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Saturday, January 23, 2021

Inauguration day

On the morning of January 20, 2021 (Inauguration Day) I woke up still feeling apprehensive about my nation's future. Would the current president (Trump) do something to thwart what has always been a peaceful transfer of power? Would someone else step in to right a perceived wrong? 

Knowing I would have the attention span of a gnat that day, I took the day off. When I woke up I made my FB status:

The thing is, I wanted him to succeed. I wanted him to rise up to the challenge of being POTUS. I wanted him to realize life is more than about himself. He couldn’t do it. I am thrilled we are starting a new era. A year ago I would not have chosen Joe as my President. This is a different world than only a year ago. Joe has plans—something Trump never shared. Joe has compassion—something Trump never showed. Joe has a track record for working across the aisle—something Trump was not willing to do. I’m sure I’ll find things to disagree with, but it won’t be nearly as much. We made it to the finish line. Celebrate today, and work hard tomorrow.
Dawn Koetting, Melissa Clark and 89 others
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My thoughts clearly resonated with many of my FB friends and family. Trump's failure meant our nation would have failed. Who in their right mind would want that?

I waited with bated breath as the former presidents, and Vice President Mike Pence entered the stage. I listened to Lady Gaga sing the National Anthem, and Amanda Gorman speak. I watched Kamala Harris become our new Vice President. And cheered. Still I was holding my breath as Joe Biden took his oath with 11 minutes left in Trump's presidency -- a breath I didn't release until after noon when it was clear there was nothing Trump could legally do as president.

It has been less than a week. Some are saying Biden is a horrible president, but many more in my world are starting to relax and accept the the new reality. We have a president who press secretary holds press conferences, who is working hard to undo what #45 did. It won't be easy. It won't be quick. But we are on a path I agree with and I can believe in again.

Saturday, January 16, 2021

Ten Months into the Pandemic

 Ten months into the pandemic and people are rounding up to "it has almost been a year." If only there was a true end in sight.

One month into vaccination distribution and 0.4% of New Jerseyans have been vaccinated. At that rate, it will take 199 more months for everyone to be vaccinated. Even if we say only 70% want the vaccine, that is still 139 more months -- well over 10 years. 

Yes, J&J's one dose vaccine is expected to be approved by the end of this month, so the process should speed up somewhat. To all those saying they won't take the vaccine, I say sit down and stay out of the way of those wanting it.

As for "normal" life. It seems most people around here wear masks, yet the numbers keep climbing. A friend who always wears a mask and had no symptoms went for a test because a co-worker tested positive. Yup, she was positive. Her husband, though, was negative. It is such and annoyingly frustrating disease as you carry the disease that makes someone else very ill, but you feel fine. If you test negative today, you might still have the disease. 

Great. Ugh.

Day to day life is in a strange place. We can't move forward with returning to theater and sporting events until we control the disease, but there is no leadership guiding us on a national level as to how to control the diseaase.

Thankfully the inauguration of Joe Biden is less than four days away. He has plans. It won't solve everything, but hopefully we can start to have a united plan for distributing vaccines, and a united plan for moving forward. Joe is being handed (handed might prove to be too gentle of a word) a country that is far different from the one he served only four years ago. I hope he is up for the challenge. I am encouraged that he is creating a strong team behind him, and that Georgia swung Blue giving him a small lead in both the House and Senate. He'll need that edge.

Meanwhile we wait for the next Trumpian shoe to drop.

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Enough already

Listening to Congress talk about voting to impeach Trump we are nowhere near healing as a nation. 

Paraphrasing here. 
D: It is obvious he incited domestic terrorists. 
R: There is nothing in his speech. 
D: I have no doubt he incited people. 
R: What about last year when other places were having riots that the Democrats started? 
D: Of course he did it. 
R: This sets an incredible precedent if you impeach him this quickly. 
D: I voted to impeach him a year ago, and I vote to do it again today. 

etc. etc. etc. 

Let's just save time and stick with yes or no. Nothing anyone says will change anyone's opinion. Two wrongs will never make a right. If he didn't say anything in his speech to start the riot, he also did not say anything immediately to stop it. He has yet to concede the election. He has yet to say what the rioters did was wrong and illegal. 

We are one messed up country.

Sunday, January 3, 2021

Ratatousical or Ratatouille the Musical

We have already seen our first show of 2021 -- Ratatouille the Musical: a TikTok Sensation.

In August 2020 a 26-year old school teacher created a TikTok video(?) for a pretend musical based on Pixar's Ratatoille. Over a few months, other bored theater fans added to the show -- wrote songs, created choreography, sets, dream casting, music, etc. A few months later Playbill decided to turn it into a virtual show and charge fans $5 for a 72-hour pass to watch it online. The money went to The Actor's Fund to help out of work theater people pay their bills, a cause that hit the heart of its star, Broadway sensation Tituss Burgess.

This all started as a joke and became something not only real, but huge.

As of their debut on January 1st, 80,000 people bought access to the show. The next day the numbers were over 160,000. More than $1,000,000 has been raised. 

Not only that, but the rules for creating shows and getting them on stage have changed. Instead of taking years, these TikTokers showed in a few months they can go from "page to stage."

The show even had a pre-show red carpet experience where people involved with the production shared their feelings and process.


A few images from the show.





Here are a couple of articles about it that explain the phenomenon better than I can.

BuzzFeed: great background story

Playbill

If you've seen the Pixar movie by the same name, you might recall the theme is "Anyone can be a great chef." This musical shows "Anyone can create great art."

2020 in Review

What a year! It was not at all like I hoped and dreamed it would be. When at the end of the year the best you can say is "I didn't die. No one close to me died. I did not contract a deadly virus." that's not much of a year. 

I wanted the year to be about Ashley's senior year of high school and had been able to take pictures of her with her friends celebrating. Instead there are a lot of pictures of her alone, and pictures of her friends on computer screens. At the time we thought her class would be the only one to live a virtual life, but the current seniors are now going through it. 

I am grateful Ashley was able to live on campus at Muhlenberg and made some awesome new friends. I wish I could have met them. We had planned when we visited to take a friend with us to dinner, but with Coronavirus no one wants to take masks off in front of strangers.

I will always feel I was robbed of seeing her gather with her friends to take prom pictures. Of hearing her talk about giving her senior speech after the final musical performance. I'll never see her yearbook signatures because they'll never gather to sign their yearbooks. Basically, because as she was robbed of these experiences, I was robbed of hearing about them.

I am grateful Ashley was able to strike the set from the musical two days before she left for college, and that she was able to do so with her closest friends and faculty members. She got to sign the podium -- a tradition she thought she lost.

The year in pictures.

January: started the year with the Resolution Run, a 5K to raise money for Hillsborough's senior class. Col. Hand marched through Lawrenceville stopping to study The Bridge Academy's signs.



February: With Ashley now driving, I was starting to feel some independence. I went into NYC to see a friend's show, saw an exhibit on mid-century life in New Jersey, and drove nearly an hour for a pickle sandwich. I was enjoying time alone. Don and I toured the Vietnam War Memorial Museum. I was enjoying couple time.


March: As life shut down, we learned to adjust to the "new normal" by facing everyone working/going to school from home, having picnics in the park instead of dining out, going on a Bear Hunt, seeing empty shelves in the grocery stores, and watching people adjust in their own way. Ran what became my last in-person race for the year (Grilled Cheese and Tomato Soup 4-miler). Heard a WWII heroine speak only a few days before the world came to a halt.


April: Easter was online. Shifting the in-person world to online. Shifting from thinking we'd be isolating for two weeks to a month to a couple of months. Still not realizing just how long this would be overpowering us. Still hopeful Ashley would finish her senior year in school.


May: Birthday parades were in full swing. Celebrations were apart. Faux Prom. Only met Ashley's first boyfriend (and prom date) once. Thankfully the weather was wonderful. 



June: Graduation was online. Senior year was over with a whisper. She was able to say good-bye to her favorite art teacher, but not to her other favorite teachers. Not the ending we anticipated. A loss that will always be felt as others are allowed to celebrate in the future. Hair salons reopened as did many other small businesses. May they all survive being forced to close.


July: New Jersey's numbers were doing a lot better, so we were able to have a brief ceremony on the football field. I saw a couple of high school baseball games at Waterfront Park, as well as a couple of movies. I also went to my first car concert to see Southside Johnnie perform.


August: Against all odds, against everything we thought possible, Ashley moves into her dorm room at Muhlenberg and stays there for the next 13 weeks, coming home in time for Thanksgiving. Don and I ate out a few times, which these days seems note worthy. Don bought a new-to-him car as the car we bought when Ashley was a baby died on the drive home from Muhlenberg.


September: Don and I enjoyed walking around New York City and dining at a French restaurant in the Meatpacking District to celebrate my birthday. New York is empty. People are very good about wearing masks, but it is not enough.



October: The month is a blur. We traveled to Ohio to explore moving to Westerville, OH. The trip helped us as I pore over Zillow.com ads. The move won't happen until the world feels more settled and Don lands a job with health insurance in Ohio. For Halloween we walked the Boardwalk rather than handing out candy. Beautiful weather meant we could spend a lot of time outside. The weather has been a huge saving grace during this insane time.



November: Ashley came home from college. My gala was over Zoom and Facebook live. Thanksgiving was over Zoom. Life is over Zoom as COVID numbers soared.



December: Something that seemed unimaginable in March became a reality ... Christmas Eve in our cars and online instead of in person. Empty malls. No in-person singing. I can't remember the last time I was invited to an in-person event of any size. We did travel into NYC, careful to wear our masks at all times (which meant no eating in NYC, no supporting their failing economy).


Now we are in January. Friends have received the first dose of the COVID vaccine. There is hope, but there are also soaring numbers from people who insisted on gathering for the holidays and traveling for vacations. We bought a fire pit with the hopes that we can invite friends over to hang outside with us. The timer feature on our camera is getting a lot of use.



May my 2021 retrospective feel more hopeful. In 16 days we'll have a new President, one who will hopefully enact national laws to unite all Americans in this battle.

I may swap out scenes as I see fit. Come back and check out the progress on this post.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

2021 Resolutions

In the past two months the biggest feelings of hope came from the following three activities:

1) Joe Biden winning the election

2) Friends starting to receive the Coronavirus vaccine

3) 2021 arriving

There is absolutely no logical reason to feel hopeful because the calendar changed to a fresh new year, but I do. As I clinked glasses with Ashley (mine was a mug that said Paris that Ashley gave me a few years ago) I smiled. Not a small smile, but a huge, toothy grin. This year feels filled with fresh possibilities.

I've actually been a little stumped about the goals I want to set for myself for this year. Last year I had one goal I thought would be a slam dunk (become a notary). I was set to follow through with that after the gala in March, but, oh well.

A favorite goal has been to visit a new-to-me city. One that did not happen last year. This year I'd prefer to revisit some favorite places, most notably Paris (hence the mug).

A goal I remember setting (and kept me motivated throughout the year) was to run ten 5ks a month. At the end of the year, I could not find proof I had set the goal. On December 27th I shared I completed that goal. Good thing I didn't also include a goal for running races as I only ran two in-person races, and (I think) three virtual races. The virtual races are harder to keep track of since they all look the same.

Goals:

Health

* Keep working with Adi to bring down my A1C using a combination of holistic and Western medicine.

* Increase my diet to include more carbohydrates and variety. I know I'm stuck in ruts.


Travel

* Take Ashley to Paris this summer while Don is on his cross-country bike ride. Go anyway if he cancels his ride.

* Visit Massachusetts family. 

* Visit Columbus, OH family and friends.


Professionally

* Raise enough money to finish Phase II -- including having a groundbreaking ceremony on finishing construction.

* Become a notary.


Running

* I signed up for two in-person races with RunBUCKS. May they both happen this year.

* Would love to run the 10 mile race: Paris to Versailles, but that would involve a second trip to Paris (quelle horreur). It is one that has been in the back of my mind for a while.


Spiritually

* Keep a Gratuity Journal. (Started last night.)

* Take notes during sermons to help remember the key messages and act on them. (Easy to do with virtual services.)

* Find ways to become involved with church.


Personally

* Form new friendships. Still seeking that "everyday friend" I could send quick texts and emails to. I really want someone who also checks in with me. Most relationships still feel one-sided.

* Go on a Muhlenberg College tour.

* See a production at Muhlenberg.

* Go to a Broadway show -- any Broadway show!

* Make a meaningful difference with Melissa's Brigade -- a local group dedicated to providing comfort packages to people undergoing chemotherapy. I feel this is my way of honoring Carin's life.

* Connect with people in person again.


Long-term:

* Work towards moving to Westerville, OH.

    Declutter each room.

    Decide when to put the house on the market.


For someone who started this message by saying I have no idea what goals I want to set, my fingers had different ideas. 

Happy New Year!

Medical update

I stared to include this as part of my 2020 update post, but it really is too long and too complicated for that.

One of my 2020 goals was to kick diabetes to the curb. While I didn't completely fail at this, but I did learn it was harder than I thought. Nearly six years ago I was diagnosed with diabetes. I controlled my A1C with diet and exercise. This should belongs as a separate post, so I will try to keep it short. A year ago I was seeing a holistic practioner who swore she could cure diabetes with a series of (what I call) potions and visits with her. I was spending $300 a month on these supplements and much more on visiting her when I put on a two-week patch to see how it was going. My A1C went up a full point to its highest level. I quit her practice, and moved onto a traditional Western practice at the University of Pennsylvania. 

It took several months to get an appointment with them. I wanted to start with a blood test. They said that wasn't necessary. By the time I saw them more than six months had passed since my last blood test and we were in the middle of a pandemic. The only good thing about this appointment (and the pandemic) was it took place over telemed. They (the doctor and her student doctor) prescribed Metformin, because it is "the gold standard." I did not feel listened to. They knew very little about me (even though I had faxed them much documentation and a letter in advance).

The third day I took Metformin I woke up with vertigo. I stopped taking it. I wrote to them. All they asked was "what was my blood sugar?" Um, in the middle of the night, the last thing I thought to do was go downstairs to check my sugar when I couldn't even walk a straight line to the bathroom. When I said that, I didn't hear back from them.

Feeling utterly frustrated I didn't know what to do at this point. Western medicine was failing me. Eastern medicine failed me, too. Ideally I wanted a combination of the two, but that didn't seem to exist.

Don then learned about an endocrinologist in Princeton who was Western trained, but also has a strong background in holistic medicine. We talked (again via telemed), and she listened. She really listened. She sent me to do bloodwork (I also sent her the results from the holistic doctor) and studied the results. I put on a fresh two-week meter and she studied those results to see where my spikes happened. She encouraged me to "play" with food to see how my body reacts.. She put me on Januvia. 

Discouragingly, three months later, my A1C was the same as when we started (6.9), but other numbers were better. Plus she kindly reminded me I added more carbs into my diet, and there is room for error. I put the patch on for another two weeks and that showed a 6.1. I return in two weeks for more blood work. Meanwhile she added Nettle and Hibiscus teas for iron, and an herbal supplement for cholesterol. I really love that she is well-versed in both paths and seems to genuinely care about my health.

We'll see what she says later this month.


2021 update: Insurance changed, and not in my favor. My options at the moment are to pay $432 a month, which will go towards my $3,000 deductible, or $300 a month, which will not. I have the best doctor who even returns my texts and calls on a holiday weekend. She will fight with insurance on Monday. If it does not go down in price, she will try another approach. It helps knowing someone is on my team.