September 1, 2020

Living Without


....more than I thought pre-pandemic. One of the many lessons learned since mid-March is what I thought as necessary to my day-to-day life is not. Welcome extras? Yes. Enjoyable diversions? Certainly. Boredom-breakers? Absolutely. But, necessary? As a follow up to last week's post about frugal living, this virus-focused look seems a natural next step.

This may be the first year in forever that Betty and I have taken no vacations, made no trips, explored nothing outside of our immediate area. There is a trip to Flagstaff for a few days, but that will be it. The Canadain trip, the month-long cruise to the South Pacific, are long gone. A drive to San Diego to escape the unrelenting heat? With California locked down again or on fire, there would be no point. 

Yet, to my surprise, I am OK with this turn of events. While I wouldn't want to go through next year in the same situation, being home, having meals, and fun with the family has been entirely satisfying. I have read more, discovered more good TV shows and documentaries, listened to a bunch of music, and simply enjoyed "being."

Betty and I used to enjoy a once-a-week restaurant meal. Usually not very fancy, it was still pleasant to leave the kitchen behind and have a menu with all sorts of choices. Being served is a welcome treat. Not cleaning up, even better. We have maybe a dozen favorites that get our business time and time again. 

Well, obviously, not now. Take-out is fine, delivery is overpriced, but it still feels like being pampered. Do we miss sitting at a table and letting everything come to us? Of course. Do we miss being in the company of fellow diners? Do we miss the whole experience as much as I thought we would?  Not as much as I would have imagined. And, my budget shows the difference in home cooking, and a pizza from Little Ceaser's every now and then. But, restaurant meals will be back into our lives when it's safe.

Not driving as much. Our nine-year-old Honda gets poor mileage, which is why it was scheduled to be replaced in March. Well, now is not the time. But, the good news is we drive very little. Lame miles per gallon is still bothersome and not good for the environment. Still, with the car sitting in the garage most of the time, I feel better about still owning it.

Malls and in-person shopping. A recent post revealed my new-found appreciation of online shopping. I was never someone who enjoyed going to a mall, anyway. Now, I have a perfect excuse. 

Many new clothes. T-shirts, jeans, or shorts, and I'm set. To "dress up," I put on a pair of khakis and a polo shirt, and I'm in business. Everything I need I already own, so adding new clothes is another thing I can live without. 

Going to the movies. I know I am no longer part of the target audience, so I don't get too upset that there are few new movies I would be willing to see in a theater.  With previews played at deafening levels, overpriced junk food I shouldn't eat anyway, and people who can't last two hours without checking for texts, I really don't miss the multiplex as much as I thought I would.

A daily newspaper. For the first time in decades, I stopped home delivery a few months ago. I haven't missed page after page of virus, political, or upsetting economic news at all. A few apps on the phone reviewed in 20 minutes each morning, and I am caught up. It is nice to save the $45 a month cost, too.

How about you? Has the last five months given you a new perspective about certain habits or ways of living that might become permanent?


40 comments:

  1. Interesting thoughts on how the pandemic has changed our ways of living, often in positive ways.
    If you get to the point of replacing your car, you might want to think electric. I got a Chevy Bolt last winter. I haven't driven it as much as I thought I would, due to the pandemic, but I am loving it. It can go about 240 miles on a charge and there are more and more places to charge if one is away from home. There are apps to help you find charging stations, so if you plan a trip you can plan out where you can stop to charge. We have solar panels on our roof, so I figure that provides a lot of the charge for our Bolt. Having to gas up the car is something I don't miss at all.

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    1. Whether we go full electric is still in the discussion phase, but certainly, a hybrid is a must. My daughter and son-in-law own a hybrid plug in that they find works well for them. Like you, they have solar panels so the recharging is very economical.

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    2. I second the vote for electric. My Hyundai Kona gets about 260 miles to a charge (these days, that happens about once a month) and I love it. It's my second electric (first was a Leaf) and I'll never go back.

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  2. Our planned vacation to France and Italy this year was cancelled so this is the first time since we've been retired that we haven't had any vacation travel. We do winter in Mexico each year and so far that is still on but I don't view that as a vacation, rather we're just living somewhere else for a few months - it's pretty much the same as being at home except with better weather. When I was working there were many years without vacation travel. It was that time of life with small kids and a big mortgage, when money was tight and the demands at work were unrelenting.

    Since we've retired we put very few miles on our car, about 6,200 miles/year (10,000km) mostly puttering around town. It's also why we went down to one car and gave one of our cars to our daughter, we just weren't using it enough. Our current car is about 5 years old so we'll keep it another 3 years or so and then I think I'll trade it for either an EV or plug-in Hybrid. I think that type of vehicle will be better for the environment and given that we don't drive that much I am sure range won't be an issue, range also seems to be steadily going up as the technology improves.

    I am with you Bob on the clothes, in-person shopping and I never was much of a movie person for the reasons you mention. I am still a newspaper guy though. I changed to the on-line version of my daily national newspaper about 5 years ago. It's less expensive and has the same news, some of it expanded as there are no space limitations. I still have the weekend print edition of the local big city newspaper delivered. It's nice to hold and read an actual newspaper, it gives somewhat different coverage of events, plus I find there are still times when it's good to have an old newspaper around to catch oil drips when I change the oil in my lawnmower or to start the wood fire in my fireplace. You can't do everything on-line!

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    1. Now that you mention it, a Sunday paper would be nice. It is a comfortable way to wrap up one week and start another. Our local Phoenix paper is pretty poor, so I'd go with the New York Times.

      We gave up a second car over a year ago. For several months Betty was worried about having her freedom restricted and that one car would be a scheduling hassle. Those fears never came to pass. Of course, now, there aren't a lot of places to drive anyway! This year we will be lucky to go over 7,000 miles.

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  3. I still get the Sunday press but it goes unread as often as I do read it. I get it mostly to still support the local newspaper and, to me, that's still a worthy (but lost) cause.

    I drive so little now it's laughable. I get 28.8 miles to the gallon and a gallon of gas will last me two plus weeks. I can't even remember the last time I bought new clothing other than underwear...a couple of years. It's just not my thing. Ditto on mall shopping. Books, now that's a different story/obsession. I do not like library books because 1) you can't write in the margins and 2) I've always been a bit of a germaphobic.

    What I miss the most: the monthly lectures at the senior hall, the movie theater, sitting in the corner of my favorite cafeteria people watching and writing longhand in my notebook. And most of all I miss small talk with strangers.

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    1. Your last paragraph could have been written by me. While I am not particularly social, not being to see other people going about life, sharing an experience at a concert or symphony (or the occasional age-appropriate movie), and a restaurant meal are things I miss.

      Even with poor gas mileage we fill up only every two weeks, which gives you some idea of how little we drive.

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  4. Our lives are similar to what you and Betty are experiencing. We cancelled quite a few trips for 2020. We did rent an airbnb in Sedona Last week, and since we have been NOWHERE since March, it felt like the most luxurious and joyful vacation I’ve ever taken!! We swam in the creek, hiked a couple of easy trails, and brought all our own food from Trader Joe to cook in our rental, since we will not go into restaurants. It was a real mood lifter!! But overall, we are settling into the quieter simpler routines that Covid has placed on the table..We spend ZERO on restaurant food. Very little on gas, and no movies,theater,etc. ( I MISS MY HALE THEATER SHOWS!!) I spend more time working on water coloring,art journaling, and making new cookbooks. Ken does yoga with a youtube video he likes. We work out on treadmill, go for bike rides, and our son visits once a week for a fancy dinner I make for all of us..we distance and wear masks.. I have not brought an item of clothing in 6 months, a first for me. I miss my consignment stores for sure but I have a closet full.. so I am certainly not suffering. I have found I have simplified my grocery shopping—instead of running to 2-3 stores a week,I do all of our shop at Trader Joe.Have found it to be very relaxing and they do have everything we need. All that said, I still am looking forward to a time when I can get together with my 3 friends I play cars and dominoes with, and also my weekly art group and kitty rescue.I miss those activities quite a lot. We will travel again when we can.. but I am nervous about planes... Over all,very grateful we are safe and have plenty of everything to be comfortable. Glad to hear you and Betty are well,too!!

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    1. One food shopping trip on Tuesday morning is the only trip we have to make for food for the week. We are still not comfortable having a repair person in the house, so every 5 days I do buy a bag of ice cubes since our ice maker brook in March.

      I have a voucher for a free show for two at Hale Theater...whenever they come back!

      Betty is redoing her office to make it into a shared art space for the two of us. Might as well splatter paint in one room instead of two!

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  5. "Less is More" truly rings home these days. If you are retired and have a roof over your head and food on the table, what else do you desire during this Covid time? Everyone has had their lives put on "Pause." Time to really take a look at your priorities for you and your family.
    When we were told to shelter inside, it wasn't a huge change for us. My wife and I have many indoor interests to keep us busy. Couple that with the home chores to do and your day is filled.
    We never felt "cooped up." Though we have friends who were just dying to get out and dine some place and have a beer.
    Like you and Betty we do take out and dine at home amid our bubble. There is not a feeling of missing out like going to the mall or just checking out places with the "Wam" as you would say.
    Yes, we cancelled a trip like most retired folks. That can be rescheduled for another time. It's just fine with us hanging at home. Bob, like you I have an extensive vinyl library. It's set up in my garage and I listen while wrenching my motorcycles. So much music to appreciate and it takes you places (analog style).
    Thanks for keeping up your writing! Russ

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    1. As you know, vinyl music just sounds different: wearmer and fuller. Getting up every 15 minutes to flip an album over also equals some exercise!

      If we were restricted as tightly as we were at some other time of year, I think both of us would have been more antsy. But, as I have noted, this is the time in Phoenix when everything is inside anyway, so no big change.

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  6. I'll echo the top comment about the Chevy Bolt. Our lease is up, and we don't need the car (minimal driving these days), so we're turning it in. But, if we go back to two daily commutes, we will for sure buy another electric car. LOVE it.

    We've enjoyed the peace & while we've missed travel, we've enjoyed smaller things: low key trips to our cabin, fancy meals at home, walks after dinner, tennis games with the kids, etc. What have we missed the most? School & social stuff for our teens. That's been brutal.

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    1. We miss cooler weather! Between Covid and 110 degree summers, the outside stuff just hasn't been possible for us since late April. But, starting in October, our life moves outside.

      I am certainly open to electric. The number of charging stations concerns me, but that is getting better.

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  7. I understand dropping the newspaper but the death of local independent journalism is another nail in the coffin of our free democratic society. Perhaps people coukdcat least consider keeping the cheaper digital subscriptions to their local paper.

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    1. Our local paper is owned by Gannett so it is really just a bunch of stuff from their corporate staff with a few pages of local crimes. I do have a digital subscription to the Washington Post.

      As a former journalist it bothers me greatly to see what is happening to our papers. Unfortunately, between the attacks by the White House and the change in people's reading habits, the long term trend is not good.

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  8. Travel - We have been going to Hawaii once a year for some time now. Of course, not this year and I think it will feel more special when it all opens up again. Our travel savings account certainly gets fatter every month.

    Movies - I do miss them. When a great, must see, movie comes out it's nice to go the big screen for a change of pace. But, as we are in our 70s, as you say, there are few movies marketed to us. So we see very few per year.

    Restaurants - We used to dine regularly with other couples and that has stopped and I miss it. But we are occasionally doing take out for some relief from the same home menu, over and over.

    Like many people our age our lives hasn't changed that much during the pandemic. I'm a bit of a homebody. My friend who is a fanatic bowler has been climbing the walls for months now and would happily sit in the middle of a group of people who were active with the bubonic plague if it meant she could toss a ball again. :D

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    1. Funny comment about the bowler! At the moment life is nothing but gutter balls for her.

      We have been to the Hawaiian Islands probably a dozen times over the years. Betty and I could definitely live on Kauai or Maui when the grandkids are grown up.

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  9. Unfortunately, newspapers are becoming an oligopoly just like most everything else in our centralized, federalized world. We get the weekend NY Times, one of the oligopolies. We considered an electric vehicle the last time we bought a car but back then range was a big issue. It still seems like electric is more suitable for the second car -- you're not going to drive across Texas in an electric, even now -- and since we're now considering downsizing to one car we may still not go the electric route (altho' I salivate over those Teslas I occasionally see on the road). Also, because of the extra carbon emissions in production, plus the emissions of producing electricity, it seems that electric only saves maybe 20% of emissions compared to a decent mpg car. But, I suppose, 20% is better than nothing, and maybe that will improve as we retire coal and oil in favor of renewable-produced electricity. Gee, maybe my wife will go for that Tesla after all!

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    1. Keep that Telsa dream alive.

      Because the battery packs are so heavy all electric cars actually get worse mileage on the highway than the city. The range is getting much better, though.

      I think we are done with long distance drives. That itch was scratched with the RV. I am pretty sure a hybrid is our next car.

      I do miss the Sunday New York Times. I will see if that is an option. 7 day delivery was just too much.

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  10. Hey Bob! I am a big fan of the "less is more" category. BUT...we still tend to indulge in things that we love like travel and getting out of the heat. Now that COVID has been around we have definitely cut back...but luckily we had reserved a couple of summer rentals way back in January (sometimes it REALLY pays to be a planner) so we had places we could go that were still just about as safe as staying home...one in the mountains for 2 months and 1 at the beach for 1.5 months. It's working for us very well and I am SO-O-O glad we did. Other than that we are saving lots of money not running around doing things that we just naturally do without thinking about it. While we are normally fairly frugal but now that we have been locked down we can easily see where we spent money that really wasn't that necessary. ~Kathy

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    1. At the moment we are in a VRBO house in the woods about half an hour north of Flagstaff. We just had to get away for a short break from routine. This place is completely off the grid...solar and rainwater. Kind of an adventure.

      We are giving serious thought to a month in this area next summer. That option is sounding better and better.

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  11. I bought 3 dresses for spring summer back in February. I was so smart to get them early before clothes were picked over. They hang in my closet, unworn.
    I have found how very little we need and what I miss most.
    I love live theater and miss going to plays, but I found I can pay a small amount each month and see plays online. Though it is not the same it does satisfy my theater itch,.
    Our youngest son and his wife came and stayed at our house for nearly two months. They are both musicians in NYC so they have/will have no gigs for quite a while and just wanted to go somewhere with green space and a little more room than their city apartment. We enjoyed hanging out with them and it did fill some time nd space here. Our grocery budget took a hit with 2 extra adults, but our T and E budget has not been touched since the beginning of March and we are still ahead even with the extra food purchases.
    After they left I found what I have truly miss most is social contact with others. The rest is just noise!

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    1. Betty bought several outfits for our south seas cruise. Like your dresses they are in a closet, unworn.

      I will be happy when live theater and classical concerts begin again. I have watched a few online, but they really aren't the same experience.

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    2. Bob, except Hamilton via Disney+ Seeing it that up close and in person would set one back about $600, two times that for a couple. I was more emotional watching it online last month for pennies, than when I saw it in person, at a distance of about 20 rows back, for $700+ for our two tickets. Same with Phantom when Andrew Lloyd Webber put it up for a brief period for free. Some productions do appear to transfer beautifully.

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  12. Speaking of travel... One thing I didn't mention is that a semi-retired friend of mine is going to Greece at the end of the month (Canadians are allowed to travel there now). He had booked a one week private group boat tour of the Greek islands in June with a few other people but of course the whole thing was called off. He left his deposit with the boat operator and said he'd figure out later what to do about it.

    Anyway, he was talking with the boat owner recently and she said she has no other business so she'd take him but it'd just be the two of them on the boat she would even add another week for another 300 Euros if he wanted. I think as much as anything, with no business, the boat operator is bored. That sounded good to him, social distancing should be easy with just the two of them out on a boat, and the Greek government will pay for his medical care there if he were to get Covid (I gather they are pretty desperate for tourists). He's booked a direct flight to/from Athens so he'll see how it goes. It's not risk free but if it goes well he's made lemonade out of lemons.

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    1. Well, that is an interesting twist of fate. Sounds heavenly. Of course, at the moment not many countries are welcoming American visitors. Our options are quite limited!

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  13. Our life isn't too different except this year we stayed in Tucson for the summer. Most activities in our retirement community were canceled, and the heat prevented me from exercising outdoors past 7 a.m. But I've stayed involved with church and educational activities through Zoom, and I've signed up to be a tech host fo the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (Olli) here in Tucson. One of our sons has been remodeling the downstairs of our Washington place so we'll have a no-stairs apartment when we go back this week. I do feel like I'm doing the dishes about every ten minutes! And I miss live theatre and sitting on the porch, social distancing, with a friend. I bought a bunch of clothes early in the summer - I haven't lived in summer heat for many years, so I had to buy a few pairs of shorts and some sleeveless shirts. We canceled a bike-and-barge trip from Amsterdam to Bruge and found a Canadian couple who could use our September timeshare week in Whistler. All in all, we make do, don't we?

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    1. Making do is the best approach. I have been watching with interest the remodel of your basement in your Washington home into an apartment for you and Art.

      I applaud your surviving a very hot Arizona summer.

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  14. We are getting by with less also (and not missing most of it). After several months of no "retail therapy" I've realized that I mostly shopped to get out of the house and for something to do. I certainly don't need any more clothes. Btw, San Diego is lovely now... not too hot and we've been spared the fires. We've had a very mild summer so far.

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    1. San Diego is an easy 6 hour drive from our home. It is such a beautiful city. You could lock me up in Balboa Park and throw away the key...I would be just fine.

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  15. Just reading all the comments has made me feel better...and content. We have been enjoying our isolation and wondered if we are "odd"!! I think not---many our age (mid 70's) have embraced it.

    I also read the paper on line (also owned by Gannett)...we lost the home town feel of our Naples Daily News when they took over. And the price skyrocketed! Hubby just watches several news programs and gets info online.

    Life is good! ... but mostly we miss our kids/grands, who are all 2-3 days by car away...

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    1. We vacationed on Siesta Key for many years..not that far from Naples. The west coast is such a pretty area.

      Having grandkids 5 minutes away is an amazing blessing..we know how lucky we are.

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  16. Our spending came to a grinding halt in March and April, but then sheer desperation to do 'something, anyrhing' has seen it ramp back up. Which is fine!

    So, while we are spending less on Travel and Entertainment, we are spending more on Hobbies (golf lessons, outdoor yoga, new guitar and electronic keyboard) and Restaurant Dining (frequent takeout during outdoor activities like walking, hiking, biking, and kayaking, plus weekly outdoor half price dineouts at a winery we joined during the pandemic).

    And Gas expenses have ramped back up as we drive all over our county to provide variety in where we go and do our daily outdoor activities.

    However, we've also discovered lots of free ways in which to spend our suddenly abundant time- picnic dinners at our coastal parks, socially distanced BYOE (BYO Everything) dinners, Zoom Happy Hour parties, sunset viewing at the beach, hangouts at our under-utilized HOA adult pool, barefoot walks at the beach. Things that were always available, but that we overlooked in pursuit of faster-bigger-better.

    So that is the lesson I hope will be our takeaway. That we continue to embrace what was always here for the taking, and be much slower to pick up the faster-bigger-better once they come back on line.

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    1. Tamara and Mike's version of less is more...
      Is still mote than most of us have done in a long time. I see on FB that Tamara is loving golf.

      A lot of the stuff you guys do requires living in a temperate climate, though the wine-tasting club sounds like so much fun and can be done most places.

      This comment is so perfect for this post. This couple has found so many safe and stimulating things to do when a lot of things are off limit.

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  17. Like others, I have found I don't miss shopping and certainly don't need any new clothes when I go virtually nowhere. And with a mask on, who knows who is who anyway. Except for making new masks when I get bored with the initial two. I do admit to having been to JoAnn Fabrics a couple times. :-)

    I love movies on the big screen, but theaters are closed here and show no sign of opening. They don't give off a sanitary vibe anyway, and I sure don't need the calories of the junk food I tend to eat while watching. I agree with Tamara that seeing Hamilton on Disney+ was a lovely surprise. We could never bring ourselves to pay for tickets.

    I subscribe to WaPo and the NYT online, but if I lived where I could have the Sunday NYT delivered, I would do it in a heartbeat. I do buy it occasionally when I am out and find it. Our local paper (like so many others in mid-sized cities) has been taken over by syndicated pablum, and they got rid of all the good local writers - either by layoffs or buyouts - long ago. The youngsters who write for the online version are mostly poor writers who need a good editor. Comments regularly include corrections that the authors generally thank for the commenter for and correct. We just couldn't take it anymore.

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    1. Years ago the Arizona Republic was a good newspaper. Now, Gannett filler stories and poorly written local puff pieces. A shame.

      One thing several have mentioned is the Sunday NY Times. These comments have sparked my interest again. We do have home delivery in our area.

      Hamilton as part of the Disney + service was a pleasant surprise. But, I will not pay $30 to watch the new version of Mulan.

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  18. For someone who I think is basically a “loner” – with the exception of a very few good friends and our family – I have been enjoying this. No more need to make excuses for not doing something – and I know that as I get older it is easier to just say no – but still sometimes you need an excuse. And I enjoy our home, so that’s not hard. And I have been cooking a lot more and I feel we are healthier because of it.

    I realize now the things that I really don’t like doing. I’m with you on malls – I love Costco, but maybe because it is big and open and I usually don’t need to talk to anyone and I can see a whole variety of things at reasonable prices.

    Most of my clothes come from Costco – and I too only need jeans, shorts and tee-shirts. We do a lot of on-line shopping which is very convenient. And again, I think it saves money in the long run.

    So I notice more traffic now when I am out and I don’t like that. Don’t these people know there is still a Pandemic and they need to stay home!!!!

    We watch church on-line in real time – again, I know that at some point we will need to go back in person, but for right now, I am loving it!!!

    I wish that everyone took this seriously and wore masks on their faces – not around their neck or in their pockets so they can whip them out if someone asks them to put one on in public.

    I also wish this were not sure a political thing and more a human thing about being kind and thoughtful of others. I could probably go on and on – but I am sure you get my message, that this is probably inconvenient and I will be glad when it is over, but for me it has not been all that bad.




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    1. Pat, you have covered so many important parts of this discussion. Because I know you, this is a good summary of the person I know so well.

      Betty and I are relaxing on a porch in the National Forest north of Flagstaff and enjoying the break in routine tremendously.

      At some point things will start to get back to whatever normal will be. But, I doubt our daily life will all that drastically different.

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  19. I’m finding that I am not missing anything. In the beginning of the restrictions when we were sheltering in place and only going out in our yard or to walk on the trails in the woodland that surrounds us, and to the grocery store every two weeks to get groceries, however, it was a different story. I really missed seeing our kids and grandkids. Phone calls, FaceTime, and Zoom helped, but wasn’t enough. As the curve flattened in B.C. (and case counts here have always been very low), we felt safe seeing our immediate family again in person, and also our two closest local friends. As our Island spring and summer weather began to warm up, many of my regular activities (yoga, writers’ group, book club) which had continued via Zoom, transitioned to outdoor events hosted in someone’s yard or on their deck or in a park. Our service group (Lions) began to meet again outdoors, and now that our community hall has reopened, we have begun to meet indoors again, with COVID protocols in place. For me, the experience has underlined how important social interaction is. We are very fortunate here that B.C. residents have taken the public health restrictions so seriously, which enabled us to flatten the curve enough to begin a gradual, careful reopening over the summer. Recently, our provincial new case numbers have begun to climb again (Up to 100 new cases per day), and our top public health officer has recommended reducing the size of our personal bubbles once again, and has closed down some risky settings like karaoke lounges. It will be interesting to see how things develop as fall and winter weather drives more people indoors. I think my different social groups will begin meeting primarily via zoom once again. Also, we have all learned a lot about how to live our lives fully while maintaining a safe physical distance, practicing hand hygiene, deep cleaning of surfaces, mask wearing, and staying home when sick.

    Jude

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    1. I've read that the hand-washing and sanitizing habits are likely to become part of everyday life, well after the pandemic has faded from the headlines. Hand-shaking may be a thing of the past, too. I like hugs, so i hope that doesn't remain on the "don't go there" list.

      British Columbia (and most of Canada) is an example of what can happen when the government is straight up with citizens and provides proper modeling and support. Also, when people take responsibility of how they interact with others, good things happen.

      The annual flu season and a resurgence of Covid this fall may force all of us to retrench. Those who do will come out of it all sooner and better off.

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