Summer is over, fall has begun. We have been so busy working on our individual interests that it hasn’t occurred to me that there is much to write about. Besides feeling work busy, we also spend time on other projects to avoid thinking too much about Covid 19 and the political mess in this confused country. Add the death of Ruth Bader Ginsberg to the upset and maybe you can understand our need for extreme focus and new distractions.
As always, the garden keeps us busy and happy. It is always changing and beautiful. As we plan our new garden at the rental property, we are making sure we have plenty of composted soil here to move next door.
A few of Andreas’ tomato plants did well next to the driveway. Deer nibbled the plants next door.
The interior of our home is being relabeled in German to assist my struggling German language learning.
When I’m not studying, I have been working mostly in stained glass completing projects for clients.
I also chose to bring back a few art students. I’ve been teaching outside with Covid precautions. It’s been going well. It’s very pleasant to teach outside. I’m not sure what I will do when the weather becomes colder.
Even though Covid numbers in our City are not positive news we have chosen to go out a little more because we need a change in routine. We now go to a Café at 7am once a week for breakfast. We sit outside and during most visits we are the only customers.
Andreas is allowed back to his University office and will work there a few days a week.
We were invited to a friend’s garden for a distanced dinner.
Andreas is still experimenting in the kitchen. He is becoming a better cook every week. I’m lucky that he enjoys cooking so much.
We are trying to embrace the new normal. Some days are better than others and there are no longer expectations for an all clear Covid-19 signal.
Keep on keepin’ on, y’all. Register to vote and wear that mask.
P.S. I’m trying out this new WordPress Block format so the blog might look a little funky.
After a month and a half of painting and cleaning, the rental property we purchased is ready. I’m so TIRED!! I’m also feeling happy that I met my deadline, came in under budget and the house looks good.
The inside painting ended up being a little more complicated than I imagined. Most of the walls and ceiling are wallpapered under existing paint. That meant that all the walls needed to be primed before two coats of paint. The trim and windows also required a primer coat. I tape all of my edges when I paint, but soon learned that when I removed the tape it pulled off old paint and wallpaper. Then there were the walls with wallpaper that needed to be removed.
It was a steep learning curve aided by the sage advice from Facebook friends who suffered before me. I hired a painter friend to come on the weekends to handle the more difficult spackling work, wallpaper removal, ladder work in the hall and some of the rooms. His professionalism, knowledge and tricks were invaluable. I learned a lot from him and he did a great job.
I invited the former owners over to see the changes I made and they liked them. They even changed the heater filter for me while they were there.
Andreas and I had concerns that finding renters would be difficult because the University has been uncertain about opening in the fall. I’m happy to report that we found three, none are students, I know their families and I’ve known all of them for over a decade. Today I collected leases and handed out keys. The first to spend the night is a pet rabbit named Benny. It felt really good to turn over the house to others and know that I can work in my studio again tomorrow.
While I’ve been working at the house Andreas was offered a summer research job with a colleague in Copenhagen. We are hoping to travel there this winter so they can also work in person, but the timing is unknown because of America’s handling or mis-handling of the pandemic.
We are still quarantining here, but not as strictly. I’ve expanded my shopping to include the hardware and paint store and once in a while we find ourselves social distancing with Christina and George in the house if the weather is too hot. The University decided to have classes online in the fall which makes me happy and Andreas sad. He was really looking forward to teaching an undergraduate class in person.
Daily gardening has stopped because of the heat and mosquitoes, but the tomato plants are still being well cared for. A few are as tall as me and are producing fruit. The smaller plants at the new property are doing well too.
Yesterday was my birthday and we enjoyed a delicious socially-distanced dinner at Christina and George’s place. It’s strange to sit down to dinner, not across the table, but across the room from each other and to wear masks in passing.
Life is good here. We hope you are doing well too. Please wear your mask.
We have big news, but first, the Garden Tour. Andreas and I have been preparing for this event for months. We’ve been gardening, improving the outside appearance of the deck and house and creating artwork to place in the garden and to sell.
Recently, I refreshed most of the paint on the Art Car and created 10 mosaic stepping stones to sell during the tour. They all sold. I even sold a few of the old stones from the ground that I made years ago.
The tour was a success. The Newark Arts Alliance sold a lot of tickets. We think we had over a hundred people walk through physically distancing themselves and wearing masks. Andreas and I distanced ourselves from others on the deck. The weather was perfect! Warm with low humidity. Even the mosquitoes weren’t too bad.
We had a wonderful time and ended the day sharing wine with friends who had purchased the wine in Germany when they visited us. Wine from Cochem on the Moselle! That was a huge treat.
So, the BIG news is that Andreas and I settled on a rental property today. We bought a neighbor/ friend’s house to fix up and hopefully rent out. The property is across the street from ours and we will be extending our garden to include more vegetables and fruit trees as that yard receives more sun. We’ve been working on making this happen since March. I’m excited to start painting to make it a fun, cool place for someone to live in and an easy place for us to garden.
Now we hope life will slow down to a summer pace and the Coronavirus will disappear soon.
Star date: May 29, 2020, week 11 ½ of quarantine from Covid 19. The Governor will lift quarantine restrictions next week, but it is for economic not health reasons. The numbers of infected and dying are still relatively high here so, we are staying home. We’ll continue quarantining until those numbers go down. We are not sad about staying home, rations are holding out and Christina brought toilet paper.
Last week Andreas and I finished our classes. I got a 93% in my German 1 class and now I wish I had taken it for credit. Ha ha. It was a lot of information to learn in a few months and I was getting pretty confused with different sentence structures in the end. I signed up for the next level class in the fall so I better figure out what I mixed up over the summer. We don’t know yet if the University will hold classes online or in person in September. We’re guessing that they will try to do both.
The sidewalk repair and heavy machinery driving by finished at the same time class did. They are working on a different street now, but they must like us because they’ve left their equipment, rock pile and potty on the side of our house. The rock pile is a huge attraction to the smaller, louder neighborhood children.
Since the weather warmed the garden grows and blooms. It started with the camellias, azaleas and Celandine poppies.
Now we are seeing irises, roses, peonies and Mountain Laurel. The Newark Arts Alliance Garden Tour is on for June 13th. Who knows what will be blooming then?
The vegetables we planted struggle. We really don’t have enough sun. Andreas’ poor tomatoes look sad and small, but they are still alive so we have hope. I can’t remember where I planted kale now. I don’t know if I’m seeing Kale or weeds. Sometimes I pick and eat it anyway. If you don’t hear from me after this post, you’ll know what happened. I just harvested some cherries and the blueberries and currants should be ready soon. The birds that we have been admiring will soon become our competitors for food. They will probably win.
We try to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible. We re-stained the deck, have been eating outside and occasionally hosting a family member or friend for social distance coffee. Today, however was hot and humid and the mosquitoes have returned. If you are from here you know that they are our “state bird” and there are a lot of them.
I’ve been painting. Nothing major, just fun stuff around the house. I painted a bird house, signs for the plants, the mailbox, a bee house for a friend, some cement mushrooms for the yard and have been working on paintings to show with the Trashy Women. Now that it’s warmer and sunnier I will be making mosaic stepping stones to sell at the Garden Tour and the Art Car needs its annual paint refresh.
Andreas is in research proposal and paper writing mode in his office. He sent something off to NASA last night.
We hope you all are well, keeping busy, wearing your masks and staying safe.
Week seven of quarantine. Andreas just sent his parents a depressing email (and probably graphs) commenting on how poorly our country was handling Covid19 compared with Germany. He asked that I write something uplifting to balance him out. He is still a little obsessed with monitoring the news and creating virus death graphs, but is beginning to focus more on his own research. It’s good that he’s teaching this semester.
Busy is modus operandi. If we stay busy with work, school and projects we don’t feel as isolated and the weeks go faster. The tough days, at least for me, are when one project is finished and another has yet to begin. Luckily, we have an ongoing project of taking care of the garden and tending to our new vegetable plants. As of April 23rd, the Newark Garden Tour is still scheduled for June 13th and we are preparing for that. It may be cancelled later, we don’t know.
Our garden is looking a little torn up at the front because the City came and installed a new water main under the sidewalk.
After they finished in front of our house, I heard the sound of rushing water. It was so loud that we could hear it at the top floor. We checked all of our pipes and the computer data of our water usage online. Everything was OK. I called the City and they didn’t believe us saying it was probably our problem. I called back a few days later and spoke to someone in the water department. She didn’t believe me, but sent people out. Those people didn’t believe me and came into the house to check the meter. No masks or gloves!! When they finally checked the connection at the sidewalk they said, oh, it’s us. Four days later, the water is still leaking, they sent a crew to fix it.
One workman asked the others, “Ok, which one of you were drinking when you installed this?” He asked the man digging in the hole how it was going. Not so good the man replied, Its wet down here.
We had a nice Easter with George and Christina. They distanced themselves from us on our deck and we shared cake and coffee with at least six feet between us at all times. We Zoomed with our German family using two laptops, a phone and a security web-cam to accommodate all levels of computer skills. Later Easter evening, we Zoomed with my mother’s side of the family while we ate dinner. That was probably the only time we’ve all been “together” in over a decade.
Some fun things have happened in the neighborhood. One day people created chalk drawings on their sidewalks and they have been placing teddy bears in their windows so the kids can have a “bear hunt.”
I’ve been sewing masks and clothes, working on a commission and most recently painted the fireplace.
We have also used Zoom to teach (Andreas) and take a class (me.)
We try to keep in touch with family and friends.
We are grateful to have access to technology like this, grateful to have work that we can do from home and very grateful that we are well and the majority of our family, friends and acquaintances are still well. We realize that even though we are all experiencing the same virus, quarantine “storm” that we’re all not in the same boat and that this experience is worse for some.
I think we are still happy to be home but are definitely looking forward to warmer, drier weather so we can work outside.
My Father wrote this story about my Grandmother’s hair. The story began during the “Spanish Flu.” I’m sharing here mostly with family, but I think it’s a good story. My Grandmother lived in Middletown and Dover, Delaware USA.
In my Father’s words:
(In these days of pandemic, isolation and social distancing, I am reminded of my mother’s stories of a similar time in the past. I will try to tell the story based on some childhood remembrances, family history documents, genealogical research and my imagination. I have included some snapshots that Mom had saved. The people in my story are real. Some events are historical, some my personal experiences, and some made up as I would imagine them. I am sure that my older brothers have different remembrances and I would like to hear their corrections to my narrative.)
My story begins in 1918 at the farm and home of Fred and Lydia Baker, their children and extended family. This was a four-generation household including the parents, children, Lydia’s widowed mother, Mrs. Hester Shockley, and daughter Ethel’s toddler son, John. Also living on the farm was a hired hand. Other workers would come and go as needed. The two boys, Grover now 25 and Fred Jr., 20 had left last year for war in France and their letters home were exciting. Grover, Mom’s favorite, had joined the National Guard in 1912 and served from 1915 to 1917 guarding the border in New Mexico against the bandit, Poncho Villa. He was a wagon driver and was promoted to Cook in France. Fred Jr. joined up in 1917 and served as an Army Corporal in France. The four girls are at home: Ethel, 24, Hester, 22, Bertha, 21, and my mother, Margaret, age 7. Bertha will marry and leave at the end of November.
The family kept up with the news of the world, especially the progress of the war in Europe. News then came that fall of a particularly deadly disease, the “Spanish” flu, sweeping the country. Schools, churches and public assemblies were closed and everyone was urged to stay home and in isolation. The Baker farm was 3 miles from town and one quarter mile from the nearest neighbor. They were self-sufficient and isolation was the normal routine. When the crops came in, they could be delivered and paid for with minimum contact with others. There was no sickness on the farm. Everyone rejoiced at the news of the November 11 Armistice to end the fighting of World War I.
1919 came with milder weather and less snow than a year ago. The farm was looking forward to a prosperous year. Then in the springtime came two events, joyous and devastating. First, Grover and Fred Jr. came home from France. Second, the flu pandemic was back with a vengeance. There was a real danger of sickness on the farm and the house was quarantined. Family members without sickness were displaced to the outbuildings and fields. I don’t recall hearing about which family members were outside and which were quarantined or of the severity of disease. None of the family members died. In an effort to contain the disease or, possibly just to avoid caring for it, long hair was cut and heads shaved. Mom, age 8. had her hair cut. This was apparently a traumatic experience or she just did not like it that way, but it was not cut again for almost 80 years.
Mom’s hair grew and styles changed. Before she married in 1933, her hair was dark brown and usually had a part and stylish wave in the front and was gathered into a bun in the back. The bun became two buns, one on each side.
As her family grew, braided pigtails replaced the buns in Mom’s hair. This basic style stayed with her for about 40 years. As a boy, I remember watching her routine as she cared for her hair. Washing and drying were major undertakings, drying as she combed it out while sitting in the back yard on sunny days or over the furnace register in the dining room. When we got a new furnace with hot water baseboards, she had to buy an electric hair dryer which she never liked. The pigtails were braided then wrapped around her head, first one way twice around then the other way twice around then the arrangement held with hairpins. If she was going out, a hairnet covered the whole thing. When I asked her why she didn’t wear her hair short and wavy or curly like other women we knew, she would tell me about the 1919 quarantine.
By 1980, Mom’s hair had greyed then turned to a bright, snowy white. Her hair was also thinner and finer and harder to braid into pigtails. So, the pigtails were replaced by a big, swept up bun on top, held with hairpins. A hairnet usually covered everything.
When Mom moved into White Chapel Assisted Living in 1998, her care givers and daughters-in-law convinced her that her hair would be easier to manage if it were cut. So, her hair was cut, but not so short that it could not be collected and pinned up to the top of her head.
Mom died on Sunday. November 7, 1999. When I was called to rush back to the hospital that morning, I got there just after she passed. The nurses had straightened her bed, removed the IV’s, tubes and machines. They had also combed her hair out straight and over her shoulders. It looked so strange and they obviously had no regard for the eight-year-old girl in 1919.
Andreas mentioned at lunch today that my friends, more than his friends, have a better chance of surviving an apocalypse. I know farmers, knitters, potters, clothing makers, foragers, natural healers, chefs, beekeepers, gardeners, carpenters, mechanics etc. and most of them know each other. He said that his professor friends might not survive as long. He mentioned a possible egg shortage that he heard about on the news, I said don’t worry about eggs, I have that covered, I know people.
Then he started to doubt his own survival skills. I reminded him that he is a trained paramedic, he has completed survival classes for the Arctic. If we have another Ice Age or become northern Canadian refugees, he has been trained to protect us from polar bears, and can escape from a helicopter that has crash landed into the ocean. I hope he never has to use those skills.
Lately I’ve tried to interest him in growing more vegetables in the yard and why it’s important to be self-sufficient. Honestly though, it takes a village. Without our friends with the above-mentioned skills our vegetable plots and limited skill set wouldn’t be enough.
Building a community of people with useful skill sets who are willing to share, collaborate and barter (as long as they stay 6ft away from you) is the best chance for survival and happiness. If you don’t have a useful skill now is a good time to learn one. It doesn’t have to be something major. A neighbor gave us a bag with two amazing chocolate chip oatmeal cookies last week. When you’re rationing snacks that’s a big treat.
Luckily, most of us aren’t at a survivalist point in our collective experience, but as we’re self-quarantined in a pandemic it’s something to think about. How can you feel useful to others?
March 23, 2020, we’ve been in self-quarantine for thirteen days. It sounds like the beginning of a dystopian novel. It’s not, it’s just an unexpected beginning to a different way of doing things.
At the beginning of the month we had warnings that we should be a little more careful and cleaner around each other because of a new Corona virus called Corvid-19. In February I started to buy a few extra canned goods and other foods that keep well. I’m happy I purchased a pack of toilet paper then. I wish I had picked up a bigger pack. My sister-in-law and I met at Longwood Gardens for a walk and carefully avoided door handles and washed our hands. I was asked to present at Career Day at The College School at the University of Delaware and was careful not to touch anything and wash my hands.
Andreas’ sister Christina and husband George came over for dinner. I also traveled to New Jersey with the Trashy Women met to meet the Philadelphia group the Dumpster Diving Divas. Besides extra hand washing it was almost life as normal.
The video illustrates how to pronounce the letter u with an umlaut in German. Homeschooling.
The next week Andreas and I visited a friend who shared gooseberry plants with us, but I chose not to go to my welding class because it involved a small group of people.
I also canceled a trip to the Philadelphia Art Museum with friends. After my Monday German class, the University canceled classes and went to an early spring break saying they would be back in a week or two and prepared the professors to teach online. My friend Linda came to the house and we recovered the kitchen chairs which saved me money since they won’t need to be replaced now.
Week three and I cancelled all of my private students saying that we would probably be able to meet again by the end of the month. All other meetings and meet ups are cancelled. I am still walking with friends but we stay at least six feet away from each other. I wear gloves when I get the mail because the mail person does not, then the mail sits in a basket for a while before I open it. I thought a project would be good to keep my mind off of the news, so I painted an immersive mural in our bedroom. I completed the mural including an intense clean of the room in six days. It was wonderful to work without distractions.
Andreas works from home without his normal distractions as well.
Continuing with projects will be good for us. We have decided to plant vegetables in our few sunny garden patches. These are hard to find in our wooded yard so, some of the vegetables will go in pots. Andreas is enthralled with his tomato plants. He is babying the tiny sprouts moving them to different sunny spots in the house throughout the day and checking them often.
Today begins week four. We woke up early to be at the grocery store by 7am in the rain. I had hoped that it wouldn’t be crowded then. It was crowded, there were no disinfecting wipes or hand sanitizer available for customers and half of the cashiers weren’t wearing gloves. We were. Andreas came shopping with me. It was very surreal. A lot of the shelves were empty, no one was talking, everyone was avoiding each other, some had masks and gloves. Most, mostly men, did not.
We are not unhappy to be quarantined. To me it is an easier isolation than I experienced living in Germany. I have my art studio and supplies. I have commissions that need to be filled and a German class to study for. Andreas has his work and his students to teach online. We are busy and healthy. Our family in Germany and the States are healthy too. We hope that everyone reading this is healthy and has work and hobbies to keep them busy. Our Governor is shutting down our state a little more strictly tomorrow until May 15th now. He has issued his fifth modification to his State of Emergency declaration ordering us to stay at home and closing all non-essential businesses. The University will not re-open to students until next fall and the visit from Andreas’ parents that we were looking forward to in May has been cancelled for now. We are incredibly grateful for electricity, the internet, you and each other.
What’s next? Stay home and stay safe all of you all over the world.
Rough start to February for this half century complainer. I chose to go back to my alma mater to take a German language class with my brother-in law George. My Deutsch class at the Saengerbund is fun, but not challenging. We haven’t covered much and we’ve been going over Christmas words for two months. I thought it would be fairly easy to sign up as a listener for a beginning class at the U of D. Ha ha, no, not easy. (maybe for me) I had a lot of problems with the UD website trying to figure out how to register for the class as a faculty spouse and not a student. Thirty years ago, I would go to the registrar’s office and they would help me figure it out. So, I decided to do this. I walked into the registrar building and no one was around. After a few minutes someone poked their head out of an office door and asked to help me. I told him what I needed and he looked at me with pity in his eyes and told me to sign in. I said where, on a computer? He pointed to the screens against the wall. His eyes once full of pity now rolled up into his head and he said yes in a slow, calm voice.
Ten minutes later (I was the only one sitting there) a woman came from another office and offered to help me. I told her I was having trouble registering and she said I needed to do it on the computer. I said yes, I know, but where and how? I asked her for a pen to write down the instructions she was giving me. She looked at me with surprise. “A pen?” she asked. Yes, I said, I need to write this down. There wasn’t a pen to be found in her office. Eventually she found one down the hall. Everything she told me was useless. George eventually figured out how to register and we signed up in time.
The class has been great. We love the teacher and the work and pace are challenging. I do feel old sitting across from my high school friend’s son and a lot of the videos are geared toward college kids. (Andreas says they’re “modern”) I got 100% on my first quiz!
The new car has me feeling old too. It has a slow start (must be a hybrid thing) and I find myself driving slow and careful like an old lady. I’ve been gradually learning all of the buttons and new gadgetry stuff with the computer. I still can’t get used to the keyless entry and start. I don’t like it. (She mumbles under her breath, humbug!)
AND ANOTHER THING, my stupid old teeth. I went to a new dentist this month. She’s Andreas’ dentist. (very young) Her office is modern. I caught myself using the word newfangled to the hygienist a few times. After all of my newfangled x-rays she informed me that I had seven cavities, needed two root canals and two crowns. WHAT! Do you have any idea how much that is going to cost!?, I asked her. She didn’t, but said that someone would eventually call me. Holy mackerel, I’m the kid with the good teeth who never gets a cavity. Doesn’t she know that?
Ok, enough boohooing about feeling old. Thanks for listening and yes, I hear some of you saying, “Just wait..hahaha.”
In January’s blog I mentioned that I was walking three miles a day with friends. Now I’m walking every other day with them and to class on the days in between. I love it, it’s great and I’ve lost a whole pound in two months. I know, impressive. Yay old people metabolism. Shoot me.
Andreas and I had a wonderful Valentine’s Day in our own weird way. Our tradition is to buy a painting we both like. This year it was a portrait by Linda Harris Reynolds. Somehow, with our opposite tastes in art, we chose this and we love it.
Spring, or at least spring flowers seem to be here early this year. Snowdrops and crocuses are blooming in February and maybe we’ve had more warm days than cold. We volunteered to participate in the Newark Arts Alliance Garden Tour in June and we are trying to prepare the garden ahead of time. I think it’s making Andreas nervous.
I began a welding class with the Trashy Women last week. So far, I really enjoy it. I thought it would be scary or difficult, but we have a great instructor.
I was also given the opportunity to speak to my friend Kathy’s fourth grade class about what it’s like to live on a research vessel in the Arctic. Her class of six nine-year-old boys was very interested in the ship and the icebergs. They had so many questions for me. I showed them my photos, videos from the German Icebreaker Polastern’s current project, and let them try on Andreas’ polar work suits. It was fun, and it must have gone well because I’ve been invited back for Career Day next week.
In the studio this month my attention has been on finishing a painting for a high school friend that I’ve been working on since September. It has been much more challenging than I anticipated, but It’s turning out well.
I’ll leave you with this photo of my little cousin Jason. He’s celebrating his 37th birthday today. I’m so old!! Happy birthday, Jason!
January can be a slow, dark month; this was not my experience. We started the month with a New Year’s Day hike in White Clay Creek State Park with friends. Every year I tell myself I will/ should exercise more. Since the middle of the month I’ve been walking three miles every morning with my friends Mary and Colin. I’m still having a hard time matching their speed, they’ve been walking together for the last two years.
The Trashy Women Artist Collective is busy. We took our show down at the Book Place in Oxford, PA at the beginning of the month and set up for a February opening at the Art Den in Rising Sun, MD last week. In the middle of the month we met for a meeting with a sewing project. We exchanged a lot of trash, but didn’t sew much. The meeting did inspire me to sew a new piece for our February show.
Also created in the studio this month were the stained glass award windows for the Delaware Special Olympics Polar Bear Plunge. The participants who raise the most money for the organization are presented with a window.
I’m happy to say I sold a painting this month to a coffee shop. This is a broken skateboard I painted in acrylic from a former skateboard shop on Haines Street. (The blue building) I thought it would be nice to turn the street in front of the building into a garden and add goats. Recently the coffee shop, Little Goat moved into the building. I think the painting found a good home there.
My art car is getting older and starting to have some issues, so Andreas and I decided to purchase a more reliable car. We bought a hybrid from friends that I used to work with at a Saturn dealership over a decade ago who now work for Hyundai. We’ve had the car two weeks now and love the 55 mpg. Andreas has synced his phone and figured out the computer, I’m more concerned with driving. Together we’re figuring out new to us technology.
I won a contest at a local art supply store with this photo of the art car in front of the store’s mural.
Teaching is going well. One of my students decided last minute that she wanted to apply for the local art high school so we rushed a portfolio. That was a little stressful but we got through it.
At the end of the month I was invited to show the artwork I created in Germany at the Chapel Street Theater. The event was hosted by the Newark Partnership and was well attended.
January ended on a very happy note as we celebrated the marriage of my cousin Scott and his new wife Robin.