Probably the Inevitable Result of So Much Isolating

I have been in such a slump! And I had really good intentions for the new year too. (Doesn’t everyone? I just didn’t think I’d fail so quickly.)

I’m not much for making specific resolutions, but there were two things to which I quietly committed to doing more in 2022- exercise and writing. I’ve had a steady habit of moving my body in some way almost daily for years. But that pattern was derailed after Thanksgiving with the muscle strain in my lower back (which as you may recall, occurred with sudden and intense fury as I valiantly bent over to pick up earmuffs from the floor). Three days into the new year, my back was showing signs of returning to normal, but Jack’s cold had obviously crept into my body while I wasn’t looking and my resolution to reignite a writing habit had fizzled already.

I felt the cold virus manifesting inside my sinuses and lungs, taking not one, but two covid tests that first week, sure that I was dying in spite of having been vaxxed and boosted. (I was not, in fact, dying and both tests were negative. I’m apparently just paranoid.) Ultimately, I spent an entire Sunday in bed and three days trying not to talk in work meetings because I had absolutely no voice and talking only prompted another fit of coughing. Let me tell you. You can take all the vitamins and supplements you want. Eat your vegetables. Drink your protein and nutrition shakes. Do all the healthy things. But when it decides it’s gonna get ya, it’s gonna get ya. I’m still shaking off some of the effects of it.

In brighter news, however, last week, little MK came for her first sleepover at Grandma and Grandpa’s house. I’d taken time off from work and was excited to spend two and a half days spoiling my little peanut. Chesney took a break from work too, wanting more time with her niece and godchild. Little did we know that MK brought along a stomach bug and was handing it off – particularly to any immune systems which were already in a weakened state. (Her mom had been sick on that Tuesday.) While MK didn’t appear to be impacted much – just a bit of fussiness on Wednesday afternoon – I was gypped out of an entire day of baby lovin’ on Friday. Jack then came down with it on Friday night. And we learned that MK’s other grandma, who had been caring for her earlier in the week, had been sick on Thursday. Thankfully, Chesney managed to avoid it.

So although my good intentions have been delayed, the year is still young. At least I got all of this gunk out of the way early and hope to be done with illness for the year. (Knock on wood.) I think I’m finally ready to get back on track. Now if the windchill would just get out of the gutter, I’d love to get outside for more than two minutes at a time.

It’s a Happy Little Head of Hair

Lucy got my brother a Christmas present this year. She really wanted to buy him a Chia Pet. A Bob Ross Chia Pet, to be specific. Upon opening this present, my brother found it very funny and was extremely impressed with my dog’s shopping skills.

Okay, to be completely honest, Lucy didn’t actually buy the Chia Pet. She doesn’t have a job and can’t get approved for a credit card. Jack bought it, which is ironic because Jack doesn’t Christmas shop. He leaves that effort entirely to me. I’m not really complaining. If Jack were tasked with doing any Christmas shopping at all, everybody would likely receive windshield scrapers for their cars. Or possibly a Chia Pet.

The most ridiculous part of this whole thing is that just days before Christmas, while we were at the home improvement store looking for a towel bar for our bathroom, Jack noticed the Chia Pet and insisted we get it for my brother. Never mind that I already had a thoughtful and appropriate gift for my brother and his wife. Never mind the fact that Chia Bob wasn’t even on sale. Never mind the fact that I can’t understand why Chia Pets continue to be a thing in spite of the fact they appear to serve no real purpose. Regardless, we left the store with a towel bar and Chia Bob.

When we got home, I said to Jack, “You’re wrapping this thing.”

“Nope.”

Just “Nope,” and then he walked away to signal the conversation was over. He insisted on buying this stupid gag gift and then just refused to wrap it. I don’t know if he assumed I would wrap it for him. But he must have known that my mild sense of Christmas OCD would not allow me to put Bob Ross under the tree without being enclosed in some festive paper. Never mind that I had already spent the good part of another day wrapping gifts for family, and wrapping more gifts to be donated. I don’t love gift-wrapping. I thought I was done. I was relieved to be done. And now I wasn’t done.

So I wrapped Chia Bob. And in protest, I wrote the gift tag from the dog instead of from Jack.

In all fairness, the whole family had a good laugh when my brother opened his gift. And he seems to be having fun with it, although we learned that starting the Chia Pet’s growth journey isn’t exactly a simple process. I mean, it’s not rocket science, but it does involve a fair amount of effort. But now we receive regular Facebook updates on the growth of Bob’s chia afro. So that’s fun. Maybe I was wrong when I said these things hold no real purpose. The ongoing fun is totally worth the twenty dollars my dog spent.

I’m Happy Today Because …

Jack doesn’t have Covid. He sounds awful. He’s been coughing, sneezing, and sniffling with increasing intensity the past few days, and has lost his voice. He got tested. So did I. We are both vaccinated and boosted, but the thought of him getting the virus still worries me, especially because he’s immunocompromised. When he had it last spring, mid-vaccination series, he was so sick I was literally scared. Thankfully, both of our tests yesterday came back negative.

I went back to work today. I’ve had a lot of time off over the past two weeks. My PTO balance in December held more hours than I’d be allowed to carry over into 2022 and so I scheduled some days off. Being on vacation over the holidays is wonderful. But for me, it can tend to become too much of a good thing. I get lax in my eating habits and sleep much longer than my body is used to. I need some routine to stay on top of healthy habits and personal goals. Fortunately, I love my job. My peers all seemed to have some positive energy upon returning after the long holiday weekend and so it was really easy to get back into the swing of things.

I’m cooking. It’s not something I mind doing, but I tend to burn out on it easily, especially when work and life get really busy. We seem to have survived on holiday leftovers and goodies for the past two weeks. I’ve begun to crave a hot, (not simply reheated) meal and actually had the urge to do some cooking. I grilled steaks on Saturday, made my grandma’s spaghetti yesterday, and an Instant Pot split pea soup tonight. And now we have some appealing leftovers too!

I know the thrill of cooking is going to wear off though, so I’m also happy we’re trying a meal delivery service. Thanks to Chesney and Farm Boy’s thoughtful Christmas gift, later this week, the ingredients for three meals will show up at the door. All we’ll have to do is follow the instructions to prepare a meal. I have high hopes!

When the Dog Won’t Go Out and Your Eyelashes are Frozen

“If your dog wasn’t such a diva,” Jaeger said to me, “she could go outside in the winter without a jacket and boots.” I defended Lucy, saying that she’s not a diva. She just has short fur and sensitive paws, and … Okay, maybe she is a bit of a diva. But I love her in spite of it.

My oldest son and I were talking about the sudden drop in temperatures which lately have reached an uncomfortable kind of cold. People around here will complain and brag in equal measures about how much cold we can tolerate. Personally, since I work from home, I’m fortunate not to be all that inconvenienced by the weather, except where my dog is concerned. It takes some effort to get her into her jacket (which she loves) and her doggy boots (which she hates). Think Randy in A Christmas Story only instead of a mom stuffing her child into a snowsuit, it’s me coaxing my dog’s paws into the booties that she barely tolerates. Yet if she doesn’t have them when thermometer goes below zero, she comes back inside favoring her paws and I feel like a bad dog-mom. But even with the boots yesterday, Lucy was reluctant to go out. I can’t tell you how many times I got her all bundled up only for her to stop in her tracks a few feet out the door, her body language saying NOPE in no uncertain terms as she turned back to the patio door begging to come back inside. And in case you’re asking, “Why all the fuss? When she really needs to go, she’ll go out, right?” Wrong. All of this effort is to avoid the bladder infections Lucy has given herself in previous years when she would just hold it rather than endure the cold.

You can’t make me go out there!

So it was that cold and I didn’t go out for a walk yesterday. But as I drove to the grocery store, I saw a brave soul making a hardy trek down one of my regular walking paths. And I contemplated, “I could put snow pants on too and get out there after I’m done at the store.” But then Chesney texted some photos. She and Farm Boy were spending time outside with his family after their annual New Year’s Day lunch. The little ones wanted to go sledding, and she wanted to show me her frosty eyelashes and Farm Boy’s frozen beard. I think that sealed the deal for me. No walk.

But I need to walk. Walking is usually an almost daily thing for me, except since I suffered an acute muscle strain in my lower back almost a month ago. I’d love to brag about the admirable and strenuous activity I was tackling at the time of my injury. But I can’t. I acutely strained my lower back while bending over. I was bundling up for my daily walk. I had donned my jacket, scarf, and hiking boots, and was just reaching down to pick up my ear muffs which had fallen to the floor where I was standing in the foyer. And that’s when it happened. I reached for the muffs and felt something like a snap, and then a fire spreading in my lower back. I paused for a moment in surprise and a bit of panic. I told myself, “Don’t let this defeat you! Get out there. Walk it off. WALK IT OFF!”

I tried. I really did. But there was no walking it off. I made it one block to my neighbor’s house where she met me at the corner and commented on how it appeared I was limping. I briefly explained what had happened and said I was sure the walk would ease out the kinks. But another block later, my muscles were tensing even more and I began to fear I wouldn’t be able to get back home. I admitted defeat and turned back. The next day I could barely get out of bed and could hardly move around the house without shooting pain running down my left hip. I had to steady myself for a few moments when getting up from a chair before I could take a step. It was all rather humiliating for someone who makes a good effort to stay as healthy as possible.

Three days later when I managed to get to a chiropractor appointment, my doctor told me this kind of muscle strain is really common, which made me a little better and slightly less decrepit. He also said that it would take some time to heal and that I needed to take it easy for a few weeks. A few weeks? I honestly didn’t believe it would take that long. After all, I have a pretty regular habit of moving my body, both with various workouts and walks. And for crying out loud, I’m in my mid-fifties, not the mid-nineties!

I figured I just needed a week to get back to normal, but sadly, I was wrong about that too. I really should learn to trust the chiropractor, I think, with his umpteen years of education in this area.) Prior to the muscle strain, I had really been pushing myself in my workouts, thinking the harder I pushed, the more I was fighting the aging process. But as my chiropractor also said to me, “When we reach the age that we are,” which was kind of him to say since he’s five years younger than me and in really great shape, “we have to start listening to our bodies a little more closely.”

Point taken. We will start listening to my body a little closer. I’ll continue to start my days with some kind of workout, but I’ll incorporate more gentle movement. And from now on, if it hurts, I’ll modify instead of thinking I can push past the pain. But the one thing that really seems to loosen those back muscles is walking. And I really need the weather to be more cooperative so I can get back to it. Today’s high is predicted to be three degrees, and that’s not going to happen until after I’ve gone to bed. So I can’t promise I’ll break out the snow pants and get out there today. (Maybe I’m a bit of a diva like Lucy.) The next three days, however, look much better with highs in the double digits. And I promise myself I will get out there again.

Moderate Expectations

January 1st, 2022 announced itself this morning with brilliant rays of sunshine and frigid temperatures. It’s nine below as I write this with no hope of climbing above zero today. I’m glad I enjoyed a good, brisk walk yesterday when it was a balmy nineteen degrees.

Jack and I spent last evening with a few neighbors celebrating the passing of another calendar year. We played some games, shared food and drinks, and experienced much laughter. Good stuff for the soul! The gathering wrapped up before midnight, but I managed to keep my eyes open at home until the fireworks announced that 2021 was officially gone.

Today is the day we’re supposed to contemplate all that transpired in the past year and subsequently imagine the vast potential for the next. For me, it’s tempting to focus on the world’s shortcomings and pin my hopes on leaving them all behind. That would be nice, but I simply can’t believe it was all for naught, or that the kind of strife we see on the news lately can ever just go away. I realize as well, that it was really just my own naivete that would have me believe we only recently embarked on such troubled waters.

If the past two years have taught me anything, it is to lower my expectations. In spite of everything that is wrong in the world, I can be grateful every day for a hundred different reasons. I can’t simply dismiss 2021 as a lost cause. After all, in the past year, Jack and I continued to be safe in our jobs. Our children grew and succeeded in their own lives. We were blessed with a beautiful grandchild. We continued to be surrounded by good friends.

If I’m going to resolve to do anything in the next year, it is to strive to be a better person, both for those around me, as well as for myself. Maybe then the world will feel like a much kinder place than I’ve given it credit for.

Lucy says, “Happy New Year! And please turn up the heat!”

Nothing to Do and Nowhere to Go

It’s one of those crazy Minnesota weather days. A fierce, blowing wind last night brought snow, and sometime this morning the rain followed. It’s a good day to be at home on a paid holiday. I had to salt the deck and steps before I could let Lucy out this morning as it was all covered in glare ice.

I haven’t written forever, which seems to be the thing I say anytime I manage to come to this dusty blog and try to put down a few intelligent words. I can’t figure out, now that we are truly empty-nesters, why I don’t manage to write anymore.

To be honest, I think I have figured out why. It used to be that Jack worked these crazy, rotating shifts. Nights and weekends while he was away, I’d fill my time alone by writing. When my parents’ health went downhill and they eventually passed, I could barely muster up any words that weren’t self-pitying. And then Jack took a day job after thirty-some years. For some reason, his being around all the time for the past four years has impacted my urge to write. I miss the habit, and I’d like to say I’ll make a New Year’s resolution to do this with more frequency, but I’m not sure I trust myself to follow through. Let’s just leave it at “we’ll see”.

Anyway, I’ve been off work for a stretch of days, and for a rare occasion, I have nothing I really have to do. Since Thanksgiving, I’ve entertained four times. Work has been crazy. There was Christmas shopping and wrapping to do, cookies to bake, and a million other things typical of the holiday season. But today? Today I am free.

Life these days seems to move so fast. When I first started writing, my children were in school. High school and college graduations happened while I continued to write, and eventually a wedding. The kids moved out on their own, the last one leaving just this past July. And our first grandchild arrived this summer! When they say life happens in the blink of an eye, believe them.

If the past year of my life was a collection of pictures, the vast majority of them would be of our beautiful granddaughter, MK. She is my joy and I absolutely adore her! Jack and I are having so much fun being grandparents and the entire family wants to smother MK with love and affection. She is so good-natured, so curious and ambitious. She is absolutely precious! Her daddy, Jaeger recently remarked while watching me hold and play with MK, “Someone, please get these people another grandchild already!” I wouldn’t complain, but for now, we are enjoying all of the firsts that come with being new grandparents. It makes me think of my own parents so much more often, and how they must have felt when my niece, their first grandchild was born. Life is funny this way. New experiences call back old memories and keep our loved ones who are gone very much alive and present in our day-to-day lives.

I like this place in life though. I was thinking just yesterday, actually feeling how well this fits me. Seeing my kids reach adulthood and begin lives of their own was tough. I wasn’t sure who I was once they no longer needed me like they used to. But now some time has passed and I can take a step back and appreciate that they’ve all succeeded in their own ways. They are good, kind, loving people. They are building lives and families of their own. I can relax a bit now. And I’m enjoying the space to invest in myself again.

Christmas is over already. It comes and goes more quickly with each passing year. Ours was wonderful, but I couldn’t help reminiscing and missing the old days just a little bit. Nothing can stay the same forever, but I’m so grateful to have the memories that I hold. I think back to all the little setbacks and challenges I’ve experienced along the way, and marvel at how some seemed so devastating and insurmountable at the time. But I’ve survived and moved on. Happiness always comes back in many different ways. I’ve been blessed more often than not. It really is a wonderful life.

We are GRANDPARENTS!

Our sweet little granddaughter is here! She arrived in July, three weeks early than expected. She was tiny at just four pounds, fourteen ounces, but she is healthy and growing and she’s absolutely perfect! I can’t even believe how much I’m in love with her. Oh, who am I kidding? Yes I can! I knew long before she arrived that I would adore her.

She’s just beautiful, and like every proud grandparent, I think my granddaughter is the most gorgeous baby ever born. My son, her daddy, gazes at her with such adoration, and speaks to her so gently. He looks on that little girl’s mommy with such love love and admiration. He’s got his own little family now. I marvel at how quickly the years have transported us from the time when he was our baby. And now he has one of his own. His nest is beginning to fill as ours has now emptied.

I think about that little peanut multiple times a day. I count the days until I get to visit with her and hold her again. I imagine the things we’ll do together as she grows. I’m planning how I’ll decorate one of our now empty bedrooms just for her, how I’ll fill it with toys and books, or cars and trucks, or baby dolls or whatever it is that will bring her joy. She is my joy and I’m just over the moon with happiness!

Springtime, Puppies, and Babies

It is gorgeous outside this morning. Makes me think of Oklahoma songs. There’s a bright golden haze on the meadow! Of course, I don’t have a meadow. But I can be content with our yard where the grass is suddenly green and lush, the Sedum and Hostas are beginning to stretch up out of the ground, and the Crabapple tree is exploding with pink blossoms. I love this time of year! It’s so full of promise and expectation – especially now after the year of fear we’ve just endured. (I know, I know… not everyone was fearful. But I was.)

The impact of COVID on our household is quickly fading. Jack feels much better and has been back to work for a couple of weeks now. The first week, he’d come home and collapse, exhausted on the couch for the remainder of the afternoon and evening. But he’s been more like his old self this past week, getting outside, doing some yard work, socializing with the neighbors. I’m so relieved.

Now that Jack’s feeling better and we’re fully vaccinated, we’re going to go see his mom ASAP. She’s been a trooper throughout the past year and I’m so proud of her. Her assisted-living facility took great care of the residents and had very few cases of infection. And now restrictions have been lifted significantly and we can show up without an appointment and go visit my mom-in-law in her own apartment, sans masks and plexiglass dividers. I hope she’s ready for it, ’cause she’s getting hugged!

In neighborhood news, our neighbors and good friends had a visit from their brother/brother-in-law, J, who came to Minnesota from New York to buy a puppy. J and his new puppy stayed with our friends for a few days and (being the animal lovers that we are,) we were invited to stop by for a visit. The puppy was adorable and I was tempted to steal her and take her home. My Lucy wouldn’t have appreciated it though. Either she’d be insanely jealous, or she’d mistake the puppy for a chew toy. And puppy’s owner wouldn’t have been too happy either, since she’s a very pure-bred, very expensive little canine whose future holds serious bird-hunting duties! I sure enjoyed spoiling her for a little while though. I kept cooing over her and exclaiming, “OH, she’s just a BAY-BEEEE!”

Soon enough I’ll be able to hold a real baby though. The first baby shower for Jaeger and Camping Girl’s little bundle of joy took place last weekend. Chesney and I were invited to attend and we had so much fun meeting Camping Girl’s extended family and friends.

I have to say, our granddaughter is going to be one well-dressed and well-equipped little girl. Jaeger showed up near the end of the event to help transport gifts back to their house. The entire bed of Jaeger’s truck and the back seat were packed full with gifts. And there’s still another shower to take place with my side of the family! I now have to remind myself to refrain from buying every adorable little outfit that catches my eye. (Or maybe I just need to start buying down-the-road types of things.) The first grandchild on both sides of the family is going to be so very welcomed and loved!

In preparation for Baby Girl’s arrival, Jack and I took a virtual grandparents’ class this past week. I hadn’t even known such a thing existed, but Camping Girl suggested both her parents and we take it, and I’m glad we did. Times have changed, from the way babies should be placed in their cribs, to perspectives on eating, engaging with, and just generally caring for babies. We’re all up to speed now and I can hardly wait for our granddaughter to arrive.

Baby snuggles are the best!

Post-COVID and we’re going gluten-free

Things are slowly beginning to return to normal around here. Jack went back to work on Wednesday, almost three weeks after experiencing the first signs of COVID. He normally works ten and a half hours a day. This week he kept it to eight. His company nurse thought he should have started a bit slower, working only four hours a day, but he decided to just dive back in. After coming home each day this week, he’s gone straight to the couch to lie down. After dinner, he’s back there again.

It’s occurred to me that I’ve been seeing Jack on the couch quite often for some time, even in the weeks before COVID hit him. He actually had a pretty serious flare-up in October, just weeks before Chesney and Farm Boy’s wedding, of his arthritis and other symptoms caused by his autoimmune disorder. (Granulomatosis with polyangiitis – an uncommon disorder that causes inflammation of the blood vessels in your nose, sinuses, throat, lungs and kidneys.) Jack had been feeling great for the year or so prior, but his medications were causing his liver numbers to climb to concerning levels. So his doctor took him off all of his meds late last summer. (I’m not sure what the logic was in completely taking him off his medications, but what do I know?) Not long after that, Jack simply crashed. Without some kind of treatment, his disorder causes Jack significant arthritis pain as well as severe sinus issues. He was in misery. So before long, he was back on his meds – at a slightly lower dose so as to try to protect his liver. But it’s just not doing the trick. The arthritis is frequent, and seems to roam randomly around his body. Jack’s been talking about asking the doctor to increase his dosages again.

It occurred to me that Jack has also made some passing remarks lately about being “too old” to do this or that anymore. (He’s only sixty!) And once, when he scoffed at a slow, elderly driver, I told him to cool it. “You’ll be him someday,” I said. “If I live that long,” he deadpanned.

That bothered me. It was the first time in over thirty years of marriage that I really felt our slight (six-year) age difference. I’m always trying new types of exercise. I just bought a stand-up paddleboard and am (again) contemplating buying a bike. Jack is contemplating dying. Not in a morbid way, really. It just appears to me that he has accepted the idea that for him, the best days are done. It makes me profoundly sad.

I can’t accept this. And I decided it was time to take matters into our own hands. Since Jack was diagnosed in 2018, I’ve shared much about his health with a good friend who is very health conscious. This friend is always learning new things about diet, nutrition, and exercise, and she’s periodically mentioned that I should listen to a weekly radio show that focuses on nutrition and wellness. She said I might find something there to help Jack. And just before Jack got really sick with COVID, for whatever reason, I finally found the time to listen to a podcast of one of the episodes, which just so happened to be about nutrition and arthritis.

I was listening to the episode while waiting in the parking lot of a medical clinic where Jack was having a procedure. The podcast featured a man who has a different autoimmune disorder and different type of arthritis than Jack. BUT he had been taking similar medications to what Jack is taking. This man talked about how bad his arthritis had become, how his doctor wanted to increase his dosages (even though it would continue to increase his liver numbers,) and how he was supplementing his prescriptions with Alleve as often as he was allowed to take it. This man described how his arthritis had gotten so bad that if he spent two hours mowing his lawn, he would be done moving for the remainder of the day.

Things kept spiraling downward. He described how he felt like he wasn’t living, but only surviving until he could take more medicine. Ultimately, his wife stepped in and proposed he do something different. She wanted him to see a nutritionist. The man was skeptical, and so was his doctor, but he agreed in order to appease his wife. He was even more skeptical when the nutritionist suggested he try eliminating gluten from his diet, just for one week. He was a self-described carb-addict and was staunchly opposed to this idea. In the end, he agreed to try it as long as he could still have one piece of toast a day. And after a week, just one week, much to his surprise, he noticed that he felt slightly better. To make a long story short, this man eliminated gluten and dairy from his diet and was able to go off of medications completely and now runs marathons. It didn’t happen overnight, and there was some trial and error along the way, but the end result was life-changing.

By the time I finished listening to the podcast, I was hyper-excited. (That’s just me. I hear stuff like this and I’m a believer!) When Jack got back in the car, I told him all about it and said I wanted him to listen to the podcast when we got home. He did. He was a bit more skeptical, but he was ever so slightly intrigued. I told him that we had to try something different. He can’t spend the rest of his life on the couch with ice and heat packs, taking more pills, and watching the world pass by. He’s too young for that. I can’t sit by and let him live that way. I said that if he would try a gluten-free diet, I would do it along with him. And if that doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. But we are not going to just sit back and let this disorder suck the life out of him.

And so we’re doing it. Eating gluten-free, that is. Thankfully, we know quite a few people who have gone gluten-free in their diets either because, like Jack, they thought it might help a specific health problem, or because of severe health issues that required it. And we’ve received lots of great advice. I’ve since learned that there is much evidence that a gluten-free diet can have a positive impact on autoimmunity and arthritis. After just one week, I’m also learning it’s not all that hard to plan and prepare gluten-free foods for our meals. Our local grocery stores make it easy to find gluten-free items. Not only are there aisles dedicated to gluten-free foods, but throughout the store, the price displays on the shelves include labels that tell you whether any common items are gluten-free. Funny how I never really noticed that before. Also, can I just say? Gluten-free Oreos! You can’t even tell the difference!

This bread came highly recommended.

After telling another friend about all of this, she asked if I knew that a local pizza place nearby makes only gluten-free pizzas. I was familiar with the restaurant, but I’d had no idea before she told me. We gave that place a try last night. Due to the pandemic, the employees come out to your car when you pull into the parking lot, determine who you are and what you ordered, and then bring your pizza out to your car. We had a lovely exchange with the woman who was waiting on us. Jack asked if it was a family business and she said it was. She was the owner’s wife, and shared the story of how her husband has Celiac disease, and thus has built a very successful gluten-free pizza business. I told her that Jack’s arthritis was the reason we were trying a gluten-free diet. She told us about all the people they’ve met through their business and the stories they’ve heard. She encouraged Jack, as others have, that it may take a while to see a change. “Give it three months,” she told him. “But if it’s going to work, I promise you’ll know it within three months.” We were highly impressed, with the stories and advice, as well as the service. And the pizza was delicious. We’ll go back.

I told Jack that I haven’t seen him use an ice pack or heating pad recently. “Maybe it’s working already,” I said.

“Maybe it’s just that I’ve barely moved in three weeks,” he replied. (Can you tell who is the optimist and who is the pessimist in this relationship?)

Regardless, I remain hopeful. My husband can be a bit lazy where his health and nutrition are concerned. But he seems to be embracing this effort. At work yesterday, there was a celebration for one of his coworkers who was moving on to a new job. The plan was to order pizzas for the party, but Jack told his coworkers to count him out (since that pizza wasn’t going to be gluten-free). Instead of excluding him from the meal plans, his crew rallied around him. They decided to forgo the pizza and instead ordered subs from a place that had gluten-free options. They encouraged Jack to try the lettuce wrap -something I’m quite sure he’d scoff at if I’d suggested it. He tried something new, and he actually enjoyed it. And he was impressed that his teammates cared enough to make a change for his benefit.

I really hope this helps Jack. I can’t stand to see him giving up on his life already. And if anyone reading this has tips, tricks, suggestions, or resources to suggest, please do. I welcome it all.

When COVID came

We’ve been pretty careful. At least I have. I really haven’t had to try very hard since I’ve been working from home for over a year now and the places I’ve gone with any frequency include outside (for walks,) the grocery store, and Target.

Jack, on the other hand, goes to work everyday, with a fair number of coworkers who believe we’re being duped about the severity of COVID and who try not to wear their masks as often as they can get away with it. Jack also tells me there are hand-sanitizer dispensers all over the place at work, but which are generally empty. He’s not diligent about using hand-sanitizer anyway. I can tell because the small bottle he keeps in his truck has been there for the better part of a year without needing to be refilled.

Who knows from where it really came? Jack might have picked it up at work, from a gas pump, after touching a keypad at the home improvement store. Maybe one of our kids carried it into the house. The fact remains that Jack got COVID.

He’d had a medical procedure the Wednesday before Easter. The following day, he started having chills and feeling under the weather. His paperwork from the procedure had explained he might experience chills and fever afterwards, so we didn’t think much of it at first. The doctor called the day after the procedure to give Jack his test results. (All good.) Jack told the doctor about his chills and was advised to keep an eye on things but the doctor wasn’t too concerned.

On Friday Jack stayed home from work. On Saturday he was really miserable. He got an Urgency Room appointment on Easter Sunday. And he came home with a COVID diagnosis.

All I can say is thank God he’d already had his first dose of the vaccine two weeks prior to getting sick. Jack is immunocompromised and having one dose under his belt may be the only reason he didn’t have breathing issues. And things were bad enough as it was. My poor husband stayed in the bedroom for eight days straight, in the dark, sleeping or just laying there in misery. He got out of bed only to use the restroom a few feet away and would be winded by the time he got back into bed. During this entire time, he never once turned on a television or any screen. This is how I knew how bad it was. If you knew my husband and his love of screens, you’d have been worried too.

I managed to keep him drinking as much as possible so he’d stay hydrated, but he barely ate a thing for at least a week, and I’m sure he’s lost at least a few pounds by now. He’d tell you he had a few to spare, but worst diet ever!

On the ninth day Jack turned the slightest corner and came out of the bedroom. I have never been so relieved in my life! Knowing he was past the worst of it and the breathing struggles weren’t going to happen lifted a huge weight off my shoulders. For the past week since then, Jack has remained at home, mostly just laying on the couch watching television and still pretty weak, but eating a bit more and seeming more every day like his old self.

It was scary. A few well-meaning family and friends who work in the medical field advised about when I should watch for Jack to start having trouble breathing. I think that was the hardest part – being on the watch for truly dire straits. Thankfully, the worst never transpired. And we were supported by so many who offered to drop off groceries or do anything we needed doing, or just sent well-wishes and prayers. We didn’t really need anyone to do anything. InstaCart and Amazon made it easy to get anything we might need pretty easily. But it was nice to know people wanted to help.

Jack is now on the road to recovery and received his second dose of the vaccine yesterday. (Poor guy was told to expect the side-effects today to hit harder than normal due to receiving the shot after having had COVID.)

In the midst of Jack’s worst days, I got vaccinated myself (with the one-and-done version.) I felt slightly under the weather for the better part of a week, mainly having a loss of appetite and shedding a few pounds myself. But today I am confident we are on our way back to normalcy and I am so very grateful.