Friday, June 5, 2020

Worries - May 1 - June 4, 2020

May was pretty much like April with cat walks, photos of cats, and photos of our yard. The weather was odd for this late in the Spring with alternating periods of hot days, rainy days, a thunderstorm, and days cold enough to fire up the woodstove. The cats are well and the yard is progressing toward its summer state. One big difference is that Dan became ill--multiple times.

Since the beginning of our March 15 shelter-at-home phase, anytime either of us coughed or sneezed it was cause to wonder was this it? Had it found us? The thought was fleeting, but still it was there. Something more fleeting found us in the first week of May. Around May 6 Dan became extremely fatigued. He napped a lot during the day which didn't seem that unusual because while Dan is normally the Energizer bunny, after a long spurt of activity, his body crashes forcing him to take it easy.

After two days of intense fatigue, we decided check his vital signs. Unfortunately, our thermometer was dead. Amazon was no help as every thermometer I tried to order wouldn't arrive until sometime in June or July, but our local pharmacy had thermometers. I masked up and headed out. The pharmacy until recently was open only for drive-up service. Park in a space, call, and a pharmacy employee would bring your medication out to you. Now, it is open for walk-in customers, but masks are optional. Inside I bought a thermometer and, happy day, a small bottle of hand sanitizer. Back at home, a 101.2 fever was confirmed Thursday evening.

With his fever and a racing pulse, the cats and I moved into the guest room after a discussion with the on-call advice nurse and the on-call doctor. Friday morning we spoke with our fabulous doctor who as luck would have it was working the "sick" clinic in Folsom. It was one of her two days a month that she was scheduled to be there. She put us on the books for 10 am.

The Dignity Health parking lot of the "sick" clinic was a triage zone with a person directing patients to either the sick clinic, well clinic, ob/gyn clinic, etc. We parked in the "A" space for the sick clinic and stayed in the car. Very shortly our doctor and another medical professional, both completely covered head to toe in protective coverings, N95 masks, and face shields came out to get Dan. I had to wait outside. It felt a lot like taking Pandora Cat to the vet in March except scarier.

Dan said they took his vital signs and did an invasive Covid-19 swab test in both nostrils. Then, our doctor delivered Dan back to me at the car. Our doctor advised that I also have to behave like I have the virus at least until we know the results. This episode, no matter how it comes out, has made me realize how frequently these dramas happen and that we have no idea what is going on in other people's homes or how the drama concludes.

Dan's fever continued through Saturday night. All weekend he remained fatigued but not as bad as earlier in the week. His pulse and blood pressure were normal Sunday morning. Even still, we remained in separate bedrooms. I delivered his breakfast to our bedroom. Lunches and dinners were consumed about 8-10 feet apart on our front porch. To watch a bit of TV, we sat distantly, both masked up, in our living room.

While still not completely recovered on the weekend, Dan continued his brush clearing and yard work. Even a virus can't keep this man down for long.

On Tuesday, May 12, El Dorado County Covid-19 statistics showed that our zip code had its first positive Covid-19 test. Countywide numbers showed that there was one additional person added to the 65+ category. At this point, we still had no confirmation regarding Dan's test but hoped he wasn't the one messing up the previously perfect record for our zip code.

Midday on Thursday, May 14, we finally received the results--NEGATIVE. Dan hadn't had a fever since Sunday and his strength was returning, but before the confirmation we felt that in good conscious shouldn't leave our house/yard. To celebrate the results we ordered a curbside meal pick up from Farm Table. On Friday morning we put on something other than our stay-at-home uniforms and made a trip to the grocery store. It truly felt like a festive event.

So, with all the social distancing hand washing we've been doing, even Dan, how did he pick up a illness that arrived with a fever and zapped his strength? He's always says cleanliness is overrated. He said his protective germ layer must have been washed away making him more susceptible to new germs.

About two weeks later a second round of sickness found Dan. It was Memorial Day weekend. At our doctor's suggestion, we went to Mercy's Urgent Care Walk-In Clinic in Sacramento. After blood work, urine tests, and another Covid-19 swab, we were told to stay away from others until the results were available. Three business days later, the results were again NEGATIVE, and Dan seemed to be getting better.

Because of Dan was better, a couple of days later my brother, Leland, stopped by for a breakfast on our porch. He was on his way from California to Michigan to begin a new job with an electric car startup. In between jobs he had been "sheltering-at-home" for about six weeks with another brother (his twin) who lives in Antioch. He was our first visitor since at least mid March.

The next day, a Saturday, Dan's symptoms returned. On Monday, June 1, we had a video conference with his doctor. She ordered a bunch of things to be done on Tuesday (June 2). Before heading out that morning for a chest x-ray, I emailed an update on Dan's condition from the night before. As a result, she directed us to go to the ER at Mercy Hospital in Folsom where all the tests she ordered would be expedited. I delivered Dan to the ER and we were told he would be there at least two hours. They allow no visitors inside. The only way into the hospital is through the ER. The main entrance is now an exit. There is no access to bathrooms for non-patients, and outside there was no shade. I went home to wait. Many hours later Dan called me to report that the hospital was admitting him for observation and testing. I went back to the hospital to deliver a charger and his fleece jacket because he was cold.

Wednesday morning, June 3, Dan said his fever and uncontrollable shivers had returned. He's had many blood draws for testing as well as CT scans and an ultrasound of his spleen. They're keeping him at least another night and will be sending some of his blood to the Mayo Clinic to be tested/cultured. So far, nothing has been identified as an answer as to why his fever keeps returning, but he was discharged from the hospital on June 4 and presently feels good and happy to be home.

In the meantime, virtual visits include playing a digital game, Word Chums, with Dan who is also playing two simultaneous games with our friend Janette, who introduced us to the game, and phone calls. As many others before me have experienced, it is terrible to not be able to visit in person, hold your loved one's hand, or advocate on their behalf because you're not there. The not knowing, the worrying from a distance has been thrust upon us because of the pandemic and the "new normal."

After two nights in the hospital, Dan was released on June 4. Now, we wait for results and answers.

As for me, after about nine weeks without yoga and the gym, I've finally begun to "dabble" with my yoga. I've used yoga as an exercise for over 25 years so I certainly know what to do, but I really liked the mindlessness of losing myself in a class - not having to think about what comes next. So, I hope I can become more regular about yoga and other exercises because I am already losing ground in my fitness level.

Between health crises, I have been looking back at past photographs that I never had time to spend much time with, and I still enjoy marking the progress of our landscaping and garden. With the hot days at the beginning of May the wild lupines in our front yard quickly went to seed. By the end of the month they were dry enough to remove and distribute seeds elsewhere. The sunset rockrose, yellow yarrow, matalija poppy, the yellow hybrid peony (one flower-opened on Mother's Day and lasted one week), spice bush, and rhododendron are all blooming.

The hundreds of self-seeding coreopsis all over the outer bank of our property came into their dazzling full bloom.

Our snake finding, lizard hunters constantly make me smile with their persistence. Both Syd and Pandora are amazingly forgiving even though their trophies are taken from them. Lizards dive off trees when there is no other way to escape the hot pursuit. A couple have climbed Dan's legs to find sanctuary. We even found one in Dan's pants--after he was already in the house.

Sometimes, we don't get to collect the trophy and it becomes dinner in a beyond our reach spot like the culvert under the road.

So far, our garden is shaping up to be the best ever. We've had a lot of past failures, but maybe with being around, touching the leaves of our tomato plants, giving them sufficient water, handpicking off the tomato hornworms (found about 15 small ones the other day) they are just happier with all the attention. We can't wait to have tomatoes. When I was growing up, we always had a garden and there is nothing better than eating your own juicy, warm-from-the-sun tomatoes.

When it's hot, there's a lot of resting in the shade. There's not a lot of walking when walking cats.

Pairs of House Finches are filling our mornings with song and a pregnant doe has once again decided to use our front porch as a maternity wing.

Janette got me into writing "Vote By Mail" postcards. I've discovered that my handwriting, which used to be lovely, is now horrible. If you don't use it, and I rarely write anything by hand except a check or a grocery list, you lose it. I'll continue writing postcards as long as it's needed. Your vote = your voice. VOTE!

I have continued to make bread, both a no-knead wheat and a sourdough. My handwriting is a lost cause, but I feel I'm getting better at bread making. This month Placerville Food Coop had a full complement of King Arthur Flour.

We're still very cautious about where we go. If distance isn't possible, we wear a mask. As much as possible, I avoid businesses that don't require masks. The CDC's best guess and pandemic scenarios  have found that 35% of those who test positive for Covid 19 show no symptoms. If you wear a seat belt or do anything else that protects yourself or others, why is wearing a mask such a big deal?

El Dorado County entered May with 44 cases (4 cases for those 65 and above). By the end of May there were 90 confirmed cases. There is a new age category because mid month 7 children from the same Diamond Springs household tested positive. There was more testing and increases in all age categories. Seems like caution is still advised. The curve hasn't bent or flattened.

Be well, be safe, be kind. Yo soy tu.

Friday, May 1, 2020

Flattening the Curve? Not yet: April 2020

The first days of April through Easter were mostly gray and cool. On Easter Sunday, we went for a drive to Placerville (our county seat about 4 miles north of our town). Along the way, I stopped for an Easter observance photo. It looked like the creator made due with supplies on hand.

Placerville was quite dead on Easter Sunday populated by a few walkers with or without dogs. Later in the month, we revisited Placerville. While the "hanging man" (before the town was named Placerville, it was known as Hangtown during the 1849 Gold Rush) is wearing a mask, Main Street has many more people milling about without masks and not social distancing.

The surly guy fixing his message of nationalism told me that the symbol he's putting up is a pound sign (it is actually two Fs turned sideways and taped together). His pound sign had slumped down making it illegible. I asked what KAG meant and he told me to look it up on Twitter. So, at home I did, and his pound sign in this case would be a hashtag. With the current state of the nation and the craziness of the presidential office, I can't imagine saying "Keep America Great." He must be living under a rock.

On Good Friday I took Dan to a swampy bird spot situated next to Highway 65 to Lincoln and between two shopping areas in the adjacent county. I'm quite sure the birds were there first before the developments and have decided to wait it out. It's nesting time and herons and egrets were flying to and fro with nest building supplies. Watching the birds was a great escape from the reality of Sheltering-at-Home.

Despite the cool beginning to April, our Spring flowers evolved into a riot of color. Last year, I told Dan that I wanted to spend Spring at home so we could see our flowers in bloom but by Autumn 2019 we had already booked a two-week trip to Portugal April 18 - May 3, 2020. So, wish granted, and we were home everyday of April and our yard was spectacular with California Native Iris, an Exbury Azalea, Tree Peony, a very old and tolerant upright Fuchsia, narcissus, dutch iris, a white camellia, and dogwood flowers.

Our purple wisteria faded just as the white wisteria came into its own stunning glory.

Our climbing roses in the garden were covered with their most lovely first bloom of the season.

We are laissez-faire gardeners with a broad tolerance for plants with flowers. Every year we have allowed the lupines to prosper only pulling them out after their seeds are dispersed. This year our front yard was covered with more lupine than ever before. There were so many that they took center stage to the real landscape plants. The sweet wisteria and lupine fragrance in our April yard is intoxicating. The heat of May will speed our flowers along until we arrive at a much less colorful landscape.

We have a garden with 3 tomato, 1 Fresno Chili, cilantro, and lots of perennial herbs and catnip. We acquired the tomatoes and pepper plant in early March when Dan returned from Moldova. Because it can still be quite cold until mid April, we waited to plant them on Easter Sunday. Now, they are growing fast and always hopeful, we hope again that they prosper and deliver us tomatoes and peppers.

Life for Dan, me, and the cats seems to have reached a Groundhog Day movie rhythm. We normally stream a PBS or another station's TV series in the evening. We're good for about an hour then head off to bed around 9 ish. The next morning when we're finally ready to meet the new day, we suit up our cats in their jackets and leashes and head out to our yard. The day will normally have a couple more cat walks separated by lunch and dinner with time for me to work on photography or watch a photo webinar with breaks for yard work. Dan has continued to clear our woods and put together a pile of brush that will eventually be chipped up and removed to help reduce fire danger. Dan signed up for a few one-month art and history classes that he has thoroughly enjoyed.

We had been walking further afield with walks on our nearby El Dorado trail that follows the railroad easements and over a very high trestle, but we soon hit a glitch when Dan sprained his foot while walking Syd in our woods. All walks stopped while we waited for his foot to return to normal. It is much better now allowing us a short neighborhood walk.

We had our first Skype video call with Dan's sister Ellie and her husband Earl. It was their idea to make a date with us to meet on our relative computers for a chat and a glass of wine. It was really lovely to have an actual conversation and see faces of people we love. It was a refreshing break from our normal repetitive days.

My favorite grocery store, Forklift by Nugget, was limiting toilet paper to two rolls per shopping cart at the beginning of April. Mid April you could buy 12 rolls. At that time, we thought we were fine so passed that chance. The next week, the shelves were again empty of toilet paper. As I write this journal in the beginning of May, some normal two-ply multi-roll packages are showing up again on the shelves.

Mid April and before the California governor told everyone to wear masks in public spaces when social distancing was not possible, Forklift Grocery made it their policy that all customers and employees were required to wear masks. Thanks to our friend Sharon we each had two beautiful hand -sewn masks. A Forklift employee stands at the entrance and offers masks to those who don't know the mask policy. On the other hand, the other nearby grocery store, Raley's, has a relaxed, Trumpian policy meaning it's your choice to infect others or not. I don't feel comfortable shopping there.

The Saturday that we stopped into Raley's was the same day that we first went to Placerville Hardware (the oldest Hardware store west of the Mississippi) to buy some hardware items and a multi-roll package of toilet paper. Some customers wore masks, some didn't, no employees wore masks.

We went to Home Depot but the lines of cars entering and then the line of shoppers lined up outside dissuaded us for going inside. After picking up a basil plant from the outside racks, I chatted with a garden employee who said that people begin lining up each day at 6 am and sometimes the line of shoppers snakes across the entire front of the store. He said that only 100 people at a time are allowed in the store. Some people are angry and take it out on the employees. Since I was just getting a basil plant, he took me to a self-check out garden register so I didn't need to wait in line. Don't think we're going back for a long while.

My bread making has resumed as my King Arthur Flour order has begun to arrive. So far I have gotten 10 pounds of Bread Flour, and in early May, 10 pounds of All Purpose Flour should arrive. I also found whole wheat flour at Placerville Food Co-op. I'm getting much better at bread making. I'm still working on perfecting the No-Knead Sourdough recipe, but the recipe I'm best at is Almost No-Knead Bread. I prefer the one with 1 cup of whole wheat flour. Both the white and whole wheat recipes require 3 oz of lager which presented the problem of what to do with the other 9 or more ounces of beer because neither Dan nor I really like beer.  New York Times recipes had the perfect solution--El Chonie, a very delicious tequila based cocktail. This cocktail has become part of my bread making routine now.

 Citrus salt or kosher salt (optional; see Note)
⅛  cup/1 ounce tequila
1 tablespoons/1/2 ounce simple syrup (see Note)
 Juice of 1/2 lemon
 Juice of 1/2 lime
1  12-ounce bottle chilled lager or other light-colored beer 
Rim a highball glass with salt (see Note). Place glass in refrigerator to chill.
In a large shaker, combine tequila, simple syrup, lemon juice and lime juice. Add ice and shake well.
Strain into chilled glass. Top up slowly with beer, leaving a little foam on top. Serve immediately. 
To make citrus salt, finely grate zest from a lemon or lime to measure about 2 teaspoons. In a bowl, combine zest very well with 1/4 cup kosher or margarita salt. To rim a glass, spread the salt mixture on a small plate. Rub a little lime juice on the outside rim of the glass and dip into the salt, turning gently to coat. To make simple syrup, warm 1 cup sugar in 1 cup water in a saucepan over low heat until dissolved, then cool to room temperature.

Our cats have their little cat watches set for their eat, walk, walk, walk, eat schedule. They are insistent on all of those events. If I'm busy in my office, they wind their way through my shelves to annoy me until they get whatever it is they want at that particular time of day.

So, April has been a month of documenting our yard and our cats with occasional bread making and brief trips out of our neighborhood. I'm kind of relaxing into this slower pace of life and not nearly as anxious as I felt in March.

On March 31, El Dorado County had just 18 cases. On April 30, our county reported 44 cases (still just 4 cases for those 65 and above) and still no deaths. The largest percentage of cases, 49%, are in the 18-49 year old age group. The zip code we live in has no cases reported so far.