Thursday, April 2, 2020

three and a half years later...


You might remember back in 2016, our friend and fellow glass artist was evicted from his studio after 40 years and given 2 months to vacate the premises which included having to move his house that he had had put on the property. He and his partner bought an acre of land on the other side of Houston (much like we did), got his house moved and fixed back up and now Gene is ready to retrieve all the rest of his stuff. He has, over the past few years, come and got this thing or that thing but now his new studio is done; slab poured, metal building erected, wiring done, doors installed, plumbing done. He came Tuesday and loaded up as much stuff as he could and he was back yesterday for another load because he's afraid that Texas is going to get locked down and then he won't be able to get his stuff. We let him borrow our trailer so we loaded that up too. The shop is going to look downright empty.

I finally took the string trimmer and cut away everything around the bluebonnets in front, all the hay grass and clover gone to seed and the cleaver and other stuff and raked into neat piles which I've picked up and trundled off and dumped father in the field behind me because my burn pile is already sky high.

I also worked on the drawing of the amaryllis flower bud and finished it. Next up is a watercolor of the same. Or maybe another drawing, something different.


Or maybe more yard work but over at the shop as we are in the last day/s of what is probably the last cold front. There are about a dozen small trees and in a few cases getting large trees along the fence line that have to be cut down and a large clump of poison ivy which has to go.

OK, so long sleeved shirt, long pants, socks and boots, hat, the only thing exposed was my hands and face and I got down in that deep ditch along the front of the shop and waded through a sea of poison ivy and dewberry brambles with a bucket containing the long handled nippers, a scary and lethal looking machete that a friend loaned me, 


and the stump killer and I think I got all the hackberry trees along the fence line, about two dozen, and squirted the stumps with stump killer. 


We'll see if they come back. Still plenty of trash vines and poison ivy to deal with. The virginia creeper and ironweed has all but smothered the wisteria in the corner, if you can believe something like that is even possible, and it didn't bloom well this year so all that has to be cut back. In fact this part of the property is where we are going to put the house for my sister so the entire fence needs to be cleared. I don't use poisons but I'm afraid that's what it's going to take  to really clear out that ditch and fence. 

Oof. I'm tired now.




Sunday, March 29, 2020

tales from a COVID-19 self-quarantine, part 2


Monday... 

Bill the plumber showed up to connect the water lines to the sink with a new helper. “Where's Gunnar?” I asked. “Gunnar's sick today,” he says. I'm on the phone to Gunnar's mom. Sore throat, she says. OK, that's good, if having a sore throat can be good. Sore throats are not symptoms of this virus. The clinic wouldn't let him in...not a symptom, go home, if you get symptoms on this list, call people on this list.

Got a text from my daughter (I had teased her with jigsaw puzzles last week).


Got my dirt and a quick foray to the grocery store for butter, bread, and oats. Got the butter and oats but no bread. Well, they had bread but not the kind we eat (Orowheat Jewish Rye), plenty of wheat bread though which we don't eat. Last Monday when I went besides only having one door open it was pretty much as usual. Today the door on the right end of the building was for entering, the door on the left end was for leaving. The entrance was cordoned off so as to create a line with an attendant at the door handing you a cart and controlling how many people could enter. The checkout stations had red squares with white footprints on the floor every six feet to show people the correct social distancing and there was a clear plastic shield between the customer and the checker. She wouldn't let me hand her the money. I had to put it on the little shelf and then she picked it up. This was probably my last outing until the next trip to the grocery store.

GroupMe text from Abby re yoga tonight...anybody interested in a FB Live class? Respondents say yes so no more in person classes for a couple of weeks or whenever. I guess we're all a little more nervous. So we're doing yoga together and yet we are apart.

The library, open with reduced hours last week, is closed this week.

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Tuesday... 

I wonder if the younger people getting seriously sick are ones who vape. Harris County, in which is Houston, is going into lock down today. Three more confirmed cases in my county, all in El Campo and vicinity 12 miles away.

Chatted with my (not crazy) neighbor (though I may have to amend that) today. He doesn't believe the coronavirus is real (do you know anybody who has it he asked me), doesn't believe global warming is real either. Apparently what he does believe is every crackpot conspiracy theory out there. I asked him where his tinfoil hat was.

Dug up some woodland petal pinks, baby blue eyes, easter lilies, purple coneflower, rocket larkspur, love-in-a-mist, and a banana tree for my neighbor who speaks about as much English as I do Spanish which is hardly any. I wrote down all the info for her so her son could translate it.

Texas' Lt. Governor Dan Patrick is all for everyone going back to work now because all the grandparents will be willing to die for the economy for their grandchildren. Many Republicans are on board with that. I should be surprised. I'm not. No, sorry Dan, I would die for my grandchildren if it would save their lives. I will not offer to die to save a millionaire a few bucks.

Trump, who has the attention span of a gnat, is bored. COVID-19 is a bore. People keep saying mean things about him. Someone posted a video of him getting a current pandemic briefing and he couldn't even keep his eyes open much less pretend like he was paying attention. He's ready to move on and declare it all done. He wants his beautiful stock market back. He wants his beautiful rallies back and to be showered with adoration. He wants his golf weekends back. He's picked Easter Sunday to relieve all restrictions because he thinks it's a 'beautiful day' to start the resurrection of the economy. Yeah, go pack those churches; get breathed on, coughed on, and sung on by all the people around you. Good thing I'm not a believer.

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Wednesday... 

Out of bread.

Saw this tweet which is why the husband made a trip into Houston yesterday before it was locked down to get something we consider essential to our working and living together 24/7 for 44 years.


Thank the powers that be that the Democrats regained control of the House. The Republican stimulus bill was all about bailing out industry with little to no oversight and little to no provisions for the working class including a secret $500B slush fund for them to dole out to their cronies with recipients' names being withheld for 6 months and Trump refusing to promise that he and his family would not be a recipient. Doesn't matter because even if he had promised, it would have been a lie.

Quiet day. Got some things out of pots and in the ground. Had our FB Live yoga class, walked the dog. There's a mountain of dishes in the kitchen that aren't getting washed today either. Finished my book.

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Thursday... 

Had to call the plumber back today as the p-trap was leaking I noticed last night. There was a puddle on the shelf under the sink. Rocky showed up and fixed it. We think.

Well, hooray! Some news outlets are finally going to stop airing Trump's daily news briefing re-election rally since all he does is give out false information lie, whine about how badly he's being treated, and brag on himself.

Spending more time than I should on FB and Twitter but less time every day as I'm reaching overload on the incompetence of the people at the top, reading blog posts about what people are doing, how they are coping. For me it's still pretty much my regular life. I'm a bit amused by some of the extreme lengths people are going to to protect themselves, wiping down everything before they touch it, wiping down everything before it comes into their house that someone might have touched...food, mail, shoes, packages, money, phone, car, any and everything...but then I don't live in a heavily infected area, only four confirmed cases in my county.

And I did manage to do the dishes and clean the kitchen just in time for Marc to mess it up again.

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Friday... 

Today the US has the most confirmed cases in the world and rising thanks to Trump's inaction and incompetence. Worldwide today the death rate is about 5%. Some people keep trying to poo poo the severity of this pandemic comparing it to things like annual deaths from flu, annual deaths from car accidents, annual deaths from suicides, all improper analogies. Suicides are unpreventable as long as people have easy access to guns, flu isn't nearly as contagious or lethal and most people have some immunity to various strains, and if 5% of people on our roads at any one time died I'm pretty sure we'd be shutting down the roads. No one has any immunity to COVID-19, it is highly contagious with a high death rate. For instance, worldwide (according to this article and I'm rounding these figures up) as of two days ago 500,000 (half a million) cases and 21,000 deaths. Seasonal flu in the US alone sickens 38,000,000 (that's 38 million) people with 23,000 deaths. Currently in the US we have 85,762 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 1,306 deaths which is more than 1.5%. The older you are the higher the death rate which is why Italy with it's aged population has had so many deaths. The over 80s haven't got much of a chance though young people are dying too and by young I mean 40 and under.

And nope, p-trap is still seeping.

Wharton County now has 5 confirmed cases, four in El Campo and surrounding area, one in the rural area around Wharton. Getting closer.

Feeling listless today. Went outside to do some more work in the yard. Did I really want to do that work in the sun I asked myself. No, no I do not. I did manage to bathe the dog and clean the filter to the turtle pond, a nasty icky job if ever there was one, and watered the front yard.

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Saturday...

You know,” he added from the White House, “we don’t like to see the complaints.”

^ This from the president of the United States as the country struggles to deal with the COVID-19 pandemic as this country now has the most confirmed cases in the world. He also said he told Pence, who leads the coronavirus response team, to ignore governors in hard hit areas if they are 'not appreciative' (in other words the first words out of their mouths isn't praise for Trump). And this...Michigan Governor Whitmer who has been vocal about the horrible job Trump has and is doing says that vendors were told not to send stuff to Michigan, that supplies she has ordered are being sent to the federal government instead. Trump also has decided that New York doesn't need all the ventilators it's asking for because...? I'll tell you why, because Governor Cuomo has publicly criticized Trump. More proof that for Trump his ego is more important than the lives of everyday Americans. He doesn't give a rat's ass how many people die. 

Well, Trump has finally signed an order to compel General Motors to manufacture ventilators (why GM?), something he should have done back in January, and practically in the next breath harangued them for not being able to make 40,000 overnight.

A worker for a national company with an outlet in Texas has reported that employees received a letter stating that their paychecks would be preemptively cut by 100% of the amount they receive from the stimulus package just passed by Congress and not just once but every time the government decides to send the common people a check. Preemptively. In other words, the company will decide how much they think the government is sending their employees and deduct that about from their paycheck before the employee even gets the money. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE!!!

Cooler out today and overcast. Did a little more putzing around in the yard. Finally sat down determined to do a drawing or a watercolor. Maybe both.


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Sunday...

I read two articles today, one in the NYT and the other in the WAPO, about the likelihood of contracting the virus by touching a surface that an infected person touched like a package delivered or a container at the grocery store. While the virus can be detected on surfaces like glass, plastic, paper, cardboard (the longest), steel, clothing hours later; it is highly unlikely that you will get the virus from those surfaces for several reasons those being the infected person showing symptoms (fever, coughing, sneezing) would probably not be working, the infected person would have to have recently coughed or sneezed directly on the surface, and you would have to touch the exact spot the infected person coughed on and then immediately touch your face or mouth.

Current statistics as of today 3/29/20, 14:55 GMT (last Sunday's totals in parenthesis): cases – 123,958 (38,757); deaths – 2,231 (400); recoveries – 3,238 (178).

The next two weeks are going to be horrific.



Thursday, March 26, 2020

spring yard pics


I wish y'all could see the big backyard now. It's so pretty with blooming evening primrose, dandelions, fleabane, baby blue eyes, and bluebonnets in the yard and the indian paintbrush in the field behind us and the pictures just don't do it justice.


In the flower beds the poppies and the rocket larkspur are blooming (though not as big a return this year as in previous years and a lot of the larkspur is in the yard) and all the different amaryllis and the mock dogwood and penstemon and jasmine and iris.


The red tip photinias that provide a screen across the front of the house and along the side of the little backyard are blooming.


The pecan trees are coming out, seems early.


Did I mention there were baby wrens in one of the bird houses? I checked today and they are gone, hopefully fledged and moved safely on. And I came across this green frog.


This spring has been unusual flipping back and forth from spring to winter really starting in January. Everything seems a bit confused especially since the last two days have been more like summer, hot and humid. In fact, Marc turned the air conditioner on yesterday. In March.

I got another of the plumerias in the ground and a couple of things out of pots and in the ground. I want to put the other penstemon in the ground but since I watered yesterday, the ground is too wet. Maybe this afternoon.

Not much else going on as we shelter in place.



Sunday, March 22, 2020

tales from a COVID-19 self-quarantine



Week one of partial self-quarantine is done. I say partial because I have been to the grocery store, to yoga twice, went out to pick up my watercolor, and went to the feed store besides walking the dog every day.

Last Sunday night I got a call from my daughter with our marching orders. We were to prepare to stay at home for a month and Aunt Pam too. She was going in to the city to finish a few things on her desk at work and then do a big shop so if we needed anything text her a list and then she was going into quarantine at home as her work was going to close to the public. And NO yoga for you, she tells me.

I went to yoga Monday night (and Wednesday night). Not five minutes after I left, she and her husband pulled up.

Where's Mom?”

You're not supposed to be here”, my husband said.

Where's Mom?”

Mumble mumble yoga.”

I told her NO yoga!”

I texted her Wednesday morning to see how her first day (Tuesday) of self-quarantine went.

Boring!”

In fact, she had gone in to work Wednesday which did turn out to be her last day for the next who knows.

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Since I had called my sister to pass on her marching orders, she grumbled about ignoring them and then said she'd go to the grocery store in the morning to get in more supplies. Since you get up before I do, I told her, call me and let me know if they have anything. 8:30 AM Monday morning the phone rings,

If you aren't already on your way you better get here soon,” she says. 

Parking lot is full, store is packed, every checker station open, people wheeling heaped cart loads out. Well, damn. Haven't even had my coffee yet but I got dressed and got there before 9 AM (store opened at 8 AM). Parking lot was not full, store was not packed, at least 4 checker stations were closed. I was mostly concerned about getting enough dog and cat food for a month but I picked up other things as I saw them available, like the bread we buy and the peanut butter he likes and dried beans and OJ and fruit and avocados and lunch meat and eggs, in all $130+. I didn't bother to go on the paper aisle as we have enough but it was odd the things there were and the things there were not. Like plenty of meat but no fresh vegetables except for beets and bok choy but plenty of fresh fruit, lots of chips. Only a few 5 lb bags of potatoes and only one bin of loose big yellow onions. Dried beans were almost completely cleaned out leaving only some bags of the weird ones or lentils. I discovered 6 bags of pintos on a lower shelf that had been overlooked because they couldn't be seen while standing. Getting checked out the woman behind me was quizzing the cashier on what would be available when and she just shrugged. Gotta get here before 8 if you want something specific she said. Talking to my daughter later she told me people were already waiting in the parking lot at 6:30 AM when they drove by on their way to work that morning. Marc went yesterday afternoon and was able to get just about everything on the list except butter, lots of bacon he said, but all just one single kind.

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Dentist office called, I assumed to tell me my new crown was ready, but no, they were calling to tell me they were closing til April.

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As mentioned, my sister and I went to yoga on Monday night and I went on Wednesday. It's a large indoor/outdoor building (the sides roll up when the weather is good) and I knew the walls would be partially up as it had been a warm day, it's a small group (usually just 6 - 12 people), and we could easily stay 10' away from each other, and at that time there were no known or suspected cases of the virus in our county. The general consensus was we want to be careful but we also need some normalcy in our lives. Plus the yoga helps keep us centered and not freaking out for at least that hour. I'm starting to waver on going next week though because while I think it would be safe enough, El Campo, where the class is, now has its first confirmed case of COVID-19; a 30 yr. old woman who had traveled recently to an area with a high number of cases and is quarantining at home. How many people did she infect before her symptoms showed? I'm thinking perhaps better to be more prudent going forward.

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Also as mentioned I went to the local feed store late morning Saturday to get bird seed and potting soil and composted peat so I can pot up some of the stuff I want to share with a neighbor. I got the bird seed but not the dirt because as soon as I walked in it started raining and I wasn't going to have the guys loading that stuff up in the rain but it had been awhile since I had been in and since I'm friendly with two of the employees, they had been wondering if I was OK. Yes I told her, just waiting for spring and then the sudden bathroom remodel had kept me preoccupied. Normally we would have hugged hello and/or goodbye but not this visit though we did get closer than 6'. So I will go get the dirt Monday, an essential trip for me and for them as some commerce has to get done and the dirt will keep me busy at home, but it may be my only outing all next week besides walking the dog.

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The planet is getting to breathe a little easier without all the constant frantic human activity. Factories shutting down for weeks, cars off the roads, just less general activity and the pollution producing effects of it all stilled for a short time. China is seeing exceedingly rare blue skies, the canals in Venice have cleared up and you can see the fish and swans and dolphins are swimming in them again.

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According to this website, WORLDOMETER, these are the current statistics for the US as of 3/22/20, 18:43 GMT: cases – 38,757; deaths – 400; recoveries – 178. Kind of alarming as the numbers grow exponentially. Still not enough masks or protective gear for our health workers or ventilators for desperate patients, still not enough tests and the ones we have take too long to get results, still arrivals at airports aren't so much as getting their temperature taken, still an incompetent whiner doing nothing in the White House except spouting off more ignorance. In Texas, as of Saturday, there were 325 people who tested positive and 5 deaths. Most of the cases are in the large urban areas...Dallas/Ft. Worth, Austin/San Antonio, Houston. Houston is an hour away. Still, our county is very rural, lots of farm and ranch land, and this town I live outside of is not very active though people do commute to the city to work.

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Some people are speculating that the world will be a much different place when this is over. I'm not sure what they mean by that. Different as in learning to live without constant stimulation or instant gratification or continual rushing around? That people will learn to slow down and bide time and be here now? That we will be more relaxed and compassionate and good to others? That we will all of a sudden realize we don't need all that stuff out there calling to us and we will adopt simpler lifestyles causing this pause for the planet to become normal? Yeah, fat chance. We will all still be human beings mired in this modern culture and we will go back to our selfish ways post haste. Or as hastily as a society can during a recession caused by all the lost work, lost jobs, lost businesses, lost investments followed by lost homes. Because surely that's the different world we will face when this is over. Or maybe not. We'll see.



Saturday, March 21, 2020

words and pictures


Monday afternoon Rocky worked on the punch list. Tuesday he did the last one or two things and I paid him off and sent him on his way even though the water is still not hooked up to the sink. He was going to call the plumber and get it done that week. Friday I called Rocky...”Bill still hasn't been by?”, he asked. Nope.

Wednesday I sealed the glass tile, the marble flower tile, and the travertine pencil tile and repainted the door with semi-gloss paint, and taped off the stained molding around the door, the water heater/hamper closet, and the window.

Thursday I repainted the closet doors (two, one on top of the other), painted the jambs and the window sill which seem to have gotten overlooked, and put a second coat on all three doors, removed the paper that had been taped down to protect the floor in the kitchen, vacuumed the foam mats in the hall that were protecting the floor and put them back in the garage, swept the hall and part of the kitchen and my studio room through which all traffic moves, and washed the dishes.

Yesterday I hung the door and reattached the closet doors, vacuumed out the insides of the cabinets, put the shelves back in with much cursing (I really hate those metal clips) and got all the stuff put back in, put my personal stuff in my drawer (not filling the vanity till the water gets connected to the sink), swept the floor, cleaned off my big work table which had become the staging area for all the work being done, swept the floor in my studio, swept the path in the garage to the door of all the leaves and sawdust and sheetrock dust, and vacuumed the upper house. Oof. I was tired last night.

I still need to put the tension bar back with the shower curtain, currently a plain white liner, that I'm going to replace with a clear liner. After all this expense and effort I want to be able to see that tile. Still need to get a soap dish to attach and a towel/grab bar which we should have planned for when setting the wall tile but didn't. But for all (except for the sink) intents and purposes, the bathroom is finished.

before (click to embiggen):

     
     

 after:

     
    
    

We had our little art show from the watercolor classes Friday the 13th.

the woman on the left is the instructor


I liked it better before I painted in the water because now I don't think the lily pads are dark enough though I'm happy with the way the water looks. But I was in the class to learn techniques and so I painted in the water, reminding myself of what I would tell my students back when we were teaching, that I was there to learn a technique, not create a masterpiece.

My painting did get a lot of attention though and the director of Hesed House told me when I came to pick up my painting later that they should have had a viewer's choice award, that I would surely have won it. I'm glad they didn't though because it wouldn't have been fair seeing as how I've been a professional artist for 40+ years even if I haven't ever done any watercolors.

Well, winter has returned for probably the last time this season bringing some much needed rain and considering all my activity this past week, I'm planning on vegging out with my book today. After I vacuum the rest of the house and empty the dishwasher of course.



Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Friday, March 13, 2020

no pictures, just words


I'm so excited! The vanity is in with sink and marble top installed, cabinets and mirror are back up, doors are being painted, quarter round along the baseboard is in, light fixture is back up. Still need to grout the last bit of tile, door and closet molding still needs to go up, doors need to be rehung, sink faucet and shower hardware need to be installed, towel bar and soap dish (which I don't have yet) need to be mounted. Sounds like a lot still to do but it's mostly piddly shit. And no more pictures til it's finished.

I did finish my watercolor of the water lilies but forgot to take a picture of it before I left last Monday. Hesed House which sponsored the watercolor class is having an art opening for all us students tonight so you'll have to wait til I get my painting back to see it. I'm such a tease, right?, refusing to show you pictures.

Yesterday I got rid of the leftover hardy board from repairing the outside siding of the house after Harvey that has been laying on the floor of the shop and being in the way. We have new neighbors, well, not so new, they moved in after Harvey, but had been buying the house (owner finance I think), doing all the maintenance for a couple of years, a young man Jose and his wife and younger brother and his parents. Anyway, they've been working on a small outbuilding that needed some hardy board and I offered it to them.

I also have another heaping cart full of hay grass and other undesirable weeds. The big backyard looks pretty ratty right now being between the chickweed and anemones going to seed and the fleabane and evening primrose starting up. Our neighbor who lives across the road our street ends at and who mows my not crazy neighbor's lot is just itching to mow the big backyard. Every time he mows my neighbor's yard, he volunteers to mow ours. I tell him we don't have a lawn, we have a meadow and that these early wildflowers are an important food source for bees.

And of course, things in this country are just getting worse and worse. Still no massive testing, no tests really even available, weird restrictions for people to get tested, everything being canceled...the Rodeo in Houston, all baseball, basketball, hockey, high speed auto races, Disneyland and Disney World closing, conferences canceled, the Glass Art Society annual conference canceled, museums closing, schools closing, universities closing and turning out their students from the dorms who have no other place to live, stock market crashing, and on and on. Democrats are trying to get paid leave, free testing, and other help for citizens while the Republicans put up roadblocks. But all those Republicans who scream that we have no money for universal health care or SS and Medicare or financial help during this crises or any number of policies intended to help the common folk had no problem finding half a trillion dollars for Wall Street overnight with the promise of another trillion. Because, folks, you don't matter. Only the rich and banks and industry matters. And now we know for certain that Trump put the kibosh on any aggressive response, or any response at all, to the coronavirus back in January because he was worried about how it would affect the stock market and his reelection chances (are we surprised?). And today he is all over twitter blaming Obama (and China) and lying about Obama's instant reaction to the swine flu outbreak 10 years ago (which btw had no impact on the stock market because like him or not he was a strong leader) and his own non-response to this pandemic. After his disastrous press conference Wednesday night, which was supposed to calm the nation (his speech was written by Kushner who Trump has put in charge of the federal response because who knows why, god forbid he put actual doctors in charge) the states finally realized that they were on their own and governors and mayors are taking the lead in trying to protect their populations. Too late of course. Just like his stupid travel ban which surprise surprise which excludes countries where he has properties.

Well, that's all I got. The yard is calling and I promise no politics, no teasing next post, just pictures of flowers.