Happy Thanksgiving–CoronaLife Day 621

These past few years have felt like one very long grind, but there are still things to be thankful for.

First, health. We lost an uncle to Covid and an aunt to other medical issues this year, and my husband experienced a health scare that luckily turned out okay. But that just heightens my gratitude that, right now, my family is healthy.

Second, semi-normalcy. Things are still not normal, which in some ways is harder than when they are crazy different. But some normalcy is creeping back. My child is back in person at school. She is back swimming. We can visit with my parents spontaneously again. I was able to visit safely with a friend from out of state. We are inching toward normal. It feels like a slow-motion springtime, as the world opens like a hesitant flower.

Finally, I am thankful for the gathering in. This Thanksgiving is with my mom’s family, about 40 people strong. Vaccination and precautions have allowed us to gather safely again. I am grateful to the scientists and doctors that have made it possible for us to once more enjoy the warmth and joy of family gathered together to celebrate life and love.

I wish everyone warmth, safety, and comfort in this Thanksgiving season.

Saving A Crumbling Past—CoronaLife Day 614

This week I finally finished up watching sessions of the conference that was held the last week in October. Because it was virtual, all sessions were recorded and we had access to them for 60 days.

So in my new free time, I turned my attention to scanning the two family albums I finally got from my mom. As hoped, they did clear up the mystery of Caroline vs. Annie, and they had several pictures of relatives I did not yet have. Jackpot!

One of the albums is the kind where the photos are glued onto black paper. There were few photos in there of interest to me, but I noted that the album was in bad shape.

Although only from 1952, the binding had broken, some of the pages were loose, a number of the photos had come unstuck, and many of the black pages were crumbling to the touch.

So I decided to scan the entire book.

My aunt had written on many of the pages, some with identifying information, but also some notes showing her sense of humor. While the photos could easily have been saved and placed in another album, the living context of them as a collection would be lost with the destruction of those pages.

So I scanned the whole book today. The pages are too large for my scanner, so I had to do them in 2 or 3 chunks, depending on the photo layout. I will need to stitch them together again.

Stitching them together will not be hard. The scanning is the tedious and time consuming part. But now the book is preserved, and now that it’s digitized each of her 6 children can have digital copies of it. Although since it consists mainly of 10,000 photos of my aunt’s first child, I’m not sure how the other 5 siblings will feel!

Next up is the other album, which has so many photos I want that I will no doubt end up scanning that whole album as well. I am trying to get everything scanned by Thanksgiving so I can return the albums to my cousins.

Next week is a hectic week for me, so if I do not manage to get on, Happy Thanksgiving!

Stamina–CoronaLife Day 607

Every day at bedtime, my daughter complains that her legs ache. This is not a surprise. After 18 months of mostly being home, combined with being on crutches all of August and in an ankle brace all of September, she is tremendously out of shape. That 40 minutes of exercise in gym every day has her muscles balking.

I sit here watching her swim laps, working on her endurance with the rest of her class…and I realize she is not the only one in need of more stamina.

My daily fatigue has been with me since the pandemic started, and I attributed a lot of it to my anxiety levels being through the roof. My anxiety often manifests as deep fatigue. Add to that the fact that I often only get about 6 hours of sleep a night, and it made sense.

But now I think there is another factor. As we move back to a more normal-ish existence, I am going out more. Socializing more. Interacting more.

And my mental and social muscles are flabby. I have no stamina.

The 45 minute drive to my folks’ house, which used to be nothing, is a grueling trek.

Going to a meeting in person makes me want to hibernate.

Focusing for 4 hours at an online conference drains me.

I need to build my stamina again.

I find myself working in bursts, trading spurts of productivity with times of scrolling mindlessly online or napping.

Concentration and socializing skills need exercise to stay in shape. This is the “learning loss” I have experienced during this upheaval.

While my daughter works on her swimming endurance, I will continue to work on getting myself back in mental shape.

I hope I can, because I am tired of not feeling like myself. It will take work, time, and patience–which is just another way of saying stamina.

Book Fair Spring 2021–CoronaLife 593

Book Fair is one of my favorite times of year. I love getting books into the hands of kids. Their glowing faces, the excitement… It never gets old.

This year our school has a brand new preschool program, so seeing the 3 and 4 year olds amid the books was new. I had totally forgotten just how little they are at that age! So sweet.

We had no Book Fair last year, for obvious reasons, and I think the kids really missed it. Even the too-cool-for-school 8th graders were spending money on books! And this was the first-ever fair for pre-k, kindergarten AND first grades in our school.

As good as it feels to be back, my aching feet and legs did not miss it, LOL. But it is worth it to see the smiles as kids carry off their books as if they were precious gems.

Because working at Book Fair 4 out of 5 days this week isn’t enough to keep me busy, I am also attending a 3-day conference for school board. Luckily, it is virtual this year, with all the sessions available for 30 days, so I could squeeze them in around making kids’ book dreams come true.

I will be busy with course work at the conference all day Thursday, then back to Book Fair all day Friday. This year’s fair has been out of this world!

Entitlement—CoronaLife Day 586

I have finally gotten around to working on the title pages for my mom’s genealogy book.

Working with the image I chose to use for my title pages proved a little more difficult than I had anticipated due to my own software limitations, but I figured it out and am now proceeding happily.

I had decided to use a basic outline map of the British Isles as my title page backdrops.* My mom’s lineages come mainly from Ireland and Scotland, so I divided the book into sections. The Country Title page has the appropriate country as the backdrop.

Then, with each section, I have the surname chapters. The appropriate county is still the backdrop, but in gray, with color highlighting where the family came from in that country.

I figured since I am paying for a full-color book, I should make the most of it! Using  this scheme is a great way to have the reader oriented without having to use a separate map page. Since many readers may not know where these places are, and are not familiar with the geography, I had wanted a way to provide this info.

Hopefully the title pages look nice as well as being informative.

*Thanks to Base map © maproom.net

The Hectic Time of Year—CoronaLife Day 579

For a lot of people, the Christmas/New Year’s season is their crazy season. While that has its own stresses, I find this time of year, from mid-October to usually sometime in November more stressful.

Why? Because my daughter decided to be born close to Halloween, and now, aside from the usual hectic-ness of a child’s birthday, Halloween is her favorite holiday.

Halloween, in turn, involves many tangential activities. Pumpkin-picking, corn mazes, costume parties, trunk or treats, hayrides, and the local bonfire, not to mention trick or treating on Halloween itself. The costume must be bought or made, probably starting no later than the beginning of October, if there is anything you need shipped.

I mentioned her birthday is close to Halloween. Well, you can forget having a birthday party anywhere near her actual birth date—there are too many other things going on (see above). So we usually have it in November. One year, it was the first weekend in December!

Just preparing for and doing all these things is hectic enough, but for those of us who are not naturally social beings, it can be a lot of people-time, too. In this Covid era, it comes with new stressors as well, especially after a year of limited social activity. My daughter greatly missed all these things last year, and is ecstatic they are back this year.

Which brings me to why I am always super-stressed at this time of year. Because it is also cold and flu (and now Covid) season and these things fly around school like crazy. I always hold my breath from now until whenever all these activities are over, praying that she stays healthy. I don’t want her to miss anything she loves, especially not this year.

I know it is a bit silly to worry over something I cannot control, but that is life with anxiety disorder. And so I will spend the next 5 weeks crossing my fingers and counting down the days.

Then I will take a few deep breaths and start my Christmas shopping.

Illness in the Time of COVID – CoronaLife Day 572

So on Friday my daughter started complaining of a sore throat, stuffy nose, headache. I had all the same symptoms, too. In a normal year, we would have just shrugged it off as a back-to-school cold making the rounds.

But this is not a normal year.

For all that many activities have begun in a more-or-less normal fashion, this year is still not normal. It is normal-ish. In many ways, having an “almost normal” year is more disconcerting and disorienting than having a wildly divergent year, like last year was.

When things are nearly normal, there is a tension you never escape. You cannot relax fully, as you could if things are truly normal, yet you feel like you should be more relaxed than you are. But this normal-ish environment keeps throwing small bumps and curves in your path and there are still challenges to be met and managed. It is almost more exhausting living in this so-near-and-yet-so-far zone than when everything was upside down. Or maybe it’s just differently exhausting.

So we both had colds—but all these symptoms are also Delta COVID symptoms. We took an over the counter at home test, which are not terribly accurate for non-symptomatic cases but should register something if you are actively symptomatic, as we were. Completely negative. A relief.

For school, though, if you have COVID-like symptoms, you need to get a negative PCR test (the really accurate DNA-based type you have to send into a lab). It was impossible to get one over the weekend, so I got one on Monday. Then we had to wait to see how long the results would take to come in. Even in a normal year, I would not have sent her to school on that Monday, because she was not feeling great, and on Tuesday I probably would have kept her home, too, just to let her recuperate. But I was worried that she may end up having to stay home feeling fine while waiting for the test results.

Luck was with us, and we got the results on Tuesday. Negative, so back to school on Wednesday!

This is illness in the time of COVID, especially when you have an unvaccinated person involved. Schools have to be extremely careful to avoid an outbreak, since most of their population is still vulnerable. In five weeks of school, we have had 3 (unrelated) cases. I am thankful for the precautions our school is taking, and also thankful we live where testing is easy to get and free of charge.

Here’s hoping we don’t need to do this again anytime soon!

Photo Finish—CoronaLife Day 565

I am continuing the progress on my mom’s genealogy book. I have completed all the photos pages with the pictures I have.

We are tracking down which of my aunt’s six kids has the “old” photo album with the intergenerational pictures in it. Once we locate it, I will borrow it and scan some of the relatives I am missing from there and add them.

That book hopefully will solve a mystery for us. We have a photo of my grandfather with his siblings. We know who they all are, but the two oldest girls were only a year apart, and we don’t know which is which. We have no other pictures of Caroline, but we think there is a photo of Annie in the album. If so, we should be able to determine which is which, as they look very different.

So what remains? The chapter title pages. I think the first one will be the hardest, as I figure out how to work with the multi-layered image I am using. Once I figure it out, the rest should be able to be tweaked easily. I also have the cover to do, but I can’t really do that until I know how many pages the book will be and get the template from the printer.

I have secured proofreaders for my book’s text, so that is set up. Hopefully by the end of November I will have all the parts together and I can do the final formatting and cover.

With luck, I can have it ready for order by Christmas. However, I know there are supply chain issues in publishing right now, so it may take a little longer. But my goal was to have it ready to order by the end of the year, so I’m hopefully on track for that.

I am moving forward on my project. How about you?

Growing Trees—CoronaLife Day 558

I have reached a milestone in the genealogy book—I finished the text! It is compiled, and indexed and 92,000 words long. I have a date with the proofreaders, and then off to the races.

In the meanwhile, I am working on the inserts for the book—photos, trees, chapter title pages. I thought I had finished the trees already, but I was wrong. A month or so ago, my mother had asked for a detailed tree of her maternal side of the family from her grandparents down, including all aunts and uncles and their children and grandchildren. I made it for her, and then thought I would include it in the book (the private version, not the public version, as some of these people are living).

Of course, then I thought I should do the same for my mom’s paternal side, just to be fair and complete. Only two of the aunts on that side had children, so I thought it would be fairly easy. Famous last words. One branch we had lost touch with, so it took a lot of digging to find out what happened to them and to get down to the required generation. I still don’t know when the aunt herself died, although I have clues. The other branch was easier because we knew the people, but I had to do some research to find birth and death information.

So all that tree-growing took much more time than I expected, and has taken up the bulk of my week thus far. But now I have completed that and can say for sure that this time I have finished all the trees! I began pulling the photos I wanted to use, and I can clean them up in a couple of days. The chapter title pages may or may not be a headache—it depends how easily the graphic I got to use for it can be manipulated. In theory it shouldn’t be hard, but you know the saying, “I’d love to live in Theory, because everything works there.”

So that’s my latest project update. The proofreaders won’t get to it until November, but that gives me plenty of time to work on the inserts and get them ready to go. I will likely do a cover design, too, but that is harder to do until I know the exact dimensions and get the cover template from the printer.

So how are your projects going?

RIP Zippy—CoronaLife Day 551

The day we knew was coming arrived on Thursday. Zippy the fish expired in the night.

He was a true survivor. Bought on November 8th, 2020, as one of 3 fish, the other two succumbed to a mouth fungus within 2 days. Zippy avoided the fungus and roamed the tank at top speed, thus earning the name Zippy.

Zippy was our pandemic fish, helping my daughter navigate the isolation of quarantine and remote learning. He enjoyed being read to, especially Harry Potter, and my daughter says he was a good listener during her lonely times in the pandemic.

He developed an internal tumor, as one of our other fish had. He grew rounder, and his swimming became more difficult, but he never failed to come to the surface for his breakfast. This was a big change from when we first got him, when I didn’t see him actually eat for weeks.

As he grew in size, swimming tired him out. We would find him resting on the bottom, or on a plant leaf, or on the sponges of the filter. His favorite spot was the top of the bubbler, where he could set down and let the bubbles wash over him like a jacuzzi.

He still struggled to the surface for a single nibble of food, but then he would sink like a stone to the bottom. He spent more and more time at the bubbler, and we knew it would not be long. He showed his survivor streak, though, because he lasted several weeks longer than we thought he would.

Then Thursday morning came, and he was not in his usual spot atop the bubbler. My daughter spied him, in a front corner of the tank. True to form, he was considerate enough to die at the front of the tank, where he was easily found, instead of in amongst the plants.

My most lasting memory of him occurred about two weeks ago. The tank was having a bacteria bloom, and the water was so cloudy you couldn’t see the back (and it’s only a 5 gallon tank!). I was wondering if he was in there dead somewhere, when he came charging out of the fog toward me, with that particular wobble they get when they have a tumor, but in that moment it looked like a swagger. A little slow motion and dramatic music and he could have been a superhero fish, charging out of the mists.

RIP, Zippy, you will be missed.

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