My Best Thanksgiving

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Growing up primarily homeless with divorced parents means I was bounced around a lot as a child. My grandparents were the most stabilizing presence in my life. On the occasion that I happened to spend Thanksgiving with my grandparents, I remember it being a big production.

My grandmother would get up at 3 am to put the turkey in the oven and start the preparations. My grandparents lived on a farm when I was growing up. Just because it was Thanksgiving, did not mean it was a day off. The animals still needed to be tended and the chores still needed to be done, even if it was Thanksgiving.

The Thanksgiving meal was always served mid-day at my grandparent’s house. That way, it was in between morning and afternoon chores so my grandfather and uncles had time to sit down to enjoy the meal. Hence, my grandmother getting up at 3 am to start cooking. The Thanksgiving meal would be served sometime between 11 am and 1 pm. Closer to 11 am was preferable, closer to 1 pm was only if there was some unexpected delay.

When not at my grandparent’s house, I was tossed around between different relatives. In addition to having divorced parents, my mom was a nurse and nurses don’t always get holidays off either. My dad lived in another state, so there was always travel involved.

As an adult, I have always said I do not want to travel on holidays. I just want to stay in my house with my cats and celebrate the holiday. My cats are my family. By staying home with them, I am celebrating the holiday with family. 

There was one year where I did go somewhere to celebrate a holiday. I remember it was New Year’s Eve. I was completely miserable at this New Year’s Eve party I attended. I would have been happier at home with my cats. The entire time I was at the party, I felt guilty for not spending the holiday with my family. I have since renewed my vow to spend holidays with my family.

So for the past 20 years or so, I have spent every single holiday home alone with my cats. I am completely okay with that. I get plenty of phone calls, text messages and letters in the mail from humans. Holidays are family time and the cats are my family.

So spending Thanksgiving home alone with the cats during a pandemic was no big deal for me. It was just like any other Thanksgiving. While most of America completely ignored CDC recommendations and chose to risk their lives and the lives of other people to travel on Thanksgiving, I stayed home like I always do. I was perfectly happy.

Twenty years ago I cooked a big turkey Thanksgiving and had friends over. Even though I do not want to go anywhere on holidays, I don’t mind if people visit me. Cooking Thanksgiving was a lot of work. I did it once. I said I would not do it again. I haven’t.

In Thanksgivings since, I have been way too tired to do anything special for Thanksgiving. I spent 15 years working 2 or 3 jobs often 7 days a week trying to make ends meet. Holidays were the only times I ever got a day off. So instead of cooking anything special for Thanksgiving, I would often just put a frozen pizza in the oven and sleep. I was exhausted. I was just happy to have the day off to be home with the cats.

When I finished my master’s degree 5 years ago, I decided to cook Thanksgiving to see what it would be like to be a “normal,” non-student adult. However, instead of cooking any sort of poultry, I made a lentil loaf. I remember being in the kitchen almost all day. If you have ever cooked a lentil loaf from scratch, you know it takes about 3 hours to do so, provided you have soaked the lentils overnight ahead of time.

I got up early to cook so that my meal was ready about noontime, same as when I was a child. Cooking Thanksgiving that year was a lot of work. I even went out of my way to make an allergy-friendly pumpkin pie. That was another endeavor that took hours to make. Of course the allergy friendly pie crust was made and rolled out by hand too. 

Again, after that Thanksgiving, I said never again. I was not going to get up early and spend the entire day cooking just for one meal. It’s not worth it. For the record, the lentil loaf was excellent. I have made it many times since then. However, I do not spend hours making mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie, and all the other things to do with it. It is much more manageable to make the lentil loaf by itself on a long weekend.

This year, being in quarantine, I am home all the time. I really wanted to do something to make the holidays extra special this year to break up the monotony and to feel like I was really getting a break and having a special treat. 

I decided to cook Thanksgiving this year. However, I told myself that based on my past experience watching my grandmother toil in the kitchen at 3 am, that I was not going to do that. However I chose to cook Thanksgiving this year, I would rather have my meal later than get up that early just to cook a meal.

Plus, as a single person, a turkey is a bit much. Yes, you can always have leftovers, but I just didn’t want to deal with the hassle of cooking an entire turkey. When looking in my cupboards, I do not even have any pans or cookware that is big enough or adequate to cook a turkey.

So while I decided I would cook Thanksgiving this year, I came up with a completely different plan and it worked perfectly. In fact, Thanksgiving 2020, in the middle of being quarantined in a global pandemic, was the best Thanksgiving of my entire life. Here is how it happened.

The cats actually let me sleep in for an extra hour on Thanksgiving morning. I was surprised. They usually don’t let me over sleep for too long before they start fussing around me wanting their breakfast. But on Thanksgiving morning, I had an extra hour of sleep. Thank you, furballs.

My morning went as usual. I even had time to sit on the couch with my coffee and relaxed listening to a CD. After my relaxing morning routine, I went to the kitchen to set up the crockpot.

I cooked my entire Thanksgiving meal in the crockpot. It resulted in less dishes, less mess, and less work on my part.

I sliced open a sweet potato and put the two halves on the bottom of the crockpot. When the crockpot was done later in the day, I essentially had a baked sweet potato. On top of the sweet potato, I put a Cornish game hen. The Cornish game hen I had gotten on an Instacart order back in September. It had been in my freezer waiting for Thanksgiving. The biggest prep I had to do was remembering to pull the Cornish game hen out of the freezer to thaw in the refrigerator a few days before Thanksgiving.

The Cornish game hen went in the crock pot on top of the sweet potato. I then opened a can of cranberry sauce and a can of mandarin oranges and out those in. This way, the Cornish game hen would have a cranberry-orange glaze, and the sweet potato would too. 

Now, there is a saying that “nobody likes it from the can” when it comes to cranberry sauce. I have to agree. I have made fresh cranberry sauce before from a bag of cranberries. However, I did not want to go to the hassle of making cranberry sauce from scratch. Not to mention, that when you put canned cranberry sauce in the crockpot, it makes it indistinguishable. By the time the crockpot is done, both the Cornish game hen and the sweet potato are cranberry flavored. There is no way to tell the difference between if fresh cranberries or canned cranberries were used, so I just used canned. Less work for me.

I set the crockpot up and went about my day until my Thanksgiving dinner was done. Thanksgiving dinner ended up being ready at about 5:30 pm, which was in line with my normal meal time and medication schedule. Another challenge with special holiday meals is trying to coordinate your food schedule with your medication schedule when you happen to be on a medication that requires you take it with food. I planned Thanksgiving dinner to replace my normal evening meal. I also had a bottle of sparkling white grape juice ($3), which was easier to obtain and way more affordable than if I had wine ($25).

For the record, the cats had Thanksgiving too. I wanted to make the day special for them also so that they would know it was Thanksgiving and not just another day. I do not ever feed the cats anything other than their prescribed cat food, but on Thanksgiving, I split a packet of tuna fish between the 3 of them. If they only get tuna fish on Thanksgiving, then they know that is a special day. This year was Jolene’s first Thanksgiving with us, so that made it even more special.

While Thanksgiving was cooking in the crockpot, I was able to get a lot done around the house. I watched two Thanksgiving movies. I pulled out my Christmas CDs and put them on.  I put up the Christmas tree and decorations. I wrapped all the Christmas presents.

It was a very relaxing day.

After my Thanksgiving meal in the evening, I watched a Christmas movie with the Christmas tree lights on. The cats and I had a great day. 

This was the best Thanksgiving I have ever had in my life. I was home with my family, the ones I love. I had a special meal that came out great and took little fuss to make. I think a cranberry-orange Cornish game hen with sweet potatoes sounds like Thanksgiving to me. It took a lot less work than a if I had done a traditional turkey.

Although, while the meal was great, I think next year I may try a boneless turkey breast or do boneless chicken breasts instead of a Cornish game hen to be honest with you. 

Many Americans this year were in uproar over COVID and Thanksgiving. Many people risked their lives and the lives of their loved ones to see their family. They just could not give up their traditional Thanksgiving to save their lives. 

I’m not judging. I just don’t understand it. The cats and I are “alone” every year. I was not lonely. People do call to wish my Happy Thanksgiving. I spent the holiday with my cats – my family and the ones I love. Thanksgiving could not have been better for me. I don’t understand why people have to put so much pressure on one day to tell people we love them. You should be telling people you love them every day. Life is short.

This year we are thankful to be alive. We are thankful to be together. The future is not promised.

Happy Thanksgiving weekend, everyone. The cats and I are having the best Thanksgiving of our lives.

No Spend 2021

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Simon looks a little irritated he cannot reach the birds he sees out the window.

The pandemic has been playing havoc with everyone’s finances. It has been at least a decade since I have had this much difficulty making ends meet. One of my favorite bloggers, Courtney Carver, has a saying “instead of trying to make ends meet, focus on having fewer ends.” To accomplish this, I am going to institute a no spend 2021.

No spend challenges are typically trials that last for a short amount of time. Most people will institute a no spend challenge for one month or maybe three months. If successful with the short term challenges, sometimes they are extended for a year. It is an extreme method of trying to bring finances under control and save money. 

Given that I have been paying 3-4x for food in the pandemic and have been having challenges meeting my basic needs, I feel it is necessary to institute a no spend challenge for the entire 2021 calendar year. On top of the struggles I am already enduring, we are scheduled to begin repaying our student loans again in January. The relief from student loan payments for the pandemic will be ending unless the new administration decides to bail us out of our student loans.

Given that I am instituting a no spend challenge, I can tell you right now, that if you are looking for people to stimulate the economy, it’s not going to be me. I do not have enough disposable income to stimulate the economy. Disposable income is an oxymoron in this pandemic.

No spend challenges look a little different for everyone. Each person who does a no spend challenge has their own rules. It’s best to use the rules that work best for you. 

Here are the rules for my No Spend 2021:

  1. Only pay for needs. This includes things like mortgage, electric, gas, etc. While they are primarily fixed expenses, I am doing my best to try to decrease each one. For example, I have lowered my heat 3 degrees this winter compared to the temperature I had my thermostat on last winter. Yes, we are cold. But I can’t afford heat. I have to cut back.

Reducing fixed expenses is something I have been working on over a period of time. 

Over the years as part of my minimalist journey, I have made some behavior changes that have served to decrease my fixed expenses. Some of these include my movement away from paper products towards reusable items. If I am not buying disposable items, then I am saving money. Examples of this have been my transition to cloth handkerchiefs, cloth feminine hygiene products, replacing paper towels with cleaning cloths and cloth pee rags.

  1. The only expense I have that is not fixed but is still a need, is food. More on my food strategy will be coming in another post.
  1. Beyond needs, the only purchase I am authorizing for 2021 are new running socks. First, even though last year I updated my regular socks, underwear, and bras, I did not update my running gear. In fact, what I typically do is “retire” something from everyday use and start using it for running. This combined with the fact that I am very rough on running gear means that my socks are either threadbare or full of holes in the toes and heals.

Instead of just spending $20 on a package of 6 white socks that will probably only last me one running season, I have decided to invest in 6 pairs of Darn Tough socks. I anticipate that the Darn Tough socks will hopefully last me 3 running seasons instead of just one. Plus, with their replacement guarantee, it is totally worth the investment. I love supporting small American businesses, especially during this time. If I can support a small business even during a no spend year, then I am going to do so. So I will be saving money and trying to gradually replace all my running socks during 2021 with Darn Tough socks instead of a cheapo white 6-pack. 

The Goal

My goal with a no spend year is to replenish my savings that has been completely decimated by the pandemic. Not only is my savings gone, but I have had to use my credit card for groceries, so I need to get that paid off. 

My no spend 2021 will hopefully help me pay off the credit card and get money into my savings. I need savings to be able to cover house maintenance, car maintenance, and cat needs. So obviously, those three items are not included in the no spend year. 

For many people, instituting a no spend plan is very hard. Many people spend money on books, clothing, take-out coffee, prepared (not grocery – prepared) food delivery, etc. If you are one of those people, then it is going to be more difficult to institute a no spend plan because you are going to feel like you are giving something up. That’s because you are giving something up. No spend challenges are hard. That’s why it’s a challenge.

While an entire no spend year may seem extreme and overwhelming, try a no spend week or a no spend month. If you try a no spend week and it seems too painful, you can always stop. For me, a no spend year is a financial necessity in the pandemic. I do not have any disposable income and I really need to get money back into my savings account to cover any emergencies that may come up (on top of the global pandemic we are all experiencing). 

 Have you ever tried a time period of no spend? How did it go?

My Quarantine Life: Week 36

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Jolene raising a paw “pew, pew, pew”

Being in quarantine since March, I have not been able to go to the grocery store, work or basically any place where I would be indoors with other people. I am in the vulnerable group, so I stay isolated as much as possible. 

In trying to maintain some semblance of independence in this time, I pick up my medication each month instead of having it delivered. To do this safely without gong inside the pharmacy, I go through the drive thru. The drive thru pharmacy is not like a fast food drive thru where the person opens the window to hand you food. The pharmacy drive thru is more like a bank drive thru. You can see the pharmacy person through a glass window that does not open. You talk to them through a speaker system. They send the medication through a chute system so there is no human contact.

Drive thru pharmacy is a safe thing for me to do. Even though I am separated from the person by a closed glass window, I still wear a mask. I am pretending to be like everyone else who goes to a pharmacy or grocery store inside, even though I am not inside. I am in the drive thru. But I wear my mask because that is what we are supposed to do for safety. Wear a mask every place you go. Even though I am safely on the other side of the glass, it makes me feel like I am still “part of society” by following the mask rules. 

Last week I went through the pharmacy drive thru with my mask on and also a winter hat. I was cold. Typically, the first thing the person asks me is my name. They type my name in the computer. Then they say “picking up one item today. Do you need anything else?” After that, they proceed with the rest of the transaction.

Last week, the pharmacy person did not ask my name. They said “just one today?” They proceeded to ask me the remaining questions about my medication pick up. However, I noticed that the tone of her voice was warm and kind. Normally, when I go through the drive thru, it is an efficient transaction devoid of emotion.

When the person sent my medication through the chute, I asked how she knew who I was without asking my name? She said that she has worked there for 5 years and I am there every month for the same medication. She remembers me. Plus, I am at the top of the list for epi pens due to my multiple food allergies. If there is ever any type of medication shortages, I am first on the list for epinephrine. All the pharmacies in the county know this. For the record, I was not picking up epi pens that week. I only get those once a year unless I have used one.

I was impressed that this person was able to recognize me even though I was wearing a face mask and a winter hat. The only thing that could be seen was my eyes. Yet she did recognize me and knew my name without me having to say my name and without having to ask me.

I felt seen. I felt important.

I was so happy that the pharmacy person recognized me in the drive thru. It made me feel like I matter. Like if I do get covid and die, maybe people will miss me.

The virus is raging all across the country because people are not wearing masks and they are not staying home. When I look at the big picture situation, it makes me feel like I don’t matter. It makes human life seem meaningless. All these people are dying because people are too selfish to not wear a mask. People are too selfish to stay home.

Being SEEN last week in the pharmacy drive thru made me feel like I matter. I appreciate that pharmacy person for recognizing me. Moments like that is why I am happy I can still do things independently like pick up my medication in the drive thru. I was able to run an errand in a safe way and still be in quarantine. I was still able to participate in society even though I am one of the “vulnerable” ones.

This is going to get worse before it gets better. Every time I hear someone say how bad this winter is going to be, Ethan Hawke’s voice goes through my head. I think of that scene from Reality Bites where he says on the answering machine “Welcome to the winter of our discontent” in that incredibly cocky, goth way. The phrase originally came from Shakespeare, but sounds so much better when Ethan Hawke says it. By the way, Shakespeare wrote some of his greatest works during a pandemic. 

Please remember to call people to check on them.

Wear a mask.

Stay home.

Pandemic Finance

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All 3 cats sleeping on me while watching a DVD. My reason for life.

If you are one of the people who are lucky enough to still have a job in America, that does not make you immune to pandemic financial devastation. Not only are people losing their lives and their jobs, but those who are still working are losing savings and spending unprecedented amounts for just the basic necessities.

I am one of the fortunate ones that still has a job. Even though I’m working, the pandemic has completely drained my savings, caused me to go into debt, and make drastic changes to my behavior to try to reduce expenses. 

Why? Well, first look at food shortages. If you can obtain food, we are often paying 3-4x more for the same item compared to before the pandemic. Second, any item you obtain means that someone literally risked their life to either obtain it for you or make it for you. It’s time we started paying our essential workers for what they are – essential. That means tipping well for any services you may be receiving in the pandemic when other people are risking their life to keep you safe.

Some people (and I am one of them) are privileged enough to work from home to reduce exposure to the virus. It’s a great thing, especially for those of us in the high risk group. However, that does not mean that people should sit at home aimlessly clicking and buying things from the internet. You may think that internet shopping is just a few clicks, but think of how many people are putting their life at risk just so you can have that new gadget or toy right now.

Given the current situation, I know that I need a major overhaul of my finances if I am going to survive this pandemic. I went from living paycheck to paycheck to living on a shoestring. Now that President Biden has been elected, there is hope that America is going to actually survive the pandemic instead of just being a country of dead people. It’s time to make a plan for how to survive this time.

Here is my 5 point pandemic finance plan to try to survive until this is all over (whenever that may be). 

  1. Decrease spending. I will be instituting a No Spend 2021. There is more to come on that later in a future post. Basically, a no spend plan is an experiment that people typically do short term. Some people try a no spend week or a no spend month. For me, 2021 is going to be a no spend year. I’m hoping that it will help me to reach my financial goals of getting some money saved to cover emergencies.
  1. Increase savings. The goal is that by decreasing spending, I will increase the amount of money that I have to save. In order to increase savings, it means making behavioral changes to lower monthly bills so that more money can be saved. Pinch a penny until it screams. It’s only for one year. Increase savings also means any type of windfalls – if we get any more government stimuli – gets saved. 
  1. No more alcohol. I don’t think I drink a whole lot. I have had two, maybe three bottles of wine since my birthday in March (about the past 8 months). Alcohol is extremely difficult to obtain during the pandemic. A bottle of wine is $15-$25 that can be saved to spend on other things. If you figure I spend $100 on 4 bottles of wine a year, that is $100 that can go to something else (like my 2021 race season – more on that later too). There are plenty of more affordable treats that can be substituted for wine. I have been getting a 2-liter bottle of ginger ale every once in a while during the pandemic and putting cherries in it like a shirley temple. Spending $2 on a bottle of ginger ale saves money over a $25 bottle of wine.
  1. One grocery treat per month. In decreasing spending, some people see spending increase in other areas, such as groceries. We all have to find some way to treat yourself, right? I am instituting a one grocery treat per month rule. That way my grocery order does not end up being all Enjoy Life bars and ginger ale. For the record, many of my food treats are unavailable right now anyway due to the food shortages. So this rule is pretty easy to stick to. I have been living in a state of food deprivation for 8 months now waiting for the supply chain to recover.
  1. Speaking of groceries and paying essential workers like what they are – essential. While the Instacart fees are quite low (they have been averaging $2-$3 with my membership), I do tip my Instacart shopper like the essential worker they are. I am happy that the money is going to a local person who needs the job to provide for their family. I am grateful that they are risking their life to keep me safe. However, I cannot afford to support another person. I am limiting my Instacart orders to two per month, which pretty much mimicks my grocery shopping pattern prior to the pandemic when I was able to go to the store myself. I did have one month recently where I had 3 Instacart orders. This was mostly because I was trying to readjust my weeks so that I was not sending an Instacart shopper to the store at the beginning of the month, when the store is more crowded and there is more risk. 

When I Instacart, all of my groceries come from Aldi. This is a change to my pre-pandemic shopping habits, and it is saving me loads of money. Prior to the pandemic, when I was doing my own in-person shopping, I would have to get groceries at three different stores due to my food allergies and because I had some (unfounded) prejudices against certain items at Aldi. Using Aldi 100% as the only store at which I shop is saving me so much money, I wish I had made the switch sooner. I will talk more about one-stop shopping at Aldi in a seperate post. 

There is much uncertainty for the future of this country in the pandemic. While the election of President Biden gives us hope, that does not mean that 100% of the people in this country will be spared. We are still experiencing hardships. The hope is that by having someone calm and intelligent in charge, that America will be able to minimize deaths and financial devastation from the pandemic. While we now have hope for the future, that does not mean we can sit around and wait for a government bailout. It’s time to make changes now in our individual lives so that we can survive the pandemic.

For me, that means trying to get more money saved so it is there for the uncertainty of our future. This house is what is keeping the cats and I together. This house is home. I am a single person with one income, and the economy is highly unstable right now. We all need to be making the best choices possible to try to survive this time.

What pandemic finance tips do you have?

Be on the lookout for future posts on:

  • No Spend 2021
  • One-Stop Shopping at Aldi
  • Running Through A Pandemic
  • My Biggest Life Change for 2021

From America to Donald J Trump: You’re Fired!

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Cardinals are symbols of those who have passed.

Today, for the first time in 2020, America has hope. With over 235,000 people dead from COVID-19 (the trump-virus), we are finally going to get a leader who will be capable of ferrying our country through a global pandemic. The working class is hurting. It is time to bail out Main Street. Help is on the way. 

We have hope. 

Today, America has elected President Biden and Vice President Harris. In the most important election in American history, hope wins.

God Bless America! 

Minimalist Holidays in a Pandemic

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Jolene sleeping hard wrapped in a blanket.

The snow is falling outside and it is absolutely stunning. There are about 3 inches currently on the ground. It is early morning, the sun is up. We just went through Daylight Savings and are now on the sense of time I enjoy the most. It is November 2 and this is our first snowfall of the season. 

What makes it even better is that I don’t have to drive in it. The car is in the garage in case the man who does the snow plow comes. I have the day off, but even if I didn’t, I would be working from home.

I am inside the house with the cats nice and warm enjoying some Sinatra and coffee watching birds and snow. Life is good. 

It’s holiday time. I will tell you that due to the food shortages, I already started holiday planning back in September. This year is going to be the first time I have cooked something special for Thanksgiving in 5 years, since 2015.  In 2015, as I finished my Master’s degree, I decided to cook a lentil loaf for Thanksgiving to celebrate my retirement from being a college student. The lentil loaf was so good it has become a staple food item in winter that I make about once a month or so.

This year will be the first time in almost 20 years that I have bothered to cook any type of poultry for Thanksgiving. I have a Cornish game hen in my freezer that has been there since the end of September. There is no point in cooking an entire turkey for just me. I am going to put the Cornish game hen in the crockpot with cranberry and orange. It is the perfect size for one person while still being a “full” poultry. 

I am also hoping to make sweet potatoes with it, if I can get them. If not, I have plenty of yellow potatoes in my house right now. But sweet potatoes would be a special treat. 

I am just happy that the cats and I are all in the house together and safe. That is definitely something to celebrate in this hellish year. The way things are going with the virus and the economy, we may be dead next year, or we may not be in the house. But for now, things are good, and we are going to celebrate the holidays. The cats and I are truly home. This is the highlight of my life.

For Christmas, I am going to keep everything the same as every other year. The goal is for the cats to think everything is normal. I don’t want them to know we are living in a global pandemic and the world is in crisis. I’m trying to shield them from that and give them a good life.

This will be Jolene’s first Christmas with us. I adopted her in January last year, right after the holidays. It will be her first time with a stocking, a Christmas tree and presents.

Since I only had two little stockings, I went and hand-sewed brand-new stockings this year, so that all three cats have a stocking and they all match. Jolene needed a stocking. I did not want her stocking to be any different from the boys because I work hard to treat them all the same. So I took some Christmas theme fabric I have and made them all a stocking.

In our house, Santa fills the stocking. He comes down the chimney, fills the stocking, and goes. Presents under the tree come from mom and each cat typically gets 1 to 3 presents each. 

Since being in the house, Christmas is especially exciting because we have a fireplace with a real chimney so Santa does not have to use a “special key.” Santa usually fills the stockings with a few small toys and treats.

I added one Christmas present for each cat onto the October Chewy order to be sure I have their presents. The next Chewy food order does not arrive until sometime in December, and I didn’t want to put the presents on that order that close to Chrismtas in case it didn’t arrive on time. 

So each cat has one present from mom this year. Santa will fill their stockings with small toys (I have some left over from a package of toys from last year that I kept for this year). I will add cat treats for the stockings to my Instacart order.

Christmas for humans is another story. Again, I typically do 1 to 3 presents for each person I buy a present for. Usually everyone gets one present, so that won’t change too much this year. I honestly don’t have money for Christmas.

The only change will be in type of gift. While I usually do a gift bag of various coffees, teas, and cocoa for people, this year the gift bag will be one coffee and potentially one other item.

The formula for this year for gifts is going to be: coffee, hat, or socks.

These are all items I can get, and they are all “essential” items. I am not going to have someone risk their life in a pandemic for a Christmas present. That’s cruel and inhumane. 

Fancy coffee I can add to my Instacart order and get rather easily with my normal grocery order. It’s nice at Christmas to be able to splurge on the expensive or fancy coffee to enjoy as you watch snow falling out the window.

A hat or socks is something you can wear and keeps you warm. Therefore, they are essential. I have been focusing on hats and socks this year mostly because I am cold. If you have a hat and warm socks, then you will be warmer. A lot of us are having financial difficulty in the pandemic and can’t afford the heating bills. If you have to turn your heat down to try to keep the bill down, then a hat and warm socks are going to be needed to stay warm. 

Socks are one of the most requested items by homeless people. Take it from a former homeless person, a warm pair of socks is like Christmas. So this year, a warm pair of socks may just be Christmas.

Back in the First Great Depression in the 1930s, Christmas gifts were often something to eat or something to wear. Children would often find an orange or some other citrus in their stocking because citrus was hard to come by. There might be a yo-yo or small hand carved toy.

In this line, the cats get some treats and some small toys in their stocking.

During the First Great Depression a Christmas present might be a scarf or gloves that someone hand crocheted or knit. I don’t have that kind of talent. But I can order warm hats and warm socks. 

Another Christmas throwback this year will be method of delivery. I’ve seen old home movies from back in the 1950s. A beloved family member comes home for the holidays. They pull in the drive way and pop open the trunk of the car to display a pile of wrapped presents inside. There is one for each family member. 

In the event I cannot figure out any other way to safely deliver presents this year, that is what I will be doing. Open my trunk and grab your present. Safe and socially distant.

Another tradition in which I have been engaging for a long time that I am hoping gains widespread adoption this year is card writing. 

I always take time to write personalized messages in cards for that person. Someone told me recently that the only thing they want from me for Christmas this year is a card because I write great cards. In this socially distanced pandemic, I am hoping that card writing like that catches on.

We cannot be together this year. We still need to be sure that people hear things they need to hear. We need to be sure that people know how we feel abut them, especially with so many dying. May your Christmas cards this year give you the opportunity to send heartfelt messages to people you are unable to see.

I am not sure if we will be doing photo cards for Christmas this year or not. I will decide that next week. It mostly depends on if I can afford them. I want to do them, for the cats. I have great photos of all of them for this year’s Christmas card. The only one I do not have a great photo of for this year is me. But it’s not about me. It’s about the cats. We will see if we do a photo card this year or not in addition to the traditional hand-written cards.

Luckily, I have enough Christmas items so I do not have to worry about buying gift bags, wrapping paper, etc. Most people do. I’m sure if you look around the house you will realize you have enough Christmas stuff too and don’t need to buy anything.

I will admit that when I buy gift bags, etc I try to get them in neutral red and green colors. This way I can use them for birthdays and other holidays, not just Christmas. I have some Christmas theme tissue paper to make them festive. That way I get a lot of mileage over any packaging I may buy.

There is also the old stand-bys of using newspaper and paper bags as wrapping paper too. You can even draw and color on them to make it more special.

The only differences the pandemic is making in my minimalist holidays is that people are strictly getting one present, where some years there may have been 2 or 3. Also, less people will be getting presents this year than usual. I just don’t have the money. But people will still be getting cards with heartfelt messages. Sometimes the present is just that I am happy you are alive.

How will you be spending the holidays in a pandemic?

My Quarantine Life: Week 34

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Simon is playing in the cheese toy.

 

Everyone knows the story of Noah and the Ark – how the animals went two by two. Did you ever think what it was like to be on that boat during the flood time? It was much like quarantine that we are experiencing now. 

Imagine Noah is stuck on this boat with his entire family. Yes, there are animals to take care of. He has an entire boat full of pets. He is trying to work, keep the boys from wrestling each other (he had 3 sons), and deal with all the animals about. It sounds a lot like COVID stay at home, doesn’t it.

After the flood, we know the sun shined. There was a rainbow. Yay! All the animals were saved! Yet what did Noah do once he got off the boat onto land and everything was made right again? He went out and got drunk. It’s in the Bible. His son Ham found him drunk and went around telling everyone about it. 

Sounds a lot like quarantine. After being stuck at home with their families, a lot of people in America are drinking, losing it, or both. We are all human. As much as we love our families, quarantine at home takes a toll much like life on a boat took a toll on Noah during the flood.

From Noah, fast forward a few thousand years to the First Great Depression in America. Everyone knows the stock market crashed in 1929. We have heard the stories of people jumping off buildings in despair. What is not often talked about is how the Great Depression was not just one day in 1929. The Great Depression lasted for an entire decade until World War Two pulled America out of it. People had to sacrifice and go without for 10 whole years. It was bad. Very bad.

One of my favorite songs has a line in it that says “someone told us Wall Street fell, but we were so poor that we couldn’t tell.” There was a statistic on the radio this week, that only 50% of Americans can afford to have money in the stock market. So what the stock market does is meaningless for most of society. It is not a very good economic indicator for the every day person in America. The stock market is for the rich.

Unlike a generation or two ago, people in America today have absolutely no idea what it is like to sacrifice for the greater good. People do not know what it is like to truly struggle. They think that waiting in line for a new iphone is a hardship. 

Everywhere in the news today, we are hearing how the virus is surging. People are tired. There is this phenomenon called “pandemic fatigue” or “COVID fatigue.” People are sick of wearing masks and distancing.

The problem is that people today do not know how to self-sacrifice. They cannot make changes in themselves for the benefit of the greater good. There is another term for “pandemic fatigue.” It’s called selfishness.

This year America has entered the Second Great Depression, and the “ME” generation is in for a huge wake-up call. People who are sick of mask wearing and distancing are the ones who are going to die. Unfortunately, they are going to take out innocent people with them.

Something has changed in American society in the past 90 years where people are no longer capable of thinking about the greater good. The vast majority of society has no idea what it means to sacrifice or go without. That is a very scary place to be.

The ME generation is why the virus is surging. Americans are just too selfish to do what needs to be done and it is killing us. Literally. Hopefully all the ones shouting “open it up” are the first ones to die. Was it really worth it to buy that candle on sale for Christmas and pay for it with your life? In America, it is. Capitalism is worth more than human life. 

It doesn’t help that the Anti-Christ holds the top office in America from the onset of the virus.Our elections will determine how bad the Second Great Depression is going to get. 

Personally, I am just hoping to survive the next decade of this virus and the Second Great Depression. I am also hoping that Jesus comes soon so my cats will be safe. 

I am doing fine in quarantine. The problem is that if the people around me are not safe and society is being selfish, then there is only so much I can do. With so many people in this country focused on “ME,” it’s every person for themselves. Divided we fall. 

I wish there was some way to teach the people of this country the meaning of sacrifice for the greater good. Our parents and grandparents understood that concept. They lived it. They lived through the Frist Great Depression. They lived through World War Two. I honestly have no idea how America today is going to survive COVID. People in America today are too self-centered to do what needs to be done to defeat the virus. It’s like the great flood is here and Noah refused to build the ark. So we live with deaths that could have been prevented. The scariest part is how many people in this country are okay with the death toll.

If you live in America, you need to vote. The election will determine whether we continue on this journey we are currently on or if it is going to get better. I have to believe that there are people in this country who know what sacrifice means. I haven’t seen any yet, but I believe they are there somewhere. Someone has got to be willing to be the Noah and build the ark. The future of our country depends on it. Otherwise, we are living the book of Revelation. 

Vote.

Wear a mask.

Stay home.

Site 50

All 3 cats watching the birds fly by.

The year is 2003. Imagine taking your first vacation in 4 years. You pack up the car with all of your supplies and drive 3 and a half hours to your destination. You are meeting friends you have not seen in years. After a stressful, traffic filled drive, you arrive at your destination, and take one of the last available sites at the campground you have chosen, in relative proximity to the rest of your friends. It is the same place you were at 4 years ago for complete relaxation. Back in 1999, you had crammed 8 college friends in a family tent on a single campsite. It was just like dorm times. In 2003, the only difference is that you are in a different camp site from before and have elected to set up your own tent instead of being in with the rest of the group. Things have changed in 4 years, and some of these friends now have families they will be bringing.

On site 50, you set up your $30 K-mart tent and begin cooking dinner as darkness descends. You are one of the first in your group of friends to arrive for the weekend outing. The location is the halfway point for you and all your friends. It has been about a three and a half hour drive for you going north east. It is about a three and a half hour drive for them going north west. 

You have all the elements for relaxation from good food to good music to good wine. Suddenly, a loud thunderclap sounds and rain unexpectedly downpours on your campfire. You scramble to pick up all of your supplies and cram them in the car so they can remain dry and you can seek respite in your tent.

Although hectic, it is also exciting. This is exactly the type of situation of which memories are made and you can laugh about with friends after. Supplies safely in the car out of the rain, fire put out by the downpour, you unzip the tent to seek solace inside. Once inside, you discover your $30 purchase was not the best bargain as rain pours in through all the seams. The bottom of the tent quickly accumulates a few inches of rain, much like a canoe taking on water in danger of capsizing. Your sleeping bag is completely soaked, as well as the small duffle bag of clothes inside the tent.

Like a drowning man on a sinking ship, you fruitlessly attempt to bail water from the tent. Again, a story to laugh at later. Rain continues to literally pour through the seams of the tent as if the Hoover Dam were breached.

Tiring yourself with bailing water, you finally admit defeat and run from the tent to the car. You are completely soaked with no dry clothes to change into as your sleeping bag and clothes are all waterlogged in the tent. You fall asleep from sheer exhaustion, unsure and uncaring whether the tent will even be there in the morning or if it will float away.

Morning dawns, and you awake to fogged car windows. Still water logged, you open the car door to see the tent completely leveled and everything wet. The rain has stopped. The rest of your friends are supposed to arrive today.

You make a new fire to get warm, and start hanging up all the wet items to dry. You fix the tent so it is again standing, although wet. Now that the rain has stopped, you are able to bail out all of the water from the night before.

Once your friends trickle in for the weekend, you are able to borrow clothes that are both dry and warm. This is definitely a story to laugh about later. The remainder of the weekend passes dry, cool and full of laughter, good memories and good times with the best of friends.

Lesson learned from the leaking tent, when you return in 2004, it is with a new, more waterproof tent. It cost $150 from LL Bean. That new tent will see you dry through the next 15 years of these trips with the best of friends.  

Fast forward to 2020. We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Every single one of those people who were on that camping trip in 2003 except two are now dead. They have all died of COVID within the past 6 months. You are running out of friends. It is not an exaggeration and it’s not because you are a bad person. It’s this horrible disease.

While you have been able to take off 2 or 3 days here and there, you have not had a week’s vacation in over 3 years. For the first time in over 20 years, your annual camping trip has been canceled by COVID.

You are burnt out. You are at your wits end and need a break. Even though COVID has canceled your life and taken all of your friends, you decide to take a week’s vacation from life.

This is a true story. This is my story.

I took my first week’s vacation in over 3 years recently. While this week has been a flashback to 2003, it was anything but restful.

Instead of running around with a tent in the rain, I had a major water issue in my house. I spent 7 days of my 10 day vacation dealing with this water issue. It was anything but restful. There were no friends arriving to laugh with. They are all dead. I’m having a staycation in the middle of a pandemic and instead of relaxing, dealing with a major house emergency.

I may be a first time homeowner, but I do know that water damage is every home owner’s worst nightmare. It’s not funny like bailing out a tent. 

Trying to get help with house emergencies in a global pandemic is extremely challenging. There are people out there who either do not respond or just want to take you for a ride (read: unnecessarily charge you thousands of dollars for illegal work done without appropriate permits). Forget that. I’m on vacation. I just want to relax. 

I feel like I completely wasted my vacation from work dealing with this water issue. I was not able to relax. I only got 3 days of relaxation. I should have just taken my traditional 3 days off instead of a whole week’s vacation.

Maybe this story of plumbing issues with my house will be funny in the future. I’m not sure when. I’m not sure who will be laughing with me, since COVID has killed most of my friends.I am still so thoroughly traumatized by my experience dealing with this water issue that I cannot even go into the details of how bad it was trying to get help. 

All I know is that I am happy to be dry and safe in this house. I hope to survive the pandemic so I can have more camping trips again. Even though my vacation was not really a vacation, I am thankful to be safe with my cats. I have not had a week this bad or this stressful since I bought my house.

5 Podcasts That Rock!

Jude snuggles with me while we listen to podcasts.

This post is another installment in my “5 <insert item or thing here> that rocks!” series. What may potentially be my first week-long vacation in more than 3 years is coming up in a few weeks here, and I am making plans for what I want to do on my staycation. COVID is raging in my area worse than ever before, with infection rates regularly above 4% each day, so my first vacation in over 3 years will completely be a staycation. (Not to mention I am still in quarantine.)

I first discovered podcasts about a year ago, after a friend took the time to explain to me what a podcast is. I have heard the word “podcast” for a while. My eyes glaze over because it is one of those nonsensical technology words that just completely went over my head. This particular friend happened to know how much I love radio and radio programs, so they took the time to explain to me that a podcast is basically a radio program that I can play “on demand” on my phone. The best part of podcasts is that they are free.

One of my top 3 favorite radio shows, Only A Game, was canceled recently after a 27 year run on the air. I decided to add a few shows to my podcast library to try to give me a few more things to listen to. I have no cable at home and no reliable internet to do any kind of video or streaming, so my entertainment tends to be reading and radio. 

For the record, my other two favorite radio programs that are in my Top 3 favorites are still on the air and I listen to them on the radio on Sunday mornings. My other two favorite radio shows are the Frank Sinatra show with Sid Mark and Time Warp with Bill St. James.

But back to podcasts … 

Podcasts have been great with my disability because I can just listen and follow along. My disability affects my vision, and I have times when it is very challenging to read. It is easier to have someone read me something and podcasts fill that need. Especially in the summer heat, I do a lot more podcast listening than I do reading. 

There are two podcasts that I have been enjoying quite regularly for the past year. There are three podcasts that I have found more recently during quarantine in the past six months, but am so thrilled I found them. There were some “special series” podcasts I had listened to and enjoyed, such as “1865,” “Dolly Parton’s America,” and “The Killing of Marilyn Monroe.” Those were all series that ended after 5 or 15 episodes. The selections below are ongoing broadcasts that have seasons and go on for a longer period of time, updating regularly. 

In random order, here are my top 5 favorite podcasts that rock!

  1. American History Tellers

This podcast first hooked me with its use of vignettes written in the second person narrative. I first discovered writing in second person narration in my 8th grade English class and have been absolutely enthralled with everything written in the second person point of view ever since. 

Each episode is well-written and well-researched. I love how I can choose what period of history I learn about. I find myself skipping around from more modern times, like the Space Race, to more “historic” times like the American Revolution. 

2. Levar Burton Reads

I grew up on the “Reading Rainbow” television show. Levar’s voice is so soothing! I was amazed to find the same person who read stories to me as a child is now reading short story fiction to adults. The stories tend to be heavy on the science fiction and speculative fiction, which is perfectly fine by me. During this time of the pandemic, it is very soothing to hear a voice from my past and get lost in a story. 

Levar offers a brief introduction to each story and a brief commentary after. But, you don’t have to take my word for it. 

3. The Constant

The Constant is a recent discovery and I got sucked in learning about the Foolkiller submarine that was found in the Chicago River in 1915 with the bones of a man and a dog inside. I enjoy The Constant because it helps to explain why we know the things we do. 

I just finished an episode that explains how we figured out that birds fly south for the winter – and what people believed happened to birds in winter before realizing they fly south. The Constant took me a bit to get into. It highlights how people got things wrong, but in the process, you learn more about the world and how things came to be. 

This is one of those podcasts that may be more of an acquired taste. Each episode is like a little mystery with many twists and turns. The speaker is great to listen to and each episode is well-researched. 

4. The Relic Radio Show

The Relic Radio Show gives me the feeling of snuggling up in a warm blanket and feeling loved. This is the type of radio I remember listening to growing up. Each hour-long episode consists of two 30-minute episodes. These are the traditional radio stories from the 1950s when most entertainment was on radio and few people had television sets. Again, just another show that takes me back to my childhood and helps me to feel good in this pandemic.

5. You and Me Both with Hillary Clinton

Even if you do not like Hillary politically, I like her personally. If we could choose anybody on the planet to be our parents, I would choose Hillary Clinton to be my mom. That’s how much I like her. You and Me Both is a newer podcast in which Hillary has conversations with people and discusses topics such as faith and cooking. So even if you are not into politics, this is just an amazing woman showing her human side.

Bonus Podcast:

I’m giving a bonus to my list of 5 because this particular podcast is in between seasons right now. I fell so in love with this podcast, that I have listened to every single episode and am waiting for new ones to be made. It sounds like this series may be taking a pandemic related break. I can’t wait for it to return!

The bonus podcast is “This is Love with Phoebe Judge.” Phoebe has a soothing voice and does a great job of asking questions so that people tell their stories in a way that really connects. There was a season about animals and a season about small villages in Italy. “This is Love” is a podcast we need right now in this time of pandemic. They are joyful stories that make you feel good. 

This is what I have been listening to lately. It is nice to take a break from news of the pandemic and having to hear about all the bad things going on in the world right now. It is nice to take a break and either relax or learn something new. What favorite podcasts do you have?

My Quarantine Life: Week 29

Simon & Jolene watching the goldfinches get seeds.

With the weather getting cooler, I put the second bird feeder out. There are at least four male/female pairs of American goldfinches that frequent our feeders for our viewing pleasure. This is in addition to the male/female cardinal pair and numerous chickadees.

I read somewhere that goldfinches are a symbol of abundance and prosperity. Let’s hope so. Not only has this pandemic drained all of my savings, but I am going into debt trying to obtain food.

One of my neighbors recently commented how she is saving so much money in the pandemic. I don’t understand how. I am paying 3x, and sometimes 4x, more for groceries now than I was prior to the pandemic. Flour alone is $21. It was $4 pre-pandemic. Flour is just one item on my grocery list of 20-25 items. They are all significantly more expensive. How are people saving money when I am struggling to pay for food?

If anything, this pandemic is widening the economic gap between the haves and the have-nots. All of the economists are saying we have not yet seen the worst of the economic fallout from the pandemic. The next 3-4 years are going to be harder and much worse than 2020 as far as the money situation goes.

I’m hoping that all these goldfinches we are enjoying actually do mean abundance.

Right now, I can’t complain. In fact, we are living an abundant life. We are still together in this house and I am still employed. Even though it is difficult trying to get supplies, at least I have a job to try to pay for things.

Instacart is the best service ever. Instacart has solved the problem of obtaining food. Paying for food is hard, but at least I can now obtain food by using Instacart. 

A friend texted me about 2 weeks ago on Friday and said they were going to the grocery store over the weekend and asked if I needed anything. I said yes, and added 4 items to their grocery list. The weekend passed and I did not hear anything from this person. 

I reached out and said, hey, let me know how much I owe you for those groceries and how you want me to get them. They responded, “oh, I didn’t go this weekend. Maybe in a few weeks.” 

This situation is a prime example of how I have been starving for the past few months. People say they are going to store, so I plan on getting things that week, then they put off their trip for 2 more weeks. I run out of food.

Luckily, in this situation that happened two weeks ago, I did have an Instacart delivery scheduled. I was able to go without the 4 items I had added to the friend’s grocery list without starving. While this friend is trying to help me, they do not seem to understand that when you say you are going to the store this week and then wait 2 or 3 weeks to actually go to the store, I run out of food and starve. Literally.

Instacart is so empowering because I can control when I get food and what food I get. 

The friend that has been helping me frequently makes substitutions and brings me things I’m allergic to. I can’t eat them. It’s a waste of money. If you cannot find my allergy friendly items, then please do not waste money buying an item that will kill me if I eat it.

The beauty of Instacart is that I can specify my allergens and set those parameters. They follow the instructions. If my allergy-friendly items are gone, they are not wasting my money on something that will kill me. While my friend is well-meaning and trying to help me, they are actually not helping me. In some instances, they are bringing me things that will harm me. I don’t have that issue with Instacart. I am so happy I stopped listening to all the naysayers and joined Instacart when everyone told me not to do it. 

Now that Instacart is solving my access to food issue, I can focus more on work. I need to work for us to pay the bills and keep the house. Hopefully, our government will do something about the economy and institute universal basic income. It will all come down to the election. We are either entering the worst Great Depression this country has ever seen, or we are going to get help to survive the pandemic. We will see who wins.

In the meantime, the cats and I are enjoying the birds outside our home. The goldfinches are bringing us an abundance of joy just from watching them. Maybe that’s the sole reason why they mean abundance and prosperity. We are fortunate to be together in this house to watch them.