And So It Began – Covid 19

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The first time I heard about Covid 19, it was called simply Corona virus and was being likened to the SARS infection of 2003. A friend, who is also a nurse, asked me if we should be concerned. I thought back to that year, how SARS, though it wasn’t ignored, wasn’t really given the attention needed and the severity was downplayed, at least where I worked. And I told her that I didn’t really think it would be too bad and we should just be careful, maybe the public should be encouraged to wash their hands more, that type of thing. Of course I was very, very wrong but hindsight is 20/20.

We all went about our business as usual, socializing, going to our service club meetings, picking up the grandkids from school, shopping, and planning a trip to Florida to get away from the cold weather for a couple of weeks. All was normal. I knew that our province had supposedly strengthened the public health mandate. I didn’t know our pandemic plan had been largely ignored, with dust gathering on the binders until a pandemic was declared. I knew that the current government, in its desire to cut spending, had decided to make large cuts in our public health care. I really hadn’t paid a lot of attention as public health wasn’t in my sphere pre-retirement or since for that matter. I can tell you it sure is now.

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My husband and I, the rest of our family and friends went about our daily lives without a care. Shopping, lunch or coffee with friends, still planning a trip south, the same things everyone else was doing. Oh and complaining about the weather, all Canadians complain about the weather and this winter was cold but much less snowy than usual so we really did have something to complain about. Little did we know that was the least of our worries. The hubby and I left for Florida in the second week of February. We wanted to relax and enjoy the warmth, maybe golf a bit, visit friends we made when we spent a couple of winters there. You know, winter is long and we just wanted to get away. So far there were no warnings against travel. There was some heightened concern about the deadly effects of an epidemic in Wuhan, but no real fear of a virus able to spread so quickly and easily.

I feel I should have known, or at least recognized the possibility of a pandemic. I lived and worked through SARS, but that seemed so long ago and I had complete faith that lessons had been learned and Public Health was not politicized and would have our backs so to speak. That trust in the system was obviously misplaced. Plus the news was still downplaying or was not able to get, information about the spread of the disease. Boy what a circle of information. No one really knew who or what to believe.

And so off we went to Florida and we really enjoyed our trip, some heat, some golf, and some visiting. It was nice. We have two adult sons living with us and shortly after our return, one of them went off to Panama for a yearly adventure that he enjoys. didn’t think twice about him going either. Our grandkids were still going to school, March break hockey tournaments and day camps were planned. So many good things were happening.

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My mate and I decided one day, around March 7th, to run some errands. One of those included a stop at Costco, the massive warehouse store, mainly a lunch stop as we appreciate the price of the hotdogs. We asked a woman about our age, if we could share her table and of course we had a nice chat over hotdogs and pop. She wondered why most of the customers had at least two of the very large packages of toilet paper. I hadn’t really noticed but she was right. TP, paper towels, cleaning wipes all seemed to be going out the door quickly. Did all these people know something I didn’t? I laughed about so many folks running out of toilet paper at the same time but I still wasn’t too concerned. I had just bought some about a week ago so we were okay for those supplies. All these people going nuts over toilet paper! I figured someone had started a rumour about a paper shortage. I surely didn’t think I was witnessing the beginning of the pandemic hoarding.

I DID NOT POST ANYTHING!

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It’s been at least four months, probably a bit more, since I last wrote a blog post. I’m afraid I am a lazy blogger or I don’t have much to say about anything. We have been in lock down since March Fifteenth and so not much activity in my household, or any other for that matter. Most of my friends and acquaintances were at home. A few in essential services were still working and I am forever grateful for their service to our community.

For the first few weeks of quarantine, I didn’t even go to the grocery store or pharmacy. My sons, who were still working, did all that for me but honestly there came a point where I couldn’t stand it any more! So I donned my mask, stocked up on hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes and braved the lines outside the store, keeping a careful six foot distance. I love the directional arrows too, it made my shopping much more efficient. Everyone was in the same boat and no one felt it was a hardship. We were outside and able to get our needed items. No one complained about wearing masks and I, personally, didn’t encounter anyone who was rude or demanding. Thank you all for being so Canadian.

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At the beginning of this strange way of living, I had great plans. I was going to write, a lot. Then do some crafting, I have about four scrapbooks started, and learn to decoupage. I have a cross stitch pattern that I’m working on for a Christmas gift too and this was a perfect time to complete it. I also planned to finish a basement corner to use as my craft centre, my own special space. Hmmm can I add none of the above to my list?  Nope, not a single project done to completion. That’s pretty darn sad. I’d like to excuse myself by saying I was depressed about the world situation and the effect this lock down time had on everyone’s psyche but really, quarantine just allowed me to excuse my laziness. There are many folks in far more dire straits than I, mentally and financially.

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What good has come out of this reflection? There has to be something right? Yes there is! I can only speak for myself of course, but I have learned I spend far too much time on the internet. My political juices are boiling some days and my tolerance level has gone down. I recognize this and will work to fix it. I am now diligently filling my birdfeeder and can identify numerous types that  visit. Yes I know I’ll have to continue to fill through the winter to help those birds staying through the coldest months. I really miss people. We stay in touch online or by phone but it’s very hard to stay involved. I belong to a service club and much of our time is spent raising funds to help charities and doing actual, physical work for the community. We all miss our gatherings and it has been hard to keep the fire of service alive. We are trying though.

And lastly, the very fact that I recognize the issues I’m having, is a good thing. Now I can work to fix my perceived problems which, now that I write them down, aren’t so terrible and are easily fixed.

How have you done under lockdown? Feel free to share your insights, solutions or even your issues.

Fun Times; Day Trip

It’s been quite a while since my last day trip. So long in fact, that I can’t remember it. A very good friend and I decided to take a day to ourselves and went off to explore an area a little northeast of here. There is a purpose in the jaunts we take. We scout out the various shops in small towns and villages and if we like what we see, we’ll come back, a little closer to Christmas, to shop more seriously.

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We decided, on this particular day, to head up to Alderville, through there to some smaller villages and then over to Campbellford, our ultimate destination. I decided to forego the Tom-Tom mapping thingy for our car but I did google the directions the night before. Found out that google does not have complete directions. It missed a road and added another. But the route makes for a beautiful drive, in spite of a heavy mist and we could still appreciate the autumn colours. Still in full display, I think they’re just hitting their peak. Beautiful golds and vibrant reds but guess what? I forgot to bring my camera and I realize blogging is not like riding a bike, sometimes you forget things that are important for making a blog more interesting, like a camera.

Since between google and I, the route was fairly easy, we only got lost twice. I am not averse to asking for directions and we stopped at a small auto repair place and the second time at the post office. People in small towns are so helpful and friendly that we couldn’t go wrong. Alderville is a native reserve, there are some gift shops that warrant a second look but also a number of natural “medicine” shops. We passed through many little villages, Roseneath, Hastings, we accidentally went through Warkworth. But we made it to our final destination without major issues.

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Campbellford itself is a fantastic small town! There are many interesting, attractive  small shops in the downtown. We didn’t have time to stop at them but for sure we will on our next visit. We headed directly to our first planned shopping excursion at the World’s Finest Chocolate Store. Who could resist such a place? They sell factory seconds, chocolate that may come out a little misshapen but tastes just fine as well as beautifully finished product. I of course picked up a few samples, as well as a few things for stocking stuffers. Tasty Christmas indeed!

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Next on the list of go-to’s is the Empire Cheese Factory, about ten kilometres south of town. Wow, just wow. We love cheese and this is all locally produced. They have many different types, many with chilis or jalopenos added, some with a boost of garlic even.  I got extra old cheddar, medium marble and some caramelized onion cheese. As well I picked up some special jelly, also locally produced, for the hubby’s Christmas stocking. My friend picked her cheese types and she included curds. With so many types of cheese, jams, jellies and syrup to choose from, I can say that we will be visiting again before Christmas!

Exploring the surrounding countryside is just so much fun when you do it with a friend who doesn’t mind getting lost, or having a very late lunch. We just have a ton of fun together and these little side trips are just a part of our friendship.

How Prices Have Changed – Or Not

 

 

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Now retired, the hubby and I are on a fixed income and I, as the grocery shopper, am much more aware of our day to day spending. No longer do I pop into the nearest grocery store on the way home and pick up whatever I decide, on the spur of the moment, will be our supper that day. Now I go in fully armed with coupons and flyers; I know how to price match and am relentless at hunting for bargains. My lists are legendary! But there is a difference in grocery shopping now, the money doesn’t stretch as far as it used to. I may have been a bit ‘laissez-faire’ about spending before I retired but I know that over the last five years or so, prices have gone up – a lot.

To give you even more to ponder, here in Canada, our measurements are in metric. Instead of pounds and ounces, we have kilograms and grams. I think my generation are the last to be able to convert fairly easily having lived with both systems, But although our weight measurement is metric, grocers still advertise price per pound instead of per four hundred fifty four grams or per kilogram. Why? Well it appears cheaper that’s why. After all $5.99 per pound seems a better deal than $13.18 per kilogram doesn’t it?

There are some good reasons for price increases. Fuel prices have soared, wages go up, farmers need more for those same reasons but I’d bet the main reason is to satisfy the company shareholders who expect larger returns on their stock prices year over year. All this aside, the makers of the goods as well as the grocery chains themselves, use some interesting ways to increase profit without consumers even noticing.

A few years ago, before social media was a big influence, the producers of canned tuna reduced the size of the can from 7 ounces to 6.5 but kept the price the same. It came out on the television news but was only a small blurb and most of us were outraged for about two minutes. There was no boycott, no rally against the big companies, just a shrug and acceptance. Then a couple of years later, I saw a commercial for a certain brand of pickle in which an employee was saving his company money by removing one pickle from each jar. This one caught my attention but again no one boycotted or sent petitions to the company and I was busy with other things going on in my life.

 

 

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But I’m retired now, on a fixed income, and watching my pennies so I have a reason to find out all I can about the prices I’m paying and how companies are sneaking prices up with out us even knowing about it. The biggest price hike happens when companies decrease the size just slightly and charge the same price. Or they may even drop the price a bit but the trick is that the price per gram (or ounce) is still up on average of nine percent. I mean do you always read the price per gram and remember it from month to month? Hmm there’s a good project for someone, keeping track of per gram changes. But because consumers are more sensitive to price changes than size changes, we make it easy for them. Have you noticed, for instance, your peanut butter looks to be the same as ever, but now there’s a scoop (indentation) on the bottom so the jar actually has less in it. Many company’s will actually brag about their great, new packaging that’s ergonomically designed and blah, blah, blah but they won’t tell you it actually holds less than it used to.

Best things you can do to fight these changes is to be aware of what’s happening and start shopping smarter. There is a long list of things we can change to better manage our grocery costs, probably worthy of another blog but I do believe in being an informed shopper and in telling others. I also am a letter writer and I will write to various companies to let them know I’m on to their ways and am very aware of their price manipulation. It might not make a difference but I always feel better after I send off those emails.