These last few days have been pure bliss and even reminiscent of the good old days before the pandemic. That’s because I ran away from home, escaped reality and went adventuring.

My travels took me to Jamestown, New York which is Lucille Ball’s hometown. There’s a whole Lucy trail including a museum as well as other fun things to do in the area. I also took in some sights along Lake Erie on the way back.

There are lots of stories to tell but, for now, I just want to say that it is possible to travel and to be safe. It’s possible to support museums and small businesses without taking a lot of risks. It’s possible to have fun and see new things and feel like your old self.

Even. In. A. Pandemic.

You may need to adjust your expectations and strategize how to do some things but it can be done.

I am fully vaccinated and chose to do things that don’t involve a lot of people. The most important museum that I wanted to visit had potential to be busy so I went to when they first opened to avoid any crowd. Honestly, though, I never encountered a crowd at any destination.

Stay tuned. I’ll give you a tour of all the things I did.

Time For Some Fun

One of my favorite solo road trips took me meandering around southern Indiana a few years ago. It was one of those incredible, freeing weekends when I just sort of wandered into all the right places.

A Pokey Lafarge concert at the Astra Theater in Jasper, pictured here, was my destination but I found so many wonderful things to see and do along the way. There were nice people, roadside oddities, museums and so much more that I can’t even begin to describe what fun it was. One cool morning I spent wandering around photographing architecture and chasing the incredible green roof of a church in the distance. Not to mention the sweet lady who ran an one of Indiana’s oldest hardware stores.

These memory, while sweet, are making me discontent. I’m ready to get out and do something soon.

Even when the world stopped last year I managed to get out for hikes and socially distanced fun. I took a couple of short, calculated trips in the fall but neither of them worked out as planned thanks to weather, Covid and other issues. It was satisfying hibernating this winter but my spring allergies have been merciless, making it hard to even leave the house. A mere walk to the mailbox steals my voice and leaves me with fluid on the ears the next day.

There’s not been much fun this spring beyond reading and dreaming of days when the pollen gets washed away by the rain. I just reread that line and realized how sad it sounds.

I’m ready to hit the road and see something new. It would be difficult to take a trip right now that compares with that Great Indiana Adventure of 2018, as I like to think of it, but it doesn’t hurt to try.

I’m hoping to hit the road soon. I’m vaccinated and have some ideas about how to have fun that will be low risk and new to me. My escape is so close I can almost taste it.

For now though, I’ll keep my head down and my windows closed while I wrap up a work project and avoid the pollen so that running away from home is an option in the (hopefully) near future.

A Year Ago

A year ago, Ohioans were enjoying their last days of normalcy before the Covid 19 pandemic sunk its claws into life as we knew it.

Our Governor was proactive, declaring a State of Emergency when there were still just a handful of Covid cases here. Businesses struggled. People were laid off and struggling. We began wearing masks, learned about social distancing and realized that many adults don’t know how to wash their hands.

Supply shortages became the norm. But you don’t need me to tell you about 2020 because you lived it too.

I had a ticket to a Lukas Nelson concert and was planning a trip to Cleveland to learn about early women aviators. I had a plane ticket and was studying a road trip route. Surely, it would all be over by summer, right?

Yet, I had an inkling of what was to come. NPR had reported pretty aggressively about the virus and the shutdown in China where people were not allowed to leave their homes.

I kept wondering how that worked. How do you earn a living? How do you get groceries and supplies? How do you not lose your mind being stuck at home and worried about a virus that could either make you not sick at all or kill you in a most vicious way?

I had begun gathering supplies – paper products, groceries, toiletries, household stuff – partly to replenish what I had used from my winter stash and partly because I could see the writing on the wall.

Gratitude has helped me this year.

Yes, I was disappointed that travel was mostly cancelled and adventures have been slim. Yet I am grateful for so many things – my employer sent me home to work, I live in the country where it’s possible to breathe fresh air and move around some, my introverted self is quite happy with the idea of social distancing, Scout keeps me laughing, work keeps me busy, books keep my brain engaged, and I have found ways to adventure around the region and be safe doing it.

Anytime dissatisfaction leeches into my attitude I try to draw on these reminders of how fortunate I am.

I live an exceptionally good life where I stay busy and happy most days. I’m not in any real hurry for things to go back to normal because there are many benefits to how I live today.

The vaccine restrictions in Ohio now include people fifty and over so we are getting close to my decade. New CDC guidelines signal that things are loosening up.

For now though, I continue to be grateful for the life I live and empathetic for those who are struggling. I’m also hopeful that I will hold onto some of the routines and habits that have enriched my life for the last year and that my next new normal brings more satisfaction, adventure and joy than the old.

Dr. Scout

I have been under the weather for the last week.

When I googled my symptoms and their progression, it was clear that it could be anything from Covid to your run-of-the-mill bug. I’m still exhausted and my body aches. These last few years have taught me the importance of listening to my body and it was begging for rest. So I have spent most of the last week either lying down or wishing that I could lie down.

When I was a kid, my mother would let me hang out on the couch when I was sick and I have long followed this tradition as an adult. This time was different. I craved darkness and the comfort of my soft bed with its warm, heavy blankets. Consequently, each day after work, I commuted from the living room to the bedroom, changed into warm jammies and stayed there for the remainder of the day and night.

Scout was thoroughly confused.

On a normal day, I’m up and moving a lot. At best, I sit in my chair and read or work at my desk but am still upright.  I was horizontal about sixteen hours a day for several days in a row and he wasn’t sure what to think.

I didn’t really notice him for the first day or two. Then I looked up one evening and he was sitting on the bathroom counter, peering through the open door and studying me. We made eye contact and he started chattering so I tried to convince him to join me in bed.

Instead, he jumped down from the counter and trotted into the room where he stood next to the bed, complaining loudly before putting his paws up on the mattress to look up at me questioningly. Pretty soon, he hopped down, walked to his armchair and commenced scratching at the side. I yelled at him to stop but he continued while maintaining eye contact. I started to get up and, when my feet hit the floor, he stopped scratching and came toward me.

The expression on his face said “Good. Now that you’re up, let’s go.”

I laid down again and he resumed his scratching. I yelled, he ignored, I got up, and he stopped.

Some variation of this exhausting routine was repeated multiple times last week as he tried to coax me back into the living world. Occasionally he would shake things up by nipping at my feet. Mostly, though, he stayed close and napped with me. Periodically, he would administer a dose of his best medicine – he would curl up around my neck and purr.

Anyone who thinks that animals don’t feel and comprehend is badly misinformed. Anyone who thinks cats are aloof and uncaring has clearly not had a healthy relationship with a cat. It’s true that cats are independent and self sufficient. They don’t need your praise and they don’t require constant attention. But they are delightful little characters who look out for their humans, who are capable of communication if you know how to interpret it, and happy to receive attention on their terms.

My friend Nichola says that cats and toddlers are a lot alike – full of personality and energy but with a limited yet effective vocabulary.

Perhaps it’s because I brought him up from a kitten and have always talked to him like he is a little person that he follows me around better than most dogs would. Honestly, if I ever lose him in the house all I have to do is go to the bathroom and he’s right there. If he doesn’t show up, that usually means I shut him in the closet. The first time this happened, I walked into the bedroom to find two little outstretched paws peeking out from under the door.

It was both hilarious and sad. I felt a little guilty too.

He enjoys being toted around the house. We play toys. He waits for me at the door when I come home. He’s happiest when we’re together and he worries when I leave or when I’m not well.

Last week was miserable. I won’t lie. And honestly, I was a little annoyed at the scratching of the chair thing but his concern for my well being was touching. That sweet little cat did his darndest to help me and he did a nice job. Just call him Dr. Scout!


The Eve Of A New Year

Here we are. It’s the eve of a new year, the turning of the calendar, a proverbial clean slate.

This year certainly was one for the record books and one we will talk about for the rest of our lives.

The truth is, 2020 wasn’t a terrible year for me personally as I kept my job and income, maintained good health, and even had more time for rest and relaxation.

My introverted self is perfectly happy staying home and six feet away from others. I do terribly miss traveling but understand this is for now, not forever.

This was the year I learned to truly find joy in the small things like a bird at the window, a quiet walk in the woods, and the first bite of a juicy orange.

It was actually a good year in my small place in the universe.

Setting aside my own experience, it is hard to watch people suffer and struggle. From the logistics of childcare, to lost income, illness and isolation, people are struggling. I worry for small businesses and for the families that depend on them for work. I worry for kids who aren’t in school where we know they are safe and fed and learning something. Child abuse and neglect are among the tragedies not being well explored as we are too busy with triage in other areas.

So far, our country has lost about 330,000 souls to this pandemic.

To put that into perspective, that’s more than the population of Cincinnati with its approximate 306,000 people.

Imagine one of Ohio’s three biggest cities wiped off the map. That’s how many of our fellow Americans have been lost.

And we aren’t through the woods yet as experts tell us that January will be a dark month for many.

Still, I am hopeful that life will be better one year from today.

The vintage photo above was labeled “New Years” and offers some much needed levity to this discussion. To be a fly on the wall just before she took this drink!

I won’t be staying up late tonight and I won’t be drinking to dull the effects of the year. Instead, I plan to go to bed early tonight, to read until I fall asleep, and then wake up refreshed in the morning.

2020 can see itself to the door.

I’ll be ready to greet the new year with fresh, rested eyes first thing tomorrow.

I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day

One of my favorite Christmas carols originates from a poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. English nerds like myself know the poem “Christmas Bells” but everyone else will know the song as “I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day.”

Longfellow penned this poem in the depths of another American crisis, during some of the darkest days of the Civil War.

It was a dark time for him personally as well – his wife of 18 years had succumbed to burns sustained in an accident. His son had also joined the Union Army without his consent and was subsequently injured.

I tell you this depressing story to tell you something else. History has proven time and again that this too shall pass. While we may struggle and hurt and suffer right now, brighter days lie ahead.

Read the poem below and listen to the carol if you have a favorite recording. Oddly enough, I’m partial to the Harry Belafonte rendition because he sings it with such reverence that it’s almost like a prayer set to music.

Wherever you are in this world and whatever your holiday looks like, Scout and I wish you a safe, happy and very MERRY Christmas!

Christmas Bells
I heard the bells on Christmas Day
Their old, familiar carols play,
And wild and sweet
The words repeat
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And thought how, as the day had come,
The belfries of all Christendom
Had rolled along
The unbroken song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Till ringing, singing on its way,
The world revolved from night to day,
A voice, a chime,
A chant sublime
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

Then from each black, accursed mouth
The cannon thundered in the South,
And with the sound
The carols drowned
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

It was as if an earthquake rent
The hearth-stones of a continent,
And made forlorn
The households born
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”