Covid Purchases

Four Covid purchases are coming to my house in the next three weeks. I hope.

Two overpriced tests kits. They should cost less. And two different types of high quality masks.

Over the last two years, I’ve purchased 100s of disposable masks, 50 or so cloth masks, plus the ones I made myself. I also purchased a sewing machine to make masks. I don’t like this sewing machine as well as the one I gave away two years prior.

Other purchases I would not have made except for Covid:

Pulse Oximeter

Air purifier

Cookie Monster mug

Digital thermometer

The book, “Uncontrolled Spread” by Scott Gottlieb

Chocolate – any reason will do, though

A magnifying stand to hold my phone so that we could watch our church service online more easily.

A few months later I bought a used laptop so that it would be easier to watch our church service on line and participate in our Zoom Sunday School class. I also used this laptop to “attend” a writer’s conference online.

An Amazon firestick so that we could watch our church service on our TV.

Our living room TV conked out at the end of April 2020, so we bought a larger TV from Best Buy. It was purchased through their website sight unseen. When we went to pick it up, one of the customer service guys remarked to me appreciatively, “Wow, you really got a big one.” He wasn’t kidding. If we had been able to see it before buying, it would have been 10 inches smaller. If not for Covid, we would have never have purchased a big screen TV. I have to say, though, we have enjoyed having it. Especially since one of the things we have not purchased since the beginning of the pandemic is a movie theater ticket.

A new Toyota RAV4. From December 2019 when the first reports of the virus began to surface, I followed the news about the virus with growing concern. In February 2020, I read articles regarding the slowdown of chip production in Japan and Taiwan, and the reporter noted that car parts might be hard to come by due to the future chip shortage. So since it was time to replace our 2007 Toyota Matrix, we started car shopping. We bought the car at the end of February 2020, two weeks before the shut down because I didn’t want to worry about car repairs and I hoped that it won’t have any need for repairs anytime soon.

Clothes. My favorite women’s clothing store closed all their brick and mortar stores during the shutdown. So I grudgingly began to buy my clothing online. Kohl’s and JC Penney and other retail stores have plus size clothes, but it is an afterthought. Catherine’s sold clothes that were made for larger women.

What have you purchased due to Covid?

The Monster Wakes Up.

Five years ago, my husband received a diagnosis of a bone marrow cancer called myelofibrosis. His hematologist/oncologist told us the only cure was a bone marrow transplant from a donor. She started him on infusion chemo the very next week and set my husband up for an evaluation at the University of Michigan Bone Marrow Transplant Program a month later.

In the meanwhile, due to my research and materials we were given, I realized that our 100 year old home would be impossible to make into a place where he could avoid infections. Furthermore, he didn’t have the strength to take care of things around the house, and I didn’t have time either, since I work full time. So that summer while waiting for the BMT evaluation, we made plans to move to a condo.

However, the doctors at U of M told us that if Ralph went through with the transplant, he would probably not survive due to his age and other health conditions. They recommended instead a type of chemo that would slow progression of the cancer and control symptoms. Palliative care. So for five years, he has lived with cancer. We’ve been very careful, especially the last two years due to Covid-19 and its variations.

Every six weeks, Ralph has his blood drawn to monitor his condition and adjust his chemo. This summer, his white blood count and blast percentage began to change. He began to struggle with dizziness and fatigue. On Tuesday, I received a call from his oncologist asking us to come in the next day. The Wednesday before Thanksgiving. He’d had his labs the Wednesday before. I sat at my desk looking out the window at work. Not moving. Not thinking. For a few minutes. This couldn’t be good news. Asking us to come in the day before a major holiday with one day notice.

They told us the blasts (leukemia cells) are increasing in his circulating blood. They are concerned that he may be developing acute myeloid leukemia (AML). So this coming Wednesday, he will be having a bone marrow biopsy to assess the blasts in his bone marrow and to assess the amount of fibrosis in his bones.

When he received the myelofibrosis diagnosis five years ago, I went into high gear. Trying to plan what to do, how to take care of him. How to save him. I was thinking of a cure.

This time feels different. The changes in his blood correlate with the fatigue and dizziness he has been experiencing since summer. Five years later, there may be better treatments. It may be that they have something available that will continue to slow progress of the cancer. But therein lies a lot of uncertainty. He has told me that he doesn’t want to go through a lot of treatments to try to survive longer.

So we are waiting for the Bone Marrow Biopsy. His bone marrow biopsies in the past have been painful. They drill a hole into the hip bone in order to extract bone marrow for testing. Then we will see what they say. What they have to offer him. Life is on hold.

Sometimes You Need to Catch Your Breath

My husband suffered from a non-pressure ulcer near his ankle from 2005 to 2007. If you have ever dealt with a leg or foot ulcer, that is, an open sore that stubbornly refuses to heal, you know the frustration. He was in pain for two years. He went to the Wound Care Clinic every week. The thing followed a pattern. It would take months to almost get to the point of closing, then it would open again. Or an infection would occur.

He was also working full time. He refused to stay home and rest. I often thought that if it were someone else, they would have called in sick. He would groan in pain at night, and yet show up for work the next day. He was more afraid of not supporting his family than the pain. He and his brother were raised by their single mother after their dad died. He knew poverty.

For two years, we didn’t go anywhere for vacation. He was too sick to do anything extra. I was often in tears as well. There was really nothing I could do to help him, aside from praying and taking care of the home. I was also working full time and taking my oldest daughter to college every day. Our other two kids were in high school.

The summer of 2007, I decided that if I couldn’t get away, I should at least attend concerts and plays with one of the kids. My husband had no interest in going, understandably. But I started buying tickets to Circle Theatre and concerts and taking one or more of the kids with me. It gave us something to look forward to, a mini vacation for the mind so to speak. And we were running on empty.

Toward the end of that summer, I read a column by one of our local newspaper reporters. In the column he commiserated with people about their “crummy vacations.” Anger burned within me. How could he be complaining and inviting others to complain about “crummy vacations?” How about those of us with no vacations?

I struggled with envy and my anger for a few weeks. I condemned myself for my lack of contentment. Then it occurred to me that maybe this wasn’t just a lack of contentment. Maybe it was a sign of a deep need. Maybe we needed to catch our breath.

So I began to look on the internet at vacation rentals. Maybe we could book one for a long weekend. We really could hardly afford it. My son was starting college that fall and my older daughter was also in college. I found a place in Grand Haven called Hang Your Hat, which also allowed us to take our dog, Daisy, with us. I looked at my children’s school schedule and they all had one weekend with a Monday off. I booked the rental for that weekend.

When I walked into Hang Your Hat, I knew I had done the right thing. The sun shone through the windows. The breeze from Lake Michigan wafted through the house. Hang Your Hat was on a street behind the main tourist area in Grand Haven. We could walk to see the musical fountain on Lake Michigan or walk through the shops on Washington Street. I sat on the porch and read a book. We played Monopoly. My husband, whose ulcer had finally healed up, made pancakes and bacon for breakfast.

Sometimes we just need to catch our breath.

Scrapbooks and the Truth

I’ve been scrapbooking since my oldest daughter was 12 years old. 23 years.

When I first started, I had all the pictures from our life as a family with three kids, along with pictures for my husband and I from our growing up years. At first I used scrapbooks from the scrapbook store with page 8.5 x 11 inch page protectors. I stamped on my pages and used pinking shears for decoration, along with double stick tabs and tape. Not to mention, stickers. I even used construction paper in my first scrapbook. I did have some old style photo albums. Some with individual slots for pictures. Some with sticky stuff on the pages and film over the top. I had many envelopes with pictures and negatives.

I took all the pictures out of the old style photo albums and placed them in my new 8.5 x 11 inch albums with page protectors.

Then, I was invited to a Creative Memories scrapbooking party and learned the “truth” about the proper supplies for scrapbooking. That is, if I wanted to make my memories last, I had to use lignin and acid free paper so that my pictures would last and be protected for a lifetime. Also, the photo safe protectors to keep your pictures from fading. Of course, Creative Memories had all these super safe supplies. They also held workshops and parties where I could do scrapbooking with other scrapbookers. I bought into this whole system. I have many albums with scrapbook pages, stickers, glitter, and page protectors. I’ve spent at least a couple thousand dollars on supplies to protect my memories.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. It would be more accurate to say that a few pictures in the history of the world are worth a thousand words.

This is one of my early albums with the 8.5 by 11 pages.

It contains pictures from my family’s Thanksgiving through Christmas events for about ten years.

I assert that most of the pictures in this album would not generate a thousand words.

Holiday album

Here are a couple of the pages. Very few words. This must have been about 1996, judging by the size of my kids and house we lived in. Looking through the scrapbook, I failed to write the year. How could I have done that?

Christmas somewhere in the 1990s

For so many of our pictures, we don’t have a 1000 words to explain them. I might have a 100 words. Maybe. These pages must have been 1997 or later, because of the picture of that tree. We bought it the year for the second Christmas we lived in that house. It was a giant tree. When we were in the store, we knew we wanted a big artificial tree because the artificial tree we had for the prior house looked so tiny in this house. This house was much bigger. But we overestimated the size of our living room. This tree was so tall that it touched the ceiling. We could never put an angel on the top of it. We always had to put her near the top. I don’t remember why we didn’t return the tree to the store. It could be that we bought it on clearance after Christmas the year before. Or it could be that it was too hard to get it back in the box to return to the store. I can’t remember.

And how would anyone know if I was telling the truth when I can’t remember the whole truth?

The words below are woefully inadequate. They don’t begin to tell the story of our visits to see Grandma.

The Creative Memories selling point is being creative in the way that we display our pictures in albums. Stickers. Glitter. Papers. Journaling. Most of these pages are before Creative Memories.

I wonder how many of our memories are creative in another way. We can’t remember everything, even with pictures to remind us. For instance, I can’t remember when we bought that giant tree. Was it Christmas 1995 or 1996? I remember my family was very sick during Christmas 1995 with influenza. I remember our kids laying on mattresses in the living room in front of the tree. They were running fevers on Christmas Eve. We didn’t open presents until everyone was well enough to enjoy opening presents. Was that in front of the giant tree or the little tree. Or did we have both at the same time?

Even with pictures, we have some creative memories. We are often not good historians of our own lives.

Touching Yarn

I wanna go to Michael’s. In person.

I wanna touch some yarn. I wanna go to Horrock’s and look at flowers.

And touch them. Smell them. Be there in person.

The Ugh Year

A year of Covid restrictions. Covid fighting. Covid death and sickness. Covid mean-spiritedness.

570,000 dead now, depending on your source. This is probably an undercount.

When the new year turned, I was angry. Angry that Trump refused to take this seriously. That he purposely used the fights about Covid for political gain. That he spread lies and disinformation. Callous and cynical. A pathological liar who criminally caused the death of so many. Lies, nothing but lies and disinformation. And smears. And attacks on those who disagreed with his lies. Ugh.

I’ve stayed in for a year except for absolute necessity. I go to work a couple of afternoons a week. The rest of the time, I work from home. I am fortunate my employer lets me do this. I’ve gone into a grocery store occasionally. I have my groceries delivered. I go into pharmacies more often.

I stay in because my husband has cancer and is immune compromised. I also stay in, I admit, because I am afraid to get Covid-19. And any of the variants. So I wear a mask when out and I practice social distancing. We did go to church for a while this summer. But in October infections rose, so we decided to stay home for a while.

We both are fully vaccinated as of next Monday. And we should be free to go out. However, my husband has been struggling with an open sore on his heel since Christmas Eve. Actually, before Christmas Eve. That’s just the day that I finally convinced him to go the doctor for it. In addition he has skin cancer in several locations. Since February 22, he has had four spots excised and a total of six surgeries. After the last Mohs surgery, the surgeon ordered a whole abdomen CT scan to look for other cancers. He has an underlying cancer, myelofibrosis, which puts him at high risk for skin cancers. We are waiting on the results of that scan. Ugh.

So since March of last year, it’s been a tough year. An ugh year.

And yet.

I’ve been able to work from home 80% of the time. Even now, I’m working from home. That may change soon due to the fact that I’m fully vaccinated as of this coming Monday.

I’m fully vaccinated as of this coming Monday. I can go get a haircut, finally. I’ve learned that I like longer hair, but not this long.

Only one person in my extended family came down with Covid so far. That was my sister, a nurse. She works with Covid patients in dialysis. But she thinks she caught Covid when she went to a tire shop, where the manager asked her if she minded if they wore masks (she had come in with a mask on). She told them that she was a nurse and worked on Covid floors and they should put a mask on since she might have it and be contagious. A couple of them sheepishly walked out of the waiting area. The service manager reluctantly put his mask on. And two guys just sat looking at their phones. She thinks it is likely that she caught covid there. She had a very mild case, but the timing is right. Yes, it could have been at the hospital. But it was likely at the tire shop.

Hopefully, I’ve learned to respond less to people I disagree with. It’s mostly a waste of time and energy.

Hopefully, I’ve learned to appreciated getting together with others. And also to limit my interactions so that I don’t get too busy again. I’m not sure what to do with those who refuse to get the vaccine. Those who refuse to wear masks. Those who loudly proclaim they will eat only in restaurants that don’t require masks. For now, I will avoid them, I guess. I pray they don’t get Covid. Especially the older ones with multiple health issues. I know I don’t want Covid.

It will probably take me a while to learn to go out again. To be comfortable with not wearing a mask. To be close to people.