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 36

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Jolene raising a paw “pew, pew, pew”

Being in quarantine since March, I have not been able to go to the grocery store, work or basically any place where I would be indoors with other people. I am in the vulnerable group, so I stay isolated as much as possible. 

In trying to maintain some semblance of independence in this time, I pick up my medication each month instead of having it delivered. To do this safely without gong inside the pharmacy, I go through the drive thru. The drive thru pharmacy is not like a fast food drive thru where the person opens the window to hand you food. The pharmacy drive thru is more like a bank drive thru. You can see the pharmacy person through a glass window that does not open. You talk to them through a speaker system. They send the medication through a chute system so there is no human contact.

Drive thru pharmacy is a safe thing for me to do. Even though I am separated from the person by a closed glass window, I still wear a mask. I am pretending to be like everyone else who goes to a pharmacy or grocery store inside, even though I am not inside. I am in the drive thru. But I wear my mask because that is what we are supposed to do for safety. Wear a mask every place you go. Even though I am safely on the other side of the glass, it makes me feel like I am still “part of society” by following the mask rules. 

Last week I went through the pharmacy drive thru with my mask on and also a winter hat. I was cold. Typically, the first thing the person asks me is my name. They type my name in the computer. Then they say “picking up one item today. Do you need anything else?” After that, they proceed with the rest of the transaction.

Last week, the pharmacy person did not ask my name. They said “just one today?” They proceeded to ask me the remaining questions about my medication pick up. However, I noticed that the tone of her voice was warm and kind. Normally, when I go through the drive thru, it is an efficient transaction devoid of emotion.

When the person sent my medication through the chute, I asked how she knew who I was without asking my name? She said that she has worked there for 5 years and I am there every month for the same medication. She remembers me. Plus, I am at the top of the list for epi pens due to my multiple food allergies. If there is ever any type of medication shortages, I am first on the list for epinephrine. All the pharmacies in the county know this. For the record, I was not picking up epi pens that week. I only get those once a year unless I have used one.

I was impressed that this person was able to recognize me even though I was wearing a face mask and a winter hat. The only thing that could be seen was my eyes. Yet she did recognize me and knew my name without me having to say my name and without having to ask me.

I felt seen. I felt important.

I was so happy that the pharmacy person recognized me in the drive thru. It made me feel like I matter. Like if I do get covid and die, maybe people will miss me.

The virus is raging all across the country because people are not wearing masks and they are not staying home. When I look at the big picture situation, it makes me feel like I don’t matter. It makes human life seem meaningless. All these people are dying because people are too selfish to not wear a mask. People are too selfish to stay home.

Being SEEN last week in the pharmacy drive thru made me feel like I matter. I appreciate that pharmacy person for recognizing me. Moments like that is why I am happy I can still do things independently like pick up my medication in the drive thru. I was able to run an errand in a safe way and still be in quarantine. I was still able to participate in society even though I am one of the “vulnerable” ones.

This is going to get worse before it gets better. Every time I hear someone say how bad this winter is going to be, Ethan Hawke’s voice goes through my head. I think of that scene from Reality Bites where he says on the answering machine “Welcome to the winter of our discontent” in that incredibly cocky, goth way. The phrase originally came from Shakespeare, but sounds so much better when Ethan Hawke says it. By the way, Shakespeare wrote some of his greatest works during a pandemic. 

Please remember to call people to check on them.

Wear a mask.

Stay home.

From America to Donald J Trump: You’re Fired!

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Cardinals are symbols of those who have passed.

Today, for the first time in 2020, America has hope. With over 235,000 people dead from COVID-19 (the trump-virus), we are finally going to get a leader who will be capable of ferrying our country through a global pandemic. The working class is hurting. It is time to bail out Main Street. Help is on the way. 

We have hope. 

Today, America has elected President Biden and Vice President Harris. In the most important election in American history, hope wins.

God Bless America! 

My Quarantine Life: Week 34

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Simon is playing in the cheese toy.

 

Everyone knows the story of Noah and the Ark – how the animals went two by two. Did you ever think what it was like to be on that boat during the flood time? It was much like quarantine that we are experiencing now. 

Imagine Noah is stuck on this boat with his entire family. Yes, there are animals to take care of. He has an entire boat full of pets. He is trying to work, keep the boys from wrestling each other (he had 3 sons), and deal with all the animals about. It sounds a lot like COVID stay at home, doesn’t it.

After the flood, we know the sun shined. There was a rainbow. Yay! All the animals were saved! Yet what did Noah do once he got off the boat onto land and everything was made right again? He went out and got drunk. It’s in the Bible. His son Ham found him drunk and went around telling everyone about it. 

Sounds a lot like quarantine. After being stuck at home with their families, a lot of people in America are drinking, losing it, or both. We are all human. As much as we love our families, quarantine at home takes a toll much like life on a boat took a toll on Noah during the flood.

From Noah, fast forward a few thousand years to the First Great Depression in America. Everyone knows the stock market crashed in 1929. We have heard the stories of people jumping off buildings in despair. What is not often talked about is how the Great Depression was not just one day in 1929. The Great Depression lasted for an entire decade until World War Two pulled America out of it. People had to sacrifice and go without for 10 whole years. It was bad. Very bad.

One of my favorite songs has a line in it that says “someone told us Wall Street fell, but we were so poor that we couldn’t tell.” There was a statistic on the radio this week, that only 50% of Americans can afford to have money in the stock market. So what the stock market does is meaningless for most of society. It is not a very good economic indicator for the every day person in America. The stock market is for the rich.

Unlike a generation or two ago, people in America today have absolutely no idea what it is like to sacrifice for the greater good. People do not know what it is like to truly struggle. They think that waiting in line for a new iphone is a hardship. 

Everywhere in the news today, we are hearing how the virus is surging. People are tired. There is this phenomenon called “pandemic fatigue” or “COVID fatigue.” People are sick of wearing masks and distancing.

The problem is that people today do not know how to self-sacrifice. They cannot make changes in themselves for the benefit of the greater good. There is another term for “pandemic fatigue.” It’s called selfishness.

This year America has entered the Second Great Depression, and the “ME” generation is in for a huge wake-up call. People who are sick of mask wearing and distancing are the ones who are going to die. Unfortunately, they are going to take out innocent people with them.

Something has changed in American society in the past 90 years where people are no longer capable of thinking about the greater good. The vast majority of society has no idea what it means to sacrifice or go without. That is a very scary place to be.

The ME generation is why the virus is surging. Americans are just too selfish to do what needs to be done and it is killing us. Literally. Hopefully all the ones shouting “open it up” are the first ones to die. Was it really worth it to buy that candle on sale for Christmas and pay for it with your life? In America, it is. Capitalism is worth more than human life. 

It doesn’t help that the Anti-Christ holds the top office in America from the onset of the virus.Our elections will determine how bad the Second Great Depression is going to get. 

Personally, I am just hoping to survive the next decade of this virus and the Second Great Depression. I am also hoping that Jesus comes soon so my cats will be safe. 

I am doing fine in quarantine. The problem is that if the people around me are not safe and society is being selfish, then there is only so much I can do. With so many people in this country focused on “ME,” it’s every person for themselves. Divided we fall. 

I wish there was some way to teach the people of this country the meaning of sacrifice for the greater good. Our parents and grandparents understood that concept. They lived it. They lived through the Frist Great Depression. They lived through World War Two. I honestly have no idea how America today is going to survive COVID. People in America today are too self-centered to do what needs to be done to defeat the virus. It’s like the great flood is here and Noah refused to build the ark. So we live with deaths that could have been prevented. The scariest part is how many people in this country are okay with the death toll.

If you live in America, you need to vote. The election will determine whether we continue on this journey we are currently on or if it is going to get better. I have to believe that there are people in this country who know what sacrifice means. I haven’t seen any yet, but I believe they are there somewhere. Someone has got to be willing to be the Noah and build the ark. The future of our country depends on it. Otherwise, we are living the book of Revelation. 

Vote.

Wear a mask.

Stay home.

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.

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 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?