What you can see

Winter reveals the structure of the world and the paths of creatures that might have been hidden in another season. That’s what I thought while I was driving down the road the other day, admiring the bare trees. I’m kind of loving it, even though so many native Minnesotans seemed to doubt my sanity when I declared that I wasn’t afraid of winter.

(So, I am afraid of driving in a blizzard but that’s another thing entirely, am I right?)

Admittedly, it’s been a kinder and gentler winter here in central Minnesota, or so I’m told. We’ve had temperatures above freezing a few times and my husband tells me that next week it will get up to 39 degrees. I’m mean, that’s practically short sleeve weather around here.

(Tomorrow they get “fixed.” Shhh. It’s a surprise.)

Today I took my Christmas lights down outside and while I was doing so, a woman walked by and told me that she voted for my house in the neighborhood Christmas Lights contest. She said anyone could just put up inflatables, even though the house with a yard full of them won. I thanked her and wished I could have seen her more clearly but I couldn’t because I was wearing my up-close glasses.

I’m blaming my age for my vision dilemma. I can see to read without any correction at all. However, I need glasses to see a computer clearly or to read anything at an arm’s distance. But if I wear “distance” glasses, I can’t see those things well at all. So I constantly switch glasses. At work–because most of my work is up-close, I wear the up-close glasses so I can see three to six feet away.

I know. I know. I need new glasses. It’s on the agenda for this year. Bi-focals, I imagine. I used to wear contacts almost exclusively, but they stopped working when I couldn’t see close up or at arm’s length or at a distance all at once. Meanwhile, the world is blurry either here or there.

*

I just finished reading (in two days) Leave the World Behind. I even took my Kindle to work to read on my lunch break because I just Had To Know. (I love a disaster/dystopian novel.)

Now I’m reading The Hiding Place. I thought I read this when I was a kid but it seems entirely new to me, though I know the ultimate story (holocaust survival).

Post Christmas sale

Today at work I was assigned the task of moving the remaining Christmas merchandise from the front of the store to the “clearance wall” in the back of the store. It’s now 90 percent off.

There was less than half a row of scattered, mostly broken items plus a lot of strange Christmas ornaments. This task took me the entire day. The whole day!

(My son built this tiny sad snowman)

I had to hang shelves and hooks. Customers constantly needed me to help them find items or to cut fabric. I repeatedly pushed my cart back and forth to move the stuff.

I arranged everything and dusted and swept and finally finished when my shift ended. I was both proud and horrified by my final display. I did what I was told and arranged it as carefully and neatly as possible but it looks the the world’s saddest collection of misfit toys—elves without ears, ballerinas without legs, chipped mugs and cracked plates. All for 90% off!

Now I am very tired. I came home and made an easy dinner of ravioli and canned green beans.

Despite all that effort, I only walked 10,000 steps at work today.

And that’s how my day went.

Balancing act

I really don’t know how people balance work and the rest of their lives. I worked until 9:15 PM and thus, did not cook dinner. In fact, all I did when I got home was have a snack, take a bath and go to bed. (I did a little reading, too.)

Before work, I paid bills, washed a few dishes and ate lunch.

(My street before the street slush melted)

And that concludes my day’s achievements.

Now I must sleep so I can get back to work by 8:45 AM.

I guess I am unbalanced. Ha.

Taxi driver

I drove my son to the airport today. It was a balmy 38 degrees.

While I was in “The Cities,” I stopped by IKEA, Trader Joe’s and a Goodwill. I probably won’t be back there for months.

(Pointless cat photo)

By the time I got home, it was dark.

Tomorrow it’s back to work for me. It’s “truck day,” the day of the week the merchandise we ordered comes in and needs to be put away. It’s my favorite day because I like stocking my department with new items.

And that’s all the news that’s for to print.

Hey, some days are boring but here I am anyway.

Tech Support

Christmas is over in this house. I took down the Christmas tree yesterday and all the other decorations today. (Outside the house is a different story. I still have lights up. I should take them down tomorrow when it warms up to 35 degrees, but I will be driving my son to the airport instead.)

My office floor was the recipient of random stuff that doesn’t have a home yet, including too many books I picked up at thrift stores this weekend. It’s like the tide coming in and washing things shore. Every time my daughter comes, I have to clear out the office floor for an air mattress and the second she leaves, in comes the tide.

(Clearly, we learned nothing this holiday season.)

I have yet to get everything in here organized. It’s process. At least my books are shelved. That makes me so happy.

I accidentally read a 946 page book over the last few months. 1Q84, written by a Japanese author, is about two people who inhabit a parallel universe in Japan. That’s a lame summary but I started reading it because it was described as “dystopian” and at some point I downloaded it because is was on Kindle sale. I had no idea what I was embarking on when I began reading it. I’m not even sure I liked it but I stuck with it and finished it. Now I’m reading a book by Rainn Wilson (the actor who played Dwight Schrute on The Office.) It’s entertaining, plus he is almost my age and spent his school years in the Puget Sound, the same as me.

After I got Christmas tucked away in the garage, I started putting my regular decor back but that involved dusting and rearranging and when it got late, I gave up and stacked it randomly on a bookshelf. That will be a task for another day.

Then I set up my husband’s new iPhone. In addition to my riveting blog-writing, I am also my husband’s Tech Support. Is there no end to my talents and abilities?

No, but there is an end to this post.

Bye.

Silver white winters

I always knew that the sun sets earlier in the winter in northern latitudes. The gloomy Pacific Northwest winter sun seemed to barely rise, inch around the horizon and with a sigh, sink back into the horizon. You’d leave your lights on all day because it was shadowy and dim. Don’t get me started on the fact that you might not see the blue of the sky for weeks on end back in the Seattle area. It makes for a dismal winter existence.

But what I didn’t fully understand was that the sun rises so much later at this latitude than in San Diego, where I spent nine years. (My current latitude is similar to Portland, Oregon’s latitude.)

When I’d describe going to school in the dark and coming home in the dark when I was a kid, I felt like I was exaggerating, but as it turns out, I really did go to school in the dark. The sun would rise at 8 AM but I’d have to be in my classroom seat by 7:17 AM (in high school). It wasn’t just dark because of the cloud cover; it was dark because the sun hadn’t risen yet.

*

I woke up late today, this the second day of four days off in a row. I went to another thrift store where I scored some more books and two vintage platters (“Temporama”) and then to TJ Maxx where I shopped the clearance racks. I washed my car and went to Costco for cheap gas and a few groceries.

But what caught my attention all day while I was out and about were the stunning bare trees which were coated with a sparkling, glistening coat of ice, thanks to the early morning fog. I wanted to be tromping around, photographing the trees but as of yet, I don’t know where to go for the perfect photo op, so I just took several shots around town with my trusty iPhone.

Why didn’t I know that bare trees would be so glorious in the winter?

Welcome to the past

Today I drove an hour through the Minnesota countryside to browse at a thrift store. I so wished I could have pulled off that two lane road to photograph the six deer prancing in a single-file line across a snowy field, but alas, I could not. I did not. Maybe I could have? But I didn’t.

I also didn’t photograph the many frozen lakes dotted with fish houses. I truly do not understand the sport of ice fishing. (Sport? Hobby? Diversion? Punishment? Curious Minnesota custom?) I did want to photograph it but I was not able to since I was driving 60 miles per hour past the frozen lakes. I do remain curious, however.

Not my cat. Not my ice.

I had a restorative time browsing through the Goodwill store. (I bought a set of vintage dishes, “Morning Star” which were last produced in 1958. Okay, I also bought some books. Sue me.)

I’ve had such a busy season (we all have, I know) with my retail job and kids visiting and the holidays and, boy howdy, I needed to be alone. I listened to podcasts on the way there and back. I know we haven’t been meeting here (in this blog) like we used to so you don’t know because I haven’t told you that when I relocated to Minnesota, I decided to watch The Office television show, start to finish. I had literally never watched a single episode. I may have developed a teeny tiny obsession. I’m currently reading The Bassoon King by Rainn Wilson.

I’m also listening to an entire podcast about The Office. When I dive, I dive deep. I’ve been through the entire series almost twice and then Netflix had the nerve to stop streaming it last night. [Insert crying face emoji here.]

Anyway.

I know this was a weird year for everyone but I like to believe that My Weird Year™ trumps your weird year because on top of COVID-related events, I also packed up and moved my entire household (minus two kids) by myself while working 12-hour shifts . . . and my awesome husband was living 1,400 miles away the whole time. I have thrown so many things overboard to keep afloat that I don’t know what’s at the bottom of the sea or in the garage.

Also, while other families were cozying up at home, ordering in meals and groceries and collecting over six hundred dollars a week in unemployment benefits while lounging around in sweatpants and consuming vast amounts of streaming entertainment, I’ve managed to somehow be an “essential employee,” which means my life stayed essentially the same. I was still commuting, working, purging, cleaning, packing and moving. Nothing ever really changed for me other than wearing a mask in public and the bitterness I experienced when California closed my trails and beaches while I was trying to enjoy every little thing about California for the last time.

So annoying.

(Also, I know some people really suffered from COVID-induced situations and I do not intend to belittle anyone’s suffering. I’m just over-generalizing and exaggerating for comic effect even though I’m no comic, I know.)

I also took a cross-country road trip by myself which honestly was a highlight of my year. If only I could drive through Utah and Colorado again, but this time, with a full night of sleep beforehand.

While putting up 2021 calendars today, I noticed that the old calendar hanging on my office wall since I moved here was a calendar from 2016. I invite you to consider what kind of ditzy person I am if I’ve had a 2016 wall calendar hanging on my wall for . . . how long? Since California? Did I have this hanging on my wall in California? Did I find it in a box when I got here and figured it was a 2020 calendar and hang it up? What kind of time warp am I in that I failed to notice that the calendar did not correspond with any type of day-to-day reality?

Add to to my confusion that in 2016, January 1 was on a Friday. Just like today. What is happening?

Then I realized. Leap Year. So I will be able to use this calendar for two months.

Will it still be hanging up all year? Only time will tell.

Welcome to the past.

I’m a Survivor

So, I survived COVID with mild symptoms. The worst part was feeling so fatigued and losing my sense of smell. I was diagnosed after two saliva tests. Our household of four all had it, though it was mild for us all.

Now I am in the midst of an extremely busy retail season. And I’m still wearing a mask for 9-10 hours a day which makes me hot and sweaty.

In a little more than a week, my daughter and her boyfriend are coming for Thanksgiving. At least I have the day off in which to cook and since our new house is so much smaller, we’ll all be in the same vicinity while I cook which seems more fun.

We have a little bit of snow on the ground. The wind blew so hard today that my husband’s hat blew off his head when he got out of the car. He was so discombobulated that he left the car door open when we went inside the restaurant. After we’d ordered, an employee came to ask if that was our vehicle with its door wide open.

This week, my pantry shelves collapsed. I’m not sure if I’ve even mentioned it, but if you are keeping score at home, so far the following items have broken in our “new” house:

  1. Glass shelf in the “built-in” cabinet in the tiny dining room (that happened in the days while I was unpacking my extreme collection of dishes and pottery);
  2. Bedroom closet shelf (just after I’d finished putting the final things in);
  3. Office/spare bedroom closet shelf.

The pantry shelves were the kind with brackets and a rail. The entire rail pulled out of the wall, so three of the shelves collapsed. In a shocking turn of events, only one jar broke. My son was the one who heard the food avalanche, and thus, he was the one to clean up shards of glass mixed with spaghetti sauce. I felt sorry for him but I was at work.

I feel like gravity here in Minnesota in stronger than in California. How else to explain the fact that items that I’d easily stored on shelves in California are suddenly too heavy for shelves? (I know. The shelf installation here is shoddy. I like to imagine a problem with gravity instead.)

So today, I went to Costco and bought a heavy duty metal wire shelving unit to keep in the garage. Voila! A pantry that isn’t convenience, but which will be sturdy. (And I am going to have someone come and fix the shelves but who knows when.)

My friend, Diane, told me years ago that it takes five years to feel settled in a new place. That thought always comforts me when I feel like I’ll never have any friends here and that I’ll always feel like a stranger in a strange land where shelves cannot withstand all the stuff I own.

(Also: Do not recommend moving during a pandemic. It’s so hard to get to know people, alas.)

A little update

I’m sick. The last time I was ill was in February 2020 when I returned from a quick trip to Orlando, Florida, where my husband and I visited Walt Disney World. I believe I had Covid then (as everyone who was sick in February 2020 does) because I was so sick for two weeks, coughing as if I had turned into a professional cougher.

And then Covid shut-downs started and we all became extraordinary hand-washers and social-distancers. How could you even get sick when you weren’t close to anyone at all? I didn’t even have a sniffle eight months.

My husband, however, managed to come down with a cold (that’s what we think it was) last week and within three days, I felt that telltale scratchy throat while finishing up my shift at work Saturday night.

I KNOW. There’s nothing more boring that hearing someone talk about their illness, so pardon me.

***

We’ve had shelving put up in our house so I am finally unpacking books and clearing up the piles of stuff. I’ll have to get rid of stuff since I plan to stay here forever and I know my kids don’t want any of my stuff and this house can only accommodate so much stuff. I can’t wait until my leisure time will actually have space for leisure. As it is, any free time I have is spent frantically cleaning and unpacking and organizing. (It’s like Groundhog Day for the past year.)

Today, for instance–even though I am sick (headache, body aches, no fever)–I assembled a 5 foot bookshelf and a nightstand. I did two loads of laundry and unpacked eight or nine boxes in the basement and put books and games on the shelves. I really know how to rest when I’m sick. Tomorrow I’m scheduled to be off anyway and I’ll have to call my manager and answer questions about my illness. If I’m suspected of having The Virus, I will be put on a 14 day leave.

***

We had snow already–a week or two ago?–but this week is supposed to be warmer and sunny. Since I’m working retail, it really feels like Christmas already to me. They are talking about getting Spring merchandise in the store already. Christmas music started playing two weeks ago. It’s very disorienting.

Well, that’s it for now.

p.s. I was diagnosed with COVID. I never had a fever. My symptoms included: headache, scratchy throat, mild cough, extreme fatigue and I lost my sense of smell for about a week. After 10 days, I went back to work.