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. 

 

My Quarantine Life: Week 20

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My johnny jump ups I planted last year came back this year. I put some in a flower pot.

Reusable shopping bags, loyalty cards, quarters for Aldi carts … these are all items I do not currently need. I removed the bags from the car and brought them inside. I took the store loyalty tags off my keychain as well as the Aldi quarter holder. I will not be going to a store for the foreseeable future. I have not been to a store in almost 5 months.  I only get things if people bring them to me, or they can be delivered. I now have boxes to break down and put out with my recycling. The reusable bags are not needed.

This is the new normal in the pandemic.

I have a box of “work stuff” in my kitchen near the door. I was expecting to return to the office this summer and just load the box in the car. Now that my quarantine has been extended until January, that idea goes out the window. Yet I cannot bring myself to do anything about the box. I am using things inside of it as I work from home. I just don’t want to admit it myself that I still have to work from home, so I refuse to unpack the box. I strongly dislike working from home. 

Quarantine is not fun anymore. If I am honest, the fun factor wore off back in April when people I know started dying. However, this is the new way of life.

There is an article in the local newspaper today about how all of our local businesses are working remotely right now. I am very, very happy to know that this truly is the new normal and that I am not the only one in this situation. I am also very happy that working from home is a safe option. I am not ready to die yet. 

There has been little news out of Congress this week on how they are going to help all of us. All I know is that no one agrees on anything. They do seem to agree on giving us all another $1,200 payment. It would be nice if they could just approve the $1,200 payment all by itself and then go back to bickering over the other aspects of “relief.” Unfortunately, these things tend to come as packages, so they have to agree on the package before we get another $1,200. 

The ultimate answer to this situation would be to institute Universal Basic Income for all Americans. But of course, that is too “European” for the good ol’ USA. So we will all just suffer and die out. At least the United States is good for showing the rest of the world what NOT to do in a pandemic. 

The library is ending curbside service and is moving to traditional “you have to go to the library and go inside” service. I will not be able to get any more items from the library. I am actually okay with that. The past few books I got, I was not able to get through because they were just too depressing for the times we are living in now. 

I am back to reading through the books I already have in my house. I am completely fine with that. I have two bags full of books to read right now. Some of these books I have not read in years, so they are nice to revisit. 

On the plus side, I am very happy to be home safe with my cats. I do have people that check on me every once in a while. 

I am alive and well. I am so happy to be alive. I am also praying that Jesus comes very, very soon.

Life is very hard right now. But I am so happy to be with my cats. 

 

My Quarantine Life: Week 19

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This bird visited our feeder recently. The front part is primarily all red, and the back is black and white.

Cases of COVID-19 have doubled in my county in the past 2 weeks. We now have more COVID cases this month than we had in the 3 months we were in “lockdown” combined. People continue to just go where they want and do what they want and no one wears a mask. I have yet to see a single person wearing a mask on the rare times I get to leave my house.

A few weeks ago, I said that my goal was to live until my next birthday in March. Given the current circumstances, my goal is to live long enough to see Christmas. We are all either going to end up dead or unemployed.

This week, a 6th person I know has died. I have now known 6 people who have died since April. I have never had 6 people I know die in one year before, let alone in a 4 month time frame.

People I know who can go to stores tell me that shelves are still empty in places and that there are limits on certain items. For me, nothing has changed. There are still food shortages in the allergy community. Many items I cannot get at all because they are not there. When I am able to get food, I am paying 3x or 4x more than before the pandemic.

I am very happy that I get this time to be home with my cats. I try to keep things as normal for them as possible so that they do not know we are in the middle of a global crisis. The only thing that is different for them is that I am pretty much home all the time. I am not sure if that is setting off alarm bells for them or if they are just enjoying it. 

I can say that if I do die, these months home with my cats are the happiest of my life. I love spending time with them. 

That said, I am so sick of this pandemic and wish it would just end. 

I am hoping to be able to get some relaxation this weekend. I have now been working 14+ days straight without a day off because people seem to think “working from home” means “available all the time.” Even when I tell people it is my day off, they say “but I just need …” and continue talking. If anyone calls me this weekend, I am going to hang up on them. Fair warning. 

I am extremely grateful to still have a job, but I am really over this “working from home” shit. 

Being in quarantine when everyone else is running around makes me feel forgotten. Instead of calling me for work and yelling at me about pandemic related issues I cannot control, it would be nice if someone would just call to ask “how are you?”

The hard part is, I do not have much to talk about right now since I am still in quarantine. My big excitement of the day is when a new, unknown bird visits my bird feeder.

We are all living in our private hells right now.

Stay safe, be kind, and please wear a mask. 

Old Habits Die Hard

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Simon in the window enjoying fresh air.

In times of stress, it is common to fall back on our coping skills. Some coping skills are positive and some coping skills are negative. As we age, we gradually replace negative coping skills with positive coping skills. When you know better, you do better.

Some coping skills are not necessarily negative, but there comes a point when a particular coping skill is no longer needed because you have overcome the problem. Either the life situation has changed so that you do not have that problem anymore to require a coping skill, or you have adapted to the situation in such a way that it is no longer a crisis which prompts coping skills.

This coronavirus pandemic is unlike anything we have ever lived through before. It is prompting all types of coping skills in people, myself included. 

I keep trying to find something to equate to our current situation. After all, the beauty of coping skills is that if they work for one crisis, they will probably work for another.

I spoke earlier how the pandemic is worse than when I was in New York City on September 11. I stand by that statement. At least in 2001, one could leave the City and escape somewhere else where life was still relatively normal. In this pandemic, there is no escape. It is pervasive. It alters our daily routines, habits, and life. It even alters our homes, which is the place of sanctuary for many. Your home is like your lair where you can freely be yourself, and now your place of refuge is being invaded by “working from home.” 

In trying to somehow wrap my brain around this pandemic and what it is doing to life, the only situation with which I can equate the current situation is when I was homeless. Even that is not completely accurate. The only parallel between homelessness and the pandemic is the stress and the scarcity. Trying to figure out how to get food and basic supplies. Other than that, the comparison is an oversimplification. I have someplace safe to live with my family. The only challenge is how to get supplies safely.

Below I am going to outline three coping skills that have made a resurgence for me in the current crisis. I honestly never thought I would have use for these coping skills again. I thought I had finally gotten to a point in life where they are no longer needed. I thought wrong. 

Old Habit # 1 

Toilet paper. Oh, yes, you knew I was going there, didn’t you? Toilet paper is the story of my life. When I was growing up, I would have to make one roll of toilet paper last 4-6 weeks. Now, due to the coronavirus, I have decided I am going to do the same.

I am going to make a 12-pack of toilet paper last for an entire year. I am probably going to be doing this until I die. 

Buying one 12-pack of toilet paper each year saves money. By using less toilet paper, I can take the $5 or $10 I would have spent on toilet paper and use it instead to purchase food. Yes, our economy is that decimated. Food shortages are pervasive and real.

I am supplementing my one roll of toilet paper per month with cloth baby wipes. Some people may complain that this creates more laundry. They are small. I do not think it creates more laundry. Plus, now that I am wearing pajamas twice instead of once, there is “space” for the cloth baby wipes because I am going through less pajamas.

In fact, I am actually saving water by using cloth baby wipes for pee. I flush my toilet less. When I use paper toilet paper, I typically flush the toilet every 2-3 uses so that the toilet does not get clogged with the paper. Using cloth baby wipes, I only flush the toilet once or twice per day. There is no paper in it, unless there is # 2, which gets flushed immediately. 

Old habits die hard: I am only using one roll of toilet paper per month, similar to when I was growing up and would have to save the nickel change from food stamp purchases to be able to afford one roll.

Old Habit # 2

When I was in grad school, I would work Tuesdays through Saturdays instead of Monday through Friday like all of the other executives in my office. My grad classes were on Mondays, so this worked well for me. Weekends were Sundays and Mondays. I loved it. 

It was also nice having a weekday off, because if I need to schedule a doctor or some other appointment, I could do so without having to take off of work. The only challenge was that some places are not open on Mondays. For example, I remember I could never get my hair appointment on a Monday because the salon was closed on Mondays.

Trying to work from home during coronavirus has been a challenge due to little to no internet service. I type things into google docs so that I can copy and paste into an email when I do have internet service. I hope that I can get things in fast enough to be able to send the message before I lose service.

Also, being that I am in the high risk group, I am extremely apprehensive at returning to the office and being surrounded by my coworkers who have many many more exposures than me. I do not feel that is a safe situation. I can only control myself. I cannot control people around me.

I have asked to change my current work schedule from the Monday through Friday back to the Tuesday through Saturday format, and it is going great! I actually get decent internet service on Fridays and Saturdays so I am able to get more work done. This is in contrast to Mondays, where I spend all day waiting for one web page to load, and it may not even be the web page I need. 

Also, if I do have to go into the office, which I did this past weekend, I have the entire place to myself. I can get things done with minimal exposure. I have always worked well independently.

Tuesday – Saturday work reminds me of when I was in grad school. Summer 2015 was one of the best summers of my life, so there are good memories of this work schedule. I feel good.

Old Habit # 3

 Make do or go without. This was the mantra of the Great Depression and it is again the mantra of the Great Depression part 2. It was also what got me through the 4 months of hell when I found out my rent on my apartment doubled (with 2 weeks notice) and I was trying to buy the house.

I have spent so much money on trying to get food these past two months that I have completely blown my budget. It’s different when you have to have other people shop for you and then reimburse them. It’s also hard when you are trying to keep a week’s worth of extra food on hand in case people can’t get to you right away. I am dependent on when other people go to the store.

I do not want to ask people to go to the store for me because then they are putting themselves at risk for me. So I’ve been telling people to let me know when they are going to the store for themselves and I will just add to their list. 

Throw in multiple food allergies to that mix and the food shortages of food allergy specialty items … well, it’s been rough.

So my mantra is to make do or go without. I literally have no extra money to spend on anything. If you are expecting me to “stimulate” the economy, forget it. The only thing I am doing is paying my essential bills and food.

To this end, I have cut out all non-essentials. That includes hair cuts. Hair salons are still closed right now anyways, and even when they do reopen, I do not feel safe enough to go back. 

I am going to isolate and socially distance myself for a very long time until I am sure this is over. It could be years, and I am okay with that.

This means I will be cutting my own hair. 

Previously, “make do or go without” meant that I only had my hair cut twice a year. My hair was really long – down to my butt. What I learned was that only getting it cut twice a year saved me money but was horrible for my hair. My hair ended up so damaged that I ended up having to get it cut into a bob. 

Many people have said that I should grow out my pixie and that I can save money on haircuts by just letting it grow long again. The problem is, that is not healthy. Plus, long hair is a major pain. Now that I have had a pixie, I am not going back to long hair again.

I finally got a pair of clippers and buzzed it off. The clippers were $60. Since I usually pay $50 for a haircut, it will only take two hair cuts for the clippers to pay for themselves. If I do not go back to the salon and continue to do my hair myself, that is money saved I can use for food.

It is going to be a very long time, possibly even years before I will feel safe enough to go back to a salon, to be honest. Make do or go without. I am making do by cutting my own hair. I will go without the salon. 

Another way in which I am making do or going without is air conditioning. I still do not have enough money to get air conditioning for my house, even though it is medically necessary. Heat exacerbates my neuro symptoms. I have to go without, so I am making do.

We are supposed to get a heat wave later this week. I do not have money to buy any more black-out curtains for the windows, so I am going to go ghetto and tape towels and blankets over windows in addition to the curtains I do have. The more I can block the light, the cooler it will be in the house. Or, at least, I hope so. We will see how bad my neuro symptoms get. 

I am making do and going without air conditioning because I can’t afford it, no matter how medically necessary it may be.

What old habits do you have that have come back to help you cope with the pandemic?  

 

Isolation Log: Covid Date 2.b.20

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A photo I took on a walk during my Daily Outside Time this week.

People still drive me nuts. Just now they do it by phone, email, or from 6 feet away. Some things never change. 

The children are not in school, and apparently they do not have enough to do. They are still free range, free roaming, unsupervised, and going in large groups of 10-15 kids. The next coronavirus hot spot in New York is probably happening in my little Village of 800 people and I am right in the middle of it.

I am working from home, and yesterday I had to get up from my workstation 4 times to yell at kids to get out of the fire pit in my backyard. There were no adults in sight supervising these children ranging in age from 3 to teenager (most of them were in the 3-6 age range). They are running around, playing, touching things. I am in the vulnerable group and my neighbors on the one side are in their 70s. We do not want to die because people are not supervising their children.

The schools need to send more packets home with the kids and the kids need to sit down and do them. What, online learning? Not if you do not have internet. Even with my work dot, internet here is very spotty. I am blogging and doing emails by typing into word, then using copy and paste. That way posts are a quick hit for when there is enough internet to work.

The hardest part of this entire crisis is that there is no escape. There is no respite. I am harassed by unruly neighbors in my own house. Then, when I try to go outside – everyone is outside! Hey, I was playing outside for decades before this coronavirus thing started. Now everyone is copying my idea. 

People on the internet are mean. I discovered this when someone was abusive to me on my work email this week. It is even more traumatizing to experience this abuse while sitting in your own home. I am having a very hard time dealing with it. It just served to reinforce why I absolutely refuse to be on Facebook or any other social media.

On to the good stuff …

For the first time in my life, I can say that I am proud to be a New Yorker. 

For years I had regret over moving to New York from Massachusetts. Even though I was in NYC on 9/11, I never bought into that whole patriotism, NY pride thing that came afterwards. I just wanted to get away from debris falling down all around me and being covered in dust.

Then, when the Boston Marathon was bombed 4.15.13, that one hit me harder than 9/11. I was not in Boston on 4/15 (but I was supposed to be), yet 4/15 hit me harder than 9/11 (and I was there). I’m a marathon runner, and Boston has my heart. I will always be #BostonStrong.

Listening to Governor Cuomo these past few weeks for his daily briefings and how he is handling the coronavirus has me impressed. He is the most competent leader in such a challenging time that I have ever seen. I listen to the Governor when he gives us facts, then I like how he gives us his opinion and clearly delineates between the two. 

This week, the Governor talked about what it is like to be a New Yorker and New York Tough #NYTough. I have not had something resonate with me like this since David Ortiz got on the mike at Fenway and talking about “our f’ing city.” Boston will always have my heart, unfortunately, I am physically stuck in NY. 

With Governor Cuomo’s excellent leadership through this coronavirus, I can now say that I am not only #BostonStrong, I am also #NYTough. I have to survive this for my cats. I am their forever home. We all have to stay together. That is the greatest accomplishment of my life.

I am enjoying my daily outside time and listening to music on my CD player. I have plenty of books and DVDs from the library to amuse me. 

This is still going to be worse before it gets better. #NYTough

 

Isolation Log: Covid Date 2.a.20

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Jolene playing in the empty laundry basket

Welcome to Upstate New York where we have coronavirus in a snowstorm!

That’s right, folks. We are under a winter weather advisory for 6 inches of snow with sleet and freezing rain. I bet all the kids were hoping for a snow day … oh, that’s right, they already get to stay home. Except they still have to go to school – online! 

Muahahaha.

I have been working from home today. I work in my kitchen, where I have the best lighting and electrical outlets. I also have the best windows to sit here and watch the snow while the cats like to bird watch. The snow is coming down fast. 

Today it was announced that New York is the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak in the United States. New York State has 20x more cases than any other state in the country.

New York is Ground Zero. Again. That’s ok, we are used to being Ground Zero. Our Governor is doing a stellar job right now. 

In positive news …

I am feeling okay. I have decided that it is in the best interest of my mental health to stop listening to the radio. My sources of news are primarily radio and newspaper. For now, I am reading my newspaper and watching the Governor’s daily briefing. Watching the Governor makes me feel better in this scary time. I like that he gives daily updates. He makes me feel safe. No matter your politics, you have to agree that our Governor has really stepped up to the plate in dealing with this crisis.

I am using my CD player more since I am no longer listening to the radio. I cannot stand for the house to be silent. I have to have music. I am having a great time revisiting some CDs that I have not had the chance to listen to in awhile. Music makes me happy.

The cats are completely oblivious to what is going on. I’m sure they think I am just on a 3-day weekend or Christmas break or something. I am so thankful for every single day I get to be home with them. I’m glad they are oblivious. It’s my job as mom to take care of them. I don’t want them to know what is going on or how bad it is. 

I had a great 3 mile run outdoors yesterday. I am holding steady at 3 miles. I am pretty sure that my entire 2020 running season is going to be forfeited to the coronavirus. Right now it’s all about survival. I need those 3 miles to keep my sanity.

I am hoping that it will warm up and rain or something in the next few days here so that I can continue running outside. I went to the mailbox today, and not only was there quite a few inches of snow, but it is very slippery. I can’t run in this. 

If worst come to worst, I may start running laps around the first floor of my home with my Garmin. Any guesses on how many laps will make a mile? I’m guessing 1,378 laps. I’ll let you know if I get desperate and do that. 

I do have a daily schedule so that I still have a routine. I have a designated time each day for outside time. Sunshine is good for the soul.

This weekend, I may be working on some of my minimalist home projects. I am still trying to empty a room upstairs. While I am not physically able to remove items from my home right now, I can at least box items that are ready to leave when I can get rid of them.

In my Bible, I am currently reading the book of Psalms and the book of Revelation. They make me feel better.

Last fall, my book club read a novel called The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Society. One of the characters talked about how they had to burn books for warmth during WWII. She said that she left her Bible for last, and that when she did have to burn the Bible for warmth, the two books that she decided to burn were Job and Revelation.

I do not think that we are going to be that desperate where we have to burn books for warmth. We may have to use them for toilet paper … come on people, SHARE! 

I doubt we will have to use books for toilet paper, but if it does get to that point and my Bible is the “last book standing,” I can tell you right now, that I will not be using the book of Revelation. I will be using the book of Numbers. I still don’t get that one.

Be warm, safe and well.