Category Archives: Health

Woman with wind-blown hair standing on beach near sea gulls

Coronavirus: How to Keep Yourself and Others Well

I could be your sister, mother, friend, wife, neighbor, or stranger. As I stand on the beach, I look absolutely healthy. You’d never know my heart and lungs are fragile and my immune system compromised. Multitudes of people who look equally healthy are also at grave risk from the coronavirus. We live, work, play, party, and volunteer among you. If we are going to survive the coronavirus, we need everyone to take it seriously.

The coronavirus doesn’t care about party affiliations or Presidential preferences. It doesn’t honor national or state borders. It latches onto hosts regardless of wealth, age, gender, or race. Even if it doesn’t make you ill or kill you, it let’s you carry to others like a bee carries pollen from one flower to another. It doesn’t care whether you take it seriously, think it’s ordinary, or consider it a hoax. It’s coming to your neighborhood no matter who you are and what you think of it. Take it seriously. Now.

Our communities need us to be responsible, thoughtful, and kind. This is not the time to try put others at risk by flouting medical and scientific precautions, even if you currently think they’re overblown. Within a mere two weeks of the first two deaths here, the coronavirus went from being invisible in my small community outside Seattle to killing 40 people in their 50’s – 90’s. Scientific modelling shows why we need to change our behavior. The White House, Congress, state governments, and other nations took important actions in recent days. Now it’s time for each of us to do our part.

Here’s some of what we can do.

  • Stay home–stores, bars, restaurants, offices. Don’t even go to private parties with friends. I know that sounds draconian but we can pass along the coronavirus for two weeks before we even have symptoms. Each person we infect will unwittingly infect others. Recognize our responsibility to others beyond ourselves and act accordingly.
  • “Think of yourself as one transmission away from being in the same room with someone who is high risk,” says Dr. Steven Pergam, infectious disease specialist at Seattle’s Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. Consider ourselves part of a mass community shield for the elderly and others who may have less ability to fight off the virus.
  • Check on elderly neighbors and family. If they’re wise, they’re already in self-quarantine. They’d love phone contact with outside people, particularly friends and family. If you’re not an at-risk person (I am), offer to shop for them, pick up prescriptions, or get their mail. If they accept, leave what you get them at the door so you don’t inadvertently carry the coronavirus inside their home.
  • Don’t hoard toilet paper, hand sanitizer, or food. Buy what we will reasonably use in 14 days and leave the rest for others. Remember, we’re in this together.
  • Be kind. Tell the people in our life that we appreciate them–co-workers, clerks, employees. Tell our family and friends often that we love them. This is a time to remember that we “do not know what the day will bring forth” and that some of the people we care about may not be accessible to us very soon. Stay in touch. Many parts of life have been cancelled. Love has not.
  • Pay particular attention to the people and world around us: notice clouds, trees, spring flowers, smile lines, the flavors of a meal, a small hand in ours, laughter across a board game, raindrops running down a window. Use this crisis to notice how precious and extraordinary life is.

Every human being is connected to the human race from before our birth. Our belly buttons remind us that we did not come into this world on our own. We are part of a larger community that is both gift and responsibility. We honor or desecrate that holy connection by our choices in this crisis either honor or desecrate that sacred relationship. Please choose prayerfully and wisely. All of us are depending it.

My front porch with dog looking out the window and rocking chair

Coronavirus Self-Quarantine: How to Stay Sane

Hello from the U.S. epicenter of the coronavirus: Bothell/Kirkland/Seattle. While many people here are working 24/7 to deal with the unfolding consequences of the coronavirus, life has slowed to a crawl for those of us under self-quarantine. As someone “at high risk,” I have been under self-quarantine for six days and already have cabin fever.

In just the first week, Washington State has recorded 19 deaths from coronavirus, schools serving nearly 30,000 are closed, universities have moved classes on-line, county executives have directed everyone who can do so to work from home, businesses are laying off employees for lack of work, and the coronavirus virus is popping up in new communities every day. Friday afternoon rush hour in Seattle looked like 9:00 A.M. on a Saturday instead.

As the U.S. epicenter for coronavirus, we’re a few days ahead of the rest of the country in developing a community-wide response. Here’s some of what we’ve learned so far about dealing with the coronavirus.

Healthy people who come into contact with the virus can shed it as they go about their day–shaking hands and touching tabletops, keyboards, and card readers. They probably don’t know they are carriers of the virus. This is how it is spreading so quickly in communities and around the world. It is also why people at high risk of dying from the coronavirus must self-quarantine and people around them must be extra careful.

If you can’t find a hand-sanitizer to buy, make your own with these recipes. Keep hand sanitizers in your vehicle, handbag, and pack, Use them at the grocery, every time you use a keypad, pump gas, or exchange currency. Don’t shake hands or fist bump. Elbow bumping is safer. Open doors with your elbow or hip, if possible.

Work from home if you can. Get ready for quarantine–either mandated or self-quarantine. See below for tips.

People at higher risk of severe illness must stay home completely because the health consequences for us are severe. If you’re in a high risk group, the virus is hard to treat and deadly. Do not go into public spaces or touch surfaces that members of the public may have touched. Stay away from places with lots of people and large gatherings where there will be close contact with others, including concert venues, conventions, sporting events, religious services, and crowded social gatherings.

People at higher risk include Those:

  • Over 60 years of age
  • With underlying health conditions including include heart disease, lung disease, or diabetes
  • With weakened immune systems
  • Who are pregnant

Caregivers of children with underlying health conditions should consult with healthcare providers about whether their children should stay home. Anyone who has questions about whether their condition puts them at risk for novel coronavirus should consult with their healthcare providers.

If family members or close friends are at high-risk, read this article about steps you can take to keep them safe.

Where to Find Information

Read updates and follow the recommendations of public health officials, doctors, and scientists such as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) and local and state officials. Many of President Donald Trump’s current comments about the coronavirus are misleading, untrustworthy, and even untrue. This is not a matter of whether one likes the President or not, it is a matter of keeping yourself, loved ones, and your community safe. As one on the ground at the epicenter, I have found the following sources accurate and trustworthy regarding the coronavirus: the Washington Post, the New York Times, the Seattle Times, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, King County Public Health and Snohomish County Public Health.

How To Stay Healthy and Sane During Self-Quarantine

Stay calm. There is no need to panic. Check coronavirus updates no more than hourly for peace of mind. Think of what you can control and then do it. Here are some possibilities.

Soap on soap dish1. Wash your hands often with soap and water for 20 seconds. Time yourself by counting to 20 slowly, sing the Happy Birthday song twice, or the Alphabet Song once. Have other members of your household do so, as well. Use a hand sanitizer when soap and water are unavailable.

2. Clean all surfaces that people may have touched or where they may have rested their hands, Clean them frequently in case the virus migrated there from a purse, toys, keys, or grocery bags.

3. Make sure you have 14 days of food available. Stock up on frozen vegetables and non-perishable foods. Buy snacks. See here for what to stock in your pantry for quarantine.

4. Buy enough pet food for 14 days. If you have dogs, get extra bones and treats to help manage their cabin fever and yours.

5. Make soups, stews, and pasta sauces. Freeze them in quart-sized containers.

6. Design a walking route inside your house and walk it several times each day. Or walk outside without touching anything that anyone else might touch. Do a few lunges, squats, and donkey kicks every day. Do stretching exercises. Movement counteracts depression and keeps the body limber.

7. Do projects for which you don’t have to go to the store. Clean the garage, spice cupboard or pantry. Sort through a closet or throw away old magazines. Do a woodworking or craft project you’ve put off. Detail your car. You’ll feel productive during the quarantine and pleased about what you accomplished.

8. Stream movies and T.V. shows. If you don’t have Netflix, Amazon Prime, or Hulu, you can get a 7-day free trial and cancel it at the end of the week. Try watching Cheers on Netflix and Hunters on Amazon for laughs and tension, respectively.

9. Get a library card and borrow e-books from home. Libraries have their catalogs available online. Read Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens and News of the World by Paulette Giles to be transported to a different world.

Flower garden in bloom10. Work in your yard or garden.  Fresh air, trees, sunshine, and gardening help create calm and relieve depression.

11. Watch online classes on Bluprint (formerly Craftsy) or YouTube. Blueprint has low-cost cooking, decorating, sewing, woodworking, gardening, knitting, and exercise classes taught by well-known instructors. After foot surgery last year, I passed many an hour learning how to use a table saw, refine my sewing techniques, bake flaky pie crusts and make awesome pizza.

12. Call friends and family to stay in touch. Call people who are under self-quarantine. Skype and FaceTime for face-to-face contact. Go for a drive but don’t get out of your car.

If you are high risk, don’t go out in public, ever, until the coronavirus until you have medical clearance. Thinking you won’t be infected or infect anyone else if you do it just once is like thinking you can have sex once without protection and not get pregnant. You might get lucky, but you might not. Don’t risk it. Ever.

Stay safe. Stay well. Stay sane.

Knitted shawl with cable and garter stitches

Knit. Rip. Walk. Ice. Repeat.

While I was laid-up last winter with a broken foot, I decided I’d learn to knit.  I streamed knitting classes online and practiced stitches for weeks.  When I got bored with knitting, I’d change to woodworking and sewing videos, then go back to knitting.  After more attempts than I can count, I finally made a hat good enough to wear in public—as long as no one looks too closely. 

Onward!  When I could drive again, I took a short class at a local yarn shop https://www.allwoundupyarnshop.com/ to make a shawl.  In this class, everyone makes the same shawl pattern with the instructor teaching the new stitches, helping us fix mistakes, and encouraging us when we want to give up.  It seemed a good way to take the next step. https://newwayopening.com/2017/11/08/whack-a-mole/

The shawl we were making has two sections. The first is cable stitches—a new skill–and the second is simple knitting.  Surely, I could do this.  People all over the world knit, so how hard can it be? 

That’s like saying people all over the world keep going in tough times.  Or, people all over the world have setbacks but keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Or, people all over the world fall but keep getting up and trying again.  How hard can it be if so many people do it?

Having tried both knitting, and getting up after setback in life, I can tell you:  both are harder than they look.  Really hard.  Frustrating.    The biggest difference between them is that one is a non-essential skill for most of us, and the other is life.

I’m still deciding if learning to knit as a way to push through a major setback was a good idea or not.  The shawl isn’t finished, nor is the comeback.  On each, I go backward so often that I wonder if it’s worth the effort.

Here’s what I mean: I began the shawl at home before the class, but I couldn’t get past the first few inches. I kept ripping it out and starting over.  Even with the instructor’s help, I must have started over at least 1400 times.  Just last night, I ripped out a dozen rows again.  Note to self:  Don’t try to knit in the dim light while watching a movie.

Likewise, the last few years have had what seems like at least 1400 life setbacks, as well. https://newwayopening.com/2018/03/05/my-heart-failure-returned/ I keep pushing through, putting one foot in front of the other, but it sure feels like my knitting experiment:  slow.  I started physical therapy for my foot and ankle and have made good progress. But if I stood too long or didn’t elevate my foot enough, or bent it too much or walked too far, I had to elevate and ice my foot and ankle again for hours. 

For months, I walked and iced, knitted and ripped, walked and iced.

My knitting teacher fixed my mistakes a few times and said, “You can do it.  It’s hard, but you’ll get it.” My doctor said my foot was healing well.  “Keep up the good work. You can do it.” 

Then, I took a class on how to fix mistakes without ripping out endless rows of knitting.  I felt so empowered and hopeful that I almost cried. I straightened my spine and kept knitting. 

On a warm March day, I raked winter debris off my flower gardens.  Granted, I had to elevate and ice my foot for an entire day afterward, but I’d worked in my garden without permanent damage.  Last week, I was finally able to walk around my block.  I’ve gone back to my fitness class.  Sweet.

My shawl is now two-thirds finished.  People who’ve seen it seem genuinely impressed, as I am.  Cool.  I’m almost daring to hope.

Last week, I hiked a short distance on a fire road in the mountains of Eastern Washington and walked on rocks beside a stream.  I couldn’t have done that a month ago. The smell of cedars in mountain air mingled with the sound of birds singing and our dogs splashing in the creek.  If there’s a heaven, I think I was there.  I’m almost daring to hope.

Knitting well isn’t easy, as people all over the world know.  Nor is it easy to keep getting up when life knocks us down.  Yesterday, I chose yarn for my next project and signed up to volunteer in a food bank. Knit and rip.  Walk and ice.  I dare to hope. 

*If you find something helpful here, please pass it along to others and subscribe to my blog. Thanks for reading.