Escorting During Pandemic

Today, I went to the clinic escort for the second time after our activities were resumed.

Look at our cool new masks!

Now, we do not throw our vests back to the common pile; we take our vests home and bring them back for the next shift. I like it, because now I always have my XS size, and do not need to search for it in the bag! We can’t share food anymore, and we can’t take food from our supporters, but that’s OK.

Since we are in the Pride Week (although events are canceled), there were people in the Pride gear biking on the streets, and they were cheering us. Also, there was one funny episode. A couple passed by, looking attentively at us, antis, the doors of the clinic, and the folding sign, which is explaining the bubble zone. And then the man said: I get it now! You are the good guys! We cheered: you got it right! 

Most of the antis do not wear masks. Our shift leader asked the lady in the middle: I heard you said that your mother has cancer, and you are visiting her. Yet, you do not wear a mask… For which she replied: Oh, she does not wear a mask either! 

What can I say?!

Volunteering Together

For the first time since March,  Friends of Deer Grove had a workday, not a “solo volunteering activity.” I was delighted to receive a message earlier this week that the workdays will be resumed!

We pulled garlic mustard in one of the areas which were not scouted for the invasives that season. The weather was just right, and it was easy to pull out the garlic mustard gigantic plants. When you look at the pictures from the middle of the woods, it seems like everything is green and greener. In real life, there are hundreds of shades of green, and the surrounding looks gorgeous. 

It seems like “green on green,” but the pods of the garlic mustard plants are easy to spot
Volunteers in the woods 🙂
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Some Pictures from Last Week (Forest Preserve)

Last Sunday, I had a great time wandering the Deer Grove Forest Preserve. It was two days after Illinois entered Phase 3 of reopening, and I just got a permit for individual volunteering. For me, it was one more thing I always enjoyed doing, and which I could do again.

After a long time, I was together with my friend and a steward of the Forest preserve, who spends way more time in the woods than me. Also, she knows tons more than me about plants and nature in general.

I didn’t post any of the pictures on that day because life took a different course, and my mind was occupied with other things. But today, I week later, I want to show some of them.

Bluegrass and a compass plant
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Today’s Activities: Clinic Escort and More Local Protests

As I mentioned in that post, this week, we resumed the clinic escorting. We had to complete zoom training about our new procedures and sign the waiver regarding the new risks related to the pandemic. 

I was glad to be back; it is great to feel that you can do something useful and meaningful. 

It was relatively quiet; there were just a few antis, and they left about 11 AM. I was hoping to meet up with Igor, but since a new protest, the largest so far was unfolding, there were no CTA services to the Loop, and the bridges were up again. Everybody was upset about the bridges, and it didn’t look like it was really necessary, but whatever.

Metra looked much better than the other two times I took it to the city during the quarantine. There were more people on board, but unfortunately, not all of them were wearing masks. The conductors are still not around, so nobody is enforcing the face covering. 

As I realized that I am not going to meet with Igor, I took the 12-30 train and was able to attend a Palatine protest, organized by NWSOFA/Indivisible. It was very well organized, with lots of invited speakers and with all our elected and not elected official speaking. I decided to play safe and stood further away, which unfortunately meant that I could not hear everything. 

What was encouraging that through the whole course of the rally, the passing cars were honking non-stop (including the big trucks:))

I am walking towards the Volunteer Plaza


Illinois is Moving to Phase 3

Last Friday, Illinois started to reopen. To be more specific, the whole state entered Phase 3 of the reopening plan. The state is doing surprisingly well, keeping all the numbers under control.
I called my eye doctor (not opened yet), my hair salon (got an appointment for Saturday), and my nails spa (got an appointment for Wednesday). It’s not like those are the most important things in my life, but those are small parts that started to fill the places they belong to.

It is also about human connections. I know both the hairstylist and the spa owner for quite a while, and they know me, and our conversations are usually beyond a barbershop small-talk.

In the hair salon, they reorganized the space so that each stylist has plenty of space on both sides. Everybody wears masks, and they clean thoroughly after each client. Also, they are not using blowdries anymore.

In the nail spa, everybody was ecstatic to see mom and me. I chatted at length with the owner. She told me that she applied for a small business grant, but is still waiting for approval. They are pretty busy after reopening. However, she is upset that some people do not keep appointments, and she can’t take anybody without an appointment these days.

I wish her to get through these rough times. She is doing all the right things to grow her business, offering exceptional services, working very hard, and always smiling.

I didn’t do the outdoor dining yet although I saw lots of places setting the tents outside.

Igor was able to come to Palatine for a couple of hours and visited with my mom. I suggested they would sit at the shelter on the platform, which is outdoor, but comfortable enough. I also instructed mom to wear a mask, which she did, and Igor did as well. I stopped by to give Igor a whole shopping bag of different fruits from Eurofesh. In view or the subsequent events, it was a great idea :).

The most important thing for me, however, is the fact that we are resuming clinic escorting. We have new procedures, and last week, all the experienced escorts were invited to zoom training sessions. The first day of escorting will be on Friday. I was worrying that the Loop will remain closed, but it reopened today. Metra is still running a weird schedule and will continue for the rest of the week. That means, I will be an hour late for the shift, but our team leader said it’s okay. I can’t even describe how excited I am to be back, even with our reduced powers. For the record, antis never stopped 😦

A Perfect Memorial Day Weekend (II)

I love summer in Illinois. I am not talking about just summer in Chicago, filled with all these amazing events and activities: music festivals, parades, markets, Crown Fountain, icecream at the River Walk, and the fireworks on the Navy Pier. Chicago summer is fantastic, but I also love Illinois summer away from the city. 

I love that it is hot. Yes, I know that many people hate the Midwest summer for being hot and humid. But I love it. Maybe, that’s because, since my early childhood, hot weather was a luxury. Something we didn’t get at home. You had to travel to The South. The South was almost as appealing as “zagranitza” (see related post). 

In any case, I love it when the outside temperature is in the lower 80’s. My picture of the perfect summer is the following. It’s warm enough that I can wear shorts and a sleeveless top. I am on my deck, or rather on the wooden steps of my deck, I am barefoot, and my soles feel the warmth of the wood. The mourning doves are mourning; I hear their uuu! uuu! The sun is not setting down yet, but it starts to go down, My back is feeling the door of my kitchen. It’s never extremely hot on my deck because the sun never touches it directly. And it’s that moment when I sit there and do nothing. No audiobook in my ears. No looking at my phone. Nothing, but the sun which starts to descent, and the mourning of the doves … 

Every year, the first day I can sit like this marks the arrival of summer. This year, it was so cold for so long that I could not even believe that this day will come, even a week ago. 

And now, for the fourth day in a row, we have a perfect summer. Each day of the long weekend was a gift! 

Here are some pictures of want I was doing on Sunday.

Very foggy morning, meeting a number of deers
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Busy. Tired. Tired. Hopeful

I would think that if I have so much work, I won’t be upset about anything else. But somehow it adds up: my ginormous workload, the overall worrisome situation in Illinois with a still-growing number of cases, being apart from the rest of the family, mom going crazy because of isolation.
I am trying to imagine how restless other people are becoming when even I, with all my understanding of the necessity of quarantine, have a difficult time continuing that way.

Last week, I started to bike early in the morning regularly. I loved these very early bike rides for a long time, but now it’s even better because usually there is nobody on the bike paths before 6 AM. However, today, I met several large groups of people walking in the forest preserve. That explained why there were no deers today :). One group consisted of at least ten adults with no masks on. And it was 5-40 AM.

One of the things which makes me feel tired is the fact that I constantly hear comments, both from “left” and “right,” about my behavior. It looks like in the eyes of half of the world, I am not doing enough and endangering myself and everybody around me. And for another half of the world, I am a panicer subdued to the propaganda.

My honest feelings are that none of us have enough information to evaluate the risks completely adequately. And every day, more information becomes available. I do not know about others, but my opinion on what’s the right behavior changes often. I am trying very hard not to criticize anybody’s behavior because I am not sure whether the ways I am handling the situation are better. I am trying very hard not to be angry with people. Success varies :).

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Time in Deer Grove Forest Preserve

This weekend was nice and warm and sunny, and tomorrow it will become much colder. It does not look like we are going to have another summer-like day till Memorial Day weekend.

I tried to use this warm time as much as possible, doing tons of things outdoors.

I spent a total of at least four hours in the forest preserve, both biking and walking. On Saturday, I decided to take mom to the forest preserve again since she enjoyed it so much last weekend.
This time, in an attempt to minimize encounters with other people, I decided to take her to a different site, which worked great. Although there were still people, there were way fewer visitors there. Also, the roads are wider, so you can keep the distance. And last but not least, the change of scenery is a good thing.

A woodpecker
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Deer Grove Forest Preserve

Last Sunday, I went to the Forest Preserve to check my area and just to be there. My friend told me that the parking closest to my house was full in the morning. I had some hope that things will be better in the afternoon, but they weren’t. I turned around and drove to the main parking lot.

It busy as well, but at least there is more space there, so I found a place to park, it just took me longer to walk to my area. There were lots of people walking, running, and biking. Most of the visitors were trying hard to follow the social distancing guidelines, but it was very difficult! I am not ruling out the possibility that these people thought that I have some authority since I was wearing the forest preserve monitor vest :). There was a police car by the entrance, and I was thinking – what if the Cook County officials would decide to close the Forest Preserve after seeing such a crowd?! So far, they didn’t, and I hope that people will continue to try their best.

When I talked to my daughter, she told me that there are cities that opted to close some streets for traffic, to allow more room for people to walk observing the distance. She mentioned that Madison is considering similar measures. I think it would be great if something like that would happen in Chicago – I feel for people who can’t be outside safely!

The Forest Preserve Parking
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Online Activities

There have been a lot of online activities recently, so many that sometimes I have to choose which one to attend – almost like in the previous life. 

Yoga. After I started to take yoga classes with my old teacher, I found out that LifeStart – the fitness franchise we have in our office building – is streaming a lot of free classes including yoga with my second-favorite instructor, and they are all free. I signed up for the first one on Wednesday, and it was great. Now I signed for one more on Friday:). I will still keep the semi-private class with my old teacher on Mondays, and this way, my life will be yoga-complete!

ArtsWFMT Classical radio station always had a lot to offer, but now they started something new – Maestro’s Choice. In response to the COVID-19 crisis, WFMT and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra have partnered to launch a new six-program broadcast series. Riccardo Muti, music director of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, has curated the programs. It runs every Tuesday from 8 PM to 10 PM. Last Tuesday, the first piece performed was Shostakovich Second Cello Concerto, Ricardo Muti conducting, Yo-Yo-Ma – cello solo. It was amazing, and the sound is so good – you feel like you are at the Orchestra Hall! I was doing some work and listening to music – something I used to do in the past, but haven’t done for a very long time!

Also, the Siskel Center started to stream some of their programs. I bought tickets for two movies so far. They are good for several days, so I might end up watching them, no matter how busy I am at work. 

Volunteering. Our volunteer coordinator in the Open Door Shelter reached out to the volunteers asking whether we will be interested in doing some online activities with the kids. I answered – YES! We are still in the process of planning, but meanwhile, I listened to the press conference with the Night Ministry representatives about the work they are doing right now, how the services were modified, what the challenges are, and how we can help. 

Professional Development. Surprisingly, professional online activities were less interesting than others, but I finally figured out zoom, purchased a professional subscription, and scheduled the April meetup of Chicago PUG online. Good for me 🙂