Tales from my Surfboard Part 1: The End

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My surfboard is gone. No, it wasn’t stolen. No, I didn’t sell it. I’m not quite sure what happened to it, but it’s gone. I’m not delusional or amnesic.  I had the surfboard for over 20 years. I had bought it on the west coast in the late 90s. It came east in the back of a pickup truck. 

Living in a small New York apartment, there was no room for a surfboard where I was living. I am also in UPstate New York, which is landlocked. Of course, you can surf the Great Lakes during hurricane season when the wake is good and the water so cold you even freeze in a wet suit. However, it’s not good to do it with an ocean long board. The waves on the Great Lakes are nothing like the ocean. They are best handled by a short board.

The ocean long surfboard lived in the garage at my girlfriend’s house on Cape Cod. It was there for decades. Every time I went to the Cape, I would stop by, trade vehicles, and take my board out for some waves. I did some wind surfing too, depending on which beach I was at on the Cape.

So, what happened to it? Well, I’m pretty sure it’s been gone for over a year now. 

So you’re going to write a story about a missing surfboard? Sounds pretty boring to me. 

Wait! Don’t leave yet. It’s not just the surfboard. There’s a person too and a 20 year love affair. 

Sit back down. Stay with me here.

For this story, we need to start with the end. I know, stories usually start at the beginning. This one starts at the end. We will get to the beginning. The middle is pretty good too (the best, I think). Think of this as a surfer version of Pulp Fiction without guns.

April 2020

The phone rang at almost 3 am. My phone was set on night, so if it was ringing, then that meant it could only be one of two people. Suddenly, I was very awake.

“Are you ok?” I didn’t even say hello. I knew something was wrong.

Lily (*names have been changed to protect those living and dead) choked back a sob. “Mom’s in the hospital.”

It was very early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Lily’s mom, like mine, was in her 60s. With everything having shutdown in March 2020, Lily decided to leave Cape Cod and go to her mom’s house to help out. At the time, everyone was about helping the most vulnerable. Lily figured she could do the grocery shopping and errands for her mom. So she packed up her Prius and went back to Worchester to help her mom. 

At the time of the phone call, Lily had been at her mom’s house less than a week. This was before masks and before we fully realized that COVID is airborne.

I listened to Lily’s sobs and did the best I could to support her by phone. She was able to visit her mom in the hospital once before she passed. They had not yet stopped visitation of hospital patients. 

Her mom was only in the hospital for about 2 days before she died. Her dad died when she was little. So the only family she had left was a brother and his two young children. The four days after Lily’s mom’s death were so rough on her. We talked every day. We facetimed. She was also talking to her brother trying to make arrangements for her mom. Here she had come home to help, only to be too late.

It was about five days after Lily’s mom died that she didn’t feel well either. 

You know, this is hard to write. 

That’s why we are starting at the end of the story. We will get the hard stuff out of the way first so that we can get to the good stuff.

Well, Lily also died of COVID less than 2 weeks after her mom. Her brother called to tell me. I was one of the last people to speak to her. We facetimed while she was in ICU within 24 hours of her death. COVID is a painful way to die.

I just lost my best friend.

Lily was cremated. In August, her brother held a scattering of ashes ceremony. I “participated” by phone. This was August 2020. Her brother ended up having to take care of everything both for their mom and for Lily.

Lily’s house was sold. So, I’m pretty sure my surfboard was sold too. I’m not sure. I didn’t think about the surfboard until this year. I’m not going to ask. Without Lily there on the Cape, it’s inconsequential.

It’s the memories attached to that surfboard that need to keep living. 

I only thought about the surfboard this year because Lily’s brother kept in touch with me. He had two small children under age 10. He had a girl and a boy, ages 6 and 8. They both died of COVID this year. 

So, the ending is the hardest part. It’s not pretty and it’s not fun. 

You know what they say about the dates on a tombstone? The birth and death dates? It’s that dash in the middle that is the important part. It’s the life you lived in the middle of your birth and your death. 

Now that the hard part is over, part 2 will look at the beginning of the story. Or maybe the middle? That’s where the good stuff lies. When you just ride the waves. There is a love story in that dash. 

To be continued … 

Medals 19 and 20

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Medals 19 and 20 have been earned! The 2021 running season was one of my best in nearly a decade. For the first time in my running career, I ran two half marathons in one month. While I have completed two half and/or full marathons in a year before, I have never done two in one month. My races have always been spaced several months apart.

This year, both races were virtual and I ran them roughly 6 days apart. I completed both races at the very beginning of November due to concerns about weather and some other things that were going on in life. 

My first race this year was supporting one of my favorite charities for homeless humans, Back on My Feet. Back on My Feet has chapters in several large American cities. I know of their program in Philadelphia.

My second race was the virtual Philadelphia Half Marathon, While I have officially completed the race, I am still waiting for my medal. They were supposedly sent out at the end of October.

The Philly Half was done in support of homeless animals. If you remember from my prior post about the 2021 running season, you could donate to the Humane Society in Honor of Jude, the ASPCA in Honor of Jolene or a small non-profit animal shelter in Honor of Simon.

I am especially antsy about my Philly medal not being here due to it’s meaning. 

In 2007, Philadelphia was my first half marathon. In 2008, Philadelphia was my furst full marathon. In 2021, Philadelphia was my 20th medal. Out of the 20 medals I have earned, 5 are from Philly. 

You just never forget your first.

So, I am anxiously awaiting receipt of medal 20. I will feel much better once it arrives. I have plans for the special medal as far as photos and display. 

This also brings me that much closer to my goal. Once I achieve 26 medals, I plan to “retire” from the professional race circuit. I will still run. I just won’t be as competitive or as adamant about earning medals.

I have already chosen my race for the 2022 running season. It is one that has been on my race bucket list for quite a few years now. 

The miles are in and complete. Medal 20 has been earned. Now I am just waiting for it to arrive. 

Desert Island

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Imagine you are stranded on a desert island … we have all played this game in some form or another. It’s a great icebreaker and a way to pass time in the car on long car trips long before the invention of the internet and modern electronic devices.

Imagine you are stranded on a desert island and only had 5 books to read – what would they be?

Imagine you are stranded on a desert island and only had 5 albums to listen to, 5 movies to watch, 5 things to pack in your bag …

As the world is still in the throes of a global pandemic, we are living the ultimate desert island scenario. We are facing global supply shortages that are not only exaccerbating the relentless food shortages of the past 20 months, but also creating new supply shortages. 

With a deadly airborne virus that shows no signs of letting up any time soon, our houses are a desert island. Gone are the days when you could replace something in under 20 minutes. 

Enter minimalism. Do you have everything in your house / desert island that you absolutely love? Do you have too many things? Do you have things you don’t love? Our houses are the desert islands now. If you don’t need it or love it, get rid of it.

All those things you hang onto “just in case” – the emergency is here. Living in a global pandemic is an emergency. If you are not using it right now, you won’t ever need it. There is no need to continue to hold onto those just in case items.

Who is going to clean out your house when you die? It’s not a pleasant thought, but we are all going to die sometime. The pandemic has just accelerated that process. Have you ever had to clean out someone’s belongings when they die? It’s not a pleasant process. It’s tedious and emotionally exhausting.

Why not make it easier on whomever has to clean out your things when you die? Live with less things.

A global pandemic is the perfect time to downsize our homes and lifestyles so that we are surrounded only by what we love. Life is short – do what you love. Why spend extra time cleaning?

Once I complete my half marathon this fall, I will be approaching minimalism with a renewed vigor. I don’t want to have a bunch of junk for someone to have to throw out once I’m dead. I’m going to attack my belongings with ruthlessness now. 

My house is my desert island. I only want what is useful and what I love. If I’m not using something right now, it is going to leave. The emergency is now. We are living it.

I have no regrets over anything I have gotten rid of during my minimalism journey. I have not missed anything I have donated or gotten rid of. In fact, I don’t even remember the items that are gone.

One of the most challenging areas for me regarding minimalism are my CDs. I love music and I love CDs. However, my CD collection is overflowing the space currently available for it. I will be going through and listening to CDs this winter and hopefully only keeping those I truly love.

I remember a few years ago, I tried to purge CDs. It was the hardest aspect of minimalism for me. If I remember correctly, I got rid of / donated about a shoebox full of CDs. I don’t remember which CDs are gone. Must be those CDs were not favorites. My goal this winter is to be able to weed out another shoebox full of CDs. 

My house is my desert island and I only want to have what I absolutely love.

Have you ever applied the desert island scenario to your home in your minimalist journey?

My Quarantine Life: Week 84

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You should be willing to die for your country. You deserve to die. People like you don’t deserve to live.

Sounds mean, doesn’t it? I live in America, and not only are these comments completely acceptable to say to people like me right now, they are celebrated and encouraged. 

I am not in the military. I am not willing to die for my country. I have spent the past 84 weeks trying to survive a global pandemic because I don’t want to die at all. I have 3 cats that depend on me.

To be honest, with what people have been saying to me the past two months, I am depressed. I have to stay alive for my cats and I am absolutely terrified of what would happen to them if something happens to me. However, with the mean things people are saying, I feel like the entire country wants people like me to die. It’s not just a feeling – it’s being said. It’s all over social media and it’s all over the news that the unvaccinated deserve to die.

My Quarantine Life: week 84 – I am still in isolation. When I say isolation, I mean isolation. I am still not allowed to go to the grocery store or pharmacy. I am not supposed to be indoors with other humans unless for healthcare or emergency house maintenance. All our vet appointments are curbside. Groceries are curbside or delivery. The grocery workers put food in my trunk while I sit in the car double masked. I am supposed to be double masked every single time I leave my house. The pharmacy fills all my meds through the drive-thru. I see a person through the window and the medication comes through a chute. Even though the pharmacy person is behind glass, I am double masked there too.

I work from home. I am 100% a remote worker. I very specifically looked for and applied for remote jobs only when Iost my job last spring. I know I am in doctor mandated quarantine. I know what the risks are if I go someplace against medical advice. No job is worth risking your life.

I am medically unable to be vaccinated. People say to me that this is wrong. “Follow the science, but the doctors are wrong.” Ok, so I’m supposed to follow the science. Yet when multiple doctors say your medical conditions make you ineligible to be vaccinated, I’m not supposed to believe them? I’m supposed to be vaccinated against medical advice? How is that “following the science?” Follow the science unless doctors say you cannot be vaccinated in violation of a federal mandate. In that case, the doctors are lying. Follow the science but don’t listen to the doctors – all in the same breath. It sounds very political to me. 

Our local hospital statistics this month show that of the 77 people who died of COVID this month, 75 of them were “fully vaccinated.” Two people were unvaccinated. The federal government says that this is a pandemic of the unvaccinated and we need to protect the vaccinated from the unvaccinated. We are supposed to follow the science. Does this mean my local hospital is lying? Is my local hospital spreading fake news? Are we not supposed to believe the statistics they are publishing? Follow the science, but don’t believe the doctors. Got it. Makes sense. 

So I am lumped in with the unvaccinated, or the great unwashed in this country. We are hated, despised, demonized. It doesn’t matter why you aren’t vaccinated. A medical exemption is no excuse. You should be willing to die for your country (again, someone has actually said this to me).

Ever have an allergic reaction to a vaccine? I have. I have had allergic reactions to two different vaccines. You think you just use an epi-pen and it’s no big deal, right? 

Have you ever been on a ventilator? My allergic reactions have been so severe, I spent 5 months in ICU on a ventilator the last time I reacted to a vaccine. Unless you personally have been on a ventilator, in your life, you have no right to say that an allergic reaction to a vaccine is no big deal.

That’s just my reaction to one shot. It takes two (or more) shots to be considered full vaccinated against COVID. So that means if I can survive being on a ventilator without dying, I would have to get a second shot, which would probably be the one to kill me since allergic reactions get progressively worse the more of them you have.

Yet, I should just “buck up” and get in line for my vaccine? I called for a vaccine appointment. I was turned away because there are no ventilators available right now. All the ventilators are in use by COVID patients.

People have told me that having an allergic reaction to the COVID vaccine is better than getting COVID. Ok, so I have an allergic reaction. At best, I spend several months on a ventilator. At worst, I die. So, you’re telling me, that’s better than COVID? Our ICU is overfull with COVID patients on ventilators to the point we are transferring people to a neghboring state. 

Again, if you are a person who has ever been on a ventilator in your life, please feel free to chime in here and explain to me how having an allergic reaction and being on a ventilator is better than having COVID and being on a ventilator.

Again, only people who have ever been on a ventilator can chime in here. I’ll wait. 

I am in medical isolation. I am not indoors with other humans. I have no opportunities to catch or spread COVID. Can someone please explain to me how, as an unvaccinated person, I am a threat to vaccinated people? I only come into contact with other people outdoors and double masked. 

Again, I’ll wait. Explain to me how me as an unvaccinated person is a threat to a vaccinated person?

At my last doctor appointment, they re-iterated the fact that I need to continue my isolation. The doctor told me that vaccination status doesn’t matter because fully vaccinated people can still catch the virus. Fully vaccinated people can still spread the virus. Is the doctor lying? Follow the science, but don’t believe the doctors, right?

In fact, the doctor told me that fully vaccinated people are actually more dangerous to me right now that the unvaccinated. Fully vaccinated people are going around to places like the pandemic does not exist and they are not wearing masks. Unvaccinated “vulnerable” people like me are still in isolation and are double masked when we do have to interact.

The President says we have to protect the vaccinated from the unvaccinated. This is the exact opposite of what my doctor says. So I’m not supposed to belive the doctor? People say “well, you need a new doctor.” So I need a new doctor because you do not like what the doctor is saying? Follow the science, but don’t believe the doctors.

This pandemic is getting way too political for me.

Again, all I am trying to do is outlive my cats. I am still in isolation. The only time I have indoor interactions are for medical and I am double masked. In fact, the only times this entire pandemic I have had any COVID exposures came from medical appointments.

Both times I have been exposed to COVID were because a fully vaccinated medical professional tested positive for COVID. 

The definition of vaccine is something that prevents you from getting a disease and prevents you from spreading a disease. Have we changed the definition of vaccine these past few months? Can someone please show me the updated definition for vaccine from a reputable dictionary source?

Anyways, I have been nothing but attacked, ridiculed and threatened over the past two months due to my medically unable to be vaccinated status. I’m depressed. I’m also afraid to die. I don’t want to be on a ventilator due to a vaccine reaction.

The reason why it has gotten so bad is because Biden has decided to wage war on the unvaccinated. It doesn’t matter why you are unvaccinated. It just matters that you aren’t. In fact, unvaccinated Americans are about to be fired. Companies can be fined $14,000 per unvaccinated employee. We are all about to be unemployed. So if you don’t volunteer to die for your country, we will just starve you to death instead because you won’t be able to work. 

I never thought I would see discrimination like this in America over something like health status. I’m sure if we took out the word “unvaccinated” and replaced it with “race, sex, gender” or something else, there would be an uproar. Instead, people are saying that people like me who are medically unable to be vaccinated deserve to die. 

I’m not sure how we got here, but this is why I have been quiet the past two months. I feel like everyone around me wants me to die (because they are saying it). Not only are they saying it, but this hate speech is coming from our President who is encouraging discrimination and hate against the unvaccinated, no matter the reason. 

Ever think I would get vaccinated if I didn’t have the risk of an allergic reaction? I am NOT willing to risk my life for my country.

I’m sure this post will probably get me reported or banned or something, since anyone unvaccinated is immediately silenced. I am not saying people should not get vaccinated. By all means, please DO get vaccinated if you are able. 

However, there are people in this country who are medically unable to be vaccinated and we are being persecuted. I’m sorry, but all this hate is really hard on me. I just don’t see how I’m a threat or what I did to deserve this. I don’t want to die, even though millions of other Americans are saying I deserve to die. I’m sorry, but I am just struggling right now with the prospect of losing my job and with all the people who think we deserve to die. I’m not sure how we went from “protect the vulnerable” to “you deserve to die” so quickly.

My Second Favorite Holiday

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Birthdays are my favorite holiday. Every time I get one, it’s like a giant middle finger to the world that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Birthdays are a celebration of life. You only stop having birthdays when you are dead, and that’s a problem.

Many people like Christmas. I like Christmas too, but it’s not my favorite holiday. I like the peaceful feeling of Christmas. Christmas is something we should try to replicate year round. We should aim to be kind and generous to others. While I enjoy Christmas, it is my third favorite holiday.

My second favorite holiday after birthdays is Labor Day and Labor Day weekend.

I spent over 20 years working 2-3 jobs for 40-60 hours per week. We do not have paid sick time in the United States. We do not have paid vacation time in the United States. The only time I would be able to get time off from all of my jobs was holidays.

Labor Day weekend is my favorite because it is a celebration of the worker. We should have the day off. American workers are treated the most poorly of any industrialized country. We can be fired at will, do not have to be offered health insurance, vacation pay, or sick pay. We work long hours for low wages.

The sad part is that for the United States of America, Labor Day is just another day. For many it signals the end of summer and return to school. We have forgotten that Labor Day is about the worker. Workers deserve much, much better than we receive in the United States.

Labor Day weekend has typically been my camping weekend. I like to get away to relax. It’s the only weekend of the year when I truly have a break. For one weekend a year, I can take a vacation and pretend I am just like any worker in any European or other industrialized country.

The saddest part of Labor Day weekend is that although we get the day off, we do not get paid to have the day off. You get the weekend whether you like it or not.

We need to have a revival of the worker’s rights movement in this country. We deserve better wages, shorter hours, healthcare, paid sick time, paid vacation time, and much more. I know that we will never get any of this in my lifetime, but I can dream.

I also dream of moving to a European country that has all those benefits.

Labor Day weekend is my second favorite holiday because it is the only time of year I am truly at peace. When I go camping to a remote area in the Adirondacks, I am typically surround by ducks and other wildlife and not many people. It is the only time I get to slow down and be peaceful. That peacefulness is something I wish I could bottle and have for the entire year.

The past three years or so, Labor Day weekend has not been very restful or peaceful. When I bought my house, my employer at the time only gave me 3 hours off work to complete the closing to purchase the house. I was not allowed to take any time off for moving. Moving was done haphaxardly after work and on Labor Day weekend. 

Now, in the pandemic, I have not been able to travel to go camping for Labor Day weekend. The last time I was able to go camping was October 2019.

This year, we are camping. It will not be the Adirondacks. It will be on our own property. I’m not sure if I will put the tent up inside or outside, but we will camp. We will pretend it is just like any other year in the Adirondacks. The exception will be the obnoxious, threatening neighbors, but hey, we do what we can.

Happy Labor Day weekend. May you find peace. And then after a peaceful weekend, let’s do something to ensure hard working Americans are treated better. We deserve to be treated as humans, at least. 

House-iversary 3

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Today we celebrate our 3 year anniversary in our house. They say everything happens for a reason, and I am 100% convinced that the reason for this house is to keep us all together. At first, it was Jude, Simon and I. Now, Jolene has been with us for a year and a half too.

I like the house, but the neighborhood is horrid. I know, I know. Real estate is all about location, location, location. If I ever tried to sell this house, I would have to do a bad neighbor disclosure. I am a little mad that the sellers did not do the bad neighbor disclosure when I bought the house. However, I don’t think they failed to disclose out of malice. The person who had been living in this house passed away. The people who sold me this house had inherited it. They did not live in it, so I am sure they did not realize how truly bad the neighbors are and that they would have to do the bad neighborhood disclosure.

Despite being in one of the worst neighborhoods in the area, I do like the house. So far, the cats and I have managed to shelter-in-place here safe from covid. I am convinced that the purpose of this house is to keep us all together and well. 

As a homeowner, I have control over who comes into the house to provide service. The HVAC company I used in prior years do not wear a mask, so you can be sure I will be using someone else this year. As a homeowner, I have control over those decisions that you cannot control in an apartment. I’m sure if we were still in the apartment we would have had maintenance people in and no control over the whole “wear a mask” issue.

As much as I would like to sell this house and move due to the bad neighborhood, that is not possible due to the first time home buyer program I used. I do not have $10,000 to pay back the grant. Plus, with three cats, where would we go? Apartments do not accept pets.

I am going to die in this house. I don’t know when that will be, but I know I will die in this house. I will never pay it off. 

If I manage to outlive the cats, I will sell the house and move. Right now this house is the only thing that keeps us together and safe. Safe is a relative term – we are safe from covid, but we are not safe from the neighbors.

To be honest, I do not feel safe in this house due to the neighbors. The loud music, which I have come to learn is someone with a drum set and no insulation, continues. There are at least three houses of Proud Boys. There is gunfire on a regular basis. It is quite possible I will survive the pandemic only to be shot by one of the neighbors, whether intentionally or accidentally. 

For now, it is home, and it is all we have.

I am so thankful that on house-iversary 3, we are all together and healthy. Earlier this year when I lost my job, we faced a true reality of being homeless again. We are just one disaster away from losing it all. 

Happy House-iversary 3. My wish is that this is truly the last forever home for all three cats. All I need to do is care for them and keep us all together. I am so grateful for this house that is keeping us together and safe not only for the rest of our lives, but through a global pandemic.

Happy Birthday, Jolene

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Today is Jolene’s 7th birthday. I never thought I would get a girl. Kip and Kitty (both OTRB) were both boys. Jude and Simon are both boys. In fact, I had been going to the shelter in search of a dog that I thought would get along with Jude and Simon. 

After Kip passed away, I did not think I would be able to handle another orange cat. In fact, when visiting the shelter, I kind of avoided orange cats just because my heart still ached for Kip. Jolene was in a cage at the far end of the room, at the bottom. No one would have noticed her if she had not started throwing an absolute fit in her cage when I walked in. She kept pawing and pawing and wanted to come out. 

Who can say no to that?

I took her out of the cage and was going to set her down to play with her. Except when I picked her up, she hugged me. She would not let go. Jolene picked me out.

Two years ago today, a 5-year old Jolene was dumped in a parking lot with a box of her kittens. Half of her teeth were missing due to a genetic disorder she has that causes them to go bad. She spent 5 months in the shelter watching all of her kittens be adopted before I walked into the room.

Jolene only has 4 teeth left now due to her genetic condition. However, she received the health care she needed to remove the dying and painful teeth and infected roots that had caused her great pain for who knows how long.

Jolene is definitely the Queen of our home. She is in charge. She brings so much life to our home. Both Jude and Simon have come out of their shells more and are more playful since Jolene entered our lives.

I adopted Jolene in January 2020, before the lockdowns, so she is not a “pandemic pet.” However, pretty much her entire time with us has been in this isolation situation. As we celebrate her birthday today, both of her birthdays have been in lockdown. 

For indoor cats, every day is lockdown. It’s just that now I join them as I am home all the time. I am so grateful that I get to spend every day with my three fur balls.

Jolene has my baby name for a girl since I cannot have human children. Jude has my boy name. I honestly never imagined I would have a girl and get to use the name. The name definitely fits Jolene. She knows her name and will respond to it. 

Jolene is my constant companion and follows me all over the house. She has to know where I am at all times. She constantly brings me gifts – her favorite mouse toy. I often find her favorite mouse toy near me as she brings it to where I am and leaves it. 

When I return to the house after being gone, her favorite mouse toy is near the door. She puts it there because she knows I am out. That way it is there for me when I return. 

Jolene loves both her brothers Simon and Jude. They both love her back. She plays with them and grooms them. Jolene is definitely in charge of the house.

Jolene sleeps with me every single night. In that way, she reminds me a little of Kitty. Kitty slept with me every single night for 19 years. Jude and Simon will sleep with me probably 90% of the time. Jolene sleeps with me all the time. 

I am so grateful that Jolene chose me to be her mom. I only hope that I can survive the pandemic and outlive the cats so that I can keep them all together and be their true forever home, just as I was for Kip and Kitty.

Happy 7th birthday to my daughter, Jolene. Thank you for bringing so much joy, love, and light into our lives.

My Quarantine Life: Week 75

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America is a sad place right now. People are dying and nobody cares. Apparently it is much too difficult for people to wear a mask on their face. Masks save lives, but the government refuses to mandate them to keep people safe. Instead, they are choosing to mandate a vaccine that not everyone can have and does not prevent the disease spreading from person to person.

I have come to realize that I am not going to survive the pandemic. Grim, yes, but reality. Last month, I had an in-person doctor appointment and was indoors with other people for the first time in a year. The medical person (I will not say professional because this was one of the most UNprofessional medical people I have encountered) not only demanded I remove my mask, but also exposed me to COVID.

It was the first time in over a year of isolation I had an actual COVID exposure. If doctors offices are not even safe places to go without being exposed to COVID, then what hope is there? We are not even safe in trying to obtain medical care. You better really be in a life or death situation to see a medical professional in this country right now. It is literally a risk to life to seek healthcare. Forget routine care or preventative medicine. At least in my area, the doctors’ offices are not even safe. In fact, our state has been saying for almost a year now that medical appointments are the second place people are most frequently catching COVID.

We are in the most dangerous part of the pandemic, as the vaccines are not working. With every other vaccine, you do not get the disease and you do not spread the disease. With the COVID vaccine, you can still get the disease and you can still spread the disease to others. Do not report me as fake news. That is scientific fact from multiple outlets in multiple countries. 

Yet, here in America, it is way too difficult for people to wear a mask. Americans are too selfish to wear a mask and would rather get a vaccine instead. Vaccines are good, but refusal to wear a mask is still killing people.

I am certain that my death will be the result of human stupidity. At this point, there is nothing else to blame.

I wear a mask if I go anywhere. The only places I come into contact with others is in seeking medical care and for car and house maintenance. 

As diligent as I am at wearing a mask, it is much more effective if everyone else wears a mask too. 

It appears that COVID is here to stay. At least, that is until all the people who refuse to wear a mask die. Even then, their negligence is also killing those of us who do wear a mask. 

In a country that experiences mass shootings almost every single day, I should not be surprised that no one cares about COVID deaths in this country. Yet, somehow, I still have faith in humanity and expect better of the world. Wear a mask.

Due to the COVID situation in this country, and in my area specifically, I do not expect to survive the pandemic. I am going to be killed by someone else’s stupidity.

I have started to do legal paperwork to try to have my cats looked after in the event of my death. It is not something anyone wants to think about, but arrangements need to be made before it is too late to do so. All I want is for my cats to be loved and to stay together.

It is extremely challenging finding people to designate to take care of my cats if I die. I have had so many of my friends and family die of COVID this past year, that I have barely 5 people still alive right now who I knew before the pandemic. It is kind of hard to meet new people when you are in isolation. 

I meet people online who I would trust to take the cats, but there is a geography barrier. 

My goal is to have all my “official death paperwork” completed this month so that I have peace of mind knowing I have a plan in place. I do not enjoy thinking about my death, but preparations must be made. I want to get my paperwork in order quickly so that I do not have to keep thinking about such a grim subject.

So that is my quarantine life this week. The medical person has extended my isolation for another year or until herd immunity has been reached. Such is the life of the immunocompromised.

The cats and I are doing well. We are all happy. I just need to get this paperwork out of the way so I can move onto happier things. 

I am happy and grateful to be safe at home with my cats. 

Bug Out Kit

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We are pros at sheltering in place. After years of snowstorms in an area that consistently lands in one of the top three snowiest places on the east coast of the USA and spending the past year and a half in a pandemic, we know how to stay home.

I have always had a bug out bag ready. The bug out bag has always been mostly for my cats and contained only a few items for 1-2 days. Now that we have sheltered in place for a year and a half and continue to do so, I am coming to realize how attached we are to this house. We would be in real trouble if we had to leave.

A few weeks ago, a tornado touched down about 9 miles from our house. While I typically ignore tornado warnings, I took this one seriously, as it was the first time I heard the tornado siren in the village actually go off. 

Jude and Jolene went down to the basement right away. They thought it was a game. Simon hid. I had to search for Simon and grab him to take him to the basement. We were down there for about an hour. At the time of the warning, they were unsure where the tornadoes were going to touch down. Luckily, the closest they came to us was 9 miles.

It was an eye opening experience as to how unprepared we are if we had to leave.

Of course, priority number one is the cats. It is aways the cats. I will just grab them and go. Everything else be damned.

I decided to redo our bug out kit. One thing I have learned in this pandemic is that for my cats, I am their world. If something happens to me, they have no one. 

I am taking the bug out kit seriously and ensuring that there are items in there for all of us.

Initially, I was just going to repack the backpack. If we have to leave, I can just throw the cats and the backpack in the car and go. If we had to leave on foot, I could wear the back pack, and would struggle with the cats. I would have two put two in one carrier and one in another, but it is doable.

My neighbors are Proud Boys. They are very violent and disruptive. They have threatened with guns. They retaliate if you complain about any of their activities. I do not feel safe living here, but unfortunately we are stuck here for financial reasons. 

With my horrible neighbors, I got to thinking – what if we had to leave and could not take the car? Could I do it? I could, but with great difficulty.

I decided to get a camping wagon. 

The camping wagon is our new bug out unit.

If something bad happens, I will grab the cats and throw them in the car. If there is time, I will pull the wagon out to the car also to load everything and we can go to safety.

Anytime we have a snowstorm or other emergency, I know to keep the gas tank in the car at least half full at all times. Since we have been living in an emergency for a year and a half, I keep the gas tank in the car at least half full all of the time now in case we need to leave.

I decided to use a wagon for our new bug out kit because if we have to leave and cannot take the car, it will be easier for me to just pull the wagon. I have all of our supplies in it. I can also out the cats in their car carriers in the wagon. It is going to be easier for me physically then trying to wear a backpack and deal with their carriers. I can just pull a wagon.

I also “upped” our provisions. Due to my multiple food allergies, I have 5 days worth of food for me. There is 3 weeks worth of food for the cats due to my experience in trying to get their food the past year and a half sheltering in place in the pandemic, 

With our bug out wagon, we should be able to go 5 days before needing help if we had to leave the house on foot. 

I’m not a prepper and I am not normally this paranoid about things. However, with my Proud Boy neighbors becoming increasingly violent and confrontational, I feel like we need to be ready to leave for our own safety in case things escalate. 

It looks like a lot, but I have medical supplies, two changes of clothes (in case I get wet), all cat supplies including a cat pan. Water is only two gallons, but I am looking into water purification options. The cat litter is in the trunk of the car. 

It’s not perfect. I’m hoping we never have to use it. I’m sure that if I DIDN’T create a bug out kit, we would be in need of one. So hopefully with our bug out wagon, nothing will happen, and we will be able to continue our shelter in place safely. 

Do you have an emergency go kit? Have you included your pet(s) in your go plans? Half of the stuff in our wagon are for the cats. 

Stay safe, everyone.

Sandy’s 76 Chevy

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There are some memories that we try to hold onto and some memories that we would like to forget. I like to think of the forgetting process as pruning my brain cells. I want to get rid of all of the bad stuff so that at the end of my life, only the good memories remain.

Then there are the times when memories return unbidden. There is no real reason for why a forgotten memory has returned and sometimes it lacks context. I had that experience the other day when I took the car out for a drive. I was having a trying day and just needed to get out of the house. 

Of all things, and of all people, the memory was of Sandy’s 76 Chevy. At first blush, it had to do with the car – not the one I was driving, but Sandy’s 76 chevy. You see, the key had broken off in the ignition of the vehicle. There was a portion of the key permanently stuck there. So every time we got in the car to go someplace, Sandy would reach under the seat for a screw driver. The screw driver would help turn the ignition to turn on the car. Then the screwdriver would lie on the floor. We would drive around with a keyless car.

At least, the car did not have the traditional danging cluttered keychain with paraphernalia that was so popular in the 80s and early 90s.

But the memory of Sandy’s 76 chevy was much more than just driving around in a car with no key.

I was 11. Sandy was 15. The driving age at the time was 15. Of course, Sandy was driving. She had a baby that just turned one and needed to be able to drive the baby to its appointments and herself to work. Sandy’s parents kicked her out when she got pregnant. So, like most of us of that generation, Sandy started working when she was 13. I consider myself privileged in that I was able to wait until age 14 to start working.

Sandy was a friend of my cousin. We were “paired together” by the adults in our life. The idea was that by saddling Sandy down with me there would be someone with her to be sure she was taking care of the baby. The idea was that by saddling me with Sandy I would get the message to not get pregnant. At age 11, I wasn’t even sure how that happened.

This was the day and age when victims of sexual abuse were always blamed. It you were being sexually abused, it was your fault. You were “promiscuous.” The fear was always pregnancy. Even if you were too young to understand the abuse, you were always framed as someone who didn’t mind adults and was at risk of becoming even more of a liability than you already were just by existing. That’s what it was like growing up in a small town in the 1980s.

So, Sandy and I were hanging out in an effort to teach each other something.

Sandy spent a lot of time driving around trying to calm the baby. That meant we spent a lot of time in the car driving around, singing and talking. The car was littered with debris. There were food wrappers everywhere, and if you rummaged around, there were a bunch of tapes in there too. We would pop a tape in the deck and sing along to Bon Jovi and Poison. We just kept driving until the baby fell asleep.

Sandy would drive us on old back country roads. Even though Sandy was 15 and old enough to drive, she got sick of driving all the time. Sometimes she would let me drive. Yes, it was illegal, but we were 11 and 15, alone in the country. Who was there to care?

I did not like driving much at the time. I hated being responsible for such a large vehicle with Sandy and the baby in it. The car seemed huge to me. It could have been just because I was 11 and was small.

Sandy had also picked up the habit of smoking. She had started smoking at age 10. Back in the 80s, you could purchase cigarettes from vending machines. I remember being sent into bars and stores to purchase cigarettes from vending machines. They cost 90 cents. You would drop in the coins, then pull the lever under the ones you wanted and they would drop down below. 

When Sandy was low on cash, which was always, we would stop at some off-the-path roadside bar. Sandy would run in to grab an ashtray. Among all the other debris in the car, there was always bobby pins. The bobby pins were usually connected to the scrunchies that were floating around.

Sandy would take the butts from the ashtrays and determine which discards still had enough tobacco left in them to be smoked. The stubs were way to small to hold without being burned. This is where the bobby pins came in. She would put the bobby pin on the stub to hold it so that the last of the tobacco could be smoked. This was a common practice of the time. Many kids in the 80s started smoking by taking their parents’ discarded butts and using bobby pins to smoke the ends of them.

Sandy worked at a local fast food place. She took the baby to a babysitter while she worked. Thankfully, I was never asked to babysit. The adults just wanted me to spend time with Sandy to see how hard it was to be a teenage mom. Although, they neglected to tell me anything about how babies were made or how to prevent one. Not to mention, I was not willingly engaging in any activities to produce one. I did get the message that I never wanted to be a mom. Being a mom was a very bad thing. Message received.

While preventing teen pregnancy may have been the intended message of my time with Sandy, what I remember the most is the car. I remember driving around in the car with no keys singing along to the cassette deck. 

They don’t make cars that you can drive around with no keys anymore.

Technically, they have cars now with push button starts, but it’s not the same. The cars with push button starts have a lot of technology that enables them to work. Sandy’s 76 chevy was a car that would start if you just fiddled with a screwdriver. Do a little turn, make the connection, and off we would go. It was the type of car you would just drive until it died. Then when it died, you would beat it up a bit until it started working again, and drive it some more.

Of all memories to arrive unbidden, I received the one of Sandy’s 76 chevy. I have no idea whatever happened to Sandy or the baby. Somewhere in the recesses of my brain, I remember that car.