My Quarantine Life: Week 59

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It has now been over one year that I have been in quarantine. I had one in person doctor appointment where they took blood work. All of my other doctor appointments have been virtual, by their choosing.

I am still alive and well. The cats and I are together. The cats are what matter most. I am the only human they have. I need to be able to outlive them so that I can take care of them and keep them all together. They are all so bonded to each other.

The worst possible thing happened this month. I lost my job.

I have been working for 28 years. This is the first time I have ever lost my job and been unemployed. I have been at an employer that closed and we were all given notice of the imepnding closing. However, in that situation, I was lucky enough to be able to find new employment before the official closing date of the business.

Losing my job is the greatest threat to my health, safety, and ability to care for my cats that I have ever faced.

I try every single day to get through to unemployment to no avail. I hear that it can take months before you see any payment from them. In the meantime, I have no income.

I desperately need to find a new job. At the same time, no job is worth risking your life.

Being in quarantine for the pandemic this past year really makes you evaluate your life. Especially since I have lost seven friends and family members to COVID, it makes you think about what you are doing in life and if you are truly happy. 

To that end, I have had the thought that I want to work remotely for the next 15 years. My doctors have all said that this past year of working remotely has been excellent for my disability. I am currently at my highest level of functioning that has not been seen for five or six years. It is all because I am working remotely. I am so highly functioning that I am not disabled enough to receive any type of disability payments or financial assistance. I am fully able to work.

I want to work. I am now being forced to find a way to make my dream of working 100% remote for the next 15 years come true.

The biggest challenge to this goal is lack of internet service. There is no broadband internet available here. Up until a few weeks ago, I lived in a complete dead zone. There is no cell service here either.

The dead zone bit has literally just ended this past week. A new cell tower was installed in my area this month. So that’s something, but still not enough.

I have been quiet lately because I am struggling to survive. 

At this point, I do not know if I will survive the pandemic. I do not know if I will be able to keep my house, which is the main thing that keeps the cats and I together. My entire life revolves around my cats. I need to be able to keep them together.

One of my friends started a GoFundMe for me to help me try to pay my bills since I have no income. I split my days between trying to get through to unemployment and trying to job search.

I am not sure if we are going to survive this, but I am not going down without a fight. My cats are the only family I have. 

I will still try to keep up with my goal of blogging at least twice a month, as this blog and my Twitter have been the greatest helps to me in this pandemic.

If you are a praying person, please pray for the cats and me. Thanks.

My Quarantine Life: Week 46

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We were able to get blueberries again!

Porch running during winter was a great idea. It definitely helped me to get some runs in on days when the roads were too icy to be out. However, the past few days and in the days to come, the temperatures outside are well below zero. I don’t mind running in the cold, but I cannot risk frostbite, as I have had frostbite too many times already. 

I have not been able to run for about a week due to the sub-zero temperatures and it is driving me nuts. Even though I keep the porch cleaned off, it is still frozen right now due to how cold it is outside. While I would say that my front porch is a safer surface for running than the ice laden streets right now, it is not a great idea.

I have been toying with yoga on and off for about 10 years. Yoga is a great exercise for runners to cross train. I have my own yoga mat. I have taken classes at some high-end yoga studios in a city in which I used to work. Hundreds of dollars later, I finally admitted that yoga classes were a waste of money. I was not able to do even half of what they were doing. I would spend 70% of the class just lying there “peacefully” on my mat. I was not about to pay $40 an hour to lay peacefully on a mat.

I tried a chair yoga class at a local fitness center that was a more affordable option. The instructor, however, was horrendous. The woman was like a military drill sergeant. You can read about that experience in the “my yoga pants went to yoga” post.

Since then, I have tried various yoga DVDs. I have mostly gotten them out of the library so that they are free. No cost involved was a much better option. I was even able to get some yoga DVDs from other libraries through inter-library loan. This was, of course, prior to the pandemic.

Since I do not have treadmill access to run and I am unable to be outside in sub-zero temperatures, I’ve been grasping at straws. MY gaze fell on my yoga mat. Again, I keep thinking I want to do yoga. The problem has been finding yoga that I can actually physically DO.

I asked around a few friends I know who do yoga for their recommendations. I did some research into various yoga DVDs that they recommended. I chose one and decided to purchase it. I figured I would only purchase one yoga DVD. If it didn’t work, then I would forever give up on yoga. I do not have money to burn on yoga DVDs.

I have the yoga DVD in question and it is excellent! I finally found a yoga routine I can actually do. Well, I can’t do all of it. I can do MOST of it, and I am okay with that. When I was trying to take in-person yoga classes, I estimate I spent about 75% of my time laying there doing nothing because the class was way too hard for me and 25% of my time actually physically able to do the activity.

The yoga DVD I have now I am actually able to physically do 75% of the activity in the yoga routine. Instead of just laying there for the other 25%, I am able to do a slightly different modification of the activity. So while I struggle with 25% of it, at least I am not just laying there.

This yoga DVD is one of the best purchases I have made. 

The past few days have kept me indoors due to below zero temperatures. I have been doing the yoga DVD everyday. It helps to be able to do something. I am still going crazy not being able to run. But the yoga DVD is bringing the crazy down from about a 10 to an 8. At least I’m able to do something.

The long range forecast looks like next week will be warmer – above zero. Let’s hope so. I’m going nuts stuck inside. Running on my porch works for days when the roads are too icy to be out, but I can’t risk frostbite on these frigid days.

How are you surviving this winter so far?

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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 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.