Oh, the memories (not necessarily a good one)

Did anyone else spend DAYS making masks back in March and April 2020. It was around day 21 of mandatory isolation stay at home orders in California that I was working on them. I can’t believe after almost 3 years, I am still wearing a mask to work and out in public.

Now we can purchase disposable masks (remember when even health care workers couldn’t get masks?) These are getting decluttered. 15 items gone from the house.

We know that any mask is better than nothing. Some things done together are even better: vaccination, hand washing, and COMMON SENSE. Stay home if you are sick!

Feeling Exhausted, part 2

Yesterday’s post, Feeling Exhausted part 1, was therapeutic. Mixed messages drive me crazy normally and the last 2 years have been “interesting” to say the least. It was a frustration I didn’t realize was so strong until I started writing.

In part 1 I diverted into some of the unknowns of the pandemic and how we receive so many mixed messages. I touched on the number of people who have died of COVID in 2 years (almost a million at this writing). That sparked a weird grief sadness that was unexpected. We have had several friends/acquaintances die because of a COVID infection (yet no family members) but they aren’t the people I was thinking about.

So many more have passed due to non-COVID related illnesses and our grieving process has been very different than usual – dare I say interrupted? So many questions popped into my head and continued into the night last night.

Is grieving being put on hold by the population/world? Is this affecting community relations? Is this affecting my mental exhaustion? Is the pandemic affecting if people seeking medical care? When will we be able to honor them?


Even without a pandemic, every one has a hidden “grief” they are working through – remember kindness!

We miss you Mom, Aunt Kathy, Cousin Bret, and Nephew Nico.

Feeling Exhausted, part 1

I feel like it was just yesterday I was writing a post, but it has been months!

I don’t know about you, but the last 2 years has been trying.

2 years ago we had an unknown illness “coming our way”. The uncertainty of it all was stressful and exhausting. Should we stay home or work; should we wear masks or not; should we get vaccinated or not; can we travel or not; is it really a surge or not; the list could go on! There were so many conflicting messages being given to the public, especially at the beginning of all this.

2 year later we are approaching 1,000,000 dead in the US (976,241 according to Johns Hopkins website at the time I published this) with the possibility of another surge. It is exhausting to hear some say this is not a big deal: it is just a cold; it is just like the flu. Almost 1 million people have died! And lets not forget the unknown long-term effects. If this virus can cause people to lose their sense of taste and smell, it is affecting the nervous system. How is it going to play out? Who knows – more studies will be needed.

And then you have some scientists/medical professionals who aren’t willing to engage in the scientific process. I made this hypothesis 2 years ago and by golly, I know I’m right. All the data collected has to be “invalid” because it makes my hypothesis wrong. OH MY GOODNESS! Everyone is wrong some of the time! Get you ego out of the way and look at the data!

The whole point of the scientific process is that you have a question or issue to solve, you develop a hypothesis or experimental prototype, experiment and gather data, analyze data and draw a conclusion based on the data available. As more data is available, shouldn’t you also look at that?? Why are some not willing to accept that their hypothesis was wrong? That is the BIG lesson I teach my middle school students – you may have made an incorrect hypothesis; what did you learn though?

This seems like a good stopping point since I moved into work!

Now to go find some sunshine and enjoy spring break.

Cleaning out and decluttering Mom’s house

This is not an easy thing to do!

Mom died on Christmas eve 2020 in the midst of the COVID surge – not a direct COVID death – but sort of related. She didn’t want to seek medical care because of COVID and her medical condition worsened over the year.

Now we are attempting to get things cleaned out and settled.

Why didn’t my parents have a will? WHO KNOWS! We have emptied every piece of paper from the house, garage, and storage shed and can’t find one. The finding of all the papers, sorting the papers, analyzing the papers, and shredding the papers has taken me about 10 solid days! When Dad passed, Mom didn’t have to worry about there being no will – surviving spouse and co-owner makes a huge difference in what you can do!

Now what do we need to do? The first thing that came to mind was “Hire an attorney”. This seems like something that should have been taken care of in January 2021. Was it? Nope! One brother thought he could arrange to sell the house with just her death certificate! So we finally have hired one (August 2021) and have a probate court date for the first week of October.

Old sibling issues are coming to the surface, specifically that I don’t know anything because I’m a girl – this was said to me so many times growing up by dad and brothers, it’s amazing that I can actually think at all. Thankfully, they aren’t saying that specifically but it sure comes across loud and clear when a suggestion is made, I’m told how I could possibly know that, they confer with their friends, and then suggest the same thing I said weeks earlier. Frustrating to say the least.

Is any of this estate settling stuff easy with 2 siblings? NO! It’s not easy when everyone agrees and there is a will (or better yet a trust). When you have siblings who can’t agree that the sky is blue, things become complicated quickly. It doesn’t help when one insisted he have power of attorney during mom’s last year, had neighbors sign that they witnessed mom sign (when they didn’t) and thinks that holds over after death. How do you quickly explain this? Not easily!

Was mom a hoarder? Thankfully no, but she saved all kinds of random stuff in boxes that were labeled incorrectly. As an example – box labelled books. It was heavy but not book heavy. Opened it up and it was full of my nephew’s school papers. (My parents had custody of my nephew – he was placed with them at about 6 months of age. He’s an adult now.)

Now the big challenge is going through every other box, drawer, cupboard and figuring out if anything of value exists. We also meet recently to decide if there was anything we wanted. I asked for mom’s china – her brother/my uncle got it for her while in the army during Vietnam – and some of the old pictures. My brothers have already gone through the garage in the 2 years between their deaths and took stuff they wanted.

I think everything else can be trashed or donated. I’m accused of not caring about their belongings. sigh I just don’t want all of it at my house! One brother who has NO computer skills wants to place the stuff for sell online. When I asked who was going to do this, they both just sat there and looked at me like I was crazy. I just know I don’t have the energy to attempt to sell it. We’ve decluttered about 20,000 items from our house and didn’t sell a single thing – it was just too much to deal with. And I surely don’t want it all at my house!

So now I’m off to sort through some of my great-grandfather’s paperwork. As a genealogy fan, these have some value to me but are they worth keeping? Probably not! Photograph and move on will be my mantra.

I survived eating out!

We did it! We ate out at a restaurant. Our friends humored me and we sat outside on the patio. It was a chilly mid-60’s day but they knew I was having “stranger danger”. The patio was still set up for social distancing so I was comfortable removing my mask – it helps I know all 4 of us were “fully” vaccinated.

Next weekend will be another challenge – traveling to our nephew’s memorial service/scattering of ashes out of town. We will be staying in a hotel (oh no!) and eating out after the service.

I never considered myself a germaphobe before this – I sure hope this anxiety passes soon.

California still has masks required until at least June 15. That gives me a month to get used to this new normal!

So, now what?

We are “fully” vaccinated, now what? The newest CDC guidelines say I am free to go maskless and our self-isolation can end.

Do I want to? Should I? And why wouldn’t I continue to wash my hands as a disease prevention method? I love (sarcasm!) how the guidelines mention safety precautions are masks, social distancing of 6 feet, and wash your hands.

Interim Public Health Recommendations for Fully Vaccinated People | CDC

I am still required to wear a mask at work since the 12-14 year old students on campus aren’t vaccinated and my district doesn’t want to make a change with 2 weeks left. Even if the students get their shot today, it will be mid-June before they are completely vaccinated and our last day on campus for this year is May 28.

Will many of the 12-16 year old students even get vaccinated? How many have younger siblings who won’t be able to get vaccinated? Will be see a weird “spike” in pediatric cases? How many anti-vaccinating people will stop wearing their masks now? How many are teachers I work with? There are even more unanswerable questions rolling around in my head regarding pandemic safety in my classroom.

So I guess my “now what?” answer is this – I will continue to wear a mask IF I go somewhere that I am unable to know the vaccination status of those around me. It’s not like I’m rushing to go do things.

I don’t miss shopping or eating out in restaurants. I really don’t miss going grocery shopping – the idea of ordering ahead and picking it up is so much easier!

I do miss the social aspect of eating out. Tomorrow we are going out to breakfast with friends – first time in forever (well, actually 11 months but who’s keeping track!) Our usual Sunday morning location has had outdoor dining since our last visit (June 2020). To say I was not comfortable is a vast understatement.

Will they maintain outdoor dining for a while? Will the employees be wearing masks? Will the wind blow in the right direction? These and so many more whirl through my head!

Hopefully my “stranger danger” will gradually subside and I can venture out into the world again without a heightened since of doom with every breath.

Ube Cake Experiment

We experimented and made ube cake. We purchased the ube extract and powder online and used betty crocker gluten free yellow cake mix as the base. It has a pretty purple color and the taste was ok – not great, not bad. We think making it gluten free with the yellow cake mix might have affected the flavor more than we expected.

Here’s what it looked coming out of the oven. The top didn’t change at all after baking. We topped it with white buttercream frosting. Not weight loss friendly!

How many do I need?

Plastic and paper bags – those disposable bags that we had very few of prior to quarantine. Once California went into lock down a year ago, if you shopped, you could not use your own bags. Most stores are still not allowing you to use your own bags but with a decrease in COVID numbers, I’m hoping we can use our own bags again soon.

They pantry had reached the level of madness. I decluttered 60 of the cheapest, tears after you look at them plastic bags and 20 paper bags. I put another 250 plastic bags into bags of 25 or 50 (you know, those you can actually reuse). Why am I keeping them? Who knows! I even decluttered all the bags from the trunk of the car!

While I was dealing with the bags, kiddo #2 decluttered the rest of the pantry, consolidating open containers from when she moved in and just straightening up the shelves. Another 20 items gone.

100 items removed from the pantry!!

Fancy Friday 26 March 2021

This week I experimented with the placemat, napkin, and tablecloth combination. Not really liking the outcome but we did use our fine china (Noritake pattern Shenandoah) and sterling silver flatware (International Silver pattern Prelude). I think I need to look for some new placemats or tablecloths.

I am so surprised at how much it would cost to replace the china and flatware – each place setting of the dinnerware is about $75 and we have service for 12 with added bowls (for 12) and 2 extra plates and a bunch of serving pieces (about $1500 to replace). The flatware runs about $170 for each 4 piece place setting with added serving pieces (about $2000 to replace).

So why the rundown on the cost of replacements?

While we were eating this extra yummy flank steak with ginger, onions, and green beans, the spoons just aren’t big enough. When we use our stainless flatware, we use the soup spoons for this dinner. These teaspoons just don’t cut it!

I started looking into purchasing soup spoons in our sterling pattern. They are running about $55 each on ebay and Replacements.com. Buying 12 is out of the question at this time but I might be able to swing 6. I’ll need to ponder this a little more.

Spring Break Decluttering 2021

Spring break has sprung! John was off 3 March to 19 March. Barb was off 22 March to 26 March.

In the last 28 years, we have had spring break together TWICE! It will be nice to have spring break together next year. Why you ask – John is RETIRING in June! No more trying to coordinate schedules for holidays, vacations, etc!

Basically, all we did were chores around the house when we weren’t relaxing and taking a quick trip to visit the grandbabies!

And what is a spring break without some decluttering?!? Can you tell I was playing with the picture collage app??

  • a few clothes and shoes
  • knickknacks
  • books
  • computer case
  • puzzles
  • unused candle

Back to Campus

I’m a little behind on posts – I’ve had to return to in-person teaching in the afternoons while still doing the virtual teaching for every student each morning. That has added a layer of stress to our household. First it was the uncertainty of whether we would be returning to worrying about what precautions will actually be followed to worrying about the time factor and what I’m supposed to do with the returning students.

55+ Coronavirus Memes — Funny Coronavirus Memes

Should I teach in the morning at home and commute during my lunch? We end morning teaching at noon. Initially the district wanted us on campus by 12:30. Now I can make it – we live just a few miles away with no traffic along the way. I plan for 10 minutes but it never takes that long even if I have to wait for a train. Just a day before we reported, they made report time 12:45 (when the students arrive and report to our rooms.)

I found they are actually taking measures to ensure the safety of everyone when I returned to campus! I was hesitant, to say the least. They installed contactless water bottle refilling stations and gave each student a water bottle. Each student was also given a cloth mask, a pencil box filled with supplies that will stay in my room, and a notebook if they need paper. They labeled the desks for the M/T groups and Th/F groups so each student has their own seat and can leave their supplies to minimize contamination.

Syndicated cartoon gallery: Back to school 2020 | Columnists |  tulsaworld.com

The district has opted to have the afternoon session be voluntary – as of this writing I have 2 students on Monday and Tuesday and 3 students on Thursday and Friday. That’s not the stressful part – what am I going to do with them is! Should I have them catch up in their classes? do social emotional activities? All of the above? Something else I haven’t thought of yet?

Did you know I know how to play Among Us? I have a group of kids how come to virtual office hours so they can play Among Us and talk to each other while they play. I’m really not liking the new ship! With the return to class, my Among Us playing will be reduced significantly – whatever am I to do???

Flamingo Hat Among Us Gifts & Merchandise | Redbubble

Fancy Friday 12 Mar 2021

I am really enjoying our restful fancy Friday dinners – I don’t even mind washing the good china and silver afterwards.

Tonight’s menu: Grilled chicken, roasted acorn squash, and Pineapple Passion rum punch! I know, not the combination you would find at a fine restaurant but it works for us!

I think the acorn squash is just about out of season but the rum punch never goes out of season! We experienced this punch at the Kilohana Plantation in Lihue, Kauaʻi several years ago and recently found a local distributor. They also have great food here!

Better than Fancy Friday 19 Mar 2021

We are eating dinner tonight with the grandbabies! Now that we are both vaccinated and kiddo #1 received her first shot, they invited us up for the weekend. No pictures but I will tell you it was a WONDERFUL experience!

While there, I got to take Grandkiddo #1 to her “ballet” class. Here’s a picture of her being a ribbon dancer! It was a tad chilly outside for class.

COVID vaccine! And the week after

We both received our 2nd vaccine shot on 19 Feb. We are grateful for the ability to get the vaccine as educators.

When kiddo #2 received her second Pfizer shot, she missed 2 days of work due to her immune response so we were expecting the worse and hoping for the best since we were getting Moderna.

John almost never gets sick – he must have a really robust immune system! I, on the other hand, catch everything that wanders into my classroom. I am basically fighting something from about week 2 of school until we finally end in May/June. After all these years, you would think I’ve caught every germ already! This last 11 months of self-isolation have been amazing from this standpoint – I’ve not been sick since last March 2020! I was dreading this second shot.

We finished teaching at noon on Friday and had the second shot done by 1:15. It was very organized for the entire process. We decided to skip Fancy Friday for this week.


  • John – no symptoms
  • Barb – headache and arm soreness started about 5pm


  • John woke about 6 am feeling tired (not his usual!) and arm soreness but no fever. As the day went on, John felt feverish (99.5), took a nap and was feeling normal
  • Barb – chills started about 2 am, by 8 am fever was 101.7, body aches, tiredness – I basically slept all day. My arm now had a goose egg sized red spot. Tenderness doesn’t even begin to describe it! Took all I had to drink 8 ounces of water.


  • John back to normal with some arm tenderness.
  • Barb still running a fever (100.6), arm soreness, and fatigue. My immune response is still in overdrive. I was able to get up for a little while but after about 30 minutes on the couch, I had to go back to bed.


  • John’s arm is still tender but only when he touches it. No soreness when moving his arm.
  • Barb on the other hand, still running a slight fever in the morning, arm goose egg finally goes down in size. Fatigue and sweating is driving me crazy! Finally feeling “normal” by evening. This has been like having the flu – I can’t even imagine what having COVID would be like if this is my body’s response to the vaccine.


  • John’s arm doesn’t hurt at all – everything back to normal
  • Barb still tired. Arm still hurts to move it and swelling is decreasing. I have to sit through a district meeting – I really wanted a nap by lunch but can’t.

By Thursday, my tiredness and headache is still lingering and my arm is tender. My immune response lasted a full week. Friday everything was back to normal but by Friday night I was exhausted! I was in bed by 9:30!

Moral of the story: John had typical response and Barb’s immune response went crazy – I keep imagining what my body’s response would have been if I had COVID.

Fancy Friday 12 Feb 2021

Just a little behind in the Fancy Friday posts.

This Fancy Friday is a gluten free order from PF Chang’s! Take out on the good china and eating it with the sterling! This is a great end to the week.

Chang’s lettuce wraps, egg drop soup, Chang’s spicy chicken, Singapore street noodles, shrimp with lobster sauce, and ginger chicken with broccoli. Brown rice was also in there somewhere!

2020 Decluttering Update

We decluttered 2051 items during 2020! Our decluttering “grandtotal” since we began in 2014 is 19002!

This might be one of the few positives for the last 10 months – this and our new grandbaby!

We began our mindshift in mid-2014 with a desire to simplify our lives (physical, financial, emotional) with one aspect being the removal of clutter from the house. The decluttering gods must have know, since our house flooded in 2015 and we removed 11827 items that year.

We have debated if we should continue to count the stuff that leaves the house and every year initially decide we are done counting, until I declutter something and start mentally keeping track. This year it wasn’t even debated – I just printed out a new page!

Our lives are definitely simpler than they were in 2014. We both learned to say NO to extra obligations at work – this is probably the biggest change for both of us. We also decided to think more about our purchases before making them. That, in turn, helped simplify our finances.

This journey in Decluttering the Stuff has been life changing!

Fancy Friday – 15 Jan 2021

Let’s all use the stuff we were lead to believe can only be used for “special” occasions! Every day is a special day! Keep it and use the china, sterling silver, and “fancy” tablecloths and napkins you have boxed up. I only wish I had done this years ago!

I realize that I need some sort of centerpiece for our table. The search is on!

Grilled chicken with roasted brussels sprouts and butternut squash.

A little decluttering

We decided to do a little decluttering – just one box in the garage.

Hours later the box is empty and we have removed old yearbooks – yep, old yearbooks. When was the last time you looked at your old junior high/middle school and high school yearbooks? Ours had been in boxes untouched for at least 31 years. As we looked through them, some people who signed we remembered but most were unrecognized.

In the same box were 2 photo albums and several envelopes of pictures. My photo album had random pictures from junior high based on the house they were taken in. There was nothing that sparked “joy” or even any feelings when I saw them. They were decluttered.

John’s photo album was one his aunt put together when she took him on a cruise through the South Pacific when he was about junior high age. Most of the pictures were of scenery that he didn’t recognize. He also decluttered them.

Moral of the story – label those pictures! The label might spark a memory.

Fancy Friday – Jan 8, 2021

I’m going to use the “fine china” at least once a week. We had our first Fancy Friday last night and decided on a few “rules”.

  • The china and sterling will be used to eat on/with.
  • If we order take out (at this point highly unlikely) it will be removed from the takeout containers and put onto the “fancy” dinnerware.
  • Fancy clothing is not required unless we agree there is a special celebration – kiddo #2 comes home and immediately showers after being at the hospital/clinic and is reluctant to redress in fancy clothes afterwards. Can’t blame her in the least! Maybe later in the year.
  • If something breaks, I will not be upset. This stuff, which I love, has been sitting in the cupboard way too long unused and is, after all, just stuff to be used.

It only took 10 months of pandemic, 2 major holidays without family (other than the 3 of us), and the death of my mom to realize if I love it enough to keep it, I will use it!

Instacart – We finally used it

Well, I finally did it – I ordered something from the grocery store using Instacart. I’ve always resisted using the app – surely I can do my own shopping. Why pay someone to do something I can do?

With the pandemic lockdown in full effect in Southern California, I figured I would support someone else’s income and keep us out of stores as much as possible. Our usual perishable shopping has been Walmart pickup for the last 9 months.

Our niece, who works for Instacart corporate, has been encouraging us to try it. Grandma is a “member” and frequent user. If my mother-in-law, age 89, can navigate the app, surely I can. (side note: I’m mother-in-law’s tech support.)

Last night about 7:30 pm I went to the app and selected the grocery store in our neighborhood. I selected 15 items. Some were items Walmart didn’t have when we placed our pickup order last weekend. The order was “assigned?” to Shopper “Joshua” immediately. Then it was changed to Shopper “Jose”. No idea why or how it was changed. Kiddo #2 said it must have not been worth Joshua’s time since it was a small order.

When Jose got to the store, he let me know he was beginning and would update me along the way. The app has a special texting feature built in. I did let him know it was my first time and he replied “It’s my pleasure I hope I can make your experience amazing!”

He was so helpful – sending pictures of the shelves if something was out and wanting to know if I saw something else I would rather he pick up. It was as if I was right there! I guess they do this for every order but it sure felt special to me.

About an hour after placing the order, the items had been delivered and put away! I’m sure it would have been longer if I had left the house when I started.

$10.52 for peace of mind – worth it on an occasional basis.

Actual ReceiptInstacart charge
Service Fee0$2.49