Today’s Read: Get Tested

If you’re concerned about having COVID-19 (the ̶L̶o̶k̶i̶ Lambda/Delta-Plus/Delta variant), you can do a home test! I ordered one because I’ve been having odd symptoms. The website makes it super easy. As for doing the test and returning it, I’ll let you know once I get it.

Stay safe out there, friends. The pandemic never ended.

Your Mini-Sociology Lesson on Body Justice

If you’re looking for justice for your body, you might be confused or not care about how sociology relates, but stick with me. It’s the foundation of all things body justice.

Your Body and Sociology

As you probably know (but I never assume), sociology is the study of how external forces influence our behavior. It runs parallel (and often perpendicular) to psychology, which examines internal behavioral influences. That aside, sociology analyzes large social structures like religion and politics as well as small groups like our peers and relationships. Both large structures and small groups influence how we see things and how we behave. Especially in America, we like to think we’re individuals with uninfluenced free will. This, however, is not the case. Just think of the last time you quoted a movie, show, or song.

Exactly.

The Princess Bride references FTW. Source: http://gph.is/2ge45zr

The U.S. and Sociology and Health

Now, if structures like religion, politics, education, business, and so on influence our thinking and behavior, that includes our bodies. Public health is a thing. It’s the reason the CDC, AMA, and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services exist. There’s no shortage of organizations and governments working with human bodies. These groups guide health with recommendations and limitations. They shape laws, public opinion, media stories, which means they also shape thinking and behavior. They are our overlords, like it or not.

My references are always dated because I’m old. Source: http://gph.is/1Nm2LaB

Example: Oh, It’s Still a Pandemic

Case in point: COVID-19. We relied on social health structures to inform, protect, and help us. We’re depending upon the social structures of public health to work together to distribute the vaccine. Some of us are vaccinated, some aren’t, some hope to be, some don’t.

Need a visual of how this flows throughout our society? Here you are!

Years of study paying off in this graphic. Source: Me.

This whole flow is called the macrosociology-microsociology link, which is a fancy way of saying large structures and small groups and individuals influence one another (despite the arrows on the graphic, this flow does go both directions). Neat, huh? It’s proof that we influence society, and society influences us. And yes, if you want to make butterfly effect references, feel free. That’s right on target.

But of course, there will always be a group of people who are unwilling (and some unable) to follow social recommendations. That said, their thinking and behavior changes as well. They go from not talking about something like COVID-19 to talking about it to actively opposing the recommendations. Sometimes, they protest. In this case, some protest, specifically, the right to make choices for their own bodies.

Sound familiar?

So, What?

What’s this mean for body justice? It means bodies have social power. Large social structures cannot operate without power, and they know our bodies have power, so they try to control that power. However, because our bodies are ours, that means WE have the power. And tomorrow, I’ll get into your body’s power, how you can use it, and how you can stop others from using it without your permission.

My Body Is a Clusterfuck

That’s a mean thing to say about my body, so let me backtrack. Of late, my body has felt like a clusterfuck, but it still gets me up and down the stairs. I’m lucky in that sense.

It’s been a difficult time in my family. One of my mom’s physical and mental health are declining. It’s not a surprise, but it’s nonetheless painful to watch from afar.

We have a close family both in proximity and emotionally. Even my Trumper sister lives within a few miles of us and I still talk to her a few times a year. If we weren’t in a pandemic, it would be more often. However, I do thank the pandemic for keeping us apart because there would’ve been several harsh words said over the last year had we been around one another.

Pre-pandemic, my family got together often. We used to get together monthly, but as my nieces and nephews grew into teenagers and now adults, it was less frequent. Still, a bunch of us still talk every day via text and phone call, and we lean on each other for a great deal of support. We’re fortunate to have one another.

To watch Mom decline is the single hardest thing we’ve done as a family. Not being able to be together is gut wrenching. It’s hard to write this without tears. I haven’t hugged my parents in a year. I live point two miles from them, and the closest I’ve been to my childhood home is the deck. I can’t go in. The slightest chance that I might transmit COVID to my beautiful, flawed parents horrifies me.

But the very act of staying away from them, staying home, and watching my parents stay home is the same thing that’s causing Mom’s health decline. My parents desperately miss their grandchildren. They aren’t nearly as active as they were before the pandemic, and that’s saying a lot because my mom is a homebody as it is. (Dad is super active, but there’s only so much he can do anymore, as we keep having to remind him.) My mom’s body has informed her this level of inactivity is not good for her. She has several health conditions that exacerbate things.

And so do I.

Thursday, I told my chiropractor about a pain I’ve had in my lower back for months. I’m usually very upfront with him, but my attempts to tell him previously weren’t as direct as I needed to be. I pointedly told him exactly what was going on: If I lay flat for longer than 30 seconds, I get an excruciating pain in my lower back and hip that makes getting back up agony; if I stand for longer than 20 minutes (say to shower, do chores, etc.), my lower back and butt ache, then go numb. It takes sitting for the feeling to come back. Basically, there’s some jamming going on between my spine and pelvis, and it ain’t good.

He introduced me to some movements to help, but as I did one last night, I realized too late I’d done it wrong. The pain was so bad that it took me several minutes to even get upright. The pain carried on into the night. I eased my way out of bed around 1:30 a.m. and took Aleve. I was able to sleep, but this morning, I hurt. It feels like I got punched in one spot several times.

This is one of many ailments that have gotten worse during the pandemic:

  • I’ve gained a lot of weight, like everyone else. Except I don’t have anywhere to put this weight. My body was already suffering in its previous size.
  • I’m eating whatever I want, which is making my GERD worse.
  • My attention span is gone.
  • My social media and phone addictions are dominating my life.
  • Depression, anxiety, and PMDD converged in February to make life miserable.

The only good news is I think I’ve emerged from the latest bout of insomnia followed by hypersomnia, and my sleeping is leveling out.

All the while this is happening, I’ve been focusing on learning about my body. I’ve studied Health at Every Size, intuitive eating, mindful eating, mindful movement, intuitive movement, and self-compassion all with the goals of body acceptance. But what I’m stuck on is body size. And this is the same battle my mom is facing.

Most of the women in our family are big. You get Black and Indian together, big is gonna happen in the women. It’s how we’re built. But you add trauma, stress, and unchecked mental health issues, it’s gonna be worse. Mental health wasn’t even a thought in my family until the last ten years or so. But trauma? Abuse? Stress? We’ve had it all.

No one knows the harder side of life better than my mom. And life continues to pile on for her.

But I watch as I’m headed in the same direction she is. And it terrifies me.

I’m not an active person. Movement has been my nemesis since I long associated it with the rich, mean kids in second grade. I like sitting. I like comfort. Nothing is more desirable to me than sitting under a blanket and drinking chai.

But I don’t want to put my loved ones through what we’re going through with my mom. While a lot of what has gone on in her life is out of her control, I still see some measure of ability to change mine.

My question is: Will I?

Pandemic Time Is Wibbly Wobbly

The Doctor explains timey wimey stuff. Source: Giphy

How has it been a week since I last blogged?!

Anyway.

The problem I’m facing–as I’m sure a bunch of you are as well–is I can go days without caring about anything because post-Trumpian, pandemic reality is awful, and I’m ready for a new timeline. It’s not gonna happen, but a writer who lives in a fantasy world can dream on paper, in her head, and every other moment, right?

That got away from me.

When I was still teaching in the college classroom, I prided myself on my time management and organizational skills. My calendar was damn near perfect. I knew where I needed to be and when, and if I didn’t, I knew where to look. My grading spreadsheets (that I made) were color coded to my paper folders. I had a notebook with a note-taking system that helped me track everything. I had my shit together.

Then I quit teaching, started my own business, and time no longer made sense. I’ve struggled for almost ten months get organized. I have (literally) six notebooks on my desk, all partially used. I’m using too many apps to get it together, and I’m not sure I understand colors let alone color coding anymore.

I guess what I’m saying is major life changes can throw everything into a river, you included, and leave you to save yourself. But that urgency can help. Throughout January, I hit a low point in the pandemic, and I knew I had to start finding what was actually working. Each week, I experimented with the tools I have, got rid of what didn’t, and I think I’m starting to find my groove. Maybe these tools can help you through this darkness.

  • One notebook for professional notes: I use Em and Friends spiral notebooks THAT THEY DON’T HAVE ANYMORE WHAT AM I GOING TO DO
  • One notebook for personal journaling, which includes menstrual cycle tracking, gratitude lists, self-compassion therapy homework, daily accomplishments, and sleep tracking
  • An online calendar tied to an app: I use Google Calendar, have it pinned in my browser, and have a widget on the home screen of my phone
  • A project management tool and app: I’m using Trello, and things are starting to come together!
  • A time tracking app: I only use this for business purposes, but I use toggl and have it pinned in my browser
  • Sticky notes . . . there are never enough sticky notes
  • Many, many TUL medium ink black gel pens, and if I were single, buying these as a gift for me would be a great way to get me to sleep with you because I am a pen whore
  • Good cloud storage: I rely heavily on Dropbox, but Google Drive is my backup.
  • A trusty browser with tab pinning options like Chrome
  • A place to nap, which is anywhere the older I get

Of course, as needs change, adapting is key, but when I have these tools at the ready, I feel more organized and adulty. Have you tried any of these? What are your favorites besides anything here? What are your best tips for keeping time and stuff from throwing you in a river? Tell me in the comments!

Passports in a Pandemic: A Story about Trump’s America

This morning, I was tested for COVID-19. How I got to this point is Donald Trump’s fault.

For a few years, Hubster & I discussed getting passports. We wanted them pre-Trump because we want to travel internationally. We wanted them post-Trump in case we needed to flee the country. We finally got serious about it in October and scheduled our appointment on October 20th, which–as of this writing–was three days ago.

I’ve long been terrified about getting passports because I’ve always heard the process was a pain. So, being extra-cautious, we checked repeatedly to make sure we did everything right. We know we’ll need pictures, so we agreed to have them done at the post office. And, for at least a week prior, an enveloped marked “passport docs” sat on my desk; it contained required copies and applications. Per travel.state.gov, “citizenship evidence” includes a list with these two items first: “your original evidence of U.S. citizenship” and “a photocopy of the front (and back, if there is printed information) of your original evidence of U.S. citizenship.” It does not say the original documents are required. It literally lists both options. Remember this.

I promise this says “passport docs.” Hubster asked if I drew a penis instead of a D, which is fitting.
A screenshot of the U.S. State Department’s passport requirements page. There are more requirements, but I didn’t crop out anything relevant.

We arrived on time to our appointment. Everyone was masked up, but the post office was busy, as in a steady stream of people in line to ship, mail, and so on. Someone was ahead of us, but we didn’t wait terribly long. It was maybe fifteen minutes. We were both nervous this would go poorly, but with all the prep we’d done, I felt like it would be a breeze. That should’ve been my warning sign.

I can’t remember the order of events, but two employees helped us; one was a trainee. They got our pictures done quickly, but I was unnerved that the more experienced employee had her mask down off her face while we took our pictures. But it was over quickly, and we sat down to do our paperwork, a plexiglass divider on the desk between us and the employees.

They reviewed our paperwork. They went through Hubster’s quickly, but once they got to the copy of his birth certificate, they informed us we needed the original. We (probably more I) grumbled a bit that the directions did not indicate an original was required. They insisted. From there, I was antsy to get it over with. We knew we’d have to run back home, get the originals, and get back to this busy post office.

But did I mention central Iowa got its first ever snow squall warning right before we left for our appointment? Frankly, I was not eager for us to be on the roads.

They reviewed my application, and the trainee said I was missing a page. I said it was double sided. She seemed fine with that. The more experienced employee informed us the application was not allowed to be double sided. I’m sure there’s a reason. We don’t know what it is, and I was too anxious/irritable to ask.

The employees mark down that we’ve already taken and paid for our pictures. They tell us to come back before 3:30. They write on the paperwork that we’ll be back by 3:30. In our heads, this means we can just pop in and finish the process. Again, this should’ve been another red flag to me.

We get back home safely, as the snow squall hit northern Polk County harder than where we were, and the roads remained decent. I immediately bust my butt upstairs, grab my original birth certificate, put it in the stack with the rest of our documents, then print my application again, but this time, I make sure it doesn’t print two-sided. Hubs locates his original birth certificate (which caused a bit of panic because it wasn’t where it was originally, and I’m pretty sure that was my fault). We return to the post office maybe 30 minutes later if that.

An entirely different person is working the passport desk now. The two employees we worked with are nowhere in sight. We notify the folks that we’re back, and we wait. There are two people ahead of us. While we wait, a family of four comes in. My Karen-sense detector beeps. The mother in this family has her mask below her nose. The dad is restless. I’m not sure he ever sits down at the nearby table where his wife and kids are. I sense they expect to get right in. The Karen-y mom even looks at her phone, states the time of their appointment to her husband, has the email up, and says, “We’re special.” Having been invisible and stepped in front of countless times, I can tell my polite bitch mode will be required.

Sure enough, after the two people in front of us are finished, the passport employee calls in this family. At this point, we’d been waiting for half an hour. I jump up and say, “Ma’am,” then explain our circumstances. Hubster and I explain that we were told to come back before 3:30. The employee repeatedly tells us that Karen’s family had an appointment at 2 p.m. (It’s just about 2.)

She says, “It’ll only take them fifteen minutes.”

I say, “My husband is already missing work.”

She says, “Can you wait fifteen minutes?”

I asked, “Do you have an appointment at 2:30?”

She replies, “Yes, but this will only take fifteen minutes.”

At that point, I knew it was pointless to argue, so we sat back down and waited. I also knew it was not going to take this family fifteen minutes.

At 2:35 p.m., the family finishes. There are more people in line for passports. She calls us in. There’s no acknowledgement that her fifteen minutes was really 35.

She’s kind. She’s helpful. She knows her shit, this employee. This is also why it doesn’t not take her the estimated time she thinks it will take. She’s under the impression we will also take only fifteen minutes. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t.

She looks at our pictures and asks, “Where did you get these taken?”

We’re both like, “Uh, here.”

She doesn’t believe us. We still have our masks around our necks in the original photos, and she says, “We’re not going to be in a pandemic forever, so you shouldn’t have those on” despite that fact that you can still see our entire faces. I provide the extra copies that have the USPS logo on them. She shakes her head and comments about how she’s taught them better. We’re required to retake our pictures.

Fifteen minutes, you say?

She takes his and has no issues. She takes mine, looks at it, and asks me to take it again. She explains the background is not “picking up the gray” in my hair. Keep in mind we have to take our masks off completely to do this. Hubster’s mask is easy. It loops around the ears. Mine ties behind my head and neck. Taking mine off more than once takes longer than I’d like especially in a scenario when I want to be quick about it. Maybe I should’ve worn an easier mask, but I wanted to wear one that felt secure in the high-traffic space of the post office. I take my mask off for the third time in a public space, and she puts an old, red sweater on my shoulders (god knows how long it has been there and who all it has touched), so my grays will show up. She takes the picture again and is finally happy.

The rest is easy. We shell out a lot of money. We’re friendly and sign some things. I apologize for being rude. She tells me she didn’t think I was rude, just that I didn’t understand the process. And that’s when I about lost it internally because we leave there at 3 p.m. And the 2:30 appointment gets in at 3.

Now, yes, that was his own fault. He was a little late to his appointment. However, it’s possible he came from Northern Polk county, where they had upwards of nine inches of snow in about two hours. Worse, she refused to make the 2 p.m. Karen family wait for us, but she made the 2:30 appointment wait for us, and WHY NOT JUST LET US GET IT DONE AT 2 P.M.? It’s not the process I don’t understand, lady; it’s your damn logic.

*screams internally* What should’ve taken fifteen minutes (apparently) took us two hours. I was exhausted, angry, and grumpy at the end of it. But it was done, and now we wait.

Except it’s possible I got myself a souvenir from this lovely post office, typical government bullshit experience. A couple days later, I notice a mildly sore throat and fatigue. Immediately, I was like, “Ah, shit.” But because I have other health issues that could’ve caused this, I tried not to panic. This morning–three days after our post office fun–I woke up stuffy with a sore throat, a headache, fatigue, and coughing. Before getting up for the day, I decide to get tested. I schedule it for a few hours later.

The experience itself is a post I’ll save for another day, but I should have my results anywhere from 24 to 72 hours. In the meantime, I’m staying home and trying to keep myself in my office even though Hubster probably has it already if I do. (Yes, I’ll share the results when I get them.)

And this is the gist of it. We got passports because we wanted to flee Donald Trump’s America, and I might’ve gotten COVID as the souvenir. That’s the kind of world we’re living in. It’s one where you try to escape a growing sentiment of hatred and end up the victim of an uncontrolled pandemic. It’s one where you’ve done your best to stay home for seven months, wear a mask in public, socially distance from family and friends, keep informed about best practices, raise awareness about elections, and vote with two hours of research to still end up feeling sick and having a swab up the nostrils.

Donald Trump’s America means choosing between a cough or a coup, death or defecting. And I’m over it.