Philosophy

Peace

I never asked to be here.

I never asked for the lockdown, right as I was getting my act together. I never asked to have my tools taken away and to be left with a virtual facsimile. I never asked to lose the ground that I lost during that time.

I never asked to live in a time when my friends were forced to live without an income. I never asked to stand by helplessly, doing what little I could to prevent them from losing their dreams, their livelihood.

I never asked to raise a child in quarantine. I never asked to be tasked with creating a cocoon of safety within our apartment, while the future of our country, possibly the future of the world, seemed so uncertain.

I never asked to watch from afar as my friend’s husband spent a year on a ventilator before passing away. I never asked to listen to my friends as they helplessly watched their loved ones slip away.

I never asked to worry while the Covid virus attacked my brain. I never asked to be plagued with what-if’s after I exposed my parents during the winter freeze. I never asked to wonder why I recovered on a day when 1550 people lost their lives.

I could keep going on going. The Delta variant has caused me so much anger, so much sadness, and so much frustration. After seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, we are forced back into the darkness.

For a long time, frustration was all I felt. Frustration with the people who refused to take it seriously. Frustrated with our leadership and the constant threat of lockdown. Frustrated with the lack of objective facts, so that I could make my own decisions.

One day I was angry that students were sent home from school to quarantine, because I know how much the pandemic has hurt their education. Then the next day I spoke with a young mother who was facing the possibility of losing her husband, and I was assuring her that we would look after their young child, emotionally. It was one of the many times I have cried at work this year.

And that conversation is also what led me to let go.

I can’t control what happens in Washington. I can’t control what happens in Austin.

I can’t control the policy decisions that are made about the pandemic. I don’t need to choose a side or form an opinion. That is not where my energy belongs.

In realizing this, my body and mind are finally able to relax.

There are many things I can do. I have strong resistance to the virus, after having it and being vaccinated. I am on the front lines, and that is where I belong.

School has always been an oasis of safety for our students and their families. When I first started teaching, at age 24, I was called into an emergency staff meeting to discuss a shooting that had taken place in the community, involving one of our students. We provided support, safety, and familiarity, which helped that student’s brother through an impossibly difficult time.

Since then, I have been in staff meetings where we discussed talking to students about Sandy Hook, hurricane Harvey, exploding factories, and the pandemic. I have sat in a hallway, singing “Old MacDonald,” while a tornado passed over our school.

I have sat through lockdown drills, assuring students that we will keep them safe.

And now our country is polarized, as never before. People are frustrated by their lack of control over the situation. People are fearing for their health against a novel virus. People are overwhelmed by the lack of factual information and feeling unsafe in the face of weak leadership.

I can provide their children with consistency and routine. I can do whatever I can to keep their children safe. I can show grace when people lose their temper, because I know it isn’t about me.

And I can listen. I can care. I can withhold judgement, regardless of their situation, because this is not something for me to judge.

We are here. I can accept that. No matter what led us to be here, we are here.

And the only way we are going to get through it, is by helping each other.

Family Fun

Back to School!

In the most normal of years, the beginning of the school year is akin to crashing a boat into a dock. But it has been a long time since I have seen “normal.”

The 2017-18 school year began with Hurricane Harvey and ended with me going on medical leave.

In the fall of 2018 I began my break from full time teaching and started subbing in two districts. In the spring, I accepted a long term subbing position, which was interrupted when a factory caught on fire. During the fire, I worked at Odyssey, where I was later hired as a behavioral interventionist for the next year.

I began my new position normally enough in the fall of 2019, and Iliana started attending school at Odyssey as well. Then came March 2020, which was anything but normal.

We began last year virtually, then had a week off for a hurricane that turned and missed us at the last minute. By September I was teaching full time again. The year was a weird combination of virtual and in-person teaching, with a two-week intermission when I finally caught the plague. At the end of the school year, I was offered my new position, which means that I began the year as an aide and ended the year as department lead.

And so, welcome to back-to-school 2021!

Last Hurrah: A Bike Riding Trip in Montrose

The last weekend before school started, we decided to get an Air BNB in Montrose. It was an adorable little historic apartment!

We packed our folding bikes and headed downtown, where we easily found the Buffalo Bayou trail.

Downtown had more businesses open, than they did on our spring break visit. However, there were more restrictions due to the Delta variant.

2. The “D” Word

It hadn’t surprised me that downtown was stricter, but then Ili and I decided to visit Armand Bayou nature center, once of our favorite woods-walking venues. It was beautiful…

But it surprised me that they had tight restrictions! Some made sense, like wearing a mask when you walk up to the payment window. But others seemed overly cautious for an outdoor place. It was starting to make me nervous.

Then our state entered into a weird battle over masks in schools. Our governor has banned schools from enacting mask mandates, but a local judge ordered one anyway and it was upheld in a higher court. Which means that the schools, who really have no interest in taking sides on political things like this, are strongly encouraging mask wearing.

Personally, I have mixed feelings on the whole thing. I am fully vaccinated and have had the virus, and I have researched the chances of me catching it again. It is a small enough risk, that I am willing to take it. I am definitely not going to stay home or change how I am living my life in a major way.

And yet, I kind of get the reasoning behind requiring the masks at school. Most of the students can’t get vaccinated yet, and kids are getting sick with the Delta variant. From what I have read, the chances of me being contagious are small, but we don’t know for sure which adults have been vaccinated, who has had the virus, etc. So I got myself a shield with pink glasses and created a rhinestone tiara above it! And Iliana got a new set of sequin masks.

While I understand the reasoning behind the masks, I am glad that school is being held in-person this year. There has been a very significant slide, both academically and emotionally, from the year and a half with no in-person instruction for a number of students. Right now, with what we know, I think the benefits of being in school definitely outweigh the risks. I will be glad when the children have an opportunity to be vaccinated.

3. Two Cute Iliana Stories

This has been a year of growing up for Iliana. We recently went to our storage unit and found a leopard print parka that Iliana enjoyed wearing for years. It doesn’t even come close to fitting her now! I asked Ili if she wanted to donate it, and she hesitantly agreed, although she wanted to take a picture of it first.

The next day, when my grocery delivery arrived, the young lady who brought them, surprised me with a bouquet of flowers that had been on clearance. On a hunch, I asked her if she had a little girl. She said yes, she had a 5-year-old. And it turns out that her daughter needed a new winter coat and loves leopard! So Iliana was delighted that her coat went to a good home, and she enjoyed the flowers in her room.

Iliana is loving school this year, and she is taking an extra science class, as well as attending science camp through NASA. She has dutifully studied her chemistry lessons every night, and on Friday her teacher excitedly told me that Ili had gotten 100% on her test! We celebrated with ice cream, of course!

Have a wonderful week, and I hope your fall is starting out well!

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!

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

A Staycation in the Woods, Rob Turns 43, Close Encounters with the Rona, Crab Day, and Impending Snow Days

Happy Sunday, folks!

There was a time when I hated my job and thought it would be wonderful if I could make enough money off of blogging, that I would no longer need to go there. In order to do that, I learned all about things like Page Rank and SEO. The thinking was that if you create titles for your posts that contain numbers and keywords and follow a rather formulaic format, the post will be more likely to show up in a Google search and therefore attract more traffic.

I was pretty decent at it back in the day, although I never did make any money from my blogging. (I found a new job, and that solved my work problems!) But the title I put on this post is a perfect example of what not to do, if you are trying to improve your SEO. So there you go–a free blogging tip!

Anyway.

I have thought that we were long overdue for a picture post and some updates on our life, so of course life decided to cooperate and give us an interesting week! And since I am hunkered down today, enjoying our warm apartment and preparing for the upcoming snow storm that is supposed to hit all of Texas, I thought today would be the perfect day to fill you in on our adventures!

1. Staycation in the Woods

(List posts have better SEO! See how I am numbering my subheadings?)

Last year, we went on an amazing bicycle riding weekend for Rob’s birthday weekend. He only has Saturday off, but I booked a studio in Montrose (Houston) for two nights. We headed there early Friday morning, ate breakfast and showered at the studio, and got our folding bikes ready for our adventure on the Buffalo Bayou biking trail! It was an amazing day of exploring, eating outside (yes, we ate outside before Covid!), and thrift shopping. We slept in the studio, then got Rob home in time for work Sunday morning.

And that, as you know, was our last normal weekend. (And the last time I was that skinny, to date).

So yes, scheduling an outing on the anniversary of our last good time before it all hit the fan, was a tall order. But I really wanted another bicycling trip! And at the time that I booked, the Houston/Galveston area was still in a huge Covid surge, so Air BNB’s were very cheap! I booked us a high rise downtown for Rob’s birthday weekend, and then another for our first weekend of spring break (we will take Ili that time! I wanted to do Elijah’s Retreat again, but they were booked until summer).

Well, first we saw that the weather was expected to be cooler the weekend of our trip. Okay, so we would wear winter coats on our bike trip. Then our host had to cancel, because a relative of his had died of Covid. So it was back to the drawing board.

Since the weather was cold, I decided to look for a cabin the woods. What I found was a nice, huge, RV just outside of Houston, in Conroe. It was the perfect cozy getaway!

I found the best blingy jeans ever, at a thrift store in someone’s house! And a fuzzy, pink, Uggs purse!

2. Rob Turns 43!

Of course, on the actual date of Rob’s birthday, Iliana decorated the apartment and we celebrated properly, with cake and party hats!

3. Close Encounters with the Rona

On Rob’s birthday, I narrowly avoided Covid jail.

We have had very few Covid cases at the school where I work, and when someone has tested positive, it has never spread to anyone else on campus.

However, our administration is very thorough about contact tracing, following the CDC’s guidelines for quarantining after close contact. And on Tuesday, a number of people I work with found out that they were going to be spending the next two weeks at home, due to being in close contact with someone who tested positive.

Being in close contact with someone who has been in close contact does not mean anything, other than I needed to continue with the precautions I was taking. So I went about my merry way, looking very stylish in my TEA-issued teal N95 mask (teachers do seem to be the only group that gets colorful N95’s, so that definitely is a perk to working in my chosen profession!).

So I did not have to quarantine. I did, however, choose not to go to yoga class for the rest of the week, which is normally unheard of for me.

I logged into to Iliana’s Facebook account and enjoyed some of Cass’s previously recorded classes. That was wonderful, but her newsfeed was quite addictive. Most of my friends have not kept in touch since I left Facebook, and I found out that two of them are in the hospital. One friend is doing a lot better, and I have no idea how the other is doing. So now I check that twice a day, until I am sure what is going on for both of them. Meanwhile, all of the negative political posts are still going, and I won’t miss those. I am learning that it is okay if I lose touch with people, and it is okay if I am not a friend that they choose to reach out to when they are going through hard times. Nobody is that friend for everyone. I care, but next time I can’t make it to yoga, I am going to create a throwaway Facebook account with no friends, and only use it for yoga.

Nothing interesting happened with Covid, and nobody else has tested positive. So I was all set to go back to yoga on Monday….until it got canceled due to the snow storm (more about that later).

And of course I gained back the few pounds I lost, after the stress this brought on. But next week is a new week…

4. Crab Day

Valentine’s day is a Hallmark holiday, and after being married for awhile, it becomes a little cliched. (At least for us). So we have decided to celebrate Crab Day instead!

Dinner will consist of fake crab and crab cakes. And of course any decorations must be crab-oriented. And bonus points for walking like a crab while delivering the essentials!

There were, however, some boxes of chocolates involved…Iliana enjoyed hers while playing an intense game of Splatoon! By the way, she did have a Valentine’s party at school, even though bringing Valentines was not allowed (due to Covid). But, in the true Crab Day spirit, her party did involve Chinese take-out for the entire (small) class!

5. The Great Texas Snowstorm of 2021

When I lived in Michigan, snow was a permanent part of the landscape throughout the winter. Our lawn–and the roads, always have a coating of snow. The roads were salted daily, and we just got used to walking and driving through it.

That being said, we did have snow days. Sometimes there was so much snow overnight, that the roads were impassable. If I hadn’t thought to get my groceries the night before, I would find myself trudging through the woods to get to the store, because driving wasn’t going to happen!

And of course those snow days happened frequently and were nearly always forgiven by the state.

In Texas, the state will forgive hurricane days, if we are actually hit by the hurricane. Otherwise, we have to make the days up. And the tiniest bit of ice or snow will bring the whole city to a standstill. And rightly so, because nobody here knows how to drive safely in snow and ice!

I laughed at everyone here, until I found out that we would be distance learning on Monday and Tuesday. I know some teachers love distance learning, but I am not one of them. I set right to work, reaching out to parents and making appointments to meet with my students virtually. Half of my office came home with me!

Time to teach from the kitchen table once again!

I had my schedule made and was looking forward to spending Sunday getting some paperwork done, since I likely would not have time to work on that this week. Then I found out that the water would likely be getting shut off to our complex. So time to make more preparations!

The water is hoarded, the washing machine is running constantly, and Iliana and I have already had our showers. Now it’s time to see what the Texas winter will bring us!

How was your week? Any adventures? Feel free to share below!

Philosophy

Soul Tired

I live in the U.S. Not only that, but I live in Texas, which is arguably as American as you can get in America. We might pretend otherwise, but politics are on the forefront of everyone’s minds here, right now.

Last Wednesday was a perfect day for me. It was the first day that the students were back from break, and a number of virtual students had started attending in person. One class doubled in size! Our campus was full of excitement and energy, and I loved getting reacquainted with families I haven’t seen in person since last March.

Teaching takes time, energy, and focus. Teaching special education and leading a team takes even more. And doing all of that during a global pandemic takes everything you have. Nobody had time to look at news articles or social media during the day.

So I found out about the attack on the Capitol on my drive home, while I was stuck in traffic.

Immediately, my heart sank. We have been moving further and further apart, more and more polarized. And social media provides the perfect echo chambers, where these misunderstandings can grow.

I worried about the fact that our country seemed to be in chaos. I worried about my friends who have different views than I do, and whether our friendships could weather whatever storm is coming.

Discussing anything that is going on, is impossible. Because we can’t even agree on the basic facts. With information so readily available, anyone can be an expert on anything, and it is easy to publish lies unchecked. Who am I to say that the story I believe is the real one? All the research and fact-checking is hurting my brain. One of my co-workers put it best, when she said, “I am soul tired.”

Here is a thing that I learned about the brain, when I was focusing on losing weight, stopping drinking, and making other changes. I learned that willpower is a finite resource. Willpower is regulated by the prefrontal cortex, which is also responsible for decision making, emotional regulation, and planning. (You can read more about that here and here).

When the prefrontal cortex has to work overtime, it becomes fatigued. When we have to make too many decisions, we have less brainpower left for willpower. When we rely on willpower alone, we eventually get tired and cave. (Here is an article on that).

When I went back to work, I knew that I would be making a lot of decisions throughout my day. So, I set myself up for success with my habits. I set up grocery delivery and planned my meals. I got into routines with housework and yoga. I limited extraneous decisions, so that I could focus on my job. I limited options for overeating, and alcohol was off the table.

However, I slipped everytime something new was added to the equation. We are in a pandemic with no leadership. We are not doctors, and we are not economists. Yet we are expected to sift through information on both. Vastly different reports of the “truth” are out there, and we are expected to become instant experts and discern the facts from the fiction.

No wonder I have become more emotional and fallen back on old coping mechanisms! My prefrontal cortex is at its limit. My brain is tired.

For me, revamping my old routines and focusing on the things I can do that actually make a difference (and the information that allows me to do those things) is key. I don’t need to read any predictions about the pandemic. They will paralyze me with worry and keep me from doing what I can do now. I do not need to read about the minutiae of what is going on in Washington. I do need to be aware of the cases of Covid in our county, so I can take precautions accordingly. I do need to know that status of the vaccine, so I can get it when it is my turn.

I am not going to change the world. And letting myself fall into survival mode is not going to do any good for anyone. But no matter what happens, children still need to learn to read. People still need the positivity I have to offer.

In caring for myself, I can give the things I am able to give.