Frugal Living, Health

The Egg Syndicate

When I lived in Michigan, I went grocery shopping every Saturday.

I started out by going to the two discount food stores at the opening to our neighborhood. They carried grocery salvage and overstock–a lot of pre-packaged organic products and snacks for Iliana.

One of the stores is still in business. Here is their Facebook page! Then it was time to head out to Amish country.

The Amish prefer not to be photographed, so I am using a photo from mlive.com.

My first stop was at a discount food store, where I got more pre-packaged discount goods, along with some local cheese. Further down the road was a bulk food store, where I got milk, eggs, corn, and any other fruits and vegetables that were in season.

I jogged over to a different road going in the same direction, where I found a store run by Mennonites. They offered fresh produce (usually a lot of bell peppers!), bulk detergent, and wonderful jams.

I would stop at the farmer’s market in the town of Mount Pleasant, before arriving at Greentree Grocery, the food co-op.

Even when we were sailing, we were very excited to find a “Real Food Store” when we were in Manistee!

After our recent trip to Michigan, I decided to recapture some of the magic from my crunchy days. I mean, we live in Texas. Even though we are in an urban area, there have to be farms somewhere nearby. It is Houston, after all, where cows randomly graze in pastures throughout the city…

I renewed my membership at Natural Living, our local food co-op, and put in an order for a small box of vegetables and a large box of fruit.

Meat was a little trickier. In Michigan, I bought humanely raised, antibiotic-free meat that was not yet certified organic. I did not find any of that available in our area, so I ordered it online from butcherbox.com. We were pleased with our first box, and Rob had some fun making potion out of the dried ice they used to package it!

I found a “real food store” on the other side of Clear Lake, that was pricey but had absolutely anything I could possibly think of.

So now it was time to find a farm.

I love the eggs from a place called Kenz Henz, about 15 miles away in Santa Fe. These eggs were pricey at the grocery store, so I was very excited when I saw on social media, that they had a surplus of medium eggs that they would be selling for $1.33 a dozen! The catch? You had to buy a box of 15 dozen.

Of course this presented a challenge.

We live on a boat, so storing 15 dozen eggs would be nearly impossible. And even if we did, using up 15 dozen eggs quickly enough that they would still be fresh would involve eating more eggs that I was interested in doing.

In Michigan, we did a lot of buying co-ops in situations like this. And so it was time to start what Rob dubbed the Egg Syndicate.

I started with my mom, who definitely wanted a couple dozen. After sending out a few texts to friends in my yoga class, I easily had people buying over half of the eggs. I would be left with a just-right amount of 7 dozen.

So, Saturday morning, I drove to Santa Fe.

I left early, because I discovered that a dairy farm was on the way. Raw milk can actually be sold in Texas, without any of the weird arrangements we had to make in Michigan. (Which also means that raw milk is regulated in Texas, so it is safer). I pasteurize raw milk when I buy it, but I am able to do it at a much lower temperature and for a shorter amount of time than the commercial farms, so the taste is not affected much. (161 degrees for 15 seconds, if you were wondering).

Anyway, I stopped at Healthyway Dairy. Here, the fresh milk is shelved based on the cow it came from, and you pay in cash or on Venmo, using the honor system. Getting here early is important, because they usually run out of milk before 9:00. I chose some milk from Sandy and left $11 in the box.

I killed some time driving around, because I knew that Kenz Henz opened at 8:30. I later regretted that decision, because there was a very long line of cars waiting for their box of 15 dozen eggs!

I was due at yoga at 9:30, and my friend, Shannon, was teaching class. She knew what I was up to, since, of course, she was expecting two dozen eggs! I texted her a heads-up that the line was crazy. I said I would let her know if I was going to be able to make it in time for class.

Clearly, this was not Kenz Henz’s first rodeo, because the line moved impressively fast. I was through the line by 9:10, and it was a 20 minute drive to the yoga studio. Shannon got out my mat for me, and I arrived just in time!

The next two days, I was randomly showing up at the yoga studio with eggs, and the funny part is that nobody thought that was strange or even unexpected.

So here we are, all stocked up on farm-fresh crunchy food. I figure I should share some recipes and ideas with y’all. To that end, I am going to start doing Crunchy Thursday, until I run out of ideas.

Health

Why I am a Size Zero and Watch my Weight

Note: I am writing this while we are in Maryland for the Sea Perch underwater robotics competition. I will post pictures from our adventures once we return!

I am not overweight. In fact, I wear a size zero or a girls’ 14.

True, I was once a much larger size, but through a lot of effort, I lost 60 pounds. So now I just eat whatever I want, right?

Well, sort of right. I don’t demonize foods, and I don’t avoid anything except alcohol. But I do eat mindfully, much to the dismay of many well-intended people.

No, I don’t obsess over what I eat, and I don’t restrict. But I also don’t eat like a typical American either.

Here are some of the reasons why I watch what I eat, even though I am at a healthy weight:

1. I like being at a healthy weight.

It is not possible to eat the standard American diet and maintain a healthy weight. At least for me, it is not. I gained my weight by eating that way, and if I eat that way now, I will gain it again.

2. Everyday is not Christmas.

If I had a dollar for everytime someone said, “Come on, just this once!” I would be very rich. It seems like there is always an eating occasion, and the occasions are always longer than just one day. What I often find is that people have their own personal reasons for urging me to make exceptions, but ultimately it is my choice. Everyday is not Christmas. Everyday is not my birthday.

3. Food affects my mood.

It might just be me, but when I eat out a lot, or when I eat a lot of sugar and carbs, I feel worse, both physically and mentally. When I am not eating well, I feel more anxious, tired, and crabby. While some people might say that life is too short to eat healthy, I would say that life is too short to feel that way.

4. When I let my eating habits go, my other habits suffer.

When I don’t eat well, I don’t feel good. When I don’t feel good, I don’t meditate or exercise. When I don’t feel good, I am more tempted to have a drink in an effort to feel better. At the very least, I drink a lot more caffeine when I feel groggy from poor eating habits.

5. I like how I look when I eat well.

This is not the most politically correct reason, but it is the truth. I like the way I look when I am thin and eating healthy. I feel energetic and my mood is better, which also changes how I look physically!

Health, Minimalism, Philosophy

Housework

When I lived in Michigan, I fell in with a group of other young mothers, who called themselves “crunchy mommies.” Being a crunchy mom was great! I breastfed Iliana until she self-weaned at 22 months. We all snuggled together in one bed, and Rob made her cloth diapers that we hung out on a line in the backyard.

I loved the crunchy, down-to-earth lifestyle, except for one thing: I had the worst time keeping a clean home. Most of the other moms in my group were stay-at-home mothers, and they said that they enjoyed housework. They felt like it was a gift they gave to their families.

I was teaching special education at a rural school, 20 minutes away, at that time. I was often inundated with paperwork and lesson plans, which I had previously been staying after school in order to complete. Now I hurried home to see Iliana. After cooking dinner, it was time to begin Iliana’s bedtime routine. I played with her, gave her a bath (usually a long one, which she loved), read to her, sang to her, then laid down until she fell asleep.

Then it was time for paperwork. And if I finished it soon enough, I actually got to spend time with Rob!

There was no slow-paced, passionate housekeeping. It was a constant rush, and as my situation at work became more stressful, less work got done. Minimalism and decluttering helped, but the reality was that our house was clean in the summer (especially when we started sailing!).

Iliana, back in the crunchy days!

When I moved to Texas, it was no better, no matter what size home we occupied. In fact, things got worse as my job down here got worse. Stress and housekeeping just don’t go together.

It did finally come together…When I quit teaching. Suddenly I had time to turn my house into a home. I followed Fly Lady’s baby steps, then settled into her weekly routine. My boat was getting decluttered, and I did a different small task each day of the week. My home was a calm, peaceful place. It got even better when we moved to the apartment, with its easy-to-clean laminate floors and lots of open space.

Homemaking was relaxing, and following Fly Lady’s routine helped me to bring order to my life as I recovered from the trauma I had experienced. However, I will always be a teacher, and it was only a matter of time before I was ready to go back to the classroom (and eventually become department lead). And this time I was determined to have the best of both worlds.

Here are some ways that I was able to accomplish this:

1. Prioritize and Set Boundaries with Work

The first thing that needed to be eliminated from my previous “routine,” was the time spent doing work after Iliana went to bed. I now leave work on time everyday. I have learned prioritize having materials ready for my students and having IEP paperwork done before the students’ meetings. If those things are not in place on Friday, for the next week, I do them at home on Sunday. Then I work down my to-do list during my conference periods at work. I have found that I work much more efficiently this way.

It can be done!

2. Outsource

I do not iron. Sure, Rob wears beautiful, button-down Land’s End shirts to work everyday, and yes, they get wrinkly. I let the dry cleaner handle the ironing, and I even pay $5 for them to pick up and drop off the shirts every week! One less thing to worry about.

When we lived in the apartment, we had a small RV laundry machine. If we fell behind on laundry, I had another bag that I would fill and leave for the cleaners on pick-up day. For a flat rate, they washed and folded everything in that bag.

We signed up for a pump-out service on our boat, so I never need to think about the holding tank. Every Tuesday, it gets pumped out while we are at work.

I order my groceries online and have them delivered every Saturday.

3. Have a Prepare-for-the-Week Day

Sunday is not a day of rest for me. It is a day where I lay the groundwork, so that I can rest in the evenings during the rest of the week.

On Sundays, I do all of Fly Lady’s tasks for the week. I give the boat a once-over cleaning (quick vacuum, change bedding, clean bathroom, take out garbage). I use the groceries that I had delivered, to prepare the meals for the week. (If I have a lot of work to do at home, I order Smart Ones for my lunches). I put my clothes together into outfits for the week and hang them in my closet in order. The goal is to have no errands to run or chores to do after work during the week.

4. Have Daily Routines

I used to get up VERY early and have a well-crafted morning routine that took two hours. I would go running, do yoga, meditate, do some reading, then make and eat breakfast. I don’t think I was ever able to stick with this routine for a week.

Now, I give myself an hour to make my celery juice, have some quiet time, prepare everyone’s breakfasts (the breakfast foods are all together, so preparation is easy), and not leave in a hurry.

In the evenings I wash the dishes (I am ashamed to admit that I use disposable dishes during the school year, so this is quick work!). The routines do not have to involve much, because I have prepared for the week on Sunday.

5. Make Self-Care a Part of the Routine

I have learned that self-care will happen, whether I plan for it or not. The planning just determines what the self-care will look like.

I can plan and go to yoga class every evening to clear my mind and manage stress, or I can ground myself with food by overeating and clear my mind with wine. I can plan and spend time reading and relaxing every evening, or I can rest in bed when I get sick from overexerting myself.

Martyrdom is not sustainable.

I hope that these ideas are helpful, and I would love to hear what you do to keep your sanity during busy times!

About Us, Health, Philosophy

Reflecting on the Past Two Years

Two years ago today, was the last Friday of spring break, 2020. I was obsessively checking my email, to see if we would be going back to school on Monday, but it didn’t have the excitement of a snow day.

Spring and Summer 2020

In the beginning, we thought sheltering in place for two weeks would keep things under control…

It’s hard to pinpoint when normalcy ended for me. In February, Rob and I had taken a bike riding trip in Montrose, Houston and had a lovely weekend. These were the “last normal” pictures that would be on phone as things changed.

Shortly after our trip, we both got very sick. Coincidentally, people were just starting to talk about “coronavirus,” but I wasn’t worried. I had taught through SARS, MRSA, H1N1, and even ebola scares. Iliana even caught MRSA and, after a minor ordeal, had recovered. I remembered when we all had waited in the auditorium at the school where I taught in Michigan, so we could get our H1N1 vaccines. I never joined in a the panic for any of these–practicing good hygiene and self-care seemed to be adequate.

Everyone at work was sick with the same annoying bug, so I figured it was just that. Rob ended up in the ER at one point, and I wondered if I should be wearing a mask, since they had signs up about coronavirus precautions. I sneezed and coughed, and nobody offered me one to wear or even said anything.

We recovered from whatever, just in time for spring break and a 4-day trip to Elijah’s Retreat, our happy place. This was a completely normal visit as well. Nobody wore masks, and there weren’t even any signs up at the Walmart in town. All three cabins were occupied.

Iliana cried our last day there, so Cheryl, the owner, cheered her up by booking our next visit, which would be in August. Little did I know how much would transpire before then.

When we returned home, nothing was normal. There were posts on Facebook about “social distancing” and how we should stop hugging. People were beginning to wear masks, but CDC was advising against it.

Places were closing, and Michigan went on lockdown. The whole notion of lockdown terrified me, because we only keep one week’s worth of groceries on hand at a time. I ran out to the store and stocked up on a month’s worth of supplies, hoping that would be enough to sustain us! Like many people, I didn’t realize that grocery stores would stay open in a lockdown. I think a lack of communication from our leadership led to a lot of the issues with panic shopping in the early days of the pandemic. We did not, however, contribute to the toilet paper shortage, as we used the marina’s bath house.

Yoga, of course, made me nervous. First, because my community at Moonlight is like an extended family to me, and yoga is a major support for me, especially in times of stress. Second, because I knew that my teacher was a single mother of 3, who relied on her income from teaching in order to survive and care for her family. I wanted her to be okay, and I wanted our community to still be there after the craziness was over.

I assured Cass, in private, that I would bring my own props and be very careful if school stayed open. I knew that students and teachers had a lot of resistance to coronaviruses in general, because a number of colds are caused by coronaviruses, so that I would likely catch the virus but be asymptomatic or have mild symptoms.

At our last class in the studio, when Cass was in the restroom, we all agreed to keep paying our regular amount, even if everything shut down.

And so, that Monday, Texas shut down.

I Facetimed two of my friends during this time, and I think we helped keep each other sane. This is when I began to do “What if Up” with a friend who was very high risk. None of us knew what was going to happen, and not being able to see other people made it more difficult.

I wasn’t sure what was going to happen with school. I was a behavior assistant, and we were told we would be paid our regular salary for the remainder of the year. We were to stand by for further instructions, and a virtual meeting was scheduled for Friday.

In the meantime, I tried to homeschool Ili. Sometimes it was fun. We did science experiments and she enjoyed her art projects in the beginning. I bought badminton set and gave her options for P.E. She often chose yoga or bike riding.

By Wednesday, however, we were both feeling down. She didn’t want to do her reading or social studies. I didn’t want to worry about my future.

During the lockdown, Walmart was open. So I went there Thursday morning, before Iliana woke up. After I made my purchases, she texted me and asked what homework she should be doing. I sent her a picture and asked her, blue or green?

She chose blue.

Ili’s school is very strict on dress code, so dying our hair was a big deal for both of us!

The hair dye did the trick, and I got a lot of smiles from people when I went out.

On one of my grocery trips, I bought Ili her first yoga mat…

Her teachers posted lessons, and she kept busy in every subject, especially cooking and art class!

And I bought lots of matching outfits! I shopped, a lot. It seemed like buying things for us to do, and sending Amazon gifts to friends I could not see, was all that I could do.

And of course we were us! We played the board game, “Pandemic” and otherwise tried to make the best out of doomsday.

Once the teachers were up and running with distance learning, the assistants were given orders. I began tutoring second graders, who were fascinated that I lived on a boat!

Ili kept Jasmine busy!

Easter was forced and disappointing, but it did bring some funny memories!

Meanwhile, marina life was becoming less enjoyable.

In the beginning of the shutdown, we decided that the entire property constituted “home,” so we roamed about freely, talking to neighbors and otherwise socializing. Quarantining is not really possible in a communal setting.

However, by April, the marina limited the hours that the bath house was open. You could only use the shared restrooms and showers between 8 am and 8 pm. And the pump-out for holding tanks remained broken. Our tank was full, so if nature called at night or early morning (which it often does, for me), I was out of luck. I am prone to stomach issues anyway, and soon I began to look pregnant. We bought a porta-potty, but since the porta-potty dump out was also broken, our days of having a toilet were limited. We needed a permanent solution.

Enter the apartment above the store Rob managed. It had me at hello, even if we did need to install flooring first!

While the world was shut down, we moved to the most beautiful place we have ever lived.

My employer sent me a decal that made me tear up…I still use the mug today!

“Educators work from the heart, no matter where they are. #IheartOdyssey”

I got to go back to my classroom to clean up for the end of the year. I saw my bulletin board…

And the board for our unfinished Pokemon tournament. We had one game to go, after spring break.

Iliana became a teenager on May 27. We had a Zoom party, and all of her friends were send Dairy Queen gift certificates and packs of Pokemon cards! The kids had a Pokemon game, but the virtual “socialization” tired them out quickly.

Ili’s stuffed animals attended in person.

We did our best!

Rob and I had resisted virtual 5k’s, but the “Social Distancing Run” had a cool medal, so we gave it a go! It appears that I set a PR…(which is likely, because I am early enough in my running that I set a PR in every race)

Happily, we had a bit of normalcy in June, when the Wednesday night sailboat races resumed. Ili and I had our first experience eating out, since the restaurant had outdoor seating!

I tried to do an outing with Ili everyday, even if our options were limited. We went to dog parks, watched Jurassic Park for $5 at the fancy movie theater, and went on lots of picnics on the walking trails near our apartment.

I was starting to wonder if I had had the virus back in February, so I got antibody testing. I was optimistic, thinking that a positive result would mean that I was done with masks and precautions. I tested negative. It really was just a flu bug or whatever.

We enjoyed a weekend at Brazos Bend campground, which had just reopened at half capacity. It was a mask-free outdoor weekend that we enjoyed. There is no cell reception there, but cases were declining when we left. We relaxed, thinking it was the beginning of the end…

Of course when we got back, we saw that cases were surging. It was a surge that would continue for about a year.

I shopped more than I should have at that time, and that is when I began my Marshall’s habit. It was there that I found a mug with the Bible verse that is on a sticky note on the wall of our favorite cabin at Elijah’s Retreat. And the cup was made by Sheffield House, which is significant because Elijah’s is located on Sheffield Rd. I took it as a sign that we would be keeping our August reservation (Elijah’s was still closed at that time).

The Fourth of July was like Easter–we tried. There were no fireworks, and we shot off snakes and sparklers in the parking lot. We spent the 3rd camping at a KOA, where Iliana did enjoy the playground and barrel train. And of course we got matching outfits!

There was a trip to the beach, with a scary misadventure that we don’t like to think about…

And eventually, the return trip to Elijah’s became a reality! It wasn’t the end of the pandemic, but it was the end of the beginning of the pandemic. Fall awaited, with uncertainty.

During that time, I had one friend whose husband got sick and was unable to get off of a ventilator. This was terrifying, but otherwise I knew very few people who even caught the virus.

Fall 2020: Falling into a “New Normal”

During this time, you wore a mask and carried a spare!

In August, our county was in even more of a surge, and we wondered if we would be returning to school in person. It was a scary time, and my mind went through every possible “what if.”

What if I got sick and lost income while I had to quarantine? What if I needed the ICU but was denied treatment because I do not have insurance? What if I spread the virus to my family?

It was decided that Texas schools would be in-person within a short amount of time, and that virtual and hybrid options also had to be available to families. I planned on having Iliana attend using a hybrid model, since that would help keep classes smaller.

Masks were required, students had clear dividers on their desks, and our school had a UV air sanitation system installed. Everyone was nervous on our first day of staff development, and our principal tearfully urged each of us to do all we could to keep our students safe.

Then, the students came in.

Everyone was happy to be back, and the mood was light, even with the masks and dividers. We decided that Iliana would attend in person full time, since she was going to be exposed to the virus from me anyway (and also, Rob was working, since his store was considered to be “essential.”

Ili was happy to be back, but she fell asleep as soon as she got home!

Shortly after we began going to school full-time, there was talk of storms approaching in the Gulf. First there was Marco, and then there was Laura. After a tense weekend, it seemed that Marco was dissipating and Laura would miss us. So, I was surprised when I arrived at school on Monday, and no students were there.

I learned that Marco and Laura had combined and were now heading our way. It was imminent enough that we were to prepare the school building, then head home to prepare or evacuate.

We had stayed during Harvey, and our building had not flooded in Harvey or Ike. So we stocked up our apartment, filled our emergency water tank, and hunkered down.

Ultimately, the waiting game kept us out of school for a week. Mandatory evacuation orders were issued, but we still felt like we could safely stay. Then the day came, when Laura was supposed to hit.

Here are some pictures from that day…

Laura missed us and turned toward Louisiana. They were hit with what was called an “unsurvivable storm surge.” We decided that we would evacuate if a storm like that ever headed our way again.

I had been moved to the special education department that year, and during our time off, our teacher unexpectedly resigned. Two years after I quit teaching, I put in my application and did a quick interview. On September 11, 2020, I began teaching full time once again!

This was not a time of staying at home for us! We took precautions that seemed reasonable and did a lot of outdoor activities.

Other states were going on and off of lockdown throughout this time, but everything in Texas stayed open, with a lot of regulations. We decided what we were comfortable doing, and what would be best to wait to do. Yoga was the only indoor activity I did at this time, since we took a lot of precautions and for me, the benefits clearly outweighed any risks.

To that point, every holiday during the pandemic was disappointing. I was determined that Halloween would be different. We carved some pumpkins to put in front of the store, went to socially distanced trunk-or-treat, and wore masks while we handed out individually-bagged candy by the park on Clear Lake Shores island.

After our Halloween success, we decided to go on a trip before Thanksgiving. We went to Yogi Bear’s Jellystone park, which has long been a favorite destination for Iliana. While it was a pleasant enough trip, it was disappointing for a few reasons. First, Iliana’s favorite activities: the hay ride and the movies, were cancelled due to Covid. And second, Iliana had outgrown many of the other activities that were offered.

Thanksgiving, on the other hand, was a rousing success! We had not seen my parents often since the start of the pandemic. We occasionally had outdoor meals at their house, and one time we met up at a park. We invited them over for Thanksgiving, since having a socially distanced meal was easy to do in our apartment.

And we had a wonderful Christmas! I bought decorations for our apartment, opting for the silver-and-gold motif, since we were expecting to live there for awhile. Santa was very good to us, and we had a lot of fun visiting my family and coming up with fun activities for just the three of us.

We were able to see our friends, the Davises, over Christmas break as well. Things were definitely looking up, going into 2021! I chose “faith” as my word of the year.

Winter and Spring 2021: The End is in Sight?

If only!

January 2021 was a mess right away. I knew the election would be contentious, but as the conflicting versions of “truth” and the violence became worse, I worried that there would be divisions between my friends who have different views and me. Of course that was not the case. Everything is black and white nationwide, but individual people have individual view and values. We decided to live our lives and do the best we could, where we were.

So let’s skip to February. February was one of the most eventful months of 2021. We entered the month optimistic, because the vaccine was out and would become available to teachers by the end of the school year. It seemed that the pandemic would soon be over, and we were fully expecting to celebrate the fourth of July without masks.

I continued with my yoga practice and celebrated by “yogaversary” on February 1.

Rob’s birthday was was February 9…

I knew a few people who had the virus. Everyone recovered completely, but most people were coughing a bit when they returned to school. I decided to help myself to a week’s worth of TEA-issued N95 masks (wearing each mask one day a week at work), just to be safe.

I wore my regular mask (made from a bedsheet with a HEPA filter) when Rob and I went thrift-shopping on his ill-fated birthday trip…

I missed a week of yoga after a student in one of the classes I worked with tested positive. Then, right when it was time to go back, we had the freeze. Of course, we had a full apartment. I had a UTI right after our trip, which cleared up with antibiotics. During the freeze, my knee hurt like crazy and I was constantly slathering Lidocaine on it. I blamed the cold and lack of yoga.

Right after the freeze, Rob got a nasty cold. He was struggling to get through days at work, and he even took a couple days off. I laughed at him for being “man sick.”

February 26 was “Go Texan Day.” Iliana and I found some cowboy hats to wear.

My allergies started bothering me that day, and I started smelling strange musty smells. I wondered if I had left something in my room, or if I were starting with a sinus infection. I didn’t feel sick.

That afternoon, Rob texted me and said that he had lost his sense of smell. It would be two weeks before Iliana and I would see the world outside our apartment!

Rob tested positive that evening. I slept in Iliana’s room that night, but I woke up with muscle aches and a slight fever. I tested positive the next day. Ili tested negative, but we assumed she would get it, since we could not really quarantine from each other in our small apartment.

What was my first thought when Rob tested positive? Missing even more yoga, of course! Cass sent me some very encouraging texts and assured me that there would be a place for me once I recovered and returned. She urged me to do her yin videos on Facebook. I did them religiously every morning while I was in quarantine, and they gave me two hours of feeling really good and energetic right afterward. I also think they helped keep the virus from affecting my lungs.

I texted back and forth with my team and tried to work from home, but the virus seemed to be mainly attacking my brain and central nervous system. I found that while I felt energetic after taking some ibuprofen, I was completely unable to focus and got really tired if I spent too much time on mental tasks.

On February 27, the day I tested positive, I received an email, stating that teachers were now eligible for the vaccine. I knew I would have at least three months of immunity, but I didn’t want to miss out on my opportunity to get the vaccine. So I signed up for the Friday after my return-to-work date.

Since Rob’s symptoms started before mine, he was able to return to work before me. He still had a cough and shortness of breath, and it was three months before he was able to run again.

I bought a pulse oximeter, which always read a reassuring 99%. I used it before sneaking out to run, near the end of my quarantine (it was in the evenings, and I had a route where I could avoid people easily).

On March 9, I returned to work, but I needed a lot of help to do my job duties. Physically, I felt fine (although it would be another week before my sense of smell returned), but I still had difficulty focusing and got tired from mental tasks. I wore a face shield, since I knew I had temporary immunity.

That day, I got an email from work, saying that my vaccine appointment had been moved to that day! So on day 10, I got my first dose of the Pfizer vaccine.

I figured that I wouldn’t notice side effects, since I already felt crappy. Boy, was I wrong! I was absent from work the next day.

Thankfully, spring break was just around the corner, and we went on our bike riding trip in Montrose!

Ili and I also ventured to the zoo during spring break.

Then it was back to school! I was on temperature-checking duty, as usual.

Iliana designed a giant kite and won multiple awards for it!

Easter was much-improved and relatively normal.

Iliana and I returned to Camp Be an Angel that month. It was a modified format, to allow for social distancing, and I had a feeling that Iliana was outgrowing many of the activities. This appears to have been our last time going to camp.

In May, Iliana had an antibody test, which would have been helpful for summer camp. (Campers needed a positive antibody test within the past 3 months, a negative test within the past week, or proof of vaccination–and Iliana couldn’t get the vaccine yet). We assumed that Iliana had had the virus when we did, because she had seemed a bit tired and under the weather, and she snuggled with us a lot.

However, her symptoms were all in our head, because she tested negative for antibodies. Which means that, as far as we know, nobody caught Covid from us.

The day after school got out, we celebrated Iliana’s 14th birthday. We enjoyed racing with the Mario Kart home edition, and then we went to a hotel and played some Oregon Trail (I died of dysentery).

Things were definitely looking up, going into summer!

Summer 2021: Lipstick on the Fourth of July

Summer began with a ceramic-painting outing with the Davises, since Ili and Ava share a birthday. They wore masks, but I tried not to. At that time the vaccine was very effective, and I had heard that people who had the virus and then got vaccinated might have more immunity.

Speaking of vaccines, it was now Iliana’s turn to get her first Pfizer shot! (Rob got the J & J around the same time I got my vaccine). This would make summer camp much easier.

With our new immunity, Iliana and I embarked on a long-awaited mall date!

Then it was time for a mask-less camping trip at Brazos Bend!

Ili had a get-together with her school friend, Elly.

And we made what would likely be our last trip to Elijah’s Retreat. It was fun, but bittersweet, because Ili had outgrown most of the activities.

All of my excursions off the property led to Lyme disease symptoms a week later, but unlike Covid, Lyme disease is easily treated by staying on antibiotics for a LONG time, if you catch the symptoms early. I was symptom-free after my first week on the medicine. Interestingly enough, Jasmine our dog, tested positive for heartworm around the same time, and we both had to take doxycycline for the rest of the summer.

Most importantly, I was able to wear lipstick on the Fourth of July!

We had the Davises over and watched the fireworks from our sailboat.

With her vaccine card in hand, Iliana headed off to Camp Blessing! (It would be her last year as a camper, but she is going to be a volunteer this summer!)

While she was gone, Rob and I celebrated our 20th anniversary in San Antonio.

Summer was winding down, but it was looking to be a relatively normal school year. I threw out all but a couple of our masks and was ready to get on with life.

Before school started, we decided to bookend the summer with another bike riding trip in Montrose.

What didn’t make it into the pictures were the masks that we wore in every store that we entered. Precautions were back, and more so than during our trip in May. The Delta variant had emerged, and other countries were going on lockdown. Suddenly, the prospect of being locked inside again and school going virtually, was a definite possibility. And vaccines were no longer the get-out-of-jail -free card that they had been.

Fall and Christmas 2021: Dealing with Delta

We got ready to go back to school

And the issue of masks at school became a contentious one. Over the summer, our governor had signed an order stating that masks could not be required on state and municipal property. This included schools.

However, with the Delta variant, the local judge had signed an order requiring masks in schools. Their bickering was annoying, because we just wanted to know what we were supposed to do. I did the research and learned that because I had the virus and was then vaccinated, even with Delta, I had a 1 in 10,000 chance of getting the virus. So I was not worried. But I wanted those around me to feel safe, so I opted for a face shield (with a stick-on rhinestone tiara, of course!).

Iliana got herself a black mask and found ways to incorporate it into her look.

September, of course, brought hurricane Nicholas. This was a rather nice storm, as it got us a day off of school and didn’t do much damage.

In spite of all the Delta craziness, Rob and I did manage to enter a 5k for my 43rd birthday!

Up to this point, I knew one person who had lost a loved one to Covid. During Delta, I lost count. I knew people who lost their parents, their spouses, and other loved ones. I had a student whose dad spent 3 months in the ICU before recovering. I had a friend my age who arrived in town, lost, after losing her husband.

Before Delta, most of the teachers who caught Covid had mild symptoms–not as mild as mine were, but mild. Now I was sending flowers to co-workers in the hospital.

Students were catching it left and right. Iliana missed a week of school, because there were not enough students present in her grade for classes to be held. (She still didn’t catch it). At one point, 5% of our student population had it. If it had gotten up to 10%, we would have gone virtual.

But there was still the great outdoors, and Rob bought a wind surfing board.

And there was still Halloween! School parties were on for this year, and Iliana got involved in activities at the library, which included a Halloween lock-in. She put together at least 3 costumes.

We carved pumpkins of course…

And this year, we decided to let Ili go trick-or-treating again!

Ili’s class put on “Frontier Day,” and Ili was the school teacher.

There was another trip to the Shard Yard, albeit with (very blingy) masks.

Thanksgiving was a DIY affair, since my parents were spending it at an RV park. We enjoyed our fancy meal then sprung into the Christmas decorating!

After the fun we had last Christmas, I was more than ready this year! I had most of my shopping done before Black Friday.

Of course, life is what happens when you are making other plans. While my parents were away for Thanksgiving, they decided that they would be moving into an RV park permanently. This was exciting, and they would end up living closer to us. But then we found out that they were not the only ones who would be moving.

Due to circumstances beyond our control, we learned that we would have to move out of our apartment in less than a year. One thing led to another, and I spend most of Christmas break getting things moved onto our new boat. We rung in the New Year on Cruise Forever, which may well be our forever home. 2022 was looking like a good year. Delta was waning, abut the pandemic seemed to be stuck in a holding pattern. However, the pattern was livable.

Winter and Spring 2022: Omicron

Before school resumed after break, we were all warned to wear our masks and be prepared for a lot of absences. I had heard it predicted that omicron could be the beginning of the end of the “pandemic” phase of Covid, leading it to become endemic, like the flu. But that was because omicron was so contagious and had milder symptoms, and basically everybody who hadn’t gotten Covid yet was going to catch it. We were getting ready for the world’s largest chickenpox party.

I was not excited about the prospect of being short-staffed, but I was excited about the idea that things could get more manageable soon. The constant worries about lockdowns and virtual school (as well as concern for the safety of my friends and family) were draining.

It was during this time that I first heard the term “super immunity.” It was confirmed that because I had Covid before getting the vaccine, I was unlikely to get any variant (or any coronavirus at all, including those that cause colds). Still, I got my booster shot for good measure. If I never had to quarantine again, it would be too soon.

So, donning a blingy mask to make everyone feel better, my antibodies and I headed back to school!

Gradually, Cruise Forever started to come together and feel more like home.

On February 1, I celebrated my sixth “yogaversary,” and it was refreshing to see classes absolutely filling up. Our studio was one of the few in the area to survive the pandemic, which is something we will never take for granted.

Iliana became more involved in the library and also started taking an art class. She was never bored!

Once again it was Rob’s birthday! Ili was in charge of the decorating this time.

The weather was colder, so we went on yet another thrift shopping trip.

Iliana has had a great spring break and is having fun hanging out with her besties!

It’s been a low-key spring break, with some fun activities and a lot of time spent getting our home in order. Unlike the past two years, I don’t worry that we won’t return to school after break.

So is this the end of the pandemic? It seems to be, at least for now. Within the past 5 days, there have been 8 positive cases in our county. Of course there could be another variant. If this has taught us anything, it is that things can change quickly.

But it has also taught me that it is better to have hope than fear. That it is okay to enjoy the present and look forward to the future, even when we don’t know what is going to happen. Because we will never know. We never did know–that was just an illusion. But we can’t stop living and stop hoping, just because we don’t know.

Today we can gather with friends. We can hug, we can go out to eat. We can get ready for school to start again on Monday. Tomorrow I will go to yoga, then squish around a small table at Shipley’s to enjoy a coffee and donut with my friends from class.

The past two years have taught me to enjoy those little moments, the small social interactions that intertwine to weave the fabric of our daily lives. The tiny moments that can never be replaced by Facetime calls and Zoom happy hours.

Health, Uncategorized

Exhaustion or Covid?

It has been an exhausting school year already.

Since we started back at the beginning of August, we have been dealing with an increasing surge of Covid cases, due to the Delta variant. At first, I was worried that there would be another shutdown, when all the mask drama started, politically. Then, it just became unreal to watch as more and more students and staff members tested positive or had to quarantine.

Allergy symptoms have increased for everyone since this year’s hurricane near-miss (which was not nearly as scary for us as it was last year, since we knew all along that it would miss us and we would be on the clean side). But allergy symptoms are the same as Delta symptoms, so sitting in half-empty classrooms filled with runny noses can be disconcerting.

Add to it the fact that there was a situation that, while it was perfectly safe, triggered a lot of trauma-related emotions for me. And the situation was compounded by the fact that Covid has left schools chronically under-staffed–and circumstances in our state have made that worse this year.

On top of all that, there are constant cautionary tales of vaccines being useless against Delta. So when I started feeling insatiably tired, I felt the need to hide it. It was exhaustion, right? I could not remember the last time I got a good night’s sleep, and lack of sleep does affect me a lot.

Then the stuffy nose and sinus drip cough started. Nasal irrigation and steroid spray kept it at bay for the most part–these are typical allergy symptoms for me, and they do get worse when I am under stress. In fact, I usually carry a bottle of water or coffee with me, so that I can keep from coughing. But when a cough slipped out last week, I got lots of suspicious looks.

I was rocking my TEA-issued blue N95! They have a weird, perfumey smell to them, which brought back memories of last March.

But coughing wasn’t a symptom I had when I had Covid, and neither was a sore throat, which I started experiencing on Friday. However, the muscle aches and headache, which had been getting worse over the past week, were a definite cause for concern. At least I wasn’t having neurological symptoms….until I realized that my eye had been twitching for a few days now.

Luckily, we had a long weekend, so I could lock myself indoors at home and figure all this out. I googled the Delta variant, hoping to learn that my symptoms were completely different from what I was experiencing.

I do get crazy physical symptoms related to stress. Right before I left my previous job, when the situation was very traumatic, I would get muscle aches, GI symptoms, and a low grade fever, which were all psychosomatic. And my resistance lowers when I am under extreme stress. I had to student teach twice in order to get my degree, and had a crazy holiday season between the two unpaid internships. Due to the stress, I ended up getting shingles in my throat at age 23. I also had psychosomatic symptoms, including a stuffy nose and muscle aches, from the beginning of the pandemic up until I actually caught Covid and recovered. So stress was a definite possibility.

However, I decided that I was likely in denial, so I let my yoga teacher know that I would not be in class for the next 10 days. Then I overate and wondered what to do. Finally, on Saturday, I broke down and got a home testing kit. I made sure to stick the q-tip as far up my nose as it would possibly go. And, ten minutes later…

That’s right–no pink line on my strip (on the top)! I will retest tonight, and then I will be good to go back to yoga and work once the long weekend is over.

So surprise, surprise, after having Covid and then being vaccinated, I don’t have Covid. It’s crazy how the current media coverage makes it seem like the most probable result is not going to happen.

Now that the excitement is over, it is time to deal with the actual issue at hand–the fact that stress has caused me to have all of these physical symptoms. It is time to streamline my routine, to understand the limits of what I can get done in a day, to set boundaries accordingly, and to focus on the things that actually are within my control.

The reality is that I am not going to get Covid again. So instead of worrying about that, it is time to focus on all of the good that I can do during this crazy time.

Health, Philosophy

My Thoughts on Body Positivity

Like most women, I have spent a large portion of my life hating how I look. When I was a teenager and my weight got into the triple digits, I decided I must be huge and that everything would fall into place if I just lost weight.

I obsessed over dieting for a few years, certain that getting skinnier would solve all of my life’s problems. Of course I was tiny already, but I thought my very muscular thighs were too fat. And of course my roundy face was too roundy.

Me in seventh grade!

In high school I started eating like any other teenager, which got me up to a healthy weight. And then it kept climbing. I tried a few diets here and there, usually ending up back at a healthy weight whenever I used the South Beach diet.

The only time I was really happy with my body during that time was when I was pregnant. I felt gorgeous with my big baby belly!

Then it was back to the same, gaining then doing South Beach and losing, but never losing enough to really be happy with how I looked. As things grew worse in my career, the dieting stopped and the medicating with food started. I hated how I looked, and that only seemed to make me want more ice cream.

So I get it. When people say they are done with diet culture and hating on themselves, I absolutely get it. When I was miserable with my job and my life in general, the last thing I wanted to do was give up the only comfort I had. And standing in front of the mirror, looking at how awful I looked, only increased that misery.

If I had not started to see my beauty when I was at my heaviest, I think the cycle would have continued indefinitely.

But in seeing my beauty and learning to love that person, inside and out, I began to realize that I was medicating with food because I was miserable. Of course I took steps to make my life less miserable first, and that was the hardest part. But in loving myself, I saw that I was not feeling my best when I was overeating in order to escape. I was not feeling my best when I was caught in an addiction.

That is what led me to my therapist and dietician. If I were eating only when I was hungry and making food choices that led me to feel my best, it would not have mattered that I was the size I was. But the truth was, I no longer experienced the feeling of being hungry. I was so out of touch with my own body that I no longer recognized hunger.

Once I learned to recognize and honor my hunger and fullness, I realized that I wanted to make food choices that made me feel better. Pizza is so comforting, but when I eat it to fullness, I feel yucky and tired. I enjoy treats still, but I have learned that I feel better when I enjoy them in moderation.

And finally, my weight was a problem. I love running, doing yoga, and otherwise being active, and my weight was causing my knees to hurt to the point where I couldn’t climb stairs normally. Heart problems and diabetes run in my family, and taking care of my health was a part of loving myself.

I worked on being more informed about my food choices. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have treats, but it does mean that I practice moderation with some foods.

So while there are some aspects of “body positivity” that I definitely agree with, there are some areas where my opinion differs from some of the prevailing ideology.

Here are the thoughts I have on body positivity:

1. I had to see myself as beautiful before I could make changes.

I was never able to hate myself into thinness. I had to accept and love the person in the mirror, as she was. Even now, I have been happy with my appearance at every weight. I am trying to lose my pandemic pounds, because I gained them from binge eating. If I just naturally ended up at this weight through healthy eating, that would be fine.

2. For me, having some structure helps me be mindful.

I loved the book Intuitive Eating. In fact, I highly recommend it to anyone. However, I need a little more structure and information at this point. I monitor my weight, because it helps me understand my body better. I know that I tend to gain more water weight at different points during the month, for example. I also know that if the overall trend is toward weight gain, then I need to look at my patterns. When I am overeating, it is not long until my overall mental health takes a nosedive.

Tracking what I eat is also helpful for me, because it helps me see my patterns. I don’t obsess over calories, but when I go out of my Smartpoints range, it usually means that I am emotionally eating. Tracking also helps me to eat more of the foods that make me feel better: fruits, vegetables and lean protein.

3. I eat when I am hungry.

Always. I carry snacks with me and eat them when I am hungry. Yes, they are zero or low Smartpoint snacks, but that also helps me to gauge when I am actually hungry, as opposed to emotional eating.

4. Exercise is not punishment.

I went to a bootcamp class once. We worked really hard for the entire hour, and I could not do half of the exercises. I didn’t go back.

Instead, I focus on having an active lifestyle with activities I enjoy. I like running, because I have kind of a competitive streak. Yoga is my spiritual practice, and I never need to motivate myself to go to class. In fact, I need a good reason not to go, if I miss. I love walking, especially in the woods. And bike riding instead of driving is a special treat!

I don’t exercise to burn the fat. I am active because it feels good, and it improves my mood significantly.

5. I eat donuts.

There is a donut shop next to my yoga studio. They have a cream filled chocolate donut. They are delicious. I eat one every Saturday.

6. Everyone’s journey is different.

I don’t sit around, judging everyone who weighs more or less that I do! In fact, I barely notice and really don’t care. We are all at different places, and we are all doing our best. I just think the important thing to remember is that we need to do what works for us, rather than trying to follow a philosophy 100%.

Family Fun, Health

Vacation Adventures (and One Misadventure)

An Early Start!

On the day that the calendar for Elijah’s Retreat opened, it filled up. I was not able to get us our usual spring break adventure, but I did book a few days for us in June.

Usually, we leave right after Rob gets out of work, make the 3 hour drive, and arrive late in the evening. This time, however, Rob had Thursday, the day we were scheduled to arrive, off of work. We decided to leave Wednesday night and stay at an Air BNB in Conroe, which would put us on the other side of Houston for the drive the next day.

We found the most elegant garage apartment I have ever seen!

Ili, of course, had to do her algebra class in the morning.

Off to Elijah’s!

As soon as algebra was over, we made the drive to Elijah’s. Rob and Ili flew balsa wood airplanes in the field by our cabin.

Iliana test drove a couple bikes.

Dinner was hot dogs over the campfire.

And of course I took a walk down my favorite trail!

Friday morning meant one more algebra class. Ili needed to go to the activity barn for wifi, so she settled in, in the sensory room.

Animal feeding time, of course, was a favorite!

It was, of course, beautiful everyday!

Saturday meant feeding the animals again.

Later on that day, Iliana treated us to her baked s’mores!

It was definitely different visiting this time, with Ili getting older. Iliana noticed that she didn’t get as excited about some of the activities, but she talked to Miss Cheryl, who showed her how to lead the horse and told her she can be a volunteer next time we visit, and help the other kids while they are horseback riding. Ili was excited about that and didn’t want to leave on Sunday.

And the Misadventure

We had a few misadventures during this trip as well. I enjoyed having the time to walk and get lots of steps in, and I did a lot of this walking while exploring the woods. After doing some exploring away from Elijah’s property, I came home and took a shower, only to find a tick on my belly. Disgustingly, ticks love my fatty skin, and they always freak me out. I have a lot of moles, but I always look very carefully for ticks. This one blended in surprisingly well and I almost missed it.

So yuck, but Rob was the hero and removed the gross, black bug. It looked like it had just gotten there, which was a good thing.

Then there were my eyes. On Friday at some point, my left eye got really itchy and red. By Saturday they were both red. I figured it was allergies and bought eye drops. They helped a little, then by the time we got home, my eyes were red and angry. I Googled it and decided they must be sunburned. They cleared after a couple days once I was home, although they stayed light sensitive and itchy.

Then there was the heat exhaustion. I have gotten heat exhaustion every year we have been in Texas, and my sore, sore muscles and inability to regulate my body temperature told me that I had done it again. However, this time was worse, as a day of rest did nothing to help. By Wednesday, after we were home, I was beyond exhausted. Wondering if I was dehydrated, I drank Poweraide, which helped a little. I went to bed early and still woke up tired and sore.

And still the allergies! I had the worst sinus headache.

The last straw was the ringworm. On my left hip was an angry red bump, with the telltale white circle and red circle around it. I bought some cream, and in the morning the outer circle was less red, the bump was brighter and angry, and the outer rash had grown a quarter of an inch larger. I put more ointment on it, because it had to be ringworm, right? Nothing else looks like it. How many other rashes look just like a…target?

Oh crap.

Over on my tummy, the tick bite had swollen up, looking just like the angry red bump in the middle of the “ringworm.” And a red circle was starting to spread around the bite.

After a text conversation with a dial-a-doc, complete with pictures sent, I had a prescription for 20 days’ worth of Doxycycline, which, interestingly enough, is also what our dog is taking for her heartworm treatment. So I will not have heartworms and the dog will not have Lyme disease!

Yes, Lyme can be every bit as scary as the Rona, however it has the wonderful feature of being treatable, especially early on. In fact, we will never know if it is Lyme or STARI, which is spread by the lone star tick and not nearly as dangerous. Whatever it is, it is getting nuked by the antibiotics before we even have time to see what it is!

So today I have had my first two doses, and I actually have the energy to write a blog post for the first time since we got home! I even did the dishes and took out the trash, which also had not happened. The angry bumps are less angry, and the bullseyes are barely there anymore.

I have decided to create a new drink, called “The 2021.” It will be a glass of Corona with a lime in it…

Health, Philosophy

Navigating the New, New Normal

There are some people who never think about social norms. They just instinctively know what to do in various situations, and they are always in tune with the “unwritten rules” of the situation, without even being aware that there are unwritten rules. For them, it’s just what you do.

I am not one of those people.

I have to study the human race as if I am an anthropologist. I have often been assigned to teach social skills classes throughout my teaching career and I love it because it is an opportunity for my students and me to compare notes and learn together! And moving from rural, Northern Michigan to the Houston/Galveston area has provided my brain with plenty of social skills learning opportunities.

For example:

In Michigan, if you are on time, you are late. Down here, it completely depends on the situation. You get to yoga at least 15 minutes early. You arrive at work on time, on the dot. Leisure activities have a lot more flexibility.

In Michigan, you get straight to the point in your interactions. Down here, if you don’t chat a little bit (but not too much), you are rude.

In both places, if you are hosting, your guests will appreciate it if you ask about their specific dietary needs. In Michigan your guests will tell you (and they will have specific needs). Down here, they will tell you that they have no special eating needs (even though they do!).

In Michigan, you do not talk about race–to do so would be rude. Down here, using race as a descriptive characteristic or in other flattering (or at least non-offensive) ways is perfectly acceptable.

In Michigan, students make a sign language “t” for “toilet” when they need to use the facilities, which are called the “bathroom.” Down here, students sign “r” for “restroom” and refer to the facilities by the same name.

In both places, if you meet someone with differing political views, you both talk about how you deviate from your preferred party and try to find common ground.

In both states, the first person to the door, opens it. And it is always a race to be that person!

We have successfully crashed parties in both locations. Just bring something to share!

Rona Norms

So, enter the Rona.

Right away, we were faced with some new, emerging unwritten rules. Some people were extremely cautious from the beginning, and wanted absolutely nothing to do with this weird virus that humankind had never before experienced. Some people were comfortable retaining the risk and just wanted to live their lives as normally as possible. The rest of us fell somewhere in the middle.

Texas reopened very quickly, with in-person classes available at every school, so I re-entered pandemic society more quickly than people in other areas. But of course during all of this, people still spanned the spectrum with their comfort levels. I have friends who are just starting to leave their homes now, friends who we hugging and going maskless a year ago, and the rest of us, in the middle.

Here were some of the unwritten rules that evolved during the Rona:

Follow the lead of the most cautious person in the engagement. My friends who were going to indoor restaurants would eat outdoors with me. And I would meet for Facetime chats or quick parking lot gift exchanges with friends who preferred that.

Ask before hugging, and don’t take it personally if the answer is, “Sorry, no.”

Wear your mask by default, but it is okay to take it off (if you want) if everyone else isn’t wearing theirs.

Put on your mask if someone comes into the room wearing theirs.

Wear your mask while in indoor public places.

Socially distance, whether your mask is on or not.

Post-Rona Rules?

The rules all made sense, and then we got Ronavax…

Schools are very cut-and-dry about the rules for masks. On our campus, they were required for the rest of the 2020-21 school year, then optional starting June 4. Most businesses have also made masks optional. If there is a sign on the door stating otherwise, we always make sure to wear ours when we first walk through the door, then we take them off if other people are not wearing theirs.

The confusing part is when there is no sign. I was recently reprimanded for not wearing a mask into a store with not visible sign. This was more embarrassing for me than it should have been, because I felt like I should have known the rules when I clearly did not.

Well, at any rate, this will be a new, interesting chapter in the stories we tell our grandchildren one day!

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!