Philosophy

Ascending the Mountain

I have a friend who taught a yoga nidra class that I attended. One of my favorite scripts that she read was a visualization of climbing a mountain. It began at the base of the mountain and described our ascent as we traveled with a guide.

In the beginning, the guide that I visualized was a generic-looking outdoorsman with a dark beard and a camera. As I approached the summit in my mind, however, I realized that my guide had become an older, stronger version of myself.

When I told my friend about this after class, she said, “Bethany, don’t you realize that you are supposed to be the guide by the end of the meditation?”

Last summer, during the shutdown, I knew that I was going through a difficult but transformational time in my journey. As I came through it and learned and grew, I was able to see how the journey up the mountain was a perfect metaphor for my own path. And I saw that while many people walked with me on the journey, there were definitely four people who filled the role of “guide.”

This is my story of their influence on my climb.

2012: The Path at the Base of the Mountain

Guide: Kyle

Let’s begin this story in the fall of 2012. I had just returned from a 93-day sailing trip on the Great Lakes, and I felt a yearning for something more than life in my neighborhood in Harrison, Michigan could offer. I felt more and more out of synch with my teaching job that I had once loved. Returning to “reality” made me restless, and I coped with it by writing on my old blog, Journey to Ithaca.

At that time I was just beginning to embrace the minimalist lifestyle, and I quit Facebook for the first time. I reached out to a number of other bloggers through email, including one I will refer to as “Kyle,” who wrote a blog about mindfulness and meditation. Kyle got my attention when he commented on one of my blog posts, recommending the book Linchpin by Seth Godin and saying that I should read it, because it really applies to me.

I always loved it when friends recommended books, and I would always email them with my thoughts (and general commentary) when I had finished the book. This book, however, completely blew my mind. The information in the book, coupled with the idea that Kyle had said that I was a “linchpin” and capable of accomplishing great things, was mentally overwhelming. I began to realize that every assumption I had held about myself was likely false. I saw that I had been holding a negative identity of myself, and that my beliefs about myself were holding me back.

Kyle encouraged me in this redefining process and recommended more books for me to read about brain research, Zen, and positive thinking. At times during this process, I felt like I was losing my mind, and my emailing habits became quite excessive. Kyle had his own challenges, and while our interactions were purely platonic, I don’t know that they were necessarily “healthy.” However, he did lead me to the mountain that I would climb. He introduced me to ideas that would become the mainstay of my journey.

As I was reading and studying, my situation at my job only became worse. I was unhappy with it, and I wanted to see more and do more. The work that I had done allowed me to understand that I was in control of my situation, and that led me to make the choice to travel with my family across the country and start a new life. I saw that we could create something new, although I was terrified of repeating the same play on a new stage.

Eventually, I had made it as far as Kyle could lead me, and our paths split into different directions. We lost contact, which seemed to be for the best. Still, I am grateful for what I learned and the beginning of my journey.

2013-2016: The Beginning of the Ascent

Guide: Ewa

I had started working with an online life coach before I moved to Texas, but I really did not commit to the process until a few months after I had moved. I had been introduced to the idea of redefining limiting beliefs by Kyle, but with Ewa, I went through boot camp!

Through our emails, Ewa taught me techniques for calming my very overactive fight-or-flight response, then guided me through a questioning process to uncover and replace all the assumptions I had been holding. I realized that I had a constant verbally abusive commentary running through my head, and I was able to stop it rather early in our work together.

My new job was not working out as wonderfully as I thought it would, and for awhile I had multiple email exchanges with Ewa over the course of a day. With her guiding me through the redefining process, I was able to change my perception of myself, which in turn, helped to improve my situation. After two years, I was moved into a much better-suited position at work.

Near the end of my time working with Ewa, I asked her to train me in her method, and I began working with coaching clients. I loved being able to help others in the way that I had been helped, and I was able to see that everyone is vulnerable and everyone faces fear. While I eventually stopped doing coaching (because I quickly burned out on the marketing aspect of running a side hustle), working with clients was an important step in my journey.

It was through my work with redefining, that I first experienced what I referred to as “the place of love”–the state of mind that lies beyond fear, assumption, and identity. It was fleeting, but it was very real.

It was while I was working with Ewa that I discovered yoga. I saw my overeating as a response to being in fight-or-flight and an effort to ground myself, so I joined a gym to try and adopt some healthier habits. This gym had a yoga class, and one of my friends in Michigan always talked about how much she loved yoga. (I wrote more about my yoga journey here).

I wrote to Ewa after my first few classes, discouraged because my body was so inflexible and there were 20-year-olds in class doing handstands. Ewa’s response was: “But what yoga really teaches you is that you can’t compare, that the only journey is your own. That each time you stand at the top of your mat, you bring your focus onto the tip of your nose and your breathing, cultivating your sense of awareness in a practice that is different every day, even if you do the same postures over and over.”

By then, I was living on a boat with very comfortable living space, working in a job that was okay, and looking for a new place to practice yoga. Ewa was looking to make a career change, when I emailed her and said I had found a new yoga studio that I loved, and I joked that I had a “girl crush” on the instructor, who would become guide #3.

Ewa and I have kept in touch through our new adventures, with a few emails throughout the year.

2016-2020: The Steep Approach to the Summit

Guide: Cass

My yoga teacher, Cass, says that 3 is the number of completion, so it is very fitting that she was the third guide on my journey.

I have written before about my yoga practice and the lessons I have learned from Cass, but I think it is important to note that I could not have learned and grown as much as I did, if I had not done the groundwork prior to the day I found Moonlight Yoga. The steepest climb on the mountain happened during my time working with Cass, but I had to climb up to that point before I could begin to traverse the rockiest part of the path.

It was during this leg of my journey that I began to see the full extent of the damage done by my lack of self-value. My work situation had become abusive, I spent my time with friends who did not lead me to become my best self, I drank way too much, and my binge eating was completely out of control.

Yes, I knew how to redefine, but I often would not do it on my own, because I was too angry at myself. I considered everyone to be a potential threat, and I did not know how to even begin to self-advocate without being passive-aggressive.

I enlisted the help of a therapist and later, a dietician as well. Therapy helped me to process my emotions as I faced the challenges and made the necessary life changes during this time.

But yoga was my mainstay and my path back to myself. And Cass was the one who helped me access it.

It was Cass who helped me to find my voice and showed me that it is okay to speak up and address issues directly. It was Cass who encouraged me during 6 am classes while I was going through my last year at my old job. It was Cass who told me with absolute confidence that her role was to show me my value and told me that I was beautiful when I was at my heaviest. It was Cass who was my biggest cheerleader when I decided to go back to teaching full time.

She was the first person I told when I was offered my dream job.

Cass taught me that I can create a new reality, and, most importantly, that I am deserving my dreams. Yoga has led me to create a life better than I ever imagined was possible. It is because of yoga that I look in the mirror and see a beautiful person looking back.

Yoga taught me patience. My body has consistently become more flexible, but it has been very slow, steady progress. I have learned that if this is okay with me, then this is okay. And I have learned to see and appreciate the slow, steady progress that I have made throughout my life, with my mind and with my habits.

Cass never told me what to do, but she always supports me in reaching the goals that I have set for myself. From day 1, her words and actions have been leading me closer to my fourth guide, the one who will accompany me to the top of the mountain.

2020-Present: Approaching the Top and Watching the Sunrise

Guide: Bethany

Now the drama is (mostly) gone, and I am finding that I can take risks as I reach toward my dreams. My dreams themselves have grown, and I understand that failure only happens if I give up. I realize that if something is okay with me, then it is okay. I no longer feel the need to seek approval or validation (although I do like to brag about my accomplishments!).

This does not mean that I am perfect. I still have crabby days and days of self-doubt. And I understand that being okay with those is also a part of the process.

The best part is that as I have made peace with myself, I have become more understanding of those around me. I have had the confidence to step into more roles where I can give back, and I believe in myself enough to take chances and make a difference.

My yoga practice is still very much a part of all of this, and Cass is still a very significant mentor in my life. However, there has definitely been a shift, and I am definitely the guide on this leg of the journey.

The yoga nidra that my friend led years ago, ends with you and the guide reaching the top of the mountain and watching the sun rise over the city and valley below. I am not to the peak yet, but when I get there, I will definitely share pictures of the beautiful sunrise.

Family Fun

Yes, We Are Still Alive!

Happy weekend, everyone!

I know it has been two weeks since we last checked in. The end of the school year is always crazy, and the pandemic has added extra craziness this year.

Oh, and Ili and I went to camp last weekend!

This was our first time returning to camp since the beginning of the pandemic. Things were definitely different, but it was fun to be back!

As always, our adventure began with the bonfire. We had to socially distance, but there were s’mores involved!

Because of Covid, each family had their own cabin. Ili and I chose bunkbeds on opposite sides, and we made the most of our space!

In the morning, we had (socially distanced) energizers, and then we got to meet our group.

And guess which activity Ili and I got to do first…

Thanks to yoga, I scaled the rock wall in record time. My hip range of motion has definitely increased–noticeably!

After the rock wall and zip line, it was time for the giant swing. This was new at Camp Be An Angel, but it had been one of Iliana’s favorite activities at summer camp two years ago.

And, of course, I took a turn as well!

After we recovered, Ili surprised me by knowing how to steer a canoe.

Fishing was next, and Iliana persisted in spite of the bait-stealing turtles. She caught fish after fish, and was the last to leave when it was time for lunch.

Lunch was a time for Ili to draw and relax. Due to social distancing, each family had their own table in the dining hall.

After lunch, it was time for horseback riding! Much to my surprise, I could move my leg the right way to dismount correctly. More yoga magic, I suppose!

Then it was time to see the barnyard animals. Unfortunately, Dali the Llama is now “retired.” (I suspect he is taking selfies in the big farm in the sky.)

After that it was time for some disc golf.

We definitely worked up an appetite by the time we arrived at the dining hall!

Previous years, we have gone swimming Saturday evening, or if the weather was too cold, we would have a dance. This year, they told us to gather in the dining hall to get ready for an activity.

This activity involved having each family carry one glow stick to the “Star Place” on the opposite side of the camp. The staff would be walking around with flash lights, and if they shined one on us, we had to freeze. If we moved or talked, they would take our glow stick and we would have to go back to the dining hall to get a new one. The game was surprisingly a lot of fun! And Ili and I made it on the first try.

Morning brought us breakfast and our picture from the day before. I bought us matching Camp for All shirts (and a coffee mug) from the camp store.

Previously, Sunday was a very low-key day at camp. We would have free time in the morning, with an optional church service, followed by the talent show.

This year, however, the day was filled with even more activities! We began our day with arts and crafts.

Ili and I always went to the “Tree House” during our free time on Sunday, and this year we had just enough time between arts and crafts and the next activity. Feeling too cool for this tradition, my 13-year-old reluctantly indulged my nostalgia.

After that, it was time to visit the reptiles and go on a nature walk/scavenger hunt.

Our walk ended at the archery range! With the smaller groups, Iliana and I both got some individualized help from the staff. By the end of our time there, we were both hitting the target consistently. We felt like Katniss Everdeen!

Ili was not excited when they sang the tear-jerking song at lunch (they have replaced “The World’s Greatest” with an equally tear-jerking song!), but she was happy to stop at Freezy Frenzy on the way home. Clearly, she does not share her mother’s enthusiasm for taking selfies, however.

So that was our adventure! We were both a bit wiped out after the busy weekend, and Iliana developed a fever and aches for a day and had to stay home from school on Monday. However, it was completely worth it.

We are now looking forward to more adventures! Iliana will turn 14 the day after school gets out, and we will need to celebrate. June will bring a camping trip with my parents, as well as a visit to Elijah’s Retreat. In July, Iliana will spend a week at Camp Blessing. And I plan to order my new lipstick for the fourth of July!

P.S. Rob and I finally ate at a restaurant tonight! Like indoors, at a table. It was crowded, with music and craziness. Normalcy approaches…

Philosophy

Why I Stopped Preparing for the Worst

When I was in sixth grade, I ran for student council vice president. After a crazy month of covering the hallways in campaign signs, it was time to hear the results of the vote count. As we sat in the principal’s office waiting to hear the results, a teacher cautioned us, “Prepare to lose.”

At the time this seemed like sensible advice. Statistically speaking, most of us were going to lose. Better to be expecting disappointment and possibly be pleasantly surprised right? So although I was disappointed that I had not won, I felt like I had done the best thing I could to mentally prepare myself for this.

I lived much of my adult life with this mindset. I interviewed for a job where they told me that there would likely be a job offer, but I was prepared for the possibility of it falling through. I tempered the emotional high that I would have felt if it were a sure thing, and I was happy that I had a backup plan when things didn’t go as expected.

At this new job, things went wonderfully, but I was always looking ahead for things that might go wrong, not allowing myself to get too comfortable. So when those things actually happened, I was not as disappointed as I could have been.

My career continued in this fashion, preparing for the worst, then not being overly surprised when it happened. I learned to keep my expectations “realistic.” But at the same time, I found that my focus on the worst case scenario kept my confidence low. I didn’t take many risks, because I was focused on the possibility of losing my income.

The turning point happened during the pandemic. I was constantly stockpiling food, in case there were a survival situation where we were unable to get more. I soaked up doomsday stories, preparing for every possible bad outcome. When I went back to work, I was so, so careful, wearing and N95 all day and changing and showering as soon as I got home. I was fixated on the worst case scenario–that I would get very sick from the virus and spread it to others.

Long before I actually caught the virus, I encountered an opportunity at work. I had been working as a teaching assistant, and the teacher in charge of our team unexpectedly resigned. I applied for the position, then began my usual process of preparing for it not to happen. Maybe someone has a friend who is going to get the position. Maybe nobody sees me or would even consider me. Maybe my past trauma from my previous job would be a reason not to hire me. All of these scenarios were far fetched, but as I fixated on them, I began to feel as if they had happened. And this, of course, made me very angry, because it would be horrible if any of those scenarios were true.

Then I stopped. I was so tired of worrying and fixating on negativity. I was so tired of giving all of my energy to horrible things that had not happened. I was tired to never celebrating until something was perfectly safe and secure.

And so I celebrated. Of course I would get the job. I was a special education teacher with 15 years experience. It is very rare for someone to last that long in this field. I am likable and excellent at leading a team. And this opportunity was too perfect. It was my dream job, set right in my lap. It was a God thing, a Universe thing. Whatever you want to call it, it was meant to be.

I let myself fully experience the feelings of joy over returning to teaching and landing the perfect job. I told my friends, and I knew that the traumatic experience I had been through at my old job, did not define me. I foolishly refused to consider any other outcome.

One morning I felt the urge to check my email before I left for work, and I saw that an interview was scheduled for that day. I knew that getting the job was a sure thing, and this was just a chance for me to demonstrate my knowledge and experience, and for the team to see what I already saw–that I was the perfect fit.

The interview went flawlessly, and I was authentically me. The next Monday, I woke up feeling grateful and sent a text to one of my friends, reflecting on how far I had come over the past 5 years. Shortly after I arrived at work, I was offered the new position, and I excitedly accepted.

Of course, the inevitable question is, what if I had not been offered the position? Wouldn’t it have been better to have been prepared for that?

My answer is that if I had “prepared” for the worst, I would have mentally gone through the scenarios where the worst could have happened, and most of those involve doubting my worthiness or expecting unfairness. I did consider the unlikely chance that someone more qualified that I would get the position, but I knew that was unlikely so I did not dwell on it. I would learn a lot from such a person, so it was still a win-win.

Fixating on the worst and not allowing the celebration from the beginning, led me to fixate on my unworthiness and to expect unfairness. Celebrating early on helped me to see my value and to see the universe as a whole in a rosier light.

Given the choice, I will always try to see the rosy light from now on.

Family Fun

Ronavax, The Ring, and Happy Easter!

Good morning, folks!

I thought I would share some updates and pictures this week.

Ronavax

Rob and I decided that the vaccination rates would probably go up if they named the vaccine “Ronavax” and had a picture of a dead virus on the bottle.

Ronavax! It kills the rona dead.

So I got my second dose of Ronavax on Tuesday. The fun thing about having actually had the rona, is that they actually know very little about it. I have read that you probably have full immunity after one dose if you have had the virus already. And that you have a stronger reaction to the first dose than most people, because your body goes crazy making antibodies after the first dose.

I got my first dose on day 10, which in the rona world (for those who don’t know) if the first day out of quarantine. I couldn’t tell what symptoms were from the shot and which ones were just from me still feeling crappy from being sick. But I figured that was my big reaction, and shot #2 would be a piece of cake. Right?

Wrong. For me, shot #2 of the Ronavax was worse than having the rona (although much shorter lived). My temperature went crazy over night, just as it did with the rona, although a got a lot hotter. I woke up freezing, with a temperature of 97. My back and legs were on fire, and I knew that going to work was not going to happen. Lots of texts to my boss and my team, and then I headed off to yoga. (Yes, the nice thing about Ronavax is that the side effects are not contagious! I double-checked on CDC’s website, just to be sure).

Yoga, of course, helped with everything. I had some relief from my building brain fog, and I made it through class without any weird muscle twitching or tingling, which was another plus. Just like when I was sick (I did yin on videos then!), yoga bought me a couple of good hours to enjoy the sunny day.

Then I crashed. It was off to bed, but when I woke up, I felt no better. This was a difference from having the actual virus. When I was sick, I could sleep a couple hours, then have a couple of good, somewhat-alert hours before the next crash. This time, I slept all day, until I felt somewhat less crappy in the evening.

The next day the muscle aches were gone, but the twitching and tingling were still there, with a little brain fog. Two more yoga classes finally cured that!

So now I’m back to my normal post-rona self. I get tired a little easier, and if I allow myself to get too stressed, I crash. Otherwise, it is fine, as long as I keep my head on straight! I’ve started eating an anti-inflammatory meal plan, which has absolutely hit the spot. Lots of fish, nuts, and (my favorite!) berries. I’ve got to get myself into shape, because I have a feeling that real 5K’s are going to happen this summer, and I am determined to break 10 minute miles!

My tiara didn’t make it through the race!

The Ring

Back in 1999, Rob and I were 21. He was making $800 a month working at a grocery store, and I was a full time student, substitute teaching a few times a week for $65 a pop. Rob occupied his free time fixing up this 1979 Impala, which was the bane of my existence–mostly because I would much rather go on a date than watch him work on the car…again…

One day, the owner of a used mobile home lot came into the store, eager to rid herself of an engagement ring. Her ex-fiance had bought this ring from a discount store called Best that had since gone out of business. Fortunately, that same day, Rob found a buyer for the Impala. And double fortunately, the price he received for the Impala was also the asking price for the ring!

I didn’t know that he bought the ring, of course. All I knew was that the car was gone, which was already a win for me. And then, at midnight on New Year’s Eve, Rob got down on one knee on the ice over Lake Huron, and the ring set off on its new–and more successful–adventure!

So we bought a mobile home from a used car lot (sadly, not the mobile home lot owned by the previous owner of the ring) for $1000, got it towed to a lake that no longer exists, and began our adventure together!

Fast forward 18 years and 60 pounds, and I found myself needing to have an MRI. All metal jewelry needed to be removed, and my ring was a little…um…stuck. I tried every trick in the book, but my finger just swelled up. Finally, our only option was to cut the ring off. We kept it safe, deciding that we would wait to get it repaired, until I reached my goal weight. Oddly enough, through numerous mess-ups in the medical bureaucracy, I never did have that MRI.

Well, even though I am currently 16 pounds above my goal weight, I am very close to the weight I was at my wedding! My size will not change significantly when I do get back to goal, so we decided it was time to get the ring fixed. The setting for the large diamond needed to be redone, and one of the small diamonds had fallen out and needed to be replaced. But the end result is that it looks better than new, and is quite happy to be back on my finger!

Happy Easter!

I spent a lot of money on Easter 2020. Life was really depressing at that time, we were still in lockdown, and the marina had decided that the bathrooms should only be open from 8:00am-8:00pm. (Because the rona can only spread at night? I don’t know.)

Iliana had 5 Easter baskets, I set up a whole snack spread for the day, and I insisted that we all get dressed up. Of course, it was not the magic I had been hoping for and was kind of depressing.

This year was much lower-key, as Easter usually is for us. And that was just fine. Yesterday, Iliana orchestrated a white elephant auction.

After that, it was time to decorate the eggs. I was much more into it than 13-year-old Iliana!

Following the egg decorating, it was time for the traditional drinking of the blue egg dye. Rob started doing this one year when his mom was still alive, in the hopes of shocking her…It was a rousing success and has been repeated every year since! Here is the picture from last year:

This year, we decided to make a video of the big event.

Of course, the bunny came overnight! There was one Easter basket this year, plus lots of hidden jelly bean eggs.

We concluded our day with a visit to my parents’ house. My mom tried to freak Ili out by eating her Easter grass (Ili did not know it was edible). However, Ili nonchalantly grabbed a handful and ate it herself!

It was a fun visit, and I was able to hug my parents for the first time in over a year!

Happy Easter to all who celebrate!

Philosophy

What If “Up”?

A year ago, when the world came to a standstill, I reconnected with an old friend, through texts and Facetime. One day, when we were both feeling very anxious, she suggested that we both do a journaling exercise she had recently read about. We were to divide our paper down the middle, and in the first column, write every “what if” that we were worrying about at that time. Then, in the other column, we needed to write a “what if up.” That is, we were to reframe the “what if” as a positive.

My pictures are from our adventures over the past two weeks! This is at the zoo, over spring break.

Looking back at my journal, here is what I wrote:

What if….

What I have to go back to work full time?

What if we catch the virus?

What if we have no paycheck from catching the virus?

What if we die because we have no insurance?

What if my parents catch the virus?

What if I have to go back to work without having yoga?

What if the yoga studio goes out of business?

What if “up”…

What if people realize the nonsense of political party loyalty?

What if people unite together to stop the virus from spreading?

What if I learn to stay calm and at peace, no matter what is going on out there?

What if this is a positive, transformational time for me?

What if our yoga community grows stronger as we all have the opportunity to serve each other?

What if this experience is giving me exactly what I asked for?

What if everyone in our country learns to care for each other during this time?

With all the changes in the world lately, I have heard a lot of doom-and-gloom, hopeless predictions. Having survived Covid easily and with no lasting issues at all, (and with all 3 of us having our lungs be completely unaffected), I have faced a lot of “what if”‘s in my personal life.

It is easy to fall into the trap of believing that the negative prediction is more realistic than the positive outcome. Maybe a lot of my “what if up”‘s were pie-in-the-sky. But I do know a lot of people who have become less polarized politically. And I have seen people work together in smaller venues, if not with the population at large. I have gotten better at staying calm, and the pandemic did lead to me landing my dream job. Our yoga community definitely has grown closer through this.

And the few “what if”‘s that actually happened, were far from the worst case scenario. I eventually did go back to work, and it was the best thing for me and for the students. And of course we did catch the virus, but we were fine in the end.

So I thought I would share some of the “what if”‘s that I have dealt with in my personal life, as well as the corresponding “what if up”‘s.

What if….

What if new strains of the virus develop, that are resistant to the vaccines?

What if not enough people get vaccinated, so we never reach herd immunity?

What if the economy never recovers?

What if we are never able to stop social distancing and mask wearing?

What if my heart was damaged by the virus?

What if the virus caused other lasting damage, that we don’t know about?

What if some of the 548,000 people in this country who have died of Covid, had more to contribute to the world than I do (and yet I recovered and they didn’t)?

What if I will never be good enough to deserve to have survived instead of those others?

What if we have a homelessness crisis when the eviction moratorium ends?

What if people are always afraid to hug?

What if people who have had the virus are stigmatized and treated as second class citizens?

And now, let’s look at the more realistic possibilities!

Rob unboxing his new boat motor!

What if “Up”…

What if the vaccines cover ever variant of the virus, and the biggest hurdle is just waiting for people to feel comfortable getting back to “normal”?

What if the vaccine becomes available to everyone who wants it, by the middle of summer, and enough people are immune that we actually are all going to parties and barbecues on the Fourth of July (celebrating on the Fourth is a goal that a lot of people in the US have in mind)?

What if people gain a new appreciation for small businesses and do more to support their local economy as everything reopens?

What if every woman is showing off their new lipstick at the beach this summer, mask-free and feeling safe at parties?

What if I break 10 minute miles in a 5K this summer, and go on to run my first 10K?

What if my immune system–which killed off the virus before it could spread anywhere other than my head–keeps going strong and I write a blog post on my 100th birthday?

What if God–or whoever is in charge of the universe–knows who I am, and has a plan that I will not understand in this lifetime, that involves me being here and me being as I am?

What if it is okay not to know all of life’s answers right now?

What if housing becomes affordable again?

What if everyone appreciates hugs more, and hugs whenever they can?

What if we all realize that we are lucky to not be among the 548,000 who did not survive, and we all take the time to gain the most from this lifetime?

Family Fun

Days 8-14: Defeating the Nothing

When I wrote last Sunday, I was less symptomatic, Iliana was almost better, and Rob had returned to work.

On Sunday night, I had a very pleasant surprise. On a whim, I stuck my nose in a coffee can…and smelled coffee! It seemed that I was getting my sense of smell back in record time. At first, I had to spend time smelling things in the morning, to “wake it up.” But now I can smell everything pretty consistently, although not as strongly as I used to. I suspect it will continue to improve. Happily, this happened after I disinfected the apartment, so I was spared the overwhelming bleach smell! Rob and Iliana are starting to be able to smell things too, although much more slowly.

On March 9, 1,885 people in the US died of Covid. Also on that day, I was considered to be recovered. I was on day 10 since the onset of my symptoms and I had not had a fever in nearly a week. I was no longer contagious, and other than some lingering brain fog and sinus stuff, I was feeling good. It was time to return to work!

Being out of the apartment made me realize that I still had a lot of brain fog! Luckily, everyone was very accommodating at work. Being back was exhausting, but I loved seeing my students again.

The greatest irony of my situation is that, on the day I became symptomatic, teachers were cleared to get the vaccine in Texas. There was a sign-up for employees of our school, so I chose Friday, which was the latest date available.

Well, on Tuesday, I received notification that my appointment had been moved to that afternoon. I was very upfront about my situation, and they said that since I was on day 10 and had not received an infusion, I was good to go! I got the Pfizer vaccine, and I will be getting the second dose, even though they suspect that people who have had the virus develop full immunity after one dose.

Another fun fact about vaccines: people who have had the virus have crazy side effects after the first dose. On Wednesday, I was useless at work, the brain fog was so bad. I also had crazy muscle aches.

On Wednesday evening, I made it to my first yoga class since being sick. From the beginning of class, I experienced more mental clarity that I had since my symptoms began. The brain fog has stayed away from that evening on. By Friday, I was able to fully resume my duties at work.

During a surge in the pandemic, I had noticed that Air BNB prices downtown were very low. I suspected that the surge would be over by spring break, and it had been a year since we had last gone downtown. Usually we stay in Montrose, but this time we found a room in a high rise, right in the center of everything!

Friday was day 10 for Iliana, so we were safe to enjoy a weekend of normalcy.

We were greeted by a beautiful sunrise!

Our Jeep barely cleared the ceilings in the parking garage where it stayed parked while we rode our bikes around the city.

The high point of our day was a much-overdue ride on the Buffalo Bayou trail.

It was fun to have a day of normalcy, and in the evening, we set out to achieve my post-immunity goal of eating at an indoor restaurant. We rode our bikes around, but did not find anywhere open. Definitely a sad sign of the struggles of the past year.

We were on floor 28 of the building behind the restaurant

I was going to end this post with a reference to The Neverending Story, with the quote, “Falkor, it’s like the Nothing never was!”

But maybe we aren’t there yet.

We live in a world that has been very impacted by Covid. The streets are lined with closed businesses, where people have lost their livelihood. And nearly 2000 families lost loved ones to the virus on the day I recovered from it. There is a lot to heal, a lot to rebuild.

And yet we are moving forward. Spring break has always been a time to go out and do fun activities with Iliana, and we are looking forward to that this week. We have an appointment at the zoo on Monday, and I know we will find more fun outings to fill our week. We wear masks for social reasons, but we are no longer living under the threat of the virus. And I have no doubt that I will have my indoor dining experience by the end of the week!

So maybe we’re not at the part where it is like the Nothing never was. Maybe we are at the part where the Childlike Empress hands Bastien the grain of sand that is all that remains of her once great empire and tells him to make a wish. “As many as you wish. And the more you make, the greater Fantasia will be!”

Almost as if on cue, as soon as I finished writing this post, we saw a bunch of lights slowly making their way down the road outside our window. I closer look revealed that it was Critical Mass, and we could hear their music up on our balcony on the 28th floor. No, their numbers weren’t as insanely huge as they had been on the ride we joined years ago, but they were there, moving forward.

Next month we will join them.

Health

Some Notes from Isolation

Stay at home. Quarantine in your home. Flying viruses. Coronavirus pandemic and social distance. Self-isolation to stop the outbreak of the virus. Vector illustration

I have had so many stops and starts with this blog post. And I know I am committing to a few hours, if not the rest of the day, to write this update for all of you. But when my last post was about my husband testing positive for Covid, I figured I probably owed all of you an update.

Rob tested positive on Saturday. That night, I slept in Iliana’s room on the floor, to keep Rob isolated. Iliana and I were scheduled to get tested the next day, so we could see how much we needed to isolate. I was optimistic that I would test positive but be asymptomatic, getting myself enough immunity to carry me until it was my turn to get a vaccine.

That was a lofty goal, and not a realistic one for my immune system to achieve.

I woke up in the middle of the night with muscle aches and ringing ears. My temperature spiked, then dropped down to below normal. My stomach hurt. My test was going to be a formality.

I texted my boss in the morning, so we could prepare for the inevitable. Luckily, I had not been following my normal schedule the last two days I was there, so I was not in close contact with very many people. As soon as I tested positive, the people I was in close contact with would be told they needed to quarantine. If Iliana tested positive, more people would have to stay home.

Before noon on Sunday, we knew that I was positive and Iliana was negative. When she started showing symptoms on Tuesday, the school nurse told us that there was no need to test her, unless we wanted to. Since she was in close contact with us, she would have a quarantine until spring break. A positive test would not change that.

Luckily, we will all be set free in time for our weekend trip at the beginning of spring break!

So right now, Rob is back at work, with some accommodations. Iliana has had extremely mild symptoms (most kids do) and is very annoyed that she is not allowed back at school. I am feeling better physically, but still have a lot of brain fog and some sensory issues as I wait for the quarantine clock to run up! I have been preparing for my re-entry into the outside world, which is both exciting and stressful.

Since my life has been completely dominated by the Rona this week, I thought I would share some facts that I have learned from my experience:

I still tried to work from home!

1. Something Stuff Happens In Spite of Your Best Efforts

No matter the situation, when something bad happens to someone, it is human nature to look for a way to place the blame, so that we can believe the situation will not happen to us. Yes, I work in a school. We were meticulous about wearing masks. I wore an N95 at work, circulating between 5 of them that got worn once a week.

We aren’t sure exactly how we got sick, but we do know I didn’t catch it at work (because nobody else there has tested positive). Rob may have caught it from a customer who wasn’t wearing their mask correctly or someone who didn’t socially distance. I may have caught it from waiting in the sardine-packed line to get into Walmart during the freeze.

Sometimes stuff just happens.

2. Our Symptoms Were Mainly Neurological

When I found out I had Covid, my first thought was that I would soon be gasping for air and struggling to breathe. That never happened. My sinuses got a little more stuffy that usual and I have an occasional tickle cough. In the evenings, I go for walks (while avoiding other people), and two days ago I tried running a short distance. I did so easily, without getting winded. I could run a 5k today, and it would be much easier than writing this article.

The bulk of my symptoms were neurological. I was very fatigued, with constant ringing in my ears. I lost my sense of smell, but not my sense of taste (although of course my sense of taste is significantly reduced). I had muscle aches and very pronounced muscle tightness. I also had headaches and felt light headed. My body temperature bounced all over the place at first, and I have remained very sensitive to heat and cold. I am very distractible (although it is slowly improving) and have a difficult time with short term memory and expressing myself verbally or in writing. Mental tasks cause a lot of fatigue, and physical activity helps to clear my mind.

My emotions have been all over the place at well. When I first tested positive, I felt almost euphoric. This led me to overexert myself, and while I slept all of the next day, I became extremely anxious. I was convinced that I was going to start having trouble breathing. My moods have become much more stable, thankfully.

The Rona couldn’t keep me away from my yoga!

3. Re-Entry is a Terrifying Prospect

My quarantine ends on Tuesday, and I will definitely be ready to return to work, as long as I have accommodations for my residual brain fog. I have corresponded with my boss repeatedly, because I am very nervous about returning to a job that involves constant decision-making. Although I have no doubt that my brain will return to its old self, during these last few days before spring break, I am going to need some help. This is a huge shift from what I am used to.

Returning to social activities is scarier than returning to work. I have read stories of people being ghosted and treated as if they were still contagious. Fortunately, my friends are not like that. They have been checking up on me everyday and have assured me that they can’t wait to see me and give me a hug!

4. The Rona Ends

I currently feel like a leper in the Bible, but this is not a permanent situation. The CDC is confident that I am safe to be around children in a public school after day 10, if I have had no fever for at least 24 hours. And while they aren’t sure how long immunity lasts, it is very safe to say that right after day 10, my immune system will be well-armed with enough antibodies to keep the Rona away for awhile.

I am telling you this in case you have a friend who have had Covid. That friend has been on an emotional roller coaster and at some point along the way–no matter how mild their symptoms were–they considered their own mortality. And they did this all while in isolation. After they have met the criteria to leave isolation, they are safe from infecting you or anyone else. The science is very sound on that.

So do me a favor. If you have a friend who has recovered from Covid, go see them, and maybe even consider giving them a hug. They need it.

The evening walks are my sanity!
About Us, Health

R is for “Rona”

Spring break is a dangerous time.

In 2017, I went on medical leave starting the week before spring break. (Here is a picture of my first day of freedom!)

My first day on leave, March 1, 2018.

In 2018, I was in a long-term subbing assignment in Deer Park. On the last day of spring break, a factory caught on fire, which led to spring break being extended by a week.

Last year, of course, we went on lockdown after spring break and did not return to school in-person until fall.

So this year, of course, there was an exciting build-up to spring break. Let’s recap, shall we?

Two weeks ago, most of the class I work in, had to quarantine.

And then we had a week off of school, for what everyone here refers to as “Snow-vid.”

After things returned to “normal,” Rob started feeling like he had a cold. I figured he wore himself ragged during the snowstorm and needed some time to rest and recover. He had a low grade fever that went away, and it seemed to be a run of the mill sinus cold. By the end of the week, it was definitely improving. I wore my N95 at work and was very careful about avoiding close contact at yoga, but it seemed like things were going to be fine.

Friday afternoon, Rob sent me a text, saying that he had lost his sense of smell.

So I learned a lot of things. I learned that Covid tests are free, even if you don’t have insurance. I learned that the rapid test was offered nearby. And according to Rob, putting the swab an inch up your nose is more difficult than it seems.

Three hours later, I learned that quarantine for close contact starts the first day of close contact, which for us was the day Rob’s symptoms started. So I will basically be off of work (except for a few things I offered to do remotely) until March 8, and Iliana will be distance learning. She is taking it in stride and already looking at her grades and getting set up!

So no yoga class for yet another week! I don’t have a good track record with doing well in isolation, and of course I freaked out initially. After a texting conversation with my wonderful, wonderful yoga teacher (who reminded me that I can do the videos 24/7 if I want to!), I had a much more positive mindset. I could even see how I had been so exhausted that having some time to rest will be beneficial.

Tonight, we have Rob isolated in the bedroom, and I will be sleeping on Iliana’s floor. But this has seemed ridiculous, because there is a good chance that Iliana and I also have the virus but are asymptomatic. So we are getting tested tomorrow.

Ili has started a new puzzle!

The upshot is that if I test positive, I will likely have immunity until I am eligible for a vaccine. So my days of not being able to hug might soon be over! In the meantime, my focus will be on self-care. If my body is busy kicking the arse of a virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people, I want to do all I can to help my immune system continue its victory streak!

About Us

Some Pictures from Armageddon

“We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner! I can’t think what anybody sees in them.”
– Bilbo, The Hobbit, An Unexpected Party

Update: Winter is now over in Texas. It is 60 degrees outside and sunny, and the guys at Space City Weather are saying that should be in the 70’s next week.

Our electrical grid is stabilized, and the powers that be are most certainly planning ahead so they are more prepared for the next time a winter storm hits Texas.

We all still have to boil our water before we drink it, but since I mostly drink coffee, that isn’t a major lifestyle change here. Everyone is calling on favors from their one relative who can fix everything, so they can get their burst pipes fixed without having to call a plumber. Not a lot of heat tape available in Texas…(I tried to describe it to my friends! It’s like an electric blanket for your pipes!)

The grocery stores are slowly getting restocked. I cooked up all of my emergency food, so now I have meals prepared for the next week (and then some)! We dumped out our water tank, which, once again, was good insurance. We have now filled it three times and have never had to use it.

Our internet and cell reception is still sketchy, but we have a wired internet connection that is working well enough to upload pictures at the moment!

I could barely walk through the entire adventure, due to an incredibly painful knee. It felt like I had a bruise, so I figured I must have bumped into something. Lidocaine, ibuprophen, and dragon balm sometimes took the edge off enough for me to sleep. After a yin class yesterday, I was able to run and climb stairs with only a little tenderness. Power flow today felt amazing, and I’m still only a little tender. It turns out tight hamstrings can cause knee pain, and cold weather (coupled with not being able to go to yoga for 10 days) makes my leg muscles very tight!

So here are some pictures from our adventure!

Monday Morning: White S— (as my dad always called it in Michigan) on the Ground!

My parents lost power over the night, so they brought their cats over and checked into a hotel.

Since the building owner was planning on shutting off the water (which he did Monday night), I did the laundry and filled two water jugs.

When my parents’ hotel lost power, my dad and brother decided to stay, but my mom came over and became the first overnight guest at our apartment!

Tuesday: The Day We Officially Ran a Refugee Camp!

One day in a cold hotel is one thing, but two is a bit much. On Tuesday, my dad, brother, and his girlfriend joined us!

And then, just as we were relaxing in the evening…

Rob got called into work early in the morning, where he was put to task improving our standard of living!

Iliana could not complete her distance learning activities due to the power outage, but if she read from her novel (Tom Sawyer), she would be counted present for school.

Yes, she did decide to wear her school uniform that day!

I said I was nervous about running out of water, because I did not want to die of dehydration. Except that we had a ton of soda and juice. What I meant was that I was afraid of not having coffee. So as soon as the water came back on, I excitedly began gathering whatever water I could, to fill our 50 gallon tank!

I went to Walmart for more provisions, but there was a bit of a wait…

Iliana put on another school uniform and kept herself entertained with bubbles! And yes, we were back on the grid when I got home!

Time for more reading!

This was the next day–no uniform!

So here we are, back in Texas temperatures! Every year here has had an adventure, and I would have it no other way. Maybe our next adventure will be a little warmer…

About Us

Greetings from “The Day After Tomorrow”

Hello, folks!

I thought I would check in with a quick update!

The day after I published my last post, the ice storm hit our area (and most of the state). We did fine there–it was definitely not my first or worst ice storm!

Of course, I am sure that most people have heard about Texas’s electrical grid and its collapse by now. We kept power and water at first, and I did distance learning on Monday and Tuesday, meeting virtually with the few students who still had power and internet access. Iliana unhappily completed her assignments online and logged into class meetings.

My parents lost power in the storm. My mom stayed with us Monday night, and my whole family stayed with us on Tuesday. So of course that was the night we lost power! By morning, we had lost water as well.

Between the kerosene lamp we had and an electric heater that we powered off a generator, we were able to keep the apartment at 64 degrees. We had 11 gallons of water, which I figured could get our larger group through 2-3 days. I was not happy with that, but it was something.

I had some sweet tea that Walmart had mistakenly put on my order (none of us drink sweet tea), and I used that to cook up large amounts of rice in my instant pot, running it off the generator. This significantly stretched out food supply, so we could feed anyone who happened to be at our home! I moved our perishables to a dock box in the store parking lot, utilizing the Michigan trick of the “outdoor fridge.”

On Wednesday, distance learning was 100% asynchronous, meaning there were no virtual meetings. If students did not have power, they were to read from their novels or otherwise complete low-tech schoolwork. Iliana is reading Tom Sawyer for her English class, so she has been enjoying her reading time everyday! On Wednesday, she wore her school uniform anyway.

We were lucky and got power and water back yesterday evening. I promptly filled our 50 gallon water tank, which is always good insurance. This is my third time filling it, and we have never been in a situation where we have needed it, after filling it!

We are very lucky, because I have friends who have not had electricity or water for four days now. But everyone is finding ways to keep warm, and the stores are doing a surprisingly good job of restocking water.

Today is a day of making preparations. There is supposed to be another storm tonight, before it warms up on Saturday. And nobody knows when the grid will be fixed.

In addition to filling the water tank, I have stocked up on propane, deep cycle batteries, rice, and other essentials. I froze a bunch of water containers, so we can keep some food in the Yeti cooler if we lose power. Everything is charging, and I am getting caught up on laundry. I am even ironing Rob’s work shirts, since our dry cleaner is not doing their run this week! (I joked that I could start a homemaking blog!)

Our Internet access is poor, and our cell phone reception is spotty, due to the towers losing power. I can’t upload pictures right now, but I will have plenty to share after this adventure is over!

I will also get caught up on everyone’s blog once I am living in the 21st century again! And one day, I will return to a yoga class. Between this and my Rona near-miss, it has been ten days since I have been to a class! That is definitely a record!

If any of you are affected by the storms, stay warm! I will catch up with you all soon!