Category Archives: health

Be Careful What You Wish For…

woman wearing face mask

Photo by Anna Shvets on Pexels.com

Remember two weeks ago, when I posted about Leap Day, and said that I wished Leap Day was a truly extra day where we didn’t have to go to work and stuff?

Well…be careful what you wish for.

Everything is shutting down due to coronavirus concerns. Churches. Movie theaters. Restaurants. What I mean to say is, we’re all heading into a quarantine. Which may be the closest thing to snagging extra days that we’ve ever experienced.

I’m not really sure how to do a quarantine well. Which may sound weird, since I am literally a writer, so “quarantine life” is not very different from “regular life.” But I’ve always had a tendency to self-isolate to the point of getting depressed. Which means I have to counter that by forcing myself to get out a lot.

So now I’m going way stir crazy. What can I do about it? Here’s what I’ve tried so far:

  1. Yesterday I basically didn’t look at the Internet once, except to post an Instagram story. That was super helpful, because I can’t. stop. looking. at. horrifying. news. And I just needed a brain detox.
  2. Today I went to the coast. I think I need to make sure and get outside a LOT, which, thank God we have nice weather. March can be a beast some years.
  3. A week ago I called a friend, and I think I just need to do that more.
  4. I’m sending out a bunch of postcards to Instagram followers.
  5. I bought a camera! Those poor Amazon workers. I’m sure they’re flooded with work right now, and I really, really hope they stay healthy. But I’ve been wanting to get back into video for a long time, and now I can finally start.
  6. Jenny and I are talking about starting a podcast called “Quarantined with Jenny and Emily.” We’ll see how that goes. She is in the middle of both becoming an online student AND an online teacher, so she’s got a number of things heaped onto her plate. But we did a trial run and had tons of fun, so we think you’d enjoy it too.

Any more ideas? Bring them on!

Finally, stay safe. Stay healthy. Stay home/away from other people. We’ll get through this together by staying apart!

Why is no one talking about finger foods? And other coronavirus hot takes

food pizza hands friends

Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com

Wash your hands. Don’t touch your face. Cover your cough. We get it. It’s the same set of advice we get every year when the seasonal flu hits. But every time I wonder, why does no one talk about finger foods?

American eating habits are weird. We often wash our hands before a meal, where we eat almost everything with knives and forks. But how many times have you seen someone wash their hands before snacking? And snacks are finger foods. We shovel popcorn and Doritos and grapes and pretzels into our mouths, often eating out of communal bowls.

Then, what do we do with that Dorito dust that’s left a thick cheesy coating on our fingers? Do we pause the movie and run to the sink? No, we often lick it off.

I’m not doctor, and I’m no nurse, but it seems to me that eating with your fingers is one of the most direct ways that viruses could get inside of you. Especially if you haven’t washed your hands first, and especially if multiple people are grabbing handfuls from the same popcorn bowl, and especially especially if you lick your fingers.

And I can’t figure out why no one mentions it in the same list as “wash your hands” and “stop touching your face.”

Today is Thursday morning, and I’m sitting in a deserted Starbucks. People are coming through the drive through, and a few folks are coming inside, quickly picking up their order, and then departing again. But no one is hanging out.

Just two days ago, on a Tuesday morning, I came in at the same time, and it was packed.

I feel like everything changed yesterday. We reached 1000 confirmed cases in the USA, and more and more we heard stories of people who had all the symptoms of coronavirus but couldn’t get tested. Celebrities came down with the virus. The NBA suspended their season. Trump placed a ban on Europeans traveling to the USA. Oregon declared a ban on gatherings of more than 250 people. Oregon State University, where two of my sisters go to school, announced that they’re switching to teaching everything remotely.

Yesterday was the tipping point. Everyone is scared, now. Between Tuesday and Thursday, Starbucks completely cleared out.

The two most popular stances to take regarding coronavirus are “panic” and “roll your eyes and telling everyone they’re overreacting.” Although after yesterday, I’m seeing much more of the former, and much less of the latter.

Up until now, my stance has been one of fascination. I’ve always been obsessed with abnormality and unpredictability. Like, I really didn’t want Trump to become president. But I was still fascinated by his bizarre rise to power.

Sometimes I watch the world like it’s reality TV, and don’t think about the fact that abnormality isn’t just entertaining. Abnormality creates real issues that affect real people.

So I’ve decided I want to change my stance. I don’t want to be fascinated by coronavirus, but I don’t want to panic or bury my head in the sand either. So I think, instead, I’m going to try to enact a stance of compassion.

Compassion, first of all, means taking care of myself and complying with annoying laws that limit gathering sizes and such, not for the sake of my own health, but for the system as a whole. I’ve read that the goal, now, is not to stop coronavirus, but to slow it’s spread as much as possible, so that hospitals aren’t overwhelmed with more patients than they have equipment to help.

At some point, compassion may come down to caring for sick people, even if it puts my own health at risk. I mean, who knows what will happen with hospital capacity and such. But as Christians we have to prepare for that possibility.

I don’t know what compassion looks like on the Internet. I don’t know how to calm fear with typed words. I don’t know if I should even try.

I will say, when my own thoughts slip into a panic spiral, the thing that has helped the most is listening to musical renditions of psalms. This is one I particularly like:

I have no more hot takes on coronavirus. I hope you take care of yourself. And I pray that God will redeem this situation, and use it to make us become more compassionate towards each other.

Blogmas 2019 Day 10: What To Do When It’s the Most Magical Time of the Year, but You’re Sick

apartment bed carpet chair

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The least magical thing about the holidays is the way that we drop like flies as the flu rolls through.

When everyone else goes to the fun New Year’s Eve party, but you stay home in bed.

When you have an earache and a headache but you still have to go stand in the cold and take family pictures, because this is the only time all year that you’ll all be together.

When it’s three days before Christmas and you still haven’t gotten all your shopping done, but the idea of taking a shower, combing your hair, and braving traffic is more than you can handle.

This year I’ve been very healthy compared to the rest of my community, but I have spent many, many holidays of my life sick in bed and missing out on stuff. So here are my tips and tricks for surviving the terrible illnesses that plague this season.

First: Beware the finger foods!

I’m convinced that finger foods are the reason the holidays are so germ-filled. People come to holiday parties sniffing and sneezing, and we all stand around gabbing, or playing games, touching all sorts of germ ridden surfaces. And then we fill our plates with finger foods, and eat them, with our hands.

How much more unsanitary can you get?

After a really really really bad holiday season two years ago, I’ve become hyper-vigilant about finger foods during the holidays. I wash my hands immediately before I eat. I try to eat fewer of the sugary snacks, because sugar weakens the immune system. I never eat anything out of a communal chip bowl, unless there are tongs. And even then I wash my hands after touching the tongs, and before eating.

Actually, sometimes I just straight-up eat my snacks with a fork.

You can call me crazy, but hey, I’m the one who didn’t get Norovirus this year. I mean, maybe eating snacks with a fork is going too far, but making a habit out of always washing your hands and/or treating them to a squirt of hand sanitizer before eating finger foods will go a long way toward keeping you healthy during the holidays.

(Oh, and I guess I should also recommend getting the flu shot every year. I’m sure that helps, but it’s hard for me to really preach that one because I rarely get around to doing it myself. Oops.)

Second: If you’re sick over the holidays it’s okay to grieve 

Honestly, I’ve gotten to the place where I feel very resigned if I can’t do something special because I’m sick. “Oh well,” I think. “That’s just how the world works when you’re Emily Smucker.”

But I think maybe that’s the wrong approach. There are so many things that are special about the holidays, and if you miss out, I think it’s okay to grieve that loss. Healthy, even. Because if the holidays are special to you, and you don’t let yourself feel grief over that loss, it can turn into resentment or cynicism.

Third: Don’t be so hard on yourself

After grieving your loss, it’s time to let some things go.

It’s time to let go of the pressure to buy every acquaintance in your life a Christmas gift. You can buy them something next year.

It’s time to let go of your need to buy meaningful, unique, thoughtful gifts for your family members. Look at their wish list. Go on Amazon. Buy them exactly what they asked for. You can be more creative and thoughtful next year.

And for those who don’t have wish lists, buy them a gift card. Yep, you can be the lame-o gift card giver this year. It won’t kill you. And they will still appreciate it, I promise.

It’s okay to buy store-bought Christmas cookies. It’s okay to string a cheap garland over the window frame and call that “decorating.” The people around you don’t care about decorations and homemade cookies, they care about you taking care of yourself.

Fourth: Pamper Yourself

Stop! Don’t pig out on Christmas cookies. That’s a terrible idea. But do buy yourself cozy Christmas pajamas, and watch all the Christmas movies.

Oh, and here’s a tip: For Christmas, buy your friends and family members books that YOU want to read. Then, use your sick time to binge read them before you have to give them away.

Those are all the tips I have at the moment. How do you handle being sick over the holidays?

 

Endings and Beginnings

Well, there you have it. My year-long adventure is over, and I am back in Oregon.

I anticipated having a few weeks to relax, get some writing done, and enjoy the Oregon summer before harvest starts. But life just bellows full steam ahead, doesn’t it? So many friends to catch up with. So many events to attend.

Amy graduated from Linn Benton Community College on Thursday. Exactly six years, to the day, after I graduated from LBCC.

received_433467924157698

“It’s a funny thing, having my big sister follow in my footsteps,” I joked.

Jenny is also finished at Linn Benton, but chose not to walk. Both of them are going on to Oregon State University. Amy will have her Bachelor’s in another year, and Jenny will have her Bachelor’s in two years. With Ben finishing up his PHD around the same time, and Steven completing his second Associate’s degree this fall, hopefully my geeky family will be finished with schooling and ready to settle down and start families already, heehee.

Well, not Jenny, I guess. She’s planning to get her Mastor’s yet. But she has plenty of time.

Anyway, I don’t know where Ben was, but the rest of us went to Amy’s graduation. Of course it was rather long and boring, as graduations are in general. Someone’s name would be announced, and a small group of their friends and family would cheer from one corner of the room, and then another name would be announced, and another cheer would erupt from another corner of the room.

I cheered for Amy, and also our friend Rachel Nissen. But Steven cheered for some random person I didn’t know.

“Do you know her?” I asked.

“No, but nobody else was cheering for her,” said Steven.

I thought that was the sweetest thing.

As the line got shorter and shorter, Steven started cheering for more and more people. I wasn’t listening too closely most of the time, but my ears perked up when I heard the announcer lady say “Waldo French.” I’d seen Waldo’s name in the program, and it had stood out to me as being very odd. People, I was sure, must constantly make jokes about it.

So, “Waldo French!” said the announcer.

Steven, only half-listening at this point, cheered. “Woo hoo! Yeah Rhonda.”

“It’s Waldo,” I corrected him.

“Heh heh. Oops.”

“Where’s Waldo?” Dad asked, looking around.

Steven and I lost it. I mean, such a Dad joke, but funny.

I’m sure Waldo wouldn’t find it funny, though. I’m sure he hears this joke approximately twice a day, 730 times a year.

We all went to Dairy Queen for ice cream afterwords.

received_394214178104721

This has been a weird week for me, as I’m sure it’s been a weird week for every Mennonite everywhere. I’d sit down to write and get so distracted reading every new article about Jeriah Mast’s sexual abuse of Hatian boys and the CAM cover-up. And then reading all the comments. And then getting angry. I mean, this shouldn’t be news to you…I’m sure that’s how at least 80% of my readers spent this week.

I finally got to the place where I didn’t let myself read any updates, comments, anything for 24 hours. I was just so worked up and not in a good head space.

I did write a draft of a blog post for my Patreon blog, all about how to grapple with your Mennonite identity when you come face-to-face with evil in your culture. But I didn’t post it because I was so worked up and needed to get some distance from the topic for a bit.

I do plan to return and finish it, though. Hopefully this week. At least by the end of the month.

Also, I will add that the first Patreon post I wrote Is actually rather applicable to the Jeriah Mast case. In it I explored the term “toxic masculinity,” a term that is thrown around in greater American culture today. I argued that Mennonites are actually a feminine culture, more likely to suffer from what could be called “toxic femininity.” Which people tend to be skeptical of, because we’re also a patriarchal culture. But I think people see it a little clearer now. People from greater American culture would want to punch the living daylights out of a pedophile. People from Mennonite culture want forgiveness, compassion, remember-that-we’re-all-sinners. It’s a feminine cultural trait that seems so good at first, but was absolutely toxic in the case of Jeriah Mast.

So yes, that’s where my brain was at this week, as I caught up with friends, and tried to get some writing done, and unpacked my belongings.

Of course, now you’re probably wondering what my life plan is now. Have I moved moved back to Oregon? Wasn’t the whole point of this year of travel to try to find a place where I could move permanently?

Well, that was one of my points, though not the whole point necessarily.

The biggest roadblocks I ran into this year were health issues and financial issues. With my health, I’ve decided that moving around every month is not something I should really ever do again, as fun as it was. Moving anywhere seems beyond me at this point. So I’m planning to stay in Oregon now at least through the summer and most likely through the fall as well.

I had fun in every place I went this whole year. Besides Oregon, Lancaster was the best place as far as people go, since I was near my cousin Annette and some of my close friends, including Esta and Janessa.

I really really loved Philadelphia. I was only there for a week in March and another week in May, but I would love to move there if something opened up. It would also have the advantage of being close to Lancaster, and also close to DC, where Matt lives.

I might have recency bias with Kansas, but I could also seem myself moving there. It has the advantage of cheap rent, and I love the way the community is involved in outreach right there in the town of Hutchinson. It’s also somewhat close to my Uncle Fred, and it’s the only place on the whole trip where I felt healthy the entire time I was there.

As far as money goes, I find myself in an odd financial situation. This year I lived off of freelance writing and editing jobs and some of my own savings. But I found that, while freelance writing and editing pays the bills, my heart is in writing books and plays. It’s also financially smarter, especially for someone with dubious health, to write things I can continue selling. That way if I’m, say, too sick for a month to do any freelance jobs, I can still earn money by selling books and plays that I’ve already finished.

Still, it’s tough to make that transition. Freelance writing pays right away, whereas these longer projects require a lot of work with no immediate payout. But since I am trying to slowly make that transition, it means that I have a hard time predicting what my monthly income will be six months or a year from now. Which makes it hard to plan a move.

Right now I’m planning to stay in Oregon until I get my book about this year finished and self-published, hopefully this fall.

Beyond that, I’m not sure. I do dearly love Oregon. Maybe I’ll live here part of the year, and jaunt over to other places for random three-month trips now and then? Just to keep life interesting? I don’t know. I honestly don’t feel very settled anywhere. Someday I really do want to buy a house and settle down. But I’m not financially there yet.

So for now, I guess I’ll live like I’m 19 instead of almost 29, just bipping hither and yon like I’m young and carefree. And then I’ll sleep on a hard mattress somewhere and get back pain and remember my age again, LOL.

Anyway, whatever the future holds for me, I’ll be sure to keep you all updated here on the blog.

 

Notes on Kansas

lightning during nighttime

Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

It was 1:30 am, and I was eating donuts and pretending I was still a teenager. It was a funny little donut shop. With its outdated wallpaper, random mugs hanging on the wall, and old paneling, it reminded me of somebody’s basement, mostly finished back in the ’70s, and then forgotten.

Apparently the place doesn’t even open until 11 pm.

I was hanging out with my roommate Kim’s youth group, and when they suggested a donut run, I couldn’t resist the enchanting allure of midnight donuts. But then, after those midnight donuts were ingested, there were storm warnings and we all got worried and scuttled off towards home.

Thankfully I wasn’t driving, because there were warnings of hail and severe winds and all sorts of frightening things. We drove straight into the storm, and I sat in the back seat, mesmerized by the purple. It was everywhere, in bursts of lighting that lit the entire sky.

I’m remembering, now. If you want to be awed by mountains or oceans you go to Oregon, but if you want to be awed by the weather, you to to the Midwest.

One Oregon night a few years ago there was intense, sky-splitting lightening, and no one in my family could sleep. We all ended up on the front porch in the middle of the night, watching it together. And yet that lightning was perhaps only half as intense as this stuff.

For some reason I ended up in either the East or the South this entire year, so I’m glad I decided to get a small taste of the Midwest before heading home.

Wait…what all states are considered to be “Midwest?” I just googled. Ohio is part of the Midwest? How?

In my brain, the Midwest ends with Illinois. In my brain, the Midwest is where land is flat and roads are straight and everyone waves at everyone and you say “hi” to every Mennonite you see and folks are chill and the weather in the spring is absolutely crazy. Where Mennonite communities are not so isolated as they are in the West, but they’re not piled up on top of each other either.

If you are from Kansas, Iowa, Missouri, etc, do you think of Ohio as part of your Midwestern culture? I’m just an ignorant Oregonian who knows nothing about this.

I’ve been here for two weeks, and it’s been absolutely magical. Not because of the weather or the people or the midnight donuts, but because I’ve felt so healthy. 

Health is such a funny thing. All of the things I dislike about life–all my feelings of incompetence, or loneliness, or the burden of having a to-do list that I can never possibly finish–seem to quietly become not-big-deals if I’m feeling healthy.

Maybe Kansas has a magical climate that is perfectly suited to my health.

Although, after experimenting with so many climates and houses this year, I’ve come to the conclusion that my health woes are probably not related to climates and mold and things external to me.

I think–sad as this sounds–I think that my body is just not suited to the nomadic life I crave.

Stress makes me sick. It has, ever since my West Nile days.

My last week in Lancaster I got horribly sick–the worst of this whole trip–but I felt a strong conviction that after I recovered I was going to have a time of wellness.

That’s what I’ve had, so far, in Kansas. The sort of wellness that allows me to eat donuts with teenagers at 1:30 am.

The Great Health Crash

Living with uncertainty might be good for my faith, but it’s terrible for my health.

I’ve written before about my ill health on this long journey of mine. Generally I have about a week of dubious health whenever I move to a new location. But once I get into the swing of things my health usually improves.

With Pennsylvania it was the opposite. Except for a bit of fatigue when I first arrived, I had great health for the first four weeks. Then the last two weeks I was hit with something I couldn’t quite shake.

At first it didn’t matter so much. My work was flexible. But as the days passed and I couldn’t shake it, I began to fear that it would spoil my fun-and-family-filled final week.

See, when my brother Ben heard that I was going to the REACH conference, he looked at his schedule and decided that he’d be able to come as well. It would be a chance to see both me and his buddy Daniel who also lives in Lancaster. And he thought the conference looked interesting.

Then my sister Amy decided to come too. Her schedule wasn’t as flexible as Ben’s, since he’s in grad school and she’s an undergrad, but it was her winter term final’s week and all her finals were either at the beginning of the week or were take-home finals.

Then my parents decided to come too. They were going to be in Lancaster the weekend before REACH, because they were taking counselor training. So they decided to just stay an extra week in the area. Maybe Mom and I could do some book signings together!

With my brother Matt and his girlfriend Phoebe a quick hop skip and jump away in Washington DC, I was going to see the majority of my family.

Just so long as I could stay healthy.

My parents were super busy the weekend they arrived, but on Saturday we were supposed to get together and visit some of Dad’s Mom’s relatives. But when I woke up that morning I felt awful. Sore throat, headache, and I was so tired I could barely stay awake long enough to tell them I couldn’t make it. Then I went back to sleep and slept until 4 pm.

Yikes.

Sunday I felt better. I met my parents at church, and after the service we set off on the winding southern Pennsylvania roads, heading to Washington DC.

To be honest, this overnight stay in DC was really more about family than sightseeing. With REACH coming up, the last thing I wanted to do was overdo it and have my health crash again.

The only sightseeing thing I did was tour Phoebe’s boardinghouse, which she jokingly calls “The Baptist Convent.” The true name is Thomas Markward Hall, and it’s a female-only boardinghouse. Walking into it feels like walking into an old novel. Wide spaces. Fancy couches. Old pictures in gilded frames. A library full of old books. No men allowed above the ground floor.

Despite my valiant attempt to take it easy on our short jaunt to DC, my health crashed again on Tuesday. Mom and I were supposed to have a book signing at 2 pm, and she’d mailed a lot of books to my Myerstown address in advance. It was all I could do to make myself presentable, haul the books to the car, and drive them to my parent’s Airbnb. I had no strength to go to the book signing.

Later, Mom said I didn’t miss much. Barely anyone showed up.

Meanwhile, back in Oregon, Amy wasn’t doing so well.

Her temperature had skyrocketed, and she felt awful. She went to class and finished her finals, wearing a face mask so she wouldn’t infect anyone, and slept the rest of the time. Finally, she went to the doctor, where she was told she had influenza and would be contagious until Friday.

What!

So at the last minute, she decided not to come after all.

My dreams of a perfect REACH were beginning to dim. For four years, I had hoped and dreamed of coming. And then, for a while, everything was working out perfectly. My parents, and Ben, and Amy, all able to come too! Book signings! Trips to DC!

But illness always has a way of reminding me that in the end, I cannot control my life. And I have to be okay with that.

Thankfully, I was feeling better by Wednesday morning. I drove back up to Myerstown, took my car to the mechanic for an oil change, and then went back to my Myerstown house and officially moved out. I packed everything up once again and shoved it into my car.

Ben arrived, sans Amy. We all hung out with my cousin Annette that evening, because it was March 20, which would have been her brother Lenny’s 36’th birthday. We released balloons in his memory. All of us except for Annette’s daughter Liberty, who clung to her pretty purple balloon. I mean, why would you get rid of something pretty when you could keep it instead?

4389

Balloons for Lenny. Pic by my cousin Annette Stoltzfus (@3littlearrows)

I went to bed super early that night.

Maybe my health wouldn’t crash again. Maybe I’d find the strength to get my money’s worth out of the REACH conference. Since I’m no longer a student, I didn’t buy student tickets, and it felt like a lot of money to me.

And the next two days, the REACH conference days, were…well…eventful. In both good and bad and overwhelming ways.

But for that story, you’ll have to return for my next blog post.

P.S. I’m not intentionally trying to make everyone mad with curiosity, it’s just WAY too much story for one blog post. LOL.

The Hardest Part of Moving Every Month

Some people, upon hearing that I move to a different area every month, tell me that it sounds amazing. Some people tell me that it sounds hard. The truth, perhaps unsurprisingly, is that I find it amazing but also hard.

It’s not hard because of the constant change of scenery, or the constant meeting of new people. That keeps life interesting. Neither is it hard because of the occasional loneliness, because it never lasts long, and I like being alone.

The hardest part of living in a different area every month has been…my health.

My health is one thing I usually keep pretty private. That may seem odd, as the one book I published is literally about my health. But here are all my very good reasons for not talking about it.

  1. People ask about your health, but they don’t really care about your health.
    I don’t mean this as a rebuke. There are just certain topics that are “small talk” topics, only interesting when kept to one sentence or so. Like your dreams, your health, “how you’re doing,” how you slept last night, and what you studied in college. If your explanations stretch past a sentence or two, people’s eyes glaze over.
  2. I’m not enormously worried about my health.
    Maybe I should be. But the thing about poor health is, you just learn to adapt. You find a thousand tiny ways to simplify your daily routines. You get trained to do a desk job. You just deal.
  3. I get overwhelmed by cures.
    When I talk about health, people have cures for me.

    I am an Enneagram 5, which means I am easily overwhelmed and quite skeptical. I’m not going to try a thousand miracle cures because they “might” work. If you’re a doctor or nurse I will happily listen to your ideas, but I’m not just going to try everything willy-nilly. Anything that’s potent enough to drastically cure is also potent enough to potentially do harm.

  4. My health is very hard to explain.
    I often feel unwell, but I have vague symptoms. And my symptoms aren’t always the same. Trying to explain my health to someone feels like trying to explain a very complicated card game.

This year has been particularly hard on my health. I don’t know why. Maybe it takes my body a while to adjust to a new area? But it feels like every time I move I find myself exhausted, sleeping excessively, and trying to re-assure whoever I’m living with that I’ll be okay, while also trying to avoid talking about my health too much.

I worry that they’ll worry. They’re always so kind, letting me come live with them. The last thing I’d want to cause is worry.

Anyway. The Florida sunshine has been fantastic, but since I’ve been here I’ve felt like I’m constantly on the edge of a cold, and I’ve been sleeping an alarming amount.

After Florida I’m going to Pennsylvania, where I’m planning to stay six weeks instead of the usual four. Slowing down a bit. And I’ll be staying with a friend who is familiar with my health issues, instead of a stranger who isn’t.

But if you think of any places that are particularly good for the health, please let me know. Maybe I’ll move there next.