My Quarantine Life: Week 42

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My cats don’t know I have a disability. Or, if they do, they don’t care. They are well loved and have all their needs met.

Simon stays with me when I do the stairs to be sure I don’t fall. I’m not sure what he would do if I did fall, but he is always right there watching me. On days when I use my walker, Jolene sits on the rollator to take a ride. On good days I run. On bad days I roll. People don’t seem to understand how or why a marathon runner has a walker. Well, it all depends on if my spine decides to work correctly or misfire that day. Jude gives me a wide berth so I don’t trip on him or fall. He waits patiently for me to sit and get settled so he can sit on my lap or next to me on the couch.

All the cats know is that I am here for them and I love them.

In a horrible year, my only goal is to keep us together and for them to be happy. They don’t know we are in a pandemic. They don’t know there are widespread food shortages. I have more cat supplies on hand than people supplies. I always make sure their needs are met first. 

The cats don’t know I am terrified of losing my job. Our entire world would come crashing down if that happened because we would lose the house. This house is what’s keeping us together. I am medically unable to have the vaccine and am in the high risk group, so if I can’t work remotely, I don’t think I would be able to work at all. That is truly terrifying.

All the cats know is that they are warm, fed, and loved. At this point, my only goal is to fulfill their every need. I have to figure out a way to keep us all together and survive the next 15 or so years until they have all lived the course of their natural lives. I worry about what would happen to them if I die first.

We are incredibly blessed to have this time together at home. I am thankful everyday this year that I have been able to be home with the cats. In a horrible year, being able to spend time with the cats has been the highlight of my year. 

The vaccine provides hope. The vaccine is not a light switch. 2021 is still going to be a challenging year. I am unsure if things will ever go back to the way they were. I think life will just be different.

So many people are dying. It breaks my heart. It is so hard to deal with the pain. It is even more difficult when our “leaders” have decided that the economy is more important than human lives and they refuse to shut things down. 

When I get overwhelmed with how bad things are, I play with one of the cats. The fact that we are all together and have our needs met is what makes life worthwhile. 

We are so blessed to be together and that was the greatest gift this Christmas. My cats just love me. That could be because I feed them. But I know they love me. 

My only wish for 2021 is to remain safe and healthy (covid free) and be able to keep my job. My job provides for us to stay in this house together. Home is where the cats are. While everyone else is busy making New Year’s resolutions, I just want to live to see another Christmas. I want to be able to continue to run. I need to keep my family together. 

I’m hoping that our government will get themselves together to help us in 2021, but I am not holding my breath. This situation is going to get worse before it gets better. But for now, we are together. We have love. My cats love me no matter what. 

At the end of the day, love is all that matters. It’s what we need.

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My Quarantine Life: Week 40

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Jude sleeping on the work from home table on my day off

We all have ways of coping this year. For me, I have found comfort in reliving happy memories and remembering things from my childhood. This holiday season, I put my tree up and brought out all my holiday things after Thanksgiving.

Even though I have 5 Christmas DVDs, for some reason, this holiday season, I have been watching The Sound of Music practically every other day. At first I thought it was just because it played on the TV all the time at the holidays when I was little. Then I thought it was the happy memory of my very first live theatre event. One year as a Christmas present when I was a child, my father and step-mother took me to a dinner theatre to see The Sound of Music.

The past week or so I realize that this nostalgia is also connecting me to my grandparents. My grandparents came to the USA from Austria due to what was going on in World War Two. I remember listening to my grandmother tell stories of her childhood in Austria. They lived on a farm close to the river.

My grandmother has been a pillar throughout my childhood. While my childhood was tumultuous, my grandparents offered a sense of normalcy and sanity in the chaos. I was actually closer to my grandfather, who passed away about 18 years ago. In fact, I was the one who helped to look after him at the end and held his hand as he died, reading to him Psalm 23.

My grandmother developed dementia a few years ago. It turned her disposition mean. Combine the uncharacteristic meanness with the fact that she no longer remembers who I am, and it is just difficult, indeed impossible, to visit. I stopped visiting because it was too heart wrenching to try to explain to her who I was every visit.

As my grandmother’s dementia progressed, she became unsafe to live on her own. My mother took her in to care for her. At the time, my mother was still working full time as a nurse. However, my grandmother is one of those ones with dementia that likes to “run away” or wander off at all hours of the night and day. It got to the point where my grandmother would leave in the middle of the night and my mother was not getting any sleep trying to find her. She could not stay up with my grandmother all night long and continue to work her job as a nurse too.

About 5 years ago, my grandmother moved into an assisted living facility for the reason that she would have around the clock care. Staff were there on shifts to be able to watch her in the middle of the night and all through the day to be sure she didn’t wander off.

There were some episodes over the years when she was able to escape even the assisted living staff. They would often find her wandering thinking she was calling her young son in from the farm field for dinner.

My mother visited her almost every day at the assisted living facility until COVID started this spring and stopped the visits for the safety of the residents. Since the spring, my mother has only been able to have window visits with my grandmother or talk to her on the phone.

Without my mother’s visits, my grandmother rapidly declined to the point where the staff at the assisted living facility could no longer handle her. We arranged for my grandmother to transfer to a nursing home for dementia in November. However, the staff at the assisted living center decided in October that they “couldn’t deal with her anymore” and dropped her off at a nursing home 3 weeks early with only one small grocery bag of clothes.

My grandmother was so upset and confused. She thought she had been taken to a concentration camp. The nursing home was upset and filed complaints against the assisted living facility because they literally just dumped my grandmother on their doorstep unexpected. They were not expecting her to arrive for 3 more weeks because they did not have a bed or a room available for her. Everyone had to scramble. They had to bring in a special therapist and an interpreter to calm my grandmother down because she was absolutely convinced she had been taken to a World War Two German concentration camp. It took about a week for her to understand that she was in the USA safe and that she was not in a concentration camp.

The nursing home finally got her settled in the unit where she was supposed to be in November where she has the level of care she needs with her dementia. The past month when my mother window visits or talks to her on the phone, she says my grandmother is much happier in the nursing home than she was in the assisted living facility.

This weekend, we found out my grandmother tested positive for COVID-19. She is one of two family members I have left. From April to August of this year, I have already lost 6 friends and family members to the virus.

The nursing home is unable to send anyone to the hospital, because all of the hospitals here are full. The hospitals are even ending people with COVID-19 home. They are sending them home to die. Basically, the way the situation is right now, do not seek medical care for any reason. Just stay in your house and wait to die. Alone.

In addition to dementia, my grandmother has a pacemaker. This weekend she coded and for a minute, the nursing home staff thought she died. But she didn’t not yet. She “came back.” She is resting and the staff is trying their best to keep her comfortable.

I know that my grandmother is of an age where she is going to die sooner than later, but I don’t want her to die this way. I don’t want her to die alone. I want her to know she is loved. I am so thankful that the nursing home staff is sitting with her around the clock and making her comfortable. That’s all they can do. The hospitals are full, so she cannot go to the hospital for any advanced medical care. I’m sure that my grandmother is not the only person that the hospitals are turning away because they are too overwhelmed.

If you are a praying person, please pray for my grandmother. I realize that this may be her time. However, I do not want her to be in pain. I want her to know that she is very much loved. I don’t want her to die alone. 

This winter surge of the virus is much worse than the spring. In the spring, I was on the phone as one of my friends died from COVID. I would not wish this disease on anyone. Now, all the hospitals are full. Many more people are dying at home in pain and alone because our medical system is too overwhelmed to provide care.

I’m not sure if I am already in the stages of grieving yet or not, but what I feel right now is anger. Our hospitals are this overwhelmed, and yet everything is open. We need a shut down like we had in the spring. What I am learning from this moment is that money is more important than human life. I thought that New York State was doing a better job of containing the virus than the federal government was doing. At this point, I do not think I trust any elected official anymore. I just can’t believe that businesses are open and people are going about their day when our hospitals are so overwhelmed that they are turning away people who need care. People are dying simply because our government refuses to shut down our economy to save lives.

Please pray for my grandmother. My grandmother and my mom are the only two family members I have left. Yes, I have the cats as my family. But I don’t want to be alone in this world without humans. I know that my grandmother’s time is probably soon, but I don’t want her to go out this way. I want her to know she is loved. I don’t want her to be in pain. 

Our hospitals are full. Dear Jesus, please come soon.

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My Quarantine Life: Week 29

Simon & Jolene watching the goldfinches get seeds.

With the weather getting cooler, I put the second bird feeder out. There are at least four male/female pairs of American goldfinches that frequent our feeders for our viewing pleasure. This is in addition to the male/female cardinal pair and numerous chickadees.

I read somewhere that goldfinches are a symbol of abundance and prosperity. Let’s hope so. Not only has this pandemic drained all of my savings, but I am going into debt trying to obtain food.

One of my neighbors recently commented how she is saving so much money in the pandemic. I don’t understand how. I am paying 3x, and sometimes 4x, more for groceries now than I was prior to the pandemic. Flour alone is $21. It was $4 pre-pandemic. Flour is just one item on my grocery list of 20-25 items. They are all significantly more expensive. How are people saving money when I am struggling to pay for food?

If anything, this pandemic is widening the economic gap between the haves and the have-nots. All of the economists are saying we have not yet seen the worst of the economic fallout from the pandemic. The next 3-4 years are going to be harder and much worse than 2020 as far as the money situation goes.

I’m hoping that all these goldfinches we are enjoying actually do mean abundance.

Right now, I can’t complain. In fact, we are living an abundant life. We are still together in this house and I am still employed. Even though it is difficult trying to get supplies, at least I have a job to try to pay for things.

Instacart is the best service ever. Instacart has solved the problem of obtaining food. Paying for food is hard, but at least I can now obtain food by using Instacart. 

A friend texted me about 2 weeks ago on Friday and said they were going to the grocery store over the weekend and asked if I needed anything. I said yes, and added 4 items to their grocery list. The weekend passed and I did not hear anything from this person. 

I reached out and said, hey, let me know how much I owe you for those groceries and how you want me to get them. They responded, “oh, I didn’t go this weekend. Maybe in a few weeks.” 

This situation is a prime example of how I have been starving for the past few months. People say they are going to store, so I plan on getting things that week, then they put off their trip for 2 more weeks. I run out of food.

Luckily, in this situation that happened two weeks ago, I did have an Instacart delivery scheduled. I was able to go without the 4 items I had added to the friend’s grocery list without starving. While this friend is trying to help me, they do not seem to understand that when you say you are going to the store this week and then wait 2 or 3 weeks to actually go to the store, I run out of food and starve. Literally.

Instacart is so empowering because I can control when I get food and what food I get. 

The friend that has been helping me frequently makes substitutions and brings me things I’m allergic to. I can’t eat them. It’s a waste of money. If you cannot find my allergy friendly items, then please do not waste money buying an item that will kill me if I eat it.

The beauty of Instacart is that I can specify my allergens and set those parameters. They follow the instructions. If my allergy-friendly items are gone, they are not wasting my money on something that will kill me. While my friend is well-meaning and trying to help me, they are actually not helping me. In some instances, they are bringing me things that will harm me. I don’t have that issue with Instacart. I am so happy I stopped listening to all the naysayers and joined Instacart when everyone told me not to do it. 

Now that Instacart is solving my access to food issue, I can focus more on work. I need to work for us to pay the bills and keep the house. Hopefully, our government will do something about the economy and institute universal basic income. It will all come down to the election. We are either entering the worst Great Depression this country has ever seen, or we are going to get help to survive the pandemic. We will see who wins.

In the meantime, the cats and I are enjoying the birds outside our home. The goldfinches are bringing us an abundance of joy just from watching them. Maybe that’s the sole reason why they mean abundance and prosperity. We are fortunate to be together in this house to watch them.

My Quarantine Life: Week 27

Jude & Jolene spending time together.

It is now officially over 6 months that I have been in quarantine. I have to admit, when this all started back in March, I thought it was something that would just end in a few weeks and everything would go back to normal. I thought it was going to be like Y2K or the Mayan “End of the World” or something, where we all roll our eyes after and laugh about “those few weeks in quarantine.”

Unfortunately, this virus is the real thing. It is here, it is bad, and it is lethal.

Everyone talks about “the new normal.” After 6 months of living with this virus, I don’t think this is “the new normal” anymore. Things will never go back to how they were before. This is our normal. It has changed drastically, but here we are. We need to figure out how to live with this virus, as there seems to be no end in sight. 

From the beginning, I have said that I can survive the pandemic as long as I can get food and I am employed. I am very grateful to still be employed and pray that nothing happens to my job. I know that many people have lost their jobs and are hurting. I am very privileged to not only still have a job, but that I have a job that is able to accommodate my needs and keep me safe from exposure while still allowing me to work.

Onto the food issue … I’m not going to lie. The past 6 months have been the most difficult time I have had getting food since I grew up as a child and had to ration my weekly $1 food stamp to try to get food. I had explained this in The Toilet Paper Chronicles, Part 1. I never thought I would need survival skills I used as a child in the 1980s as an adult, but here we are.

Instacart is the best service ever. I have now had two Instacart deliveries, and am looking to schedule my third in the next week or so. Instacart is helping me to feel normal again. I am able to get allergy-friendly food when I need it so that I am not hungry. God bless Instacart. It is literally saving both my life and my sanity in this pandemic right now. 

Thanks to Instacart, I am now able to get food on a regular basis for the first time in 6 months. This is the first time in half a year that I am not worried over when I am going to be able to eat again or if I have enough food left in the house for tomorrow and how I am going to get food again.

Now that my need for food has been taken care of (again, God bless Instacart and the Instacart shoppers), I am able to better focus on the priority of work. I need to work to be able to pay my bills.

The fantasy of working from home for a few weeks is officially over. Working from home appears to be reality for the foreseeable future. I currently still have a box of “work things” near my front door. I had this idea that the pandemic would be over in April and that I would just put that box in my car and return to the office. That hasn’t happened, so time to face reality.

Working from home has been a struggle this entire time because the rural area in which I live does not have the infrastructure to best support work from home. Broadband internet service is not available where I live. I get internet from a work provided hotspot that received very spotty and very little reception. Even though I have the internet for basic searches and email, I lack the internet to be able to do anything strenuous such as video or any type of conference meetings. I can’t even watch a Youtube video.  I have also lacked hardware to be able to work from home. 

Maintaining adequate work-life separation has been hard. My work life has invaded my home, which is my “safe space.” Early in the pandemic, I tried changing my designated work area. This resulted in multiple challenges. I chose an area upstairs, but had no table or chair to work from, so I was sitting on the floor with the laptop on a box. The phone was downstairs and I cannot go up and down stairs all day (with my disability, I can typically do stairs once a day). This meant I could not get to the phone for phone calls. When the weather got warm, the upstairs is the hottest part of the house. I really needed to work downstairs to be close to my AC unit and to be able to reach the telephone.

Unfortunately, working downstairs means I work from my kitchen table and my work life invades my home life with negative consequences.

Working from home is less than ideal and has been a struggle on multiple levels. I would much rather work at work, but no job is worth my life.

After 6 months of enduring these challenges, I finally decided to make an investment on two items that will hopefully improve my work from home situation.

First, the ideal place to work from home is upstairs. This would create a more definitive work-home separation that I so desperately need. Now that the weather is finally cooler (we are getting frost tonight), working upstairs is more feasible temperature-wise.

I need to be next to the phone to work from home. My employer helped by providing me with an extra-long phone cord so that I can take the phone from where it is plugged into the phone receptacle downstairs and take it upstairs. This requires taking the phone through 4 different rooms, and creates a tripping hazard not only for me, but for the cats. They run and get caught on the cord, and then the phone goes flying and slams into the wall. After I personally had 3 falls due to this phone cord, resulting in bruises and other injury, I decided this extra long phone cord is a bad idea.

So I decided to spring $25 and ordered a cordless phone. It has yet to arrive, and I am not sure if it will even work. I don’t think I have a wall outlet to plug it in. This idea may be another dead end, and I may have wasted $25. I will find out when it arrives. If it works, it will solve my problem. I will be able to have the phone near my work space. If it doesn’t work, then I will just continue to suffer as I have been for the past 6 months. At least I am employed.

The second thing I have done to try to move my work space upstairs is that I ordered a table for $25 also. That has yet to arrive. If I have a table, and take one of my lawn chairs upstairs, then I can use the table and lawn chair to create a work from home space upstairs that is not my kitchen table. I am pretty sure the $25 table will work. I am just waiting for it to be delivered from the place I ordered it. 

The last thing I wanted to do was to spend that $50 in this pandemic. I do not have $50 to spend with all the money I am spending on groceries (3 times more than usual due to price increases). However, I have to do something different so that my work stops invading my home. 

Putting a table and chair upstairs will allow me to create a work from home space upstairs that is out of my living space. The only thing missing is the phone. Hopefully the cordless phone idea will work. I have to wait a few weeks to see. 

I was talking with one of my friends recently who is also working from home. She expressed similar sentiment about her work from home space. It is important to have distinct separation between work and home. She had said that she had been working in her garage this summer, as it was cooler in there. She just moved her work space back into the upstairs of her home for winter, now that it is getting cooler. It appears that other people are moving their home office spaces seasonally as well. 

If I can get my plan to work, I think I am going to be in a similar situation. In the winter, I will work upstairs and have a good work-home separation. In summer, I will have to work downstairs. This means that work will be invading my safe home space, but it is unavoidable due to temperatures. At least this winter, I will get some respite and have better work-home separation. 

I don’t want to even think about having to work from home next summer. I am trying to concentrate on right now. Right now, I need better boundaries between my work life and my home life. I am hoping that I can manage to make the transition to a new work from home space. We will see if the technology and the logistics cooperate to make that happen.

Right now, I am able to be self-sufficient. I can now get food with Instacart, I can cut my own hair,  I have plenty of things to do at home. I am definitely not bored. As long as I am able to continue to work from home, I am set up to ride out this pandemic safely. 

At the end of the day, I am so grateful for this time I have to be home with my cats. Even if I do catch COVID and die, or end up unemployed and lose the house, I hope that my cats remember this time we have together and know how much I love them.

This pandemic is still going to get worse before it gets better. Numbers in my county have been doubling daily. We have more COVID cases in my town right now than we did back in April. Many more people will die.

Right now I am grateful that we are together and that we are safe. It is a relief to be able to get food again. I am so happy to be employed. We will keep taking one day at a time until it all ends. 

 

Gen X Time

Jude & Jolene enjoying supervised outside time. Simon refused to come out. He watched from the screen door.

Perhaps one of the only positives about the current pandemic is that it is giving Generation X time to shine. As latchkey kids who spent a lot of time alone before the internet was even made public, Gen X is well-prepared to handle the isolation and quarantine that we are experiencing. Gen X is made to survive.

Generation X is the only generation in United States history to be worse off than our parents. We bought into the nightmare that is the American Dream. We went to college, got the degree, all while the cost of higher education ballooned to 300x more than what it cost our parents. We are buried in student debt while trying to buy and maintain homes, raise families, and take care of our parents who are the generation of excess. 

Although I have had challenges in the pandemic in obtaining basic necessities such as food, I have been perfectly happy and content in quarantine. Staying home and hanging out with my cats doesn’t bother me. Sure, I would really like to see the new James Bond movie. But they have delayed the movie release due to the pandemic, so nobody is seeing it right now. 

Gen X are the kids whose parents have the highest divorce rate in American history. Over 80% of us grew up in single parent homes. Often left home alone, we would spend hours amusing ourselves. We read books, played Atari, listened to the radio, rode our bikes, and talked on the phone when we were lucky enough to find the party line free.

For you young’uns, a party line was a type of landline telephone plan. Up to 10 houses on the street would share the same telephone number. So when the phone rang – it rang in all 10 homes. Everyone would pick up their line and try to figure out which person in which house the phone call was for. This also meant that you could listen to everyone else’s conversation. If you wanted to use the phone, you had to wait for people to get off the party line so you could make a call.  

This may sound annoying, and it was, but it was also a godsend for us latchkey kids. On our party line, everyone knew when I got home from school, I would call my grandmother to check in to let her know I was home alone ok. This meant that all of the other houses on our party line also knew I was home alone. While this could be a bad thing, in my time, it was a positive. In the off chance that any of our neighbors were home, they “kept an eye” on us latchkey kids. If you did something to get yourself into trouble, the whole neighborhood would know with just one phone call. 

In quarantine, I am living by my phone. Internet service here is unreliable. Cell service is only enough for text messages. The cell service is too weak to talk on the cell phone. Just like growing up, if I want to communicate with the world, I am dependent on my landline home phone.

People today are alarmed by this concept. They worry about me. I find you all to be funny. I’m Generation X. This is how I was raised. Gen X was made for this pandemic.

I have so many things I am doing in quarantine now that I have not done since I was a child growing up in the 1980s. My childhood prepared me for this. All those hours spent alone reading books, rocking out to the radio while swinging on the swing set. I have no problem with quarantine. I have books, radio, DVDs, podcasts. I have plenty of things to do. I am not bored. Gen X is used to playing by ourselves. We are used to being forgotten and ignored.

I honestly think that is why I am not having as much trouble in quarantine as other people older or younger than me. I know that my mom is a boomer. Boomers always have to be on the go. That describes my mother perfectly. They work themselves to the bone at the expense of their own bodies and their families. This is what Gen X has fought back against. We don’t want to be like our parents. We value work-life balance.

So while my mother has a hard time staying at home and constantly goes to the stores (I wish she wouldn’t), I am more content to stay home. I’m used to spending hours each day home alone from growing up. This pandemic is like my second childhood.

The generation that came after me is the Millennials. Those kids were so over scheduled growing up that they can’t sit still either. They don’t know what to do with themselves when the gym, the coffeehouse, and everything else is closed. Yes, they are better with all the technology than my generation, but they are used to always doing.

As a member of Gen X, I think we are the only generation that knows how to sit and just BE. We do not have to be constantly moving. We are able to amuse ourselves. We are the low maintenance, self-reliant independents that everyone seems to forget about, as we just sit in the corner quietly playing. People think we don’t play well with others because we are loners. I disagree. I think we play better with others because we work hard, pull our ow weight, and expect others to do the same. 

If anything, I think that my mental health has improved in quarantine because I am not constantly rushed. I can pay more attention to what is important in life. I know how to amuse myself, so I am not bored. I have a landline telephone and can reach out for socialization when I need it. At least now, I have a private telephone and do not have to wait for someone to get off the party line. 

This pandemic is time for Generation X to truly shine. This is how we grew up. We were made for this moment. We can stay home and flatten the curve. We can weather quarantine. It’s no different than being a latchkey kid. Except now we’re doing it in our 40s instead of at 6 years old. The world has changed and continues to do so. There is one thing I know – Gen X knows how to survive.

I saw a quote somewhere that said if all of life was an episode of Survivor, Gen X would win. Gen X knows how to survive. That includes this pandemic.

Once we turn the corner and the pandemic starts to end, Gen X is uniquely poised to guide us on how to recover from the pandemic. We survived our boomer divorced parents and made it to adulthood. We got this. We have survived many, many times, and can show the world how to survive this pandemic too.

In addition to Gen X being one of the smallest generations in American history, I would also argue that we are the most underestimated generation in all of history. Our boomer parents called us “slackers” and wrote us off. Unfortunately, that label has stuck. Yet it’s not true. We are the hardest working generation with the smallest return. We know how to work. More importantly, we know that work-life balance is imperative to survival.

This pandemic is Gen X time. This is our time to shine. We know how to survive this pandemic. When the pandemic is finally over, we know how to get beyond it too. Don’t write us off just because we are so adept at amusing ourselves. That doesn’t mean we’re not working on making this world better in our own small ways.

I have never been so proud to be a part of Gen X as I am right now. My childhood was a dress rehearsal for quarantine. 

Generation X for the win!

My Quarantine Life: Week 25

Simon is playing in the box.

Labor Day weekend this year is going to look like none other. For over 20 years, Labor Day weekend was a camping weekend for me. It has been a time to relax, recharge, and reset for the upcoming year. Two years ago, I spent Labor Day weekend moving into my house. Last year I ran a race on Labor Day weekend. That makes this year the very first Labor Day weekend I have nothing going on. 

It seems so surreal. 

Yes, I have plenty of things to do around the house. That list is never ending. With my disability, I struggle to complete basic tasks such as cooking and cleaning, so there is always something to do. 

But with the pandemic this year, I just do not feel like I have gotten a break from anything. I am very grateful to have a job, but it is less than ideal to work from home. 

Hopefully, without alarming anyone, I plan to completely unplug this 3-day weekend. I just mentally need the break.

I am looking to place my second Instacart order after the holiday weekend. I am so excited. It makes me feel normal. I can “do” my own grocery shopping again. I was grocery shopping twice a month prior to the pandemic. If I Instacart twice a month, that keeps me on the same schedule. 

I am now able to meal plan and have a wider variety of foods to eat other than just the same 3 things.

I am very grateful for all the people who have helped me with food these past few months, but it has been hard, especially with multiple food allergies. I never know if I have to wait one week or 3 weeks for food. Is the food people bringing me going to be safe to eat with my food allergies (not to mention, all the food I have paid for that I can’t eat due to the food allergies). People mean well and have been trying to help, but I have been hungry the past 5-6 months. 

Having someone else trying to buy food for you when you have 5 severe food allergies is very challenging.

I am hoping that my second Instacart experience goes as well as the first one. I can pick out exactly what foods are safe for me to eat so that I am not wasting my money. I can also control my spending better because I know exactly what is coming and how much it costs.

I am not sure what the future brings, but it does not look like Labor Day weekend is going to be the respite it usually is. We will see what happens. All we can do is take one day at a time. Hopefully, I am able to obtain food again next week. 

My Quarantine Life: Week 24

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Jolene, my work from home supervisor.

Decision Fatigue. I am definitely feeling it. Prior to the pandemic, I had most of my life on a schedule designed to operate on cruise control. This made me more efficient so that I could focus on what matters most. 

For example, having a minimalist wardrobe reduces decision fatigue. When you only have 4 pairs of pants to throw around the room, you are less likely to feel frustrated with what you have to wear. Admit it. We all have times when we have been getting dressed in the morning, and some article of clothing gets removed and thrown around the room because it doesn’t fit right, feel right, look right, etc. When you have a minimalist wardrobe, you minimize decision fatigue. Every item you own is a favorite, so you are more likely to be happy with the first outfit you put on for the day.

In quarantine, I am running into decision fatigue with food. Yes, I do like to be creative. However, it is now downright absolutely exhausting having to be creative with food every single day. Due to the food shortages, many of my go-to items are unavailable. I have to get creative with what I do have. 

There is no longer the option to make something up quick in 30 minutes or less. I am often spending more than an hour cooking every single day. This is because all of my food allergy friendly convenience items are unavailable. I am being forced to cook every single meal from scratch every single day.

Take breakfast, for example. My special allergy-friendly cereal is either unavailable, or the choice that is available has a limit of 2. This is made even more challenging when I have people shopping for me by just adding items onto their own list. I have to just obtain food by where people are already going and what they can get for me. It is making living with food allergies that much harder.

For breakfast, I have been making muffins since cereal and milk are unavailable. Allergy-friendly milk, by the way, has been completely unavailable since the end of February.

Making muffins every 2-3 days is hard work. Yesterday, I had to shred the carrots by hand. Yes, they are made from scratch. I have no shortcuts available. Food in quarantine is hard. I am also going through more muffins because I am eating them for snacks. I get hungry a lot, and none of my allergy-friendly snack items are available due to factory closures. Food shortages are real. 

I have been trying to figure out how to get food without relying on my informal supports. As things have reopened and people go back to their routines, they don’t tend to check on me as much in quarantine. It is really challenging to order things online. I cannot get produce or anything fresh that way – only shelf stable items.

My fear throughout this entire pandemic is that I do not want to put anyone at risk to help me. Plus, if a person or people helping me get COVID, then they will no longer be able to help me because they will need help themselves.

That fear has come true. About half of the people helping me with food are now in quarantine awaiting COVID test results.

I have been hungry all the time throughout this pandemic. I don’t remember hunger like this since I was a child. This is primarily due to the fact that I have multiple food allergies and there are severe food shortages. I’m not going to eat something just to have it kill me. That defeats the point.

Decision fatigue over lack of food options combined with the fact that I have lost close to 15 pounds during the pandemic, has created a problem. I weigh less than 100 pounds to begin with. I have to figure out how to create some sense of normalcy with food even with food shortages.

Obtaining food is my biggest challenge right now.

Thankfully, one local non-profit is delivering food to houses for free – food pantry style. I requested a delivery last week to help. The challenge is that they were not able to accommodate my multiple food allergies. I am only able to eat about half of what they give me. It was also challenging trying to open the bags without touching something I am allergic to and causing a reaction. 

Money is tight right now since food prices have escalated to 3-4x more in the pandemic. That’s if you can find food. I hear many stories of bare shelves in grocery stores.

Instacart does deliver to my area. It is expensive. Many people have recommended that I not try it due to the expense. However, at this point, I am starving and desperate. 

I was so hungry the other day and the only thing I had to eat without spending an hour plus cooking was 2 hot dogs. Something needs to change. I need food.

I did sign up for a free 2-week trial of Instacart. Yes, I am fully aware I will be charged for it after the 2 weeks. However, I did the math, and it works out to be $8 per month for the service. Seeing that I will be in quarantine for close to a year if not longer, I decided to take the risk. At this point, I am so hungry, I just want food.

I placed my first order on Instacart. I was so impressed it arrived in less than 2 hours. Not only that, but I had the best “shopper” (yes, I tipped her well). 

For the first time in 6 months (since about February), I now have cereal, milk, bacon, allergy-friendly snacks and a few other items that make me feel more normal. What’s better is that Instacart is cheaper than the local delivery service I used previously. The other delivery service had a $100 minimum and a very limited selection of items. Instacart allows me to send someone to the stores where I know they have my allergy-friendly items. They also only have a $35 minimum, which is a lot easier on my wallet right now. 

While I still feel bad asking someone else to go to the store for me … well, this is their job. I’m sorry it’s their job, but thank you. Now I don’t have to worry about half the people helping me being quarantined for COVID tests. As long as Instacart can keep enough employees … Yes, I am tipping well. They deserve hazard pay for this. 

There are still food shortages. I had strawberries on my Instacart list, and the shopper had to substitute blueberries because there were no strawberries. That’s fine. I’m not picky. I was just happy to have fruit. There was also a substitution with my ground turkey … again, no problem. This is the first time since February I have been able to get ground turkey. I can’t wait to make turkey burgers and carrot fries this week. I communicated my food allergies to the shopper so they were able to make appropriate substitutions for me when needed.

I’m not sure if this Instacart thing is a good thing or a bad thing, but when I received my Instacart delivery this week, it was the first time in a long time I felt almost normal when it came to food. Everyone has been trying to discourage me from Instacart, so I am a little skeptical. 

However, I have what I need to make several of my normal meals and do not have to get creative with what I have. I feel very rich that I actually have food right now. I even have some things in my freezer so that I can go a while between needing groceries so I am not putting Instacart people at risk. I am happy that when I tip them, I am tipping a local person who needs the money right now.  

Food and work continue to be my two biggest challenges in the pandemic. I need food and I need to be able to do my job so I can continue to get paid. I am so thankful to be employed.

I am not sure if Instacart is going to solve my food issues or even if it will be more affordable than what I have been doing. Maybe I am throwing my money away. Who knows? All I know is that I am hungry, and I can’t live with being hungry anymore. The food shortages are one of the hardest things I have lived through.

Anyone else have any positive or negative experiences with Instacart?

My Quarantine Life: Week 22

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Simon is taking a nap.

Dear God, Thank You for hot dogs, pineapple and marshmallows. Thank you for the people who literally risked their lives in making my food and the ones who risked their lives in obtaining the food for me. Amen. It sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? It sounds like something a child would say? In the midst of enduring, widespread and prolonged food shortages, this is my reality this week. Welcome to America, where we are going hungry. 

Someone dropped off hot dogs for me. It was the first time since May I have been able to obtain hot dogs. I almost cried. I received 5 packages of hot dogs. Some of them are in my freezer. We will see how long they last. I have been making my Depression-era “Poor man’s meal” of potatoes and hot dogs almost every day since I received the hot dogs. I am currently defrosting a second package of hot dogs.

I also received several cans of pineapple this week. If you remember from one of my early pandemic posts, I have not had pineapple since February. It has been 6 months since I have been able to obtain pineapple. The last time I was at a grocery store in person was the first week in March. I remember posting how (at the time) the only hole in the grocery store was pineapple. 

Of all the things to hoard, people are hoarding pineapple. I still do not understand why. But for the first time in 6 months, I now have about 4 cans of pineapple. I am going to enjoy them as much as I can. In fact, now that I have pineapple again, I am kind of saving them. I don’t know what I am saving them for. I just know that receiving pineapple right now feels so precious and rare. I have an entire list of ways I want to eat pineapple. 

I have a bag of marshmallows I am hiding. You could call it hoarding. But would you really call it hoarding if I only have one bag of marshmallows? Well, I have a bag of marshmallows that I am saving. I am saving the marshmallows for this fall when the weather finally cools down enough for me to use my fire pit. As soon as the temperatures drop from the current 100 degree weather into more manageable 50 degree weather, I am going to have a fire in my fire pit and roast marshmallows. It will be the closest thing to camping I get to experience this year. 

Depending on how the pandemic goes this fall, I could even theoretically invite a friend over and share the marshmallows. I have been, after all, approved for “outdoor socialization.” This would be as long as we are masked and distanced and no one goes in the house, of course. That “no indoors with people” is the hard part. Dear COVID: You are a buzzkill. This pandemic even makes it difficult for me to share my marshmallows.

I am still grateful I have a bag of marshmallows and cannot wait to toast them outside. I know that marshmallows are a luxury item and not a necessity. No person can survive on marshmallows. I wouldn’t want to. I just like roasting them a few times a year. 

I still say that when this is all over, I want pizza. Of course, the special pizza that accommodates my food allergies is not available right now. That’s because this is America, the land of food shortages. It’s ok. I can dream. I will wish for allergy-friendly pizza for Christmas. If the food factories are still closed by the pandemic, I will wish for allergy-friendly pizza for my birthday. If the food factories are still closed then, well, I just wish to be able to eat an allergy-friendly pizza once more before I die.

Have you obtained any hard to get foods among the food shortages that you have been so happy to have?

Return of the Coffee Can

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Planning a road trip back in the 1980s typically required a paper map to be able to plot your course from one location to another. This was the time to fish out the old, dog-eared Rand-McNally atlas from underneath the car seats. You could also call the local automobile club and request a trip ticket. This was basically a folding paper map that someone marks up with a marker or highlighter for you to show the way.

According to the paper maps of the 1980s, from my paternal grandparent’s house in Upstate NY to my father’s house in Virginia, just outside of Washington, D.C., was about a 6.5 – 7 hour car ride. When my father made the trip, it was always done in 5 hours. There was no stopping, and he made judicious use of a radar detector the entire way. Radar detectors were legal in Virginia; the speed limit in Virginia at the time was 75 mph. Radar detectors are illegal in New York; the speed limit in New York at the time was 55 mph. I am unsure of the laws regarding radar detectors of the other states that one passes through on the way from New York to Virginia.

Another key aspect in the speed of this trip is the no stopping rule. When my father was driving, there was no stopping. He left with a full tank of gas. There was no stopping at any point for gas or for a bathroom break. If you had to go to the bathroom, you had to hold it, wet yourself, or hope that you remembered to bring a coffee can.

Ah, the coffee can. 

The coffee can was used as a bathroom for car rides. It was also used as a bathroom for camping trips and when we were homeless and more transient. As one of my fellow Occupiers noted when I was protesting in the #Occupy camps in 2011 – “Don’t pee where you sleep.”

The coffee can comes in handy for so many things.

The coffee can has now made a comeback in the time of COVID. This is the first time as an adult that I now travel with a coffee can in my car at all times. 

You cannot take a road trip in the time of COVID and make a rest stop. It is too dangerous. First, you have to go into a gas station, restaurant (are they even open?), etc and risk exposure not only by coming into contact with other people but also by going indoors. Second, it is well documented that COVID is spread through bathroom use. 

Since you cannot stop anywhere to use the bathroom, the coffee can is back in style. If you need to use the bathroom, you pull over to the side of the road and use your coffee can just like back in the 1980s. As a child, there was no “pulling over the car.” You just used your coffee can while the car was in motion or suffered the consequences.

With inter-state travel not feasible in this time, we can still travel instate. If you are in the car for a bit, you will need your coffee can for a rest stop. Sometimes I need my coffee can even when driving the car around locally. I cannot stop anyplace.

I have been trying to think if my annual camping trip is even feasible this year. Unfortunately, it is not. I have evaluated every obstacle from every angle. This will be the first time in over 20 years I do not get to have my annual camping trip vacation.

This challenge is what precipitated the resurgence of the coffee can. One of the challenges I was trying to figure out was how to do the road trip to my camp site. I typically make several bathroom stops and at least one stop to put gas in the car. Putting gas in the car is a trying ordeal right now, as I have to wear a mask and gloves and try to get gas at a time when the station is not busy. 

There are other factors involved in trying to attempt a camping trip this year that is making that impossible. But I was also trying to overcome the whole “bathroom stop” challenge in general in case I could at least figure out how to have a beach day this year.

Unfortunately, I will not be able to have any beach days this year either. 

I am in quarantine at least until January, which makes a road trip impossible for me. While everyone else is taking irresponsible and unnecessary risks by traveling, I am stuck at home. However, I do need to drive the car around regularly to “keep it going.” I am now traveling with a coffee can for when I need a “rest stop” on those trips. 

Old habits die hard. This is one coping skill from my 1980s childhood that is making a comeback. I never thought I would see the return of the coffee can. As an adult, I have always said when I drive that I would make as many stops as I needed and go as fast or slow as I needed to enjoy the journey and arrive at my destination safely. I do not want to travel as my father traveled. 

However, that coffee can trick is now coming in handy. 

Have you seen a return of the coffee can as a permanent supply in your automobile?

Word of the Year

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Jude in a basket.

There are blank pages at the end of the dictionary so we can make up new words. This was my response to my 5th grade teacher when she took points off my paper for using the word “learnt.” In red pen, she wrote “learned” on my paper.

Not one to give up, I also pointed out to the teacher that the reason why I used the word “learnt” was because I had read it in a book and wanted to try it out. It was a new word for me. “Learnt is not a word,” the teacher insisted. I even showed her the book I was reading at the time that had the word “learnt” in it. If “learnt” is not a word, then why is it in a book? How did it get there? Why isn’t there red ink in the book crossing out “learnt” and replacing it with “learned.” 

I infuriated my 5th grade teacher. She refused to put points back on my paper. She proceeded to make an example out of me in front of the class. I think about this every time I read something that contains the word “learnt.” Learnt is a real word and it is in the dictionary. Go ahead, look it up. 

The challenge with dictionaries is that you have to know how to spell the word to look up the word. Well, if I knew how to spell the word, I wouldn’t need the dictionary, now would I? Of course, this was in the 1980s before things like computers, Microsoft Word, and spell check.

Not only were there blank pages at the end of the dictionary for adding new words, but the dictionary companies have made a big deal in recent years about the addition of new words to the “official” dictionary. The dictionary has even started a tradition of proclaiming a word of the year. 

I hear all of this on the news and don’t pay too much attention to it. The dictionary has yet to choose a word of the year that excites me. Some of the words that they have added to the dictionary are stupid, and hopefully, passing fads.

I heard a new word these past few weeks that excites me. It REALLY excites me. I have not been this excited about a new word since the “learnt” fiasco in the 5th grade. 

I do hereby petition that this new word not only be added to the dictionary, but that it should also be proclaimed Word of the Year for 2020.

The 2020 Word of the Year is … covidiot.

It is a portmanteau. A portmanteau is a word that is formed by combining two other words to form a brand new word. Covidiot combines the words “covid” and “idiot.” 

Covidiots refuse to take the pandemic seriously. They do not wear masks. They do not social distance. They hoard items. They are truly selfish and stupid people who knowingly put other people’s lives at risk and don’t care about it. They refuse to stay home. They are the ones running around holding coronavirus parties and screaming “Open it up, suckers! We want money, who cares who dies!” (One of my county legislators actually said that.)

Covidiot is a very accurate description of over 90% of the people who live in my county. Finally, a one-word term to accurately depict my frustration with the general public in my geographic area. 

I am surrounded by covidiots. 

I now have a hypothesis that the only way to cure a covidiot is if the covidiot actually gets COVID-19 so that they take it seriously. Or, maybe if the covidiot experiences the death of a loved one from COVID-19, then they will be cured from their covidiotism. We will see. Unfortunately, logic does not seem to work on a covidiot. It appears we will have a vaccine for COVID-19 before we figure out a way to cure the covidiots. 

Have you learnt any new words recently?