December 2021: Life in the COVID-19 Era

December 1, 2021

I didn’t leave the house today until 5:20 when I left to take Betsy to her play practice in Waynesboro.  I enjoyed my day at home and got lots of things done that have been on my back burner.

For example, I changed my Medicare Part D (Prescription Drug) plan for 2022 which should 1) save me money and 2) allow me to return my prescriptions to Costco.  This year at Kroger has been miserable—lines there are always long and slow. 

I also got an e-mail about The Greenbrier’s Tribute offer this season.  The Tribute offer is where they let rooms go for as little as $99 per night.  There are only four nights in February where this offer is good, so, with Lynn’s suggestion, we took three of the nights:  February 22, 23 and 24.  I notified my brother and sister about this deal and Lynn texted Paul and Sandy Porterfield.  My brother replied that the dates were a conflict for him and Jackie.

I had some picture work to do from the Thanksgiving pictures and got that done, too.  But the best thing that happened today was that Lynn came home after her luncheon and removed the large patch on my nose from my surgery.  I was told to leave the patch on for 48 hours which I did.  Now I just have some band aids covering it.  It still hurts on touch, though.  And my nose is still red and swollen.  Tonight I will be able to take a full shower.

Tomorrow I have a lot of work to do at Central.  Since this is the first of the month, there will be four bank accounts to reconcile plus bills to pay.  I also volunteered to do the church bulletin again this week.  Lynn is going back to The Greenbrier and Lewisburg with her friend Pat Collins so I’ll have all day to do the work.

At 3:15 Freddie came on his bus.  He played on the Wii-U downstairs and I watched for a while.  He is so skilled at these video games!  Lynn got home from her second Rockingham County job of the day around 4:30 and fixed a great dinner for the three of us including creamed turkey and rice.  Then, to help Ann out, I took Betsy to Waynesboro.

I hustled back and picked Lynn and Freddie up and we went to the Fort Defiance High School gym to see Gus’ JV basketball game against Turner Ashby.  The game wasn’t close—Fort won 62 – 37.  The officials called the game tight near the basket and Gus was saddled with foul trouble most of the night. He eventually fouled out.  He only took two shots and made one of them.  He did have eight rebounds and one nice block.  What I appreciate about his play is that he doesn’t make the stupid mistakes that the others do such as trying to go one-on-four or throwing the ball away.  I get so irritated when I see his teammates do those things.  It doesn’t matter if they win or not.

December 1         Infected                   Died

World             263,717,793           5,241,577   Over 8,000 deaths in the world….

US                     49,573,122              805,104   Over 2,000 new deaths since yesterday 

Virginia                 971,529                14,730   2,400 new cases, 20 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       10,740                     141   34 new cases, 1 death since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 12,757,807  (5,550,654 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, and Morgan.  Thomas, Georgia, and Freddie now have their first shot.  That’s 88.2% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 65.0% of the total population fully vaccinated).

Augusta County   89,542 (40,638 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, and Betsy.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 53.8% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average. 

December 2, 2021

Lynn left early to go to The Greenbrier and Lewisburg with her friend Pat so I headed to Central to do some treasurer’s work.  I knew it would take me a while because the beginning of the month means bank reconciliation time.  Plus, I wanted to get a good start on Sunday’s bulletin and knew I’d have some bills to pay.

It was a little frustrating at Central because my computer wouldn’t print to the new Xerox printer.  Ever since we got the new printer a month ago, printing has been on and off to it.  Today, when I had lots of printing to do, it was off.  So I ended up saving documents and e-mailing them to the secretary’s computer, then going to that computer in order to print.

Meanwhile, I got nearly all of the bulletin done.  Won stopped in and finished it then Sherry Huffer, who volunteers a few hours each week in the office, was able to print and fold the bulletins.  I was thankful for not having to do that.

As expected, there were bills waiting for me in the Central mailbox.  So I got them taken care of plus the bank reconciliations and finished up my work around 1:30, about 4 ½ hours after I came.  I’m finding that it takes at least five hours each week to do the treasurer’s work.  I shouldn’t have to go back their until this coming Monday.

Today was unseasonably warm for December.  The temperatures made it to the mid 60’s.  I can remember plenty of Decembers which were frigid.  I still found myself sitting at the kitchen table with the propane fireplace behind me lit because I really hate to be cold.

I’m living with two band aids on my nose still today.  At least I was able to shower fully last night.  My nose is quite swollen from all the work that was done on it.  And it still hurts when I press on it such as when I put a mask on.  Tonight at the ball game it bled through my face mask.

But when we got home I changed the band aid, cleaned it up, and it looks better now.

The afternoon was easy for me.  Lynn got back from her fun trip with Pat around 5:15.  By 5:40 we had eaten a bite for dinner and headed to Turner Ashby High School for the basketball game.  We picked up Josh on our way; Ann joined us later since she took Freddie to his basketball practice first.

The basketball game tonight was reminiscent of Tuesday’s game—Fort fell way behind at first, got within striking distance by the end of the third quarter, but faded in the fourth.  The final score was 68 – 50.  That doesn’t look so bad when you learn that they were down 19 – 1 midway through the second quarter.  They got back within nine at 43-34 but Turner Ashby made a bunch of three point shots to pull away in the end.  Henry had nine.  TAHS was big so Henry was going against 6’5” player and a 6’3” player.  I think he did fine.  He had several rebounds and zero mistakes.

There is absolutely nothing on our calendar for tomorrow.  That’s the first time in a long time!  Lynn might end up testing a student in Rockingham County.  We had hoped Jim would be able to come up after school with his boys but they haven’t felt well so now it looks like he’ll just come by himself on Saturday morning and go back when he’s done the work we’ve asked him to do here.

Here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 2         Infected                   Died

World             264,439,993           5,249,487   Almost 8,000 deaths in the world….

US                     49,716,825              806,390   Over 1,200 new deaths since yesterday 

Virginia                 974,001                14,741   2,400 new cases, 11 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       10,755                     141   15 new cases, 1 death since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 12,800,512  (5,565,330 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, and Morgan.  Thomas, Georgia, and Freddie now have their first shot.  That’s 88.4% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 65.2% of the total population fully vaccinated).

Augusta County   89,858 (40,772 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, and Betsy.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.0% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average. 

December 3, 2021

Today was a light day with no basketball games, no after-school care for grandchildren, and no work as treasurer at Central UMC.  Lynn had nothing on her schedule originally but found out that a student she needed to test at Rockingham Academy was in school today so she made arrangements to test him this morning.

The Harrisonburg newspaper, the Daily News Record, had a nice picture on its sports page of Henry guarding a Turner Ashby player from last night’s game. 

I was reminded today that the Tech Staff of Rockingham County Public Schools is having a get-together on December 17 to honor Nevin Diener who is retiring at the end of the month.  Nevin was probably my favorite employee.  I hired him in 1997 so we worked together for 15 years.  I was sent an e-mail with a link to post comments about Nevin to a Google Form.  Here’s what I wrote:

When I retired as Director of Math and Technology from Rockingham County Public Schools in 2012, I taught at Bridgewater College for five years then I fully retired.  The next year my daughter Ann gave me a Christmas present I loved:  a one-year subscription to a service called StoryWorth.  Each week, for 52 weeks, I received an e-mail from StoryWorth with a question that I was to respond to.  StoryWorth then published my responses into a book.  My book, 433 pages long, was given to all my grandchildren the next year as a Christmas present.  For example, the questions were “What did you read as a child?”  or “What was your Dad like?” or “What was your best boss like?”  One week, the question I got was “Who do you consider your icons, and why?”

The question puzzled me at first, but I read that an icon as “a person who represents something, one who is an excellent example of an idea, personality trait, profession, etc.” With this definition in mind, I had no trouble answering it.  My icon in the field of my work, technology, was Nevin Diener.  Here’s what I wrote in that book:

I also absolutely believe that the success of my career can be credited to Nevin Diener, whom I hired 1997 as a computer technician. He was later promoted to Coordinator of Network Services. Nevin’s knowledge of Apple computers and networking was always unmatched. Apple made the hardware, I would buy it, and Nevin would make it work right. And if something didn’t work right, Nevin could fix it. Nevin was always more than tech-savvy, though. He had wisdom that I greatly depended on. Nevin’s decisions were always made with lots of forethought. He didn’t jump on bandwagons. If he said we needed to buy x, then I bought it because I trusted his judgement blindly. His work ethic was unbelievable, his interactions with colleagues, teachers, and administrators always polite and professional. If every company had a work force of Nevins, this world would be an unbelievably great place. I was fortunate to have him on my staff. Now that I am retired I miss his wise counsel, warm smile, and unequaled knowledge of computers.

I could write volumes about working with Nevin because we had such varied and rich experiences together.  I remember when a student at Pence Middle School posted an offensive comment on a school bulletin board and wrote something like “I did this because you can’t catch me.”  I think it took Nevin about 10 minutes to determine exactly which computer the post had come from and from which student account it had been posted.

One of my most memorable experiences with Nevin happened in 2000 when our Tech Staff was invited to attend a “briefing” at Apple headquarters in Cupertino, CA.  Apple paid for all expenses for Bryan Daniels, Kym Garber, Nevin, and me to spend a couple of days at 1 Infinite Loop, Cupertino.  We were treated like royalty by Apple.  Imagine how we felt when we rode in the limousine they provided to Apple’s headquarters with the sign above reading “Welcome Rockingham County Public Schools.”  I’ll share a few photos from that trip.

There were amusing incidents like when a teacher at McGaheysville became enraged when she thought someone was “controlling her computer” because sometimes she would observe her cursor moving or characters being mysteriously typed on her screen.  Nevin figured out that she had a SmartBoard attached to her computer and, even when the Smartboard was off, students standing in line to get her assistance would bump it with their elbows or hands which acted as an input device to the computer.

I remember Nevin’s homemade scripts which enabled us to purchase large numbers of computers and quickly image them with exactly what we wanted and didn’t want on each.  I remember how he worked with Shentel to connect every school in Rockingham County to a fiber network.  I remember how Nevin maintained RCPS’s servers when we had our own FirstClass e-mail system, how he insured that every computer in the county could be used for SOL testing, and I remember the last step on every other RCPS technician’s list of how-to-solve-computer-issues:  When in doubt, ask Nevin.

I strongly remember his work ethic.  Nevin’s work hours were far in excess of 8:00 – 4:00.  He worked until the job was done and done perfectly. 

Nevin has always been the kind of person that you “want to be like when I grow up.”  Sometimes teachers or administrators could strain the patience of anyone on the Tech Staff yet none treated them with more respect than Nevin.  His quiet, professional, and courteous mannerisms set the bar high for all of us who were his colleagues.

I also remember some advice I got when I began as an administrator with Rockingham County Schools.  I was told to “hire excellent people then get out of their way.”  Looking at the RCPS Tech Staff, it is easy to see that I did hire excellent people.  None embodies excellence more than Nevin Diener. 

For sure, in 1997 Nevin was one of the six best employees on the RCPS Tech Staff because there were only six of us:  Bill Sacra, Kym Garber,  Bryan Daniels, Stephanie Failes, Nevin, and me.

Lynn walked this afternoon since the weather was unbelievable—65o for December 3! When she got back, we went to Harrisonburg with stops at Costco, Belk, and Valley Pike for our Friday evening hamburgers.

Last year the Waynesboro News-Virginian had good articles about all of the Fort Defiance boys’ basketball games.  For that reason, I subscribed to the paper for their online edition.  They don’t deliver the printed version where we live.  There was no article in the paper after the first game at Rockbridge, so I e-mailed the manager at the newspaper and asked if they were going to continue this year or not.  In fact, I told him if not, please cancel my subscription.  In today’s paper was a nice article about last night’s Turner Ashby High School game.  It even mentioned Henry in it.  Hooray!

Our stop at Valley Pike was too late, it turns out.  Apparently they close at 6:00 and we were there at 6:15.  So we went to Staunton and picked up some food from Chick Fil A.  It sufficed.

Jim called while we were on the way there.  He is coming up tomorrow to help me with some outside tasks.  I feel so blessed to have a son willing to do this.

The US now has 10 states with Omicron variant cases of COVID-19.  Supposedly it spreads much easier than earlier versions of COVID.  Thus far none of the cases has resulted in hospitalization, though.  Here are today’s COVID-19 numbers:

December 3         Infected                   Died

World             265,137,716           5,257,413   Another 8,000 deaths in the world….

US                     49,872,518              808,084   1,700 new deaths since yesterday 

Virginia                 976,599                14,753   2,500 new cases, 12 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       10,781                     140   26 new cases since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 12,867,780  (5,583,106 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, and Morgan.  Thomas, Georgia, and Freddie now have their first shot.  That’s 88.6% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 65.4% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County   90,238 (40,910 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, and Betsy.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.1% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average. 

Jim told us that in Faron’s kindergarten class there was a case of COVID-19 which resulted in a group of kids who sat at the same table being quarantined.  Jim and Morgan plan to get him vaccinated ASAP.  That will only leave Coen unvaccinated in our family.  He will turn 5 in February.

December 4, 2021

Today I developed even more appreciation of the kind of man our son has grown to be.  Jim drove here to help me with a bunch of outside work.  At the same time, he brought one of his mowers and swapped it for the snow blowers I’d been storing in our shed now that we’re almost to snowy season. 

Jim began by working on my old weed whacker.  I have a Sthil Model 45 that I have had for over a decade.  It quit starting for me a while ago and, for sure, needed a replacement primer bulb (the bulb you push to prime the engine).  He brought one with him but even after replacing it the trimmer wouldn’t start.  It turns out there were multiple other problems.  The choke didn’t work properly and the engine wasn’t getting fuel.  So he broke the trimmer down with pieces all over the garage floor.  He cleaned the carburator replaced the gas in the tank, then put it all back together.  The choke still didn’t work right but he did get it to start several times.  In the end, he took it back with him promising to replace the plastic piece that was the reason the choke didn’t work.  He knows so much about small engines!

Then we really went to work on the mess of a lilac bush in our back yard.  The bush had grown out of control with several things growing in the middle that were not lilac.  He and I spent a couple of hours cutting the bush back to about 5’ x 5’ size which was a major trim.  We pulled all of the cut branches into the field; they made a wall at least 30 feet long.  He had several tools with him which made the job doable including a chain saw, pole saw, and heavy duty trimmer.  We got the entire area cut back so that I can now run my mower over what used to be lilac mess.  Then we had a pleasant surprise—neighbor Danny Link saw what we were doing and offered to bring his tractor over and push the wall of limbs into a big pile.  We actually got him to push the pile into the middle of our field, away from power lines, so I can burn it all at some day in the future.  It was really nice of Danny.  It didn’t take him 10 minutes to do it whereas it would have taken us a long time to have moved all of the brush ourselves, especially since there were many thorns mixed in.

Jim also cut out some stray growths in the forsythia bush.  He was a big help.  But I had even one more job for him:  our patio heater was not standing upright.  He bent the pole back vertical and re-tightened all of its bolts.  We noticed that the deflector on top was missing some bolts and screws which I picked up tonight at Lowe’s.

Lynn had spent the entire morning and part of the afternoon at craft fairs with her friend Cheryl Wright.  She got home around 1:30 and promptly ordered food from Chicano Boy.  When she got back with it, we had finished all of our work so we enjoyed a big but late lunch. 

After that, he went back to Roanoke and later texted us he had made it back OK.  I texted back how good it was to have a son like him. 

Lynn and I went to Lowe’s where I could get the bolts I needed for the patio heater and she got several more poinsettias plus some other flowers.  Then we drove straight to Smiley’s for ice cream.  We hadn’t been there in weeks.

Here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 4         Infected                   Died

World             265,684,258           5,263,719   6,000 deaths in the world….

US                     49,933,750              808,608   600 new deaths since yesterday 

Virginia                 976,599                14,753   NO UPDATES DUE TO WEEKEND

Augusta County       10,781                     140   NO UPDATES DUE TO WEEKEND

            Vaccinated

Virginia 12,931,643  (5,599,126 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, and Morgan.  Thomas, Georgia, and Freddie now have their first shot.  That’s 88.8% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 65.6% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County   90,899 (41,063 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, and Betsy.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.3% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.

December 5, 2021

For a Sunday, today was a full day for us.  It began with Sunday School via Zoom for me, followed by a quick trip to CUMC for bell choir practice since the bells played two songs during the worship service.  After church, Lynn and I hustled home to eat lunch, change clothes, and head to Waynesboro for Betsy’s winter dance recital.

Betsy has so much going on right now!  She has a major part in the musical, The Christmas Story, which keeps her at rehearsals from 6:00 – 10:00 PM nightly during the week.  Today she performed six different dance routines with others in her dance classes and did them flawlessly.  She is such a natural on the stage.  She smiles, knows her routine, and has extraordinary stage presence.  Opening night for her musical is this coming Thursday night.  You bet Lynn and I will be there.

On our way to her recital, Lynn ran by a store and got flowers for her.  I was able to get lots of pictures of her during the show, though the theatre was dark and our seats in the balcony.  She really did a fine job.  We went to the 2:00 show; she had to repeat the show at 5:30 so she didn’t get to our house for dinner until 8:00 tonight.

As soon as her show was over, Lynn and I hustled home to fix dinner for the Gutshalls.  We had them in shifts:  Josh, Gus, and Freddie came over around 6:00 while Ann and Betsy arrived two hours later.  Lynn had fixed some good pork barbecue and homemade rolls.  We added lima beans and potato chips. Betsy is a vegetarian so when she got here I fixed her and Ann some grilled cheese sandwiches.  Henry went to a friend’s house tonight.  Augusta County doesn’t have school tomorrow thanks to a teacher workday so the kids will get a day off.

How do idiots get elected?  There are a bunch of them in the Republican party in Congress right now.  Today a Kentucky Republican Congressman posted his Christmas family picture with each of them holding a gun.  This is right after we’ve had several school shootings in the past few weeks.  A Republican Senator from Wisconsin accused Antony Fauci of “overhyping” COVID-19.  How can he be accused of this when there have been over 5 million COVID-19 deaths worldwide and 800,000 in the United States?  Then there’s Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Greene…. 

Here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 5         Infected                   Died

World             266,123,730           5,270,662   7,000 deaths in the world….

US                     49,969,856              808,763   Only 158 new deaths reported

Virginia                 976,599                14,753   NO UPDATES DUE TO WEEKEND

Augusta County       10,781                     140   NO UPDATES DUE TO WEEKEND

            Vaccinated

Virginia 12,990,128  (5,616,461 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, and Morgan.  Thomas, Georgia, and Freddie now have their first shot.  That’s 88.9% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 65.8% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        91,093 (41,093 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, and Betsy.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.4% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average. 

December 6, 2021

Today was a typical Monday wherein I spent 4 ½ hours at Central doing treasurer’s work.  I might add that part of that time I spent doing secretary’s work since we still do not have an Administrative Assistant though I heard that there have been several new applicants for the position and interviews are scheduled for Thursday evening via Zoom.  Lynn is on the Staff Parish Relations Committee which will conduct the interviews but she won’t be available because she and I are going to Betsy’s opening night at A Christmas Story

Today I wrote five checks, reconciled one credit card, printed a W-9 form, set up payroll for the December 15 paydate, paid the federal taxes due by then, and entered the deposit from those who counted yesterday’s offering.  On the secretary side, I entered the individual contributions into the Servant Keeper software, mailed two of the bills I had paid, and got a good start on the Sunday bulletin for December 12, sending draft copies of it to various people. 

When (if) Central hires another Administrative Assistant my work load will decrease by a little, perhaps a couple of hours per week.  I won’t be mailing the bills, filing the check stubs, entering the individual contributions, and doing the church bulletin.  But if that person works out well and I can pass some of the treasurer’s duties off, I’d probably only have to come there one day per week.  Ideally, I’d be able to train the new person to do the two most common tasks I do:  pay the bills and make the weekly deposits.  Perhaps later I could show them how to set up payroll every two weeks.  I’m certainly not willing to give up the more complicated tasks such as reconciling the bank accounts, entering data from the investment strategies, moving monies around in the internal accounts, paying the taxes and payroll liabilities, etc.  Those are generally done just once per month. 

I spent an enormous amount of time last year when I first took over the Treasurer’s duties developing and printing a 100 page how-to manual complete with screen shots for all of the tasks that I do.  I still rely on that manual myself for doing the payroll, paying the taxes, etc.  It is extremely helpful to me and I’m sure it will be for the next person who takes over this job.  I’m willing to continue doing it for a while, perhaps even several years, because it doesn’t keep me from being able to travel.  That will especially be true if the Administrative Assistant can learn how to write checks, which isn’t hard.

I didn’t do much around the house today except for re-securing the metal deflector on top of the patio heater.  It was missing half of its screws; I had purchased replacements at Lowe’s last week and today I got them all installed and tightened.  I changed the battery in the starter and got the heater to come on OK today though I had trouble getting it to stay on.  It had this trouble before.  The least wind seems to put the flame out.

I did help Henry with his Calculus tonight.  He had some tougher problems this evening dealing with velocity, acceleration, and distance.  We were able to get all of his problems done correctly.

We learned today that tomorrow night’s basketball game against Broadway High School was moved to January 11.  It turns out that Fort’s basketball team was down to seven players.  One of the eight who played in the games last week had a brother who was tested positive for COVID-19 so he has to quarantine.  The good news is that Josh Jones will be back soon so they’ll have seven or eight good players who can give each other breaks during the game.

The temperature was above normal today but tonight the wind was ferocious.  I could hear it howling in the fireplace insert in the kitchen.  Despite the warmer temperatures, I still cut the propane heater on in the fireplace tonight because I hate to be cold.  That is an understatement.

Lynn had two jobs today at John C. Myers Elementary School in Broadway.  First she had an interpreting meeting at 8:00 this morning.  Then she had a 2:00 meeting scheduled there this afternoon.  She drove to the first meeting then drove back home, did a few things, then drove back to Broadway (a 40 minute drive one way) for the second meeting.  Just as she pulled into the parking lot she got an e-mail saying the second meeting had been canceled.  Nuts!  She still turned in an hour of work plus mileage for the afternoon but it is a shame that she had to waste that much time and gasoline.

Tomorrow our calendar is completely empty.  That is a rare day for us.  Lynn has a bunch of projects she wants to work on.  I’ve got a little bit of picture work to do.  One big task I have to do is to try to find some Christmas presents for her!

Kay called tonight.  She told us both Thomas and Georgia had received their second COVID-19 vaccine.  Hooray!  I believe Freddie’s second shot is coming up soon, too.  And perhaps Faron’s first…

Here are today’s COVID-19 numbers:

December 6         Infected                   Died

World             266,667,413           5,277,343   Almost 7,000 deaths in the world….

US                     50,146,308              810,237   1,500 new deaths reported

Virginia                 983,055                14,771   6,500 new cases, 18 deaths since Friday

Augusta County       10,877                     140   96 new cases since Friday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,028,051  (5,603,369 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 86.5% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 65.6% of the total population fully vaccinated).  Note that these numbers were adjusted since yesterday.

Augusta County        91,955 (41,005 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, and Betsy.  Freddie has had his first shot.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.3% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.  Note that these numbers were also adjusted since yesterday.

The population of the United States is 329 million.  There have now been over 50 million cases of COVID-19.  That means approximately one of our every six people in the US has had COVID.  Of course, nearly a million of them have died from it.  Republican Congressman Jim Jordan of Texas said “real America is done with COVID.  The only people who don’t understand that are Fauci and Biden.”  There were 1,500 new deaths just today from it.  How can he say something like that?

Yes, I still wear a mask when I’m inside a store.  But besides that, my life now is almost exactly the way it was in 2019 prior to COVID-19.  This is because I’ve been vaccinated and boostered.  I lived in fear for months.  Now I go about my life with confidence thanks to the excellent work of those who developed the vaccine.  But I don’t forget how my cousin David Dean died from coronavirus and how it almost took the life of young Gilberto Jiminez.  Yet there are still those who are denying or downplaying vaccines.  They are lunatics.  And some of them are elected officials.  I’ve heard the expression “you can’t fix stupid.”  Apparently you can still elect it, though.

December 7, 2021

Lynn said today felt like a snow day for her.  It felt like a day back at work in Rockingham for me.  Neither of us had anything on the schedule so we both just stayed home and did things around the house today.  Lynn did a ton of things on her Cricut machine—that’s why she said it felt like a snow day.  I did computer work all day today which is why it seemed like I was back at 100 Mount Clinton Pike working again.  My eyes are tired tonight for staring at the screen all day.

The work I did was mainly fun work, though.  I had some picture work to do.  Of course, I backup my pictures in lots of different places.  And from each set of pictures I take I select a subset to place in my Favorites folder.  Plus, I noticed today that one of my external hard drives was 99% full so I moved some files around today and did full backups of both my laptop and desktop.  These took a while to happen.

I also started on my 2022 calendars today.  I know I’ll have more pictures I want to add with three big events still coming up:  Betsy’s show, our Christmas party, and Christmas itself.  So I worked on my calendar but deliberately did not finish it yet.

Lynn and I left home only twice today.  First, we went to Central so she could double check with Won how he wants some stencils made which she is doing on her Cricut.  Our second venture out was for dinner tonight.  Today is Tuesday so it is Taco Tuesday at El Sol restaurant in Harrisonburg.  Their tacos are small but good.  I ate five; Lynn ate two and we shared an order of chips and guacamole.  Our total cost was around $12.00 for dinner.  What a bargain!

Tomorrow Freddie gets his second COVID-19 vaccination.  Everyone in Ann’s family will then be fully vaccinated.  I haven’t heard if Faron has his first shot scheduled or not but I do know Jim and Morgan wanted to get him vaccinated.

The weather forecast originally said we might get some snow overnight tonight but now the forecast doesn’t call for any.  This year snow causes an extra worry as Henry leaves home by 7:00 every morning to drive to Governor’s School.

Here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 7         Infected                   Died

World             267,362,247           5,285,965   Almost 8,500 deaths in the world….

US                     50,263,669              812,123   2,000 new deaths reported

Virginia                 985,296                14,798   2,200 new cases, 27 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       10,883                     140   6 new cases since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia   13,043,0113  (5,607,448 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 86.5% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 65.7% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        91,980 (41,009 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, and Betsy.  Freddie has had his first shot.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.3% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.  Tomorrow when Freddie gets his shot that number will increase!

December 8, 2021

The big news today is that Freddie got his final vaccination shot.  Now everyone in Ann’s family is fully vaccinated.  Hooray!

I spent lots more time today working on calendars.  I now have the 2022 Hill calendar finished and the 2022 Hanger and 2022 Hill-Hanger calendars just await the addition of some Christmas photos before being finished.  It is possible that I could have them all done before Christmas if I let photos from our Christmas party on the 18th suffice for this season.

I also went back to Central.  Lynn had done some lettering on two coolers for the Food Pantry so I took the coolers back.  Won asked me to let him know how much was left in his Pastor’s Reimbursement Account so I had to figure that out.  And, I had to finish the bulletin which I did though I didn’t print it so Won could look it over one last time before he prints it.

This afternoon both Freddie and Betsy came here after school.  Betsy’s last rehearsal for A Christmas Story was tonight and tomorrow night is opening night.  Lynn and I will be there!  In addition to playing some computer games, Freddie also read Lynn another story from the Frog and Toad book.  His reading has improved so much!  I give lots of credit to the after-school program he attends twice weekly to help him with his reading.  I am very proud of his progress.

Lynn and I went to Harrisonburg tonight for the Wednesday night Arroz con pollo (chicken and rice) special at Jalapeño restaurant.  Plus, she had a buy one, get one coupon.  So the two of us ate for around $10.  And we both brought home food since our serving was more than either of us could eat.

We were back home by 7:00 because she had a Staff Parish Relations Committee meeting for Central via Zoom and I wanted to watch the WVU – Connecticut basketball game.  Connecticut was 8 – 1 coming into the game and WVU was 7 – 1.  Connecticut was ranked 16th nationally while WVU was unranked.  It was a close game from start to finish with neither team getting more than a four point lead.  WVU shot miserably from the free throw line (12 – 27) but played good defense and was able to pull out a 56 – 53 win.

Friday night Fort Defiance High plays Monticello High in basketball at Monticello.  Josh sent word that all of the tickets had to be purchased online so I did that tonight.  It cost $6 each plus the “convenience fee” making our total $15.60.  For us to see the same two teams play at FDHS it would cost a Monticello fan $10 for two tickets.  At Waynesboro Lynn and I will get in free because we are senior citizens.  I certainly don’t mind paying to watch the boys play basketball but feel like Monticello’s way of doing it is a rip off compared to every other school FDHS plays.

Here are today’s COVID-19 stats:

December 8         Infected                   Died

World             268,091,135           5,294,887   Almost 9,000 deaths in the world….

US                     50,422,410              813,904   1,800 new deaths reported

Virginia                 988,147                14,838   2,800 new cases, 40 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       10,897                     140   14 new cases since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,101,938  (5,621,057 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 86.6% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 65.9% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        92,392 (41,053 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.3% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.

December 9, 2021

Tonight was Betsy’s opening night in A Christmas Story, the musical.  I can’t express how well she did.  She is such a performer—she knows her parts well and has such a confident, happy look on the stage.  Her acting, singing, and dancing tonight were all superb.  She previously told me her favorite scene was one with an inebriated Santa in it but my favorite was her tap dancing scene.  The 4th grade boy who played the role of Ralphie also did a great job as did Betsy’s singing coach, Katey Hallock.  The man who played the role of emcee did a wonderful job, as well.  My only regret is that the theatre wasn’t packed.  Those of us who were there were treated to a very fine show.  I couldn’t be more proud of Betsy Gutshall.

Tomorrow is Freddie’s 8th birthday.  So this morning Lynn and I went to Waynesboro and did some shopping.  We got a few items for him for his birthday and also bought several things for most of the rest of our grandchildren.  Lynn had a 30% off coupon at Kohl’s plus they had some things on good sale.  It was good to get some Christmas shopping behind us.

I picked up Freddie after school today and we kept him at our house for a little while until Henry and Gus finished their basketball practice.  Then they came and got him.  That’s when Lynn and I went to Staunton to pick up her sister Kay who went with us to the Wayne Theatre for the show tonight. 

After shopping all morning, I had an easy afternoon.  Lynn’s two Cheryl friends came over so while they were huddled in the cold on the back porch I went downstairs and practiced playing the Christmas songs I’ll be playing at our party on the 18th plus the one Betsy and I are doing on Christmas Eve.  Then I worked on several things for the party such as a revised songbook.  Lynn also had an interpreting session at one of the Rockingham County elementary schools this afternoon which was done by Zoom. 

Here are today’s COVID-19 numbers:

December 9         Infected                   Died

World             268,740,130           5,302,617   Almost 8,000 deaths in the world….

US                     50,535,791              815,269   1,300 new deaths reported

Virginia                 991,221                14,868   3,000 new cases, 30 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       10,962                     140   65 new cases since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,141,185  (5,630,185 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 86.7% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 66.0% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        92,527 (41,074 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.4% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.

December 10, 2021

Wow, two nights in a row Lynn and I have gotten home after 10:00.  Tonight it was after 10:30 when we got home from the boys’ basketball games at Monticello High School.  On our way back from Charlottesville we stopped and picked up Betsy who had just finished her second performance of A Christmas Story, The Musical. 

And a good night it was for all of the Gutshall children!  Today was Freddie’s 8th birthday so he and Ann stayed home and celebrated while the rest of us were on the road.  He came to our house after school today and I had him do the obligatory treasure hunt made with math problems in order to get his present from us.  He seemed to like what we got for him:  a game called TACOCAT, a spiderman shirt that he can wear to his party which will be next Saturday when he and a bunch of his friends go to the newly released Spiderman movie in Staunton, and some Marvel socks. 

Next, Betsy had her second night under the lights at the Wayne Theatre.  Though none of us saw the show tonight, she said it went even smoother than last night which I thought was very, very smooth.  She seemed very pleased and very happy that she can sleep in tomorrow because she has two shows tomorrow, at 2:00 and 7:00.  You’d think her schoolwork would tank given all the time the show has taken but she told us tonight she had made 100 on a math test today.  Love that girl!

Gus had a very good game in the Fort Defiance – Monticello JV game tonight.  His team started off miserably, getting behind 15 – 0 in the first quarter!  But they kept inching their way back and at one point in the fourth quarter actually took the lead before losing 41 – 40.  It was a gallant comeback and Gus played superbly.  He had seven points, tons of rebounds and good passes, and ZERO turnovers.  How I wish his teammates would have that record.  One teammate turned the ball over six consecutive times in the third quarter when they were trying to get back in the game.  Another teammate had 10 turnovers himself for the game. 

Henry’s team was 0 – 2 coming into tonight’s varsity game at Monticello.  Monticello is a fancy, large school in wealthy Albemarle County.  They have over 1,200 students, nearly 500 more than Fort Defiance does.  Their basketball team was tall, too.  But Fort got a great start from Tyreek Veney and led 16 – 11 after the first quarter.  Henry didn’t score in the quarter but had a ton of rebounds—three in the first three minutes.

In the second, Fort kept it coming.  Henry scored four and took a great charge with three seconds to go in the half as Fort went out to a 33 – 19 lead at the break.  He then scored on the first inbounds play of the second half and followed that up with a drive to give them a 40 – 22 lead though Monticello bounced back to make the score FDHS 52, MHS 41 after three quarters.

In the fourth quarter, Henry, playing great defense, took another charge, and scored to make it 56 – 43 before Monticello mounted a comeback, finally making some three point shots.  He then drove for a bucket with about two minutes to go to make it 59 – 49.  Again Monticello tried to get back in it and closed to 59 – 54.  Fortunately, Fort made their foul shots down the stretch to win it 66 – 56.  It was a good first win of the season.  For the game, Tyreek had 26, Sam Garber had 19, and Henry 12.  It was a fun game to watch.

Besides keeping up with all the Gutshall children, I did some Central UMC work today, going to the church and paying three bills and reconciled one credit card.  I also posted the bulletin to the website.  Lynn had a luncheon with the retired FDHS teachers and I also practiced the piano some. 

After Freddie did his treasure hunt, got his present, and went home, Lynn and I ran to the Old School Burger food truck at Valley Pike for dinner.  We ate our hamburgers in the car on the way to Monticello High School and got there in plenty of time for the game.

COVID-19 is just not going away.  Today the Governor of New Jersey reinstated an indoor mask mandate.  Cases have risen throughout the US with the blame being on the Delta variant though the new Omicron variant has been detected in nearly every state now.  In neighboring New York, more than 80% of residents 18  and up have been fully vaccinated but cases there since Thanksgiving have increased 43%. 

Here are the numbers:

December 10       Infected                   Died

World             269,424,389           5,311,691   9,000 new deaths in the world….

US                     50,705,257              817,326   2,100 new deaths reported

Virginia                 994,069                14,895   3,000 new cases, 27 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       11,010                     140   48 new cases since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,201,099  (5,642,576 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 86.8% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 66.1% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        93,376 (41,215 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.5% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.

December 11, 2021

We got the most disturbing news last night as we were going to bed.  After the basketball game, Lynn talked to Tyreek Veney who is the leading scorer on Fort Defiance’s team.  Tyreek scored 26 points last night as FDHS picked up its first win in three games this season.  Lynn remarked that she hadn’t seen his Dad or grandparents at the game who almost always are there.  He said that his grandparents had a funeral to attend and his dad was hospitalized with heart issues.  He commented that it was unfortunate none of them got to see his good game.  Sam Veney had a history of heart issues and, at one point, was on the list for a heart transplant.  As we got into bed, Lynn read a Facebook post that Sam had died.  What a heartbreaking end to what had been a good day!  Tyreek, his sister, and dad live with their grandparents.  Sam was a fine athlete himself at Fort Defiance High School and was an ardent, vocal supporter of his son Tyreek. 

The somber mood continued this morning.  Lynn made cookies to take to the Veney family and Ann put together some fruit salad and cold cuts for them.  We gave her some money to pass along to the family.  Ann went by there this afternoon.  Tyreek wasn’t there but the grandparents were.

Lynn and I were busy early today.  She found out that two of the families we had previously brought Central food boxes would like a box this week.  Knowing that the CUMC Food Pantry opens at 9:00, we were there at 8:00 to get our boxes loaded with food that had been donated by Food Lion and Mary Baldwin University.  We got at least three boxes per family including lots of frozen meat, bread, cakes, cheese, milk, detergent, etc.  Then we went to Connie Rohrer’s house to leave half of it for her daughter.  After that, we went to Mount Solon to take the rest of it to Elizabeth and family.  Central gets so much food and it is so nice to be able to get it in the hands of those who really need it.

After that, I did my usual Saturday run to the dump in the truck.  Lynn went with Pat Collins to shop in Waynesboro and I went back out in the truck to meet Ann, Josh, Henry, and Freddie at Lowe’s in Staunton for their Christmas tree.  I brought it back for them in the truck.  Betsy couldn’t be there because she has two shows today at the Wayne Theatre.

Today was another day with nothing on our shared calendar.  We still managed to stay busy.    Lynn has worked lots on preparations for the Hanger-Hill party which will be a week from tonight at Central UMC.  She is so crafty!

We listened to part of the Riverheads – Galax state championship football game tonight on the radio just because Riverheads has a winning streak that tops in all schools nationwide.  The Gladiators dominated to win their sixth consecutive state championship.  The school has only around 460 students in it but they have now won 50 games in a row.  Pretty impressive!

Here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 11       Infected                   Died

World             269,954,632           5,317,280   5,600 new deaths in the world….

US                     50,751,762              817,765   Only 440 new deaths reported

Virginia                 994,069                14,895   NO UPDATES DUE TO WEEKEND

Augusta County       11,010                     140   NO UPDATES DUE TO WEEKEND

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,247,127  (5,652,422 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 86.9% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 66.2% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        93,576 (41,268 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.6% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.

December 12, 2021

This Sunday’s mood was altered by sadness over Sam Veney’s passing and the nervousness about Butch’s partner Jackie’s grandchild being born.  Both Butch and Jackie are in Austin TX because Jackie’s daughter Cora was pregnant but having lots of issues.  This afternoon Butch wrote, “Remy Charlotte Glazer born at 5:40 pm. 1 pound 9 oz. She cried. Breathing on her own for now. Color good. Good heart rate. Cora is doing well. Thanks so much for your support.”  Can you imagine that?  A baby 1 pound 9 ounces who is crying and breathing on her own?  I know little Remy has a tough road ahead of her but I hope all is well.  I know this has been exceptionally stressful for Jackie and Cora.  I know Butch has tried to help out.

The morning was a typical Sunday morning for us.  I had Sunday School via Zoom then left it early so I could get to Central in time for bell choir practice.  We had morning worship services at 11:00 then I came home while Lynn went to the grocery store.

This afternoon was light duty for me.  I did manage to peel a bunch of apples so Lynn could make applesauce for tonight’s dinner.  And I continued to practice the piano for the times I’ll be playing over Christmas.  And I developed some more activities for our Hanger-Hill Christmas party next Saturday night. 

Tonight we had a pancake supper (plus the applesauce).  For a change, all six of the Gutshalls were here for dinner.  Betsy had another performance of A Christmas Story, The Musical this afternoon at 2:00 that the rest of their family attended.  This was her fifth performance; she has five more this coming week.  Lynn and I plan to attend the last performance next Sunday afternoon.

Lynn has worked so hard on things for our family party.  She’s made favors for everyone, center pieces for the tables, and treat bags for the kids.  She’s come up with activities for the kids and food for us to provide.  We’re expecting around 30 people to attend.  The party really means a lot to her.  We’ve been hosting this party for at least the last 15 years now.

I’m debating about how much longer to continue this blog.  It is apparent to me that if I plan to quit writing when COVID-19 is no longer a threat, I’ll never quit.  It seems like variant after variant keeps popping up and even vaccinations are no guarantee that you won’t catch it, though certainly those fully vaccinated and boostered are afflicted at a much lower and less severe rate than the non-vaccinated.  I no longer live in fear of it like I did pre-vaccine.  My initial reason for writing it was to reduce the stress I felt living in fear.  I’ve written 878 pages, single-spaced, since April 20, 2020. 

I once thought I’d write until life was back “as we knew it.”  I don’t know that day will ever come.  We still wear masks when we go indoors now.  Politicians still argue over mask mandates required by the federal government.  The Barter Theatre has had no productions since March 2020. 

And COVID-19 is far from gone.  Witness today’s statistics:

December 12       Infected                   Died

World             270,426,226           5,321,864   4,600 new deaths in the world….

US                     50,801,455              817,956   Under 200 new deaths reported

Virginia                 994,069                14,895   NO UPDATES DUE TO WEEKEND

Augusta County       11,010                     140   NO UPDATES DUE TO WEEKEND

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,292,660  (5,661,433 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 87.0% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 66.3% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        93,745 (41,319 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.7% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.

So how much longer will I continue?  How much longer will COVID-19 continue?  I don’t know the answer to either but I do know the answer to the first question will pre-date the answer to the second one.

December 13, 2021

As I have done many Mondays recently, I spent the majority of the day at Central.  I got there at 8:30 AM and left after 2:30 PM.  I did have a quick dermatologist visit mid-morning but that only took a few minutes since all he had to do was to be assured that the surgery I had two weeks ago was healing properly.  My nose has healed completely so I knew it would be a quick in-and-out for me there and it was.

At Central, I got the mail, paid a bill, helped John Myers count the offering from yesterday, deposited that in the bank, made the deposit in QuickBooks, then went to the Secretary’s computer and entered the offering to the Servant Keeper database.  Then I created the bulletin for next Sunday which took some time because there were several announcements I had to write.  I also did some checking on how to print annual statements to members about their donations which will be done after January 1.  While I was there, we received the largest shipment yet from the Verona Area Food Bank for our Food Pantry—over 3,200 pounds—so I helped unload it and get it where it belonged inside our Pantry.  I also helped Cheryl Kent locate a file on the Secretary’s computer which has a birthday list she uses to send birthday cards to the membership. 

While working on that computer, it locked up on me several times and I even had a difficult time restarting it.  The computer is ten years old and definitely needs to be replaced.  So I called Dell and got a quote for replacing it which I forwarded to Bill Bushman and Pastor Won to consider.  The church has funds set aside for its replacement.  Bill, Won, and I have talked about this numerous times in the past but I’m afraid the computer we have now will die soon.  Today I was able to make backups of all the important folders (bulletins, newsletters, Memorial gifts, etc. ) onto a USB drive. 

My time at Central wasn’t 100% productive, though.  As John Myers and I exited the post office after mailing the check I had printed earlier to the NewsLeader for the ad we placed for an Administrative Assistant, I tripped over the uneven sidewalk in front of the post office and fell down flat.  I scraped my hand and my knees and hit the ribs around my chest which have ached every time I take a deep breath since.  I’ll be OK but I’m reminded that getting old and falling are close cousins of each other.

I made it home in time for Freddie’s bus.  He played some games on our computer then we took him home at 4:00 since Josh was home for the day.  He had been chosen as a “Cardinal Citizen” award winner today at his school and was quite proud of this accomplishment.  I’m superbly proud of him!  He is a very good kid…

Lynn had boxed up lots of items for Saturday night’s Hanger-Hill party and wanted to take them to Central today so we took them there after dropping off Freddie.  There were tablecloths, center pieces, decorations, cups, etc. 

We did learn of a major conflict this evening regarding our party.  We invited everyone to come at 5:00.  We found out that Sam Veney’s funeral in Bridgewater is scheduled for the same exact time.  I’ve never heard of a funeral being scheduled at 5:00 before.  It will be dark by then.  Both of us wanted to go to the funeral but now we can’t.  I feel sure Henry will go and perhaps Ann and Josh.  I suppose they can come to the party later.

We ate at Cracker Barrel for dinner tonight.  We had our usual country ham and biscuits meal which is actually a breakfast item.  I guess we had breakfast foods two nights in a row since last night she fixed pancakes, bacon, and sausage for the Gutshalls and us.

After that we went to two Dollar Tree stores, one in Fishersville and one in Waynesboro.  She has some gift bags for the children to take home from our party that she previously bought at different Dollar Tree stores but she is still two short.  We hoped to find them at one of the stores tonight but had no luck. 

Tomorrow we’re taking two cars to The Greenbrier to pick up Central’s 300 Christmas presents for children which will be given out this Saturday.  We’re taking two cars since all of the presents might not fit in one.  On the way back, there are two more Dollar Tree stores, one in Covington and one in Lexington, that Lynn wants to stop at in order to find the gift bags she’s been looking for.

A study from Oxford University today was released that says that the Pfizer vaccine won’t protect people as well from the Omicron variant of COVID-19 although most incidents of the Omicron infection have not been serious.  “Our findings show that vaccine effectiveness against symptomatic disease with the Omicron variant is significantly lower than with the Delta variant,” the researchers wrote.

Here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 13       Infected                   Died

World             270,990,953           5,327,335   5,500 new deaths in the world….

US                     50,962,390              818,879   900 new deaths reported

Virginia              1,000,694                14,957   6,500 new cases, 62 deaths since Friday

Augusta County       11,094                     140   84 new cases since Friday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,322,842  (5,668,339 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 87.1% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 66.4% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        93,745 (41,319 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.7% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.  And these figures show 0 growth since yesterday.

December 14, 2021

Today had us on the road a lot.  We left for the Greenbrier around 7:00 AM.  Because we were getting 300 gifts, we drove both cars there.  After a stop in Covington at a Dollar Tree for Lynn, we were at the pickup location 45 minutes ahead of our 9:45 scheduled time.  But we only had to wait for a few minutes before we were able to drive up and have the presents loaded in our two cars.  The whole process only took minutes.

Unlike previous years in which we got wrapped presents, this year Lynn chose to get unwrapped presents.  That way we know exactly what we’re giving out.  She and a bunch of other Central folks are meeting tomorrow at 1:00 PM to wrap the 300 presents. 

We didn’t come straight home, though.  We caught the shuttle bus to the Greenbrier’s main building, looked at the Christmas decorations and stores, then ate lunch at Draper’s restaurant.  We had an excellent lunch.  I ate a bowl of chili then had a big sundae for dessert.  Lynn ate half of a fried green tomato sandwich (brought the other half home) and a big sundae, too.  Then we got shuttled back to the parking lot and headed back.

We went straight to Central where I unloaded all the presents while Lynn began unboxing them and arranging them to be wrapped tomorrow.  When we finished unboxing all of them we counted to know how many of each type we had.  Indeed there were 300 presents in all:  some for 0 – 2 year olds, some for 3+ year olds, 8+ year olds, and 12+ year olds.  We left them sorted in the Fellowship Hall then came home where I made labels for each of the packages so the person handing them out would know who the present was most appropriate for.  I also put a code on the label so we’d be reminded of what it was.  For example, on the harmonica present labels I put HM; on the art school calligraphy kit presents I put AS.  So tomorrow Lynn and her friends will wrap all 300 of them and put the corresponding labels on.

We were back home by 3:00.  We left at 4:30 to pick up Freddie at his school then drove to Broadway High School for the boys’ basketball games tonight.

It wasn’t a good night for Fort Defiance.  The JV’s lost 46 – 24.  They played against a well coached Broadway team that made few turnovers.  Meanwhile, our team had a plethora of turnovers and missed shots, especially free throws.  Gus played well, scored four points, and didn’t have the turnovers his teammates had. 

The varsity had one bad quarter that doomed them.  They fell behind 13 – 9 in the first quarter but tied it at halftime, 21 – 21.  Then came the third quarter where they were outscored 20 – 11.  The final score was 52 – 45.  Henry played well, scoring 5 points.  Tyreek, despite coming to the game with the awful burden of having lost his dad last Friday, scored 28—over half of Fort’s points.  But no one scored more than 5 besides him.

We brought Betsy and Freddie back home and stayed at their house until Josh came.  Tomorrow is a school day and they needed their rest. 

As I’ve pointed out before, the statistics I get on COVID-19 for the world and USA come from a site called Worldometers.  The numbers reported there are slightly higher than those reported by Johns Hopkins University.  But even John Hopkins today reported that more than 50.2 million people have been infected in the US and over 800,000 lives have been lost.   The states with the highest infection rates are North Dakota, Alaska, and Tennessee.  The states with the highest death rates are Mississippi, Alabama, and New Jersey.  Virginia ranks in the middle of the pack on both.

Here are the Worldometers and Virginia Department of Health statistics for today:

December 14       Infected                   Died

World             271,728,668           5,336,815   9,500 new deaths in the world….

US                     51,136,442              821,335   2,500 new deaths reported

Virginia              1,003,110                14,992   2,500 new cases, 37 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       11,110                     140 16 new cases since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,357,109  (5,674,817 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 87.1% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 66.5% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        93,745 (41,320 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.7% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.  And these figures again show 0 growth since yesterday.

December 15, 2021

Lynn was out the door early today on her way to Linville-Edom Elementary School.  She seems to have much more work this year interpreting than she has in the past.  She had another interpreting session late this afternoon though it was on Zoom.

While she was heading north, I had an idea that proved fruitful.  Last night as we drove home from dropping off Betsy and Freddie, the low air pressure light on my dashboard came on.  Now I believe it was strictly the cold weather that caused this, especially since there was no visible sign of a tire being low.  But I glanced at the odomometer and noticed that it was at 57,200.  I bought new tires from Rice Tire in Verona at 50,000 miles.  So, I called them early this morning and asked if I could get my tires rotated, which they told me they would do for free every 5,000 miles.  Of course, when I dropped the car off around 7:45 this morning, I mentioned that the low air pressure light had come on.  In just about 15 minutes I had the tires rotated and the tire pressure regulated so that I had no more issues today.  I was happy with how quickly this got resolved (and for no cost!).

I drove in to Staunton to look for some things for Lynn.  I was largely unsuccessful.  In fact, after looking in two large stores for something for her, I came back to the car and ordered exactly what I’d been looking for from Walmart.com.  I had just spent the previous hour looking unsuccessfully but it took only five minutes to get everything ordered and it will be delivered right to the house on December 21.  It is no surprise that stores are suffering nowadays but services like Amazon are rolling in the cash.

Lynn and I got back home at lunchtime then we both headed to Central.  She had her Christmas wrapping party and I had lots of Treasurer’s work to do.  The most important thing I got done was to order a new computer for our Administrative Assistant from Dell.  As I wrote on Monday, I had gotten a quote for a computer from them but was a little disappointed with its price.  So when I called back today, I asked the representative if she couldn’t find some more discounts for us.  I also sent her a .pdf of our tax-free status.  In a few minutes, she had the price down around $180.00.  That was good news, so I placed the order.  It should arrive the first week of January.

In the meantime, Lynn had good help wrapping presents—eleven in all!  They got all 300 presents wrapped and labeled.  They will be distributed Saturday morning.

I almost let time slip away from me while doing my Treasurer’s work.  I had to really hustle to get back home before Freddie’s bus got here.  I made it with about one minute to spare.  He was here for a long while today because Ann had to take Betsy to Waynesboro for her last rehearsal for her show, Henry and Gus had basketball practice, and Josh worked a little later than usual.  But we got along fine.  He played some games on the computer, watched some Netflix shows, then read Lynn another story from Frog and Toad.  There are fifteen stories in the book; he has now read fourteen of them to Lynn.  His reading has improved so much!

As soon as Josh picked him up, Lynn and I went back to Staunton.   We grabbed dinner at Chick Fil-A which we ate in the car since their dining room isn’t open yet.  Then we went to Kroger for some groceries.  Neither of us slept well last night so she wanted to get back early and get to bed at a decent hour tonight.

Here are today’s COVID-19 numbers:

December 15       Infected                   Died

World             272,477,588           5,345,055   8,200 new deaths in the world….

US                     51,286,915              823,860   Another 2,500 new deaths reported

Virginia              1,006,245                15,025   3,000 new cases, 33 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       11,152                     140 42 new cases since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,407,030  (5,684,696 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 87.2% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 66.6% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        94,269 (41,392 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.8% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.  And these figures again show 0 growth since yesterday.

At least it has been at least two weeks since Augusta County recorded a new death due to COVID-19.  Apparently the new cases that are showing up aren’t as severe or doctors have a better way of dealing with the virus now.

In some spare time today, I started looking for places our family could go for a summer vacation.  I found a house rented in Lynchburg VA which has a private pool and tennis court.  I sent the kids info about it and asked them what they thought.  I haven’t had any replies yet.

December 16, 2021

Today was a good day and reminded me of how nice it is to be retired.  The weather was spectacular for December 16—highs in the mid 60’s—and I stayed busy all day doing things I wanted to do.  I did some work for Central, played two hours of tennis, and watched Gus’ JV team win a game at Turner Ashby. 

We had a leisurely morning then both of us headed to Central shortly before 10:00.  Lynn had a United Methodist Women’s meeting at 10:00 and I had agreed to set up the Zoom for it for those who didn’t want to attend in person.  After I got it going I ran to Belk in Staunton because they were giving away gift cards at 10:00—I got a $10 one.  Then I went back to Central and worked the rest of the morning there on Treasurer’s stuff.

I left to play tennis around 11:30.  Today’s foursome was a little different than usual.  Rob Cale had knee surgery a year ago and is just getting back on the court.  Pat Peason was there as was Paul Lightner.  Paul and Pat were clearly the best players since they are younger and can move much better than Rob and me.  Today was the first time I’d played in three weeks.  I didn’t play too poorly so I was pleased.  In the first set, Pat and I played together.  We had several set points against us but managed to pull out a 10 – 8 win in a marathon set.  In the second set, Paul and I played together and won 6 – 4.  We played for two hours; I was plenty tired when we quit.  For the day, I got in over 10,000 steps for probably the first time in several weeks. 

I came home, rested a bit, changed clothes, then Lynn and I went to Harrisonburg.  She again proved what a great shopper she is today.  She and I wanted to get clothes for our grandchildren and Penney’s had good sales on.  She ended up gathering up $250 worth of clothes.  But, she had a 40% off coupon which reduced our cost by $100!  She is a super shopper.

From there we headed to Jalapeño’s for dinner.  Their special tonight was quesadillas which we both got.  I hadn’t eaten any lunch so I was hungry.  For dessert, we drove through the Krispie Kreme store and got our two free COVID-19 donuts.  Then we went on to Gus’ game in Bridgewater.

The JV’s played OK in the first half but couldn’t get much going.  The score at halftime was 18 all.  But in the third quarter they broke it open with several three pointers.  They took a ten point lead at the end of the third quarter and ended up with a 51 – 40 victory.  Gus had 11 points and a bunch of rebounds in probably his best game of the season.  This was their second win over Turner Ashby this season.  They still have way too many turnovers and missed free throws but tonight that didn’t keep them from getting the win. 

The country is seeing an uptick in COVID-19 cases thanks to both the Delta and Omicron variants.  But it seems like the number of severe cases is down.  Here are today’s statistics:

December 16       Infected                   Died

World             273,218,485           5,352,581   7,500 new deaths in the world….

US                     51,435,652              824,520   Around 700 new deaths reported

Virginia              1,009.933                15,055   3,700 new cases, 30 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       11,200                     140 48 new cases since yesterday but no deaths

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,444,934  (5,691,650 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 87.3% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 66.7% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        94,408 (41,438 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.8% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average. 

December 17, 2021

Before I was retired, how did I manage to get things done?  Now that I’m retired I am still busy every minute of the day, it seems.  Today was no different.  Lynn and I left home at 7:30 AM to go to Harrisonburg.  First we had a stop at Belk where they were giving away gift cards at 8:00 AM.  We both got $10 ones.  Then we went to Aldi’s for some groceries for our party then to Kroger for more of the same.  Then I came on home while Lynn went to John C. Myers Elementary School for a interpreting session.

When I got home, I had to hustle, putting away the groceries, grabbing some things to do to Central for our party tomorrow night, and changing my clothes because we learned that Jim was off from work today and had made arrangements through Ann to get all the leaves out of one of her co-workers’ yard who lives in Staunton. 

Jim told me he’d be there around 11:30, with his big trailer pulling two mowers and a leaf raking attachment.  I did some things at Central for around 45 minutes then headed over to the house to help him.

He really didn’t need my help but I feel like I saved him a little bit of work.  He first used one of his mowers to mulch the leaves, reducing their volume significantly.  Then he used his leaf raking attachment to pick up the mulched leaves.  Finally, he used the other mower with the vacuum attachment to pick up what was left.  He then loaded all of it into his empty trailer, took them to the dump, then returned and loaded his mowers back up.  His pictures of the before and after were starkly different.  I know Ann’s friend was pleased with his work.  And Jim made some money from his work. 

I only helped him for about an hour because I had Nevin Diener’s retirement party this afternoon to attend.  I couldn’t miss it; Nevin was probably the most valuable employee I had when I was Director of Math and Technology in Rockingham County Public Schools.  Nevin has always been the kind of man you want to be like when you grow up—extremely nice, superbly competent, hard working, dependable, and a great problem solver.  I had a chance to talk at length about him today at the party.

There are now 40 people on the RCPS Tech Staff.  When I was there, we went from one to twenty six employees over my 23 year period.  When I was there, I hired every single employee.  At the meeting today, there were over half of the staff I didn’t know.  Of course, I’ve been away from RCPS for nine years.

I had very nice visits with my previous co-workers.  Several had retired and, like me, had been invited back for Nevin’s party.  I chatted with Oskar Scheikl, Bryan Daniels, Dennis Durost, Obe Hostetter, Kym Garber, Stephanie Failes, Joe Lipscomb, Bob Johnson, Justin Neitzey, Kevin Perkins, and, of course, Nevin.  I really had a good time swapping old stories with them.  I  was so lucky to have had such a marvelous staff when I worked in RCPS.  All of the folks I just mentioned were not only good employees, they were good people. 

Jim is staying with us tonight and perhaps tomorrow night as well.  He moved all of his mowers into our garage since we had rain this evening.  He got his yard work done just in the nick of time before the rain started.

Since he was home and since Lynn and bought a huge roast which she had cut into steaks, we had steaks on the grill tonight.  The weather was very cooperative—it was in the 60’s—and the steaks were delicious.  We also fixed some frozen vegetables and friend potatoes & onions.  It was a very good meal.

A good meal it was, but it wasn’t dessert so tonight we went to Smiley’s.  As always, it was delicious.

The news has some horror stories of COVID-19’s new spread.  More shows are being canceled on Broadway, pro football games rescheduled, etc. as the virus runs rampant especially among the unvaccinated.  Even tonight we were supposed to go to Henry’s basketball game against Turner Ashby but TA had the game postponed because apparently there are COVID-19 infections on their team.

Here are today’s numbers:

December 17       Infected                   Died

World             273,977,023           5,360,727   8,000+ new deaths in the world….

US                     51,610,281              826,719   2,200 new deaths reported

Virginia              1,013.390                15,083   3,400 new cases, 28 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       11,231                     140 31 new cases since yesterday but no deaths

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,510,787  (5,704,619 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 87.5% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 66.8% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        94,468 (41,519 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 54.9% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average. 

December 18, 2021

Today was party day and the entire day was spent getting ready for it.  What’s unfortunate is that there were fewer there than usual.  First, Sally and Ray let us know that one of their boys, either Bowman or Owen, had tested positive for COVID-19.  So their family wasn’t here.  Lynn’s brother Bill and Sandy opted out since they were picking up their daughter Jane at an airport.  Ann, Josh, Henry, and Gus didn’t get there until very late due to the funeral they attended for Sam Veney.  Jake and Carter Morris didn’t come and neither did Lee Roadcap.  We still had over twenty there.

The day started at Belk, though.  Jim, Lynn, and I all went to pick up the give-away gift cards.  Lynn and Jim got $10 cards; I got a $25.  It was certainly worth our time.  Then we unloaded a car load of things for the party at Central.  Lynn stayed to work while Jim and I went to Harrisonburg.

In Harrisonburg, we went to the bank and also picked up some cheap breakfast treats compliments of Krispie Kreme and McDonalds.  Then we came back home.

Jim had some work to do on a project he was doing for Ann for a Christmas present so he worked on it for a while.  By this time, Kay had called that she would be here around 1:00 so I went to Subway and picked up their lunch order.

They had to hurry through lunch in order to make it to Betsy’s show in Waynesboro.  While they watched her show, Lynn and I went back to Central to work more on party details.

We both worked really hard today on things for the party.  Lynn had so many different favors, table centerpieces, etc.  I had several technologies duties to perform.  We each got our work done.  I then came back home to pick up Freddie.  Freddie, Jim, and I rode together to the party. 

The party featured lots of good food.  My favorite was Lynn’s lasagna.  We ate well.  We had  from our usual visit from Santa Claus.  Of course, I took lots of pictures.  We played a game with the kids where they built triangle shaped Christmas trees out of 15 paper cups then threw the “snowballs” we use every year to try to knock their trees down. 

We did our usual singing of Christmas songs and then had our gift exchange.  I like the way we did the swapping this year where everyone traded presents BEFORE opening them.  That way there were no hurt feelings.

By the time we had cleaned everything up and carted it home, it was late and we were dead tired.  I did enjoy watching WVU pull a come-from-behind basketball win tonight over the University of Alabama at Birmingham.  The show was recorded from earlier today.

I’ve been too busy to keep up with what’s going on in the rest of the world, but at least here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 18       Infected                   Died

World             274,539,303           5,366,770   6000 new deaths in the world….

US                     51,696,205              827,306   600 new deaths reported

Virginia              1,013.390                15,083   NO UPDATES DUE TO WEEKEND

Augusta County       11,231                     140 NO UPDATES DUE TO WEEKEND

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,557,859  (5,710,195 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 87.6% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 66.9% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        95,146 (41,538 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.0% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.

December 19, 2021

Here we are six days before Christmas.  We are far from being done with our shopping.  Thanks to our children, we came up with some ideas for more of the grandchildren.  Lynn got some ordered and we picked up some items today from Target for Coen and Faron.  We’ll be shopping all week, I’m betting.

Jim stayed with us again last night before loading his equipment up and going home this morning.  Later he texted me a movie he had made of my weedeater which was quite broken before he picked it up on his last visit.  He ordered a special tool in order to fix it and his video showed how easily it now starts and runs.  He is so talented!  I told him tonight what a blessing it was to me to have a son like him.

Today was Sunday so it began with my Zoom Sunday School.  I had to pull away for a while as Jim was getting ready to leave.  After that, Lynn and I headed into Staunton.  We went to church at 11:00 then drove to Waynesboro.

We first stopped at Target and picked up the presents for Jim’s boys.  Then we went to CookOut for milkshake lunches.  Then we went to Kroger to get flowers for Betsy then on to the Wayne Theatre for her final performance in The Christmas Story, A Musical.  No surprise, she did magnificently.  We both really enjoyed our second performance of this musical with her in the cast.

After that we headed to Cracker Barrel where we met Josh, Henry, Gus, and Freddie.  Ann and Betsy couldn’t come because Betsy had a final cast party to attend.  We ate a good dinner then Lynn and I came home.

I’m hoping Betsy will be able to practice our upcoming duet this week now that her show and her dance classes are over for the year.  We’re set to do our Mary, Did You Know? duet this Friday night, Christmas Eve.

It looks like only Ann’s family will be around on Christmas this year.  Kay’s family will be with the Foys as Andy’s brother and his family are coming in for Christmas.  And Faron and Coen are getting over some illness they’ve had.  They even got tested for COVID-19 yesterday but, fortunately, both were negative.

Here are today’s COVID-19 details:

December 19       Infected                   Died

World             274,995,307           5,370,105   3500 new deaths in the world….

US                     51,765,714              827,323   Almost 70,000 new cases

Virginia              1,013.390                15,083   NO UPDATES DUE TO WEEKEND

Augusta County       11,231                     140  NO UPDATES DUE TO WEEKEND

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,597,282  (5,715,327 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 87.6% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.0% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        95,488 (41,578 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.0% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average. 

December 20, 2021

Central doesn’t pay me for the work I do as Treasurer and for the additional work I’ve been doing for the past several months that the Administrative Assistant will do when we finally get another one hired.  I don’t ask to be paid and am fine with doing what I do.  Today, however, it took me around eight hours nonstop there.  I started around 8:20, did not take any breaks including lunch, and left around 3:20.

Here are some of the things I did, in no particular order:  paid bills that had been delivered there prior to today, worked on the bulletin for the Christmas Eve service, e-mailed the Music Director to get her selections for the Christmas Eve service and for the December 26 morning worship services, printed out labels for the 2022 envelope boxes (this took a LONG time because first I had to update the database and fix numerous issues with current envelope numbers), attached the labels to the 2022 envelope boxes, discovered that fewer envelopes had been ordered this year than in previous years which caused me to have to assign about ten families to a different envelope number than in previous years, worked on the bulletin for December 26, counted the offering from yesterday’s service, made the bank deposit from the service, picked up the mail for today which included another bill to be paid, discovered an e-mail from a company which had been e-mailing the Administrative Assistant an invoice for elevator inspection but since we have no Administrative Assistant no one had read that e-mail, paid the bill to the elevator inspection company, paid the bill which arrived in today’s mail, entered today’s bank deposit into QuickBooks, paid the health insurance and retirement benefits for the pastor that go with the monthly payroll, and, finally, set up payroll for the end of the month.  Just when I thought I had done everything, I got a confirming e-mail from the Intuit payroll service which said that our employees wouldn’t be paid until January 3 because Friday, December 31, the date I had set as the check day, is a bank holiday since January 1 falls on a Saturday.  I  broke the news to the church custodian that she wouldn’t be paid until January 3 and it did not go over well.  So, then I had to call QuickBooks and find out how to get the paydate moved to December 30.  I was on hold for over twenty minutes.  You’d think they could just manually alter my payroll submission but, no, I had to go in and void all of the checks for December 31 and re-do the payroll so that they would be paid on December 30.  This process by itself took an hour.

For the past several weeks I’ve had trouble starting my car.  It certainly seems like the battery is going although I’ve had the car just two months under three years.  Nonetheless, I looked online for the best deal on batteries for a 2019 Honda Civic and found Batteries Plus had the best offer.  So I ordered the battery online and set up for them to install it tonight at 6:30, which was one of the times offered online.  But soon after I made those choices and paid for the battery I got a call from them saying that I had to be there by 5:45 in order to get it done tonight.  Lynn and I tried to make that work but we just couldn’t so I ended up calling them back and making arrangements to have it installed tomorrow morning.  I hope my car starts in the morning!

Lynn is such a super shopper.  Today she learned from Kay about some books that Thomas would like for Christmas.  She found that Target in Waynesboro had the books.  She could order them online and pick them up in Waynesboro.  I think the cost was listed as around $46.  When she got to Waynesboro, she found that she hadn’t hit the “send” button on the order so they didn’t have the books waiting for her.  She was told she could just walk back and get the books herself which she did.  When she checked out, the cost was over $15 higher.  She was confused by this, of course, but she was short on time so she came on home with them.  Later today, she went back through the process and again found that she could get them at the Waynesboro Target for $46 if she ordered them online.  I know it doesn’t make sense, but tonight after our dinner we went back to Waynesboro where she picked up a second copy of the books for $46, then returned the original set for a $61 refund.  The clerk told her that sometimes items on the online store are just cheaper.  Don’t ask me why!  But she saved us $15 by going through this process.

Of course, while we were in Waynesboro we had to take advantage of the $0.99 oreo mint milkshakes from CookOut.  That made a fine dessert after a very good dinner.  She had fixed a most delicious pot of chili and also made cornbread. 

Besides doing all of that today, she also had an eye appointment in Fishersville, an interpreting session at John C. Myers in Broadway, and did about six loads of laundry including the sheets and towels. 

Can you imagine having a better spouse than this:  she worked hard all day, made money with Rockingham County Public Schools by interpreting for a SPED meeting, cooked a great dinner, and spent money very wisely.  And I forgot to mention that we went to Belk first thing this morning to get the free gift cards.  Her card was worth $10 but I got a $50 one!  Yahoo!

As you can see, today was a very busy day for both of us.  We both vowed to be in bed early tonight.

Here are today’s COVID-19 numbers:

December 20       Infected                   Died

World             275,718,710           5,375,984   5800 new deaths in the world….

US                     52,006,625              828,423   1,100 new deaths

Virginia              1,023.698                15,136   10,300 new cases, 53 deaths since Friday

Augusta County       11,357                     140  126 new cases since Friday but no deaths

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,635,579  (5,720,434 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 87.7% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.0% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        95,597 (41,597 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.1% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average. 

There doesn’t seem to be any end of COVID-19.  Now the Omicron variant is accounting for 73% of all new cases in the US.  Spain, where Lynn and I are scheduled to go this fall, is today listed as one of the countries in Category 4, which is its highest risk category.  In other words, the CDC is saying to not go to Spain.  This happened despite the fact that 80% of the population of Spain is fully vaccinated.  I wish the news were better. 

 

December 21, 2021

Today was a frustrating day because I couldn’t get my car started all day.  It wouldn’t start this morning so I put my battery charger on it for about six hours.  The battery charger indicated it was fully charged but the car still wouldn’t turn over.  Josh was by to pick up Betsy and Freddie so we tried jumping it with no luck.  I called Simmons Auto but they were winding up the day.  But, Brian offered to come first thing tomorrow morning with a jump box to see if he could get it going.  I’ve thought all along that the battery was going but perhaps there is something else wrong with it.  It is very frustrating.

No car meant that I couldn’t go where I wanted to go today.  Lynn met her two Cheryl friends at the Belk give card give-away and then went out to breakfast with them.  I was stuck here.  When she got back home, we went to Harrisonburg to do some quick shopping.  I didn’t have much time because, at that time, I was hoping to get to Waynesboro to the Batteries Plus store where I had ordered a battery yesterday.   That didn’t happen.

When we got back home, around 11:30, we took both my old truck and her car to Kroger in Staunton where we took advantage of our $1.00 off each gallon of gas with the Kroger card.  We filled up both vehicles—a total of 28.5 gallons, which means we saved $28.50 in the process. 

Then I went to Central where I finished the program for Friday night’s Christmas Eve service and printed it.  I didn’t stay there long because the school bus came to our house at 1:00 today.  Lynn was home when it came but only Freddie was on it.  Betsy had ridden the bus home.  But Josh brought her back to our house around 2:00 so she and I could practice the “Mary, Did You Know?” song we’re going to do at the Christmas Eve service on Friday night.

Betsy does well singing the song.  We practiced it several times and will do so the next few days as well.  I think it will sound fine.

Lynn and I ate an early dinner because tonight both Gus and Henry had basketball games at home against Rockbridge High School.  Fort Defiance had opened the season at Rockbridge a few weeks ago, winning the JV game and losing the varsity game.  Tonight, the tables were turned around.  Fort lost the JV game 40 – 30.  Poor Gus just didn’t get the ball passed to him the entire game.  He took five shots in all—every single one of them came after he had gotten an offensive rebound.  He scored seven points in all.  It just seems like his team has players on it who are only interested in scoring themselves, not necessarily in having the team do well.  The turnovers tonight were horrific as was the free throw shooting.  This was a team they beat by 26 points at Rockbridge yet they lost by ten.  I know it was frustrating for Gus.

The varsity had lost at Rockbridge but played well enough tonight to pull out the win.  They led for most of the game but with five minutes to go in the game they fell behind 44 – 42.  Rockbridge went up 45 – 42 but Fort scored the last eleven points of the game to take a 53 – 45 win.  Henry played well but not enough.  He only scored two points. 

I wish I didn’t get so involved with the games.  I probably embarrass those around me and my family.  I yell at the refs, express disgust when the Fort players make dumb mistakes (which is often because they are high schoolers, not professionals), and easily get perturbed at the Fort coaches.  Tonight I should have left the gym happy that FDHS had a revenge win over a large high school but instead I was fuming over how Henry was kept out of the game for the last three minutes.  They won without him, but he is a steadying influence on the team and doesn’t make the stupid mistakes the others do.

I have been told repeated by Lynn to “take it easy, it’s just a game.”  I wish I could watch with the non-involvement that many others do.  It is just not in my makeup. 

I also wish I could drink caffeine at night.  Lynn swears it makes me snore so I won’t do it for her sake.  But as I sit here writing this, nothing would suit me more than having a cup of coffee or hot tea.  This is another source of frustration to me.

It is likewise frustrating that only a little over half of Augusta County’s population is fully vaccinated from COVID-19.  There are countries in the world with 80% or higher of their population fully vaccinated.  The rednecks in this county have made it a political issue for God-knows-why.  As long as there is a substantial percent of the population unvaccinated, there will be plenty of breeding ground for variants like Omicron and Delta.  Today we learned that the first person in the US has died from the Omicron variant.  No surprise, he was unvaccinated.

Here are the numbers:

December 21       Infected                   Died

World             276,566,933           5,384,619   8600 new deaths in the world….

US                     52,253,848              830,990   2,500 new deaths

Virginia              1,028.135                15,174   4,400 new cases 38 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       11,413                     140  59 new cases since yesterday but no deaths

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,661,704  (5,724,344 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 87.8% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.1% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        95,751 (41,606 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.1% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average. 

One thing to celebrate today is that it is the winter solstice.  From here on, days will be getting longer.  I hate cold.  I hate darkness.  I will be happy when we have long, hot, sunny days.

December 22, 2021

I had to deal with my car for a long while today.  Brian Simmons had told me he’d stop by our house this morning at 7:30 but he didn’t make it until around 10:30.  I don’t fault him one bit for that; it was incredibly nice of him to volunteer to come here when I know he has a lot full of cars needing service at his shop.  I was just unable to go anywhere or do anything as I wanted to be here when he came.

He and his associate Brock came and tried to start my car with a portable jump machine they had.  It wouldn’t start.  That led him to believe that the battery was so gone it couldn’t even be jumped.  So he offered to pick one up at the local auto parts store; he said he had to go there anyway. 

Shortly after lunch, he and Brock came back.  They installed the new battery in a matter of minutes.  But no, the car still wouldn’t start.  This led to the conclusion that the issue must be the starter.  He said he could get one and install it.  But the issue was we had to get the car to his shop.  I offered to get AAA to tow it but he suggested we try to pop the clutch to get it started.  He hopped in the driver’s seat, we pushed him backwards and pop! The car started.  He told me he would return the battery since that wasn’t the issue.  And he told me he’d have my car ready to go before Christmas as he drove it off to his shop.  I did give him some money for his time and trouble today but no amount of money can buy the honesty, competence, and good service that Brian Simmons provides.  We are so lucky to have him and his father in our neighborhood.

I was able to get a few things done after that.  I finished my calendars for 2022 and actually took them to Staples tonight to get them printed.  Whether they’ll be ready in time for Christmas I don’t know but at least I have them to Staples sooner than I have any of the previous fifteen years I’ve created these calendars.

Lynn and I went to Waynesboro this afternoon.  We had to do some banking and I needed to get the money refunded I had spent yesterday on a battery from Batteries Plus.  I ordered the battery from them when I thought that was the problem but I never got there to have them install it because my car wouldn’t start.  Now that I know the problem wasn’t the battery, I tried to cancel the purchase online but they required me to go to the store itself for the refund.  Once I got there, the refund process was easy so it was worth the trip.

When we came back, we went to Costco in Harrisonburg.  We had some Christmas presents, groceries, and batteries for Central to buy there.  We picked up a roasted chicken for dinner, came home and ate it along with a few other vegetables, then went to Staples. 

Finally, we stopped at Ann’s house and picked up Betsy so she and I could practice our music for Friday night.  We only rehearsed for a little while but she’s doing quite well with the song.  I look forward to being her accompanyist on Friday night at Central.

After taking her home, my day of waiting then running was finally done.  Thank goodness I had nothing else scheduled today.  Well, to be honest, I did have something else scheduled but I had to cancel it.  I was supposed to have had a doctor’s appointment at my urologist today.  But late yesterday I looked at the appointment and saw that I was supposed to have had some tests done a week ago prior to the appointment.  I hadn’t done that so I had to reschedule my appointment to January 7.  Now I need to go to Augusta Health and get the lab work done before then.

COVID-19 is on the rise everywhere, it seems.  Several professional sports games have now been postponed.  One college team has already pulled out of one of the bowl games.  It seems like 2020 is happening all over again.  Here are the statistics from today:

December 22       Infected                   Died

World             277,473,393           5,392,716   8,000 new deaths in the world….

US                     52,506,200              832,939   2,000 new deaths

Virginia              1,034,107                15,224   6,000 new cases 50 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       11,460                     142  43 new cases, 2 deaths since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,715,418  (5,730,749 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 87.9% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.1% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        96,133 (41,651 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.1% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average. 

December 23, 2021

We’re almost ready for Christmas…  Today was spent making sure we had the same numbers of presents for our grandchildren and shopping where we saw discrepencies.  This afternoon, we were in Target in Harrisonburg.  The toy aisle was barren in many places.  So my smart wife logged onto target.com and set her store preference for Waynesboro and found items there we were looking for.  By the time we got to Waynesboro the presents were waiting for us at the Customer Service desk.  That’s the way to shop!

We spent a good bit of time wrapping presents today and got nearly all of them wrapped for the grandkids.  Tomorrow we’ll finish up and will also wrap the few presents we have for our children.

This morning began the same way it has for several days now—in a line outside of Belk well before opening time at 8:00.  Lynn had found out the day before that they were going to give out 40 gift cards and we wanted to get them.  I think we were about 17th in line.  Both of us got $10 cards.  Jim was luckier at the Roanoke store—today he got $25.

Lynn had an appointment today for her Venza—a 15,000 mile checkup.  We went there from Belk, then came on home to wrap presents when it was ready.

Betsy and I practiced “Mary, Did You Know?” again tonight.  I am really looking forward to being her accompanyist tomorrow night at Central. We’re going to go there mid-afternoon tomorrow so she can practice with a microphone.

Christmas this year will not be one with a house full of company.  Neither Kay’s family nor Jim’s will be here.  Ann’s family will come over for breakfast then come back for dinner.  We don’t know for sure when the others will make it here.

Lynn had lunch with her friend Pat today.  While she was there, I went to Central and finished the bulletins for both the Christmas Eve service and for the December 26 morning worship service.  Central is going to offer the Administrative Assistant position to a lady, I believe, so maybe my days at doing this are limited.  That would be OK with me.  I really don’t mind doing the bulletins, though.  As I’ve written before, I think back to my childhood when my Dad did the bulletins every week for the Bramwell Presbyterian Church.  He didn’t have Microsoft Publisher to produce them—he just had an Underwood typewriter which was very unforgiving of a typing mistake.  He didn’t make very many of them.

He didn’t have a Xerox printer to print the bulletins, either.  He had a hand-cranked duplicator whose operator frequently left with a mess of ink on his clothes or hands. 

A CNN article today stated research that said the Omicron variant of COVID-19 was much more contagious than any other variant but that cases of it are rarely that serious.  I believe only one person in the US has died from it.  Plus, there are now pills being produced which do a good job of fighting COVID-19 in those who already have it.  The number of cases in South Africa, which is where Omicron began, has dropped sharply in the past several days.  That’s encouraging.

Here are today’s numbers:

December 23       Infected                   Died

World             278,501,202           5,400,362   7,600 new deaths in the world….

US                     52,788,451              834,455   1,500 new deaths

Virginia              1,040,580                15,257   6,400 new cases 23 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       11,505                     142   45 new cases, 0 deaths since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,765,400  (5,736,781 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 88.0% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.2% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        96,497 (41,683 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.2% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.  I think about this every time I’m out in public such as in Kroger, in line at Belk early in the morning, or at Staples.

December 24, 2021

I am writing tonight as one very proud grandfather.  Very few things that I have done in my life have been as satisfying as being the accompanist tonight for Betsy’s solo at the Christmas Eve service at Central.  We had practiced, for sure, including this afternoon when we went to Central to rehearse using the microphone and sound system.  The song came out just great, in my humble opinion, and even got applause from those in attendance, something typically not done at a Church service.  I am SO PROUD of Betsy and feel so, so fortunate to have been able to play the piano for her.  I will be smiling in my sleep tonight.

Fortunately, the service was recorded on Facebook live so I was able to post it to the church’s website and send it to family members. 

The entire service was highly unusual, though, because there was a young man in attendance, the grandson of one of our members, who has a history of drug and behavior problems.  He is about 30 years old.  Tonight, at several times, he created a disturbance and even tried to have a shouting match with Pastor Won before the service started because he refused to wear a mask.  He was quiet during Betsy’s song, but at other times he blurted out and took people’s attention away from the service.

This was a long day for us.  As usual, we started at Belk getting our free gift cards.  We were lined up by 7:30 AM as were Lynn’s friends Cheryl Wright and Cheryl Kent.  This was the last day of the promotion.  It was my lucky day as I came out with a $50 gift card.  Lynn and her two friends each got $10.  Jim went to the Belk in Roanoke and also got a $10 card.  All in all, Lynn and I accumulated $225 in gift cards over the length of the promotion.

From there, we went to Staples to check on the calendars.  They weren’t ready but the person working at the print shop said that they would be ready later in the day and they were.  And, she gave us the good news that we’d be getting them at the Staples low calendar rate instead of the price we were originally quoted.  In fact, we got them for less than half of the original quote.  Lynn picked them up this afternoon while Betsy and I rehearsed our song.  They look fine.

We also bought some groceries at Kroger then came home, dropped off the groceries, and headed for Costco.  There we were able to return one item and pick up several more last minute Christmas gifts.  We also did a return at Target and got groceries at Aldi’s.  We got back home at lunchtime, ate lunch, then picked up Betsy and went to Central to practice.

Lynn and I did a massive amount of gift wrapping today, too.  We finished up around 10:30 PM making this one long day.  Lynn had a bunch of cooking she did tonight after the Christmas Eve service.  She was very tired when she finally got into bed.

After the Christmas Eve service, we did one thing that the Hill family has done for decades—drove through Gypsy Hill park to see the light show and exhibits there. 

I was able to come up with nine presents for Lynn.  Christmas means so much to her so I tried hard to make sure she got a variety of gifts.  None of what I gave her cost a fortune this year.  Perhaps tomorrow I’ll list what I got her.

I wish I could have a post without COVID-19 data, but it is so much a part of our lives that I feel obligated to post this every day:

December 24       Infected                   Died

World             279,355,766           5,409,132   8,800 new deaths in the world….

US                     52,986,307              837,671   3,200 new deaths

Virginia              1,049,336                15,294   8,800 new cases 37 deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       11,557                     142   52 new cases, 0 deaths since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,825,265  (5,743,727 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 88.2% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.3% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        96,747 (41,732 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.2% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.

December 25, 2021

Today was a very, very good Christmas Day.  Yes, we missed Kay’s family and Jim’s family but we still had a very productive, busy, enjoyable, and memorable time with Ann, Josh, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  There is nothing about the day I would change if I could do it over again.

Lynn and I were up fairly early and worked hard to fix a huge breakfast.  Lynn made a sausage and egg casserole and her traditional cinnamon rolls.  She also fixed a skillet of sausage, a bunch of bacon, and a huge crock pot of hot chocolate.  As usual, I squeezed oranges to make fresh orange juice.  The Gutshalls didn’t get here until after 9:30 which meant all of us were famished and the huge quantity of food prepared was soon reduced to a rubble.

Meanwhile, we had a nice Facetime session with Kay, Andy, Thomas, and Georgia.  They were going to be celebrating Christmas at Andy’s parents in Centerville.  Georgia gave us a good suggestion—that we hide the pickle ornament on the tree and whoever found it could be the first to open presents.  Betsy was the lucky finder for us.

We didn’t have elaborate gifts for anyone this year.  We gave Henry four tickets to an upcoming JMU – Hofstra basketball game.  Gus got four $25 gift cards for his Playstation games.  Betsy got a lot of clothes and tickets to go to two shows with us, one (Chorus Line) at Shenandoah University and one (Lion King) at the Broadway in Richmond shows.  Freddie got a new tennis racquet from us.  Ann and Josh got money, as always.  They also got a 2022 Hill-Hanger calendar, a photo book of Lynn and me from our domestic and foreign travels, and a framed picture of Lynn that is one of my favorites ever taken.’

I didn’t have any one big gift for Lynn but I managed to get her a lot of small ones including the mint filled straws she loves, a good hummingbird feeder, a Christmas salt and pepper shaker set I had found in Ohio when we visited Butch, tickets to the Shenandoah University show, her choice of two spring trips, both of which involved staying at Cacapon Resort where we honeymooned in 1976, a download of a Brad Paisley Christmas album, a book entitled The Sleep Fix, a WaterPik water flosser she had asked for, and, as a surprise, reservations from January 17 – 19 at The Greenbrier where Butch and Jackie are going to join us.  She seemed to like her gifts a lot which is very important to me.  I do really want her to be happy with me so she’ll keep me around for a while longer!  She gave me two pairs of jeans, a pair of khaki pants, a WV hat, an offer to go to two WVU basketball games with me over the next three months, and even a written promise to clean the garage out!

Ann and Josh gave to their kids a very nice cornhole set that Jim had built.  Today was such a beautiful day, with highs approaching 70o, so we got a chance to try it out.  The weather was not only unseasonably warm, it was perhaps the warmest Christmas Day I can ever remember.

The Gutshalls went home after our presents were opened.  Meanwhile, Lynn and I rested a little then started fixing a huge dinner for the eight of us.  Lynn fixed her signature corn casserole and made two cakes, a chocolate pudding cake and a cheesecake.  I baked potatoes for everyone.  Lynn fixed fried mushrooms and a salad.  I had the main course—we had purchased a choice beef standing rib roast which Lynn had the Kroger butcher slice into rib eye steaks.  Ordinarily on Christmas Day she fixed a prime rib roast but with today’s beautiful weather I grilled the steaks outdoors.  They were superb!

After dinner, we all watched the movie Home Sweet Home Alone, an offshoot of the original Home Alone movie.  It was funny and very family oriented—the right way to end the day.  After the movie we ate our cake for dessert. Then the Gutshalls went home.  I finished up doing the dishes while Lynn went to bed.  We were both very tired.  I’ve said many times that there are two kinds of tired:  good tired and bad tired.  Tonight we were both good tired.

We’ve listened to the Facebook recording of Betsy’s solo with my accompaniment over and over today.  She did such a fine job.  I really treasured the opportunity to play with her.  It was a very, very special time in my life and I won’t forget.

With today being a major holiday, I suspect not all of the COVID-19 data has been fully reported.  Here are the numbers as found on worldometers.com and the Virginia Department of Health:

December 25       Infected                   Died

World             279,829,699           5,413,118   4,000 new deaths in the world….

US                     53,026,765              837,779   Only 40,000 cases and 108 deaths reported

Virginia              1,049,336                15,294   NO NEW DATA REPORTED

Augusta County       11,557                     142   NO NEW DATA REPORTED

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,846,971  (5,746,137 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 88.2% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.3% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        96,800 (41,736 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.2% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.

December 26, 2021

Today was Sunday so we started the day as we do most Sundays.  I had Zoom Bible study though I had to exit early to make it to bell choir practice.  We went to church then both of us hustled home so we could go to Roanoke.  The weather was spectacular again today and Jim wanted us to come when we could visit with Faron and Coen outdoors.  Today worked very well.

We both expected I-81 to be a mess but it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be.  In fact, both going to Roanoke and coming back there were no slow downs.  Sure, there were times when I couldn’t change lanes when I wanted to but there were no stoppages or even many times I had to go under the speed limit.

We got there around 2:15.  Coen and Faron were playing outside so we brought our Christmas presents out for them to open in their driveway.  I took several pictures with my phone.  Those two boys seem to have every toy imagineable. 

Jim had fixed my weed eater; formerly it wouldn’t start but he fixed the choke and carburetor on it.  And, he gave me a used chain saw for Christmas; again, this was one that didn’t work when he got it but he repaired it.  He is so handy!  He gave Lynn several of the Belk cards he had accumulated last week.  So we both came home with a lot more than we left with. 

After opening presents, we went to an ice cream store in Salem for a nice mid-afternoon snack.  The boys were very good there.  After we had eaten the ice cream, Lynn and I came on home while they returned home.

Back home, Lynn and I didn’t do much except eat supper and work puzzles.  She always does the Sunday crossword puzzle and, of course, I did several Sudoku and Whirly Word puzzles.

COVID-19 continues to roar across America, thanks to the Omicron variant.  Today, two of the college bowls were canceled.  The University of Virginia had so many players infected that they had to pull out of the inaugural Fenway Bowl against Southern Methodist University.  And, Boston College had to pull out of the Military Bowl against East Carolina for the same reason.  Neither team had enough players left to be able to play.

Here are today’s statistics:

December 26       Infected                   Died

World             280,315,202           5,416,273   3,100 new deaths in the world….

US                     53,222,424              837,854   200,000 cases and 75 new deaths reported

Virginia              1,049,336                15,294   NO NEW DATA REPORTED

Augusta County       11,557                     142   NO NEW DATA REPORTED

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,858,109  (5,747,553 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 88.3% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.3% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        96,820 (41,738 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.2% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.

December 27, 2021

Today was another Monday for me spent as Treasurer of Central United Methodist Church.   I got to CUMC at 8:30 and didn’t leave until 2:30.  The year is winding down, of course, so there are numerous tasks that have to be done in addition to the weekly jobs of making deposits, paying bills, and setting up payroll.  Plus, I’m still the one doing the Sunday bulletins so I got a good start today on next Sunday’s bulletin.  I also helped the Food Pantry unload two pallets of food from the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank.  My back still hurts from lifting huge boxes of meat.  Tonight I worked more on the Church’s finances and prepared a long e-mail to send to members of the Finance Committee about paying some of our obligations to the United Methodist Church before the end of the year.

Lynn and I went to Harrisonburg after dinner to do some more shopping.  She had some store credits at Kohl’s which needed to be spent and she needed a few items from Aldi’s.  Then we came home and had some hot chocolate.

I got my calendars mailed today to brother Butch, sister Mary K., and sister-in-law Jane Hanger.  This is the earliest I can recall finishing them.  The only one we have to deliver is Kay’s.  She is seriously considering coming here on Thursday so she’ll get hers then.

I also made arrangements today for three weekend trips for Lynn and me.  On Saturday, February 19, we are going to Morgantown to see the WVU mens basketball team play Kansas.  Two weeks later, on March 5, we are going back to see the Mountaineers take on Texas Christian University.  Though I was able to make hotel arrangements for those Saturdays today, I didn’t get game tickets yet.  I have a contact person at the WVU ticket office who bugs me several times each year about buying tickets.  So I called him today to see what he could do for us as compared to StubHub or SeatGeek but he wasn’t in.  I left him a message to call me back.

The other weekend I scheduled was one I had given to Lynn for Christmas.  There’s a Craft Fair in Harpers Ferry on Saturday, April 30, she wants to go to.  Today I made arrangements for us to stay that Friday and Saturday nights at the new lodge at Cacapon State Park where we honeymooned 45 years ago.

The CDC revised its recommendations for quarantining when exposed to COVID-19. They said for people to quarantine if they are exposed to the virus for five days if they are vaccinated. People who are fully vaccinated and boosted may not need to quarantine at all, the CDC said.  They said lowered the time people should isolate when they’ve tested positive for Covid-19 from 10 days to five days if they don’t have symptoms — and if they wear a mask around others for at least five more days.  Those recommendations were made in the face of a rising number of cases of COVID-19 nationwide.  Several college football bowls have now been canceled. 

Here are today’s numbers:

December 27       Infected                   Died

World             281,691,671           5,422,154   5,900 new deaths in the world….

US                     53,625,098              839,155   400,000 cases, 1,300 new deaths reported

Virginia              1,067,849                15,319   18,500 cases, 25 new deaths since Friday

Augusta County       11,708                     142   151 new cases, 0 deaths, since Friday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,865,152  (5,748,800 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 88.3% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.4% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        96,844 (41,746 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.3% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.

December 28, 2021

Today was a working day for me.  I left home around 7:30 to go to Augusta Health to get a test done (on a blood sample) that I have to do before my January 7 appointment with Dr. Gillock.  In hindsight, I’m not sure this was a good time to go to the lab.  I thought by going early I could get in and out faster but it took me almost 90 minutes to get the lab work done although the actual procedure took about 2 minutes.  There was a long line of people in front of me awaiting lab work.

From there I came home and loaded my truck with lots of trash that had been accumulating since before Christmas.  My truck was pretty full when I got to Ann and Josh’s house.  Their trash made it more loaded but it didn’t take long to drop it all off at the dump.  I expected a long line there but there was none.

My next stop was at Central.  There are so many year-end tasks to get done, especially since we do not have an Administrative Assistant to do them.  I was there for several hours but didn’t even launch QuickBooks for my Treasurer’s work.  Instead, I did secretary work.  The new hire is supposed to come in next week.  The computer which will be hers was a mess.  Files were stored everywhere on its hard drive.  There were lots of files in Documents and others, many repetitions, in My Documents.  So I combined all of the documents into My Documents and created numerous folders so everything could be easily categorized.

The biggest job I got done today at Central was printing of the annual Contribution Reports for our membership.  The software Servant Keeper is what is used to track individual giving and produce these reports.  I started with Servant Keeper today entering the contributions from the Christmas Eve Service and from the December 26 service.  Then I created the annual reports for all of our contributors and used a filter to shorten the list to those who had given at least $500.  I printed these reports then printed mailing labels for them.  I started to put the letters in envelopes and attach the mailing labels but this would have taken me a long time and I figured the new person will need some work to do next week so I’ll let her do this mundane job.

I also got a big box of food for Connie’s daughter and family.  Central gets so much food from Food Lion!  This box of food had at least six big packages of frozen meat plus lots of bread and cakes.  Connie was cleaning our house today so I brought the food box home and transferred it to her car.

Tonight was basketball night.  Gus had a JV game and Henry a varsity game, both against Monticello High School.  The first time they played, the varsity got its first win of the season but the JV’s lost by one point.  Tonight was no different.  The JV’s got beaten 53 – 39 but the varsity prevailed, 56 – 32.  Gus had a frustrating game because, once again, his teammates apparently think they are the designated shooters and never feed him when he is open.  He got two points for the game.  I kept notes of each possession; one teammate, for example, shot the ball as much as ten times in one quarter.  He made one.

The varsity dominated Monticello after the first few minutes.  They were ahead 14 – 7 at the end of the first quarter and 29 – 15 at the half.  Henry had a good game with seven points, lots of rebounds, and once again took a charge.  He has done that in every game.  Strangely, the coach seems to pull him out of the game for stretches that he could be helping the team.  I just don’t understand.   Nonetheless, it was a good win for the Indians whose record is now 3 – 3.

Tonight I am going to write this then watch the Guaranteed Rate Football Bowl.  WVU is playing against Minnesota and I do not plan to stay up and write though I do plan to stay up and watch.  The Mounties are not favored to win.  The game is in Phoenix and kickoff is at 10:15 pm.

Here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 28       Infected                   Died

World             283,206,873           5,430,708   8,600 new deaths in the world….

US                     54,148,544              842,161   500,000 cases, 3,000 new deaths reported

Virginia              1,075,288                15,504   7,500 cases 190 new deaths since yesterday

Augusta County       11,729                     142   21 new cases, 0 deaths, since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,882,230  (5,751,692 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 88.3% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.4% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        96,908 (41,761 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.3% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.

December 29, 2021

Many times since I started writing this blog I’ve written how close to home COVID-19 has hit us.  Tonight we got word that tomorrow night’s Fort Defiance High School basketball game against Riverheads was postponed because one of Fort’s players, Josh Jones, tested positive today for COVID-19.  Last night Fort played Monticello.  All players were unmasked.  Grandson Henry was one of the starters on Fort’s team along with Josh.  Josh was vaccinated. 

Tomorrow our entire family is scheduled to gather here.  Even Jim is coming with Faron and Coen.  Kay, Andy, Thomas, and Georgia are coming at noon and Lynn is fixing a big lunch with waffles, fruit, and hot chocolate.  But now we have the clinker thrown in that Henry may have been exposed to COVID-19.  I’m not sure what’s going to happen.  Perhaps Ann will get him tested in the morning.

I stayed up for most of the WVU – Minnesota football game last night which ended at 1:40 AM.  It was not a good game for the Mountaineers.  They couldn’t get anything going on offense and fell 18 – 6.  Minnesota was favored to win and I didn’t get angry over the loss.  After all, if you’re a Mountaineer fan you get used to disappointment.

Today we had absolutely nothing on the agenda.  Lynn spent a good bit of time cleaning out the kitchen refrigerator.  I made a run to the dump with the results of her efforts.  We went to Kroger late in the morning for some groceries and stopped by Chick Fil A for lunch.

This afternoon, Freddie and Betsy came over for quite a while.  Betsy and Lynn did some sewing projects together.  Freddie and I played some tennis using the new racquet we gave him for Christmas.  Then Freddie read a chapter in one of the books he had given Lynn for Christmas for her.  His reading has improved so much!  Then he watched some shows on Disney+ tv.  We took them home on our way to Harrisonburg.  We ate at Vito’s for dinner tonight.  They have a Wednesday night special where seniors get two dinners for the price of one.  Nice!

Here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 29       Infected                   Died

World             284,872,631           5,438,306   7,600 new deaths in the world….

US                     54,656,866              844,272   508,000 cases, 2,100 new deaths reported

Virginia              1,087,400                15,541   12,000 new cases, 37 new deaths

Augusta County       11,852                     142   123 new cases, 0 deaths, since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,912,371  (5,756,170 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 88.4% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.4% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        97,009 (41,768 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.3% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.   Albemarle County, just over the mountain, has 75% of its population fully vaccinated.

December 30, 2021

Our plans for a big family get-together today were abandoned with the threat of COVID-19 exposures.  Kay, Andy, Thomas, and Georgia came but we visited with them from a distance, always fully masked, and always outdoors.  We ate lunch and opened Christmas presents on the back porch.  Ann’s family decided not to come over and Jim and his boys pulled out to avoid the risk of infection.  No one could blame any of them.

I feel sorry for Henry and his family.  He did nothing wrong.  He just played basketball with another boy who was found to be COVID-19 positive yesterday.  As I wrote yesterday, Josh Jones was vaccinated but still tested positive.  Others in his family also tested positive, we learned today.  But because Henry not only played alongside Josh Tuesday night in the Fort Defiance basketball game, but also practiced with Josh the day before, he could possibly have picked up the virus even though he is also vaccinated.  Josh and Ann pointed out that there was no need in getting him tested yet because symptoms generally don’t show for a few days with COVID.   His basketball team did not practice today though the JV’s did.

This morning, I went to Central to get a few year-end tasks taken care of.  I paid a large amount to the Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church for Central’s apportionment.  We ended up paying more than we paid last year but still only paid 52% of what we were asked to pay.  Today I also sent a check to the Conference for $1,000 to be applied toward the relief effort in Kentucky after December’s tornados.  I also wrote a couple more checks so that all of our known bills ended up being paid in 2021.

I got home in time to help Lynn some with the big lunch she made for the Foys.  She fixed waffles, bacon, and lots of fresh fruit.  I squeezed fresh orange juice for everyone.  Kay and family got here around 1:15 and we ate and opened presents soon thereafter.

While they were here, I got to hit tennis balls with both Georgia and Thomas.  Both have really nice tennis strokes.  I don’t know if either plays competitively much but they are both off to a good start in that their forehands and backhands are both technically good strokes which means they will continue to improve as they play more.

They left around 4:30 and called when they got back to Arlington safely.  We had a short but excellent visit with them.  It’s just too bad that COVID-19 messed up the day.

Tonight for dinner I picked up a calzone from the Flying Pizza restaurtant in Mount Sidney.  After a big lunch, neither of us was very hungry.

COVID-19 infections were higher in the past 24 hours than at any previous time in this pandemic, according to the CDC.  Particularly worrisome is that pediatric hospitalizations are at an all-time high.  On average, 378 children were admitted to the hospital with Covid-19 on any given day over the week that ended December 28, according to data published Thursday by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the US Department of Health and Human Services. That is well above the previous record average of 342 admitted children seen at the end of August and early September.

The nation hit a new pandemic high of 300,886 average new daily cases over the prior week, according to Johns Hopkins University data.  The Omicron variant is fueling this spread.  Emergency rooms are swamped and hospital beds have been exhausted in many places, according to CNN. 

CNN also reported that unvaccinated people “are 17 times more likely” to be hospitalized with Covid-19, CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky said Wednesday. Some 62% of the total US population is fully vaccinated, and 33% of those have gotten a booster shot, data from the CDC shows.  “What I can tell you is that compared to people who are boosted, if you are unvaccinated, you are 10 times more likely to be a case and 20 times more likely to be a fatality,” she said at a White House Covid-19 briefing.

Here are today’s statistics:

December 30       Infected                   Died

World             286,745,694           5,445,250   7,000 new deaths in the world….

US                     55,210,288              845,674   550,000 cases, 1,400 new deaths reported

Virginia              1,100,900                15,565   13,500 new cases, 24 new deaths

Augusta County       11,910                     142   58 new cases, 0 deaths, since yesterday

            Vaccinated

Virginia 13,957,953  (5,763,240 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 88.5% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.5% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        97,376 (41,801 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.3% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average. 

December 31, 2021

This is the last day of a very trying year.  We exit 2021 with COVID-19 still the main topic on anyone’s mind.  As I stated yesterday, the current infection rate is worse than any time since the pandemic began.  That being said, the death rate has dropped significantly since the Omicron variant spreads easily but doesn’t seem to do as much harm as previous versions of COVID-19. 

I read with interest what I wrote a year ago:

Today is the last day of the worst year of my life.  I am sure hoping for a 2021 that is so unlike this past year.  2020 was devoid of so much of what I previously took for granted:  travel, ball games, shows in big and small theatres, family dinners, leisure shopping, visits, grandchildren in our house, eating in restaurants, church services, concerts, school performances, movies, hugs, handshakes, and seeing people’s faces.   I hate that anytime I get near someone other than Lynn I start asking myself “Could this person be contagious?”  I am not happy with myself that when I see a person not wearing a mask, I immediately judge them as being unfit to live.  I do not like living in fear.  Though I am not a very social person, I am embarrassed to have to consciously try to avoid contact with people.

I believe this is the 257th consecutive day I have written during this pandemic.  I am up to almost 400 single spaced pages.  I will be happy to quit writing and will likely do so once Lynn and I have both been vaccinated.  Until then, I remain in fear and write as one way to deal with my angst.

So how far have we come?  Not far.  Yes, we traveled and went to ball games in 2021.  We attended very, very few shows.  Even the Barter Theatre still remains closed.  Family dinners have happened but they’ve also been canceled at a moment’s notice including our planned full family lunch yesterday.  Leisure shopping happens with us being fully masked.  Visits have resumed except when there are immediate COVID-19 threats such as the one Henry experienced last week.  Grandchildren have been in our house, for the most part, but not yesterday when Kay and family came.  We visited outside the entire time.  We have eaten in restaurants, fully masked, though some restaurants such as the local Chick Fil-A do not allow eating inside their restaurant yet.  Church services have resumed, fully masked, but with half the pre-pandemic attendance.  There is still no choir at CUMC thanks to COVID-19.  There have been a few concerts and school performances such as Betsy’s dance recitals, but except for the gym we haven’t been inside any of the local schools except to pick up Freddie after school on occasion.  We’ve attended one or two movies, nothing like we used to.  Hugs with family members have resumed but handshakes with others are virtually nonexistent.  And if we see others’ faces, we grumble about them not wearing masks.  I do not live in fear any more but I do live with the inevitability that all of us will one day get COVID.  At least when it happens we may not be deathly sick since we are all vaccinated and boosted.  And the treatments for those who contact the virus are improving.

I am now up to 622 consecutive days of writing during this pandemic.  I am up to 907 single spaced pages.  I did not quit writing when we got vaccinated because the vaccinations did not make us 100% safe.  Before, I wrote because writing gave me a way to deal with my angst and fear of COVID-19.  I’m not sure why I am still writing.  Indeed, I may not continue much further.

I have not been well the past few days.  I have had diarrhea for four days now.  It hasn’t been a show-stopper; I’ve still managed to shop with Lynn, visit with family, play tennis with Thomas and Georgia, work at Central on year-end treasurer’s duties, etc.  It has just been aggravating.  I’m hoping it will soon be over. 

One worry in the back of my mind is that diarrhea is one symptom of COVID-19.  However, I’ve had zero other symptoms typical of COVID so I don’t think this is what’s going on with me.  I’ve had no fever, breathing difficulties, cough, loss of taste or smell, etc. 

That being the case, I stayed home all morning and did a few things around here.  My big accomplishment was to get two stained ceiling tiles in the basement replaced.  I had to remove some moulding and replace the stained tiles with some extra ones I had.  I believe the stain came from one-time spills from the kitchen.  But if the new tiles show up being stained, then I’ll know there’s a recurring problem that needs my attention.

After lunch, Lynn and I went to Harrisonburg to shop.  I stayed in the car while she went to Target and Aldi.  We returned home then left again for Central where I did a few year-end tasks while she ran to Dollar General.  It didn’t take me long to get my jobs done so we returned home and ate dinner while watching the second half of the Alabama – Cincinnati college football playoff game.  After dinner we watched most of the Georgia – Michigan playoff.

I also had time to update some items on Central’s website including the list of officers for 2022.  I like jobs that I can do from the kitchen table.  That isn’t true of the treasurer’s work at Central.

One of the things I did earlier this week was to print Contribution Statements for 2021 for those who contributed to Central.  But after I did it, some mail came in with a few other checks.  So I felt like I would need to re-do some of the statements.  Then last night I got a phone call from another member saying he had put his check into the mail so it would get to Central before 2022.  I assured him that I would make sure his check would get credited on the 2021 Contribution Statement.  So today what I did at Central was to enter all of these mailed-in checks to the software, Servant Keeper, and print new statements for those whose checks arrived after I had done the statements.  Next year I should just wait to do the Contribution Statements.  I’ve learned my lesson.

CNN had a hopeful article about COVID-19 worth repeating here.  First, they detailed the grim status of coronavirus today in America—record infections and hospitalizations with more deaths in 2021 than in 2020.  But then the article had a tint of optimism: 

Yet this latest phase of the pandemic, a global nightmare now heading into its third year, has been the most disorienting so far. But, paradoxically, Omicron’s surge of ubiquitous infection may contain within it seeds of hope.

While it is infecting many more people than earlier strains of the virus and so proportionally will send more to the hospital — a crisis that could buckle the medical system — Omicron seems to cause less serious and prolonged disease, according to a growing body of scientific evidence. For many Americans who are fully vaccinated and boosted, it is not as threatening as previous waves of virus — and may even manifest as a cold or cause no symptoms.

However, that doesn’t mean that the 90 million residents who either are not eligible or have chosen to spurn vaccines — many for political reasons — are not still at severe risk, since their chances of dodging infection are now many times worse with the new variant. Overwhelmingly, the dying are those who decided not to protect themselves.

But there is also now the promise not just of injections and boosters to ward off Covid-19 but of highly effective new therapies, including Pfizer’s first antiviral pill expected to be available in sufficient quantities within months to save lives. Biden’s promise of 500 million rapid Covid-19 tests available to any American who wants one could begin to fix a consistent failing of the across two administrations. Kids between the ages of 12 and 15 could get the green light to get their booster shots soon, taking another load off the minds of parents of older children.

There’s also reason to believe that the increased transmissibility of Omicron could mean that its wave could ebb as quickly as it built.

“It certainly peaked pretty quickly in South Africa. It went up almost vertically and turned around very quickly,” the government’s top infectious disease specialist, Dr. Anthony Fauci, said on CNBC on Thursday.

“I would imagine, given the size of our country, and the diversity of vaccination versus not vaccination, that it likely will be more than a couple of weeks, probably by the end of January, I would think,” he said.

I hope they are right…

Here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 31       Infected                   Died

World             288,353,211           5,452,615   7,400 new deaths in the world….

US                     55,598,902              846,900   380,000 cases, 1,200 new deaths reported

Virginia              1,118,518                15,587   17,600 new cases, 22 new deaths

Augusta County       12,068                     141   158 new cases, 0 deaths, since yesterday

Actually the number of deaths was reduced by one, apparently upon review.

            Vaccinated

Virginia 14,019,618  (5,771,230 residents are fully vaccinated including Kay, Andy, Jim, Morgan, Thomas, and Georgia.   That’s 88.7% of the adult population who have at least one shot, 67.6% of the total population fully vaccinated). 

Augusta County        97,535 (41,845 residents are fully vaccinated including us, Josh, Ann, Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie.  Plus, Josh, Lynn, and I have our third booster shot.)    That still is only 55.4% of the Augusta County population which is fully vaccinated now, still well below the Virginia average.  Supposedly, 62% of Americans are fully vaccinated.  Does that tell you how backward our county is?

Augusta County has a population of 75,437.  Its 12,068 cases means that 16% of the population has been infected.  But just a little over 1% of those infected have died.