A bit of a personal update in the days of the Covid

by Mar 31, 2020

I don’t know about you, but I felt 2020 got off to a pretty good start. I’ve been getting things accomplished and moving forward on projects, work has been going well and in general I haven’t had much to complain about.

Then Covid-19 happened.

So many thoughts and feelings right now, so apologies up front since this will be a bit disjointed, but I felt that I wanted to pop in with a personal update. We’ll start with the virus, but there’s most than that here, so skip below if you don’t want to hear anything about that nasty bugger.

(spoiler horn warning: if you are pro-Trump or pro-GOP, you probably aren’t going to enjoy this and so you may as well ring off now. Also: I don’t really care what you think at this point, so don’t waste your time and don’t expect a reply when you do anyway).

Ten days ago I knew nobody directly affected by the virus. As of today, the number is somewhere north of 20, one with a brother (a nurse) on a ventilator, another a son in isolation, and lots of people who people I know know. Nobody yet that I ever see in person, but it has affected people at work, and I expect it’s only a matter of time before the virus takes a kevin bacon step closer to me.

Laurie and I are fine as of today. I work for a fully remote company, so work at home is my normal routine, and things are mostly normal at work, although all of us have distractions that have reduced productivity a bit. One of us goes out shopping maybe once a week, and we won’t run out of toilet paper for a bit, but we don’t have so much stockpiled that you should consider raiding the house to steal from the stash.

It has at time felt really surreal, and there are times when it feels way too real.

It has caused a lot of upheaval in the plans we had with the local Audubon chapter, and we’re putting in a bunch of time trying to figure out what is now possible and what is a good idea and shift our effort and activity into new areas. I’ve been encouraging everyone I talked to in all directions to see this as an opportunity to look at all of those things that went into the “good idea when we have some spare cycles” pile, and see which ones make sense to dust off and try to make happen. I’m doing that personally on a few fronts, and we’re trying to do that as a group with Audubon as well.

I had, unfortunately, to remind them that given the demographics of our organization (about 70% over age 50 and 50% over age 65) statistically, we’re going to lose some members to this, and I suggested we should figure out how we want to deal with that and respond, because when it happens, we’re unlikely to be ready to think this through clearly. So some others have gone off to consider that.

Which was good, because in all honesty, I didn’t expect my brain to go from there to “that implies you’re going to lose people you know, and probably someone close”, and proceed to simply lock up trying to deal with the implications of that thought. I had a solid two days where writing and anything involving focus was impossible while parts of my brain grappled and fought over that thought.

That passed, fortunately, and at this point I feel like I’m functioning well again (mostly). Every so often a piece of news trips me up, whether really good news that makes me cry, or really bad news gets me pissed and wanting to throw things — my emotions are clearly on edge, and I don’t expect that to change. My mom was a nurse who ran a county OB/Gyn floor for 20+ years, and so I’ve got a strong sense of just what the medical people stepping up here are going through, and I hurt for them — and I watch the politicians playing political games with their lives — and our lives — and while I long ago swore to never for for a GOP candidate again and I believe a bunch of these bastards need to go to jail, I now find myself thinking they really deserve to end up in a ditch at the side of the road. Yeah, emotions run a bit raw right now.

We are taking all reasonable precautions, but I’m trying not to be overly paranoid. I’m trying to get out for exercise, but it’s not happening too often right now for various reasons. I’m trying to shift my schedule around to make more room for it, but not yet reliably successful.

I hope all of you are safe and healthy and so are those around you. I also am pretty sure this won’t be true for some of you, and for those of you on the wrong end of this beast, I hope it ends well and everyone recovers and carries forward.

The county I’m living in seems to be doing a pretty good job of not being idiots, but not perfect. That will hopefully reduce my risk. I’m doing what I can to stay isolated and not tempt the virus, but who knows if I can be totally successful there?

I find I am — sanguine, maybe — about catching the virus. It’ll happen, or it won’t. I’m not courting infection, but neither am I wrapping myself into a Hazmat suit and sleeping in it. Will I catch it? Statistically, from the looks of it, the answer will be yes. How will it affect me if I do? Won’t know until it happens. If it does, we’ll deal with it. I’m trying (mostly successfully) to not lose sleep over the possibility. Life goes on, and what happens happens and we won’t stress out about it until then.

Please, listen to the scientists and doctors, and not all of those other idiots who are trying desperately to stay in denial, including the senile bastard currently trying to destroy the presidency or the GOP lackeys that enable him, or the false Christians leading their flocks into danger, or anyone remotely involved with Fox News.

I have been known to say, only half-jokingly, that there’s nothing about the climate change problem that couldn’t be fixed by a 30% pandemic. I never in my life considered that the GOP would adopt that as their party policy, which is exactly what happened when they started trying to explain that it was really okay if YOU ALL died to protect their stock portfolios last week. They simply don’t care what happens to you, unless you’re a big donor to the party. Remember that in the next election, y’all.

Okay, enough Covid-19 ranting. Be safe, listen to the scientists and doctors, and we’ll muddle through somehow as a species. We always seem to, usually at the last minute and by the skin of our teeth. That gives me some solace and hope that this isn’t the end of days, even if, given how we’ve treated the planet, we probably deserve it.

In others news….

Last week I released an ebook And the Geese Exploded, and I had absolutely no idea if anyone would care of if it had an audience. Much to my amazement (and thank you!) it’s been downloaded over 900 times to date, and I’ve been getting wonderful, positive feedback on it.

So thank all of you for taking a look, and thanks to those that took the time to tell me what they thought. It really made my week.

It’s not a perfect book; there were two images that I realize I botched the processing on, but which likely only I’ll ever notice. And I decided not to go heavy into typesetting the text (no smart quotes, n-dashes etc) and I kinda wish I had (and will next time) in retrospect. A couple of typos, filed under “Damned virus and I wasn’t able to focus as well as I thought I was”. It is what it is, and I’m quite happy with it.

No idea what my next project will be yet, but there will be one. I really like how this turned out, and I really like how it’s allowed me to tell a story about something I really care about.

Identifying your tribe

2019 was a year of growth and transformation for me, in ways that I didn’t expect, but which were completely positive and constructive. As I said in my notes on the Geese book:

I expected (hoped?) to come out of these activities a better photographer. I never thought I would come out of it a completely different photographer, and I think that new photographer is just starting to show up in my new images and I’m still figuring out exactly who it is, to be honest, but I love the new direction this is taking me. Even more than that, I came out of this last year with a new sense of confidence, of being able to see when I’m turning out good work — images and writing — and believe that it’s good. Impostor’s Syndrome has always been a challenge for me, and often it seems to win the battles, but if I got nothing else out of last year, I seem to have learned how to lock that into a closet and not let it drive me into being safe and quiet.

An aspect of that was the self realization that I had started self-identifying as a “Birder with a camera”, and not a “Bird Photographer”. That may seem like a small step, but it’s not, one I should probably explore in more length here at some point. Part of it is that I’ve shifted from seeing the camera less as a purpose and more as a tool, and part of realizing that shift was what opened up how I was thinking about that ebook and allowed me to create what you see when you download it.

It doesn’t mean the camera is not important — it’s just shifted into a different priority to be used to solve other challenges. For a while believed some of the stories I want to tell need different tools like audio or video, but I’ve been afraid to take time away from photography because I always feel I never have enough time for that already. Now, I’m starting to see that as a bit tunnel vision and I need to think more about solving the problem and not maximizing time with one toolset over another. I’m going to be curious where my path goes from here; I’m just starting to think this through and it’s a big change for me. But I see it as opportunity with anticipation. I think.

Some quick health notes

To close, a couple of quick health updates. Overall, things are good and nothing to really worry about.

The most challenging thing I face on a day to day basis is my knees. It was 13 years ago that I stepped in that gopher hole and tore the meniscus in my good knee, which sent me off to the orthpedic doctor to find out about my options. those, it turned out, weren’t what I expected, because the knees were also full arthritis, and inoperable short of full replacement. At that time, they set the expectation that I might have five or six years before replacement was necessary.

Here I am, almost triple that timeline later (and honestly, neither I nor my doctor understand how), but the latest X-rays show what we expected, and I’m now bone-on-bone in the left knee in one spot. I’m now at the point where knee replacement is starting to peak over the horizon, except I still need to lose more weight to qualify for the surgery. I’ve made good progress, but not enough. And honestly, I’m not looking forward to it, even though I know my ability to hike will be limited until it happens.

And the weight loss has been an interesting challenge. Since I’m diabetic and on insulin, which is well know for encouraging weight gain, it’s been hard to take the weight off quickly. I was able to get 14 pounds off, but the last few months of 2019, the body simply refused to cooperate.

In talking with my doctor, he suggested we experiment with a new drug, Victoza. We actually started exploring it in 2015, but that was when I got nailed with a bad reaction to a drug that led to those recurring visits to the emergency room, until it was suggested I move to insulin and get the blood sugars way down — which solved the problem. Since then, we’ve been rather hesitant to change what isn’t broke, but my doctor feels that my ability ot lose any weight on insulin is rather a great thing.

Victoza acts as a pancreas exciter, basically, convincing it to produce more insulin. So it’s a non-starter for Type 1 diabetics, but for Type 2 people, it can offer a chance to reduce or stop insulin or other tools. It also, clinically, leads to an average of 10 pounds of weight loss in test subjects (although it can’t be used as a diet drug since it can do really bad things to your blood sugars if you’re not diabetic); a side effect is that it slows food passing out of the stomach and through the digestive system, leaving you feeling full longer and probably eating less.

With a bit of hesitation, I agreed, so I started Victoza a couple of weeks ago. Saturday I started the full dose — you need to ramp up in three steps to let the body adapt — and I’m now spending a few days getting this full dose and my insulin doses into sync and the blood sugar in the range I want it to be in. During the second step, I ended up reducing my insulin by about a third. We had no expectation I’d get off it completely, but even that is a big step forward. I’m hoping I can with this full dose drop it by half overall, but I won’t know for about a week. Even if it’s only another 10-15%, I won’t complain.

And, since I took my first dose on March 7, I’m down 7 pounds, half of what I lost in 2019. I can attest my appetite is healthy but what I can eat at a meal is down by maybe 20% before fullness kicks in.

If these results carry forward — and I fully expect it to slow down, honestly — it will hopefully be a banner year for getting this weight off. I am almost at the point, just a couple of pounds shy, of passing the 80 pounds lost point, and when I do, I’ll be beyond the half-way point to the weight I need off to qualify for knee replacement surgery. although if I keep losing weight, it takes stress off the knees, and maybe, just maybe, I won’t need to go there…

We’ll cross that path when we come upon it. For now, I’m just continuing to focus on what to do in the short term, and enjoying getting on the scale every damned morning to see what’s happening…

If you’re diabetic and on insulin and fighting your weight, maybe talk to your doctor about this. So far, it’s been painless to adapt to, and I’ve found no real downside to it. Hopefully I’ll feel that way still in six months…