RUNTRAILS' 2020 JOURNAL

 

  

Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly feeding on Miss Huff lantana flowers in our yard

 

   
 
 
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  INTRODUCTION TO THE WEIRDEST 
  YEAR OF OUR (LONG) LIVES

THURSDAY, JANUARY 2

 
"It is very strange . . . that the years teach us patience;
that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting."  
 
~ Elizabeth Taylor (not the actress), A Wreath of Roses
 
 
Sometimes I'm not so patient, even at age 71 and born the same year that novel was written. But in 2020 I think I've had more patience than many other people in this truly bizarre year where people around the world were asked to Just. Stay. Home.

How hard is that????

Pretty hard I guess, and not just in our country. Most people around the world began to rebel against that rather quickly unless they live under a dictatorship. Humans are social animals -- and not everyone can continue to earn a living at home for weeks or months on end.

One of my goals after retiring from a very busy working-volunteering-running life at age 50 was to become more of a laid back Type B person.

It took a global pandemic to make me realize I've pretty much achieved that goal. I've been pretty patient, careful, and not in a panic. Well, most of the time.

NOTHING NORMAL ABOUT 2020

This is the latest Iíve begun my annual online journal entries since we initially set up this website in 2005 to chronicle our Appalachian Trail Adventure Run/Hike. Iíve continued the journals ever since, with entries each year -- and some gaps in the last ten years that I hope someday to fill.

Iím writing this introduction in October, 2020 but will date it earlier so the remaining entries are on or near the dates on which they occurred.

Instead of my usual annual introductions where I summarize and update our running/walking history, RV travel adventures, life with one or more Labrador retrievers, and various other aspects of life at home, this intro is going to be as different as the year 2020 has been so far. It's more of a summary of the first ten months of the year than an introduction with no knowledge of what the new year will bring.

Photos in this entry include coronavirus memes (2020 gallows humor), Life Is Good t-shirt designs, and miscellaneous preview pictures from this year.

2020 will go down as a year everyone's going to remember but many people will want to forget because so many things happened to disrupt their lives. I donít know if our country or our individual lives will ever return to ďnormal.Ē

Hopefully, the "new normal" will be better than the way things have been from March to October.


Another Life is Good t-shirt design

The primary disruption is the ongoing global COVID 19 crisis. Most of the impact has been felt around the world in 2020 but it originated in 2019 in Wuhan, China.

Because of so much international travel between China and the United States, this novel coronavirus probably began sickening and killing people here in late 2019 but most of us didnít know it was a serious problem in this country until March of 2020. So life in this country was pretty much the same until then.

Scientists are still learning how the virus spreads and what safety measures can best prevent people from catching it, especially those who are older and/or have underlying health conditions, including obesity, that make them succumb more easily to the disease.

Key to prevention is wearing effective face masks, social distancing, washing hands frequently, and keeping hands away from the face. That's where patience, compassion, and common sense come in.

Face masks worn by the general public (not the N95s worn by medical personnel) mostly help prevent me from infecting someone else. Social distancing, hand-washing, and not touching my face helps protect me.

After dealing with pandemic upheaval for almost nine months, many people aren't showing any or enough patience, compassion, or common sense and the problem is getting worse, not better.

WHO & WHAT IS ESSENTIAL??

Back in March, guidance from the CDC and the initial scare of death basically shut down much of the economy in an effort to keep everyone except ďessential personnelĒ at home as much as possible.  Schools, colleges, and most businesses closed and people who could, began learning and working from home.

It was obvious that medical personnel on the front lines were essential but some other occupations that havenít previously gotten a lot of respect suddenly were critical to our survival and basic comfort.

For example, we quickly learned that people in the business of growing, packaging, transporting, and selling our food were some of the most essential workers out there. So were the people manufacturing supplies like toilet paper (lots of memes about the hoarding that went on for the first couple months!), personal protective equipment, and disinfectants.

People who could work from home were lucky. New technologies like Zoom mushroomed. Computers and home office equipment sold well, as did some other businesses that catered to all these people now at home.

But many other businesses were drastically affected, particularly in the travel, hospitality, and entertainment industries -- airlines, cruise ships, hotels, restaurants, theaters, sports events, and lots more. Some got government stimulus payments to stay afloat for a few months. Most individuals also got a one-time stimulus payment.

Those payments have ended and not been extended, thanks to dysfunctional, seriously polarized politics in our country. Most of these industries and many other small businesses remain crippled. Many individuals were and still are in deep economic trouble.

Stay-at-home orders were lifted in most states by late spring as 1) COVID cases in some areas decreased, 2) people rebelled against their ďloss of freedomĒ (pandemic fatigue set in), and 3) an impatient president became concerned that he might not get re-elected in November unless schools were re-opened, most people were back at work, and the economy improved.

Even during the second and now third waves of cases, too many people refuse to wear masks to protect others, do proper social distancing, and/or avoid small or large gatherings at restaurants, bars, gyms, churches, funerals, weddings, protests, political rallies, sports events, various types of clubs, etc.

They are too impatient. In puppy training vernacular, they lack impulse control:

Coronavirus cases are increasing in almost every state again this fall. And itís not just the U.S. -- itís a big problem on other continents, too. By mid-October there are more than 40 million cases and 1 million deaths worldwide, with more than 20% of the cases and deaths in the U.S. alone.

Thatís pathetic. And actual cases are undoubtedly much higher than that because some folks are asymptomatic and donít know to get tested.

WHY WE'VE BEEN RELATIVELY PATIENT

The pandemic has affected every personís life to some extent, in one way or another, even if they havenít been sick or known anyone personally who has gotten sick. The pandemic has permeated every aspect of life in America.

Jim and I haven't been traveling or as socially active since we bought our house in Peachtree City and sold our RV. So it hasnít affected our routines as much as for most people. For the last three years weíve chosen to ďshelter in placeĒ most of the time anyway!

I also try to remain optimistic and let go of the things I can't control:

Although Jim and I donít know of any underlying conditions that would make us more susceptible to this deadly virus, weíre in our early 70s and more vulnerable simply because of our age. Our immune systems aren't as robust as they were when we were younger.

In January we revised our wills, powers of attorney, and health care directives -- before the pandemic was an issue here and before knowing how much more important it is now for every adult to have updated end-of-life decisions made before something happens. A lot of people have been caught unprepared for this virus and its potential for sudden deadly consequences for even some younger people.

Unlike some people with their head in the proverbial sand, weíve never doubted the seriousness or extent of this virus. We will continue to do our best to avoid it.

We shop online for many things and in person as infrequently as possible, usually going early in the morning during "senior hours" and sometimes using curbside pickup. We wear a mask in parking lots and inside stores or other buildings.

Masks protect other people more than the person wearing one, unless it's an N95. I wore one of those to shop for groceries and necessities in the spring. Jim had a few left from his volunteer EMT days in Virginia. Since then Iíve worn two cloth masks -- four layers -- to help protect myself in stores.

I've made several woven cotton masks and purchased a couple more from a friend who made them. The reversible mask shown below -- navy with hearts on one side and black with paw prints on the other -- matches two bow ties I made for puppy Don. May as well have some fun with this!


Dapper Don's one-year birthday photo; isn't he a handsome dude??

Jim and I do our best to avoid close encounters with people, especially those not considerate enough to wear masks indoors or when in close proximity to others. We avoid even small groups of people, especially indoors where the virus spreads more easily.

We do not eat in restaurants, although Jim goes inside some of them to get take-out. Weíve allowed only a couple people into our house, including home improvement/repair folks, and will not have any dinner or overnight guests until an effective vaccine is developed and in wide use. We have no travel plans in the foreseeable future.

The riskiest thing we do is walk and ride our bikes without masks on trails and our cityís extensive network of multi-use paths. The virus doesnít spread as easily outdoors, but we still move away or discretely turn our backs when people get too close. That looks nicer when weíre walking our dogs, who love to stop to sniff things.


This is my favorite way to social-distance!

If it sounds like weíre paranoid or depriving ourselves, this is our choice and we're OK with it. We do not want to catch this virus and we don't want to unknowingly infect someone else.

Patience. Compassion. Perseverance.

We have a comfortable home, three lovable Labrador retrievers that keep us busy, a beautiful yard and city to enjoy, and many miles of convenient, scenic multi-use paths and trails to walk. We don't need to do the risky group activities that some people just can't resist. Hopefully someday they will be safe again.


L-R:  Don, Casey, Holly in our back yard  (9-7-20)

Meanwhile, technology keeps us in contact with friends, relatives, and the rest of the world. We are not lonely, bored, or depressed.

And since weíre retired, we donít have to worry about work or a salary. We DO have to be concerned about our retirement accounts, however, and hope that our pension funds never go belly up.  

NO HITCH-ITCH?

We donít miss traveling, at least yet and certainly not during a pandemic.

We had many good years roaming around the U.S. and Canada in our RVs. Sometimes weíre nostalgic about places we loved to visit, like Alaska and the Colorado mountains, but times have changed -- also due to the COVID crisis but in a way many people didnít expect.


Camping just outside Zion NP in Utah in April, 2016, our last year of full-time RV travel

One of the big reasons we sold our last 5th-wheel trailer in 2018 was due to the increasing popularity of RVing and the lack of spontaneity weíd previously enjoyed -- difficulty making reservations when and where we wanted to go, and crowded campgrounds/RV parks.

Well, to our surprise, thatís considerably worse since the pandemic began!

Instead of the RV industry going bust when the economy tanked earlier this year and many people lost their jobs, sales of RVs have skyrocketed and some dealers are having trouble keeping enough inventory to satisfy the demand.

Instead of a slew of used RVs for sale at rock-bottom prices because people canít afford the payments, more people are taking out loans to buy brand new campers, often for the first time, because itís considered the safest way to travel during the pandemic. Campgrounds and RV parks are more crowded now than theyíve ever been.


Denali . . . Will I ever see my favorite mountain again??

Weíre mostly glad we sold our camper when we did. I donít know if weíll ever get another one again --  maybe when a lot of newbies get tired of the payments and hassles and itís easier to find sites where we want to visit again. It will probably take another Great Recession for that to happen. 

There have been other significant events mostly unrelated to the COVID pandemic that make 2020 an even more memorable year -- widening political extremes, divisiveness, and cyber-bullying that have pitted friends and family members against each other preceding a wild presidential election, protests and riots over police brutality and racial injustice, the Black Lives Matter movement that spread from the U.S. to other countries, record-setting hurricanes in the Gulf and the Atlantic, record-setting wildfires out West, and more.

SO WHAT WILL YOU WRITE ABOUT THIS YEAR, SUE???

Thankfully, only a little more about the pandemic, if it relates to a particular entry.


 Our guide puppy group on a tour of the Atlanta Braves' stadium in February

And for privacy and my sanity I do not share on social media everything we do or our opinions and beliefs about politics, religion, and other controversial topics -- except encouraging readers to heed the professional science about COVID and to ignore misleading politicians, coronovirus deniers, and conspiracy theorists.

Over the past 15 years of this website Iíve focused on running, hiking, cycling, and other athletic training and events we've done, our Labrador retrievers, RV travel all over North America, local scenes, gardening, and various other miscellaneous topics.


Callaway Gardens  (3-19-20)

This year we have done very little traveling but Iíll share pictures from local scenes, hiking at Sweetwater Creek State Park, two spring trips to Callaway Gardens when the azaleas were peaking, and a weekend at Tybee Island, GA for the Savannah puppy conference before the pandemic turned the world upside down.

We continue to walk and bike a lot, and Iíll write about Jimís two ultra-distance events in the fall.


Jim's encampment at ARFTA 2020

Our yard is flourishing so Iíll share plenty of beautiful flower pictures and other nature scenes.

In fact, for this yearís page header I have chosen a scene from our back yard -- an Eastern tiger swallowtail butterfly feeding on one of our sprawling Miss Huff lantana bushes. You can see it at the top of every entry.

That photo depicts the beauty and serenity that we have found right here at home while weíve been mostly sheltering in place the past eight months to avoid catching COVID.

Here's another photo from our yard:


These beautiful Knockout roses bloom from spring
until the first hard frost in December.

Finally, we still have our pack of three lovable, active Labrador retrievers that I love to photograph and talk about, so look for those entries if you like dogs.

Dogs arenít our whole world but they sure do make OUR little world whole. Their antics and lovable dispositions are a great antidote to the outside world. Stay tuned for a big announcement in an entry dated in April about Don, our Southeastern guide-puppy-in-training.

Next entry: January update on Dapper Don and his guide puppy training

Happy trails,

Sue
"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Casey-Girl, Holly-Holly, & Dapper Don

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© 2020 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil

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