Category Archives: December 2020 Posts

December 2020: Life in the COVID-19 era

December 1, 2020

Today was the coldest day we’ve had since last winter so, indeed, I did turn on the boiler this morning.  The high for the day was in the 30’s and the wind was fairly stiff, too, which made for cold walking.

I spent the morning at Central though I didn’t get as much done as I hoped.  I had hoped to get the four bank reconciliations done today but first the bank’s website was down then two of the statements which are posted online were late getting there so we got only two of them done.  I wanted to show Savannah how to do these but even the two we did together were problematic because of an error the previous bookkeeper had made plus one I had done last month.  I’m likely going to return on Thursday to get more done.

Meanwhile Lynn had her friends over and they shivered outside.  It will be so nice when we can once again have company indoors!  She and Cheryl Kent did work inside later in the morning on making some porch signs they are going to donate to the local thrift shop, Karis.

Afterwards she and I went on an errand-running short jaunt to Bridgewater.  We had to go to the bank, Dollar Tree, and Walmart.  The reason for the bank stop was to get some cash to give to the Jiminez family.  Gilberto is still in the hospital and Elizabeth is in quarantine so neither is earning any money. 

We ate an early dinner.  Lynn had made pork barbecue which we had with cole slaw and she made macaroni and cheese.  It is no wonder I have gained a few pounds.  I’m certainly not going to be exercising outside in 30 degree weather.

Our plans to watch the last two episodes of Virgin River were thrwarted last night when Netflix didn’t play the recordings correctly.  A message came on the screen to try again later so perhaps we’ll see them tonight.

Tomorrow we have to get up early and get on the road.  We’re slated to wrap presents at The Greenbrier as part of their Christmas gifts program which Central is participating in.  We’ve done this every year for many years.  Usually we end up staying there the night we wrap but not this year.  We’re just going to wrap then come back home.

With the vaccines almost in sight it is easy to start thinking of normal life again.  Of course, it may be several months before this happens, but when it does I promise to not take many things for granted that I did prior to March.  It will be such fun to have our children and grandchildren visit us again.  Faron and Coen haven’t been here since Thanksgiving in 2019.  Thomas and Georgia have been here a few times but haven’t stayed and have generally been outside the whole time.  Henry, Gus, Betsy, and Freddie rarely come inside our house now.  If they do, it’s just a quick stop in our basement to update their PlayStation or print something for school.  It will be so nice to sit here at the kitchen table and hear them giggling together downstairs or getting ready for bed upstairs.

Here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 1         Infected                   Died

World               64,116,481           1,484,816

US                     14,069,495              276,452

Virginia               240,063                  4,093

Augusta County       1,231                       12

Just as I had warned, the numbers have jumped a good bit probably because of delayed reporting.  Virginia’s total cases increased by 2,200 and deaths by 31.  Augusta’s cases increased by over 50 and had one more death.  Nationwide, more than 96,000 are hospitalized, a record.

I’ve looked back through my photo album to see when we started this tradition.  It was at least fifteen years ago that Lynn and I started hosting a family Christmas party.  Over the years we outgrew our house and moved it to different venues.  For the past several years it has been at Central.  Lynn always goes to great lengths to plan these parties, each with a theme that she gathers decorations for throughout the previous year.  For many years we’ve hired the same Santa Claus to visit our party and we’ve taken lots of photos with him.  Alas, this year there will be no Hill-Hanger Christmas Party.  The theme was going to be “The Smallest Christmas Tree” which is based on a book Lynn was going to give to each family.  I guess she will just keep that theme for 2021.

ABC news tonight reported that CDC voted today on who should be vaccinated first.  No surprise, those who are to get it first are seniors in nursing and long term healthcare homes and health care workers.  Actually, these are only recommendations; states can decide for themselves who gets the vaccines.  There are 40,000,000 doses expected in December which won’t be enough for everyone in these two categories.

The CDC also recommended today that if you have been exposed to someone positive, if you can get a negative test you only have to quarantine for seven days.  If you can’t get a test, you should quarantine for ten days. 

December 2, 2020

Sure enough, we were on the road south around 7:00 AM this morning.  Our wrapping time at the Greenbrier didn’t start until 10:00 so we had time to stop at three Dollar Tree stores since Lynn was looking for some more Christmas items.  We stopped in Lexington, Covington, then drove to Lewisburg for the one there before coming back to White Sulphur Springs in plenty of time for our appointment.  As always, at the Dollar Tree stores she shopped while I stayed in the driver’s seat.  We stopped for gas in Fairfield where it was only $1.82 per gallon.  The app Gas Buddy always helps us find the cheapest gas when we’re traveling.

The ride on I-64 West is always such a nice ride.  There is never any traffic and the mountainous scenery is great.  The weather was very nice today, too, which just made it a very pleasurable trip. 

We wrapped from 10:00 until 11:30. That’s not a lot but is actually in excess of that which we were required to do for the number of presents Lynn ordered.  She’s ordered over 200 of them; I don’t have any idea how they will be distributed because Central only has around 5-6 children.   But she and Pastor Won have some plan in mind for getting them in the hands of needy children.  We return to the Greenbrier in two weeks to pick them up.

We ate lunch at the Greenbrier.  At least that’s what we can tell our friends.  Actually, we ate our yogurt from the cooler we had taken along with us while still sitting in the parking lot of the place at the Greenbrier where we wrapped.  So technically we ate there though it was far from being the fine dining we’re used to receiving there.

We had to hustle back because Lynn had two Zoom appointments with teachers/students in Rockingham County in the middle of the afternoon.  We got back in plenty of time.  Afterwards, she and her friend Ginny Bauman took a walk in the neighborhood while I picked up Gus and took him to basketball practice at Fort Defiance High School.

I told Gus as we drove there that I hated how teenagers like him had a year of their teens yanked from them by COVID-19.  These students have had little in-person schooling, visitng with friends, ball games, shows, concerts, etc. for nearly a full year.  It’s been a little risky for Henry and him to participate in basketball practice and for Betsy to still do in-person dance lessons in Staunton three nights a week but I’m glad they at least have this. 

I have been given two food/drink advent calendars.  Lynn got me a coffee calendar so every day from December 1 through Christmas I have a new coffee to try in my Keurig.  Today I tried the first one (I’m already a day late) and it was apple pie flavored coffee!  I’ve never had anything like that before.  I don’t know that I’d go out a buy multiple pounds of this yet but it was a different taste than I’m used to.  The other calendar is a jelly calendar from Ann.  She had given me one last year in which every day I get a small jar of a unique jelly for my toast.  I will likely get into this year’s version of this jelly calendar tomorrow.

Lynn hurt her back somehow and has been in pain for the past 24 hours.  It hasn’t stopped her but has slowed her down.  It especially hurts when she bends over to pick something up.  I suppose it’s a muscle injury that will get better over time.

I’ve known her for 46 years.  She’s never been very sick or hurt.  Yet this year she had suffered through a broken foot and now a hurt back.  It is very strange for me to hear her complain about pain.  She takes zero prescriptions and is probably the healthiest person I know.  I’m so sorry she is hurting now.  But she never lets sickness or pain stop her and that’s why she went walking with Ginny this afternoon.

We did finish season 2 last night of Virgin River.  Of course, its final moments left several things up in the air to attract viewers to watch season 3.  I’m sure we will.

Lynn and I were supposed to see two Christmas plays today and one tomorrow at The Barter Theatre.  Of course, these were canceled.  The Barter has been nice enough to take our 2020 tickets and turn them into 2021 tickets.  I sure hope we get to use them to see our allotment of twelve shows in 2021.

Between her pain, Lynn still was able to produce four porch signs over the past two days.  She used her Cricut to create a stencil for the letters she put vertically on each 36” board (NOEL on two and JOY on the other two).  Then she painted the letters and sprayed each board with polyurethane.  These are the boards she is donating to Karis.

COVID-19 hospitalizations are nearly at 100,000 in the US.  Here are today’s statistics:

December 2         Infected                   Died

World               64,742,493           1,496,987

US                     14,270,110              279,320

Virginia               242,480                  4,113

Augusta County       1,262                       12

Same old, same old.

Lynn heard from Elizabeth that Gilberto is doing better at UVA though he still is on the ventilator.  He is improving and may be off the ventilator in one of the upcoming days.

Tonight was Zoom night.  I was also very interested in watching the WVU – Gonzaga basketball game (Gonzaga is ranked #1 in the US) so I texted the kids to see if they wanted to Zoom or not.  Kay suggested we Zoom earlier so we did.

December 3, 2020

The Mountaineers gave Gonzaga a good run for the money last night but they wilted in the last ten minutes.  After leading most of the first 75% of the game, they got into foul trouble and, as always, had trouble hitting jump shots.  They lost 87-82.

ABC news said the last 24 hours were the deadliest since the pandemic began.  There were more than 192,000 new cases and over 100,000 currently hospitalized.  More than 2,800 Americans died which is a record.  Many hospitals are full.  Some states are reinstituting lockdowns. 

Some good news is that Biden has asked Dr. Fauci to stay on in his current role when he takes office.  Everyone who is not an idiot trusts Dr. Fauci. 

As vaccines are about to be rolled out—twenty million Pfizer vaccines will be issued in the US in December if approved by the FDA—the issue still remains of how to convince the anti-vaxers that it is safe.   Former Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Obama have volunteered to take it on camera if it would help Americans feel safe taking it.  Tonight Biden said he would, too, as long as Dr. Fauci says it is safe.

Lynn’s back has been hurting again today.  She hasn’t abandoned her heavy work schedule but I see her wince in pain frequently, especially when she bends over.  I think this is just a muscle injury that is going to take time to get over but she probably needs to take it easy for a while.

I did banking work at Central UMC today and paid a few bills.  I’m pretty much caught up with my bookkeeping work there.  I’m puzzled as to why we haven’t gotten bills from the credit card companies and will likely investigate that tomorrow.

I will be heading there tomorrow because Lynn and I are going to shop at Costco for Central tomorrow morning during senior hour.  The Food Pantry wants more sugar, coffee, and tea bags.  The custodian Janet wants Chlorox wipes, disinfectant spray, and paper towels.

This afternoon, after Freddie was picked up by Josh from school, we made a quick trip to the Jiminez house in Mt. Solon to take a few things to them since they are all quarantined.  Elizabeth asked us to get some cough syrup for Nathan which we did on the way there.  She hadn’t heard from UVA about Gilberto yet today but that is understood to be good news.

Here are the statistics for today:

December 3         Infected                   Died

World               65,491,337           1,510,729

US                     14,527,346              282,679

Virginia               244,503                  4,147

Augusta County       1,294                       12

I noted above that ABC said the US had over 2,800 new deaths.  According to the site I use, worldometers.info, that number topped 3,300. Virginia had more than 2,000 new cases and 34 deaths in the past 24 hours.

You’d think that by today, over five weeks after Election Day, Trump would have conceded and congratulated Joe Biden for his win.  No surprise, he’s done neither.  He still rants and tweets about “massive fraud” even though his own attorney general and usual bosom buddy, Bill Barr, told the Associated Press that the U.S. Justice Department has uncovered no evidence of widespread voter fraud that could change the outcome of the 2020 election, disputing Trump’s persistent, baseless claims.  Barr’s comments, in an interview with the The Associated Press, contradict the concerted effort by Trump, his boss, to subvert the results of last month’s voting and block President-elect Joe Biden from taking his place in the White House.  Barr told the AP that U.S. attorneys and FBI agents have been working to follow up specific complaints and information they’ve received, but “to date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election.”

Lynn and I are planning a quick trip to Arlington this Saturday to drop off some things for Thomas and Georgia as long as her back can make the ride.  We’re not planning on being in Arlington for longer than a half hour.

December 4, 2020

Lynn and I did some brainstorming this evening on what we’ll do when this pandemic is behind us.  Here is a list we came up with in about five minutes:

  1. Go out to eat in restaurants
  2. Go to shows at the Barter Theatre
  3. Travel in and out of the US
  4. Invite family over for dinner
  5. Attend grandkids’ events (ball games, dance shows, etc.)
  6. Go to church
  7. Visit with relatives including those at The Legacy
  8. Take grandchildren to their activities (dance, sports, etc. practices)
  9. Go to Broadway in Richmond shows
  10.  Take classes (sewing, embroidering, etc.)
  11.  Visit with friends and neighbors
  12.  Invite friends into our house
  13.  Shop in stores we’ve been avoiding such as those in Harrisonburg
  14.  Go to the Greenbrier for a couple of days
  15.  Check out the new library in Weyers Cave
  16.  Resume tutoring students and helping in-person at schools
  17.  Offer to present math programs at middle school
  18.  Visit Butch in Ohio and Mary K. in Altoona
  19.  Schedule vacations with kids (Puerto Rico, Lancaster, etc.)
  20.  Arrange to meet Porterfields and Koerners somewhere
  21.  Go to a movie
  22.  Invite grandchildren to spend the night with us
  23.  Volunteer for more things at Central
  24.  Eat lunch with grandchildren at their schools
  25.  Host a big family event (Easter Egg Hunt, Christmas Party, etc.)

I’m sure there are many more things we’ll enjoy but obviously these twenty five are things we’ve missed a lot since mid-March.

We got our monthly statement today from Edward Jones where our retirement money is invested.  We were very much surprised—since Biden was elected our retirement account increased over 6% in must one month.  That’s a phenomenal increase.  I’m sure it won’t change but it does throw cold water on the idea that Biden will cause the stock market to go bust.

Today was Friday so we repeated our new tradition of getting hamburgers from the Old School food truck at Valley Pike.  They were delicious, as usual.

We also got official notification that our Medicare Part B prescription drug plan had been successfully switched to an Aetna plan starting January 1.  This will save us lots of money.  We’ve learned that every year we have to evaluate whether to stay with our current plan or change.  Fortunately, the website medicare.gov makes it easy to make that decision.

We tried to line up visiting with some of our family tomorrow because there’s really nothing on our agenda.  Lynn got things ready to take to Thomas and Georgia but today Kay messaged that tomorrow wouldn’t be good for them as they had a full day of activities scheduled.  Then we texted Jim about visiting with him to take some items but he is likewise going to be busy.  He’s proctoring SAT tests all morning.

Today was a wet day.  The temperatures were in the 40’s but it seemed much colder.  If I am this cold with the outside temperature in the 40’s I know I’ll be shivering when the temperature gets in the 20’s and below.

Lynn and I made a Costco run first thing this morning where I got several items for our Food Pantry and she got a few things for our grandchildren.  After returning home, I went on to Central where I got several QuickBooks tasks done.  I like working there on Fridays because it is quiet—both the administrative assistant and custodian work Mondays – Thursdays.

I made a run to the dump in Jim’s truck today.  It ran well.  As always, I stopped at the Gutshall’s to both check on the kids since Fridays are days the youngest three are by themselves all day as well as pick up their garbage.

Augusta County Schools have delayed the start of high school sports again.  Henry will be playing varsity basketball this year and Gus will be playing JV.   Their tryouts are beginning next week, I believe.  Their seasons were supposed to start December 20 but now this has been postponed until January 7.  The varsity will play a 14 game schedule if all goes well.  Only 25 fans will be allowed into the gym to watch but the games will be livestreamed.  I’m looking forward to watching—if the games are actually played.  With COVID-19 so many scheduled events have been called off.

ABC news reported tonight that record highs continue.  This was the deadliest 24 hours yet in the pandemic–2,800 deaths in just one day.  The CDC says people need to wear masks anytime they go indoors outside of their own house and even in their own house if someone there was been exposed.  Virginia was one of 26 states with a record number of hospitalizations in one week.   

Here are today’s coronavirus statistics according to worldometers.info and the Virginia Department of Health:

December 4         Infected                   Died

World               66,176,513           1,523,198

US                     14,749,236              285,377

Virginia               247,380                  4,160

Augusta County       1,339                       12

Fifty Augusta County residents are currently hospitalized with COVID-19.  The spike in these numbers is probably from the Thanksgiving season where people let their guard down and had large family gatherings.   It is quite a spike—Virginia had 2,800 new cases and 23 more deaths.  Augusta County had 45 new cases just in the past 24 hours.

December 5, 2020

The back pain got to be too much for Lynn today so she opted to go to the Urgent Care center.  The one in Weyers Cave is currently closed down due to a COVID-19 outbreak so we had to go into the one in Staunton near Krogers.  We went there first thing this morning.  The doctor there told her it was very likely a strain and prescribed a pain pill and a muscle relaxation medicine.  He did not take x-rays since there was little chance of a broken vertebrae since she had experienced no trauma.  I really think what did her in was helping me lift the pergola swings onto the rafters in the shed.  We were able to pick up her prescriptions at Walgreens on the way home and she took the first dose as soon as she could.

The one issue that contributes to her pain is that she won’t slow down or quit doing things.  Her back doesn’t have a chance to heal.  She really struggles to bend over and can’t pick up anything that hits the floor.  I’ve tried to be helpful.

She and I did go back out mid-afternoon to Costco and to a Dollar General in Weyers Cave.  Again, she refuses to rest though she did come home and lie down.  For one thing, the muscle relaxer apparently was making her sleepy.  Plus, she didn’t sleep well last night.

We chatted with Butch several times this morning and it looks like he’s going to be heading this way tomorrow for a few days.  I hope his visit is as good as it was last month.  We bought a ham, hashed brown potatoes, and some green beans to cook for Sunday night’s dinner.

For me, it was WVU football this afternoon.  The Mountaineers played Iowa State.  They were ranked #9 in the US and the game was in Ames, IA.  The Cyclones were a big favorite to win.  They didn’t disappoint their fans—they kicked my Mountaineers’ butts, 42-6.  They dominated in every aspect of the game.  It was a very poor performance for WVU who couldn’t throw, catch, tackle, or defend.

At halftime, I hustled to Cracker Barrel to pick up the order Lynn called in.  It was our regular $12.76 dinner consisting of country ham biscuits and sides.  What a bargain!

Lynn seems to be doing better thanks to the meds she started taking today.  I think they make her pain more bearable. 

I keep reading more about Trump’s unending work at trying to overturn the election.  Today it was reported that he called the Georgia Governor this morning and asked him to get the Georgia legislature to throw out the election.  Then he tweeted that he would easily and quickly win the election if the Governor and Secretary of State (both Republicans and former Trump supporters) would simply audit the signatures on Georgia’s mail in ballots.  Then he tweeted that “if we win Georgia everything else will fall into place.”  Can’t the man read—he lost Georgia, he lost Pennsylvania, he lost Wisconsin, he lost Michigan, he lost Nevada, he lost Virginia, he lost the election.  He lost the popular vote by over 5,000,000.  The electoral college count is 306 to 232.  He LOST!

For the umpteenth day in a row, I’m cold today.  The outside temperature tonight is 38o and the inside temperature is 70o and I’m sitting in front of our kitchen’s gas fireplace insert with the fire roaring behind me.  I’m wearing a coat on top of my clothes.  I hate to be cold.  It makes me grumpy and depressed.  I eat more, sit more, and grumble more when I’m cold.  I’m no fun to be around when I’m cold.

Here are today’s pandemic stats:

December 5         Infected                   Died

World               66,832,931           1,533,741

US                     14,981,767              287,825

Virginia               251,173                  4,197

Augusta County       1,399                       12

A note on the Virginia Department of Health website said that “the 3,793 new case count reported on Saturday, December 5 is due to some results being backlogged.” 

I used a link on the CNN website today to enter zip codes for the following locations and retrieved these statistics.  Recall that in Virginia the cities (Staunton, Harrisonburg, and Waynesboro) are not considered part of the counties which surround them thus their statistics are separate.

CountyAugustaRockinghamMercer WVAthens OHBlair PA
Population74,70179,44460,48665,936123,842
Density Per Sq Mile7793144131236
Median Income$61,305$59,817$39,372$37,778$47,969
COVID-19 Cases1,3392,4171,4232,2564,725
COVID-19 Deaths123639478
COVID-19 % Infected1.8%3.0%2.4%3.4%3.8%
City/CountyStauntonHarrisonburgWaynesboroMonongalia
Population24,45253,39121,926105,252
Density Per Sq Mile1,2273,0791,465292
Median Income$48,049$43,893$45,738$49,926
COVID-19 Cases1,0243,5296783,490
COVID-19 Deaths133877
COVID-19 % Infected4.2%6.6%3.1%3.3%

Very interesting.  I’m noting that where we live has the lowest % infected and the highest median income of all the locations.  Augusta also has the lowest population density of any of any of these locations.  Mercer County has the lowest population of any of the counties but has more deaths than any except Blair which is twice as large.  Mercer had an outbreak in a nursing home which caused many to die.  Rockingham, though next door to Augusta and similar in population, density, and income, has three times the number of deaths.  Harrisonburg City, with the highest population density, has nearly three times the number of cases of Augusta County though it has a lower population.  Athens has the fewest number of deaths but more population than any of the cities.

Lest I start thinking that we’re relatively safe here in Mount Sidney, I have to admit that we spend a lot of time in Staunton, Waynesboro, and Harrisonburg which are all riskier places than Augusta County.

December 6, 2020

We welcomed a return visit from Butch today.  He got here this afternoon around 3:00 in his new Tesla.  It is an amazing car as he has described it; perhaps tomorrow I can take a ride with him in it.

The weather was good enough to take a walk shortly after he got here so we did our usual two mile hike.  The temperature was around 40 but we had bundled up well and didn’t get cold.  There was no wind which always helps.

Tonight we called Mary K.  She seemed well and coherent.  She is over her COVID-19 scare for the time being since she tested negative last week. 

This morning we stayed home then left in time to get our communion and food from Central at 12:15 PM.  Pastor Won, Millie Brown, and Connie Davis had fixed a lot of food to hand out.  In our bag we got a quart of BBQ, a quart of potato soup, two chicken salad biscuits, a big box of cookies, and a nice tree ornament.  We are lucky to be associated with such nice people.

We also did some shopping at Aldi’s and Kroger for food item for tonight’s dinner.  Lynn fixed a really nice meal consisting of ham, potato casserole, and green beans.  Plus she made Focacia bread.  For dessert we had hot chocolate and some of Millie’s cookies.  There was plenty of ham so we invited Ann to come by and pick up some.  She got some potato casserole and some of the bread, too. 

Lynn also baked two loaves of bread today and a batch of English muffins.  We’ll be eating well for the next few days, for sure.  Jim texted that he would drive up tomorrow to see Butch and pick up some things that were delivered here for his boys. 

I haven’t been in touch with the news today so I’m not sure if anything new is going on.  Here are today’s coronavirus statistics from worldometers.info and the Virginia Department of Health:

December 6         Infected                   Died

World               67,369,303           1,541,336

US                     15,153,522              288,892

Virginia               255,053                  4,200

Augusta County       1,437                       12

Tomorrow Butch is going to have a look at our funny circuit again.  Oddly, it has been performing fine since it went out then back on two weeks ago.   Our outside Christmas lights come on and go off just as they’re supposed to.   Tonight he also fixed a light that Lynn had brought from her Mom’s apartment which needed its wiring re-worked.

December 7, 2020

I rode with Butch to Staunton this morning in his Tesla.  It is an amazing vehicle—it will literally drive itself, steering, adjusting speed, stopping at lights, etc.  When you stop at a light, it knows when the light turns green and beeps if you don’t start moving forward.  It has something like five camera which keep a close watch on everything near to you in all directions.  Of course, it will park itself.  There is no instrument panel, just a laptop-like touch screen.  You can set it to always stay at the posted speed limit (or always drive +/- x mph from the speed limit) and it will take care of that for you.  He did tell me he paid more for the car than he did for his house which he bought 36 years ago.

We went to Staunton because I had to do the CUMC deposit in QuickBooks since the Counters did their weekly job this morning.  Butch wanted to charge his Tesla; there are eight “super charging” stations at the Sheetz in Staunton.

It took each of us about 30 minutes to get our jobs done so we were soon back at home.  Earlier we had taken a look at the mystery electrical circuit.  As I’ve noted before, the circuit is working fine now and it continued to work fine this morning.  He checked out nearly all of the outlets on the circuit but found nothing suspicious.  Since it was working OK we abandoned further work on it.

In the afternoon, Butch went upstairs to take a short nap and I came to the basement and watched a recorded basketball game WVU played against Georgetown last night.  I knew the outcome before I started (WVU won) and was able to fast forward through the commercials and slower parts of the game.

Lynn’s back is doing better though she did have an upset stomach last night which she blamed as a side effect of her pain medication.  So she stopped taking that pill but still took her muscle relaxing pill.  She stayed busy today fixing pepperoni rolls for Butch to take back to Wiley and sewing some items for him and me.

Tonight we had planned on getting dinner as take-out but it turns out that both of our top two picks, Chicano Boy and The Depot, are closed on Mondays.  So we settled for Italian food from Vito’s in Penn Laird.  Butch paid for it all.

We were joined at dinner by Jim who drove up to eat with us, visit with Butch, and pick up a package for his boys he had delivered here.  It was good to chat together and made me realize how much I miss more family discussions.

America had a million new cases of COVID-19 in the first five days of December, ABC news reported tonight.  Dr. Fauci says Christmas will be worse than Thanksgiving.  An alarming number of health care workers are catching coronavirus, they reported.  ABC also reported that earlier this summer the Trump administration turned down the offer to buy more Pfizer vaccinations and now they’ve been sold to the European Union.  It may be June before the US can buy more of Pfizer’s.

Here are today’s statistics:

December 7         Infected                   Died

World               67,903,938           1,549,620

US                     15,351,692              290,377

Virginia               258,870                  4,208

Augusta County       1,466                       12

When I glance back at this chart in my posts during September or October, it was common then for Virginia’s number of cases from one day to the next to increase by 800 – 100.  From yesterday to today it was 3,817.   We are unquestionably undergoing the worst part of this pandemic.  Yet there is a certain fatigue among Americans about dealing with this.  I admit that Lynn and I have gotten more willing to go into retail stores, especially grocery stores.  I no longer put on gloves to put gas in our vehicles.  Yet our good friend Mary Gooden now has a positive test result though she said she had been nowhere except for a few grocery stores and her part-time work and she has always worn a mask.

This is all scary.  It would be so terrible for us to get COVID-19 now with the vaccine in the foreseeable future after having avoided it so well for the past ten months.

December 8, 2020

Today was a full day of enjoying Butch’s expertise and work ethic.  We ended up doing electrical work all day.  That is, he did electrical work and I watched.  The big issue today was that the wiring had not been done correctly in our kitchen years and years ago so that in order to turn on the main light you had to always turn it off from the same switch it had been turned on from previously regardless of where that switch was.  And since two of the switches were at opposite ends of the room, sometimes you’d have to walk completely across the kitchen, flip a switch, then walk back and flip the original one just to get the light on.  The goal today was to get it so that you could turn the light on/off from any of the three switches without having to touch any others.  It took nearly all day but ended with success.  We ended up buying a new switch from Lowe’s and checking each individual wire to see where it ran to/from.  But he finally got it all figured out.

Along the way there were other issues.  In finding the right breaker for the kitchen light, I flipped off all of the breakers in the box one by one.  One of them wouldn’t turn back on.  He figured out that the breaker was just bad.  Fortunately, we had a spare breaker so he replaced it.  Then our mystery circuit started acting up again with power only to part of the circuit.  Reworking the breaker for that circuit seemed to fix that problem but I’m going to keep my fingers crossed.

Lynn got her hair cut first thing this morning while we started on the kitchen light issue.   She later rode into Staunton in Butch’s Tesla so we could go to Kroger’s and Lowe’s.  Plus we made a stop at Kay Carter’s house to give her a recommendation on how to get an outside outlet installed at her house.  She was as impressed with Butch’s car as I. 

The weather has been too cold to walk outside. From the inside today it looked OK and the temperature was around 40o.  But there was a 10-20 mph cold wind which would have made walking miserable.  By the end of the week we’re supposed to be back in the mid 50’s but it’s a shame the weather was so cold while Butch was here.

Connie also came to clean today.  It was almost comical for all of us to avoid the others as Lynn tried to get her things done, Butch and I worked on the wiring, and Connie cleaned.  But in the end everything worked out.

Josh picked up Freddie today so we didn’t have to decide on whether to let him play in our basement or not.  I think it will be fine for him to do so when it is too cold for him to be outside.  He loves to play Wii.

Lynn’s back seemed to be getting better yesterday but today she was still hurting.  She bought some heating pads from WalGreens this afternoon which are supposed to last 16 hours.  Plus her stomach was a little upset today like it was two days ago even though she quit taking the pain pills that she thought were the cause of her indigestion then.

At 6:00 tonight I had a called Zoom meeting of the Central Church Council.  They wanted to discuss whether to keep the Sunday morning services or put them on pause for a while.  They decided to halt in-person worship services for the remainder of December and all of January.  But they decided to keep the Food Pantry and Trinity Luncheons going.  I think all of those decisions were wise.  All of the morning worship services will still be recorded and posted online.

After the meeting I had to scramble to clean up the minutes I took, send them to Savannah so she can forward to Council members tomorrow, then change the website to show that this decision had been made.

The meeting, minutes, and website work took an hour in total.  That was just enough time for Butch and Lynn to finish watching the news.  So I invited them to come to the basement and watch the first episode of The Queen’s Gambiton Netflix.  Butch hasn’t used his Netflix subscription much but today he was showing me how he can even watch it on his Tesla (when he’s not driving, of course).  While Lynn was in Kroger’s we watched a few minutes of it so I knew he would like the entire episode.  Indeed it was very good.

A Facebook post today listed the Deadliest Days in American History:  1. Galveston Hurricane (8,000 deaths)  2.  Antietam (3,600)  3.  September 11, 2001 (2,977)  4.  Last Thursday (2,861)  5.  Last Wednesday (2,762)  6.  Last Tuesday (2,461)  7.  Last Friday (2,439)  8.  Pearl Harbor (2,403).  This is quite telling…

Here are today’s statistics:

December 8         Infected                   Died

World               68,546,830           1,562,031

US                     15,589,674              293,363

Virginia               262,730                  4,260

Augusta County       1,527                       13

I realize that the worldometers.info numbers differ some from the Johns Hopkins and others but if these numbers are true then Pearl Harbor just got bumped to #9 in the list of deadliest days.  In fact, today would now be in third place for deadliest days.  Virginia had a whopping increase of 3,900 new cases including 61 new ones in Augusta County!  Wow, this thing is getting out of hand.

December 9, 2020

We said goodbye to Butch first thing this morning as he headed back to Ohio.  I really enjoy his company and am so glad he came.  He fixed a lamp, circuit, and an especially tricky light switch setup for us but that’s not why I’m glad he came.  I’m glad he came just to talk and eat together.  I’ve said many times that I wish Athens OH and Mt. Sidney were much closer.  We tried to spoil him so he’d be sure to return—I know he loves Lynn’s cooking.  So do I!

Butch is just a downright decent person.  His heart is in the right place.  He cares for others and is very anxious, capable, and willing to help.  I envy his knowledge of everything.  And I admire his heart.

He texted us mid-afternoon that he had gotten back OK.  Lynn had made pepperoni rolls for Wiley and they were a big hit.  We also gave him some of our ham, English muffins, and delicious mints Lynn had made.

This morning I got a lot of things done at Central.  I got the last two credit cards reconciled and statements paid.  I paid a couple of other bills, processed the payroll for December 15, paid the December taxes, and paid the Pastor’s health insurance and retirement.  I will likely not return to QuickBooks until Monday morning.  Yea!

This afternoon Lynn’s sister Kay came over to do some Cricut work with her so I spent the time in the basement trying to come up with ideas for Lynn for Christmas.  I’m still looking…

I am more worried than I have been in months about COVID-19.  As I’ve been reporting for the past two weeks, the number of cases is just exploding, especially locally.  What a shame it would be to make it this far without catching coronavirus then succumb to it right before vaccinations are doled out.  Sadly, many people are doing just that.

Here are today’s statistics:

December 9         Infected                   Died

World               69,161,253           1,573,600

US                     15,781,776              295,855

Virginia               267,128                  4,281

Augusta County       1,694                       13

Oh my Gosh!  Augusta County just added 167 new cases in just one day.  Virginia added 4,300 new cases in just 24 hours.  It took from the start of the epidemic until June 20 for Augusta County to accumulate 167 cases.  Yet today we added that many in just 24 hours.

Here are some sobering statistics from ABC news:  The last week marks the deadliest week for the U.S. since the beginning of the pandemic, with 15,578 deaths — roughly equivalent to 92 deaths reported every hour.  The U.S. is now averaging more than 200,000 new cases each day — three times higher than the country’s summer peak in July, and more than six times higher than the country’s spring peak in April.  There has not been a single day with less than 100,000 daily cases for the last five straight weeks, according to an ABC News analysis of data compiled by the COVID Tracking Project.  In the last week alone, the U.S. has reported 1.4 million new COVID-19 cases, more than any other week on record, and equivalent to 1 in every 231 Americans testing positive.  With numerous days now over the 200,000 mark, the seven-day average of new coronavirus cases has increased by 87% in the last month.

Here are two completely opposing stories on CNN news:

First, President Donald Trump asked the Supreme Court on Wednesday to block millions of votes from four battleground states that voted for President-elect Joe Biden.  Trump’s request came in a filing with the court asking to intervene in a lawsuit brought by Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton seeking to invalidate millions of votes cast in four states that went for Biden: Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.  The President is being represented by a new attorney, John Eastman, who is known for recently pushing a racist conspiracy theory that claimed Vice President-elect Kamala Harris was not eligible for the role because her parents were immigrants.

Second, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have now certified their presidential results, according to CNN’s tally, as the Electoral College process moves forward with the meeting of electors on Monday.  West Virginia became the final state to certify its presidential election results Wednesday, formally declaring that President Donald Trump is entitled to the state’s five electoral votes. President-elect Joe Biden is projected to win 306 electoral votes, and Trump is projected to win 232. It takes 270 electoral votes of the 538 available to become president.  The states’ certifications come as Trump has baselessly claimed that the election was rigged and sowed doubt about the outcome of the presidential race. Dozens of lawsuits challenging the results have been dismissed at the state and federal levels across the country since the November election.  Each state has different processes for certifying results, and some states certified their slate of presidential electors separately from state and local election results.  The next major step in the Electoral College process is the meeting of the electors, who are required by law to convene on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December, which this year is December 14. The electors’ votes are later transmitted to officials and counted in a joint session of Congress on January 6.

So one news story is that Trump is still trying to find a way to get the election thrown out while the other says all states have officially certified that the election is over and Biden is the winner.

Tomorrow Pfizer’s vaccine is expected to receive its emergency authorization and vaccines are going to roll out.  This can’t happen too quickly.  ABC news said it will be months before all Americans receive it, of course.  The news reported again tonight that throughout the country, especially in California, hospitals are overflowing and understaffed.  

December 10, 2020

Lynn’s back is not making the kind of improvement we both thought it would.  She was in so much pain this morning getting out of bed that she had tears in her eyes—something she never does.  She had stopped taking the pain pills because she got an upset stomach but today she took this pill again.  Perhaps the upset stomach came because she took it after eating and the directions said to take it with food.

We went to bed early last night and watched two episodes of The Queen’s Gambit.  This means that she was in bed much longer than usual so perhaps her back was just tired of her lying down.  She did not sleep well, though, due to the pain. 

With the high rate of COVID-19 infections in Augusta County now I pledged to stay home more.  Yet by 9:00 this morning I had made three trips out in my car.  The first one was at 6:00 AM.  Today is Freddie’s 7th birthday.  Ann had ordered three dozen donuts for him to take to school from a donut shop in Staunton and she needed me to pick them up.  I did and took them to her house.  When I got home, Lynn picked out some items she needed from Aldi’s.  She had her friends Cheryl Wright and Cheryl Kent over this morning to sit on the porch so she couldn’t go during the senior hour which started at 8:00.  So I did that errand for her.  She was hurting too much to go anyway.  When I got back, we got a message from Ann that Freddie couldn’t find his mask at school and was given a paper one by his teacher which he didn’t like.  So she contacted Henry who was home since he goes to school on alternate days.  He located Freddie’s mask and I took it to his school for him.  He shouldn’t be unhappy on his birthday! 

I am so glad that I was available to do these errands despite having to be back out again.  On the three trips I was close to no one for more than 15 seconds and then everyone had a mask on.  Aldi’s was practically empty when I shopped there. 

Ann’s family had another thing to celebrate—Henry made the varsity basketball team and Gus made the jayvee team.  So if and when their teams get to play they will be suited up for the FDHS Indians.  I would think that both will see playing time.  Games don’t start until January 7 and if things don’t improve I’m not sure that will happen.  So sad!

A few days ago I listed twenty five things I planned to do once we were vaccinated.  I have since thought of two to add which I should have put high on that initial list:  1) Hug lots of people.  I have missed the physical contact we’ve all had to avoid during this pandemic.  2) Play tennis.  Before March I was playing three or four times each week.  I was in a group of around 15 men who were all good players and nice guys.  I miss both the exercise and the interactions. 

The weather has taken a turn for the better.  The high this afternoon was in the mid 50’s and it was sunny with no wind.  Lynn and I would definitely have walked if it weren’t for her back.  Since the weather was nice I made up another treasure hunt for Freddie so now he had two today—one for his card and another for his present.  The one I made up for his card was an outside one and involved his solving math problems.  The one I made up for his present was an inside one where he read each clue himself.

Freddie got here as scheduled and immediately began his two hunts.  He did pretty well with the math problems I gave him—got almost all of them correct without any help.  He struggled a bit with the reading clues, as we expected.  He definitely needs more practice with reading.  It will come in time.  I took pictures and posted them this evening.

Freddie such a neat kid.  He plays and runs so hard.  I love watching him.  I am extremely glad he is part of my life.

ABC news reported today that more Americans died yesterday from COVID-19, 3,054, than the number who died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941.   The seven-day average of new daily deaths (2,276) also set a record, according to the health data.  “The 7-day average for COVID-19 deaths are at an all-time high as deaths are rising throughout the country. The previous single-day record was on May 7 at 2,769 deaths,” the tracking project tweeted.  Daily hospitalizations also continued to set records as 106,688 Americans are currently hospitalized, according to the data. The seven-day average of hospitalizations was 102,580, another record.  Over 209,000 new coronavirus cases were reported on Wednesday, according to the tracking project.

The pain pills that Lynn took this morning seemed to help her get through the day.  She took another dose at dinner; hopefully she will be able to sleep better tonight. 

The FDA advisory board voted 17-4 to approve Pfizer’s vaccine so I guess it will start rolling out.  In England where it has been given for several days now, two people had an allergic reaction to it.  That made me perk up given my allergies but I think these two were much more at risk than I will be when my time comes.  For example, I understand they both had EpiPens which I’ve never had the need of.

Here are today’s grim numbers:

December 10       Infected                   Died

World               70,677,500           1,587,428

US                     16,021,370              299,584

Virginia               271,043                  4,335

Augusta County       1,906                       14

This is still scary.  August County added another 212 new cases in the past 24 hours.  In the same news, Elizabeth Jiminez texted Lynn tonight that Gilberto had a bad day today.  I am very fearful of what will happen to him.  That family needs him so much. 

With all the record infections and deaths in America, you’d think our current President would be working non-stop to try to help.  Instead, today he hosted a large party at the White House, completely disregarding the CDC’s recommendation for avoid this type of gathering.  Pictures of the event showed few masks.  Plus, he is still pushing this far-fetched suit placed in Texas which he hopes will end up in the Supreme Court who will some way side with him in disregarding the millions of fair votes cast. 

January 20 could be the most significant day in our personal future.  First, we’ll be getting rid of the worst President that I’ve ever lived under.  Second, perhaps by that time the number of available vaccines will be high enough that people in my age group will start to be vaccinated.  I hope I make it that long….

December 11, 2020

Today was another fairly warm day for mid-December, warm enough for Lynn and I to take an afternoon walk.  It felt really good.  I was a little worried if she could make it or not given her back issues but she did well.  She’s been taking the pain pills the last few days and that has helped. 

The news about Gilberto Jiminez has not been good.  Elizabeth told Lynn this morning that his lungs were severely damaged and it would take a miracle for him to survive.  Lynn asked her what they needed and she gave her a short list of things to pick up so we quickly headed to Verona to get what she asked for then take them to her.

You could see the worry and anxiety on her face as she emerged from her house.  Lynn wanted to hug her but didn’t dare get close.  She had tears rolling down her cheeks and told Lynn she hadn’t told her children how serious her husband’s condition was.  I’ve prayed for Gilberto many times in the past few weeks but none more than today.  I hope he can somehow overcome this terrible disease and return to his loving family.  Thoughts about him have dominated my day as I’m sure they have Lynn’s.

I did my usual Friday run to the dump today with a stop at the Gutshall’s house.  Gus, Betsy, and Freddie all helped me load their trash.  They seemed to be doing OK by themselves.

This afternoon was very boring.  I worked lots of Whirly Word puzzles and played many solitaire games.  Besides our two mile walk I didn’t do anything worth writing about.

I have kept my eyes on the news today because I am concerned about the case presented to the Supreme Court.  This morning I learned that our representative, Ben Cline, had signed on with Trump to support this ridiculous lawsuit.  I rarely post things on Facebook but this just put me over the top so I posted that “It is embarrassing and infuriating that the man who represents me and 750,000 others in the 6th district of Virginia would sign on to a frivolous lawsuit intended to overturn the will of the people in the states of Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Georgia. The people in those states legally voted and selected Joe Biden for President. Just because Cline and other Republicans are not happy that they are in the minority of voters of America does not mean it is OK for them to want to overturn our American institution of voting. Shame on him.”

We decided to do our family Zoom today instead of Wednesday and it worked out well.  All the families were on.  Actually we had five simultaneous views because Ann joined from her car.  It was great to see everybody.  The only ones we didn’t see were Henry and Gus who both had basketball practice now that they’re on the varsity and JV teams.

This was Friday so we continued our tradition of getting hamburgers from the Old School food truck at Valley Pike.  Lynn had her usual bacon jalapeño burger and I had my philly cheeseburger.  As always, we got an order of fries and brought everything back home to eat.

Lynn and I are planning on driving to Arlington tomorrow to take several things to the Foys.  We’ll leave in late morning and return before it gets dark, hopefully.

Here’s a storyline from ABC that I’m having to repeat way too often:  the U.S. has set new records for the most deaths in one week, the highest number of new cases in a week and the most Americans hospitalized in one week, according to ABC News’ analysis of COVID Tracking Project data.  In the past seven days, the U.S. has reported more than 1.4 million COVID-19 cases — roughly equivalent to 142 Americans testing positive for the virus every minute.  Daily case numbers have been on the rise for nearly three months, increasing nationally by 480% since mid-September.  The U.S. broke a hospitalization record again on Thursday, surpassing 107,000 patients, a 6.5% rise from a week earlier. Fifteen states have reported record numbers since Sunday.  With the U.S. is now averaging over 2,300 new coronavirus related deaths a day, more Americans are dying from COVID-19 every day than ever before.  “We are in the timeframe now that probably for the next 60 to 90 days we’re going to have more deaths per day than we had at 9/11 or we had at Pearl Harbor,” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Robert Redfield said Thursday at an event hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations.  In the 9/ll attacks, almost 3,000 Americans died, and more than 2,400 were killed when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in 1941.

Here are the statistics from worldometers.info and the Virginia Department of Health:

December 11       Infected                   Died

World               71,342,867           1,599,460

US                     16,235,934              302,179

Virginia               274,438                  4,370

Augusta County       1,933                       16

Virginia’s daily total number of infections increased by well over 3,000.  Augusta County added two more deaths to its total in the past 24 hours even though it added only 27 new cases.

Tonight we got the great news that the Supreme Court had rejected to even hear the court case brought by Texas to overturn the elections in the four battleground states.  My confidence is restored in the Supreme Court.  Even Trump’s appointees to the Court opted to reject his case.  Hallelujah!

You’d think this story is over now but remember this is Donald Trump.  I have to wonder what his next move will be.  This I know for sure—it won’t be a concession speech.

December 12, 2020

I got on the scales today for the first time in a few weeks.  Ugh!  I have gained over six pounds.  With us being trapped in our house due to cold weather and COVID-19, the only way I’m going to drop a few pounds is to eat less and I love to eat! 

I’m still celebrating the Supreme Court case from yesterday.  Prior to their decision to not even accept the case, Trump had tweeted “If the Supreme Court shows Great Wisdom and Courage, the American People will win perhaps the most important case in history and our Electoral Process will be respected again!”  The most important case in history didn’t even make it in the door…  Thank goodness the Court hasn’t caught the lose-your-brain sickness that his followers have contracted.

As I noted yesterday, his followers included 125 Republican members of the Congress who signed on to the bogus lawsuit from Texas.  Our representative, Ben Cline, was one of those.  In the past, he has been quick to say Democrats are out to take your guns away.  It looks to me like Republicans like him are out to take your voting rights away.

Lest any of us starts thinking that the hardcore Republicans will finally accept defeat, a Facebook post reminds us that those who fly the Confederate flag are proof that some people never get over losing.

Lynn got some good news last night from Elizabeth Jiminez.  Elizabeth texted her that Gilberto was doing a little better and even said the doctors told her he would survive.  I certainly hope this is true; it would be answered prayers.

While I lounged this morning, Lynn was working on a craft—duplicate stitching some items for Christmas presents she plans to give.  Her hands just can’t stay still.  I guess mine are always on a keyboard but hers are always doing something more creative.  And her hands are usually doing something for someone else.  Her heart is superb.

We finished The Queen’s Gambit last night.  I’m not sure what we’ll watch next.  I will say that the pandemic has caused us to use our Netflix subscription a lot.

Pfizer vaccines are starting to roll out today from their plant in Michigan to 600 locations across America.  I’m curious to see how long it will be before staff at Augusta Health and Sentara in Harrisonburg receive theirs.  Frankly I just hope there will be transparency so that we’ll know these facts.

With Ann’s help I’ve been working on getting a few Christmas presents for Lynn.  Christmas is such an important season to her so I really don’t want her to be disappointed.  Ann is helping me by placing Amazon orders shipped to her house for which I’ll repay her.

For the 45 years I worked, I needed an alarm at 6:00 AM to wake me up.  Now that I am retired with nowhere to go in the mornings, you’d think I’d sleep in much later.  The fact is I wake up around 5:00 AM each morning and frequently am up before 6:00.  No alarm needed.  I have been sleeping well lately so I am not complaining.  I typically dream about being in some kind of a teaching situation where I am unprepared for the lesson.  Last night my dream was that I was prepared to teach but the technology in my room didn’t meet my needs.

We left for Arlington mid-morning.  Our lunch on the way consisted of ice cream at Smiley’s.  We also picked up a ice cream cake for Andy which we took to them.  It was a relatively short visit but successful one.  We delivered clothes to Georgia from Betsy, a present Kay had ordered and was sent here, and some crafts which Lynn put together for Thomas and Georgia.  We had time for her to do some of the crafts with them on their back porch.

Lynn drove both ways and her back seemed to hold up well.  We got back near 5:30. On our way back we stopped at Vito’s Pizza Pie in Penn Laird and picked up our favorite pizza (the Soprano) which was our dinner tonight and will likely be tomorrow night’s also.

Tonight’s news is more of the same—record COVID-19 infections, deaths, and hospitalizations.  For so many people the vaccine will be too late.  Here are today’s statistics:

December 12       Infected                   Died

World               72,052,883           1,610,519

US                     16,521,948              304,930

Virginia               278,615                  4,409

Augusta County       2,012                       16

The number of cases in Virginia is still increasing.  Today there were 4,200 new cases in just one day.  There were 39 new deaths.  In Augusta County there were 79 new cases in just one day.  There are 54 Augusta County residents hospitalized. 

Tonight was the annual UVA – VT football game.  It started at 8:00 which is our normal bedtime so we turned it on with plans to watch as much as we could before falling asleep….

December 13, 2020

I watched the first quarter and the last five minutes of the UVA – VT game last night.  Tech prevailed, 33 – 15.  Henry will be happy but not Gus.  WVU was supposed to have played Oklahoma yesterday but the game was canceled due to COVID-19.  So WVU ended up with a 5-4 record.  UVA’s was 5-5 and VT’s was 5-6.  All three had average years.

Today was a typical Sunday; I played the piano for the Bible Study group at Central.  Lynn did lots of craft work.  She’s working on a project for Christmas gifts.  I won’t tell what.  Then she walked with Ginny Bauman.  The weather was sunny with the temperature considerably warmer than usual, 60o, but it was fairly windy.

Lynn and I did a little Christmas shopping today.  That is, we ordered items from Amazon.  Thank goodness for Amazon this year.  We’re not about to be going from store to store with the pandemic boiling right now.

The Electoral College meets tomorrow and will certify Biden as the winner of the 2020 election.  Though this is somewhat ceremonial, I’ll still be happy when this has been done and even happier on January 6 when Congress officially counts these votes and announces him as the winner.  Until then, there’s no doubt in my mind that Trump will continue to undermine the process, sow discord, whine, plot, tweet, and encourage his brainless followers to ignore the law and the will of the majority.

Here are today’s COVID-19 figures:

December 13       Infected                   Died

World               72,618,391           1,618,437

US                     16,728,586              306,429

Virginia               281,909                  4,411

Augusta County       2,103                       16

The numbers aren’t as high as they were yesterday but maybe that’s just because today is Sunday and all of the data didn’t get reported.  Virginia still had over 3,000 new cases though only two more deaths. 

Lynn and I walked at Gypsy Hill today.  We both wore our masks the whole time; the park was crowded.  We also learned today that her good friend Mary Gooden has now made a complete recovery from COVID-19.  Mary didn’t tell Lynn she was positive until she was cleared to go back to work.  However, the news from Elizabeth Jiminez wasn’t so good today.  Elizabeth said that they were “praying for a miracle” for her husband.  I really, really hope he pulls through. 

There’s a big snow supposedly coming this Wednesday—quite a change from today’s 60 degree weather.  We were scheduled to pick up our Greenbrier Christmas presents that day but they’ve already rescheduled our pickup to Tuesday so we can beat the snow.  One forecast has us getting 8-12 inches of the white stuff.

December 14, 2020

We made an early trip to Costco today to grab some items during the senior citizen hour there.  The items I have been trying to buy for Central UMC still weren’t available:  paper towels, disinfectant wipes, and disinfectant spray.  But we got several other items including a few Christmas presents.  The store opened just before 9:00 and we were driving home at 9:08 so I don’t think we compromised ourselves with this visit indoors.  Today was an ugly, cold, rainy day so there were few people shoppers at Costco.

After that, I was able to get several chores done this morning at Central.  I recorded playing the piano for one song which I had agreed to do for the Christmas Eve service (now virtual) and also recorded a scriptural reading I was assigned for that service.  Then I went to the Treasurer’s Office and paid four bills, updated the Schwab investment spreadsheet, and did the weekly deposit that the Counters had done before I got there.  Meanwhile, Lynn worked with Cheryl Kent on some Cricut projects of Cheryl’s.

In the afternoon, we drove to Waynesboro for a few stops.  First, we went to Michael’s where Lynn bought some items for a Christmas present.  Then we went to WalMart where she bought some yogurt.  Finally, we stopped at her student’s home to drop off groceries she had collected for him from the Central Food Pantry.

Lynn was upset today because we both were negligent in ordering something she has been wanting—a patio heater—from Costco only to find out that now it is no longer available.  Last week it was available but we just didn’t get it ordered.  Furthermore, patio heaters are nowhere to be found at Lowe’s or Home Depot now.  She wanted it for the weekly meetings she has with Cheryl Wright and Cheryl Kent and also for Christmas this year since we’ll likely not have other family members in the house thanks to COVID-19.  I’m not 100% convinced that this is a good investment, though.  It may be that we’ll be vaccinated in January which means that it would only get a few weeks of service.  I know that once she and her friends have been vaccinated they’ll meet inside on a cold day.  All of us are in the 65+ age group which is supposed to be the second set of people to be vaccinated.

The first set, health care workers, began getting their vaccinations today.  I heard on the news that they really do hope to get all of these workers plus those in nursing homes vaccinated by the end of December.  If that’s true, and we’re the next group, I would think that perhaps ours would come during January.  I hope this is correct.  But a later news story said it would be months before the general public receives vaccination.

Today the Electoral College cast its votes.  As expected, Biden won 306 – 232.  Will the Republicans finally admit defeat?  Well, have the Confederate flags disappeared?

Here are today’s coronavirus statistics:

December 14       Infected                   Died

World               73,158,997           1,627,168

US                     16,922,438              307,924

Virginia               285,149                  4,414

Augusta County       2,352                       16

Virginia’s death count only went up by only three but the case count went up 3,200.  Our friend Mary who has now recovered from it said it well when talking to Lynn, “it’s everywhere…”   I think that we’re like survivors on a life raft with the helicopter in sight but the raft has an ever-increasing hole in it.  The news tonight featured several people getting the vaccine today but the news also predicted that by the new year we’d have over 360,000 deaths in the U.S. 

The long term effects of COVID-19 are unknown since the virus is so new.  Yesterday a star basketball player for the University of Florida who had coronavirus this past summer collapsed on the court and is in critical condition in the hospital.  The question is what kinds of heart damage can it cause.

December 15, 2020

Today was the calm before the storm.  The weather forecast is that snow will begin tomorrow morning and accumulate 4” – 8”.  I do suppose we’ll be locked in the house starting then for at least a day.  The meteorologist on TV3 reported that we may get more sleet and less snow.  Either way the roads will be a mess so we’ll hunker down.

We were supposed to pick up the presents from the Greenbrier that Lynn had signed Central UMC up for tomorrow, but given the forecast they moved the pickup to today.  Our scheduled time wasn’t until 4:45 which would have put us back in Staunton very late.  We had nothing else scheduled this afternoon so we headed to White Sulphur Springs at 1:00, making a couple of stops in Staunton on the way. 

We pulled up to the location where we had wrapped presents and were very pleasantly surprised to find that they were fine with us coming nearly two hours ahead of schedule.  The distribution of presents was arranged much better than usual this year.  All we had to do was to back Lynn’s car up to the location and the volunteers there loaded every present into her car.  We didn’t have to leave our seats!  I was very skeptical that 237 presents would fit in Lynn’s Rav4 but the presents weren’t large ones and they fit in easily.

We got back to Central by 5:00, unloaded the presents, then sorted them by gender and age.  We put signs on each stack were done by 5:30, way ahead of the time I thought we’d finish.  To celebrate we went to Bojangle’s drive-thru for dinner.  I got a chicken dinner and Lynn got a country ham biscuit and a pimento cheese biscuit.

This morning I worked more on an idea I had for a present for Lynn for Christmas.  I actually got it printed and wrapped.  She had a Zoom session with a Rockingham County pre-school student.  Our Christmas shopping has been aided by Amazon.  I think Lynn has presents for most of the grandchildren.  At least she’s ordered them.

The news is all about people getting vaccinated.  Supposedly Augusta Health will start vaccinating its health care workers tomorrow.  Unfortunately, the spread of COVID-19 isn’t pausing while this is going on.  Here are today’s numbers:

December 15       Infected                   Died

World               73,728,188           1,639,535

US                     17,099,429              310,359

Virginia               288,309                  4,470

Augusta County       2,414                       19

The increase of 3 in Augusta’s County’s deaths is the highest single day increase since I’ve been reporting these statistics.  Augusta had 62 new cases.  There are currently 57 Augusta Coujnty residents hospitalized with COVID-19.  Virginia had over 3,000 new cases and 56 more deaths.  Nationwide, the numbers were down a little but still much more than what we had this summer.  And, ABC reported that the number of hospitalizations set a new record today, over 110,000.  Since Thanksgiving, the number of deaths per day has increased 69%.

The news did say that Moderna is nearing the completion of its testing so soon we may have two vaccinations available for the public.  There’s a chance that Moderna will have its emergency use authorization by the end of this week.  Moderna’s vaccine, like Pfizer’s, has been shown to be very effective. 

We took a chance today that we’ll get our vaccine before the end of February.  The Greenbrier announced that it will have its cheap “Tribute” rates for the week of February 15 – 19.  We took a chance and reserved staying there February 15 – 18.  The reservation is non-refundable.  Paul and Sandy Porterfield are going to make the same reservation.

Mitch McConnell finally recognized Joe Biden as the President-Elect today, 43 days after the election.  It took the Electoral College count yesterday to make him finally admit Biden’s victory.

Lynn’s back is doing better.  She’s had some indigestion issues perhaps caused by the pills she’s been taking for her back pain but overall her health is improved.  I can’t overstate how unusual 2020 has been where there have been two times, broken foot and strained back, where she has been in much pain and distress.  She has always been extremely healthy and fit.

Earlier this month we bought a bushel of juice oranges from Broadway High School’s agriculture department thanks to Ann.  I’ve been fixing fresh orange juice almost every morning for Lynn and me.  This year the oranges are very sweet.  We’ve enjoyed this addition to our breakfast, for sure.

December 16, 2020

I forgot to include my high point of the day yesterday.  It was a text from Josh about Freddie.  We had texted him to make sure he was picking Freddie up since we were out of town when the bus arrived.  Here’s what he shared: “He also said that he was answering lots of math questions & his teacher asked him to give others a chance. He said that he probably will be a math teacher like granddaddy that specializes in adding. He likes plus better than take away.”

Gus brought his PlayStation over last night to be updated using our internet connection.  Actually he got here after Lynn and I were in bed watching TV.  This morning I had a text from him asking me to power it off so his Mom could pick it up this morning.  The schools had already been called off and I knew he’d want to have it at home today.  But with the temperature in the 20’s and the forecast of multiple inches of snow coming early today I decided to run it over to their house before the snow started.  I got back around 7:30 and it wasn’t ten minutes until the snow started falling.  I’m so glad I didn’t wait on one of his parents to try to pick it up because the snow immediately stuck to the roads due to the cold.

Lynn worked on wrapping Christmas presents all morning.  At least this snowfall has helped her get ahead of schedule since there’s still nine days until Christmas.  By mid-morning the snow had turned into sleet.  This made it all the more important for us to stay inside.

Lynn had purchased a large container of oatmeal for a recipe a few weeks ago.  I decided to try to make a bowl today just because it was available.  It turned out to taste great.  I remember that my Dad used to eat oatmeal almost every day.  I thought of him as I ate mine today. 

There’s a commercial on TV which makes fun of people turning into their parents.  I always thought that the three of us looked a lot more like Mom than Dad.  But sometimes when I’ve put on my reading glasses then glanced into a mirror I can see Dad looking back.  As I’ve done the bookkeeping for Central I’ve thought about him and his excellent accounting skills.

It turns out the snowfall was somewhat of a bust.  We had lots of freezing rain and sleet today but probably no more than two inches of snow, if that.  The roads are a mess but at least there’s not a lot of heavy snow to shovel.  It is supposed to warm up to 40o tomorrow so perhaps the ice will melt.  Schools in the area are called off again tomorrow, though.

The same thing happened in Roanoke.  Jim called us via Facetime this morning.  His boys were disappointed that they had rain because they were hoping to play in the snow.  We had a period of time this afternoon where the snow came down really hard but it didn’t seem to accumulate any.

I had news today of a family member in pretty bad shape with COVID-19.  My first cousin, David Dean, lives in Charleston WV and is a retired police officer.  He is two years younger than I am.  His sister Marjorie posted about him today and I am reproducing her entire post here: 

Wednesday last week my brother David went to the ER at Thomas Hospital with shortness of breath and extreme weakness. He was positive for Covid and has been hospitalized since then. I think he will be one of the lucky ones who do not die, and he is not on a ventilator, but the misery is unimaginable. His caregivers are limited as to how much time they are allowed in his room and they are stressed, exhausted, overextended, and very much at risk. I am helpless. You do not want this, and you do not want to do anything to risk the suffering of others. If you have gotten away with risk so far, you are lucky. But stop, now. Do not put your family and others through the consequences of your contracting this cruel disease. If you plan to travel, cancel. If you plan to go to someone’s home during the holidays, or have anyone else in your home, including children or parents who do not live with you, cancel. If you love the Lord, remember the commandment to love your neighbors and pray at home, not at church. This is the home stretch, and a loving person will do the unselfish thing and make sacrifices now to avoid putting others through the consequences of your becoming sick. This is not an issue of individual choice. It is an issue of right and wrong. If you are alone and depressed Christmas, send me a message and I will call you. It will still be Christmas, and may the blessings of the holiday season be with you.

Our Christmas tree is getting dry and somewhat weepy and there’s still nine more days to go before Christmas.  I confess I forgot to make a fresh cut on the bottom of it when I brought it home and it’s too late to do that now.  It just doesn’t drink water like those we’ve had in the past.  There’s plenty of water in its base but it doesn’t seem to take any of it.  I’m afraid it will be coming down shortly after Christmas.  It is a pretty tree and looks good from the road but up close it looks somewhat sad.

ABC news tonight reported that for the tenth straight day COVID-19 hospitalizations hit a new high, more than 112,000.  Some hospitals are out of ICU space.  All this is happening while Moderna’s vaccination may achieve emergency authorization tomorrow.  Supposedly there are nearly 6,000,000 Moderna vaccines ready to be distributed.  ABC said there were 3,019 deaths yesterday.

Here are today’s numbers:

December 16       Infected                   Died

World               74,471,110           1,653,829

US                     17,353,637              314,176

Virginia               292,240                  4,508

Augusta County       2,436                       19

Virginia had almost 4,000 new cases again.  At least Lynn and I didn’t put ourselves in jeopardy today.  She didn’t leave the house and the only times I did were to take the PlayStation to Gus and to check the mail.

December 17, 2020

The snow stopped and although the temperature was around 25o our wonderful neighbor Bee Myers plowed our driveway this morning.  I finished off the job by shoveling around our cars and our sidewalks.  At least the wind wasn’t blowing so it was bearable. 

Bee shared with me that he had tested positive for COVID-19 several days ago.  He has finished his quarantine now and never did have any symptoms.  He said that he and Janet had visited with her daughter who apparently passed it along to him though Janet tested negative.

Later in the day Lynn’s sister Kay reported that she has been battling a terrible cough lately as have her son and daughter, David and Donna.  This is fearsome as so did Nathan Jiminez who had a positive case of COVID-19.  Kay went to CVS in Waynesboro this afternoon and got a COVID-19 test.  I guess we’ll know in a few days….  She gets her results back in 48 hours.

As I have written many times over the past eight months, it just seems like COVID-19 is stalking us, getting closer all the time.  Now the neighbor directly across the street and possibly one of Lynn’s siblings has tested positive.  Are we next?

Nonetheless, we had some things to pick up for Christmas so once the roads cleared a little we headed for Harrisonburg.  We really want to get everything taken care of for Christmas early this year since we don’t know what the future holds.  We were able to take care of our banking, buy some jewelry for Betsy, and then shop at Costco.  At Costco, we found many great bargains in the clothes section so we loaded up for the grandchildren.  I even bought four coats for Central’s Clothes Closet because they had winter coats for $5!  We also bought some cough syrup for Kay which we dropped by her home while she was still waiting to be tested at the CVS.

Lynn and I also decided to go to Charlottesville tomorrow.  We had some jewelry held for us there for Betsy and she has some gift cards to pick up for her Waynesboro student from her Migrant Ed boss.  We’ve gotten our shopping done for all of the grandchildren except Henry so maybe we’ll find something there for him, too.

It would be nice to get all of our shopping behind us then hunker down for the days prior to Christmas.  I really hope we can avoid lots of social contacts in the near future.

ABC News said tonight that Moderna’s vaccine had been recommended for emergency use authorization by the FDA.  However, it also reported that today was the deadliest day in the pandemic with 3,600 new deaths.   Today is the 11th straight day of record hospitalizations.

December 17       Infected                   Died

World               75,214,519           1,666,844

US                     17,587,663              317,451

Virginia               296,093                  4,553

Augusta County       2,497                       19

Augusta County has 57 people currently hospitalized.  See what I mean when I say it is stalking us?

I know my writings throughout the past eight months have largely focused on the COVID-19 pandemic.  I’m both more worried than ever and more confident that this battle can be won especially since there are two approved vaccines now.  I guess I’m like a soldier in a fox hole worried with the enemy rapidly approaching but knowing that there are lots of reinforcements on the way.  Lynn and I have tried to be careful though I know there are some people who are even more careful than we are.  We always wear masks in public.  We avoid any types of assemblies.  Yet I know that many of the 17.5 million Americans who have caught this awful virus have been careful like we have been.

The political news has certainly dropped off dramatically.  Trump still spouts his lies but fewer and fewer people seem to be listening to him now.  He’s done for!  I did get an e-mail today that said one of the Republican candidates for governor in Virginia yesterday said Trump should declare martial law and overturn the Biden win in Virginia.

December 18, 2020

One week until Christmas!  We’re almost done with our shopping and added a few more items today.  Lynn has kept up with wrapping which means this year is the earliest she’s ever got her wrapping done.  That’s one good thing about having your hands tied at home due to COVID-19, I suppose.

Even though the temperature was in the low 30’s, Lynn’s friends Cheryl Kent and Cheryl Wright came over to visit outdoors today for 90 minutes.  They bundled up on the back porch.  In the future we’ll have some relief for days like this because last night Lynn found a patio heater available on Costco’s website and ordered it.  It won’t be here until after Christmas, though.

I worked a long time on my 2021 calendar today.  The process is to 1) look through all the 2020 photos on my downstairs iMac and select any which looks good for the calendar.  I always select way more than will fit in the calendar but that’s OK.  2)  Using the app Photos, select to create a new project, the 2021 calendar.  3)  Copy each of the photos under consideration onto the newly created project.  4)  Select the calendar dates to be added (Hill birthdays & anniversaries, Hanger birthdays & anniversaries, and Hill-Hanger birthdays & anniversaries plus US Holidays).  5)   For each month, select the layout of photos you want (e.g., 4 per page, 5 per page, 7 per page, etc.)  6) Drag the photos from the project onto the calendar   7) Edit the photos by zooming in, cropping, etc.  8) Double check everything multiple times to make sure no one’s birthday or anniversary has been left off.  8) Save the calendar as a .pdf file   9) Transfer the .pdf to a USB stick and take it to Staples to be printed.  I usually create three calendars:  Hill Calendar, Hanger Calendar, and Hill-Hanger Calendar.  This year I decided to do the photos a little different.  Instead of trying to get a mix of photos on each month, I’ve dedicated the photos for a particular month to whomever has a birthday that month.  For example, January has pictures of Coen, July has pictures of Lynn and Kay, and December has pictures of Freddie.  Months like March and October with no family birthdays have a mix of photos.  I’m up to step 8) now for the Hill-Hanger 2021 Calendar.  It’ll be easy to create the other two by simply duplicating the Hill-Hanger one then, for example, deleting Hill birthdays and anniversaries to create the Hanger 2021 Calendar.

I’ve created calendars for many, many years.  It’s one of my favorite projects.  I’m not crafty like Lynn who is able to create many cool things for people, but I am an experienced calendar maker!

This afternoon Lynn and I drove to Charlottesville where we picked up some jewelry the store was holding for us there.  This item wasn’t available in Harrisonburg.  Then we went to the Albemarle County Migrant Education Office where Lynn picked up a gift card for her Waynesboro student.  Then we drove to Costco and found more bargains for Christmas. 

We got home in time for me to run to Central UMC and pay a few bills.  Then I came back home and we had our traditional Friday dinner—hamburgers from the Old School food truck at Valley Pike Market.

WVU played Iowa State tonight in basketball.  It didn’t start until 9:00 but I was determined to stay awake for the entire game.  I’m usually asleep shortly after 9:00.

Today’s COVID-19 news is more of the same…the deadliest week yet.  With large family Christmas gatherings coming up, the spread may get even worse.  Virginia’s numbers are once again way too high:

December 18       Infected                   Died

World               75,938,113           1,679,746

US                     17,842,541              320,380

Virginia               299,388                  4,598

Augusta County       2,536                       19

Tonight’s news on ABC said that Moderna’s vaccine is ready to go.  The FDA will likely grant emergency approval at any moment.  This vaccine is 94.1% effective against COVID-19 and can stop asymptomatic spread of it, too. 

December 19, 2020

In any other year, today would be busy from dawn until late night as we’d be preparing for our family party.  Not so this year, of course.  Instead, neither of us had much on our agenda.  Lynn did go to Waynesboro to do some shopping at Michael’s and I made my weekly trash run.

I did manage to stay up and watch all of the WVU – Iowa State basketball game last night.  The Mountaineers won the tight game, 70-65, coming from behind in the last minute to win.  As usual, they struggled with being able to shoot, making only 38% of their field goals including a lousy 21% of 3-pointers.  They’re a hard team to watch as I’ve said in the past.

We got a package from Butch yesterday and elected to open it early.  It was an electric mattress heating pad.  He had told us about his and how warm it keeps his bed so he bought one for us.  What a nice brother!  I called him today to thank him.  We put it on tonight so tomorrow I will report on how warm it kept us.

I also called Mary K. to find out when Vic and Amy’s baby is due.  It turns out that it is tomorrow!  She said that she will be induced if he doesn’t come by Monday.  I will be happy to add this new birthday to our calendar!

Donald Trump has been out of the news lately.  Perhaps he’s trying to find another way to challenge the election.  A Facebook post I liked today said this, “Where is Trump?  A Massive Breach of our Federal Agencies?  Where is Trump?  300,000 + COVID deaths.  Where is Trump?  Americans desperately in need of relief as poverty and unemployment soar.  Where is Trump?”  The Staunton newspaper had a great page today featuring a very critical editorial of Trump entitled “A threat to our constitutional order.” 

Another Facebook post that hit home was one that said, “December 7, 1941:  A day that will live in infamy…  2,403 deaths.   September 11, 2001:  America’s darkest day… 2,977 deaths.  December 9, 2020:  Just another Wednesday.  3,124 COVID deaths.”

We had news on two local COVID-19 cases today.  Lynn’s sister Kay called today after she had received the call—she tested positive.  She told Lynn earlier today she had lost her sense of taste so it wasn’t a surprise.  But we had some good news, too.  Elizabeth said that Gilberto was taken off the ventilator today.  That is really great news.

So here’s how close COVID has come to us so far:  Our previous neighbor Mary Gooden had it and has recovered now.  The neighbor directly across the street, Bee Myers, has now recuperated from it.  Our friends the Jiminez family has at least two family members who have been infected including Gilberto who has spent nearly a month on a ventilator.  And now Lynn’s sister Kay has tested positive and her daughter Donna very likely is positive, too.  For months we could hardly name anyone who had it though the pandemic was widespread in the US.  Now it is hitting much closer to home.

Here’s the news from ABC.  It sounds like a broken record:  The United States reported a record high of 249,709 new COVID-19 cases Friday — just shy of a quarter-million — according to updated data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. Also, according to The COVID Tracking Project’s Friday evening update, a record 114,751 people were hospitalized with the coronavirus, marking the thirteenth straight day that the nation has hit a record high of current hospitalizations.  Additionally, 2,814 deaths were reported Friday, according to Johns Hopkins University.  By all metrics, this week has been the worse since the pandemic began in terms of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Here are today’s statistics:

December 19       Infected                   Died

World               76,548,202           1,690,163

US                     18,038,833              322,648

Virginia               302,972                  4,643

Augusta County       2,589                       22

Augusta County had three more COVID-19 deaths in the past 24 hours.  Virginia had 3,600 new cases and 45 more deaths.  I don’t know how comforting it is, but when you compare the number died to the number infected, the world’s death rate is 2.2%, the US rate is 1.8%, the Virginia rate is 1.5% and Augusta County’s is 0.8%.  Personally I’m not that comforted…

December 20, 2020

This is the eight month mark for my blog.  I’ve written 375 single spaced pages of Word.  I suspect that you would find some reference to the pandemic on every one of the 375 pages.  I wish today had better news but it is more of the same.

Lynn and I are committed to being in public less for the next several weeks.  I know that we’ve averaged at least one store per day for weeks and weeks and I confess that I did go to Martin’s today because we did not get our newspaper delivered as it was supposed to have been so I went there to get one for Lynn.  Lynn didn’t leave home all day.

She’s been doing various craft projects but I fear that she doesn’t have very many on deck.  She has cranked out all kinds of them over the past few weeks plus both of us have all of our presents wrapped.  

I spent more time today creating calendars.  I added a 2021 Hanger calendar but instead of using the same photos that I did for the Hill and Hill-Hanger calendars I decided to devote the Hanger one to all pictures of Mr. and Mrs. Hanger.  I had plenty of them to choose from.  I usually put anywhere from 4 to 7 pictures on each page so I needed about 70 to create the calendar.  It was easy to find those 70 from my collection.

The heated mattress pad from Butch felt great last night.  You can set both the temperature level and for how many hours you want it on.  We each have controls for our side of the bed.  It felt so good we both fell asleep watching the movie Kay had recommended for us on Disney+, Godmothered

I admit that I was wrong when I said that Central would have trouble giving away the 233 presents that we brought from the Greenbrier.  Pastor Won told me today that all but around 50 had been handed out.  He split the remaining 50 with another church and will give away the rest at the Food Pantry on Wednesday.

I learned today that WVU’s football team will play Tennessee in the Liberty Bowl on December 31.  Good!  I’ll enjoy watching that game (I hope!).

A month from today will be Joe Biden’s inauguration.  So has Trump finally given up his doomed efforts at overturning the election?  Heavens, no!  His latest tactics include supporting the crazed lawyer Sidney Powell who at a Nov. 19 news conference, before a national television audience, asserted that “communist money,” the late Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and a manipulated computer algorithm were all connected in a secret plot that had altered potentially millions of ballots and stolen the election from Trump.  Powell did not stop there. In an interview two days later with the conservative outlet Newsmax, she said she had been given evidence — which she said she could not disclose — that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican and an ally of the president, had taken bribes and conspired to orchestrate Trump’s defeat. Nationwide, she estimated that “thousands” of local elections officials knowingly helped carry out the master scheme to tamper with ballots. In fact, Powell claimed, if anyone bothered to look, they’d probably find that U.S. elections had been rigged for decades.  Trump also has been listening to Michael Flynn, whom he pardoned after he admitted to lying to Congress, who has encouraged him to use martial law to “rerun” the elections in states Trump lost.

ABC News tonight said a new, highly infectious strain of COVID-19 is racing through the United Kingdom.   England is under a massive lockdown.  In the US, an average of 2,600 people died every day during the past week.  Nineteen states, including Virginia, reached a new high in hospitalizations.  Moderna’s vaccine has now started to be shipped out throughout the US.  The CDC today recommended that people over 75 plus essential workers such as firefighters and teachers should be the next in line to receive the vaccinations. 

Congress finally approved a second stimulus package today.   Supposedly $600 will be sent out to individuals; I’m not sure yet if Lynn and I will be receiving this or not.

Here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 20       Infected                   Died

World               77,144,698           1,699,039

US                     18,258,572              324,841

Virginia               306,848                  4,650

Augusta County       2,641                       22

Virginia’s new cases numbered 3,876.  That is enormous.  Strangely, the number of deaths only increased by 7. 

December 21, 2020

We double checked our presents last night making sure that we had the same number of presents for each of our grandchildren.  It turns out that we need another item for Gus and Henry so we came up with a plan today to take care of that.  Teenage boys aren’t easy to buy for!  Our plan involves going to Charlottesville.  And since Connie is coming tomorrow and we generally try to be out of the house when she comes, we’ll just make a trip to C’ville when she gets here.

I managed to keep busy all day today without much on my agenda.  Since this was the Monday after the third Sunday, I had counting duties today at Central.  I went a little early and took care of some other QuickBooks work including setting up for the final payroll of the year on December 31.  After we counted, I did the Quickbooks deposit so I don’t really have much reason to go back to CUMC for a few days.

Actually I did go back later in the day but it was to help Lynn.  Lynn and Cheryl Kent had come up with this idea that members could contribute in a “reverse Advent” where people provide items for the Food Pantry by either purchasing themselves or sending in $35 for Lynn and Cheryl to buy the items.  Actually, we had donations for twelve Advent kits so Lynn wisely ordered all of the items to be picked up from Walmart.  All we had to do was drive there and they brought the items out and loaded them in our car.  It was easy!  Then we took the items to Central where Lynn and Cheryl put them on the shelves for the Food Pantry folks.  The items that were bought were items that typically aren’t provided by the Blue Ridge Food Bank including foods like fruit cocktail and cake mixes and other items such as Kleenex and bandaids.  It turns out that they had money leftover since Walmart’s prices weren’t $35 per kit.  So Lynn is going to place another order for later this week.

The patio heater was ordered arrived today.  It took me about an hour to put it together.  I had it all set up on the porch but couldn’t get it to light.  I double checked the propane source by swapping the propane canister I had put in the heater with the one in the grill but that wasn’t the problem.  I called the company’s tech line and was getting quite upset especially when the first person I talked with couldn’t help me get it lit.  He took my phone number and said another technician would get back to me in 24 hours.  I decided to double check the new battery I had installed in the lighter section and it turned out to be dead.  Replacing it, the heater came on just fine.  It doesn’t heat the entire patio, for sure, but Lynn is pleased with it and that’s all that matters.

Tonight she fixed Colcannon Soup.  I had never heard that name before though we did have this soup once before when her friend Pat Collins sent us some.  Pat also gave the recipe to Lynn so she made it tonight.  It has potatoes and spinach and is very good.  I love most any kind of soup; tonight’s was especially tasty.

After writing yesterday that WVU was playing Tennessee in the Liberty Bowl, news on Facebook tonight was that Tennessee’s coach and several players have COVID-19 so they are backing out of playing.  Wow!

How many times have I written about this?  Today’s ABC news said that the president has not appeared publicly in nine days, and behind closed doors, advisers say, he has remained focused on the election — rather than governing the country through a historic pandemic, overseeing the rollout of two COVID-19 vaccines and ensuring a smooth transition to a Biden administration.  In one month he’ll be an ordinary US citizen with no political office.  Maybe his new residence will be somewhere with iron bars on the windows and doors.

Tonight’s COVID-19 news is bleak, as usual.  In the week ending Dec. 19, 16 states hit a record number of new deaths: Alabama, Arizona, California, Delaware, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Oregon, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, Washington and West Virginia.  I guess those of us in Virginia thought we were somehow not under the siege as much as California but the latest numbers suggest otherwise.

Here are the statistics:

December 21       Infected                   Died

World               77,635,902           1,707,498

US                     18,425,166              326,312

Virginia               310,890                  4,654

Augusta County       2,723                       22

The US numbers are down a little but Virginia still had 4,000 new cases. Included in these counts are several of our friends and family:  my first cousin David Dean, Lynn’s sister Kay, our next door neighbor Bee Myers, a member of our “adopted” Mexican family, Gilberto Jiminez, Lynn’s good friend Mary Gooden, and who-knows-who-else?

The new mutation of COVID-19 which is racing through Britain is in the news tonight.  Doctors say that it isn’t more serious or deadly than the original COVID-19 but it is much more contagious.  The experts think that the vaccine will be effective against it though the new mutation is so new there are a lot of unanswered questions.

A half-million people have now been vaccinated.  But the CDC recently recommended that the next group after front line medical workers will be those over 75 plus essential workers like teachers, police, fire fighters, grocery workers, etc.  I guess that puts Lynn and me further down the line.

December 22, 2020

The ranking of who should get vaccinated in what order is a sobering conversation which reminds me of how unimportant many of us are.  I know that people working in emergency rooms need to be vaccinated because they truly are serving the public in crucial ways.  These people are superbly important and I don’t mind letting them go first.  I suppose it is important for politicians to be vaccinated since they serve as a representative to thousands of people though I am not too happy that politicians who previously called this thing a hoax are now protected and I’m not.  Since I’m not working anymore my sphere of influence is greatly reduced and I understand that.  I’m not complaining that much, just noting that my sense of worth is reduced now that the priorities have been released.

I wrote previously that Lynn and I were trying to limit our interactions with others as the COVID-19 spread has worsened.  Today I think that Lynn’s priorities are different from mine in this regard.  We went to Harrisonburg this morning where we stopped at five different stores where she shopped:  Walmart, Costco, Kroger, Walgreens, and Sharp Shopper.  She had only a few items she was looking for at each store and none were necessities.  For example, at three of them she was only looking for Rollo candy.  Of those five stores, the only one I went into was Costco and that was because I needed to use the restroom.  I’d like to think that if we stay here at home we have a near 0% chance of catching COVID-19 but when one of us goes to a store, any store, that percentage increases markedly.

We’ve been trying to work out some Christmas plans with our children.  There won’t be a big family get-together, of course, this year.  Kay and her family are planning on coming here on the afternoon of Sunday, the 27th, to exchange presents.  We talked with Jim this morning but didn’t come to a conclusion as to when we could take his family’s presents to them.  Ann’s family may come over Sunday morning.

We are awaiting news about Mary K’s newest grandchild.  Vic and Amy were due to have their first child yesterday.  They are both in their 40’s so this is really quite an event. 

We had more of that great Colcannon soup tonight then we went to Smiley’s for dessert.  A fine meal!

WVU played Kansas tonight in basketball.  It was a late game, starting at 9:00 so I won’t get the results in this blog but will tomorrow.  It was at Kansas where WVU had never before won.  Kansas came into the game ranked 3rd nationally; WVU was 7th.

December 22       Infected                   Died

World               78,285,414           1,721,910

US                     18,633,111              330,067

Virginia               314,481                  4,705

Augusta County       2,768                       23

Virginia had over 3,500 new cases and 51 more deaths.  Augusta County now has 61 people currently hospitalized with COVID-19. 

By Christmas Day, the weather is going to take a turn for the cold with the high only in the mid twenties.  Yuk!  I guess since no one is going anywhere it won’t be that big of a deal.  The good news is that we’ve just past the winter solstice so the days will slowly be getting longer now.

From our front yard tonight we could see the overlap of Jupiter and Saturn tonight in the southwest sky.  You could see it with bare eyes though we also looked with binoculars.  Called the “Christmas Star,” this happens once every 800 years.  Andy texted us that “there was a man out with a homemade telescope who let us look through it and we could see 4 of Jupiter’s moons, the “clouds” in Jupiter’s atmosphere, and Saturn’s rings.  It was amazing.” 

I’ve written that, for the first time ever, we were almost finished with our Christmas shopping early.  Well, we’re not quite through.  Tomorrow I’ve got to pick up a present for Lynn in Staunton and we’re going to Harrisonburg to get one for Henry.  Then on Christmas Eve we’re due to receive items for Gus, Henry, and Georgia.  One item I’d ordered for the Foy and Gutshall families won’t be coming until December 29 but that’s OK.

December 23, 2020

We got the awful news this morning.  My cousin David died at 11:42 last night from complications of COVID-19.  David was a retired police officer in South Charleston, WV.  Last March he and his sister Marjorie had met Mary K. and us at the Greenbrier for breakfast.   I had some pictures from that visit.  I believe David was divorced and lived alone.  Tough way to go… He is the fourth first cousin of mine who has died.  Three of them, including David, were younger than me.

Lynn and I are blessed to have avoided the infection thus far.  We both feel fine now.  Having it hit this close to home does make me appreciate my good fortune.  David and the other 330,000+ in America didn’t deserve this.

I looked back through my December posts.  Sure enough, I have left home every single day this month.  That doesn’t seem like hunkering down to avoid COVID-19, huh?  I do think we’ve been fairly safe when and where we’ve gone but who knows?  Unfortunately, Lynn had some grocery items she needed today plus we had to pick up an item for Henry this morning.  And I had to pick up an item I found for Lynn at an art gallery in Staunton.  So once again we were in the public.  Maybe after today….

I’ve been working on my 2021 calendars for the past several days.  As usual, I’m doing three different versions depending on whose house the calendar ends up in:  Hill-Hanger, Hill, and Hanger.  In the past, the calendars were very similar except that in the Hanger calendar I swapped out pictures of those in the Hill family for Hanger pictures and vice versa for the Hill calendar.  Plus, I deleted Hill birthdates and anniversaries from the Hanger calendar and likewise delete Hanger birthdates and anniversaries from the Hill calendar.  My December 18 post described this. 

This year, I did a different Hanger calendar.  Instead of using 2020 photos from the 2021 Hanger family (which were sparse due to the pandemic), I created a calendar using the pictures I could find of Lynn’s Mom and Dad.  I like the way it came out.  So today as I was driving I had the idea to do the same for the 2021 Hill calendar.  Over the past few years I’ve converted lots of old 35mm slides to digital plus I had scanned some old pictures of the Hill and Cook families.  So today I created the Hill calendar with a collection of these.  I believe that just about all of the pictures are pre-1985 and some go back to the 1950’s.  This took most of the afternoon and I’m pleased with the end result.

There were 32,000 Americans hospitalized witih COVID-19 on Labor Day.  Today there are over 117,000.  The meteoric climb in infections is easily blamed on Thanksgiving gatherings.  The news today says the number of people traveling now around the Christmas season is much higher.  The TSA says they have screened over four million people in the past four days.  So experts are predicting an even high climb in infections shortly after Christmas as large families gather and share their COVID-19 infections.

The Hill family will get together but it will be outside on Sunday the 28th.  We will wear masks and remain distant from each other.  Jim and his boys will likely not come.  Kay’s family will only go in the house to use the restroom and when they do they will go through the front door straight up the stairs to the bathroom.   Ann’s family will likely not cross the threshold at any doorway.  Lynn and I will carry their presents out to them; they will not even see our Christmas tree from inside the house.

All of this is for good reason.  As these statistics show, COVID-19 is still exploding across the country including Virginia:

December 23       Infected                   Died

World               78,980,488           1,735,724

US                     18,870,058              333,667

Virginia               319,133                  4,760

Augusta County       2,818                       23

I wish I had better numbers to report.  Virginia’s count of infections increased by over 4,500 in just one day.  There were 55 new Virginia deaths.  Each death represents a person; David R. Dean is one of the 333,667 who has lost his life to COVID-19.  Joe Biden has told us that “it will get much worse before it gets better.”  Given the current trends plus the millions of people who ignore the advice of experts concerning large gatherings at Christmas, I have to believe he is right.

I did some math tonight using the figures above and the population figures available on the internet.  The results are that 1.0% of the world’s population has been infected with COVID-19 whereas 5.7% of the United States has.  3.7% of Virginians have been infected and the same 3.7% applies to Augusta County residents. 

More calculations I did from the data shows that 2.2% of those in the world who get COVID-19 die from it.  1.8% of those in the US who get it die.  In Virginia, the rate is 1.5%.  And in Augusta County, 0.8% of those who have caught it have died.  We did receive some good news from Elizabeth Jiminez that her husband Gilberto is still improving and is off the ventilator.

December 24, 2020

The weather today was lousy—rained all day.  I guess this is better than snow though snow would have been prettier especially on Christmas Eve.  Tomorrow the temperatures supposed to be much, much colder with a high in the mid twenties.  Yuck!  On the other hand, we didn’t go anywhere today and have no plans to leave home tomorrow.

This morning I wrote, then Lynn edited, a letter we decided to send tomorrow to our friends.  She sent cards to some but not all.  So we decided to send out an e-mail with the following in it:

Christmas Day, 2020

Dear Friends,

Merry Christmas!  This is the first Christmas ever that we’ve spent the day by ourselves so we’ve elected to share with you via this note.  Despite the uproar in all of our lives caused by this pandemic, we hope you are experiencing peace and hope this season.

2020 has been a tough year for us as we’re sure it has been for you, too.  Of course, COVID-19 has greatly limited our grandparenting fun.  We haven’t had a Sunday night dinner with Ann’s family or an overnight visit from Kay’s since March.  It has been over a year since Jim’s boys visited here.  The times when we’ve seen family have been outdoors.  During this year we also lost Lynn’s Mom at the age of 101 and sister-in-law Ann Hill.  Recently a first cousin of Joe’s succumbed to COVID-19.  We also have a friend still in the hospital after having spent a month on a ventilator.

Yet, this Christmas finds us healthy, happy to have many good friends, and hopeful that 2021 will bring us vaccinations, family visits, and travels.   Lynn has stayed busy doing all sorts of craft projects and still does some work with Rockingham County Public Schools and Albemarle County Schools via Zoom.  Joe has taken on the duties of church bookkeeper and has written a daily blog about life in the COVID-19 era.  Before Lynn broke her foot in July we walked a couple of hours each day and plan to resume that when spring comes.  This summer Jim built a really nice Pergola for us in our backyard which we’ve used in lots of outdoor visits with local friends.  We had a nice summer get-away with Ann’s and Kay’s families and have had two great visits from Joe’s brother Butch.

We’ve learned to appreciate virtual get-togethers, take-out food and leftovers, Netflix, and hiking in our neighborhood.  We greatly miss our grandchildren’s ball games and performances, Barter Theatre and Broadway in Richmond shows, and the wonderful travels we had prior to the pandemic.  We’ll celebrate 45 years together this coming June and will probably rate this past year as our closest since we’ve been so isolated from others.

This year has made us doubly aware of the value of family and friends.  We hope you and your family are doing well.  We greatly look forward to future visits with each of you.

Peace and Love,

Lynn & Joe

I hope this sums up our 2020.  It has certainly been a year we’ll never forget.  We’ve been burdened with all the COVID-19 upheaval and its associated lifestyle changes, a crazed President, tumultuous election, Lynn’s broken foot and hurt back, sorrow, worry, and weird weather.  But we’ve survived so far.

We do have a crazy President.  Lately he’s pardoned all of his cronies, people who have committed mass atrocities against innocent people, and most anyone who seems to agree with his outlandish ideas.  He refused to sign an economic relief package because it only offered $600 to each American.  He said he thought it should give each of us $2,000 which is exactly what the Democrats have been saying from the get-go.  Without his signing, those in economic straits get nothing, of course.  Some say he didn’t sign not because he really wants more for those in need but because he’s angry at Mitch McConnell for not backing his unproven claims of voter fraud.  Meanwhile he’s retreated to his Florida estate for golf while some Americans will be hungry on Christmas day.

We had a good phone call with my sister today.  Amy was induced last night but still hasn’t delivered her and Vic’s baby yet.  If he doesn’t come today, it will be tomorrow, for sure. 

We got our final Christmas presents delivered today from Amazon.  The efficiency of this company is so amazing.  We had talked about going to Charlottesville to get our last items for Henry and Gus but decided on Monday to just order them from Amazon.  We got exactly what we wanted, delivered today, and at a price less than we would have paid in Charlottesville. 

With only eight days left, December has already gone down as the deadliest month of the pandemic, according to the COVID Tracking Project.  As of Wednesday, 57,638 Americans died from the virus in December, according to the health data. April is the second deadliest month of the year with 55,267 fatalities, according to the Tracking Project.  The daily hospitalization rate broke another record Wednesday with 119,463 Americans hospitalized with the virus.

You’d think Americans are wising up.  Not so.  The TSA screened 1,191,123 people at airport checkpoints nationwide on Wednesday, the highest single day total since the pandemic started, despite the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advising Americans against traveling for the holidays.  More than 6.3 million passengers have been screened since Dec. 18.  All this means that the number of people infected, hospitalized, and die from COVID-19 will continue to rise throughout January.  I have to wonder who in our circle of friends and family will be next.  Hopefully none of us.  But remember my statistics from yesterday’s post:  nearly one in every twenty five people in Augusta County has tested positive already.

Here are today’s statistics:

December 24       Infected                   Died

World               79,712,781           1,748,434

US                     19,109,932              337,049

Virginia               323,915                  4,791

Augusta County       2,894                       23

That’s 4,800 new cases in Virginia.  Not good!  The Virginia Department of Health website also shows now how many people in Virginia have been vaccinated and where.  So far, 31,491 have received the vaccine but only 76 in Augusta CountyL.

We watched via Zoom the children’s Christmas program that Thomas and Georgia took part in today at the Arlington Presbyterian Church.  It was very cute.  They both had singing parts.  Then Lynn and I watched the Central UMC Christmas Eve Service of Lessons and Carols.

I got an early Christmas present tonight.  Lynn made me an apple pie.  Do I ever love apple pie!  I wasn’t about to wait until tomorrow to taste it.  It didn’t disappoint.

There have been many years in which we have been up very late on Christmas Eve wrapping last minute presents, putting together toys, getting things ready for a big Christmas breakfast, etc.  Not so this year!  We were in bed early and watched a movie.  Tomorrow definitely promises to be the most uneventful Christmas we’ve ever experienced.

December 25, 2020

Indeed this Christmas was unlike any other.  We talked with, even had Facetime with, our children and grandchildren but we physically saw no one except each other the entire day.  Poor Lynn!  We did enjoy the three Facetime sessions we had where our grandchildren showed us all the cool things Santa had brought them last night. 

We had some excellent news first thing this morning:  Dennis Ryan DeLeo was born early this morning.  He weighted 8 pounds, 4 ounces.  I’m so happy for Vic, Amy, and Mary K.  This is the first grandchild on Amy’s side of the family so I know her family is happy.

We did have a good Christmas, though.  We did enjoy each other’s company and had a good time opening our presents to each other.  Lynn had bought me a jacket, pants, sweater, pocket-sized tool, mixed fruit jelly, and rain gauge.  She baked me an apple pie yesterday and promised to make me meat loaves (both to eat and freeze).  I got her a sweatshirt she had pickd out, three craft items including a set of Dremel tools and a laminator, a Carrie Underwood Christmas CD, some of her favorite candy (mint filled straws), a pair of Ruth Bader Ginsburg “I Dissent” earrings, a Jim Hanger pie plate to replace one she broke at Thanksgiving, and a framed 8 x 10 picture of her parents. Actually, the frame was one from her mother’s but it worked fine.  I also gave her a set of travel plans for trips I want us to take once we’re vaccinated including a road trip to the “Channels” & Breaks Interstate Park in Southwest Virginia, one to two parks in West Virginia plus two days in Athens with Butch, a funny one through Maryland and Pennsylvania stopping at five different creameries, and one to Delaware.  The packet included four trips I want us to take involving airplane travel once we are vaccinated including one to Key West FL which she has always wanted to see, one to Oregon (our 49th state), and two more Caravan escorted trips (Guatemala and Costa Rica).  Finally the packet included football games I want us to see this fall including the VT – WVU game.

Lynn spent most of the afternoon baking a delicious dinner including prime rib, mashed potatoes, and lima beans.  She also made a cake.  However, my dessert was again that wonderful apple pie.  Besides cooking she embroidered a blanket for Dennis Ryan DeLeo.

It seems a shame to write about COVID-19 on Christmas Day but I can’t ignore the fact that this is now part of every day.  Here are today’s statistics:

December 25       Infected                   Died

World               80,158,727           1,756,330

US                     19,201,750              338,195

Virginia               327,993                  4,820

Augusta County       2,953                       23

I think I’ll start listing the Virginia vaccination statistics, too:

                                         Vaccinated

            Virginia                       43,043                       

            Augusta County              103

The national statistics are low probably due to unreported data given that today is Christmas Day.

There were no news shows today due to the holiday so I gathered some news from ABC’s website.  Their news was almost funny:  After tossing a grenade that threatens to blow up a massive COVID relief and government funding bill and force a government shutdown in the midst of a pandemic, President Donald Trump was golfing on Christmas for a second straight day.

ABC also had an article about the spread of COVID-19.  It said that contact tracing has shown that 70% of new cases come from small gatherings and households.  When people gather in small groups with friends and family, they are more likely to let their guard down, not wear their masks and stay together indoors for longer periods of time, which makes it easier to transmit the virus.  In one study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, people who eventually tested positive for COVID-19 were twice as likely to have eaten at a restaurant in the past two weeks compared to participants who did not test positive for the virus.

This is why our Christmas family get-together will be outside this coming Sunday and we’ll all be wearing masks.  If we do have food, it will be finger food where people grab their sandwich and sit apart before removing their mask to eat.

Lynn’s sister Kay still is not well from her coronavirus infection.  She coughs a lot but she doesn’t have a fever any more.  She is very tired all the time.

All in all, today was a pretty nice Christmas even though we were limited to phone calls and Facetime in order to communicate with our families.  I feel very blessed again this December 25.

December 26, 2020

We were very efficient today.  Before 10:00 I had taken the package Lynn put together to the post office to be mailed to Vic and Amy DeLeo to celebrate baby Dennis Ryan.  And I had dropped my three 2021 calendars off at Staples to be printed.   Then we left for Walmart to pick up the order Lynn had placed for the Central Food Pantry.  This was the “reverse Advent” project she and Cheryl Kent put together to help stock the Food Pantry with items typically not available from the Blue Ridge Food Bank.  We met Cheryl at Central and put the items on the shelves.

While we were there, Central was in the midst of its weekly Saturday food give-away.  Lynn had the good idea to grab a box of food for Elizabeth Jiminez and her family.  Actually we got two boxes full of food.  She is currently staying with her brother who lives in Staunton so Lynn texted her, got the address, and we took the boxes to her and her family.  It was a busy but good morning.

This afternoon Lynn worked on getting food ready for tomorrow when the kids come.  They are supposed to show up around 1:00.  As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, we’re going to stay outside the whole time and wear masks.  The temperature is supposed to be around 44o at 1:00.  My job, as usual, was to do the dishes. 

There wasn’t much in the news today possibly because people are on Christmas break now instead of writing news stories.  I feel sure not much has changed in the war on coronavirus.  CNN did publish an alarming statistic today:  The United States reached a grim milestone on Saturday: 1 in 1,000 Americans have died from Covid-19 since the nation’s first reported infection in late January.  Census Bureau estimates for the last week of December place the US population at around 330,750,000. On Saturday afternoon, the national death toll from Covid-19 reached 331,116, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.

Here are today’s statistics:

December 26       Infected                   Died

World               80,626,824           1,763,663

US                     19,362,509              339,561

Virginia               329,577                  4,840

Augusta County       2,963                       23

The vaccination statistics for Virginia and Augusta County were unchanged.  I wish this weren’t the case. 

Tonight Staples called me around 8:00 and said the calendars were ready so I drove in and picked them up.  That way I can distribute them to Ann and Kay when they come tomorrow.  We may be going to Roanoke on Monday and can give Jim’s to him then.  We’ll mail those to Lynn’s sister Jane, my brother Butch, and my sister Mary K.  I am pleased with the way they turned out.

December 27, 2020

We had our family Christmas today.  It happened just like we planned—entirely outdoors.  Jim came (by himself) so we had thirteen in all.  Everyone was socially distant and masked.  The temperature was in the low 40’s and high 30’s so it was far from ideal.  But the sun was shining and it all went as well as we could have expected.

First we opened presents, one at a time, as usual.  I took lots of pictures, of course.  Then we ate finger foods which Lynn had prepared.  Ann and Kay each brought some, too.  We had plenty of food.

Meanwhile the kids played great in the backyard.  We have such a nice yard for them to play in including the tennis court.  Jim had come early and brought with him a new set of steps he had built for the playset.  He and I only needed about 45 minutes to get them all attached and well anchored.  As always, he did excellent work on building the steps.  They playset will last for years now—at least until his boys have outgrown them.  I can’t wait until they are able to come here and play.  They have not been here since Thanksgiving, 2019.

The only disappointment was that our patio heater wouldn’t stay on.  It would come on and stay on for a few minutes then it would turn itself off.  I’m not sure what caused that.  It was a little windy so perhaps the wind is what kept putting the flame out.

Seeing the family was certainly the high point.  Everyone seems to get along so well.  The kids all played well outside, swinging on the playset, riding the see saw, playing tennis, riding bikes and Big Wheels, and basketball.  We are so lucky.  I feel so blessed.

I really hope we don’t have to do Christmas like this again.  It just isn’t right to go this season without hugging our grandchildren.  Likewise, if it weren’t for COVID-19 I’m confident Coen and Faron would have joined Jim today.  We’ll have a lot of catching up to do once we are vaccinated.

Lynn’s sister Kay is still not feeling great.  I believe she is a little better but this virus has been no picnic for her.  She’s had a bad cough and today was throwing up so bad she went to the Augusta Health outpatient clinic for some assistance.  She was feeling better tonight.

December 27       Infected                   Died

World               81,102,664           1,771,149

US                     19,549,211              340,952

Virginia               333,576                  4,854

Augusta County       3,016                       24

The US numbers are down again with the explanation probably underreporting on the weekend.  Virginia’s certainly are not; there were 4,000 new cases in the past 24 hours.  Augusta County had one more death and 53 new cases.  There are now 67 people from Augusta County hospitalized with COVID-19.  Dr. Fauci still insists that the worst is still ahead of us thanks to people letting their guard down over Christmas and New Years. 

Virginia apparently hasn’t learned how to count its vaccinations because the total on the VDH website today was actually 5,000 less than it was two days ago.  Go figure!  Likewise, the number of people vaccinated in Augusta County today was listed as 90 whereas two days ago it was 103. 

December 28, 2020

I did my usual Monday tasks today at Central, taking care of counting the offering and depositing the money in the bank and on QuickBooks.  I had about four bills to pay plus some other minor tasks so I ended up working there most of the morning.  I took a look at when last year’s end-of-year tax forms were filled in and they weren’t done until January 13 so I’ve got some time before I plow into those.  I’ve never done them before so I’m a little anxious about getting the W-2’s and other tax forms submitted properly.

In the afternoon, I made a run to the dump.  Ann and Josh had a lot of trash, too, so it took me a little longer than usual.  After I finished with it, I stopped at the Mount Sidney US Post Office and mailed 2021 calendars to Butch, Mary K., Lynn’s sister Jane who is now in Florida, and Jim.  We had forgotten to give him his calendar yesterday when he was here.

We also had time to do a Zoom meeting with Jim and his boys.  They opened their presents from us.  They are so much fun—never still.

That’s about all I got done today.  Lynn had her Cheryl friends over in the morning for their back porch meeting.  The temperatures were in the low 50’s so they weren’t too cold.  In the afternoon she hand delivered the 2021 Hanger calendars to her brother Bill and sister Kay.  Now we have all the calendars distributed.

In 2017 I had given our three children hard drives with all of my pictures, movies, and some documents on them.  I suggested that they bring the drives back on Sunday but only Ann remembered.  So I updated her drive with all of the pictures, movies, and appropriate documents since that time.  There are now over 52,000 pictures!

ABC said there have been more than 65,000 COVID-19 deaths in December, the worst month yet.  Supposedly, 20 million people were going to be vaccinated in December but so far only 2 million have been.  I don’t know why there’s such a hold up.

Here are today’s numbers:

December 28       Infected                   Died

World               81,606,458           1,780,218

US                     19,740,119              342,840

Virginia               336,175                  4,861

Augusta County       3,098                       24

Virginia’s vaccination total increased by only 49.  Why did only 49 people in the entire state of Virginia get a vaccine today?  Augusta County’s total is only 97.  The total for the entire state is just 41,709.

December 29, 2020

We’ve agreed to stay out of stores as much as possible but we needed groceries today both for us and for the Food Pantry so we shopped early today during senior hours and light foot traffic.  Lynn got groceries from Aldi’s, Martin’s, and Target all before 9:00.  Then we went to Costco for the 9:00 senior time and finished up.  We were headed home by 9:20.

As soon as we got home Lynn started cooking a sausage casserole she had made for Ann’s family.  When it was ready I took it over for their breakfast.

We had some time to spare today so we decided to take down our Christmas tree.  This is the earliest we’ve ever taken in down but this year’s tree was so dry we thought it might be a fire hazard.  It was kept in water the entire time but didn’t seem to drink it at all.  I should have made a fresh cut on its base when I set it up but I did not.  It was a very pretty tree; it was unfortunate that no one ever saw it up close except for Lynn and me thanks to the pandemic.  Perhaps the only other person who was in the same room as the tree was Connie who cleans house for us. 

We also had time to take the groceries we bought for the Food Pantry to Central today.  Their Costco order was one that we’ve got before:  sugar and coffee.  These are items that the Blue Ridge Area Food Bank doesn’t provide. 

We also had time to walk twice today.  First we walked about a mile in our neighborhood.  While we walked, Steve and Bev Coffman stopped and talked with us.  They had received the same Christmas card we got from Kay which featured pictures of Thomas and Georgia.  Our second walk was a lap around Gypsy Hill Park after we unloaded the Food Pantry groceries.  The temperature was in the low 40’s but we were bundled up.  We wore our masks in Gypsy Hill, too.

We decided to get hamburgers tonight from our favorite food truck instead of eating leftovers.  As usual, the burgers were good.  I ate another piece of apple pie tonight; tomorrow I will finish the entire pie.

My final task of the day was to do lots of backup work on my computers.  I had some files on my laptop which weren’t on the iMac downstairs and vice versa.  Plus, I hadn’t backed up my laptop to its external hard drive for a month.  All of that is taken care of now.

A funny story I ran into today was that in November, the Texas Republican Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick offered a million dollar reward to whomever could produce evidence of voter fraud.  He was hoping to find a way to help out Donald Trump in his hopeless case.  Well, the Pennsylvania Democrat Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman asked Patrick to pay up because he had uncovered three cases of voter fraud in Pennsylvania.  All three were cases where people voted illegally for Trump!  In two of them, men tried to vote for their dead mothers. 

ABC news tonight was more of the same…COVID-19 spikes, vaccinations sputter.  Coronavirus hospitalizations reached a new high with over 121,000.  More than 337,000 lives have been lost.  Joe Biden and Dr. Fauci both said January would likely be worse than December which was the worst month thus far.  Biden slammed the Trump administration for the slowdown in the number of vaccinations.  Biden said that at the current rate it will take years, not months, to get everyone vaccinated.  Only 2.1 million people are reported to have been vaccinated thus far. 

Here are today’s statistics:

December 29       Infected                   Died

World               82,268,242           1,794,722

US                     19,949,391              346,258

Virginia               340,297                  4,920

Augusta County       3,215                       24

            Vaccinated

            Virginia                       47,052                       

            Augusta County              158

Virginia continues to have 4,000 new cases each day.  And the number of deaths in Virginia increased by 59 in just one day.  Augusta County’s number of infections increased by 117 in just 24 hours.  This is scary.

December 30, 2020

I did a project today that Lynn had asked me to do.  She found several newspaper clippings in a small chest from her parents’ house about her Dad’s young days.  There were several articles about his baseball and basketball feats from the 1930’s.  He was quite an athlete!  There were others from his military service in England during World War II plus the announcement of his engagement to Betty Harris.  I scanned each of them and put them together in a 15 page booklet which can be printed or shared electronically.  She wants to print them and bind them in a booklet for her brother and sisters.  That sounds like a worthwhile project.  She even said she could laminate the cover page using the laminator I bought her for Christmas.

I also spent some time putting some of our Christmas items away above the garage.  We took the Christmas tree and stockings down yesterday but are keeping the exterior decorations up for a while.  I made around 20 trips up and down the ladder carrying boxes—not easy work!

From ABC news today:  The United States reported 3,725 deaths on Tuesday, breaking the previous single-day total of 3,656 set on Dec. 16, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University. December has already been determined to be the worst month on record for cases, hospitalizations and deaths, surpassing the high numbers seen in April.  More bad news:  a 41 year old Congressman-elect from Louisiana has died from COVID-19.  He had no underlying medical conditions.  Today’s Charleston Gazette also carries the obituary for my cousin David Dean who died due to coronavirus.  The obituary says clearly this was his cause of death.  He was 68 years old.  And a friend of ours from Central UMC, Susan Obaugh, has been admitted to Augusta Health with pneumonia and COVID-19.

California reported that the new strain of COVID-19 which has ravaged Great Britain has been discovered there.  Likewise, the variant virus was discovered in Colorado.  Who knows where else it might be?

Lynn had a suggestion that I followed through on today.  She asked me to call my pulmonary doctor’s office and see what plans they had to get people in their care vaccinated.  It helped that a nurse there, Kara Johnson, formerly worked as the school nurse at Cub Run Elementary School with Lynn.  So I called and left a message for Kara to please call me back.  A few hours later she did.  She said that I wasn’t the first to call with that question; in fact, they had started a list and today she added my name to the list.  She said they had not been told when patients like me would be vaccinated.  Indeed, she hasn’t been vaccinated herself.  But when our time comes she’ll call.  That was comforting to hear.

It was cold and windy today but Lynn still braved the chill and walked with her friend Ginny Bauman.  I stayed inside.

Today we received the final present we had ordered.  It was an unusual one I had ordered—a book called Mathematics from the Life Science Library.  My parents had bought this book for my siblings and me in the 1960’s.  I had read it at various times of my childhood and career.  It has some very interesting facts and ideas from math that I used including a page on topology where a person shows how to take your vest off without taking your coat off thereby proving that the vest never was underneath the coat to begin with!  I found copies of this book, copyrighted in 1963, on Amazon and ordered one for the Foy family and one for the Gutshall family.  They finally got here today.  I’ll get them delivered sometime soon.

Since my mind was in a nostalgic mood today after scanning the old newspaper articles from Mr. Hanger’s youth plus looking back through the Mathematics book, I did some checking on the availability of newspaper articles from my youth.  If I were to spend about $50 I could get a 6 month subscription to a site which has pages from the Bluefield Daily Telegraph from my youth which can be excerpted.  I did some checking and did find old Bramwell High School basketball game stories and a story about a tennis tournament I won in Bluefield on August 21, 1977.  This was the day Ann was baptized.  From her baptism service I came to Bluefield and played in and won the finals of the Bluefield Open tournament, the largest tournament I ever won.  It was fun to look back though I did not spend the money to be able to extract the articles.  Maybe some day…

It took Augusta County from the beginning of COVID-19 infections until June 4 to reach 117 infections.  That’s three months.  But yesterday there were 117 new infections in just 24 hours.  Today’s number of infections, which I’ll paste shortly, is somewhat lower but there were 4 new deaths in the past 24 hours.  It took Augusta County until July 29 to reach a total of 4 deaths due to COVID-19.  Now we’ve had that many in just the past 24 hours.  These are really worrisome times.  When we go to stores now we almost never see anyone without a mask.  I have to wonder about the 117 people who just got infected—were they not mask wearers?

I needed to pay some of Central’s bills and check on a few things with QuickBooks so I waited today until late afternoon when I knew I’d be the only one in the building.  Sure enough, I was by myself and got my work done quickly there.  I think I was very safe in doing it this way.

Here are today’s COVID-19 statistics:

December 30       Infected                   Died

World               82,990,762           1,809,982

US                     20,173,070              349,976

Virginia               344,345                  4,984

Augusta County       3,253                       28

            Vaccinated

            Virginia                       54,295                       

            Augusta County              280

Virginia’s numbers remain way too high—over 4,000 new cases and 64 new deaths overnight.  As I mentioned before, Augusta County’s deaths increased by 4 in just one day.  There were some more vaccinations today but this entire process is moving too slowly.  Supposedly there have been 14 million vaccinations distributed to states but only 2.5 million have been administered.

December 31, 2020

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.

This afternoon WVU played Army in the Liberty Bowl.  WVU is historically not good in bowl games.  Coming into the game, the Mountaineers had played in 37 bowl games but only won 15 of them.  So my expectations were not high.  But this was Army, not Alabama.  The Mountaineers started off fine and were ahead 10-7 with the ball late in the first half before the quarterback fumbled it near the Army end zone.  Soon they were down 14-10.  They fell behind 21-10 early in the third quarter before scoring to make the score 21-16.  After two other possessions in which dropped passes killed them, they held Army then scored with five minutes to go.  They were successful on the two point conversion so they took the lead 24-21.  Army then missed a field goal but held WVU so they took over with a minute and a half left.  But WVU intercepted to preserve the win.  Yippee!

Watching WVU sports this year has been trying.  The football team can’t catch the ball.  The basketball team can’t shoot the ball.  Today there were at least a half dozen throws that should have been caught by the WVU receivers but they dropped them.

At least we were safe today.  I did go to the post office to mail a letter but was inside the building for only 10-15 seconds and then only after I saw that all previous customers at the Mount Sidney PO had left.

Here are today’s COVID-19 numbers:

December 31       Infected                   Died

World               83,744,085           1,824,056

US                     20,416,740              353,674

Virginia               349,584                  5,032

Augusta County       3,307                       29

            Vaccinated

            Virginia                       64,882                       

            Augusta County              482

The Virginia numbers are awful. In just one day, there are 5,200 new cases and 48 new deaths.  Augusta County’s numbers increased by 54.  There are 76 Augusta County residents hospitalized including Susan Obaugh.  We did get word that Gilberto Jiminez is improving.  He’s been in the hospital for something like two months now.