Greetings From The Late Pandemonial Era

Hey, everybody! Happy Infrastructure Week! We finally got ‘er done after booting Tan Dump Lord from office, along with his merry band of corrupt seditionists.

InfrastructureWeek

It’s actually Infrastructure Week for real! Hope it’s not a dumpster fire.

It’s been about a year and a half since my last blogposts of any substance (admittedly, they were very light on substance).

Since posting Lather, Rinse, Repeat in March 2020, a LOT happened. Once again, my long lapse in posting makes me feel compelled to play catch-up. InigoMontoyaLetMeSumUp

In March 2020, David was in the middle of a job search – his choice – and I had no idea what was coming as far as my own job. I was furloughed from my Brand Name corporate travel management company in mid-April, 2020, and thanks to the unexpected but welcome act of Congress, I was on a pretty generous unemployment scheme. My health care was continued by my company, too.

David was worried, but eventually got a job with a pretty well-known company that has retail products, in about June of 2020. He’s not doing the kind of software development that he really loves and is known for in his community, but he’s happy and has been working from home.

I ended up buying a sewing machine, teaching myself to sew simple masks, and did pretty well at using them for donation premiums to the American Diabetes Association. Eventually I bought a better sewing machine and made some gifts for new family members. This was all documented in my Twitter feed.

This method of sharing selected tweets as a collection is, of course, deprecated. Because it was somewhat useful and somewhat possible to do in Tweetdeck, which is also deprecated. Thanks, @Jack.

So in April 2020, I was furloughed from work while David was still mid-jobsearch, and Illinois had entered a “Safe At Home” status in late March, asking people to keep trips outside the home limited to essential errands like grocery-shopping and getting car repairs and things. Essential businesses also included bike shops and sewing machine/crafts stores, which was a blessing as it kept a lot of people busy either riding bikes for sanity, or making stuff for themselves and others for sanity.

As my embedded timeline shows, I was intently focused on the 2020 presidential election – I left a LOT of stuff out. These are what I think of as the emotional high- and low-lights.

Politics, Schmolitics

On Election Night, I basically “slept” with my sleep headphones on, listening to the returns. I also did that the night before the election was called for Biden, as the count in Arizona (the first, actual one) went on. At the time the election was called, I was trying to figure out why Rudy Giuliani, America’s Former Noun, Verb, and 9/11 Mayor was standing in front of a garage door at a landscaping company. This happy gift from God went on for days, weeks even.

I had so many funs reacting to that.

Later on (see main embedded timeline) a hardcore Punk musician named Laura Grace actually performed a show at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, which is why I bought the shirt. The pinnacle for me was probably the “VR Chat Furries Re-Create FSTL and run around looking at everything” incident (also in the timeline embed).

It’s really weird – Rudy’s been very quiet lately, after his meltdown. Insert “snicker-snicker” GIF here on your own.

I was live-tweeting on Jan. 6, 2021 for the certification by Congress of then President-Elect Biden’s victory in the election. That whole thread is in the embed, too. Since then, the whole saga of the insurrection-coup-failed revolution has been churning along in the back of my mind. It makes me feel sick at how close we came as we ONLY NOW are getting more information from various journalists’ books and revelations from the Jan. 6 Commission in the House.

We HAVE to keep the house and Senate in 2022, but with gerrymandering and decades-long election fuckery by the Dominionist Right, it’s not looking good. The Council for National Policy will stop at nothing.

I’m just thankful that at long last, more competent and less corrupt people finally got Infrastructure Week done, even though it wasn’t everything that we wanted thanks to (hawk-split) Manchin and Sinema at the behest of the gorram Donor Class.

Work Stuff

Meanwhile, workwise: I spent more than a year on furlough. David’s been working for more than a year now where he’s at, and my job came back originally as a temp gig in May 2021. I’m grateful for the extra unemployment benefits I could sign up for in the state of Illinois. There were people in Red states that likely never did get through to sign up for  their rightful benefits – thinking of Florida and Texas. The cruelty is the point.

For a few months, I worked for my company on a “leisure travel” project where we provided trained agents for a related travel concern, using very weird tools and mostly hating it because the callers were so hard to deal with. Finally, in August, I was “called back to the Big League” and found myself on a corporate team, taking calls and emails from business travelers.

More recently, I’ve also taken on something I call the “UK/EU Project” where I handle email requests from selected accounts based in, yes, the UK or in Europe. That’s been interesting, if frustrating, because of having to learn a lot of new tools (and in one account’s case, not feeling like the training and support has been there). It’ll get better, but I’m on vacation for 2 weeks and will have to re-learn everything (and probably be saddled with more accounts) when I get back at the end of the month.

Family and Friends

First of all, we are so, so fortunate not to have lost anyone close to us in our circle of family and friends to COVID-19. I’ve kind of fallen off my family’s radar the last few years (sisters in Idaho and North Carolina and their kids/grandkids, cousins in Utah and Arkansas) because I pulled back from Facebook and rarely check in there. Still, I’m happy to report that there are 2 new people who came into the world on the Illinois side in the last year, and they are very very cute. I haven’t Tweeted much about them out of concerns for privacy and safety, but take my word for it, they’re cute. There’s even more little kids I’ve never met on my side in ID and NC, but that’s for future trips. For now, we’re happy to get photo updates on everybody, but the most prolific photo-posters are the Illinois contingent.

We don’t see as much of them as we’d like; my nephew and niece Josh and Ashley are the parents of Dean Micah, and my niece and nephew Jen and Tyler are the parents of Brenna. It’s complicated getting everybody together as they are at nearly opposite ends of the broader Chicago/northern Illinois area, and in Jen’s case, she picks and chooses carefully. But when they can manage it, we’ve enjoyed seeing the little ones change and grow when we’ve gotten together.

There’s a bit in the embedded timeline about Jen’s baby shower and wedding – I have more pictures, but what I included is the gist. My friend Sheryl helped Jen with some of the wedding stuff – flowers and things, and my niece Naomi was helping her sister as much as she could, given work constraints. Sheryl is much more than a friend of the family at this point – she’s more of a dear aunt or motherly figure for the girls and Josh (and their spouses), and she’ll have them over to her home for their now traditional Thanksgiving brunch.

A few months before the pandemic, we got the wonderful news that David’s niece Melissa would be able to move into a new shared home in the Chicago area. She had been living Downstate, 5 hours away, and it was really hard on her being so far away from her family. It was hard on her grandpa, and her dad, too – because the burden was on them to go pick Melissa up (meet her staff halfway, usually) to bring her back for any major holiday or family gathering.

Suddenly, it was possible to drive just 25 minutes to pick Melissa up to join us for a family dinner! And just as suddenly, she and her whole house were so securely locked down in mid-March, 2020 that we could not hug her or take her to her grandpa’s house for a visit – we had to settle for waving at her through her windows, and got into using Facetime with her for weekly phone calls again. Thank God, when the vaccine finally became available in the early winter of 2021, she was in one of the earliest groups to get it. Even so, we couldn’t just pick her up for an excursion; we had to arrange for a Covid-19 test before she could go back, and at that time, that meant a 5 day wait for results! Which didn’t make sense, since she had to get the test at the beginning of the stay, and risk exposure during all the waiting time. Fortunately, Melissa’s house was spared any cases of Covid-19; some of the other houses in the organization were not so lucky.

We did lose David’s Aunt Norma early in the pandemic; this was not Covid-related but it was a terrible shock as that side of the extended family is very, very close to each other, and Norma was the linchpin. It was so, so, so very weird watching the burial via YouTube, as that was during the time of “NO MORE THAN 10 PEOPLE” gathered at a time, even outdoors. And that total included funeral staff! So my father-in-law could attend, as a close family member, but just a few others (Uncle Bill, her adult children, and I think one adult grandchild spoke). We went to the dedication of her headstone a year later, and it was nice to see everyone gathered in one place. We hadn’t planned to go back to our cousin’s house for the luncheon (we hadn’t been with that big a group of people in more than a year) but spontaneously decided to go, and we were glad we did.

In former years, Norma used to invite the whole extended family to her big house for Thanksgiving, but more recently, she had drawn back from that and left it to her adult kids to organize after she and Bill downsized. So for several years, we’d made our own plans for Thanksgiving, as it seemed nobody was taking on the task of doing the full-extended-family event anymore. Which was fine, as it gave us a chance to do something closer to home and not have to drive more than an hour in any weather with food. David’s dad and stepmom live just 15 minutes from us now, so we get together all the time for dinner out and so on.

Speaking of Thanksgiving, it’ll be different from last year. VERY different. This time last year, there was no vaccine, and I didn’t want to risk infecting Shel and Linda (aforementioned ‘rents) by entering their home for any reason without masks. At the worst points, I only wanted to stand outside and wave at them through their door! But the improving test-positivity rates in Illinois last spring, and the blessed vaccines, made life much more normal here.

However, in November 2020, post-election, pre-holiday season, we “weren’t there yet.”

So we hosted an all-day Zoom Thanksgiving. We had an open Zoom video chat for hours, and anyone we knew could drop in while we served ourselves a nice little dinner. I talked to my friend Ellen in Germany (it was timed so it was evening for her) and many other far-flung friends and family). It was actually pretty fun, and cleanup afterwards was a snap.

This year? We’re traveling to be with Mitch and Gloria in Phoenix. We will be stepping aboard an aircraft and hoping nobody decides to cut up rough and make a Freedumb Seen about masks or whatever. We will visit our sibs, and then go to the Grand Canyon for a couple of nights, where for my belated birthday I’ll be getting my lifetime National Parks pass – of course, I didn’t turn 62 early enough to get the cheaper lifetime pass, but I am happy to pay the higher rate in order to support our national parks. After the time at Grand Canyon, we go back to Mitch and Gloria’s for a group Thanksgiving with them and their neighbors; they seem to have found a wonderful community.

For much of last year I didn’t do much but log some couch time – even with all the free time! I didn’t feel like riding my bike! Finally, with my friend Sheryl, I made a pact to ride my indoor bike trainer while she walked on an indoor low-impact trampoline.

This got us through the first 5 months of 2021 and I really felt great – and then my job came back and my schedule changed. Suddenly my daily chats with Sheryl, while we planned for Big Family Events, dropped from a daily hour on the bike (or an hour walk while my knee was recovering from a sprain) to NOTHING. No walks, no biking, nada, except on the weekends. I still have to figure out some afternoon-evening time to schedule something consistently with Sheryl. But I did enjoy our walkie-talks or bikey-talks so much, so I have to get going with that again.

We’ve seen some of our other friends in the cycling and ADA (American Diabetes Association) communities, most notably a wonderful 4th of July barbecue at Carlos and Marlene’s in the far south suburbs. I’ve seen my friend BL for a couple of walks and I dropped off masks with other friends and visited.

Church Stuff – Holy Moly

The last time I was in church at St Nicholas, prior to last Sunday, was mid March 2020. This was just before the news broke about the choral group in Skagit Valley, WA that turned into a super-spreader event. After that, the Episcopal Diocese of Chicago put out the word – no in-person worship, no indoor gatherings of any kind. Like a lot of faith communities, there was some scrambling to provide some kind of service. In the case of Holy Moly, where we’re not super technical, the solution was to just put out a Facebook Live service from Father Manny’s home. Other churches came up with more elaborate streaming solutions, but when I finally went to church Sunday, I walked in to find that a tripod was set up in the aisle, ready for Manny to put his iPhone in it and start streaming to the church Facebook page. No extra mike, no ability to move the camera.

Well, okay, I had stepped back from providing more technical solutions more than a year ago – we host the church website but I’d been feeling less comfortable with my ability to do anything more complicated than uploading pictures and updating the events page, so I had given access to 2 lay members for coverage. And they did their best. It’s fine. But now that I’m coming back, I may need to check under the hood and see what they’ve done in the interim while I’m off this week. I haven’t had a chance to talk to the other lay folks that have something to do with that.

Well, here’s Sunday’s service – the officiant is Fr. Manny Borg, the musical offering is a solo by my choir friend Jess and accompanied by She Whose Downbeat Must Be Obeyed, Mary.

And the sound is awful. I’m pretty embarassed.

I should have checked in earlier. Manny used to do this from home and it was okay, but I stopped watching each week and didn’t realize how the transition to in-person worship sometime in the late summer had kept the same setup, but at a far greater distance.

Now, I happen to know that we (St Nick) own a very nice video camera setup, and there’s a microphone with it. We also own a very nice digital recorder, and there was an even better microphone with that. But both rigs are about 10 years old, and in the case of the digital recorder, it may have ended up with someone who became estranged and later died. I don’t know where it is. And the video camera? I don’t know if the woman who used it most is still around, and no one else currently knows how to run it.

I really need to talk to Manny and his more technical better half to see if they realize there are better options than putting an iPhone in a tripod.

Anyway, it was a nice service, and because the choir is not supposed to all sing together yet, we just had practice for our upcoming Lessons and Carols service, in which we will sing while wearing masks… and on Sundays, we scatter ourselves out in the congregation. There’s no hymns; just piano, organ, and a weekly soloist.

Upcoming events, including the first choral performances we’ll do for the visit of the assisting bishop and the Lessons and Carols service are HERE.

Yes, I know it’s in all caps, bold. I didn’t have the heart or inclination to edit it on my iPhone when I pulled it from the most recent email bulletin. Speaking of which, I need to talk to Douglas, who does the weekly bulletins using Constant Contact. I think he’s manually editing the front page template to add the bulletins each week. There’s a better way.

That brings us pretty much up to date, and I’ve spent all day on this, on my old laptop, in bed, because I can. I do enjoy Infrastructure Week, which happens to coincide with Vacation Week 1 for me.

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