Tag Archives: health

Nobody does anything about the weather

A red adult tricycle on the Davis, CA, greenway, with the wildlife refuge behind her.

Trixie, my trike

YOU CAN’T SEE THE WIND, BUT IT’S THERE

It is curious to me that it can get so very hot for a week or so – and then go back to reasonable, at least in the mornings, when the world is still heading into summer.

As the world goes around the sun, it gets hotter in the summer and then colder in the winter, but the small variations from day to day often seem to come from nowhere.

The husband has a touching belief in weather predictions. He thinks that what they say will happen, will happen, and seems disturbed when it isn’t dry on a day he intended to put down fertilizer that required dry grass.

Me, I believe, maybe, what’s happening in front of my nose.

Today’s trike ride temperature was supposed to be a balmy 72°F – but it was very windy, and the shorts and short-sleeved shirt I wore could have been replaced by something heavier, especially since I tend to slow or stop a lot because I’m trying not to exhaust all my energy – and lose another writing day, an all-too-frequent occurrence.

I had a bad night Sunday night – so I didn’t get out for my ride yesterday, because by the time I got up (9:30), it was already way too hot for me.

So I was extra careful this morning, and managed to go for a ride while the housekeeping ladies were here, and got blown around more than I had expected.

I had to change my route

Davis landscaping crews have altered my last two rides. I don’t know why they have to block the entire greenway path for longer than two vehicles. Most times you really can’t change the route you’ve chosen, because you can only get on and off the path at given intersections.

However, walkers and runners, even with dogs, can just slip around the trucks and trailers. The trike and I are much wider, and not really suited to going on grass or slopes – which also take more energy to navigate.

So, as I came upon another blockage this morning, I had to figure out how to get home on city streets I don’t usually use.

And it was somewhat longer. And I am more wiped out than I planned.

But getting out is necessary.

I just hope I can recover enough to finish 28.5 – I finally figured out how to handle what could have turned into a plot hole, and then one more (28.6), and Chapter 28 can go to the beta reader, the lovely Rachel.

It is frustrating to need exercise to stay even remotely well, but to find that every single trike ride can cost me a whole writing day. There’s got to be a happy medium in there somewhere.


How has the weather altered your current planning?

Are you going to watch the livestreaming of the Summer Solstice at Stonehenge on June 20 and 21? The kids and I intend to.


 

The world is set up for sugar

Strawberry slices on a mound of white

Strawberry cheesecake – low carb style

THE SMALL PLEASURES IN LIFE LOOM LARGE WHILE ROME BURNS

One of the things we residents of this CCRC have lost in the quarantine is much of the choice we enjoyed and for which most of us moved here.

The staff and management are doing their best, within their capabilities, and under the auspices of California and Yolo County directives.

But the result has been an almost complete lack of being able to make our OWN choices in a timely manner.

They have brought back a small opening of the dining facilities

From having dinner delivered in a plastic bag in takeout containers every night for over two months now (and we are grateful to have been fed), they gave us three options:

  • the dining room, with appropriate distancing, and no one but the inhabitants of each apartment at any table (so, couples or singles alone at each table), and the staff will bring selections from the buffet – no more serving yourself
  • a continuation of delivery, where they will give you the first of the buffet selections (unless you have registered a restriction – I don’t eat fish or lamb, for example, so they will bring me chicken on those nights where for some unfathomable reason fish and lamb are always coupled on the menu)
  • La Brisa, our more relaxed dining venue, will now take orders on the phone (from an extremely limited menu), and let residents themselves come down 15 minutes later to pick up a paper bag (at a table that looks like it’s a field hospital) with the meal and take it to their apartment to eat

So what does this have to do with strawberries and choice?

This place has never managed a proper low-carb dessert for me.

The options on the menu, butter pecan ice cream (I hate butter pecan – soggy pecans), carrot cake (quite good), and a chocolate cake (also good), and occasionally a NSA (not National Security Agency – No Sugar Added) brownie, sometimes an NSA pie (loaded with carbs, but no sugar in the filling), but never a cookie or a pastry or anything special like that, ARE ALL SWEETENED WITH SUGAR ALCOHOLS.

Here is the ice cream label (note the warning for ‘Sensitive Individuals,’ of which I’ve never really thought I was one):

Butter pecan NSA label

Maltitol syrup, polydextrose, and sorbitol are the culprits, and maltitol syrup is the cheapest – and most reactive – of the sugar alcohols, and the most likely to make me have horrible gastric effects. I spare you the details. I never consumed more than ONE serving a couple of times a week.

And the dining room has never had a label on these products.

Anyway, it means I can’t trust them to give me a dessert I can eat

So I make my own using almond flour (very low in carbs, especially compared to wheat flour – and rather expensive, since it is just ground up almonds), Splenda (sucralose I tolerate, though it’s never as sweet as it’s supposed to be), real cream, cream cheese, butter, and flax meal.

I made a cookie-like base (hidden under the pile), which actually tasted almost as good as a graham-cracker crust. On top of that I put a cream cheese/cream mixture with aspartame and Splenda and vanilla. And on top of that, a nice layer of one of the lowest-in-carbs fruits, strawberries.

It was delicious!

Takes a while to put it all together

So I’m going to have to find a source of commercial desserts which use sweeteners I tolerate, but the problem there is freezer space: we are at capacity and anything frozen would take up a lot of space.

So, no good options, but I can at least, when I’m willing to put in a half hour, come up with something I wouldn’t be ashamed to serve Julia Child (if she couldn’t eat sugar).

And beautiful besides – not just sweet.

The bottom line

I pay just as much money here every month as every other resident – only I don’t get what I need in the food department. Something needs to change.

And of course right now we’re all just happy that they’re still dealing with food and dinner in general, because though the option exists all the time to get your own ingredients and do your own cooking, it is one of the hassles we came here to give up.

Small pleasures can make dealing with the much larger issues of pandemic and police and protests we are facing – from lockdown – a little easier on the mind.

When I feel I’m focusing on something petty, I remember everybody else here gets a different delicious dessert every night – without ANY effort on their part.

Creating a new normal from debris

This morning, while the husband had gone to the grocery store on the URC bike to get the few things we need to supplement the dinners here, I spent a half hour singing.

With Kate Wolf, on Green Eyes.

And with Gordon Lightfoot, Sundown.

The first I had never sung; the second, I remember singing so many times back when it was new, I was in college and grad school, and had joined the Columbia Record Club, and had several of his records.

It is easy to let things slip when under a pandemic

I didn’t realize how long it had been since I sang.

Apparently, going to church on Sundays, plus starting an hour-long, twice a month folk-singing group here at URC had been enough to keep my vocal chords in working order, even tired. Each time, after an hour, I had used my voice, and it seemed okay and I was happy with the quality of the sound, happy enough not to give it another thought.

Well, it has been months since I did that kind of regular singing (forgive me, Carol, singing teacher, for not singing every day).

And when I tried to sing about a week ago, it was as if someone had stolen my vocal chords and left someone else’s unused ones in their place.

It was scary. The singing voice was almost paralyzed, and nowhere near what I had come to depend on whenever I wanted it.

So there’s one more thing I have to maintain consciously

The list is getting very long.

Every day, before I can get to sleep, I have to put all my joints through my little stretching and range of motion exercises – or I twitch so badly sleep is impossible. Literally. For hours. Lying there in bed, twitching as if hit by a cattle prod every 5-10 seconds. And now I also have to get up and eat something so my stomach will let me go to sleep.

None of this body stuff used to be my responsibility (except weight: as I’ve said many times before, I do not understand why I should have anything conscious to do with maintaining the right body weight – I don’t have to remember to breathe or make my heart beat!).

I’ve given up complaining – it doesn’t help. When I realize I’m twitching because I didn’t do my exercises, I force myself to lie there – and do them.

When I realize what has woken me up at 3am is that my blood sugar is crashing, I get up, eat a half cup of cottage cheese, and then, while my brain’s blood is diverted to digestion, quickly lie down and get back to sleep.

The demands of the body are nonnegotiable

Insistent.

Immediate.

And a pain in the neck.

But I develop another heuristic, another shortcut for dealing with the new problem, pay attention for a few days or weeks, and put it on the list of ‘things that must be done.’

And I fear when someone else must take care of me, because they’re not going to have the ability to do the necessary actions the instant I need them, and I’m going to spend a lot of my time uncomfortable and not able to do a thing about it.

What a life!

One more consequence of the lovely gift we’ve all been given is to watch it go away.

How to deal?

ME/CFS? Aging? Luck of the Irish? Who knows.

I try to let it take as little of my time and life as possible.

Not complainin’, just sayin’.

And I do whatever I need to keep writing.

While watching the appalling stuff burbling out in our society that has long been suppressed. And trying not to cry.


What is on your list? What are you in charge of that you never had to worry about before?


Thanks to Stencil for the ability to create graphics that are more interesting than the words I throw into them.


 

Staying comfortable in the saddle again

Section of a side view of the Rose Garden at URC showing the side exit door and some of the path

Out door – but not in right now

UNEVEN SIDEWALKS AS A CHALLENGE TO CONFIDENCE

We are on lockdown, which currently means you can go out, but not in, through all the usual exit doors in our building.

Why? So they can control who comes into our facility, and make sure they’re wearing a mask, and pass a quick health check, and I think take their temperature. Good precautions, and control of entrances is a part of that.

They’ve added a check station by the campus’ front entrance from the street, so cars and people coming in can be queried as to whether they are essential personnel, essential visitors, or not. A patrol car with a private security guy sits there, and some of our staff are in the little covered space to deal with contractors, delivery people, etc.

No enforcement possibility is necessary – it’s all voluntary, but family members are being turned away, even if they’re bringing something, most of the time.s-l500

Maggie2 is identical to Maggie

Both are black. Unobtrusive.

Maggie waits for me to find a part and a repair person.

But I found that after two months of not riding, I’ve lost confidence in my riding ability and Maggie2’s balancing ability, so I need to go out with some excuse to ride around a bit every couple of days.

Part of it is sidewalks and paths and curb cuts and cutouts: they make look smooth to an able-bodied walker with no balance problems, but they are neither truly flat nor even remotely smooth.

Sidewalks and paths are made a square or rectangle at a time, with gaps between them. When a repair is done, or a utility opening is created, the finished product is roughly smooth (an oxymoron).

I’m not a light-weight kid with the great balance of youth

There is a lot of me, and the Maggies cope, but I sometimes wonder how much of a strain it is, and how near the actual limits I might be, especially when riding outside, with up and down slopes. I don’t go near steep gradients any more, and plan my travels with slopes in mind.

But if I haven’t been in the saddle for even a couple of days, I’m ever so slightly nervous when I hop on board, such as to go down to get the mail. When trundling down the corridors, I’m conscious when I start that I’m a little unstable.

It’s like when I haven’t spoken Spanish for a while, and my sisters rattle off on the phone, and I’m expected to just jump in and participate – and I feel so awkward reaching for a noun or wondering if they still say things in a particular way.

So tonight I went for a little planned ride

Checked the battery – 3 out of 4 dots. Good.

Took the elevator down to the first floor (elevators are wobbly because they’re on cables), and headed toward the side door (in picture). Right now the entire first floor is being painted, the furniture changed, and the carpet replaced – and is covered with a layer of plastic that crinkles as we ride along.

Use the paper towel so I don’t touch any surfaces directly, from the elevator buttons to the door opening buttons first into the stairwell, and then out into the side Rose Garden.

Grit teeth – tell myself it isn’t that big of a slope out. It isn’t.

Say hello to other Resident who chooses this moment to come out with a large dog and a frisbee – and ask that they both be mindful of where I am, as I don’t want to be knocked down or startled off my perch by a vigorous dog which is aching to get some running and jumping and catching in.

Go down the path – and run into a moving van which has barely left enough room for Maggie and me to go down the sidewalk.

In through the front lobby – and check that I can get out of the building near the Skilled Nursing section. They say yes. But when I get down there, I find that the door opener doesn’t work after 5pm, but I can get out if I push the door. Push, hoping no alarms will go off.

Then around the north end of the building, in and out of the patio area, and back to the front entrance – all the while up and down slopes, on and off of sidewalks, around sharp corners (keeping the two of us in the center of the walk), around patio furniture piled willy-nilly, smelling some lovely roses, and up and down several curb cuts.

On our way back now

Check in, chat a moment, tell them the door doesn’t open automatically after 5pm., but you can still get out (front desk seems knowledgeable all the time, but the details sometimes escape them).

Chat with a few of the servers, both of us masked – we miss our dining room staff like crazy. One is excited they are moving toward reopening some of the dining venues. I tell him we are not: no cure, no treatment, no increased hospital capacity, no vaccine – and exhausted medical personnel. We’ll probably stay in much longer than strictly necessary.

Pick up the mail. Chat with another Resident (I have to keep backing up). She’s hoping the path from hospital (starting in December, not covid-19 related) to Skilled Nursing and now to Assisted Living is only temporary, and that she’ll be able to go back to her Independent Living unit. I tell her I hope so, and want to know – I will be resisting the Assisted Living part in a similar situation unless I’m sure it’s reversible if I can handle it.

Zoom up the corridors, reverse the elevator ride – and husband say: “That was a short ride!”

Decontaminate

Put mail away, put everything back in its place, being very conscious of what might have touched a surface outside the apartment, stabling Maggie2, and washing hands twice, thoroughly, during the process.

And we’re home!

I regained my comfort, mostly, with riding. I’m glad I included time outside and with challenges – they were a bit scary and got better on the circuit. Other people commented on how smoothly we move – and I didn’t disavow the prowess.

But I know.

And that’s all the excitement of the quarantine/isolation at the CCRC today. Absorbing, eh? And reset the brain by seeing other humans (I haven’t been out much otherwise), and talking to them.

Until next time.

Tomorrow is trike ride day.

These things seem and are trivial, but they’re also important to do for psychological welfare, especially since we’re going to be at this a long time.


Stay well.

Writing persists, though right now it seems to be taking me 5-6 hours to get that brain to come on every day. I am well into becoming Andrew to write the next scene, after days of gathering.

That’s all I ask for.

Hope everyone out there is staying safe. Or recovering. I know some are not, and still have trouble some days believing the whole disaster.

“Another nice mess you’ve gotten me into.” Yup. Part of the week’s research included watching that used in a whole bunch of their movies. And yes, that quote is accurate. Memory is funny.


 

Too tired to post about ME/CFS yesterday

Image may contain: possible text that says 'MYALGIC ENCEPHALOMYELITIS (ME) MILD ME 25% CAN WORK WITH GREAT DIFFICULTY AND AT LEAST 50% OF THEIR FUNCTIONALITY. MODERATE ME ARE HOUSEBOUND OFTEN REQUIRE A WHEELCHAIR OUTSIDE OF HOME. DAILY TASKS LIKE BATHING AND COOKING LARE A STRUGGLE. VERY SEVERE ME ARE TUBE FED, IN SEVERE PAIN, OXYGEN AND OFTEN CAN NOT SPEAK. SOME AWAY. THEY ARE SOME THE SICKEST PEOPLE ON EARTH. SEVERE ME BEDBOUND IN DARKEND ROOM ALMOST COMPLETELY DEPENDENT FOR ALL PERSONAL CARE. MEICFS AWARENESS @CHRONICALLYRISING'

MISSED EVEN WRITING A BASIC POST:

MAY 12th WAS INTERNATIONAL

ME/CFS AWARENESS DAY

So today, a day late and many dollars short, I’m boosting a post from @ChronicallyRising on Facebook, which will give you an idea of what I live with.

For over THIRTY YEARS now, I have been in the very badly mislabeled ‘moderate’ category – with occasional good days where I’m lucky if I have lost ONLY 50% of my functionality.

Because this is my daily reality, I don’t make a big deal about it.

I have used my experience with the disease

to write the on-going Pride’s Children trilogy, where I have gifted one of the main characters, Dr. Karenna (Kary) Elizabeth Ashe, with the ‘mild’ form – and explore how being chronically ill affects your whole life and all your choices.

When you lose your entire medical career, ‘mild’ is a misnomer.

Society writes you off; it did her.

She learned to write – something I’ve done. But I’ve given her a better experience and a traditional publisher in 2005. She’s turned into a reclusive but well-loved author of several historical novels, by spending ALL her energy on her work (since there is no way she can be a physician any more).

And living alone.

She is much younger than I am – in the ‘adult woman’ vague category.

And there’s nothing wrong with her – except disease and society’s expectations. And how much she gives in to them.

The world may find out

after covid-19 slams through its entire population, that the incidence of this kind of a post-viral, post-survival of the acute phase, syndrome, is far more common in the pandemic’s aftermath.

It is speculated that a large proportion of the survivors will have life-long problems. Numbers are not available this close to the outbreak.

Maybe my stories will help those who are ignored by the healthy, the researchers, and those who fund public health initiatives – until it happens to them.

We are all still people, still worthy, still capable of pain and loyalty and love.


 

My writing is a walk through a minefield

I AM ALWAYS MY OWN FIRST READER

One piece of advice to writers I’ve always followed is to “Write the book you want to read and that you can’t find.”

I guess as a writer I’m looking for the readers who FEEL the way I feel.

I’m having trouble finding more of them because WE tend to hide our feelings as too intense, too troubling, too deep – and are much less likely to discuss those feelings with other people as we recommend a book.

It is too close.

I am not my characters, and my characters are NOT me.

Because, if anything, there are significant parts of me I’ve consulted when writing all three of the main characters in Pride’s Children PURGATORY, and now Pride’s Children NETHERWORLD.

Readers know what it’s like to be inhabited by warring camps, typically portrayed in cartoons by a little angel over one shoulder, and a little devil over the other.

I contain multitudes.

But I AM an actor

The training, and the thinking, and the practice come in very handy when you have to split parts of yourself off for a character – and maintain some distance from your self.

I’m sure you can’t play Macbeth without finding justifications for killing your king.

So, before you go traipsing through one of my scenes, I have to do the hard work of feeling my way from the First Line to the Last Line, so that it is smooth and satisfying for a reader who goes that way but once.

It’s part of what makes me slow.

Adrenaline is hard for my body to process – and all hormones are big parts of the emotional states that accompany their surges through the bloodstreams of humans.

I have to feel more than usual, and have a smaller capacity for recovering from the emotional hormones, than most people.

You have to get very close to emotions to write them.

Yesterday, as research for the next chapter in NETHERWORLD, I had to go through, over and over, a part of life that, as a married woman who just celebrated 45 years with her first and only husband, was very far behind me.

No one knows the future – it could be useful in some cases, but I’m hoping I won’t need what I went through yesterday, because, as all important decisions, it was exhausting!

And I can’t stop writing these sections until I can recreate that on the page, in words, first in myself, and then, with some degree of certainty, in both men and women.

Models in literature

I had myself wondering today how close Margaret Mitchell got to Scarlett O’Hara, or Charlotte Brontë to her Jane.

I’m not sure Mitchell was fond of Scarlett – Scarlett and my Bianca have a lot in common – and Mitchell gave Scarlett no HEA: she prevailed, but her victory was Pyrrhic at best: never being hungry again is pretty low on the hierarchy of needs.

I take some of my examples from Dorothy L. Sayers, who at least left Harriet and Peter happy and married, but made them work very hard for that win: the hard work is, to me, essential to the outcome.

I don’t take shortcuts.

All of this may make more sense when the next book comes out, if you’re one of the clan.

I hope you are.

When this is all over, I’d love to talk about it. Right now I’m too raw.


If you haven’t read PURGATORY, and do so now, you’ll have a much better idea of what I’m talking about – as well as an appreciation for why it took so long. I had to learn to do the writing/feeling connection – and do it in EVERY scene.


Drop a line if you have any idea what I’m saying. It gets lonely out here.


 

Jeweled anniversary moments in the midst of pandemics

Trolley with white tablecloth displaying our anniversary dinner

Our 45th Anniversary Dinner – courtesy of dining staff

OUR GRATITUDE TO THE DINING STAFF

Before the pandemic, gracious living was the touchstone of the University Retirement Community we moved to as our forever home.

When the staff called a few days ago for an unrelated matter, it occurred to me to ask is there was anything they could do for our 45th Anniversary, as we wouldn’t be able to celebrate otherwise.

And this was their lovely response yesterday.

Chicken teriyaki and a special dessert enhanced by notes wishing us well from several of our staff.

A shoutout to those working behind the scenes, even now

It is not easy to bring dinner every night to the 250 Independent Living apartments (and three meals a day to those in higher levels of care).

The last time this was done, a norovirus had invaded, and the lockdown resolved the matter in less than two weeks – complete isolation and a prompt response does that.

But this time they have been working harder and longer, and we have lost the lovely daily interactions with staff which are so rewarding – finding out about their schooling and families is part of here, and there is a scholarship fund and an employee appreciation fund we contribute to (tipping is not allowed) to make our thanks patent.

We miss them like crazy.

They are doing a tough job, and any time we interact (rarely and in masks now), it is a pleasure to have the younger people on staff around.

Management has a different job

Keeping us safe and fed and supplied and from going bananas those of us who need help.

Keeping our campus safe and only open to essential personnel.

Figuring out what to do in the immediate and long-term future.

I wouldn’t want to be them right now – it must be scary, knowing how so many vulnerable people who will live many more years if the virus doesn’t get in here are in their care.

Easy to criticize, impossible to replace.

Yes, they might do it better, but I don’t think it’s pure luck that we’re still functioning, though it might be luck that we haven’t had a scare yet.

But I don’t want to neglect the bright spots

The gardens.

The ability to go out onto the greenway.

Their determination to follow ALL requirements of the various governmental agencies – and do whatever more can be done.

And the little happinesses like ours, yesterday.

Thank you, URC and PRS. We notice and are grateful.

PS The cake was really good.


 

The physical cost of writing fiction

Rose bushes in a garden with shady trees.

The Rose Garden at University Retirement Community

I’M PLANNING TO WRITE A NOVEL SOME DAY…

Say many people. Most of them don’t.

I’M NOT DISCOURAGING ANYONE! But I haven’t cloned myself even once: when people expressed interest and I offered to point them in the right direction, none followed up.

My oldest is writing fiction – I get an occasional peek. That’s all.

Why? Because it’s a lot harder to do than most people realize. Lots of words, and they need to be in some kind of a comprehensible order.

It’s on the order of thinking you might be able to build a car because you’ve driven lots of different models. Or even because you’re actually a pretty good mechanic.

Different set of skills, and the finished product DOES NOT SHOW where the tools were applied.

I’ve produced two completed novels in two different series

but it is not likely that the first one (a mystery written before the turn of the century) will ever get the attention it needs to be turned into a finished product, given that I’ve learned a few things this century. Maybe, maybe not. The more I learn, the more I realize it need a lot of work. Great characters, I thought, and a good end and premise, but we’ll let it live peacefully for now. In the trunk.

The first one in the Pride’s Children trilogy took me 15 years, many of which were spent learning such things as how to write a full-length play (great for dialogue).

I’ve aged, and have not gotten well

Thirty years of ME/CFS is a long time, and during that time I’ve had at least the usual vicissitudes of aging, and probably even more than average because the energy to exercise, for example, isn’t there – thirty years of no real exercise (because we can’t go aerobic – our cells don’t produce energy fast enough) leaves you deconditioned, even if you’re diligent at doing what you can (bike/trike rides, pool exercises).

That’s one of the reasons it takes me so long to write: the energy has to come from somewhere, I’m chronically ultra-short of energy, and other things in Life have to be done, too.

I’ve pared away and given up almost everything. The pandemic is forcing me to relinquish even more: at the same time it is giving me a bit more time, it is increasing the stress – never helpful.

Most people don’t think of writing as requiring energy

They’re more likely to think it needs time, because how hard can something be that you do sitting down?

They know it gets you tired – mentally tired – and that you need to keep your body in at least reasonable shape to support your brain’s work.

But beyond the obvious, most don’t realize that writing fiction is exhausting under the best circumstances. Physically exhausting.

I can’t, apparently, do two energy-sucking things in the same day

I can count as rarities the days when I do something physical first (like a trike ride, or even a trip to the front desk on Maggie a couple of times to get a package in the mail in the right sized container with the correct postage).

I used to get around this problem by doing my writing first, and then going for a ride in the late afternoon, or for a swim AFTER writing (since I never get anything done in the evening anyway).

But there’s no pool Yolo County is allowing us to use, and the days are now so hot (though not humid, bless California!) that I can’t afford to go out after a certain time. This is because California starts off cool, and then heats from the sun straight through the day. Without humidity most nights cool off, but on a day over 90° like today, if I don’t get out by noon it’s already too hot for me to be out.

My physical body is a real limitation

to my current writing. I just don’t get the hours of functioning usable brain that I need, and days will go by when no writing can get done.

I’m doing – and will continue to do – the best that I can.

That’s a given. Non-negotiable.

But I’m wondering exactly how low I can push ‘taking care of body’ vs. ‘using body to support brain.’

So the rest of you?

Maybe you should get started on that novel, and not depend on retirement, or ‘when you have more time,’ because I’m here to tell you the physical part of writing keeps getting harder every year.

And there’s NO guarantee something won’t come along and knock you clean off your pins (must look up that phrase), and you won’t be able to do it at all.

As for me

I keep trying to cheat, and figure out ways to NOT do things, so they won’t absorb the little energy I have.

My long-suffering husband keeps not complaining. He gets points.

The mess will have to wait some more.

I don’t know how long it will take – I hope days, rather than weeks or months – to get the next chapter through the last little bits (epigraphs and chapter title and a final round of AutoCrit). I only know that I keep inching forward, and I’m still excited about the story (this chapter was a doozy), and I hope I’m still around to finish this job (there’s a virus out there that eats older people and people with co-morbidities), because I still haven’t found anything I love as much as this little obsession of mine.

Thought I was improving a bit, but not really. Shrug. It won’t stop me, but it sure slows me down.

Oh. And I’m grateful. It could be a lot worse.


Stay well. Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Etc.


 

The enervation of being unable to plan

IT FEELS LIKE A BLANKET OF LEAD

I signed up to refresh my French at Duolingo.

Every day they nag me to do the 5 minutes I signed up for.

I usually do more once I get there, but it is like lifting boulders to get myself over there and start.

Yes, I will look back when this is over (assuming I survive), and wish I had spent my time better, but…

But…

I will be better once my head clears.

Two days ago, I was struggling with a scene. This is normal for me: they don’t come easy, but I don’t care – it’s work I love.

Getting started writing every day requires a brain, and I struggle for hours most days trying to find something (other than time) which will encourage that brain to turn on.

And yes, I’ve tried writing when the brain isn’t on – pretty similar to making mudpies, for all the results.

Back to the point:

Two days ago I had a reasonable working day, got half the current scene into shape.

Yesterday, after two days of NOT riding the trike, I decided I had better get out there before I start making monkey noises, and went for a short trike ride around the greenway.

Except that we’re into a hot week, which means I can’t even go down to the garage to hop on the trike after about noon – because the garage is so hot I can’t function.

So it had to be in the morning.

And riding in the morning meant I was severely brain fogged the rest of the day, and could simply NOT focus.

I haven’t had carbs in days

Eating carbs usually results in me being brain fogged until the residue is out of my body, and I’m once more working on fat and protein. I haven’t been as strict with myself in the past, and it is REALLY hard not to have the only good dessert the dining staff sends in a week – after all, food is our only comfort provided by the facility now, and the lack of choice is getting me down.

But I’ve made the effort, and I can’t blame the current situation on carbs.

Today is merely the result of yesterday’s trike ride, as was all of yesterday afternoon and evening: having ME/CFS MEANS there is no way to get the energy back.

Not being able to do anything is also a sign of depression

in normal people.

We’re used to it, but I have to ask myself if I’ve let the situation and my limitations bump me into that territory.

And then I have a day in which no interruptions occur, and I keep my nose to the grindstone until it finally sharpens enough to write with, and I know it’s not discipline – it’s the disease.

What it is is a sign that I can’t expect to get a writing period on a day I go out for a mentally-necessary trike ride, which is in itself frustrating.

I can’t plan around it.

There is no plan C. I ride OR I write. And if I go longer than a day or two without writing, my brain seems to think we are doing something new, with all the Resistance to starting that comes with new things.

If you wonder why it takes me so long, that’s part of it.

The pandemic is just more of the same. A lot more.

Don’t worry about me, because I’m still doing this: there isn’t anything else.

But it gets pretty frustrating each day to have all this time – and not be able to plan or to count on myself. For purely physical reasons I can’t control.

I just hope I finish these books before the virus gets me.

Oh, and put on the list somewhere the end of the story – for those who might care – if I don’t make it.

Can’t plan that, either. Making it.


It’s hard writing one of the most emotionally powerful scenes in the novel from a place of such flat affect. The first half is great (IHNVHO), but I want the second half to hit you in the gut, too.

So no trike ride for me.


 

They’ve blocked off even the swings

img 1076

Sign on a park bench in a playground area

I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT SAYS – STAY OFF?

And I don’t know because this is as close as I could get to the bench with my iPhone while sitting on the trike – and I wasn’t about to get off and maybe accidentally touch something – out there.

It makes sense. You don’t want people touching surfaces other people have touched, and possibly infected, and no one is going to go through and clean every bench and every slide and every swing, so at least you can tell people they shouldn’t touch. Anyone sane, with the small children who usually use this playground equipment, isn’t going to want to touch things which might infect the kids.

Because there are two ways the coronavirus can get into YOU:

  1. Someone who is shedding the live virus coughs or breathes in your general direction – and YOU breathe in some of what came out of their respiratory system,
  2. You touch something that has the live virus on it, and bring it to YOUR T-zone on YOUR face (mouth, nose, eyes).

That’s it.

‘Live virus’ is a misnomer; viruses aren’t alive in the normal sense: they don’t eat, grow, reproduce, and die.

You could think of them as a little poison packet, capable of doing damage in the right circumstances.

But those are quibbles. They are little blobs of Something that can, under the right circumstances, both make copies of itself, and make you ill from having had your cells hijacked to make copies of the virus, and by circulating through your body in enough quantity to overwhelm your immune system, which normally has the job of killing invaders.

It is unfortunate if you get the virus the first way, stupid the second way.

So everything is closed, and that includes the swings.

Getting out is a privilege

One I hope they don’t have to remove due to the human inability to follow simple instructions such as distancing and washing hands.

But it is discouraging to see simple things like swings for kids and park benches for all blocked off as dangerous. I can understand the kid cautions. But find it hard to understand why you can’t sit on a park bench – and then, without touching your face, go home and wash your hands.


Thanks to the person who took Pride’s Children PURGATORY out of KU this week. Hope you enjoy it – and hope you think seriously about leaving a review. Reviews are amazingly encouraging to writers working on the next book.

Stay well, all. You know what to do.


 

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.


 

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!