Monday, November 1, 2021

Right now

Right now...* 

*(an occasional (mostly monthly) meme, alternating from time to time with "The Current"). (Explanation of how this started & my inspirations in my first "Right now" post, here. Also my first "The Current" post, here.)

Pandemic diary/update: October was Month #19 going on 20 of living with the COVID-19 pandemic.  Daily new case numbers last month in Ontario bounced around between a  high of 668 on Oct. 1st and a low of 269 on Oct. 26th (out of a population of about 14 million). Yesterday (Oct. 31st), there were 340 new cases and 2 deaths. 223 of those cases were confirmed in people who were not fully vaccinated, or whose vaccination status was unknown, and 117 were fully vaccinated. 

We're obviously not at zero yet -- this pandemic is not over! -- but the numbers have remained relatively stable/manageable for the past few months -- even with school starting in September, and the (Canadian) Thanksgiving holiday long weekend earlier this month. We're far below our pandemic peak of more than 4.800 new cases in one day in mid-April, and we've been doing much lately than some of the other Canadian provinces (Alberta and Saskatchewan in particular). 

The general consensus seems to be that Ontario's (relative) success can be attributed to our (relatively) high vaccination rates (and more recently, proof of vaccination requirements), combined with ongoing mask mandates in public places, which have never been dropped or loosened. Overall, our COVID-19 restrictions here in Ontario have been consistently among the most stringent in Canada (and probably all of North America)(-- albeit our provincial government has often been slow & reluctant to implement them...!).  Most things are open again, but with capacity restrictions and mask requirements in most indoor public settings (until very recently) and, since Sept. 22nd, proof of vaccination is required in many public places considered "high risk."  Many employers have also mandated vaccines for their employees. 

As of yesterday (Oct. 31st), 79.8% of all Canadians ( = everyone, including children under 12 who still aren't eligible for the vaccine yet -- although it's expected they will be soon) had received at least one shot, and 74.3% were fully vaccinated. Here in Ontario, 77.3% of the total population have received one dose of vaccine, and 74.1% are now fully vaccinated. (Among adults 18+ in Ontario, those figures are 88.5% and 85.0%, respectively.)  Third/booster shots are not yet being widely offered, other than for long-term care home residents, immunocompromised people, etc.  

The federal government made good on its promise to mandate vaccines for air, rail and ship passengers travelling interprovincially;  those requirements went into effect Oct. 30th. (Too late for our trip to Manitoba earlier in October, but makes me feel better about the prospect of travelling again at Christmastime!) Our borders have been open to fully vaccinated visitors from around the world since August/September, and the U.S. recently (finally!) announced it would reciprocate and reopen the land border on Nov. 8th.  After some initial uncertainty, it was announced that they would accept visitors who had been vaccinated with AstraZeneca (as dh & I and millions of other Canadians were in April), as well as "mixed" doses (ditto). We have no plans to travel to the U.S. anytime soon, but it's the principle of the thing...! (Plus -- there is still a requirement for anyone crossing the border into Canada -- including returning Canadian citizens -- to show a negative PCR test result, taken up to 72 hours before returning -- which costs $150-200, and is NOT covered by most provincial or private medical insurance (much to my American-born mother's dismay!). So we'll probably be staying home for a while yet...!)     

This past month, the Ontario government lifted capacity limits for sports events on Oct. 8th (conveniently, just in time for baseball playoffs and the start of hockey and basketball seasons...!). Then, on Oct. 22nd, they unveiled a plan to gradually lift ALL COVID-19 restrictions (including masking and vaccine passports -- just months after they were implemented) by the end of next March -- assuming, of course, that all continues to go well.  The first stage of the plan kicked off last Monday (Oct. 25th), when customer capacity limits were lifted on restaurants, bars, gyms, casinos, bingo halls and indoor events spaces. Barber shops, hair and nail salons, museums, galleries, indoor areas of amusement parks and boat tours, among others, can also lift capacity limits, IF they choose to require proof of vaccination. (Here's another article outlining the proposed timetable.) 

(Of course, we all know just how predictable (NOT) this pandemic has been and how well previous reopening plans have gone in some areas, right?  Some have pointed out that publishing a timetable like this -- one that does away with proof of vaccination requirements just a few months after they were implemented -- signals to the anti-vaxxers who make up a significant portion of the governing party's base that they only have to hang in for a little while longer and then they won't need a vaccine to resume their "normal" activities. We are also the only province so far that has set a target date to drop mask mandates. Is it a coincidence that we're due for a provincial election by next summer?? Hmm...)  

Anyway.

We are still staying pretty close to home, but we have been out & about a little more recently. On top of dh's usual (once or twice weekly) trips to the supermarket for groceries and for takeout dinners on Saturday nights, we've been out together this month for haircuts, to the bookstore a couple of times, to the children's clothing store, to the drugstore and supermarket, and to visit Little Great-Nephew -- although we waited a week or so after our return from Manitoba, just to be on the safe side. We also got to be there when he headed out with his parents last night for his very first round of trick or treating!  (See "Enjoying & Appreciating," below!) 

(And... Yes!!  We we travelled to Manitoba for the first time in almost 22 months (!) to visit my family for a week over the (Canadian) Thanksgiving holiday. :)  We are hoping things remain stable enough that we can return for Christmas!)  

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Also right now:  

Reading: I finished 3 books in October (all reviewed on this blog, as well as Goodreads, & tagged "2021 books"):
This brings me to 51 books read so far in 2021 -- 142% of my 2021 Goodreads Reading Challenge goal of 36 books (!!). (This exceeds my best-ever showing in the Goodreads Challenge since I joined in 2016 -- which was 50 books read in all of 2019.) I have now completed my challenge for the year, and am (for the moment, anyway...!) 23 (!) books ahead of schedule. :)

Current read(s): 
Coming up: 

(Most of my book groups have their next reads plotted out for a few months in advance -- and this is a great place for me to keep track of what I should read next, lol.) 
A few recently purchased titles (in both paper and digital formats, mostly discounted or purchased with points):  

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Watching
  • "The Lost Symbol" -- a new TV series adaptation of the Dan Brown novel I read earlier in the month (see above), which started here in Canada on Oct. 11th (on Showcase). So far, we've seen 3 of the 10 episodes (filmed here in the Toronto area! -- I've had fun picking out some of the locations they used). The first episode aired while we were in Manitoba, and my parents don't get that channel. Luckily, I was able to set our PVR remotely, using a cellphone app, and we caught up when we got home. :)  I think that reading the novel first has helped me better understand what's going on -- albeit the film version diverges quite a bit from the novel in some respects -- but the essential plot remains the same. 
  • Figure skating! (on CBC, NBC and online) The Grand Prix season kicked off last weekend with Skate America in Las Vegas, and continued this past weekend with Skate Canada in Vancouver. I kind of forgot the Winter Olympics are coming up in February (in Beijing)! 
Listening:  Dh spent a recent Saturday with BIL up north, doing things at Older Nephew's house, and I listened to several podcasts while he was out, including catching up on a few episodes of The Full Stop and a great recent interview with Gateway Women's Jody Day by Laura Behnke of the Life Actually podcast. 

Eating/Drinking:  We had our first crockpot roast beef dinner in quite a while last week, as chillier weather set in. Yum!! 

Buying (besides books, lol):  
  • A new/larger portable hard drive to back up my laptop (my sister's techie boyfriend ordered it from Amazon for me and brought it out to my parents' house). 
  • Halloween goodies for Little Great-Nephew. (I think he's still too young for candy, but I bought him a couple of board books, a pair of hockey-themed PJs, and a box of his favourite Bear Paw soft cookies, lol.) I also got a head start on buying his birthday presents for later this month! 
  • My Christmas cards!!  lol  They were on sale at the mega-bookstore for 30% (40% with my discount card/membership), and I figured I might as well take advantage of that and buy them early.  (Some previous years' Christmas cards spotlighted here.) Now, to actually get them DONE...! 
  • I decided to treat myself and signed up to get an "Advent calendar" from my favourite sterling silver jewelry maker -- one surprise a day for the 24 days of Advent, leading up to Christmas -- including 14 pieces of jewelry created especially for calendar customers, plus other items from  local craftspeople that she loves. It's a pricey splurge, but a bargain at less than half the full cost of paying for all 24 items individually, and I kind of kicked myself for missing out on the first one she did last year. I'm looking forward to it!  
  • Ordered a few new tops for myself from Lucky Brand (which, happily, has reopened some of its stores here in Canada AND launched an online Canadian shopping site!) and Old Navy... not that I really need them (because I never really go anywhere these days...), but it felt good to buy something new (especially because they were all on sale, lol).
Wearing: I was able to squeeze in a few more days in my yoga capris while we were at my parents' house earlier in October... ;)  -- even outside! But for the most part, I have been wearing long yoga pants around the house, long jeans outside, and socks and sometimes slippers too. 

Trying: To head off to bed a little earlier and then read a chapter or two of my current book before turning out the lights... really helps me with my reading goals!  

Wanting:  A little more sunshine. We've had the occasional sunny day with clear skies, but October, for the most part, been pretty dreary, both here and when we were in Manitoba.  :p  (Of course, November is seldom much better...!) 

Enjoying & appreciating:  Spending time with Little Great-Nephew again. Last week, Younger Nephew (currently between jobs) was there too -- the weather was glorious (after days of dark, gloom and torrential rain...!), and we all took LGN to the nearby park and had a great time together.

We also had the privilege of watching LGN head out with his parents for trick-or-treating on his very first Halloween last night! Not sure who had the most fun? (okay, it was us, lol  ;)  )  It was SO nice to be able to thoroughly enjoy this holiday -- WITH our special little guy -- instead of the grief and envy of 20-ish years ago -- and we SO appreciated being included (as I know so many other childless aunts & uncles aren't, who would like to be). 

And I enjoyed being a (virtual) part of the annual Lucy Maud Montgomery Day on Saturday, organized by the L.M. Montgomery Society of Ontario and held at historic Leaskdale church where Montgomery's husband was once the minister and where dh & I spent a memorable afternoon in August 2014, shortly after I lost my job. (Leaskdale is not terribly far away from me -- albeit I was slightly closer before we moved from our old community -- but I'm still not covid-confident enough to venture out to an all-day group gathering, and at any rate, my driving skills/confidence are pretty atrophied, so dh would have to take me...!)  As I mentioned in a post from earlier this year, I get a huge kick out of being able to hang out with Montgomery academics online and to bask in their knowledge and research. I recently joined the LMMSO and, of course, taking part in the LMM Readathon on Facebook over the past year-plus has been a great source of entertainment and comfort during this pandemic! 

Noticing:  How much earlier the darkness is setting in... already!  (And it will be darker even faster after we set our clocks back one hour next weekend, too...!_ 

Wondering: How it got to be November??!  (Which, as longtime readers know, is NOT my favourite month -- I even have a label/tag for my posts, "I hate November," lol.  But I will admit it hasn't been quite so bad since I left work and all its year-end stresses!) 

Hoping: That the current COVID-19 situation will improve (or at least stay relatively stable) to allow us to return west for Christmas with my family! 

Thinking about:  My cousins, whose dad -- my uncle/my dad's oldest brother/sibling -- passed away early Saturday morning. He was 93, and had not been well for some time, but that never makes it easier for the family, of course, and he's the first of my dad's siblings to go. His first wife -- the mother of my cousins, whom I only dimly remember -- died 55 years ago from complications delivering twins, one of whom also did not survive. :(   (He remarried several years later.)  

Cleaning up: My laptop files, after my sister's techie boyfriend was able to retrieve and restore 99.99% of the files from the hard drive of my old (ASUS) laptop, which died a horrible death in February. There were lots of duplicates created in the process (on top of the duplicates created when I bought the ASUS in July 2018 and transferred files over to that from the Toshiba that preceded it...!), and I've been busy going through everything (including a TON of old emails -- and sometimes there are two or three of each!) -- deleting, sorting, filing/re-filing... and, yes, backing up!  (Lesson learned!  lol)  I was especially happy to retrieve all my genealogy files and data, which would be very difficult to replace in their entirety! 

Loving:  The beautiful autumn colours, which seem to be peaking here right around now.  The view from our balcony/condo windows right now is lovely! 

Feeling:  SO happy & thankful that we got "home" to see my parents & sister this month!  

A little melancholy with the onset of darker/colder weather. 

At a park near BIL's house last week on a rare clear, sunny day,
with the autumn colours on glorious display as a backdrop. 
Pictured: dh & Younger Nephew (carrying Little Great-Nephew, 
who was NOT HAPPY about having to leave!! lol). 

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