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.

End of An Era

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I have to drive the car once a week to keep it going during the pandemic. This is a few miles from my house.

There is a hockey team in Canada made up of Catholic priests called the Flying Fathers. There was a horse named Onion who beat Triple Crown winner Secretariat in a Stakes race. These stories and many, many more, I have heard and loved over the past 24 years.

It was recently announced that my favorite radio program, Only A Game, is being canceled this September after 27 years on the air. I have been listening to the show for 24 of those 27 years.

Only A Game is one of the very, very few things that has been consistent for me through this pandemic. Every Saturday, I can listen to Only A Game. Even though there are no sports right now, they still manage to produce the hour-long sports show weekly. Only A Game is so much more than sports commentary for that week. We learn about the history of sports and heartwarming stories of athletes. 

Through the years, Only A Game has seen me through all four of my college degrees. Only A Game has been one of the few things in my life that has always been there for me, similar to my Adirondack camping trips.

With the pandemic even canceling my camping respite this year, I have been clinging to Only A Game like a lifeline. 

To say that I am heartbroken over the impending cancelation of Only A Game is an understatement. I do not listen to Only A Game for sports scores or speculation. I listen to Only A Game to learn about athletes, sports I love, and to be exposed to sports I maybe don’t love or perhaps even heard of. 

The show has a portion called “Three Stories You Should Know.” That segment brings me up to date on what I need to know for the week. Other than that, it is the in-depth vignettes that keep me riveted every week. 

I learned about a current Major League Baseball star who is also a star on the rodeo circuit. I learned about a photo of an Olympic swimmer that made the rounds on US Navy submarines during WWII that was a kind of inspiration to the troops. I have heard about marathons, scuba diving, soccer, and pretty much every sport out there. 

These are stories that I will not get to hear or learn about once Only A Game is gone. No other radio show or podcast even holds a candle to how well done Only A Game is or what it teaches me.

When Only A Game goes off the air this September, it will be truly the End of An Era. I have no idea what will fill the space left in the void. To be honest, I don’t think anything will. Yes, I can read the newspaper or listen to the radio for sports scores and standings. That is not the point. The point is that Only A Game takes me way beyond scores and standings and teaches me so much more.

I will continue to listen to Only A Game faithfully each week until it is time for the program to sign off the air. I will admit that I have shed many tears this week upon hearing of the upcoming cancelation. 

Anyone who knows me well knows I grew up on radio. I have certain stations and programs that are close to my heart. I listen to radio programs like how other people have their TV shows. Only A Game has been my favorite for over half my life. No other radio program has had a bigger impact on me than Only A Game.

I’m sure that I will be shedding more tears between now and the cancelation this September. Until then, I will keep listening to and keep loving Only A Game each week.

Isolation Log: Covid Date 13.a.20

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Jolene likes to ride on the rollator when I roll.

Trust no one. I feel like I am channeling Fox Mulder from the X-Files. You just don’t know where people have been. The health experts say that about 40% of COVID cases come from asymptomatic carriers. So you may feel fine, but you can still transmit to someone else.

I have been thinking a lot lately that people wearing a mask is just like wearing a condom for sex. They say when you sleep with someone, you “sleep” with every other person that person has been with. That’s why wearing a condom is important. Unless both parties have been tested, you don’t know if you are a carrier for HIV for some other STD. If someone does not wear a condom to prevent disease transmission, then you refuse to have sex with them.

I wish wearing a mask could be the same.

People should wear masks like they wear condoms to prevent disease transmission. You just don’t know where people have been. When someone is not wearing a mask and gets within 6 feet of you, you are then coming into contact with every other person that person has been in contact with. Same scenario. 

Everyone in my area is going around like nothing is happening. No one is wearing a mask. It’s still not safe for me to go out. If someone refuses to wear a condom, no sex. Since people in my community are refusing to wear masks, I cannot safely leave my house. 

That sucks for me. I should not be a prisoner in my own home because other people refuse to take proper precautions. I still stand by the thought that people who refuse to wear masks should be charged with negligent homicide. What do we need to do to make that a reality?

I won’t live long enough to see a vaccine, a medication, or any type of law that is on par with the risks involved. Someone is going to end up killing me as soon as we have to go back to work in our office. Even if my coworkers wear masks and take appropriate precautions, I don’t know where they’ve been. They may (and most do) take more risks than I do. 

Trust no one. With 40% of COVID cases coming from asymptomatic carriers, you just don’t know who has it.

Wear a mask. Stay 6 feet apart. 

On the plus side, I can say that I am very fortunate in that I am not in need of anything. Sure, there are a few things that would make my life easier. However, I am not experiencing any crisis as long as I stay in my house. 

Your right to “not wear a mask” infringes on my right to “live my life.” But I guess your rights are more important than mine. Just another week in isolation wondering when someone else is going to kill me when I have to go out.

This can’t go on forever. I feel like I’m on death row. I know I’m going to get killed when we go back to work. I’m just waiting for my execution date. 

Until then, I am very happy at home with my cats. Even if the internet sucks and the heat makes my symptoms worse. I would rather struggle to be alive than be murdered by someone’s negligence.

I am very happy to be alive at home for as long as it lasts.

Five Reasons Gladrags Rock!

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Some of my Gladrags in pretty patterns.

Disclaimer: If you are uncomfortable reading or thinking about feminine hygiene products and all that entails, then you should stop reading now. Please go find something else to do. If you are okay with bodily fluids, then keep reading. Don’t say you weren’t warned.

As I have been simplifying my life, I have changed many things from paper products to reusables for various reasons. This particular switch came out of pure necessity and just a little bit of panic. Never in my life did I give any thought to feminine hygiene products. My period has always just been Something To Be Dealt With And Painfully Endured each month. I have always used disposables. I use an insane amount of disposables because they seem to be so insufficient for my needs. I have dealt with leaks and stains on underclothes, pajamas, sheets, towels, and some pants. It’s all part of being female, right?

Then came the pandemic. Of course, that first week at home, guess what happened?

Yup, not only did I have my period, but I ran out of feminine hygiene products. There were no more to be had anywhere. There were none in the stores. There were none online. Everyone was so busy freaking out over The Great Toilet Paper Shortage of 2020 that they didn’t notice the Great Disposable Pad Shortage of 2020.

I proceeded to call all my female friends to see if anyone had any extra supplies lying around they could drop off to me. I figured if I could borrow 2 or 3 from each person … I would have enough to get me through the shortage.

My friends came through for me. God bless them. People dropped off feminine hygiene supplies on my porch so I was able to get through my cycle. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t desperate.

I successfully got through that cycle with the help from my friends. How long was the shortage going to last? How would I get through the next cycle and the next? Everyone is freaking out like “Yo! Toilet paper!” And I’m just over here like “Can a sister spare a pad?”

You all know how I found toilet paper workarounds. I have been saving my newspapers as a last resort option. I am now using cloth baby wipes for pee to minimize my toilet paper use. But what to do about pads? At first, I thought to just wad up toilet paper. I’ve done this when my period started unexpectedly and I needed something “there” for the 10 minutes it took me to go grab a disposable. But toilet paper was scarce too. Then, I’m like, well how about washcloths or something? I was grasping at straws here, people. 

It finally dawned on me – you know that saying “on the rag?” It’s because women used to actually use rags before disposables. Can you imagine a world before disposable pads? I couldn’t.

Lo and behold, God Bless the Internet. Cloth pads are a thing. An absolute thing! 

There are many different kinds you can get from many different makers. I did a little bit of research and decided that a company out west called Gladrags was making a product that would meet my needs. Even though I did some research, I was skeptical about using cloth, but I was also desperate, so I ordered 2 or 3 just to try. They came quickly and with frequent washing, got me through a cycle. I liked them so much, I ordered more. I used all cloth pads for another cycle.

It’s a miracle! It’s amazing! I know I sound like a crazy infomercial right now, but this switch from disposable pads to cloth pads is truly the best thing to come out of the pandemic for me. They are by far the best paper product to reusable switch I have made. These things are so stellar, I just had to do another “Five Reasons … Rocks!” posts about Gladrags cloth pads.

For those of you who enjoy “Five Reasons … Rocks” posts, check out:

Five Reasons Garmin Rocks!

Five Reasons the 1812 Challenge Rocks!

Without further ado, I am proud to present:

5 Reasons Gladrags Rock!

  1. Cloth pads are dependable. You do not have to worry about running out. Whether there is a pandemic or not, I always have feminine hygiene items without having to go to the store. I have cloth pantiliners, cloth day pads, and cloth night pads. I have enough cloth pads to get me through my cycle. Every cycle, every month, from now until menopause.

2. Cloth pads are going to save me an insane amount of money. First of all, if you haven’t heard, when the U.S. Congress passed the CARES Act, a huge coronavirus relief bill, there were a lot of little things tucked in there along with your “stimulus check.” The CARES Act just made it possible to use Health Savings Accounts (HSAs) to be able to pay for feminine hygiene products! This means that instead of paying out of pocket for supplies, your period is now considered a “medical” thing, and you can use your medical funds to pay for period supplies.

Every once in a while, someone in government gets a brain … thanks to the CARES Act, I was able to use my HSA to pay for my cloth pads. So I did not have any “out of pocket” expenses, which was great, since I am now paying 3-4x more for groceries due to food shortages.

Also, since I now have a complete set of cloth pads to last my whole cycle, I do not have to buy disposable pantiliners or disposable pads again. That is going to save me about $120 a year from now until menopause. I used roughly $200 in HSA funds to pay for my cloth pad set, but will be saving $1,800 from now until menopause.

3.  Gladrags are exceptionally well made. They come in pretty patterns, so my period is actually kind of fun now. Yes, I did just put the words period and fun in the same sentence. Sounds insane, doesn’t it? No more sticky white plastic in your underwear. Gladrags stay firmly attached with one little snap. There is no moving or bunching. They stay where you put them. Que light and the sounds of angels singing here.

Gladrags really know what they are doing in design. I am super surprised to find that cloth pads are way more absorbent than disposable pads. I also have no leaks in any sleeping position. No more blood on underwear, pajamas, or sheets. They almost make my period feel – easy.

Cloth pads are super easy to clean. Just wash in cold water. I throw them right in with my laundry and hang to dry. I “presoak” in cold water to prevent stains. They come out just fine. When I bought the first 2 or 3 to try, I washed them by hand in the sink so that I could reuse them more quickly. Now that I have a full set for my entire cycle, I just wait until laundry day and throw them in with the rest of the cold wash items. They are ready to go for next month.

When I have to return to the work office instead of working from home, I have a cute little bag that came with my cloth pad kit to put the used one in to take home, so no one knows I have it. No different than taking a disposable into the bathroom with you. No big deal. As a plus, cloth pads don’t smell like disposable pads do. Admit it, we all know it, disposable pads smell. You always worry about other people “smelling” you. Cloth pads don’t smell.

4. Cloth pads are so comfortable. I almost forget that I am wearing one. They are way more comfortable than disposable pads. I wish I had known cloth pads existed 20 years ago. My period is no longer Something To Be Dealt With and Painfully Endured each month. Not that I look forward to it. No way would I go that far. Let’s just say my period is no longer uncomfortable.

Cloth pads keep me cool. Disposable pads are basically plastic. They are hot and sweaty. As we all know, my MS symptoms are exacerbated by heat. I am so happy to be using cloth pads now and not have that additional heat source provoking my symptoms each month. I feel like my body temperature is cooler when I am wearing a cloth pad compared to a disposable pad. I am no longer sweating to death “down there.”

If you don’t already think I am crazy, then this one is really going to throw you for a loop. Since switching to cloth pads, my flow is not as heavy and my period ends sooner. When I purchased my cloth pad kit, I was highly skeptical that 10 day pads would last me my entire 5-day cycle. I usually go through like 8 disposable pads in a day. My period is long and messy.

However, the two cycles that I have been through with my cloth pads, my flow has gone from heavy to more moderate. I have less cramping. Also, my traditional 5-day cycle now appears to be a 4 ½ day cycle. The 10 day pads that came in my kit are more than enough for me to get through my cycle because I am now bleeding less!

Of course, this could just be my body changing. But it’s interesting to note that I have only had this experience happen with the two cycles where I only used cloth pads. I will see if it continues.

5. Excellent customer service. I have ordered various food items online during the pandemic and waited 2 months to receive them. Gladrags customer service is amazing. They let us know they were running behind. Yet, I still received my order in about a week. This was going from the west coast to the east coast. A week is fast even when its not a pandemic. In pandemic times, that’s like overnight service!

One of the orders I placed, an item was listed as backordered. That was fine with me, I am waiting on everything else in pandemic life anyway. Well, even though the item was on backorder, I still received it way earlier than the backorder date listed, and someone had put a nice hand-written smiley face on my invoice. They are literally shipping things as soon as they come off the sewing machine!

I had chosen the “surprise me” option for designs when I ordered my cloth pads. I mean, come on, I’m bleeding on it. Who cares what it looks like? I’ve been using plain white disposables for years. They sent me a variety of very pretty patterns to make my period fun. There’s that word again! Gladrags could have just sent me one color or one design. Yet in the middle of pandemic chaos, someone took the time and the care to send me a variety of very pretty designs. Thank you! 

The people at Gladrags are working very, very hard to be sure we all have period supplies during the pandemic. God bless those workers! 

Not only did my orders arrive quickly, but they were very nicely packaged. Each order also came with a little booklet of clear instructions on how to use and clean my cloth pads. 

Conclusion

The only thing I have yet to test when it comes to cloth pads is wearing them while running. I was only able to do one run on my last cycle because the temperatures were in the 90s and my MS symptoms were way too bad to run even with my cooling vest. I was having a hard enough time rolling with my rollator. 

The one run that I did, I used a disposable. I can tell you right now, that was a mistake due to the cramping and severe discomfort I had after. My concern with running with cloth pads is chafing. I’ll have to experiment and let you know if that is true or unfounded. Of course, the ultimate test will come when I train for my next marathon. 

I will see how they feel when I take them for a run. 

Please note, that I have not received any compensation or “gifts” for plugging Gladrags. I did receive a discount on my set, but all sets were discounted for everyone the month I ordered it. So, it’s not like the discount was special to me when it was available for everyone.

If Gladrags does not work for you, there are many other companies and makers out there to be able to find cloth pads. You may not be able to get over the “ick” factor, but if you do, you will be hooked. Trust me, once you try cloth pads, you won’t go back to disposables. Why, oh why, were disposables ever invented in the first place? Well, I’m sure someone is making a boatload of money off of disposable pads. But they aren’t getting my money anymore. Making the switch to cloth pads is the best thing to come out of the pandemic. 

Gladrags Rock! 

Isolation Log: Covid Date 12.a.20

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Well, the pandemic is over, everyone is doing whatever they want like it’s 2018 or something. Of course, this is untrue. However, that is an accurate depiction of people’s behavior.

I can now say that I have officially lost all faith in humanity to do the right thing.

This week, I walked into the village to attempt to find a place where I could get cell service to make phone calls for work. That was a mistake. 

I was wearing a mask and distancing myself from people. I was perfectly fine.

Then, these two teenagers on bicycles who were not wearing masks, almost ran me over. Literally. I had no place to go and no way to get off the sidewalk due to the traffic in the street. By the way, it’s illegal to ride your bicycle on a sidewalk here.

Because they were not wearing masks and were much closer to me than 6 feet, I have now had a coronavirus exposure. There are so many asymptomatic carriers, that you have to assume everyone is positive and you have been exposed if the other person is not wearing a mask. This also necessitated a coerced phone call to the doctor’s office and being screened for testing.

If people would follow the law and wear a mask, I would not have to go through this. The Governor issued the order. It is the responsibility of the local government to enforce it.

While I was making my phone calls, I was standing in a spot across the street from the local post office. I stood there on the phone watching a stream of people go into and out of the post office and not a single person was wearing a mask.

Every week when I drive my car, I see people all over the place in large groups. No one is wearing a mask. That law must be optional or something. Are there other laws in life that are “optional?”

I must be imagining this entire pandemic thing – except for the fact I had to get screened and obtain a doctor’s note saying I don’t need to be quarantined so I can work. Except for the fact that I know four people who have died, which is the most death I have ever personally experienced in a two-month period. But I’m sure everyone is joking. My “dead” friends are going to pick up the phone and yell “gotcha,” right? Wrong. This pandemic is real. It is not a joke. People need to take it seriously. 

It’s all very simple. People need to wear a mask when they leave their home, because you don’t know when you’re going to encounter another person. When you do encounter a person, stay 6 feet away.

Apparently those parameters are too difficult for people to understand.

I don’t have a whole lot to say this week. I have lost all faith in humanity to do the right thing. My community has shown me, first-hand, by their actions, that they do not care about other people. Human lives mean nothing but the almighty dollar is everything. That is the lesson my community has taught me.

In addition to my personal exposure this week, our “local leaders” have been very disappointing. New York State is engaging in a phased reopening. Last week, our local leaders decided to blatantly ignore all State guidelines and recommendations and open our area early. They said that the economy is more important than human lives. It’s more important that people go back to work. If people die, that’s too bad. 

A big part of why people in my area are having such a hard time is due to the incompetence of our local leadership. Our county decided they just wanted to open before the state said it was okay to open. They were sick of waiting. 

Don’t be surprised if my tombstone says “COVID-19.” At this point, I am fully expecting to die or suffer permanent lung damage in the second wave (found in those who “recover”). As a distance runner, that would really piss me off.

We can only control ourselves. We cannot control other people. Yet when other people put your life at risk, what are you going to do about it? The answer is nothing. There is nothing you can do when someone threatens your life. This is the world in which we live now. 

My biggest positive is that I still get to stay home where I am safe. Attempting to leave my house is a whole other issue entirely. I should not be a prisoner in my own home because other people refuse to wear a mask and distance. But that is what is happening. Their “right” to “not wear a mask” is more important than my life. My life is meaningless. That’s the message I get when people refuse to wear a mask.

We will see what things look like when we go back to work, but given how other people are acting, I do not expect to live long enough to see my next birthday. Someone is going to kill me because they decided to not wear a mask. 

The exposures will only increase when we return to work. If people want to risk their own life, that’s fine. But don’t expose me. It’s going to happen as soon as everyone returns to work because you cannot control other people. There are many people in my community who like to take huge risks. I do not like to take risks, but it looks like I will be forced to accept everyone else’s level of risk once we return to work. 

The American dollar is worth more than a human life. At least that’s what our county leaders and local business chamber tells us. 

Every interaction is a potential exposure. 

Stay as safe as you can. 

Buzzcut Pros & Cons

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I shaved off my pixie.

Yes, I did shave all my hair off. I am very happy with it. No one has really seen me to say anything about it. I am anticipating a bunch of negative feedback, since I got some pretty negative remarks when I had a pixie.

I have now had to shave my head twice, so the clippers have officially paid for themselves. Every single time I use them from here on out is money “saved” by not going to the salon. 

The first time I used the clippers, I went conservative. I had no clue what I was doing or getting myself into. If I did not like it, I wanted to be sure to leave enough length to be able to return to my pixie. So the first time I used the clippers, I primarily used the # 4 guard. I used the # 1 guard to clean up around my ears and the back of my neck.

Two weeks after that, my hair was growing and out of control. The second time I used the clippers, I decided to use the # 1 guard on my entire head. Part of the reasoning for this is so that I can hopefully go a month between haircuts instead of having to do it every other week.

In the past 3-4 weeks, I have officially buzzed my head twice. Given that I am at about the one month mark of having a shaved head, I figured I would share some pros and cons.

Pros:

  • I’m saving money. Look, I have been hemorrhaging money on food and supplies ever since this pandemic started. Trying to meet my basic needs has blown my budget all to hell. I have to save money somewhere. The only thing that could potentially be cut out of my budget short of turning off the lights or the water is to get rid of my salon bill. I typically spend $50 a month on my hair. The clippers were $60. Now that I have used the clippers twice, they have paid for themselves. That is now $50 per month I can put towards food. I apologize to my hairdresser, who I think is totally awesome. But this is one instance in which I am breaking up with you, and it totally is me, not you. My hairdresser did not do anything wrong. It’s just, you know, the pandemic killing my budget for the foreseeable future.

 

  • I feel cooler. My neurological disorder is exacerbated by heat. Shaving all my hair off is helping me to feel cooler. In fact, sometimes I feel chilled. I will deal with it. It’s much better than the “MS walk” – which is basically when the heat makes you stagger around like you’re drunk, except you’re not – you just lost all control of your body due to excessive heat and you walk like that for days on end. I wish I had thought to shave my head about 5 years ago when these neuro issues all started. I still get the MS walk, but it’s a little bit easier to keep myself cooler now with no hair, so I can prolong the time before the MS walk starts.

 

  • Showering is so much easier. In fact, I do not have to shower as often. It’s not as if my hair is sticking up in unnatural looking ways anymore when I get up in the morning. I can get in and out of the shower quickly. It saves both water and time.

 

  • Safety. Due to the pandemic, anytime I do leave my house, I shower when I return home. Granted, the only places I am going right now are outside to run and into my work office when no one else is there, but I feel safer showering once I return home to “clean” myself of any potential exposure I may have had while out. Since my hair no longer necessitates a morning shower, I can now shower at the end of the day (or any time of day) once I have returned home. This was especially helpful when I was on a walk the other day and not a single person outside was wearing a mask. I digress. The point is, I am no longer chained to the routine of a morning shower to tame my wayward hair. I can shower at any time of day. 

 

  • It goes with everything. I do not have to worry about a style. I just go, go, go. I feel like I have more freedom with less hair. I am in control of my head and my hair. I do not have to try to get an appointment, drive to a salon, sit there & wait. When it needs to be shaved, I just pick up the clippers and do it. 

 

  • Cleaning is easier. When I sweep, mop, or vacuum, there is less hair to clean up since I shaved it all off. Anyone who has long hair knows, it’s like you shed hair everywhere, and are constantly cleaning it up. I live with three (luckily short-haired) cats, so there is enough fur flying around. But honestly, when my hair was long, I had more human hair to clean up than cat hair. My house seems like it’s cleaner and easier to clean with less hair all over the place. 

 

  • If I die, I want to be cremated. There will be no viewing. Who cares if I have hair? You’re supposed to remember who I am as a person, not my hair. Besides, I already planned my memorial service, and you will have a playlist of 26.2 songs in the key of life to keep you busy. If you all stand around talking about how I shaved my head, I will come back and haunt you.

Cons:

  • I am now wearing hats when I go outside so I do not accidentally sunburn my head. I have a note on the door reminding me when I leave the house to wear my medical alert, a mask, and a hat. I feel like an astronaut on a spacewalk every time I leave my house.

 

  • I’m worried people won’t know I’m a girl. I had this worry when I got my pixie, and it ended up being unfounded. Everyone knew I was a girl when I had my pixie. But with a shaved head, I cannot even put a Hello Kitty bow in it anymore. That’s okay. One of my hats is pink. I’m still a girl, whether you think so or not.

 

  • Negative comments. I received many negative comments when I had my pixie (especially from men) saying I should grow my hair out again because it was unattractive. Apparently, only long hair is considered attractive on women. I’m a little scared of what people are going to say to me now that I have shaved my head. If they were mean about the pixie, I’m sure the negative comments will get worse. Let me tell you, that I am the one who has to live with the hair on my head, and I do not want to have to deal with long hair again. It is way too much hassle. I’m unsure if I will keep it shaved or return to a pixie, but I’m not growing it. Long hair is too much trouble. I am worried about being seen as unattractive with a buzzcut. I guess I don’t really need people to say it out loud to me and confirm my fears. 

Conclusions:

I am very happy I shaved my head. As with my pixie, I wish I had done this years ago. To be honest, my life would have been a whole lot easier when I was homeless if my head was shaved. The conundrum is that when you are homeless, you don’t have money for haircuts, so you just leave your hair long and stringy looking. The point is, a buzzcut is very versatile and gives me much more freedom than any other haircut I have had. 

I am unsure if I will continue to shave my head in the fall and winter once it gets cold. For now, this is the perfect summer haircut. It is helping me to stay cooler, and is totally working with my life at the moment. We all know life is changing every minute during the pandemic. I really like that I can shave my head myself and do not need to rely on someone else right now. 

I have no regrets over my buzzcut.