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. 

My Valentine

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Jude with his birthday banner. He turned 9 on February 14, 2021

Last Sunday was February 14, 2021. It was Jude’s 9th birthday. It was also his Gotcha Day. Jude has been with me for 7 years. He will always be my valentine. He did indeed come into my life at a time when he “took a sad song and made it better.”

Birthdays are my favorite holiday. Every time I get one, it is a celebration that I was able to survive another year of whatever life threw at me. Birthdays in the pandemic are an even bigger deal. 

Jude received birthday cards from the vet office and from chewy, where we get our cat supplies. We also got a birthday box from Chewy that had an assortment of toys and treats. It was a fun day for all of us. 

My goal in this pandemic is to survive for the next 15 or so years so that I outlive the cats. I am worried about what would happen to them if something happens to me. I am their home and their forever family. I don’t want them to have to go back to a shelter and I don’t want them to be separated. 

We had a great time celebrating Jude last weekend and playing. We listened to music and had some quality family time. I plan on celebrating all of our birthdays this year in much the same fashion. Life is much too short to not celebrate a birthday. 

Jude will always be my valentine. 

Use It Up

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Snow after once of our recent storms

The widespread food shortages we have been experiencing throughout the pandemic continue. Sometimes it changes, what is available and what is not. Some items have been consistently unavailable. For example, I have not had a banana in over a year because there are none to be had anywhere. 

In addition to the widespread food shortages, there are shortages of supplies also. I have been unable to obtain toilet cleaner since running out. I now go “old school” and use baking soda to clean my toilet since cleaners are not available. Lately I have had extreme difficulty in getting cat litter. That is something new. You never know what is going to be in short supply. Last spring I was able to get allergy-friendly pasta but not allergy-friendly flour. Now I have plenty of allergy-friendly flour and am unable to get allergy-friendly pasta.

Combine the shortages with my precarious financial situation and No Spend 2021, I am having to get creative on some things. I have taken to looking around my house to see what I have that is not being used and trying to figure out how to use it. As I mentioned above using baking soda to clean the toilet, I didn’t realize how many uses there are for baking soda until now. 

During this time of The Great Depression 2.0, I am going by the old adage: use it up, wear it out, make do or go without.

Today we are highlighting Use It Up.

I have always been one of those ones that when I start to get to the end of a container will turn the container upside down or use some sort of tool to try to get it all out. I do this with body lotion, shampoo, etc. I try to use it all and get what I can out of every container. 

There are some things that I do keep in “stock.” For example, all of my allergy-friendly toiletry items come from a company in California. Ut typically takes 1-2 weeks for my order to arrive. I typically place two large orders per year from the company so that I can get free shipping and also to be sure I have plenty of toiletry items on hand. I get all of my shampoo, soap, lotion, sunscreen, etc from this company, as they are the only company in the country who makes items completely free from my allergens. It’s not fun to go into seizures in the shower just because your body wash contains almond oil (yes, I had that happen prior to finding this ONE allergy-friendly company I now use).

As far as toiletries, right now I have plenty of shampoo, soap, sunscreen, bug spray and body lotion. However, I just opened my last bottle of conditioner. I use hair conditioner for shaving, as there is not a single company in the entire United States of America that makes allergy-friendly shaving cream or shaving gel. So, I use a hair conditioner for shaving.

I do not want to place a large order from the allergy-friendly toiletry company when I technically only need one item. So I decided to look around the house and see if I could come up with anything else that could do dual purpose and act as shaving cream.

I am trying to literally use up everything in my house. So if something is lying around unused, I am actively trying to find a way to use it.

I read online that coconut oil can be used for shaving. I currently have three jars of coconut oil. I had originally purchased them to use for body lotion before I found the allergy-friendly company in California. The downside to using coconut oil to moisturize is that it completely ruins your clothes, sheets, and basically every single fabric it comes into contact with. So I have 3 jars of coconut oil in my cupboard that are not being used.

Since I have one bottle of conditioner left to use for shaving, I am going to rotate in coconut oil for shaving on a trial basis to see if it works for me or not. If it does, that’s great. I can save money by not putting in a toiletry order. I can use up the conditioner I currently have and then use the 3 jars of coconut oil that I have. Not to mention, coconut oil is cheaper than the allergy-friendly conditioner I buy. We will see if coconut oil for shaving actually works or not.

If, for some reason, using coconut oil for shaving does not work out, then I will have to find another use for the coconut oil. I will have to place an order for allergy-friendly toiletries because I will need conditioner. That is a worst case scenario. I am hoping that coconut oil for shaving works out for me. That would be the best case scenario. 

I will continue to look around the house for things that I am not using and try to figure out how to use them. In this case, I am saving money on cleaning supplies by using baking soda to clean since traditional retail cleaners are unavailable. If coconut oil works out, that is an allergy-friendly option that will save me money from having to place a toiletry order.

What items do you have that you are trying to use up? Have you found creative uses for items to try to save money in the pandemic?

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My Quarantine Life: Week 46

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We were able to get blueberries again!

Porch running during winter was a great idea. It definitely helped me to get some runs in on days when the roads were too icy to be out. However, the past few days and in the days to come, the temperatures outside are well below zero. I don’t mind running in the cold, but I cannot risk frostbite, as I have had frostbite too many times already. 

I have not been able to run for about a week due to the sub-zero temperatures and it is driving me nuts. Even though I keep the porch cleaned off, it is still frozen right now due to how cold it is outside. While I would say that my front porch is a safer surface for running than the ice laden streets right now, it is not a great idea.

I have been toying with yoga on and off for about 10 years. Yoga is a great exercise for runners to cross train. I have my own yoga mat. I have taken classes at some high-end yoga studios in a city in which I used to work. Hundreds of dollars later, I finally admitted that yoga classes were a waste of money. I was not able to do even half of what they were doing. I would spend 70% of the class just lying there “peacefully” on my mat. I was not about to pay $40 an hour to lay peacefully on a mat.

I tried a chair yoga class at a local fitness center that was a more affordable option. The instructor, however, was horrendous. The woman was like a military drill sergeant. You can read about that experience in the “my yoga pants went to yoga” post.

Since then, I have tried various yoga DVDs. I have mostly gotten them out of the library so that they are free. No cost involved was a much better option. I was even able to get some yoga DVDs from other libraries through inter-library loan. This was, of course, prior to the pandemic.

Since I do not have treadmill access to run and I am unable to be outside in sub-zero temperatures, I’ve been grasping at straws. MY gaze fell on my yoga mat. Again, I keep thinking I want to do yoga. The problem has been finding yoga that I can actually physically DO.

I asked around a few friends I know who do yoga for their recommendations. I did some research into various yoga DVDs that they recommended. I chose one and decided to purchase it. I figured I would only purchase one yoga DVD. If it didn’t work, then I would forever give up on yoga. I do not have money to burn on yoga DVDs.

I have the yoga DVD in question and it is excellent! I finally found a yoga routine I can actually do. Well, I can’t do all of it. I can do MOST of it, and I am okay with that. When I was trying to take in-person yoga classes, I estimate I spent about 75% of my time laying there doing nothing because the class was way too hard for me and 25% of my time actually physically able to do the activity.

The yoga DVD I have now I am actually able to physically do 75% of the activity in the yoga routine. Instead of just laying there for the other 25%, I am able to do a slightly different modification of the activity. So while I struggle with 25% of it, at least I am not just laying there.

This yoga DVD is one of the best purchases I have made. 

The past few days have kept me indoors due to below zero temperatures. I have been doing the yoga DVD everyday. It helps to be able to do something. I am still going crazy not being able to run. But the yoga DVD is bringing the crazy down from about a 10 to an 8. At least I’m able to do something.

The long range forecast looks like next week will be warmer – above zero. Let’s hope so. I’m going nuts stuck inside. Running on my porch works for days when the roads are too icy to be out, but I can’t risk frostbite on these frigid days.

How are you surviving this winter so far?

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Pandemic Winter Running

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Jolene in the cheese toy.

We have been getting a steady series of ice storms the past few weeks. I don’t mind snow. Snow provides traction. I can run and walk in snow. Ice poses extreme challenges. I do not balance well to begin with and ice is very hazardous for me.

One of the goals for the pandemic is to not fall down. When I fall, I have a tendency to get hurt. With the status of our health system, the goal is for me to need as little health care as possible. 

Last winter, I had a gym membership so that I had treadmill access for when it was ice outside. That all ended in March once I was put into quarantine and am still not supposed to be indoors with anyone else. That means I must run outdoors.

In trying to figure out my pandemic winter running strategy, I have felt a little like Goldilocks when she was trying out porridge. It has taken time for me to figure out how to safely run when there is ice outside.

Last week I was fortunate we had a brief warm up. I was able to run outside on December 30 for my last run of 2020. We have since been continuously pummeled with ice.

A few weeks ago, in an ice storm, I decided to run inside my house. I ran through the various rooms upstairs, This was a disaster. It was slow because there was a lot of weaving in and out of rooms and around items in the rooms. It made me dizzy because there was a lot of turning around. I only got 1 mile in on that “run.” Running inside my house was not going to cut it.

I thought about running around inside the garage, but the car needs to be in there for the men to come help me with the snow and ice. So inside the garage is out as an option.

Since running upstairs did not work out, I decided to do the opposite and try running downstairs. I figured the basement would be ideal because I could just run in large circles around the entire footprint of my home. 

While this was a great idea mentally – no dizziness, no boredom, it was a horrible idea physically. The basement has a concrete floor and it literally killed my knees. I was in pain for days after. I only got in 2 miles on that run. Basement running is out because my body can’t take the pounding.

A treadmill is out for numerous reasons. First, this house is over 100 years old. While everything is up to code, it is in the older end of code. I know that neither the electrical nor the flooring would be able to take the pounding of a treadmill. Second, I looked at treadmills online. They weigh at least 50 pounds. Even if I had it delivered to the house, I would not be able to get it inside and set it up. I am unable to handle anything more than about 20 pounds or so. Even when the cats’ Chewy boxes arrive, I have to open them outside and bring in the contents one at a time because I cannot lift the box to bring it inside.

With upstairs, the garage, the basement, and a treadmill all out, I was running out of options.

Then, somehow it dawned on me. I am not sure if it was inspiration from other people in quarantine across the world or what, but as I was looking out my front window at the ice covered street, I got the bright idea to run around my front porch.

The front porch is one of the reasons why I bought this house. I have a glorious front porch that fully spans the entire front portion of the footprint of the house. It is probably as large as both my living room and the cats’ play room combined. It is wood, so no concrete floor. It has a carpet on it, so no ice.

I ran outside on my front porch today and it was just right!

I successfully got in my first 3 mile run of 2021. Yes, I had to run circles around the porch, but it is large enough that it did not make me dizzy. I was sure to change direction every once in awhile like you do on a track. I was able to be outside in fresh air, which I love. While my running pace was a little slow, it was only about 30 seconds slower than if I had been running on the roads. So the fact that I was running in circles and doing frequent turns did not slow me down that much.

I can’t tell you how happy I am to have figured out my running in winter dilemma. 

I am pretty sure that the front porch took the pounding of my running fine. The front porch feels a lot more stable than some of the floors inside my house. Even if the front porch did have problems, it would be easier and cheaper to have the front porch floor repaired than the floors inside my house.

Not only did my run on the porch go well, but I also have a light on my front porch. So I will be able to run either before or after work, even in the dark, just by turning on my porch light. It will be a lot safer than running in the dark on the roads. Safety running outside is always a challenge this time of year due to daylight hours.

My pandemic winter running plan is to run outdoors on the roads as weather permits. As long as there is not ice, I can run the roads. If there is ice, I will run on my front porch.

Another plus to my front porch running was that it started to rain freezing drizzle on my run. Luckily, I was on the front porch, so the precipitation didn’t bother me one bit. I did not get any on me because I was on the porch. My footing was sure and I had a great run.

I have always said that as long as the cats are ok, I am ok. This is true.  My second saying is that as long as I can run, I am ok.  I am so glad to have figured out a winter running plan. If I can do my 3 miles a few times a week, then I know I’m okay.

Running on my front porch is just right. I didn’t get bored or dizzy, and the surface worked well for my body. As long as I keep the snow off the front porch (I do), then I do not typically get ice on the porch due to the carpeting there.

What strategies have you found for pandemic winter running?

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My Quarantine Life: Week 42

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My cats don’t know I have a disability. Or, if they do, they don’t care. They are well loved and have all their needs met.

Simon stays with me when I do the stairs to be sure I don’t fall. I’m not sure what he would do if I did fall, but he is always right there watching me. On days when I use my walker, Jolene sits on the rollator to take a ride. On good days I run. On bad days I roll. People don’t seem to understand how or why a marathon runner has a walker. Well, it all depends on if my spine decides to work correctly or misfire that day. Jude gives me a wide berth so I don’t trip on him or fall. He waits patiently for me to sit and get settled so he can sit on my lap or next to me on the couch.

All the cats know is that I am here for them and I love them.

In a horrible year, my only goal is to keep us together and for them to be happy. They don’t know we are in a pandemic. They don’t know there are widespread food shortages. I have more cat supplies on hand than people supplies. I always make sure their needs are met first. 

The cats don’t know I am terrified of losing my job. Our entire world would come crashing down if that happened because we would lose the house. This house is what’s keeping us together. I am medically unable to have the vaccine and am in the high risk group, so if I can’t work remotely, I don’t think I would be able to work at all. That is truly terrifying.

All the cats know is that they are warm, fed, and loved. At this point, my only goal is to fulfill their every need. I have to figure out a way to keep us all together and survive the next 15 or so years until they have all lived the course of their natural lives. I worry about what would happen to them if I die first.

We are incredibly blessed to have this time together at home. I am thankful everyday this year that I have been able to be home with the cats. In a horrible year, being able to spend time with the cats has been the highlight of my year. 

The vaccine provides hope. The vaccine is not a light switch. 2021 is still going to be a challenging year. I am unsure if things will ever go back to the way they were. I think life will just be different.

So many people are dying. It breaks my heart. It is so hard to deal with the pain. It is even more difficult when our “leaders” have decided that the economy is more important than human lives and they refuse to shut things down. 

When I get overwhelmed with how bad things are, I play with one of the cats. The fact that we are all together and have our needs met is what makes life worthwhile. 

We are so blessed to be together and that was the greatest gift this Christmas. My cats just love me. That could be because I feed them. But I know they love me. 

My only wish for 2021 is to remain safe and healthy (covid free) and be able to keep my job. My job provides for us to stay in this house together. Home is where the cats are. While everyone else is busy making New Year’s resolutions, I just want to live to see another Christmas. I want to be able to continue to run. I need to keep my family together. 

I’m hoping that our government will get themselves together to help us in 2021, but I am not holding my breath. This situation is going to get worse before it gets better. But for now, we are together. We have love. My cats love me no matter what. 

At the end of the day, love is all that matters. It’s what we need.

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My Quarantine Life: Week 40

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Jude sleeping on the work from home table on my day off

We all have ways of coping this year. For me, I have found comfort in reliving happy memories and remembering things from my childhood. This holiday season, I put my tree up and brought out all my holiday things after Thanksgiving.

Even though I have 5 Christmas DVDs, for some reason, this holiday season, I have been watching The Sound of Music practically every other day. At first I thought it was just because it played on the TV all the time at the holidays when I was little. Then I thought it was the happy memory of my very first live theatre event. One year as a Christmas present when I was a child, my father and step-mother took me to a dinner theatre to see The Sound of Music.

The past week or so I realize that this nostalgia is also connecting me to my grandparents. My grandparents came to the USA from Austria due to what was going on in World War Two. I remember listening to my grandmother tell stories of her childhood in Austria. They lived on a farm close to the river.

My grandmother has been a pillar throughout my childhood. While my childhood was tumultuous, my grandparents offered a sense of normalcy and sanity in the chaos. I was actually closer to my grandfather, who passed away about 18 years ago. In fact, I was the one who helped to look after him at the end and held his hand as he died, reading to him Psalm 23.

My grandmother developed dementia a few years ago. It turned her disposition mean. Combine the uncharacteristic meanness with the fact that she no longer remembers who I am, and it is just difficult, indeed impossible, to visit. I stopped visiting because it was too heart wrenching to try to explain to her who I was every visit.

As my grandmother’s dementia progressed, she became unsafe to live on her own. My mother took her in to care for her. At the time, my mother was still working full time as a nurse. However, my grandmother is one of those ones with dementia that likes to “run away” or wander off at all hours of the night and day. It got to the point where my grandmother would leave in the middle of the night and my mother was not getting any sleep trying to find her. She could not stay up with my grandmother all night long and continue to work her job as a nurse too.

About 5 years ago, my grandmother moved into an assisted living facility for the reason that she would have around the clock care. Staff were there on shifts to be able to watch her in the middle of the night and all through the day to be sure she didn’t wander off.

There were some episodes over the years when she was able to escape even the assisted living staff. They would often find her wandering thinking she was calling her young son in from the farm field for dinner.

My mother visited her almost every day at the assisted living facility until COVID started this spring and stopped the visits for the safety of the residents. Since the spring, my mother has only been able to have window visits with my grandmother or talk to her on the phone.

Without my mother’s visits, my grandmother rapidly declined to the point where the staff at the assisted living facility could no longer handle her. We arranged for my grandmother to transfer to a nursing home for dementia in November. However, the staff at the assisted living center decided in October that they “couldn’t deal with her anymore” and dropped her off at a nursing home 3 weeks early with only one small grocery bag of clothes.

My grandmother was so upset and confused. She thought she had been taken to a concentration camp. The nursing home was upset and filed complaints against the assisted living facility because they literally just dumped my grandmother on their doorstep unexpected. They were not expecting her to arrive for 3 more weeks because they did not have a bed or a room available for her. Everyone had to scramble. They had to bring in a special therapist and an interpreter to calm my grandmother down because she was absolutely convinced she had been taken to a World War Two German concentration camp. It took about a week for her to understand that she was in the USA safe and that she was not in a concentration camp.

The nursing home finally got her settled in the unit where she was supposed to be in November where she has the level of care she needs with her dementia. The past month when my mother window visits or talks to her on the phone, she says my grandmother is much happier in the nursing home than she was in the assisted living facility.

This weekend, we found out my grandmother tested positive for COVID-19. She is one of two family members I have left. From April to August of this year, I have already lost 6 friends and family members to the virus.

The nursing home is unable to send anyone to the hospital, because all of the hospitals here are full. The hospitals are even ending people with COVID-19 home. They are sending them home to die. Basically, the way the situation is right now, do not seek medical care for any reason. Just stay in your house and wait to die. Alone.

In addition to dementia, my grandmother has a pacemaker. This weekend she coded and for a minute, the nursing home staff thought she died. But she didn’t not yet. She “came back.” She is resting and the staff is trying their best to keep her comfortable.

I know that my grandmother is of an age where she is going to die sooner than later, but I don’t want her to die this way. I don’t want her to die alone. I want her to know she is loved. I am so thankful that the nursing home staff is sitting with her around the clock and making her comfortable. That’s all they can do. The hospitals are full, so she cannot go to the hospital for any advanced medical care. I’m sure that my grandmother is not the only person that the hospitals are turning away because they are too overwhelmed.

If you are a praying person, please pray for my grandmother. I realize that this may be her time. However, I do not want her to be in pain. I want her to know that she is very much loved. I don’t want her to die alone. 

This winter surge of the virus is much worse than the spring. In the spring, I was on the phone as one of my friends died from COVID. I would not wish this disease on anyone. Now, all the hospitals are full. Many more people are dying at home in pain and alone because our medical system is too overwhelmed to provide care.

I’m not sure if I am already in the stages of grieving yet or not, but what I feel right now is anger. Our hospitals are this overwhelmed, and yet everything is open. We need a shut down like we had in the spring. What I am learning from this moment is that money is more important than human life. I thought that New York State was doing a better job of containing the virus than the federal government was doing. At this point, I do not think I trust any elected official anymore. I just can’t believe that businesses are open and people are going about their day when our hospitals are so overwhelmed that they are turning away people who need care. People are dying simply because our government refuses to shut down our economy to save lives.

Please pray for my grandmother. My grandmother and my mom are the only two family members I have left. Yes, I have the cats as my family. But I don’t want to be alone in this world without humans. I know that my grandmother’s time is probably soon, but I don’t want her to go out this way. I want her to know she is loved. I don’t want her to be in pain. 

Our hospitals are full. Dear Jesus, please come soon.

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My Quarantine Hat Trick

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Of course, my greatest hat trick in life are these 3 right here.

Consistency pays off. In 2020, it paid off for me in a huge way. 2020 is now my highest mileage year since 2015. I did not even race this year. I did not train. There was no marathon. There was no half marathon. I just did three miles at a time.

The year 2015 was the last year I ran a marathon. Of course, when you spend 5 months training to run 26.2 miles, it is a high mileage year. Then, in 2016, I was in the hospital. At first I was misdiagnosed with a stroke. Now we know it was just a very bad episode of multiple sclerosis. 

Last year, 2019, was very exciting because it was my first year back on the race circuit after my stint in the hospital and subsequent recovery. I did a lot of training last year to prepare for my half marathon comeback.

If you had asked me 6 or even 4 months ago if I thought 2020 would be my high mile year, I would have said no. I toyed with the notion last spring of doing a virtual race this fall. Then my hopes for even a virtual race were dashed because I did not have adequate access to food to train.

The doctor was not happy because between March and July I lost 15 pounds unintentionally. I have had a horrible time trying to get food in the pandemic due to severe food shortages. There was just no food to be had.

There was no way I could train for a race without adequate access to food. But I knew I needed to keep running. Both for my sanity as well as for the fact that running helps me to retain my mobility that MS threatens to steal. I kept running but only did 3 miles at a time due to nutrition.

From October 2019 to March 2020, I had a gym membership. The gym membership definitely helped. The first 3 months of this year I had access to a treadmill. I don’t mind running outside when it is cold. The thing that gets me is ice. I am a fall hazard on a sunny, 50 degree weather day on flat ground. I cannot run on ice. As soon as ice appears, I am stuck inside. 

Having the access to the treadmill for the first 3 months of 2020 definitely helped. 

Being quarantined since March, I have been running outside. I have consistently been running 3 miles a few times a week this year. 

Being in quarantine has helped me to be more consistent with my running this year. Running is my biggest coping skill. Especially in the pandemic, my mantra is that if I can run, then I am ok. 

Being home and not having to drive any place has been helpful to me in fitting in runs either in the beginning or at the end of the day. I actually have enough time to run without having to worry about a 30 minute driving commute. 

I was also able to better accommodate my disability in quarantine. I do not do well in heat. Not only has my MS cooling vest been an absolute life saver, but I have been able to time my runs for the coolest part of the day so I was able to run consistently through the summer. 

Sure, there were some weeks when the heat completely sidelined me and I could only run once in a week or not at all. But being able to work from home and not having to be out and about in the heat was definitely helpful in allowing me to maintain a higher level of functioning throughout the summer.

It’s been 5 long years since I have been able to join the 300+ mile club. I never thought that I would do it with just 3 mile runs. Consistency pays off.

In a horrible year marked by a pandemic and food shortages, I was able to run more miles this year than I did last year when I trained for and ran a half marathon. The achievement completely blows my mind.

Being in quarantine has definitely helped me to manage my MS better, which means that my level of functioning is higher than it was before. When I do not have to drive every day and go someplace, I am able to get more done. If MS has taught me anything, it’s that I can have the best laid plans, but then your body will be like “haha, not happening.” The 2020 quarantine has helped me to regain some control over my own body.

This week running outside has been difficult. We had a freezing drizzle for almost a week straight. Last week I only got in one run before the freezing drizzle started. That kept me inside because I do not do well on ice. I had a hard enough time getting to my mailbox. 

I have to have a winter plan since I no longer have treadmill access. I cannot go to a gym due to my quarantine. I am not supposed to be indoors with anyone else. I can’t even go to the grocery store. 

My plan for the winter is to just run circles around a room in my house. I heard of people doing that in small NYC apartments last spring during lockdown. I figure I can run circles inside my house to get through this winter.

The challenge with that scenario is that I have an old house over 100 years old. The floors are not able to take that kind of a beating. So this past Tuesday when it was freezing drizzle outside, I did run around the inside of the house. I had to do it very carefully and it was the worst experience ever. I only went one mile. 

But it was one mile. If I have to get through 2021 only doing one mile at a time, then so be it. 

But I would rather do 3 miles (or more).

For the record, the freezing drizzle / ice finally did melt this week. I was able to run outside Friday and today. I just have to take winter one day at a time. But I do know that if the weather is too slippery for me to run outside, that I can always run one mile inside my house.

My goal for 2021 is to do a virtual race. I do have one picked out. Now that I have better access to food, I am certain that I will have adequate nutrition to be able to train for a half marathon in the fall of 2021.

I still fully believe that I have at least one in-person full marathon left in me. Right now, I am thinking that the earliest I would be able to run a full marathon in-person safely is probably 2023. We will see how the pandemic goes.

But I know that running is in my heart. When I run, I feel closer to God. I know that God is telling me I still have at least one full marathon left in me yet.

I am thankful that I still have the ability to run. Whether it’s one mile or 3 miles, I will get there.

I am completely surprised that 2020 is my highest mileage year and that I was able to do it 3 miles at a time. This year has been the ultimate running hat trick for me. 

My only goals in life are to keep running and keep my cats together. In one of the most horrible years in history, I was able to reach a mileage goal. I’m still running this year. I won’t stop. I’m hoping 2021 mileage can top this one.   

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One Stop Shopping at Aldi Rocks!

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My milk, some chicken, and little link sausages from Aldi.

Prior to the pandemic, I would do my grocery shopping at 2 or 3 grocery stores. I was really trying to decrease my shopping to only one store. With multiple food allergies, that was hard. In addition to grocery shopping for myself, I was also going to the “farm store” once a month for the cats. I felt like I was constantly running around town, and it was annoying. Not only am I a person that loathes shopping, but I like to get in and out when I do shop. 

Shopping at 2 or 3 grocery stores pretty much meant that I blew my food budget every single month. I would go to one store and be on budget. But I was not able to get everything I needed. Then I would go to another store, and my food budget would be blown.

Remember the time I had to go to 14 different places in an effort to find allergy-friendly “milk?” I ended up paying like $10 for a half gallon of it. 

In the beginning of the pandemic, I was subject to the mercy of where other people were shopping. Friends would call and say what store they were going to and I would add my items to their grocery list depending on what store it was. 

Now that I am using Instacart, I am doing one-stop shopping. Yes, I can send an Instacart shopper to more than one store. However, Instacart shoppers need to be paid like the essential workers they are. I only use Instacart twice a month because that is all I can afford. If I sent the Instacart shopper to multiple stores, I would not be able to pay them like the essential workers they are. 

The other thing with Instacart is that it is only available at one of the 3 stores that I had been using prior to the pandemic. So, that one store has now become my one-stop shop.

That store is Aldi. I wish I had made Aldi my one-stop shop years ago. I have had no need to go to 2-3 stores all this time. Prior to the pandemic, I had grossly underestimated Aldi’s accessibility for someone with multiple food allergies. 

By shopping at only one store, I have a better control on my food expenses each month. Instacart is also a lot easier to use on a budget than shopping in a store. Shopping in a store, you have to constantly add up the groceries and if you go over, figure out what you are putting back, what you need to skip, back track, etc. With Instacart, I can see the total of all the items in the cart. It is much easier to add and subtract items from my virtual shopping cart to stay within budget than it is to try to do this in-store.

Of course, there are fees associated with Instacart, but mine average about $2-$3 per order. I only started using Instacart due to the pandemic. I am not supposed to be going to the grocery store or anyplace where I am indoors with other people. However, now that I am using it, I am going to continue to use Instacart even “after” the pandemic. 

The other beauty of using Instacart to shop at Aldi is that I am able to find items on Instacart much easier than in the store. Have you been in an Aldi store? Those things are very fast-paced. People are typically in and out in about 15-20 minutes. If you linger or have to search for something, you will get run over. I’m sure some of the items I have been getting from Aldi through Instacart were there all along and I simply missed them because I was going through the store too fast. God bless the Instacart shoppers. They know the stores so well.

Here are some reasons why I underestimated Aldi for one-stop shopping and why I have changed my mind. Aldi is the best store ever. It is also the best store for one-stop shopping. If I can’t get something at Aldi, then I don’t need it. The only exception is my cats. Due to the food they eat, my cats have a recurring Chewy order. But our cat litter does come from Aldi. 

  • Food labels. As someone with multiple food allergies, food labels are key. In fact, reading food labels is what causes me to take forever in the grocery store. I have to make sure what I am buying is not going to kill me. Aldi has the best food labels for people with multiple food allergies. For example, I have severe anaphylactic allergies to both nuts and dairy. The only “milks” I can have are typically rice milk or coconut milk. Soy milk tends to have a warning label on it about possible nut contamination. However, at Aldi, the soy milk is very clearly labeled that it is both nut free and dairy free. They do a great job of clearly labeling their products for those of us with multiple food allergies. I can also get a full half gallon of soy milk at Aldi when the “milk” at other stores is not only more expensive, but more quart size. Thank you, Aldi. Part of why I was going to 1 of the 3 stores was for specialty allergy friendly items. Aldi has done a great job of stocking more allergy friendly items in recent years.
  • Produce. This is an item that is hit or miss for some people at Aldi. I would typically buy things like potatoes at Aldi. I would get some produce there and not others. I am not sure why. Maybe it was because I had heard Aldi produce was hit or miss. However, this is completely unfounded. I have tried a variety of produce from Aldi and it has all been stellar. In addition to potatoes, I have gotten carrots, cabbage, apples, limes, garlic, peppers, blueberries, strawberries, zucchini, grapes, and many other items. All the produce has been great. 
  • Meat. This is another item that I had heard was hit or miss. That claim is completely unfounded. I have gotten fresh antibiotic free chicken breasts, fish, fresh pork chops, hot dogs, kielbasa, Cornish game hen, ground turkey, ground beef, bacon, and sausage from Aldi. I have yet to get a “bad” meat from them. When I have bought meat from other stores, it was either fatty, chewy, or had too many bones in it. I am very particular about meat. I had been going to another store all these years for meat items. Do not overlook Aldi meat. Their meat has none of the issues I mentioned. Most of their meat comes from local farms and suppliers so that it is fresh. Aldi has great meat. It may depend on what area you live in, though. Here in upstate NY, this is farm country. Our Aldi has great meat. I have also rediscovered “little link sausages” that I would always beg for as a child. At only 99 cents a box in the freezer section, you can’t go wrong with them. I like to have them for lunch as a special treat on Sundays with some maple syrup on them. 
  • Paper products. I had been getting my paper products and cleaning supplies at another store. At Aldi, I am now getting toilet paper, paper towels, tin foil, garbage bags, dish soap, storage bags, cleaning sponges, freezer bags, vinegar and baking soda. In the pandemic, cleaning supplies have been hard to get. I have not been able to get a toilet bowl cleaner this entire pandemic. I have instead been using either vinegar or baking soda to clean things. It is saving me money and my house is just as clean as before. There really is no reason to get any paper or cleaning products anywhere else.
  • Keep an eye on special buys and seasonal items. My doctor has me on an over-the-counter dosage of vitamin D. I typically pay about $10 a bottle for it at the pharmacy. This fall, Aldi had vitamin D as a seasonal item for $3 a bottle, and lucky for me, it was the exact dosage my doctor “prescribed.”. I got a few so I have them. The same thing with items like tylenol and benadryl. Yes, they are Aldi brand, but they are much cheaper than name brand. They are cheaper at Aldi than at any other store. I have also found bird food at Aldi as a specialty item much cheaper than any other store (it went quick this fall, I only got one bag). I had sparkling grape juice from Aldi for Thanksgiving at under $3 for a bottle that is typically close to $6 at another store I had been using.
  • Coffee. I am a little bit of a coffee snob. I do not have many luxuries in life on my budget, but I am willing to pay a little extra for a good coffee. I am not one of those ones who goes all out for high-priced coffee, but I don’t buy the cheapest available either. I have fallen in love with the imported German coffee from Aldi. I don’t want to drink anything else. I have one package of some other coffee left from before I started using Instacart that I am using up. Then, hopefully I will be drinking the German coffee from Aldi exclusively. I prefer the mild blend (blue package). It is the smoothest coffee I have ever had. It is definitely ground more finely than any other coffee I was buying. I’m not sure if it’s simply the grind – I think there’s something more. It’s stellar. Again, Aldi coffee often has mixed reviews. They do have a lot of options, so if you try one and don’t like it, don’t be completely turned off. They have the organic, the traditional, and the German. I am 100% in love with German coffee now. 
  • Tea. I paid about $2 for 100 tea bags. You can’t beat that price. The Aldi tea is the best orange pekoe I have ever had. If you need a good everyday tea, Aldi has it. You just can’t beat their prices. If you prefer herbal, they also have peppermint and chamomile on a regular basis. Sometimes they have seasonal teas also, like candy cane for Christmas. I tend to drink tea a lot in winter to help me warm up. I like to put honey in mine, which I also get at Aldi for a very reasonable price. Tea is also a comfort item for me, as it reminds me of spending time with my grandmother growing up.

Between using Instacart for our Aldi order twice a month and the cat’s Chewy service, we are able to obtain everything we need in the pandemic. We are so lucky! I have been saying that if I can’t find it at Aldi, I don’t need it! This is definitely true. I have been having to find work arounds in the pandemic due to shortages. The biggest workarounds are cleaning supplies. Who knew baking soda was so versatile? 

Aldi is definitely the place for one-stop shopping. I wish I had figured this out years ago. It would have saved me so much time. But we cannot go backwards. We can only go forwards. I am so thankful we have an Aldi in my area and that Instacart delivers to my house.

If you Instacart in the pandemic, please remember to tip your shopper like the essential worker they are. I know that my shopper is risking their life to bring me food so I don’t have to risk mine. Instacart does not pay a whole lot to gig workers. Not only is the shopper taking time to do my shopping and risking their life, but they are also delivering my food. Maintaining a vehicle is expensive. So if you use a delivery service like Instacart, you really need to tip them like the essential workers they are. This is why we only Instacart twice a month. 

Anyone else use Aldi 100% for their one-stop shopping?