the corona chronicles, day 5: parks and beaches closed

Our mayor announced yesterday that all city parks and beaches would close. The day before, just the lots were barricaded to discourage people from parking in them and to reduce the number of visitors. But now, no one can hike, hang out at the beach, swim in the ocean, or take a boat out on the lake.

gray storage shed on brown sand
Photo by Guillaume Hankenne on Pexels.com

Confinement is being taken seriously, and soon it will drive some up the wall. More and more businesses are closing. People who can work from home are advised to do just that. Those who cannot are going without work and, many, without pay. My younger son works at a coffee shop with a drive-thru window. Frankly, I wish it would close, because the longer it’s open, the greater the chance is that he brings home the virus. But the Starbucks next door shut down and my son’s employer is capitalizing on Starbucks’ lost business. I hope it’s worth it to the owners. I hope my son, who just started this job in January and would probably be the first let go if there’s a reduction in customers, doesn’t come down with any symptoms.

My other son, an employee of the YMCA, is home with pay until the end of the week. The Y is still charging its patrons membership fees while it’s closed. A friend of my husband’s just canceled his membership because of this, and I’m guessing he’s not the only one. No money coming in means no money going out to workers.

I am fortunate that the city I work for is still paying its hourly workers like me, but how long will this last, with talks of budget cuts having started pre-pandemic? So far, we’ve been paid for one week without physically working. Our next pay period ends on April 3. The city was hoping to reopen the libraries by April 6, but that looks pie in the sky.

At my other library, we are still working from home, which is going fine so far. We can do research online for our patrons if they need help. We can also work on other tasks.

I am able to take my dog to the vet today. He’s diabetic and needs his insulin checked every other week. I may ask the vet to send me home with a test kit that I can use without coming in. Maybe I can report to her the result I get and she can monitor and adjust his insulin from that reading. Or I may just ask to come in less frequently. Since we’re almost all home, we can spot if the ol’ boy is doing well or poorly. So far, he’s responding very well to the insulin.

Will weddings go on? We have one to plan for. Our second eldest is getting married in October, but, of course, wedding plans are on hold. The venue, a community center run by one of the local cities, has closed its doors. Brides and grooms who had booked in March and April will have to postpone their weddings for sure and most likely find a new place for the reception. This venue is very popular and is booked at least a year out. We put a deposit down months ago, fortunately. Now we’ll see if the wedding will still go on even seven months out. Everything is so uncertain. I’m glad we haven’t booked a caterer yet.

Typically in March I’m fully in the process of planning our summer vacation. My husband was having a hard time even picking a free week this year at the very start of coronavirus. We finally decided on a week in September. Now that too will have to wait. Who knows what is in store. One thing is for sure, though, even a trip to a local beach will feel like a vacation.

Stay safe. Stay well.

the corona chronicles, day 4

Monday, 23 March 2020

It is Day 4 of being sequestered during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Both the libraries I work for are closed. One, the community health-care library, remained open through last Thursday. The other, the city-managed branch, had shuttered several days before that.

person holding covid sign
Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

I am still working from home for the health-care library. I have work to do for now but wonder when things will slow down. If this stay-at-home edict remains in place for, say, two or three months, I can’t imagine there would be that much to do from home. Right now, I can review a video I was sent home with, and on a Word doc, I’ve started compiling a list of medical graphic novels the library may be interested in purchasing, which is something I had started before leaving. I also have a catalog to review and pick out websites we can possibly add to our databases. I may have to get creative in coming up with activities in the future, but we have to be doing something work related to be paid. For now, I’ve plenty.

To get out of the house, hubby and I took a little drive yesterday. It was nicing getting a peek at the ocean and seeing something other than our home surroundings. We are lucky, though. We have a house with two floors. It’s not big by today’s standards, but it’s adequate. We have a backyard and a front yard, so there we can convene with nature if we need to. This morning, when I let the dog out back, I noticed three sets of paired-up birds: sparrows, a couple birds that looked like muddy-colored robins, and mourning doves. They were not practicing social distancing, but isn’t it telling that that thought had sprung into my mind?

We also live within walking distance to a large regional park. Unfortunately for us but fortunately for others, “our” park has been flooded with people. So many people, in fact, that the parking lots had to be closed off to prevent visitors. (That can only mean that our neighborhood streets will soon start looking like parking lots.) People were not practicing social distancing. It’s the same as at the beaches, whose lots were also barricaded, and some other attractions that draw huge crowds. It’s a matter of time before San Diego’s pride and joy, Balboa Park, is off-limits. What crazy times we live in.

Today, I’m trying to find enough work to fill up my typical 5.5-hour day. I’ll also take the dog out for a walk—maybe in the streets, though, and a little later in the morning or early afternoon, when the typical walkers are back home. But there’s nothing typical about our times.

To say I have zero confidence in our commander in chief is an understatement. How I wish we had a real president, one who doesn’t lie, fib, make stuff up, whatever. What a kid he must have been to raise!

Well, back to work I go. At least I have something to fill my hours. I feel bad for people who are out of work and out of pay, like wait staff and hair stylists, whose tip money was rent money. Or the minimum wage worker who, even if they are allowed to take some kind of unemployment insurance, surely it won’t be enough to pay the bills. Yes, landlords and mortgage lenders are supposed to place a moratorium on collecting rents and monthly payments, but eventually all that money is going to need to be repaid. What then if these people can’t get enough in restitution to cover those payments? There will be, in my opinion, evictions and foreclosures galore. How sad.

Be safe. Stay safe.

my first grocery delivery (or, i could get used to this)

I just placed my first grocery delivery order, and I could get very, very used to this concept.

grocery cart with item
I didn’t have to do this today           (Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com)

 

I’ve been laid up for the past week. Six days ago I had hand surgery, and two days after that I came down with the absolute worst stomach bug of my entire life. I will spare readers the gory details, but let me say when I was done using the bathroom, a Civil War battlefield would have looked more pleasing.

The violent episodes lasted a good twelve hours straight, with no feeling of that semi-relief one usually gets in between. I contracted the illness from my son, who came down with it just an hour or so after my husband and I returned from my surgery with a fast-food dinner. I’d had my favorite sandwich of all, an original chicken; my currently pescatarian husband had fish; and we picked up a whopper of a burger for the twenty-year-old. About a half hour after eating, my son became sick. He was so bad, my husband took him to the ER, where he was given an anti-nausea drug, morphine for the pain he was experiencing in his back, and then an IV drip when he wasn’t getting any better.

Thinking it was food poisoning and that food poisoning wasn’t contagious, I didn’t worry too much as I helped him the next day, my dominant hand in a cast and all. Then without warning and with about a half dozen chicken wings in my belly, my body got to experience the nasty virus for itself. Needless to say, it ranks as one of the worst weeks of my life.

Being unable to fend for myself, which is just awful for a perfectionist who runs the household, I had to have my older son make quick runs to the pharmacy and the store for me. When I thought of more things we needed when he wasn’t here, I asked my husband to get a few items yesterday. My husband can do many things well. He’s a hard worker, he is a good friend, he keeps the yard up, and he is conscientious, but he doesn’t run many of the household errands. Therefore, the list I gave him got a bit tweaked, shall we say? Coconut milk came home as coconut water (yuck), medical tape came home as the impossible-to-tear type (I have one hand here. Come on), and a rotisserie chicken was substituted with overpriced, gluten-free-bread-crusted shrimp. What? But I’m used to disappointment.

So, this morning, knowing I had to place an order for a mega bag of dog food from Target, I added on a few grocery items: actual coconut milk (for the curry I envision making sometime this week, when I magically get better and feel like eating), a loaf of sourdough bread that isn’t falling apart (as my husband informed me yesterday of the one loaf I’d purchased ten days ago), fresh vegetables, a pack of extra large bandages to cover my wound, Gatorade, and a few other items.

My order was placed around 8:30 a.m. for a 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. drop-off. I received a cheery text when the food was purchased and loaded into the shopper’s vehicle and she was on her way. Within ten minutes, the bags were unloaded and placed on my doorstep. I grabbed the few items and put them away. It was by far the easiest grocery shopping experience of my lifetime. I love you, Internet! I love you, Target! I love you, first person to think this was a great idea!

Will I grocery shop online again? By golly, yes! I may even try my local grocery stores or Amazon, though I was pleased with the promptness and service of Target, and the fact that I could also add on a few non-grocery items that the shopper could grab as well. The delivery fee, because I didn’t spend a certain amount, was a bit steep (about $10). I thought it was worth it, though, given the time I would have wasted going to the store and the gas money to get there and back. Plus, I’m still very under the weather.

Science and technology can’t do everything. They certainly can’t free us from pain, illness, and suffering, but they can deliver our groceries when we’re in need. My hat’s off to that.

putting a pet down (or, how life will never be the same)

Jack loved Christmas. Jack

Every year just after Thanksgiving, I make multiple trips out to the garage to bring in items to decorate the house. I start with a four-foot artificial tree for the family room, set up my village of homes, shops, and a church, and then get to wrapping the stair rails in garland. That’s the part of Christmas Jack loved most, the garland.

I don’t know why, none of us could figure it out, but he loved to lick and try to eat the artificial garland that wrapped around the lowest posts of the stair rail. He was a character like that, and that’s what we loved about him.

Yesterday, I had to make the awful, but necessary, decision to put Jack down. He was diagnosed with oral cancer (most likely squamous cell carcinoma) in May after I brought him in because of a swollen face, a terrible odor, and excessive drooling. His doctor wasn’t in, but he saw another and she had to deliver the news. She gave him a steroid shot and sent us home with a pill to be diluted with water and used as a wash for the open sore, a liquid medicine for the infection, and another bottle of buprenorphine for pain.

At first, he did well on the meds. The antibiotic took away the infection, the wash worked for a while, and we continued refilling the pain medicine to keep him comfortable. There were times when he looked almost normal–which if you’ve ever gone through the end of life with pets (and even humans) you’ll have noticed a second wind of sorts, when you falsely are led to believe all is well again. The facial swelling reduced and he moved from sitting atop a wing-back chair near the open window to sitting next to me on the couch every evening as I read or watched TV. He’d eat his dry food and his wet, and I’d treat him with his favorites, Temptations.

But then things took a turn for the worse–the inevitable, I’m afraid. He stopped eating his crunchy dry food, which he loved and which the doctors were surprised he even continued to eat because of his condition, and would hop off the couch and meow for his wet food a couple times a day. While eating, he’d turn his head from side to side to try to find a comfortable place in his mouth to masticate the already mashed food. It got to the point the last couple days that he couldn’t even manage his wet food, though. Sometimes, after meowing for a meal, he would walk over to his food bowl and just look at it, even if I stuck in a few Temptations, and then walk away.

But he was hungry, so a couple times, including right before I made the call, he tried eating and whether the food became lodged in the wound or he stuck himself with a tooth, I’m not sure, but he’d literally scream in discomfort and run around at full speed as if to run from the pain or dislodge the food. Yesterday, as I witnessed this, which alarmed our golden retriever and Jack’s best friend, and saw his mouth full of blood, I knew just what to do.

Jack could no longer eat without being in excruciating pain. If he could no longer get nourishment, he would starve to death, and he was beginning to show signs of this. I called his doctor’s office, but with his doc being out of town, I ended up calling the emergency vet. I then let my youngest son know. He started on his way home, and I texted my husband, who also decided to leave work. I sent a text to both daughters and then my older son, who was probably closest to Jack, especially when he was younger, calling Jack his dog. My older daughter was nearby and came over too.

We took him in and Jack went peacefully at age sixteen.

Life will never be the same around here, especially at Christmastime. When I hang the garland this year, I’ll also hang a picture of Jack on it. Jack loved Christmas, and we loved Jack.

i am failing at enjoying life (or, don’t quit your day job)

My freelance smoggy rainbowwork is slow, and since leaving my part-time day job five months ago, I have little to do that’s enjoyable. I wish I could have a do-over and take my job back, because after all the complaining I’d done about one supervisor and how things had gone to pot, things changed after I left. A new supervisor is at the helm, and all is good at the old place. If only I’d stayed.

So here I am with a serpentine schedule, some days going left, others going right. Some people would give their eye teeth to have a flexible schedule. They’d take up a hobby or continue with one they have and love. They’d travel, laptop in hand, and work whenever it was convenient to them, maybe looking out over a vast ocean or a forest filled with ferns and canopies of green. Maybe they’d squeeze in volunteer work, helping their fellow man and woman by serving food or rocking babies. They’d possibly simply take time to breathe, thanking their lucky stars for the time they have left on this earth.

But I’m not there yet. I’m sad, and after learning last week of a chronic illness I have, I’m depressed as well. The work I now have is not the work I love. I haven’t had the editing work that sustains my being in over a year. I feel I made a mistake in quitting the part-time job too and wish I had somewhere to go during the day to make my time feel valuable. I tried to get my old job back after another coworker left, but it’s obvious that the new manager does not want to make it work, even when he had an effortless opportunity to do so.

So I’ll trudge on, hoping something comes of the jobs I’ve applied to and interviewed for in recent weeks. There is hope over the rainbow. At this point, though, I’m just waiting for the rain to end.

will we be living with our kids forever? the possibilities of multigenerational living

The morning paper has a story of a San Diego, California, couple who sold their three-story home in a very nice part of town to move into their rental apartment building along with their grown kids and their children. As a mom of four in that same very-high-rent, high-cost-of-living area of the country, where two-bedroom apartments currently rent for over $2,000 a month on average and where buying an average-priced home means needing a $120,000 down payment (!) and an annual income of nearly $105,000, I am intrigued by this idea.

multigenerational picture

Unlike the couple featured in the story, however, I don’t have a handy apartment building to set everyone up in. I do, however, have a house and a small yard, and I’m starting to consider the possibilities. A tiny house, for one, stationed in a corner of the backyard could become home to a single adult or a couple. Even a large camper might do.

We also have one bedroom on the first floor whose wall was removed by a former owner that could be put back into use as a bedroom. It’s directly next to a full bath. A little engineering of walls could make this a cozy section of the house for one or two people.

Add to that a two-car garage that possibly, with a little insulation and installation of plumbing fixtures and more electric, could become a comfy 500-square-foot dwelling with its own entrance. People do stuff like this to open up airbnbs all the time. Why not make your home a complex for the family, especially if the possibility of your kids every buying diminishes by the year? It sickens me to think that cumulatively, my three kids who are out on their own fork over nearly $3,000 in rent every month. That’s money they could be pocketing and possibly saving up for a home of their own one day. Of course, if this idea of mine ever came to fruition, I’d charge the kids for rent, but it wouldn’t amount to an annual outlay of $36,000, that’s for damn sure.

The matriarch and patriarch of the Haven family featured in the article are in their seventies and eighties, so while they currently enjoy their separate apartment in the building, they know that one day, if needed, they won’t have far to look for help from family. That, to me, is a big bonus too. Sure, I want my kids to have their independence and the feeling of accomplishment of living on their own, but I’m a little selfish too in wanting them close by.

 

 

i’m becoming a glutton for gluten-free

gluten free

 

Since discovering I tested positive for an autoimmune disease in December, I have gone the way of the gluten-free diet.

The rheumatologist I visited thinks this is a fad diet, but research is on my side in that gluten can trigger autoimmune reactions whereby healthy cells are confused for non-healthy cells and their nuclei are attacked by our own immune systems. It’s been proven in the case of celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder that manifests in the small intestines. It has also been proven in certain forms of dermatitis, such as dermatitis herpetiformis (DH),  that, according to Providence Hospital in Oregon and Washington, “is a form of celiac disease that triggers the immune system to attack the skin, rather than the small intestine. . . . If people with DH continue to eat gluten, they also may run an increased risk of developing intestinal cancer.”

If this is true with celiac and its forms, why wouldn’t it be true with lupus, which can cause a rash, balding, and even organ failure; scleroderma and connective tissue diseases, which affect the skin, including  the linings of organs, as well as joints; and inflammatory bowel syndrome (IBS) that attacks the lining of the intestines, for example?

To me it makes sense. It makes sense to my neurologist too, who is an innovator in vertigo and has landed on many best-doctors lists.

What to Eat?

So here I am, now buying gluten-free pasta, breads, soy sauce, pancake mix, and even Girl Scout cookies. I’m staying away from sugar as much as possible too, so sweets are just occasional treats. If I have a chip, it’s made of corn, like tortilla chips, or I reach for my favorite snack, popcorn, instead. My cholesterol was a bit up, too, recently, so off the table goes the greasy stuff, like potato chips and fries, as well as red meat and other culprits. Any diet takes discipline, but you don’t have to hit me over the head to get me to change if it means living a less-painful, longer, happier life.

What have I noticed since the new diet started? My waistline has gone down, my migraines have decreased a lot (I’ve had one in four weeks!), and my grocery bill has gone up some. Plus, I’m finding foods in areas of the grocery store I’ve never ventured in before.

Food is fuel, period. We forget that at times. It needs to give us energy and keep our bodies functioning properly. Yes, I love food as much as the next guy. I’m a decent cook and I make a lot of different dishes, from cashew chicken to spaghetti and meatballs to yellow curry and basmati rice. Some I’ve had to eliminate, but most I simply have had to modify, like using gluten-free pasta (Barilla makes a great one that’s readily available in major grocery chains; and there’s another brand, Ancient Harvest, that uses corn and quinoa, which doesn’t hold up as well or look like wheat spaghetti when cooked, but has a delicious sweet and nutty flavor).

Take note: There are lots of good-tasting foods one can eat that don’t involve wheat products or wheat-like products at all, although you wouldn’t know this if you subsisted on the regular fast-food diet. Wheat is cheap, and that’s why McDonald’s and Burger King can sell a hamburger for about a buck. But there are alternatives. Rice flour is very close to wheat flour in consistency. I use it now to coat fried chicken, which I make with olive and avocado oils with maybe a bit of corn oil to make it stretch.

I am fortunate to have a couple grocers nearby that stock plenty of options when I am craving a slice of bread. Just this morning for breakfast I had Udi’s cinnamon raisin bread that tasted very close to the real thing, if, that is, wheat is considered “real” and everything else is not, which we’ve been led to believe all these years.

Yes, a lot of these products cost more, Cream of Rice, for example, instead of Cream of Wheat, but if your health isn’t worth it, what is?