A phone call from Charles

A couple of days ago, Charles and I talked on the phone. Charles and I have a long history of saying, “we should talk more often”. Finally, we followed through. We chatted like teens for over an hour talking of current life and history long since gone.

There was a period of reminiscing about Malls and what they meant to us and young adults – a place to gather with friends, a place to see who else it out, a place to eat and watch a movie and buy gifts. We talked about how those adventures brought, not only us kids together, but parents too. I remember my Mom talking Mrs. Durney or Mrs. Alison about plans – “I can drop the kids off at the Mall on my way to Albertsons and they can have lunch and see a movie. Can you pick them about 3PM? Great.”

We talked of old downtowns and department stores and the right of passage when you could catch the bus downtown or your parents would drop you off to spend the day downtown. I would go to Auerbach’s Department store (my sister worked there) and ZCMI.

We talked about Ye Olde Telephone days when you had the long curly cord on the phone in the kitchen and it had a small burn mark on it where it was drug across a burner at some point. We talked about having the long cord on the desk phone and how you or a sibling would drag the phone into the room and close the door. You carry dimes for the payphone in case you needed to call home.

We talked of sickness and health. But mostly, we enjoyed our friendship which is almost 20 years old. A bit of the crazy from COVID-19 evaporated from our lives for an hour.

I think with all the other “platforms” that are available (Zoom, FaceTime, Facebook, etc.). We forget the old phone call and how much it means to just talk to a friend. We said we would stay in touch and talk again soon. This time, I’ll call.

Give someone a call sometime. Stay in touch.

Funny what hits you…

I saw my toiletry bag hanging up in the bathroom and I thought, “I should put that away. I’m not going anywhere for a while”. That really struck me. I love travel and really enjoy the travel I do for work. I have a large national (international actually) network of friends and colleagues. I would travel about 4 to 6 times a year for work to conferences mostly. At each of these conferences, there is a circle of people who I have known for 10 to 20 years. Some, I don’t know so well that I would set up a call just to chat with them. Others, I really should reach out to see how they are doing.

Osprey toiletry bag hanging on a hook.

This virtual world doesn’t allow for the random reconnections while walking the hallways of EDUCAUSE with 8,000 other people. It doesn’t let me look across the room at CSG and see Jenn and have a bit of an “Oh boy, Jenn is here” leap of heart or Ron, or Klara or any of a dozen other people.

Yes, there are people I’m really close to whom I am trying to stay in touch with. We have virtual dinners with friends and family (not as much as we should). There are others, the next circle out, with whom I chat or email. But there is a whole world of people, one-step further out, that I used to travel with and see at least once a year who now seem out of reach.

Seeing my toiletry bag and thinking that I might not need it for another 18 months really pressed upon the loss of that circle of connection in this pandemic. The loss of those crowds and travel, the random connections, the chance encounters with a charming and funny person in the airport, the people who are the next circle out of your acquaintances, with whom you always enjoyed your hallway catch-up, some of whom always took you back to another point in your life and great memories from then. This is what my toiletry bag makes me think about. This is the loss that strikes me.

Stay well. Reach out and chat someone. We’re all in this together.

2, 9, 104 weeks

I had such high hopes that at today’s visit, Ena’s doctor would tell her she could start to wean off the crutches… but, no. She will spend at least two more weeks on crutches. We are both quite tired of her being on crutches. We are also tired (maybe in the royal sense) of the intermittent, though brief, chest pains. I hope that her CT scan gets scheduled soon so we can get an answer or at least rule out … I don’t know what it will rule out but by damn let’s get it ruled the f*ck out.

We would both really like to move away from management to cure. From crutches to walking. [Did you know you can get sick of the sound of crutches – the kind of springy clunking ka-chunk ka-chunk? – editor]

You know, just get around to dealing with COVID-19 and working from home and only grocery shopping every 3 weeks (Thank You InstaCart! and WholeFoods delivery).

So, welcome to Week 9 of the Great Seattle Stay-Away 2020. Yep. That’s right. I’m starting my 9th week of working from home. I’m tired of the smell of bleach. I feel like I work at a YMCA pool in Summer except for the fun-in-the-sun part. Maybe I work in the basement of the YMCA where there is a pool that they use a LOT of chlorine in because there are a LOT of little kids coming and going and going in the pool.

Some pandemic experts are predicting that we have two more years – that’s 104 more weeks – before COVID-19 (20, and 21?) finally burns itself out because basically almost everyone has caught it. See my post about August 2022 being the next Summer of Normalcy.

A very minor annoyance here – the name COVID-19 isn’t all that great. It stands for Corona Virus Disease 2019. I’m not saying we should have named it Cough-Until-You-Are-Blue Virus. But, SARS-CoV-2 (SARS Corona Virus 2) does make a lot of sense. It is a corona virus that is very similar to the SARS virus. It is the sequel in some ways. The same but different. Like in James Bond when they changed from Sean Connery to Roger Moore (Yes, I know David Niven was the next Bond but who remembers that?!). But once again, I digress.

Are things settling into a new rhythm? Is this a new way of life that we can all live for 18 more months? My hair will be quite long if this goes on for 18 more months. And they better fix the toilet paper and flour supply chains if that is the case.

Photo of english daisies up close in full bloom.

We are really lucky that we have a lovely house and a lovely yard. I go out and sit in the sun amongst the flowers in our “meadow”.* The “meadow” is lovely and full of spring sun and buzzing bugs and birdsong. I go out and breathe and sit and just be for a while. I just have some time when I’m not disinfecting something, or helping to manage Ena’s health, or working, or cooking, or cleaning, or worrying about all the things that could be added to that list above. Just sit and breathe. And listen to the life in the yard. And feel the sun on my back or face.

Breathe everyone. We may be in for the long haul. Stay well. Be healthy.

* Please note that our meadow is about 15 feet by 30 feet. It is not measured in acres or hectares (which I really don’t know the dimensions of other than it is a grouping of acres – maybe 20 acres? Dunno)

Week 8 starts with a scare

Update: 7PM PDT

I was about to post the blog post below when Ena got a call from her cardiologist. “Come to Urgent Care right now”. Off we went to Urgent Care about 3:00 this afternoon. I dropped Ena off and waited around for about an hour. She has been texting and she seems fine but she is still there. I haven’t heard from her since 5:30 so maybe she is in a procedure of some sort. I’m waiting to get a call that I should come pick her up or that they are keeping her over night. Don’t know which.

We had put beans on this morning in the slow cooker and we had a whole raw chicken that needed to be cooked or dealt with tonight. So I came home and went to work cutting up the chicken and packing up the beans. It was a very strange time of needing to hurry and get things done while also not being sure how long I would have to wait.

Update: 7:05PM

As I was about to post the post with update above and post below, I got a text from Ena saying, “She is ready to come home now.” So off I go to Kaiser to pick her up. Yay!

p.s. F#ck this getting old sh*t.

<the original post>

Last night at 10PM, Ena had an angina attack. Her drugs worked and she slept well and seems fine this morning. But still, it would be Sunday night at 10PM not Wednesday at 11AM when these things happen. I was timing her drugs, getting her comfy, and thinking, “5 more minutes and I call for an ambulance”. Fortunately, I didn’t need to make that call.

She has a call with her cardiologist tomorrow morning early so we can learn more about next steps. It has been 4 ½ weeks since her last attack so that is good. And her Nitroglycerin tablets did their trick and her symptoms went away in 10 minutes or so. Also a good thing.

She has a little Nitroglycerin tablet necklace that she carries. When she pulled it out to take her pills, it felt a bit like an old movie when elderly aunt suddenly calls out to the butler or maid, “my pills, my pills!” as they clutch at their chest. Her event wasn’t that melodramatic. Scary and dramatic, yes. I’m kind of amazed we both slept well last night after that.

Otherwise, it is hard to believe that this is the start of week 8 of the COVID-19 Seattle Don’t Meet Up.

The weather has continued to be nice – with rain to help wash the pollen out of the air and to keep things watered. Ena spent some time reading out on the deck yesterday while I went for a walk. It will be good to get her off crutches. Hopefully, she can start rehab and walking without crutches (at least move to just one crutch) next Monday.

We had a lovely virtual chat with Paul and Jo Hobson on Friday evening. Paul was supposed to come down for a visit in a couple of weeks. Instead, we had FaceTime drinks and a chat. Paul and I really are brothers from another mother. I do miss them both, and their kids, dearly. It was nice when they were in North Shore. They seemed close and accessible even if we didn’t visit as much as we liked.

On Sunday we chatted with Ruth and Ceri in Wales. It was great to see them again. It brings back wonderful memories of our trip to England and our time with them both. They picked us up from the train (before it turned into a bus to Cardiff) and took us out to Tintern Abbey. Ruth loaned us her flat (which was lovely) and Ceri chauffeured us around and played tour guide quite well. We had lovely walks in the Welsh countryside and dinners out.

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These virtual chats do lift my spirit. We need to do more of them. It is about time to catch up again with Christy and Ryan and our cousins Michael and Bev.

Stay well and stay safe. Connect with the ones you love and miss. Fill your heart with glad things as we plow headlong along this unpaved and unmarked pandemic road.

7 Weeks and 2 shirts

So week seven of working at home closes. How many more? 50? Sigh…

Tonight I wonder if I can do it. If I can make it through to the end of all of this in all of its aspects: health, social, financial, political. Tonight is a down night. I look around and I see things that need to be done or threats – boxes that need to be unpacked and groceries that need to be sanitized. I was looking for a small Apple charger and every drawer I opened I thought, “I should really clean this out.”

Brain – that is not really the help I need right now.

It didn’t help that I looked at a work email from the President of UW that was talking about the unknown financial impacts to the University. They are big – what ever they are. I had just come in from planting some new native plants out back and I was feeling pretty good. I needed to get on my computer for a minute to look at the list of native plants that I’m thinking of ordering when I saw the email. I really shouldn’t have read it. Once again, brain – not really the help I need right now.

I also noticed that I have bleach marks on two of my shirts. I’m sure that this is from disinfecting everything that comes in to the house. So now I have a new thing to add the protection procedures – change into old clothes first.

I find myself looking for solace in aphorisms and Winnie the Pooh. There are so many news stories about – “What is the worst thing that could happen” like what if next Fall/Winter’s influenza season is also awful at the same time COVID-19 Part 2 hits the box office. The What Ifs are not really the help I need right now.

Someday, in a week or so, Ena will be off her crutches and more able to help I hope. That’s a positive thing to look forward too. She hasn’t had another angina attack since the one right after her surgery (4 weeks ago). That’s another good thing to think about. Spring is springing in a big way now.

As for the What Ifs that run through my brain? I look to Pooh’s and Piglet.

Stay well. I’m pulling for you. We will get through together.

I think of August

I have good days and bad days during all this CoViD19 stuff. Today was a more bad than good day. We had Pacific Northwest rain all day – gray and continuous. Unlike Midwest storms, these storms come from low woolen clouds that drizzle all day long. We probably got ½ inch of rain all day. Maybe more. The Midwest storms could dump an inch and a half in 30 minutes – 3 inches in a morning. Dark and brooding with flashing lightening and roaring thunder. Dumping and dark – so dark that street lights come on midday. But I digress again.

I feel like I oscillate between being a bit manic about everything that needs to get done efficiently to run the house, take care of Ena, and do work and depression that haunts the back of mind over the dark impact of this pandemic on life, business, restaurants, people and our society. Today was darker. It helps if I can escape into work but today I worked on “what it means to come back to work”. I’m helping leadership think about all the things that must be thought about when people return to work… whenever that happens… however that happens… and whatever that means.

When things get dark mentally, I think of August. Bright Summer. It might not be this August but next August – 2021 or maybe even 2022 – when we will gather with friends in the back yard on a lovely Summer evening, the smell of the BBQ will be rich in the air. We will have wine or Blanc d’Blanc. We will talk. CoViD19 won’t be the only topic. When we discuss it, CoViD19 will be in the past tense. Mostly, we will breathe warm summer’s night air and listen to birdsong and discuss food and drinks and hopes and dreams and travel and other things.

I think of that August to come. The one where things are back to a new normal and all of this is a thing that happened that one year. “Wasn’t it crazy!?”, we will say. “I’m so glad it is behind us”, we will all sigh.

I think of August.

Stay well.

Rain, Mighty Mouse and This Life

We had rain Saturday morning. It was a welcome rain. It gave you a comforting reason to stay in and clean the house and bake. It also washed some of the pollen down out of the sky leaving yellow-rimmed puddles and boarders around splashes. I cleaned the house and did laundry. I’m glad that Mom taught me to do these things and do them well and efficiently. I think a lot of people don’t understand that cleaning the house is a skill. That there are best-practices and efficiencies to be had in doing it well and thoughtfully. There is pleasure and looking around at a clean house afterwards too. Simple things in these crazy times.

Wood deck with pollen puddles

Ena continues her recovery. She is still on crutches though we go to the doctor today to see if / when she can start to transition off. I have started to sing the Mighty Mouse theme when I hear the ka-clonk ka-clonk of her crutching her way down the hall or up stairs. “Here she comes to save the day! That means that Mighty Mouse is on her way.” It is good to have a theme song for your recovery.

Finally, I was digging in a drawer looking for my ruler when I came across a Target Therapeutics luggage tag. I worked at Target in 1991 to 1995 (or something like that). Target was a young startup – I think I was the 25th employee. We were in a borrowed space inside of Advanced Cardiovascular Systems in Mountain View, CA (Target had spun out of ACS). There was lots of fun at work. Travel back then was easy. You had paper tickets and you could pretty much go straight out to the gate. There was real silverware on the flight to eat your food with.

Seeing the Target luggage tag seemed like looking back into a different life completely. It is hard to imagine the thread of events between then and now that make this life a complete narrative. I can. I can walk through all of my life’s events and connect the dots. It is just that right now, in so many ways, seems so disjointed from those youthful days that it is hard to believe they are both my own.

Stay well and grounded. Enjoy the simple things. Keep washing your hands.