The Last Journey

Today my mom traveled on the final journey of her life, from the hospital to the home she hasn’t lived in since early December. The next time her body is moved, she will no longer be living in it.

My mother has been well traveled over the course of her 87 years, and now she needs only rest and peace as she awaits her entrance to the undiscovered country. It took most of the day to get her released from the hospital and then transferred to the house and set up there. Now, she and my dad are at home alone together as they travel these last few steps in their marriage of 65 years. Dad plans to sleep in a recliner beside her bed so he can tend to any needs that might arise in the night. Please pray for them both.

Meanwhile, I taught my final live class today. Well, actually it was both live and online. One student came and the other one didn’t, so I included him online and he was able to see and hear everything we did. It just was very slow and there was a time lag every time someone spoke or I changed the picture on the screen. Hoping I won’t have this problem with Zoom, which I finally managed to get late this morning, because from here on out all my teaching will have to be online.

I thought I’d give you a little snapshot of what my family is up to during this crisis, since I know many of you know my kids.

Lina (in Nacogdoches, 60 miles away) is teaching online also for the rest of this school year. She has her cat to keep her company.

Flynn and Tiffany (in Colorado) are hunkered down at home with our adorable granddaughter Paisley. Flynn is able to work remotely and continue doing his job.

Mary and Jordan (in Memphis) are both working from home also. Jordan is teaching his university classes online and Mary’s job as a freelance media expert is home-based anyway.

Mercy (in Dallas) is at home for the time being since her library is currently closed. Her husband Daniel, however, has a job that is considered essential so he continues to work nights.

Spencer (here in town) continues to work for the cable company with very few concessions to the risk he’s taking. His work load has increased since so many “stuck-at-homers” want access to cable. His girlfriend Jade is losing her job after tomorrow and seems unlikely to find another one until after this crisis passes.

Lucy (here at home) is finishing her semester online, as is her boyfriend Tanner, who is staying in our guest room. They both still hope to work at a camp in Alaska this summer.

Jasper (here at home) is finishing up his senior year of homeschool and is still working part time on the campus in the grounds department. Even in a pandemic, grass still needs to be cut.

Parting Shot:

See these majestic trees? I pass them every day on my walk around the campus. Aren’t they beautiful? My husband planted them many years ago. In our student days, the main part of campus had almost no trees and very little grass. Back in the day, my husband, who worked for grounds at the time, decided to take on the project of planting some trees in this bare area near what was then the student center. People made fun of his spindly little saplings. Nobody’s making fun of them now. They’re beautiful! We never dreamed we’d be around to see these trees mature.

Skype & Apple Sauce

So today was my first time to teach my high school class online, and a majority of them preferred Skype over Facebook video chat. I thought I could make it work despite the fact that I hate Skype with a burning passion—but I never did succeed in getting all my students online with me at once. It was a very frustrating experience and I am going to figure out something better before next week.

Later, in the kitchen, I noticed a bowl of apples that had been languishing for several weeks. My family claims to want fruit, but when I buy it, it often doesn’t get eaten. I didn’t want the apples to go bad, so I whipped up a batch of apple sauce that I think turned out pretty well.

I did make what will probably be my final trip to Walmart for a while, and picked up a few items, including computer paper, which I was almost out of. I also went for my walk on the almost-deserted campus, and I saw these very red azaleas to brighten your day:

I know they look pink, but they’re really red.

This evening we got to have a video chat with Flynn and Tiffany and little Paisley. Paisley slept through a lot of it, but then she did wake up and we got to see those bright little eyes!

Update on my mom: my dad is working on setting up home hospice care for her. It will be a major project getting her moved home, and of course she might not even survive that long—but that’s the plan, to make the move later this week.

Rainy Friday

Another day in this surreal crisis. It being Friday, I went to Aldi in the rain in hopes of finding a few food items that I don’t already have. At first glance, the store didn’t seem to be that hard hit—until I realized they had spread things out on the shelves to hide the missing items. No rice. No flour. No sugar, etc. They did have milk and eggs, which other stores have run out of. And I saw one guy buying only two large packages of toilet paper. I actually feel like we’re in pretty good shape for at least a couple of weeks.

Lucy and Tanner spent the morning getting Tanner moved out of the dorm and into our guest room. They will both be finishing the semester online.

This afternoon I attended a webinar and then did a quick run to Dollar General to pick up some canned food. They still had quite a lot of stuff but had run out of bags!

We have had rain almost all week, and as a result I haven’t been able to go walking in the evenings. Obviously, the gym is closed. Hoping for a walk tomorrow though.

And finally, I have had an interesting change in my routine and I’m not sure how I feel about it. It has nothing to do with the virus. When we went to Colorado to visit Flynn and his family, I knew I had to step up my liquid intake because of the altitude. When I go to Colorado in the summer, I drink lots and lots of water. This time, I drank lots and lots of tea. Lots. At least a gallon of hot tea every day, much of which was decaf/herbal. Since returning home, I find that I am still drinking that much tea. Before our trip, I know I wasn’t getting enough fluids on a daily basis. Now that I’m drinking so much more, I find I don’t want to stop!

Keeping Busy

Wednesdays are a little bit of a breather for me, in that I don’t have to teach until midday. I had plenty to do though, in class prep. And the renovation of my pantry is ongoing too. It is so much more functional now—but I had to throw out a lot of expired products.

I also took a few minutes to make a couple of envelopes:


I am sending a card or note to my mom every day, and some of them don’t have envelopes of their own. I love making envelopes and I’ve learned that people love receiving handmade envelopes! Most of mine are made from out-of-date calendar pages. Sounds like a great project for someone who is self-isolating . . .

The blond brothers actually came in person today. I guess they just couldn’t pass up my fabulous hot cocoa! One of them told me today that my cocoa is the standard against which he measures all others, and they all have fallen short!

We also are facing what so many others are facing in this crisis—a significant loss of income. If the daycare center my husband cleans remains closed, we will be in a very tight spot by next month.

We have geography class tomorrow, and I think it will still go on since only three families are involved and I believe there is virtually no risk. So I had to go to Walmart to pick up a couple of things and the shelves have emptied out significantly since I was there on Sunday. I sure am glad I got flour and sugar when I did!

And guess who’s making injera tomorrow? I’ve had the teff sourdough brewing ever since we returned from Colorado. Hoping it goes well . . .

My mom is still in the hospital and not doing well at all. She is struggling to breathe even with oxygen and having difficulty eating or talking. So far my dad has been allowed to be with her to help her, but the situation is very discouraging.

Red Tape

Happy St. Patrick’s Day to you! I started off the day preparing for and then teaching my younger class online. It took a little adjusting to get it all figured out but eventually I could see all six kids on three screens and they could see me. I am still in the process of figuring out how to make this work for the next few weeks if they’re not here in person to turn stuff in.

Right after lunch Jasper and I went back to the doctor so he could get his second toe done. After six weeks on antibiotics, both toes are a lot better and this time it was much easier to get his toe numb. This second toe only needed part of the toenail removed and was so much quicker and easier than the last one. He still got a Shamrock shake afterward though!

After dropping him off, my cable saga continued. Back in January, our credit union merged with a much larger credit union and as a result we had to get new account numbers and new debit cards, etc. I was able to easily change all my payment information for all my online bill paying—except for the cable company. We don’t have cable and haven’t for at least 15 years, but we get our internet through them so it’s kind of important.

After trying for two months to change my payment particulars online with no success, I went down to the actual cable office yesterday to do it in person. The girl there filled out all the information, but said she couldn’t activate the new arrangement until I brought her a letter from the credit union. Huh?

So today I went to the credit union and requested a letter. They had no idea what I was talking about. After some discussion, they finally figured that sending an official deposit slip with my new account number and routing number on it might do the trick.

With deposit slip in hand, I drove from the very south end of High Street to the very north end and strode back into the cable office. The paper I brought wasn’t what they wanted at all. And they absolutely refused to call the lady at the credit union and tell her what they did want. Also, whatever it was couldn’t be sent electronically. I had to fetch and deliver it in person.

I sent a text to my son telling him what I thought of his employer. And I made the cable lady write down on a piece of paper what she wanted—a letter from the credit union explaining why I was issued a new card. Really?

I drove all the way back to the credit union and I think the security guard was really enjoying the drama. He has an incredibly boring job. There was another big discussion and the upshot was that one of the helpful ladies typed up a letter on letterhead, printed it out and signed it for me.

After warning them all that I might still come back, I drove back up to the cable office with the new letter. This time, my offering was accepted! As far as I know, my automatic bill paying is functional again. It only took three visits to the cable office and two visits to the credit union to make it happen! I felt like I was back in a third world country.

Fortunately, I made it home in time to finish making our St. Patrick’s Day Irish dinner—corned beef, roasted cabbage, mashed potatoes, and Irish Soda Bread. And afterward we enjoyed our annual viewing of Riverdance.

Meanwhile, life is getting increasingly more complicated. The university is shutting down at least until the end of the summer, it looks like. All classes are online. Homecoming and graduation have been cancelled. All students must be out of their dorms by this weekend. Therefore, it looks like Tanner will be moving in with us until the end of the semester, after which he and Lucy are still hoping to fly to Alaska to work at a camp there like Lucy did last summer. And my husband has to figure out how to keep his crews busy working on an empty campus.

A Long Drive, Ides, a Birthday Dinner, and a Clean Pantry

Saturday was a long, long day. We left Flynn and Tiffany’s house on a sparkling snowy morning, but soon descended into fog. There were lots of other people on the road too; virtually everywhere we stopped was crowded. At one place, the line for the women’s bathroom stretched all the way across the back of the store!

It was 26 degrees when we left Colorado Springs and 70 degrees when we finally arrived home in East Texas. It is always good to be home and to sleep in your own bed.

Sunday morning I was up early to go grocery shopping. Walmart had many empty shelves, especially when it came to paper goods and bread. There were zero paper goods.

We had no church, so after making us a nice breakfast I got to work making Lucy’s birthday dinner. She had requested a Greek meal consisting of chicken gyros with homemade tzatziki sauce, Greek salad, and falafel. With a carrot cake (my own recipe) for dessert. I’ve gotta say that homemade tzatziki sauce is to die for. And the marinade I made for the chicken was pretty amazing too. I had the cake made by lunchtime, which is when Lina arrived.

Because I had been busy all morning, I had time for a little nap and to observe the Ides of March, as I always do, by listening to “Rinse the Blood off my Toga” by Wayne and Shuster. Lucy and Tanner went in quest of pita bread for me so I wouldn’t have to make it from scratch—which I can totally do, but it would have added more time and effort to the meal.

We had five of our kids here for supper, plus one spouse (Mercy’s husband Daniel) and two significant others (Tanner and Jade). It was good to have ten people around the table! I am so glad that Mercy and Daniel were able to come from Dallas. With both of them working now it is much harder for them to find a day when they are both free.

And yes, the meal was fabulous and everyone enjoyed it. It was Jade’s first time to have Greek food.

By late in the evening everyone had left and I was scrambling to prepare for today’s high school English class. Next week we will have an online class, and I am working on doing an online class for my younger kids tomorrow just to make sure no one is uncomfortable. I had an online tutoring session this afternoon as my regular student is self-isolating.

Since Geography is such a small class, we still plan to have it, and I had told this week’s student chef to let me know if he needed any spices. I was pretty sure he’d need the fenugreek called for in the recipe, and he did (none of the stores here carry it). So after class today I went to get it—and I couldn’t find it. I know for a fact I bought fenugreek the last time I taught Geography. I thought I knew exactly where it was. I was wrong.

Guess who pulled everything out of her pantry cupboard and is now in the process of cleaning and organizing it? It’s needed to be done for a long time. I found one item in there that expired in 2009! What I did not find was fenugreek, and I can’t order some in time for our meal on Thursday. So the recipe will turn out a little differently . . .

I don’t think I mentioned that the university has added an extra week of spring break for the students, before putting all classes online, so Lucy and Tanner set off for Memphis this morning to spend a couple of days with Mary and Jordan. Jordan is also teaching from home. My husband, however, has to go to work as usual.

And finally, I had word this evening that my mother is back in the hospital with a urinary tract infection. The good news is that my dad was allowed in to see her and to clean and set up her bi-pap machine for her. She is miserable and confused and could certainly use your continued prayers.

Five Weeks

Guess who’s five weeks old today? Cute little Paisley, that’s who!

This is a photo of her trying out the cradle we brought. My husband made it for Flynn when he was a baby.

Lucy and Tanner left before dawn this morning as they have responsibilities in Texas. They have arrived safely.

This morning I was up early frying rice cakes for Flynn. They are one of his favorite things but he hasn’t had a lot of success making them for himself. I was able to get them done before he had to start work (he worked from home today).

Rather than try to do more socializing in town, I tried to get some work done today. I have plenty to do for my classes and for my writers’ group. I am a little handicapped though because my eyes have really been bothering me. I assume it’s the very low humidity here that is making my eyes itch and burn all the time. I had to go out and buy some eyedrops, but I am still finding it difficult to focus on screen or page because of the extreme discomfort.

Walter and Jasper spent yesterday afternoon and most of today working around Flynn’s house and yard. Both have plenty of small projects that need to be done, and some of them are being taken care of during this visit.

I did still have to make a run to the grocery store to get a few things for our “breakfast for dinner” meal. I made an egg and sausage casserole, bacon, banana pancakes, and fried potatoes. After supper we watched a movie and Paisley slept all the way through it. Now if she would just sleep for at least a couple hours at a time during the night . .

Two Friends in One Day

We have a friend who lives about an hour’s drive south of here, and when I came in December we couldn’t get our schedules to match up, so I never got to see her. So when I called her last night I was delighted it turned out that she would be free this morning.

We got up a little earlier than the day before so we could be on the road shortly after 8:00. We had arranged to meet at a Love’s station sort of at the midway point. I have only recently discovered that Love’s stations offer tea in addition to coffee, so I looked forward to a nice big cup of tea.

Well, it turns out that this Love’s is apparently too small to rate a tea selection. However, I felt obligated to drink something if we were going to sit there all morning, so I got a cup of coffee after Dianne arrived, and was a little dismayed to find that I didn’t actually hate it at all.

Dianne was one of the first friends I made at my second college, a transfer student like me. Later she was one of my suitemates. So we have a long history together. Of course she knows my husband well too since we were dating in college. It was so good to see her and get caught up on each other’s lives.

After arriving back at Flynn’s house, I had time for a big mug of real tea before setting off to meet up with my friend Evangeline for, you guessed it—more tea. I found the coffee shop but got there before her, so I wandered into the spice shop next door. I did not leave empty handed.

Evangeline and I sat in a cozy little nook and visited over our hot drinks. I always love to have a chance to visit with one of my writer friends.

When she had to leave to pick up her son, I headed to the grocery store yet again to pick up the things I needed for tonight’s supper. I made roasted chicken, baked potatoes, steamed broccoli, and sautéed mushrooms. It was a good dinner.

And lest you think that I ignored Paisley all day, let me hasten to say that I got in some Paisley cuddles between my two excursions, and also this evening while everyone else was eating supper. She was alert for a long time this evening, trying out different expressions on her face and even letting out a couple of experimental coos. What a cutie pie! But if she holds true to form, her parents won’t get much sleep tonight . . .

So Much Rain

Last night was a rainy night, and today was a very rainy day. The blond brothers didn’t come over because their mom was out of town and she didn’t want the older boy driving in the rain. So we did our tutoring session over Google hangouts and it was fine.

Afterward, the sun actually came out for a few seconds and I ran some errands. One of the things I did was pick up a few drinks and snacks for our upcoming road trip.

Then the rain came back. My new garden beds are getting watered in very thoroughly. I am trying to finish as many school tasks as possible before we leave on Saturday. I’m making some headway. I also made cookies.

My mom is settled back in the nursing home with new treatment protocols. The two primary items of concern are her fluid intake (not enough) and her weakness. She lost a lot of ground lying in a hospital bed for two weeks, and will have to really work to get her strength back up.

It’s after midnight as I write this, and still raining.

An Avian Visitor

Tuesdays are my elementary class days. It was a bit misty this morning, so the kids had their recess in the carport instead of the back yard.

The afternoon was very exciting for the neighborhood dogs as there was a red-tailed hawk hanging out on top of our swing set, and the dogs went crazy! The hawk stayed around all afternoon.

My mother was transported back to the nursing home. Hopefully this time her medication protocol will be more effective. The horrific tornadoes which devastated Tennessee fortunately stopped short of my parents’ town.