Thus Far, I’ve Survived 100% of My Bad Days

I originally published this post is April. Since then, I’ve gathered a few more followers, so I thought I’d repost so my readers can understand the origin story for the name of my blog:  

Falling Upstairs

What’s with the name of my blog? Falling Upstairs. When I fell upstairs, I’ll explain the circumstances momentarily, my life changed. The injury that resulted caused a couple shock wave that have defined me. Let me explain.

For the past decade, probably about as long as I’ve wanted to blog, I’ve been klutzy. Grace was never my middle name. I’ve tipped over in lift lines, tripped on sidewalk cracks, and yes, fallen upstairs.

I love winter; I’m an avid skier. Before I go further, I need to let you know why I ski so much. For those who don’t know me, my husband and I run a seasonal business, The Ride & Ski Card. Our customers buy the card and it gives them discounts on their lift tickets at our participating mountains for the entire ski season. The component of the card that allows us to ski is that we host a weekend tour. Every Saturday of the season, my husband and I visit a mountain, host an après ski party to promote our business, and to raise money for a local children’s hospital we support. It’s great fun, and we’ve met a ton of wonderful friends over the 19 years we’ve had the business.

Back to being klutzy. As much as I love winter, that time of year recently became a bit more challenging. Once I was on the mountain skiing, I felt in my element. Walking to the mountain, through frozen parking lots, littered with frozen mounds of snow disguised as innocent tufts of blowy snow, but when unsuspectingly kicked rolled an ankle, was treacherous.

Besides the walking element, I had another issue. If you ski, you know that 90% of mountain lodges are designed all wrong. The masses enter on the main level, but for some reason only known to God himself, bathrooms are not on the main level where skiers and riders boot up. So, if you inadvertently boot up and then realize you have to pee, you just want to cry because you either have to hike upstairs or descend down to find a restroom.

Most skiers find this a nuisance, but for me it was a problem because it was becoming difficult. I was noticing how hard it was to get my right leg to rise to the occasion when walking upstairs in my ski boots. Thought it was age though, time to work out more. In reality, it was the tumor pressing down on the motor cortex in my brain that governed the right side of my body.

Me and Burke, we’re done.

Anyway, back to the name of my blog. My friends know I dislike Burke Mountain in Vermont. I tried with this mountain; I really did. Most skiers know there are mountains that you just never click with. It could be terrain; it could be the vibe; it could be the lifts, or aging facilities. Whatever the reason, sometimes you just don’t like a mountain.  For me, that mountain was Burke. My husband and I have been going there for years on tour. Over the years we’ve encountered apocalyptic cold, tropical downpours – one year so bad that when we got to the mountain we saw a waterfall coming down one of runs – or my personal favorite, people I know got hurt there. One of our friends hit a tree one year and got a black eye, my daughter was hurt, and finally, I was hurt there, falling upstairs.

In February 2013 we made our stop at Burke. I was going to give the mountain another chance. Foolishly, like that girl who keeps taking back that toxic boyfriend, I welcomed Burke back into my life. Our group actually did have a nice time that weekend. We were with our friends John, Michelle, and their daughter Sara. Saturday, the conditions were firm but fast. Just the way I like them. It wasn’t icy, you could get an edge, and I had a great time. I unbooted that day and thought, “Maybe Burke isn’t so bad. What a fun day.”

The next day, Sunday, we woke to find about 6 inches of fresh snow. Score! What a great morning we had skiing. We did laps all morning and quit around noon because we had to drive home. There was so much snow, we skied back to the car, loaded our gear and went to the lodge to unboot and pack up.

John, Michelle, and I walked up the stairs to the mid-Burke lodge. As we ascended, we chatted about what a great weekend we had. When I reached the middle landing of the stairs, I caught the top clip on my right boot and slammed down on my left knee. I mean, slammed!!! Like, I was so surprised, I didn’t get my hands down to break the fall; my kneecap took the full force. I picked myself up and was able to walk under my own weight to the lodge.

Looking back now, I know it was the tumor that contributed to my fall upstirs. My leg was weak; I was tired from skiing all morning, and I already had diminished mobility on that side. Remember how I hated going up and down stairs in my ski boots? This incident was the impetus of that dislike. My right leg was already getting weak from the tumor, but I didn’t know it yet. Despite the fact that I have a legitimate reason for the fall, it happened at Burke, and it only reinforced my dislike for the mountain. That was the last time I visited.

My knee swelled during my ride home, and by the time I got home it was painful, hot, and swollen. Michelle has connections and put me touch with her ortho. Within a week, I had an MRI. I met with the doctor a couple days after the MRI and we talked.

“The good news is, I don’t see any tear to the tendons.” She examined my knee and noticed it didn’t track right. “Your kneecap not tracking can make the injury worse. Try ice and rest and see how it progresses.”

“I have a trip to Jay Peak this weekend and then I have a trip to Banff in a couple weeks.”

She looked incredulous at me, “I don’t see any structural damage. I won’t tell you it’s ok to ski, but if you think you can, then it’s up to you to decide. You can make it worse, though.”

“I’m going to take that chance.” I thanked her, left, and set a follow up for when I got back from Banff in April.

That weekend we went to Jay Peak. I was able to ski half-days. After that I took the following week off to rest and was able to ski in Banff, albeit abbreviated days, but it was fun. After Banff, I went back to the ortho. Because I didn’t fully rest, she wasn’t surprised it wasn’t fully healed. She prescribed physical therapy to address the tracking problem. I did that for a few months, but since there wasn’t a marked improvement and I still had pain, I had surgery in July.

I tried ice, ice, and more ice, plus PT to ward off that surgery.

When I woke from surgery, my doctor said she found a giant plica in my knee. I’m still not sure what that was. She explained it was something that was there when I was born. Essentially, it was a fibrous growth spanning from 9 o’clock to 12 o’clock on the medial side of my kneecap. She removed the entire thing, adding that it was angry, swollen, and that the fall had irritated it. Because it was so swollen, it was rubbing on my kneecap and causing the pain. It would never have healed on its own, so it needed to be removed. I had to be on crutches for a few days, and then I would go back to physical therapy.

All was well until about three days after my surgery, and I felt a pain in my calf. I had developed a blood clot, which resulted in post-thrombosis syndrome. This caused my entire lower leg, from the knee down to swell, and it never stopped. I was in physical therapy for months trying to alleviate the swelling and increase my mobility and comfort. It was grueling. It took me weeks to be able to ride a stationary bike, my leg unable to make a full rotation. I couldn’t straighten my leg when I stood. I was sad and miserable and always in pain.  

My mobility was taxed too. There’s nothing worse than not being able to walk normal. When I walked anywhere, I felt like I was walking through a fun-house. I felt unsteady all the time and when I hit an irregularity on the ground I’d almost topple over. My knee didn’t work right, so it couldn’t bend to absorb changes in terrain.

I went to therapy twice a week for two months before I regained any sort of mobility. My doctor was absolutely stumped as to why my body was behaving the way it was. It had been such a long time since my surgery, my knee technically was healed from the surgery.

By September, she suspected I had something called Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (R.S.D.). It happens to some people after an injury that drags on, like mine. It’s kind of like phantom limb syndrome, you know, when you lose a limb but still feel it. In the case of RSD, my body thought it was still injured. My knee kept telling my brain that it was hurt, although it was healed. Because my brain thought my knee was still hurt, it kept causing it to swell, and I kept feeling pain even though I was better. Also, my calf was still mysteriously swollen. Looking back, I think the tumor was probably what was causing the erroneous signals to be sent to my knee. I’ll never know, but I contend that was partly to blame for the RSD developing. Although the tumor weakened the right side of my body, my brain had a tumor in it and the signals were already being crossed up there. Regardless of why this was happening, I was riding the struggle bus. Because it was early fall, I was afraid I would not be healed for ski season.

After that visit in September when my doc suspected I had RSD, she prescribed antidepressants; the idea being that the medication would stop the erroneous messages my brain and knee were sending back and forth to each other. It worked. In a matter of weeks, I started responding to therapy. I was still uncomfortable, and my calf was still swollen, but it was wasn’t as bad as it had been. I had more weeks of therapy but I was on the mend and I was able to ski January.

Now you know the story behind the title of my blog, falling upstairs caused one of the worst chapters in my life, although I’ve had other more heroic times since then. Also, now you know why Burke Mountain and I are no longer friends. Ski season is too short each year to risk having another unsavory encounter with a hostile ex. I will not be returning to that mountain ever again.

To this day my left calf is still a bit bigger than my right one, and my knee can be sore for no reason, but that’s it. I could be so much worse but I’m not and I’m thankful. Since my brain surgery, my klutziness is mitigated. I’m not 100% balanced and may never be and besties still worry for my safety because I will probably never be Lady Grace. But thus far, I have survived 100% of my worst days, and I’m grateful for that.

Before the RSD diagnosis, I was looking online to find out why my body was behaving as it was. Was it an autoimmune disorder? I Goggled all sorts of things, and I found out that a gluten allergy can cause havoc with the body. I immediately adopted a gluten free lifestyle. I’m not sure it helped my knee recovery, but it helped my never-ending heartburn and reflux.

Attack at midnight!

This post needs to be filed under the ridiculous stuff that happens to me, such as falling upstairs. My family and I had a wonderful day Saturday. The morning began with Colby, Maddy, and me going for a bike ride. Then, Jeff, Maddy, and me spent the rest of the day at our dear friends’ house. We’ve carved out a small group of friends who we feel safe spending time with and one of the couples invited us over to swim and enjoy a break from the routine of quarantine and the heat. In order to paint it as the quintessential summer day, which it was, we ended it with a bonfire and s’mores.

We left their house around 9pm. When we got home, we chatted for a bit about the day, then Maddy went to bed around 9:30pm, and Jeff and I watched the news and went to bed around 10:30pm.

I have a long bedtime routine. It’s actually kind of annoying because if I’m really tired, and just want to go to sleep, it usually wakes me up. I begin by putting on my jammies. I don’t have day jammies and night jammies anymore, just jammies. So, in the summer I get changed, use the toilet, floss, Waterpick, and brush, and since I’m usually sweaty or have sunscreen on, I’ll wash my face too, which is what I did that night.

Anyway, by the time I got to bed it was close to 11pm. Jeff and I chatted for a while then I rolled over and tried to fall asleep; I was exhausted. I don’t know about you, but the sun always makes me very tired. Less than five minutes later, as I was dozing off, I felt a tickle on my neck. I was laying on my right side, so I reached up with my left hand to itch my neck and instantly felt a sharp stinging, burning pain begin in my left index finger and run the length of my arm.

Instantly, I howled, “Owwww, ouch, ouch, argh, ow, ow, ow!” and leapt out of bed. If memory serves me correctly, which it may not, I think the last time I leapt out of bed, landing directly on my feet, was when Colby was a baby and I was so exhausted I forgot I put him back to bed so I jumped up to look for him. That night, I executed that same move like a Ninja.

I spun around and reached for the lamp on my bedside table. As it switched on, I saw Jeff standing up, looking at me, “Wahh, what happened?! What’s wrong?!”

“Something bit me or stung me!” I was clutching my left hand, shaking it with the other, “Owwww! Look at my finger,” as I thrust it across the bed for his inspection.  

Within a few seconds of the bite, my finger had turned reddish, purple and had doubled in size. The pain was sharp but also throbbing and burning and felt like someone kept sticking it with a needle up and down the finger. There was an occasional electric pulse added in for good measure, as well. It was so painful and the stiffness from the swelling was unrelenting.

“What bit you?”

“Dunno!” I exclaimed as I looked around the room while pulling the covers back to examine the bed. I kept shaking my left hand. When I didn’t see anything on my sheets, I scanned the floor and saw a dead bug under the window to the right of the bed.

“What’s that?” I said to Jeff. He looked up from inspecting the covers and walked around to my side, crouched down and picked it up.

“It’s a bee. A Yellow Jacket. It must have bit you and died.”

I shivered, “Makes sense. It felt like a sting. I thought it might have been a spider.” Seeing our empty bed I added, “It couldn’t have escaped our bed that quickly so it must have been that bee.”

As Jeff flushed the bee, I went downstairs to get some ice and Advil. I slumped back upstairs, feeling really sorry for myself because I was afraid the painful heartbeat in my finger would keep me from sleeping and crawled back into bed.

Before I pulled the covers all the way up, I asked Jeff, “You sure there’s nothing in the bed?”

“Yes, I triple checked everything.”

“OK, thanks,” I shut the light off, pulled up the covers,  rolled onto my left side to get drowsy, placed my ice bag near Jeff, wrapped my finger around it and closed my eyes. As I was just settling down I felt a light “Thonk!” between my eyes.

“OH MY GOD!” I hollered. “I’m getting attacked again,” and threw back the covers to escape my confines.

“Jude! What’s happening?” Jeff jumped up as I turned on the light and spun around. “Did you get stung again?”

“No, something hit me between the eyes,” I looked around frantically then stopped and leaned over the bed, “Check my hair.” I tilted my head sideways to the left, and my long red hair hung down. Jeff pulled my hair aside gently.

“Hold still!” he said with emphasis.

“Wait! What? What it is?

“Jude, just don’t move.”

I began to panic a bit but managed to stay still.

He grabbed a tissue and took a squirming, baby Yellow Jacket from my hair. I shivered.

“Ewww! Not another one.” I was so confused at that moment. I thought we had found the culprit on the floor but since this one was alive, it must have been the one who stung me and the other one must have snuck in through the window earlier that day and died.

Jeff flushed that bee, returned and got back into bed. In that moment though I was so panicked I couldn’t go back to bed. I sat on the edge of it, light on, slumped over, scanning the skies for marauding bees who could attack at any moment.

I tried to ignore the stinging, burning, throbbing, heartbeat in my finger but it seemed to be getting more intense the longer I sat there.

“Jude, come to bed. You’re safe. There are no more bees. I looked everywhere. That one must have come in during the day and just got you when we came to bed.”

I wasn’t convinced and sat there checking the pulse in my finger. After about 20 more minutes, I was growing drowsy, as it was close to 1am at that point, and I gave up my vigil and lay down. I couldn’t get comfortable as every little tickle I felt set me off and I would squirm. Also, my ice bag began to leak so I got up again and changed it, grabbing a face cloth to set the ice on and went back to bed. Eventually I dozed off.

 I woke Sunday morning to a very red and swollen finger, resembling a hot dog with knuckles, and it still hurt, but the stinging, throbbing, burning pain had subsided. I would still feel the occasional burning, electric shock, but it had mostly simmered to sore. I was surprised at what a little bee sting could do.

As I type this Monday night, the swelling is better. When I got up Monday morning it was still very swollen, but the pain had turned to itch. I’m not sure which was worse – constant pain or a tingling itch. When I went to bed Sunday night, there was another dead bee on the carpet of my room. Needless to say I was a bit freaked out and Jeff and I had to inspect the entire bed and room before going to sleep.

I think we may have bees in our attic and they come in through the exhaust fan in our bathroom. I remember hear buzzing in our bathroom when I was putting on makeup the other day. I thought it was busy bees pollinating the flowers on our deck. We have an air conditioner in our bathroom window, so I thought I could hear them working in our flowers below. Instead, I think I may have a pack of wild Yellow Jackets in my attic. It might be time to call the exterminator. I don’t need any more marauding bees attacking me at midnight.  

Lids, socks, and hair ties; Oh my!

Does anyone wonder where all our socks, hair ties, and above all else, plastic container lids go? I ponder the whereabouts of my missing items on a regular basis. It usually begins after dinner as I search fervently for a lid to match a bowl I just put my pasta in.

In an attempt to not have to change my bowl and have to wash the bowl I just put pasta and sauce in, I tear apart my lid draw to find the mate to my container. By the time I’m done, I’m needlessly attempting to put a round lid on an oval bowl, get exasperated, give up and grab the Press ‘n Seal. After putting the pasta in the fridge, I reassemble my draw, become very annoyed that I couldn’t find my lid, and finish cleaning the kitchen that I began cleaning 30 minutes earlier when I put the pasta into the offensive orphan bowl that apparently lost its lid on Monday when it was washed; it is now Wednesday.

As far as hair ties and socks. I imagine they are all frolicking around in some secret place where they escaped to, currently free ranging, and living their best lives free from athlete’s foot, toe fungus, and dandruff. I wonder though, if my socks were going to make a break for it, why leave their mate behind? Why not take off as a happy pair? And, why take the hair ties with them? It’s not like hair ties and socks hangout together. They never meet unless they happen to be on my body at the same time. And it’s not like my head and feet are anywhere near each other. When did these dastardly socks talk my hair ties into running off with them? Did it happen on Memorial Day weekend when I wore them to go shopping at Lowe’s? While I was driving to Lowes was a sock talking to my pony hair using semaphore to tell my hair tie it heard about this cool island somewhere that they could go and live their lives free of servitude, party all night, and sleep all day? I have no idea if this is how it happened. I suspect we will never know.

Don’t look too long, they took off with my hair ties.

What I do know is when I do laundry, I am always crestfallen when I try to match my favorite socks and find one missing. I don’t despair immediately as I hold out hope that the mate will show up in the next batch but still add my sock to my missing sock bag which lives in my closet. That bag gets dumped a couple times a year as I clean my sock drawer and accept the fact that the mates have all run off.

The socks I notice immediately, but I don’t notice the hair ties until I go to grab one as I’m dashing off to the gym or heading out for a bike ride. However, that’s when I notice the amount of missing socks I have in relation to the distinct lack of hair ties. At this point, I face palm and say, “They’ve done it; they’ve run away together. All of them!”

Then I put it all together and realized while they were departing the premises, they stopped by the container lid drawer and grabbed a couple lids. Perhaps it was raining, and they needed to stay dry. Perhaps it was winter, and they used the lids as a sled. Little did the lid know when they arrived at their secret, free-range island, it would became the roof of the new abode for socky and hair tie. I feel like the lid got the shit-end of the deal, as it still lives a life of servitude. Anyway, it’s a lid, that’s its purpose and it serves him right for trusting a hair tie and sock. Those fiendish socks and hair ties were supposed to remain in servitude as well but apparently they’ve become sentient beings who don’t care about me anymore and now care even less about the plastic lids!

I wonder if some day I will find this island of runaway belongings and bring them back. Well, maybe not all of them. I already threw away half the mates to my socks. But you folks who hoard and save everything forever may be able to fetch your pink and green argyles from 1989 and reunite them. Although, lefty may be a bit jaded since righty has been whooping it up for a few decades. Perhaps just leave them and bring home the ones who are less wild and disappeared a few months earlier.

Charlie Brown Apple Tree

Look closely. Do you see the apple tree?

So, we have a grove of trees across the driveway from our house. This area used to be our sledding hill when the kids were young. One night last fall while Jeff and I were having dinner he asked me about our apple tree.

“When you were leaving for work this morning, did you notice the apple tree?”

Now, we have a couple blueberry bushes and cherry trees that we planted in our backyard. We also have wild raspberries too. I’ve never seen an apple tree on our property.

“No.” I looked inquisitively at him and asked, “When did you plant an apple tree?”

“I didn’t. It just grew, kind of wild.”

Now I was confused. “Where is it? And, I’ve never heard of a wild apple tree. Maybe crabapples, but never wild apples.”

“It’s across the driveway on the sledding hill. I think it grew from an apple I threw out there for the animals. The apples are ready to pick. The red caught my eye this morning. That’s how I noticed it.”

Understand, Jeff hates to throw away food unless it’s rotted. It makes cleaning the fridge on Saturday mornings interesting. He always tries to come up with creative ways to reduce, reuse, recycle. To ease his guilty conscience over wasting, in the case of produce he likes to throw it outside for the woodland creatures to find who may pass by our home.

On to, the apple tree origin story. We usually go apple picking every fall and a few years ago we picked a lot of apples and they turned before we could eat them or I could use them for baking. That year, true to form, Jeff tossed the old apples into the grove of trees across from our house. Apparently our woodland creatures must have missed an apple because now we have a tree growing in the grove. Since they were fresh apples, they must have been able to propagate easier.

You’re probably wondering if our little Charlie Brown apple tree produces edible apples; it does. Either Cortland or Mac, but they are really good for free-range produce.

Summer Satisfaction

I can still see my kids walking up the hill to our garden

When my kids were young we had a garden every year. We always grew peas and the kids would love to go up there and pick them, shuck them by themselves, and eat them fresh from the vine. They were 6 and 4 when they started this habit. I loved watching them walk up the hill to the garden, hand in hand, and go to the pea trellis and begin picking.

One summer, when they were still very young, they bounded up the hill after we had spent the day at the lake. I was in the kitchen making supper when I heard them both sobbing. I ran out the door and up the hill. They were both sitting on the ground outside the garden.

Imagine having to tell those faces there were no more peas!

I knelt down

“What’s wrong?” I checked both for injury. Maddy was inconsolable; tears streaming down her round, pink cheeks.

Colby spoke and pointed to the trellis, “Look. Someone took our peas!” He started crying again as he said this.

I looked. The vines were torn down, trampled and void of any peas. I’d seen a groundhog a week ago. It must have burgled the peas, destroying the vines in its wake. My heart broke. Weeks of peas gone. I was so angry but so deeply hurt that this simple joy was taken from my babies.

I hugged them both and picked up Maddy, carrying her down the hill; Colby followed.

Gently I said, “It might be too late to replant; it’s July. But I know dad will try. Let’s try to accept we may not have anymore peas. But, we have carrots to look forward to.”

They both nodded and Maddy cried a bit more as she buried her head in my shoulder.

Colby said, “What happened?”

“I think it was a groundhog.”

“I don’t like that thing,” he said.

“Me either!”

Maddy snuffed and shook her head to agree with us.

We got many carrots that year, and the kids enjoyed picking those. They liked the cukes and tomatoes too.

We had gardens for many years after that. Many more years of peas. However, when the kids began to play baseball and softball, our springs began to became very busy and we always missed the garden-planting deadline. For more than a decade we didn’t have a garden. Then, five years ago we looked at our old garden site, overrun with weeds, and decided it was time to try a garden again.

It took a few years to get back into being good gardeners again, and this year we’ve outdone ourselves.

This year, we were blessed with the earliest harvest of zucchini and summer squash we’ve ever had.

First year trying to grow pumpkins. Look at that pumpkin patch!

We have lots of baby pumpkins.

We are doing potatoes again this year. Had a great crop last year.

This year’s potatoes are looking as good as last year’s.

Looking forward to the harvest! We didn’t do peas though. Bad memories.

Lost and Found

Looking back over quarantine, especially the beginning, I felt like I slept through it. No, I didn’t nap each day, and I worked from home, so that wasn’t an option. But, after we received the mandate to stay home, I didn’t set an alarm until I needed to, and that was infrequent. I was incredibly stressed but didn’t realize it until the stress was gone, and I needed to sleep to recover. Let me explain.

The Spark Notes version is that last year, my year began in September as I work at a university, I dealt with a coworker who was very rough on me. When I say rough, I won’t say she “picked on me” per se; it was quite the opposite as she almost entirely ignored me all year. The only time she interacted with me was when she needed to. Other than that, we didn’t socialize except to exchange pleasantries in the morning. After that, she just stormed through my workspace to go in and out of the office all day. I was the office manager, so my desk was in the middle of the office suite, and my workspace was public and had to be walked past to gain access to or from the suite. It’s kind of hard to ignore that I was there, but she did a good job of that. It was very trying and made me quite distressed for most of the year.

She was very judgey too, so I was always afraid of making mistakes. I worked extra hard to ensure my deliverables were clean, but I think that caused me to make more mistakes. I worried so much about getting things wrong, I spent more time worrying and less on quality control, so things fell through the cracks. When I made mistakes the results only added to my stress.   

I understand that nobody could make me feel bad about myself unless I allowed it. But when I had to work with a frosty coworker who just pretended I didn’t exist, who always hovered around or near my workspace talking with everyone except me all day long, it became difficult to ignore the fact that I was being ignored. It took a toll but I didn’t realize how much until quarantine hit and I began to sleep late.

When I say late, I mean I normally got up at 6:30am daily to ensure I was in the office by 8:00am. Now, I was rolling out of bed at 7:55am and walking downstairs to boot up my laptop to begin my day. I will confess, early in April I woke a few times at 8:30am and once 9:15am. Those mornings I bolted out of bed!

Looking back now, I realize I was just weary, like bone-depth weary. I was mentally fatigued, but then I began to feel relieved when I was delivered from those circumstances, so I slept in order to heal. After a few weeks of quarantine when it became evident that it would continue you, I cheered more. I’m one of the few who flourished under house arrest.

By the end of May I began to notice I was thinking clearer, the tension in my body was gone, and I began to feel like Judy again. I know I have been through a lot in the last couple years with my brain surgery and hysterectomy, and two very long recoveries, plus the broken rib last January, but my work situation added to the stress and I realize now my body hasn’t fully recovered and the last few months only hastened my recovery.

After I broke my rib in January, by February I genuinely felt like I was losing my mind. I was making huge mistakes at work; I was having a hard time participating in conversations with groups of people, and I was surly most of the time. I thought I was making negative gains from my brain surgery, feeling something was genuinely wrong. I was so afraid I emailed my doctor about my symptoms.

Now that I’m out of that environment, and the stress is gone, I really feel like a new person, or more accurately the return of that smart, confident, happy Judy who went missing sometime during her 49th year on this earth. I’m not sure where she was, perhaps hiding in a closet somewhere waiting for the bully to be gone. It took her a few months to find the courage to emerge, but she’s back and I’m happy. I missed her.

It’s Not Over Yet

Well, 2020 has been a year for the books! The longest winter ever. I’m certain in any other year I would have been able to ski until May. The sun finally came out around Memorial Day (End of May in the states) and it didn’t rain until last week. Late May and the entire month of June was beautiful, sunny, and very warm. Like most years in New Hampshire, it felt like we skipped Spring and went right to Summer. I won’t complain though as it was nice to thaw out and spend a lot of time outside.

As the weather changed, my family and I began to venture out a bit to warm our bones. The nice weather allowed us to reconnect with other shut-in friends we truly missed. We were able to spend time around bonfire pits making S’mores; hang out in small groups in our friends’ backyards and swim, and Jeff and I did a lot of bike riding and golfing. Things began to feel almost normal.

Aside from the alarming spike in cases in the southern part of the country, I began to feel like my life was finding a nice groove. I was aware of Covid, and was still doing my part to protect my family and me, but it didn’t feel like an ever-present danger anymore. However last week, just like that, we were reminded that there still is Covid-19 around here. Let me explain.

Last September, my husband took a contract job doing recruiting for a local company. When you take a contract you are not a permanent employee but hired to fill a need. Jeff was hired to fill two maternity leaves, so he worked from September to February; his contract ended the middle of the month on Feb. 21st. He was actively looking for a new contract or permanent role when Covid hit. He finally went back to work two weeks ago, June 22, for a transportation company, so he is essential and works in an office.

Since it’s a small office, on his first day his coworkers told him he didn’t need to wear a mask. There are only eight of them and they all have separate offices, so he felt safe. Well, last Tuesday, June 30, he was on his way to the office when he got a call from his HR rep telling him one of his coworker’s spouses tested positive for Covid.

Jeff turned his car around and came home to tell us the news that we may have all been exposed. Here’s what happened. The coworker told HR that his wife had been sick the previous week, Jeff’s first week of work, but this person still went to the office all week! Then, she went for a test on Friday; you guessed it, he still went to the office. She got her results back on Tuesday; positive. Jeff went for a test immediately and would get results in two to four days.

As we sat in our house sulking Friday July 3rd because we couldn’t go to a small get-together we were invited to and waiting for test results, I began to feel very indignant. What was this man thinking? Honestly, why in the world would one go to work when one’s spouse was sick during a pandemic? I was so annoyed at how thoughtless he was. Not just for me but for all the people Jeff worked with. The bigger picture was we could all come down with Covid and some might not survive it. Putting aside ruined plans for the fourth of July, lives were at stake.

After his test on Tuesday, Jeff spoke with one of his HR friends who he worked with years ago, and she told his it’s actually illegal to go to work now if someone you live with is tested for Covid. You and your loved ones are supposed to self-quarantine to protect the welfare of others and prevent the spread. Well, clearly he missed that memo.

The quick ending of my story is that Jeff got his results back late Friday, he was negative. Dodged that bullet! However, the whole experience just reminded me that Covid is still out there causing mayhem. Chalk this experience up there as a new pet peeve for me. Not wearing a mask is my biggest Covid pet peeve; going to work when you live with a sick loved one is now tied for first. It is irresponsible and also disrespectful. Actions speak louder than words. These acts just say to others that they don’t matter. When you behave in such a reckless manner, you’re saying you don’t care, or maybe, you’re just genuinely clueless. Maybe you just don’t know the rules, however ignorance of the law is no excuse. Being thoughtless now is dangerous for all.

Our minds were put at ease and the rest of our weekend was saved because of quick testing and results, but that doesn’t matter. If Jeff didn’t get his results, we would have stayed home because that would have been the correct thing to do. By writing this I’m not professing I’m better than the next person; I’m saying that I know and follow the rules. By being informed and following the rules we all play our part in stopping the spread, managing it, and hopefully ending it soon.

World War III

Isn’t this though? Isn’t this pandemic World War III? Except, this time the soldiers are still on their home soil. And this time, the soldiers are the healthcare workers and the scientists fighting to find ways to save people from the virus, and create quicker, more accurate testing, as well as a vaccine.

The idea of having a vaccine soon is overwhelming. According to the process normally takes 10-15 years. Why so long? The CDC explains: “Clinical development is a three-phase process. During Phase I, small groups of people receive the trial vaccine. In Phase II, the clinical study is expanded and vaccine is given to people who have characteristics (such as age and physical health) similar to those for whom the new vaccine is intended. In Phase III, the vaccine is given to thousands of people and tested for efficacy and safety.” ( Now, consider that we may have a vaccine in a year. So many troops banded together to defeat this enemy; it’s mind boggling. A movie will probably be made about the race for a vaccine one day. Knowing that it may arrive so quickly makes me hopeful this will end within a year. It’s war so sacrifices need to be made. People will give up months and maybe years of their lives to fight it and to defeat this enemy and help us all return to normal.  

Aside from previous wars where there was a well-established theater of combat, there is no true battle front now. It’s worldwide and the entire scientific community is taking part in their own ways fighting to find a vaccine in their own battlefields/labs, but they are an army united. The only villain in this war is the pathogen and nobody is siding with it.  

If you’re not staying inside, social distance outdoor and wear a mask. Simple asks.

In traditional wars, too many families send their sons off to fight and wait for news from the front. Now, we are asked to bring our families together to keep them safe, but just like before we await daily updates including casualties, and we are losing victims daily. Additionally, people are being asked to sacrifice their freedoms for the cause; this time it’s quarantine. We are asked to stay indoors, limit our socializing, and when we go out, to wear a mask. It’s what we can do to take part in the fight. By doing what is asked, we unite to support those who fight on the front.  

One role that is starkly similar to that of a traditional war is that of the healthcare worker. They are treating the casualties and witnessing the atrocities that are a hallmark of war and will be dealing with their own forms of PTSD after this is over. Although our victims are dying on their home soil, much like the men who die overseas, they are dying without loved ones by their sides. In the traditional war story, healthcare workers are the surrogates for families, and these same roles are being played by these people all over the world in the Covid-19 fight.

I grew up watching MASH, and I was a fan of the short-lived show China Beach. Art imitating life is how others learn what many experience, and it’s how I learned what healthcare workers live through in war. In this war doctors aren’t stitching people back together. They are fighting a pathogen that wreaks havoc on a person’s lungs. They are fighting to help its victims breathe and stay alive. They are the ones on the front lines but are soldiers without guns. Instead, their weapons are ventilators, ECMO Machines, oxygen, and drugs. They are working unthinkable amounts of hours in challenging conditions and risking their own lives. The similarities are startling.

Remember, this is a war. When Americans speak out about their civil liberties being stripped because they are being asked to quarantine or simply wear a mask, I am shocked. I think I would be hard pressed to search history books and find people who resisted the simple ask to give to support their communities and their troops in the any of the world wars. But here we are, fighting World War III and people are complaining about their liberties being taken. I’m ashamed of those people. I can’t understand their selfishness, blatant lack of respect, or that they can’t recognize what a crisis the world is facing. I hope they begin to realize what this pandemic is, join the fight, and begin to play their part to support our troops.  

What about the holidays?

My Updates post from Sunday got me thinking about how I ended a post a couple months ago. I can’t remember exactly what I wrote, but it was something like, “If the pandemic drags on until Christmas, will we all be wearing festive holiday masks?” I think the answer to that is, yes.

I’m afraid the way things are looking, we will be social distancing, self-quarantining, but also wearing masks in public for a while. On the topic of masks, I know I will offend a few with what I’m about to write, but I don’t get the people who refuse to wear one. Honestly, I really don’t like mine. If you’ve been following my blog and know my history, then you know I’m claustrophobic. Sometimes when I’m wearing my mask, I can become panicky because I don’t feel like I’m getting enough air. When I don’t get enough air and my face feels warm, that will trigger my claustrophobia. Sooo, wearing my mask, you get it.

For example, I walked into a Lowe’s in May and the A/C wasn’t on. When Jeff and I saw two lines that day, one to enter the Garden Center and one for the store, we decided to take separate routes. Anyway, he wasn’t with me when I walked into the clammy-air store and I felt the need to rip my mask off and head for the open air. He’s kind of my emotional support animal when I’m feeling panicky, so being alone only heightened my anxiety. However, before I exposed my face in public, my cooler head prevailed because as I reached for my mask I remembered that I had waited in line 20 minutes to get into the store, and because the store was so cavernous I began to realize I didn’t feel squeezed. Instead of running, I stopped and took as big a breath as I could, wiped my sweaty brow and walked real fast down the large aisle to try and feel air on my face. It worked.

Angry people because they were asked to just be kind and wear a mask.

My point is, it’s simple to wear a mask. There are no detrimental health impacts unless you have COPD and have difficulty breathing to begin with. I’m not sure how many of you saw the video from Palm Beach where the people were arguing with the city councilors about the mandate to wear masks. It was insane. I simply don’t understand why people protest safety measures for the masses. Yes, we are The Home of the Brave but apparently the selfish and narcissistic too. I can’t comprehend those who blatantly disregard kindness and sensibility. That’s really what obeying the laws are – being kind and sensible. What ever happened to Love Thy Neighbor? When you go out in public without a mask, you’re basically saying, “To hell with you dude! If I have Covid, so will you.” The disease is such a mystery because it will leave some people a-symptomatic and thus those folks will spread it without knowing. Because of that reason, the kind thing to do is wear a mask. Yes, it’s not a 100% certainty that you won’t pass it on, but at least you made an effort not to pass it on. You cared.  

I can’t help but think that if people had done what was asked of them from the beginning – social distanced – then the pandemic would be controlled or at least declining. Instead, there are hot spots all over the country and numbers are rising at an alarming rate. Palm Beach, where the crazy people live, is exploding with cases.

Since people are refusing to do what’s right then I know I will be shopping for holiday masks soon. For Thanksgiving I think I will sport a cornucopia rather than a turkey or fall leaves as I think everyone will have those on their masks. For Christmas, definitely holly leaves. I like them. If you sew, message me. I’ll commission you to hook up my family and me. I have a feeling we will be needing masks for a very long time.