When Holidays Are Tragic….

No, I’m not trying to be anti-holiday. I’ve seen multiple Facebook posts of people who have lost loved ones over the past few days. These deaths are never easy, but somehow when it occurs during a major holiday, it usually has extra impact. It can also mar that holiday for many years to come.

When I married my first husband, I was startled at the number of Christmas gifts; the regular one expected, but also one from the dog and Santa. I mean we were after all adults. And they were incredibly thoughtful gifts, the type someone puts time and effort into. Since we only had two Christmases together before he was killed, I never got around to finding out what that was about. Years later, my mother-in-law brought the subject up. As it turned out, her only sibling was a brother whom I knew had died fairly young. He contracted scarlet fever (I think it was) and died a few days before Christmas. Their father declared there would be no celebration of that or any other Christmas in the household. He never relented and so each Christmas was ignored. Once she left home, she was determined to cherish the holiday. Not that she didn’t love her brother, but she understood the two were not connected.

It isn’t just the person most affected in these cases; relatives and friends can sometimes feel awkward too about how to react. It is commonplace for the first major holiday (or any special day like a birthday) following a death to bring more pain. That can cause the individual to want to pull back rather than be around others. These feelings can be compounded if the individual doesn’t want to “spoil things for others”. If you find yourself in this situation, it is tricky. Inviting the individual for festivities and then being understanding if they decline is usually best. Or perhaps being able to have some sort of one-on-one interaction such as a luncheon can be good. It is possible the individual will want to express the sensation of additional emotion and a shoulder to lean/cry on is what is needed.

“What’s Old Is New Again”……

In yet another example of adaptation to trying to keep a small business going in the time of COVID, drive-in theaters are popping up in a lot of places. For those of us who grew up in the era, the idea was easy for families watching budgets. Pile everyone in the car, take your own snacks, ignore the kids asking for concessions and enjoy a movie together. I don’t recall all the movies we went to, but it was a fairly regular thing for us. And then there was the high school and college student part which included more than just watching the movie.

Anyway, there have been regular local festivals that featured a “movie in the park” element, but back in the summer, an entrepreneurial brother and sister were in town for college summer break. Their dad owns a large, empty lot and they decided to give the drive-in movie theater a try. As it turns out, when they calculated the cost of renting the screen and other equipment, they went on a search for used equipment instead. They found a pretty good price and figured they might be able to sell the set-up for a decent amount or not much loss. They were both due back at school in late August and so were doing this as both a way to offer entertainment that included social distancing and to see if it would work. I interviewed the brother and did a short piece for the paper. I even reached out to a couple of contacts to see if they might be interested in buying the equipment although their interest wasn’t enough to pursue it.

Someone else has recently started showing movies and I have an inquiry out to see if they either did buy the equipment or were simply inspired by the idea. I always enjoy that kind of connectivity.

Going Away To College Would Have Been Nice……

Serious content alert; not somber though. I have previously posted about my personal belief that we do not promote non-college paths to success enough in our culture. Aside from the fact the trades and other hands-on careers are vital to our communities and economy, many individuals are far more suited to those than an academic pursuit. Choosing a non-college job is something to celebrate, too. Added to that, college costs (as with medical and housing in lots of places) have been continuously artificially inflated for a variety of inappropriate reasons. For all the bad that has come with COVID, it’s possible expanded distance learning might help bring college costs down.

I have also mentioned in the past we lived in a small college town and the rule was simple in our middle class one-income family. Go to school there with either a scholarship or working part time. Yes, going away to college would have been nice, but it wasn’t financially feasible. There are multiple factors to consider of course if the decision is made to do so and a major one is out-of-state. Most states have a good-to-excellent university systems with significant cost difference for in and out-of-state tuition. Yes, there are some specific careers where your university can matter when it comes to hiring. It is not a factor for the most part. For example, if being a a whiz on Wall Street is the goal, attending a well-known East Coast university can be important. If being a nurse or teacher, there is no reason to pay out-of-state tuition. If the goal is to nurse/teach in another state, a separate  board certification might be required, but the degree itself should be adequate preparation. Another route is strongly consider attending a community-type college for the first two years (especially if getting an Associate Degree), then completing the Bachelors at a four-year college or university. With the ridiculous costs of college, these are viable options to keep potential debt low.

Income, Profit, and Making a Living……

During dinner last night with friends, the discussion entered the realm of the difficulty in making a living in the arts. There are multiple dimensions to this, but if one strips to the core, it’s relatively simple – all be it disconcerting. As much as people do enjoy the arts, for those who have money to spend, what they are willing to pay is a different story. Almost as important is the reality there are many, many talented artists/artisans (this includes writers), and as in any commodity, markets are often “flooded”. Oh, for the sake of this post, I’m referring to freelance. Yes, there are teaching positions, but that’s a different path.

Unlike numerous careers where you won’t become wealthy, but you can earn enough to achieve and sustain middle class, few in the arts are genuinely likely to achieve that. Certainly not if there’s a family to care for as well. The tiny percent in the arts who do “make the big time” help fuel the dream though of all who have such aspirations. (Yes, there are also those who create only for “art’s sake”; that though is yet another topic).  The desire to create, whether it’s acting, art, craft, dance, music, or writing is something that should never be discouraged as it is a profound aspect of being human. Balancing the drive with “real life” is the trick as I’ve posted about when we were faced with son’s intent to be a dancer. And of course I’ve written  plenty about my own experience which was part of last night’s discussion. In never having the commercial breakthrough, my writing has been a consistent tax write-off, but the IRS does get a bit touchy with year in and year out of that. Since I do primarily self-publish and I no longer publish at least one book a year, it  works out that I “make a profit” every few years. That is very much a relative term as it means yes, I have more income from writing than expenses. Let us say the ability to make a living with that income is not the same. On the other hand, I’ve refined the process to where my costs are no more than we spend on an average vacation and we do both take pleasure in my books.

October Trip, Day 2…..

Okay, have philosophically accepted the drawbacks of very limited amenities. In the final frustration of the night the Italian place the front desk gave us a menu for did have a nice menu. Ordered pizza – usual Friday night fare. The 45 minute delivery time wasn’t an issue; at least until 1.5 hours passed. Call to the place assured Hubby it was out for delivery. By 9:00 (2.5 hours), I went to the front desk and explained the situation. The young lady did apologize and I selected two cold turkey club sandwiches and chips from the limited options available by that time. Who knows what happened to the pizza or what the guy told his boss. At least we had been planning to pay cash so there was no credit card charge. The sandwiches were good although hardly what had intended.

The weather is pleasant and we got a walk in this morning. Daughter-in-law and granddaughter arrived for us to visit a bit, let Grandpa give her the camera he’d bought. It is rated for up to 30 feet underwater so naturally it went with granddaughter and I when we headed to the pool. Since she didn’t have mask and fins there wasn’t much “swimming”, but almost an hour of playing around. We had the pool to ourselves which makes it nicer as not all adults enjoy sharing a pool with small children. At graduated depths to five feet, she can now stand in the 2.5 and 3 foot water with a little to spare. It was not what would call totally comfortable from a temperature perspective, but inside meant there was no wind which really helps.

Dinner at McCormick and Schmicks was the usual excellent meal with the complete package of ambiance, good food, service, and granddaughter hung in with no issues. The only drawback is the promised plummet in temperature was noticeable when we came out and headed to the parking garage. Ah well, no rain is forecast.

Day 1 Oct 2020 Trip….

In deciding to make the trip to the D.C. area for son’s 40th birthday (yeah, I know), I was aware of certain limitations in traveling. I’ve already posted about the surprise in discovering we couldn’t fly direct at any sort of reasonable time. I also knew we would have to pretty continuously be in masks. (10 hours as it turned out)

Now, traffic to the airport was like it used to be and I’m not going to complain about that. After all, we have access to the American Express Lounge which is a pleasant place. Except I forgot to ask the direct question and it’s closed. It would have been nice if they had posted a sign before we walked all the way down, then back past our original point to get to our gate. Okay, we get on the flight. And now we learn there will be no complimentary beverages, but hey why not have paid extra for those particular seats anyway. Our layover in Charlotte allowed plenty of time for a leisurely lunch with a couple of adult beverages. Except, the terminal our connecting flight was in has no such service and since Hubby is hauling my carry-on (no wheels) and his backpack, I’m not going to ask him to haul us back the 7+ minute walk to the other terminal. Okay, on the plus-side, the weather is good and no flight delays to this point. More to follow as we arrive.

Okay, a delay, but not too bad. Now for more frustration. We are at a hotel I will not name, but let us say it’s a nice one. So, the granddaughter was “cheated” out of the complex pool this summer due to COVID. The idea was we picked one of the three hotels in the correct location that has an indoor pool. We’re bringing the kids out tomorrow after they get off work to spend Sat and Sun night and we fly Monday morning. We will take possession of granddaughter Sunday to allow kids to have a “date day” – that also happens to be son’s actual birthday. Good plan. When I went onto the hotel website to see the restaurant, bar, and pool, there was a notice about some services might not be available. I of course immediately thought of the pool and called about that. I was assured that yes, it was open. However, knowing that things can change, I explained to the kids we would check on the pool when we arrived.

What I didn’t think to ask about was the restaurant and bar. Indeed, neither are open and by the way, there’s no ice either. Ah, and no glassware; plastic only. Shall we say, I was not happy to discover all this. Okay, Plan B. Call the Kiddo. When you come tomorrow, bring cooler, ice, bourbon and perhaps scotch. And yes, the pool is available.

The Value of Controlled Burns…..

If this is a topic you’re interested in, a longer explanation is in the article I wrote in February as Hubby had a great time taking photos.(http://www.southdadenewsleader.com/news/fire-benefits-the-parks/article_17ea9962-4913-11ea-9026-2b599f2e6e26.html)

Daddy was a forester for many years, although he didn’t start with the Louisiana Forestry Commission until I was maybe six. That particular job was running a pine tree nursery which was pretty cool to see as a kid. I don’t recall how many acres, but there were thousands – perhaps tens of  thousands of seedlings planted. They were harvested at different stages of maturity for reforestation. After that was the move to Natchitoches where we stayed from when I in the latter part of the fourth grade into college. I may have previously posted about the house we lived in. It was small, but functional and provided by the Forestry Commission as it was on the property. The head guy chose to live in a larger private house instead. Having acres of pine seedlings was one thing, having a 120-foot fire tower next to you was something different.

Anyway, the purpose of towers is of course to keep watch, especially during “fire season”. That was generally summer with dry conditions and winds. That part of Louisiana is heavily wooded, particularly with pine, and between carelessness (never mind the year of an arsonist) and lightening strikes there were always fires. The point is, during the rest of the year, there would be controlled burns planned and executed to clear out undergrowth and dead trees. The reason is straightforward. Both of those forest elements function as “tinder” when set ablaze. The greater the amount, the larger the fire which then spreads to mature trees. The “controlled” burn is exactly what it sounds like. Firefighters and equipment are set up to ignite and manage a burn in one section before moving to another. (Sectioning allows time for the forest creatures to move out of the way). There are strict rules to follow as to how large an area is to be burned at any one time and the other major factor is wind. Burns are not initiated when the wind is above a certain level. Once a burn is completed, it takes a short period for new growth to begin.

No October Trip to Louisiana…

For the first time in years, I have not made my annual trip to be in Louisiana for Daddy’s birthday. Actually, there have been a few times I’ve adjusted and gone a bit earlier and a few times later to do Christmas instead. In any case, there has always been at least one trip. For those who follow the blog, I do daily posts (connectivity permitting) while I’m on the road of friends and relatives seen, memories stirred, enjoying catfish and other local favorites. For a while I had hoped perhaps things would work out this year. I’m sure I’ve mentioned before Daddy is in an assisted living facility that is small and basic, yet nice with a good staff. A couple of months ago they started allowing “front porch” visits and my sister and brother-in-law went over. When I go to visit I spend the entire day with him, so restricting myself to something like that didn’t seem to be practical.

Last week we received word from one of my step-sisters that two of the residents had tested positive for COVID as had a couple of the staff. The residents were moved to another facility, the staff quarantined, and everyone else tested negative. Needless to say, visits have once again been curtailed. I did talk to Daddy briefly the day before his birthday (96 this year) and he sounded as well as possible, still fairly oblivious to what is really going on. That’s probably good under the circumstances. I don’t know if I’ll try to arrange a spring trip if the situation allows it and like everyone else, will adapt to whatever the circumstances are in the new year.  We are on track to travel to the D.C. area later this month for our son’s birthday and hopefully nothing will interfere with that.

Another “Go” of Openings……

While there continues to be concerns in some quarters about a second round of virus, Florida has become fully open with restrictions. In living in the “hot zone county”, we will apparently also open as of this week; again with restrictions. Hubby was in at the local college campus as they have just opened the blended class option – part time in class, part on-line. A student he spoke with said he thinks a lot of the concern is because of so much contradictory information. There will always be some of that due to human nature. Sadly, in this case, there has been so much politicization injected, it muddies the waters even more than the usual professional differences of opinions.

Anyway, we shall have to see how this goes. There’s what will no doubt be a lengthy school board meeting tonight to determine which schools will phase in students being physically present. There were only one-third of parents who responded to the survey who wanted remote learning as the single option. For every child who can learn well that way and have a home conducive to the situatioin, it is a burden for many. Yes, tablets and other equipment were provided and the internet providers did help expand into parts of the community with connectivity issues. That, however, doesn’t resolve the situation where both parents have to work or perhaps are not good enough with computers to help if there is a problem, or where they live can’t accommodate having three children of different ages on line at the same time trying to take classes at three different levels.

From an entertainment perspective, bars and musicians have been hit hard and some haven’t qualified for much, if any, financial assistance. At this point, it’s difficult to know how well those sectors will recover.

Teaching The “Isms” and Other……

Another memory jogged by recent events. I’ve posted before about attending a small Louisiana university in the town where we lived. I think I also explained while I was a Prelaw major, that was dual listed as Political Science. One of the required courses for everyone, however, was a 101 course about the “Isms”, as in Capitalism, Communism, and Socialism. It was heavier on history and politics than economics since it was required for all students. An interesting aside was due to the small size of the departments, we had only three professors; one of whom was female, another was from Taiwan – back when it was Formosa. As you can imagine, the professor from Taiwan had a very personal view of how communism functions.

Anyway, the female professor was quite strict about everything. She was also a Marine Corps veteran which was highly unusual at that time. So many non-political science students tried to avoid her class if possible, the dean allegedly finally told her she could be as tough as she wanted with every class she taught except “Isms” because it was the only one required for all students. I was in fact the only female Prelaw/Political Science major at the time, so there was a connectivity. Once she heard I was taking ROTC and joining the Army, that did result in some more personal conversations that, in turn, gave some insight into her “fearsome reputation”. As so often happens, when you learn about someone’s past experiences, it impacts your perspective. She was indeed still quite demanding, but we got along well. A funny anecdote which will only be meaningful to those who are of certain age was the morning after the infamous Bobby Riggs and Billie Jean King, “Battle of the Sexes”, tennis match. The professor came in, settled her notes and looked around the room. “I think we’ll start today’s class talking about tennis,” was essentially what she said with a big smile. The guys did take it with appropriate good humor.