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
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!
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”
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?
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.