Saturday, August 29, 2020

Getting From Point A To Point B

When I bought my new vehicle last year Hubby Tony and I talked about how it would be easy to put a bike rack on it. That knowledge was never acted on. Then we started getting ready to put our house on the market, the weather turned cold, it was the holidays, we were moving, we were setting in, and then everything shut down. All of a sudden it was a year later and nothing had been done.

Eventually I completed the first step, which was having a trailer hitch installed. Then two weeks ago Tony and I decided to get serious about the project. We went to the bike department of a nearby outdoor store and purchased a rack that had a platform that folded down to hold our two bikes.

Not my vehicle, not my rack. Just a generic clipart.

Having a rack to port our bikes around means we can really expand our range of destinations. The first weekend we were able to ride on a nice trail halfway across town from us. Another time I started at a trailhead instead of cycling to and from it, so I could spend more time actually on the trail.

This morning after breakfast we attached the bikes to the back of the car and drove to a 'rails to trails' greenway (which means it was converted from railroad to paved path) 10 miles away. The path ran next to a highway, crossed several streets, and was flat and easy. However, it was shorter than we thought, so when we reached the end we doubled back and exited at the first opportunity. We tooled around the area, and when we realized we were just a couple of miles from Son Donald's I called and said we were stopping by for a visit.

Fifteen minutes later we pulled up in front of his house, where he was sitting on the front porch. We had a nice socially-distanced chat, then got back on our bikes and rode back to the trailhead where the car was waiting. Our total biking distance was about 14 miles (which is nothing for an experienced cyclist), but about average for us.

Back at home we stabled the bikes back in the storage area until the next time we're ready to ride again.

Five years ago today: Can This Be Reused?

Thursday, August 27, 2020

A Little Church Humor

Why Go to Church?
One Sunday morning, a mother went in to wake her son and tell him it was time to get ready for church, to which he replied, "I'm not going."
"Why not?" she asked.
I'll give you two good reasons," he said. "(1), they don't like me, and (2), I don't like them."
His mother replied, "I'll give you two good reasons why you SHOULD go to church: (1) You're 49 years old, and (2) you're the pastor!"
The Picnic
A Jewish Rabbi and a Catholic Priest met at the town's annual 4th of July picnic. Old friends, they began their usual banter.
"This baked ham is really delicious," the priest teased the rabbi. "You really ought to try it. I know it's against your religion, but I can't understand why such a wonderful food should be forbidden! You don't know what you're missing. You just haven't lived until you've tried Mrs. Hall's prized Virginia Baked Ham. Tell me, Rabbi, when are you going to break down and try it?"
The rabbi looked at the priest with a big grin, and said, "At your wedding."
The Best Way to Pray
A priest, a minister and a guru sat discussing the best positions for prayer, while a telephone repairman worked nearby.
"Kneeling is definitely the best way to pray," the priest said.
"No," said the minister. "I get the best results standing with my hands outstretched to Heaven."
"You're both wrong," the guru said. "The most effective prayer position is lying down on the floor."
The repairman could contain himself no longer. "Hey, fellas," he interrupted. "The best prayin' I ever did was when I was hangin' upside down from a telephone pole."
Five years ago today: How To Plank

Monday, August 24, 2020

My Kind Of Meeting!

One of my acquaintances is in charge of assigning people to breakout groups at an upcoming convention. Tonight I received an email from him with an invitation to a FAKE Zoom meeting THAT WILL NEVER HAPPEN.

As with other Zoom invitations I've received this one had a link to register. The registration form wanted to know my name and email address, then asked me to answer four questions by choosing one of three answers from each drop-down list. The questions were:
  • Which Gene Tierney film would you like to see?
  • Which Barbara Stanwyck film would you like to see?
  • Which Humphrey Bogart film would you like to see?
  • Which Alfred Hitchcock film would you like to see?
The email told me that after I registered I would not receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting, and wouldn't have to do anything else.

Five years ago today: Vacay 2015--Another Day, Another City, Another Country.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Just A Reason To Hit The Road

Last Saturday Hubby Tony replaced his old car with this (new to him) model:

Back at home from the dealer, he tried to contact the insurance company to get his new wheels put on the policy. There was no one there, and the message said he would have to call back during regular office hours. The company website was no help either, so poor Tony was forced to keep his new wheels in the garage until Monday morning. Then the work week started, and thanks to Zoom meetings Tony rarely goes anywhere. The car sat.

Yesterday the weather was more like mid-September than mid-August. Tony decided to start work early, which ended his day early. At lunchtime he asked me if I was interested in going on a jaunt with him later. I'm sure he knew what my answer would be. After all of his work things were packed up for the day we hit the road.

Tony had a route mapped out that would give him lots of highway driving and some exploits. We headed north, then east, crossed the Mississippi River at Alton, then headed farther north. Once you get out of Alton, the Great River Road has the Mississippi River on one side and tall limestone bluffs on the other. It was nice enough that we could roll down the windows and open up the sunroof. There was little traffic on a mid-week afternoon, and we soon made it to our first destination, Elsah, Illinois.

We've driven past the turn off to Elsah many times, but before yesterday never took the time to stop. I was glad we finally did. Tony parked, and then we walked over a block to the General Store, which was filled with a wide selection of gift items, edibles, and everyday grocery items. There, a friendly associate asked what brought us to Elsah and told us a little bit about the area.

I found out that the entire village is on the National Register of Historic Places. It was founded by James Semple in 1853, who offered free lots to anyone who built houses with stone from his quarry. The associate mentioned that we should check out the two-story school building (which is now the Civic Center), the Methodist Church (a Gothic-designed building built in 1874), and the Ice House ruins. Before we left we bought a pecan pie bar to split later.

As we wandered around the three-block long commercial district we saw all of the highlighted buildings, and when we extended our walk to the residential blocks there were many more stone buildings to be seen. We stopped and watched the multitude of butterflies enjoying the late-summer flowers in a large cottage garden. A cat sauntered across a quiet street, and a little later a small dog kept an eye on us as we walked past 'its' yard.

When we were finished exploring the village we returned to the car, where Tony offered me the opportunity to drive. Before returning to the River Road we went a couple of miles out of the way to see the campus of Principia College, a Christian Science-based liberal arts school. There were barriers at the front entrance, so we turned around.

Once back at the Great River Road we continued north to the city of Grafton, which is located near the confluence of the Illinois and Mississippi Rivers. There are shops, bars, and restaurants lining both sides of the road. Tony had picked out one that had a fun, divey atmosphere. We sat on the second floor outdoor porch that had a nice view of the river. After eating some tasty bar food we walked across the street, where we found a picnic table and ate the treat we had bought earlier, then strolled along the river.

Tony's plan was to take the Grafton Ferry across the river and meander back home, but when we found out it was only operating on the weekends we just backtracked-once again with windows open, enjoying the beautiful weather. I drove and Tony worked on figuring out how all the knobs, dials, and touch controls worked. 

Wednesday, August 19, 2020

Goin' Phishing

Earlier in the week I received an email from an acquaintance from church. It read:
Hi, How are you doing? I need a quick favor from you. Let me know if you are available.
The message didn't feel right. First of all, I don't have the type of relationship with the person such that they would ask me for favors. Also the prior messages I've received were written with correct grammar and punctuation. Instead of responding to the email I found the person's address in my contacts and used it to compose and send this:
I just got a message from you that felt spammy.  If you really sent it to me I apologize. Feel free to ask away. I will be happy to help if I can.
Five minutes later I received a response:
Hi Kathy,

Appreciate your kind response. I need to get Itunes gift cards for my Niece, It's her birthday but i can't do this now because I'm currently out of town, also i am having issues getting it online. Could you please get them at any store around you and send to my email?

I'll reimburse you as soon as i am back.

Kindly let me know if you can handle this.

P.S. It's 2 gift cards at $100 each

Now I was 99.9% sure it was a scam, but just to cover all my bases I looked up the person's number in the church directory and called. It went to voice mail, and I left a detailed message about what was going on. I got a return call that verified my suspicions that it was indeed a spam.

Five years ago today: Vacay 2015--One Day At Sea

Sunday, August 16, 2020

I’m Gonna Be A Bear

Author Unknown

In this life, I’m a woman. In my next life, I’d like to come back as a bear.

When you’re a bear, you get to hibernate. You do nothing but sleep for six months. I could deal with that.

Before you hibernate, you’re supposed to eat yourself stupid. I could deal with that too.

When you’re a girl bear, you birth your children (who are the size of walnuts) while you’re sleeping and wake to partially grown, cute, cuddly cubs. I could definitely deal with that.

If you’re mama bear, everyone knows you mean business. You swat anyone who bothers your cubs. If your cubs get out of line, you swat them too. I could deal with that.

If you’re a bear, your mate EXPECTS you to wake up growling. He EXPECTS that you will have hairy legs and excess body fat.

Yup, gonna be a bear!

Five years ago today: Vacay 2015--Gotta Go!

Thursday, August 13, 2020

Enumeration Road Trip

The Group Quarters portion of the U.S. Census that I have been working on is getting ready to wrap up. This week our team has had a flurry of locations that don't make much geographic sense to each other...particularly the one I was assigned to, a monastery and retreat center about 30 miles to the west of my house. It's been my favorite assignment by far.

I called the monastery on Tuesday to make an appointment for picking up their paperwork and talked to a serene-voiced woman with a heavy Oriental accent. We made arrangements for me to come by this morning, so after the daily Census team phone meeting I grabbed my stuff and got in the car.

I had a rough idea of where I was going, but relied on Google Maps to help. Once off the interstate the two-lane road wove through rolling hills and a couple of small towns. I passed trailheads for bike trails, state parks, county parks, and nature areas. Eventually the Google voice told me to turn on a road which started off paved but quickly turned into gravel. A couple of miles down that road the voice again told me to turn, and I saw a sign for the monastery.

The facility is closed to visitors, so I wasn't surprised to see a locked gate blocking the road. I called the office and told them I was there. I talked to the same woman, who said she would walk the paperwork out. Five minutes later I received a call asking where I was. Evidently Google had sent me to the wrong entrance.

I got directions to an alternate entrance, which involved going back to the main road, turning at "a wagon wheel" mailbox, staying to the left two different times, and going over a low-water bridge. The woman told me she would be waiting by the gate.

Eventually I found my way there. By the end the road was two tracks of gravel with grass growing in between. You wouldn't come across this center accidentally! I knew I was in the right place when a short woman wearing khaki colored clothing started enthusiastically waving at me. When I drove up to where she was standing I couldn't see her mouth underneath the mask, but her eyes were smiling. By the dirt smudges on her tunc the woman looked like she'd been doing manual labor.

After the woman handed me the paperwork she apologized that she couldn't show me the facility, and invited me to come back when the center was opened. I thanked her for the completed form and the invitation, then asked where the best place to turn around would be. She allowed me to drive up the road into the monastery, as long as I turned around at the first opportunity and came right out. The first opportunity turned out to be about a half mile away. I went up and down a hill and over another low water bridge before I came to a shed next to a large garden. I carefully turned into the gravel area and backed out. When I came back down the hill I passed the woman walking up. She smiled and gave me a little wave as I passed.

Wednesday, August 12, 2020

Masses Of Masks

Back in May I purchased face masks (two for me, and two for Hubby Tony) from a nearby crafter. Since I wasn't going out much there was no problem always having a clean one when I left the house. However, once summer humidity hit, just stepping outside made the masks sweaty. I was also doing more out in public, which meant I needed to use a mask more often.

Last month my U.S. Census supplies contained three masks made out of white knit material. It was nice to have more face coverings, but since I was turning the masks over so quickly I was forced to hand wash and air dry them, and the multi-layered knit took a long time to dry. All of a sudden I wasn't always able to have a mask stashed in my purse, and I was afraid I would rush out the door unprepared.

I thought about contacting my original seller to get more, but her prices were just high enough to stop me. Last week a Facebook friend posted about some masks she had bought at Old Navy, and I filed the information away for future use. Yesterday my Census work took me right by an Old Navy store and I stopped in to see what they had.

What they had were multitudes of masks in both adult and children's sizes...the adult sizes were packs of five for $12.50. I was able to open a package and take a mask out to look at it. The cotton material felt substantial, and when I held the mask up to the light I couldn't see through it. The large elastic ear loops had adjusters--small disks of plastic that slid up and down the elastic to make the loop larger or smaller.

The downside was that the masks didn't have a nose wire or pocket for a filter. However, I've learned that if I tuck the mask under the bottom frame of my glasses that does a good job of holding it in place. And although there might be some tiny benefit to me of having an additional filter, the most current research says that face masks are meant to protect other people. If I didn't feel well I wouldn't leave the house.

Some of the coolest prints were only available for children, but I found a package I liked and brought it home. The first thing I did was throw them all in the washer. I wondered if the cotton fabric would wrinkle, but they came out great.

Now I have enough masks that I can wait and wash out a couple at a time. It will be nice to not worry about leaving the house maskless. Hubby Tony didn't care for the prints I chose for myself, so I will be swinging by Old Navy again soon.

Five years ago today: Vacay 2015--When in Rome...

Sunday, August 9, 2020

Back To The Future

This advice from the Douglas Island News (Douglas Island, Alaska) from November 15, 1918 deals with preventing influenza, but substitute the word COVID and it could have been written last week.
Do’s and Don’ts For Influenza Prevention
  • Wear a mask.
  • Live a clean, healthy life.
  • Keep the pores open–that is bathe frequently.
  • Wash your hands before each meal.
  • Live in an abundance of fresh air, day and night.
  • Keep warm.
  • Get plenty of sleep.
  • Gargle frequently (and always after having been out) with a solution of salt in water (Half teaspoon of salt to one glass–eight ounces–of water).
  • Report early symptoms to the doctor at once.
  • Respect the quarantine regulations.
  • Avoid crowds. You can get the influenza only by being near some one who is infected.
  • Avoid persons who sneeze or cough.
  • Do not neglect your mask.
  • Do not disregard the advice of a specialist just because you do not understand.
  • Do not disregard the rights of a community–obey cheerfully the rules issued by the authorities.
  • Do not think you are entitled to special privileges.
  • Do not go near other people if you have a cold or fever–you may expose them to the influenza and death. See the doctor.
  • Do not think it is impossible for you to get or transmit influenza.
  • Keep your hands out of your mouth.
  • Do not cough or sneeze in the open.
  • Do not use a public towel or drinking cup.
  • Do not visit the sick or handle articles from the sick room.
Five years ago today: One Day Of Beauty

Friday, August 7, 2020


Now that I'm 'of a certain age' one of the things I do to take care of myself is schedule a yearly appointment at the dermatologist to have my skin checked. Today was my visit for 2020.

The office is in a professional building next to a hospital. I was there several weeks ago to see my primary care doctor, so I knew the building took patient safety seriously. The protocol started when the office called to verify my appointment. The assistant asked if I (or anyone in my house) had any of a long list of physical symptoms, if anyone in the house had traveled within the past 21 days, if I had any reason to believe I had been exposed to COVID-19, or if I had been in close proximity to anyone who had tested positive. I answered NO to all the questions, and she told me I was required to wear a mask covering both my mouth and nose the entire time I was in the building. I agreed.

When I entered the building lobby the first thing I saw was an associate standing at a card table. He scanned my forehead with a thermometer, asked me the screening questions again, then handed me a sticker to wear while I was in the building.

The dermatology practice has five physicians, and normally the waiting room is packed. Today half the chairs were blocked off with tape, and there were also extra chairs placed six feet apart out in the hall. There were only two other patients waiting, and I was called back to a room within ten minutes.

The doctor entered wearing a mask, and did not offer his usual handshake. He thoroughly checked my body for skin issues (which included briefly removing my mask so he could see my face). He burned off three precancerous spots with liquid nitrogen, then told me to come back in one year and left. At the payment desk they had a sign next to a container of pens indicating they had been cleaned.

Thursday, August 6, 2020

The Assistant

I'm sure you remember that for the past month I have been working for the U.S Census, doing Group Quarters operation.The operation should have started in April (and been finished by June), but when COVID shut everything down the dates changed to the beginning of July through the beginning of September.

This week the team I'm assigned to has been one of several working on the on and off-campus housing for one of the city's major universities. Many of the units are currently unoccupied, but we still have to make multiple tries to talk to everyone in the building and find out if they were living there on April 1, 2020. The Census Bureau takes its mission of counting everyone in the country seriously!

Yesterday night my boss (Census Field Supervisor, or CFS in Census-speak) told me she had a problem. The Bureau has a firm no-overtime policy. With three days left in the week she was getting very close to the maximum 40 hour limit and needed me to help her out today. At the end of July, when I went to the Census office to complete my onboarding process I learned that I had been assigned as a CFS Assistant. The title carried no increase in pay, but allowed me to help out with paperwork and answer questions from other enumerators. Up to now the title hadn't meant anything, but that was about to change

This morning, after our daily team phone call, I met the CFS at a parking lot a couple of miles from my house. She gave me boxes that contained the work that had been assigned, and told me which sets belonged to which Enumerator. Then she headed back home to do paperwork, while I headed towards our team meeting place, another parking lot behind a restaurant 20 minutes away. I distributed the paperwork and set up an afternoon meeting to collect anything that had been completed.

Once everyone was gone I figured I'd have a lot of free time. That turned out not to be the case. I received a fairly steady stream of texts and phone calls from both the CFS and the people in the field. In between I organized the Census paperwork I have been carrying around in the trunk of my car, setting aside the surplus to go back to the main Census office. As each Enumerator came back to turn their things in I made sure everything was filled in correctly.

At the end of the day the CFS came to pick up the turned in files so she could return them to the office. She thanked me for my help, and said she might be calling on me again.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

Civic Duty Completed

Today was our state's primary election day. With my mail in ballot they included a sticker I could use to show I had done my duty. I wore it with pride.

Five years ago today: Accidental Onions

Sunday, August 2, 2020

It's A Ruby Kind Of Day

As in a wedding anniversary. Forty years ago Hubby Tony and I said I Do and started our life together.

Right after last year's anniversary we started discussing how we would celebrate such a big event. We threw out different destinations for a trip, and made some tentative decisions. This year, about the time we would have contacted the travel agent, the world went into its COVID free fall and we were glad that we hadn't put a deposits down on anything.

I'm hopeful that eventually we'll be able to travel, but in the meantime our special weekend was quite low key. Friday we journeyed to Meramec Caverns. Yesterday we took in an exhibit about the impact of local women and the suffragist movement at the Missouri History Museum. Later in the day, during Mass the priest called us to the front and gave us an anniversary blessing. We went out for good Italian food and then a dessert of frozen custard before heading home.

This morning we hiked on a trail at a park near our house. Tony cooked dinner, and afterwards we had a family Zoom call, with the entire family together on one screen. It was good to see everyone and catch up.

What would a big event be without presents? For a long time I was at a loss as to what to get Tony, but an online search led to some great ideas, and I put this memento together:

Each line is a different font. An inspiration piece I found online had some bird on a wire silhouettes at the bottom, but I substituted the tiny cat clip art, which I thought more reflected us. (Don't you love how their tails turn into a heart?) I added our names, printed it out, and placed it in a frame.

Five years ago today: A Sunday Story