Big, busy weekend

My sophomore college roommate came to visit yesterday, the first time we’ve seen each other since our 20th reunion 25 years ago. She lives in Chattanooga, TN, mother of 3 and grandmother of 10, and a retired nurse practitioner. Fifty years ago we sang together as freshmen in a group called The Master Key at the Baptist Student Union, and we were sorority sisters, too. We’ve stayed in touch with Christmas letters and occasional mid-year contact, but even so, we were able to pick up almost as though we talked every day, and it was wonderful. We stayed up and talked and talked last night, looking up people we remembered but weren’t quite sure about surnames. C’mon, it’s been a very long time. We were lucky to remember first names.

This morning we did two big things that were connected – for the first time in almost a year, I got in and out of a car and went to church. Carol cared for her father in his last years and he was also in a wheelchair with legs he couldn’t move. With that and her nursing background, she was the perfect person to help me navigate getting from the wheelchair to the front seat of the car. Fortunately for me, she was driving a Toyota Corollo, not an SUV, and the seat actually felt very low but at least I could get into it. Then we did it in reverse at the church giving me a chance to be in church for the first time in a year. It was wonderful and soul nourishing, and I was especially glad I was able to see Fr. Matt before he leaves Tyler for a new rectorship in Autin.

So now I know I can do it. SUV’s are probably still too tall for me to try and get into – I had enough trouble doing that when my legs were working properly. But if someone has a car instead, I think I can get into it with help. Not to mention dealing with the wheelchair, which fortunately is very lightweight. We just need to have a nice large trunk for it. I’m hoping I’ll be able to get out for some other activities soon.

I cooked for the visit, making a big pot of meat sauce in the crockpot with Italian sausage, ground beef, mushrooms, onions, peppers, and garlic, tossing in some egg noodles to cook in the sauce the last 30 minutes. We had salads from the dining room and fresh fruit with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert. This morning we had my famous sour cream coffee cake with fresh fruit. Best part is that I have lots of leftovers, which will be wonderful. I really enjoy cooking and rarely do it now that I have a dining room for daily meals, so I was glad to have a reason to do it, and to have a chance to show myself that I can still do things I used to do all the time.

I’m in a mood

I’ve been in a mood the last few days. It’s been hard to not be in a choir and singing. It’s what I know, how I worship, how I’m in community, and I miss it so much, especially during Holy Week. The Episcopal Church is in the liturgical tradition and we have services all week. I’m used to singing all of them, from the celebration and drama of Palm Sunday to foot washing and celebrating the Eucharist on Maundy Thursday, ending with the stripping of the altar. Then the quiet agony of Good Friday, often ending with a requiem in the evening after services from 12-3. Saturday’s Great Vigil was always my favorite Easter service, recounting in chant and ritual the history of the Jewish people up to the death of Christ, then bursting out with bells and lights and alleluias of Easter. Easter Sunday is a work day for choir people, often with 2-3 services to sing, and the Vigil gave us a chance to be in the moment and worship ourselves.

This year, though I have a church and followed online services, I’ve not been physically present – and not singing. Most of my neighbors are Baptists who of course celebrate Easter, but do so very differently than the tradition I’m used to. The day is the same, the resurrection is the same, but the way we do it is different, and the music is very different. I miss my friends from choirs past and found myself watching YouTube videos of choirs singing favorites such as Beethoven’s “Hallelujah!” from Christ on the Mount of Olives, Matthias’ “Let the People Praise Thee, O Lord“, which I learned in Virginia, and “We Shall Behold Him” which is newer to me but oh so powerful. And then there are the hymns. It’s not Easter without the eleventy million verses of “Hail Thee, Festival Day” which I think only Episcopalians sing.

On top of that, it’s been a week with lots of people in it, making me realize how much I’m more isolated now than ever before. Having people come over is great and wonderful but really tired me out. But if I don’t ask for help, ask for visitors, I don’t have them. I guess I still expect that other people will reach out to me but they really don’t. It’s out of sight, out of mind – and I can’t complain about it because I recognize that I often behaved that way myself. If someone I knew moved, there was a hole but it quickly filled up with people who were still there and life activities that kept going. I wasn’t good at keeping up with them when they were gone, so why would I think people would keep up with me after I moved? The difference this time for me is that I only moved 12 miles away instead of 1600 miles. I guess I thought it was close enough to stay in touch but it really hasn’t been. But phones work both ways and if I want to talk to/hear from people, I have the responsibility of reaching out myself. Being in a wheelchair doesn’t abrogate that.

So it’s a conflict. I’ve been alone for so much of the last eight months. Sometimes I’ve been achingly lonely, missing people like my right arm and needing their help. Most of the time I’m fine, just adjusting to being alone – tho months and months of Covid isolation actually prepared me for that. I’m figuring out how to do more for myself, partly to prove that I can and partly because there’s no one else to do things. Today I figured out how to reorganize near my bed so I can put my decorative shams back on the bed and have a place to put them when I sleep. I know, that sounds small, but it really isn’t. My bed looks more finished and I’m therefore happier.

Also making me happier is FINALLY having my porch screened in. The cats have hardly been inside since Wednesday, preferring to hang out on their chair cushions supervising the lawn and watching birds and squirrels. I haven’t figured out how to get out on the porch without using the walker and I’m not supposed to be doing that by myself. The chair won’t go through the door so it has to be the walker. I need to ask therapy this week about that.

Physically I’m in discomfort from problems with my shoulders, mostly on the right but some on the left as well. You can’t roll yourself in the chair without reaching backwards in a motion I don’t use for anything else, but the muscles are also essential every time I try to stand up or walk with the walker. This pain is muscular, not nerve (for a change) in the front of the upper arm/pec/inside the armpit. How on earth do you put anything on THAT to help? It hurts and it’s annoying.

Easter Again but Different

Christ Church South, taken during Lent

Last year Easter came but church wasn’t possible; everyone was shut down in full Covid mode. There was no Palm Sunday procession, no Maundy Thursday or Good Friday services. No Great Vigil of Easter on Saturday night. No sunrise service or joyful celebration on Easter Sunday morning. It was just a day.

It was, of course, still Easter. God doesn’t need us to have the familiar structure, liturgy, calendar of our traditions for us to remember, which is what Easter is all about. Christ doesn’t die again every year on Good Friday, that happened once for all millennia ago. The resurrection doesn’t repeat every year; it happened once for all time. All we’re doing is pausing to remember, to honor, to pay attention. But we’re used to doing that within our churches – unless your focus is on the Easter bunny and chocolate eggs and jelly beans.

But today we were back doing the “normal” things with a freshness because, after a year without them, they felt new. I was in my new worship church for my first Easter with the familiar liturgy but contemporary music. There was a flowering of the cross, not a new tradition but not something I’ve ever seen or done. A wonderful sermon. Sunlight coming through the glass cross built into the wall. Celebrating with friends who came with me, and new friends in the new congregation. Wearing masks, all of us, and sitting distanced, but with full and happy hearts.

My soul feels settled. I was home.

Practicing Self Care

My goal for the next few weeks is to practice self-care. It’s a lot easier to just sit around and complain about the knee and the back and how they’re holding me back. Which they are. But in the meantime, there are things I can do and work on.

Sleep: I haven’t been sleeping well or enough. Whatever the reason, I wake up tired and stay that way for much of the day, which could mean a bunch of things: sick, allergies, staying up too late, uncomfortable bed, stress. But what I think it means is that my CPAP is set too low, meaning I don’t get enough oxygen. Back in July at my annual visit with the sleep doctor, my air pressure rate was decreased from 13 to 11. We thought that, with the weight loss and sinus surgery, it was too high. I think we pushed it too low. So I made an appointment to consult again and have it adjusted.

I also spend too much time reading after I get to bed, and get up at 5am to give myself time to wake up. Maybe I need that because, duh, I’m not getting enough sleep. So I’m making a commitment to turn off the light at 9:30 p.m. and to add 15-30 minutes to my alarm so I get a little more sleep at that end, too. I’m also considering putting coffee back on my food plan. I stopped drinking it when I got on Noom because I didn’t like using that many calories on creamer and didn’t like the coffee without creamer. But they are my calories and I can do what I want with them, and I miss the taste and the ritual of coffee – with creamer.

Cleaning. I hate cleaning. I like having things BE clean, just not doing it myself. I had a house cleaner who came every 2 weeks until just before Covid when she had a double knee replacement and then retired. I’ve been doing my own cleaning since then and I still hate it. Today I called The Cheerful Cleaning Company again and am trying to set up a regular cleaning schedule. They did my post-construction deep clean and were amazing. It’s not cheap and it’s actually a luxury, but I need this.

Church. I work in a church that I no longer attend for worship, having joined a local Episcopal Church a few months ago. My problem has been actually getting there in person because I found myself doing tech support for Work Church on Sunday morning, which is now doing Facebook Live as well as Zoom for streaming Bible Study. I’ve reserved a spot for in-person church at Worship Church only to not actually go. This week I delayed making a reservation until today. I’m going to the 11:00 a.m. service this Sunday, which means I can be home while Work Church is doing technical things in case there’s a call, but I can still get to my own Worship Church. I need it for grounding and learning my new community.

Hair and Toes. I put these in the same category because I try to “do” them on the same schedule. I love getting a pedicure because I sit in that fancy massage spa chair for an hour with little kneading action on the back. Plus someone else spends a lot of time working on my feet and then they feel better and look beautiful. I’m currently out of whack on my “doing them on the same schedule” plan but am going this afternoon for a haircut. Toes were done last week.

Massage. I have two gift certificates for a body massage but have been holding off because of covid concerns. It’s been 9 months since I’ve had one and that’s a very long time for me to go. My body is off balance because of the back and knee problems on the right side and my muscles are tight knots strung together like beads on a chain. This week I’m calling both places to find out their cleaning procedures to see how safe they feel, and if they are acceptable (and I’m picky), I will make an appointment. By the end of the week.

Weight loss – yeah, I know, I shouldn’t have put this last. No one can do it for me and it’s important. But it can’t be the only thing in my life. I’ve spent too much time obsessed with food, diets, eating plans, calories, counting, tracking, measuring, etc. I’ve really enjoyed just being essentially in one place for almost 2 months. I don’t want to stay here, but right now it feels good. When I’m ready to buckle down, I will. As long as I don’t forget how I got here.

Actually, looking at this list shows that my idea of self care is mostly having someone else do things for me. Not that there is anything wrong with that. But there are things I can and need to do for myself. My big one is to remember my goal of preparing, compiling, and publishing genealogy books for each grandparent’s line that include full size images of original records such as census pages and church documents. The book I did for my brother 2 years ago omitted these because no one really cared except me. But as a research tool, something that is a “brain and record dump” of my genealogy program, this is a huge goal. I’ve been working on the family lines for 50 years and know that it may be a long time, if ever, before anyone else in the family is interested in picking it up. So I want to get as much out of my head and my computer into a printed form. It will not be finished by the end of December, but I’m again making progress.

Holding fast to my convictions

The President announced last week that churches are essential services and must be allowed to open. What he doesn’t understand, what so many people do not get, is that the church is not the building. It’s NEVER been the building, no matter how beautiful it is and how much people like worshipping there. This pretty much sums it up for me:

Image may contain: outdoor, text that says 'Churches are essential... we already knew that. When the faithful are scattered in every age due to persecution, disaster, plague, we persist worship and service, in sacrament and sacrifice- feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, welcoming the stranger, being good news for the poor, working to free the captives and oppressed. Our highest and holy calling is to be the church, not go to church. CJS'

I work in a church that has not held in-person services since March 15th, but resumed yesterday with Golf Cart Church outside. Everyone was so excited to be back but I couldn’t make myself go. I knew almost no one would wear a mask which isn’t so scary to me outside – except they were singing. I cannot make myself do that; it’s too risky.

I’ve been singing in church choirs since I was 6 years old. It’s how I worship, it’s my community, it’s my home. But singing projects the virus far greater distances than even coughing does – as it also projects flu and colds. The coronavirus is highly contagious and there is no vaccine and won’t be for some time, no matter what the President claims. Science isn’t politics. Until there is a vaccine, it’s not safe to sing in groups; adding in close proximity and indoor spaces of being inside a church multiplies the risk. Not everyone will agree with me and that is their right. For me, this isn’t negotiable. Neither is wearing a mask out in public.

The country is opening back up after many weeks of shut down and almost 100,000 deaths, which are continuing to climb. But things couldn’t stay closed forever. Too many people are out of work, too many businesses are in financial distress or facing permanent closure. My neighbors are busy shopping, getting their hair and nails done, going out to eat, gathering for dinner parties. I rarely see any of them in a mask even though they are strongly recommended.

I’m wary. I’m not afraid of getting the virus, or even dying from it if it comes to that. I just don’t want to give it to someone else. Wearing a mask is a small thing to do – and it pisses me off that so few people do it. I’ve done a little shopping (okay, two stores other than grocery) but have no interest in eating out, dawdling in stores, or even getting my hair or nails done. They need it mind you, and my hair is ready, but I’m not.

So I’m feeling distant from my neighbors and friends. Well, there was a lot of that already because of politics. They are being true to who they are and the steps they think are the right ones for them to take, but those steps are not ones that feel right to me for myself. I think my Covid Isolation will continue a while longer and once it starts to get really hot (which is overdue), I know I won’t want to go out no matter what.

I do miss the gym, though, which is such an odd thing for me. It reopened this week but I’m giving it a little more time before I try to figure out a good time to go when minimal people will be there. Even without the gym and without getting maximum steps, I’ve continued to lose weight on Noom during lockdown. As of this morning, I’m down 45 lbs from my start in January. It feels good and I was actually insulted last week going to the doctor when they didn’t want me to get on the scale first.