Horrible Halloween

My happy Jack O’ Lantern – an attempt to salvage a bit of Halloween

This year was the worst Halloween ever – thanks directly to Covid-19 and all of those who, at the national level to the local level, are working hard to avoid doing what needs to be done.

My partner’s uncle died of Covid-19 on Halloween. He had been in intensive care for a while. One lung collapsed. When the other started, they tried to get him into surgery. But the OR was too full and he died while waiting.

Everything else seems small compared to that. One small life out of the million killed by this virus.

Covid-19 hit me directly. I have what I am pretty certain is a mild chest cold. I have a sore throat from removing phlegm from my lungs, and its a little difficult to breathe. So, I pulled out of going over to my best friend’s house (the only place I go) for a small celebration.

I was at home, not feeling well. With my partner, who was exhausted and in a bad mood. Add in my chronic pain and I was a total grump, at him and at the world. Halloween used to be my favorite holiday, but there was nothing for it this year. I took a nap just so I could be unconscious for a few hours.

When I got up, we got ready for a socially-distanced Trick or Treat. We put a table out front and filled bags with goodies for the kids. (It was in doing this that he got the call about his uncle. So now, things are even worse).

The good news is that we got more kids than ever before – mostly in groups. We ran out of the “good” candy bags and had to make some lesser ones with fewer things. I got to look out the front door and see their costumes, which was lovely. My partner was a ball of nerves – which always makes me a ball of nerves – and he had to supervise all the Trick or Treating to make sure everything stayed safe.

That was the day. I know worse days have happened. But it was a bad holiday. Yesterday, I could barely move at all from my fibromyalgia. I had to lay down for a while because I couldn’t get together the energy to hold myself upright sitting.

Today I get to be tested for Covid-19 because I’m going in for surgery on the 5th. And tomorrow is election day. I’m steeling myself up for a rough week. Just keeping writing is going to be a major challenge. Wish me luck!

Our Halloween table and goodie bags. I heard kids getting excited, so I know we helped keep Halloween alive for at least the 40 or so Trick or Treaters that we got.

Seven months in the house

When we decided that I would isolate for Covid-19 because of immune system problems, I really didn’t think I’d be still doing this after 7 months.

I am not totally isolated. I have my house and garden. We visit my best friend and her family (co-bubbled). I sometimes go for car rides. I have been in one store once – the dispensary. I have my D&D group weekly over Zoom. And a few other Zoom things here and there.

Really, I thought the government would have this under control by now. But between governmental incompetence and a nasty virus, we don’t seem to be any closer to getting it under control than when we started. And I’m still in my house.

I’m not putting up the red, spiky Covid-19 ball that everyone uses. Here’s a green ball – I was very happy to have my partner bring home a watermelon.

I live in a box. It’s a nice box that holds all my favorite things. Fall is the best time to live in a box, assuming you have to live in a box. I can see the leaves changing colors and falling. I can see my garden still stretch and try to grow while other parts of it are dying. When winter comes, I fear the monotony which is mostly broken up by cardinals at the bird feeder.

Time has lost meaning. Day and night set my schedule during the summer. I was up with the sun and down with the sun. Now, night comes so early. And next week they shift around the hours again. But I have no place to be. We don’t even have TV on a schedule because we use streaming services. Sometimes, when the ticking annoys him, my husband turns off the clocks. And I just float in place. At least time passes quickly.

I try to structure my day. I get up and putter on the computer for a couple of hours. Then I switch over to writing for another couple of hours. I do the dishes and clean a little. And about then things fall apart. I become torn between what I need to do (write and clean) and what I want to do (crafts or television). Then I end up taking a nap and the afternoon is gone and I have to make dinner.

The evenings are generally gone because of the chronic pain. I wind down early and physically cannot do much. I’ve been like this since the pain moved in. So it’s TV, podcasts, or books after dinner. And then reading in bed until I fall asleep.

Little changes in this routine. Except when time fogs out, like the days I am dealing with email and then look up and it’s already 2 pm and I haven’t even eaten lunch. Or the days I am just counting down the minutes until I can take a nap. And the days when the cat yells at me all day wanting food even though I just fed him an hour ago. When his timer is off, mine follows.

Days are not really different. Except on weekends my partner is home all day and we will visit my best friend on some days. But some days we stay home and he goes for a walk and a nap and I feel like I’m back into the weekday pattern.

There goes one attempt to describe life in the time of coronavirus. Now I’m just tired and a bit foggy, so I’ll tune out now.

Pandemic hair

I’ve got a bad case of pandemic hair. Do you?

I had long, long hair for a few years. Just before the pandemic started, I got it cut off into a cute chin-length shag. And have been absolutely unable to keep it up because I cannot go to the salon.

Oh, yes. And I cut my own bangs. They are not straight. (But my hair is long enough to be held up by a single pencil.)

The salon is open. My favorite place re-opened on August 31. I’m sure they are taking all the precautions they can against the spread of the virus. But I’ve got an autoimmune disorder and just don’t trust that it will be good enough.

It’s not just them. Here’s a list of place I have been since March:

  • My house
  • My yard
  • My best friend’s house
  • To the doctor’s office
  • The cannabis dispensary (once – knowing they take top precautions)
  • In the car

Yep. That’s it. My world has gotten very small. And there are no hair stylists in it. My hair is long again. I know I’m in the same boat as many other people. This is our new normal and we have to adjust to it. But I never thought it would last this long. Today, it feels like I have been living this greatly reduced life for years.

My hair chokes me when I sleep. I have to tie it up in a tight knot on top of my head. Otherwise, it will wake me several times in the night twisting around my throat or stuffing into my mouth. The good news is that the knot on top keeps my CPAP straps in place.

I am trying to learn more up-dos and braids – but those are limited by the amount of time I can stand in front of a mirror with my arms up in the air. The pain that lives in my shoulders hates that position. I find myself taking a lot of breaks, and a lot more time to get anything done. The ugly ponytail becomes the style of choice on most days.

Ghost (?) story

Gamma, a bit younger and healthier

Here’s a break from your regularly scheduled programming to tell a story that happened to me this week.

I have an old and sick cat named Gamma. He regularly hollers repeatedly if he wants something – or just because. The sweet old man was hollering in the hallway the other day, and I was trying to get him to come to me. He wouldn’t, so I shushed him a couple of times.The next time he hollered, I heard a shushing sound answering him. I didn’t do it and I was the only person at home. It kept up for about 6 hollers, and then the cat stopped.

I haven’t heard it since. I tell myself it was likely some outside noise that just happened by coincidence. But at the back of my mind, something in my house was shushing my cat. Perhaps the house itself even. What do you think?

Turning to cannabis for pain relief

Disclaimers. I am not a medical doctor – or anything medical. This is not to diagnose or treat anybody’s anything. Talk to your doctor. Do your research. Find what is best for you.

This is my own experience and my thoughts and research. I hope that this may be useful to other people who are making choices about taking care of chronic pain. I am not linking to any brands of anything, and am not making money off any referrals, sales, etc. In the past 20 years, I have only used products legally.

This will be a series of blog posts covering cannabis and pain-related topics that I find interesting. If you have requests for topics, let me know.

All right –

I started taking CBD (cannabidiol) for pain a couple of years ago. I found it helped, but certainly didn’t stop the pain or hugely lessen it. Recently, I started using combined CBD and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), which greatly reduced my pain. The pain is still there, but I have regained a lot of movement and the ability to focus on things for much longer. This combination has been close to miraculous for me.

I do not get high. I do not want to get high. I take low doses aimed solely at pain relief. (No offense to anyone who does. I do not judge you – do your thing and be happy.)

I do not smoke weed. I do not smoke anything. (I quit cigarettes in March 2008. It is the hardest thing I have ever done. And I cannot smoke anything without choking these days.)

I had heard of other people – many people getting relief through cannabis for pain and other problems. I wanted to try it because I will try almost anything if I can afford it. Pain has been my constant companion for 30 years and that is not the way I want to be living. I have tried a lot of remedies. Many work a little bit. Many do not work at all.

Before this started, I had wanted to try medical marijuana. I talked with my doctor about it and he did not prescribe. I started looking into getting a medical card in Illinois. The process was long and costly. Dispensaries were about an hour away. I did not know if it would work. I decided not to bother at that point.

When all this started, I began to see CBD mentioned online and in the news. I read up about it, learned that it worked for pain and anxiety in many people. I have both of those. I decided to try it out when I got a chance.

I got my chance when I went to Oregon to visit my brother. Oh, lovely Oregon. You are so progressive. Maybe one day I can visit you again. Cannabis was legal in Oregon. Every kind of cannabis.

We visited a dispensary and I was able to talk with a nice young man who agreed that CBD was what would help me best. I did not smoke or vape so edibles seemed the perfect thing for trying out different brands in small quantities.

I took the CBD as soon as I got back to my brother’s house. I started to learn that whenever I try a new cannabis product, it goes to my head. It does not matter if it has THC in it or not. It is only on the first try. No, I have no idea why this happens. I was very giggly. My brother made it worse by playing “Honky Tonk Badonkadonk.” I was useless that afternoon.

The second time I took it, we were going to see the Portland Timbers play soccer. I really, really do not like crowds. Or large noises. Or commotion. I do love soccer and particularly I love Diego Charra of the Portland Timbers. So, I popped a CBD and went along. This time I did not feel much and that was great. I was able to go the game in that huge, rowdy crowd and I felt nothing. I was able to sit for most of the game in ball-park seating. I was able, after the game, to go on a huge hike to find the restaurant he wanted to visit. No problem. And that was amazing!

Did I still hurt? Yes, but I hurt at a lower level. More importantly, CBD clicked something in my brain, and I stopped giving a rat’s furry butt about the pain. This was not being high. This was just not caring about things like pain and crowds and discomfort and movement that had plagued me for years. I do not know how this works. I have tried to find out, but this not giving a parrot’s tooty patootie was not mentioned in any of the articles. Folks (and I mean the government here), you need to open scholarly and medical studies on cannabis ASAP.

Whatever it was, it worked for me. I used CBD for the rest of a great trip. And came home to Illinois where it was still illegal. And waited a couple of years.

I first saw CBD at the Neighborhood Co-Op health food store. It cost nearly $100. And I mentally sorted it into the big pile of treatments I cannot afford. I talked about it with my husband and he was excited about it. He thought I should try the CBD and we could figure out how to afford it.

So, I bought it. And it worked some. Not as good as the Oregon CBD, but ok. I have since found that there are different types of CBD and different brands can be quite different. (I will write an entire blog on this later.) It took me a while to find a brand that worked well, but I did. And I was good with using CBD for a couple of years.

The only good thing of 2020 happened on January 1 when recreational marijuana became legal in Illinois.  We drove to the hour to see the dispensary. There was a line of people fully around the building. In January. Every time we drove by it was just as busy. Even with the CBD, my legs cannot stand in line for that long.

I waited. Covid-19 struck. I was stuck at home ALL the time now and getting tremendously grouchy with my pain and everything else. I learned that the dispensary now had a program where you ordered online and went to the dispensary at a designated time to pick up your order. I could do that.

I did that. Showed up for my appointment with my mask and gloves. Got my ID checked. Went into a waiting room, took a socially-distanced chair, and waited, looking around at the 8 other people in the room both masked and unmasked. A masked person opened the door, calling out “next!” A man got up and walked with them. I had no idea how he realized he was next. They didn’t give us numbers. I started to pay really good attention to who was in the room and who was coming in at that point.

Eventually, I figured out that I might be next and went inside to pick up my order of three types of small-dose THC and CBD/THC blended edibles. I wanted to take it in the car. But I did not do that because it is illegal. I got home, took my first THC dose, and a little while later somebody just turned the dial down on the pain.

They turned the dial WAY down. I could still feel it a little. (And I do still have bad days.) I would notice it. But the pain was not getting in my way. And with the CBD I didn’t give a flipping cartwheel about things that used to bother me. Life is suddenly better, much better. I can live with this level of pain.

Over the next month, I kept moving more and better. I could stand up to chop vegetables at the kitchen counter. I could bend over and pick something up off the floor. I could sit down and stand up without additional pain. I am not playing dodgeball or anything crazy, but I am moving. And moving more and better all the time.

That is my basic story. I plan to write a round of other blog articles: different cannabinoids, other ingredients like terpenes, micro-dosing, different delivery methods, avoiding the high, how to tell if your cannabis is quality, and more.

Malaise – I’ve got it

Making myself try to write is not working. I’ve gone down pretty hard. My body and mind want to do as little as possible. Things I have to do are not getting done, let alone things I want to do.

Yesterday, I sat staring at the shelf where I keep my beads for about an hour. I thought about making a pretty necklace for myself, which is something fun that I like doing. And I just sat there and thought until I finally forgot about making the necklace.

Who is here with me? I know this virus is doing strange things to people. My best friend is not sleeping. My husband’s anxiety is high and he is trying to micro-manage the cats. (Cats resist micromanagement pretty well.)

Every day, I try to break out of it. But it is so hard to get up and do something – or even sit here and do something in the case of writing.

I want to:

  • Write
  • Go outside and garden
  • Plant the mail-order plants that are sitting around my house
  • Go outside and sit in one spot and pick up all the gumballs within my reach
  • Make banana bread
  • Make that necklace
  • Eat food that I do not grab as a single piece from the kitchen
  • Wash the windows so I can look at outside without thinking what a louse housekeeper I am
  • Look up the Netflix password so I can watch Netflix after the system reset itself when I had the cable disconnected
  • Paint my nails
  • Shower
  • Crochet
  • Cross Stitch

The bar is not high.

What I am doing:

  • Reading (a lot)
  • Playing World of Warcraft (64th level elven hunter)
  • Teaching my best friends kids 3 mornings a week
  • Sleeping
  • Petting the cats
  • Doing fake cross-stitch on my Kindle
  • Creating clothes-mountain
  • Cleaned the toilet
  • Going on drives to nowhere just so I can see different things
  • Reading more news about Covid-19 than is probably healthy

But know, if you are going through this, you are not alone. I know it is trauma but it sure doesn’t feel like traumas in the past. This is the slow creeping trauma. Trauma that whispers from the deeps like an Elder God in a Lovecraft story. By the time we see it for what it is, it has been already happening for a long while. It’s settled into our bodies and our homes without us realizing it.

Now that it’s in, it is harder to remove. If we could have seen it coming, we could have actively stopped it. But we could not see it coming. It entered in a tendril here, a puff there, a news article, a Facebook post, one twisting bit of dread at a time.

At least I am not my neighbor who is fanatically and constantly mowing his lawn. I think that would be worse – but he is at least getting some exercise.

A day of quiet

I took today to do nothing and it feels great.

I’ve actually been busier than normal during the times of self isolation. I’ve been going over to my best friend’s house and helping homeschool her kids – so she and her husband can get work done. The girls are great and we are having a lot of fun. But, still, it’s exhausting and I come home from that and tend to collapse.

Now, we are working into a schedule where I come over on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. As today is Wednesday – I took it for me. It’s not that I’ve been doing nothing. Instead, I’ve been doing nothing useful. I’ve read a book, a magazine, and things on the computer. Cuddled with the cats. Played World of Warcraft. Worked on a D&D character. Breathed. Showered. Painted my nails (spring-green). Ate ice cream. Saw a new sparrow at the bird feeder. So, nothing.

Gamma is doing nothing so thoroughly that we can stack stuff on him.
I aim for that level of slack.

What I didn’t do: cook, clean, plan lessons, write (other than this), or get anything done I was supposed to do. I didn’t even do my crossword puzzle. This is what I was hoping for in a scary-virus quarantine time.

I love a blank day. I know so many people who are going nuts because they can’t go out and do. They can’t work, or have to do partial and odd work at home. (My husband is doing the partial and odd.) No shopping, no movies, no sports. No meaningful contact with non-family humans. And I get it that those things can be trying.

But I’m a Gen-Xer. I know how to slack. There is an art to doing nothing and I urge you to study it.

What am I going to do next? Sit on the sofa. Maybe watch some ghost-hunter television shows. (Our newest addiction) Crack some Brazil nuts. Eat popcorn for dinner. Look at a bead catalog. Join me, I promise it will be fun.

In which I wear out with all the excitement

I’m dealing with my ouches. The funny thing about a time when everyone is supposed to be bunkering in and doing less – it wears me out. Just thinking about Covid=19 takes up a good amount of energy. Add to that, I’m trying to understand what is going on. I’m reading as much as I can from reputable sources. But a constantly changing and mutating virus with a 2-week mutation lag and 2-week exposure to confirmation lag is impossible.

On Thursday, my tummy gave out and started shooting acid up my throat. Then waves of pain started to return, as I had been unable to refill my CBD and the last of it was working its way out of my system. Today, Saturday, I can’t move much without hurting. (I did order more CBD online with a credit card I promised myself not to use anymore.)

Meanwhile, my schedule is just getting busier. The president has a press conference at noon daily. The governor at 3 daily. I wake up to a whole set of new articles in the New York Times. And thoughts and responses from my friends who are suddenly more on Facebook than ever before.

Sometimes I can escape when reading a book, watching a show, or crocheting. These, more than sleep, are the times when I really get to rest. But then the virus appears out of the corner of my eye and I’m pulled back into reality.

Today, I slept in until 8 am. That was as late as Gamma (my cat) could stand to wait before he woke me for his morning cuddles. I did precious little before crawling back into bed a 1 pm to wake at 3 pm. I do hurt a little less now. And that’s a good thing.

The governor’s shelter in place order begins at 5 pm today. I’m helping make homemade pizza – and have a bunch of pizza dough up the arm of my black sweater. This means there will be pizza soon.

Cat picture tax – Gamma, my snuggle boy

Hitchhiker

I was leaving J. and K.’s house when a young woman walked up to me and asked me if I could give her a ride home, just south of the grocery store a couple of miles away. Of course, I said yes. That’s the normal and human thing to do. I cleared my bags out of the front seat and she got in.

We drove to her house, chatting on the way. I let her out and she thanked me. And normally that would be the end of it. But these are not normal times. My brain started to churn.

What if she has the virus? I know no cases have been confirmed in our county yet – but we know for certain that there are many unconfirmed cases out there. I’m trying to self-quarantine, because of my messed up immune system. Could I be taking this back to J. – who also has an immune disorder? To the kids? Have I done wrong when I mean to do good? These are not questions that I should ever be asking myself. Nor should anyone else.

Our times have grown twisted and strange. But I still have to believe in the good of people and of myself. The school bus is driving past all the kids’ houses offering a bagged lunch for every student. People are posting announcements online when they find milk, meat, or toilet paper at a store. But it is hard to help when having to be separated. When connection brings threat.

On the happier side, here are a few great things that friends have shared online:

A huge Highland bull is delivered to a farm. The big guy shows up at 11:30, but you can meet the cows before that.

My friend Bucky with Columbus Ghost Tours has put some of his tours and storytelling online (for free.)

Beautiful art from Ricardo Levins Morales Art Studio Online Store Drawing the Line for Social Justice – free digital download of What to do in a pandemic animal prints

This one is my favorite

Strangest Election Day

I voted around 11:30 am. We had to work a time around S’s online meetings and avoiding lines (so – not at noon). We drove to the polling place and there were only three cars in the lot – all belonging to the pollworkers. Not another person in sight except for a small family having a picnic at the gazebo across the street.

I did.

I armored up – put on my latex gloves, grabbed a pen from home and headed in. It was as empty inside as it looked outside. Four poll workers and a sleepy beagle named Bella. (Our neighbors are poll workers and we know Bella well – she is a terrific dog.) The poll workers were very chatty – a combination of dead-bored and not paid enough. After we cast our ballots we were hung up a while. We finally got to go out when we heard another couple heading in to vote.

An that was it. That and hoping that my messed-up immune system didn’t catch the coronavirus. It is hard to deal with this massive uncertainty. My brother contacted me and said he didn’t want me to go vote, that the risks were too high and it was only a primary. (He is the worrier in the family, but I know its from love.) Him saying that brought something home deep in my gut.

This is where I vote – in a semi-derelict building that used to be the Parks and Rec Office.

How much risk is too much? Ohio postponed its primary after a set of last-minute court cases. Several other states have done so as well. But I don’t know when they will be rescheduled. Many people seem to think this thing will only last two weeks. Others say we are looking at a couple of months. Still others say longer. What if there is no other good time to hold it before the general elections? What if the general election cannot be held? (I can’t even deal with that image.)

Then I have to ask what my vote is worth. If turnout is very low, it might be worth more than I think it is. And there were a couple of contested local primaries to remove incumbents for potential corruption or other problems. I know my vote was important in those.

I wonder how many people were kept away from voting because of their immune systems or abilities? How many people has the coronavirus disenfranchised?

I’m getting glum. I’m off to read for a while – that should cheer me up.