Signs of the Times

Gas station: regular unleaded, $1.18. I think: Wow. I think: I don’t need gas. I have a full tank – still. And I realize that not many need gas right now. No one is traveling, and even the daily commute isn’t happening for most of us. This low price is a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

Thrift stores – my favorite places to shop! – are closed up tighter than a high pitched drum. I think: Darn. I think: Well, it makes sense. They’re germ-laden places. People touch everything. I realize: I’m still going to shop thrift when this is all over, and I’m still going to wash everything I buy – sometimes twice.

Bars are closed. The streets are rather dark at night. Not that I’m out at night – but I’ve heard it’s spooky.

I’ve noticed a trend on Facebook. People are posting so that when a post comes up in the future, say, a Facebook Memory five year memory, they’ll remember what was happening in 2020. Gas prices. What’s closed, what’s open. Major Leagues Sports shutting down. How people are handling Social Distance. I haven’t joined the trend yet. I’m thinking more along the lines of “I don’t think I want to remember this stretch of 2020, at least not the sad details.”

I just want to remember enough to help my family and friends learn from this disaster so we don’t repeat it.

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And the Lockdown Continues

Yesterday we took chances. It was definitely in the category of Essential Activities, but it was still chancy.

We brought groceries to Petunia. Twice. I was bending the rules at her senior living apartment complex because all deliveries were supposed to be picked up in the lobby rather than having people walking in and out of the hallways. Petunia is still quite weak from a tough pain stretch last week, and I’m not going to make her walk the long walk to the lobby to meet me. I brought her a newspaper and picked up her credit card, and then I headed home.

Home, where the boys, Chuck and Amigo, were still asleep. Since I’m still on a schoolteacher’s timetable, I am awake in the mornings when they are, well, not. It gives me a quiet house in which to work, with few if any interruptions. Yesterday being Saturday, I didn’t even open up the school Chromebook. Mainly, I took care of Buttercup the bunny, cleaned up the kitchen, and then stretched out on the couch with a little HGTV and my own newspaper – and coffee.

Coffee. Coffee brewed in my own coffeemaker, on my own kitchen counter. When I picked up Petunia’s paper, I confirmed the news: Kwik Trip has closed their coffee bars. It makes sense, I guess. Pouring our own coffee, flipping through the lids that always seem to be stuck, touching one handle after another – and sharing space with others doing the same thing – all of those are risky in these Pandemic days. Good thing my Prepper Self always stocks up when coffee is on special!

Ah, my Prepper Self. Chuck is starting to bend my way in stocking up on necessities. With a few special trips to the pet store and the meat market, this trip to the store was short and still productive. We stocked up mainly on items that we couldn’t make or improvise on our own, like sodas. Mixers, to be honest. I have gin, I want my tonic. We have rum, now let’s make sure we have Coke. You get the picture.

Sunday, today, we stayed home. I ventured outside the house to empty kitchen compost and a bunny litter box, but other than that, I’ve stayed within the house. As the virus spreads in my community, I predict more days of staying in. We’ll see how that goes.

Readers, what kind of necessity makes you leave the house during the quarantine days? Leave a comment to share.

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Back into the (Sur)real World

Surreal. That word keeps coming up. A few days ago (was it really only two days ago?) Wisconsin Governor Tony Evers took the reins and declared a state of emergency. Covid19, the illness caused by the novel Coronavirus, was moving along and spreading quickly – much too quickly. He ordered schools closed, both public and private. Many universities and colleges had already extended their spring breaks indefinitely to minimize contact. And now, the same falls to Kindergarten through grade 12.

Amigo’s spring show was postponed and rehearsals cancelled until further notice. Many members of the chorus are in high risk groups for the new virus – elderly, heart conditions, weakened immune systems, and I’m sure more diagnoses than I know about. It was a heartbreak for Amigo, and I know others were devastated, too.

All these actions are for good reason. the novel Corona virus spreads through contact and droplet infection, and the strongest defense against that is to minimize contact with other people. If someone sneezes and I’m nearby, I could inhale the droplets from their sneeze. If someone coughs into their hand and then opens a door with that same hand, I could open the door and transfer that virus to my own system.

I go to school as scheduled tomorrow. I teach online already, so there might (knock on wood) be few changes in my own setting. We don’t need to create new structures or schedules. We did have to cancel field trips and testing dates. The standardized state tests haven’t been removed from our curriculum, but we had to cancel the “nonessential travel” for teachers who would have traveled to our testing sites. As an online school, our students are all over the state. To administer the state test, we look at a map and go to our students. We set up testing sites in hotels, libraries, and technical colleges so we can test the kids near their homes. All that, now, is cancelled. We don’t know when or if we’ll get it set up again.

So tomorrow I go to school as usual, but nothing will be typical. I might teach my classes, I might make my scheduled phone calls, and I know I’ll answer many emails, but I have a feeling this school day will feel anything but normal.

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In Which Daisy Continues to Worry Unnecessarily

Measles.

Measles is back in the country, and it’s back with a vengeance. I’m amazed and appalled at how fast the illness can spread and how it spreads before symptoms appear. I’m appalled, not amazed, at the number of people who think vaccines are more dangerous than measles itself.

Here we are, at the end of a school year, with huge gatherings ahead: our end of year amusement park celebration, complete with 8th grade certificates, and the high school graduation. Both of these events will include families who claim either religious or personal exemption from vaccines. How do I know that? Never mind.

And then I heard that baby boomers might be at risk because our vaccines were the early ones, the immunizations that weren’t fully effective yet. Add to that: I’d been taking a medication that both upset my stomach and weakened my immune system. If I encounter measles, it could be bad. If I need the vaccine, I may have to wait.

My doctor’s office came through this time. They ordered a measles titer to see if I had immunity or not. The results were positive: I do have immunity to measles. My vaccine, however early in development, apparently worked.

I can check this worry off my list.

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The Year Without a Canning Season

It started with kitchen construction. It ended with a brain aneurysm treatment. It makes sense; I didn’t can very much last summer. I’m still a little bummed.

With a major kitchen remodel in progress, I got up by 7:00 every morning even after school let out in June. I moved both vehicles out of the driveway so the carpenters could pull in. Then I would start my coffee, watch the morning news, and all the rest. I didn’t make jams or jellies because I didn’t have a stove in June and July. One result: rhubarb takes up much too much space in the freezer this year. I must find a way to use it up. Maybe in May. But anyway, no stove? No canning in early summer.

Later on I went under – not under the knife, but under a catheter. Part I: cerebral angiogram to determine the size of the aneurysm. The nurse wore Crocs with the Swedish Chef on them. How awesome is that? But I digress.

You can guess what followed – an overnight in the hospital after a three hour surgery to line the aneurysm so it will not get bigger. I had this done on a Thursday, and then headed off to school meetings the following Monday. And yes, I was tired.

But back to canning. In between the two events, I managed to can a batch of sweet bread and butter pickles and a batch of kinda-meh dill pickles. I put up one batch of tomato sauce – only one batch, and it shows. We opened a jar of store-bought tomato sauce last night. I used commercially canned tomatoes last time I made chili. All the homemade ketchup, the last jar of enchilada sauce – it’s all gone.

I’m a little sad looking at all the empty spots on the shelves that usually overflow with the goodies from the garden and the farmers’ market. Next June, I’m going to start canning like crazy. Canning like crazy and loving it, too!

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Amigo’s Turn on Injured Reserve

Amigo asked me to look at a “mole” on his hip. This mole had always been there, as far as he knew, but it had started hurting. At first glance it looked like a big bug bite: raised center, red rash around it. I touched it, he flinched, and I realized there was more under the skin.

We made an appointment to see Family Doc, the guy who knows us best.  The pain had increased overnight, and the red rash had also gotten bigger. Doc gave Amigo the news: it was a cyst, the cyst was infected, and it had to be lanced and drained. He would numb the area first, and then get all the gunk out.

Oh, it wasn’t pleasant, but Amigo took it like a trooper. He managed to stay still despite the pain of the numbing agent, and then accepted a damp compress on his forehead to help him focus and relax. Doc removed what he needed, stitched the area closed, and then covered it with a piece of gauze and tape.

We’ve been back twice to have Family Doc monitor his progress. Amigo took antibiotics to kill the infection, too. At this time, I’m checking on how it’s healing and putting clean gauze on the wound each night. Eventually, he will need the cyst removed. Neither of us are looking forward to this.

Fortunately, a cyst on the hip doesn’t stop him from singing. Amigo has joined a small group in the barbershop chorus: the Mixmasters. More music is good music! or something like that.

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Injured Reserve

I’m temporarily on injured reserve, as Chuck puts it. I cannot lift anything heavier than 5 pounds or handle anything dirty or germ-laden. Such is life as an artery heals!

Friday went smoothly overall. Pre-procedure fast: check. Light breakfast (two frozen waffles, toasted): check. Morning medication: check. Doze off while reading newspaper: check. Oh, I admit it, that wasn’t on the list, but a nap was still a good thing. Anti-germ shower with soap from doc’s office: check.

Arrive at hospital on time: check. Find registration in a labyrinth that is the hospital: with the help of a volunteer: check. Change into hospital gown and socks: check. Vital signs: check. Blood draw, IV inserted, etc.: check. Admire the nurse’s Crocs featuring the Swedish Chef: check, bort! bort! bort!

Procedure: one long involved check. The purpose for Friday’s O.R. encounter was to insert a catheter through my wrist and send dye coursing through the arteries in my head to confirm what the MRA and Doppler Ultrasound showed. Stent in right interior carotid is working well; blood is flowing through the artery as it’s intended. Aneurysm on the left: somewhat larger than it was a year ago.

Recovery! Remove catheter from artery: check. Place pressure bandage over artery: wow, check. This thing was “blown up” with air to hold it tightly on the artery and prevent bleeding. Move patient (me!) upstairs to hospital room for observation while recovering: relief of sorts, check. Nice view of the river below and the pelicans and geese feeding. Rather fun, really. If I had to stay longer, I’d like a room like that. But anyway, over a span of a few hours the nurse gradually let the air out of the pressure bandage and verified that the artery was closing. I had a hospital supper: baked penne pasta with marinara sauce and a small lettuce salad. Yum. Hospital food has come a long way since I was a teenager working in a hospital kitchen!

Well, folks, that was Friday. The prep, the procedure, the recovery, then home. My discharge instructions were what put me on Injured Reserve, in Chuck’s words. The remaining bandage stayed on for 24 hours. Limit lifting to 5 pounds. Avoid contact with contaminated items, including litter boxes or gardening. These limitations are in effect for 3 days or until the wound heals. I can water the garden using my left hand, but I can’t weed it or otherwise play in the dirt.

I might be sore and tender for a week or two. There’s a little bruising, and that’s considered normal. As I heal, I’ll get back to the normal roster of gardening and cooking and other daily tasks. Meanwhile, I might just hang out with my laptop and rest. After all, I am on injured reserve.

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Making and Keeping Rules

I told myself I’d never risk my health – my life, even – for my job. That was in November of 2010. I’d landed in the ER with chest pains, much worse than the average Sunday evening stress-stomachache. I went to school at 10 that night to leave sub plans instead of staying overnight in the cardiac care unit. Long story short, it wasn’t worthwhile.

In spring of 2014 I advised my coworkers “Don’t Wait!” I’d just found an interior carotid artery 99% blocked. Thanks to the timing and to the good luck of having an amazing doctor, the blockage was cleared and a stent installed.

So when the phone rang and I was offered Friday or the Monday or Tuesday that followed,  I looked at everything else on the calendar, took a deep breath, and said yes, I’d take the appointment. I didn’t put it off. I didn’t work around my staff development schedule.

Taking this appointment meant postponing the family garage sale indefinitely. It meant that La Petite will come home to help with the driving duties because Amigo has an important appointment an hour earlier than mine – in a different location, of course.

Rather than tie myself in knots to put everyone else first, I’m following my rules. I’ll have my head examined (a cerebral angiogram), get the results, and then plan for treatment of this rogue aneurysm if we find it has grown.

And that, my dear readers, is playing by all the rules.

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Health Care is Complicated: The Letters

I didn’t actually send these letters. Blogging the thoughts helps me settle down and control the stress-related blood pressure spikes that occur when, irony or ironies, I’m attempting to use the health insurance company web site. 

Dear Customer Service Department;

I found what I needed while waiting on hold. That means the information was too hard to find, the web site is not user-friendly, and the time on hold to reach a representative is much too long.

Sincerely,

Techno Geek

Dear Benefits Service;

Thank you for your prompt assistance and good advice. I’m pleased you walked me through the process to make sure it worked rather than just handing out pithy advice like “Use a different browser.” In fact, I should have thought of it myself. My geek brain was exhausted from searching for the EOBs while on hold waiting for customer service.

Much Relieved,

Daisy

Dear Colleagues:

Thank you for your moral support as we navigate the mazes of these online services.

Yours forever,

Daisy

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Kate Spade, RIP

She was younger than I am. She was successful, famous, talented, admired. Did I miss any? And yet, she died today at her own hand.

Let’s say the word: suicide. More than an attempt: a completed suicide.

Kate Spade killed herself.

I’ve written about depression a lot. I’ve chronicled my own mental illness and the accompanying pain. I was fortunate; I never felt that dying was a solution. Feeling that way is a common symptom of depression, though. I know that, and I know that my illness could have turned that direction at any time.

I also knew that I put forth a cheery front. It wasn’t an act, it was simply my optimistic nature. As people talk about Kate Spade, her ability to make women smile often came up. She designed sporty, cute, clever accessories. Her handbags were classy and fun. Heck, I have a Kate Spade case on my cell phone – simple yet cheerful polka dots!

Readers, friends, family, it’s on all of us to make sure that people know that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem or situation. It’s never the only way to end the pain. Reach out; help is available.

 

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