Stress may make you very clumsy

Section of pristine-looking carpet with toes of two socks

I can’t see the stain; can you?

SOME THINGS WORK RIGHT

What is the significance of a photo of a section of carpet?

Lately I seem to be more clumsy, especially in the kitchen.

Because standing is painful, and awkward, AND I hurt my shoulder a week ago (it’s mending – slowly, as we ME/CFS types heal), I do a lot of my meal preparation sitting on the seat of my walker (Sylvia – yes, I name things, and she’s been with me over 15 years).

The walker seat has sides, and my arms and elbows sometimes run into its frame.

And for some reason (yes, I’m paying attention in case it is a real problem), I keep dropping things and bumping into things.

It is a small kitchen.

And the pullout cutting boards make very good food-preparation surfaces.

And I try to do everything I possibly can for myself – not wanting to overburden the spouse when we hope there will be many years ahead.

So, last night I heated my dinner…

Chicken with a cream sauce, and cottage cheese.

I set out for the living room where the husband was watching TV.

I got about three steps out of the kitchen when I used the ‘F’ word, very loudly.

Our nice lightweight plates have no friction with the walker seat on which my plate rested.

And I dumped a FULL serving of chicken, cream sauce, and cottage cheese – right in the middle of that space I photographed.

If I had been thinking of y’all, I would have photographed it BEFORE I cleaned it up.

I just want you to admire that job

I immediately rescued that which could be rescued.

Removed the rest of the larger bits with paper towels.

Fortunately, yesterday morning was housekeeping day – and everything had just been vacuumed (could have been – and was – FAR worse before they decided to give us housekeeping back).

Then I got out what our eldest has recommended, Woolite pet odors etc. + OXY, cleaner.

I sat down on the rug.

I followed instructions:

  • Spray, do not soak, do not scrub.
  • Let rest 5 minutes.
  • Blot with clean white towel.

Five minutes later, and I came back, did the blotting.

And took a picture, because I could not believe what a good job this stuff does, even though I’ve used it before, in NJ, on carpeting of that color – but with red wine or Birch Beer soda or spaghetti sauce, all red.

I think it’s the OXYgen. Good for organic spills.

And possibly that I attacked immediately.

You REALLY can’t tell.

And that’s the story of the photo.

The clumsiness I’ll have to watch.

It may be stress.

It may be the beginnings of something else.

Or it may just be that sitting to do things is awkward.


Dinner was delicious. Mostly cold. I didn’t care by then.

 

Don’t cancel old folks essential services

BE CAREFUL WHERE YOU ECONOMIZE

Management here at the CCRC sent out a memo that said they were reducing the every-other-week housekeeping services to each apartment – and that the ladies would come in and clean bathrooms and remove the trash ONLY.

I assume, since this was not covered in the memo, that they were diverting part of the time to public cleanings, such as the handrails that line our corridors, public areas, elevators…

To which a bunch of people replied, WTF?

So they came and did that the first week on quarantine, and left, and the memos to boneheaded management started flying back.

Not that big a deal? Sacrifice for the cause?

People around here haven’t done housework since they moved here – that’s one of the things we pay for. But the important part of that is that many people CAN’T do their own housework – they are physically incapable of it, don’t have the upper body strength, can’t stand long enough.

And can’t take prolonged exposure to cleaning products.

Management realized that this was a no go, and changed back to regular cleaning, on schedule (and they’ve never taken the trash out before – I wonder if they will continue to do that).

And the state of our kitchen, with just one missed housekeeping session, is exactly what you would have expected if no one did the floors or the appliances for a month. Gross.

The lovely husband keeps cooking areas clean, and we both keep dishes under control, but added to eating far more meals here than ever before, we have had the additional tasks of dealing with the takeout containers (which seem to be bought from a different manufacturer, and thus have different recycling/composting/trash requirements almost every day).

The residents have EXTRA work, too

It’s a small annoyance turned critical because we have to worry about whether those containers are safe to touch, and wash our hands many extra times around handling things.

It occurs to me that since they no longer have service in the dining room, they are saving a bundle on those staffing requirements that take a lot of time – we get our own ice water, coffee (they don’t bring coffee with dinner), plates, dessert from the buffet, everything. Gracious dining takes effort.

The kitchen is set up, I assume again, on a much diminished menu (no choices), and a streamlined process by which food is put into containers, and bagged. Time and staff is saved there, too.

But the main reason we need housekeeping

was very evident: we, as a group, don’t see well enough to do a good job, and often don’t have the energy – one of the first things people are advised to look for when deciding to put mom and dad in a home is whether their parents’ housekeeping standards, always so high, are not being followed any more, and mom and dad’s once-lovely home is starting to not only look tacky, but require all of the offspring’s energy when they come to visit.

So that visits consist of overwhelmed children trying to do everything mom and dad no longer can. Instead of a nice visit.

It’s really hard to run a heavy vacuum cleaner when you’re in a wheelchair or use a walker. Dusting up-high surfaces you can’t even reach becomes optional, and they forgotten.

And the back of the handles on the refrigerator get awfully grotty.

Small things?

We’re in the vulnerable group: older, and often with more than one ‘condition’ which makes us think seriously about owning homes and living alone.

And most of all, being a burden to our children.

But precisely because of this, we’re spending all our time locked down in our own apartments.

Can you even imagine what the interiors of all the apartments would look like after many months – because it will be 12-18 months before a vaccine is developed, and it will likely NOT be offered to the old and sick first, because, hey, the young people have to restart the economy – of no one doing even minimum cleaning?

The sight is not one I, as a housekeeper, would like to have to come in and face a year from now. And have to start cleaning up.

This decision was definitely a step too far. We haven’t reached such dire situations here – yet.

And my thoughts and prayers and charitable dollars go to those folk around the world who have nothing, not even clean water. Nor a safe place to be locked down in.


Today’s tiny essay was brought to you courtesy of the lovely housekeeping ladies here at URC – who work very hard, and then go home to their families, worrying all the time about the same virus I can’t afford to get.

I can only tell you my tiny part of the story. Because that’s all I can see myself.


 

Sleeplessness is where coronavirus stress shows

I FEAR THE FEELING OF FALLING ASLEEP

I have to confess that I’m not normally an easy sleeper.

Partly because late evening I feel almost human (it’s not real – I don’t make good decisions then, and I can’t write then).

And partly because every single morning is a struggle to get myself into a state where I can function at all.

Here at the retirement community I’ve had the ability to sleep later in the morning, and to take naps whenever I need to (or should) take them, I have been able to compensate – and get enough total sleep during a day so that I’m not a complete zombie (there’s a reason sleep deprivation is literally torture).

But it’s mostly fear

I have learned, grudgingly, to give in to the sensation of losing control of my own mind – because I try to master my fears.

But I have never liked the loss, and I fight it – especially when I’m tired and my decision-making faculties are diminished – and I can literally force myself to stay awake if I think something bad is going to happen that needs me to be coherent to deal with it.

This is NOT improved when I wake up in the morning and something new hurts.

Or I find the body position I’m in has resulted in one ankle pressing the skin and flesh on the other ankle into something completely flat that aches and cramps as the blood returns, quite painfully.

Or the medicine that I took right before sleep has decided to dissolve in the back of my throat and wake me with uncomfortable pressure in the middle of the night.

If I could skip sleep

I would. Almost every night.

But I feel worse without it.

And I know intellectually that sleep is so critical that a form of torture is to not let people go to sleep.

I also take 3-5 half-hour naps during the day to rest my brain: if I haven’t had enough sleep the night before or days before, those naps can turn into deep sleep with nightmares during the day. Even with an alarm.

The lockdown and the coronavirus make it hard to let the day go

The tireder I get, the less I can use my mind to suppress the things that are worrying me – as they are worrying everyone on the planet right now: my personal situation re medical services, the lives and careers of my children, and of my family in Mexico. The uncertainty of tomorrow.

Knowing we haven’t had a case here (probably), and wondering if we will – given the news that the virus rips through senior communities leaving devastation in its path.

Since it’s a constantly changing situation, we can’t relax into a new routine, because nothing is routine now.

So I have trouble sleeping.

I’ve tried most ‘solutions’

But I either can’t take them (I tolerate very few meds) or they require me to do something at a time my brain isn’t capable of it.

And you can’t cure existential angst – it’s real.

Meanwhile, I brush my teeth, make sure I have something I can eat in the middle of the night, do my stretches for restless leg syndrome, say my prayers – so that when I reach that point every night where all of a sudden sleep is worse than continuing awake, all I need to do is lie down.

And the battle to stay asleep begins.

Because it’s never a one-time decision.

Things that keep me from staying asleep:

  • hunger
  • uncomfortable binding around any part of me
  • anything bumpy under me
  • pain
  • worry
  • a thought in the middle of the night that must be written down
  • sometimes (!) fiction
  • being too cold or too hot (repeat several times each night)
  • gut pressure (what the heck did I eat?)
  • thirst
  • the sound of the firetrucks and ambulances coming to the lobby
  • outside sounds (do they really have to do these things mid-night?)
  • rain
  • husband’s breathing
  • funny tastes
  • a muscle that twitches every ten seconds for hours
  • etc.

I can now consume cottage cheese in the middle of the night without waking – much. Which then requires that the next chunk of ‘sleep’ be done sitting up a bit.

If I’m desperate, I turn the computer on and play sudoku or something – after about an hour and a half (one sleep cycle), my body is given permission to try again.

And eventually it takes. And sometimes I can sleep enough into the morning to almost have a decent number of hours’ worth total sleep.

I don’t think it will get better for a long while – the world has turned and is now essentially unstable.

Who wants to go to sleep when it might be your last time awake?

Which is silly, because ‘going in my sleep’ is my preferred method of checking out!

Because I’m not ready. Honest. I’m in the middle of a novel, the middle of a trilogy, and finishing them is the plan.

Even if ‘plan’ has become a joke.

Hope y’all do better at this sleeping thing than I do.


 

Maggie2 is here with nowhere to go

s-l500

MY NEW AIRWHEEL S8 IS HOME

I thought she wouldn’t get here until April 2, and she was several days early.

Shipping is erratic in these times.

It was so easy – plugged the one connection between the saddle and the supporting column, put it on the charger, and a couple of hours later everything was charged up and ready.

The next day I hopped on, went down in the elevator, and brought home the mail – just like before.

As if the entire time between Jan. 29 and March 31 had been erased at a single stroke.

But things have changed so much in the interim!

The entire world is now upended – and I have very few places I need to go, as today, Yolo County, CA, told us to close the pool – not even supervised socially distanced hours are to be allowed.

It’s a big loss – and not necessary. I hope they take it back in a while – I don’t see what could possibly contaminate people who don’t even get to use the dressing room, are in chlorinated salt water, and go home to take a shower. Abundance of caution.

But I can run around the corridors at night with the wind in my hair if I want – even in normal times there’s never anyone around after about 9pm.

I could even do it in my pajamas!

When the world returns slowly to some kind of normal

I will already be in position to move around.

Because I am in the vulnerable cohort, older, with chronic illness, and physical disabilities that keep me from walking or standing long or comfortably (which is why I got Maggie in the first place), I assume it will be a long time – on the scale of a year – before we’re even allowed out of quarantine.

Just having beds available again in hospitals will still not make covid-19 easier for us to survive – although it might make it possible in the few cases where a ventilator makes a difference. The illness itself is hard on my group – and most people here are older than we are.

We have to wait for the vaccine – and hope it is effective (the flu shot is around 60% effective, I understand). We have to hope the immunity it – or surviving the disease – confer on people of my condition is long lasting.

The future is not known

We have to hope they learn enough from dealing with this that there isn’t another pandemic for a long time.), and

But maybe they’ll reopen the pools, and limited visitation (maybe for those who are certified survivors (if that makes them unable to infect us), and I’ll resume riding my little steed to the pool. One can hope.

It is a mistake to expect the worst. But it is life-threatening to risk what you know may kill you even with a lot of medical help.

I’m just happy my long hunt for a mobility device is again satisfied – for now.

The original Maggie will be repaired as soon as I can get a control board (assuming that’s the problem) and someone willing to watch the Youtube videos and install the board for me, and a backup now sounds like a very solid idea.

There is still nothing on the market that I find as perfect a solution for me.

Now back to writing NETHERWORLD.

Today was a good day – I made progress into the next scene – all my process still works, plus I added some new strategies from Donald Maass’ Writing 21st Century Fiction – heartily recommended.

I can’t do anything about the world out there – younger healthier people will have to gather the data and do the research and create a safe and effective vaccine – but I’m still excited about where the current scene is going (Rachel will be pleased), and how the end of the Chapter is designed, and how the plot keeps kicking.

That is my job. I’m not bored. I’m not looking for other things to do. This I can.

Wish me luck.


 

This is not the time to be careless

REQUIRING MEDICAL CARE DURING A PANDEMIC

is not a good idea.

This is a time to be extra-careful, if you’re older, not to fall.

It is a good time to lower your stress and eat right, and possibly not need that trip to a hospital for chest pains.

It is a time to watch your rage (while at the same time creating it – nice quandary), so you don’t, literally, blow a gasket.

It is a good time to think things through and take the safest course, to process the information from the outside world with more care.

You can see where this is going, right?

Yesterday, on my way back from the swimming pool (with its inconvenient limited hours), I was sitting on my walker (because standing and walking hurt), scooting backward as I do, when I needed to push the big metal pushbutton that opens the automatic doors.

I didn’t give it much though, but had to reach slightly behind me, and had to push that button harder than I expected, and something popped – and hurt a lot – on my right upper arm/shoulder/biceps area.

I have injured myself, and I’m irritated at how the stiffness of the button, and the need to get through the door after it swings open, made this go bad. But I’m the one injured, and right now the thought of going to the doctor, and possibly needing some attention, scares me.

So I’ve been babying it, trying not to use my right arm at all.

Nothing appears to be broken or torn

I used ibuprofen, and I sat with the cold-pack for a while.

Nothing is visibly swollen, and this morning it wasn’t actually hurting unless I moved it (not going to do that if I can help it).

And I can type – the important part.

But in ordinary circumstances I’d call the doctor, go see him, maybe get an X-ray, end up in PT, but right now, while we’re waiting for the first big wave of COVID-19 cases to hit the local hospitals, I don’t want to go to a doctor’s office. I don’t want to risk not being able to come back (retirement communities are looking askance at those who go out into the big bad world and then come back). I don’t want to possibly need surgical intervention – not even sure I could get it!

And I don’t want to go to a place where I might pick something up!

I just feel stupid

even though it was probably truly accidental, and I could never have foreseen the combination of circumstances that would result in an injury – from a seated position!

If you’ve read my blog for a while, you might remember that when I dislocated my finger, I pulled it back into position, and iced it myself – because I was hosting a picnic, and knew what going to an ER or Urgent Care facility would do, timewise, and that the best time to fix a problem like that is immediately, before the joint has a chance to swell.

It made sleeping tricky.

I had to ask my husband to load the washing machine for me.

It was very awkward taking a shower – and I had to be very careful – but our pools have chlorine and salt water in them, and I was decidedly not going to bed that way.

And it doesn’t hurt yet today, though I dare not move it much.

My advice?

Don’t be in a hurry. Don’t be upset, as I was, at petty rules not allowing us for the present to take a shower in the dressing room by the pool.

Be more careful out there than you think – this is not the time to require medical attention – if you can avoid it. Stay safe – just in case.


 

Shopping patterns change with the circumstances

NORMAL WHEN IT’S NOT NORMAL OUT

A flyer from Kohl’s in the mailbox touts a sale March 25-29. It’s a surreal reminder or normality – advertising flyers are set up, and the sales decided, months in advance. The products, seasonal, have to be ordered, decisions made about what clothes people will need in the next buying period, Easter – it appears, from the elegant children’s clothes.

While some incomprehensible person in Washington says grandparents should die for commerce, instead of being around for the grandchildren to hug for the Easter dinner in their cute new duds. And Italy reports considering that breathing support won’t be available for those under SIXTY. New low.

We’re not that far out from normal

It is very different, depending on which pictures you see in the news – between the photograph showing a packed Bondi Beach in Australia or Daytona Beach in Florida and ones showing a piazza in Rome more empty than it’s been in years – but it hasn’t really been that long yet.

A few months since the first cases in Wuhan, China, to total lockdown in Davis, California, for the safety of old folk for whom there will not be enough ventilators in local hospitals.

The SCALE has shocked the world, but far too many people still don’t believe it.

And the more optimistic among scientists, and especially among politicians, are hoping ‘normal’ comes back within a couple weeks, wherever they are, so that we don’t mess up the economy too much for their taste.

We’re still in the world of Just-in-time inventories

Of factories with so much capacity they can produce what is needed with a quick turnaround – and of inventories so low doctors and nurses are re-using face masks usually disposed of after each patient, and re-using them for many, many patients.

We’ve gone from crowded shopping in grocery stores where there are SALE! signs everywhere, to standing six feet apart in the checkout line.

And we don’t know which patterns will last, and which will be gone the minute there is a vaccine to protect from COVID-19.

We’re feeling mental whiplash.

A month ago…

Having the husband head out on the facility bike to do some grocery shopping was a bit of exercise tacked onto a chore…

…Now it is a death-defying adventure into a post-apocalyptic landscape.

Getting together in a small group in the Piano Lounge to sing folk songs…

…Not even allowed because the room is small and enclosed, even if people stay six feet apart from each other.

Going to the pool was almost a social activity…

…And now we are being supervised like children by management to make sure no one uses or touches anything.

Online shopping was a convenience

For us, without a car yet in California, it was so much easier to have things delivered that I think we had a package a day delivered to the front desk!

Now it’s an adventure in finding a time slot in which your local grocery store can deliver food and TP (assuming they have some) after you’ve filled in a very detailed form online with many restrictions – and for which someone else will choose your ripe bananas.

As a shut-in, basically (little energy and little mobility are a real deterrent to shopping in stores), I’m used to the concept.

But everyone else is still trying to wrap their mind around what can and cannot be done, at the same time they wonder why on earth they would even buy an Easter dress.

Welcome to my world, sort of

And I wonder if you will have been changed permanently by your visit, or whether you will just have a few vacation photos tucked away in a virtual album somewhere.

Try to remember – and have some understanding of what the permanent residents deal with daily.

I STILL don’t see much of a plan for the NEXT time we get a novel virus.


Stay well. Read books. Get around to those projects.

If you survive… what will you have to show? As I tell myself to stop watching the news and get back to NETHERWORLD. It isn’t writing itself, but we did have a good day.


 

Take what is offered for now

Photo of fitness center showing hot tub, therapy pool, and indoor pool

THERAPY POOL IS BALM FOR STIFF JOINTS

And even in lockdown, we are given the opportunity to use the pool.

For a limited time, 8 am to noon, MWF.

But it is a lot more than nothing, and realistically, only in the hot summer months do we use the pool (the outdoor one) more than three times a week.

It’s not a good time – if I spend physical energy in the morning, there is usually no writing done that day.

And I’m not getting up and functional – quite a process for someone with ME/CFS – early enough to do writing before going to the pool, say, at 11 am.

I will try.

Schedules fall apart when the dinner meal isn’t happening

We have not LIKED the schedule here. Our dinnertime in New Jersey was more like 7-9 pm. Here, in ‘normal times,’ the schedule is way too early for us: we are meeting people for dinner between about 5:15 and 6:15 pm.

You get used to it.

The solution is, of course, to get up earlier every day. Something that night owls like us do not adapt to easily.

So we struggle – but the struggle is oddly deflated when they are bringing a plastic bag of takeout dinner around 5 pm.

We can put it in the fridge – and eat when we prefer.

But we had gotten used to the schedule we were trying to learn to live with.

And daylight is when it is.

And the best time to go for an afternoon trike ride is before the setting sun is in your eyes.

Will isolation have its own schedule?

Probably. Eventually.

Everything seems random when you don’t have a few anchors in time.

Days vary. Today I did Zoom on the computer with the child who is three hours earlier – in the state of New York.

Other days vary – depending on when someone else is available for a call.

But we’ve lost the evening concerts, and the evening folksong Sing – no groups allowed, no outside visitors.

The result is a life that is surreal in one more way

I literally don’t know what to expect from day to day.

To add to that, which is probably common right now, everything from checking out the Washington Post, to making sure friends on FB are still with us, to grocery store hours for seniors (6 am – really???) is causing worry, and worry is causing very erratic sleep patterns: one night I go to bed at midnight, another at 2 am, and a third rewards me with sleeplessness until 5 am because I went to bed on time.

Hard to catch up, hard to regularize, hard to schedule.

Being unscheduled wastes a lot of time

Things that should be done because it’s lunchtime get postponed because you just had breakfast after you got up at 11 am.

Every day has to be decided individually.

Adding the volatility of when my brain comes online, and I’m surprised I get any writing done.

It IS settling down. They have nothing else for us to give up, assuming the pool hours continue.

I may be able to persuade my brain to cooperate.

Because this is going to be a long haul, and I need to write.


How has your time sense and your schedule been affected by the coronavirus?


 

The national safety depends on cooperators

Woman on balcony talking to family members two stories down

Family visit during coronavirus scare

HOW TO VISIT OLDER RELATIVES SAFELY

Almost looks like Italy, doesn’t it?

No reason you can’t visit – but you can’t come in. My neighbor across the entrance court caught my eye because she was out on her balcony. I thought she was getting some fresh air, and was about to go out and yell Hello! when I noticed the pickup truck and the younger women below.

There is NO substitute for face-to-face human contact, preferably with hugs and touching (many aging people never get touched except by caretakers), but this will do right now.

Video conferences are next best – but I love to see her people making the effort to come see her.

I don’t want my daughter in San Francisco to come do this – it was a SHORT visit – but I’m guessing these visitors came from Davis itself, or somewhere close, and thought to stop and cheer our resident up on their way around town for errands. Very thoughtful.

Social connection in the age of social distancing

I hope to be able to use the indoor therapy pool in the times they’ve selected (during which we recalcitrant disobedient old people will be supervised by staff to ensure proper social distancing). I’ve sent an email off to the staff member who will be the enforcer.

The people here brought this on ourselves! We got a frantic memo yesterday from the director saying residents AND staff have been ignoring the 6 ft. rule. Shame on us!

So now we will be supervised – better than nothing, by far.

I’ve been telling other people for over a week to maintain their distance, but others have not. Sigh.

It will be nice to talk to someone other than the spouse in person.

I think they want us not the use the restrooms or the dressing rooms by the pools (if I’m quoting the memo right), which is just doable. I’m wondering if they’ll allow people into the hot tub one at a time!

That’s the news from Lake URC

Where all the women are strong, the men are nice, and there are no children (points for getting the reference).


Stay well! Stay away from other people, but not too far.


Writing time!


 

Small comforts big in stressful times

Pond with the sign University Retirement Community in the background.

The burbling pond by our entrance

MENTAL HEALTH REQUIRES GETTING OUT!

For the first time in a month, I got over being scared of everything, and went out for a short trike ride.

I rode around the greenway in Davis, near our complex, and stopped to admire how gorgeous California is right now, after a bit of rain, and in springtime.

There were flowers everywhere, and the backdrop of the water-saving yucca and succulents were beautified by trees, rocks, and inventive gardening.

Six feet apart to not become six feet under

Saw a few people inside our community, and a few outside. We stayed apart, carefully.

One kid was running a remote control car around his court.

I didn’t have much energy, so I pedaled very slowly, resting and sitting (which you can’t do on a bike) frequently. I kept my hands on MY handlebars the entire time – and washed everything very thoroughly when I came back.

I didn’t touch my face while out or before washing. I didn’t get off the trike. I didn’t touch the elevator buttons.

But I did have to touch my own trike to get the lock off. Unlikely anyone else has touched it, off on the side where it is locked to a bike rack in the basement.

Dinner had nothing I could/would eat

I hope they figure out their system. I’m a picky eater at the best of times, and I don’t eat most carbs (they fog my brain even worse). But we seem to be getting almost random food selections – tiny milk cartons one day, tiny cans of juice the next day, large glasses of milk with fitted lids the next, then back to tiny milk cartons. The large glasses had no indication what kind of milk was in them.

The protein was lamb; I don’t eat lamb.

Last night all I could eat from the delivery was the small container of salad greens – one for the both of us.

We have food. We have backups. We are used to being in charge of breakfast and lunch, anyway. This is not a complaint – it is an observation. Their system is still getting itself organized, but the logic is odd.

It’s been less than a week since total lockdown.

Groceries

This morning at 6 am the husband set out on foot for the local grocery store pulling our wheeled cart from Staples. And hour and a half later, he was back with supplies.

The store had a time for seniors and disabled people – and they all stayed 6 ft. apart. He wore disposable plastic gloves until he was out – and then trashed them.

He is my HERO!

We ALL worry that if we get too low on basics, the stores will not be back to providing them the next time we need to go. We try not to hoard. We have TP, but never bought an unconscionable amount.

And we hate wasting food.

Exercise

They have closed the indoor and outdoor pools.

And both gyms. The gyms, I understand, because in the best of conditions, there are people who don’t wipe off equipment, and they can’t have an attendant all the time. However, we have a number of people whose disease management REQUIRES them to get exercise – or they deteriorate even faster. They are unhappy.

We just got a memo that there will be a supervised swim period MWF from 8-noon – with the Wellness Center director supervising we stay apart – because the director freaked out (as he probably should have) when people were too close to each other in the mail-room.

They have installed no-touch gel stations in mail-room and library.

We will wash our hands on top of that.

I have my trike. A few people here have recumbents of their own. Husband decided to walk to the grocery store rather than trust that the facility’s bikes are safe to touch. Fortunately, it is a 15 min. walk.

Social life

I called several people this morning – they seemed surprised to have me ask about their well-being. I figure if we all check on our closest friends and neighbors, most people will have someone here giving a call.

Next door neighbor and I realized that our balconies provide privacy – but no way to communicate – the building makes it impossible.

I ran into people walking their dogs, or going from the main building to a cottage (there are a few garden apartments in a separate building, and a small number of detached small houses). We stayed apart – didn’t chat too long – didn’t sit down.

Still doable.

Communication within and without

The newsletter group is getting Zoom ready to have their meetings that way. You can download it for computers and phones, and it’s free up to a certain size. Thank you, Zoom. We will be using it for family meetings from four different cities.

The main problem at URC is that our average age is mid-eighties, and some people are not really computer literate. And those of us who are can’t go in to their apartments to set them up.

And their kids and grandkids can’t come in to show them how to use technology.

There are still telephones.

Staying busy

There are MANY options, from free opera to paid books.

I’m writing again – it’s hard work more because of the hiatus than anything else, but I did choose to do something new and different with how the scene is organized – and that took some figuring out. I hope it is a much stronger scene as a result.

One lovely person took Pride’s Children PURGATORY out of Kindle Unlimited, and read 304 pages. Hmmm. Don’t know if they had read the rest before, or were able to or forced to stop before the end (around 385pp). I may never find out who it was, unless they leave a review.

When I reread it, I can’t stop that close to the end, but then, I wrote the book I wanted to read and couldn’t find.

There’s plenty else to do – Tai Chi will be meeting via Zoom – but I have no excuse for not doing what I moved here to do – finish the two remaining novels in the trilogy. And it felt so good to get back into Andrew’s head to write.


Signing out for now – hope we can keep this up for many months!

Stay well – drop a line as to how YOU’re doing.


 

Social connections in isolation time

Fully open purple tulip in glass vase on windowsill

Many days later – still hanging in there

PATIENCE AND BEAUTY FROM A FRIEND

This isn’t new for those of us who, because of chronic illness and/or disability, don’t get out much, but social connections (even more precious to us) are necessary.

This community has gone from a vibrant group with many things going on every day, so many that it is often hard to pick which to go to, to a group of individuals and couples spending all day long in their apartment, mostly without communicating in person with others.

Including the staff who now bring our food, and leave it on the ledge outside our door sometime in the dinner hour. We open the door after waiting a bit (so they have moved on), and yell, “Thanks!” down the hall.

They’re still sorting the details out

The little things matter a lot. Last night was the first time they have picked dinner and left it outside our door – and it was the St. Patrick’s Day party dinner – and the corned beef was so salty I could not eat it. That’s exactly the kind of thing you might not think of, but if you look forward to it all day, and it’s inedible, your one tiny social contact for the day is tainted (I had a cookie from the freezer and some leftovers to compensate).

Tonight the selections were a wee bit odd, and they didn’t bring the milk – I wonder if they’re having trouble figuring out a system, since they asked about 200 apartments for a card with preferences.

Once we have a better understanding of their part, we can get a few outside supplies. We feel strongly about not throwing away food, always have, so before I eat a meal, I ask the husband what is oldest or needs eating first – and feed myself from those choices.

We have set up zoom for family meetings

We missed the family vacation last year, and will miss it again this year, but it is important for us to do the kind of gabbing we do when we get together.

We have downloaded and tested Zoom, which is used for meetings in businesses, and will let you do short home versions for free. Three of us tested it out today because the husband is on the newsletter staff, and they’re going to use it here instead of meeting in person.

Find a way to talk to family and friends, and, if you can do technology (Facetime, Whatsup, Skype, Messages…), do the video versions. It is a huge leap from text to audio, and a bigger one to video, for nuance, expression, body language, and everything except smell and touch. I have always preferred video – so I could really tell how the kids were.

Connect and reconnect

Those friends you’ve been meaning to send a Christmas letter to for years? Call.

The ones you never get around to in your family? Email.

The birthday person turning 21 who can’t go celebrate at a bar? Commiserate with a card and a promise for later.

It doesn’t take much to make someone happy – and now you have the time if you’re sheltering in place.

Especially important to have done this if for some reason, you are the one who doesn’t make it.

And thanks to all my old friends who are reaching out to comment – love you all.

Thanks for the tulip, Diane.


 

Lockdown with food delivery CCRC style

OTHERS ARE KEEPING US SAFE

When we moved here, it was for life.

A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) is the last place you will live. Once you buy in, you are promising, like some medieval monks, to stay in one place, one community – for literally the rest of your life.

This is the first serious test of the concept that we’ve dealt with: we have put our health and welfare into the hands of management – and they are doing everything in their power to keep us safe.

Even our tiny folksinging group – fewer than 10 people – was canceled.

And fed

We are now on total lockdown in our apartments. There will be no community events, no gatherings of people, no groups coming from outside, no family or friend visits (except for the terminal).

And the food – one of the good things about a place like this with several venues for dinner or lunch and a fair number of choices about what you may choose for those meals – is about to get very different.

We have been given a tiny number of choices (so you can tell them you’re vegetarian or don’t eat fish or dairy), and they will decide what to bring you – and deposit on the ledge outside your door!

Choice seems a minor casualty

I’m sure they will be trying to keep it as interesting as possible, and we will make do, and we have things in our freezer and pantry to supplement or replace.

We will have ways of continuing to get staples from local grocery stores.

But the ability to choose from different entrees, sides, and desserts – a big part of gracious living at a CCRC that justifies the entry and monthly fees – will be gone. For MONTHS.

We’ve never bought the 5* restaurant boast (though occasional meals are superb, the ordinary is not), but we’re about to find out what happens when they decide what we eat. And how much.

Meal TIME and TEMPERATURE will compensate a bit

We don’t have to eat dinner between 4:45 and 7pm if we choose to set the delivery aside and eat at a more normal 8-9 PM; and we DO have a microwave oven and a regular over to heat buffet food that is usually not all that hot by the time we get it to the dining room table and eat it (for me, because I bring my plates to the table on my walker’s seat, and prefer to make only one trip, cold dinner entrees are the norm).

It’s going to be institutional. It’s going to be weird.

And it’s going to be a struggle for me, the picky eater who doesn’t eat many carbohydrates.

We’ll survive – and this is the only way staff time can be used to both deal with food and  the safety precautions, too.

We will continue to be fed, like the passengers on the cruise ships, and it will be someone else’s problem as long as they are handling it.

We are lucky – it could be far worse

As it is going to be far worse for so many people out there.

We don’t have an easy way to make a change in our living arrangements – the house in New Jersey is long gone, and this is our home.

And we’re all grownups here, and will adjust, and keep the proverbial stiff upper lip.

Please note: I’m documenting and commenting, not complaining.


Meanwhile, some lovely person is reading Pride’s Children PURGATORY from Kindle Unlimited, and I’m delighted to watch their progress through the author tools we have.

If it’s you, please consider leaving a review on Amazon!


 

Fear of leaving the safe apartment

SOCIAL COST OF DISTRUSTING YOUR NEIGHBORS

I like my new neighbors in the retirement community we’ve joined.

Most of us live in the main building, with Assisted Living, Skilled Nursing, and Memory Support dowstairs – which makes it easy to visit friends and partners in different levels of care.

Right now, we’re all staying physically away from each other, and the contact with the outside world is being curtailed daily.

But I’ve had the thought of realizing that we are dependent on a huge number of people doing the right thing when they leave this place and come back, say, for a doctor’s appointment, or to visit family in town.

We are isolated because OUR kids aren’t near

While we still depend on the staff being careful, it is daunting that it could be anyone who is the first person exposed to the coronavirus to come into this closed community and make the rest of us less safe.

It is easy for us – we have no small grand- or great grand-children nearby. Accidentally. So we can’t be virtuous – we’re not being presented with an occasion where we have to make a decisions that affects others.

The situation is without precedent in our lives.

My extended family in Mexico is minimizing their exposure

But it will be very difficult watching from this far away when and if something happens – and not being able to even go help. And social distancing in Mexico will be hard. People who go to work on crowded subway trains will be at great risk – and they take that risk with them into their jobs.

The current Mexican government is not widely trusted, and is doing the same thing as the States; not testing much.

Head in the sand doesn’t keep things from happening. It just undercounts the cases and provides a false sense of security.

So we’re about to take our lives in our hands

and go downstairs to have lunch with whomever is out and around.

Wish me luck.

And my own sense of safety ignores – because I can’t do anything about it – the risk that the husband takes every time he heads out to bring dinner home.

Stay safe out there!


 

Friendship in the time of coronavirus

A single pink tulip in a clear vase on the windowsill

Hope springs eternal in the Spring

THE LITTLE THINGS COUNT

A present

Here at URC, Fourth Floor East is a little subcommunity.

One of our long term residents has been organizing Wing Dings – a chance for us all to get together for dinner as a wing – for years before we came.

One of our newer residents has joined her in building a sense of neighborhood on the floor. This morning this lovely pink tulip was delivered to our door. It will grace my windowsill for as long as it lasts, with the comfortable thought that we’ve moved to the right place.

Outside groups have been canceled for the duration

But I had already sent a notice around,

…there is a Celtic Band Concert scheduled on Monday March 16 in the auditorium.
 
Since we are having somewhat erratic public functions at URC, Larkin and Bill and I decided:
 
1. IF there is a Celtic Band Concert that night – folk-singing will be canceled, as most people will want to go to the concert.
 
2. IF, for some reason, the Celtic Band does NOT come to URC that night, we’ll be at the piano lounge at 7:30 as usual.
 
So we’ll have music that night either way.
 
Hope everyone is staying well.

‘Some reason’ has come to pass – but we will have music Monday night, and we’re having desperately needed rain over the weekend, and the flowers (including sneeze-inducing pollinators) are in season, and today is good.


 

Riding out the storm in a CCRC

A Continuing Care Retirement Community (CCRC) is a giant bubble.

I went swimming (okay, floating around) in the indoor pool for the first time in almost a month, since I got the flu.

Not another soul around.

On the way back, I went outside for a short bit – and we had dinner with friends.

This is as normal as it’s going to get. Our hatches are battened down. We are in a virtual lock-down – no one in from the outside who isn’t necessary.

Food selections are far fewer – but still someone else’s job. The servers, many of them high school kids and college kids, are doing a lot to keep us clean, and counter and door knobs wiped – and we’re going hard doing the same.

It’s going to be long – we were estimating it will take at least a couple of months. So we are cautiously supporting each other, and happy we moved here – this would have been soul-killing in NJ, even though there are so many more potentially infectious people here.

I don’t know what will happen – apparently this is Level 2 – and they have plans up to Level 5!

I wonder if the service was as good on the deck of the Titanic.

Outside people – staff

First, our staff. For 350 or so people, we have 200 staff.

TWO HUNDRED PEOPLE who go home every night and come back the next day.

All of our staff live in Davis and the surrounding communities, including Sacramento.

Outside people – family and friends

A very large percentage of our residents come from the city of Davis (where the University of California, Davis, is located). Many taught at UCD, reared children in Davis, and/or still have a child or grandchild in the city.

For Sunday brunches and holiday meals like Thanksgiving and Easter and others, we have to make reservations in advance because so many family members come here. For a quite competitive price, it is easy to have your whole family come here for the holidays. After, while the grownups are talking, it is easy for a few of the parents to take the more wiggly kids swimming to tire them out.

So the connection to Davis is strong – and large.

We have been asked not to have any nonessential visitors – INCLUDING family members. No restrictions on going out – yet. Our oldest from San Francisco will not be coming.

Outside people – everyone else

Firefighters and ambulances are common here – they respond to all kinds of 911 calls, from falls to potential fatalities.

Outside workmen are here all the time, involved in ongoing maintenance and refurbishing the 10% of apartments that turn over in a typical year. There was a guy walking on the roof on the other side of the building this morning. Our roofs have just been replaced – possibly some kind of inspector.

Delivery personnel, including post office employees, are here daily – the front desk handles a mass of packages from all over. These people are now being asked to stop at the front desk and take a temperature scan, and their entry into the building is being minimized.

Staying occupied and involved will be up to us, individually.

All other groups – and we have concerts, lectures, trips, movies – from the outside are being canceled. We are mostly staying in our apartments – not congregating in groups of more than 20 has been requested by management.

We’re trying to ‘flatten the curve’

All we can really hope for is slowing the contagion. The concept is well delineated in a graph from various sources; FastCompany has the story AND several versions of the graph, including one that emphasizes what place like our CCRC are trying to do.

The idea is simple – even for those with a limited science/math background: our healthcare system (NOT uniformly spread over the whole USA) has a certain number of beds in intensive care (under a million), of which about 10% can support critical patients who need help with breathing (about 90,000 beds).

If we have too many people getting to the critical point where they need breathing support (like currently in Italy), then there literally will not be enough of these hospital beds to go around, and doctors will have to make tough choices about who gets one, AND THEY’RE ALREADY PLANNING ON THROWING OLDER PEOPLE AND PEOPLE WHO ARE ALREADY DISABLED or ILL WITH OTHER PROBLEMS (like ME/CFS) UNDER THE BUS – BY DENYING THEM ACCESS TO THE LIMITED BEDS.

So it is crucial to have people get sick at a slower rate.

Because we have no tools to STOP the virus yet. No vaccine, no immunity.

Slowing contagion is done by increasing the distance between people beyond 6 ft. (droplets from coughs make it about that far). Not going out. Not bringing people in.

And by proper cleaning techniques for surfaces (the CCRC staff plus residents are decontaminating surfaces frequently).

And by not transferring any virus particles to ourselves: proper hand-washing, and NOT touching our faces with hands which might be contaminated.

By letting medical personnel know if we have any of the symptoms: fever, cough, headaches… so a sick person can be further isolated if appropriate – and helped to get better.

It still takes SEVERAL WEEKS in intensive care to recover, if you’re one of the critically ill. During that time, you will be occupying a bed and having a lot of help with breathing, and taking a LOT of time from medical personnel.


That’s it for the current state of our waiting, quietly trying to conserve resources and delay the onset of the inevitable as long as possible.


Be sure you have books to read, ahem – long fat complex books – while waiting out the storm.

Maggie I have loved too briefly

s-l500

Robot – Emotional support – Miniature riding horse

From Sep. 12, 2019 to Jan. 29, 2020, I had Maggie to ride.

Maggie is an Airwheel S8.

Like a bicycle seat on a post on a hoverboard. ‘Maggie’ for the magnesium alloy she is made of. Maggie is black.

When I rode her, all it took was a tiny shift in my center of gravity to zoom off in all directions.

She is broken – I hit a curb.

My entire life changed when she became part of it, and I don’t know if I’ll be able to get her fixed (she’s Chinese, from somewhere near Wuhan). I’m back to dragging myself around with a walker; because I have ME/CFS, and little energy, it is literally dragging myself.

Some day I will need a scooter or a wheelchair, but not yet.

Meanwhile, I mourn. I don’t know when I’ll get another, or Maggie fixed.

I am SO glad I have had her. She was my 70th birthday present to myself, and the bigger gift was that I could ride her, and will never have the regret that I didn’t try.