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.

Five Reasons Gladrags Rock!

IMG_1884

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

IMG-0129

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. 

Isolation Log: Covid Date 9.a.20

IMG_1474

Jolene is a happy baby.

Bubble space. It’s a pretty simple concept that I would teach to all my pre-school students back when I was teaching. I spent over a decade as head teacher in an inclusive classroom in the public school district.

An inclusive classroom meant that my class size was limited to 14 students, about 25% of them had some sort of disability (usually on the autism spectrum), and I had a dedicated teacher’s aide in the room with me at all times. In addition to the dedicated teacher’s aide, there would be other professionals such as occupational therapists, physical therapists and social workers who would frequently be in the classroom working with a particular student on a certain skill or with a topic.

My weekly lesson plans included not only the basics such as letter recognition, pre-reading skills, science, colors, numbers, but also social and emotional skills. We would use modelling and positive reinforcement to help teach kids how to be nice to others.

One of the big social emotional skills taught in my classroom was the concept of bubble space. As many of the children in my classroom were on the autism spectrum or had some sort of sensory disability, many of them did not like to be touched. 

I would teach all the students that they live in their own personal bubble. If you take both your arms and hold them out, that is your imaginary bubble space. If you measure fingertip to fingertip like that, it is also supposed to roughly equal your height, but I digress.

Kids were supposed to ask before entering someone else’s bubble space. For example, you should ask someone first if it is okay to hug them. This was also a great exercise in teaching kids the difference between good touch / bad touch for abuse prevention. If someone enters your personal bubble space in a way that is not okay with you, then you need to say something about it. Always tell two adults. This is in case the first adult does not do the right thing (report it), hopefully the second adult will.  

The point is, everyone has a personal bubble space.

Now, I have seen a marked decline in society since I stopped teaching pre-school. I’m not sure what has happened to people from the time they left my classroom at age 5 to adulthood, but it seems like the entire world has forgotten the concept of bubble space.

Do I need to go back to teaching pre-school and invite all of the adults? Get with the program, people! Bubble space!

Bubble space is essentially the same thing as social distancing. For some reason, many people, or, at least, many people in my area, are unable to social distance. Why do you not understand the concept of bubble space? Four year olds get it, but the adults have forgotten.

It’s not hard. Yet people do not seem to be able to do it.

I live in a bubble and I would appreciate it if people would respect my bubble space and not enter my bubble. 

Why is this concept hard?

Bubble space is no longer a part of the manners I teach to pre-school children. Bubble space is now a life and death concept for every human being on the planet.

This is a reminder from one of your educators to please remember what we taught you in pre-school and respect the bubble space. It’s not hard. I can’t get over the fact that 4 year olds get this, but somehow adults don’t. 

Did you get dumber as you got older? Or do you think once you hit the age of 5 this no longer applies?

Maybe someone needs to hire me to teach adults now instead. 

Wear a mask and stay 6 feet away from people.

Life Verses

IMG_1433

Jude in the basket I use to help me get things up and down the stairs.

We all have sayings or quotes that speak to us in life. Someone in my news feed posted their favorite Bible verses recently. I figured I would share my life verses that I have chosen for my funeral. Although in our COVID world, I’m sure I’ll just be thrown in the cremation machine and forgotten due to social distancing measures since I’m not online on a regular basis.

Here are the Bible verses that speak to me. They may be even more relevant now. 

“We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed and broken. We are perplexed, but we don’t give up and quit. We are hunted down, but God never abandons us. We get knocked down, but we get up again and keep going. Through suffering, these bodies of ours constantly share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.” – 2 Corinthians 4:8-10 (NLT) 

What are your favorite Bible verses?

Retro Farm Life

IMG_1394

All 3 cats have learned to share the cat tree.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, farmers used to leave cash in their mailbox. The mail person would leave stamps for the farmers. This was common practice in rural areas, as the only time that farm people would go into town was for church on Sundays.

My grandparents were like this. In addition to going into town for church on Sundays, which was the only time Grandpa was not in overalls, there would be one Saturday a month trip into town. On the once a month Saturday trip, Grandma would be dropped off at the grocery store to pick up that month’s supplies, while Grandpa took the truck to Agway to get feed for the animals and any other supplies needed on the farm.

My grandparents’ farm had chickens, cows, pigs, horses and geese. There may have been more animals, but those were the ones I remember. Due to my age, my farm chore whenever I visited would be to collect the eggs from the chickens. I hated this job. The chickens do not like having their eggs taken and would peck at me. More than once, I would be found running screaming through the yard being chased by a chicken with my egg basket dropped on the ground somewhere behind me.

Because I was small when my grandparents had the farm, I did not realize that they would buy stamps through the mailbox. Or, if I did know about it, I had forgotten. I was reminded about it this week when talking to my mother.

Earlier this week, I was super excited because an orange envelope appeared in my mailbox letting me know I could put a check inside it to purchase stamps and any other mail services I need. 

I told my mother how happy I was to have this service so that I do not have to go to the post office during the pandemic. That is when she reminded me – buying stamps through your mailbox used to be commonplace on farms.

My mother and I had a great conversation about how things used to be when I was growing up. We were able to talk about things that happened that totally went over my head as a child, like buying stamps through your mailbox. I told my mother that I am glad she is here because I still have a lot to learn from her.

I have said before that one of the best things about this pandemic is that people actually have time to connect with other people and have more meaningful interactions. As part of my minimalism journey through the years, my goal has always been more quality human interactions. However, I realize that other people are more busy than I am and have other priorities, so they do not prioritize human interaction as I do.

Talking to my mother, she said that quarantine wasn’t that big of a deal for her. Growing up on the farm, they did not go out much. As I said earlier, there was the once a month Saturday trip, and then church on Sundays. You only made your grocery trip once a month. Groceries were to supplement what food you had from the farm.

Growing up, we always had venison for meat. My grandfather and all my uncles were hunters. We never had ground beef because it was expensive. Many people who meet me think that I am a vegetarian because I do not eat beef. I am not a vegetarian. I do eat beef – if it’s cheap. As someone who grew up dirt poor, beef was always out of our price range, so it is something I am not used to having. It is not a necessity, it is a luxury item.

My mother and I had a great conversation about how things used to be and realized that things do not change all that much. Well, the world has changed, but when you are used to farm life where you did not go all that much, then quarantine is not all that different.

As we are in this quarantine situation, I have been seriously evaluating my wants and needs. I have also been thinking more about my routines.

Grocery shopping once a month sounds really good to me once this is all over. Previously, I had been grocery shopping twice a month due to my pay schedule. If I can switch to once a month, then that reduced my potential exposure for when the second and third wave of the coronavirus comes through. 

There was also a time in college when I was having a very hard time financially that I remember going grocery shopping once for three months. I would get my student loan money, get a bunch of food at the store, then when it ran out .. well, that was it until the next semester student loan payout.

There are some items I have ordered online as a result of the pandemic that are set up on an autoship basis that I am going to keep going once the pandemic is over. When you think about it, it is similar to the old buying stamps through the mailbox routine.

Another aspect of farm life we reminisced was that one Saturday per month was haircut day. My grandmother would put a sheet down on the kitchen floor. She would place a stool in the middle of the sheet. Donning an apron, she would stand there with a pair of clippers while one by one, my grandfather and then my uncles would sit on the stool without a shirt on to have their haircut. The girls would sit on the stool and my grandmother would take a pair of scissors to cut all our bangs straight across so they were out of our eyes. 

Right now I have a pair of hair cutting scissors that I have used on myself. I have not been able to get clippers because there are none to be had. I have already said numerous times how happier I am having short hair because it is easier for me to take care of. I am totally fine with using the scissors to cut my own hair for right now. 

When clippers are available from the manufacturer again, I do want a pair. My goal is to go back to farm life and start doing my own hair so that I do not have to pay to go back to a salon again. Yes, there is a very good possibility that I will just buzz all my hair off at some point. I think it will be easier this way.

These are trying times and we need to remember what is an essential need and what is a want. As much as I like my hairdresser, paying $50 for a haircut is not an essential need. I can do it myself, and probably will from here on out. 

I wonder what other retro aspects of farm life will be making a comeback? Are you planting a victory garden? I have toyed with this idea, but since I do not do well in the heat and the initial monetary outlay are detriments to me right now. 

This is the perfect time to remember and evaluate what is important and what is not.

Five Dollar Challenge

IMG_0997

Simon enjoys cuddle time during covid isolation

The world is hurting right now. Maybe COVID-19 has not hit your area yet and you are going about your daily life still. I was too, up until the past week or so. I live in Upstate New York, and we are under a stay-at-home order. While staying at home is a relief, I will admit that I am also completely terrified. I am scared not only for me, my family, and my friends, but also for the world. Life will never be the same again after this.

Someone on the radio recently said that the coronavirus is this generation’s 9/11. Let me tell you right now, I was in New York City on September 11, 2001. I was 22 years old. This is nothing like 911. This is worse.

In the middle of the pain, we are seeing acts of kindness. They are small, but they serve to instill hope in the world that humans may be an okay link on the food chain after all. 

In NYS, there is mass unemployment that has now surpassed recession levels and is escalating at a level we have not seen since the Great Depression. It sure looks like history repeats itself every 100 years, doesn’t it?

I am extremely fortunate that I still have a job. I am still getting paid. It is extremely tenuous how long that will last. I work at a very small, local non-profit that employs about 10 staff. I am scared of losing my job and not being able to pay the bills. I completely understand why people were jumping off of buildings in 1929. I am very fortunate in that I have three furballs depending on me to keep me grounded and sane.

In this very scary time, we don’t have a dime to give. I get it. I really do.

But I am still going to issue the Five Dollar Challenge.

As I said, I work at a tiny non-profit that has about 10 staff. If every person in America right now were to donate $5 to a local non-profit, it may mean the difference between that agency being able to give their employees just one more paycheck. 

No one has money right now. I get it. But $5 is not much. Hey, we are under a stay-at-home order. It’s not like you can go to a coffee shop right now. Take that $5 you would have spent on a latte and donate it to a local non-profit in your area.

Local money stays local. Help your neighbors. You do not even have to leave your home. 

Even with all businesses in NYS mandated closed, many are working remotely. So if you don’t know how to give, call one of your local non-profits and ask if they have a way to donate online or if you can mail a check.

Don’t forget your local animal shelters. Animal shelters are still open and caring for homeless pets right now. In fact, if you are under a stay-at-home order, this is the perfect time to adopt and get a new family member acclimated to your home. Call the shelter ahead to ask how they are handling adoptions during this trying time. 

As much as we are all buying toilet paper and cleaning supplies right now, remember that shelters need those items every single day. If you are ordering supplies online, try to place an order for the shelter too. 

I get how hard it is to donate right now. But we all have $5. We are only going to get through this by working together. Given that I am one of a few very privileged people to still be employed right now, I am going to give $5 to a local non-profit every single time I am able to get paid. I am going to take the dime I do have and make it scream.

I will totally admit that I did give $5 today, but I did not give to a local agency. I donated $5 to my favorite radio show. They are worth way more than $5. I would give $5,000 if I could. I wanted to show them that I appreciate them still being on the air and providing me with a distraction from the stress of the news. But from here on out, I will give my $5 to a local non-profit agency within 10 miles of my home only.

We are all stuck at home and ordering things online. Amazon is very popular. Well, have you ever heard of Amazon Smile? Amazon Smile is a completely different web site from the regular Amazon. You have to type in Amazon Smile. You can use your Amazon account to choose a non-profit. Every time you buy something from Amazon, they donate a portion of your purchase to your chosen non-profit. 

Local non-profits are on Amazon Smile. In fact, I just switched my Amazon Smile account for the donation money to go to my employer. I’m happy they are still paying me. Non-profits need our help now more than ever. 

If you are stuck at home and looking for something to do or a way to help, google non-profits in your town. Keeping your $5 donation local helps to be sure that someone can get one more paycheck to provide for their family. 

I can promise that when we all come through the other side of this that your local non-profits will pay you back. We provide valuable services to the community. Some agencies may even decide to have a community party when we do not have to isolate or social distance anymore.

$5 may not seem like a lot, but to someone else it can mean the world. If you are still getting a paycheck right now, consider joining the $5 Challenge. 

Keep it local. The only way we are going to get through this is together. 

Will you join me in donating $5 to a local non-profit in your own community? 

Consider Amazon Smile. You are ordering online anyway, so why not have a portion of your purchase go to an agency in your community? Only certified 501C3 non-profits make the list for Amazon Smile, so your money is going to good.

Five dollars, friends. Let’s do this! 

 

Nights at CC Cafe

IMG_0351

On a chilly Sunday November morning, I sit in the window at the local coffee house sipping on peppermint tea and working on my online class through UC Berkeley. The coffee house has some memorable and remarkable mix of popular 90s tunes on heavy rotation that instantly take me back to the days of my freshman year of college. Suddenly, I remember what it’s like to be 17 in all it’s glory yet complete with challenges.

Part of these memories include nights at a place called CC Cafe. This was an on campus coffee house type atmosphere. I remember sitting in very dim lighting on an extremely comfortable couch with some band or comedian in the background that I had been there to hear but was unable to pay attention to over the easy-going banter of my crowd of friends. 

Whether an attempt to reclaim my 20 years as a college student or simply out of boredom, I decided to take a class this fall. I know, I know. I’m supposed to be retired from the whole college student gig. I couldn’t help myself. I love to learn and needed an intellectual challenge.

Taking an online course provides other challenges. I do not have internet access at home, so I am constantly trying to find places in the community with free wifi. That was part of the point in taking a class this fall. I am trying to meet new people. I figured an online class would force me out into the community more, which would result in meeting people. I have met a few people in passing. I know none of their names and have not had more than two or three interactions with the same individual.

The exception is the woman who works the counter at the coffee house who always smiles when I ask for my order and seems to know that I will always ask for the internet password as I slip a dollar into the tip jar. 

While I may not be meeting my goal of meeting new people, there are morning such as these that allow me to relive some pretty awesome memories of being a student. That alone, is worth the frustration. It has been hard doing an online class – always trying to find internet, taking time away from my house, my cats, my life to work on this. However, I will readily admit that I need a break from the overwhelming responsibilities I carry, and so, this online class has at least provided me with respite from some of my obligations. 

Challenges in life do not seem to change. It doesn’t matter if I am 17 or 40, I’m still dealing with the same crap no matter what my age. I am trying to work, pay the bills, and somehow find a way not only to survive but to thrive.

I think back to all those nights at CC Cafe and realize that, really, I do have the ability to thrive. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to do that again in real life today. 

That Thing Won’t Make It Better

WP_20190704_12_51_03_Pro.jpg

Go ahead, you deserve it. That message is pervasive in advertising in a litany of various incantations. Want to look and feel younger? Get the sports car. Want to feel attractive? Buy this dress. Bad day at work? You deserve ice cream. Good news? Time to treat yourself.

We all fall prey at some point or another to the allure that we deserve this thing or that buying an item is a reward. However, once the item is bought, the excitement wears off and we are on to find the next quick fix. This is how our homes become cluttered and our wallets become empty.

I admit that I fall prey to this phenomenon myself. It’s even harder now that I am a homeowner. It is challenging to differentiate sometimes between buying something “for the house” and buying something for me. 

For example, this past winter, I bought a new comforter for the spare bedroom. Was that for the house or for me? I put comforter for the spare bedroom under the category of “house” because I do not personally use that room. However, this Christmas, I am looking to purchase a new comforter for my bed to replace my 22 year old comforter, and I put that under the category of “for me” as opposed to for the house. I also have a tendency to prioritize house things over items that are just for me.

The bottom line is, that thing won’t make it better.

I currently have a perfectly fine 22 year old comforter. It does not need to be replaced. I take it to the laundry-mat every so often to wash it in the big machines and sew places where it needs mending. I may want a new comforter, but I do not need one. The only thing that a new comforter is going to do is temporarily increase my level of happiness and make my wallet a little lighter.

I actually want to buy a new comforter right now. I don’t want to wait for Christmas. The summer colors and patterns are available, and I like them more than the winter colors and patterns. I’m sure I can work up reasons inside my head to justify the purchase. I deprive myself of even small pleasures to focus all my resources on the house. I have had some majorly bad news. The comforter I want is currently on sale. I can come up with reasons to buy it now.

The thing is, buying it now won’t make anything better. Instead of spending money on a comforter, I need to take that money and buy paint to paint the woodwork around my house windows. I have work that needs to be done on the car. I should get more money into my savings account before making a major purchase. I struggle with grocery money with multiple food allergies.

I have plenty of reasons why it is better to wait to buy a comforter sometime in the future instead of buying it now. In fact, buying the comforter now will not only NOT make things better, it would make things worse. I would be behind on other items I need to purchase for home maintenance this summer. 

Many times I think we purchase items based on emotion. I deserve a treat. In the long run, a thing won’t help. Treats are nice occasionally. However, in today’s society it seems treats have become an every day thing.

Maybe if we want to treat ourselves, we should choose treats that aren’t things. Go for a walk. Meet a friend for coffee. Take a child to the movies. Those are the types of things that will make it better. You will have the memories of spending quality time with someone to keep coming back to over and over again.

One of my new goals for this summer is to practice saying “yes” more. As a minimalist, I have gotten really good at saying “no” in an effort to slow down my life and make it more manageable. While I still do not want to be overbooked, over-scheduled, or worn out, I think that saying yes to more experiences will make life better for me in a way that things just can’t.

You deserve time with friends. You deserve time with family. You deserve to see the sunset over the lake. You deserve to see the sunrise on the hood of a car parked near a beach. These are experiences we typically do not see advertised in the media, but are the treats that really will make it better. 

That thing won’t make it better because things come and go. People come and go too, which is why we need to spend time with them while we are here on this Earth. The next time you think “go ahead, you deserve it,” think about what you are saying yes to. Ignore the car, the dress, or the perfume. Say yes to the birthday party, the bonfire, the hike through the woods. That thing won’t make it better. Time with people will. 

Where We Left Off

WP_20190612_12_44_26_Pro.jpg

One of the joys of life are those friendships that you have for a decade or more, maybe several decades, where the depth is so strong that no matter what happens in life or how long its been since you have spoke, you always have the ability to pick right back up with that person where you left off. Maybe its your best friend from college that you rarely see because they live in a different state. Yet every time you get together, whether its once a year or even less frequent, things just naturally pick right back up again.

These are the friends that you know you can call in the middle of the night. They are the first number you’re dialing when anything major happens – a new baby, a death, a promotion. You want them to hear your news. You want their input for major decisions. They may not see you everyday, but you still think “omg, what would they think of my hair?” when you get a new do.

These are the people that you would drop everything to help. All those sappy country music songs about hopping into your car and taking off on an hours long road trip to help someone out when they call – those kind of ties are real. They may be a rarity, but they exist.

Sometimes you do all that to help someone with the big stuff. Sometimes you drop everything to rush to their side just to silently hold their hand. Silence in person is more comforting than silence by phone. You know that this person would not have called unless they really need something. You know that since they called, you really do need to drop everything to be there.

These are the people who sometimes know you better than you know yourself.

I have the privilege of having this type of relationship with a select handful of people in my life. Perhaps one of the most treasured is someone who I have known for over 30 years. Yes, I know, I’m showing my age. I recently tried describing this relationship into the 21st century by saying it’s my “ride or die.” While there are boundaries in this relationship, I will say that those boundaries are pretty much – I will – unless I absolutely can’t (physically, financially, emotionally, etc.)

I’m not saying that the word door mat should be on your forehead and it’s not on mine. This type of relationship goes two ways.

Life takes you different places and through different situations. Yet somehow, you keep coming back to this one person. It may have been years since you have spoken, and yet when you reconnect, everything is the same.

Some of these relationships can be unhealthy. Some are healthy relationships, yet simply a casualty of geography and circumstance. There have been moments when this particular relationship has been unhealthy for me, but as we have gotten older and life circumstances have changed, it is once again healthy. Sometimes you have to figure out if its toxic or just a phase of life.

Every time we pick up where we left off, I’m ecstatic. I don’t know how long it will last. That is the unhealthy part. The part when it ends and we have to go our seperate ways breaks my heart every time. But I also know that we will come together again and pick up where we left off. That part brings me hope. I also have hope that at some point geography won’t be an issue, and we won’t have to pick up where we left off anymore because we will just be fixtures in each other’s lives again.

Years go by and people change, but at the core, we’re still the same. It’s this consistency that keeps me going. No matter the circumstance, you know the person is the same. You know that’s the same person you fell in love with or first made friends with.

We never say goodbye because it never is goodbye. You may see someone only once every few years, but you still have other ways to communicate – by phone, by letter. It could be months between correspondence and yet you always just continue the conversation.

The relationship keeps going … from where we left off …

A few months ago, my local newspaper had a poetry page. I submitted two entries to the poetry page, one short and one long. The rules for the poetry page was that it had to be original work and that it had to be poems that had never been published. The work I submitted met the requirements; I had not even posted the poems ever to this blog, so they were truly unpublished pieces.

The longer poem that I submitted and was published was one that I had written about my “ride or die” person with whom I have this “where we left off” relationship. Since it was published in the newspaper’s poetry page a few months ago, this will be the second time it’s been published. I’m just going to leave you with this piece of original poetry here:

Innocence Lost

We were 8 years old

Out on the playground.

You asked me out.

I laughed and ran away.

 

10 years later,

I’m in college

And you’re fighting a war.

It’s like we don’t

Know each other anymore.

I’m still dreaming

While every boot print you’re leaving

Takes you further away

From the boy you once were.

 

10 years after that

And I’m not surprised

At the man you’ve become.

I always knew you would

Be someone great.

Too bad the hand of fate

Took the best of you

And left it in some cave

When you were off in that war.

 

We try again. And again.

I know you’re in there,

But things you’ve lived

And things you’ve seen

Well, the Army took

More from you

Than anyone would believe.

 

If life were simple

I would go back to

8 years old

On that playground

Waiting to be found.