A 2020 Thanksgiving

I cancelled Thanksgiving plans with my brother and sister-in-law and will spend the day home alone (well, with the cats, but no people). They probably think I’m over-reacting but I’m just being cautious in this weird 2020 world of Covid. The news is full of stories about hospitals being overwhelmed by patients, with warnings from medical experts about the dangers of gathering in small groups indoors this year. Which most holiday gatherings are because it’s almost December and it’s too cold even in Texas to hang out outside for turkey, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, and pie.

Far, far too many people are ignoring that advice to cancel Thanksgiving. It’s hard to undo tradition and the familiar habits of generations and we all miss our loved ones. But I’m afraid of seeing the hospitalizations and deaths increase through the roof after this. I have pre-existing conditions that make me vulnerable to Covid, so I don’t want to get it myself, but I really really don’t want to give it to someone else. Most people I know who had or have it warn us to NOT get it. So why are so many people walking around doing exactly what they want?

Some are because they’re tired of people telling them what to do. Covid fatigue is a long haul, especially in these days of 24/7 non-stop media and social media coverage of the pandemic. They’re tired of being told to wear a mask and that stores were closing and that they can’t travel to foreign countries because we’re banned from entry. They don’t want government pushing itself on them, not that I’ve actually noticed much of that happening from the feds, anyway.

A scary number don’t believe that Covid is real or can kill people, or at minimum will make a lot of people very sick in ways we won’t really understand for a long time. Some feel that they’ve lived their lives and if God takes them, it’s okay with them. It doesn’t seem that anyone NOT wearing a mask cares if they infect someone else; it’s just all about doing what they want.

If we all wore masks, kept our social distance, and stayed away from other people until there was a vaccine available and distributed, our lives would be different. I actually had a foreboding last winter that this wouldn’t go away quickly. But people aren’t going to pay attention to that. They will just show their independence, individuality, stubborness, and selfishness to do what they want. Which is why 50 million people are traveling for Thanksgiving. I expect the infection and death rates to soar by Christmas.

Me? I’m staying home with the cats. I’ll swap fall decorations for Christmas, eat pork roast instead of turkey, and watch Hallmark movies. I have a 4-day weekend when I don’t have to go anywhere or do anything. Avoiding people on this big family and food holiday is how I’m spending this weird 2020 Thanksgiving. I suspect Christmas will be the same.

That said, I am thankful for my family and their understanding of my need to do this. For my beautiful ginger girls who bring joy and companionship every day. For my friends here and spread across the country, both ones I know in person and ones I met online and who have become close friends. For the strength and focus that allowed me to take weight off in a way that is healthy and sustainable. For a job that lets me serve, sometimes be creative, and learn new skills. For my health and for good doctors. For my home, cozy and now personal after last year’s renovation. For my life.

Thank you, God, for loving me and keeping me safe. Protect those I love and help us to make wise decisions in these extraordinary times.

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.

Nooming in Isolation

One of the things I’m grateful for while under COVID Stay Home orders is that I’m on Noom and have enough time under my belt for it to have become a way of life before isolation started. That doesn’t mean it’s easy, and I know it’s far easier for me than for someone with others to cook for, or who are medical professionals now working insane schedules under intense pressure.

I asked my Goal Specialist to reset me to Week 1 when I realized I was blowing off DOING article work instead of just reading. I also wished that I’d known to start taking notes and journaling at the beginning of Noom and not two months in. I now have a beautiful journal at my side, with pen attached, and take notes as I work through the articles. Blogging is also a form of journaling but I’m making notes to myself in writing as I go.

The world has changed since January and COVID-related articles are included now. The basic ones are the same, but others talk about how to maintain mental health, making yourself a priority, and readjusting goals under changed circumstances. Sometimes working on behaviors and habits are more important than getting in a big workout (not that I ever did a big workout, but other people did).

Reading articles, planning meals, and logging my food provide a structure that continues what I was doing back when things were normal. They’re not things I’ve imposed on myself because of isolation, but they do help me in an otherwise fluid time. When our office was closed and I was working from home, I got work done but during different hours than in a pre-COVID work day, and I found myself getting all snacky and reaching for things that by themselves are not a problem but are when eaten in a fog.

My goals for last week and this week are to eliminate the snacking except as planned out, and go back to what worked in my Noom early days: sitting in early morning with a bottle of water and logging what I expect to eat at all my meals and snacks BEFORE I actually eat them. That gives me huge structure and a calm. I can plan for a Healthy Choice Fudge bar or a slider basket delivered from the club when I want to work in something special. When I follow this pattern, I feel in control and I lose. Win-win!

Every two weeks I make a huge batch of chunky applesauce in the crockpot to eat as a snack or mix with yogurt or oatmeal. I bought 5 lbs of 90% fat free ground beef at Sam’s on Friday when I went to pick up prescriptions, and will be making meat sauce today (love my crockpot!), as well as two batches of taco meat for the freezer and a package of browned meat with onions for some future recipe. I also have a rotisserie chicken to pull apart with meat for salads; some of that will go to the freezer, too, joining lots of meat, veggies, and fruit.

One thing I’m having trouble with is getting in my steps. While I’m not a gym rat, I really was enjoying being more active, and I miss at least getting in all my steps. Usually at work I’d make laps around the sanctuary a few times in a morning which helped, and would go to a big box store to go up and down the aisles even if I didn’t need to buy anything. I do better holding on to a cart or a treadmill than just walking on the streets of Emerald Bay, but I’m still getting 5K+ steps most days, even with flaring sciatica. Go me. I’ll be glad to have the gym again when it’s safe to go.

I know myself and know how I’ve reacted in the past to enforced stay home time for blizzards and surgical recovery. Usually I’d be eating all day long, feeling bloated and lethargic, and disappointed with myself. This much longer COVID time is different. I’m eating healthy, tracking my food, building in movement and meditation, and providing structure without making myself crazy.

Noom works for me, with daily readings and accountability steps. And as of this morning, I’ve lost 41 lbs since January, 8 lbs since COVID became something to factor. I’ve got this.

Daily Quarantine Questions

These are good questions and I’m going to try to answer them every day, thought not necessarily here. But they will help me focus on something bigger than worry and stress as the world changes around us. I’m not actually quarantined (yet) but they are still good questions 🙂

What am I grateful for today? – For getting a good night’s sleep and being able to stay in my robe all day just because it’s wet and gray and I felt like it. For getting some “thank you” notes from church members for helping them be connected to church this morning.

Who am I checking in on or connecting with today? – I excelled at this one today! Spent over an hour on the phone in conversation with each of two friends, talking about life and politics, food and cats. Sent a long-ish email to a friend who may be lonely in this time of limited interaction.

What expectations of “normal” am I letting go of today? – Hmmm, not really sure I did this today. Maybe the “normal” of knowing what the next day holds, since each day is different.

How am I getting outside today? – It’s raining and gray and I didn’t go out. I spent a little time on the porch with the kitties but not much coz it just felt raw.

How am I moving my body today? – I’ve been a slug. Normally I get in 5K+ steps at least, but the most I did was move from my room to the laundry room multiple times with laundry. It is the most spread out I can be in the house, but my body isn’t happy that I didn’t do more.

What beauty am I creating, cultivating or inviting in today? – I created one of my favorite recipes, Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole, that filled the house with wonderful smells.

Doesn’t seem like a lot today, but connecting with other people made me the happiest.

Life during a pandemic

It started fairly quietly in China and has now swept the globe. A pandemic that spreads like wildfire and is particularly dangerous for older patients with medical complications like COPD, cancer, or other immune-related conditions. Hospitals are becoming overwhelmed. There aren’t enough masks or ventilators or hospital beds for the people who need them, because of course OTHER patients also need them for non-virus problems like heart attacks. And it’s just beginning here.

Italy has been particularly hard-hit and has been in lockdown, something that’s spread to other cities in other countries. Streets are eerily empty in Rome, in Paris, in London. And now, of course, it’s come to the United States. Why would we be exempt? New York City is an epicenter, but states from California to Kansas to New York are now in shut down mode. Schools are closed. Businesses are closed, with people working from home, or just at home not sure what to do. And the hospitals are filling up, and people are making masks at home for the hospitals. Yes, it’s that bad.

People are dying, and a lot more will die before this is over. We didn’t take it seriously enough and made fun of other countries as they started to deal with the reality of this new flu-like disease that has no cure yet. Texans tend to think they are invincible and really haven’t paid attention to things we were supposed to be doing. Washing hands, yes. Not being in groups, no. People were going out to eat, out to play cards or shop. Groceries are one thing, but that’s not what was happening.

I was part of it, I admit. Last Saturday I whipped around to about 5 different stores looking for clothes. I was there early, saw almost no one, and used hand sanitizer. But I shouldn’t have been doing it at all.

What I did right was to start about a month ago, when other countries were reporting illnesses and death, to stock the house. Not actually stockpiling (I don’t think) but making sure I had everything and a little more of it. I bought cat food and litter, extra gallons of distilled water for the CPAP, and large packages of toilet paper, paper towels, and Puffs from Sam’s. I usually buy them there but not usually together. There wasn’t a run on them at the time; now you can’t find TP anywhere. It’s weird, because the virus doesn’t make you have diarrhea.

I also bought frozen fruit and veggies, ground beef and chicken, pork roasts and salmon, and oatmeal packets. All things I eat often. And canned tomatoes, corn, and beans to use to make things I eat a lot. Then I cooked. The freezer now is stocked with portion controlled containers of soup, meat sauce, chili, and chicken teriyaki. Unlike some of my neighbors, I didn’t stock up with chips and cookies and popcorn (yayyy Noom, for teaching me to eat better). I was concerned about having enough prescription medicines, but I have at least one month’s worth of the ones that matter the most.

Last Sunday I decided I didn’t want to go to church. The CDC had announced new guidelines the night before, advising us to limit gatherings to no more than 50 people. Church has a lot more than that and it felt wrong. The next day, the church board executive committee and pastor met and decided to cancel church services for an indefinite period of time, and to suspend all scheduled church activities. There will be no choir rehearsals, no Good Friday service. Maybe no Easter, unless we can figure out a way to do it in golf carts and still get the sound to project. But of course there IS Easter, even if we’re not in church with lots of lilies and big organ and wonderful music.

Now is limbo time. My colleague and I decided this morning that, at the rate things are changing, we may be under lock-down mode come Monday, with orders to stay home. We used our work time to do things that could only be done on-site such as updating paper files and processing payroll. And then we packed up work to bring home and set the computers so we can log in remotely. I can do much of my job from anywhere (as long as Ellie doesn’t sleep on the laptop while I’m working), so I will be fine.

It’s time we all pay attention to what is happening. We are going to know people who get sick, maybe even people who die. We might be those people ourselves. We need to take care of each other as best we can, maybe just with words online or in phone calls to neighbors to keep them from being isolated. I’m glad that Daddy is gone so there are no worries about how he would cope, and I’m not afraid for myself, though I’m generally anxious, irritable, and tired.

But I am afraid for my country, for how we will cope with the reality of what is coming. We haven’t seen anything like this, really, since the Spanish Flu in 1918. World Wars took place in other places, not on our own soil. We will have significant disruptions in our lives for a long time, that will require serious attitude, behavior, and cultural adjustments for years.

Take care of yourselves, my friends.