Questions 2021

  1. What was it like in the beginning? In the beginning of 2021, there was no hint of what was ahead regarding my mother’s terminal cancer. There was relief at being able to get a vaccine and feel more protected from Covid-19. I felt as though we would finally get ahead of this virus, and never anticipated such resistance to the miracle of science. Also, in January, I watched an insurrection in DC on TV in disbelief.
  2. What worked well: Journaling to remember. What didn’t work well: To be totally concrete, my right knee didn’t work well.
  3. Some of the most important conversations: were with my mother, father, and sister – especially once we knew that mom’s cancer would be terminal.
  4. The best entertainment: Ted Lasso, Professor T (Danish version), and of late – Modern Family. My best books are on my last entry. Podcasts also entertained and educated. (Pantsuit Politics, You Have Permission, Moth, The Daily, and Popcast)
  5. Who mattered – my sister was so very important in her presence with me with the experiences with our mother and father.
  6. What changed? Life without my mother downstairs and watching my father adjust to life on his own. Also – feeling that Covid-19 was waning to realizing that with vaccine resistance, it will be with us and impacting healthcare for more years. And coping with a knee issue for the last quarter of 2021 shows how quickly things can change and impact day to day tasks and comfort.
  7. Happiness and fulfillment: Time spent with my husband and family is very high on my list of things that bring happiness. Reading with my husband, talking about meaningful things with him, all good.
  8. What did I learn? I can do hard things and bear hard things, even when I wondered if I could.
  9. What is actually ending? My feeling of certainty.
  10. What do I want more of? Books. Time away from work.

The Missing Morning

It’s been 13 days since I experienced what is being called a Transient Global Amnesia (TGA) event. Seemed worth blogging about this weird experience.

It had snowed a lot in a relatively short time Monday and the roads were in very poor condition on Tuesday morning. There were tree branches down everywhere, and many areas were without power – ultimately for days for some. We only had an outage for about 8 hours on Monday, so we were fortunate on that end.

Roads near my neighborhood

On Tuesday, I was scheduled to work and I packed a bag in case I needed to stay overnight at the hospital with potentially bad driving conditions. I headed out after my usual oatmeal breakfast. I took a couple of pictures of the road as I left our driveway (and recalled doing this when I saw them on my phone), and continued on out of the neighborhood. Although I have only 2 or 3 foggy memories of the early morning, my husband – who was working from home – says I was not acting confused prior to leaving for work.

I have texts on my phone from my colleague that I was going to be working with – discussing the issue of the roads, the people trapped for hours on I-95, and how the neighborhood roads were pretty bad and the text was sent at 6:44am. No confusion yet. I can vaguely remember this text once I was reminded it had happened and looked at it.

I left the house at about 7:40 – confirmed by the time stamp on the photos I took as I left. Dan called me while I was on my drive shortly after I’d left and after a minute or two, I told him I needed to concentrate for the drive, and this is another of my foggy memories – the phone call.

My phone shows the texts I’d made to J who’d asked me about the condition of the main road since she had an appointment and wondered about driving to it. This was at about 8:12am. I only have a vague memory as I now look at the text, but I texted her that I was in a parking lot and felt “confused”. J ended up calling me, and I drove the rest of the way to work (about a mile) while she kept me on the phone for 12 minutes. She asked if she should call the rescue squad, but I assured her I could get to work (she says). I could not remember who I was supposed to work with. I assumed I was on the way to work since I was in scrubs. I met S in our lactation office on the third floor. She had been notified about my confusion by J once I’d reached the parking garage and our call dropped. S texted me a couple of times trying to find me but once we met in the office, S confirmed that I did not know what day it was or who the president was. She walked me to the ED for evaluation and I did not protest this decision. I had no motor symptoms of a stroke (facial droop, one sided weakness) but what WAS happening was very frightening to S. During the neuro assessment in the ED, I was asked who I lived with and I said my parents and my husband. She let me know after the doctor left that my mom had died and that I was “shocked” that this had happened. (June 13) I did not remember whether my sister was at my house or in CT (she’d returned home two days before after her week long visit in VA). This was a day earlier than planned due to the pending storm, and I also didn’t remember the snowstorm.

I have no memory of the neuro evaluation, the CT Scan, the IV, the Covid test, S taking me to the bathroom a couple of times, my manager K visiting for 1/2 hour (and kindly letting S stay with me), or anything else. I can remember my husband arriving to the room I was in at about 1:30pm. He looked worried and I remember that. He tells me I still cycled through the same questions for another couple of hours and then stopped asking them as my short term memory returned. Based on what I read, I will not likely ever remember the Tuesday morning events as short term memory was being laid down in the brain (which gets placed into long term memory for recall).

One of the classic symptoms of this phenomenon is this repeating the same questions over and over every few minutes. Even my responses were the same. I was asking if I’d had the CT, did I have the MRI, confirming that it looked like I was supposed to work, saying that this was very inconvenient. These questions are not from my own memory, but from those witnessing it. S said she was looking on the internet for a description of TGA after the Neuro doctor explained that this was likely what was going on – especially when the CT showed no stroke and there were no physical symptoms present. Typical length of an episode can be about 2-8 hours. Mine was about 6-7 hours. I retained who I was, knew familiar people, could drive, could follow directions, but the repeated questions again and again were certainly concerning until everyone knew what was happening.

Waiting in the hall

Dan left the hospital by about 4:30pm since I seemed to be ok at that point, and knowing I would be admitted, he wanted to be available to my dad and his sister in case the power went out again and definitely wanted to drive in daylight with the horrible roads. He had been texting our kids, and my sister to keep them updated, and they were all very concerned.

I had the MRI after he left and have full recall of that. The ED was very full as the Covid admissions are very high – and once it was obvious I was just needing observation, I sat in a hallway on a stretcher next to the nursing station for hours. I was able to look on MyChart to review the various test results (CT, UA, MRI, Labs) and finally got to a room in the Observation Room by midnight. A couple of co-workers checked on me in the early evening and I finally got something to eat.

Once the short term memory returned by mid afternoon, the previous memories were just there – no rushing back of all the memories that I couldn’t remember that morning (i.e. snowstorm, mom dying, sister leaving).

MRI

I got some interrupted sleep overnight (lab, vital signs) and tried to process what had happened. The next day, the hospitalist came by to do an assessment and asked me year, month, and day. I got them right after a very brief pause on year – I mean we were only 5 days into 2022! But when I said it was the fifth, he comforted me about not getting them all right. Note to doc: Check what day it is before you come in to assess a neuro patient. I showed him my phone that had the correct date so he could see that I was actually oriented.

I spent Wednesday waiting on lab results, doing another urine specimen (could not truly vouch for my “clean catch” the day before), getting a prescription called in for antibiotics for a UTI, and by 5pm – was discharged.

I had a follow up with my primary on 1/7 so I could get clearance to work the next day (Saturday) and all has been “memory intact” since Tuesday afternoon. I still have an EEG tomorrow and an ECG on 2/1 to rule out anything missed in brain (seizure?) and heart (tiny clot?) and I’m really hoping this is a “one and done” event. Based on what I’ve read, less than 10% have a future event. I may never know what precipitated it as some of the possible causes are not what happened to me that morning, other than potentially stress from the drive on very poor conditioned roads. Maybe cumulative stress from this very challenging year. And I’ll never know if I had a close call in the drive, I guess.

Here are some links to read about TGA.

https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/21028-transient-global-amnesia

https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/8172/transient-global-amnesia

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/transient-global-amnesia/symptoms-causes/syc-20378531

Favorite Reads 2021

…..in no particular order.

Shoutin' in the Fire: An American Epistle

Shoutin’ in the Fire: An American Epistle – Dante Stewart (audio) Loved the poetry of his writing and audio made it even better.)

The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth

The Making of Biblical Womanhood: How the Subjugation of Women Became Gospel Truth – Beth Allison Barr (audio) Definitely recommended. I probably need to re-read to take it all in.

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America

How the Word Is Passed: A Reckoning with the History of Slavery Across America – Clint Smith (audio)

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents – Isabel Wilkerson (audio) Excellent and read her other book, too. (The Warmth of Other Suns)

Somebody's Daughter

Somebody’s Daughter – Ashley C Ford (print) I like memoirs and this was a good one.

Stranger Planet (Strange Planet, #2)

Stranger Planet (Strange Planet, #2) Nathan Pyle (print) As good as his first one. He makes me smile.

Faith after Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do about It

Faith after Doubt: Why Your Beliefs Stopped Working and What to Do about It – Brian McLaren (print) More Brian McLaren please. (podcasts, too)

I Hope This Finds You Well

I Hope This Finds You Well – Kate Baer (print) I’ve loved Kate’s poetry since I discovered her years ago. Happy that she’s been published now (and this is book 2).

Also – Returning to Greg Iles and his back list have provided some of the most entertaining fiction this year. He tells a great story and I’m reading through the Penn Cage series. Nice to know I can still manage a long book if it’s so very good.

https://www.gregiles.com/novels

Remembering Mom

September 9, 1932 – June 13, 2021

She probably would not have described herself as strong, but she lived through a lot of painful experiences.

She was generous and kind when she could have easily hated and been bitter, but she never had a bad word about anyone. “She’s *or he’s* so sweet”, she’d say about almost everyone.

She lost her mother when she was 22 and her servant heart brought her home to take care of her father and two youngest siblings.

She married a kind and honorable man when she was 24 and over the years, was grateful for his “patience” with her. They of course had patience with each other in this marriage of 64 years.

She loved having children – two daughters of her own – and babysat for so many more, before and after having her own. Always a caregiver.

In her 20s, she lived a farm woman’s life; cooking, cleaning, doing laundry, hanging clothes out in the cold Maine winter weather until the clothing was frozen stiff, and taking the frozen clothes in to thaw in the wood stove warmed kitchen. She cooked simple meals, churned butter, and made homemade bread and doughnuts, and chocolate cakes. She loved music and hummed along. She sang to her little daughters: “I love you, a bushel and a peck, a bushel and a peck, and a hug around the neck” and “You are my sunshine, my only sunshine…”

In her 30s, she moved to Connecticut, suddenly far away from familiar friends and family and spaces. She found herself struggling with clinical depression. This unwelcome visitor would return on occasion over the years but she made her way out of it with time, family support, and medicine.

She faced breast cancer later in life two separate times and survived what her own mother did not.

Her world was entwined with his, and she quoted him often, and deferred to him most times. “He only ate half the cookie….I ate the rest!” “He saves the smallest bits for leftovers”, she’d say in frustration. “He only puts ONE slice of ham on his sandwich – he doesn’t eat enough”. But they spent their days together, ultimately in a retirement lasting nearly 28 years. Their days started with a kiss and ended each night with a kiss, decades of breakfasts and dinners together. He called her his honey, darling, baby, sweetheart. She would just smile at all of this and shoo him away.

She was truly a friend to anyone she met. She had friends in Maine, Connecticut, Virginia, and Florida. Facebook helped her connect or reconnect with them all. She loved visiting, talking, and phone calls to friends and family in all the states. Facebook got a bit more complicated in the last couple of years, and we rescued her occasionally from posts she didn’t mean to post, a LIVE Chat she didn’t intend, and unlinking from some groups she’d liked accidentally – like “Mothers Who Love Vodka”. Was that an accident? 🙂 She’d sigh and wonder how she’d done it.

She had “macular” (degeneration) and six pairs of glasses that were somewhat interchangeable. I’m not sure she knew which pair worked best on any given day and she was always misplacing the “pair that worked best”.

She had a dry sense of humor and I grew to appreciate it more as something we shared.

She felt the losses resulting from aging and physical deficits, and in the last few months, mourned the loss of her hair as she was told she faced cancer once again. This time, cancer would win.

It felt like a full circle moment one morning when she looked up at me during one of her dressing changes on her head, and said “I don’t know what I would do without you”. So many times, she had told me about her own mother saying the same words to her when she helped her mother in her last months. So many dressing changes, but also so many conversations that would not have happened. We bought doughnuts or milkshakes on our drives home from appointments since “I guess I don’t have to worry about that now”.

A little over a week before she died, we returned home very late after a blood transfusion. I helped her into bed where he was already sleeping. He woke as I was helping her in under the covers. I re-checked her bandage under the cover one last time, and saw that they were already holding hands. We all miss her, but he misses her the most. Being prepared for the loss is not the same as experiencing and living with the loss, he says.

Her faith was both simple and complicated – believing in a God who loves everyone, but feeling unworthy of that love. Depression, early childhood trauma, and a black and white view of faith and right and wrong and sin and worthiness and Depression can complicate belief, trust, and faith. Eighty eight years of being unsure, and now I believe she is at peace and knows at last that God always did love her.

2018 Sixtieth Wedding Anniversary

https://poets.org/poem/notes-other-side A link to the poem my sister read at our Celebration of Life.

Who Am I?

I’m reading a book called Share Your Stuff. I’ll Go First by Laura Tremaine. She also has a podcast called 10 Things to Tell You that inspired the book. There are ten chapters and Laura shares portions of her own life and then there are writing prompts and questions for your own responses; a conversation with someone, or a journal entry, or in this case, a blog entry. I’ve actually used prompts from her in previous entries, so I’ll try them again.

Chapter One is “Who Are You?”.

Photo by Ivan Aleksic on Unsplash

I’m Val and I am a blusher. This is at least one part of who I am. I guess I’ve always been shy, but my first vivid memories that I was turning VERY red – causing further embarrassment – were in 9th and 10th grade. I remember a teacher commenting about it in 9th grade – and it’s amusing to think that he was one of my favorite teachers. (Why didn’t his comments make me mad?) My first vivid memory of blushing and being very conscious of it was in 10th grade. It was English class and I can even remember what the room looked like at my old high school. Tall windows, sun shining in. I’m not sure what the exact circumstances were, but it might have been comments around my 16th birthday.

Over these many decades, it has been an annoying buzz in the background of my life; wondering if any given situation would make me blush, and knowing some situations or people would definitely cause me to blush. I would be dreading it, and the dread would cause it even when I was long past any anxiety or shyness with a situation or person. Erythrophobia is the fear of blushing.

Having someone – a non-blusher obviously – point out that one’s “face is sooo red” would then worsen the symptoms. Trying to avoid circumstances that I feared would put me at risk for blushing obviously had an impact one’s life. But when it was impossible to avoid the risk – like a job interview, a presentation, then I’d dress appropriately:

Blushing does not only involve one’s face; a blotchy neck and hives is especially noticeable. I’ve been asked if I was having a medication reaction, if I was sunburned, if I was “ok”?

I’ve generally avoided public speaking as much as possible. High school oral reports were dreaded. Spending many years at home with kids, I didn’t face a lot of situations where I’d blush out of social anxiety. Starting a job and college at 39, entering nursing school at 44, and over the years, having a job involving talking to patients or superiors – plenty of blushing times. (Following a husband into his pastoring world for a few years, music ministry as a barely adequate piano player – fun times.) Eventually teaching a breastfeeding class as a lactation consultant, ironically, no blushing. I guess when I was the authority and fully prepared, the risk is greatly eliminated. But speaking to my peers in a teaching situation, I start out pale and end up blotchy. Talking to anyone in authority = blotchy neck eventually. Having difficult conversations with anyone – there is just no hiding my feelings or anxiety.

Menopause and hot flashes in my fifties exacerbated this and in my current job, I spent nearly a decade wearing turtle necks or a scarf, and when a hot flash started, the heat under a warm shirt or scarf did not help reduce any blushing. I started wearing make up foundation to even out the tones on my face if I was blushing underneath it.

The most irritating and frustrating aspect of this trait: you cannot fake anything. Your anxiety or stress or anger is revealed for all to see. Fight or Flight, as I learned in anatomy many years ago, permits the blush to happen rapidly (sympathetic nervous system), but the blush has no way to disappear quickly (parasympathetic nervous system). Hormones are fun and uncooperative. Hormone Replacement Therapy during menopause helped eliminate some of the hourly (!) flushes for a few years, but when I stopped the hormonal therapy, I also decided to stop wearing the turtle necks at work, and just go with it. I think I was tired of worrying about it all the time. It’s not like people who were familiar with me were surprised at a red face or blotchy neck, and new people would just learn that I really was “ok”.

I’ve always been aware of how much this trait has impacted my life, but in typing it out, it’s rather frustrating to realize just how MUCH a part of me this was. The trait hasn’t left. I just don’t have a lot of energy left to over worry about it.

End of Year Questions from #10thingstotellyou

  1. What will you remember most?

It seems obvious that Covid-19 will be the most memorable aspect of this year (and we did not get to visit our distant grandson for his first birthday) The Black Lives Matter protests after the murder of George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor protests. Statues being painted with protest graffiti. Other things I’ll remember vividly: voting early in this election, helping my parents fill in their votes (mail in) with my sister who was visiting – knowing they were voting for 45, and then hearing that Trump would not be president for another term on the Saturday after election day, and the sense of relief I felt and excitement with my children about this fact. Enjoying attending the Celtic Service at St George’s Episcopal Church on Sunday evenings (pre-Covid19) and looking forward to doing this again someday.

2. Who were your people?

My husband, my children, my sister, along with my co-workers who were so important in that they helped me feel less disconnected from my “friend” world.

3. What was the best entertainment?

A second watching of Schitt’s Creek, Mrs. America, The Crown, The Queen’s Gambit, Ted Lasso, and so so many podcasts – favorite one was Pantsuit Politics and many episodes of You Have Permission (not entirely as entertainment but educational) and nearly 40 books, the occasional Tik Tok or Twitter amusement. Oh – and jigsaw puzzles!

4. What were the most important conversations?

I can’t remember any specific conversation but know there were many on the topics of faith, deconstruction, rebuilding, and on systemic racism in our culture with my daughters / husband / bookclubs.

5. What was the biggest surprise?

Just HOW divided our country is politically – and how much my opinion and views have changed from the views of such a large portion of the people I’ve known forever. Realizing that I may not be someone that they would want to remain friends with. (on politics and faith and racism)

6. What was the most consequential decision?

To begin to walk around my neighborhood for as many days as possible on days that I am home from work. (2-3.5 miles) I listen to podcasts, take photos, enjoy nature, and hopefully impact my HgA1c and overall health.

7. What have you learned?

I have learned that I greatly miss being able to casually arrange a lunch date with a friend. I have learned (and been amazed) that people will deny science because they’re tired of this pandemic. I’m tired also. I am very glad to have my family “on the same page” regarding what needs to happen this year so we can be together next year.

8. What has changed?

In me – not enough, but some. I now keep tabs on my toilet paper and paper towel stock more than I have ever before. I am very used to seeing masks in my purse, hanging from my mirror in the car, and at the door before I go see my parents. I have bought more books than before – with libraries closed or complicated to access at times I have available. I have cooked at home far more often than in the past few years. (thanks to meal services and being home more)

9. What are you leaving behind and making space for?

I’m leaving behind more answers and things I thought I knew, and am making space for more questions and am at peace as I look at many things in new ways.

10. What do you want more of next year?

I want more time reading books (vs. reading, skimming stuff online) and deliberate efforts to find more quiet spaces. (20 min / day, and 10 min / day)

This Historic Moment

WDRN Historic moment.jpg

https://www.10thingstotellyou.com/podcast/88 (Podcast / blog entry as inspiration)

It’s mid-March – my sister and niece are visiting here in Virginia and we are not wearing masks to visit or to go anywhere, we are doing some outdoor activities because many places are closing. My niece gets word that since she left her state, she’ll have to quarantine before returning to her job once home in Connecticut. More and more is in the news about the coronavirus. Lots of news about the horrors particularly in Italy, and we’re being told by some in the media that they are two weeks ahead of us. Leadership in American government is minimizing what is happening, but Dr Fauci is not. I’m beginning to realize by mid-March that our planned trip to Arkansas for the first weekend in April for our grandson’s first birthday is not going to happen. By mid-March, more restaurants and businesses are closing. I am still going to work at the hospital and every day at work there is a new email notifying me of a change of some sort. Walmart grocery pickup falls apart in early March and I then need to grocery shop in person for my parents’ groceries. The local kids are about to go on spring break and ultimately school does not resume for their school year. I begin to realize that we will be in this mess for a while – but I was not thinking in about years. More in months.

Covid changed many plans – we were not going to take our trip to Ireland in September, there was no trip to Arkansas; we would be watching a grandson eating his birthday cake via Facetime. I was wearing a mask to go talk to my parents in their in-law apartment downstairs. I changed to wear scrubs to work vs. street clothes so I could easily undress once home from work. I was wearing a mask all day at work, and when out and about entering businesses. It was not initially policy, then it was. We were eating take out, wanting to support businesses somehow. The casual getting together with a friend was no more, attending church in a building as a group stopped. In other ways, it’s the same. No kids in this house to deal with and no school kids. Going to work remained the same for Dan and me – just mask wearing, getting a temp check upon entering daily. Initially, we were making or buying fabric masks. There were not enough masks at work so we’d wear them more than one day. The toilet paper hoarding early on was crazy. Covid19 is still changing this year as we enter the holiday season – and working will be a part of my plans. Hospitals don’t close. On an emotional level, it is sad to be distancing from friends and not having gatherings, but going to work and having friends to talk to there helps to avoid the feeling of isolation. Not seeing my mother-in-law for many months since she lives in an independent living facility that prevented visitors – very hard to think of her alone.

Eight months later: mask wearing is routine, knowing this is likely going to make life different for at least a couple of years. Pondering exposure and the randomness of people dying from this and others having mild symptoms and others having long term effects and not knowing what would happen if I were to become infected. Scientists and health care providers continue to learn, and people who learn on Google think they know more. Many people minimize the potential issue, but I am not overly casual about it. My day to day life is not that different, other than I assemble jigsaw puzzles now, and I continue to wear masks when on a visit to parents. Church has occasionally met by the river outside on good days and it is so wonderful to see faces. Work has settled in to mask wearing (no current shortage) and now there’s a machine that checks temp as we enter the hospital. Shopping means wearing a mask, a lot of take out food vs. restaurant dine in – but occasionally we’ve eaten outside at a restaurant and there is probably less frequent hand washing because crisis mode is hard to maintain. Walking outside has also become a part of my days at home this year.

America in 2020. Some aspects of this year are uplifting, some aspects are embarrassing, some are heartbreaking. It is not common for my culture to think it terms of what is good for the group and how I can contribute to that effort. Culturally, it’s been far more about the rights of the individual vs what is good for the collective. My rights and the government should not be controlling what I do – the dialogue I hear. (Seat belt laws, traffic regulations/lights, no service with no shoes or shirts, and needing licenses for certain practices – aren’t these regulations?) So the simple sacrifice of wearing a mask in an effort to control spread of the virus to others is too much for some and I’m puzzled as to why this is such a big deal. It might be since I wear one all day at work – where there is NO debate on this practice. No mask means no work. Also, this year – The continued exposure of systemic racism in our country is important and it seems positive to see awareness rising in more and more people (white people – like me), learning about what was in plain sight to BIPOC – this is a positive thing to me. But there is much more work to be done.

Election 2020 vs 2016. I was a person who just voted R for years with little thought about policies, describing myself as someone who was glad to have the right to vote, so I should. I did not think of myself as really political. And don’t white Christians just vote R? Simple. But in 2016, I voted third party and figured Hillary would win. I remember waking in the middle of the night hearing the news and was shocked to find out who was now president. It felt as though it was a bad dream. I have begun to think far more about politics and policies, but still feel not smart. But I am so very sad about how divisive things are currently in our country, and will also be so very sad if he wins again. Not simply because it’s him, but because of what it means regarding the voters who proudly voted for him, some of whom I consider friends. I do not understand at all. So I have used the option of early voting and nearly a month ago I cast my ballot for Biden/Harris. Even if he does not win, it is obvious that we are far more apart than ever before as a country – since possibly the Civil War when we nearly ended up with two countries. There is no perfect candidate, but my hopes for change in the country are going to be more about what helps the people Jesus said to care for. I am very early into this journey of paying attention and figuring out what is important to me as a voter – so I will continue to read and learn and pay attention locally as well.

The toll of 2020 – a sadness and frustration at the inability to be done with it. In some ways, it’s a year with so many losses – but I have not lost in the death of anyone I love, or lost a job, or been overly challenged financially. I am so very fortunate to only have to deal with frustration about not being able to be more social or to have travel plans changed. Not knowing how it will all evolve and how long it will take to find treatment is scary, so mostly I hope to survive if exposed and to be able find ways to see friends and family safely.

The beauty in this year is maybe in slowing down for so many. Paying closer attention to life. Being forced to step back from the relentless pace of doing all the things. Hard stop. Readjust and finding new ways to be in touch with people we love. Facetime and Zoom and talking more and socializing at a distance with the people we love – making it work since we’re in the long haul with this.

I’ve learned…. all the things above. 🙂

Right now – what do I care about? I miss “in person” family time with my adult children. I’m sad that this year, the holiday family gatherings will not be the same – but again, am relieved that it’s not due to loss of a person. Since family and friends mean more than stuff and things, what time we do have together becomes so much more appreciated.

How do I want to feel in Nov and Dec? I’m hoping I will be looking forward to the inauguration of a different president, I hope that I will be looking forward to seeing my grandson and family in early January, I want to feel hopeful and healthy. And if none of that happens, I want to still feel hopeful for some things, disturbed about what I should be disturbed about, and at peace about what I should be at peace about.

#10thingstotellyou

Forty Years and counting

This year – specifically today – he and I celebrate 40 years since we said “I do”. I was even proud to leave in “obey” as part of those traditional vows. Things (and we) have changed just a bit.

We’ve had a lovely getaway in a very nice Airbnb not too far from home to celebrate the weekend – especially since our Ireland trip this fall is on hold. 😦 We’re enjoying each other’s company, and do not take this sweet companionship for granted. We visited the beautiful Natural Bridge State Park, we indulged in a couple of delicious Crozet Pizza’s pies, and talked and read and simply rested in this quiet space.

He was asking me a week or two ago about pivotal moments in my life. He named a few in his. Many of my moments in the early years are in response to his pivotal moments, something he paused to consider in our discussion. Maybe even had a bit of regret. But one example: the decision to move to Virginia would not have happened without his drive and decision. I was still in my “obey” / submission phase, obviously – but it was ultimately a great choice for our family. (Understand – If I had strongly objected, we’d still be in Connecticut. He’s courageous, not stupid.)

We made a decision about committing our lives together and didn’t really know what that meant. How could we? We had only begun to grow up, but we thought we knew enough. He confidently said that divorce was not going to be in our vocabulary. Looking back, we had such innocence in believing that there would never be a situation that we wouldn’t be able to work out. In all of the decades since, thankfully we have never been close to considering separation. Compatible personalities and clinging together during challenging times helped.

We’ve known each other as best friends since age 18. It’s amazing to realize how we’ve evolved through the decades and still remained best friends. His faithfulness to me, and love and respect for me, has always been present. In the years where the word submission was something I viewed as part of my duty, thankfully there was no oppression from him. Leadership yes, force no. (I’m a bit of a follower naturally, to be honest.)

Over this past decade, we continue to evolve in our marriage (as well as in our faith walks). We’ve left – and continue to leave – certain ideas behind, and have embraced new ideas and spiritual practices. Some of the changes are not entirely visible to observers, and are just for us to experience. He’s a great partner on this journey.

Lest it all sounds too idyllic, there are still plenty of quirks and things we do to drive each other a bit crazy but I am his mourning dove. (He greeted me “good morning love” once morning recently – and I thought he’d called me “ah, my mourning dove” as he saw me – a bird we listen to outside on the deck. We laughed but it seems I am now his “mourning dove” forever more.

Musings in Corona Time

Maybe I should put down some thoughts on the fact that there is a pandemic. I’ve read some very moving and profound thoughts written by others online. Don’t expect that here.

I am over sixty and a Type II diabetic – the disease that often does not feel real, but does increase my risk of not doing well with Covid-19. If I dwell too long on this fact, it can be scary. I also can worry about coping with long term side effects of having diabetes, I can fear breast cancer, stroke, car accidents, and the so many ways there are to die. But the non-Covid-19 ways to die feel more abstract and distant. Covid-19 is invisible and rapid and it’s still a learning curve to fight it.

I work in a hospital where policies and notices are revised and updated daily. What would have been unthinkable just months ago (i.e. re-wearing PPE, potential lack of supplies) is now the norm. I wear a fabric mask all day at work and with lots of talking, it gets damp and uncomfortable. But it’s not an N95 mask. Those are saved for the healthcare providers who are knowingly taking care of patients who may be or are confirmed positive for this novel Coronavirus. Patients are being asked to wear a mask when we enter their room. (This is when neither of us are positive for Covid-19 or symptomatic.) People working in a healthcare setting are scared and tired and sad. But they are still showing up. My hospital hopes they’ve done too much in creating a field hospital. And I see MWH colleagues applauding as a couple of survivors are wheeled out through the lobby after their stay for Covid-19. I see the community supporting their local hospitals and healthcare providers with car parades and messages of encouragement chalk written on sidewalks, and hearts posted in windows.

Since my husband and I still work, and we go to our places of employment, the financial impact and feelings of isolation are far less than for others. So far. We have no small children to suddenly homeschool or keep busy, we have no small business we are trying to keep afloat, we are not working from home, we are not extroverts, we see people daily at work. Admittedly, it is likely our retirement date may have been extended out now, but that remains to be seen. Lots of people are trying to cope with silence and isolation, lack of physical contact, experiencing financial challenges, not working at all. Or some are coping with not enough silence with children around while they try to work and school them and entertain them and I think we should have had stock in Zoom.

Meanwhile, I’m simply trying my best to comply, and hoping that the daily updates from my employer will slow down eventually and I won’t have to wear a mask all day for months or years at work. Taking our temps upon entry will become the norm. Here’s hoping that that protective equipment doesn’t run out for coworkers who are facing patients with this tiny virus – up close and personal every day. It would be great if the naysayers are right, but I prefer to get my updates from epidemiologists, scientists, those who have studied viruses and pandemics and history; those who are looking for a way to not sacrifice our elders when facing a choice on who is worthy to get the ventilator. Yes, things cannot stay shut down forever, but maybe slow is safer?

At home, I wear a mask and wash my hands when I daily (and briefly) check on my parents (ages 87 and 88) since they live in an in-law set up at my house. I wash hands and wash hands and wash hands. I wear a mask to go grocery shopping and I wash my hands when I’m done and I don’t touch my face while there. I do not wear gloves at a grocery store because it makes no sense unless you are changing them after each contamination, but good luck to those who want to. If I occasionally feel the need to touch my face, I wash my hands before I do. I wash my hands often but now I wash them longer.

I miss what we took for granted. We missed a grandson’s first birthday (no trip to Arkansas 😦 ). Our planned trip to Ireland for our fortieth anniversary – not going to happen this year. We aren’t doing our weekly dinner and a movie with our geographically closes daughter and her husband who are only five miles away. Online church, no meetings with friends, a canceled women’s beach retreat long planned for. But since I remain healthy at this point, I’m not suffering. I’m sad about the canceled trips, but they can happen again in the future. Facetime and Zoom can make people and family feel less distant to some degree. Together but apart.

It seems that there will be a different future than we’d expected as we rolled into 2020, and this expected future is changing daily. There is still so much to learn and can only be learned as the future comes to us, day by day. No expert opinion to be found here on this blog since I am not the one educated in these various fields. I try to read the experts’ opinions, or for my little brain, the educated folks interpreting the experts. Yes, I know even experts don’t all agree, but there is at least a presumption of some knowledge on their part, vs. listening to the talking heads paid to stir things up.

In quiet moments, I think about how the normal we remember is likely changed forever or for many years at least. Our day to day life came grinding to a halt. Who will we be as individuals and as a culture after this virus is conquered or subdued? How long before we feel comfortable with greeting with a hug or even a handshake? When will we feel safe to go back to church, or meet at a restaurant, or visit in homes – even if there is a rush to get it opened up again?

For those who suffer illness or the loss of a family member, or a job, it will be impossible to forget the virus and move back to “normal”. I think none of us will return entirely to the innocence we had. We now know that we lacked preparedness, we had/have some pitiful examples of leadership, and our vulnerability has been revealed. What will we have learned through this?

For those of us who are only coping with the inconveniences resulting from social distancing, there may be mixed feelings when the world’s gears start moving again. I wonder what the kids living through this will remember when reading about it in history books a decade or more from now. The sudden exit from school, the long summer, meeting for school online with ZOOM, social distancing, lots of time at home with parents, missing friends, reading books, playing outside, lots of walks, puzzles, and drive-by birthday greetings, people wearing masks, vacations turned into stay-cations, and parents who seem to be very tired of cooking and serving. Why was there the fixation on toilet paper and washing hands?

There are so many places in the world where life is so much more challenging (hunger, cold, homeless, disease, lack of everything) and has been for decades; many of our inconveniences are just a lesser version of privilege. But it does feel so very different and change is a struggle.

Most of us are complying in an effort to “flatten the curve” to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system, and protect the vulnerable. Some do not entirely believe there is a curve to be flattened, or that we don’t need to do this much, or even that mass exposure will get us through this quicker. Elderly or vulnerable people may be a bit more disposable than previously thought, it seems. “The cure worse than the disease” is starting to be heard. There have been protests about the shut down, and healthcare workers protesting the protesters. Our culture is not used to submitting to what may be best for the group overall, especially to protect the vulnerable or the old.

I see words posted online from people who are annoyed at the overreach of government control in telling us what we should or must do, feeling suspicious about just how long it’s needed or if it was needed at all. So many who seem to feel they are now experts in epidemiology and economics and politics and foretelling the future after reading someone else’s opinion. It’s totalitarianism, say some. It’s just way more than is necessary say others. It’s another round of “these are the end times” for others I know.

Meanwhile – I hope we are learning good things, too. Maybe a bit more on how to be still. Home exercise and watching Yoga online. Based on shortages of flour and yeast, it seems we’re learning how to bake bread. More cooking than ever. I think some families are learning what life was like before there was the endless list of activities to sign kids up for and may make some changes permanently when restrictions are lifted.