Dare To Dream

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Last fall, as COVID number spiraled out of control, I realized that the pandemic is here to stay. Schools have been open for in-person instruction here since September 2020 with no mask requirements. The COVID positivity rate in my area right now is 19% and no one cares.

I do not have a death wish. I care.

Despite all the people claiming the pandemic is “over” as the death rate continues to climb, we are actually in this for the long haul. 

I started to evaluate my life with the pandemic in mind. This is no temporary thing. Masks, social distancing, and death will be with us for quite awhile. It is getting even worse now as everyone throws caution to the wind with the vaccines.

Given the deadly normal, I decided that working from home needs to stay. 

I am able to safely obtain groceries either by delivery or contact-free pickup. The only other reasons I have to put myself at risk of death are for medical purposes and for work. 

No job is worth your life. <tweet that>

There is this absolutely disgusting and cruel LIE going around that people do not want to work because they are making more money on unemployment. That is untrue. Many people are unemployed and not receiving any income because they cannot get through to unemployment to file a claim. 

The real reason – in fact, the ONLY reason – why employers cannot find people to work is because no job is worth your life. My life is worth more than $15, thank you very much. 

Unfortunately, in America, the economy is worth more than human life. The USA has to be first in everything, so they are doing the best they can to reach a million COVID deaths by opening everything up and telling people to stop wearing a mask.

I digress. However, this is the reality in which we live.

Last fall I decided I wanted to find a part-time work from home sidegig for extra income. Prices on everything have increased substantially, yet my income did not. Hey, I just paid $35 for a quart of milk a few weeks ago. That’s a huge increase from $4 for a quart of milk.

So, last fall I began investigating the possibility of making remote work permanent. 

It was a lengthy process of trial and error, learning new technologies and trying to trouble shoot. I figured if I could just find a part-time remote job it would give me extra income. The plan was to ask my full-time employer at the time to make remote work a permanent option. I knew this request would be a long shot. Indeed, I lost that job in April 2021.

With life in a global pandemic that is not getting any better, my dream has been to make remote work permanent. This way the cats and I can be safe. I have to figure out how to live another 15-20 years to be able to take care of them.

Losing my job in April 2021 was the worst thing to ever happen to me. It was my only source of income. It was a direct threat to my very life. If I am forced to go back to an in-person workplace, I will not survive the pandemic. Losing my job threatened my ability to keep the cats and I together and to take care of them. It was a greater threat to my family than when I needed to exit my apartment a few years ago.

Making my dream of permanent remote work a reality now became a need and not a want. It is the only way for me to save my life so I do not die. This is not an exaggeration.

This past month I have been unemployed, I have no income. I have not been able to get through to unemployment to file an initial claim. At this point in time, NYS has no clue I am unemployed. Their website crashes. Their phone system says high call volume and hangs up.

Finding a new job and finding one quickly needs to be done so that the cats and I do not end up separated and homeless. Yet I cannot just do any job. If I don’t want to die, I need to be able to work remotely.

My initial dream last fall was to be able to make remote work permanent so that I could focus on being home with the cats, running, and (someday maybe) travel. Travel will have to wait at least a decade for the pandemic to end.

With remote work, I will be able to be more in control of my life and human interactions. I do not, after all, have a death wish.

In between the over 100 phone calls a day I make to unemployment these past few weeks, I have been job searching for remote work.

Another goal I have is to go back to working 2-3 jobs instead of just one. 

I know, I know. In my bio for this blog, Rewind Live Slow, I state that I stopped working multiple jobs to try to slow down my life. 

The reality is that you should not put all your eggs in one basket. Only working one job and then losing that job means I now have no income. This is the worst situation ever. To prevent this situation from happening in the future, I need to be sure I have multiple income streams. So I need to either work one “main” full-time job and find something part-time to supplement or work multiple part-time jobs. 

I’ve done it before. I spent 20 years working multiple part-time jobs while putting myself through school. 

There is a difference this time.

Those 20 years I spent working multiple jobs putting myself through school, I was working 60-80 hours a week to make ends meet. This was before I started on my minimalist journey. This is when I was going 110% all the time.

This time, I am not going to work 60-80 hours a week. I can’t do it anymore physically. Not to mention, I want time to be with my cats. Life is short and precious. I want time to be with the ones I love.

So my goal is to work multiple jobs, but not to work more than 50 hours a week to make ends meet. By having multiple income streams, I will hopefully not ever be in this situation ever again of not having any income at all. I am making sacrifices in my life to reduce my expenses so that I can get by on less income.

I am proud to announce that it appears I have realized my dream.

I was recently offered and accepted two different part-time jobs that are both remote. With the two jobs together, I should be working about 35-40 hours per week. The income should hopefully be just enough to make ends meet (barely).

I’m realizing my dream.

One part-time job starts now, and the other starts next month. The jobs only pay once a month, so I won’t see any real income until July. That means I am going three months – April, May, June – with no income. It’s hard and it hurts. It would help if I could get unemployment, but they are too busy to answer their phone. I will not give up trying to contact unemployment. When I am finally able to file a claim, they owe me for these three months I am unemployed. 

The good news is that I have a month to get used to the one part-time job before I have to start the other one. The part-time job I am starting right now is only 3-5 hours per week so far, but at least it is something.

My new dream that I am daring to dream is to take control of my life, my interactions and my schedule by working remotely 100% of the time.

I am making that dream a reality.

Dare to dream. I am so blessed. As long as I can keep this house to keep the cats and I together, everything is fine. All I need to do is outlive the cats so I can give them the best life possible. If I can do that, then I will have lived a good life. 

That’s what rewind live slow is all about.

It Takes An (Online) Village

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It’s been three weeks now since I’ve lost my job. This is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. After working for 28 years, this is the first time I have ever been unemployed. It is a direct threat to my life, health, safety and ability to care for my cats and keep my family together.

I have no income. I have not been able to get through to NYS unemployment to file a claim. Their web site continuously crashes. Their phone has an automated message saying “high call volume” that hangs up on you. I call unemployment over 100 times a day. I put the phone on speaker and keep hitting redial while I try to look for and apply for jobs.

I am not eligible for any pandemic mortgage relief due to my student loans. I am also not eligible for any help from social services because I am a single adult with no human children. I am not eligible for social security or disability because I am not “disabled enough” to qualify for any of those services either. I am one of those people who just fall through the cracks and is 100% screwed in this pandemic. Thousands of people like me have died already, and who knows when I will be next.

Losing my job was the absolute worst thing to ever happen to me in my life. It is very possible that I will lose the house, the cats and I will be separated, and I will die this year. I honestly don’t expect to live to see age 43 if something does not improve soon.

I even reached out to local legislators about being able to reach unemployment to file a claim. There is nothing they can do to help. I am one of the “great unwashed” who is either going homeless or dead in this pandemic. I am just another number. 

This past year, I have lost many of my friends and my family to COVID. I can count on one hand the people I knew before the pandemic who are still alive now. 

This past Tuesday, when I opened my local newspaper, I knew every single person in the obituary section. Every single person. There are some days when the obituaries take up an entire page. It should not be this way when I am in my 40s.

As you all know and I have blogged about many times, I loathe social media, especially Facebook. I canceled my Facebook about 5 years ago now and never looked back. I have no regrets about deleting Facebook.

However, I have been extremely isolated in this pandemic. I have lost so many people. So last fall, I decided to try Twitter as a form of social media. I refuse to use Facebook. 

On Twitter, we have been warmly welcomed into the Pet Twitter family. I see happy photos of dogs, cats, fish, bunnies, chincillas and other pets. There are two people on Twitter who I know in real life.

One of those real life people is my best friend from childhood. When I tweeted that I lost my job, this friend sprang into action and set up a GoFundMe for me.

I have a basic idea of what GoFundMe is. I have donated to them a few times before. Twenty dollars here or there to help people who I knew were in genuine need. I never would have thought of setting one up for myself. That first week after losing my job, I was in shock and was stunned.

My friend was able to use our social networks to fully fund my GoFundMe. The GoFundMe paid my mortgage and utilities for the month of May while I look for jobs and try to unsuccessfully file an initial claim for unemployment.

I was also just contacted by GoFundMe itself. Not only was my campaign for May fully funded, but the GoFundMe organization chose me for a micro-grant from their Basic Necessities Fund. I will be putting that money towards June expenses.

I have been lucky in that I have interviewed for two jobs so far. However, the job market is extremely competitive right now because so many people are out of work and searching for jobs. Even though I have interviewed, the chances of being hired are very slim due to the competition. 

Even if I was hired now, I would not see any income from a new job until probably July. In the meantime, I have heard that it can take 4-6 months to actually get through to unemployment to file an initial claim. It can then take another few months after that before you actually receive any money. A lot of people have ended up homeless because they have gone 4-6 months with no income before they are able to file an unemployment claim. 

I hope I am not one of them.

I am very grateful to the online community and to everyone who contributed to my GoFundMe to pay my mortgage and utilities for the month of May. As much as I truly appreciate the help, this is not sustainable. I cannot have a GoFundMe pay all of my bills for the 6 months it takes to get through to unemployment to file an initial claim. 

I really need to find a job and I know that. I update people everyday about how many jobs I have applied for and how many times I have tried to reach unemployment. I am averaging 10-20 job applications a week and over 600 phone calls a week to unemployment.

Anyone who says that people are sitting at home on unemployment and don’t want to work should be shot. I’m not joking. First, many people are not receiving unemployment because we can’t get through to them to file. Second, no job is worth your life. I can tell you right now, after losing now over TEN people to COVID this past year, I am not going to take a job that puts me at risk of COVID. 

My cats are the only family I have left. I am the only family they have. Without me, they will be homeless and separated. I have to keep this house to keep us together. I have to be able to outlive them to take care of them.

Someone suggested I sell the house. Well, then I would be homeless. Rent here is over $400 a month more than my mortgage. That is if I rent a small room in a house with 8 or 9 other people. Plus, no rentals here take pets. I cannot be separated from the cats. 

I cannot buy another house. First, I am unemployed. With no income, I cannot afford the one I have. Second, I will never get approved for another mortgage in my life. I can’t even refinance the one I have to get a lower interest rate. I almost did not get my mortgage due to my student loans. It took a Regional Manager to approve my mortgage and they only did so because I was in a student loan forgiveness program. Now that I am no longer working for a non-profit, I am no longer in the student loan forgiveness program. 

If I lose this house, the cats will be separated and have to live somewhere else. I will die.

That is how dire our situation. I am not exaggerating.

Even though I reach out to unemployment over 100 times a day (167 phone calls on Thursday alone), I am not hopeful I will get through. I honestly do not think I will see any money at all from unemployment. I think I have a better chance of getting a job first. Honestly, I think I have a better chance of getting COVID and dying than I do getting any help from unemployment.

It has taken an online village to get me through the month of May.

As I said, asking people to help me each month is not sustainable and I know that. It is only a matter of time how long we can hold out until we end up homeless and dead.

I am really hoping to find a job soon. Even if I find one this month, I won’t see any real income (a full month’s income) until July.

To the online village that has been helping me, I cannot thank you enough for all you have done. I hope I have been able to express how truly dire our situation is right now. Thank you for giving us another month together alive. I’m not sure how long we will be able to hang on or what will happen.

I am grateful for every single day I get with the cats. They are all I have and I am all that they have.

Thank you to our online village for giving us this time together. 

Hopefully things come together soon. 

Maybe NYS unemployment should hire me to answer their phone. I definitely do not have the expertise to fix their website. 

My Quarantine Life: Week 59

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It has now been over one year that I have been in quarantine. I had one in person doctor appointment where they took blood work. All of my other doctor appointments have been virtual, by their choosing.

I am still alive and well. The cats and I are together. The cats are what matter most. I am the only human they have. I need to be able to outlive them so that I can take care of them and keep them all together. They are all so bonded to each other.

The worst possible thing happened this month. I lost my job.

I have been working for 28 years. This is the first time I have ever lost my job and been unemployed. I have been at an employer that closed and we were all given notice of the imepnding closing. However, in that situation, I was lucky enough to be able to find new employment before the official closing date of the business.

Losing my job is the greatest threat to my health, safety, and ability to care for my cats that I have ever faced.

I try every single day to get through to unemployment to no avail. I hear that it can take months before you see any payment from them. In the meantime, I have no income.

I desperately need to find a new job. At the same time, no job is worth risking your life.

Being in quarantine for the pandemic this past year really makes you evaluate your life. Especially since I have lost seven friends and family members to COVID, it makes you think about what you are doing in life and if you are truly happy. 

To that end, I have had the thought that I want to work remotely for the next 15 years. My doctors have all said that this past year of working remotely has been excellent for my disability. I am currently at my highest level of functioning that has not been seen for five or six years. It is all because I am working remotely. I am so highly functioning that I am not disabled enough to receive any type of disability payments or financial assistance. I am fully able to work.

I want to work. I am now being forced to find a way to make my dream of working 100% remote for the next 15 years come true.

The biggest challenge to this goal is lack of internet service. There is no broadband internet available here. Up until a few weeks ago, I lived in a complete dead zone. There is no cell service here either.

The dead zone bit has literally just ended this past week. A new cell tower was installed in my area this month. So that’s something, but still not enough.

I have been quiet lately because I am struggling to survive. 

At this point, I do not know if I will survive the pandemic. I do not know if I will be able to keep my house, which is the main thing that keeps the cats and I together. My entire life revolves around my cats. I need to be able to keep them together.

One of my friends started a GoFundMe for me to help me try to pay my bills since I have no income. I split my days between trying to get through to unemployment and trying to job search.

I am not sure if we are going to survive this, but I am not going down without a fight. My cats are the only family I have. 

I will still try to keep up with my goal of blogging at least twice a month, as this blog and my Twitter have been the greatest helps to me in this pandemic.

If you are a praying person, please pray for the cats and me. Thanks.

Sophie’s Story

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Sophie is a green Toyota Corolla. She is my second Toyota Corolla. I liked the first one I had so much that I decided I wanted to have another one when the first one died. My car is my most prized possession aside from my Boston medal.

It has now been over 20 years that I have been driving a Toyota Corolla. Sophie came into my life at a very bad time. I knew that my first Toyota Corolla, Cool, was on it’s last legs during the winter of 2012-2013. I was trying to push that car through one last winter and had planned on looking for a new Corolla in the spring. Life had other plans, and Cool died in January 2013 – right in the middle of winter.

Finding a used Toyota Corolla is extremely difficult. People tend to love this car and drive them into the ground. I am one of them. When I killed Cool, he had 283,000 miles. So when Cool died, I actually spent a few days without a vehicle because I just could not find a used Toyota Corolla.

Then I found Sophie. Sophie was a necessity. I needed a vehicle. It was too difficult to be happy about a new car when I was mourning my first one. You see, my first Toyota was more than a car. At times, it was also housing for Kitty, Kip and I when we were homeless. I had driven 250,000 of the 283,000 miles that were on that car.

So Sophie entered my life. Within the first 6 months of owning the car, I hit my first deer. A few months later, I hit a second deer. Two deer hits in the first year of owning the car was not a good start. 

Sophie went to Philly with me when I ran one of my marathons. She has been to Cape Cod, Boston, and my favorite camping place. When I bought Sophie, I was at a different point in my life. I vowed that this car would be a car and not used as housing.

What makes Sophie so special is that she is the only thing that joins me to all five of my cats. Kip rode in Sophie to his vet office visits the last year of his life. Kip passed away in December 2013, the first year I owned the car.

Kitty rode in Sophie to his doctor appointments. First, for well visits, then for his cancer check-ups. Kitty passed away in April 2017.

When I adopted Jude, I drove Sophie to the shelter to meet him. Jude rode home in Sophie. Simon and Jolene have both ridden in Sophie also. 

All five cats have been in that car. It’s pretty special. 

Only four of the five cats ever lived in the apartment. Three of my five cats have lived in my house. Yet, all five of my cats have ridden in that car.

I’m glad that Sophie has had the opportunity to go to all of my favorite places before the pandemic hit. Not only is travel restricted due to the pandemic, but my ability to drive has decreased over the past six years or so due to my disability. At least I can say I drove that car where it was important for me to go.

Many people talk down to me over my love affair with Sophie. But when a car has been such a significant part of your life as this one, you get attached to it. My car has been more reliable than most of the people in my life.

I am hoping that when Sophie dies I will be able to afford a third Toyota Corolla, but we will see.

When I bought the house, I was ecstatic that there is a garage here. I park Sophie in the garage in the winter. I am happy that she is getting the treatment she deserves.

My car has been a lifeline to me in the pandemic. I know that no matter what happens, if things get bad, I can always jump in the car and go. I no longer know where I would go, but I know that I can leave it I ever needed. Unfortunately, all of my safe places to which I would go – the people have all died in the pandemic. 

I am so thankful to have Sophie in my life. She is my lifeline to Kip and Kitty who passed away. She keeps me, Jude, Simon, and Jolene all safe. We travel in her to go to medical appointments.

It’s probably stupid to write a blog post about a car, but Sophie is kind of a big deal here. I’m looking forward to many more years of driving her.

Death Cleaning

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Spring is coming and we all tend to come out of hibernation and move around more. This includes spring cleaning, minimizing, and downsizing.

I have a room upstairs that I use to collect items throughout the year for donation. I wait until spring when I can get around easier to take everything to be donated. Thankfully, the place where I typically take donations has an outside contact-free drop off point. 

This weekend I went through all the items upstairs for donation. I sorted everything into piles based on where it needs to be donated. For example, there is one box of items specifically for the animal shelter (old towels, sheets, etc). There are also items that can be recycled now that it is easier to put recycling out since the snow is gone.

I have a few items that, quite honestly, need to go to the dump. I do not have a clear idea how to get rid of them. One of those items is a broken vacuum cleaner. When I moved into the house, there was a vacuum cleaner already here. I had brought my vacuum cleaner from the apartment. It worked out perfectly so that I could have one vacuum cleaner upstairs and one vacuum cleaner downstairs without having to try to lug a vacuum up and down the stairs. 

This past fall, the vacuum cleaner that “came with the house” broke. Now I have to figure out how to get rid of it.

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately about downsizing and minimizing even more so than in previous years. I have been on the minimalist journey for about a decade, and the journey never seems to end.

In working on my photo project of making an album for myself, I thought about all of my belongings more ruthlessly. What do I really need? What would happen to things if I die?

The way the pandemic is going, I will honestly be surprised if I survive it. My only goal is to outlive my cats so that I can keep them all together. Right now, that seems like a very big and very impossible goal.

 I have applied some minimalist philosophies, such as getting rid of things that are part of your “fantasy self,” and packing things up for 3 months before getting rid of them. However, there are still some items that seem to stay.

The twin bed in the upstairs bedroom is one example. Years ago, I debated whether or not to get rid of the bed in the spare bedroom. I decided to keep the twin bed. It even moved with me from the apartment to the house.

I have had this fantasy self that thinks it is there for an overnight guest. I like to think I am fully set up for company if anyone ever needs a place to stay. I have only had this actually happen one time when one of my friends was in nursing school and my apartment was closer to the hospital where she was doing her residency. She stayed with me for the duration of the residency. That was actually the impetus for purchasing the twin bed.

The twin bed does not actually get used. Sure, I use it myself occasionally when I feel I need a change of scenery or want to feel like I am on vacation while I am at home. However, there are a total of three beds in this house for one person. I can get rid of the twin bed and still have two other beds in this house.

There is my bed (full size) and the couch pulls out into a bed. In fact, I took vacation last month for my birthday, and the cats and I camped out in the living room on the bed that pulls out from the couch. We never even used the twin bed upstairs. 

With the pandemic, I honestly don’t see anyone visiting me for an overnight stay. Even if I did have an overnight visitor, there is still the bed that pulls out from the couch. That bed is pretty comfy. I slept on it for two years before getting the bed I have now.

I am becoming more ruthless in what I am getting rid of due to the pandemic. When I die, someone is going to have to go through all of this stuff. I’m sure most of what I own will be donated or trashed. If that is the case, I may as well donate or trash things now. I only need to keep what I absolutely need and am using.

Of course, the less I have, the easier it is to clean the house as well. That is a definite plus.

In addition to the twin bed, another item I have held onto for an absurdly long time is the metal bed frame to my full size bed. Well over 5 years ago now, I took my bed off the frame and put it on the floor. Kitty had arthritis in his back legs and was having a hard time getting in the bed with me. Once I put the bed on the floor, it was much easier for him. Kitty passed away 4 years ago. My bed is still on the floor because it is easier for me to get in and out of, as well as the cats who are with me now.

I honestly don’t think I will ever put my bed back on a frame again because it makes the bed too high. I think it is time to get rid of the frame.

Both the bed frame and the twin bed are items I have held onto for a long time. Part of it is because I figure I have the room for them.

However, with the pandemic, I am realizing that someone is going to have to go through all this stuff when I die. Even if I do manage to survive the pandemic and outlive the cats, there will come a time when I need to leave this house to either go back into an apartment or a nursing home. 

You can’t take things with you when you die.

This year, I am going to start employing the Swedish Death Cleaning method to my belongings. I am starting with the twin bed and the full size bed frame. I have many other things to go through as well. It will be a process of trying to figure out what I am absolutely using and what items can leave. I want to make my life as simple as possible. 

Swedish Death Cleaning is the notion of cleaning things out before you die so that your loved ones are not left to do it after you are gone. I did not think I would be death cleaning in my 40s. I thought I would be death cleaning in my 60s. But here we are, in the middle of a pandemic. Life is short. The time to death clean is now.

The most difficult part is trying to figure out how to get rid of everything. Not all places are taking donations of items right now. That means it’s possible that more items will end up in landfills, which is not what anyone wants either. 

My project for the next 6 months or so is not only to death clean through all my belongings but to actually get rid of the items. This past year I have just shoved things into a room upstairs. Now it is time for belongings to leave so that I can have an empty room I don’t have to clean.

I have gone through just about every minimalist philosophy so far. I have asked items if they spark joy, I have played decluttering games, I have packed boxes and then gotten rid of them after 3 months. Now is the time for death cleaning.

For some, death cleaning may seem extreme. Given we are in the middle of a pandemic and many people are dying, I think the time is now. 

Have you tried death cleaning? How did it go? What are some items that you got rid of that were surprising to you?

80 Photographs

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There are literally thousands of photographs that I have taken and saved. Some are on cell phones, some are saved in my cloud account, and some are print only. The prints are mostly from the days when cameras had actual film and you had to wait a week for it to be developed. I have negatives for photos also.

I had quite a few photo albums and they took up a lot of space. In my minimizing, I purchased two photo storage cases that now hold all my physical photos. The two photo cases take up much less space than all of the photo albums. The photos are in their own case by category – person, event or trip. 

The photos I look at the most are the ones that are framed and actually in the house. These are the photos that hang on the walls or sit on the mantle. Sometimes I look at the photos on my phone.

I’ve had some up and down feelings lately in the pandemic. Part of me feels positive that I will live long enough to be in a care home. I think that if that were to happen, I want one photo album of my very best memories. It is easier to look at a physical photo album than it is to scroll through electronic photos. I looked at my photos a lot more when they were in the bulky albums.

Part of me feels negative and I don’t know how I am going to survive the pandemic. I just don’t see myself being alive 15 years from now when all the cats are gone. That part of me thinks that if I was in a hospital or (more likely) dying at home, the last thing I want to make sure I see is photos of my cats.

Even though I down-sized years ago and got rid of all the photo albums, I am realizing that the only way I actually look at photos is if they are in an album. 

I purchased a photo album that holds 80 photos. The album also gives space to write a note next to each photo. This aspect is important to me.

I have decided to go through the many thousands of photographs I have and curate them down into the 80 photographs that mean the most to me. I want a collection of the best memories of my life.

Starting with the photos that are actually in the house, I am realizing that I have had a pretty great life. I have had some amazing moments and memories. I have done great things. It is going to be very challenging to curate the best of my life into 80 photos.

At first, I started by making a formula. Given 80 photos, this is the formula I started with:

50 photos of the cats (5 cats – Kitty, Kip, Jude, Simon, Jolene), which means 10 photos of each cat, including photos of them in combinations i.e. Kitty & Kip, Kitty & Jude, Jude & Simon, etc.

10 photos of my camping trips

10 photos of my races – this one is a challenge with 18 medals and (hopefully) counting

10 photos of “other” – my once in a lifetime baseball game, trip to the MidWest, favorite photos not associated with the above categories

While this formula is a good start, I am quickly realizing that I have a lot more than 80 photos. I am either going to have to be ruthless curating, or find an album that holds 100? Photos instead.

The goal is that when the project is done, I will have one photo album of the cats and the highlights of my life. I want one place I can turn to in good times and bad times to relive the highlight reel of my life.

I guess the fact that I have so many good memories and photos from those memories is a good problem to have.

I am still going through photos, so I am not sure if I will take the curate ruthlessly or buy a larger photo album route. I do know that there will only be one photo album when I am done.

This project is turning out to be a lot bigger than I initially thought. It is also a lot more emotional that I thought. It is a good thing to relive positive memories in a challenging time. I have had a good life. It’s just kind of sad to think I may not survive the pandemic and that all the good times are behind me.

At this point, I am trying to remain positive. I am thoroughly enjoying going through my photo collection.

Has anyone else taken on a similar project for yourself or a loved one? Have you provided an older family member with memory issues with a photo album that is a highlight reel of their life? That is basically what I am trying to do for myself. 

Right now, I am trying to focus on 80 photographs. That may expand to be 100 or more. The limit will definitely be under 200. I probably should have figured out my photo count before purchasing a photo album. 

If you could only use so many photos to tell the story of your life and your best memories, how many would there be? 

No Where Bar

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The little outside bar in the middle of no where.

For the past two decades, we won’t say how long for certain, I have been making a pilgrimage to a remote area of Adirondack Park in upper New York State. The nearest hospital to this locale is a good 60 miles away. There is no cell phone service. There are well over 1,000 acres of land and way less than 1,000 people who live there as long term residents.

Some years I go to meet friends. Some years I go alone as a place of respite and rejuvenation. It is a drive in, drive out location. The motto of the Adirondacks is “forever wild.” What you take in, you must also take out. The idea is to leave no footprint to preserve the area for generations to come. 

I always pack for the entire trip knowing that once I go in, there will be no going out for supplies. I need to take everything I need for the entire time I am there. There is no going to the store. There is no calling for help. If you don’t make friends when you are there or know one of the locals, you are up the creek when it comes to needing something.

Once base camp is set up for the trip, all travel is done by foot. Hiking, supplies, recreation, whatever you need can be had by hoofing it to where you need to be. As I said, for the most part, you are self-contained. 

The primary method of communication is word of mouth or smoke signal. You learn by talking to the people there or by lighting a fire and hope that someone notices and talks to you. However, in this area, just because there is smoke does not mean someone will check on you. Most people go to this place specifically to be alone.

It was by word of mouth that I first found out about Joe’s outdoor bar. That was how people found out. It wasn’t necessarily that you had to be invited by someone. It was more that you did not know that an outdoor bar in the middle of the woods existed unless someone told you.

Sure, it was possible to stumble upon the place when you were hiking. With thousands of acres of land, randomly stumbling upon the place was like finding a needle in a haystack. You definitely had to know where to go.

Joe was an older man. He did no advertising of his outside bar. It wasn’t registered, and probably wasn’t even legal. It was built with materials he had lying around and was there for his own amusement. It was never busy. The atmosphere was always warm, no matter how cold it was outside.

It was illuminated by lanterns and moonlight. Joe only opened at night and welcomed anyone who happened to stumble upon him in the dark. 

There was no menu and no prices. Everything was free will. You sat down and received a drink. It could be rum, wine, or soda, who knew. What was served was what Joe had on hand from the donations received. The only donations accepted were cash and free will. Joe did not operate to turn a profit. He operated to make friends in the middle of a dark, cold, lonely wilderness.

Once you knew about Joe’s outside bar, it was fun to introduce new people. You would take someone with you in the dark. They had no idea where they were, yet it was the nicest place you could ever visit. If you were lucky, you would remember how to get there so you could return.

You would meet people that you only saw once or people who came back year after year. Joe just wanted some company and a good conversation. There was a deck of cards and sometimes a game to be had. 

We would stumble to the bar in the woods in the middle of the night to have some company and a good time. When we were done, we would stumble back to our tents, hoping to avoid falling in the water. Sometimes it could be a 2 mile walk from the tent to the outside bar. A lot can happen when you are wandering around in the woods in the dark for 2 miles. 

The nights under the moon and lantern light were the times when you made memories you will always remember with people you would probably forget. It was what kept people coming back all the time. It was what inclined people to talk about it. You only told someone about the outside bar if it was someone you wanted to hang out and have a good conversation.

A few years ago, Joe died and his children took over the property. I went one night to the outside bar to find it not only closed, but completely taken apart. I’m not sure if the kids kept the property or sold it. But gone was the little outside bar with its lantern light that was the friendliest place you could ever visit under the moon in the middle of no where. 

These are the memories that keep me going that I will take with me to the grave. I’m so thankful to have had these experiences in life that I can hold onto in this tumultuous time. If I could bottle the feeling of the no where bar, I would. 

By the way, this photo of the no where bar was used on a post in 2019. However, that is an actual photo of the actual bar that no longer exists.

Life and Everything

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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 what life threw at me. This past year has definitely been a doozy. I am so thankful to be alive. 

I am hoping that this year will be as great as my new number – 42. If you are a fan of Douglas Adams, you will know that 42 is the answer. It is also a great number for baseball. Well before it was International Women’s Day, March 8 was my birthday. 

Right now, my goal is to live long enough to see another birthday. I am really hoping that I get to see 43 with all three cats as well. Another significance of 42 is that my paternal grandmother passed away at age 42, well before I was born or even thought about. If I can make it to age 43, that will be huge.

Living in the middle of a pandemic definitely makes you take stock of life. I know that my priority is being able to outlive the cats so that I can take care of them and keep them all together. My second priority is to stay covid free. I am more scared of getting covid and “living” than I am of getting covid and dying. 

I am a marathon runner. Running is the most important thing to me, after the cats. If I get covid and survive, I won’t be able to run anymore. That’s not life. That’s just a jail waiting to die.

So I look at the cats, and my goal is to outlive them. Once they are taken care of, then it doesn’t matter what happens to me. These three are going to be my last. I’m not going to adopt anymore pets and then have to worry about what would happen to them when something happens to me.

Simon is the youngest of the three. He will be turning 5 in May. So, right now, my goal is to live about another 15 years so that I can outlive the three of them. To make it a nice round number that is easy to remember, I am hoping to be able to live to age 60. 

Given the decreasing life expectancy in the USA right now, I think that age 60 is a reasonable number. I just wish I could retire so that I could enjoy the last 15 years of my life. Unfortunately, that is not economically possible. I will be working until I die.

As difficult as things are, I am so grateful for this time I have had at home with the cats. We are all safe and get to spend quality time together. My only goal is to be able to continue this so I can take care of them. 

At age 42, I certainly do not have the answer to life, the universe and everything. All I know is my goal is to remain covid free and to be able to take care of my cats. At the end of the day, the only things that matter are the cats and running. 

So here is to another trip around the sun. Let’s hope I get the full ride. 

My Quarantine Life: Week 50

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Simon is sleeping all nice and warm.

Wow. It’s been almost a year since I’ve been in quarantine. I’m not allowed to be indoors with any other people. I am not allowed to go to the grocery store or pharmacy. I have had one in person doctor appointment where someone touched me for a blood draw. All my other appointments have been virtual.

The pandemic has been challenging on so many levels. We are still experiencing food and supply shortages. Right now, I am having difficulty getting cat litter. It has been a year since I have been able to get retail toilet bowl cleaner, so I have just been using baking soda to clean my bathroom. 

Prices on everything have increased significantly. This year, effective January 1, 2021, my municipality decided to raise my property taxes by 20%. Yup, you read that right, 20%. My mortgage increased to cover the escrow and I am now paying thousands of dollars a year more in taxes. 

I am now paying 3-4x more per month for food and supplies. I am doing everything I can to try to keep my expenses down. I am using a lot of cloth items and drastically reduced my use of disposable paper products such as paper towels, toilet paper, and tissues. 

I have also been concerned about my utility bills. My idea was to reduce my utility bills by turning my heat down. This was a great idea in theory, but did not work well in practice. Here’s why:

There is at least a 5 degree difference between the upstairs and the downstairs in this house. When I turned the heat down, the downstairs was tolerable, but the upstairs temperature dropped into the 50s. This made me concerned due to plumbing. I did not want pipes to freeze with indoor temps in the 50s. I get squeamish about pipes if the temp dips below 60. So I had to turn the heat up enough so that the upstairs would be at least 60 degrees.

Second, I am home all the time now. Last year, there was a huge difference in working all day in a 68 degree office and then coming home at night to a slightly cool house. It did not bother me one bit. But now that I am in the slightly cool house 24/7, it’s chilly. 

Being chilly also makes me feel guilty about the cats. I had the office to go to last year and only came home to a cool house at night. For the cats, this is their entire world. I feel so bad I left them a bit chilly. Now that I am home all the time, I understand more what life is like for an indoor cat.

I turned the heat back up to 68 degrees. That’s where it’s going to stay.

I have no idea how I’m going to afford the utility bills when my heat is on 68 degrees, but we have to be here all the time, so we need to be comfortable. I also have to keep the heat in the house at a reasonable temperature for maintenance reasons.

It helps a little that student loan payments have been suspended right now. Since my mortgage, food and utilities have all gone up, not having a student loan payment takes a little bit of pressure off. Not much, but a little. When student loan payments resume, then we will definitely have to take more drastic measures to reduce our utilities somehow.

So the lesson for this week is that our thermostat is staying on 68 degrees. We just couldn’t stand having it on 63, especially with the upstairs piping being much colder. 

With all of the power outages and everything else going on in the country right now, we are very thankful to have power and heat.