My Best Life Now

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There is a country song that talks about living like you are dying. Often, I think that only people with terminal illnesses fully appreciate this song. We do not tend to think about death in everyday life. We are too busy living to think about death.

This past year, I have not been able to avoid death. It has been front and center in my face for the past 15 months. I have lost so many people to COVID. If bad luck comes in 3’s, I have reached it. COVID deaths, job loss, and identity theft. The pandemic has been life changing.

A few months ago, I started a photo project to curate my photos into a collection of the greatest hits of my life. I now have one photo album of 200 photos of my happiest memories. Curating the collection was an amazing experience. I made the book in case I end up in a nursing home or for when I die, I can lay there and look at my happiest moments.

While that may sound sad, in reality, it is making me very happy. I am enjoying the book now. It beings me such joy to remember and relive happy times in my life. My photo album reminds me to be grateful of all the wonderful things that have happened to me in life. Even though this past year has been downright horrid, I have had a lot of positives in my life up until this point.

Looking back on my greatest hits photo collection, I also realize that I have a lot to look forward to. There have been a lot of huge changes in my life as the result of the pandemic. You don’t grow and change without a little pain.

As difficult as things may be right now, with no job and no unemployment due to identity theft, I realize that I am actually living my best life right now.

I am secure in who I am as a person. I have goals in life. My goals are simple – to keep my family together and to keep us all safe. When I do die, what I will remember and think about is my family. It won’t matter what jobs I had or what I did for a living.

Work is what you do to pay the bills so that you can live your best life.

My best life is being home with the cats and running. In order to meet both those goals, I have to keep us all housed and together. I have to keep us all COVID-free in a reckless world that mistakenly thinks the pandemic is over. (Far from it – in fact, this is the most dangerous phase of the pandemic yet.)

My future goals are to continue to work remote permanently. I want to be home with my cats so we are together and safe. As long as I am doing respectable work that pays the bills, it doesn’t really matter what I do. All that matters is that we are together.

I recently found two part-time jobs that both allow me to work remotely. I have started one job, and I love it! I have returned to teaching, which is truly my passion. The other part-time job is a remote office position that does not start until late June. I am confident that I can make it work, as it is a prestigious and professional company. They value my skills and my life by allowing me to work from home. In return, I will work very hard for them. I value the privilege that remote work bring in allowing me to realize my goals and dreams.

Losing my job was the biggest threat to my life, family, health and safety I have ever faced. However, it has resulted in great opportunity. I now have the opportunity to live my best life. 

Being able to keep the cats together and outlive them is my only goal. It’s pretty easy to be happy in life when you are happy about what you have and don’t want much. I just want to keep the cats and I together and take care of them.

I am doing my best to pick up the pieces of the worst situation and move on. 

No matter what the future may bring, I can confidently say that I am reaching for my dreams and achieving them. I am truly living my best life now.

The Gorges

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Disclaimer: This post discusses the very sensitive topic of suicide and mental illness and may not be suitable for all readers. If you are having thoughts of suicide, please call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).

The bells went off at 1:38 am. This was an outside alarm, not an inside one. That means instead of just heading down the hall in cartoon slippers to listen to someone’s dilusions, I actually had to leave the building for action. I was the counseling member of the Comprehensive Psychiatric Emergency Program (CPEP) team. It was time to be mobile.

Awoken from a dead sleep, I was disoriented at finding myself in the on-call room of the hospital. It was hard to believe I had only been passed out on my cot for 15 minutes. As I raced down the hall, the other three members of the team were with me.

We quickly loaded into two vehicles. I rode shotgun in a plain sedan driven by a plainclothes police officer. The officer was just there for my protection in case the person had a weapon. In over 90% of cases, the person had a weapon. Granted they were usually using it on themselves, but occasionally, it was pointed at me. I’m just a therapist who weighs 100 pounds soaking wet.

They plainclothes police officer often just watched. The other two members of the team were EMTs. The both went in the ambulance. We raced through the city streets with lights flashing, but sirens silent. We never used sirens on these calls. It may spook someone into doing something rash. Besides, what they were doing wasn’t a crime. They just needed help. 

Over half of our calls took us to the gorges. The gorges were where people went to jump. We were averaging four jumpers a month. The city is home to a popular ivy league university that is well known for it’s high suicide rate. It has one of the highest suicide rates of all colleges and universities in the entire country. 

We make it to the gorges in record time. The 911 call came from a bystander. Someone had gone beyond the safety fence to stand dangerously close to the top of the gorge. They were threatening to jump.

I opened the door and was out of the car before we even stopped. I hit the ground running to the spot that was mentioned to us by the bystander. I could just see the person at the top of the gorge through the foliage. 

Almost at the exact moment I came within speaking distance of the person, I watched them fall. I didn’t get the chance to say anything to them.

It was silent. One moment they were there, the next moment they were gone. You always see in movies or imagine someone screaming when they fall. There was no scream, just silence. There was no slow-motion like the movies either. Bodies drop hard and fast. 

Our suicide prevention mission just changed to body recovery. We put a call into the fire department to let them know they would need to bring the helicopter and the propelling team. They were now looking for a body at the bottom of the gorge. No one has ever jumped and come out alive. 

I walked back to the three other members of my team stunned. It was not often that we witnessed the loss of life. We had saved literally thousands of lives over the past few years. In debriefing, we talked about how we did everything we could. We got there as fast as was humanly possible. You just can’t stop a person who truly wants to die. They didn’t even reach out for help – the call had come in from a bystander. 

Oh yes, you can do a psychological autopsy and find the signs of suicide the person exhibited before their death. You can go through all the coulda, shoulda, wouldas. The person is gone. There is no way to bring them back. The only thing we can do is to talk about suicide to remove the stigma. Let people know the signs of suicide so that they are comfortable asking others if they are having thoughts of taking their own life. It is all about normalizing the thoughts, talking about it, and educating others about suicide. 

The other members of the CPEP Team and I returned to the hospital. It was still the early hours of the morning. I returned to the on-call room to go back to sleep. I was exhausted, but needed to be prepared for the next call. 

It felt like only 15 minutes since I laid down when the bells went off again. This was an internal call. It was one brief bell followed by a page. I was being summoned to talk to one of the residents in wing 1-B. This was the locked in-patient psychiatric ward of the hospital. When the bells go off, I never know if I will be paged to someone who is in-patient or someone who just came through the emergency room and is on their way to being admitted for in-patient. If it’s an external call, we could be going into the field.

This call is internal. The technician had me paged because they cannot get the patient to calm down. They need to calm down before they wake up everyone else on the unit.

“What’s going on?” I ask the agitated person. Their shoulders relax. They’ve seen me and spoken with me before. They know I will listen to them and help them work through what they are experiencing. That’s what I am here for. This particular person has had a schizophrenic diagnosis for over 20 years. Every once in awhile, they need a hospital stay, like now. That’s why we are here. I’m here to listen and talk you through this moment.

It’s going to be a long night.

I finish with the person who is in the in-patient unit. I return to the on-call room to go to sleep once again. I barely lay down when the bells go off. It is now 5:24 am. This is an external call. The CPEP Team springs into action once again. 

This call comes from the person themself. They called 911 on themself because they were sitting in their garage with a loaded gun in their mouth. They were going to pull the trigger. But, they called 911. They obviously wanted to live.

We pulled up to the house and I jumped out of the car. I walked towards the garage, the person, and the loaded gun. The rest of the team stayed back. They took their queue off me. 

I walked over to the person while maintaining a respectable distance. I did not want them to get antsy or trigger happy if I got too close. I was surprised to see that I knew this person. It was someone I had grown up with as a child. I don’t mention that fact. I blatantly ignore our prior association. I’m here to try to save their life, not to make small talk.

We do talk. In fact, we spend about an hour talking. We do all of this with the rest of the team hanging back and watching to see what we need. We talk about why this person wants to die. We talk about why they want to live. Eventually, I get the person to take the bullets out of the gun.

The person sits there with the gun in one hand. The other hand is massaging the bullets. I listen to the sound of metal clanking. We keep talking about why this person wants to live and how important it is. There is a future. We should not make a permanent action based on a temporary situation. I get the person to put the gun down. 

The EMTs move in and assist the person onto the stretcher. We are transporting the person to the hospital for advanced psychiatric care. 

When we arrive at the hospital, I will not be doing the intake. I will be handing the person off to other staff in the psychiatric unit. My job is only to respond to the immediate crisis, defuse the crisis, and transfer the person to more advanced care. 

It was the last call of the shift, and I have a lot of paperwork to do. There will be no more sleep tonight. I have to fill out paperwork on every case I work and every person to whom I respond. 

Since over 50% of our external CPEP calls were to the gorges, we did a lot of advocacy around those gorges. How do we prevent people from jumping? We can talk about suicide, we can post the Lifeline number, 1-800-273-TALK. We installed fencing to try to block access to the gorges. People simply climb the fences. If you truly want to die, you will find a way. 

Many people jump from the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco too. They put up netting under the bridge to catch people who jump so they have a better chance of saving their life. We decided to try to do the same with the gorges. We kicked off this massive fundraising effort to try to raise money to purchase nets for the gorges. 

We wanted to be able to prevent people from reaching the bottom of the gorges. The fall was always lethal.

The nets were installed. There was actually a lot of technology involved with them. The tension was set so that if a body landed in the nets, it would set off the alarm for the CPEP team. We knew we needed to respond to a live person in the net. The person was in need of emergency psychiatric care. 

When the nets were first installed, the tension settings were too sensitive. We had squirrels that would land in the net and set off the sensors. Personally, I didn’t mind. I was happy to respond to a confused squirrel caught in the net. At least it wasn’t a person trying to take their own life.

Eventually, we got a handle on the technology so that now the nets only react if there is an actual human there. 

I performed my duties as a mental health first responder for about four years before I stopped. As you can probably imagine, burnout is extremely high in the field of suicide prevention. I needed a break. Self-care is important in any psychiatric profession. If you do not take care of yourself, you cannot take care of others. You cannot pour water from an empty pitcher.

Last month I lost my job. I have been applying for new jobs. I reached out to my former employers to let them know I was job searching and to confirm that they were still able to give me a reference.

In this process, I reached out to the agency I worked with when I was providing suicide prevention services. They asked me if I would want to pick up a shift.

Even though I really need the money, and I KNOW I am not supposed to “turn down work,” I said no. I have had over 10 friends and family members die of COVID this past year. I have been on the phone with some of them as they died. There is no way I can go back to working with people who are actively trying to take their own life ON PURPOSE right now. I have lost so much to COVID. Life is so precious. I don’t think I can handle working in the field of suicide prevention right now. 

If I were to go back out into the field to do this work, and break down, that would be horrible. It wouldn’t be fair to the person whose life I am trying to save and it would not be fair to me. I just can’t do it right now.

I’m sure I’m going to get a lot of backlash for turning down work when I’m unemployed, but after what I have experienced in the pandemic this past year, I just can’t anymore. I have nothing more to give.

Please remember that if you are having thoughts of suicide to call the Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. There are trained counselors on the line able to talk to you 24/7. They will not respond in-person like I did on the CPEP team. You can talk to them by phone. I also answered the suicide prevention lifeline when I was not actively responding to CPEP calls. 

Someone is there to listen. Always. Call 1-800-273-8255

Through a Bus Window

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Note: The following is the true account of how I experienced graduate school starting back in 2011. I worked three jobs and battled homelessness. Many people will ask, “well why didn’t you move?” 

It’s not that simple. First, rents in Boston at the time were 5x what I was paying in Upstate New York. In Upstate New York, I lived in a 2-bedroom apartment with two cats. For 5x what I was paying in rural New York, in Boston I would have had: a single one-room the size of a closet in a house shared with 9 other people. I would not have been able to take my cats. I will not live without my cats. Not to mention, in order to afford the 5x rent, I would have had to take on a job that was paying me $2 less per hour. Even if you are not good at math, you should be able to figure out that living in Boston was not affordable. It is one of the top 3 most expensive cities to live in the United States. 

So, this is the story of my graduate school commute and what I did to receive an education.

Other people will ask, “well why go to school in Boston? Why not go to school in New York?” I had that idea too. The problem is that no schools in New York State accepted me for admission to graduate school. All of the schools that accepted me were in Boston.

It was my dream at the time to return to Boston. I left in 1997 and regretted that decision. Leaving Boston in the 90s was my only regret. I was trying to rectify it. So here is what one of my weeks looked like and how I came to live my life through a bus window.

Monday

It’s 8 pm on Monday night and I am driving home from work in the pouring rain. It will take roughly an hour to get home. I am exhausted, as I have been going all day. I will be so happy when I get home just before 9 pm to see the cats. They need to be fed and Kip needs his medication.

It’s 9 pm. The cats are fed and I have set up the automatic pet feeder to provide them with their next 2 meals. I take as much time as I can to play with them, love them, cuddle them. At 10 pm, it’s time to pick up my back pack and lunch box and head out the door.

At 10 pm, I start the hour long drive to the city of Binghamton, NY. In Binghamton, I arrive at a friend’s house. I park the car without going inside. The friend is someone who I went to undergrad school with at Binghamton University while finishing my bachelors degree. She has given me permission to park my car in her driveway so that I can avoid parking lot fees in Binghamton.

At 11 pm, I leave the car in my friend’s driveway. I put on my backpack, pick up my lunch box, and start walking 3 miles to the bus station. It’s late at night and I am walking through a not very nice part of the city. I am alert. I have to keep moving no matter what the weather is doing. I have to arrive at the bus station before midnight or I will miss my chariot.

At midnight Monday into Tuesday morning, I board a Greyhound bus. I had purchased my ticket more than 2 weeks in advance to get a discounted rate. It was only about $10. My graduate school financial aid was paying for my transportation. 

I decided to ride the bus instead of drive for two reasons. First, I did not want to kill my car with mileage. I was living paycheck to paycheck and did not have money to afford a new car. Second, I was exhausted. I had officially been awake for going on 24 hours. I needed a nap. The one hour drive to Binghamton was hard enough. I did not have it in me to safely drive any further.

At midnight, I board the very crowded Greyhound bus. I hoped for a window seat to rest my head. I tried to sleep as best I could sitting straight up on a crowded bus. I was so exhausted, I was out like a light. My lunch box was under my seat. My backpack was nesteled between my legs to deter theft. My backpack held my laptop and school materials.

Tuesday

It’s 5 am and the sun is rising. I’m awake. I was fortunate enough to get a window seat, so looking out I see the skyline of New York City. For the “city that never sleeps,” it sure looks groggy. Anyone who is out and about is up to no good. I’m being generous with my assessment.

Between 5 am and 6 am, the Greyhound rolls into Times Square. We arrive at the bus station. I have to fight through the crowds to try to go from one bus terminal to another. I have to be sure that no one is pick pocketing me or touching me inappropriately. 

I have my knife in my pocket. I had to use it once to stab a would-be rapist so that I could get away. It was the only time in my life I had ever caused bodily harm to another person, but I did not want to be raped. The unknown assailant had come up and pinned me against a wall in Times Square between terminals. No one in NYC cares what happens around them, so screams are meaningless. I used my knife and ran.

I digress. It is between 5 am and 6 am. I navigate NYC on foot to go between terminals. 

At 6 am, I am on another bus. At least, I hope I’m on another bus at 6 am. It is often late, and I have to take the “next” bus at 7 am. I am going on 5 hours of fitful sleep on a very full bus and almost asleep on my feet.

By 7 am, I am on a bus, even if it wasn’t the one I was supposed to be on. However, it’s going to the right place, so all is well. 

I attempt to sleep on this bus as well. It is full, and the sun is out full force. I am sitting up. I’m so exhausted, I sleep any way. I get about an hour of sleep.

Many people think that I should have been doing my school work on this bus. The problem is that any time I try to read in a moving vehicle, I get motion sickness and vomit. It only happens when I try to read in a vehicle. If I am simply riding, or engaging in almost any other activity that is not reading, I do not get motion sickness. I sleep on the bus as much as I can.

Sometime between 8:30 – 9 am, the bus arrives at South Station in Boston. The city is bustling with the morning commute. I leave the bus terminal and go on foot to the T station. This is the subway system in Boston. I plan to grab a train to campus so I have some time to study before my first class of the day.

I pull my Charlie Card out. The Charlie Card is what holds the fares for the T. I scan my Charlie Card and it says “denied.” I have 80 cents on my Charlie Card. It costs $1.10 to ride the T to campus. I am 30 cents short. I can’t put more money on my Charlie Card. My financial aid for graduate school has not arrived yet. My checking account only has 5 cents left in it. I have no cash.

It’s pouring rain and I walk outside to start the 3 mile walk to campus. I have an umbrella, but it does no good. This was the year it rained so hard in Boston that the baseball field at Fenway Park was flooded under 4 inches of water. I arrive to campus with my feet completely soaked, as well as both legs. The water traveled up my jeans and I was completely wet as if I had no umbrella at all. 

I arrive on campus just in time for my first class. I don’t have time to study. 

I sit in the very back of class hoping no one will notice my rain-soaked state. No one realizes what I just went through to get there. I remove my socks and shoes hoping no one will notice. I try putting them by the heater to dry them out. 

I go through my classes for the day. I eat the food in my lunchbox. My lunchbox has now provided me with breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I don’t have money for food. I didn’t even have money for the train. 

I have a reusable coffee mug in my bag, a spoon, and a packet of oatmeal. I go into a convenience store and use the hot water at the coffee station to make my oatmeal. I don’t buy anything. I don’t have any money. I leave as quickly as I can after having taken some hot water in my coffee mug for the oatmeal.

I am in classes all day long. All of my classes are scheduled into Tuesdays and Thursdays. I am a full time graduate student. I am taking 4 classes.

At 8 pm on Tuesday, my classes are done for the day. I head over to the library to work on my reading and class work.

I set an alarm for when I need to leave the library to head back to South Station. I’m lucky I do. I fall asleep in the library. The alarm awakens me. The librarian has a concerned look on her face over the obviously homeless person who looks rumpled after not having slept in a bed or had a real shower in over 24 hours. 

I quickly put all my school materials back in my bag and head towards the door. I have to make it to South Station before 10 pm. 

At 10 pm, South Station is locked for the night. You cannot enter South Station after 10 pm until it is unlocked in the morning. My bus did not leave until 1 am. However, the only way to catch that 1 am bus was to be inside South Station before 10 pm when it was locked.

I walk through the City of Boston from campus to South Station. It is late, but I feel safe. Walking alone at night in Boston is much safer than both NYC and Binghamton, NY. I still have my knife in my pocket. But I know I won’t have to use it here.

I arrive in South Station before 10 pm. Some nights I cut it close. I get in before they lock the doors and head to my terminal. I get in line. I sit in line for my bus for 3 hours. Sometimes I work on school, sometimes I sleep. I try not to sleep. There are pick pockets every where.

Wednesday

At 1 am Wednesday, I board a bus in South Station in Boston. The bus is heading for NYC. I blissfully fall sleep sitting up on a completely full bus.

I transfer busses in NYC to head back to Upstate New York. I am doing the entire trip in reverse. I arrive in Binghamton. I walk 3 miles to my car. I drive an hour home.

I walk in my house so happy to see the cats. I feed them, love them, play with them. I take a shower and repack bag. I have to go to work. But I will see my cats tonight.

I work from noon on Wednesday until 8pm on Wednesday.

At 8 pm on Wednesday, I go through the exact same process I went through on Monday night. I drive an hour home from work. I spend time with the cats. T repack my bag. I drive an hour to Binghamton. I park the car. I walk 3 miles to the bus station. 

At midnight on Wednesday, I am back on a bus again after having worked a full day. I am going back to Boston for my Thursday classes.

Thursday

It’s Thursday. Thursday looks just like my Tuesday. I arrive in Boston. I go to class. I travel back to work through the night.

It is now Thursday night and I have not slept in a bed all week. Every single night I have slept on a bus – Monday night, Tuesday night, Wednesday night, Thursday night.

I arrive back home late Friday morning.

Friday 

I am so happy to see the cats. I feed them, spend time with them, love them. I take a shower to wash off the grime and dirt of the city. It is my first shower in two days.

I have to go to work. I repack my bag and set up the automatic pet feeder for the cats yet again.

It’s Friday, and I work at one job from noon to 8 pm.

At 8 pm on Friday, I leave work. I can’t go home this time. I have to go to my next job.

My next job is an overnight. It starts at 10 pm. I have roughly 2 hours between jobs. I sit in a cafe downtown and work on my school work.

I start my second job doing an overnight shift at 10 pm. The good news is that if it is not busy, I am allowed to sleep. It is an on-call overnight job. As long as I wake up when the bells go off, I can sleep when things are quiet.

I work from 10 pm Friday night until 8 am Saturday morning.

Saturday

It is 8 am Saturday morning. I just finished my shift at my overnight job. I may have gotten one hour of sleep. I may have gotten 6 hours of sleep. It all depends on how busy the work was that night.

The next shift comes in at 8 am. I take the opportunity to take a shower at work. I can’t go home yet. I have to work to make money to pay my bills. I have another job to go to.

I work at my third job on Saturday from 9 am to 4 pm. When 4 pm on Saturday comes, I am exhausted, but also excited.

Once I get home on Saturday night, I will be able to be home for 24 hours. It is also the ONLY night of the entire week that I get to sleep in a bed. I get to be with the cats and I get to sleep in my own bed.

Saturday night I get home and I am so happy to see the cats. I can’t just relax, though. I’m in graduate school. I have a lot of school work to do. My Saturday nights were always spent writing 20 page papers for class. This was the time when I got all my school work done for the week.

On Saturday night, I get to sleep in my own bed.

Sunday

On Sunday morning, I wake up in my own bed with the cats. This is bliss. I still can’t relax. I have to keep going. 

It’s Sunday morning and I have to do my long run. I am training for another marathon. I use the three mile “walks” during the week commuting as training runs. Sundays are for long, slow distance. Each week miy mileage increases until I top out at 22 miles a few weeks before my marathon. 

I get up Sunday morning. It’s time to run 18 miles. I have a race for which I am training.

I get home from my run and have lunch. I do everything I am supposed to do to recover from my long run including icing my legs. The cats are so happy to see me and have me home.

Sunday afternoon, I spend the entire afternoon cooking and preparing food. I have to prep all of my meals for the week so that I have food to throw in the lunchbox when I come home to repack my bags. 

At 8:30 pm on Sunday night, I leave the house. I have to go to work at my over night job.

At 10 pm on Sunday night, I start my overnight shift. This is the job where I can try to sleep if it’s not busy. I work until 8 am on Monday.

Monday

I finish my overnight shift at 8 am on Monday. I shower at work. I have to go to my next job. 

Today is Monday. I have another job I have to work from 9 am to 4 pm.

I work.

It’s Monday. My third job ends at 4 pm. I still can’t go home. I have to work my second job.

I go to my second job Monday night from 5 pm to 8 pm.

Once I get off work at 8 pm, I get to go home.

But now, I have to start the communte to Boston for school.

Conclusion

This is where we started when I began writing this piece. We started with 8 pm on Monday night. 

I’ve seen the world through a bus windshield. This is the sacrifice I made to receive an education. I did not get accepted at any schools in New York. I could not afford to move to Boston. Yet, I wanted to learn. It was important to me to get an education and get a degree.

When I bought my house a few years ago, I decided to be a “responsible adult” and do some funeral planning. One of the things I planned is that I want a celebration of life party with a playlist of songs that I have curated. One of the songs on my list of 26.2 is “Old Blue Chair” by Kenny Chesney. I have literally lived every word of that song. I have seen the world through a bus windshield.

This year marks 10 years since I started the Boston commute to pursue my graduate degree. To this day, I’m not sure how I ever survived the experience. However, I must say I do not regret it for one moment. I am very proud to have a graduate degree.

Dare To Dream

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Last fall, as COVID number spiraled out of control, I realized that the pandemic is here to stay. Schools have been open for in-person instruction here since September 2020 with no mask requirements. The COVID positivity rate in my area right now is 19% and no one cares.

I do not have a death wish. I care.

Despite all the people claiming the pandemic is “over” as the death rate continues to climb, we are actually in this for the long haul. 

I started to evaluate my life with the pandemic in mind. This is no temporary thing. Masks, social distancing, and death will be with us for quite awhile. It is getting even worse now as everyone throws caution to the wind with the vaccines.

Given the deadly normal, I decided that working from home needs to stay. 

I am able to safely obtain groceries either by delivery or contact-free pickup. The only other reasons I have to put myself at risk of death are for medical purposes and for work. 

No job is worth your life. <tweet that>

There is this absolutely disgusting and cruel LIE going around that people do not want to work because they are making more money on unemployment. That is untrue. Many people are unemployed and not receiving any income because they cannot get through to unemployment to file a claim. 

The real reason – in fact, the ONLY reason – why employers cannot find people to work is because no job is worth your life. My life is worth more than $15, thank you very much. 

Unfortunately, in America, the economy is worth more than human life. The USA has to be first in everything, so they are doing the best they can to reach a million COVID deaths by opening everything up and telling people to stop wearing a mask.

I digress. However, this is the reality in which we live.

Last fall I decided I wanted to find a part-time work from home sidegig for extra income. Prices on everything have increased substantially, yet my income did not. Hey, I just paid $35 for a quart of milk a few weeks ago. That’s a huge increase from $4 for a quart of milk.

So, last fall I began investigating the possibility of making remote work permanent. 

It was a lengthy process of trial and error, learning new technologies and trying to trouble shoot. I figured if I could just find a part-time remote job it would give me extra income. The plan was to ask my full-time employer at the time to make remote work a permanent option. I knew this request would be a long shot. Indeed, I lost that job in April 2021.

With life in a global pandemic that is not getting any better, my dream has been to make remote work permanent. This way the cats and I can be safe. I have to figure out how to live another 15-20 years to be able to take care of them.

Losing my job in April 2021 was the worst thing to ever happen to me. It was my only source of income. It was a direct threat to my very life. If I am forced to go back to an in-person workplace, I will not survive the pandemic. Losing my job threatened my ability to keep the cats and I together and to take care of them. It was a greater threat to my family than when I needed to exit my apartment a few years ago.

Making my dream of permanent remote work a reality now became a need and not a want. It is the only way for me to save my life so I do not die. This is not an exaggeration.

This past month I have been unemployed, I have no income. I have not been able to get through to unemployment to file an initial claim. At this point in time, NYS has no clue I am unemployed. Their website crashes. Their phone system says high call volume and hangs up.

Finding a new job and finding one quickly needs to be done so that the cats and I do not end up separated and homeless. Yet I cannot just do any job. If I don’t want to die, I need to be able to work remotely.

My initial dream last fall was to be able to make remote work permanent so that I could focus on being home with the cats, running, and (someday maybe) travel. Travel will have to wait at least a decade for the pandemic to end.

With remote work, I will be able to be more in control of my life and human interactions. I do not, after all, have a death wish.

In between the over 100 phone calls a day I make to unemployment these past few weeks, I have been job searching for remote work.

Another goal I have is to go back to working 2-3 jobs instead of just one. 

I know, I know. In my bio for this blog, Rewind Live Slow, I state that I stopped working multiple jobs to try to slow down my life. 

The reality is that you should not put all your eggs in one basket. Only working one job and then losing that job means I now have no income. This is the worst situation ever. To prevent this situation from happening in the future, I need to be sure I have multiple income streams. So I need to either work one “main” full-time job and find something part-time to supplement or work multiple part-time jobs. 

I’ve done it before. I spent 20 years working multiple part-time jobs while putting myself through school. 

There is a difference this time.

Those 20 years I spent working multiple jobs putting myself through school, I was working 60-80 hours a week to make ends meet. This was before I started on my minimalist journey. This is when I was going 110% all the time.

This time, I am not going to work 60-80 hours a week. I can’t do it anymore physically. Not to mention, I want time to be with my cats. Life is short and precious. I want time to be with the ones I love.

So my goal is to work multiple jobs, but not to work more than 50 hours a week to make ends meet. By having multiple income streams, I will hopefully not ever be in this situation ever again of not having any income at all. I am making sacrifices in my life to reduce my expenses so that I can get by on less income.

I am proud to announce that it appears I have realized my dream.

I was recently offered and accepted two different part-time jobs that are both remote. With the two jobs together, I should be working about 35-40 hours per week. The income should hopefully be just enough to make ends meet (barely).

I’m realizing my dream.

One part-time job starts now, and the other starts next month. The jobs only pay once a month, so I won’t see any real income until July. That means I am going three months – April, May, June – with no income. It’s hard and it hurts. It would help if I could get unemployment, but they are too busy to answer their phone. I will not give up trying to contact unemployment. When I am finally able to file a claim, they owe me for these three months I am unemployed. 

The good news is that I have a month to get used to the one part-time job before I have to start the other one. The part-time job I am starting right now is only 3-5 hours per week so far, but at least it is something.

My new dream that I am daring to dream is to take control of my life, my interactions and my schedule by working remotely 100% of the time.

I am making that dream a reality.

Dare to dream. I am so blessed. As long as I can keep this house to keep the cats and I together, everything is fine. All I need to do is outlive the cats so I can give them the best life possible. If I can do that, then I will have lived a good life. 

That’s what rewind live slow is all about.

No Spend 2021

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Simon looks a little irritated he cannot reach the birds he sees out the window.

The pandemic has been playing havoc with everyone’s finances. It has been at least a decade since I have had this much difficulty making ends meet. One of my favorite bloggers, Courtney Carver, has a saying “instead of trying to make ends meet, focus on having fewer ends.” To accomplish this, I am going to institute a no spend 2021.

No spend challenges are typically trials that last for a short amount of time. Most people will institute a no spend challenge for one month or maybe three months. If successful with the short term challenges, sometimes they are extended for a year. It is an extreme method of trying to bring finances under control and save money. 

Given that I have been paying 3-4x for food in the pandemic and have been having challenges meeting my basic needs, I feel it is necessary to institute a no spend challenge for the entire 2021 calendar year. On top of the struggles I am already enduring, we are scheduled to begin repaying our student loans again in January. The relief from student loan payments for the pandemic will be ending unless the new administration decides to bail us out of our student loans.

Given that I am instituting a no spend challenge, I can tell you right now, that if you are looking for people to stimulate the economy, it’s not going to be me. I do not have enough disposable income to stimulate the economy. Disposable income is an oxymoron in this pandemic.

No spend challenges look a little different for everyone. Each person who does a no spend challenge has their own rules. It’s best to use the rules that work best for you. 

Here are the rules for my No Spend 2021:

  1. Only pay for needs. This includes things like mortgage, electric, gas, etc. While they are primarily fixed expenses, I am doing my best to try to decrease each one. For example, I have lowered my heat 3 degrees this winter compared to the temperature I had my thermostat on last winter. Yes, we are cold. But I can’t afford heat. I have to cut back.

Reducing fixed expenses is something I have been working on over a period of time. 

Over the years as part of my minimalist journey, I have made some behavior changes that have served to decrease my fixed expenses. Some of these include my movement away from paper products towards reusable items. If I am not buying disposable items, then I am saving money. Examples of this have been my transition to cloth handkerchiefs, cloth feminine hygiene products, replacing paper towels with cleaning cloths and cloth pee rags.

  1. The only expense I have that is not fixed but is still a need, is food. More on my food strategy will be coming in another post.
  1. Beyond needs, the only purchase I am authorizing for 2021 are new running socks. First, even though last year I updated my regular socks, underwear, and bras, I did not update my running gear. In fact, what I typically do is “retire” something from everyday use and start using it for running. This combined with the fact that I am very rough on running gear means that my socks are either threadbare or full of holes in the toes and heals.

Instead of just spending $20 on a package of 6 white socks that will probably only last me one running season, I have decided to invest in 6 pairs of Darn Tough socks. I anticipate that the Darn Tough socks will hopefully last me 3 running seasons instead of just one. Plus, with their replacement guarantee, it is totally worth the investment. I love supporting small American businesses, especially during this time. If I can support a small business even during a no spend year, then I am going to do so. So I will be saving money and trying to gradually replace all my running socks during 2021 with Darn Tough socks instead of a cheapo white 6-pack. 

The Goal

My goal with a no spend year is to replenish my savings that has been completely decimated by the pandemic. Not only is my savings gone, but I have had to use my credit card for groceries, so I need to get that paid off. 

My no spend 2021 will hopefully help me pay off the credit card and get money into my savings. I need savings to be able to cover house maintenance, car maintenance, and cat needs. So obviously, those three items are not included in the no spend year. 

For many people, instituting a no spend plan is very hard. Many people spend money on books, clothing, take-out coffee, prepared (not grocery – prepared) food delivery, etc. If you are one of those people, then it is going to be more difficult to institute a no spend plan because you are going to feel like you are giving something up. That’s because you are giving something up. No spend challenges are hard. That’s why it’s a challenge.

While an entire no spend year may seem extreme and overwhelming, try a no spend week or a no spend month. If you try a no spend week and it seems too painful, you can always stop. For me, a no spend year is a financial necessity in the pandemic. I do not have any disposable income and I really need to get money back into my savings account to cover any emergencies that may come up (on top of the global pandemic we are all experiencing). 

 Have you ever tried a time period of no spend? How did it go?

Pandemic Finance

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All 3 cats sleeping on me while watching a DVD. My reason for life.

If you are one of the people who are lucky enough to still have a job in America, that does not make you immune to pandemic financial devastation. Not only are people losing their lives and their jobs, but those who are still working are losing savings and spending unprecedented amounts for just the basic necessities.

I am one of the fortunate ones that still has a job. Even though I’m working, the pandemic has completely drained my savings, caused me to go into debt, and make drastic changes to my behavior to try to reduce expenses. 

Why? Well, first look at food shortages. If you can obtain food, we are often paying 3-4x more for the same item compared to before the pandemic. Second, any item you obtain means that someone literally risked their life to either obtain it for you or make it for you. It’s time we started paying our essential workers for what they are – essential. That means tipping well for any services you may be receiving in the pandemic when other people are risking their life to keep you safe.

Some people (and I am one of them) are privileged enough to work from home to reduce exposure to the virus. It’s a great thing, especially for those of us in the high risk group. However, that does not mean that people should sit at home aimlessly clicking and buying things from the internet. You may think that internet shopping is just a few clicks, but think of how many people are putting their life at risk just so you can have that new gadget or toy right now.

Given the current situation, I know that I need a major overhaul of my finances if I am going to survive this pandemic. I went from living paycheck to paycheck to living on a shoestring. Now that President Biden has been elected, there is hope that America is going to actually survive the pandemic instead of just being a country of dead people. It’s time to make a plan for how to survive this time.

Here is my 5 point pandemic finance plan to try to survive until this is all over (whenever that may be). 

  1. Decrease spending. I will be instituting a No Spend 2021. There is more to come on that later in a future post. Basically, a no spend plan is an experiment that people typically do short term. Some people try a no spend week or a no spend month. For me, 2021 is going to be a no spend year. I’m hoping that it will help me to reach my financial goals of getting some money saved to cover emergencies.
  1. Increase savings. The goal is that by decreasing spending, I will increase the amount of money that I have to save. In order to increase savings, it means making behavioral changes to lower monthly bills so that more money can be saved. Pinch a penny until it screams. It’s only for one year. Increase savings also means any type of windfalls – if we get any more government stimuli – gets saved. 
  1. No more alcohol. I don’t think I drink a whole lot. I have had two, maybe three bottles of wine since my birthday in March (about the past 8 months). Alcohol is extremely difficult to obtain during the pandemic. A bottle of wine is $15-$25 that can be saved to spend on other things. If you figure I spend $100 on 4 bottles of wine a year, that is $100 that can go to something else (like my 2021 race season – more on that later too). There are plenty of more affordable treats that can be substituted for wine. I have been getting a 2-liter bottle of ginger ale every once in a while during the pandemic and putting cherries in it like a shirley temple. Spending $2 on a bottle of ginger ale saves money over a $25 bottle of wine.
  1. One grocery treat per month. In decreasing spending, some people see spending increase in other areas, such as groceries. We all have to find some way to treat yourself, right? I am instituting a one grocery treat per month rule. That way my grocery order does not end up being all Enjoy Life bars and ginger ale. For the record, many of my food treats are unavailable right now anyway due to the food shortages. So this rule is pretty easy to stick to. I have been living in a state of food deprivation for 8 months now waiting for the supply chain to recover.
  1. Speaking of groceries and paying essential workers like what they are – essential. While the Instacart fees are quite low (they have been averaging $2-$3 with my membership), I do tip my Instacart shopper like the essential worker they are. I am happy that the money is going to a local person who needs the job to provide for their family. I am grateful that they are risking their life to keep me safe. However, I cannot afford to support another person. I am limiting my Instacart orders to two per month, which pretty much mimicks my grocery shopping pattern prior to the pandemic when I was able to go to the store myself. I did have one month recently where I had 3 Instacart orders. This was mostly because I was trying to readjust my weeks so that I was not sending an Instacart shopper to the store at the beginning of the month, when the store is more crowded and there is more risk. 

When I Instacart, all of my groceries come from Aldi. This is a change to my pre-pandemic shopping habits, and it is saving me loads of money. Prior to the pandemic, when I was doing my own in-person shopping, I would have to get groceries at three different stores due to my food allergies and because I had some (unfounded) prejudices against certain items at Aldi. Using Aldi 100% as the only store at which I shop is saving me so much money, I wish I had made the switch sooner. I will talk more about one-stop shopping at Aldi in a seperate post. 

There is much uncertainty for the future of this country in the pandemic. While the election of President Biden gives us hope, that does not mean that 100% of the people in this country will be spared. We are still experiencing hardships. The hope is that by having someone calm and intelligent in charge, that America will be able to minimize deaths and financial devastation from the pandemic. While we now have hope for the future, that does not mean we can sit around and wait for a government bailout. It’s time to make changes now in our individual lives so that we can survive the pandemic.

For me, that means trying to get more money saved so it is there for the uncertainty of our future. This house is what is keeping the cats and I together. This house is home. I am a single person with one income, and the economy is highly unstable right now. We all need to be making the best choices possible to try to survive this time.

What pandemic finance tips do you have?

Be on the lookout for future posts on:

  • No Spend 2021
  • One-Stop Shopping at Aldi
  • Running Through A Pandemic
  • My Biggest Life Change for 2021

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!

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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. 

Isolation Log: Covid Date 9.a.20

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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.