A Minimalist in Hell

IMG_1695

Some of the many sound blocking panels installed in the office.

 

There are at least four houses of people on my street who have quit their jobs since the US government started giving a monthly stipend (universal basic income or UBI) to people with children. Since then, the level of noise and chaos on my street has increased exponentially. 

As if living next to a group of Proud Boy terrorists was not enough, there is a house about four doors down who has decided to purchase a drum set. They have not done any sound proofing to their home. They think that it is okay to drum full bore from 8 am to 8 pm. The local police do nothing – our noise ordinance goes from 11 pm to 7 am. There have been at least five other houses who have complained of this loud music during the day. 

The loud drumming is causing trauma to veteran and civilian survivors of large-scale events. It is causing ears to bleed. It is causing windows to crack and break. It is causing people who work from home to either lose their jobs or be put on probation because you can’t work when people can’t hear you because you are being overpowered by a drum set.

The village code officer refuses to do anything. They say there is no noise ordinance that covers this, even if this one house is terrorizing not only all the other houses on the street, but houses on neighboring streets as well. (Yes, it is that loud.) There is no talking to the house in question to knock it off – when you go over there to try to talk to them, they instantly shove a gun in your face. I, for one, do not want to be shot in addition to being terrorized non-stop in my own home by deafening sound.

The only recourse we have is to file a lawsuit. Lawsuits take money and who wants to make a court appearance during a deadly pandemic? I’m not willing to die for this. The gun waving is bad enough.

I have been reading up on sound proofing to try to figure out how to block the noise from my office so that I can work. Note that my office is on the far side of the house away from the offending house. The offending house is also four doors away. (Yes, they are that loud.)

Actual sound proofing done by a handyman or contractor costs thousands of dollars. Who has that kind of money in a deadly pandemic? We are still struggling with food shortages. 

I have been reading up on DIY sound proofing. Most suggestions to block the noise suggest things I have already done – close all windows and doors, use heavy drapes to block noise. I do this anyway to block light and heat to try to keep the house cooler in the summer.

Other suggestions for DIY sound proofing are to put a ceiling to floor bookcase against the wall and fill it to try to block the sound. The basic premise is to fill the entire room with stuff so that the offending noise does not echo around.

I am a minimalist in hell.

I have purposefully been trying to empty the upstairs of my house. It is difficult for me to do stairs safely. I have been trying to get all of my belongings on the first floor with me to reduce the number of times I have to do the stairs. I am a fall hazard and fall on the stairs frequently. My goal is to have empty rooms upstairs. 

There is one exception. My office is upstairs. This is so that my workspace is separate from my living space so that I have a positive work life balance. Now that I am 100% a remote worker, it is critical to have that distinction between home and work. 

I actually have divided one room into two different work spaces. There is a work space for each job. This helps me with transitioning mentally from one job to the other. There is also a distinction in that one job I am an employee, where the other job, I am the boss / an independent contractor. One job provides me with their equipment that I must use. The other job I have to provide all of the equipment.

Aside from the office and the bathroom, the goal is to empty the upstairs.

The idea of having to fill my office with stuff in a futile effort to block noise is driving me completely nuts. My goal is to empty rooms, not fill them up. 

I am trying to figure out what I can put in the office to block sound. I have purchased sound blocking panels – they do nothing against the onslaught of noise we are experiencing. I have put my container of sewing fabric in the office. I have put my one container of childhood memories in the office. I am doing what I can to block the sound. 

However, trying to fill up that room is driving me almost as nuts as the noise. Except for the bleeding ears and damage to my hearing. (Yes, I have seen a doctor who says my hearing is being damaged by this.)

The best solution would be for these horrid neighbors to stop making the noise. I am not, after all, the only house that is being bothered by it. However, stopping the noise would be way too easy. These people are so self-centered, they do not realize there is an entire village that is being terrorized.

The village office said they had sent a letter to the offending house a few weeks ago. However, the people who live in the house making all the noise can’t read. So sending them a letter does nothing. A phone call or some sort of consequence for their action might go further. However, the fact that they constantly come out and wave the guns around is something to worry about also.

I’m just a minimalist in hell trying to figure out how to block noise by filling up a room. My goal for my house is to empty the upstairs rooms, not fill them up.

I wish people would remember to be human and that there are other humans on this planet too. Some of us are right next door.

 

It Takes An (Online) Village

IMG_1070

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I hope I am not one of them.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hopefully things come together soon. 

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

Sophie’s Story

IMG_0818

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

80 Photographs

IMG_0163

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

10 photos of my camping trips

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No Where Bar

IMG_9717

The little outside bar in the middle of no where.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Quarantine Hat Trick

IMG_6288

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.   

One-Time
Monthly
Yearly

Make a one-time donation

Make a monthly donation

Make a yearly donation

Choose an amount

$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00
$5.00
$15.00
$100.00

Or enter a custom amount

$

If you would like to support, this blog, feel free to donate. Thank you for visiting!

Your contribution is appreciated.

Your contribution is appreciated.

DonateDonate monthlyDonate yearly

One Stop Shopping at Aldi Rocks!

IMG_7812

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

IMG_7175

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!

IMG_5075

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!