Sunday, March 15, 2020

Caution or Panic?

Well, friends, I haven't blogged in over a year. It's not surprising really, since I have a hard time stopping to take pictures, let alone spend time blogging.

But something huge is happening now. The Coronavirus is here. It's probably been here for longer than we realize, silently spreading through our communities without our knowledge because many people (especially children) may have it without symptoms and others may have mild symptoms. Up until recently, in order for a person to be tested for COVID 19, they had to be tested for a number of other viruses (e.g. the flu), have those tests come back negative and then they could be tested for COVID-19, if there were tests available. Combine that with very limited testing in our country, and there is no way to know for sure how many cases we actually have. I don't claim to be up-to-date on all the latest information, and I don't plan to link any articles at the bottom of this post (perhaps another one). But what I thought I would share with you is now this all feels to me as the wife of a Emergency Department physician. Because my husband will be on the front lines. He will be one of the many healthcare providers who sees those sick patients and will intubate them when necessary. He will be exposed over and over and over again. And through him, my children and I will be exposed. For me, it's not "if" we get COVID-19. It's "when".

First off, I'm trying to remain calm, I'm trying to not spend too much time on facebook or watching the news. I'm trying to spend just enough time to be informed without giving in to fear and panic. I am a believer in Jesus, and I believe the message that God gives us a spirit of power, love and sound mind, not one of fear. So I don't want to live out of fear, but out of a sound mind.

A month or so ago, one of my husband's colleagues started sharing information about the Coronavirus in China. She was paying attention to the numbers- numbers of sick people, numbers needing ICU care, and seeing that their health system was overwhelmed. Not only that, she was noticing that if we have an outbreak here, with the same percentages of acutely sick people, then we also don't have the medical and personnel resources to handle such a spike in sick people who need to be hospitalized. I had heard of it briefly before she began posting. But once she began posting, I made it a point to read all she shared. If she was concerned, then I figured it was worth paying attention to.

Since then, there's been an outbreak in Italy which has lead to their health system being overwhelmed and the country is on lockdown. If you look at the page Johns Hopkins has showing updates of where there are (confirmed) cases worldwide, it keeps growing.

So, what have I been doing? Well, when my husband's colleague started posting, I decided it was time to tackle a project I had been wanting to work on - restocking our food storage pantry. I like to keep a "deep pantry", as I've heard it called. I freeze and can fruit and vegetables in the summer when it's in season, and my husband hunts. So we already have a good supply of those items, but our dry goods were getting low and I figured it was a good time to start shopping to resupply them. I read about people needing to be quarantined for multiple weeks, and I figured, chances are that will be us and one point or another. So about 3 weeks ago, I started stocking up. I didn't tell anyone because I felt kind of silly, but I also felt like I needed to do it. I don't like to procrastinate and I didn't want to be part of a crowd rushing to the store, if a rush ever happened.

I bought over the counter medicines, toilet paper (not huge amounts, just what I normally would get), hand sanitizer and whatever dry goods items we were low on, plus extra so if we bake more in these coming weeks, we'll have enough. In my mind, I figured we would find ourselves in a position where we needed to stay home completely, and so I needed to prepare for that. Our parents and siblings live about 1.5 hours away, so if we are quarantined, then they can't really help out so much. Plus, since older adults are at greater risk, it's not like I want them near us if we do get sick. I also made sure to purchase food items that my almost 10 year old and 8 year old can make in the event that I am too sick to cook and my husband is too busy working extra hours at the hospital.

So each week I bought extra of what I needed, just in case. And I'm thankful I did. This week, I did the last of my extra (and regular) shopping before the news broke that we had 3 positive cases in Delaware. So aside from one long line at BJs on Thursday morning, I was able to be prepared, while not feeling stressed about having enough supplies. I even went to a local garden supply store and bought seed packets, so that I can start gardening. And if things progress and we are on a lockdown, I can still have vegetables to grow. And gardening is like therapy for me.

But the anxiety set in Thursday, because now it really does feel as though, without extreme steps, we will experience what Italy is experiencing. I felt a surge of relief when I got the news that schools were closing for at least two weeks and that a lot of other places were closing. I was scheduled to substitute in my daughter's class this week, and all I could think was "what if we've already been exposed, don't know it, and my kids pass it on to their schoolmates and we infect this whole community?" Maybe that sounds crazy, but it's exactly what my thoughts were.

We had a small family get together scheduled for today, and my children and I stayed home. I felt bad about it, but also felt very, very strongly that we needed to. Ballet was cancelled for my daughter, we didn't go to church (or Meeting, as it's called in the Quaker world, and we attend a Quaker Meeting) this morning, and I have no plans to take my children anywhere other than outside in the upcoming weeks. I canceled a non-urgent doctor's visit I had for Friday afternoon. I will still need to go to the grocery store for a couple items eventually, our car's oil may need changed, and I do hope to get to the garden supply store again at some point. But my hair appointments, trips to the thrift store, eating out, gatherings with friends, and any other things like that will have to wait. Because we are at higher risk for exposure.

We've upped our sanitation at home too this past week. My husband ordered his first COVID-19 test for a patient one week ago. It was a little over 24 hours until he got the results back (negative), but after that he started removing his shoes immediately once home, changed out of his work clothes immediately (he used to wear them around the house, which I liked to think strengthened our immune systems), and took them straight to the laundry and then showered. We use clorox or lysol wipes to clean off his phone, charger, badge, key and anything else he would have handled. And of course there is a lot more hand washing. And I have to admit, I'm pretty sure I didn't wash my hands for 20 seconds each time. We're more vigilant with our children about washing hands correctly as well. I am wiping off my phone, our ipad and other surfaces more frequently as well. I rarely do this normally, but this is not a normal illness, so...

And honestly, I'm not really worried about my children getting sick, or myself. I'm worried that we might spread it to some one whose body can't handle it. But I am much more worried about my husband being overworked, getting sick and not being able to take time off to recover. When I hear stories from China and Italy about the physicians there who have died from this, then I have to work really hard to push down the fear. If he had a job where he could work from home, I don't think I'd feel too worried, honestly. But his job is to take care of sick people and try to keep them from dying. There is no staying home for him. And no avoiding people with COVID-19. And chances are good that he'll be working more hours than usual in the up-coming weeks, if we keep following the same trajectory as Italy.

This feels long. I have a journal that I've kept for over two decades and have told myself I need to sit and write about this. Writing helps me release stress. But after a conversation in a facebook group (where I've seen posts by people living through the lockdown in Italy and heard from the spouses of other Emergency room physicians), I decided I might as well write here, and share how I'm feeling. This isn't something I tend to do with social media because I like to keep my private thoughts private. But maybe it will be helpful for others out there who don't have a family member in healthcare to hear how things are for some one who does.

My final thoughts for today: please, please, please limit your physical social interactions right now. If we can be extra cautious right now, maybe we can #flattenthecurve and not overwhelm our health system. That way when you or some one you love needs an emergency appendectomy, cancer treatment, is in a car accident, has a stroke, heart attack, a broken bone, or is having a baby, and so on, there will be room at the hospital and non-overworked care providers to take care of them.

Monday, January 14, 2019

January is for Projects

I don't know about anyone else, but I was excited for the holidays to be over and for it to be January. I love January. The promise of snow seems more real (and yay! we got some yesterday), the hustle and bustle leading up to Christmas and New Year's is past, and I can dive into projects while the kids head back to school.

I love cold, wintry weather. Hot tea, hot chocolate, baking sticky buns and bread...all these things bring me joy. I love taking a break from outside work and focusing on indoor projects instead. So here are a few of the most recent ones.

1. The basement...see the previous post for those details
2. Rugs!! It's been a long time since I've made any rugs, but I wanted to make some for in front of the washer and dryer once that area was painted. I wasn't feeling up to braiding rugs for that space, so I decided to try and crochet with thin strips of wool. I cut the strips about an inch wide, and just knotted them together when I got to the end of one and needed to add the next strip. I used a very large crochet hook, and it worked really well. They aren't fancy rugs, but they are colorful, very soft to walk on, quick to make and a great way to use up scrap fabric. I made a second one, but gave that to a friend as a gift. I finished both of these before the holidays.

While sorting through wool to use in the crocheted rugs, I came across the very beginning of a braided rug. You can see it hanging from a rug clamp in the picture above. I also organized and took stock of my wool fabric, and decided I did feel like braiding a rug after all! This one is now almost done. I'll finish the current round, taper it off and then complete the rug with one butted round.

3. Table runner. This last project was not made by me, but by my mother in law. She is an expert seamstress and quilter. I was given some vintage fabric the other year and thought this might be a good use for it. I'm quite happy with it.

Basement Update

For those of you on the edge of your seat, wondering how my basement painting progress is going...

This is definitely an all-year project. I have about half of the basement painted by now.

Today's portion, Before:


Before I paint, I scrape the walls to get any loose paint off, I vacuum it up with the shopvac and vacuum with a HEPA filter and then I wash the walls with a scrub brush and soapy water. It is a lot of prep work, but seems necessary on these old walls. This has one coat of white. I'll give it one more tomorrow and then paint the green pipe dark gray. (I follow the same routine for the floor, except I wash first, then scrape.) 

The laundry area, before


Toilet stall:

(Yes, I do want to hang artwork in our basement toilet stall...)

Remaining corner of the basement to be painted. So much 
cleaning out needs to happen before I can paint, and then I plan to really organize the basement.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

Basement Walls

I love how paint transforms a space. Every room in our home is painted except for - you got it - the basement. It has been decades, I am guessing, since it’s seen fresh paint, so I am very excited to freshen up this space. Every time I am down there to exercise or do the laundry, I think about how grungy it looks. Now that the kids are in school, I have time to devote to it.

I have a long way to go until the basement is done, but I love, love, love the fresh clean look of the walls and pipes so far. It also hasn't been as terrible as I thought. I had to scrape some sections where old paint was peeling off, but I kept the shop vac handy and got rid of that dirt in no time. Then I took a scrub brush and washed down the walls with slightly soapy water in order to get rid of as much dirt as possible before painting. Let me tell you, this basement is dirty!

I plan to paint the basement using what I call the "Edie Method." This means I do this project in increments all the while continuing to mostly keep up with other work around the house. I remember my mom repainting the basement while I was younger, and she recently finished painting it again, fitting in her painting before or after her day job. If I really want to follow her example, however, I need to wake up early in the morning, paint for about an hour, and then get ready for my regular day. (Please ignore the clutter - that will be a whole other project.)






Third Floor Finale - Finally!

The room has been done (minus a final coat of paint for the railing and stair risers, but that may just wait for a few more years) for quite a while but I finally got around to taking some "after" pictures. I didn't do much cleaning up, so you can see some of my daughter's toys as well as the ever-growing piles of medical journals and publications on a shelf.

The kids really wanted this as a playroom, but we weren't willing to designate a whole room to toys and kids' items. My husband has a desk and computer in the room, we have a futon so it can be extra guest space and I've been placing small bookshelves around the room and slowly unpacking (3 years later!) the books we've had in boxes since moving here. It is a great room to escape to on a quiet afternoon for a nap or space for a child who wants some alone time.

Just as a reference point, here is the previous post showing some before and during pictures.



(FYI, I think this picture is a better representation of how the wall color looks )

The view at the top of the stairs:  Before


Roman Shades...I posted briefly about them here. They work, and they are even!
 I always hold my breath a bit when making two of something like this because they need to
 match and be the exact same length or they look sloppy. I have to tap into my almost 
non-existent type A self when sewing roman shades.

We have two dormers on the third floor, and while I could have made Roman shades for these, 
they face the west, are closed more often when upstairs, and so a simple drape is much 
easier to sew and use. I basically only had enough discipline to make two Roman shades.

Storage! We had two additional storage areas built into this room, and I'm glad we did. There was originally an area in the middle of the one side that had doors leading to storage and we knew we would want more. Plus, there was room under the eaves. The basement is too damp to really be a good storage space for certain things, so these spaces serve as our attic. You can see some of the other doors in a few of the pictures above. On one side there are 4 doors - those are all storage areas. On the facing wall there is just one door, and that is where the air-handler for our AC unit is.

Friday, September 7, 2018

People I Love

Most days being a mother to young children wears me out. Two things help me remember how much I love these young people in my life: watching them sleep and looking at pictures of them. Oh, how I love them!


It is pouring outside as I write this. Everyone else in the house is asleep, so I am savoring the sound of the rain, even though I know there are places not too far away who are weary of all the rain (and flooding) they've been getting recently.

I've been taking care of some non-human critters these past few months, and so far, have kept them alive. Want to see what I mean?

First up are the red wrigglers. For years we talked about getting some worms to compost our produce scraps. Finally, late last winter (I think?), we bought 1000 of them and got started. They eat any bits of produce that we don't eat. Think peels, skins, etc. They don't compost meat or dairy, unless we want it to stink. But they happily consume, and turn into compost, our produce scraps. Can you see them? The little pinkish bits in there?

I think we are now on our 3rd batch of compost (maybe 4th?). The worms are still alive and working hard, so I feel pretty proud of myself for maintaining this. Growing up, we just threw all our food compost into the garden that was far from the house. But living in a city - where rats are not too far away - exposed compost is not a good idea. So this is what we do instead. Why throw this into the trash where it will do no good, when we can have it enrich our soil instead? Such things make me feel like I am doing something right in the world.

When researching composting bins I read and watched videos about how to make your own, but in the end decided to go with a bin made for composting. It's been worth it. We had planned to keep the bin in the basement, but it looks nice enough that we've kept it in the kitchen - which is much more practical anyway. It is designed so we can add numerous levels, we can easily drain "worm pee" if it builds up and the pieces are easy to empty and clean when it is time to use the compost and start a new composting area.

I add shredded paper as dry matter to compost and absorb liquid.

Some nice looking compost. This is compost from coconut coir (it came with the bin), shredded paper and produce scraps. It was really wet so I added more paper while the worms were finishing their composting work. I no longer added fresh produce scraps to this one, but started a new section and gradually the worms migrate to the new food source once they have composted the food here.

Bottom drainage area. I clean it out every so often and put worms back in the food composting area.

Handy dandy paper shredder. Not only do we shred documents with information that we don't feel comfortable putting in our recycling, now they become part of the compost.

The drain at the bottom can be closed or open. Here I have it open and this small bowl is collecting the worm pee.

The composter's  place in our kitchen. More than one person has thought it's a stool and been surprised when we lift the lid and they see a wriggling mass of worms.