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.

Winter at the Cabin

For years, Jack and I struggled to make time to go to his family’s cabin in the summers. We’ve always loved to go to the lake, but we had kids in sports for many years which meant that evenings and weekends often found us sitting and cheering at a ball field. Jack’s job was sometimes a roadblock as well with its rotating schedule that kept him at work every other weekend. Then my parents’ health began failing and their need for help became a priority over up-north escapes.

But the years passed by, the kids grew up, my parents passed on, and Jack’s work situation changed. Suddenly we had time again to get away to the lake, to unplug, to commune with nature and simply enjoy the peaceful surroundings of my father-in-law’s happy place. We have made a true effort to get there more often lately, to make use of it and help manage the upkeep the way Jack’s dad would have wanted us to do.

The cabin is a rustic dwelling and lacks many of the conveniences we enjoy at home. To be honest, that’s part of its charm. It’s small but it has a big farm table to accommodate the large extended family. There’s no cable television, (so get outside and play!) The rooms are few but there are many places to sleep. Just don’t expect any privacy. There’s no central air conditioning; just a small window unit used only on those days when the air is truly stifling and it’s too hot to sleep. There’s no furnace, but there’s a small stove to heat things up in the fall when the guys gather for hunting trips.

Jack and I have never gone to the cabin in the winter. The conveniences are even fewer during the cold and snowy months. Since the cabin isn’t occupied on a regular basis, the water and heat are shut off after hunting season. That’s not to say that we can’t go in the winter. It just takes a more effort. It takes a couple of hours for the cabin to heat up to a comfortable level, and using the bathroom means walking outside – day or night – to use an outhouse.

Last summer while spending time at the lake with extended family, the talk turned to planning some winter trips. The idea took hold and last weekend, we made it happen.

I’m often guilty of having expectations that are too high, ending up disappointed when things don’t play out as perfectly as I imagine. As the weekend drew near, I daydreamed of perfect weather that would ensure snow on the ground but not too much. I wished for temperatures cold enough to maintain the snow cover and to keep the ice strong on the lake, but not so cold that we’d be forced back inside. I envisioned all of my kids and their significant others being able to join us. And I pictured all of us frolicking outside happily until we were exhausted and starving for one of those simple cabin dinners that always tastes best when every chair at the table is occupied. I had to keep reminding myself to take the weekend as it came, and not to be upset if everything wasn’t perfect.

I’ve made a concerted effort to find reasons to be grateful over the last year. Our winter cabin weekend made it so easy. I sincerely could not have asked for more. All of my kids and their significant others were able to join us, as well as Jack’s younger brother and his family. The weather was spectacular! Saturday was overcast with really comfortable temperatures. Sunday brought a clear blue sky, brilliant sunshine and temperatures just a bit colder than the day before. And we did it all!

I have to give credit to my brother-in-law who is just a big kid at heart. He talked Jack into participating in this weekend when I couldn’t. And once we were all at the cabin, he bounced around encouraging everyone to do this and try that. He was like a cruise director, making sure everyone was happy and having the best time imaginable! We rode sleds and tubes down the hill from the deck of the cabin down onto the lake. We made and threw snowballs. The guys did some ice fishing and the dogs ran, and ran, and ran! Thanks to my brother-in-law, I learned to drive a snowmobile as well as how to cross-country ski. The snowmobiling was exhilarating and fun! The skiing was more work than I’d imagined but such a peaceful experience. I definitely want to do more skiing.

After so much activity, I truly did work up a hunger such as I rarely feel. The food, though simple and convenient, tasted so good because it was shared with loved ones. When it was too dark to be outside any longer, we gathered around the table and played board games together, our voices growing louder as the night went on and laughter bubbling over easily. Leaving at the end of the weekend was, as it always is when departing from the cabin, bittersweet. I was anxious to get back home to a shower and a comfortable bed. But I was reluctant to see it all come to an end.

I needed this weekend. It was an opportunity to escape the sense of COVID fatigue for a while. And it is so rare that we’re able to gather all of our kids together in the same place for any length of time, much less an entire weekend. My heart swelled with love as I watched my kids talk and play together. I love seeing the incredible adults they have grown to be and the way they’ve grown closer to one another as they’ve matured. Everything about this weekend was simply amazing and I was literally overjoyed. Before I closed my eyes last night, I said a prayer of thanks for such a beautiful gift.

Too Cold to Go Outside

I haven’t been getting outside to walk for the past week or so. It’s too cold! I was really sticking with it too, well past the point in the winter that I normally do. Usually I’ve given up long before now. But if I can say anything good about a pandemic and working from home and rarely going anywhere, it’s that it has motivated me to go outside, see something besides the walls of my own house, and breathe fresh air. But the past couple of weeks with their sub-zero temperatures broke me. I’m pretty hardy, but I draw the line when the temperatures are cold enough to pose the risk of frostbite on skin exposed longer than five minutes.

It was eighteen below this particular morning.
An enjoyable view from inside the house

I miss my walks. I miss my friend and neighbor who walks with me. It always refreshes my spirit to get out of the house and talk with someone who doesn’t live with me. When the temperatures started falling, I told myself that if I couldn’t go outside, I’d still step away from my desk for a while each day and read a book, eat some lunch, watch an episode of something, or even do some laundry. But I never do. Without even giving it much thought, I just keep working. Oh, well. I’ve accomplished a lot at work and that in itself is fulfilling. It’s probably not a great long-term plan though.

This weekend promises a slight warm-up, thankfully, and next week looks good for getting outside again. I can’t wait!

Other benefits of these long, slow, quiet days? I’ve managed to stick with my goal to plan meals, cook, and eat better. I’ll dare to say that I’m well on my way to creating a solid habit of planning and shopping so that I have ingredients on hand to cook some things we’ll enjoy and feel good about eating. I’m only slightly worried I might start slacking off when spring and summer roll around.

I’m doing a ton of reading and really enjoying it.

I’ve not really worked much on crocheting. I got very excited about it at first and then I just fizzled. I’ve been too wrapped up in my books, I think. I’m not worried though. The yarn and hooks aren’t going anywhere. And obviously, neither am I!

On Being Ruined

I woke up at 3:00 the other morning and failing to fall back to sleep, lay there just letting my brain run in all directions. A particular realization rose to the surface, a feeling of being unsettled. Unsettled seems to be my constant companion, sometimes more apparent than others but always hanging around. The past year has moved me out of my comfort zone and I often feel as if I’m hovering in a sort of gray state of anxiousness, melancholy, and world-weariness.

I miss having plans. I miss seeing people. I miss looking forward to anything much more exciting than my weekly grocery run. It’s hard sometimes to stay positive when everyone you love is so close and yet so far away. Virtual reality helps, but it’s simply not the same. I want think about being in the world again, and spending time with people without the underlying fear that we might harm one another by breathing in the same space.

I see the ever-increasing divisions in this country and realize I’ve probably spent much of my life blissfully ignorant. This … everything the world is going through right now … this is nothing new. It has happened time and again, hasn’t it? I’ve just been fortunate enough to have lived most of my years in relatively calm times – or more likely was simply sheltered from the really worrisome stuff. When I was in the third grade, my elementary school suddenly enrolled a population of Vietnamese children. I remember being fascinated with the fact that they didn’t speak English. I noticed their mismatched, often ill-fitting clothing, but at that age it never occurred to me to question why, or to imagine their lives hadn’t been every bit as safe as mine. Somehow, my best friend that year was a Vietnamese girl who’d been placed in my class. We barely understood each other’s words, but we connected. And I had absolutely no idea for a very long time where she’d come from and the war that had happened in her country, or our country’s part in it.

This has happened a lot to me over my adult years, a dawning realization years in the making. Events that had previously seemed little more than a history lesson during my school years, I suddenly realized had occurred during my grandparents’ lifetime. My parents’ lifetime. My lifetime.

I often have to turn away from the news these days. I can’t ask Jack not to watch, but sometimes I have to close myself off. Sometimes when I’m cooking or doing chores, I’ll turn the television on for some background noise. I’ll find something that is just enough to keep me company but not enough to distract me from what needs doing. I’ve been watching Eat, Pray, Love on Netflix lately, either while falling asleep or while doing some chore. I long ago read the book by Elizabeth Gilbert, but had never bothered with the movie. I almost always think a book is better than its movie, so this was, in my mind, the perfect one for background noise. Except that a particular line in the movie captured my attention.

Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.

Elizabeth Gilbert

I found myself sort of ranting to Jack two nights ago. He had the local news on and I was allowing myself to watch. There was a story about parents appealing to the governor to lift mask mandates for youth sports. Apparently several children have passed out while playing, presumably because the masks make it difficult to breathe during activities requiring such exertion. I watched as parent after parent was interviewed, all expressing the unfairness of requiring children to wear masks while playing a team sport. (Ironically, the story went on to say that statistics show there has been no increase in incidents of passing out as compared to before the pandemic.)

I’m normally not one to express an opinion out loud about such things. Everyone is entitled to their passions. The past year has taken its toll on everyone, and what’s a priority to some may not be a priority to others. We’re each seeing the world right now through our own unique lenses. But this news story fired me up. I looked at Jack and threw my hands up, asking, “What’s more important? That your kid gets to play basketball, or that your kid gets to play basketball in a way that offers a slightly better chance of keeping her and others around her safe? If you feel your child is at risk from wearing a mask while playing basketball, then maybe the choice should be not to play basketball this season! I mean, should we all be allowed to do the things we think we’re entitled to do? Or should we be doing whatever it takes to get beyond where we are now?”

I’m tired of it all too. I’m tired and I’m getting bored. But I also don’t think we should just throw out all precautions and play a real live game of survival of the fittest. My kids played sports. I remember how important it was to us. And yes. It’s unfair the way so many things are right now. It’s unfair that kids are falling behind because they’re not learning in the structure of a traditional classroom. It’s unfair that we can’t hold birthday parties or celebrate holidays with large groups of family and friends. It’s also unfair that people are dying.

None of us gets to do all of the things right now that we were used to doing before. And who knows if or when we’ll get to do them again. Maybe this is where my feeling of being unsettled stems from. That we might never again get to do of the things that define life as we think we know it.

The world sometimes feels to me like it’s falling apart. But isn’t this the bigger picture? Sometimes I begin to feel so defeated at all that’s going on, and then I watch the history channel and am reminded just how awful things have been before. Hasn’t this happened time and again throughout history? A ruining of sorts? What was taken for granted by one generation fails to exist for another. And it works both to our benefit and sometimes to our detriment.

I knew all of this … this trying to carry on through the pandemic … was going to get really difficult for me about this time of year anyway, with days that are still too short and when darkness comes too early. Not to mention, it’s a sub-zero deep freeze outside and that certainly doesn’t help. It’s made me a bit mopey at times, but also more introspective as well. That quote from Eat, Pray, Love keeps coming to mind. This is all so much bigger than us. So much bigger than I’ve imagined it would ever transpire to be. I’ve gone from disbelief that the virus would really affect us , to being literally afraid of it. I’ve gone from believing a resolution is just around the corner, to finding ways to stay positive and move on toward a day that’s still much too far away. I’ve experienced exhaustion and sorrow over too many other devastating and historic events that just seem to pile on top of a world that already feels much too fragile.

We are experiencing a ruining right now, I think. Funny thing is that whenever I’ve imagined such a thing, it was instantaneous and totally devastating. Before now, the world going to ruins was merely a far-fetched invention of the imagination. But I’m beginning to understand it’s not an illusion. It’s real. But it’s happening in slow motion. And this means we have some control over it, a chance to ensure that something good comes of it. It could really go either way, but I pray that our transformation holds more growth, more good than anything.

I’m Hooked

We’re in the midst of a deep-freeze. This isn’t exactly abnormal for Minnesota. We spend a small stretch of time most every winter in the below zero to single digit temperatures. But with the added limitation on outside-the-house activities thanks to COVID, I was desperate to find something creative and new to do with my time.

I’m not sure what possessed me. Maybe it was my pending grandmother-hood. Oh, the idea of making baby blankets, baby booties, and baby hats! And how about those beautiful afghans made out of colorful squares! Dish cloths, coffee sleeves … the possibilities are endless! Whatever the draw, I’ve had an urge lately to learn how to crochet. When I was young, my grandma tried to teach me, as did a sweet aunt. My female relatives were extremely talented with all crafts requiring needles, hooks, yarn and fabrics. Growing up, my siblings and I had an endless supply of colorful winter hats, scarves, and mittens, all lovingly created by our grandma. Unfortunately, any efforts to pass those gifts on to me mostly failed. I’ve always had a small degree of creative skill, but I never managed to advance in the art of crocheting beyond making a single chain. And even that has long since been forgotten.

I’m going to give the yarn and hook another try though. Apparently you can learn any number of skills on YouTube, including how to crochet. I watched a beginner episode to determine what supplies I’d need to get started. Last weekend I picked up a set of crochet hooks and a couple of basic yarns. Yarn balls? Yarn spools? No, wait … skeins! They’re skeins, right? See? There’s hope for me. I’m learning the lingo.

And look! I’m still making single chains! Actually, I did manage to add another row at one point, but I unraveled it and decided to continue making chains until the loops are more consistent and even. Once I really get that down, (assuming I’ll get that down,) I’ll try moving on to bigger things.

This is me not sleeping

Thoughts that daily make their way through my brain…

When this is over

When things are back to normal …

Maybe it will never be truly over. Maybe fragments of where we are now will stay with us forever. Normal might never be again what we once believed it to be.

I don’t always sleep well. Probably a symptom of my age. But sometimes I wonder if I’ve developed a permanent low level of anxiety (thanks to a virus) that prevents me from truly letting go long enough to sleep through the night. Maybe I haven’t. But maybe I have. Sometimes I can’t fall asleep for a long time, or I wake up in the night and can’t get back to sleep. My brain doesn’t want to shut down. I think as normal as I try to make things, there’s a part of me that knows that none of this is normal and it makes me feel so unsettled sometimes.

I go through the days and I do my normal things. It’s kind of nice to be able to work at home, to have those extra minutes to get something done beyond driving to and from an office. I can toss a load of laundry in the washer in the middle of the day. Put some outgoing mail in the mailbox. Pull something from the freezer for dinner. Stop for a minute to hug and kiss my dog. All things I couldn’t do if this was the old normal and I was away from home for nine or more hours a day.

Sometimes I wake up in the night and my brain immediately wants some kind of reassurance that just isn’t to be found. No matter how much I try to tell it calming, fun, happy things, think about the best things in my life, or just breathe deeply in and out, my brain goes into overdrive and sleep won’t come back. When will I stop wondering every day if I’m going to catch the virus and – not that I’m very worried for myself – but what if I pass it on to someone else and do them harm? I can’t stop thinking about my poor mother-in-law in her little apartment for months on end without any real visits from family. It hurts my heart to hear the daily death count on the news, about the shortage of vaccines, and the mutating strains of the virus.

Maybe I can’t sleep because it’s impossible to truly relax while there’s no end in sight and the world just isn’t safe for everyone. (Not that it ever was, really.) But this virus!

Of course then I remember that this probably isn’t so bad in the grand scheme of things. There is an end in sight and I just need to be patient a while longer. My livelihood isn’t at risk which in turn makes me able think about (and do) more for others less fortunate. There’s plenty of food on the table. I can binge watch Netflix without the usual level of guilt. Got lots of time to read books or do some project around the house. I spend a lot more time outside – in the winter even – than I ever did before. I can go to work in leggings or sweatpants if I want to. All really great perks, right?

The view outside isn’t bad.

Imagine how terrifying it must have been to live in a time when you couldn’t protect your child from polio. When a vaccine couldn’t even be imagined. And when it could, it was years away. And I think I have trouble sleeping! This isn’t so bad then, is it?

Maybe normal is never coming back. Maybe the new normal is that time passes a little bit slower. And church isn’t a building. Maybe it’s forgiveness being extended more generously, not having to be first, loving others exactly for who they are and for who they aren’t. Hugs might be a little more scarce, but personally, I hope they come back in droves. Maybe the new normal is that we all have a lot more grace to offer.

Sometimes I wonder if the bigger purpose to all this is to deconstruct everything we take so much for granted, in order to take us down a few notches. Maybe when this is all over, the world is different, better in ways we never dreamed. I have to believe there’s a purpose for what is happening in the world today, this big thing that is beyond anything I could have imagined in my lifetime. I remind myself to live in it and through it, find something redeeming each day and not just constantly look for the end of it all. But I will be so happy to get beyond it.

Maybe this is why I can’t sleep at night. Then again, it could just be my age.

Vittles and Visions

It never fails that when I’ve been on a not-cooking binge, I circle back around, getting highly motivated and ambitious to prepare meals that taste good and are at least slightly less bad for our health. It was a quiet weekend around our place, which made it easier to spend time menu-planning and grocery shopping.

It wasn’t just general guilt about our poor eating habits lately that had me focused on what we’re consuming. Jack had a routine blood draw last week. He has these done in order to keep an eye on certain indicators in his body that may be impacted by his autoimmunity and the medications he takes to manage it. He’s had trouble keeping his liver numbers in a good place and last week we learned they are elevated again. And while this could be due to his medications, we also know there might be things he can do to make positive changes on his own, such as lose a few pounds. Just another reason to pay more attention to what we’re putting in our bodies.

So Saturday morning found me sitting at the kitchen island with my laptop, surrounded by cookbooks. I decided to create a spreadsheet of some favorite meals and listed them along with the specific ingredients needed for each. The plan is to build on this spreadsheet so that I’ll ultimately have a quick-pick list of meals that’s also an easy reference for my grocery list. I included a few new recipes from an InstaPot cookbook I recently bought, and I made two of those meals this weekend. On Saturday I made Thai Pumpkin Chicken Soup, which we both deemed to be interesting though it’s probably not something I’ll make again. Jack had two helpings of last night’s Sweet Potato and Black Bean Chili and he also took it to work today for lunch. I really enjoyed that one as well and it will definitely go on the list for future meals.

Hopefully all of this will help us stay on top of our nutrition a little better from now on, though I think I’ll still give meal kits a try. There are weekends when Chesney and Farm Boy come to visit and the whole food thing falls apart because I’d much rather have fun with them than spend time at the grocery store. But even that is just a matter of planning ahead somewhat.

In other news, we were supposed to return to our bowling league this weekend after it was shut down in November thanks to COVID. Jack and I opted not to participate in the second half though. Since his health has seen some pitfalls in recent months, we just felt it was best to play it safe. Plus, bowling under the current restrictions (masks on, limited mingling with friends, and having to leave as soon as the games are done) just takes away all of the fun.

It’s hard to stay busy and entertained sometimes with all of the official and self-imposed restrictions on ourselves. Our kids have continued to visit periodically, but otherwise we’ve been fairly careful. As much as I look forward to the weekends after working all week, they often start to feel long and boring before Monday comes around again. I wanted to give myself a good project to fill the quiet this particular weekend. I’ve never made a vision board before, but I’ve been contemplating making one since the year began. Last week in a team meeting, a coworker shared the one she had been working on and it made me ambitious to get started myself.

I checked out a few how-to articles and then made a stop at the dollar store yesterday to buy a board and some double-sided tape. Thankfully, Jack had a stockpile of outdoor magazines and catalogues from the past year that he had yet to recycle. I spent the afternoon clipping words and images that spoke to me. After dinner, I got to work organizing my clippings on the board and then securing them in place. The effort reminded me of art projects I’d done in my school days which made me feel just a little bit silly. But I didn’t really care. It was an enjoyable way to spend a quiet, cold evening. Certainly way better than zoning out in front of the television. I’m not sure the end result truly qualifies as a vision board, but I was proud of it anyway. It ended up being a sort of potpourri of goals, inspirations, positive messages, and things that are simply important to me. It includes references to family, faith, and the outdoors, as well as ambitions about writing, work, and fitness, all things that I strive to improve with each day that I live. I know when I look at it, I’ll see words and images that are uplifting and inspirational.

I’m really happy with it. And who knows? Maybe this will become something I do at the start of each new year from now on!

Why do I worry? Because I have to do it for everyone.

We went back to work yesterday, Jack and I. No more vacation days. No more waking up without an alarm. No more over-indulging in Netflix or sneaking a few more leftover Christmas cookies out of sheer boredom.

Thanks to a tracking error on his employer’s part, Jack was informed in mid-December that he had fifty-some hours of vacation time to use (or lose) before the end of the year that shall not be named. (A coworker introduced me to that label today and it made me laugh out loud, so I am using it henceforth!) So my hubby had been at home for the last two weeks without anything particularly pressing to do. Twenty-four hours a day. Seven days a week. Not that I was keeping tabs or anything. Near the end of his vacay, he said he was looking forward to going back to work this week. I said I was glad he was going back to work too. (I’m kidding. A little bit.) I also was looking forward to returning to my work. Having time off during a pandemic just isn’t that fun.

Alarm clocks sounded yesterday morning. We got up before the sun. Off we went to work. Well, off Jack went to work. Off I went to the family room in our lower level which continues to serve as my office until we tackle some projects which will allow me to convert a spare bedroom into a better workspace. I can’t do that right now since there is a new bathroom vanity taking up a large chunk of space in the bedroom. So first, bathroom remodel. Then bedroom remodel and new office space. Soonish, I hope.

It felt good to be back in the swing of things at work, using my brain for something more stimulating than watching the Hallmark Channel. Not that I’m knocking the Hallmark Channel. I got totally sucked into the non-stop holiday flicks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. After I decided to boycott watching any channel cycling non-stop news of COVID and politics, hatred and violence, the Hallmark channel saved my sanity. I could pretend the country wasn’t spiraling out of control and just get lost in beautiful people who live in quaint, cozy small towns where nobody ever really seems to work, and everyone is filled the Christmas spirit all the time, and love always wins in the end. Sigh! Funny thing about Christmas movies though. Even though Hallmark offers them … What? Year round I think? They’re not nearly as charming and actually feel a lot cheesier when it’s no longer the Christmas season. Besides, I was beginning to see reruns. And after the New Year’s Eve celebration that wasn’t, going back to work sounded awfully inviting.

So there I was yesterday morning, about three hours into my work day and participating in a Teams meeting when I heard the front door open. Thinking that was very odd, I heard footsteps come down the stairs and suddenly there was Jack. He looked wretched. I muted my microphone momentarily and leaned away from my web cam. Without me having to ask, he muttered, “I don’t know what’s wrong. I’m going to bed.”

I could feel the blood drain from my face because of course, I instantly assumed COVID, which where Jack is concerned, scares me to death. With his autoimmunity and some other health issues of late, I really worry about how he would manage if he got the virus. But of course, I was stuck on my meeting for a few more minutes and couldn’t drill him with questions at that exact moment. After he walked out of the room, I tried to continue to pay attention to the topic at hand. And by the time the meeting ended not long after, Jack was sound asleep in bed and stayed that way for hours. Around mid-afternoon he resurfaced from the bedroom and said he felt a little better. I asked what had been wrong. What he described certainly didn’t point to COVID, but definitely didn’t ease my mind. He used words like “dizzy,” “light headed,” and “nauseous.” Also, there was “short of breath” and “felt like I was having a heart attack.”

“A heart attack? And you drove yourself home?” I asked incredulously.

“Well, I sat for about an hour at work until the worst of it passed and when I felt a little better, I figured I could drive home,” he replied.

“Maybe it was a panic attack,” I suggested. I’ve heard people say they thought they were having a heart attack and it turned out to be anxiety, although even as I was saying it I was thinking that would be much more likely to happen to me, not Jack.

“You had two weeks away from work and maybe you were worried about catching up on things.”

He really didn’t think it was anxiety and said he figured he just had the stomach flu. But I insisted that the heart attack feelings didn’t jive with a stomach bug and he shouldn’t have driven home afterwards. I have about sixteen jillion hours of PTO and could easily have come get him. Also, now that I think about it, there’s an emergency squad where he works, trained First Responders. Maybe he might have called on them? Maybe? And also, feeling like he was having a heart attack warranted a call to the doctor. “Now,” I said.

He brushed me off, saying he felt better now.

“I don’t,” I said. “Call the doctor.”

“They’re wrapping up their day by now. I’ll call tomorrow.”

“It’s 3:15. They’re not wrapping up. If you’re feeling better in the morning, you’ll go to work again and you’ll forget to call. Do it now and at minimum, you can leave a message asking for a call back.”

“I don’t have a card with the phone number.”

The excuses with this man!!!

“There’s this thing called Google,” I deadpanned. “Helps you find all kinds of information.”

I insisted that particularly with his health issues, he shouldn’t mess around and should at least check in with a professional to see if we should be more concerned, or maybe go to a hospital. He finally acquiesced and called his specialist’s office, actually reaching a live person and getting put directly through to a nurse. (Go figure!) She drilled him with questions and when she didn’t insist he head to the E.R. I felt a bit better.

Later on, Jack ate dinner, watched television, and slept through the night without incident. He went back to work today, put in an entire day, and lived to tell about it. His specialist’s dedicated nurse also called today and eased my mind even further. She said the doctor didn’t feel his incident was related to his health issues or current medications. It might have just been a fluke thing, a virus, stomach bug. Who knows? And if he continues to experience the same symptoms, he should GO SEE HIS PRIMARY DOCTOR. (Imagine that!)

Seeing as how Jack is feeling back to his normal self today, I guess we are going to let this go. But this sure put a damper on that whole not-worrying thing!

They Said I Do!

Our baby girl is married!

Chesney was a gorgeous bride, absolutely radiant. Farm Boy was so handsome, literally beaming every time he looked at his bride. I felt as if I might burst with the joy I felt for my daughter and new son-in-law.

Also, can I just say? My family cleans up nice!

Oh, how I prayed about this day, and not just the usual prayers for a young couple committing their lives to one another. I stacked prayers on top of prayers because while planning a wedding can be stressful during the best of times, no one could have imagined a year ago when they were engaged, what it would mean to do so during a pandemic.

Last spring after having already set the date, the venue informed us that due to the pandemic it now had to operate at a lower capacity. Lucky for us it’s a large venue and our guest list fell comfortably below those restrictions. Many guests declined their invitations from the start, but we were happily surprised that most others were still willing to attend. We worked with the staff at the venue to plan extra spacing between tables, making use of both the upper and main levels. We planned to seat guests either by household, or small numbers of those in the same bubble. The invitations stated that everyone should plan to wear a mask and we bought extras just in case, along with a multitude of hand-sanitizer.

Their wedding day would surely look different than what they’d dreamed, but Chesney and Farm Boy handled themselves with immense grace and patience (with just a few tears shed) along the way.

But as the November wedding date loomed closer, the impact of COVID-19 was rapidly increasing in our state. Three days before the wedding, our governor was to announce new restrictions. I sat on the edge of my seat the afternoon of the press conference, waiting to hear whether this would require us to cancel with only three days to go, or if we could somehow go forward. All along the way, the venue held us to the scheduled date, because as they explained, they were still allowed to be open. And we truly sympathized when the owner explained that if they rescheduled or refunded everyone who asked, they would go out of business. Long ago I told my daughter that while we’d already invested significantly in this wedding, money isn’t everything. If they wanted to cancel, we’d figure it out. Jack and I maintained this stance even now, but Chesney and Farm Boy decided to just roll with things as best they could.

As it turned out, there would be new restrictions for weddings and receptions, but not until just after our event. Still, I didn’t feel good about things. The governor had simply drawn a line in the sand. On the date of this wedding, we could gather a couple hundred people together in an enclosed space. Just a short time later it would no longer be allowed. I could not stop thinking about how the virus didn’t care about dates. People would still be at risk at this wedding. And in the days just ahead, upwards of forty guests called to tell us they weren’t coming. Some had already been personally impacted by the virus, others simply didn’t feel safe coming. At this point, I’d have been happy if our immediate families could just be there, but a good number of guests weren’t backing out. I felt like we were on a freight train racing out of control.

I’ve always been champion worrier, but now I was experiencing true and severe anxiety. That evening after the governor’s announcement, my brain kept reminding me we were being selfish to forge ahead. The remaining hours of that day dragged on for me and I lost the ability to focus on anything else. I began to feel a burning sensation in my chest which traveled up my throat and into my mouth. I was convinced I had the virus and I can’t describe the devastation I felt at the thought of missing my daughter’s wedding day. I frantically searched online for locations where I could be tested, but without displaying any of the typical symptoms, I couldn’t get a test before the wedding day. I kept all of this to myself until I burst out crying, telling Jack my worst fears.

Jack assured me I didn’t have the virus, but I didn’t believe him. I couldn’t sleep that night and woke up in the morning with the burning feeling still raging in my chest. Then I had a revelation … and took something to ease the effects of heartburn. Voilà! I quickly felt so much better. I had literally worried myself sick.

I felt a bit less anxious the day before, and on the day of the wedding I forced myself to pack my anxieties away in a dark corner of my brain. While my fears never truly went away, I’m happy to say that I was able to rejoice in and fully celebrate my daughter’s wedding day.

In the end, the number of guests who attended was just over a hundred, about half of the number we’d invited. People were really good about keeping masks on. We had to forgo hugging and handshakes, which was hard for a hugger like me. Some people left right after the ceremony, and some as soon as they’d finished dinner. Some of us still danced and it was FUN! But the whole thing wound down by around ten o’clock. Those who stuck it out told us how much fun it was, how good the food was, how happy they were to help us celebrate this amazing event.

Most importantly, my prayers were answered ten-fold. In spite of it all, my daughter got to marry the love of her life. The newlyweds were truly happy. I’ve said something to Chesney and Farm Boy many times throughout this year, and in my toast at the wedding reception, I said it again. If Friday the thirteenth is suspicious during a normal year, in a year like 2020 when we celebrated their wedding day, it can only be a magical day filled with blessings for the years ahead.

Coping, Cooking, and Missing My Kid

We’ve started our spring yard clean-up. It’s taking forever.

Jack’s workday begins at 5:00 am, so he’s home by mid-afternoon while I still have a good hour or so work. Every day, he pokes his head into my “office” and says hi, then goes outside to “do yard work,” which is code for “hanging out with the neighbors.” I can see Jack through the front windows. There’s rarely much actual work happening. Instead, I hear the loud conversations he carries on across the yards with the neighbors. They keep an appropriate social-distance and yell back and forth to one another. Jack will be out there for hours, with all of the necessary tools close at hand; the lawnmower, the leaf blower, work gloves, etc. Still, other than my corner memory garden, no yard projects seemingly ever reach completion.

I can’t really complain. We have friendly, good neighbors. And everyone has to find a way to cope with staying at home. Jack has found his. Work a little. Chat a lot. Do it all again the next day. I mean really … what else have we got to do?

Me? I’m walking. Every day around lunchtime, I go outside and head toward the nearby walking path. My neighbor-friend joins me and for thirty minutes we walk, share work stories, talk about the good books we’re reading, or ponder the complexities of life before we go back home to finish the workday. This is what gets me through these days. Sometimes I walk after dinner as well, earbuds in with an audiobook streaming from the Audible app on my phone. It helps me breathe and minimizes the sense that the walls are closing in.

Now I need something to spark my interest in cooking again. Actually, it’s not the actual cooking that bothers me. I just haven’t planned meals very well lately, and without a plan, cooking feels like such a challenge! One of my weekend goals is to spend time sifting through recipes and deciding on the week’s dinners. Also, I had an Amazon gift card burning a hole in my pocket (reward for participating in my company’s wellness program,) so I ordered an InstaPot. I’ve heard great things, so I’m hoping this will bring some life back to our meals. InstaPots not being considered an essential product though, I’ve got a couple of weeks to wait until it shows up on my doorstep.

Another weekend goal is to see my youngest. I’ve been extra-specially missing her this week. Our oldest son, Jaeger has stopped by a few times to pick up his mail that still comes to our address. He just moved in with his girlfriend last weekend (YAY!) so maybe he’ll officially file a change of address soon! Middle son, Ryker is living here, so I’ve been able to stay well connected with my boys. But I haven’t seen Chesney in person in … over a month? Six weeks? Feels like forever. We text a lot, call sometimes, and FaceTime now and then. I still miss her. She sent me a great picture this week though. Her transition to farm girl is coming along well!

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We’re going to try to connect this weekend, halfway between here and there. Farm Boy’s chores and the weather might dictate whether we manage to pull this off. But if all goes well, I found a park that looks good for us to have a nice social-distance picnic or a leisurely stroll.