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? 

My Quarantine Life: Week 36

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Jolene raising a paw “pew, pew, pew”

Being in quarantine since March, I have not been able to go to the grocery store, work or basically any place where I would be indoors with other people. I am in the vulnerable group, so I stay isolated as much as possible. 

In trying to maintain some semblance of independence in this time, I pick up my medication each month instead of having it delivered. To do this safely without gong inside the pharmacy, I go through the drive thru. The drive thru pharmacy is not like a fast food drive thru where the person opens the window to hand you food. The pharmacy drive thru is more like a bank drive thru. You can see the pharmacy person through a glass window that does not open. You talk to them through a speaker system. They send the medication through a chute system so there is no human contact.

Drive thru pharmacy is a safe thing for me to do. Even though I am separated from the person by a closed glass window, I still wear a mask. I am pretending to be like everyone else who goes to a pharmacy or grocery store inside, even though I am not inside. I am in the drive thru. But I wear my mask because that is what we are supposed to do for safety. Wear a mask every place you go. Even though I am safely on the other side of the glass, it makes me feel like I am still “part of society” by following the mask rules. 

Last week I went through the pharmacy drive thru with my mask on and also a winter hat. I was cold. Typically, the first thing the person asks me is my name. They type my name in the computer. Then they say “picking up one item today. Do you need anything else?” After that, they proceed with the rest of the transaction.

Last week, the pharmacy person did not ask my name. They said “just one today?” They proceeded to ask me the remaining questions about my medication pick up. However, I noticed that the tone of her voice was warm and kind. Normally, when I go through the drive thru, it is an efficient transaction devoid of emotion.

When the person sent my medication through the chute, I asked how she knew who I was without asking my name? She said that she has worked there for 5 years and I am there every month for the same medication. She remembers me. Plus, I am at the top of the list for epi pens due to my multiple food allergies. If there is ever any type of medication shortages, I am first on the list for epinephrine. All the pharmacies in the county know this. For the record, I was not picking up epi pens that week. I only get those once a year unless I have used one.

I was impressed that this person was able to recognize me even though I was wearing a face mask and a winter hat. The only thing that could be seen was my eyes. Yet she did recognize me and knew my name without me having to say my name and without having to ask me.

I felt seen. I felt important.

I was so happy that the pharmacy person recognized me in the drive thru. It made me feel like I matter. Like if I do get covid and die, maybe people will miss me.

The virus is raging all across the country because people are not wearing masks and they are not staying home. When I look at the big picture situation, it makes me feel like I don’t matter. It makes human life seem meaningless. All these people are dying because people are too selfish to not wear a mask. People are too selfish to stay home.

Being SEEN last week in the pharmacy drive thru made me feel like I matter. I appreciate that pharmacy person for recognizing me. Moments like that is why I am happy I can still do things independently like pick up my medication in the drive thru. I was able to run an errand in a safe way and still be in quarantine. I was still able to participate in society even though I am one of the “vulnerable” ones.

This is going to get worse before it gets better. Every time I hear someone say how bad this winter is going to be, Ethan Hawke’s voice goes through my head. I think of that scene from Reality Bites where he says on the answering machine “Welcome to the winter of our discontent” in that incredibly cocky, goth way. The phrase originally came from Shakespeare, but sounds so much better when Ethan Hawke says it. By the way, Shakespeare wrote some of his greatest works during a pandemic. 

Please remember to call people to check on them.

Wear a mask.

Stay home.

From America to Donald J Trump: You’re Fired!

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Cardinals are symbols of those who have passed.

Today, for the first time in 2020, America has hope. With over 235,000 people dead from COVID-19 (the trump-virus), we are finally going to get a leader who will be capable of ferrying our country through a global pandemic. The working class is hurting. It is time to bail out Main Street. Help is on the way. 

We have hope. 

Today, America has elected President Biden and Vice President Harris. In the most important election in American history, hope wins.

God Bless America! 

My Quarantine Life: Week 34

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Simon is playing in the cheese toy.

 

Everyone knows the story of Noah and the Ark – how the animals went two by two. Did you ever think what it was like to be on that boat during the flood time? It was much like quarantine that we are experiencing now. 

Imagine Noah is stuck on this boat with his entire family. Yes, there are animals to take care of. He has an entire boat full of pets. He is trying to work, keep the boys from wrestling each other (he had 3 sons), and deal with all the animals about. It sounds a lot like COVID stay at home, doesn’t it.

After the flood, we know the sun shined. There was a rainbow. Yay! All the animals were saved! Yet what did Noah do once he got off the boat onto land and everything was made right again? He went out and got drunk. It’s in the Bible. His son Ham found him drunk and went around telling everyone about it. 

Sounds a lot like quarantine. After being stuck at home with their families, a lot of people in America are drinking, losing it, or both. We are all human. As much as we love our families, quarantine at home takes a toll much like life on a boat took a toll on Noah during the flood.

From Noah, fast forward a few thousand years to the First Great Depression in America. Everyone knows the stock market crashed in 1929. We have heard the stories of people jumping off buildings in despair. What is not often talked about is how the Great Depression was not just one day in 1929. The Great Depression lasted for an entire decade until World War Two pulled America out of it. People had to sacrifice and go without for 10 whole years. It was bad. Very bad.

One of my favorite songs has a line in it that says “someone told us Wall Street fell, but we were so poor that we couldn’t tell.” There was a statistic on the radio this week, that only 50% of Americans can afford to have money in the stock market. So what the stock market does is meaningless for most of society. It is not a very good economic indicator for the every day person in America. The stock market is for the rich.

Unlike a generation or two ago, people in America today have absolutely no idea what it is like to sacrifice for the greater good. People do not know what it is like to truly struggle. They think that waiting in line for a new iphone is a hardship. 

Everywhere in the news today, we are hearing how the virus is surging. People are tired. There is this phenomenon called “pandemic fatigue” or “COVID fatigue.” People are sick of wearing masks and distancing.

The problem is that people today do not know how to self-sacrifice. They cannot make changes in themselves for the benefit of the greater good. There is another term for “pandemic fatigue.” It’s called selfishness.

This year America has entered the Second Great Depression, and the “ME” generation is in for a huge wake-up call. People who are sick of mask wearing and distancing are the ones who are going to die. Unfortunately, they are going to take out innocent people with them.

Something has changed in American society in the past 90 years where people are no longer capable of thinking about the greater good. The vast majority of society has no idea what it means to sacrifice or go without. That is a very scary place to be.

The ME generation is why the virus is surging. Americans are just too selfish to do what needs to be done and it is killing us. Literally. Hopefully all the ones shouting “open it up” are the first ones to die. Was it really worth it to buy that candle on sale for Christmas and pay for it with your life? In America, it is. Capitalism is worth more than human life. 

It doesn’t help that the Anti-Christ holds the top office in America from the onset of the virus.Our elections will determine how bad the Second Great Depression is going to get. 

Personally, I am just hoping to survive the next decade of this virus and the Second Great Depression. I am also hoping that Jesus comes soon so my cats will be safe. 

I am doing fine in quarantine. The problem is that if the people around me are not safe and society is being selfish, then there is only so much I can do. With so many people in this country focused on “ME,” it’s every person for themselves. Divided we fall. 

I wish there was some way to teach the people of this country the meaning of sacrifice for the greater good. Our parents and grandparents understood that concept. They lived it. They lived through the Frist Great Depression. They lived through World War Two. I honestly have no idea how America today is going to survive COVID. People in America today are too self-centered to do what needs to be done to defeat the virus. It’s like the great flood is here and Noah refused to build the ark. So we live with deaths that could have been prevented. The scariest part is how many people in this country are okay with the death toll.

If you live in America, you need to vote. The election will determine whether we continue on this journey we are currently on or if it is going to get better. I have to believe that there are people in this country who know what sacrifice means. I haven’t seen any yet, but I believe they are there somewhere. Someone has got to be willing to be the Noah and build the ark. The future of our country depends on it. Otherwise, we are living the book of Revelation. 

Vote.

Wear a mask.

Stay home.

Site 50

All 3 cats watching the birds fly by.

The year is 2003. Imagine taking your first vacation in 4 years. You pack up the car with all of your supplies and drive 3 and a half hours to your destination. You are meeting friends you have not seen in years. After a stressful, traffic filled drive, you arrive at your destination, and take one of the last available sites at the campground you have chosen, in relative proximity to the rest of your friends. It is the same place you were at 4 years ago for complete relaxation. Back in 1999, you had crammed 8 college friends in a family tent on a single campsite. It was just like dorm times. In 2003, the only difference is that you are in a different camp site from before and have elected to set up your own tent instead of being in with the rest of the group. Things have changed in 4 years, and some of these friends now have families they will be bringing.

On site 50, you set up your $30 K-mart tent and begin cooking dinner as darkness descends. You are one of the first in your group of friends to arrive for the weekend outing. The location is the halfway point for you and all your friends. It has been about a three and a half hour drive for you going north east. It is about a three and a half hour drive for them going north west. 

You have all the elements for relaxation from good food to good music to good wine. Suddenly, a loud thunderclap sounds and rain unexpectedly downpours on your campfire. You scramble to pick up all of your supplies and cram them in the car so they can remain dry and you can seek respite in your tent.

Although hectic, it is also exciting. This is exactly the type of situation of which memories are made and you can laugh about with friends after. Supplies safely in the car out of the rain, fire put out by the downpour, you unzip the tent to seek solace inside. Once inside, you discover your $30 purchase was not the best bargain as rain pours in through all the seams. The bottom of the tent quickly accumulates a few inches of rain, much like a canoe taking on water in danger of capsizing. Your sleeping bag is completely soaked, as well as the small duffle bag of clothes inside the tent.

Like a drowning man on a sinking ship, you fruitlessly attempt to bail water from the tent. Again, a story to laugh at later. Rain continues to literally pour through the seams of the tent as if the Hoover Dam were breached.

Tiring yourself with bailing water, you finally admit defeat and run from the tent to the car. You are completely soaked with no dry clothes to change into as your sleeping bag and clothes are all waterlogged in the tent. You fall asleep from sheer exhaustion, unsure and uncaring whether the tent will even be there in the morning or if it will float away.

Morning dawns, and you awake to fogged car windows. Still water logged, you open the car door to see the tent completely leveled and everything wet. The rain has stopped. The rest of your friends are supposed to arrive today.

You make a new fire to get warm, and start hanging up all the wet items to dry. You fix the tent so it is again standing, although wet. Now that the rain has stopped, you are able to bail out all of the water from the night before.

Once your friends trickle in for the weekend, you are able to borrow clothes that are both dry and warm. This is definitely a story to laugh about later. The remainder of the weekend passes dry, cool and full of laughter, good memories and good times with the best of friends.

Lesson learned from the leaking tent, when you return in 2004, it is with a new, more waterproof tent. It cost $150 from LL Bean. That new tent will see you dry through the next 15 years of these trips with the best of friends.  

Fast forward to 2020. We are in the middle of a global pandemic. Every single one of those people who were on that camping trip in 2003 except two are now dead. They have all died of COVID within the past 6 months. You are running out of friends. It is not an exaggeration and it’s not because you are a bad person. It’s this horrible disease.

While you have been able to take off 2 or 3 days here and there, you have not had a week’s vacation in over 3 years. For the first time in over 20 years, your annual camping trip has been canceled by COVID.

You are burnt out. You are at your wits end and need a break. Even though COVID has canceled your life and taken all of your friends, you decide to take a week’s vacation from life.

This is a true story. This is my story.

I took my first week’s vacation in over 3 years recently. While this week has been a flashback to 2003, it was anything but restful.

Instead of running around with a tent in the rain, I had a major water issue in my house. I spent 7 days of my 10 day vacation dealing with this water issue. It was anything but restful. There were no friends arriving to laugh with. They are all dead. I’m having a staycation in the middle of a pandemic and instead of relaxing, dealing with a major house emergency.

I may be a first time homeowner, but I do know that water damage is every home owner’s worst nightmare. It’s not funny like bailing out a tent. 

Trying to get help with house emergencies in a global pandemic is extremely challenging. There are people out there who either do not respond or just want to take you for a ride (read: unnecessarily charge you thousands of dollars for illegal work done without appropriate permits). Forget that. I’m on vacation. I just want to relax. 

I feel like I completely wasted my vacation from work dealing with this water issue. I was not able to relax. I only got 3 days of relaxation. I should have just taken my traditional 3 days off instead of a whole week’s vacation.

Maybe this story of plumbing issues with my house will be funny in the future. I’m not sure when. I’m not sure who will be laughing with me, since COVID has killed most of my friends.I am still so thoroughly traumatized by my experience dealing with this water issue that I cannot even go into the details of how bad it was trying to get help. 

All I know is that I am happy to be dry and safe in this house. I hope to survive the pandemic so I can have more camping trips again. Even though my vacation was not really a vacation, I am thankful to be safe with my cats. I have not had a week this bad or this stressful since I bought my house.

5 Podcasts That Rock!

Jude snuggles with me while we listen to podcasts.

This post is another installment in my “5 <insert item or thing here> that rocks!” series. What may potentially be my first week-long vacation in more than 3 years is coming up in a few weeks here, and I am making plans for what I want to do on my staycation. COVID is raging in my area worse than ever before, with infection rates regularly above 4% each day, so my first vacation in over 3 years will completely be a staycation. (Not to mention I am still in quarantine.)

I first discovered podcasts about a year ago, after a friend took the time to explain to me what a podcast is. I have heard the word “podcast” for a while. My eyes glaze over because it is one of those nonsensical technology words that just completely went over my head. This particular friend happened to know how much I love radio and radio programs, so they took the time to explain to me that a podcast is basically a radio program that I can play “on demand” on my phone. The best part of podcasts is that they are free.

One of my top 3 favorite radio shows, Only A Game, was canceled recently after a 27 year run on the air. I decided to add a few shows to my podcast library to try to give me a few more things to listen to. I have no cable at home and no reliable internet to do any kind of video or streaming, so my entertainment tends to be reading and radio. 

For the record, my other two favorite radio programs that are in my Top 3 favorites are still on the air and I listen to them on the radio on Sunday mornings. My other two favorite radio shows are the Frank Sinatra show with Sid Mark and Time Warp with Bill St. James.

But back to podcasts … 

Podcasts have been great with my disability because I can just listen and follow along. My disability affects my vision, and I have times when it is very challenging to read. It is easier to have someone read me something and podcasts fill that need. Especially in the summer heat, I do a lot more podcast listening than I do reading. 

There are two podcasts that I have been enjoying quite regularly for the past year. There are three podcasts that I have found more recently during quarantine in the past six months, but am so thrilled I found them. There were some “special series” podcasts I had listened to and enjoyed, such as “1865,” “Dolly Parton’s America,” and “The Killing of Marilyn Monroe.” Those were all series that ended after 5 or 15 episodes. The selections below are ongoing broadcasts that have seasons and go on for a longer period of time, updating regularly. 

In random order, here are my top 5 favorite podcasts that rock!

  1. American History Tellers

This podcast first hooked me with its use of vignettes written in the second person narrative. I first discovered writing in second person narration in my 8th grade English class and have been absolutely enthralled with everything written in the second person point of view ever since. 

Each episode is well-written and well-researched. I love how I can choose what period of history I learn about. I find myself skipping around from more modern times, like the Space Race, to more “historic” times like the American Revolution. 

2. Levar Burton Reads

I grew up on the “Reading Rainbow” television show. Levar’s voice is so soothing! I was amazed to find the same person who read stories to me as a child is now reading short story fiction to adults. The stories tend to be heavy on the science fiction and speculative fiction, which is perfectly fine by me. During this time of the pandemic, it is very soothing to hear a voice from my past and get lost in a story. 

Levar offers a brief introduction to each story and a brief commentary after. But, you don’t have to take my word for it. 

3. The Constant

The Constant is a recent discovery and I got sucked in learning about the Foolkiller submarine that was found in the Chicago River in 1915 with the bones of a man and a dog inside. I enjoy The Constant because it helps to explain why we know the things we do. 

I just finished an episode that explains how we figured out that birds fly south for the winter – and what people believed happened to birds in winter before realizing they fly south. The Constant took me a bit to get into. It highlights how people got things wrong, but in the process, you learn more about the world and how things came to be. 

This is one of those podcasts that may be more of an acquired taste. Each episode is like a little mystery with many twists and turns. The speaker is great to listen to and each episode is well-researched. 

4. The Relic Radio Show

The Relic Radio Show gives me the feeling of snuggling up in a warm blanket and feeling loved. This is the type of radio I remember listening to growing up. Each hour-long episode consists of two 30-minute episodes. These are the traditional radio stories from the 1950s when most entertainment was on radio and few people had television sets. Again, just another show that takes me back to my childhood and helps me to feel good in this pandemic.

5. You and Me Both with Hillary Clinton

Even if you do not like Hillary politically, I like her personally. If we could choose anybody on the planet to be our parents, I would choose Hillary Clinton to be my mom. That’s how much I like her. You and Me Both is a newer podcast in which Hillary has conversations with people and discusses topics such as faith and cooking. So even if you are not into politics, this is just an amazing woman showing her human side.

Bonus Podcast:

I’m giving a bonus to my list of 5 because this particular podcast is in between seasons right now. I fell so in love with this podcast, that I have listened to every single episode and am waiting for new ones to be made. It sounds like this series may be taking a pandemic related break. I can’t wait for it to return!

The bonus podcast is “This is Love with Phoebe Judge.” Phoebe has a soothing voice and does a great job of asking questions so that people tell their stories in a way that really connects. There was a season about animals and a season about small villages in Italy. “This is Love” is a podcast we need right now in this time of pandemic. They are joyful stories that make you feel good. 

This is what I have been listening to lately. It is nice to take a break from news of the pandemic and having to hear about all the bad things going on in the world right now. It is nice to take a break and either relax or learn something new. What favorite podcasts do you have?

House-iversary 2

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Jude is playing in a box.

Baseball legend Ted Williams was born on August 30, 1918. As one of the longest tenured players in the sport, “the kid” wore number 9 for the Boston Red Sox. His number has since been retired by the team.

On what would have been Ted’s 100th birthday on August 30, 2018, I hit my own home run and purchased my first house. It is also coincidence that my house number is 9, the same as Ted’s baseball number. I say it was meant to be. 

There are other reasons why I think this house was meant to be mine. But today, the cats and I are celebrating our 2 year House-iversary. We have found our furever home.

Jolene has now been in this house longer than she spent in the shelter. I am unaware of her life before that. From what I do know about her, I think she was either an outdoor cat or genuinely homeless prior to her being dumped at the shelter in a box with her kittens. Jolene also celebrated her 6th birthday last week. To my knowledge, Jolene has lived in this house longer than she has lived in any other house.

Simon has definitely been in this house longer than he has been anywhere else. He has lived here longer than we were in the apartment. He has lived here longer than he was in the shelter. For Simon, this house is definitely home. You can tell too. Simon is the only cat who does not try to escape to either the basement or the outdoors. Simon stays in the first and second floor living spaces. He knows its home and where he is supposed to be. He has truly come into his own in this house.

As the oldest, Jude and I have quite a few more years to go before this house is the longest place we have ever lived and it truly feels like home. I was in the apartment for 14 years. 

Jude was in the apartment for 4 and a half years. So, Jude is halfway there for this house to be home for him. There are times when I can tell that Jude does miss the apartment. Jude used to go out on the porch at the apartment. He cannot do that safely here at the house without being in a cage. I can tell it irks him. He misses the apartment porch where he could roam more freely (with supervision, of course). Yet I know Jude is happy in this house. He plays more. 

Being a first time homeowner has certainly been a challenge. I am so grateful for all of the people who have helped me along the way and continue to help and support me. 

This morning, as I type this, the temperatures have finally cooled into the 60s. All of the windows are open. The cats are happily sitting in front of open windows bird watching. I am sitting in front of our beautiful kitchen windows that open to the backyard. 

It was the kitchen that made me fall in love with this house. As soon as I walked into the kitchen, I said “this is it.” The kitchen is the first room you walk into when you open the door. Viewing the rest of the house was simply a formality. With multiple food allergies, I spend a lot of time in the kitchen. When I was in the apartment, my kitchen was also “command central” for all of my degrees. The kitchen is truly the heart of the home in my house. 

I had been told that the first year in a new house is an adjustment period and that you should not look to do any major changes or updates in that first year as you come to know the house. I followed this advice. It was easy to follow. I have been too overwhelmed as a new homeowner to do anything other than react to any issue that happened to arise. 

That said, I do have a home maintenance list, as I’m sure everyone does. It is a never ending list that is constantly changing and always updating. Last year, I painted the front of the garage, and an area of the house near the dryer vent. My goal for this year was to finish painting the garage. Since I am in quarantine and cannot get more paint right now, that is not happening. Not to mention, I learned that painting the garage is not as easy as it sounds. I will need help to reach the topmost areas and the detail work to make it look nice.

My goals for the house going forward is to save and complete one home project per year. I think that this is reasonable, and it is also advice I received from a friend who is also a single female and first time homeowner. I just have to prioritize the projects. 

This fall, I hope to do some outside painting with the can of white paint I had bought last year and never used. That is a small project that I do not consider to be on the list of “one home project per year.” I consider projects on the List to be large projects for which I have to hire and pay someone else to do or that require a significant amount of savings. I may not be good at painting, but I get it done. 

This year, the cats and I are very happy to be celebrating our House-iversary 2 together. This house has stood through World War One, the Spanish Flu, the Great Depression, World War Two, and everything that has come since. We will live through the coronavirus pandemic and the Great Depression 2 as well. 

I am so grateful that the cats and I have this house to be in safe together in the pandemic. Home is where the cats are. They seem happy here. This house is our home base.

Isolation Log: Covid Date 15.b.20

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I got two books and a movie for my first curbside library pickup during pandemic times.

Contact free library pick up! Woo hoo!

The day in March that it was announced the libraries were closing was the day that the magnitude and severity of COVID-19 became real to me as an actual threat. 

I was at the library on the last day it was open before closing. We had a book club that night. The librarian said we were allowed to check out anything we wanted with no limits. I came home with two bags full of stuff. When I got home, I cried.

Libraries are a lifeline. The library is an important place to me for many reasons. I was very happy when I bought my house that I am in walking distance to my local library. This made me ecstatic. Since moving into my house, I attend adult craft class at the library. I started an adult book club at the library. I use the library for internet access. The library is where I would go to use the internet for my online class through Berkeley last fall. I have attended music concerts on the library lawn in the summer.

Libraries have always been a safe haven and place of respite for me. When I was homeless, libraries were a safe place to take a nap. Libraries are a place where you can be in air conditioning to get a break from the heat outdoors in the summertime. 

Libraries are a huge source of entertainment. Not only can I get books, but also DVDs. That saves me money so I only go to the movie theatre if it is something I absolutely want to see. It also means I have less clutter inside my house. Instead of spending money on books and DVDs, I can use my money on other things. I get books and DVDs free from the library. The books in my home are only my absolute favorites that I read repeatedly. 

As I went through the bags of items I checked out of the library in March, I returned them to the return bin outside the library. I went through all the items and have been content with the books and DVDs inside my house.

When the librarian called me this week to let me know that contact free curbside pickup is now available, I was overjoyed. No one is allowed in the library for safety reasons. However, you can request items online or by phone and can pick them up curbside contact free.

You can ask for exact books, a favorite author, or have the librarian choose something for you. 

I successfully picked up items last night through the contact free curb service. I am so happy to have library access again. We are not allowed to interlibrary loan items (which makes sense). You can only get items that are already at your home library. 

I cannot tell you how much I have missed the library. I am so happy they have figured out a way to safely provide services to us once again. Contact free pick up protects both the library staff as well as the person checking out items.

Thank you, library! I have missed you! 

Isolation Log: Covid Date 15.a.20

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I am so thankful for strawberries. This was the second time in 4 months I have been able to get fresh fruit due to food shortages.

Day 100 of captivity. The natives are getting restless. I have had enough of being stuck inside my house because other people refuse to wear masks and distance. I have no faith in humanity to do the right thing anymore.

It has now been 100 days since the doctor told me to stop going to the grocery store and pharmacy. It has officially been 111 days since I have actually been to a grocery store myself.

I am so tired of COVID-19.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t matter if I’m tired of it or not, this is the world in which we live. At this point, I’m just waiting to die because people are not wearing masks and distancing.

As frustrated as I am with the situation, I do not feel as though I am missing out on anything. I have altered my behavior to keep myself safe. Due to multiple food allergies that react by touch, I did not go very many places before the pandemic. The changes I have had to make to my routine have not been huge. So what have I changed? Here’s the list:

Groceries: This one has been the most challenging. I am so thankful and so grateful for the small army of people who kept me supplied throughout the worst of the pandemic so far. I have now successfully been able to receive grocery delivery so that I am not putting my friends at risk. I am now grocery shopping once per month. As long as I have food to eat, I do not mind NOT going to the grocery store. I loathe shopping in general. I am not missing out on anything by no longer going to the grocery store. I am fine with contactless grocery delivery once per month.

The Gym: This is the time of year when I am running outside. I typically use the treadmill from October to April. I am not missing the gym right now. That may change come this fall and winter. As long as there is not ice on the ground to cause me to fall, I will run outside. I do not feel like I am missing anything by not being able to go to the gym.

The Library: I do miss the library. However, I am taking this opportunity to reread every single book on my bookshelf to make the decision whether I should keep the novel or get rid of it. So, I am using this time to engage in a minimalist exercise. I miss the people in my book club, but we have been able to keep in touch with phone calls and letters. The library recently reopened for touchless curbside pickup only. I have requested two books and a movie for curbside pickup. I will let you know how that goes when I pick up my items. I am thankful for the touchless pick up option. If we end up officially quarantining again, I am content to read what I have in my house to make my “keep or donate” decisions.

Church: I have found a podcast that I am able to listen to and enjoy to hear Bible messages. Of course, this is in addition to Bible reading. It’s nice to hear someone’s perspective on how the Bible applies to daily life. I am fine with doing church by podcast. I don’t want to physically go to church and then meet Jesus by getting COVID-19.

The salon: We have reviewed this one previously. I am now shaving my head, which means I do not need the salon. I do not feel like I am missing anything here. In fact, I am using the money I am saving by NOT going to the salon to help pay for groceries. My groceries expense has increased about 3x due to the food shortages and price gouging.

The grocery store, the gym, the library, church and the salon are pretty much the extent of my social outings before the pandemic.

A friend recently expressed concern that I am still isolated (this is by recommendation of my doctor, remember). Yet, I am totally fine being isolated. I did not do much before the pandemic. I do not feel like I am missing anything by not being able to go any place. People’s cavalier attitude regarding this virus right now is scary. It is not worth my life to go out someplace when I have no need or desire to go anyplace. I can communicate with people through letter writing, phone calls and text messages. I’m fine.

Another concern raised by a friend is that they want to see me for coffee. If we weren’t having a pandemic, I would be open to that. Every contact you have with someone is an exposure, so seeing anyone in person right now is not safe.

However, we can still have coffee. Make your coffee and then call me on the phone. There. We are having coffee in a safe way. 

Things around me are reopening. People I know are taking HUGE unnecessary risks with their health and safety that I am uncomfortable taking. Unfortunately, if I come into contact with those people (like at work), then they are exposing me to all of their risk taking. I’m still waiting for my execution date.

People and businesses in my area are not doing enough to keep people safe right now. The safety measures are not being enforced in my area. People are being remarkably careless. No errand is worth my life at this point in time. 

We must remain vigilant. The pandemic is not over yet. As frustrated as I am with 100 days of captivity, the alternative is death. I have three little ones to take care of at home. I’ll take captivity. 

Stay safe. Wear a mask.