottle of Pezzi-King Zinfandel from the Russian River area of Sonoma. Remind me to tell you sometime about how I got that … and about our favorite balsamic vinegar. Anyhow, it was like a magical portal had opened up to a world not consumed by contagion, sitting there with my sweet wife and our simple repast, just alive to the moment.

A loaf of bread, wine and thee…

Sunday I felt compelled to get up a bit early and exercise, then sat down with a cup of coffee. Terri soon joined me with her coffee, and we connected the laptop to the TV and tuned in to Cornwall Church’s 9:00 online service. So grateful we are able to recenter ourselves and reconnect with our church and through that, our Creator.

Well, mundanicity calls! Bills continue to come in the mail, quietly insisting on the transference of the ethereal concept of value represented by symbols printed on paper, or pixels on a screen. Meanwhile, Terri had fun looking for some special gifts to send to our grandkids to bring a bit of excitement and projects to their homebound days. I made even more additions to my Wishlist at Fred Meyer, hoping they will be in stock when I get to go on my assigned day to pick them up next Saturday. 

On my way to losing at Splendor

Time to change things up! We pulled out the game of Splendor, easy and fun for two people. Terri won the first game, I won the second, so we had to have a playoff. Unfortunately, Terri won, big time. I’m going to have to hone my strategy a bit more to stay competitive.

I had to sorrowfully say good-bye for now to Zion National Park, Santa Fe, Mesa Verde NP, Chaco Canyon NP and Yellowstone NP. We had a fantastic road trip all planned in meticulous detail, leaving on May 1st. I had been holding on to all the reservations at our condos, but in the morning news, when Dr. Fauci said this would go on for months, I knew any miniscule glimmer of hope I had for this trip had evaporated. I didn’t cry when I cancelled each precious reservation, but I was sad. Then, of course, perspective sets in, and I am aware of the tens or hundreds of thousands who will not survive this pandemic. I think of the millions who will be impoverished because I – and countless others – are staying home or cancelling trips, and all the businesses, large and small, who will lose all their revenue for weeks or months. 

So far, we haven’t binged on TV, Prime or Netflix, but decided to watch a movie last night called Uncorked. It is based on a true-life story of a black man who wants to become a Master Sommelier, and the struggles he faces on that journey. I have to admit we struggled with the dialogue in places due to the black patois, but it was an interesting diversion. 

Well, Sunday also brought the news that the president is extending the national social distancing order until April 30. I can’t imagine anyone is thrilled with the prospect of at least another month of isolation, but I was … gratified … to hear that this is being taken seriously now by this administration. So sit down, buckle in, and stay home, and stay well.

Shopping (Mis)Adventures on Days 15 & 16 ESD

Good morning, everyone! Not quite 7:00 AM on an overcast Thursday, and one of my big projects is this, since once again I’m combining two days for a post. With all the new closures, I’m wondering – and concerned a bit – about being able to leave the compound in a meaningful way, and being able to report anything but “We watched TV all day then went to bed”. I hope not!

Tuesday was mostly odds and ends day. We had gotten our taxes back a few days earlier from our tax preparer, and decided to get brave enough to open them. We were so happy to see that we owed about half as much as the year before, and we had done well in setting funds aside to cover them. Yay! Put them in the mail, checked that off the list. Then a little banking. Isn’t online banking great! The one serious drawback is you can’t deposit or get cash using the app or website … they need to work on that.

I had been thinking about our meal situation, and decided to once again make up a menu, then a  grocery list, then order the ingredients online, and try to get our routine back there. I got the first two done Tuesday. One drawback to getting our groceries online is that they don’t deliver any adult beverages. My Facebook feed has been inundated with companies selling wine and liquor, but I am pretty reluctant to go there. So, I remembered a small wine and cheese shop in Anacortes, got in touch with them, and he put together an order for us with lots of things to try. It was a nice drive there, he brought it out to the car, I fully extended my arm to hand him a check as he extended his arm to get it, so we maintained good social distance. Nice drive, helpful service from Salt and Vine in Anacortes, and helped a small local business!

Soon enough it was time to join Lauren and John, Terri’s sister and brother-in-law for Happy Hour. So great to see them, share a glass of wine and fun conversation. Of course, it would have been even better if we had been together instead of Facetiming, but still, it was a lot of fun! Just one more way we – and so many others – are adapting to the new normal.

Wednesday, March 25 did not look promising when I got up, so jumped on the trusty elliptical again, got all that over with. Since I had not actually placed the order for the meals I had planned out Tuesday, I figured I’d better get on that, since the last time the soonest delivery date was five days out. Got it done fairly quickly, submitted it; once again, no spots in the three day window to be able to pick them up at the store, so I changed it to Delivery ….. and it said “Your order will be delivered in the next 5 hours!” What??? A bit later I get a text, saying it will be delivered by about 10:30, only two hours after I ordered it. Soon enough they were on the porch; we put the bags  in some plastic bins to bring them in, then started unpacking with our safety protocols. It started out fine, but then item after item was something we never ordered. What the heck was going on? Then the doorbell rang; it was our delivery person. They had realized their mistake, and picked up the wrong items. 

All this prompted me to go online and check my orders and what a mess! First it looked like the order we had just gotten, but there were seven items there we would NEVER order, and two from the order that had been scheduled for this upcoming Friday. So I called customer service, waited on hold for over 20 minutes, then spent the next 20 minutes trying to sort things out. Trying being the operative word. The Customer Service Rep is actually getting permission to call ME today so it can be fixed. Not a perfect process!

Next! My garage had gotten pretty junked up recently, with painting supplies that need to be taken care of, finding a new, temporary home for some large 1970’s era speakers I was going to take to Goodwill, and organizing our pantry to make a bit more room for some staples. Nice little project, kept me busy, and looked so much better when I was done.

Deserted streets as we head to Burlington Hill

With all our projects, we decided to keep our walk local, so we headed to Burlington Hill. The clouds had all fled, it was bright and sunny, if only about 53 degrees. Always lifts the spirits to get outside and see the blue sky, see the new life in the world as Spring makes its return. The earth continues to spin on its axis, the sun continues to rise, and this, too, shall pass.

Soon enough it was time to make dinner with all the ingredients we had gotten from our grocery delivery – Sumac Chicken with Roasted Vegetables. So good! Another place where we find stability and comfort.

Well, we turned on the news last night. Overall, we try to limit our consumption of news, but it was time to check in with reality. We were a bit stunned to see that all state parks and all DNR (Department of Natural Resources) lands will be closed. Get out and walk, but not on any trails in Washington. I guess too many areas were experiencing crowding. I get it, but this is a huge blow to us as these are the places that have been our refuge. This will make getting out and finding places where we can relax, get our Nature fix, maintain social distancing and walk or hike very challenging. (Deep breath). We will figure it out, try and be creative. Please share YOUR ideas for getting out and about while staying safe!

The Long and Winding Road to Terri’s Retirement

August 30, 2019 was Terri’s last day at work. I have to admit, I almost didn’t believe it until nearly right up to the end. Oh sure, many were the days when I’d be heading off to a hike or such, and she would say “I wish I was going with you!” But then she’d talk about how she had the perfect job – she could show up when she wanted, leave when she wanted, and generally work as much or as little as she wanted during the week. And then there was the financial aspect, since her wages were completely at her disposal. Hairdresser, clothing, shopping for grandkids, dining out, something special for the house – how would that work once she retired? Plus she was really good at her job, and got a lot of satisfaction from doing it well. And she enjoyed the social interactions with her co-workers.

So we would discuss all the pros and cons with me on a regular basis. One week she’d be ready to turn in her notice, and the next week say that she didn’t know when she’d retire. Was I sure we’d have enough resources to retire? What would she do all day? How would it change our relationship? Where would her funds come from for her discretionary spending? So we talked, discussed, and explored thoughts and feelings. I tried to listen twice as much as I talked. We went back to our financial planner with questions and concerns, and were reassured that if we continued to have a prudent and restrained budget we’d be OK. And we have both developed a couple of side gigs that will get us out of the house, and bring in a few non-budgeted dollars of play money.

A few ideas to start our retired life

But – “Bill, you have your whole retirement planned out! Hiking, photography, your blog, volunteering, 1001 projects – what am I going to do?” So we talked about that. A few times. Or more. The last time, we were in the car, headed out … somewhere. So I suggested we brainstorm a bit, and we did. Fortunately, I always carry a pen and pad of paper in the car, so I had her write the ideas down, and we now have a starting list of 32 things to do! Some of them are one-off projects, and others we can do over and over again. She started to see the possibilities of living a retired life. 

Still, she had said she was going to retire and had changed her mind a few times, so when she said she’d retire at the end of August, I said “Good!”  A couple moments of silence, and she said “I thought you’d be more excited than that…” I affirmed that I would be delighted if she actually retired, but I’d believe it when I saw it. Sure enough, I saw some vacillation in determination, but as the days wore on, I heard an increasing acceptance of the idea of finally being done with work. 

So, on Friday, August 30th, she came home from work for the last time – and even came home an hour and a half earlier than normal. “Let’s go out to Chuckanut Manor and celebrate with a glass of wine,” she suggested, and course I said yes. As we drove, she shared some unexpected moments of sadness and loss as the finality of the situation sank in. She wondered why I hadn’t felt the same way when I left, and I reminded her that I had cut back from five days a week to four, and then to three, and then to two days a week starting this last January. I was able to slowly let go, and absorb my new reality, and immerse myself into this new life, while she worked more days and longer hours up towards the end to fulfill all of her commitments. So we pulled up to the restaurant, with its sweeping views of Samish Bay and the bucolic scene around it, and savored the moment. It was a perfect moment, and I didn’t want it to end, so I told her I’d treat her to dinner to keep the celebration going. You can read about it here if you’d like.

Rose Hips with Bellingham Bay in background

Saturday we went for one of our favorite walks in the historic residential area of Fairhaven, ending up on the waterfront walk from Boulevard park to the business district, then went grocery shopping. Sunday we went to church, then did a reprise of our previous days walk, coming home to sit in our gazebo with a glass of wine, gazing out at our beautiful little backyard garden before coming in to cook dinner together. Today we are headed out on a picnic to Washington park, overlooking the Salish Sea, and Wednesday we leave for a few days at Lake Chelan. Nothing huge or amazing here, but it feels like the perfect start to our new life together. We are both aware that there will be hiccups and challenges along the way, and are already planning strategies on dealing with them. We are also hyper-aware of time slipping by so very quickly, and so we are trying to live wide-awake to every moment that we get to share during this amazing season of our lives. Thanks for sharing some of those moments with us, whether in person, or through this blog!