My Breadstore Closed

When I first moved to Texas 10 years ago, I stumbled across the Hostess Resale store. (This was not a place where people returned “bad” bread.)  Likely, I am misnaming it.  The purpose was to have a place to sell bread near its expiration date.  If you owned a freezer, you could figure out how to save some money on good quality bread.  The longer the store was there, the better I became at adding a box or bag of something sweet.  It may have been cookies or a bag/box of cake donuts.

Unfortunately, the rent went up or not enough people maintained the necessary amount of freezer space.  My Hostess store closed down.  I forget whether there was a gap in finding a new store.  Whatever the time frame, I eventually found the Mrs. Baird’s Discount Store.  Better yet, I found 2 of these stores.  If I was going to visit a friend, I could choose the pathway that would allow me to pass one store.  And, if I had a little extra time and it was not the end of the school day (This location was right near a school.  Between entering and egressing difficulties, you want to avoid this one mid-afternoon.)  I loved the cinnamon swirl bagels.  They also sold nice dense bread.  The ideal kind to toast and put peanut butter on in the morning. The coffee is optional.   The store also gave FREE bread to various charities that would come in.  I don’t know the details, but if the people were not affiliated with a charity, they were taking the bread somewhere and feeding LOTS of ducks.

Except for a short period where there was some management change, the staff had very helpful advice.  (i.e. The cinnamon swirl bread made GREAT French toast.)  In almost all cases, I don’t draw attention to my participation in the military.  But, if there is a 15% discount on it, I claimed it.  And, if you spent over $6, you could pick an item from the free rack.  This was not a minor accomplishment.  They sold bread that normally cost over $3 per loaf for “3 loaves for $4”.  The bagels were the same pricing.  They also had a blue card that granted you a free loaf of bread and a fruit snack pie when the card was filled.  With these opportunities to save money while already shopping at a discount store, I was happy.

Then the pandemic hit.  I did not try to go to the store for 2 or 3 months.  The first time I drove by both of the stores, I thought, “Maybe they have just not reopened yet.”  Recent drive-bys prove my suspicions.  The stores are closed.  I miss the variety and pricing.   The freezer space previously saved for purchased baked items has been filled with items baked at our house.   It is with regret we have adjusted to the void.  I think it is the “crumb” cake donuts I will miss most.

One possibility left to me is a thrift store located at the Mrs. Baird’s bakery.  The bakery is in south Fort Worth.  With both of my daughters attending college in a southern direction, I may have to make a little extra room in the freezer before the next time we go for a visit.

Pool Labor Day

My attempt to fix the unsightly blemishes on the pool today was a partial success.  Now that I am more familiar with the mortar mixture and how it works, I am sure my brief revisit tomorrow will clean up any remaining.  (No, I am not sure.  When you post in a blog, you sound more successful if you are sure of something.  I am optimistically hopeful my efforts will produce the improvement in today’s results.)

The more micro-batches of the mortar I made up, the better I got.  Just like Goldilocks.  The first batch was too dry, so I added more water. (The more water I added, the longer the mixing took.  The instructions say the mortar/patch is supposed to be used within 3 minutes of being mixed.) The second batch was too wet, so I added more dried mortar until I got it right.  The last few batches were pretty consistently good.  So, I wasn’t eating, sitting, or sleeping in the mortar. But I believe the analogy still holds together.

The other challenge was applying the mortar.  At the start, I thought I could make the spatula cooperate.  As I found out, the spatula was really not interested in what I thought.  The combination of enormous gaps and uneven surfaces made my glove-covered hands the best tool available.  As I filled the gaps, I winced more than once as some little pellets plummeted to the depths of the pool.  I kicked them around, hoping they would not immediately bond to the pool bottom.  (This was a mortar that could be used underwater.  The siphoning of the previous day was helpful to create a workspace, but not fully necessary.)

With the skills gained today, I am ready to brave the scaled-back project tomorrow.  The drier mixture pulled away slightly from the upper side.  I will mix a small web batch.  Ideally, I can run a little “bead” of the web mix where the crack developed.  If my luck holds, I can complete the project before the colder temps arrive.  Cooler temps are technically not an obstacle to the mortar.  They are an obstacle to my enjoyment of the temps experienced by my lower body.

If my Home Depot errand is successful tomorrow, I should complete the pool upgrade by snaking out the root-filled pipes surrounding the pool.  If I can acquire them, I will buy new drain caps to replace the existing ones.  I want to make the pool feel pretty, and I possibly busted one of the existing ones by trying to loosen it.

In the age of COVID, it is the little things that make you happy.  My wife loves her pool.  I love my wife.  The pool loves it when I give it attention.  The marital circle of life is complete.

Sharing Church With Germs

This year the flu is going to have to share the church pews with COVID-19.  Besides those bugs, the cold, cough, pinkeye, and everything else will still be out there actively recruiting hosts.  With all of the changes put in place at our church, it is hoped that none of the germs have a chance to acquire any draftees.  What is our church doing to meet in person and keep COVID out of the building?

  • When you enter the building(you are requested not to enter the building until 15 minutes before the service starts), you need to have a mask on.  If you forget to bring a mask, they are available to grab when you walk in.  If you choose not to wear a mask, there may be a grey area surrounding your delivery to the balcony area.  If you cannot or will not wear a mask, they ask you to sit up there with the others who so choose.  From my glances into that area, it appears most everyone is still wearing a mask of some type.
  • I had no idea mask came in so many varieties.  Possibly there are only have as many mask types as I realize.  Some people strike me as being very lackadaisical in attaching the mask to their face.  I think a few of the people are placing the masks on their faces upside down.  When you look at them, it covers their noses and mouths disturbingly.
  • The scariest masks are “face gloves”.  They conform to the face nearly perfectly.  They look like something a mutant who has no mask would wear.  They snug up on the face so well it is believable the person has only eyes on their face.  The donation of the nose and mouth are unexplained but obvious to all who behold.
  • When singing is taking place, cheating is a survival necessity.  Unless you just whisper the words to the songs, you are going to need air.  The mask we wear are designed to limit your access to air.  Either you cheat a little and put your mask below your nostrils, breathe less deeply than you desire, or you end up winded by the end of the stanza.
  • The benches/pews have been modified in two ways.  Since the church has 2 services, each service has its own set of benches.  If the first service uses benches 1, 3, 5, and 7, then the second service will use 2, 4, 6, and 8.  The benches are divided in half.  One family group can sit on each side of the tape.  Some older retired people who know each other well view the tape as a suggestion and not a demand.
  • We don’t greet each other during the middle of the service.  This is really unfortunate.  Before we attended the services in person, I found it difficult to watch at the house.  It was too distracting.  Singing in person with actual music does not compare to singing in your living room.  Except for singing louder than the person on the bench two rows behind you, the lack of greeting each other makes me look forward to the changes yet to come.
  • The discomfort of the mask promotes cheating, even when there is no interesting reason.  Yes, the mask stink.  Yes, the pandemic stinks.  But, again my rule-following is coming out, if the rule for sitting in a designated area means you wear your masks, you are making a contract with those around you you will wear your mask.  Many nostrils are visible in the older members.  If they are not worried about their health risk while being in a more compromised group, I suppose I should not get all worked up either.

We hope the shift comes soon.  With all of us prepared for masks until the end of November, anything short of that will be a blessing.  Expect the worst and hope for the best.  A little praying won’t hurt either.

Pandemic Life

Fortunately, pandemic life has evolved over the past 5+ months.  This does not mean it is better.  It does mean we are more grateful for things we used to take entirely for granted.  It means there are still frequent reminders of the before and during…  (I am hoping the “after” is more closely aligned with the “before” then the “now”.)

  • When walking on very wide paths, I get offended when I on the far side of the path, and the person coming at me from the other direction hugs the middle of the path.
  • I do laugh at people who wear masks when they are out in the beautiful outdoors walking at the park.
  • Walking while listening to audiobooks is good, but walking while chatting with one of your children is better.
  • The directional aisle markers were annoying when they first were placed on the floor to try and control the traffic movement.  Just to have fun today, I tried to honor the “One Way” requests.  It was annoying, and I was the only one trying to honor it.
  • The plastic barriers available to checkout staff are an excellent addition.  I appreciated each of them hanging in there when they were one of the few people we saw outside of our family.  Even if they just give the appearance of safety, I welcome its presence as we navigate the checking out process.
  • Buying a car the last week of February (two weeks before the pandemic) has given us the opportunity to get 6 months to the tank full of gas…and we are still going.
  • I feel bad for local businesses, especially the restaurants we like.  But their food is not as appealing when you bring it home and eat it at your kitchen table.
  • I miss the smiles.  The eyes may have an extra twinkle when the person smiles.  Some people seemed to have given up the effort.  I still feel obligated to tell people I am smiling even when it is obscured by the smile-blocker.
  • When adult children come home to stay during the pandemic, they have different ideas of what “home rules” should be.  Even when parents think they are being flexible, they are “old-fashioned.”
  • The constant availability of food early on in the pandemic boomeranged in the summer.  We still wanted to cook, but the crew didn’t eat with the zest they did at the beginning of the pandemic.  They still ate, but they needed to save room for all of the baked items.  The baked items have since been given up, too.
  • My family is glad they didn’t have to face this crazy time without a swimming pool.  My wife is especially grateful.
  • Having new neighbors move in during a pandemic is not very welcoming.
  • Saying “goodbye” to neighbors moving out was as simple as a text.
  • Exchange students can haves their lives quickly disrupted when their home countries want them back.
  • It really stinks when major European vacations get canceled.
  • I thought I was a thankful person before, but it is obvious I have far more to learn in this area.

I Hate The Masks, Too

At the beginning of the pandemic, I heard what people were saying about wearing masks.  I even had a friend in Europe ask me, “Why does your leadership say not to wear a mask?”  I quoted the story told in the press, but it did seem both sides of the pond had a different take on wearing or not wearing the “smile-blocker.”

When Texas jumped on board with the “mandatory mask” rules, I hated it from the very beginning.  Although, I had started to wear a mask when going to the store.  I could make an argument, “I am healthy and not sick.  Why should I wear a mask?  I had a negative COVID test 6 weeks ago.  I should still be good, right?”  While all of that may be true, I am a rule follower.  If the governor or someone else who has legal standing can say, “No more shopping without your mask.”, then I will comply.  I will wait to put the mask on until just before entering the building.  And, as soon as my hands are free and I am outside of the building, I will remove the mask.  Maybe I think I am getting away with something by not wearing the mask for one second longer than necessary.  Regardless of my dislike for the mask, I recognize the store’s authority.  If they say, “No shopping in our store unless you wear a mask.”, then I guess I am naïve enough to take them literally.  Could they possibly mean that shopping without a mask within their establishment is not to be tolerated?

This brings me to today.  (And a week ago when I went to the same store.)  Today, as I walked behind a couple, (were they a husband and wife?  Were they a mother and son?  To my untrained eye, they did not scream, “I am healthy and I don’t care who knows it.”), I noticed they didn’t have a mask on.  I thought, “If they walk in that way, that is pretty brazen.”  After being told at the same store last week that, “The manager really doesn’t like enforcing that rule.”, my spider senses started tingling.

If it is a rule, it is a rule.  Or, is it a rule unless someone ignores the rule, then it isn’t a rule for them?  But, if it isn’t a rule for them, who is it a rule for?  As I inquired of the gentlemen offering additional sterilizing services of my cart as I walked in, “Why can’t they order online and pick up their order?”  Smaller retail stores sometimes have signs on their front windows, “Call ‘this number’ for curbside assistance.”  They want your business.  Yet, they realize consistency is important.  If they let customers decide whether a rule applies to them, then isn’t that a step on the road toward anarchy? (In fairness, I get irritated when dog owners have their dogs off the leash in mandatory leash areas, too.)

Unfortunately, nearly everything is political these days.  As you evaluate what governments do and don’t do, realize the factors you need to consider when you receive your ballot on election day.  (If you vote early, it is the same difference.)  One party favors more government.  The other party favors less government involvement.  Neither party may be offering you an ideal candidate.  As a Christian, I see both of the major party tickets being flawed.  Despite this fact, I will vote.  And, I will encourage others to vote for the candidate that best expresses their values.  If they don’t know who does, I will tell them. 😉


Pandemic Help

As I went out on my walk today, I did not have to walk too far before being reminded of the storm that passed through last night.  Our yard looked like a gardener had attempted to snip away at our live oak trees.  The trimmings were all over our yard.  In a couple of cases, the gardener let his shears go crazy.  He tested the sharpness of his shears on some large branches of the pine trees.  But, whatever chaos was in my yard, I needed to get my walk in before the humidity climbed.

As I continued along my path, the gardener must have been joined by an arborist.  Their efforts on the trees were causing chainsaws to buzz and rakes to gather in the smaller trimmings.  Before I reached the one-mile mark of my path,  a landowner was trying to recover a branch that fell into the path across a fence.  The older couple ahead of me stopped pushing the stroller that contained their lapdog to help.  Mr. Lapdog was struggling to find leverage on the branch.  Mrs.  Lapdog was standing there waiting.  As I was about to pass them, I offered to help.  My offer was something like, “Not sure what the rules are about helping during a pandemic, but I would be glad to.”  My AirPods may have prevented me from hearing their jubilation at my offer.  Mrs. Lapdog rushed to her husband’s aid before I could risk introducing a few breaths of possibly asymptomatic germs in their general direction.  Whether or not I heard the answer, being helpful during a pandemic was not as easy as before her arrival.  (Is it fair to call the pandemic a “her”?  Since hurricanes can now be male or female, it seems logical pandemics would follow the same rules.)

Before arriving home, my value was reestablished when I talked to a gentleman who frequently is doing yard work when I pass by.  He was busy working his rake when I paused on the other side of the road.   We swapped a couple of, “I saw a bigger tree blown over then you did” stories.”  After I appeared to win this debate, he was reminded of his rain gauge.

I said, “Based on the increase of water in my swimming pool, I would guess your gauge shows an inch or two.”

After picking up the gauge and checking, he said, “Just over one and a half inches.  To be exact, it says one and six-tenths.  Yeah, we got some rain.”

During a pandemic, it seems safest not to be in a situation where the pandemic should be a source of conversation.  Pandemic help might just be trying to interact as much like “before” as possible.  We are all trying to digest a normal that involves extended mask “laws”.   Maybe the “help” people need is a conversation where they can see your lips move.  They want to be acknowledged and not treated like they have super-cooties that can hop from bodies within a 10-foot radius.  They want to see a smile that is not covered by a mask and only assumed to be present based on the twinkle in your eyes.  Possible that is the kind of help people are seeking.